Friday, May 30, 2014

The Summer That Built Me

He did not even give me an option. I WAS applying for camp. "No," was not even allowed when we talked about camp. I applied. He walked me through the interview process, "Now remember, you are interviewing with camp royalty. Ms. Newman IS CAMP. She bleeds camp, she wrote the rule book, the manual, the very application you spent endless hours filling out. I'm pretty sure she built all of CRS with her own sweat and blood. No pressure or anything, but if you mess this up you are a total loser." (I'm not sure he said all those things word for word, but that's what I walked away with). " Oh! And Sara, in the south, they say 'yes, ma'am, no ma'am' and 'yes, sir, no sir' so when you answer a question make sure you do it correctly. They take it VERY seriously!" Me in my head, "THEY DO WHAT?!!!!"

He made me do mock interviews. We had photocopied my application so my answers would be consistent across the board. He would stop me and make me reword things so I didn't sound so Sunday School like. I still sounded so Sunday School like. In our final interview prep he says to me, "Whatever you do, do not under any circumstance tell them you believe in speaking in tongues, they don't go for stuff like that in the south!"

Mental note made.
No speaking in tongues.
*clause* I have never spoken in tongues and did grow up in a congregation that spoke in tongues. Why Zach thought this was SO important still puzzles me. *end of clause*

I had to hide on the back porch when I had my phone interview. That was the only relatively quiet place in a house of seven people. I announced to my family before answering, "I'm not clicking over for call waiting so don't even bother asking if anyone called for you! I have an interview!!!!"

Oh if we only had a recording of that interview. Every awkward pause on my part was filled with "yes, ma'ams" even when they didn't apply.

Chief Margie: Good evening, Sara.
Sara: Yes, ma'am, I'm Sara.
Chief: How are you?
Sara: Yes ma'am.
Chief: No, really how are you?
Sara: Yes ma'am.

In my head, "Say yes ma'am, say no ma'am. You don't speak in tongues. You don't speak in tongues. You don't speak in tongues. You don't drink, you don't chew, and you don't go with boys that do!

Some how, probably because of the endless interview prep and the kindness of Chief Margie, I secured a job as an assistant counselor at Camp of the Rising Son, circa: 1998.

He helped me pack and took me on my first "WALMART TRIP!" Oh, I had been to Walmart before, but not in preparation of camp. It was THE Walmart Trip. He threw stuff in the cart that was not on my official "WHAT TO BRING TO CAMP" list.

ME: "Wait, wait, wait, why so much shaving cream? Just one can will get me through the summer!"
HE: "Just wait" he would say.
ME: "Whoa, why are you buying me a huge, pimped out, box fan? Don't they have fans in the cabin?"
HE: "Just wait" he would say.
ME:"Why are we buying a million tank-tops, I have plenty of tshirts I can bring."
HE: "Just wait!"
ME: "Gold Bond?! That's not on my list!"
HE: "Just wait" he grinned!
ME: "Dales Seasoning?! I have to do my own cooking?!
HE: "Just wait"......

I slept the entire trip to Mississippi. I could tell he was mad. He wanted to show me every land mark between Kansas City and French Camp and the history behind each pit stop. He and Liz were like giddy children passing down a heritage I knew nothing of. I couldn't stop sleeping.

I'll never forget the first time we pulled into French Camp. I'll never forget the way I felt. I had been transported no doubt, to the middle of Mayberry. I'm pretty sure they intentionally decided to take me to one of the most honky tonk events they could muster up to initiate me into southern life; dirt track racing. It was so loud, hot, and well.....dirty. People would try and speak to me and between the noise and the southern drawl I felt like I was in a foreign country. The language was weird, the food was very foreign, and I just couldn't get over how hot I was.... ALL.THE.TIME!

Training Week about did me in. Every second of every day there was a scheduled event; games, activity prep, conferences, manual reading, Babe training, waiter call, TAWG TIME, THE TALK, fire making, cabin cleaning, and more manual reading.

I clung to him because he was the only thing familiar. I made him sit by me during EVERY meeting and EVERY meal. Poor guy thought I would blossom; I clung. He ever so gently kept nudging me towards life. He would hug me, affirm me, and then with the most love he could muster up he gave me a quick kick in the butt and pushed me out of his nest (or personal space bubble, however you may see it!) And in a few days time, that part of me that clung to him began to blossom and he beamed with pride. And then before I knew it, he had performed a blood transfusion on me and camp began to run through my veins.

