A God to Expect

There are places that should be filled.  Places that need people in them to fully be what they are.  I first experienced the ghost-town sensation at camp, when I arrived three weeks early to work some rental groups and prepare for summer. Before then, camp had always been a place full of delightful squeals, shouted repeat-after-me songs, golf cart tires on gravel.  But that summer, when I arrived early, camp was silent.  The assistant director lived on the edge of camp, and he and the director were in the office with me during the day, but at night, they left.  And I would make myself dinner, traipse down to the cottage I was staying in, and sit with the quiet. It was the most alone I had ever felt.  There was no internet, no cell service, and no television – it was just me, and the music I had installed in my computer.  I tried to read, I remember, but the silence became heavy as the sun sank away.  I tried to write, but my thoughts would run away with themselves – I thought too much for a girl who had no one with whom to think aloud.  I would call my mom on the land line from the office, crying, not because I was afraid or because I missed home, but because camp finally looked and felt empty.  My place – the one place where I had always been guarenteed company – was a giant wooded prison.

One night, alone in a cabin that I had just opened for the season, tucked into my sleeping bag, I spoke to God out loud.  I told Him that if there ever was a time for me to have a mystic moment, a time for Jesus to appear – literally, bodily, with His standard arms-wide-open posture and knowing-smile face – now was that time.  I told God that I had no one – that every night for what seemed like years (but was really only a few weeks) I had been alone, in the dark, empty.  Really, looking back, I see now that I allowed the loneliness to cripple me; I allowed the dark to seep into my mind.  It’s amazing, and kind of terrifying, how easy it is to be overcome by that which really can’t hurt you on its own.

That night, in the cabin, was the first time I remember being completely dependent on God to come through.  As silly as it seems – I mean, there are prisoners of war, religious captives, refugees and over 200 girls being sold as child brides in Africa right now, and my most desperate moment was sitting alone in a bunk at a church camp that I basically grew up at, in a wood I knew like the back of my hand, a three-minute walk away from an office with internet, phones, and food – I know it sounds ridiculous, but in that moment, I felt my need for God more than I had ever felt it before.

I prayed for a long time that night.  It was one of those prayers that drifts in and out, that wanes in intensity until it’s just you, your head on the pillow, staring into the space in front of you, desperate hope and exhaustion clashing within you.

In the silence, a bat fluttered from one rafter to the other.  I sat up, not because I was afraid, but because in that moment, I was completely certain that I had just seen the Spirit.

Track with me here: I don’t come anywhere close to charismatic.  I’m Methodist, and as progressive as I tend to be as of late, I still stand firmly in my pew, arms (usually) clasped in front of me.  The Holy Spirit is, to me, the most intriguing and the most confusing member of the Trinity, a juxtaposition of beauty and mystery.  If we were to get technical, we would technically label me a semi-cessationist with a fairly open mind but a little bit of hidden fear that if I let Him, God will use me in ways I don’t understand (which seems to be the way He usually uses people anyway, but…).  In short, the last thing I expected that night was for God to actually answer my prayer.

Why don’t we pray like God will actually answer our prayer?

Why do we doubt the One who made promises?

That bat didn’t scare me that night.  I didn’t run screaming, I didn’t turn on the lights or set a trap for it.  Instead, the bat was comfort.  It was that peace-surpassing-all-understanding feeling.  It was the most unromantic revelation, but that’s how God tends to work, isn’t it?  Maybe we’ve hyped up the miracles so much that we see them through Hollywood glasses, as these flashing heroics complete with background orchestration.  But the ways Jesus worked were generally without fanfare.  He had a conversation with a woman drawing water.  He told the servant to have the wine skins filled with water.  He told the man to pick up his mat and walk.  As earth-shattering and life-changing and power-shifting as His works were, there were no fireworks.  He spoke in parables, with no flashing arrows.  He did things differently, but not in ways anyone expected.  He was not yet the warrior king on a white horse, riding into Jerusalem to defeat the Romans.  This is a God who uses bats in camp cabins.  This is a God who answers prayers but asks us to pay attention.  He is a God who asks us to expect Him, but not always in the most expected ways.

