Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Leaving Camp

'Why did you finally decide to leave camp?'

It's a question I get asked pretty frequently...and, sometimes, it's a question that's hard for me to answer. 
I think people are curious for a few different reasons...
  1. They wonder what's so wrong with camp that I would ever want to leave. 
  2. They care about my life. 
  3. They just like to know things about people. 
  4. They are trying to figure out how to know when it's time for them to leave something.
Assuming that you might fall under one of these categories, I'll try to answer that big question accordingly. 

Why did I decide to leave camp? 
It's complicated... and it's simple. 
It was time. 

Cliche, right? 
I'm not usually a fan of quitting. Especially when it's something I care about and I've invested a lot in...something that I think truly matters. Camp was that for me. Because, for those of you who don't know, you don't just work at camp. You live there, you eat there, you sleep there, you work-out there, you hang out with people there. Even when you're away from camp, you're never really away. There's always work to be done, always people to be communicating with. Your co-workers are your friends and there's no escaping conversations about work, even on your time 'off'. 

I tried to leave once before--about two and a half years after being there full-time. I packed up my car, moved back into my parent's house...and a week later I had re-packed my car and found myself back in Texas. Not because living with my parents was horrible, but because I felt like I still had work to do at camp. I still had hopes and dreams, I still had changes I wanted to implement, I still had messages to communicate to counselors and campers. 

Living at camp was never really easy for me. Comfortable, on some level, sure... but never easy. Never easy because it was an environment of constant change and I'm not particularly great at change. It felt like every six months we were having some sort of staff turnover, it felt like every few months we were changing policies or programming or how to internally communicate or where doors and roads were and were not. Some changes were good and welcomed...almost all changes were necessary and for the benefit of camp and/or campers. But, because they embodied something different... I didn't like them. 

Ironically enough, I left camp at a time when stability seemed on the rise. Implementation of five year plans, goals and desires to make everything excellent. Camp is in a good spot, and it's moving into an even better spot. Which, continues to beg the question: why now

As camp continued to change and grow, some of my very favorite parts about it began to fade. Suddenly I realized that I was clinging to a job that I no longer felt qualified for, especially as my duties needed to change in order to accommodate the growth and stability. This wasn't a job that I loved anymore, and it didn't seem like it was moving in a direction of something I wanted to continue to be a part of on the same level I had been. Mostly, I just realized that there were other, better qualified people to do what needed to be done. There were other people who could step in with new ideas, fresh perspectives...people who didn't know camp the way I had known it, people who would be better at jumping into the remodeling with much more joy and excitement than my hesitations and longings to protect what once was. 

It wasn't an overnight decision. It probably took over a year of me going back and forth to realize that this was the right decision- both for me and camp. 

And it's hard. It's hard to leave something you know and love and go do something different. It's hard to know when the right time to leave is. It's hard to admit things could be better without you there. I kept wanting God to just tell me to go, and I wanted Him to tell me what to do next. It felt foolish to leave without any sort of plan for what was next. It's hard to leave a life where I know I'm having some sort of impact on thousands of lives each year...and to not know if I'll ever feel that useful or purposeful again. 

But sometimes it's just time. 
And, I think a lot of the time we know when that time is... we're just too scared to do anything about it. So we stay. Sometimes I think we continue to return to things because it's what we know, not because it's what we should do. 

I love camp. I love the way that God moves in a camp setting like no where else. I love that while, yes, there is often a 'camp high', that people actually make life-changing decisions there. It may not be so apparent immediately, but they are things they often come back to--even if it's years later. I love the community. I love the summer nights. I love the worship. I love the openness and rawness and the inability to hide in darkness for very long. I love the spontaneity of the tasks required and not knowing what each day is going to look like. I love living in the middle of nowhere. I love working hard, washing dishes, cleaning showers, frying thousands of chicken strips. I love talking to guests from all over the country. I love recruiting, hiring, caring about summer staff and attempting to lead them each year. I love talking to hundreds of campers and sharing my heart with them. I love watching programming come to life. I love writing curriculum. I love camp. 

But more than that...I love the way God heals, redeems and saves people. I love the way that Jesus Christ can radically change lives and bring hope to the hopeless, light to the darkness, and peace to the trouble-hearted. That doesn't just happen at camp. 

It was time. 
I'm more sure than ever that this was the right step...but I'm not sure I would have known unless I had taken a leap of faith and stepped into the unknown. 

Sometimes it's okay to quit.
Sometimes it's okay to leave behind old things to do new things.
Sometimes it's okay to make decisions when you aren't 100% sure and to hope it can be better. 
Sometimes it's okay to leave things you love and to hope to find something you love more. 

I'm no longer 'Debbie: Camp Person'. 
I'm okay with that... and I'm eager to see where else the Lord takes me on this new adventure. I'm eager to work hard in other capacities, to be uncomfortable in other settings, to be used in ways that hopefully foster life-change in lots of other people...even if that's not at camp right now. 

I'm willing to believe it can be better. Scratch that. Will be better. 

Maybe it's time for you to finally leave something, too.
Maybe it's time for you to try something different.
Maybe it's time to admit that it could be better for you and others if you left (this one is super humbling). 
Maybe it's time for you to believe that something new could be better than what you know... even if it's unknown. 
Maybe not.

And if you aren't entirely sure? 
Take a leap of faith...take a risk...be bold.
Because it's freaking scary, but it opens you up to a whole new world of possibilities.

That's what my life feels like right now: scary, but filled with possibilities.

Thanks for asking.
Thanks for caring.
Now you know. 

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  1. I definitely get what you're saying about God's power doesn't just happen at camp. God is same everywhere no matter where we go even if it doesn't seem like it. He is the same God at camp, school, work, home, etc.

  2. Thanks for sharing this with us, Debbie. Good stuff.