I have been wanting to write this post for a while, but for some reason the timing just didn’t seem right. I needed to take a couple of months to really process what this one special weekend meant for me.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, our family was blessed to attend the Crosswalk Youth Camp, which our church sponsors. This was the first year that Little Miss would be old enough to attend the Jr. Camp. My husband and I each helped at the camp. Hubby was given kitchen duty each morning and I helped out in the Mini camp (daycare) for the little ones too young for camp. The Mini Camp gave me an opportunity to serve at the camp while still having Pookie with me. I loved the Mini Camp as it provided a means for some of the volunteers with young children to participate in the camp staffing opportunities.
The camp theme was “Faith Factor” based upon the popular show, Fear Factor. Each day, the youth were given opportunities to face some of their fears. The main message for them was that in the midst of times when you are in fear, your faith in the Lord can carry you through.
One example of a fear that our Little Miss faced was that of snakes. The Jr. Campers were able to take part in a class about snakes. The handler brought a few of the snakes he worked with and taught the kids about each of the snake breeds he had with him. The kids were then given an opportunity to come up and have their pictures taken with a snake. Each who did this was given the option of touching or holding the snake. I loved how the handler was very in tune with his snakes and switched them out to avoid the snakes getting too stressed. He wanted them calm for the kids. Our Little Miss didn’t want to touch the snake, but after a bit of reassurance from our pastor, Mike Rasmussen, she was very brave and had her picture taken touching the snake. This was a huge step for her that I am very proud that she took. Just 2 years before, our son-in-law had killed a nearly 6 foot long copperhead snake out near our barn. He then showed it to Little Miss and our grandson. That really scared her. At the time we did need the kids to have a touch of trepidation about snakes since they kept wanting to play around the firewood pile and the taller vegetation around the perimeter of the yard they play in. At 8 years old, she was now needing to learn that snakes are not fearsome creatures, but you do need to have a healthy dose of respect for them. This opportunity at Jr. Camp gave her just that.
While at camp, it was fun to visit with other staff at the camp as well as get to know some of the youth. Going there, you may have ideas of how you want to serve. You quickly realize that as you serve the youth, you are receiving much in return. My own spirit was nourished through talks that I had with a few of the youth. It is so encouraging to see how the Lord is touching their lives.
It wasn’t only the youth at camp who were challenged. I went through my own personal challenges with a fear I have had for 9 years. I had let this fear have too much control over my life and though I was shaking throughout the moments I challenged myself, I got past it. It is something that may be a small thing to many, but for me was a huge step towards taking control back over that aspect of my life. The fear? Walking in the dark alone and without benefit of a flashlight.
As I child, I had always held a fascination for the moon and stars. I loved times when I could be outdoors at night and simply bask in the beauty of the night sky. This love for the night was the basis for a nickname, Luna, which I was given years ago. One night, nine years ago, that would change. My love and enjoyment of the night would be turned into something entirely different. I was assaulted and raped twice at knife point in one night by a man I barely knew. After that night, I never saw the peace of beauty of the night again. It was something to be feared and avoided. If I went to a store and darkness came, I had someone escort me to my car. At home, I always parked my car as close to the front door as possible. I got good as faking it when it came to others knowing just how scared I really was. What others didn’t know was that I often had to fight the panic attacks that came upon me each time I had to step out into the dark.
During this time, I have felt robbed of something I had enjoyed. You can physically recover from just about anything. But to recover from fear takes longer. To learn to feel peace and beauty around you in the night is very difficult. Even though we live a very rural life, far from any big city, I never felt truly safe at night. The years that my husband was on the truck and working away from home for weeks at a time were the hardest. I had trouble sleeping. Often, I would awaken to a sound of a small animal walking outside of my bedroom window. It could be something as harmless as an armadillo walking through the grass. I would lay in bed, my heart pounding so hard it felt like it would burst through my chest. My breathing would be rapid and I seemed to be ultra-sensitive to the sounds in the night. It would take a long time for me to calm enough to be able to go back to sleep again. Most of the time, that sleep was anything but restful.
At camp though, I had opportunity to talk to our pastor for a few minutes after an evening chapel service. It was very dark and Joe had already gone to the men’s staff dorm with Pookie early that evening. I talked to Pastor Mike about my fear of the dark and how it came to be. He had offered to give me a ride to the women’s staff dorm in the golf cart, but I turned him down. While I thoroughly appreciated the offer, I knew deep down to my very soul that the time had come to face my fear. I let him know that I needed to do this on my own.
I had no flashlight with me but the path to the dorm was lit in most of the areas. Only a few places were darkened from the trees blocking the light from the security lights along the way. As I walked the path to the dorm, I was shaking and my stomach was nauseated. As I walked along the pathway, my thoughts kept going the song, “Whom Shall I Fear,” by Chris Tomlin. The following portion is what spoke to me loudest and gave me strength in my steps as I walked that night.
My strength is in Your name
For You alone can save
You will deliver me
Yours is the victory
Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?
And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in Your hands
I’m holding on to Your promises
You are faithful
You are faithful
I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies is always by my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies is always by my side.
I made it to the dorm safely. No flashlight, no escort to walk me to the dorm. I did it on my own, with my faith in the Lord’s protection with me.
The next day, I spoke to the Pastor Mike again. I explained a little more about how much had been taken away when I gained that fear. The loss of my joy in the night. Taking that step to walk back to the dorm had given me a piece of that joy back again. As he mentioned to me, the camp setting was a safe environment in which I could face that fear. I know that it is not like walking a city street late at night alone. But it did help me.
Where we live, I would be foolish to just go out walking at night, especially in warm months. Too many wildlife considerations to keep in mind. It feels good though to not have that unsettling feeling of fear overwhelming me though. It is such a gift and blessing that the Lord gave me that night as I walked to the dorm. He gave me back something that I thought had been lost for all time. He gave me back the beauty of His creation, the night. Most importantly, He gave me peace in the night, which I have been without for far too long.
In the months since camp, I am still edging my way into regaining that love of the night. A couple evenings ago was the night of the super moon and meteor shower. At 2am, when it was supposed to be the best viewing, I went outside alone and spent time just watching the night sky. It was like seeing an old dear friend again after a long separation. I felt no fear. For the very first time in 9 years, I felt completely at peace with the night. What a gift and blessing to have that again. That piece of my that has been missing for so long is now back in place. I feel more whole in that regard than I have in far too long. I feel like Luna again. She was sorely missed.