home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.

My last year of college I took a course in the comparative literature department at UGA on the subject of children’s literature. Don’t jump to any conclusions, because this class was DEEP! On the first day, my Polish professor guaranteed that each of us would cry at some point during class that semester. Obviously, I was in no position to play hard to get in that arena, and I jumped at the opportunity to weep openly with my peers on more than one occasion. For my final paper, I compared the concept of “home” as depicted in the books Peter and Wendy and Children of Zion, a collective narrative written by children during the Holocaust. I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of home recently, especially in light of my frequent trips back to Georgia, so I went back and took a look at my paper. I had forgotten how unusual it was that my professor prompted us to write this paper in first person and make it so personal. Cue the tears…

Moving to Connecticut has arguably been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Don’t get me wrong—my job is amazing; my friends are amazing; winter lasted too long, but I could get used to these summers! (That’s right New England—I said it. It’s not that hot. Get over it.) Things I’m still adjusting to include but are not limited to, my ability to get around without a GPS, the cost of living, tea that is falsely advertised as not only sweet, but “Southern Style”, AND THE FACT THAT NO ONE UNDERSTANDS WHAT A CHICKEN BISCUIT IS!

This past weekend I made my third trip home in five months for the last of the weddings I can afford to travel to for the next year. Honestly, I was kind of a mess. I was so excited to be reunited with a group of my best friends from college for the wedding of Stephen and Bree (shout out to 5pac and the Whitfields) and see as many people as I could in a very small 24-hour window. But the realization that this would be my last trip home until Christmas was really hard. It felt so final, because the end of every trip before was just a quick, “Kbye, I’ll see you in a couple of weeks!” But now, it’s official. I’ve hit a homesick wall. As much as I’ve loved going home so much since I’ve moved, it’s certainly served to delay the inevitable–realizing I still live in Connecticut. Loving my job as much as I do means New England will be my home for an indefinite period of time. It makes sense logically, but my heart is having a really hard time computing the emotional facts of that statement. I have no idea what God’s plan is for me professionally. He flung open this door that I casually strolled through in February, but it’s not up to me how long that door stays open and when it gets closed again.

On Saturday, I was reading my Bible in Hebrews 11, a passage I have read DOZENS of times. But I love when God knows exactly what you need to read at exactly the right time, and He opens your eyes for it to make sense for the first time.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. ” (Hebrews 11:8-10)

When I re-stumbled across this scripture, I felt like my heart had been hit with a ton of bricks. I mean, I know I’m not leading an entire nation of people out of slavery and into the Promised Land, but I felt really connected to Abraham. (See above comments on chicken biscuits and sweet tea if you’re tempted to doubt my stranger in a foreign country status). Moving was a giant leap of faith for me, and I realized that staying in New England is just as much of a leap of faith. I miss my family; I miss the food; I miss pretty much everything about the South. But my reminder from God is that no matter how much I miss my home, what I’m actually waiting for is my ultimate Home in heaven.

After living here for 5 months, would it ever be the type of place I’d choose to move to as a 25-year-old single woman just because? No. But has God blessed me with an amazing inheritance even though I didn’t know where I was going? Yes. Will I EVER say I’m from New England no matter how long I end up living here? No. Will God continue to provide for me like he always does? Yes. Long story short—godliness with contentment is great gain, and I pray faithfully everyday that God’s plan and favor is evident in my life.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my paper and my favorite quote from my favorite movie that has always helped me through transitions in my life–

“Home has never been about occupying a space…rather, I consider Athens my home because it’s where I have kept myself. I recognize Athens as the place where I flourish…it’s the only home I’ve ever known, but very soon I may set out on a journey in search of a new home.” -me

“You know the great thing, though, is that change can be so constant you don’t even feel the difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don’t even notice that your life is better or worse, until it is. Or it can just blow you away, make you something different in an instant. It happened to me.” –Life as a House

Life as a House Trailer

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a different kind of healing.

