To Read on the Journey

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Paper Chains, BIG GOD, and This Changed Life.

my kids talk about camp all. year. long.
the three of them have slumber parties regularly so they can reminisce together into the wee hours of the night about their camp memories.  how sweet is that!?

my girls can hardly wait for their 2012 adventure at "the home of the world's greatest campers," and  made paper-chains to count down the days till it arrives!

i get it,  why they love camp so so much...God is BIG at camp! magnificently ERUPTING out of staff, activities, shared meals, His word, intimate conversations, worship, and more...
with God BIG lives are changed...

i know, because 24 years ago today at a camp the course of my life was changed forever. 


On June 19th, 1988, I was saved from abandonment, lies, defeat, curse, unworthiness... death.  I came to Life.
In late spring of 1988, when I was 14, a friend invited me to Hume Lake Christian Camp.  But because my mother worked as a waitress, camp wasn't financially possible (I mean we got the free cheese. Those of you who got the free cheese know what I'm talking about).  Then, one week before camp the same friend who had invited me shared that another girl had cancelled.  Her spot for camp was paid in full, and the church (River Oak Grace) wanted me to go in her place.

I can't say I wanted to go to a Christian camp.  If there was a God, I had a question for Him, "why did you give me this life, I didn't do anything to deserve it?"

From birth my dad had rejected me, and over the years has made it clear to me that I am not his daughter (My dad was a drug user for 27 years.  He was arrested in 1998, and a year later committed to a state hospital, where he was diagnosed to be Bipolar-Pschitzoaffective).

Because my teenage mother decided she couldn't care for my younger sister and I, a routine weekend visit to my paternal-grandparents at the age of 2 turned into a 3 year stay.  When I was 6 my mother returned and regained custody of us.  In the 13 years I lived with my mother she was married, divorced, engaged, separated, married, divorced, engaged, separated, married, divorced, married.  I've had 7 "dads."  

The message sent to me by my parents and "step-parents" was that I was not wanted.  Their rejection, abandonment, selfishness and neglect affirmed that  I was unworthy of love. 

So, I went to camp, desperately hoping for a week break from it all (evidently, God had SO MUCH MORE than a week break in mind for me) .

  Camp was!  Hume Lake itself was magnificent. I was invigorated by the activities, games, being part of a team, 3 shared meals a day, singing (my favorite), and people pouring their Life into me.  It felt that I had really breathed and lived for the first time in my then 14 years of life.
That week the speaker, Steve Russo, spoke about how "God is a Father who will never leave you or forsake you."  He shared from Romans 8, "that nothing can separate us from the love of God" (tears- It still gets me).   

I needed that!

 So, on June 19th, 1988, I took my first steps to my Father God in Hume Lake's Ponderosa Chapel, while singing, "Oh Lord, take my life as an offering, let it be molded by Your own hands, fill me with Your Spirit and Your Grace to quench a thirsty land.  Thank You for always being near even after I've done You wrong, Father please use my frail life now, for when I am weak I am strong." (song by Joel Weldon).  

In these 24 years I have been overwhelmed by God, Who breathes life into me, calls me daughter, and Who tangibly expresses that He is wildly and deeply-in-love with me.  I've also experienced pain as the Shepard walks with me through my history to heal me for His glory in me and through me. I've battled lies and depression and have learned to "love the Lord my God with all my mind."  I've been a prideful Christian, BUT by God's mercy I've been humbled. Most recently I'm learning to embrace Grace... or rather to let Grace embrace me. I'm passionate about victory, and about living a good story (a God glorifying story) and leaving a legacy of blessing instead of curse for my children and their children's' children.

And 24 years later, I still have one question for God, "Why did you give me THIS Life, I've done nothing to deserve it!" The Redeemer has been too good to me.

Have you ever gone to a christian camp? 

How did you come to know our Big God? 


Joy Kinard said...

Oh Denise, I love this post!

1. We ate the free cheese and the King Vitamin cereal. We did.

2. Church camp was my sanctuary.

3. Tis SO sweet to trust in Jesus.

Your kiddos have such great things to look forward to! Thanks for sharing your story. Praise God for redemption!

