What I Learned at Camp

bekah Loss 1 Comment

Since we married 9 ½ years ago, Bryan has always worked in ministry as a youth pastor. We started with rambunctious middle school students, tried high school ministry for a stint, and returned to our original love for rowdy junior high kids. Yes, both of us used to be crazy, now it’s mostly just Bryan.

And for the last eight summers, we’ve brought students to Hume Lake for a week of summer camp. Early in our marriage, Bryan would counsel a guy’s cabin, while I, a group of giggly girls. Us ladies would stay up late talking and every morning  I’d  threaten if they pulled out their makeup bag with hopes of impressing the male lifeguards. Girls, puh-leese! I’m sorry to break the news, but they are not looking at you or your envisioned marriage. Let’s not glob on the makeup this week. Let them freckles breathe. That was then…

Now, we bring our young boys and stay in a cabin with the Families Team at our church-mostly it’s made up of the high school pastor’s family and ours, some strays, lots of chocolate, snacks, shoe heaps by the front door, and not a lot of sleep. It’s a crazy week to love on students as families, let our own children experience what their daddy does, and create some pretty cool memories away from the hustle of daily life.

It’s camp food, tadpole-catching, lake-walking, pure air goodness. And it’s the youth kids that are supposed to get their mountain-top God experience and come home all gusto for Jesus and the new school year ahead. Not me. I’m just along for the ride while Tanner and Ty roll around in dirt and have milkshakes every day. I mean, we maybe made it to one chapel the entire week. Lord help me.

But no, this was my week to get rocked and it just happened to be at camp. Fine.


In all honesty, it’s my fault. Walking around the lake, quiet all encompassing, I did ask God to just give it to me– to dig out all the ugly and let me know what I need to get right, get over, and get healed.

So He did.


I need to forgive some people.

I need to be aware that hopes, even healthy hopes, that aren’t met can lead to bitterness. It’s a slippery slope and I’ve been inching towards it. I’ve found myself withdrawing because of the pain of unmet expectations. No more. Forgiveness is coming. What’s that saying- Bitterness is drinking poison and expecting the other person to die? Well, this girl doesn’t want to wear bitter- it’s ugly and ill-fitting and terribly uncomfortable. It’s a deep hole down bittersville. I’ll choose forgiveness instead. And forgive myself along the way.

I’ve been selfish. As much as I’ve eternally valued, needed, and endlessly thanked  the friends that have shown up in this season, I’ve often been hurt and disappointed by those who haven’t. In my attempts  not to have expectations, deep down I believed  some  should or ought to say something. Silence stirs selfishness within, and suddenly I’m fixated on what I’m getting out of this, as opposed to an inside-out perspective of experiencing God at work.  More than ever I so need God’s grace in choosing to focus on the gifts He gives instead of the situations that don’t go my way. I see so clearly that it is a daily choice, a grace perspective to view each day through the lens of counting blessings instead of tallying loss.


Some of the greatest inner healing this week came in key truths as I finished this life-changing book, A Grace Disguised. {Let me note, that every believer should read this book, because every person that walks with Jesus will encounter loss, and no book has offered more words to my lack of, or wise nuggets in the grief process. The author, Jerry Sittser, lost his mom, his wife, and one of his daughter’s in a horrific traffic accident and shares his raw perspective of experiencing God’s grace in loss. It’s beautiful. I relate on so many levels. Buy it. Read it. There’s my plug…You’re welcome Jerry :)}

And of course I could’ve finished this book at home, reading in my backyard while the boys soaked each other with the hose, but God knew.

God knew I’d finish it at camp, where quiet and time would let the words marinade into my soul. He knew I’d have opportunities to put what I learned into immediate practice. He knew the impact it would have as I sat on the deck of a cabin, tears pouring down and my heart turning over in confession. He knew it was a holy week. One I’d never forget.

Some of Jerry’s words that were water for my parched soul:

“The communities to which I belonged before the accident, in other words, were the communities to which I belonged after the accident. They supported me as I mourned, adjusted, and changed. Their commitment to remain loyal kept me from having to make still another adjustment- to form a new circle of friends. Their faithfulness created the stability and continuity of relationships I needed to enter the darkness and find a new life after the loss. I grieved with these friends. I grieved because of these friends, for their presence in my life reminded me of the past I had lost. But I also grew because these friends provided security and familiarity in a world that had fallen apart.” – Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised

Bryan’s words echoed: “If they weren’t there before your dad died, what makes you think they’ll be there after?”

Harsh?  At times. True? Absolutely.

At that moment it was as if God’s Spirit blanketed all expectations and hurt. Mentally, I acknowledged each friend that has emotionally, physically, and spiritually shown up and realized they are the very people that were there before dad died, plus some. New friends that have been brave enough to enter into the beautiful mess are just an added blessing, a huge grace gift. Now, I can release expectations. Such freedom comes in accepting and moving forward.

I am blessed indeed.

And forgiven.

And very much in process.

Even at camp.

However difficult, forgiveness in the end brings freedom to the one who gives it.- Jerry Sittser

Comments 1

  1. Once again, thank you for sharing from your heart. You are so…. amazing your Dad would be so proud of you for sharing this journey that you are on. When you look up at the stars at night remember those stars are just front porch lights on waiting for us to come home.I am going to get that book and read asap. All my love Aunt Kathy Can’t wait for next months blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *