After lunch on that first day at Hume Lake, I was back to concentrating on my purpose. The other half of my “emotional support team,” Rachelle, arrived in the afternoon, and I was feeling focused and ready to sharpen my talk for the Ladies Tea the following morning.
Dinner hour seemed to come quickly, and there was another service scheduled after our meal together. However, the girls and I decided to skip the meeting and go to our cabin for the remainder of the night. Although my talk was prepared, I wanted to reset my mind and fine-tune my words.
In other words, I didn’t want to see the man in the red jacket again.
The morning seemed to greet us rather quickly and before I knew it, it was time for us to leave the coziness of our cabin.
“Can we pray first?”
The three us sat in a circle, hand in hand, deep in prayer and conviction that God was going to do something powerful. When it came time for me to pray, my words were prefaced by uncontrollable tears. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t scared.
I was grateful for the privilege of speaking to these women, and I was desperate to do whatever God asked of me.
The Ladies Tea was a beautiful display of planning, dedication and love that had been poured into this event for over a year. I stood at the podium arranging my notes and stopped to stare at the scene in front of me.
“God, I can’t believe I’m here, let this be Yours,” I whispered to myself. At exactly 9:40am, I was introduced to the ladies. I delivered my talk about having true hope in God, but it was God who did the talking…I was merely the vessel.
Not long after the conclusion of my talk, it was back to the dining hall for lunch. And because it’s camp, we all dine together at the same time.
I wasn’t thinking about the man in the red jacket. My nervous system was still trying to collect itself after the adrenaline rush from speaking to a room full of women.
That is, until the man in the red jacket appeared on my right.
Cue the nervous system. Again.
While seated with a plate full of food in front of me, I nervously looked up towards my right when a voice from a height that required stretching my neck said, “Jenn! How did your talk go this morning?”
It was him. The man in the red jacket. Except, he wasn’t wearing his jacket. And he was bending down to speak to me. I could see the brightness of his blue eyes and the dimples I hadn’t noticed before as he smiled at me.
I’m almost positive I had food in my mouth when I matter of factly said, “it went well, thank you. Enjoy your lunch.”
I completely brushed him off. I didn’t allow him the chance to say one more word. I went straight back to my plate and acted as though nothing about that interaction was turning my heart inside out.
Nobody at the table knew that hearing him say my name filled my ears with a sound unfamiliar to my heart.
And I pretended that I didn’t notice either.
Later that evening was a worship service in a larger chapel and many more people had arrived to enjoy the firefighters retreat weekend.
I sang along with the worship band, and I was feeling the spiritual high that you get when you are truly connected to worship.
And then, I caught myself looking for him. I was scanning the crowd for the man with the red jacket.
An ice-breaker activity was beginning onstage and the host of the game was inviting volunteers to participate. I laughed and cheered along with everyone else as man after man stood up and walked towards the stage.
But my laugh turned into a silent smile when I saw the man with the red jacket walking towards the stage. He lined up alongside several other men and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.
I observed his walk, the way he carried himself, the way his entire face lit up as he laughed. And as he exited the stage, I paid attention to where he was seated. Not that it mattered because I had no intention of speaking to him. Ever.
And I didn’t.
The rest of my time in Hume Lake was spent with my “emotional support team” as we found our inner 12 year-olds and entertained our childlike spirits. We literally laughed until we cried and we released the warriors within us through archery and hatchet throwing.
Our last evening service was on Saturday, and again, I found myself searching for the man with the red jacket. To my disappointment, I couldn’t find him in the crowd.
As the service ended and we all headed towards the exit, there he was to my left. We didn’t make eye contact, and I purposely slowed my pace so that we wouldn’t exit at the same time.
Just as soon as I thought it was safe to exit the chapel, there he stood. Right in front of the exit doors. I nearly stumbled over my own feet.
Katie immediately greeted him and introduced him to Rachelle. I stood there. And said nothing. Again.
Another gentleman approached and began offering restaurant suggestions to the man with the red jacket and his friend. I pieced together that the two men were going to be leaving early in the morning to begin their journey to the airport and would be passing through my hometown on their way.
My mind was screaming at me, “speak, Jenn! Speak! This is your town they’re talking about! Say something!”
But my lips wouldn’t move.
Instead, everyone around me was laughing and talking about food (my favorite topic of conversation, by the way). And I stayed quiet.
As the man with the red jacket walked away with his friend, I turned to offer a smile. But as soon as his eyes found mine, I quickly looked away.
The following morning, Katie, Rachelle and I packed up and planned to leave fairly early. We enjoyed breakfast and conversation with several people we met while at camp, and as I was heading back to our table with a fresh cup of coffee, something caught my eye.
I looked to my right and it was him. But this time, he was leaving. He was wearing a blue sweater and my heart nearly came out of my chest when he stopped and locked eyes with mine. He extended his right arm, waved at me, and said goodbye. I smiled, waved, and offered two words: “travel safely!”
He turned to walk out the door. And I walked back to my table.
Nothing more than a handful of words had been shared between us over a three day period. No depth of conversation, no exchange of contact information, no acknowledgement that we would ever speak again.
And I was ok with that.
Or so I thought.