so I have been reflecting a lot lately.  realizing that this summer will be ten years since I went to camp.  it was kind of a big deal, and I need to remember what God has done for me.  it is important for me to remember.  and I have told this story to lots of people, but I have never gotten it down in writing.  so if you have heard this story, you don’t need to read it if you don’t want to.  but it is a big part of who I am, and a big part of who I have become.  I know it is kind of long.  but God is good.  he really is.  here is one reason why.

so I have always been a people pleaser.  growing up I had a lot of friends and always had to be doing something.  I can point to two different times at which I did not have as many friends and was not always doing something, and both of those times were hard, and I fell into a lot of depression.  once in middle school, and then once again my second semester of my freshmen year in college.  both times I didn’t really understand why I was having all these issues and having such a hard time.  I didn’t connect my depression with my need to be around people all the time.  I didn’t realize how reliant I was on people.  so both of these times, I didn’t fully realize what caused all of this, and why I eventually came out of it.  both times, when I went to high school, and then again when I moved back home for the summer, I now had a big group of friends and kept busy and didn’t have any insecurities anymore.

so then…my sophomore year of college started, and things were better.  I had a more solid group of community, and I was busier, more involved in my classes, and I had joined the color guard.  my freshmen year, my best friend and I (one of the only people I knew initially at k-state) and I had a somewhat strained relationship, and by the beginning of my sophomore year our friendship was much better and things were back to normal.  with marching band and through ann, I made a new friend in lindsey and we were SO similar and had a similar sense of humor and we were great friends right away.  we were growing in a lot of the same ways, and had similar relationships with God (and a similar dating relationship history), so we had a lot to talk about.  but then…..she called me out.  she noticed how dependent I was on people, and she told me.  AND, she said you cannot be dependent on me!!!!  you must be dependent on God!!!  oh man.  I was not a fan of this observation.  it basically opened my eyes to see the things I had been struggling with and it was a huge can of worms.  it was a big huge mess that I had been ignoring my whole life.  and it was a lot to process.

I will be honest and say that I did not deal with this well.  like…it was awful.  really, really awful.  I was so afraid, so scared of people not liking me, and so terrified that I wasn’t good enough.  it was a lot to deal with.  my friends helped me as much as they could, but really, they were totally unequipped to solve all my problems, and I was expecting them to solve all my problems.  I thought that’s what friends do.  bless those girls, that is NOT what they did.  they did what they needed to do and stopped enabling me to be reliant on them.  and I was not happy about this and it made things a lot worse.  I was starting to realize the burden that I was becoming to them and it made me even more mad at myself.  things at this point got very, very bad, and sometimes it is still hard to think about.  there were many nights where one of my roommates would have to call sarah (she was like a mentor to us, a leader for our community) in the middle of the night and say “you have to come over here right now, kim is losing it and won’t stop screaming and we’re afraid she’s going to do something to hurt herself.”  it hurts to admit that, but things were bad.  really, really bad.  it took them a long time to convince me, but I finally started seeing a counselor who was more equipped to point me in the right direction.  which was helpful, but there was still so much baggage and I was still so afraid that even when I knew that I needed to face my fears, it was too hard and I was still so scared.  I am so thankful for her, even though she didn’t solve things right away, she gave me so many tools, and so many strategies to use, and taught me how and what to pray and made me stare in the face of my issues.

while all this was going on, I was trying to decide what I was going to do with my summer.  lindsey was going to be working as a counselor at a camp in minnesota.  I thought “yes!  super fun!  I can go work with lindsey at a summer camp!  we can hang out together and it will be great.”  yeah…..that would have been pretty non-helpful.  I knew it was not a good plan, so honestly I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t get hired there.  starting over!  I was trying really hard to listen to what God wanted for me.  I kept asking him and praying about what I should do, and there was…..nothing.  I got nothing.  I was trying really hard to listen, and I told him “I will do whatever you tell me, even if it is scary.  I know that if I’m ever going to be able to trust you I need to start acting on it.”  but still there was nothing.  by april, I had pretty much decided that I would go home and get a dumb job at the mall or something.  and I could hang out with my friends all the time.  this was a bad plan and I knew it, but I didn’t know what else to do.

