Packing Up the Dreams God Planted

Most of you that I have been doing life with over the last 2 months are aware of a major change taking place in my life right now! But since I have been engulfed in camp life since the middle of May, contact with the “outside world” has been minimal. So here is my life update.

After 14 years of involvement in camp ministry, I am officially stepping out of the event planning world and venturing into the world of publishing. You know, there are those times when there is just a perfect storm of God speaking to you through loved ones, events, circumstances and His word. The past 6 months have been that perfect storm. The result is that this summer was my last summer with camps and this fall marks the beginning of a new role as Acquisitions Editor working with B&H Women. Don’t ask me what all that means, because I’m still not entirely sure yet! What I do know is that God has been preparing me in ways I never could have imagined. I think over my years with FUGE Camps and think about parts of my “job box” that I took on over the years where I was stretched and did things I didn’t expect to be doing. And now I sit in a new chair and I can see how all those things have prepared me for this specific role.

Being a Coordinator for FUGE was an absolute dream job. Camp (not always FUGE, but camp in general) was life-changing for me as a camper, as a staffer and as a full-time Coordinator. From the time that I was 17, I felt called to camp ministry. The summers of 1998 and 1999 (FRESH out of high school) were spent with Student Life – basically unpaid and doing lots of dirty work! But man, those summers were amazing. I was whisked away from small town East Texas and was thrown into relationships with godly, creative, passionate, fun, young adults that loved me like a little sister (since I was only 17 at the time) and taught me about life, faith and of course how to run awesome camp. Then a few summers later I joined the ranks of FUGE staffers – a family I am so proud to be a part of. I had no idea what I was getting into that summer. No idea the life-change that God had in store that summer or the 7 other summers to come.

179622_1850737749179_1100732_n

ngu 2002

When Jeff Pratt called me in November of 2009 to officially offer me the Coordinator position, it was literally a dream come true. It was all I ever wanted to be and all I could imagine myself doing. This was it. The dream job. Now 4 years later, I’ve packed up those dreams and moved my random, but profoundly sentimental, memorabilia over to a new office (things like duct tape picture frames, “The Stinky Cheese Man” book and a little stuffed turtle). My personal timeline for “when to get off the camp train” did NOT include a stop in 2013. But as we know, God’s timeline and our timeline do not always line up. And the funny thing is, God started preparing my heart long before this new job opportunity was ever an option on the table. I didn’t know why but God had taken me on a journey from “I love what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything else” to “I love what I do, but I can at least imagine doing something else” to “I love what I do, but maybe I could even be excited about something else.” I didn’t know why God was doing that at the time, but now I do. So that when the time came to make the decision about the offer on the table, I could say “yes” and have peace. And I do. I feel very blessed to be moving into my second full-time position at LifeWay and to still be excited about what I do. I am thankful for the people that have spoken wise words into my life in the past 6 months through this process and for the Lord’s guidance throughout. And more than I could ever put into words, I am thankful for 14 summers of camp, 300+ teammates, 350+ staffers I’ve coordinated, thousands of students, 80+ Mega Relays, an office staff that was more like family and the list goes on and on and on…

ngu 2003

4703_524439203108_4806733_n

fuge-xmas_Card2012_v2

In Sickness and In Health

If there’s one thing I hate more than anything, it’s the dreaded “24-hour stomach virus”. For one thing, it’s never really 24 hours. Yes, the sickness may go away, but it usually takes me a solid three days to recover and feel like I can actually rejoin the human race again without being mistaken for a zombie. The other thing I hate is that you have no idea it’s coming. No warning at all. Most sicknesses, you can feel them coming on – a light sniffle, a slight ache, a gradual fever – but not this. At 10:00 PM you go to bed mentally organizing your to-do list for the next day and at 3:00 AM you realize nothing on that to-do list is going to see the light of day…for several days. I actually woke up Monday morning around 2:00 AM and knew that the sickness was inevitable, but I’m stubborn. So I fought it for a solid hour. But by 3:00 AM, there was no more fighting. What happened next brought tears to my eyes for two reasons. One, I HATE throwing up. Hate it. But two, as I’m finally giving in to this inevitable sickness, even with my eyes closed, I realize that my dear husband is standing in the doorway, just a few feet away from me. Yes, at 3:00 AM, at clearly one of my finest moments, there he is. There was an overwhelming feeling of, “you’re going to be ok.” Some people may think that’s completely disgusting. And those people would be right. But in the moment, I was just struck by how much he cared. By how concerned he was that I was sick. I was impressed at how immediately he was by my side, taking care of me. At the exact moment I needed him, he was there.

