How Beautiful is Church Camp

Our church camp almost didn’t happen this year … because it’s getting difficult to reserve entire campgrounds in our state.

Thankfully, camp still occurred in all its glory, even if we were prevented from certain traditions. First, there were no water sports due to some kind of weird algae bloom that could make you sick and allegedly made a dog die from drinking it. So we had to miss the usual staples of camp life like boating, swimming, tubing. Second, the state issued a fire ban so no open campfires allowed. Third, we set up camp in a new-to-us place. We had finally outgrown our beloved Huckleberry Campground where I personally have enjoyed each of my church camps for the last 10 years in a row.

However, the core of everything I love about this annual camping trip stayed true despite missing iconic water sports, campfire, and Huckleberry. It’s like that one time when someone stole the church trailer with the piano, cushions, chairs, pulpit, and sound equipment. We were still a church. Or when we had to watch the sermon virtually since our building was closed up because of covid. Still the Bride of Christ. So of course, a simple location change wouldn’t stop us from packing up our cars and coolers with bright attitudes to be together!

And it was a wonderful weekend.

I grow more impressed with the immeasurable means of grace in that God gifted us each other. Without a church family, a person could literally have no one to trust, no one to turn to. But I have layers and layers of saints who have proved they would drop everything if I needed anything. There are local churches all over the world who would pick up where one left off in ministering to a sheep like me. It’s overwhelming and humbling.

My top three highlights of camp this year were 1) sharing the tangible joys with my little family, 2) the baptisms, and 3) the spiritual gifts in action.

It was such an honor to introduce a small flannel-clad boy to a weekend of outdoor fellowship. Judah approved of it, and heartily participated in everything he could, which was mostly just making people’s days with his bear hugs.

Pine trees infused the air with the fresh woodsiness. Corn hole brought out our competition. The claps of dramatic thunder begged the question, “How did YOU sleep last night?” Without our Sunday best, but a sunburn instead, observing each other’s realness and coffee habits is easy. We talked about goldfish, about weddings, about the gospel and about this new corner of the lake. We were relaxed and had nowhere to be except dinner and worship.

Now, the baptisms. How good is God to give us a tangible picture of a new spiritual life? To see an outward representation of Christ’s rescue from sin?

It’s inevitable that I’ll cry. As someone in my family coined it, “Life and death will make me cry.” About ten testimonies ranged from someone saved by grace out of a generationally godly family to first generation Christians, to trusting at a young age to tasting what the world has to offer first — all a clear picture of sinful hearts washed with the blood of Christ. We all rejoiced deeply in each public announcement of faith in the Savior. What struck me listening to the testimonies was the inclusion of fervent prayers for these ones gone astray, and the evidence of plenty of seed planting by an older brother here, a sister there, a pastor, a friend, an acquaintance. God chooses to use us in Gospel work, as seen in the many familiar names brought up in the testimonies, but He brings the increase.

Finally, I enjoyed the extra goodness of the Lord to grant us spiritual gifts and hearts that long to serve one another. Not only did He save us from hell, make us His cherished bride, but He also equipped us uniquely so we could bless each other and thus bring glory to Him.

At camp I noticed we were served by someone sharing their special green avocado creamy sauce for taco night. A young man with a ton of energy willing to bring up the tube from the bottom of the slip n’ slide hill over and over. Hands that played guitar chords, emptied trash, held babies, acted as the hospitable camp hosts, provided a listening ear and mercy. On Sunday we were taught from the Word.

Those gifts in action are all for His glory wafting up like the campfire smoke we didn’t have because, remember–fire ban.

God didn’t have to give us each other to help in suffering or to laugh about slip n’ slide wipeouts. To serve each other hamburgers with caramelized onions, to share truth with, to worship Him on a wooded mountainside or in the suburbs back at home base. Isn’t His Body beautiful?

I can hear it. “But there isn’t a perfect church! She’s clearly wearing rose-colored glasses.”

It’s true. There is no perfect church. Of course, I have a little loyal partiality toward my family, but I still work to give grace for the failures I see and even for the ones I can’t see. Because there is masterpiece work going on. A bride is getting prepared for the marriage of the Lamb.

And gratefully, there aren’t any rose-colored glasses needed to appreciate God’s beautiful goodness in giving us the broken and beautiful Body of Christ. His plan is good. Even in hard, ugly times we can acknowledge His design is lovely, and He’s building His church, even though that won’t make the headlines. Whatever imperfections are now, we look toward the day of endless, perfect, better-than-church-camp worship. Even the righteous acts of the saints at camp are helping clothe us for that day.

