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June 16, 2012

It’s strange, having three homes. Every time I return to one or the other after a long absence, I feel the indescribable elation that comes with knowing that you are where you are meant to be; yet even when I am at one home, there’s still a part of me that won’t be satisfied until I can get to the others. My family’s house is, of course, one of my three homes, the one in which I was raised and to which I have the deepest connection, but it’s the other two that have been inciting so much strangeness in my life lately: Lake Ann Camp and Moody Bible Institute.

Every summer for the past five years, Lake Ann Camp has been my home. I’ve made many, many incredible friends working in the kitchen there, and every year I’ve counted down the days until I could go back to live and work alongside them for another summer of growth and adventure.

Then along came Moody. My first year at college was phenomenal, and before the second semester had even ended I felt eager to come back for the next. The only trouble with that plan, however, was about five thousand dollars, which Moody requires its students to pay for room and board each semester and which I most certainly did not have. There are only two viable solutions to a problem like that, and only one of them is legal, so I immediately set out to find a job that would fund my return to my beloved third home.

Thankfully, God provided a decent job with good hours, plenty of physical activity, and, most importantly, educational leave, after only a few applications. I worked hard at learning the ropes of my retail job during the madcap holiday season, but as the time to apply for a job at Lake Ann approached I was horrified to realize that if I wanted to finish my education at Moody, Lake Ann was no longer an option for summer.

It took me a while, but I made peace with the admittedly disheartening situation and steeled myself for the long summer ahead, keeping the reward of a winter at school in Chicago firmly in mind. Then I went to visit my little brother at Lake Ann this week.

Seeing all of the people that I’d missed so fiercely for so long all together, basking in the simple joy of one another’s company and wishing it could go on all summer, I quickly grew disillusioned with my plan to miss out on all of that excellence in favor of carrying on at my dull job until such a time as I could go back to school. How could I be sure that it would be worth it to wait? What if school in the future isn’t as great as Lake Ann in the here and now? What if I just quit, gave up saving money, and took advantage of a summer that will never exist again? I wanted to be there, everyone who was already there wanted me to stay, and I already knew from experience how much I would love to spend my summer there. Meanwhile, a huge chunk of my Moody friends graduated this spring, I was getting bored of my work-a-day job, and I was unsure about whether I could ever really go back to my third home after all. Would it really be like home still with all that had changed since I left?

By the time Wednesday afternoon arrived, I was having a miniature personal crisis, torn perfectly, maddeningly in half between throwing caution to the wind and running back to my beloved Lake Ann summers or redoubling my resolve to press through the wind and continue with my future at Moody. I  needed advice, but everyone at Lake Ann was understandably biased, so I put the quandary to my dear friend Tekaramity in an IM. “Well, this desire to stay could be God,” he reasoned, “or it could be Tim.”

So far, all I’d been focused on was how badly I wanted to stay, but seeing Tek spell out the issue so concisely forced me to pause. I asked him to pray for me, then prayed myself and asked God to help me be sure about what the wise choice would be, what He had in mind for the next chapter of my life. Later that day, I wandered into the kitchen to hang out with everyone while they made dinner, and Chefy, our wise and trusted Food Service Director and the greatest boss on earth, asked me how I was doing. “I’m alright,” I answered truthfully, “but I just wish I could’ve been here for the summer again. I kind of want to ditch my other job and just stay here with all of you guys.”

Chefy nodded knowingly. “I wish we could’ve had  you back,” he replied, “but your Shepherd knows what you need.”

With those six words, my crisis ended abruptly. Yes, it’s excruciating to say goodbye to something so warm and familiar and set out for the risky and unsettling domain of change, but I’d rather take the risk associated with following God than stay behind and pretend that time doesn’t apply to me as it passes me by. Lake Ann will always be home to me, and my time there is largely responsible for making me who I am today, but in order to become who God meant me to be I have to keep moving forward. He knows what I need, and as long as He’s in the lead I can be sure that anywhere I go is where I’m meant to be.

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