Monday, February 28, 2011

Petra - Right Place

I was just listening to this song, and it's a wonderful encouragement of my previous posts.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I am standing in front of a long, brick wall, with multiple doors. Each door is labeled with a vague description.

Door A: "Complete thesis now. Keep temp job. Spend remaining time starting your camp."
Door B: "Complete thesis now. Obtain camp-related job"
Door C: "Take time. Perfect your thesis."

I've been a bit at a loss regarding this next step in life. I don't want to take the wrong door. I decided this week, to take Door C; I'll take more time on my thesis. There are many things that went into this decision, though without confidence that it was the right one. Most of my friends have only heard one of my reasons....

>> It's funny how, when people ask me how I'm doing, I can give a different explanation to each one. If I'm having a hard day, I may tell one person that I've had a headache all day. I may tell another that I'm worried about a family member. I may tell a third that I'm good, and looking forward to an upcoming trip. And I'm not trying to be dishonest; I'm just trying not to inundate anyone with too many issues. So I say the part that comes to mind first. Or if I'm having an excellent day, I may limit my explanation to save time, to not hog all the attention, or to avoid sounding boastful.

But as I was saying, I will take more time to finish my thesis. First, I want to be proud of my final product. I want to turn in a masterpiece. Whether it compares to what other people do or not is not my concern, but I want it to represent my best. Working under that time constraint was not conducive to my best work. Also, I have the opportunity to collaborate with the American Camp Association, and assuming I do well, to present it at a research symposium. I believe that these opportunities will help me in the long-run, as far as making it in the camp industry- especially in regards to marketing. More importantly, it allows me to serve the camp industry in the area of helping camps to become more financially sustainable. Whether-or-not a larger project or job comes out of it, by taking more time on this thesis, I am creating a more useful document with a larger scope than I would otherwise, and I am doing what I believe best fits what my master told me he wants me to do.

>> It's funny how in writing my thoughts out, I am more confident that I made the right decision. I have felt that I am supposed to do more in this arena, and I don't have other known opportunities to help camps financially. This may lead to more opportunities, but even if it doesn't, it is more than I'd be doing otherwise. So Door C, it is.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I have been assigned two primary responsibilities for right now: my thesis, and my internship. These tasks will sharpen my knowledge and skills for future, more adventurous responsibilities, but for now, I have been told I should hang around the shop. And really, there is adventure to be had even in these parts.

My internship involves working with an outdoor education program that includes camps, after-school programs, and field trips. My assignment is to develop a donor PowerPoint presentation, donor packet, and marketing plan, and to build relationships with potential corporate donors. I'm good at planning. I'm not as comfortable with relationship-building. Right now, I'm working on the marketing plan, and focusing on determining potential competition. As part of it, I spent this past week looking up outdoor education programs, and came across so many. To get all the information I needed, I often had to go through every page on a given site. Thus, in the process, I was inadvertently job-searching.

I am enthralled by the possibilities! I am simultaneously worried. Here I am, realizing that there are a plethora of opportunities for year-round camp jobs that do not require an MBA. So many jobs that are hands-on, rather than management. I went into management to secure a year-round camp position. When I started on this road, my wish was that I could work directly with these kids, but I was told that the chances were almost zero, from a career perspective. Now it turns out that I could have.

BUT. Now I enjoy the creativity of being a decision maker. I enjoy the challenge of the trouble-shooting, and of the collaboration with various stakeholders...but I still would like to work directly with youth.... specifically, youth who have been abused. I want to know, is there a position where I could do both sides?

There is this camp in southern California that sounds awesome! Absolutely perfect... almost! At least on paper. They teach environmental education, and unlike many environmental education programs, they also lead ropes course, wall climbing, archery, and other camp-type activities. The down-side is that they don't focus on abused kids, and in fact, don't have the resources to keep kids at the camp if they are acting up- so I guess they aren't going to be the place where I ultimately end up.

But their attitude towards staff learning, and towards personal growth leads me to think they might be interested in working with me, to give me management/marketing opportunities as well. And they give staff the choice to work "normal" hours (days one week, evenings/nights the next), or to work around-the-clock (which are true normal camp hours), Thus, on weeks that I chose to work their "normal" hours, I could work less and go off, exploring.... And I really want to work there- based on what I've read. The idea of both direct work with youth and potential management/marketing opportunities, and of some free time to wander sounds fantastic.