Today, Camp of the Rising Son staff arrived for training. Circa: 2014. I found a reason to ride up to camp. Maybe I would get a quick glance of him in action. Maybe I would see him welcome another unstable, new staff member and prep them to fly. We crested the hill and there he stood, camp royalty at its finest! All decked out in his new shorts and leadership shirt. It kind of took my breath away. Without missing a beat my heart knew it; Zach Hall IS CAMP. He bleeds camp, he has tweaked the rule book, (and broken some rules) he has rewritten parts of the manual, he has added questions to the very application Chiefs spend endless hours filling out. And without a doubt he HAS built some of CRS with his own sweat, blood, and tears, because he built me sixteen years ago this summer. And when I think of him and the blood transfusion that took place between our hearts, I cannot help but beam with pride...

Thanks Chief, for helping me blossom in more ways than you'll ever know!
I love you so big!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Most Ridiculous Thing Ever!

I feel like I am going to throw up.

My writing holds such a intimate place in my core that I hesitate to even move forward and tell you what I came here to tell you.

Almost four years ago, I expressed a desire to Mark to start this blog. I have been writing in diaries and journals my entire life. During math class, I would write letters to my friends and family instead of paying attention to Mr. Wagner and fractions (this should explain a lot). As a little girl, I would write poems, put music to them, and make my entire family suffer through concerts. I'm so sorry guys, I'm receiving full pay back with three divas in my house. I loved creative writing my entire education, and even put in my high school senior biography that one day I wanted to be the author of children's books. Then I had children and wanted to write in complete sentences without rhyming :) Good night moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Good night light and red balloon.

Before the blog, I would send out a mass emails to family and friends so that they could keep up with the kids. It was so fun! But as time would have it, and because of Mama's disease, the blog facilitated the need to communicate to a larger audience about our journey through the storm.

And so the blog started.

The last four years have confirmed over and over again that I am a lover of words. In my own life and in the lives of others, the blog has confirmed the unequivocal power of words, and the absolute necessity of stories. It has confirmed over and over again, that I NEED words. You guys have been so gracious in your compliments. I am humbled. I was always taught to never beg for compliments, so it's extremely difficult to receive them. Often, I squirm and deflect the compliments with some self destructive humor like, "don't pay attention to all my grammar and spelling mistakes, there are tons of them!" But because of your constant affirmation the lies are dwindling and I am more confident than ever that God intends to use my gift of writing in someway, shape or form. Many of you have encouraged me to pursue publishing a book, or a devotional, or begin speaking at churches about our story. Again, I'm humbled and squirmy. "Me? Really? I don't even have a college degree. My grammar and spelling are atrocious, and I live in a double wide trailer." Regardless, I have often day dreamed about combining and publishing all my entries of 'Living In The Storm' and dedicating them to my Mama. I have considered a 365 day devotional on messy motherhood. I have envisioned telling my story at women's retreats and stinky youth group lock-ins. But in my dreaming, the Lord has so very sweetly tilted my chin toward His face and whispered in my ear, "in MY time! And according to MY will! Right now you need to publish the story of your children's lives by writing love all over their hearts!" Oh the peace that fills me when my desire for affirmation and accolades in the writing world begins to overcome me. The stillness that washes over me in the knowledge and understanding that I AM publishing a story. And oh my stars! It's an amazing story, with an incredibly complicated and dramatic plot line. The characters are stunning, and the ending is full of mystery and suspense. My family is my greatest muse, and they blossom in me the best stories EVER!!

So why are we here, what's all the drama about? Well.... yesterday this totally far fetched idea hit the online world and something in me woke up. Very hesitantly, I mentioned it to Mark in passing and without missing a beat he said, "You should enter! You should DO this!" It is an opportunity to travel to Rwanda July 11th- July 20th, with the story tellers of Noonday Collection and IJM. The goal is to enter into the daily lives and stories of Rwandan people and WRITE about it. Here is Noonday's mission statement, "Creating opportunity for vulnerable people around the globe involves collaboration. Collaboration that seeks to protect the vulnerable from injustice and violence and that provides economic opportunities so that our global sisters can break the cycle of poverty for good."

I feel like our two years at the Oasis began to open my eyes and heart to injustices staring us in the face everyday. The fact that I could use my gift of words to tell the story to advance the mission of these two organizations BLOWS MY MIND!

So, what do I need? I need you to blow up every social media outlet you know of to collect votes for me. *sigh* I know it's incredibly annoying and feel free to hide me now from your FB time lines. The top seven people who receive the largest amounts of votes by May 28th, move on to the next round. At this point there are already over 200 contestants.

This is by far one of the most far fetched, ridiculous things I've ever entered. But why not? Why not try it? Why not blow up social media for two weeks for a good cause? Why not make myself vulnerable to you, and ask you to help me accomplish something I think would be really unique and amazing?

