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

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hope deferred.

hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. – proverbs 13:12

For those of you just tuning in (to my blog or to my life) I recently moved to Connecticut to accept a position as a Hospital Outreach Specialist for The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, henceforth referred to as Camp. Camp, the name itself referring to Butch’s gang of bandits in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, is a magical place for children with chronic and serious illnesses that was started by Paul Newman, Academy Award winning actor and yes, the “salad dressing guy”.

Let me rewind. So I’m obsessed with Paul Newman. I mean, I’m not trying to be creepy, but I may or may not celebrate his birthday and the anniversary of his death. I may or may not have framed pictures of him hanging in my apartment. I may or may not own all of his movies. Truth be told, he had a lot to do with my decision to become a child life specialist. It’s kind of intense, but let’s be real, he was smoking hot.

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I know, right?

Because of my, let’s call it appreciation, for Paul Newman I had wanted to get involved with this camp for some time. As the fates would have it, I applied on a whim for my current position, and two months later I had officially become a New Englander.

Fast forward to my first day on the job–my first visit to camp. This was a moment I had been waiting for most of my adult life. I woke up before my alarm, ready to get the day started and spent an hour on the road preparing myself for the emotional experience ahead. Naturally, I stopped at Dunkin in an attempt to digest my feelings, physically and metaphorically. Alas, my plan was thwarted, and my tear ducts won out in the end. When I pulled into the driveway, I immediately started crying. (Shocking, I know.) I was able to get myself together after a 2 mile stretch of road winding through Camp, but when I met my boss at the administrative building, her simple question of, “How are you doing?” was met with my tearful response, “I’m just so happy!”

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Before the tears.

We went to the back of the admin building so I could I brew a K-Cup of Newman’s Own Medium Roast to start my day the organically caffeinated way. (For those of you wondering, there ARE Newman’s Own food products to be found ALL over camp!) The walls were covered with pictures from camp, pictures of Mr. Newman with kids at camp. It was like having an out of body experience; like I had just found out that unicorns actually exist. I mean, here I am face to face with the reality that a man I have loved and admired did, in fact, start this amazing camp…AND THIS IS MY JOB!!!

So that was pretty much my day—wandering around in a state of complete wonderment (yes, I looked up this word to make sure I was using it correctly), meeting each and every member of the Camp team, getting to know their roles and falling more and more in love with Camp, my coworkers and Paul Newman. An entire day spent marveling at the life God has blessed me with. I had an incredible lunch with the Director of Camp Operations, Matt. (Separate post to come about the life changing conversation that took place.) Of course, there were several more instances of me not being able to contain my emotions, but the best part was that no one seemed at all concerned. It was like, “Oh yea, this is totally what happens the first time people come to camp!”

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Theater

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Infirmary

When Mr. Newman died (September 26, 2008), a little piece of my dream died. I still wanted to be a child life specialist, but I’d never get to meet the man who had impacted the course of my life so greatly. I’d never get to thank him for the legacy of generosity and compassion he instilled in so many people. I’d never get to hang out with him at camp. But after leaving camp that day, a little piece of the dream came back to life. I was able to meet so many of the people who have been a part of Camp from the very beginning, people who knew Mr. Newman personally. I was able to walk through the buildings he designed, sit on the porch of the dining hall and look out over the frozen lake. I was able to experience the “different kind of healing” he envisioned bringing to children with life threatening illnesses. His dream for camp lives on, and through that dream, a small piece of him. I immediately thought of the scripture Proverbs 13:12 which reads, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” I feel so lucky to serve a God who knows the desires of my heart and chooses to fulfill them beyond my imagination or expectation.

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Sunset over the frozen lake. Tree of life to the right, if you will.

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“When you see the right thing to do, you better do it!” – Paul Newman

And that, my friends, is the magic of camp.

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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