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July 10, 2007

Me at My Best

I was recently confronted with a former version of myself. I spent last weekend at a reunion of former staff and campers at the Bible camp I attended for nine years and worked at for six. This camp is the place where I learned how to live out my faith. It's the place where I developed most of my most enduring friendships. It's the place where I discovered that I could lead people. More than any other experience in my life, my years at camp made me the person I am today. It is a place so dear to my heart that it physically hurts when I leave.

It was fantastic to spend a couple of days with people I hadn't seen in years. People I'd known as young children were there with young children of their own. I introduced my wonderful husband to the guy I had crush on when I was 17. A woman who had been one of my former campers told me she had gone into full-time youth ministry in part because she wanted to impact students the way I had impacted her. With every hug and remembered story, I kept thinking, This was me at my best - funny, confident, creative.

But in the days since, as I've replayed my conversations with old friends, I've been struck by something:

We didn't really talk much about what we do now, about our jobs or our accomplishments. We didn't fill in the gaps of the years that had passed. Instead, we told camp stories, we laughed at our wonderful memories, we met each other's families, we shared our mutual feelings of affection for a time and place that meant so much to us. And in the midst of those conversations I felt known and loved and connected to others in a way I haven't for a very long time.

And I realized that what made those years so much fun, what made them such an important part of who I am, wasn't just that I was a carefree college student with my whole life ahead of me. It's that I hadn't yet started hiding behind a role. I wasn't anyone's mother or wife or editor or boss. I was just me.

But now, well now I have fallen prey to the false belief that I am what I do, that it is my work as a mother, a wife, and editor that gives my life meaning. I have learned to present myself as a woman who is completed, who knows what she's doing at all times. And I have lost something precious.

I've lost the ability to listen to my gut and do what I know is right even if it makes me look bad. I've lost the sense of myself as a ready-for-anything goofball who inspires others to play. And I've lost the confidence I once had to lead with warmth and integrity, not just knowledge and bossiness.

For the most part, we get better as we get older. But my weekend in the woods with the people who knew me before I knew much of anything reminded me of just how important it is for all of us to hang on to a bit of our past. I'll never be a camp counselor again, but I can still bring the gifts that I discovered all those summers ago to the life I have today.


Caryn - I so appreciate your candid comments. Funny... I've been experiencing something very similar in the last few weeks. I have been put into situations where I know how I "should" respond from a "I'm a mature adult" perspective, but I keep finding myself drawn back to youthful approaches I used to employ... like joy, listening to my gut and all those others you listed.

I know age often equals wisdom, but sometimes wouldn't you say youthful responses can often be the most authentic. And frankly, authentic and sincere is refreshing.

Thank you for being authentic and sincere with your thoughts today. Be blessed!

It's funny, isn't it, that we typicaly think of those growing-up years as a time when we're not quite formed yet? And don't most of us think of our teen years as a decade full of insecurity? We're trying so hard to figure out who we are and where we're going.

...and yet, Carla busts the ruse wide open. Once we have a Plan, and maybe a Title or two, we let those things serve as a combination of mask and shorthand to the world, explaining who we are and where we're going.

I've spent a lot of my adulthood cringing at the kid I once was. This piece reminded me that the bookish, brace-wearing, high-strung, SOS-haired kid I try to shoo away from my grown-up life maybe needs to be invited to hang out, make a lanyard and eat a s'more once in a while.

Thanks, Carla.

Thank you Carla for your honest reflection. I'm blessed by it as it caused me to think about this also... sometimes I think growing up is a funny thing and then its about maturing and often that includes the roles we play and/or the responsibilities we take on and sometimes we haven't had the chance to say goodbye to our youth and hello to our maturing adult life.

I realise that we grow and mature into those areas and sometimes we do lose sight of who we were or perhaps more precisely how we were and what we did when we did not have those responsibilities, yet we realise that as times pass by and we have grown and another dimension is added to our lives to who we are rather than having lost who we were; and the precious work of joy that God started in us accompanies that change so that we always remain His child and in His love and knowing that His love for us although we've been maturing and have entered into different roles.

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