So I started off strong with this whole blogging thing, and then I remembered why I had avoided blogging for so long. It’s really hard to consistently involve yourself in things worth writing about and posting on the Internet. My favorite literature teacher in high school, Mr. Roger Bailey, always told me I had the perfect name for a writer. So hey, Mr. Bailey, if you’re reading this, I’m just trying to do your assumption justice!

The last four weeks in a nutshell–my family came to Connecticut, so now I have all my stuff. I’ve arranged my movies alphabetically, sorted my bowls in rainbow order, attempted to decorate, and my apartment is starting to feel like home. My job is still incredible. I’m done with shadowing and orientation, so I have my very own Barney Bag full of the projects and games I do with kids in the hospital. (Look forward to future posts of successes and failures in that department!) And Louisville won the National Championship. RIP Kevin Ware’s shin.

This past weekend I had my first overnight experience on Camp. I’m so lucky that my job affords me the opportunity to experience Camp during weekends throughout the year and sessions during the summer. It definitely helps to connect those experiences back to my work in the hospital, and I’m so grateful for every second I get to spend at what is so quickly becoming my favorite place on Earth.

I went into this weekend fired up for my first real Camp experience. But, right before dinner on Friday night, I received the tragic news that a camper from my previous job at ESP had unexpectedly passed away. Bekkah was one of those campers that could honestly turn my frown upside down just by walking into the room. She didn’t always need words to express herself, and she had a bear hug that could take your breath away, but her strength was far more than physical. She had a presence and a desire to live life with immeasurable joy. In the several minutes it took for the reality of her death to set in, I grieved for her family and for her friends at ESP knowing this summer at camp would not be the same without her.

Faced with this tragedy, I realized there was no place I would have rather been to process those feelings than Camp. ESP was a place where Bekkah thrived, had friends and felt accepted, and I had the opportunity to be a part of something like that last weekend. Camp was hosting it’s inaugural Alumni Weekend, inviting back campers who had aged out of the summer camp programs and were revisiting their Camp experience for the first time in upwards of 10 years. It was such a unique weekend to be a part of, but so cool to experience the impact Camp has had on so many young people. Because of their illnesses, many of these now young adults were socially isolated, and Camp was the only place they felt accepted for exactly who they were (still are). This weekend was like a reunion of sorts, but also a time where they could remember and embrace that feeling of acceptance.

Leaving ESP was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but it’s so special for me to feel connected to where I came from by instilling the same philosophies of acceptance and love at Camp now. My former boss always told me that we weren’t put here for individuals with disabilities; they were put here for us. They remind us that being different is not just okay, but something to embrace and be proud of. I know Camp isn’t for me, but looking back, I needed this weekend almost as much as the campers. It was therapeutic to say the least, not only to be a part of such an amazing time with these young adults, but to remember Bekkah and the spirit of joy she brought to my life.

 

"The righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace." - Isaiah 57:1-2

“The righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace.” – Isaiah 57:1-2

following my bliss.

So, I wanted to share a little more about my first day at camp. This post may be on the longer side, but days later I’m still reeling from everything I experienced and felt, and I’m hoping it will serve as some encouragement to so many of my friends who are seeking direction in their lives. More words, less pictures!

I was lucky enough to have a lunch meeting with the Director of Camp Operations, Matt. We left the hallowed grounds of Camp and drove into Ashford, CT to an adorable sandwich shop and country store called Coriander. (Side note: the turkey feta burger was amazing.) Matt started the conversation simply, “So, what do you want to know?” My obvious response was, “Everything!” He told me a little about his history and involvement with Camp, and once again I was amazed by how long he’d been around. Camp is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year, and he had been there for more than 20 of those years, starting as a counselor and then working his way up through the ranks.