I hardly slept last night tossing and turning. I mean who has time in May to collect community support for a random trip to Rwanda? Not me! But I've seen y'all in action! I know your hearts, and I know you can help me spread the word.. I saw how your blew up FB for DPs4JP, I saw how you Panther fans blew up website after website for your boys. I know lots of you who vote for American Idol winners, Biggest Loser winners,  and The Voice winners. For a few weeks, would you consider adding me to that list and using your vote to send me to Rwanda to tell this story?

All you have to do is go to X the pop up (you don't have to sign up) scroll to the bottom on the page and click the blue VOTE button. VOTE YOUR LITTLE HEARTS OUT and tell everyone you know to VOTE! You can vote once a day from ALL of your devices! Like and share this link with everyone you know :)

I had not mentioned this to a single soul yesterday except for Mark, and last night I received this text from my friend in Virginia "If there is a vote for the Noonday trip I will vote for you!" I cried. I mean, really? What an incredible affirmation for me to at least try this! Lindsey,  I'm going to take you up on it girl! :) There's a vote for me!

Let's see if we can get me to Rwanda!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Just Give Me The Dirt: Day 166

I'm not sure if the day count is correct. I just took 180 and subtracted 14. I think that's how many days my kids have been in school. I think 180 is the number of days they are required to go. Really, I've lost count. What I care about is that we have 14, FOURTEEN DAYS LEFT!! 14 more 6:15 AM alarms, 14 x3 more water bottles, 14 x3 more lunches, 14x3 more signatures in home work folders, 14 more afternoon/evening routines that feel like 400 yard sprints. 14, FOURTEEN! And I know that secretly, or maybe not so secretly, the teachers are counting down also. I cannot blame them. That's a lot of days with my cherubs. A lot of days when I know my cherubs were not cherubs. A lot of days that my cherubs were more like Tasmanian Devils. Part of parenting is being able to realistically evaluate your child and their not so angelic capabilities.

Reality check complete in the LJ house.

I know what teaching my children for 180 days feels like.
I know that they get sluggish, unfocused, and Lucy gets spastic and hyper, and resembles Phoebe Buffay more than Lucy Littlejohn.
I know they get annoying, whinny, and caught in your apron tails.
I know Julia gets apathetic and frustrated quickly. She tried to convince me the other day she had to repeat second grade because of a 60 she received on some test. DRAMA.
And mercy, I know Katie begins to churn with anxiousness when she has to stare down state testing. While she sleeps, I am going to have tattooed to her head, "do your best and forget the rest!" I think that is biblical and  fulfills this commandment, "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead."

There is no delusion of grandeur in this house.

But wait.... maybe there is.
Because I cannot wait to have their rotten little souls back at home. :)
I cannot wait to wake up slowly with them with no heavy pressures of school weighing us down.
I cannot wait to stay up way past bedtime because we can.
I cannot wait to excuse them from showers for weeks on end, because the pool will suffice.
I cannot wait for them to play with their brother, as he has desperately missed their company.
I cannot wait for them to be well rested.
I cannot wait to go on road trips with them.
I cannot wait to tackle the library with them and see what they pick to read all summer.
I cannot wait for them to experience CRS, a WHOLE BUNCH!
I cannot wait to see their Caucasian skin deepen to indian-esk, because of the summer long companionship of the sun.
I cannot wait for the opportunity for more deliberate conversations with them besides, "what does homework look like for tonight?" And, "why didn't you eat your lunch?" :)
I cannot wait to take them all to have lunch dates with their dad.

I CANNOT WAIT for summer time.

And after two months of summer break, when I am totally over all the dreamy expectations:

And they are fighting with one another at 7am over who lost the TV remote, and who shattered mom's favorite mug.
And they never go to bed at night because the sun is up too darn long.
And they stink with MS sweat because they never shower because they think the pool is suffice.
And they pick on their brother because they've forgotten how to get along.
And they are so well rested they're radiating with energy.
And they trash my van on road trips.
And when we go to the library (where the librarian hushes us) they take forever finding just the right book so they can score a killing of AR points come August.
And they are sick of camp, and they boss the Chiefs around because they are way too comfortable with their mom's summer job.
And they are sick of the pool and burnt to crisp with skin cancer as an inevitable outcome.
And when we have mind numbing conversations that will just be endless circles, and at some point I will say, "this conversation is over!" MOTY (mother of the year!)
And they refuse to go have lunch with their father because Louisville is too long of a drive.

We will ALL be waiting with baited breath for August 7th to roll around and school to begin again.
We we will all be saying, "WE CANNOT WAIT FOR SCHOOL TO START!"

