Where’s your happy place? Mine is a church campground off a beaten path in southern Alabama.
A newly hired youth pastor toured the camp for the first time expecting it to be grandiose after all of the rave reviews.
There’s nothing fancy about it. The lake at Blue Lake isn’t even blue, but it’s beautiful in it’s own simplistic way. Campers testify endearments to a campground that’s long overdue for renovations, but campers wouldn’t appreciate it any other way.
Cinder block cabins surround the lake and the distance with gracious land. Thousands of tall pines shed thick needles, and walking paths are man-made over time by hikers and kids being kids.
The crisp air and space absorb the noise even with two-hundred high school students at a winter retreat.
The main building is picturesque on a hill and labeled “home” with a wide front porch lined with adirondack and rocking chairs. Morning fog hovers over the water as the sun slowly rises above the trees. A ginormous white cross in the middle of the lake reigns me into sweet prayer time and a hot cup of coffee as the dawn breaks. The dining hall is not large, but packed with decades-old wooden tables and benches. Windows surround the room so that nature’s backdrop is always in view. Brick-like toast and grandmother type ladies who prepare the food, add to the nostalgia. A grey owl with glass eyes is perched on the dining room mantel. The sculpture is the brunt of jokes and mysteriously pops up on the stage for worship and other campground activities.
Teens sleep “semi-rugged” with a sleeping bag and pillow from home atop plastic covered mattresses sprinkled with Gold Bond powder to ward off bugs. With no cell service, the distractions are few. There’s nothing to compare to a weekend watching the laughter of youth running around the pine laden area playing games like Capture the Flag, throwing frisbees, swinging from hammocks, and slow meditative walks with a friend.
I accepted Jesus as a child, but this “happy place” is where God set me on a new path in January 2015.
I was a miserable woman who lacked joy and purpose. I was going through the motions of life. Self-esteem was beaten down in a job I had recently left, and I was uncertain about the future of a new position. My temper had a quick fuse, and I snapped at the slightest remark. I was grumpy towards my husband who many times asked, “What’s wrong? I can’t say a word without you biting back!”
Our teenage kids were having rough times of their own which were out of a mom’s control. I cynically viewed everyone else’s lives as perfect: wealthy, beautiful homes, dreamy family vacations, all smiles on social media, and model kids.
I’m unsure what the speaker’s message was on the final evening, but when the service ended with worship, I knelt at a rusty, metal folding chair as an altar. The music blared, so no one heard me scream, cry, and beg God to work in me, my marriage, our finances, family members, and make me His vessel. I was sick and tired of being a shallow Christian and asked Him to give me the strong desire to know His Word and grow in a deeper faith. I felt someone wrap their arms around me, but I didn’t stop shouting for forgiveness of an ugly heart. I’ll never know, but I’m not so sure that was a person who placed their arms around me that night. It may have been the arms of My Father comforting me as I gave Him my all. I didn’t leave camp feeling changed, but I made changes as I started reading the Bible like never before, praying about everything, and becoming Christ-focused. I gave up on perfectionism and trying to be someone I am not.
So often, people leave faith filled conferences on Cloud 9 and crash shortly afterwards because it takes daily commitment to make life changes. It’s not easy for the human flesh to surrender, but long term persistence is worth it!
Years later, eyes mist when I return to the Camp. I treasure the beautiful relationships in a ministry to high school and college girls, and how He restored a beaten down middle-aged dirty sheep. I dug into God’s Word daily as He lead me to write two books to ignite young women to the excitement of God’s everlasting Word in a world that is craving temporal satisfaction. To God be the glory for all He has done and will do in the future. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12 NIV)
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