The question is, is this what I should do? Is this a step towards my long-term goal/ my calling? Or is it some really awesome assignment that will ultimately keep me from a more awesome assignment? I wonder if it can be a step towards the goal. I wonder if, assuming I worked the shorter hours, I could use my free time to help other camps with marketing (as I've mentioned before). I wonder if it's the right way to go. Oh I would love it! I'm sure I would! But if it keeps me from serving where I should, I will continually feel like something is missing.


Friday, February 18, 2011

The Gathering

I attended the camp conference last week. People of all ranks, including serfs and peasants, knights, and lords, all get to attend the conference. Students got to attend for free this year; Being that we are the poorest of the poor, this would be the only way that most of us could attend. It was lovely, attending a conference full of knights and lords, making connections with people that may help me move up the hierarchy, and of course, learning a great deal that will help me when my time comes to venture out.

The entire conference was full of value, but the most exciting aspect was the last session, in which I had to choose between two classes that I wanted to take. There was the fundraising session, which I felt would be wise to take for the sake of my thesis, and a leadership session, which I really felt would help my long-term goals. I chose to attend the leadership session. I sat down, and was waiting for the speaker to come in. The woman next to me commented that he was late. A couple seconds later, I stood up to leave for the other session. The woman looked confused, and I felt confused, wondering why I had decided to leave, but I was already walking out, so I figured I might as well go with it.

After the fundraising session, I introduced myself to the speaker, referring to my thesis. She told me that a leader within the camp association had mentioned that he would like someone to do a broad study on the marketing structures of camps- almost exactly what I'm doing on a much smaller scale for my thesis. I followed-up, but at this time, the funding isn't there... but I'm curious: will I somehow be involved in that, somewhere down the line? That would absolutely fit what I believe God told me last summer: "Help camps...." Plural. And one of my questions had been, "Well, should it be Christian camps?" (after-all, it was God talking, so maybe he'd have such specifics). The answer I sensed (though without any certainty) was along the lines of 'no; just camps.... no other specifications.' And I found that odd- that there wouldn't be any specifics, since some camps contradict others. But if I'm to be involved in such a study, it makes sense. If I were involved in this, I would be helping camps, in general.

But that is, at this point, out of my control, and up in the air. So in the meantime, I really don't know where I'm going next. I know I am aiming for the camp realm; God doesn't seem to be opposed to that; But beyond that, I don't know, so I tell God, "Well, I'm working on my thesis now. And when that's done, I want to do 'x' and 'y'  if I can, but then I need direction or I'm just going to start looking for camp management jobs, or any jobs at camps that have year-round programs- starting with Oregon, Humboldt County (northern Ca), and the L.A. area....not that that will hurt, cause you can just make it not work- like the donkey in the Bible, that stopped and refused to move, at God's direction."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

At the Fork

Life is strange, being so much up in the air. I am a planner, naturally, but I've had to put off job searching (for the most part) because now I'm not certain what God wants me to do next, directly after graduating. I did have plans to start immediately on starting the camp, but with the change in direction, the one thing I sense, is that it's not time for that- at least, I don't think it is.

More specifically, I feel I still need to do more in the area of "help[ing] camps become more financially sustainable." But I'm not certain of that, so as I'm keeping my eyes open for potential opportunities, and seeing nothing, I'm left telling God, "Okay, this was your idea- not mine. If you want it, you gotta make it happen, cause I can be willing, but I can't make it work."....Glad that my relationship with God is strong enough that I can talk to him like that, and it is in no way an insult- it's all about trust. "God I can't do it on my own; I am relying on you here." I'm standing in a forest, looking for the right trail, listening for the voice to tell me, or the flash of light to show me- cause there are at least five trails within sight of where I'm standing.

Maybe I'm jumping ahead of the gun; I need to finish my thesis and internship, and that is taking a great deal of my time. I have my current assignment. I haven't been left hanging, and my master doesn't have to tell me the next step yet....But wisdom also says that it usually takes time to find a job, and if I wait until I'm done, I will be spending some time doing nothing but job-hunting.... And maybe that's the plan.

In the meantime, I have in the last several weeks, come to the understanding that perhaps I'm not heading towards a job title of, "Fund Developer," or such; there aren't many such titles in the camp realm, from what I've seen. So perhaps I will be looking for a job in camp management, where one of my responsibilities among many, involves development. But that feels a little shaky. Last summer, in listening for God's direction, the words were: "Help camps..." The plural caught my attention. Now I am helping camps, plural, in my thesis, and if I take a job at a camp, that's one more. Technically, it fits the call, but I'm not convinced that this is what God meant. To me, it would make more sense if I found a job that helped a group of camps- and that has left me wondering whether such a possibility exists through the camp association. I had thought maybe I'd hear of something at the camp conference.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Want to be Apprentice

Maybe a month or two ago, I remembered my childhood fantasy of being sent on a quest. It struck me that life really can be a quest- for knowledge and truth, and to impact the world. As I see this world, God is the one to send me out on a quest; to give me a mission and a task that will bring me closer to who I should become- to make me stronger and more wise. The adventures and challenges are just the means. He may also assign me to help others in the process; I enjoy helping others, so I hope that's a part of it. But the true goal of an apprentice is to know one's master, and the master's work better.... hmmm, so I'm just thinking, being that my master's passion is for all people, to know his work would mean that helping others- one way or another- will definitely be a part of the process.

So that memory led me to realize that basically, my discussion with God over the summer, was an official invitation to go on a quest- not the first invitation; I think my life as a whole is a quest... but perhaps, an invitation to start the next phase. What I remember from my very realistic readings about such opportunities, is that the master never told the apprentice what the whole picture was. It was generally done one step at a time. The apprentice had to trust the master. Often, the tasks seemed to take the apprentice in circles. But the all-knowing master knew what he was doing. He knew he was preparing the apprentice for the next big step.

I want to be the apprentice. The apprentice's tools included faith and obedience, which to many, seem rather lame. But the apprentice lived a life of adventure. The apprentice pleased and was rewarded by the master. And the apprentice experienced results greater than would have ever been possible if he had set out in pride, on his own.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Recognizing the Quest

This past summer, I went camping with my sister and her family. I had been craving spiritual time away to think and to listen.- to "hear" God if he has anything to say to me. I spent the first night- probably 2 or 3 hours after everyone else went to sleep, staring into the flames of the campfire, mostly wrestling with the thought, "What do you want me to do?" Suddenly, I "heard," "I want you to help camps to become more financially sustainable" ... Now, I don't mean I heard a sound. The few times I believe I've heard God speak to me, it bypassed sound, straight to whatever part of the brain processes the actual words....

So I struggled with that idea. I didn't say no, but I had tons of questions: "But what about my dream?" "Was that really you saying that?" "Is that really what you want?" I heard nothing else. I hoped I heard wrong. I talked to a friend about it a few days later. I said I wanted to be willing, but I wanted my dream also. I knew I'd do it; I just wanted to feel better about it.

About a month later, I was in class, staring through the professor, thinking to God, "Yes, I'll do it." And I meant it completely- no hesitation. Suddenly, I "heard," "And I'll help you with your dream." I wasn't seeking to hear anything at that point, so it totally took me back, and I couldn't just sit there, so I left the class and went outside to think, and to thank God. He wanted me to be fully willing, and once I truly was, he revealed more to me.

A few weeks after that, I had the idea to change my thesis topic, which hadn't been forming right, to find out about the current donor marketing strategies of camps, and to make recommendations to strengthen their efforts. After sending my proposal to the advisor, it crossed my mind that technically speaking, this thesis would fulfill what I had heard God asking me. So over the last couple months, I've been wondering if this is all God wants- since technically, it fits the assignment.... but it doesn't quite feel like that's it- I feel like I'm supposed to do a little more. Of course, I don't know. I'll have to see what happens.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Dream of Camp

My first week working at camp, I rocked to sleep a 5 year old who a year before, witnessed her stepfather kill her brother. I'll never forget her. Somehow, she trusted me. It was amazing to realize that though I couldn't fix her situation, I could give her comfort, just in showing her that I cared about her. A couple of weeks later, several of the girls in my new group were comparing notes, showing me every scar, and explaining the source of each purposefully inflicted mark.

I began questioning whether I wanted to work more permanently with this population, or keep my plan to work with animals. I knew I was allergic to cats, and that had me worried that I might not be able to work with animals. More importantly, something in me was wondering whether working with animals really had true meaning; or whether it was just something I enjoyed. I went to the school career counselor to take a couple personality tests, and the counselor was able to narrow down my career goals: either work with animals... or do something to serve kids. I hesitantly chose to switch my major to sociology, but kept my plans to attend Humboldt State (this was what I had decided on while camping when I was 12), where I could take wildlife classes as electives, and switch back if I wanted (somehow, even once I got there, I never did take wildlife electives).