He then prefaced his next question by saying, “So you’re the only year-round staff member Camp has ever hired who has never actually worked at Camp before being hired. That’s incredible! So what brings you to camp?” Wait, what? I had assumed the application and interview process had been competitive. I mean, it’s Paul Newman. I was shocked to realize I had pioneered into completely new territory. Barely avoiding choking on my turkey burger, I took a second to once again realize how great God is. I took a few minutes to fill Matt in on the important details—my childhood spent swooning over Paul Newman, tragic deaths I experienced that helped me recognize my passion for children and families in challenging life situations, and ultimately how the legacy of Camp and Mr. Newman harnessed those passions and brought me to this place in my life.

At this point, I started to get choked up again, but not on my turkey burger. Tearfully, I explained to Matt what a powerful experience it had been thus far getting to be at Camp and meeting the very people who had dreamed big with Mr. Newman and made Camp a reality. Every person I’d met and every conversation I’d had that day served to affirm what an incredible individual Mr. Newman was. It was overwhelming for me to fit the pieces together and recognize what an impact he’d had on my life and this journey without even ever meeting him. An Acts 17:26 moment for sure—He determined the times and exact places men should live so they would seek Him and perhaps reach out and find Him. So many experiences in my life were culminating in that moment. You’ll hear me talk a lot about the magic of Camp, but this was it! Through my tears, I looked across the table at Matt and I would swear to you he was tearing up too. He looked back at me and said, “This feeling you’re having right now, the tears you’re shedding—that’s why you’re here.”

Matt then began to share with me about a Camp program called HERO’s Journey. It’s for campers 16-18 who’ve aged out of the summer program, and it’s based on the Joseph Campbell book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The book is based around Campbell’s study of the “archetypal hero”. He argues that every hero from ancient mythology to present day literature follows the same path. They set off on a journey, face trials, overcome those trials with assistance from helpers along the way, gain discovery of some kind of self-knowledge and then return to their ordinary world. Hercules, Jesus, and Dorothy, even Luke Skywalker—they all follow this pattern of Separation, Initiation, and Return. Matt said, “What you’ve just described to me is your own hero’s journey. You’ve come from a distant land, we’re your special helpers, and you are already starting to discover yourself.”

Mind blown.

I started researching more about Joseph Campbell, and I’ve got to say, this guy was onto something. One of his most well known philosophies was about “following your bliss”. I found this quote from him that pretty much sums up how I feel about my life in Connecticut:

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” – Joseph Campbell

In reality, following my bliss has looked an awful lot like following God. Through this culmination of life experiences, God has revealed my bliss to me, and opened doors to the people and places that have made my bliss a reality. So many of my peers and friends are desperately seeking their bliss. It’s that awkward time in life spent figuring out what exactly you want to do after college that gives you purpose. I pray continually for God to move in their hearts to discover their passions and understand what makes them come alive. In the meantime, watch this video, have a good cry, come alive and follow your bliss!

Wonder Sing-a-Long with Natalie Merchant and Hole in the Wall Gang Campers

that girl.

It’s official. My life is changing too quickly for a Facebook status update or even Twitter. I’ve become “that girl”. You know, the one who thinks that life’s transitions warrant the creation of a public outlet for personal shenanigans and goings on. I’ve spent the last several months trying to navigate the world of blogging. Not posting anything myself, but attempting to follow blogs and gain life changing skills including, but not limited to, whipping up gourmet meals, finding the best coupons, and making everything…myself. I kept thinking, “How do people have time for this?!” Needless to say, it hadn’t been going very well.

And then I moved to Connecticut. From Georgia. A week after a blizzard dumped the largest amount of snow this state has seen in 28 years. So, naturally, I had a lot of feelings. (I know what you’re thinking…she doesn’t even go here! It’s true. I don’t.)

That being said, I enter this world not knowing exactly what I’m getting into or getting you into. I do know that I serve a God who knows me better than I know myself, and He has provided me with a dream job that brought me to this winter wonderland. Disclaimer: this blog may, in fact, be more for me than for you. I hope to document this incredible journey I’m embarking upon, and if you so choose, have you along for the ride!

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