Friday, July 29, 2011

In Need of Compassionate Hope for Tomorrow

There was a lot of tension in our home today. Unfortunately it spilled over into the car ride, continued throughout the party, and found it's way home again. Sometimes it seems like it's simply impossible for four people to live harmoniously. Sometime I don't care. Today I did. Today I wished that the kids were listening and obeying, I could answer questions quickly succinctly and to the satisfaction of my family, and that my dear husband could take everything in with a much more peaceful attitude.

My deepest frustration with being frustrated with this lack of harmony is that really in the scheme of things, this is not an issue with which to be frustrated. This is just life. And our life is good. Really good. I'm incredibly blessed with a loving, vibrant, caring family. Somedays aren't all shiny and happy. That's ok.  But perhaps it's human nature to always want more, to want better.

I whined to my friends at the party, "I just want to stay here and talk with you." Yep, I whined like a little girl. Like the little girl in my own family with whom I was frustrated. I wonder where she gets it?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Celebrating Life

This weekend we went to 3 birthday parties. Each one made me pause and remember the sweetness of being "in the moment." They helped me to focus on friendship, family, faith, and in all honesty: fatigue.

Birthday #1:Saturday was spent at the beach with my youngest daughter and her best friend Grace. It was Grace's 10th birthday. The ride to and from the coast was a special treat for me because Grace's mom is  one of my best friends. So the drive allowed for hours of conversation catch-up. While sitting on the sand watching the kids play in the ocean with Grace's dad Jeremy as "lifeguard," I was delighted to see Grace and Jolee run time and time again into the waves, jumping and splashing, daring each other to brave the cold Pacific. They laughed and shivered through a day friendship. How I longed to be 10 again, holding hands with my BFF and facing the dangerous tide relatively unafraid, kept safe by my fearless father, and only worrying about the sand in my swimsuit.

Birthday #2: Sunday afternoon began with an Alice In Wonderland themed very "unBirthday" celebration for my favorite 4-year-old on the planet. Miss Jilian was, as always, a walking talking source of entertainment, amusement, and preciousness. I really wish I had my camera rolling for the entire time I was at the party. Because with Jilian, you never know what's going to pop out of her mouth. The sweetest moments of the party occurred when she opened her birthday cards. Most pre-schoolers would simply glance at a birthday card, discard it and dive into the gift. But not Jilian. Each card was opened with eager anticipation. She would squeal at the pictures, describe the card to us, and then "read" it. Each card she read aloud sounded something like this, "Happy Birthday Jilian. Thank you for being my friend and are at my party. Thank you for the food Amen and Jesus." When I'm around children, I feel like God is giving me a gift. Maybe Jilian was just being silly, perhaps her "reading" comes straight from her heart. But no matter what, being in her presence while she opened her presents, fed my faith.

Birthday #3: We left Jilian's party to go to Keith's. Keith is my friend that died from brain cancer late last year. His birthday is coming up in just a few days. So his widow (ugggh, that's such a sad word) and his son threw a party for friends and family to celebrate Keith's life and to have a chance to get together in his honor. There were many smiles and lots of laughter at the party. But as I spoke with Shannon, I realized how incredibly tiring this last year must have been. Actually that's not true. I have NO IDEA how tiring this last year has been. I am at a complete loss to understand her loss. It breaks my heart all over again. I stand in awe of Shannon and I stand in awe of God. The Holy Spirit has given her strength beyond measure, humor in the midst of pain, the ability to continue on with grace, to make new memories with her son, and to be a witness to the power of living life intentionally. Fatigue. It can rule you or you can choose to continue on. Shannon continues with friendship, family, and faith.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Girls Camp 2011

At this time last week I was doing cabin checks in the trees. Which translated means: I was directing Girls Camp for 4th-6th grade girls out at Twin Rocks Friends Camp. Lights Out is 9pm, so about 9:10pm each night the non-counseling staff makes the rounds to all the different cabins at camp and checks to be sure that the counselors and campers are all settled in for bedtime. My older daughter and I chose to check the "Cabins of the Trees" since my younger daughter was staying in a cabin called "Dogwood." I miss those nightly whispers. I'd knock softly then creak open the door and say, "Everyone ok in here? Ok, Goodnight, see you in the morning."  More often that not the only sound would be a very groggy "yep, we're fine." from a sleepy counselor or sometimes after long exciting day at silence. Silence is a good thing, because Girls Camp is noisy!

