Every summer my family vacations at Chesley Lake Camp located in the beautiful Bruce Peninsula, not far from Sauble Beach. My Dad vacationed here as a child and the tradition carried on through my childhood and now into my adult years. Through the years, I’ve brought many friends to this place. For years we shared a cottage with Grandma and Grandpa, while Grandpa was still living and Grandma’s health allowed her to get around. There were years when my oldest brother Ben was still small enough that we could lift him from place to place and his wheelchair could fit in the cottage. There have been years where our cottage was bustling with people, so much so that we had to bring in extra cots for sleeping. Then there have been years like this one, where it’s just me and Mom and Dad. Some years me and my brothers have been able to come for a day or two and other years our work schedules won’t allow it. This year, I’m giving thanks that I get to be here for the whole time, it’s such a gift.
I often don’t realize the memories this place holds until I drive down the Chesley Lake Road that first day of vacation. Until I see the lake sparkling as I pass it by, until Dad comes back from his first round of Chesley golf, until our first ice cream stroll followed by watching the nightly baseball game outside the camp’s main building. And as I slowly start to feel my body relax and release the tension I seem to bury and hold onto in every pore and fold of my body, I start to reflect on life, on where I’m at after a year has gone by since the last time I was here.
I was speaking at a camp to a bunch of Jr. High students a few weeks ago. Generally when I speak to Jr. High students, I tend to lose my filter because like any good youth worker, when with the kids, I try to speak their language (ha). Since most Jr. High’s don’t have a filter, I too adopted the custom. During our last session together I shared far more than I ever was planning on… actually, I had absolutely no intention of sharing any of the things I did at all but in typical Darcie fashion – MAJOR OVERSHARE! During that session, I was talking about the “more” that God has for us, how we are often held back by the things we are afraid of and our own plans for how our lives should look.
Insert personal story here.
I shared with them that when I was 16 I dreamed of how my life would look by the time I was 25. I would be married to a youth pastor (tall, dark and handsome of course), we’d have youth kids over to our house all the time. I’d have a cute little toddler with a baby on the way. Life would be deep and beautiful and full of love and laughter. My Mom and Dad would dote on our kids and I’d get tips on raising kids from my Mom, cause she knows everything. I told them about Chesley Lake being a special place for my family and so how of course I had even worked out a seating plan for how we would all fit around the table… my brother and their significant others (potentially), one of my friends and her husband and kids, my hubby and our toddler and my parents. We’d all be at the lake together, we’d watch the kids play t-ball, and go to the beach together and we’d all share one big cottage. This was the dream. I went on to share about how God had different plans for my life that I couldn’t have dreamed of, how he had more for me than I could know.
I also reminded them that making a plan when you are 16 that depicts how your life will look in 10 years can be a very bad idea, because you might get there, realize your life is nothing like you planned and have a total melt down (I try to pass my wisdom on to the young folk)!
It was a great week at camp but sufficient to say, my overshare during that final session at camp brought some things to the surface that I have tried to continually push down…
So here I am 12 years later at Chesley Lake once again. I’m not married to a youth pastor, in fact I’m not married at all. I have no toddler and no baby on the way, which is fitting following the previous declaration. Our cottage is quiet this year, just me, Mom and Dad. I came up north following being present at a beautiful wedding where two of my friends from university committed their lives to one another. Now attending weddings aren’t a new thing for me; they’re very typical in this season of my life. However, it does feel a bit strange when the people getting married were kids in your youth group or even worse, in your kids ministry! Weddings are always a celebration and I feel honoured to be invited to be a part of that couple’s day but I’ll admit, most weddings leave my heart aching. It’s the ache that comes with unfulfilled longing and it’s an ache that’s become familiar to me at weddings, at the declaration of engagements, and when my friends tell me they’re expecting a baby. I often wonder how you can feel such joy and such an ache at the same time?
I don’t write as often as I want to anymore. I think it’s because some of the things I struggle with seem to be wrapped in self-inflicted shame. I don’t want to damper the celebration of engagements and marriage, of babies and new homes with sharing about the ache I feel when I hear or read those stories and see those pictures. I imagine it must feel similar for a woman who may have just lost a baby and then sees a picture of a friend who just gave birth to a healthy one. Such ache and such joy.
If I’m being honest, the ache makes me question the goodness of God.
I feel selfish even giving voice to those words.
Because you haven’t yet fulfilled my deepest longing and desire (currently), I question whether you are really a good Father. It’s like I’m in the garden of Eden and you’ve given me the whole garden to enjoy except for one tree, but I’m fixated on that one tree, all I see is that one tree that I don’t have and because I can’t have it, how can you be good? Forget all these amazing gifts around me, just give me the darn tree!
Tonight as I contemplated how much I waiver in my belief, in my trust and in my devotion to a God who has poured out love and good gifts into my life, as I pondered my unsteadiness, I read these words from a favourite writer of mine:
I want to cultivate a deep sense of gratitude, of groundedness, of enough, even while I’m longing for something more. The longing and the gratitude, both. I’m practicing believing that God knows more than I know, that he sees what I can’t, that he’s weaving a future I can’t even imagine from where I sit this morning.
More than enough.
(Bread & Wine, Shauna Niequist)
This is my prayer in my seasons of ache and longing and in struggling to trust that God sees me and knows my story and is for me. That I would release the self-inflicted shame I feel over the parts of my story that in my eyes can’t seem to compete with those of my friends and acquaintances. That the thief of comparison wouldn’t rob my joy just because my life doesn’t look the way I thought it would. That I would refuse to believe the lie that tells me because of all of this, I’m not enough. My prayer is that I would be aware of all the gifts that are around me and that I would be filled with gratitude and groundedness.
I need to say these words out loud, I need to write them here because I know I’m not the only one who feels the deep ache over whatever unfulfilled longing or desire we have that we witness being fulfilled in someone else’s story.
I know it hurts.
Just like we share in one another’s joys and reasons to celebrate, may we share in one another’s aches too. May we be friends who aren’t afraid to ask how someone is really doing. May we be willing to laugh and celebrate together while also sitting and crying together. May we be sensitive to those who are in seasons of heartache but may we also be people who celebrate with those who are in seasons of celebration.
Because one of the greatest mysteries and tensions in our humanity is our ability to feel joy and to feel the ache of grief at the same time. To acknowledge this and to act accordingly is to truly embrace what it means to be human and to open your heart to this truth.
And for the record, I still believe what I told those Jr. Highs – that God does indeed have so much more for each one of us, more than we planned and more than we can see right now.