August 2017

My girls and I were five months into our new adventure. New school, new friends, new sports teams new music teachers, new coworkers, new schedules, same hair salon. (Every woman knows next to dreaded new OB-GYN search precipitated by  a move, a hair stylist is the most important find, and I wasn’t up to finding a new one so we still make the hour’s trek back to our old hometown to see Lynn and Monica who work their magic on our tangled manes.)

The calendar showed that summer camp commenced in nine days. Staff from all over the world were showing up in two. I’d been busying myself attending fundraisers for scholarships, talking to prospective parents, creating brochures and postcards, educating myself about all the different social media avenues non profits use, learning software specific to summer camp, recruiting volunteer nurses, writing grants, meeting with vendors for the camp store. Things were humming along quite nicely.

And then they screeched to a halt…and I hit a big wall called reality. Not the reality I was expecting, but hard life reality that comes out of nowhere when we least expect it.

“My last day is Friday,” the summer camp director told me.  “I resigned.”

I don’t remember ever being told I was the one who was going to run the show. I don’t remember much from 11 weeks ago to be quite honest. For 10 weeks straight I worked over 100 hours a week. I learned what “o” rings were for a rifle, and what it means to “fletch an arrow.” I discovered why certain string is better than others for friendship bracelets. There was bait to be bought for the fishing class (bee moths are best) and extra small harnesses to be ordered for those high ropes dwellers who love it up in the trees. My international staff had to get to the social security office, the boat drivers had training to take, the horse wrangler needed certified and the lifeguards needed shirts in all the right sizes.

I felt like I was two steps ahead of the crazy train, and every day at staff meetings, I’d implore my 20 somethings to hang in there. “I know you are getting hit with a lot of changes every single day, but hang in there. You all are doing great!”  And they were. They really, really were, but my biggest fear is that they could read my mind that was a hot mess and run screaming for the hills.

Then the campers came…and the real education began. There were naughty seven year old boys who needed a lecture from a mom not a camp director. Homesick campers asked for bedtime stories. Bedwetters needed laundry done discreetly. Bugs showed up.  All of them.  At one time. In one place. Mosquitoes, chiggers, wasps, bees and bedbugs. Yes. Bedbugs.  Don’t even get me started on that saga. That leads me to the next drama –

Parents.

Parents calling because they weren’t seeing enough pictures on the website of their children. Parents calling to say they saw pictures of their children, but their children didn’t look happy. Parents calling demanding to speak to their unhappy looking children because they were worried, worried, worried that their camp experience was awful, awful awful. Parents calling about the bugs. Parents calling to see if their kids were homesick. Parents calling to see if the bugs were homesick. (Parents, I need you to hear me on this. If you don’t hear from us, everything is fine. The point of summer camp is for you to get a well deserved break. Please don’t call to ask us if your child passed the swim test, is getting enough to eat or can have a top bunk.)

I delivered birthday cakes, started campfires, scraped dishes, scheduled laundry pick ups, ordered pizzas, sang “If I Had a Hammer,” sported Chaco tan lines, hauled stand up paddle boards in from the lake, and  bailed water out of swamped canoes.  I cleaned poop off the pier (bird that is) one minute and greeted board members the next. My all time favorite thing, though was visiting cabins at night with Katy the Wonder Dog. It was the kids’ favorite thing too.

 

Every night around midnight I’d crash on my couch, and the next day at 6, the coffee pot would start up, and I’d be out the door at 7.

Did I mention I still had daughters to raise?

Somewhere in the middle of the crazy of Week 6 and the Drama of Week 7 that Still Small Voice got my attention and said, “Hey, remember the CEO thing?  This is it.”

I was walking through the woods in the silent morning before all the kids were up, and stopped in my tracks at this thought.  The voice continued, “Remember all those years ago, when you were in a dark spot? Your girls were toddlers. Your husband was in Iraq, and you discovered your marriage was in trouble.  Remember what I told you?”

I remembered. “You will write, and you will speak, and thousands will hear your words,” I whispered back to the Still Small Voice. I hadn’t thought of that experience for years.

“This is it.” The Still Small Voice whispered. “This is exactly where the words are going to happen…they are happening now.”

And in recognition of this truth, the tears started flowing…because with me the tears flow pretty easily.