Thea Nelson said...

It's so simple and un-spectacular, it makes me laugh! I was in 1st grade and my Sunday School teacher told how her neighbor's house had been broken into, and she asked for God's help in knowing how to help them. Then she was like, "Okay, so anyone want to give their life to Jesus?" and I was like "Yes!"

And the rest is sweet history. :)

The Writer Chic said...

LOVED this post... I, too, know the wonders of Christian camp, as a camper, counselor, and asst director. It is an amazing ministry all around. Hoping my children someday love it as much as I did.

Laura said...

this is so amazing.

I did not go to Christian camp. I went to STAGEDOOR MANOR. A theatre arts camp...a camp full of creativity and talent, with enormous amounts of self love and pride and dreams to be famous. yeah. THAT camp. was fun.

I never had the big AHA GOD moment.
My experience in coming to know our God has been through many whispers...little nudges...words from strangers...little things, that when I look back, I can see were no coincidence. They were all guided by Jesus....He has always been with me. It is impossible to look back on my life now and NOT see that.


Gina said...

I love your story, and I love that you so freely share your "but God" moments. He is so good, and he redeems, restores, renews!

I loved camp as a teenager, and now as an adult I love it even more! I cannot imagine a summer without camp. This year we get two weeks, two weeks! One with middle school and one with high school and we pray for lots of "but God" moments. I cannot wait for my kids to experience their own moments at camp. What a divine appointment he had for you!

The Matthews' Family said...

Oh, I loved church camp. Such a big part of my childhood memories! What a great post. What a way to reach young people! I fell in love with Jesus more every year!

Linda Z said...

"Why did you give me THIS Life, I've done nothing to deserve it!"

I love this, sweet friend!

And I love your "birth story" even more now being able to think of my experience at Hume that very same year!! I can picture you there, being pursued by His great love!

I also love Josie. How can she be so cute all the time!!! :)

Laughing Brown Eyes said...

Thank you so much for finding my blog and commenting. It was such a pleasure to meet you today at Barnes and Noble, and thank you for being so personable. :)

I love how God changed your view and while you ask the same question ("Why did you give me this life?"), the tone and meaning behind it is completely different than before. I never went to camp growing up, but I did have the opportunity to work at a Christian camp last summer in Nebraska, and it changed my life just as if I were attending the camp with the children I was serving.

God has blessed you, and it is easy to see you are humble in receiving his blessings. Thank you for being such an example that even people who have just met you (like me!) can see it.

And I see no errors in grammar! :)


Kelly said...

Hume is my favorite too! There's nothing quite like worshiping with other for days on end.
Your story is so special. God is good!

Jennifer @ Studio JRU said...

Oh my goodness... your story brings tears to my eyes. God is so good. He had such a special plan for you and that camp. Love, love, love it!!

Wendi@EveryDayMiracles said...

Wow. So wow. Thank you for your authenticity. I loved reading this.

mel @ the larson lingo said...

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your story. (HIS story) I remember you sharing it at Wendy's last year and it touched me so much. I have tears in my eyes (again) after reading this post. I grew up going to a Christian Houseboating Camp & that is where I accepted Christ when I was 12 years old. Yay for Camp!!!

Megan said...

Hi Denise,

You and I have a very similar father story. I also became a Christian at Young Life camp as a teenager.

Looking at those pictures of your daughter (who looks just like you!) and reading your words, isn't it wonderful how God's healing touches our lives? I always thought that God would bring me healing from my father by a healed relationship with him. Now I realize that He has been healing me by my children and giving them the childhood that I always longed for.

He certainly is a big God!

Anonymous said...

Hi Denise,
I stumbled on your blog post this afternoon while working in the office at River Oak Grace. I just wanted to say thanks for sharing, especially about the impact that camp had for you. I've been volunteering/working with the youth ministry here for 10 years and have gone to Hume Lake countless times as a counselor (yep, we still go every year). I always pray that the girls in my cabin will have meetings with God like you did. It's encouraging to hear the stories of campers that have gone on to live their faith and to know that a crazy week in the mountains can have such a lasting impact. Thanks again for sharing.