20 years…that’s how long I’ve known Camp Hickory Hills as a second home, as a place of peace, a place of retreat. Friends are not only made there…they come back year after year and pick right up where they left off. I am so thankful for that being such a huge part of my life and for all the people there who have loved me, prayed for me, and even disciplined me!
I was a camper from age 8 to 21 and part of the staff starting at age 17. Some years, I attended as a camper, then worked 2 camps. Other years, I worked 3 different camps…I was pretty much running on Slushies and square pizza. I’m so thankful for the directors who always saw my heart and were willing to give me a chance to serve.
When I was a kid, the drive to camp was about 4 hours. But if you’ve ever been there, you know what the longest part of that drive is…the last road. Even now, it seems like a lifetime could pass before you get there. Then, finally, you see Skeeter’s…you’re only half-way there. Great…will we ever get there?
I can’t even count the times we got lost. The other day I heard a mom say that her husband was giving her directions and said, “Count 7 bridges…” 20 years and I’ve never even thought to count the bridges. Hmmm…
Last year was the first year I didn’t get to work at camp. I had a good excuse…I was out of the country. This year I knew I wouldn’t get to work but I was so thankful that I got to spend 2 days there. Several times I’ve hinted around about wanting to work in the kitchen. Every time, I get this strange look. For years, I’ve wanted to wash dishes at camp…but when you’re a cabin leader there’s just no time to wash the dishes…but I can scrub all the toilets I want to…I do always enjoy that. If you think I’m joking, you’ve never seen me scrubbing toilets at camp…I really do enjoy it! This year I got to help out some with the staff meal on Saturday. I mostly felt like I was in the way…but I really love chopping vegetables…so it was a blessing to get to be in the kitchen there. Then…guess what I did…da…dada……I WASHED DISHES! It was just as fun as I always imagined it being. Seriously!
Later that day, I got to help with registration…a part of camp I’ve never experienced because at that time I’m always sitting on my bed waiting for the campers to arrive and make their beds. I actually found myself genuinely surprised that someone had NEVER been there before. What? Really? It suddenly occurred to me that as these people arrive and walk into the chapel I’m the first face they see…dear Lord, no one thought this through!
This blog was not supposed to be about my camp experience but rather about my camp journey. But as I began typing, I just couldn’t help myself. So…this year, I was coming from an entirely different place. I knew a way to get to camp from here (without getting on the interstate…because I just don’t do that) but my dad was insistent that I not go that way because it was the long way. Isn’t that how it usually is…we think we know what we’re doing, where we’re going, how to get there…let’s face it, we know it all. The way we go about things may get us there eventually…but it’s just not the BEST way to go.
So after much searching for the BEST way to go, I started off on my little journey to camp. The roads I took were AMAZING…beautiful trees and scenery, great houses…my kind of houses (old). At one point, I was on this beautiful, winding road and I had this great joy come over me. I thought about how I used to love this…driving by myself, finding great new ways to get to places, just the peacefulness of the drive. Then I thought how long it had been since I’ve had that feeling…2 years. I used to love that…then I got so used to enjoying those things and always having someone else with me that I completely forgot how to have that joy on my own. I couldn’t believe that for 2 years I had not allowed myself this joy. I couldn’t be too hard on myself about it because I honestly didn’t even realize I had missed it.
As I’m really enjoying my drive, guess what…I got lost. I ended up turning down OLD Hwy 7...not the Hwy 7 I was supposed to be on. After a little freaking out and a phone call to Matt (who was in Gatlinburg but I wanted him to prove to me that his phone really can do everything and get me “unlost”), I was finally on the right road again……then……I couldn’t go any further. The road was closed. Of course I called Matt again. He took me on a little detour and got me back to that road several miles down. If that side of the road had been closed, I would have turned around and came back home. So again I got on the correct Hwy 7...and I got right behind 3 big trucks going 35mph on a road where there was really no way to pass them. I was already thinking, “Am I ever going to get to camp?”
Finally…I got to Dickson…after a quick stop at O’Charley’s and a trip to Walmart with Ana, I was ALMOST there. On that last road…finally. I’m thinking, “How long is this road? I just want to be there already!” Just when I’m thinking I’m almost there, I get to Skeeter’s…man, this is like half-way.
Two years ago, the road closed…if I’m really honest, there were signs…DETOUR AHEAD - ROAD CLOSED…but what can you do until you get to that point? God had a different road, a better road. And there are so many times when I just cry out…HOW LONG IS THIS ROAD? I JUST WANT TO BE THERE ALREADY! That’s when I hear it…the whisper…DO YOU TRUST ME? Then there are times when I think I’m almost there…and I see it…it’s just a landmark…still not there. But that doesn’t mean I stop and park there, no, I keep going because I trust Him! He has a place of peace for me, a place a retreat…I LIFT MY EYES UP TO THE HILLS - WHERE DOES MY HELP COME FROM? MY HELP COMES FROM THE LORD, THE MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH (Psalm 121:1,2).