I’ve met with the ghost-town sensation a few times since then.  I found it this week at school – I’m living with a family outside of town and working on campus during the day.  It’s desolate – finals have ended, students have left, and the small, sleepy town has slipped quietly into the slow pace of summer.  Thankfully, I have plenty of friends around, which keeps the loneliness far away, and I’ve grown up quite a bit in the past few years anyway.  I know, now, how to better be alone.  But I’ve been reminded, in this new quiet, of my need for my God.  I’ve been reminded of His faithfulness, even in my wandering, even in my doubt, even in my fear.  He continues to sit closely, constantly, and I can rest in that.

Rest, He whispered that night, after the bat flew by – the bat that reminded me that I have never been fully alone.

Rest, because you can expect Me.

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Sanctuary.

At camp, we sing a song called Sanctuary.  It’s one of my favorite sounds in the world: listening to my camp family throughout the years, singing the words softly and loudly, with tears in their eyes and with smiles on their faces, holding hands, sitting in the dark, staring at the fire.  The tune is simple.  The words are straightforward.  It is a prayer that I never grow tired of praying.

Lord, prepare me
to be a sanctuary
pure and holy
tried and true.
With thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
sanctuary
for You.

When I sing this, I am under the cover of hundred-year-old oaks and maples and pines.  Even when I’m not, that is where my heart and my mind go.  I can close my eyes and I can be there – I can smell the woods and hear the water and the crackling tiki torches.  I feel like I’m home, like I’m where I belong.  It has so much to do with the place but it has so much more to do with the presence I feel.  I feel God holding me when I sing this song, when I go to that place.  I feel His existence beside me, in the air, in the pit of my stomach.

The plea of this song is for God to make me into His dwelling place.  I’m asking for preparation, I’m expecting to be transformed.  This song means I’m letting go – it’s what it’s always meant for me.  You see, a sanctuary is so much more than the room we worship in.  It’s more than the pews and slightly raised stage with the cross and the stained glass windows.  Those are beautiful, and they are special places.  But God doesn’t dwell in church buildings.  The Spirit has not torn His way through our fellowship halls and Sunday School classrooms, painted the walls white, and set it on fire.  Our churches are not holy because they are churches.

God rips into our lives, breaking our hearts and whitewashing the walls; He lights fires that cause us to feel, to hurt, to love.  He doesn’t destroy us – He made us – but He does refine.  And He pulls us together, weaving us into the lives of others.  We are living, breathing, walking-around sanctuaries.  God takes us places and we find holiness, not because we are holy ourselves or because a building (or a forest) has special powers.  When God is in us, you see, He breaks down our barriers of sacred and secular.  We see God in places we hadn’t noticed Him before.

Tonight I was with my friends at an old, old theatre in the center of the village.  The opera house creaks and it doesn’t have comfortable chairs or always-working lights, but it is beautiful in it’s age.  We’re putting on a show there this weekend: a bunch of twenty-somethings with no money, little time, and a whole hell of a lot of passion.  Tomorrow is opening night, so tonight we prayed.  A lot.  I was sitting in the back after rehearsal, watching the actors receive notes, watching and praying for people to come tomorrow, for people to like the show, for understanding and for soft hearts.  The show isn’t easy.  If I’m being honest – and I am – then I admit that there is a lingering fear in me that it won’t happen the way I want it to happen.  People won’t come, things will go wrong, no one will like it.  As though it were about me.  As though I controlled any of it.  As though any of it mattered.

Anyway, we prayed.  A lot.  I’m one of those people who opens their eyes during long prayers.  I’m not being disrespectful and I’m most definitely praying.  The thing is, I like watching others pray.  I like watching others be silent in the presence of their Savior.  I like seeing people smile, hold hands, furrow their brow.  Maybe I’m breaking the unspoken code of praying, or something.  But because people assume everyone’s eyes are closed, people usually stop putting on a show when they pray.  And Lord knows I am so sick of watching a show of churchiness and religiosity.  I love to see people talk with Jesus when they have no one to impress.

