Mine has been so wonderful so far...it is my birthday and my wonderful husband snuck out and brought home donuts. He then grabbed the kids and in they came singing with candles in those donuts. Watching Georgia sing "HAPPY TO YOOOOOUUUUU MOMMY!!!!" with her little ponytails bobbing, hearing Parker's gentle "I love you" and getting one of Ravenna's bear hugs were about the greatest gifts I could ever receive. Big hugs from my older two and looking up over them at the most incredible man....
Our life may be in the midst of incredible storms right now but today, in that moment, I had no doubt that I am beyond deeply blessed.
I also woke up knowing exactly what to write today!!!! Linny, if you had any doubt about why God told you to do the Memorial Box today instead of Monday...I think it was for me! I am so excited to write it down.
A Memorial Box is somewhere that you place an item to remind you of God's faithfullness. God tells us to do remember the things that He does. It is just so easy to forget when life gets hard!
This story happened when I was a self conscious, searching and pretty confused 17 year old. I had just graduated high school and entering my last sun-kissed summer before the wide world of college. I grew up on a tiny island in the Northwest that was thick with giant fir trees, gentle beaches and community taking care of one another. At this point in time all of the wonderfulness had worn off for most of us newly minted graduates. We jokingly called the island "the rock" since you could not get on or off of it without taking a little ferry boat that notriously ran late, broke down or crashed into the dock leaving us stranded on that island for days at a time!
I worked as a bag girl (not to be confsued with bag lady) at the local grocery store. The place still holds so many memories when I walk in! My very first real boyfriend even told me he loved in the coffee aisle (talk about romance)! One day I was taking the groceries out for a customer that I didn't know. My thoughts were somewhere else (probably on that boy!) and I was not really listening to what the guy was saying. We got to his car and he said, "well, are you interested?"
Uhhhhhh....what the heck was he talking about? I must have looked blank. He then said, "Do you want to go to Young Life camp? A group of kids is going, it is up in Canada..." He then listed the kids who of course I knew, being from 'the rock' and all. I didn't want to sound dumb so I nodded my head and took a flier. I had zero idea what Young Life was. The only other camp I had ever been to was a soccer camp. The other kids going were sports type kids so I just assumed that it must be a new soccer camp.
It's tiny and a bit blurry but this was my senior picture!
A few weeks lazy weeks went by and early one morning I climbed a stuffy van headed towards Canada, sweatpants on, soccer cleats tied to my bag and shin guards inside. Our little group of kids (8 I think) talked and joked and played cards on that long ferry ride through deep canyons, moutains reaching almost to the sky. We never once talked about what we would be doing when we got there or who had invited us all. You see there was no Young Life on the island, none of us knew what it was. The ferry was teeming of other groups much larger than ours also going to this 'Young Life' place. I sized them up, figuring out who would be the toughest soccer competitors.
Late in the day the tiny boat that we had switched onto pulled up to a little wooden dock on the side of a steep hillside a Young Life's Camp Malibu. I looked at all of the people waiting to greet us. For some reason they were all dressed up in goofy costumes, Hawaiian, one in a toga, purple wigs etc. They were singing songs and taking our bags. I handed mine off, soccer cleats swinging as I did.
I remember thinking, "Wow...they must have really cleared and levelled some land up higher to make all those fields we will need for all these kids to compete on..." as we followed the singing staff up the stairs. On the way to the cabins we walked through trees, tons of trees thick and high with no level areas. I could see through breaks in them a pool and some jet skis bobbing at the waters edge, and just could not figure out what was going on.
As we unpacked our bags, the nice lady who said she was our leader noticed all of my shorts, shin guards and tube socks and said, "So you really like soccer huh?" To which I eagerly replied "Oh yes! I cannot wait for our first game, will we practice tonight?" She looked very, very confused...and I began to feel very, very nervous. "Um honey, this isn't a sports camp... Do you know where you are?" at that point I said something like, "Oh! Of course..." and hurried to the bathroom. Sitting in that stall, my heart raced, what the heck was I doing? Could I leave? Well, my friends were here and everyone seemed nice. Was this some sort of themed acting camp? Is that why those people were dressed up? From that point on I just acted like I knew what I was doing and desperately followed the crowd.
Entering the dining hall that night only made matters worse...the whole kitchen staff were dressed in western garb. They sang as our food came and smiled madly. I slowly ate my biscuit and looked around with huge eyes. Then, after the meal we all filed into a wood panelled room with huge windows and sat down.
