The air of the forest was cool and calm. There had been a toad the size of my palm perfectly camouflaged beneath the tree I sat on. I only found him because I went to put my foot down in the dead leaves under the fallen tree and quickly saw the two beady eyes and the nearly invisible outline of the body just before settling my foot on the spot next to him. His skin blended into the leaves and the under brush. When I discovered him, I had to stand there, straddling the branch I was stepping over, both so not to scare him and also to observe camouflage in action for the first time.
As I sat there in the woods, as the atmosphere grew silent, as I felt the pressure of my own vulnerability before God, I thought. It’s weird how after I’d spent the majority of the night before sprinting and putting people in headlocks and dodging people and sweating, and then this morning packing up my backpack with the necessities of survival, kayaking across the BaYouCa lake, carrying the kayak for about half a mile, kayaking the length of yet another lake (it’s actually called Long Pond, technically not a lake but pretty big), hiking through the woods and up the roads and along trails, finally ending the hike with sitting on my fallen tree adorned with moss and cracked bark, I was able to sit in perfect peace and amazement, too tired to sleep and too spent to over think. Why does it take a week and a half of strenuous, mind-boggling, emotion-pulling activity, poor sleep (or just not enough), and the solidifying and feeling out of new relationships for me to be in a place where I’m hit full force with just how incapable and vulnerable I am? I have a serious problem with being vulnerable with people, but there’s no problem with being vulnerable with God, because He sees everything I’m thinking and feeling and experiencing all at the same time. He sees the whole of time as one thing, not the three parts of past, present, and future. In the woods I’m able to see how vulnerable I am, and when you’re in the woods there are no distractions, no room for excuses, to place to run or to pad your words and decorate your speech: it’s just you, and God, and that is both absolutely terrifying and beautifully comfortable at the same time. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the woods.
I learned a lot during this past week and a half…oh boy did I learn.
The first day was…amazing. I met all of the counselors, moved into my cabin (#7 😀 ) and I realized, the moment I met my co-counselors, from our first group session, our first moment of bonding and working together, that there was no way I’m going to come out of this summer the same way I’m going in. There’s no way I’m not going to change. This summer is going to be absolutely insane…and I can’t wait 🙂
So, on a lighter, less intense note, I have been dubbed Katniss Everdeen, Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games heroine, by my co-counselors. One time, when I attended camp two summers ago, I was at the archery range (my team was at the archery station during a particular game). My hair was long then and put into a side braid. I stretched the cord of the bow and released the arrow right into the target’s bulls-eye. My teammates began chanting “Katniss! Katniss!” And it sort of stuck.
Anyway, this whole past week or so, my co-counselors, each time they want me to smile or want me to react, will hold up three fingers and whistle the Hunger Games score, composed of four notes. The Katniss jokes ensued. Every time I climbed a tree: “Go Katniss!” Every time I moved through the woods: “Katniss, you’re home!” Yeah 🙂
And, of course, I can’t forget the many times I fell over, injured myself, ran into things, and stepped on stuff. I fell in the woods once and stabbed my palm with a branch. I also tripped over the stage in the Tabernacle (the building where chapel and worship services are held) and seriously stubbed my toe. Oh, and let’s not forget how many times I slipped on wet grass, fell up the stairs, and tripped over absolutely nothing. Brilliant, right?
The best part about the whole week though, was to see that, today, on the last day, when we were all exhausted after a night game that lasted late into the night, involving oodles of strenuous activity and intense action, and when we were challenged physically and emotionally and spiritually, we still stuck together and we all still leaned on each other. We balanced each other and respected each other and were honest. Everyone was real. There were no filters and no room to be fake.
It was awesome 🙂
Our days consisted of playing games, creating games, learning about the camp program, learning CPR and first aid, getting to know each others strengths and weaknesses, learning how to build each other up, completing challenges like finding gummy bears in a pool of pudding without using your hands, singing Christmas carols, searching through garbage for an envelope, and trying to eat a can of SPAM in under thirty seconds (did I do all of these things? Oh yes, I did), and learning the land. I can’t tell you how many times I walked the trails of the 80 acres of BaYouCa, how many wonderfully beautiful things I saw, or how many quiet moments make up a silent symphony.
Camp, the way it works, is a lot like college. You have to take naps when you can, take showers when you can, spend time with God first thing in the morning, and be deliberate about how you handle situations. Well, I definitely learned (again) the importance of eating right and drinking plenty of water and getting the right amount of sleep and spending as much time with God as possible, checking in with Him constantly, allowing each and every thought be taken captive and made to bend to His perfect influence. By the end of the week, I was experiencing the wear of exhaustion and I got to the point where I was a little loopy because of how tired I was…in fact, I’m pretty sure all of us were that way. By Thursday night, before the night game, we were making animal noises and playing Chubby Bunny, which is where you stuff as many marshmallows as you can manage into your mouth while still being able to say “chubby bunny.”
So I’m home now, for a short time, but home. The conclusion of the staff training week is that I’ve been knocked down a few levels…again. I have a feeling that’s going to happen a lot this summer.
Next week is Precious Jewels week, five days packed with activities for mentally handicapped individuals psyched and enthusiastic about camp and about God and about us. 🙂
I’m beginning to see that God and this life He’s called me to live are much, much bigger and much more intense and adventurous than I thought they were.
“Cast your burdens on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.” —Psalm 55:22