back when I had applied at the same camp lindsey was going to work at, she had told me “hey, there’s this other camp in minnesota that I went to too growing up, and it’s really big and fun and I think you would like it.”  my response to that was “well that’s stupid, it’s far away and I don’t know anyone there.  DUMB.”  so I had the application to this place, but it was buried on a corner of my desk under a lot of other things so I could ignore it.  and then….one day in mid-april, I had a weird day.  I couldn’t stop thinking about that application to this other camp.  every time it popped into my head I pushed it out and said “NO!  DUMB!”  but…I couldn’t get rid of it.  all day, every thing I tried to do, I had this crazy feeling of “go home and fill out that stupid application.”  it was the most annoying thing ever and I was frustrated all day.  finally after dinner I was like “FINE!!!  I will fill out this stupid application so I can get back to not having to think about it!!!”  so I did.  and it took FOREVER.  it was SO. LONG.  and I was not optimistic, because it was even longer than the one to the first camp and I hadn’t even gotten hired there.  but I stuck it in the mail and planned to forget about it forever.

then…….TWO DAYS later, I am not kidding you, two days, I get this phone call from this dude at this camp saying “we want to interview you.”  and I was all like “OH!  that’s great and all, but I kind of live in kansas so I guessthatwon’tworksorry.”  but then as it turned out, lindsey was going home to the twin cities for a wedding the last weekend in april and needed someone to go with her.  so we decided I would go with her and when she and her family were at the wedding I would drive up to camp for an interview.  at this point I was still completely brushing this off and all “well this is lame, and it’s not going anywhere, I could never go there anyway.”  so we drove up to mn at the end of the month.  saturday comes and I drive the two and a half hours up to motely and get to this camp.  and dear Lord it was terrifying.  it was so. freaking. scary.  this girl, julie (I miss you Julie, everyone misses you) who was on staff year round did my interview.  we were walking around camp as she asked me questions, and there was all this stuff I didn’t know, and we kept running into people I didn’t know, and I was screaming in my head the entire time “I cannot do this!!!!”  pretty much right away, she got right to the point.  I had applied to be a counselor, and she was all “yeah, we got your application and we want to hire you as program director.  we have had a lot of people apply for the position but none of them were right.  we got your application and we think it is you.”  (fyi, the program director is the person who is like up in front all the time running stuff, like chapel and games and mail and everything.)  in my head I was like “NO I CANNOT BE PROGRAM DIRECTOR!!!” but when she asked “do you think that is something you would be okay with?” I found the words “Sure! Yes!” coming out of my mouth.  it was a very weird experience.  I was pretty much on the verge of tears the entire time.  she and two other people I didn’t know took me to lunch at the only little place to eat in “town” (actually a gas station), and it was awful.  I was so scared because they kept talking about things and people I didn’t know and it was so unfamiliar and scary.

on the way back to the twin cities, the whole two and a half hours, I was crying, but I also had an overwhelming feeling of “I need you to do this.  You need to trust me and you need to do this.”   and I knew, I knew I had to go.  I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew that if I was ever going to make any progress in digging out of this hellhole I was in I needed to put myself in a place where I would be forced to trust him.  so I knew I had to go.  it was so freaking scary and I was terrified.

when I got back to lindsey’s parents’ house, I told her they want me to be program director.  her response was….”YOU CANNOT DO THIS!!  this is a bad plan.  you will lose it!  you are not in a place where you can handle this!!!”  and I told her “I know!!!!  I am not!!  but I have to.  I know I have to.”  and when we got back to kansas, every single person’s reaction was you cannot do this!!!  this is a bad plan!!!  and I was like I know!  but I have to!  I hadn’t even told my dad about it until I had already accepted the job because I knew he would freak out and I didn’t think I was strong enough to stick to my guns unless I had already accepted.  the craziest part of all of this (I didn’t know about this until several months later) is that I had to put a pastor reference on my application, and I had put John Schwartz as my reference, and when they called him to ask about me, he was honest.  he said “you should know that kim is not in a good place.  in fact, she is in a very bad place.  she is really unstable and is a pretty big mess right now.”  and….they still wanted to interview and hire me.