My third year at the camp was when I mentioned, casually to the program director, "Maybe I'll start a camp." That would have been summer of 2000. I wasn't too serious. I liked the idea, but I knew I didn't have the management or social skills. It was more of a, "This would be nice" moment, but the idea grew on me.

As time went on, and I realized I was growing in my ability to interact with others, I realized that who I was at that time did not have to be permanent. I transferred to Humboldt, became chairperson of our residential counsel (which amazed me because in high-school, such things were about popularity rather than integrity and ideas), and became a volunteer program director of the Juvenile Hall Recreation Program, through our school's service program, YES- that also amazed me: that my supervisor would see anything in me that said I could do it; that was the first time I ever danced around in excitement- and in front of the administrators too! I remember during a YES meeting, saying that I knew that one day, I would really be leading- rather than being seen as a timid follower who doesn't do well with people.

While at Humboldt, I found a business partner to work with to start the camp, but he ended up backing out, so when I graduated, and moved back to LA, I began looking for a job working with emotionally disturbed kids. Autism was my second choice. I found an agency that served Autistic children, but the position I was given was with a woman with Myotonic Dystrophy. I told myself I wouldn't stay too long unless I could transfer to the kids department. I moved up the ladder to supervisor, but I felt that if I stayed, it would take too long to reach my dream, so I quit to focus full time on my MBA in Nonprofit Management. I decided that I would plan to complete the degree, and use my education to step straight into starting a camp.

I know better than to try and control my life. I rely strongly on seeking God's will for my life, but he had never told me "no," when I questioned this dream, so I decided to go with the assumption that God put this desire in me. I still wanted confirmation, and by this past summer, was craving time away, just to meditate and seek God's will.
(more later)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Altered Plans (Post #1)

For the last 10 years, approximately, I've been planning on starting a camp for kids who have been abused. I say "approximately" because it started off as an unrealistic idea, and slowly became my dream. At the time it entered my mind, I was only trying to think of some way to make a career for myself in the camp industry. Most camp jobs are seasonal, but here was an option. The problem was that I knew I didn't have the leadership skills to take the idea seriously. Still, I wished it was possible.

 Before this thought ever came to mind, I had many other ideas. From the time I was 6, until the summer I was 12, I was sure I was going to be a music teacher (or a famous singer). But my mom was always telling me that it was hard to get a job as a music teacher, and that singers don't sign up; they get discovered.

Then when I was 12, we went camping in the Redwoods. I remember my casual, non-serious comment: "Maybe I'll be a park ranger." My dad jumped on the idea. He loves plants, and loved the idea. He, Mom, and I talked about what park rangers do. I was concerned because part of the job is to lead family hikes and activities, but I rationalized that maybe I could just lead kids activities- I didn't want to have to talk to people I didn't know; I never knew what to say, I was often accused by adults of faking sick or lying, and I didn't know how to acknowledge teasing, playfully, so my blank expression was always met with, "She thinks I'm serious!" I wanted to avoid these issues altogether.

Through junior high and high school, I considered other similar possibilities, trying to avoid the idea of human interaction as much as possible. Really, it was animals I liked, so maybe I'd be a vet.... But I would refuse to put animals to sleep. I settled on the idea of moving to Africa and working on a wildlife reservation with rhinos or elephants... and I'd be a missionary on the side (I don't know how I consolidated that with my "minimal human interaction" policy), cause I understood that missionaries were not paid, and had to survive somehow.

I started college, and took biology. One day, a classmate was wearing a camp shirt, and I asked her about it- I'd been to camps and enjoyed them, and I'd been a junior counselor through Girl Scouts, so I was curious. Somehow, our discussion led to her convincing her boss that I would not "fall over" in fear after dealing with the first week of kids- many of whom were coping with being abused. I had worked with one such child as a junior counselor, and she had taken to me strongly, so this piece of information, and my classmate's insistance that I could handle it (despite the first impression during my interview) got me the job. But it was just going to be a summer job. It was a fact that I was moving to Africa to work with animals-and possibly be a missionary.

That first week of camp did not send me running, or make me fall over, but it changed my life entirely.
(to be continued)
I love comments. It makes me feel like I'm not just talking to a wall, and rids me of the feeling that this time, I said too much, or said something the wrong way.

(I review your comments first, so if you want to say something just to me, just let me know).