Camp. It is such a small word, but it brings back many memories of something awesome that happened to me when I was twenty-two years old. The word has been fresh on my mind because my oldest is gone away to camp this week with the teens from church. I have been praying for him to have a wonderful time, but also for the Lord to do something great for him. I pray his heart is soft to the Lord's work.
I first heard about Monadnock in a Christian on-line chat room. I was still living at home with my family. I had a job and a car, but I did not have any Christian friends near me. I was very lonely. I found a good Christian chat site and many evenings found myself talking to other Christians around the world. One particular person, who's web name was Birdman, told me about a place in New Hampshire that was hosting a single's retreat. He said he was going with a group of singles from his church in Connecticut, and said it would be a great opportunity for me to meet other fellow believers.
I prayed about it and talked to my parents. They were not overly excited about me going. My mom could never understand why I would want to go and meet a total group of strangers, but I felt I had the go ahead from the Lord. I wanted to meet new people, and make new friends. I had no intentions of meeting anybody that would change my life, and went with pure intentions. So, I called and reserved a spot at the camp for Memorial Day weekend in 1997. Birdman told me he would be wearing a shirt with a bird on it, so it would make it easy for me to find him. I told him I would be wearing a Vermont shirt.
It was a beautiful piece of land out in New Hampshire, with mountains and lakes within easy reach for hiking and canoeing. I parked my car and checked in, wondering if Birdman was there yet. I found my room, filled with bunks and single beds. A few other girls were already there and I said hello, suddenly feeling a bit shy.
I went down to my car to get some of my stuff and saw a group of three guys go strolling by. The one closest to me was really tall and thin. The next guy was average height, but the one farthest away from me was shorter. He had on an 'outback' hat, and as they walked by and said hello, his blue eyes and dark lashes caught my attention. He also had the nicest smile! "Oh, I hope he is Birdman!" I thought to myself.
As it turns out, the tall guy was Birdman. We finally connected inside the lodge as we looked over the activities sheet for the weekend. He came in wearing a bird shirt, and the other two guys followed him inside. He introduced us and I met Brian, and the stunning-eyed guy's name was Joe. I waited to see what Joe was going to sign up to do for activities. I had to know because now that we were formally introduced we were not strangers anymore, and it would be fun to get to know this guy. We all decided hiking would be fun on Saturday afternoon, after services were over and lunch had been eaten.
After that, we split off to unpack and get ready for the dinner meal, and church service that would begin shortly after.
Like I said earlier, I had gone without the intention of finding anyone special, but the moment I saw Joe, it was love at first sight for me. I will not go into all the boring details about what we did during camp, and all the people I met. That would take too much of your time and my time to relay all that here. Yet, God was working on me to trust Him throughout the entire weekend. See, there was another girl named Amy who entered the scene. I watched in the background as Joe sat with her and some other girls, talking and laughing. They both were in the choir that was set up for the weekend, so I felt left out a little.
Birdman was always there though, trying to make me feel comfortable and never wanted to leave me alone for a minute. He knew I had come to find friends and was determined to make sure he was a good one. I was beginning to wonder if maybe Joe thought we were an item and did not want to get in the way of things. I know when we had first met Joe thought I was eighteen years old and told himself he would not date a girl that was nine years younger than him. When I found out he thought I was only eighteen, I quickly corrected him and told him I was twenty-two, in case that made any difference, which in this case, it did.
During one service, I sat alone, with a seat saved for Joe after he was finished with singing in the choir. I watched as he walked down and then went to sit with Amy for the remainder of the service. My heart fell and I closed my eyes. This was a crucial point for me. I believe God was testing my attitude and wanted to know where my faith stood. I prayed, "Lord, You know all things. If Joe is supposed to be the one for me, then I put the matter into Your hands. I will not push something that is not Your will. Please help me accept whatever is the outcome. It will work out if it is Your perfect plan..."
Throughout the weekend we tried to talk, but Birdman was always there with us, so we never got to talk about anything concerning "liking" each other. I do recall telling my roommates about my interest in Joe, and one of the bolder girls marched down to the game room one afternoon and said, "She likes you. You like her. Don't mess this up and don't let her get away!"
It left us at a very awkward moment and we both did not know what to say. We continued playing our game in silence. I hoped what she had just shouted to the entire game room did not ruin any chances of a possible future with him.
The last night at the camp, we had a bonfire. I sat in the front row, saving a seat for Joe. Birdman came along, saw the available seat, and sat down next to me. We sang songs, but my heart hurt at the thought of having to leave my new friends, one in particular, and head on home the next afternoon. I turned around and noticed Joe standing at the back of the group. I quietly slipped away and went to stand beside him. We talked for a couple minutes about how we were going to miss everyone, and then I noticed Birdman stand and begin looking around for me. He saw me standing in the back so he came running around to be with us. I know he meant well, and he was holding true to the fact that he would make sure I would not be alone, but I needed a few minutes with Joe so we could chat privately. It was not meant to be. All three of us walked back to the lodge and sat until midnight, chatting and yawning. The two guys finally went to their cabin and I went to bed, still unsure of what would happen after we said goodbye the next day.
After lunch on Monday, the group from Connecticut decided they were going to get ice cream on their way out. Joe invited me to follow along. He finally got up the courage to ask Birdman if he would let us talk for a couple of minutes, and Birdman was gracious to agree and walked away. I could hardly believe it! Joe said he had enjoyed getting to know me and asked if I would give him my phone number. He told me he might want to call sometime and talk. Finally, some answers! Now, the next question was, would he actually call? And when?
My heart was full as I followed the group to an ice cream stand down the road. Joe shared a black raspberry ice cream with me, which I doubt he could have eaten alone anyway. The amount of ice cream they put on there was as big as his head! I drove away with the promise of a bright future ahead of me, glad I had put the matter into the Lord's hands.
Joe did not call that night, but at dinner the next night, the phone rang. It was for me. He asked if I had gotten home okay, and we talked briefly before hanging up. He called again the next night, and then again, and we also did some chatting online, which saved us a huge phone bill. This was before texting was around, and possibly even before cell phones had become big. I know I did not have one. :)
A week later, he told me he had thrown Amy's number out because he was not interested in her for long. Our relationship grew quickly, and in six months we were engaged. Almost one year to the day we met we were married. It is amazing how God works. When we put our trust in Him completely, and place our worries and cares into His hands, we can know He will not let us down.
Lord, thank You for an amazing fourteen years of marriage to the wonderful man You had already chosen for me. Thank You for the five children You are allowing us to raise on earth, and for the one that is in heaven with You. Please watch over JJ at camp this week and do a wonderful work on his heart. May he come back changed for the better, and have a sweet spirit about him. Bring him back to our family safely. In Jesus' name, Amen.
P.S. I am also very thankful for the role Birdman played in the process of Joe and I meeting. God used him as the tool to get us together and start a wonderful thing. I am glad to say Birdman is happily married to another gal he met online and they have a beautiful daughter. Thanks, Birdman, for inviting me to come to Monadnock and meet new people! :)