so I was going.  I was scared, and I think everyone else was scared even more.  I was definitely not yet in a place where I was over my reliance on people, and everyone was scared of what would happen when I didn’t have people to rely on.  but I went.  and I was terrified.  but things started out okay.  I lived in a building with lots of other girls, and shared a loft room with three other girls.  and this is nuts, but I did not get along with them.  they all got along with each other just fine, but I just did not click with them.  I clearly remember one night when I was out on our balcony talking to my brother on the phone, and I was pretty upset because things with my family were kind of a mess and starting to fall apart and I had been crying.  I remember when I hung up with scott, my first thought was I do not want to go back in there, because all my roommates are in there, and it’s obvious I have been crying, and I DON’T want to talk to them.  and I had to catch my breath because I realized “I have never in my life wanted to avoid people.”  I was getting kind of proud of the progress I was making.  I was thinking “I’m doing good!  relying on God and not people!  go me!”

program staff gets to camp a month before actual camp starts.  they are there for two weeks with just them, and then the third week the counselors arrive, and the fourth week the junior counselors arrive.  and as we went through program training, it was pretty obvious pretty early on that joe, the other program director, and I, did not work together very well.  he had been program director before, and was very familiar with being up in front, and it was crazy and new for me and I was not very confident.  I would be like “hey joe, what are we going to do tonight at chapel?” and he would be like “yeah…we’ll figure it out when we get up there, I’m going to go play basketball now.”  and I actually really, really like joe, but this was a pretty stressful situation.  so since I wasn’t spending a whole lot of time learning how to do my job, I was helping out cassie and brian a lot out on the island.  (cassie and brian were the island directors.)  normal camp is big and crazy and has like 300-400 campers a week, but camp also owns a 22-acre island in the middle of the lake (all camps in mn are on a lake, it’s the law), and they run a smaller more rustic camp (no electricity/running water, stuff like that) with 20-40 campers a week.  and the island directors do all jobs at once and have a lot to get ready for.  so I was helping them out a lot.  and I was purposefully not building strong relationships with people, and being really guarded, but out of all the people, I had probably gotten to know cassie the best.  so one night, three days before camp started, we were sitting outside the dining hall waiting for dinner, and I was sitting next to cassie and we were chatting.  and all of a sudden larry, our boss, walks up and is like “I need to talk to you two!”  and we were like “what’s going on!  are we in trouble?”  so we walked off with him and he got right to the point.  “I want you two to switch jobs.”  umm…..what?  he says “I think you would both do fine in the jobs we hired you for, but I think we got it wrong and you should switch.”  umm…WHAT?  this is ridiculous.  he’s all “take some time to pray about it and let me know after dinner!”  so we did.  and we were like “ooookay…..I guess we’ll do this?”

so all of a sudden everything I’ve been getting ready for for the past month is out, and I have three days to learn a new job.  and I am nervous, but I am also all “well, brian knows what he is doing.  he has worked on the island before and he is a strong man of God and he knows what he is doing.  I’m not too worried.  he knows what’s going on so I can kind of figure it out as I go.”  so three days later, I have basically no training, and campers are coming.  I don’t know how to drive the boat, build a fire, run any of the skills classes, or anything.  but here I am, trusting in brian.

