Sarah Anne Hayes

on fort building and embracing chaos

FaithSarah Anne HayesComment

"Welcome to Marketing!" Nicole exclaimed, as our CEO leaned down and stuck his head through the curtains.

He laughed and shook his head, a combination of disbelief and a distinct 'Why am I not surprised?' look on his face. In his weekly email to the staff, he referred to us as Bedouins and word spread quickly around the office about the infamous Marketing Fort.

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I spent last summer working in an office of predominantly 20 and 30-somethings where the name of the game on any given day is, "Expect the unexpected."

Our department regularly had three o'clock diversions, serious celebrations, and a myriad of other ridiculous and wonderful things I now hold near and dear to my heart.

In order to bring training camp back to the Adventures campus, a new building was under construction when I arrived in Gainesville. The plan was for the building to be complete and everyone moved in before the absurdity of July training camps started.

Due to some unexpected delays, July training camp rolled around, and the building still wasn't ready for us to move in.

One particular week, while happily working in our office, the facilities manager came in and informed us we'd be temporarily displaced (aka, the nice way of saying 'we're kicking you out') because the giant walk-in freezer they needed to store food for the hundreds of Racers and trainers who would soon be overrunning the office was going where our office was.

That's right. Our office was literally turned into a freezer.

We all got cozy in the video room for a time, closing the door, putting in headphones, and trying to focus amidst the chaos of Project Search Light. But with July training camp looming and the upper building still not ready for us to move in, we needed to go somewhere. 

We moved upstairs, to a section of six cubicles between the World Race and short-term departments, and planted ourselves for what could've been a couple of days or a couple of weeks.

By the end of the day, though, we had an idea to make the most of the space we had, for however long we were in it.

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The Marketing Department at Adventures in Missions is known for being a tad ridiculous. When you throw a bunch of creatives into one room, absurdity is bound to happen and I loved being a part of it.

As we sat in our temporary office on that first day, listening to the hubbub that surrounded us, we had a realization. The cubicle-esque walls that surrounded our six desks formed the perfect bare bones structure for a fort.

Yes, a fort. (I told you absurdity is bound to happen.)

Once the idea popped into Nicole's head, there was no stopping it. We arrived the next morning with sheets, blankets, lamps, pillows, twinkle lights, fishing wire, twine, and anything else we found in our houses and apartments that could possibly be utilized in creating a fort.

We climbed on top of desks, tried and failed a few different set ups, but after a couple of hours, the Marketing Fort was complete. We had curtains for a door, twinkle lights inside, a window to say hello, and a "fax machine" that allowed someone to put an item in through the window and slide it over to the intended recipient.

Over the next few days, we had countless visitors stop by the fort just to say hi and see if it was really true. Yes, it was. The Marketing Department had built a fort.

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The weeks leading up to the construction of the fort were difficult for me. There was a ton of chaos and everything felt a little bit all over the place. I'm one of those people who has a difficult time focusing when my work space is a mess or in perpetual chaos, so you can imagine I didn't particularly enjoy the days where we had hundreds of screaming World Cup fans sitting right outside our office door.

As a very high J and extremely Type A personality, chaos is the ultimate distraction. It stresses me out and I will spend two hours cleaning my house just so I can get 30 minutes of work done. Sometimes I can simply close the door and pretend it's not there, but the vast majority of the time, whatever space I'm in needs to be in some kind of order for anything remotely productive to happen.

I'm also a person who's somewhat prone to anxiety and gets easily stressed in chaotic situations, so the reality of our office being in limbo wasn't exactly my favorite thing in the world.

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The older I get, the more I realize just how chaotic life can be. Especially in a busy area like Metro DC, it often feels like things will spin out of control if they're not perfectly planned.

It's easy to allow the things we can't control in life -- like our desk space turning into a giant freezer -- to stress us out and unravel any focus or joy we might find in our day. When traffic is bad or the house is a mess or you get stuck in the middle of a downpour, our natural reaction is to freak out and stress out and drive ourselves even more crazy than we were to begin.

I learned a lot during my time at Adventures -- more than could ever fit into a few blog posts -- and I'm still ruminating on some of the lessons I learned during my time there. 

Perhaps the largest one, however, was this -- life is a big old crazy mess. There's far more things we can't control than things we can. But even in the midst of the chaos and the mess, the Lord knows what He's doing. In fact, He often does far more than we ever notice in the chaos and the mess than when things are nice, neat, and under our control.

At the beginning of 2014, I prayed one huge prayer -- Lord, teach me to trust You this year.

He answered in more ways than I could've ever imagined. Some of those ways were big and loud and obvious -- like a job offer from Adventures barely three weeks after I'd prayed that prayer. Others were a big smaller and were things I likely would have missed if I hadn't been paying attention.

For me, that's what our Marketing Fort was.

It reminded me that life is chaotic. It's loud and it's eventful and sometimes everything is a big, hot mess. But the Lord is still working and the Lord is still moving. He's got the plans and the timing of it all figured out and it does no one any good at all to stress about when He's going to get around to doing the thing we want Him to be doing.

I'm still Type A. I'm still a high J. I'm still prone to stressing about situations at times. But I'm learning this -- sometimes the best response to the chaos life throws at you is to say, "Okay!" Then take what you've got and build a fort.