Happy Camper...       September 7, 2016

Some of my greatest memories as a child are being around the campfire with my parents and grandparents.  Camping seems to bring out the best in families.  It is a time when everyone relaxes and the world seems to slow down.  I am not much of a thrill seeker and you will never see me sky dive so camping is about as adventurous as I get.  As a young girl, I remember watching my parents (who still camp today) go through their routine of setting up and I knew when the lawn chairs came out of the side storage, it was time.  It designated the start of our family time.  No work.  No school.  No stress. 

We loved sitting at our campsite and watching “new” campers.  The thing I have found to be true of most campers is that they are always eager to lend a helping hand and willing to share their knowledge and personal experiences.  Pot luck dinners, campfire songs and hobo pies are a few of my personal favorites. 

After I started attending church and meeting people, I was invited to attend the ladies Sunday school.  This worried me.  In my mind, I was biblically challenged.  These were mature Christian women.  They could spew out scripture like it was nothing where I had a hard time remembering my grocery list.  They knew so much more than I did and I was not sure I was ready for feeling the “newbie”.  I knew I was changing.  I knew I had God to thank for that so off I went to Sunday school feeling like a fish out of water. 

The fabulous thing about being new at something is you are only new for a brief moment.  Whether you are setting up a new trailer or attending a class for the first time, you are only new once.  Immediately knowledge and experience are gained. I found the classroom and I felt so happy as it was in a kindergarten classroom.  Right up my alley and I felt right at home.  I noticed something sweet on the bulletin board.  A cute picture of an outline of a hand with every finger numbered.  (I’ll come back to that later.) 

Twenty or so women gathered in that room.  Hugging and laughing with each other.  It was obvious there was a lot of love in that room.  Yes, for a few short moments, I felt uncomfortable, but I knew I was meant to be in that classroom.  The Sunday school teacher asked if I would share my testimony (story) with the class.  As nervous as I was, I also knew it was time to share. I knew God was with me and that is all that mattered.  He knew the truth, my heart, my story and He still loved me – always had. 

The class opened with prayer.  Wow could they pray well!  Praying like that was something I desperately wanted to learn, but felt too awkward to ask anyone.  When the teacher introduced me, I stood behind the podium and took one deep breath and let it all out.  I even shared how angry I had been with God.  They seemed to understand and not be offended.  These women welcomed me like a group of seasoned campers with open arms and so much wisdom.  It was as if I knew them my entire life. 

These ladies shared serious prayer requests for their families and friends.  It helped me to shift the focus off myself and onto the needs of others.  Right in the middle of their trials, they were ready and willing to help each other and me!  I felt like I could share anything.  It was empowering to watch how “authentic” these ladies were when discussing such vulnerable topics.  There was no fear of asking for help.  My favorite part was when someone would offer praise.  So often we miss the good God is doing in the middle of a trial.  The focus is centered on the unanswered prayers and on the uncomfortable place we are stuck in forgetting to give gratitude and not attitude.  This was a place to come together and be real.  A place to give glory to God for all the good things, pray over the hard things and love each other through it all. 

At the end of class, I was part of something new and no longer the “newbie”. They called me sister and I finally understood with clarity what that meant. Helping or serving others is not hard.  It is seeing a need and filling a need.  Service – being God’s hands and feet on earth.  Camping was a great place for me to learn to be helpful.  To be part of a group that shared and cared for each other.  I’m glad my parents took the time to try something new one day.  I’m glad I walked through that door and into the lives of those ladies that morning.  This was a place for me to be authentic.  Every Sunday that classroom shared in the sadness and happiness that comes with the roller coaster of life and the consistency of God in the midst. 

That leads me to my struggle to find my way to serve God.  When God starts working in someone’s heart so many things change.  It becomes natural to want to please and serve Him.  My question was how could little ole me who had a house full of children (one with special needs) begin to serve.  How could I reach the hearts of others?  What seemed so easy for some, seemed difficult for me.  Many told me my purpose was to care for Phillip and although, I did not disagree, I felt there had to be more.  I wanted more.  Most of my day and my world revolve around being at home.  Why would God give me a life where I could not serve His purpose? 

During this time of my life, we were living in an apartment community.  We met so many wonderful people and formed friendships.  It took awhile, but I felt a nudge to reach out to a few of the residents who lived alone.  One specific gentleman lived directly above us and he will always hold a special place in our family’s hearts.  It takes one simple step.  I remember his smile the first time we delivered warm cherry cobbler to his door.  Then we reached out to a few more.  It took awhile, but I finally figured out we were serving.  Maybe not on a big platform and not a single soul at church knew.  I learned that it is more about whom you are serving (God) and not how many people know you are serving.  At first, I was looking to be recognized.  I was excited and wanted others to know I was doing my part.  Funny, how God is not concerned with anything but loving others.  God answers prayers in His way and in His timing. 

After we moved to the country, I missed our deliveries and those smiling faces. Again, it takes time for God to reveal His plan.  It takes an authentic heart to come to Him and surrender.  After a year of wondering how He would use me, Instagram came into my life.  A platform where I share tidbits of my life and how I found faith in God and the faithfulness that keeps me drawing close to Him.  That platform led me to the courage to step out on faith and create this blog. 

Remember the drawing of the hand and how I desperately wanted to learn to pray well?  That drawing was a tool used by the teacher to help her young students learn all the parts of a prayer.  I love visual learning.  This will stick with me forever and I am not ashamed to admit that it is how I learned to pray.  First finger – Call Him by name (Dear Heavenly Father).  Second finger – give thanks (gratitude).  Third finger – ask for forgiveness (we all fall short and no one is perfect).  Fourth finger – tell Him your prayer requests.  Fifth finger – Amen.  Notice how giving thanks comes first.  Notice how God answered my prayer.  Had I not stepped out or tried something new, I would have never known. 

I love the term “happy camper”.  There is truth to that statement.  Campers are happy.  They are helpful.  They serve each other asking nothing in return.  There is never a minute where I look back and regret spending my Sunday mornings in church.  There is never a minute where I look back and regret giving my time to others.  I know what it takes to step out on faith and trust in God’s promises.  My parents were encouragers and are always learning new things.  Being a “newbie” passes quickly, but the knowledge and wisdom gained begins immediately and are yours to keep forever.  I have said it before and I will say it again… I like being happy.  I like being a happy camper and lending a helping hand.  But I love having hands that are serving God!