SD, Meet PS (Part 2)

The Summer of 2004 started in an explosion of life that never died down. The first week was staff training, which meant meeting two hundred unique stories. My boss for the summer, Becca, cared for me deeply right off the bat. I’m sure part of our bonding experience was that we were in charge of collecting and organizing all of the summer staff HR and payroll paperwork. But more than that I remember Becca sitting me down a couple days into training and telling me it was a requirement of my job to NOT come into the office until I had spent an hour with God. She reiterated that this did not mean I had to get up an hour early each day, but that it was ok if I didn’t get in until lunch time, on occasion, if I hadn’t had a chance to spend a solid hour with God. This was a game changer for me. It was freedom with God, not dictated or forced. And He showed up everyday, ready to be with me whatever that looked like.

The band guys and I were on the program staff, which meant we had extra free-time. The way the schedule worked for counselors was that when kids were there they worked for 22 hours and had a 2 hour break. We did our jobs during the day, which even in our work allowed for hanging out, and then spent 2 hours with specific groups of kids at night before lights out. My cubicle was ten feet away from the jr. high room where the band practiced and played each night. The four band guys, my summer sister Sally who worked with the horses, and I quickly became a thing. We laughed a lot, took trips to Walmart and Steak & Shake in the hideous bullet style band mini van, spent a weekend off at the guitar players’ parents lake house in KY, and were very much joined at the hip. In all of our hanging out Phil was outspoken about his girlfriend at home of 3.5 years. He mentioned more than once that he was planning to ask her to marry him the fall after camp. This news didn’t bother me because Phil, being the sensitive-musician type, wasn’t on my radar. He was also much too flirtatious for my liking. It irritated me that he was quick to be friends with all of the girls, especially for a guy who had a serious girl friend. I had never been in a relationship at this point, but had plenty of strong opinions about it. 

Each week 500 new campers would show up and each day I found myself eager for my hour with God. If there was ever a time in my life where having a deep, meaningful, consistent, tangible relationship with God was a steady pulse, this was it. I was not afraid. Life did not worry me. I was alive. I remember choosing to walk alone at night after the campfires were over just so I could be with God. The moon and the stars being the only light, as I walked around the lake to my cabin. I would sing out loud in the middle of the dark trees. My time with God was a love story all in its own. 

This summer also introduced me to music, other than K-LOVE radio and worship songs. Damien Rice, Death Cab for Cutie, Ron Sexsmith, and Pete Yorn, showed me the depth of emotion in art. I remember listening to Damien Rice, as he sang Delicate, and even though the song was about *gasp* sex it was so beautiful. It seemed as though I could feel God in so many places other than Christian music and strict devotions. God was in the fun and He was in lake. He was in the rough kids and the rich kids. He was in the ropes course schedules and the weekly editions of “stall talk” that I put together and taped to the back of every bathroom stall at the camp. God was everywhere.

Before I knew it we were starring at the last two weeks of camp. With much anguish some drama that had been plaguing the band since week one found them in a position of quitting. Sally and I watched the guys pack up their gear and drive away too early. We were bummed to see them go, but Phil had decided he wanted to fulfill his summer contract so he was coming back to be a high school counselor. The same weekend that the band left turned out to be the same weekend Phil’s girlfriend rocked his world and broke up with him. He didn’t see it coming at the time and he ended up coming back to camp with his head hanging low. The band was done and his 3.5 year relationship had ended. The guitar player, Aaron, called Sally and I after the break-up to let us know before Phil got back to camp. We rushed off to Wal-mart and put together a little welcome back gift for him. He cried when we gave it to him. I remember feeling bad for Phil, wanting him to know everything was going to be ok. I also remember feeling awkward about his tears. I didn’t like crying back then.

We welcomed Phil back on Sunday morning and the next Monday morning I went to have my hour with God before the next crazy week started. I walked down a trail toward the lake and found a large flat boulder to sit on. The sun was shining on me, warming my skin just right. I opened my Bible and was reading. I can’t even tell you what book I was reading because about two minutes into my time a rush of wind gushed down through the trees and I heard in my soul, “You are going to marry Phil Shay.” I don’t think the statement was audible, but I answered out loud with, “No, I’m not.” I sat there staring in disbelief. I wanted the thought, the statement, the idea to leave but it wouldn’t. I mulled it over all day and couldn’t shake what I had “heard.” I was 18 years old, had never dated anyone, was not looking to get married, and was not thinking Phil or anyone like Phil would be my future husband. I felt like God was messing with me. Now what?


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