The summer of 1996, I had taken a job working at a Christian camp in northern Michigan as a camp counselor. A friend of mine from Lima was also a counselor that summer, and we had carpooled up to the camp at the beginning of the summer, with a stop in Grand Rapids to see Ked for lunch.
As my friend and I continued our journey north, I was struck by the beautiful landscape. I had never been to northern Michigan before, and I was captivated by its pristine beauty. I was amazed at the miles of tall pine trees planted in perfect rows. Someone later told me that after the great fire of Chicago in 1871 that the forests of the area had been harvested to rebuild the city. Miles pine forest had then been replanted in neat rows. I stared at the trees now scraping the sky, amazed that how in time, forests cut down because of tragedy had re-grown so tall and beautiful.
The camp was surrounded by forest and sat on the edge of a clear calm lake. The camp was a beautiful serene setting, and a tragic place for the beginnings of a mental breakdown.
I had one of the busiest summers of my life. From sunup to sundown and beyond I spent the days singing, swimming, and sharing the love of Jesus with the campers who filled my cabin each week. We occasionally slept under more stars than I had ever seen in my city life – some occasionally shooting across the sky. We worked the obstacle courses, went to chapel, made crafts, ate over campfires and sang more camp songs than I care to remember. The girls who filled my cabins were beautiful and I saw God open their hearts to His love in incredible ways.
One week, I had a middle school camper with cerebral palsy who wanted nothing more than to do everything the other girls did, even though she was not physically capable. I spent more time in the nurse’s office that week than any other. I watched God work a miracle that week as my cabin full of self-centered middle school girls began to see outside themselves. They fell in love with their fellow camper and began to surround her with encouragement. United in love for her, they forgot their selfish spats and began to work as a team to help her achieve her goals. As they slung their arms around each other at the end of the week, my heart was humbled and I prayed they’d remember this week for the rest of their lives – that they’d remember what it felt like to put the needs of someone else first.
Ked and I were once again mainly communicating through letters. Or I should say, he was communicating through letters. In my busy schedule, I barely had time to even scratch out a note each week, but he wrote me EVERY. Single. Day. The entire summer! While working three jobs! I looked forward to his little notes each day.
How is the most beautiful woman in the world today? I’m sure you’re doing great!
I don’t know about your weather up there, but we’re being flooded! Funny. N’t.
I got to round up some cows today. There were two in our yard today. Cool?
I HATE DISTANCE!!!! But you’re (and only you) worth it!!
Today is just one of those days I need you extra.
Ok, I’m back. I just took a nap! I haven’t taken a nap in I don’t know how long.
Well, this is just a note to remind you that I love you with all my heart and I’m praying for you!
There was one pay phone on the camp property for the counselors to use and only on the weekends. Ked and I had a standing phone call date for 7 a.m. on Sunday mornings, and we had approximately 27 minutes to talk before other counselors started lining up to wait their turn. Poor Ked. I spent at least half of every phone call crying. He woke up early every Sunday that summer to listen to me cry. That, my friends, is true love.
My tears weren’t just because I missed him, but I was reaching a dangerous level of exhaustion. For a variety of reasons, I was unable to sleep that summer. Every night, I would lay awake as my campers fell asleep one by one. I’d listen as their breathing slowed and then I’d lift my head to count their little heads and make sure they were all still there. I’d try to fall asleep, but then I’d start to worry. What if one of them snuck out? What if I lost one of them? What if something happened to one of them?
The constant whirling inside my head had reached new speeds and I was unable to slow it. I didn’t realize just how much the insomnia was affecting me until I was unable to sleep even when the campers were gone for the weekend. One weekend I sat on the deck of the lodge I was staying in at 3 a.m. I had gone to bed at least four hours prior and had yet to fall asleep. I sat under the blanket of stars hoping the cool air would help me fall asleep. It didn’t.
I was surviving on about three hours of rest a night and sheer willpower. Even in my most desperate moments, I don’t recall speaking of my sleeplessness to anyone. For as long as I could remember, my brain had spun at warped speeds, and I’d always had trouble falling asleep. My silence wasn’t out of pride or stubbornness, I just didn’t know this was abnormal and an issue that could be helped. I figured it was just the way I was wired and I’d just have to deal with it, even as it wreaked havoc on my emotions and sanity.