So I opened my eyes tonight.  And I looked at my friends, some I’ve known for a while and some I’m just now beginning to know.  My eyes traveled up the walls, to the top of the old proscenium, to the tall windows that let in so much cold air.  And in my head (or my heart – my voice seems to come from both), the song Sanctuary started up.  I could hear my camp brothers and sisters singing it, because it will always be them.  I smiled, because I had found another sanctuary.  Because church is not just a building and a system.  Church is the people of Jesus, holding onto one another in an old opera house, asking for forgiveness and peace and blessing and, please, Jesus, even butts in the seats.  I was struck by how little we all know, how little life we have between the lot of us, but how desperate we are for Jesus to come through us, for people to love one another, for something we’ve done to matter.

I think we forget that Divinity lives within us.  Not in the postmodern sense, not in the humanistic sense, no.  But the actual Divinity, the God of Creation, Yahweh who loves and redeems and comes back for His sheep, that God has cleared out a space for His home in the shadowy depths of our hearts.  He has called the space good, and He has promised to stay with us no matter how messy it gets.  He has promised us that we matter by breaking down the door and lighting a fire in the hearth of our souls.  Lord, prepare me for that.  Tried and true.  Living, alive, with a beating heart and lungs full of air, a sanctuary for You.

Aldersgate.

Tomorrow I get to go to the most beautiful place on earth.

Camp.  Just saying the word feels like music.  I think a lot of people would say that the word should be screamed gleefully by about eighty-two children in order to convey the actual meaning.  But I would disagree.  I think it should always be whispered.  You should close your eyes, smile softly, and whisper, I am going to camp.  I am going back home.  In chapel this year, someone mentioned that God doesn’t always speak in thunderclaps.  Leesville Lake taught me that clearer than ever.  And tomorrow, I get to go back.

It’s a work day, getting camp ready for the summer.  Last year I organized the day, drove around in a golf cart with a radio clipped to my hip.  This year I’m volunteering.  And I’m okay with that.  This summer is different – I’ve noticed already.  But I’ve beat that horse into the ground, so I’m not going to talk about my strange, normal summer anymore.  I just want to tell you about the most beautiful place on earth.  I want to make your heart long for the same thing mine longs for.  It’s like when a really proud mother rambles on and on about her kid, the star of the play or the top hitter on the t-ball team.  You never fully understand what it’s like to love the kid so much, but you can see the love in the mother’s eyes, and you feel it too.

I grew up there.  From second grade, I was there every summer.  For only a week at a time at first, then longer and longer, until I was going into tenth grade and I spent my entire summer there as a junior staffer.  Did that for three years.  Never got paid.  It was really hard.  I changed a lot during those three summers.  And usually, I hated leaving.  For better or for worse, camp became my home, like I was tied to it.  And it hurt when I had to tear myself away.  The summer after I graduated, I went on full-time, PAID, staff.  I never went home.  I was home.  In so many ways, I was like the firefly with the broken wing and camp was my safe jar.  Then I went to college.  And I went back the following summer.  Things were different.  My wings had mended and I flew around, getting stronger, and when I came back, I realized I couldn’t be held in a jar anymore.  But I was still so in love.  And that was the decision: Stay in the jar, and grow to resent it, or leave the jar, and always love it.

Now that I think about it, that’s the decision with a lot of things, isn’t it?

Leesville Lake was man-made, but I pretend that’s only a rumor when I’m there.  When I sit on the tower on my waterfront, looking at nothing but water framed by hills, I pretend glaciers cut the valley.  They melted, and Leesville is what happened.  But in my head I know that a century ago, the town in the valley flooded too often so everyone moved away and they dug it out and let the rain come.  People say there are still houses and churches deep under the water.  I don’t know for sure, but I get chills every time I hang my feet off my kayak in the middle of the lake, thinking for one moment that I’ll graze the top of a steeple.  I let my feet dangle anyway.

Aldersgate has the best waterfront on the lake.  There are other camps, too, but I’ve seen their waterfronts, and nothing compares.  We have the best view, and the best water toys.  But mostly the best view.  See it with me: there’s one big hill straight ahead, and behind that, a wider, mistier one.  To the right the lake goes on, but to the left, the tall pines block the water in a little cove.  It’s easy to get canoes and kayaks stuck back there.  It’s like camp just pulls everything in.  The first time I got stuck in the cove, it scared me, because things like that always do.  But now that I think about it, I’d give almost anything to be drawn back in.

