Before we left on Thursday for Tennessee almost two weeks ago, I asked God to clearly show me what it looked like to serve as a family. This has been an ongoing request since last summer in Alaska and I still feel like I have such a LONG way to go. The evening we arrived, we walked into the kitchen and met the new person in charge of the meals. She greeted us with the warmest smile and instantly I felt comfortable. Next we met her 4 teenage children, 3 older girls and 1 younger boy. They, too, welcomed us and I could feel my outer protective layer (that we all carry sometimes) begin to slowly fall to the floor. The next day, I was still hesitant about my role at camp, so I mainly played with Carter and tried to interact with others from time to time. We helped put toppings on the homemade pizzas, but that was about it.
Later that afternoon, Mrs. Rachel noticed a septic smell around the camp. Apparently the septic system was clogged and so the guys spent most of the evening trying to get it dug up and fixed. There was another group coming late that night and it had to be repaired. So while they fixed the pipes, I played volleyball with the kids of the family that was running the kitchen. I love sports and anytime I get to play, my “silly” comes out. We had such a blast running around and diving after the ball, even though we never could hit it where we were aiming. And the ball kept trying to go into the ditch where they were digging up the septic, so we would rush to catch it before it went into the “abyss”. (I did learn a valuable lesson: I’m not as young and resilient as I used to be. Those few face-plants in the sand were really talking to me the next morning!)
The next day, after getting to know the girls a little better, I felt more confident about trying to help in the kitchen. I set Carter up with his trains, tractors, and blocks and checked on him from time to time. This became the pattern in the mornings and after a while, teenagers began making friends with Carter. I would walk out of the kitchen to check on him, and he’d be surrounded by 7th grade girls who were eating up his dimples and sweetness (it’s cute now…but ask me again in a few years). Sometimes he would befriend another adult and he would disappear with them to go play fetch with the dog or catch with the ball. Other times, my new friends from the kitchen would snatch him up and take him somewhere to play. This was a totally new experience for me. He’s usually with me or family and this whole pass the Carter game could have gotten my blood pressure up, but it didn’t.
It must have been God beginning to answer my prayer, because sometime early in the week I had an epiphany. Carter is a blessing to me and my family. He makes us laugh. He brings us joy. He makes us do silly things. What if letting others spend this extra time with Carter meant that I was allowing this precious blessing be a blessing to someone else? What if serving is actually a combination of helping AND sharing our blessings with others?
This reality freed me up to really get more involved. I got to talk with everyone in the kitchen at one point or another and get to know them better. Their life is so simplified compared to mine. They make most of the bread for the camp from scratch, make homemade butter for themselves and sometimes for the camp, they know how and often make their own cheese from the milk, and almost everything else is made from scratch. They are not tied to electronic devices or media and the kids are home-schooled and taught Christian values as they work together both at the camp and then as family at home.
I was challenged to look at my life and see what’s really important. There are a lot of cost saving things I can do, but have just chosen not to explore. There are a lot of meals that we eat out when we could be at home eating healthier and cheaper. There are a lot of times when the tv is blaring and no one is even in the room; and is the tv even worth turning on anymore?
While we were up there, I totally turned my brain off to the worries and duties awaiting me at home and I soaked in our time together with the Mills and with my new friends, the Morgans. Now that I’ve returned home, life is awaiting again; bills are stacked high, responsibilities are still there. But the lessons I learned keep running through my mind. I’m weighing my decisions a little more carefully. I’m trying not to let the old fears and control sneak back in and take over. I’m actually looking into some cost saving options.
And I’m realizing that I would love the freedom to be able to pick up everything for a week or two at a time and travel to help others in some way. Serving as a family doesn’t seem like so foreign of a concept anymore. It actually seems like it might be an easier fit if I will just take my hands off and go with the flow. We had such a nice time and I’m so thankful for God beginning the process of answering my prayer and renewing my focus.