Camper of the Year...

When I was dating my husband, I heard him talk a few times about how, growing up, he went to "dirt camp." What? Most camps are dirty, so I figured a camp that actually called itself Dirt Camp was in a another category altogether. How dirty can a camp be?

Turns out, pretty dirty.

Last summer, we moved to New Bern the third week of June. That same Monday, the group from our church left for "dirt camp" (rotten timing, I know!) so I was fortunate enough to get out of going unable to attend, due to the mountain of boxes in our new home and my overwhelming stress regarding the need to unpack. Jonathan left for camp on Wednesday, because he is mostly a mature adult but part 11-year-old boy, and I stayed behind as long as possible until Thursday morning. I pulled into this "dirt camp" (actually, it's called Woodmen of the World Camp, but let's be honest, Dirt Camp is more accurate) and I was pretty much shaking (not that unusual, sadly) because I really didn't know what to expect. It wasn't that bad considering I was only there for a 24-hour stretch, but even that one day was exhausting and it took a couple showers back in the comfort of my home to start to get the "dirt camp" feeling out of my hair and clothes.

I survived the day at dirt camp, but the next year loomed before me like a dark tunnel. Five whole days at camp? Could I do it? If it's not painfully obvious, I am not an outdoorsy person. Well, let me amend that... I am not a dirty outdoorsy person. I am outdoorsy in that I enjoy a good open-air outlet mall experience. But outdoor water sports, lake swimming, and, literally, dirt everywhere? No, not this girl. Maybe this girl at 12, but 24-year-old Ashley says no thank you (a little snobbishly, in fact.) So as this week approached, I, no lie, was sick with nerves.

I know, I know... "It's not about you, Ashley... it's about the kids. Geez, you are so selfish! Grow up and take one for the team... your husband is the children's pastor, for crying out loud!"

Yes, I know. I told myself these very same things (unsuccessfully, obviously) and no matter how much I tried to picture all these kids having the time of their lives, I could not fully be excited about going to spend a week feeling absolutely disgusting.

There was a double rainbow outside church Sunday night... my far-more-spiritual-and-wise pastor's wife pointed out that it was promise from God that we'd have a great week at camp. True... and also a promise that the Lord has quite a sense of humor.

Well, my bad attitude concern about attending dirt camp certainly came back to haunt me, and in a big fat way. I won't go into detail to protect innocent people who wouldn't want the whole story posted on the www (if you really want to know, email me and I'll tell you!) but it was bad. B-A-D and I am fully aware that it was no doubt my payback for being so unenthusiastic about the whole experience prior to the trip. Anyway, I didn't actually leave for camp on Monday... I arrived at supper time on Tuesday. (And no, my delay was not worth shortening the time I had to spend in a never-clean-no-many-how-many-times-a-day-I-sweep-it cabin.)

Finally on the way...better late than never?

So, I get to camp and it's about like I remember... only this time I'm staying 72 hours, not 24. Yikes. However, I had been humbled (funny how the Lord knows how to do that) and, considering what I'd just been through (involving lots of cleaning and laundry and bleh bleh bleh) I was actually okay with being there. (Not thrilled or anything, but it's DIRT camp, if you recall.)  I was so busy I didn't really have time to think about how dirty or hot I was, except at night when it was SO. VERY. HUMID. and I felt like the blankets on my pitiful little mattress were soaked. Ew.

Pre-water balloon/shaving cream battle. (You're shocked I did not actively participate, but someone had to sacrifice and take pictures of everyone. I've never been one to avoid taking one for the team, so...)

My strict instructions? "Do not touch me." 

Anyway, I've whined enough. I was pleasantly surprised at how well our girls did... not that I was expecting trouble, but you never know when a group of 8-11 year olds are away from home and living out of their little pink suitcases without a mommy. (Yeah, my maternal skills are about as finely honed as you can imagine... so, not very.) But they were all quite self-sufficient and kept up with their stuff and got from place to place with no major crises to speak of. Plus they were sweet and well-behaved and totally handled the crazy schedule and crazier weather (blistering heat AND torrential rain) better than their oh-so-mature counselor. If only you could have seen me... It's hard to be all cutesy or whatever when your hair is resembling a long, very voluminous and frizzy broom, your skirt is terribly wrinkled, you're wearing socks WITH Sperrys to avoid any more dirt on your feet, and you're wearing a leeetle bit of makeup over your cherry-red sunburned face. (As one little girl- whom I'd never met- told me at the pool, "I put sunscreen on three times and I'm still as red as a Hot Tamale. Those are both spicy and delicious." Hmm... indeed.) Also humbling.. seeing my students there and watching them try to recognize their normally put-together teacher through the frizz and sunburn. "Mrs. McNeese? Is that you?" Unfortunately, yes. Yes it is.

(But, let me just say that even the most kind and caring of counselors would have been a little overwhelmed with a vomit situation at 2 in the morning... ahem. I handled it but only made it through the ordeal without vomiting MYSELF with God's help, because it was heinous. My mom said, "Poor little girl." I said, "Poor me." Okay, okay... poor both of us.)

At the end of Dirt Camp every year, the campers/counselors are given the opportunity to bring a shirt to tie-dye and stencil with the words "I Survived Dirt Camp" and the year. I declined (since I didn't feel like painting any of my shirts and a tangible, wearable reminder of this particular week was not something I really cared to have in my wardrobe. BUT let this blog post be its own reminder... a long, wordy, tie-dyed reminder that I made it through what is up there with the craziest weeks in my whole life.

This is so cliche and corny but God really did allow me to be there for a purpose, if only to watch my husband have the time of his life doing what he loves and is called to do... minister to kids. (I am too, okay? I'm just a baby and enjoy cleanliness, which is next to godliness, so I am clearly still okay spiritually speaking. Snort.) And I was able to spend time with some sweet little girls and, really, my pride was knocked down a couple notches which was probably not a bad thing.

Group shots!

And so, yes, the rainbow was a promise after all- a promise that I can do just about anything with Jesus and a whole lot of Mountain Dew....

...even survive Dirt Camp. Camper of the Year, right here.


1 comment

  1. Oh my! I laughed till I "almost" cried!! You do get an "E" for effort at being a "happy camper!"


I love reading and responding to your comments. Just make sure I am able to do that by linking your email address to your profile! Thank you for stopping by!