At night, we always did this thing at campfire, before things got too serious: we’d hush the kids, and someone would tell them that last year, we had set the record for most echoes on the lake.  We’d always tell them something ridiculous, like the last group of kids got a hundred and thirty two echoes and we had to beat it.  So one of us would yell, Attitude check! and they’d all respond as one PRAISE THE LORD! and then they would have to be totally and completely silent as we listened for the echoes from the other side of the lake.  And we never got more than eleven echoes, really, because it’s forty kids and a really big atmosphere sucking up all the noises, so we’d try a few more times.  Then we’d tell them they’d just have to come back next year and try again.  And the campfire went on.  Some loud, crazy singing, then a skit or two, then a really good story.  And if they were older, that’s when the pow-wow would start: going around and answering questions like “If you could shrink any person and carry them in your pocket, who would it be?” all the way to “What are you afraid of?”  It was the first place I ever saw people be truly honest.  Staring into the flames, that’s when I realized that this was the only way life could make sense: being human for other humans to see.  Trusting that God was doing something with it all.

For a long time, I thought camp was the shout.  But as I got older, I came to understand that camp was the echo.  I never listened to the shout, to the noise, but I was silent waiting for the echo.  That’s when I heard the words: praise the Lord… praise the Lord… praise the Lord… praise… praise… 

The echo is what I miss.  It’s what I’ll listen for tomorrow.

Do you even know how many lives God is going to explode into this summer?  Time freezes at camp; it’s like walking into a photo album.  I drive in and I see myself at nine, standing in the parking lot, crying because I don’t want to stay.  At thirteen, dropping my bags on the drive and sprinting into the arms of my favorite counselor.  At nineteen, standing beside my car because I don’t want to get in it because I know when I do, I have to drive away.  Then in the dining hall – imaginary photos of myself, not eating because my kids were taking turns throwing fits during the meal and I had to be there for them.  On the basketball court, sixteen years old and spread-eagled on the center of the concrete at eleven o’clock at night, knowing that the next day was the end, pressed down by the weight of being sixteen and afraid.  And the three best friends who found me there, and said nothing, but lay down beside me silently, because they were the only ones who knew me enough to get it.  And from there we could go right to the outdoor chapel, with a ceiling of branches and a giant rock for an alter.  A thousand frozen moments there: praying with my own counselors, then praying with my own campers; the first time I lifted my arms in worship; depleting my stock of band-aids in one morning watch because every single one of my girls had a bleeding mosquito bite; finding a note in my Bible from the first little girl to ever tell me I taught her something about God; reading a poem for a service; huddled on the giant rock in the shadow of the makeshift cross, eating Curious George fruit snacks and pleading with God all at once.  Or we could’ve turned left, toward the musty treehouse I called my home for two summers with about a million spiders and about a million more 6-year-old girls.  Photos of hugs goodnight and promises of safety that I knew I couldn’t keep once the world snatched my girls away again.  The first time I ever made up a bedtime story on the fly – how zebras got their stripes.  I still don’t know if any of the girls were awake by the time I finished.  Maybe it was better that they fell asleep – now they can still wonder about the zebras.  One night, after I each one was asleep, my best friend died the tips of my hair purple.  It was one in the morning and it was the loudest form of quiet we’d ever been.  When morning came, we told the campers it was the trolls who had done it, and all day we searched for the elusive purple creatures.

So many more frozen memories – on the step of the cottage and on the drop-off near the dorms and my first labyrinth in the activity center and the time I thought I’d gotten the golf cart stuck by the lower cabins.  Cabin six, when my sixth graders asked me about the apocalypse and I had no idea what to say; cabin eight, my last summer as a camper surrounded by girls I thought I’d stay in touch with forever.  Sleeping under the stars on the beach – the only place I can identify all the constellations because they’re always in the same place there.  Red string traded for white on the top of the tower – because he said it would last longer.  I threw all my string away last year.  I don’t know what that means now.  You probably don’t either, but you could ask me and I’d tell you.

