The Beginning: Part 2
Today’s Devotional Exercise…
Each day asking God to guide some part of your future. Monday: Who will I marry? Tuesday: What career should I choose?
Writing one paragraph on how you would like to be remembered after your death. Choose one thing to do this week to help you toward your goals.
How would I like to be remembered after my death:
After I die, I would like people to remember me in different ways. I would like to be remembered as someone who led an exciting, phenomenal life led by Christ. A wonderful wife and mother, a fun, awesome, and impactful adventure and wilderness ministry leader, a great youth minister to rural youth, an upbeat camp manager and owner, and someone that loves God with all her heart. Someone who wasn’t afraid to take risks, to lead an adventurous life, who led a reckless faith. A lover of Christ.
I wasn’t really what you’d call a Christian until I got to high school.
Growing up, Mom and Dad regularly took my older brother Kris and I to Sunday School. While I liked learning about Bible stories when I was younger, the only real selling point of Sunday School was that if you went, you didn’t have to actually attend the concurrent church service. When we moved to Red Wing, we joined St. Paul’s Lutheran, a friendly progressive ELCA church whose members looked out for us kids the way extended family might.
But as a general rule, I hated church. It was so BORING, and I’d regularly do whatever I could think of to get out of going to so I could stay home and watch cartoons or Style with Elsa Klensch instead.
Things started to changed when I got to middle school. Our church got a new, full-time youth director, Lisa, who was super nice and seemed to be actually interested in our lives. My 8th grade Sunday School class also got this really cool teacher, Tim, who sported a ponytail and talked to us like we had thoughts and opinions that actually mattered. He’d regularly throw out the regular Bible lessons in favor of leading frank discussions stuff like current events, drugs, premarital sex, how opposites attract but don’t connect, and whether or not The Traveling Wilbury’s were elderly, lame-o has-beens (my vote? Yes).
But while all of this was cool, it didn’t change my newly-formed opinion that God wasn’t real. I was basically your average cynical, shitty adolescent who was going through a bit of a rebellious phase (a.k.a., I wore a lot of flannels and shaved the side of my head, like a real badass) and felt like she had already seen too much, so the whole “what does it all mean…is God even REAL?!” thing seemed to fit pretty well into my worldview.
Then, at a middle school dance, I met a girl named Katy who was rocking a black Debbie Gibson hat. We started becoming closer around the 8th grade, and soon enough, we were best friends. Katy was a Christian with a capital C. She sort of rolled her eyes at my arguments for why God couldn’t be real, and encouraged me to go to Lake Beauty Bible Camp with her the summer before high school, insisting that it was really fun, there would be a lot of cute boys there, and that it might even change my mind about God. I agreed to go, deciding I could ignore the God stuff, or at least tolerate it, in favor of meeting cute boys.
I loved it. I LOVED it. The camp was beautiful; the counselors were all super cool; the songs and skits were wildly entertaining; and the whole vibe of it was just…life-changing. And I felt something, in that chapel at night when we sang worship songs…I didn’t fully give my heart over to God that week, but I couldn’t deny that there might actually be something to this whole Christian thing. I think I was more in love with the culture of it, than anything else. It was hard to listen to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “The Great Adventure” or Michael W. Smith’s “My Place in This World” and NOT want to be a part of this group that did cool things like hang out every Wednesday night and go on fun cross-country trips with other youth groups and organize subway-sandwich-making parties to raise money for worthy causes. It all felt so clean, bright, happy.
High school officially started that fall. I started regularly attending youth group…at first because I thought it would be a cool way to meet and befriend cute boys, but then because the group started becoming a close crew of tight friends, a once-a-week refuge from the confusing and often-dramatic swirl of high school.
Then, that fall, Lisa and the other Red Wing youth directors took us all to Discipleship Camp, a high school retreat over MEA weekend. This is when things really took hold. Now that I’m an adult who knows things, I’m aware that events like a high-energy retreat in a naturally beautiful rustic location is literally designed to make you have some sort of euphoric, revelatory experience, but I gotta say…that shit works. It’s magic. You share all these cozy, novel experiences, leading to weekend-long inside jokes and the sharing of life stories around a campfire, and then you go home, feeling so bonded with these classmates that you probably would never have otherwise gotten to know so intimately, inside or outside of school. And you’re like, is this what being a Christian is like? The Breakfast Club, but for Jesus? Sign me UP! I never wanted that high to end.
I was, as the youth group culture dictates, on fire for Christ.
That feeling continued through high school, and was always elevated again by camp. D-Camp stayed being the highlight of the year for almost everyone who went to it, and Katy and I kept going to Lake Beauty Bible Camp every single summer, eventually inviting our other best friend Kimmy to come with us, who also fell in love with it.
The summer before my senior year, I and other core members of my youth group were invited to join a handful of other youth groups at Leadership Camp, a super rustic camp in the middle of Wilderness North on Lake Superior. The week that I spent there is still one of the most special weeks of my life. I still can’t explain it…I just felt so truly myself; peaceful and euphoric all at the same time. It was just magic. I kept thinking that week that maybe ministry - either through youth directing or wilderness adventure - was the way to keep that feeling going for the rest of my life, to stay forever on fire.
And so, since all the coolest, cutest counselors at Lake Beauty had went to North Park in Chicago, I decided that was where I should go, too, and major in youth ministry.
But now here Lisa was, offering me a chance to have the camp experience year-round, to get to live my faith in that way, to live and work in youth ministry (and under my own beloved, former youth director!). Are you kidding me? I told Katy in an email, after my phone call with Lisa. That’s, like, my dream come true.