You see every Sunday, I had the privilege of greeting about 250 new campers every week. I’d tell them that camp was family, that they were home, and this is where they belonged. I stood right where Chaplain John stood all those years ago and let them know that God brought each and every one of us here in this space at this time for a special reason.


Every Friday night, I’d look over this room at all the same campers after a week of activities, and fun and friendships and lots and lots of sunscreen and bug spray and remind them that it was their job to take the lessons they learned at camp out into the world because God has a job for all of us, and it’s to share His Love.

But my favorite words were the words I spoke in front of this bell every morning.

They were what we called “First Words.” I’d talk about Caring, Honesty, Respect and Responsibility.  Sometimes I’d tell fables. Sometimes I’d share stories from my childhood. I’d read Psalms or explain Jesus’s parables. Always, always, always I’d remind both campers and staff that God loved them and had a plan for them, and that plan was Good. And the best part of it all was that my late father was always there with me.

Over a decade ago, my life changed drastically. Everything I thought was true overnight, wasn’t. I fought tooth and nail with God about my dreams. All I ever wanted was to have a home and a family, to share a table with friends and use my gift of hospitality to bring just a little bit of “as in heaven,” to “on earth.”  God asked me to put my plans back in the locker because he had other plans…bigger ones….plans that included a 400 acre homestead to share with over 1800 family members, plus a staff that acts as aunts, uncles and big brothers and sisters to Twins A and B.

Over 11 years ago, the Still Small Voice first spoke to me…or at least that’s the first time I was able to hear it. Everything that happened, had to happen to get me to this place. My Life’s Work.

 

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My Life’s Work – Part II

by Priscilla on August 7, 2017

“Priscilla, it’s one of your daughters on the line,” the camp registrar looked at me with concern as she handed me the phone.  I was about two weeks into my new job as Director of Marketing and Development, and she and I were working on camper registrations together. Wondering why my cell didn’t ring, and why they were calling me on a work line, my stomach dropped as I held the receiver into my ear.

“Mom?” A small voice spoke from the other end.  “Twin A, Friend A and I walked into the house after school and it was like it was raining inside. Water was everywhere so we went all the way to the our room (on the third floor), and there was water coming out of the toilet.  We called Jim, and he’s on his way over.

(Jim is #1Man who walked into my chaotic life in the quietest and most unexpected way, and hasn’t walked out since, and promises he isn’t going to. “You don’t scare me,” is all he replies when I keep throwing the craziest of curveballs into our relationship.)

After numerous phone calls to Jim and my sister, Celeste, and my mom, I discovered the situation, though crazy, was under control. The toilet tank in Twin A’s and Twin B’s room had cracked right after all of us had left that morning for work and school.  We hadn’t moved yet. I’d put the house on the market and the girls were attending their middle school until Fall Break, and I was commuting the hour back and forth to my new marketing job every day. The water flowed and flowed and flowed all day down through three levels of house all the way into the basement. I love waterfalls, I just don’t like them in the middle of the home I’m trying to sell while the entire family is away.

Years ago, the school system labeled my daughters “gifted.”  If you’ve done any reading about giftedness, it doesn’t mean high IQ or the ability to spit out math problems like Rain Man. It simply means they think outside the box compared to most kids their age.  I could give you lots of examples, but in this case, after the fact, I found out that Twin A, Twin B and Friend A had a plan in place before #1Man even arrived. They didn’t scream at each other. They didn’t freak out. They started in with the towels.  Towels all over the place sopping up the mess. When he walked in Friend A announced, “My grandpa has a couple of water vacuums.  Let’s go to his house and get them.” #1Man takes directions very well, and off they went to retrieve the vacuums. In the mean time my mom and sister arrived to help with large fans of their own. The insurance company was called. The ex husband appeared  (the house was still in both of our names), and I remained at work.  Why? Because I’m not an idiot that’s why.

#1Man and StellarSister assured me after fielding numerous phone calls from various sources, there was not one more thing I could do, and the hot mess would still be there to greet me at 6:30 pm.  I figured it would probably be the quietest two hours I’d have in my life for a long time.

I was right. When I got home with pizza for all, my dining room was dark as the chandelier had been lowered due to the flooding. A cast of characters  sat in my very dry living room (Thankfully, the water flowed down through only one side of the house otherwise a lot of furniture would have been destroyed.) My ex husband, my mother, my sister (neither of whom are fans of ex-husband), #1Man (he tolerates ex-husband for my sake), Twin A, Twin B and Friend 1 all sat together on the large sectional watching me as I climbed the stairs to survey the damage.