I get to go back tomorrow.  Only for a day.  I’ll clean and walk around the place and pray for every frozen moment, every echo of summer – and for the ones coming this summer.  I don’t need to be there for the place to be beautiful.  If anything, I was only ever a shadow on the closest thing I’ve ever known to Eden.  God is going to change lives with or without me.  It took a lot to understand that.  But I can’t wait for it to happen.  He is so good.  I can feel Him there – the way I can hold your hand, I can feel Him.  That’s how real He is there.  That’s how real He always is, everywhere.  But I’m still too blind to see it.  At camp, I’m a little softer.

Tom Hammerton was one of the original Aldersgate guys, a long time ago.  There’s a big story that goes with him, and it’s a great one, but here is the important part: He loved camp as much as I do.  Probably even more.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard about Tom Hammerton, who stood on the shore of Leesville Lake and said that he didn’t mind if he never made it to the Holy Land.  This – this lake, this place – it was his Sea of Galilee.

I think he was right.  Sometimes I think I have to go do really big things – I have to see everything and think about everything and know everything.  But maybe sometimes, things just have to be enough.  It has to be enough that you said the things that mattered.  It has to be enough that the decision was made.  That you let go.  Gave it up – whatever it is.  The big world is there and going into it will blow my mind – but God’s grace falls on every dusty patch of earth and makes it beautiful.  Every screwy human made beautiful.  Every flooded town made beautiful.

Are you still listening?

Time and time again, I promised myself that I would not apologize for what I wrote.  I never wanted to preface everything with disclaimers, and I swore to be honest.  I never wanted this blog to be structured or planned, and though I knew it would never be smart for it to become a journal, I wasn’t about to let it become an agenda, either.  That’s why I rarely read other blogs – so many are so artificial, as if I were walking into a virtual store dedicated to t-shirts and posters bearing the blogger’s face, emblazoned with some kitschy motto.  I didn’t want my words to become a product.  I just wanted them to make sense to someone else.

This blog has become exactly what I envisioned.  It’s real.  This is me, in all my dusty, twisty glory.  The onslaught of poetry in the past few days is the product of some weird sort of soul disease – all these words keep hitting me, at the most random times.  One of my friends told me once that he speaks his poems, then has to write them down as they come.  I thought it was such an odd concept at first.  My poems never came like that; they could only be born on the page.  I couldn’t just think up lines and then build around them.  Stuff just came as a package, you know; fully formed stanzas with a beginning, middle, and end.

But God set something off in me this week.  Last night, I couldn’t sleep because every time I began to drift off, a new line came to me and I had to get up to write it down.  This weekend, I wrote two or three poems every night, one right after the other, even though I have about seventeen million other things I should’ve been doing (like studying for that degree I’m attempting to attain, you know).  A few of them made it here, but many remain tucked away in my journal.  I am grateful for the insight the Lord has been granting me lately (and I’m calling it “insight” in spite of the fact that it feels like “sheer and utter confusion and chaos” …I’m trying to convince myself to change my perspective).  There have been seasons in my life where all I wanted to do was figure it out on paper, but nothing ever came to me, and I didn’t like that feeling.  It felt just as much like a disease as this sometimes feels.  But having too much to say is probably a better burden that not having anything but yearning for something desperately.

This all feels very meta, very disjointed.  I don’t actually think I have a point – the frustrating thing about the Overflowing Words Disease is that I can’t seem to find where I’m going with anything.  Everything ends with a question mark, and I’m having trouble talking through it as well.  Honestly, I think most people think I’m crazy.  I’m blessed to have very tolerant, loving friends who deal with the crazy… but Lord knows what they’re thinking as I ramble on and on.  My darling roommate has put up with so much this past month: me, practically falling into the room at midnight, talking at lightening speed about my confusing days and confusing thoughts.  On and on I go, my speech interrupted only by my own incomprehensible sighs of frustration.  And she sits there, smiling, laughing, letting me explode.  And then she talks, and I laugh at her, because at some point in the middle of the night, we always come to the conclusion that being a college student has got to be the weirdest state of being and there’s no use trying to make sense of it.  I will miss her so much in a couple weeks.  She is one of the few people who sees me at my worst and still finds something good.