It’s not like I’m just having this realization. I have the most amazing, caring, sympathetic husband alive. He completely embodies Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” On the spiritual gifts survey, he’s off the chart in the area of mercy (where I, on the other hand, score a 5 because you have to at least give yourself 1 point for each answer). So I know who he is and how much he loves. But what an outstanding reminder I had this week. I’m so very thankful to have a husband who rushes to my side to comfort me. In sickness and in health.

PS (Just so we don’t seem too sappy and romantic)…Our conversation at about 4:00 AM went something like this:

ME: So at what point can you just take me to the hospital? (only slightly sarcastically)

Michael: Well at least you’re still able to make jokes.

ME: I’m not joking. (still only somewhat sarcastic)

Michael: Get some sleep honey.

Death of a “church”

While running an errand on a lunch break this week, I passed two church buildings that have recently closed their doors and the buildings were converted into new businesses. One was in the process of becoming an upscale, trendy restaurant. The other had already been transformed into, of all things, a doggie day care. I know of another church in a different part of town that years ago closed its doors and is now a beauty supply store. When Michael and I bought our first house in East Nashville, the search for a “church home” was endless and frustrating. Because of the changing culture and demographics in the neighborhood since the 1950’s, many of the churches had all but died. Week after week, we would walk into a church that from the outside looked like it should have several hundred people in attendance. The grand, old sanctuary was dark and empty (and occasionally moldy) and we would quickly be escorted to another room, maybe a fellowship hall, where a small congregation of 20 or 30 were gathered. It seemed that while in other parts of the city, mega churches were apparently thriving and expanding to new locations, these smaller, older churches were slowly and painfully dying away. That was 5+ years ago and I know that a few of those have since disbanded their congregation and sold their buildings.

What causes a “church” to die? An older generation that never reproduced younger believers? Traditions that we hold too tightly? Resistance to changing culture and new ideas? What happened to the race that we were running? In Galatians 5:7 Paul admonishes his readers by saying, “You were running so well. Who prevented you from obeying the truth?” What kept us from running the race with endurance? Sometimes a church closes because it runs out of money. Sometimes it closes because of arguments and disagreements. But I think the closing of “church” doors is usually a symptom of a greater disease. The disease that we have allowed other things to take precedence in our lives above Christ, our Cornerstone. “Church” becomes merely the Sunday social hour, not a time of fellowship with other believers reflecting on what God has done and anticipating what He will do next. When we confine “church” to what happens in that hour on Sunday morning, we make the mistake of believing that the church is a building and that it doesn’t go with us every minute of every day. 1 Peter 2:5 states “you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” It is us. Our bodies, our fellowship with other believers, our daily spiritual sacrifices to the Lord. It’s not easy to be the church so I’m afraid many times instead of persevering, we decide it’s easier to close the doors and start over. Honestly, sometimes I have this fleeting thought about my house! I think, I will never be able to get it truly clean ever again! I would rather just sell it and get a new house and start over! Of course, anyone who has ever been through that process of selling and buying knows how ridiculous that thought is. So I get to cleaning. Maybe we’ve thought this about church. It’s hard, we can’t fix all the problems, so let’s just shut it down and start all over with someone new. Let’s just walk away. 2 Timothy 4:2 pleads, “Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct and encourage with great patience and teaching.”

So when I see a church building that has closed it’s doors, I pray they haven’t walked away. I pray their faith is as real today as it was when they gathered in those rooms. I pray they still meet and find encouragement from a local body of believers. I pray they will be able to say with Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”