Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Alabama Church of God Youth Camp, Part 1

"Joy is the serious business of heaven." (C. S. Lewis)

These wonderful words from Lewis and telling "The Night of the Nub" story caused me to think about my friend, Joy.

As I mentioned, Joy and I grew up in a small southern town in a small Pentecostal church...and we were both "chubby" girls. Those last two facts meant we didn't exactly fit in with the skinny Baptist girls.

So, we sort of became the 1960s-holy-rollin' version of "Thelma and Louise." (For those who might be offended by that remark, please read my "grateful disclaimer" from yesterday's post.)

Joy and I stuck together. We sang together. At footwashin', we washed each other's panty-hosed-feet together. Every Sunday night at the altar, we sought the Holy Ghost together (at least every Sunday night that I didn't complain of "not feeling good" so I could stay home with Daddy and watch "The Wonderful World of Disney.")

Two things you need to know about Joy--whenever she sneezed, she sneezed exactly two times--the most high-pitched, delicate sneezes I ever heard. They made me think of a prissy, sneezing mouse. They always made me laugh!

And, when she laughed, you just knew that's what God meant laughter to sound like. "Bubbly" is the word that best describes it.

One summer, she talked me into going to Alabama Church of God Youth Camp. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.)

So, we get there, find our cabin, and start unpacking our culottes. Well...I look over in Joy's suitcase, and its halfway-filled with toilet paper. I panicked! I had not brought any toilet paper! So, I say, "Joy, were we supposed to bring our own toilet paper?!?" To which she replied, "The list said we were supposed to bring toiletries."

I doubled over laughing--mainly from relief that I wouldn't have to go around borrowing toilet paper all week. (I think Joy did have to borrow my shampoo and deodorant.)

Later that week, she had this great idea that we should take a canoe out on the camp "lake" (which was really just a small, muddy pond). I should probably point out that neither of us had ever held an oar.

So, our little boat just kept going around in circles. But, somehow, those circles took us out to the middle of the "lake"...just in time for a thunderstorm!

Lightning is popping down everywhere, and campers are headed for the hills. This man (who eventually ended up being our youth pastor) is standing on the dock shouting through a bullhorn, "Girls, come in NOW!"

Like we WANTED to be in the middle of a "lake" in a lightning storm. Well, Joy is crying. I'm crying. Counselors are gathering on the dock trying to decide if these chubby, sobbing, uncoordinated girls are worth getting struck by lightning.

And...just like that...Joy JUMPS OUT OF THE BOAT. I can't tell if she's swimming or walking on water. (Keep in mind she's doing all this while dressed in soaking-wet culottes.)

When she reaches the bank, she never even looks back. She just keeps running up that stupid, pine-straw-covered hill. And, the whole time (while still madly rowing) I'm screaming, "JOY, COME BACK HERE!!!"....(I AM SO MAD AT HER.)

So, now, I'm sitting ALONE in that stupid boat, trying to figure out how to use that stupid oar....I know how I wanted to use it....(Oh, by the way, Joy has taken her oar WITH HER.)

At this point, with all those stupid counselors staring at me, a lightning bolt was looking pretty dadgum good.

But, the counselor who ended up being my youth pastor must have realized that lightning-fried campers don't look too good on the ministry resume, so he paddles out and rescues me.

This, in itself, is no easy thing. Have you ever seen a chubby girl, with soaking-wet-down-to-her-hips-hair, in rain-streaked-COCOLA-bottle-thick-glasses, wearing soaking-wet-culottes TRY to go from one boat to another in the middle of a lake in a lighting storm?

When I FINALLY did get back to that dock, I had one single, solitary thought: I AM GOING TO KILL JOY!

But...when I....finally...made our...stupid...cabin....Well, she's so pitiful sitting on that cot...I don't actually kill her. She looks up at me with those blue, tear-filled eyes and says, "I'm sorry. I was just SO SCARED. I thought you'd jump out with me."

She had a point. I had always jumped when she jumped. Got into trouble when she got into trouble. Laughed when she laughed. Sought the Holy Ghost when she sought the Holy Ghost.

So, we hugged...and changed into a dry culottes.

Joy died...almost 20 years ago. She didn't realize a train was coming.

I still remember hearing those choked-up words from Daddy. "Joy is dead, baby."

How could that be? I'd promised I would come see her the next time I was home. She wanted to show off her beautiful baby girl. No one who laughed like that could be dead.

So I went home to Joy's funeral, which was packed with all the students whose lives her teaching and laughter had touched.

I did see her beautiful baby girl, who had the cutest little sneeze.

After her funeral, I drove back to mine and Kev's dark little apartment in Knoxville. I remember walking in, laying on the couch, and just feeling so...empty...alone...miserable...when the words of a song Joy and I had sung in our little Pentecostal church in our small southern town came flooding in:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

So...when I read C. S. Lewis' words: "Joy is the serious business of heaven," they make me think of my Joy. Her bubbly laughter must certainly add to heaven's joy. I can't wait to hear it again.

"Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy and singing." (Psalm 126:5, Amplified Bible)

1 comment:

  1. Hey Girlfriend!
    Beautiful stories - I can't wait to read them all! I love you more with each story I read!But, unfortunatley I should get up from the computer no....will read more later.
    I don't have a profile - so I guess I just sign as anonymous??
    Much love,