I guess I just wanted you all to know that I am in a discovery sort of place in my head and heart right now.  As if you couldn’t already tell :)  There will certainly be more poetry, and I hope you don’t mind it.  This is my place, this silly little blog.  It’s how I’m trying to connect.  As a communications student, I realize what an odd mode of connection the internet really is: me, practically bearing my soul for a bunch of people I don’t even know (and, as I’ve learned recently, many that I do know as well), often without equal reciprocation of soul-bearing.  If we’re going strictly by the textbook, relationships shouldn’t work like this.  Blogs shouldn’t work, because one party is being all open with a bunch of people who aren’t.  But I’m glad theory is less applicable than life.

COMING UP (probably… hopefully…): Camp has been on my mind lately, so I’m in the middle of writing a piece about everything I learned at summer camp and why I credit a large portion of who I am to camp.  And also, why I think every kid should go to camp this summer.  Also, in keeping with the camp theme, I hope to write up another campfire story soon.  Maybe White Gorilla… It is my second-favorite :)

Thanks for listening.

You Think You Cannot Do, Part Two.

I suppose I’m lucky.  I guess it’s a good thing that the hardest decision I have had to make over the last couple weeks was where to spend this summer: Maine or home.  I guess that’s the best kind of choice to have to make: a choice between two good things.  Right?  That’s what wise people would say.  Wise people would consider themselves blessed to be torn between two rights.  It’s better than the alternative.

I don’t think I have the best track record for being wise about stuff, sometimes.

Because this has been one of the most tossing-and-turning, pacing-the-room kind of decisions I’ve ever made.  Choosing a college?  Easy.  I only applied to Cedarville, and I got accepted in September of my senior year.  Summers past?  Always at Aldersgate.  It was like my default setting.  Even the hard decisions, the ones where there were only two things I didn’t want – even those have always come easy to me.  I’m good at making up my mind when I’m afraid or angry or bored.  And I’m normally pretty smart about it, too.

Of course, there’s the little decisions.  Which pair of jeans to buy when I’ve only allowed myself money for one.  Which entree to get at Olive Garden.  Whether or not to bring my umbrella to class when the clouds look ominous but the forecast is ambiguous.  I will walk around the store four times, carrying both pairs of jeans, try them on, put them both back, then make a choice 45 minutes later.  When I’m out to dinner, I’ll send the waitress back for more bread three times before I choose my meal.  I’ll take my umbrella, walk out the door, turn around, put it back, then walk five more steps before taking it up again.  It will never rain.  Unless I leave the umbrella again.  Then – monsoon.

At times, I wonder if this is why people often roll their eyes at me.  Because I’m so unpredictably indecisive.  Then I realize I roll my eyes at practically everyone as well, and remember that everyone’s got their quirks.  No one would have any friends if our eye rolls actually dictated our actions.

In the end, though, I always decide.  Sometimes I’m really good about pre-decision: You know, something will come up, and right away I’ll ask myself, “Now, after all the deliberation and heartache and metathought, what are you going to choose?”  Because I know.  Most of the time, I know myself well enough to know my final answer.  Then I say something like, “The fettuccine.  I’m going to choose the fettuccine.”  And I go on to agonize over the chicken marsala for ten minutes.

Obviously, this method works for big things, too.  I’m not so first-worldy that I frequently agonize over chicken, geesh.

But this decision wasn’t like that.  I didn’t know, at the beginning, what the end would look like.  If I closed my eyes, I could just as clearly see myself on a lake in Maine as I could on my hammock in my backyard.  Both made sense.  Both seemed like the right thing to do.  My heart longed for both places.

I’m going to stay home.

Yes, yes.  I know.  “But, the adventure!  The thing you were afraid of!  The once-in-a-lifetime shenanigans!”  Yeah.  That’s what I thought, too.  I thought, this is what everyone expects of me now that I’ve blabbed to the internet.  This is what I want to do – I want to prove to myself that I’m bold and independent and faithful.  The bold, independent, faithful thing to do is to fly to another state, live as far away from home as I’ve ever lived, for as long as I’ve ever been that far away.  More alone in the unexpected than I’ve ever found myself.  The thought was utterly frightening, and I loved the thrill.