While we were there, we sang some songs. Some that I knew and many that I did not. A few talked about Jesus. I knew a little about Jesus from being in Episcopal youth group. I loved youth group, loved the Episcopal church. I actually went by myself every Sunday, my parents would drop me off and pick me up! I was totally confused about what any of it meant though. I was an acolyte and helped with communion and always sort of tuned out when they talked about Jesus, and the cross. I just knew that I was very loved there and that was enough for me.
My concept of God however went something like this. I remember when I was younger and I would get mad at my younger brother, I would steal his G.I. Joe guys and bury them in the yard. I would climb up the massive arms of the plum tree and cry...and look up into the clouds. I figured that God was up there and He was not happy with me. I remember climbing down fast worrying about lightening bolts too! Usually I would go down, dig up the little plastic guys and give them a bath, putting them back before my brother missed them. I just finally confessed to him last month that there may stiil be some hidden out there! My understanding just stayed at that point, when I was a 'good' person God must be happy, when I did something 'wrong' God was mad.
Well, back in that wood panelled room, window peeking out into the trees. A man stood up and began to speak. He really began to speak about Jesus. He spoke about an emptiness that he had in his heart, that we all have in our hearts. He explained that the emptiness can only truly be filled by God...
and I began I realized for the first time just how thirsty I was, not for water but for truth. I had searched for it in acceptance, in being the best athlete, in being well like, in being loved by that boy who told me he loved me in the coffee aisle.
In the quiet of that tiny camp that sparkled like a gem on the water, late that night I really started to take a hard look at those things that I thought were the best life could offer...and I worked hard to convince myself that they were enough.
Well...the week went by in a whirl of water play, goofy meals, strange costumes all anchored each night with this man talking. He talked of Jesus, of how much He loved us, how He longed to know our every thought, and finally how He died for us, for the things that we did wrong, the sins in our life, He longed to help us carry those struggles and to help heal the painful parts of our lives too. He talked about how Jesus would have died for me even if I was the only person in the whole world.
This is the very dock!!!
That night, the last night....I stayed up extra late. I went and I sat on the little dock, toes almost touching the water. I looked up at the stars scattered like confetti across the sky, reflecting back down on the water. For the first time in my life I prayed. I told God that I was scared. Tears came down as I told Him that I knew that the things I was trying were somehow empty. I told Him I wanted to believe but did not know how. I asked Him for a sign, some way to know. The after a minute I got bold and said I would like to see Him make a shooting star....
and as I looked up at the sky, the biggest shooting star I have ever seen streaked across it!!!
and in that moment I prayed. I told Him I was a sinner, that I wanted to follow Him, that I believed that He died on that cross for me and I wept as I told Him that I knew He would have done it if I was the only one.
I'm making a cake with the kids so this is SO not my reality!!!!
As I sit here on my 38th birthday, looking back over the years. It is that moment that has marked my life more than any other. Every single one of those promises has held true, every. single. time.
God has been so faithful. He has walked my heart through more healing than I could have ever dreamed possible, He has whispered guidance that has led me to some of the most beautiful people and places in this world in the very places most would deem the ugliest. He continues to teach me to take my hand and show me how to walk when the water and waves of the storms we face threaten to swallow me whole...
and even though I am inching closer to that big old 40...it just doesn't matter.
My life following Jesus is the most vibrant, real, deep true thing ever.
I cannot thank God enough for that stranger who listened to God's voice and boldly asked a confused bag girl at the grocery store to go to Young Life camp when there was no Young Life even to be found!
That He guided my heart to somehow say yes to going to that 'soccer camp'
for that beautiful moment on that tiny dock that is forever etched in my memory.
I have a wooden star from a Young Life camp that I worked at years later...I think it will find a new home in my Memorial Box.
But before you are done here.
Let me introduce you to a precious, beyond beautiful child of God
But before you are done here.
Let me introduce you to a precious, beyond beautiful child of God
She has a medical condition that needs help RIGHT NOW and she needs a miracle. You CAN be a part of helping this precious girl out. Help her to find her family, to find medical care....
Please, please, please,
take a minute out of your day, risk and go and read her story here. God may be asking you to be a piece of her answer...which is the coolest thing in the world!
Want to know more about Memorial Boxes or read more stories of God's faithfulness????
Check them out here
and if you want to read more of my Memorial Box stories