“Let’s rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, because the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and His bride has prepared herself.

 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean;

for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’”

And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Revelation 19:7-9

Sensing Summer

You’ve been a long time coming.


Lately, it seems like most times I poked my nose into the great outdoors, the wind whipped me back in. So much wind, it feels like it could take a baby’s breath away. It snowed on our Easter trip. Then spring downpoured on graduation Saturday. Every time I ventured to wear shorts, it was a mistake, and we wondered if our tiny plants would freeze that night. 


But last evening, while I drove home from a backyard baby shower, I remembered why you’re worth the wait. 


The window down, I smelled summer arriving. The cool desert breeze ushered out the day that had baked our cars. 


I rejoiced at the sacred scent of mint fields. Passing a neighborhood, I could pinpoint a BBQ party, which reminded me of smokey campfires. On the edge of town, I spied a full-fledged high school baseball game with whole families in the grand stands and the smell of popcorn wafted through my window. The air nearer home smelled awash with sprinkler water from the canals. 


I saw the summer coming, too, in the indigo mountains sketched against a broody blueish sky. I foresee summer for the shape it is, holding anticipated outdoor weddings and getaways to the crested lakes. Memories yet to be made in a cross-country road trip! And I bet you our skies will drip with fireworks on the 4th.

Creamy iced coffee captures the taste of summer. Or mint leaves floating in lemonade with a pin-striped straw. Soon we’ll be tempted to buy a watermelon each time we enter the grocery store. We’ll set to work on corn on the cob and tomatoes rinsed of garden dirt. I guarantee Luke and I will hear the hum of Braum’s air-conditioning as we order ice cream as a reprieve from the midwest heat. Dip my yogurt cone in chocolate, please!

 
I feel you, summer. Grass like cool carpet. Stiff, rosy skin from too many hours floating the stone-clear river. A textured picnic basket full of sparkling water and egg salad croissants. A smudged pair of flip flops. A book and a fishing pole, plus the hammock and Star River. Heartfelt fellowship underneath sparkly strings of Edison bulbs.  

Summer, we hear you, too. Cicadas and crickets. A snowy birch log breaking in the smoldering ashes. The thrill of hearing an outdoor musical underneath the stars and a quilt. The rush of melted mountain snow pushing through the ravines. Praises sung in a backyard for all the neighbors to hear. 


Little Judah, in the backseat, can you smell it? It’s summer, and you’ll be meeting it for the first time, just around the corner. 

Stories of March

Since I procrastinate like the best when it comes to documenting (both privately and publicly) my life milestones, it’s high time for a personal update. Maybe I delay because certain events feel too sacred to lock onto a page . . . like when you snap a picture but you know your smudgy smart phone can’t capture the justice the landscape deserves.

But, lately, I’ve noticed how much I relish reading a blog post, prayer letter or post with pieces of the author’s heart tangled up in it. When it’s their story, it draws me in as I relate, imagine, rejoice, and empathize.

We love stories.

So I don’t want to withhold my stories from this very special month of March.

March 1st marked three years from when my husband first messaged me and a long-distance romance was birthed. Neither of us knew where a simple message would lead, but with so much in common, our conversation exploded and one thing led to another. After four months of writing and skyping, we met in person, and the rest is history.

March 16th signified our engagement just two years ago. I’ll never forget the roller coaster day that ended with a ring and cheesecake. God is good.

One year ago March makes me think of empty offices, Frozen 2, Greek food, virtual meetings, remote church, and Psalm 34. It reminds me of long springtime strolls, rehearsing the sovereignty and goodness of God.

And now this March is the month where we’re experiencing many sweet firsts with our firstborn son. His name is Judah Charles, and he turned one month today. God answered so many prayers relating to our pregnancy and birth, and we’re smitten with the precious little man! The journey of being a stay-at-home mom has truly been a gift.

It’s stunning how much we love him. While falling in love with a spouse leading up to marriage is gradual (with some uncertainty), love for a child is unconditional and instant. It mirrors how our Heavenly Father loves us even when we are helpless and unreasonable.

Welcome to our family, Judah! We can’t wait to see the story He writes for you.

What are your stories of March?

Timeless Ministry (Stuck with Siblings)

In March 2020 those who wished to be social distanced from their siblings instead found themselves social distanced with their siblings. Now not only just roommates, siblings were co-workers, movie buddies, and the only source of human entertainment closer than six feet.

Continue reading “Timeless Ministry (Stuck with Siblings)”