Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries, and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both Facebook and Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.
I wonder, these days of vacation, how we react when we hear the lovely poetic promises of summer days stretched long and schedules free and calendars wide open. I wonder, these days, what our expectations are when school is out and the kids are home—or the pace of the workday is less intense and hopefully more tolerable. I wonder if we think finding time with God will be easier.
I wonder if we think we will more readily hear God's voice, then.
I wonder if, when things are supposed to slow, we think we will be able to breathe more deeply. I wonder if those breath prayers we’ve read about would be something we practice, too.
I wonder, these days, as I imagine sipping lemonade through striped paper straws in cute mason jars or holding crystal stems of wine, under an umbrella as the sun sets, and swaying on the patio to strums of mandolin or acoustic guitar. I wonder, as I imagine days of sand between toes and dirt on scuffed knees and skipped showers and long walks with the dog and holding hands under still-warm, star-filled night skies. I wonder, as I look for days of sleeping in and not having appointments to keep and having books dog-eared and worn with much-loved and turned pages.
I wonder if I will be gentler, softer, more ready to be open and listen to God’s voice then.
I wonder if the longer days, with less on my plate, will make me want to listen more intently. I wonder if having a calendar more free will prompt deeper thinking, propel me towards contentment, surrender, peace.
I wonder if it is just me who feels the weight of expectation as vacation begins. I wonder if it is just me who can turn something beautiful into something about which to be worried. I wonder if it is just me who gets tired of one-dimensional-Pinterest-beauty and magazine ads of perfection and social media photos of what summer is supposed to look like. I wonder if it just me who grows tired of trying to figure out if I am doing the right thing, as I try to not worry about doing the right thing. I wonder if it is just me who hopes she will finally rest and let go and let God, a little bit more, in.
Our family is away this week; we threw bags in the car on a last minute trip hours after the kids finished up school. We are in a little cottage in a beach town, an hour from our home. We are reading a lot, and laughing. We are taking walks through town and kayaking in the ocean. We are skipping traditional meals and hiking and orchestrating scavenger hunts—with ice cream treats as rewards—around town. And in this season of slowing, I find I can feel guilty about not resting correctly. I feel guilty for not reading enough, for not relaxing enough. I feel guilty for not making the most of my time—whatever that means. I feel guilty for not listening to His voice, enough.
And that’s it.
I know I sound ridiculous—maybe a little crazy.
But I like that I can share this with you here. I like that I can wonder aloud, in this community of His gathered daughters, and know, as I wonder, you might be wondering it too.
I like that I can tell you how I wonder if, in the slowing, in the twisted expectation of slowing down correctly, I even find myself missing His voice.
I like that I can tell you how I fear I will miss Him by not doing, even, vacation, well.
I like that I can tell you I fear I will not see Him, and not look for Him.
Just by telling you, by sharing my heart in this community, I hear Him. I hear Him whispering love-song straight to my heart. This day. Oh, I am thankful for you, His gathered girls.
And now I turn, and I hear Him, and I answer back, and I pray.
And I pray for you, as you struggle. And I pray for you, as you face a relationship that is strained. I pray for you, as you feel alone and beg for arms around you. I pray for you, as you worry about finances and for the unmade decision that feels so heavy, as a lead weight. I pray for you, as you bend over family members who are sick. I pray for you, as the storms rage. I pray for you, as children run far. I pray for you, as He gathers us, telling you He is close, reminding us He is here, in the midst of hearts breaking. He is here, cupping our cheeks in His palms. He is here, saying I see you, I know you, I delight in you. Stay.
My daughter, do not run away. Do not run from my presence. Here, here, my love, is where your safety is. Here, here, my love, is where your fast beating heart will slow. Here, here, my love, is where you are captured, fully captured by my love and free, all at once.
My love, turn your face to mine. I take my hands underneath your chin and raise your eyes to meet mine.
Don’t close your eyes or look down.
Look into my eyes, child (Excerpt from Loop, “Where Your Safety Is”).
Yes, this is where I will be.
How do you think about summer days? How do you listen for His voice in this summer season?