Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Summer After College

Right after high school I went to bible college for a year, majoring in music.  While I was still in school that spring, I had two experiences that had a lasting impact on my life.  I've written blog posts about them here (to give you some context):
Wrapping up the spring semester, I wasn't sure what I was going to do for the next year.  Returning to college didn't feel like an option.  I was leaning towards doing something more practical and hands on with my life.  No matter what I decided to do I was going to need some more money to do it, so I went home and got a job tree-planting for the summer.

Tree Planting

A tree-planting 'plug'.  We'd carry and plant up to 800 of these a day
Tree-planting is hard work.  We got paid by the tree, and to make a reasonable wage at the time, one needed to plant 700+ trees a day in high-elevation, hilly, brush.  One could get rather tired towards the end of the day.  I started working with the planting crew around the middle of May that year, and it was a cold, wet spring.  I remember one day we came off the mountain and all of us had the beginning symptoms of hyperthermia - we were all talking non-sense off and on.  
As spring turned into summer, it got hot which meant we didn't have to dress so warm but we got quite sweaty and had to carry water with us while we planted.  In my journal at that time, I called tree-planting 'the ultimate test of human goodwill in work.'  I saw the limits of my patience tested with my friends - this surprised me somewhat.  I also started to learn more about myself.

Up to the middle of July, I spent most of my time doing 3 things that summer:
  1. Tree-planting
  2. Spending time with friends (mountain biking, exploring the community, hanging out, etc.)
  3. Pondering my future, wondering what I was going to do in the next year, and how to reconcile my life to some of those changes from the spring in the links above.
I really didn't know what the next step was.  I didn't want to go back to post-secondary education.  I was interested in travelling, but unsure how to plan a trip and limited with finances.  I was taking steps towards being a camp counsellor for a couple of weeks in August.  And then....


I contracted a skin infection at the end of July, likely associated with my tree-planting work.  It was a rather nasty one - painful, and it limited my movement.  I couldn't tree-plant anymore because sweat made it sting intensely.  I went to the local doctors multiple times over the next several weeks as it spread and got more intense.  They gave me prescriptions that didn't touch it.  I was desperate, and so I turned to God for help.  I spent all of August and the first week of September seeking God for an answer to my infection.  I was frustrating as I wanted to work, make money, and spend time with my friends.  God had other plans. When I wasn't laid up in bed, I ended up spending time alone in our local church playing the piano and praying.  I didn't know what else to do.  During that time, I found God for myself.  I believe God gave me new music to an old hymn in a 15 minutes burst of creativity - perhaps I'll share it sometime.  I also got an answer about my next step for the future - I'd be going to a disciple training school in Texas.  I needed to get better first, though.

Weeks after this started, the doctor's in our community finally referred me to a dermatologist in a larger city to see if he could help.  When he saw my infection he was a little taken aback ('whoa, that looks nasty'), but he told me not to worry.  He didn't give me a prescription.  Instead, he grabbed a couple of bottles in his office, mixed their contents together with some cream and told me to use that on the affected area.  I gulped and thought 'Oh boy, I hope this works.'  Sure enough, a week later the infection had cleared up.  I was SO relieved and at the same time wondered why it took so long to finally meet that doctor.  God had a plan in all of it though.  His timing is perfect, and He can use doctors, too!

Before leaving for Texas, I was able to play the hymn with the new arrangement for the people in my church.  This was important because my attitude about serving in the church had changed - I was there to minister now instead of being 'compelled' by my parents.  God had become personal to me, helping me with my own troubles. 

Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
    the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.
The Lord protects and preserves them—
    they are counted among the blessed in the land—
    he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
    and restores them from their bed of illness.
Psalms 41:1-3  

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