“Seriously, God? Seriously,” was the conversation going on in my head. But in my questioning, I also experienced a great sense of calm. My kids were okay. My mixed up family all showed up to pitch in. I had home owners insurance. After everything I’d been through I’d learned the lesson I needed to learn most in this situation – It’s.Just.Stuff.

In the next four days my beautiful old brick home with its gorgeous arched windows and wooden floors – the home that I was giving up due to divorce – looked like a scene straight out of ET. The water restoration company came in with huge heaters and tubes and pipes running through floors and ceilings. The professionals who set up shop remarked over and over that the quick thinking of three 12 year old girls with towels and water vacuums kept the damage at a minimum. They were amazed at their foresight and maturity. I wasn’t. I’ve come to expect this kind of stuff from my daughters and their friends. I don’t know what God has in store for them, but it is going to be some kind of Divine Appointment – of this I am sure.

All the furniture was moved to one side of the house. The kitchen was out of commission, and my girls and I still had to get to school and work and volleyball and orchestra. I had to take the house off the market until everything could be repaired and replaced which meant more months of mortgage payments. The reality set in, that I was going to have to move, and move fast. How was I going to pay for the move? When was I going to take of work to arrange everything? What about my girls. God, why on earth are you putting them through even more chaos?

Honestly, I was just too tired of life at this point, and I just gave God the big old “Whatever.”  I don’t mean the pious, “Whatever, Wherever, Lord,” that I used to hear about as a child from preachers telling me I needed to surrender with full abandon to “God’s will.”  I have no idea what God’s will is. Never have. Never will. I’m not God so how would I possibly know his will. I really wish people would just pipe down about finding God’s will, because all it does is stress people like me out. Nope. I’m talking the “Whatever,” that is said in the tone of  “I give up. I don’t have anything else left to give so you just do what you have to do, because I got nothing. NOTHING.”  And God had me right where He wanted me.

Within a week I had answers. Insurance would cover packers and movers because even if I were staying, they’d have to move everything out of the house and put it in storage while walls were painted and floors were restored and inspections of electrical and plumbing were done.  Insurance would cover updates to the house so when it was put back on the market, it was in even better shape to show. In the mean time, the real estate market was tightening up…too few houses…too many buyers. In the months my home was off the market, home prices kept climbing.

On the other end of things – the place where I was moving – I had a house. It came with the job….and guess what? There was no mortgage, no utilities…

…and 50 steps from my back door was this view.

 

End of Second Act

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My Life’s Work Part I

by Priscilla on August 6, 2017

Several springs ago, my SIL invited me to attend a women’s retreat entitled Run Hard, Rest Well. The message centered around women, especially mothers, taking the time to find a sacred space to be still and know. I was still in the throes of adjusting to my life as a single mom, and I sat staring around the sanctuary filled with lovely women of all ages, who, too, needed to hear this message of rest, but I didn’t see them as individuals.  I saw “them.”  I saw I was not like “them,” and loneliness, once again set up camp on my heart.  Not one of them were unkind or rude to me, but, you see, if you are divorced or widowed or “still-single-at-a-certain-age,” sometimes, in some places, for no reason at all, the feeling of not belonging creeps into your soul. I’ve come to accept the fact that it’s no one’s fault; it’s simply one of the many avenues Grief sometimes uses push itself out of hiding and into first chair, and in my case, this Grief brought me to tears.

At lunch time, I couldn’t join the others. I needed some time to get the tears out where no one could see me, and I knew I’d be fine.  But it wasn’t to be, and as I sat and wept in a chair in the middle of a church while others were chatting  in a large reception room over sandwiches and coffee, the speaker wandered in and saw me. She approached and asked if were okay.  I nodded that I was just fine, but that I didn’t know how on earth I was supposed to “Rest Well.”  “My husband walked out on me.  I have two girls. I’m having a hard time finding good work with decent benefits to keep a roof over my kids’ heads because I’ve been out of the job market for a while. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’m smart and motivated. It doesn’t matter that I’ve had many different careers and can adapt to any situations thanks to my time as a military spouse.  All employers see is that gap of years when I wasn’t working full time. I chose to stay home with my children so my husband could have the career he wanted, and now I’m left holding the bag, and I have no idea how I’m going to survive, much less, ‘Rest Well.'” As I babbled to this complete stranger, the trickle of tears became a sobbing river.

