Prior to May 2017, my only exposure to sleeping in a tent was on the 18th fairway of a well-manicured course. Two nights would be a stretch for me. I am not a camper girl. I like hot showers and a warm bed. I hate snakes and mice. But I understood what God was saying to me…as a leader of 22 women in a comfortable suburban neighborhood, I needed to be just as vulnerable and off my game as those joining me. By getting us all into a new environment – away from husband and kids, away from carpooling and household tasks, we would be able to show up, connect with God, to give Him access to dig deeper into our lives, which could spur some incredible growth in faith and friendship.
It all started January 2017 with a prompting from My Big Daddy in Heaven. He nudged me to lead my Indian Hill Bible Study to experience hearing from Him. We would leave our daily busyness, ask our community to surrounded us in prayer…oh did I mention it would be in the rain, cold and under a nylon tent for two nights? I’ve never camped before and truly haven’t had the desire. But His voice was strong and clear, so I obeyed. Because we are strong women, who run companies and households, I knew we could persevere the elements, the smokey coffee, and “natures” in the woods, but I didn’t know how God intended to show up. The invitation was for two nights of Woman Camp, put on by Crossroads Christian Church. We would be the “feast team”, preparing a fire-cooked, gorgeous meal of fish, vegetables, hand whipped butter and wine. Other teams would decorate the tables, prepare name tags, sing worship music, etc., as the feast would be nicer than some weddings.
Invitations were Accepted and Rejected.
Some said “Yes” immediately, unequivocally. A few said “No” emphatically. The others pushed back: sharing uncertainty, busyness, childcare, and ultimately fear. We prayed for God to gather the correct group.
One Was Discouraged from Coming.
Our dear friend Mandy was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer. She desired to come, but we told her it was not the time for her to sleep outdoors. Kelly reminded her, “Your worth and value are wrapped up in your creation as God’s daughter, not whether you come to bible study weekly, woman camp, 5th grade orientation, or respond to emails timely. Regardless if you are healthy, or are sick…your value is in Him. I know you are outside of your comfort zone in every aspect of life physically, mentally, and emotionally—you be you right now and don’t worry about what anyone thinks. James 4:10 says “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Mandy, rest in God, fill your environment with praise, and know He loves you. Give your love and energy when you have it to your precious children and faithful husband.”
Three had Major Doubts. The Week of Camp.
“Can we get a hotel room? Will they postpone camp due to weather? How will we cook over a wet fire?”
But no one was going to be the first to drop out…thus, in rain gear and full of anticipation, we ALL went.
Essentials of a Great Get Away
Think about what makes a great get together with friends: music –check!, ambiance – the camp-fire light provided – check!, deep conversations – check!, wine – check!, amazing food – check! (What? Amazing food?) Having never camped before, I was expecting trail mix and granola bars. Not this camp site – a grill grate miraculously appeared (total God Stop, it wasn’t there…and then it resting next to the split firewood), we had individual, made to order breakfast omelets with campfire potatoes, sautéed mushrooms over brie on fire toasted baguettes, Prosecco and fresh fruit, and pineapple upside down donuts, pre-made sandwiches with fruit chutney, fresh apples and cheese…it was incredible. It was all provided with one special woman sharing her passion of serving others through cooking! What a blessing!
Along with the amazing food, we had deep conversations. Friendships began to blossom. The second day I passed out surprise letters to each camper from each husband and family. Tears were in eyes as God started penetrating hearts. Worship music overtook our ears and souls. We had prayer circles – too many to count – and it was all amazing.
How Did We Show Up?
We heard friendly jokes following camp about the Indian Hill women who we brought more gear than the normal camper, that we arrived like the Secret Service in our black SUV’s and were dripping in diamonds and Yurman (yep, don’t judge us).
How Did He Show Up?
During our Solitude hours at camp, sitting in my hot pink soccer chair, in my hot pink parka (yes, it’s my signature color) and reading a letter from my husband and kids, with snot and tears rolling down my face and the tightness of my chest (i.e.: heart attack in a good way) from the second incredible Holy Spirit moment of my life … I felt Joy! I walked into the Prayer Tent and said I want to Praise God for getting me and my group here.
The Holy Spirit first overwhelmed me in a flapping tent church in Khayelitsha, South Africa. The Spirit solidly reverberated in me at camp and for days following hasn’t allowed the Joy to leave. It is a much better buzz than any expensive wine. “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Ephesians 5:18-20
Our Lord prompted prayer circles time and time again. Women who never prayed out loud shared their fears and praise.
He provided camaraderie, closeness, God Everywhere, God Stops all day long, disconnecting, missing family, building into women, hearing from God, the list is long.
Not one was baptized that weekend, but that’s not my yardstick. I am pleasantly exhausted by the number of emails my lovely 15 have exchanged. I’ve challenged them with Salvation and to put a stake in the ground. They are all begging for more time together – yes, our first reunion was less than 2 weeks after the first event. That is the Holy Spirit attracting friends, families and penetrating hearts.
Friday night, June 30th (aka under two months after camp) my lovely campers surprised me with a second reunion party – they gave me handwritten notes in thanks for my obedience and encouraging them to stretch for a weekend away from comforts. They thanked me for the freedom to hear from our Lord.
My lovely 15 received a gift of beautiful, white-beaded bracelets from another camper in gratitude of our feast. When you see us wearing our beads, know they represent the deliciousfeast, but more so of our humility of eating leftovers. You see, when we finally were able to sit down after hours of cooking over open fires, we joined the hundreds of women campers to find our reserved table was taken over and our food had been given away. Without hesitation, we grabbed a tray and asked for their uneaten leftovers. Think about that, can you visualize a cook coming out of a restaurant kitchen and asking to eat your leftovers? And like
Jesus multiplying fish and loaves, we collected a full feast of chicken, vegetables and wine!
How We Continue to Show Up
Since May, my “tribe” has resumed normal life, yet each has changed as our Heavenly Father continues to show up in real, concrete ways for each of us. From our obedience, testing and celebrating, God has become part of our every day: From becoming Sherpas for other women on our walk out, we are more mindful to serve others. From missing our husband and children, we are more thoughtful in our words, notes and time. From depending on others for firewood, dry matches and ability to actually set up the tent, we are more humble and thankful. We continue to pray for each other and invite others into our group. We read scripture, share versus and have a stronger moral compass, plus celebrate…our third reunion party is this week!! I am so in Love with my Big Daddy. He is moving Indian Hill. He is changing families, marriages, children and Showing Up for each of us. These are my sisters in Christ.
(Excerpt from Field Guide to Freedom ©2017)