“It’s just up here, around this next corner!” I would yell to the back of the purple church van stuffed with teenagers and camping gear. Way back, in another universe and time when I was a youth pastor.

They would all moan and roll their eyes, but insist on asking me the same question again 15 minutes later…just to hear me yell the exact same answer. “Are we almost there?” and I’d say, “Oh yeah! Almost there. Just up here around this next corner!”

Giggles and moaning abound.

It became one of the many traditional practices of going up to camp. Sacred rituals, of which there were MANY. Endless stories, jokes and rites of passages along with fun experiences, deep conversations and life changing realizations.

An entire culture that only exists in my memories now.

The first time I went to camp as a camper I was 17 years old. It was a winter weekend camp, at the same place where my husband would propose to me 5 years later, but of course I had no idea what my future held at that point.

Up until then, I had never even heard of kids going to camp. I thought that was just something that happened in the movies or on TV.

It was in November of 1999, and what should have been my senior year of high school. Instead, I was in the middle of serving my time as a court ordered resident of an “incorrigible girls program”. On leave with special permission from my probation officer, and all of my case managers to attend a “wholesome and positive church camp”.

I was just SO excited to get OUT of the center where I was living for a few days, that I didn’t care what the camp was even about initially.

I was nervous…but up for an adventure.

The school district teacher who worked at the center where I lived, was also the Area Director of Young Life in Reno at the time. (For those who may not know, Young Life is a non-denominational Christian outreach for teens, specializing in mentoring teens and creating dynamic camping experiences.)

She had become a trusted mentor to me as I lived there. Helping to restore my shattered educational confidence and working to prepare me to take the GED, (since I had been missing so many credits due to my “incorrigible” ways my sophomore and junior years).

She would prove to be hugely influential to my life in many ways…and is still, many years beyond. Our first victory being passing that test the first time I attempted it, and then helping me to enroll in community college classes while l was still a resident of the girls program.

I was also able to get a job at a close by daycare while I was there, and devoted myself to my new found love of writing as a participant in the local “Youth Artworks Program” that my case managers had signed me up for that summer.

In that space, I would go on to meet another influential woman who would introduce me to poetry and free writing. A writing mentor, who is ALSO still in my life today as well.

Both women still cheering me on and showing me what real leadership and mentorship look like, even after all these years.

I even ended up living with BOTH of these women for a time after I was out of the girls program, inhabiting spare rooms, couches and living room floors.

What was originally only supposed to be a court ordered, 3 months of teenage rebellion “rehabilitation” turned into almost 10 months instead, and led to an eventual legal emancipation just a few months shy of my 18th birthday.

Eventually, I became a Young Life leader myself, and then later on, served on staff at my church as the Youth pastor and helping with women’s ministry leadership. The whole time, also teaching preschool as my “day job” in between youth events, leader meetings and camps.

My late teens and early 20’s were spent FULLY immersed in leadership and church ministry, after that first winter weeknd experience at camp, that rocked my world.

Since then, it’s never really mattered the theme that finds me out there. Whether it’s been up at camp serving kids, learning about Jesus and the bible. Planning a camping getaway with family and friends, or simply a solo journey into the woods for a bit to clear my head.

There is just something magical about embarking on the journey of intentionally unplugging from your everyday life, and heading deep into the woods.

Away from TV, social media, cell reception and notifications.

Away from the routine.

Away from the pressure.

Away from all of the noise…where you can get quiet with yourself and your LIFE.

That never gets old for me.

I think there is something ancestral and human within ALL of us that calls us OUTSIDE…to discover what’s really going on INSIDE.

In fact, I had to take myself out into the great outdoors today to write this very post! I respect the power of nature, and the healing way it draws us in and removes life’s toxins from our souls…similarly to how the trees remove carbon dioxide from our air so we can breathe freely.

Getting outside, above the noise of our lives, is FREEING.

But we can’t stay on the mountain top forever, right? The time spent up there is meant to fill our cups for the dissent back down into reality. Even writing this, I am convinced this is something I need to make more time for.

Don’t come for my crocs. ?

Lately, I have realized that not many friends nowadays have even heard a lot about that time in my life. I have not shared much about my being in the girls program or the shenanigans that got me there, being emancipated, and those lost, blurry years of my life before I met Mikey, got married and started building a life with him.

Over time, my faith journey and it’s progressive detours have definitely evolved from that original foundation I was given through Young Life and church leadership.

A faith transition is a hard thing to talk about, especially for someone who has an understandable fear of “tribal” rejection, and I don’t think I am alone in that. It’s a whole new conversation that I believe I have been preparing for. Much of which, I hope to start writing about and sharing soon.

If you have followed along with me from the beginning, you have likely seen for yourself my struggle in trying to hang onto the identity and culture of my original faith, while grappling with its inconsistencies. Not wanting to turn away from a faith that scooped me up and loved on me when I was an incorrigible and essentially homeless teenager.

The world of church and camps gave me belonging and purpose at a tender time where I had been rejected, and not wanted by my family. That alone gave me the passion to connect with and lead other teenagers who felt the same way. I desperately wanted them to know THEY were not alone, THIER mistakes never too big, and that there was INDEED a divine plan for THIER life!

I carried that EXACT same passion into the gym with me, and still hold the same convictions today. I wholeheartedly believe we are NOT alone in how we feel, that there IS a greater plan for our lives. Lives that were meant to be fully lived. Free of self-hatred and harbored pain. Both spiritually and physically. Radiating from an unconditional, all-encompassing source of love, from which everything originates from.

However, the devil lives in the details for me now. (Pun intended?)

The layers upon layers of conflicting theologies, apologetics, and arguments surrounding who holds the absolute truths about God…are exhausting. There came a point when I had to just stop trying to defend myself and the faith that felt, and still feels true to me. And the best part is, I don’t think God minds.

In this past year of quarantined reflection, healing and sifting through all the things…I have found that baby Jesus doesn’t need to be thrown out with the bath water.

The same love that welcomed me and showed me I belonged at 17, is the same love that lives within and leads me now. It’s the same love that lives within the trees, rocks and waters of nature, and even deep within the very cells of our bodies.

It is everywhere and within everything. I no longer feel like I MUST try to have answers that explain it, or feel pressure to contend with anyone else on what that means to me.

Can anyone relate?

In the meantime, I am SO excited to share that I have been offered the opportunity of a lifetime!

I have been invited to help lead and create a camp experience for the “Rebel and be Well” Women’s Retreat in May 2021, at The Point Retreat in Pequot Lakes, MN.

I am very grateful to be able to return to leadership in this way, and share all that I have worked hard learn about myself in between. I am so honored to be sharing about things that I care about. Self acceptance and body image. The magic of fitness and the pursuit of genuine wellness. The power of writing and art therapies along with this conversation of the depths of faith, spirituality the healing modalities of mediation and Reiki. Along with many other tools I have picked up along the way.

I intend to bring you along with me on this journey. So stay tuned!! And, be sure to follow me here on my blog and on socials!

This retreat is OPEN TO ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE! Please check out the info below and follow the link to the retreat page:

There is an amazing BOGO promotion happening right now for registration! Follow the link below!

Please head over to the @pointretreats for details!!!


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