The speaker did what I find all wise women in such situations do, she said the simple words, “May I pray for you you?” She wrapped an arm around my heaving, heavy shoulders, and together we sat at the throne of Grace unpacking and unloading my burdens.  I listened to her prayers for strength and courage and guidance, we finished our brief time together, I thanked her for her taking the time to encourage a sister and she excused herself to join the others at lunch.

I sat, once again alone in the sanctuary, and  the Still Small Voice whispered, “I have something I want you to ask for.”

I listened.

“I want you to ask for a house on a lake where you and the girls can live, where don’t have to pay a mortgage and utilities. I want you to ask for a place where you can write.”

And what usually happens in that situation happened.  God and I had words.  More to the point, I had words. Words like “Are you crazy? I can’t even find full time work, and I’m supposed to find a lake house. Have you seen the real estate market? And who has time to write?! I’m teaching during the day, freelancing whenever I get the chance, getting the girls to all their activities and trying to keep this house clean and food on the table!”

The Still Small Voice repeated, “I want you to ask for a house on a lake where you and the girls can live, where don’t have to pay a mortgage and utilities. I want you to ask for a place where you can write.”

So I did. I continued to do so…for about a week.  A week is about my limit  for repeating nut jobesque prayers to the Creator.

Time passed.  I continued to look for work while trying to become re-certified to teach in my state. (Dear State of Indiana, don’t make it so hard for intelligent, hardworking moms who stepped out of the classroom for a while to raise a family, to step back in. You’re really shooting yourself in the foot here.) Money was growing tighter and tighter, and one day I was shared my frustrations with a librarian at the school where I was a teacher’s aid. “You know Priscilla, the trouble is you shouldn’t be running a classroom.  You should be running the entire show. You need to be a CEO.”

I stared stupidly at this abrupt comment. I’d come to love this no-nonsense woman over our irreverent conversations about books and kids and life in general.  She continued.  “I’m serious.  You need to be a CEO. You have great ideas. You see the big picture. You see solutions to problems. You don’t put up with crap. People like you. You need to be a CEO.”

I laughed and walked away, and her CEO words got on the bus and traveled to the same destination as my Lake House prayer  – the lovely resort town of Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That. Everyone knows that CEOs need MBAs  I have an MBA- minus the M.

More.Time.Passed. While I tried to no avail to find work in the same town in which I was living so the girls and I could stay in our home, a friend approached me with a job offer for full time work.  I’d been doing part time marketing on the side for him for the Y camp he ran, but camp was growing and needed someone with my background to run marketing and development. It was the camp my father attended as a child, and it’s where he first learned to dream big. It was the camp where I started my faith walk thanks to the loving words of a guitar playing Methodist minister known as “Chaplain John,” and it was the camp where my girls attended every summer and came home all smiles and giggles.  “Mom, whenever we drive down the road to camp, it’s feels like we’re going home!” they’d tell me every time I’d drop them off for a week or two. (When the movie of my life comes out, and Ashley Judd or Diane Lane – playing the part of me -is driving the car into camp there needs to be sweeping music behind those words. Please take note.)

“Just think about it, Priscilla…if nothing else works out.”

Well, I thought about working at camp about as long as I prayed for a lake house and entertained the idea of being CEO one day.  My daughters had been through enough transitions with their dad leaving.  And now, for crying out loud, they were in middle school.  I couldn’t up and go in the middle of middle school…I mean….it’s MIDDLE SCHOOL! (Even though military kids do it all the time, even though  children worldwide the same ages as my daughters are forced to move because of war, famine and threats of being sold into slavery. Why on God’s Green Earth is American culture obsessed with teenage angst that doesn’t have to be? Shame on us! But that’s another lecture for another time.)

I continued to look for work that wasn’t there…not because it wasn’t physically there, but because unbeknownst to me God still had this Lake House idea on his mind and had busied His angels to run around slamming doors of what I thought were opportunity shut right in my face at every turn.  They shut, and shut and shut until I was finally only left with one door, so I called me friend, and said, “Look, I can’t find work. The state is giving me the run-around on my teaching certification, and I don’t have time or energy to wait around for them, so if you still want me to come work for you, I will.”

-Intermission-

 

 

 

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