At the beginning of 2018, I decided to sit down with God and dig into my heart.
Specifically, the desires of my heart.
I took an unused journal (I collect journals like people collect coins and baseball cards), sat in my prayer space and began making a list.
I used over two pages to write out the qualities I desired in a future husband, should God choose that path for me. I got specific with my requests and I was petty in my thoughts.
I prayed about it once. Closed the journal and never looked at it again.
I told God, “good luck with that.”
And I told everyone else, “God has someone picked out for me, I’m not worried about it.”
I had no desire to date and no need to go looking for a man. I knew, wholeheartedly, that God would let me know when it was time to start writing the next chapter of my life.
I never doubted that.
A couple of months after discussing my heart’s desires with God, I was invited to speak to the wives and women of Firefighters for Christ during the organization’s retreat weekend at Hume Lake the following year in March 2019.
I excitedly said yes for a few reasons:
1) I am grateful to continue my involvement in the fire service.
2) I love speaking about my faith and trust in God.
3) Hume Lake is very special to me…even though I had never been there before.
But my husband had been.
In 2015, Ryan was involved in the firefighting efforts to protect the camp from the dangers of the Rough Fire.
He came home from that fire exhausted, but in awe of the campgrounds.
In particular, he told me about a small brown chapel that he came across while trekking through the forest and brush.
He took photos to show me upon his return home.
“It was just there! In the middle of nowhere! This little church.” He knew that I would appreciate the treasure in this gem he found.
He mentioned that the camp had offered for the firefighters to bring their families back to enjoy the grounds as a ‘thank you’ for working so hard for weeks.
He talked about going back. He talked about taking the kids to this “really cool camp.”
We had no idea that we would never be able to go as a family. He died the following year.
And I never again thought about Hume Lake.
Until I was invited to be there.
Before I stepped foot onto the campgrounds, I already had so much emotion about being there.
It was bittersweet to know that I would be speaking about my loss and my faith in the very campground Ryan worked so hard to save.
Only a handful of people knew my story before I spoke. The vast majority had no idea why I was there. In particular, there was one couple I met during lunch on my first day at camp, and I mentioned this little brown church that my husband found years earlier.
“Oh, you’ll never get there. It’s way up there and it’s too wet and with the snow, you’ll never get there.”
I let go of the hope of seeing this little brown church.
The following morning, I had the privilege of speaking to the ladies and sharing about HOPE in God.
After hearing my story, the same couple who told me I wouldn’t be able to find the little brown church, spent their afternoon hiking the hills with me to find that little brown chapel.
Breathless from the altitude and the hike, I stood in front of that little church. I imagined my husband doing the same. I could see him digging for his phone and taking several pictures to share this discovery with me.
Inside the tiny chapel were pieces of paper covered with the prayers of those who made the same trek up the mountain.
And a pen. Waiting for the next person.
I wrote a small prayer on the corner of a piece of paper, tucked it into the chapel, turned to face the majesty of God’s creation and I prayed, “take me wherever you need me to go, I am Yours.”
I had no idea what God was doing while I was in this place.
I came with the purpose of doing His work, never realizing that the story was just beginning.
In this place that held a piece of my past, God was setting my future in motion.
My first day in Hume Lake, before speaking at the Ladies Tea or hiking the mountainside, a man in a red jacket crossed my path.
And my heart would never be the same.