Our classes for Outdoor, Crafts, and Recreation went so well. It's been joyful reading the evaluations from the campers and hearing their perceptions of the week. Girls Camp truly offers something for every girl and type of personality. I was completely blessed by the leaders of these rotations. They made camp run smoothly and beautifully for the campers. This is a gift not to be taken lightly.

We continued the new Girls Camp tradition of a Camp Out. This camp within a camp allows the girls to spend one night in a tent, use an outhouse, and cook their breakfast over a fire. The leaders were amazing! For many kids, this was the best night of camp. Next year my goal is to camp out for one night too.

We had 3 baby sheep at camp. What more can I say? How can camp not be fun when you've got live sheep to pet and cuddle? Oh they were cute! This addition to camp was quite a bit of work for our staff shepherdess-but she and her fiance are wonderful people who would do anything for the kids. 

The week went well with only one ER run and a few homesick girls. The nurses were busy with lots of meds and vitamins to distribute everyday, scraped toes, knees, bee stings, and bug bites, but the only camper to throw up waited until the last night of camp. How thoughtful. Honestly, a visit to the infirmary wasn't a bad thing. These women gave so much more than pills and bandaids. They generously doled out compassion, tenderness, and a sense of security to each and every camper and staff person who came through their door. 

I often say, "camp was fun." But camp is so much more than fun. Girls Camp is a place where children, youth, and adults learn about God's deep love. This year our theme was God's Promises. And as expected, Elizabeth Sherwood brought that message to life. I respect and am in awe of Elizabeth and her giftedness. I'm like a crazy groupie... but that's ok because it's truly about recognizing the Holy Spirit working through her. So really I'm a just a God Groupie. 

Three other very special ladies also shine The Light brightly at Girls Camp. They are the real deal. These are the women you go to when you need answers, sound advice, wisdom, and of course a really good laugh. Miriam, Jeanne, and Deann are the dream team. Through music, storytelling, skits, and dining hall therapy sessions, these are the women who make Girls Camp a safe, hilarious, and spirit-led place.

My prayer request going into Girls Camp was for the counseling staff. This year we had an unusually young bunch of women, many of them first time counselors. I knew my job would be to help make orientation as simple and the least overwhelming as possible. The counselors job would be HUGE. They are asked to essentially become instant mothers to six, seven, and in some cases eight 9-12-year-old girls. God not only answered my prayers, but He provided an group of women that excelled at their job! Walking around camp you could feel the love (and the energy) oozing out of the counseling staff. Now my prayer is that they truly see how they started strong but finished stronger.

This year I was blessed with Vicky Scott as assistant director. We made a good team. Vicky is giving, loving, and thoughtful. A week with her by my side provided a sense of peace and delight for me personally. Watching her come alongside others was also a wonderful thing to witness. Her depth of knowledge about camp, counseling, and how to relate to campers is second to none.  

Each year we emphasize that camp is for the campers. They are the reason for 11 months of planning and preparation, weeks of 4-6 hours of sleep per night, and a whole lotta prayer. It's the dedication to these girls that not only drives me to direct but energizes me when it would be so much easier to just lay it down. It's their smiles, high-fives, hugs, wacky hairdos to dinner on Wednesday at camp, silly songs, giggles, shrieks, prayers, courage, and precious tears when they miss home that makes me realize that I am right where I belong. 

A camp wrap up would not be complete without a thank you to the Twin Rocks staff. It is this team of people who surrounds me with the support and expertise that makes my job as director possible. I don't know how they do it day after day, camp after camp. But they do it with grace, love, and incredible integrity.