Last week, a perfect storm of events came together in a way that changed my life forever. I went on a trip that I didn’t plan, and I didn’t even want to go on, but I knew it was what Jesus was asking so I said yes and now…
Ok, let me back up a bit.
Two months ago, I got this text from a priest at church: “Want to go to Georgia with some teens?”
I knew exactly what he was talking about. Every year, our parish youth group drives down to Covecrest, a LifeTeen summer camp in Tiger, Georgia. Our group was mostly girls, so they needed another adult female chaperone.
No. Heck no. Oh my goodness no.
I had seen the pictures from last year. People covered in mud from head to toe. Sunburn. Sweat. Bugs.
“No. Freaking. Way.”
So I resolved to call our priest and tell him no. But as I thought “no,” I also felt a little voice pulling me. I was calling him, instead of texting, because part of me, I guess, was a little open to persuasion.
He didn’t answer.
I went to Mass, thinking I would try calling again after. And, well… I looked at the tabernacle and I asked Jesus what to do and don’t you know it… he said Come to Georgia.
Clear as day, in that gentle voice he always uses so you know it’s him. And his words, “Come” instead of “Go” – he was implying that he was already there waiting for me. It was an invitation, not a command.
I was stuck. I didn’t want to go, but I knew it was him. So I called our priest and gave him my “yes”. He promised it would be awesome, in a way. “No one comes back the same,” he said. I was… a little skeptical.
Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus himself asked me to go didn’t stop me from spending the next 2 months dreading the experience and sending spiteful text messages to said priest (i.e. if I die of malaria it’s your fault). But he laughed it off, and off I went to Covecrest.
“No one ever comes back the same.”
I had never met any of these kids before the trip. I’ve never volunteered with youth group, ever.
The kids were great – very welcoming, kind, well behaved, so much that for many of them it was easy to forget they were in high school. But the activities, the hiking, the bugs, the mud – it was all difficult for me.
My cross was weighing heavily on me, and my heart was being re-broken, it seemed. I had thoughts like, “If I had kids, no one would ask me to do this.” (Sounds a little like something I’ve said before.)
And yet, I loved being there for these teens. I felt like a mom to all of them. At one point in our small group, I opened up about my MRKH, and it was wonderful to see how sharing this story invited others to open up about their deep wounds too. I knew that God was using me, but it was so painful. I sent my daily guilt-trip text to our priest, but now it had become, “I hate the idea of abandoning these kids after this week.”
This time he threw the guilt right back and told me I could volunteer with the youth group on Friday nights.
The last night of camp, something beautiful happened. I was with 4 of the kids, and I mentioned that if I had kids, I would have liked to sing the Salve Regina as a lullaby.
They asked me to sing it to them.
I got all choked up, and invited them to sing with me. So we did. And it was beautiful, and wonderful, and a dream come true. I can’t even describe how much that moment meant to me.
“That’s what Jesus does.”
We drove home singing Taylor Swift and Disney and all the latest Christian pop music. We prayed the Rosary and evening prayer, and my heart was about to burst with joy. We finally parted in the middle of the night with hugs and tears and promises of prayer for one another – and I’ve written some of their names in my prayer book.
I felt as though my heart grew. “You’re going to think this sounds weird,” I told our priest, “but I feel as though my heart has been stretched, in a good way. I feel like I want to love more.”
“I knew it!” he said. “That’s what he (Jesus) does! He makes us capable of loving more. You went on a trip that you didn’t plan and you didn’t want to go on, but you were open just a little bit, and that’s how he was able to work.”
(“I knew it.” Goodness. It was all a set up. Looking at you, two dudes in your 30’s with beards.)
And so here we are, a week out from camp, and… I still can’t sop smiling. I even had a moment in the car driving to work where I found myself overcome with joy thinking about the MANY children that I have.
Remember what I wrote last summer, about that feeling that I would have more children than my Nana? I think I’m watching it come true.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that God is faithful, and that he is working all things together for my good.