Friday, July 12, 2013

My Summer of Pirates and Persia (Life WithOut Limits)

"One day baby we'll be old. Oh baby, we'll be old. Think of all the stories that we could've told..."

 - "Reckoning Song" by Asaf Avidan

My summer began in January. I was working through day eighty-something of a placement at a chemical terminal in Braithwaite. The work had long since ceased to be tedious, but the hours hadn't. Twelve-hour shifts with monitoring and sampling every hour on the hour. We were essentially separated from the outside world. The nearest food store was ten minutes away, the nearest McDonalds was not even worth the drive. Braithwaite had been devastated by Hurricane Isaac, a forgotten storm that flooded this part of Plaquemines Parish with over fifteen feet of water. Yeah, I had been through Isaac. In fact, I watched this exact terminal get flooded in real-time and wondered who the fortunate people would be to assist in the clean-up. Well, if there was any proof the world has a sense of humor, this was it. I was atrophying on a per diem. This wasn't what I had signed up for in the least. The days dragged on, levied only by the crew I was working with. It was there my summer started to come to fruition.

The ideas started to appear slowly but surely. I wanted to do more than log meter readings. I wanted to have fun again, be part of something that fed my soul, not my pocketbook. I thought of my undergraduate summers, how summer camp alleviated the pressure that kept me wound up during the school year and how VBS had always been the best week of my year. By January the longings became a plan. I would leave my job in May and cut myself adrift in the seas of change, free to wander with the tides. It wouldn't be easy. There were grave concerns about my future, but interestingly enough, they came from everyone else, but not from me. I knew God has planned this and he was preparing me to take a very literal leap of faith. I would leave just in time to have an unfettered summer vacation and walk into graduate school with a clear conscience, joyful heart, and renewed belief in myself and that plan.

Over the next the few months I revealed my plan to a select few of my friends and family. No one really recoiled, but I could tell from their tone and expressions that they were racked with doubt. This was a crazy plan: quit your job in a questionable economy and land on your feet. They saw through the thousand-watt smiles and confident demeanor when I laid everything out, but through that they only saw...more enthusiasm. I'm sure a lot of people think I'm crazy for doing this but at every level I questioned myself at, it just kept making more sense and I'll tell you why.

My summer truly didn't begin until Vacation Bible Camp. Sure I went to Europe for two weeks but I was so excited about the prospect of having VBC and summer camp back that everything I did in Europe was like one big, long appetizer. Every church I visited reminded me of home. Every museum I visited contained teaching points and tools I could use in my own lessons. It was an incredible trip because I had a purpose and the stories I created added to the wonderful journey I was on. When I returned the preparation became unbearable. I had literally waited six months for this. I had walked to the cliff and jumped off of it for this moment, when I would stride through the doors of First Pres as a tribe leader. My summer of Pirates and Persia was about to commence.

If there was ever a testimony of how God validates your faith in His plan, the last two weeks of my life would be it. Every part of my leadership experience was tested and to be completely honest, at the end of the second week I was spent. Just completely knocked out. But it was the greatest feeling in the world. I knew I had given everything I had to make VBC and summer camp the best I could make it and I knew the kids had responded in kind. It was so amazing to see the smiles every morning and receive the hugs knowing you were a huge part of their day, if only for a few hours.

Working with kids always resets my core values. Growing up is a painful process and we all have to suffer through the iniquities of a culture that worships at the twin pillars of fortune and fame. We live in a poisoned world and the antidote sometimes is just simply to see that world through the innocence of a child. Complex problems shrouded by deceit and vain ambition become child's play when the patina of adulthood is scrubbed off. Sure, children will test your humility and patience, but those are necessary tests in becoming an adult. I can't say I'm there yet but as every camp year passes I understand more that the best way to grow up is not to puff your chest and call yourself a grownup. Nay, growing up is to retreat into your childhood and see that the childish things you once discarded are brought into your present and that those are the truest markers on the road map of your life.

I always wanted to be a grownup when I was kid, so it's only natural God saw fit to bless me with these (sometimes) summers of Pirates and Persia. It always feels like when my spirit needs a re-calibration, I'm chasing after someone playing tag or dealing with a myriad of sprained ankles. And that's ok. I know to dial the big boy act back a bit and do a little bit of growing up in reverse. And it's true. I'll enter graduate school with a soul that is joyful and a song in my heart. I'm truly happy now even though those two weeks are gone to the seas of change. My life is back where I need it to be and frankly, I can't wait for that next leap.

I Never Wanted Nothing More.

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