Until then, we are going to try and soak up our summer together. We are going to try and build memories without killing each other. Because the count down is on. We only get so many summers together before they start working full time summer jobs, studying abroad, going to summer school because they failed second grade (totally joking ;), and flying out of the nest we built for them.

Here's to the summer of 2014! Enjoy!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

No Praying Here

They must have thought I was a lunatic.

I had, in no uncertain terms, told them that we would not be praying for Aunt Tily's broken hip on Thursday nights.

We ended our first study together and I laid in bed mulling over all the reasons they had for never coming back to this life group. "This wasn't going to work, this community was too complicated to make a group like this work. They live together, work together, eat together, their children go to school together, they go to church together. That women's husband is that girl's boss, and that girl is the boss of that girl's husband....HOLY COW I've made a wrong turn!" :)

Life Group, that in and of itself sometimes puzzles people. Life Group instead of Bible Study? What's the difference?

The difference is we don't pray for Aunt Tily's broken hip.

For as long as I can remember, the Lord has sweetly placed opportunities in my life for me be to apart of a safe group of women to journey with. Since Mark and I married, we have been apart of seven different communities in 12 years. On average, that's a new community every 18 months. It really didn't look like that for us, some communities we were apart of for as long as four years. WHEW! An eternity for us! And some we were apart of for as little as 3 months. Regardless, it was a lot of communities. Consequently, for survival purposes, we developed some of the sweetest communion we have ever had with body of Christ. And we tasted it. We tasted the authenticity and rawness of carrying each other's burdens and brokenness.  And not only did we taste it, we swam in it, we stood under water falls of life giving relationships that mattered. We were free to be ourselves, to be known, REALLY known, and we were given the gift of knowing others. I have said it before, and I will say it again, once you taste it you can never go back.

After walking through the intensity of yet another community change, putting all of our girls in brick and mortar school, and encountering the one year anniversary of my mom's death; my husband in his most gentle and intuitive way said in late December, "maybe it's time to start another women's life group". The man has stood by my side and knows the sacrifice and work that is involved in starting a group like this. It means providing a clean-ish home every Thursday night, overseeing the activity of all four of the kids during the most insane time frame of the day, and most difficult and important; debriefing with me and encouraging me every single step of the way. He astounds me.

And so, in late January, I threw out my fleece, bowed my head before the throne, and said, "have your way with us!"

If you know me even a little bit, you know that I am passionate about prayer. You know that I believe ALL requests should be made known, even when our lips cannot compose the words. I know that our God hears, and sees, and is in our midst. I also have walked in Christian circles my entire life and I know that prayer requests for other people are often used as a means to deflect deeper requests and needs for our OWN hearts and lives. We used to spend hours, thinking we were fooling our bible teacher, making up prayer requests to add to the chalk board as a means of avoiding lecture. She was WAY smarter than that, but indulged our made up prayer requests. Everyone has someone else they can request prayer for. We all do it, we sit in bible studies/churches/prayer meetings, and think about who we are going to mention when it is time for prayer requests to be taken. And there is NOTHING wrong with that. But very few of us are vulnerable enough to ask for prayer for ourselves. Our broken lives, our broken places, our wounded spots. Please do not hear what I am not saying, all prayer is valid. But in a way, when we spend our time requesting prayer for others, we do not let each other in; into the private corridors of our hearts. So I told them, "in order to provide an intentional atmosphere where time is of the utmost importance, we will not be taking prayer requests on the account of others, but only requests that start with 'I need you to pray for ME in this way' "

Lunatic :)

I try to be a very intentional person, especially when it involves the time and lives of other people. And this was the most intentional and raw I could get in meeting numero uno without being voted off the island.

In their braveness (or craziness ;) they returned to the home of the lunatic.

I am so overcome with emotion when I stand back and see what the Lord, in His goodness, is doing on Thursday nights. Every single one of these courageous women are laying down their weapons, their protective armor, and are entering into the water fall of organic sisterhood. (How 1970's, granola-esk, Jesus freak, does that sound? Val would be proud :) Being with them, listening to their stories, watching them laugh, crying with them, and seeing their hearts lived out is the most church-like thing I have done since setting my feet down in French Camp.

My prayer and my desire for this group has been blown out of the water! You cannot fast forward intimacy or community, but you can provide a pathway of intentional bonding. How very much like my God to take my doubts and insecurities and drown them in life giving moments.

Run, do not walk, to find a place in your own neck of the woods to taste the power and deliciousness of loving one another as Christ so gently loves us; even if it means meeting a lunatic :)!

To Thursday Nights Around The Globe!