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. 

The Liebster Award

Liebster Award! ... So, what is the Liebster Award? | Abroad American

Back in December, Laurel nominated me for the “Liebster Award.” She writes at Laurel Jean. Thank you for the nomination, friend!

Here’s how the award business works, which I understand is a way for you to meet new bloggers and have some fun, too!

  1. First, thank the person who nominated you, include a link to their blog, and add the Liebster Award badge to your blog and/or post.
  2. Answer the eleven questions from the person who nominated you.
  3. Give eleven random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 5-11 fellow bloggers.
  5. Notify your nominees that you nominated them for the Liebster Award.
  6. Last, but certainly not least, ask your nominees eleven questions.

11 random facts about me

  1. My favorite story genre is books set in America’s 1900-1960s.
  2. I always appreciate a well-timed quote woven into a conversation.
  3. I have 7 younger siblings that I’m quite proud of.
  4. I’m a bit of a foodie but only recently discovered my love of cooking. I finally realized the kitchen is a place for creativity — for example, I’m enjoying the freedom to not measure exactly or always obey the recipe. This turns a chore into something exciting, though it does come with risks! I’m glad my husband is an easy food reviewer.
  5. I love a good garage sale and feel disappointed when I drive past a sign and can’t stop. You never know when you could find a good deal or a great treasure. However, I tried to host one last summer, and though parts of it were fun, it was kind of a flop.
  6. I hope to find timber this summer (translation: I intend to go to the mountain forests and smell the pine trees).
  7. I am studying the book of James with the ladies in my church. I’m blown away by all I’m learning by emphasizing the book’s context.
  8. I always choose my giraffe mug whenever possible.
  9. Whenever my sisters and I use the Marco Polo app to talk, we often use the squeaky voice filter, and none of our husbands understand the hilarity of it.
  10. One of my favorite things is driving back roads with sunny, window-down weather, perhaps to a coffee shop or friend’s house.
  11. And for my 11th fact, here’s a pic of my cute baby.
He’s two months!

Here are the questions Laurel asked me:

  1. How did you choose the name for your blog? I wanted to weave together a theme for my blog. As I looked at my own writing, I noticed I tend to write about trusting God, with a side of my favorite literature. So I grabbed the theme of courage and plot twists.
  2. If you could work any job for one week, what job would it be, and why? I’m loving my SAHM job! I do like to vicariously explore other careers through book characters.
  3. What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from blogging? You must be filled up to share with others.
  4. What does your ideal weekend look like? It would involve a clean house, hospitality, coffee, a musical, chocolatey dessert, volleyball, a hike, and my favorite people.
  5. Do you set goals for the New Year? Yep! They’re usually a variance of the same things.
  6. What is the best book (aside from the Bible) that you’ve read, and why do you think so? One book I have enjoyed greatly is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. It shows the beauty of faith in God and courage in the midst of the worst circumstances. I just love the hope in her story. God truly is a Hiding Place.
  7. What was the best thing that happened to you in 2020? In June we found out we were expecting our first!
  8. Which historical figure do you most admire, and why? In school I enjoyed learning about Clara Barton because of her bravery and strength.
  9. Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years? Teaching my children and discipling others! And, hopefully we’ll have our dream home.
  10. If you knew that today was your last day on earth, how would you spend it? What I hope to be doing every day: sharing Christ and His truth.
  11. What is your favorite Bible verse, and why? I’ve always loved Psalm 16:11, “You will show me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy. At Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

My Nomiations for the Liebster Award

Shelli Rehmert — My mother-in-law blogs with both wisdom and wit (one of my favorite combos!)

Bethany J. Melton — Bethany has a gift for gracing simple life with lovely words.

Madelyn Canada — Madelyn is similar to me, in that she taps into writing encouragement from both theology and stories, too.

Kristin Couch — Kristin’s stories on “The Palest Ink” are a delight to read. 

And my questions for my nominees:

  1. Where do you source ideas for your blog?
  2. What is a favorite CHAPTER from one of your favorite books?
  3. What’s your ideal weekend?
  4. Favorite recipe right now?
  5. What’s one of your favorite blog posts you’ve written?
  6. What is your favorite book of the Bible that you’ve studied and why?
  7. What is a life hack you have enjoyed recently?
  8. What’s your dream vacation?
  9. How do you choose the books you want to read?
  10. What’s a book recommendation?
  11. Describe a favorite piece of art you own:

Dear readers, would you like to answer any of these questions? Please do so in the comments or message me! Are you also a blogger? I’d love to know! Thank you following me and letting me take up treasured space in your inbox.

Low Battery

I love my phone.

It gives me the chance to access audio books while I do housework. I also track several health things, including my nursing schedule for my baby.

A quick click gives me the weather, the time, the date, and the loops I love to be in (aka group chats).

My handheld device connects me with friends and family in instant, unimaginable ways. It makes me feel like a photographer as I capture moments and share them in real time, unless I want to finesse with filters first.

I write down quotes in the digital notes and screenshot tidbits of info for later. I even do all my grocery shopping from an app and the couch.

Lately my phone’s been busy arranging slideshows of highlights from one, two, and three years ago. So sweet and sentimental to have flashbacks without even asking.

A brief text can coordinate hospitality. A tap and I’m sailing my way through the book of Numbers as I tidy up the living room.

Thanks to my phone, I can video call my brother. Store my recipes. Search Bible commentaries. Cash checks. Soak up curated music. Even talk to people occasionally.

I check emails in moments waiting for my dentist appointment … an appointment I wouldn’t have remembered without my calendar app. Or would have found without my map app. Goodness, I’d still be lost somewhere without maps or the ability to call home for directions (thanks, Dad!).

I do not want to know how many hours I’ve spent listening on my phone to people talk about health and current events or home decor advice. It’s all aesthetic and addicting.

NO WONDER I feel uncomfortable when the battery goes in the red zone.

I mean, I’m waiting for a birth announcement from a friend, surgery updates from a dear sister in Christ, and a chance to hear the next chapter in the novel I’m listening to. My phone makes all of this easy and convenient.

Tonight my phone battery stooped dangerously low. I charged it on the counter while I made dinner…or so I thought. Instead of regaining power, it was dying. Marco Polo and Pinterest were fading out of reach thanks to a finicky charger.

My phone who faithfully serves me needed me to serve it.

I jostled the charger and managed to get a few more percentages. We ate supper. My husband left for Bible study.

With just one hand available thanks to my son, I wanted to read articles and view stories.

Then my charger truly broke. Part of it was still in my phone. Now I was minutes away from losing all my — my data, and this bothered me. I formed a plan to order a charger online…or should I make my day busier tomorrow and go somewhere to get one? Shoot an SOS text to my husband to pick one up? All the panic in the name of restoring communication.

But it was a problem for tomorrow.

So I rocked my baby to sleep without anything shiny in hand.

In the solitude of the dim nursery, I prayed aloud for our family. I prayed for my priorities.

And I thought about the verses I had read this morning:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

All the wonderful, good ways I use my phone and all the wasteful, useless times I spend on there are all loss and rubbish in comparison to the paramount glory of knowing — just simply knowing — Christ Jesus my LORD.

I can do without the purposes of my digital assistant when I examine them in the light of the Savior’s face.

He is all I need. Lord, spare me from idolizing anything — convenience of online groceries, glamour of Instagram house tours, power of knowing things instantly — above You.

Tonight I’m thankful for a battery that plunged the black hole to remind me of Who matters and Who deserves my first-fruit time and attention.

I love my Savior.