so it’s sunday, and the campers come.  we eat dinner and then load all their stuff on the boat and head out to the island.  we have chapel and a snack and everyone goes to bed.  the next morning, brian and I get up and decide it would be nice to heat up some water so the counselors could have hot chocolate when they woke up (it’s still pretty cold in the morning in mn in june).  so we pull out a camp stove and hook up the propane tank and light the burners.  as I went to light the second burner, the first one blew out, so I went to relight it.  and as I relit it, the flame jumped from the burner….to the propane tank.  and all of a sudden we have this gigantic flaming propane tank sitting there in the lodge.  [this would be a good time to mention that all the buildings on the island, the lodge and the 5 cabins, have plank floors, walls that are plywood on the bottom and screen on the top, and tin roofs.]   we immediately threw our sweatshirts on it, I grabbed my blanket and threw it on there too, and all of this accomplished nothing.  [this would also be a good time to note that conventional wisdom says the tank probably should have exploded right then and there and we should have been dead.]  the flames aren’t going out and there is a big scorch mark forming on the wall.  we can’t pick up the tank, the flames are way too big.  we know we can’t get it to the lake, it’s too far away; but we think we can maybe get it to the bog [the bog is a gross little pond full of green slime and moss business.]  so we start kicking it and manage to get it down the steps to the lodge and to the bog.  but once we get to the bog, we can only get it barely into the bog, and not get it under the surface.  and then a tree catches on fire.  at this point all of the counselors are out with us (thankfully the cabins are on the other side of the lodge and none of the campers know what’s going on–thanks jr. counselors!)  we manage to get the tree fire put out, and we keep throwing water and bog muck on the flames but they’re not going away.  so we basically stand there and pray for like 15 minutes.  and finally the propane starts to run out and the stuff we’re throwing on it finally starts making a difference, and we finally get it put out.  so we are all kind of standing there dazed.  in the process of getting the tank from the lodge to the bog, I got some burns on my left hand and the left side of my face, but they weren’t too awful.  brian, on the other hand, was in very bad shape.  he had pretty bad burns on his left hand and the left side of his face, and he was in shock.  his hand was in really bad shape, I have never seen burns that bad, ever before or since.  so I tell brian, “GO TO THE BOAT.  I am taking you back to mainland because we need to get you help, now.”  brian says NO!  he was the most stubborn person I have ever met.  he had no idea what was going on and didn’t realize how badly hurt he was.  so the counselors helped me out and we pretty much had to push him to the boat (that I did not know how to drive…)  I called mainland and said “there has been a big fire, brian is hurt, I am bringing him to mainland, come and meet us at the dock.”  so they were there waiting for us and hustled him off to get help.  meanwhile, we have 30 campers back on the island with no one in charge.  so I have to head back.  In my head, I am all “ooooookay, so this is bad, but they will get him taken care of and he will be back later today, or maybe tomorrow if things are really bad.  I can maybe fake it til then.”  so I go back.  to a job I have no idea how to do, with nobody else that knows how to do it.  and good Lord.  he taught me.  he showed me what it really meant to trust Him.

brian didn’t come back on monday.  he didn’t come back on tuesday.  and then on wednesday, the doctors in staples (the closest town with a hospital) said “you know what, we really don’t have the capacity to really treat you here.  you need to go down to the twin cities and see a bunch of other doctors and a plastic surgeon.”  so they sent him, and he was gone for the entire week (and part of the next week too).  so I was flying solo.  but not really solo, because it really forced me to learn what it was to trust God.  he carried me and it changed my life.  in addition to everything else, we also had two campers that were a nightmare–they hid in the woods, they tried to canoe away, they tried to swim away, they set stuff on fire, they tipped over a biffy (port-a-potty), they stole people’s stuff…it was ridiculous.  we had to send them home on wednesday (to put things into perspective, big mainland camp usually sends maybe one or two campers home all summer.)  my counselors were wonderful that week, but it really was a trial by fire.  it showed me what it was to trust and not be reliant on people.

that summer, and that week on the island, really re-shaped my life and started to pull me out of the dark place I had been stuck.  honestly, I grew so much and changed so much that it was hard to go back home and back to familiar places and people and be a different person than I was before.  it was hard to adapt to reacting to old situations in new ways.  nobody back home was there to see the transformation, and they were expecting me to be the same person I was when I left, but I wasn’t.  it was a big adjustment.  but it was worth it.  and I am so not even close to the person I was back then.  I am a new creation and I am so thankful for that.  the island holds a special place in my heart; I spent two more summers there working with jason (I only worked with brian for one summer) and I loved it.  which is funny….because I’m not so much that oudoorsy person.  so it’s kind of hilarious to me that that was my summer job for three years.  it also bears mentioning that they usually have program staff hired by january.  and other people had applied for the program director that year, but they were waiting for me.  just so they could train me and then swap me to island director at the last minute.  God is funny like that sometimes.

even though this was ten years ago, it still affects my life every day and has shaped who I am.  ten years later, I am so thankful for the work he has done.  if ten years ago, you would have told me I’d be heading out on a road trip by myself, I would have told you you were nuts.  but here I am, and I am not who I was.  I am so thankful.

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