Then the sun went down.  When the sun goes down, my true thoughts come to light.  Everything becomes more real at night.  Without daylight, Maine seemed farther away, more burdensome than exciting.  The reality of being virtually penniless come fall – I didn’t want to stumble through another year of college desperately trying to make tuition payments.  And as hard as I tried to fight the feeling, as tight as I tried to cling to the thought of adulthood and freedom… The night only reminded me how much I wanted to be with my family.  I haven’t been homesick since eighth grade, but the older I get, the more frantic I seem to become about spending all the time I can with my family.  Maybe it’s some weird young-adult-life-crisis.  Maybe I’m just childish.  I don’t really care one way or the other.  All I know is throughout high school, I used the summers to escape away to camp.  I craved independence then, because I knew I wasn’t yet old enough or mature enough or wise enough to actually have it.  But now that I’m free to go wherever I wish, whenever I wish it – I don’t want it as badly.

So I chose home.  It broke my heart to let the camp know.  As much as I wanted home, I wanted camp.  I did.  I do.  I told  them I’d apply next summer as well, and I will.  I’ll go next summer if God would give me the chance again.  I wonder if I’m slipping into a trap, a not-now-next-time trap, the trap that ultimately ends with a person never having done anything at all because she kept putting it off until tomorrow.  But I don’t think so, not with this one.  I said I wanted to do the thing I think I cannot do.

I don’t think I can work a menial job in Salem this summer.  I think I will go mad with boredom.  I think I will feel stuck.  I think I will feel purpose-less.  But I know I must do it, for these very reasons.  Does that make sense?  Try to understand.  I’ve always been afraid of being stuck at home, so I never let myself be.  I’ve always been afraid of being ordinary, so I’ve done things better than other people, I’ve sought out bigness so I would never have to get sucked into the mundane.  Maybe this is all well and good, but what if I’m missing something?  What if I’m so stuck in the magnificent that I’ve forgotten the beauty in simplicity?  My mind is a storyteller’s mind, I can’t help that.  I can’t stop the fantasy world that I wander around in, spinning words and poems that make everything more than what it is.  But I should at least give the normal things a chance to thrill me, shouldn’t I?

This is going to be that chance.  I’m resolving that, right now.  This summer, I’m not going to let myself belittle myself.  I won’t be ordinary because I’ll seek ordinary – and who the heck does that?  I’ll go to the library and I’ll go to the museums.  I’ll visit my town’s historical society, because it isn’t right that I’ve lived there for twenty years without having done so.  I’ll work some job that will pay tuition, and when I’m there, I’ll smile and be cheerful and be different.  I’ll be kind and loving and interesting, and I’ll make friends with people who aren’t like me.  I’ll teach Vacation Bible School.  I’ll go to the diner at midnight with my friends.  I will read books.  I’ll intern at the theatre.  Maybe I’ll even be in a play.  I’ll go to my family reunion, as insane as that idea might seem.  I will explore the woods and the bike trails and the hidden ice cream shops.  I’ll hang out in the cemeteries I’ve never been to – have I not told you?  I have a weird thing for cemeteries in the summer.  They’re full of lives lived, and I know there is joy in that.  I’ll build fires and sleep on my deck, even though my sister will call me a fool for it.

And when I come back to school, I’ll be ready.  I will be more than ready, I’m sure, to get away from home again.  But I need to go home in the meantime.  For myself.  To say that I have done it.  To know that though I will soon have to tear up my roots, at least I’ve been deep in the soil.  And next summer, I’ll go to Maine or New York or DC, knowing that I am ready for it.

I have to keep reminding myself of this, until I really believe it.  Such is the way with me.  I’m almost always unsettled.  I wish it weren’t up to me, though.  I wish God would’ve shown me the thing to do with burning bushes and pillars of fire.  But I know it isn’t really like that – I know now that some choices are between two right things.  We’ve got a gracious God who gives us right things.

So I’m resolved.