Cedar Campus: Cedarville, MI
The array of pebbles underneath the water’s surface distracts me. I stand there in the flooded isthmus, juggling my discarded shoes, a backpack and a camera in an attempt to capture just a few of the stones without baptizing my belongings. My perusing is interrupted by the remembrance that I need to move on if I am going to make it to Gnome Rock and back in time for activities that night.
My trek through the forest proves to be a combination of urgency and moments of still wonder. Except for the trail and the sign I soon happen upon, it feels that I am the only human to have ever wandered here. This is a storybook place.
I turn at the quirky, hand-painted marker and follow it, wondering exactly what I am going to do now that I am here.
Turning into the path, I have to pause and wonder no more.
In a cascade of sunlight rests a wooden table high upon a rock, with Lake Huron as the surging backdrop.
A table, in the forest! Why it is there does not matter. It seems I have been extended an invitation to come and sit at a spot that has been prepared for me.
I open my Bible on the table, illuminating the familiar verses and raggedy pages. I haven’t managed to stick with the switch to my new Bible even after several attempts, for I have desperately needed the scribbles in the margins of my old one to remind me of His hand in my past.
There I remember.
I pour out my regrets, my fears, my thanksgivings. I watch the sunlight pierce through the glassy water turning it to rippling gold as it moves toward the shore.
“Our help is in the name of the LORD who made heaven and earth,” the pages before me declare.
From where I currently sit, I must marvel at this earth and this place so unspoiled that it instills in me a greater longing for heaven.
I cannot not help but feel apprehensive about the future, but if this summer has found me so often lost in wonder at what He has created, then what must He Himself be like, this God who is our shield and refuge?
The sun soon begins to draw near to the lake, and it is time to return to camp.
1-26, South Carolina
Driving long distances no longer seems such a chore as it once did, for I learned the value of time alone in all my excursions to Sault Ste. Marie for internet or groceries. Those drives were filled with moments to contemplate, pray, sing praises and yell laments as loudly I could desire.
Today I’ve tired of the radio, and return to my summer soundtrack of “Let There Be Light” on CD. Soon my eyes are pooling up just like that day I left camp for the last time. This CD has proven itself a traitor; purchased to be something free of tear-inducing memories, it now has accumulated its own and accomplishes the same results as its predecessor.
As the songs shift from one to another, so do recollections of the particular parts of the drive from Cedar Campus into the tiny town of Hessel. I recall the way my favorite colors were brushed so vividly across the trees, sky and lake. The wildflowers that greeted me from beside the road, and the butterflies that danced around the chives. The charming 1950’s vacation feel of the little places where I’d go for snacks or sorbet. How my mind so often buzzed with thoughts from the stories I was reading that left me so intrigued with God and His universe. The peace of feeling Him there as my provider.
And the people, of course the people. They are not easy to forget.
We all need little memorials, little reminders of what God has done.
I glance down at the strange, fishlike shape hanging from my keys which serves as one of my memorials. It’s a piece of leather cut into the shape of the “UP,” Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
When I first had seen it emblazoned upon everything from cars to receipts, it had been nothing but a source of amusement for me because it seemed to be such a strange obsession of the locals.
Now it is a reminder of a summer that is even more special to me because of how my God took me from wanting to leave camp and go home, to being sad when it was time to go.
The lyrics I’ve heard a hundred times this summer sing along with my heart:
“I will boast, in Christ alone / His righteousness /And not my own /I will cling to Christ my hope /His mercy reigns / Now and forever”
Yet I again find myself in need of this Hope, as this transition is proving stranger than anticipated.
But I am back to somewhere else I have loved, where He has worked, and for the moment, this thought gives me comfort.
Columbia International University: Columbia, SC
I’m sitting in my same old spot, yet it does not feel remotely the same. There are many who wander by that I no longer recognize, and some I am accustomed to seeing are no longer present. It’s eerily like living in a dream, where you know where you are supposed to be, but something just doesn’t feel quite right. I thought returning here would be like coming home, yet there is no comfort of familiarity from this place I lived in and loved so dearly for the past three years. Am I losing my mind?
I find it unnerving, and yet I cannot help but wonder if it is supposed to feel like this. Do I want it to feel comfortable? Perhaps it’s like having a comfy sweater that was your favorite when you were younger, that you can still wriggle into, but it just doesn’t fit anymore. You grew.
There’s a part of me that wonders if it would have been better if I hadn’t come back at all, and just let the memory live on, unspoiled in my mind. This place is haunted with memories of moments that will never be again. I sigh and look at the time on my phone. Mercifully, it’s time for prayer group.
I pull myself up from the porch floor and walk to the prayer towers, thankful at least that I no longer have to drag my rolling bag behind me. Well there’s a welcome change.
As I descend the steps toward the towers, I notice in a moment that something is different. It’s not the fact that flowers and bushes have been planted around the building, rather what is different is that this . . . this feels the same. This realization draws me to a halt. Am I mistaken?
No. This is the first time on campus I actually feel like I’m coming back to that dear familiar place. This feels right.
Stepping inside I see a friend, and more soon arrive. As we pray for the requests of the professors, I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving and filled with peace. This room is full of memories of God’s faithfulness, and they come rushing back now. Everything has felt so incredibly different since my return, and at times I have felt lost. For this moment, my heart has stumbled upon a bit of home.
It’s been two months since my return.
The moon is saying its soft farewells as it fades into the emerging dawn. I find a strange delight in being awake to see this brief juxtaposition of night and day, though I never have time to revel in it long. There’s work to do and coffee to brew. As I place the open signs out by the street, I am quickly drawn back in my mind to the Coventry Bus Station, a place from another summer past. This cool morning mingled with smells of exhaust and coffee are what have managed to transport me so far across the Atlantic. I equate these scents and this feeling with the anticipation of adventure, for boarding the bus usually meant I was London bound.
Not today. I find it ironic that not only am I not taking off to somewhere exciting, I am working in a vintage camper; something that was meant for such excursions, but now remains stationary. I may be bound to this spot for the time being, but it doesn’t stop my mind from wandering, and the options are plentiful. For the rest of my life, no matter where I might be, there will always be a place with its people that I will long to see again. The downside to travelling is that it always adds to the list.
I run through this list, inevitably contemplating where I have been, and as I watch the cars passing by, the question suddenly grips me- where am I going?
These days the temptation is to view my life as immobile as this camper, but then I am reminded of the truth. I am currently living in obedience to the last step the Lord directed me to take, and like Abraham I will pitch my tent here until I receive orders to move out.
While I wait, I’ll enjoy making espresso drinks, chatting with regulars and caffeinating sleepy-eyed customers who stop by on their way to work or school.
The early rush soon passes, and I find that the morning has faded. The day, the days rather, stretch ahead, seemingly without any markers other than recycling days and Christmas. For the first time in years there is nothing significant ahead to concretely mark off another chapter. Fear offers to keep me company while I ponder the fact that I do not know what is ahead of me. Yet today I declared the steadfast love of the Lord as the sun rose, and I trust that wherever I am when the evening falls, I will indeed be able to declare His faithfulness.