As a kid, I never went to camp. I remember when I was about nine or ten years old, I was ready to head off to girl scout camp and became sick. I came down with a fever and felt awful…because I would miss the camp not so much because I was really physically ill. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned the value of time away…not just a vacation with family or friends…but time away for personal or professional growth and development.
When I was in my late twenties, I began volunteering at my church. I was working as a chef. I cooked every night and volunteered once a week with kiddos and their faith formation. I enjoyed this volunteer work immensely. It led to more volunteer work. I worked with the Foundation for Blind and sought out other volunteer opportunities. It was the beginning of my journey as a servant. I had always worked in the “service” industry in restaurants as a waitress or chef, but there was a greater need for me to serve. I especially enjoyed walking with children and teens on their faith journey. I learned so much from them and felt grateful to have the opportunity to minister with them.
It was during this time, I went to my first camp. The leaders at the church recognized something in me that I was only barely becoming aware of…I was to be a servant-leader. One of the people recommended a camp to me that helped form leadership for the church. They offered to sponsor me for this week long camp that prepared ministry leaders. It was a hard choice for me. I would have to miss work and it was a new area and I didn’t know exactly where it was leading, but I knew somehow that it would change my life forever. It was a terrifying time and exciting time. I knew I was on the verge of something, but didn’t know exactly what it was.
So I went to camp. It did change me forever. I was given tools to lead. I was given tools to help me discern my path. I was supported and nurtured by a group of mentors and peers. It opened up my gifts of ministry. Within a year of attending this camp, I was working in professional ministry and pursuing my theological education. I felt blessed. I felt like things were in the right place at the right moment.
It was during this time that my husband were married. He was a great support and was with me in the beginning as I discerned. He supported the long hours I worked and the nights away at school. He supported who I was becoming and was even happy for me as I found my way. His support was immeasurable to me.
So for years, I worked as a youth minister. I worked for the church even longer in different roles as our family began. I began my public writing as a minister. The first place I was published was in a youth ministry trade magazine. What had begun with a camp, became my ministry and service, a stepping stone for the life I wanted.
Fast forward fifteen years and my life changed again forever. This time however, I didn’t feel on the verge of it. I was happy. I was happy at home, at work and felt very blessed to be where and who I was. We had just had our second child. Within days, my husband was diagnosed with stage iv pancreatic cancer. Within six months, he was dead.
I have been a widow for over six years now. Two years ago, I started my blog that chronicles my journey toward healing. It was in this time I found the Soaring Spirits Foundation. I read about Camp Widow. I made an immediate connection with it as I read. It was held in a place I knew well. The marina in San Diego, was a place where we had vacationed. I had walked the boardwalk many times holding hands with my husband, swinging our son between us most times. Our last trip there was when I was pregnant, only six months before our world fell apart. I looked at the pictures, read about the camp and longed to be a part of it. In my journey, I had learned the value of being in the company of others who have known great loss. I knew that this was part of my healing. I longed to go to camp.
That was last summer. Ever since, I have watched the website and hoped to find a way to be a part of the camp this year. Something in my life has also changed in the past year. I feel like I’m on the verge again. I feel that anticipation again like I did all those years ago when I went to my first camp to learn and become a ministry leader. I can feel it in my soul that my life, perhaps my ministry is changing again. What it is or where it will take me? I don’t know…but I do know that feeling. I know my life is going to change again. I know that I have worked hard toward healing my heart and I know that I continue to grow and learn every day. I am on the verge again.
Whether or not Camp Widow will be a reality for me this year – I don’t know. I hope I can pull it together, but know that financially this may not be the year. That has never stopped me before though. What I do know is that I will be given the opportunities when the time is right. I do know that when the time is right my path will flow out from beneath me and I will know the way.
I know that. It has happened before and the survivor in me, the faithful servant in me, the believer and the dreamer in me knows it will happen again. The great surprise and the great game of patience are just waiting for the right moment.