I took an unintended sabbatical from writing here. Life is precious and time is limited. Everyday decisions are made what to do with the allotted time we have in a day, and the numbered days we have in this life. A consistent prayer I have is, “Lord, please make it matter. Make what I do, with this life You’ve given me, matter to more than just me.” It’s my prayer as I sit down to write every post and it’s a prayer that is the reason I’ve been unable to write one for some time now.
The Lord presented an opportunity to me that required I take five days away from my family. As we all know, heading out for a few days requires a lot of pre-planning and arranging; not to mention the tear-at-your-heart comments like, “Do you really have to go?” and “I want to go with you.” Sometimes what the Lord calls us to do requires something that many don’t want to give….sacrifice.
For me it was a sacrifice of time, a sacrifice of emotion, and a sacrifice of comfort. The time away meant putting other responsibilities on the back burner, thus costing more time upon arriving back home. The whole trip I missed my husband and kids immensely; which was a bizarre thing that a grown woman could feel so homesick; coupled with the insignificant, but obvious discomforts of being away from home.
But what a loss it would be if we only weighed the sacrifice and ended up missing the blessing!
The Oklahoma Firefighter’s Burn Camp was started back in 1999. I learned of this camp when I was back in the burn center for some more rounds of releases and skin grafts in the summer of 2005. This was something I desired getting involved in, but was unable to do so until now.
My participation in this year’s burn camp was an experience I didn’t imagine or anticipate. I arrived to learn that my camper would be a 4 year-old little girl; close to turning five. I didn’t even know kids could attend camp that young, or that my little camper would handle being away from her mama for five days. One thing I did quickly learn is that this little girl just so happened to have sustained her injury during the brief four month period that I externed in the burn center almost two years ago. So I actually got to take care of her a bit. It was a special connection right from the start.
Mady was my little camper. I spent time away from my children and filled in as a mom for Mady, to experience a camp that was deeply meaningful for both camper and counselor; both burn survivors. I tended to Mady’s little needs and watched as she was able to relish in the attention and love of those around her; from those older campers, counselors and staff. I observed the beginnings of new relationships; ones that I fondly imagine will stay with Mady throughout her entire life, and serve as a source of strength in the days that can be so very difficult.
These observations had me constantly thinking, “I wish they had had something like this when I was growing up.” People bond through similar experiences, and I believe more so for kids. Even as an adult, there was security and comfort like I had never experienced. For example, going to the pool in my swimsuit and everyone having scars just like me; not being the “different” one.
I was overwhelmed to see the amount of time and financial contributions made to make this camp possible for the kids. It stirs quite the emotion to think those who make this camp happen have most likely never encountered firsthand the physical and emotional pain, the anger, the regret, the confusion, and all the other boat load of emotions that burn survivors have; especially kids who don’t have the coping skills or psychological development to process these things. The individual and corporate contributors allow themselves to try to imagine the unfair reality that these young people have encountered, and they give to make life grand for them, even if it’s just for those five days.
In an interview a couple of years ago I expressed how life after a burn injury is never the same, but that it can still be good. Unfortunately, that comment was edited, so the full thought didn’t come across as I had intended. Nevertheless, it’s a truth I’ve come to realize. My life would be much different had that tragic accident never occurred. If we just hadn’t decided to get out on the road, it would have never happened. My brother would be alive. I would not have scars covering my body. I would not have experienced the horrendous pain. I would not have had the challenge to learn to walk again. I would not have reoccurring skin tears. I would not have had the complications and risks during my pregnancies with my children.
One decision could have prevented it all. It’s obvious what I lost. And yet….and yet I gained so very much. I gained the realization of the courage and determination within me. I gained the importance of character over attractiveness. I gained the security of a husband’s genuine love over men’s fleeting flattery. I gained an entire family of healthcare providers rather than impersonal doctors and nurses. Above all, I gained an opportunity to literally see the hand of God at work in my life. I gained a story that I feel makes the scars beautiful.
And that is burn camp; overcomers, coming together, with a beautiful story, from the scars we carry.
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