Monday, July 25, 2016

True Beauty

I've heard it said that women tend to surround themselves with beauty, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not. This is likely why many of us make an effort to decorate our homes a certain way, purchase cute clothes and acccesories, etc. It's so pleasing to the eye.

I get this and to step it up a notch, I lump the presence of special people and outdoor landscapes in my personal pursuit. This week was full of that kind of beauty for me.

It all started when this woman showed up for her annual week at Camp. Her name is Peg and we met years ago through a mutual friend (thank you, Sandy). Then because of Facebook we have gradually discovered a sweet relationship based on similar interests and love for women's ministry. Our face to face encounters are rare, but when they happen it's a beautiful thing and I walk away so happy. 

One afternoon we shared a window. Two actually. Not only did I get to look at her joyful, kind, smiling face for a little while and hear what God is doing in her life, but we enjoyed the mountain view together as well. Beautiful.
Our next treat was feeding this handsome young man dinner one night. He is the son of one of my heroes, a missionary I've been happy to call my friend for many years. He's working at a boys camp nearby and headed to Cedarville University (Scott's alma mater) in the Fall. My plan was to prepare him a home cooked meal, but it's summer and I've been acccused of keeping no food in the house since we eat all our meals at work. I resent this. (Even if it is sort of true.) King of the Frosties for burgers, fries and ice cream it is!

This kid is a total trooper. First, he graciously forgave me for not cooking. He really doesn't remember us as he's lived in Senegal and Hungary for most of his life, but he came and answered our endless questions and let us love him a little, which felt like I was loving his beautiful mom.

For our day off one of us got a great idea - an early morning Camp-led canoe trip at a nearby lake. One of us was very excited! I mean, who doesn't want to be out on a beautiful Adirondack lake at the break of dawn? I can think of one person. Caravan left at 5:30 am.
 I admit it was a little chilly (oh how I love the cool nights and mornings here) but insisted it would be worth it and I would ultimately be called blessed.
 A big shout out to the Rec Staff who basically do all the work.
 I spy the sun peeking out, looking for us.
 When you are up and out before 5:30am, it's automatically a hat day.
We saw so many interesting things and even heard loons giving God their praise first thing - just like we were.
Beauty everywhere we looked. Breathtaking, really. I'd like to say it rendered me speechless too, but well....
I never made it into Chapel this week, so was listening eagerly as the man behind me reviewed what he heard and learned. Sermons about Job - the idea that when we suffer we shouldn't ask for a reason why. That's looking backward. Instead, we should ask God for the purpose in our suffering. That's moving forward. Yes. 

I love this man. Not too many days go by that I don't thank the Lord for a Godly, faithful husband. If you had known the teenage me, you know he would never have looked in my direction. I was definitely not the girl he was looking for. By God's grace, Jesus saved me out of that life and set me up for this beautiful one and I never get over the enormity of it all.

The staff told us what time we should come back for breakfast.
 I was expecting a granola bar and a little fruit maybe, but not all this.
Pancakes, sausage, eggs, muffins and smiling hosts, eager to hear what we discovered on the lake. Also a fire to sit by and eat! Beautiful.
Togetherness. I know my ideas drive him nuts, but he's a good sport and in the end enjoyed our morning as much as I did. 

All this in just one week. People beauty. Nature beauty. Relationship beauty. The trained eye can find it everywhere. I, for one, want to be as close to it as possible. Makes the harder, darker days easier to swallow. Be on the lookout, I am sure you can find it in your world too.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

When Moody Comes to Camp

Time is going too fast! Week 3 is in the books now. 

In Scott's area, the self-named Christian Chicks are here. Their claim to fame is matching shirts. Different color every day. It's a big deal. They invite the Guest Services team to join in the fun. Scott promised last summer that he would. He delivers.
Over in my world, I enjoy the generosity and thoughfulness of certain guests. Some might call it bribery or schmoozing, but I like to think of it as a gift.

One whom I spent a particularly large quantity of time with on the phone long before she arrived (ahem), showed up with this. Gourmet chocolates from the Bronx.
Another, who has kept regular contact with me since making her reservation in November brought a few pounds of fudge (it was a fattening week to work at the Front Desk) and this book.....

Did I mention I'll be gaining that new title any day?

This book is hilarious. I tried reading it to Scott in my office the other day and I barely could for the giggling. Naturally, I've been collecting baby books for months and usually when I buy one I Facetime Drew and Brittany and read it to them. Ben just rolls his eyes. I don't think this is weird at all. I'm simply trying to teach Drew how to read with expression, something I often gently, yet repeatedly suggested when he'd read to his siblings.
I was particularly excited about our speaker this week and positively giddy when my work slowed down enough for me to sneak into chapel a few mornings.

This is Dr. Erwin Lutzer, the man who has been the longest running pastor of Moody Church in Chicago. A few years ago when I heard him speak at Word of Life he quickly became one of my favorites. He's one of the greats who has lived a long, faithful life. No drama, not tripped up by the temptations of worldly living, just steady and wise serving the Lord with devotion and purpose. The older I get the more I'm in awe of that lifestyle and want to live well. Trendy isn't always all it's cracked up to be.

I love, too, that he is a preacher who still pronounces God "Gawd" in a deep voice. Scott and I learned so much and were encouraged by his messages. Many good dinner conversations were sparked. Sermons about salvation and reconciliation and how sometimes reconciliation is impossible. This is so important and comforting. He taught us how to find peace with God when dealing (actually not being able to deal) with impossible people. I'll be getting his new book to read more.

Oh, and did I mention how funny he is? He has the sense of humor I most appreciate. Never cracks a smile when he drops jokes and you have a hard time recovering before the next one comes.

Since our Ben is a Moody Bible Institute student, he too appreciates Dr. Lutzer's ministry but has never met him. I was pretty sure I could take care of that.

So after Chapel in my best sermon loving preacher stalker fashion, I positioned us to be standing right where he would have to walk past. Subtle.

Scott did the introducing why I very slyly stood to the side and took a photo op. I was sure I was incognito until....
I heard Dr. Lutzer say to Ben, "I think there's a woman here who would like our picture. Do you know her?"

Ben didn't deny me which could have gone either way.

 He asked Ben what his major is. When Ben told him Pastoral Studies, Dr. Lutzer asked if he could pray for him. What a sweet moment for us as parents. To have a spiritual giant/hero pray over your kid and his future. Wow.

Another highlight from this week was Ben's turn to speak at Tapawingo (the girls camp I mentioned a few weeks ago).You've got to give this kid credit. Speaking to 70 girls from age 8-18 and about 30 20-something counselors isn't for wimps.

It was fun to watch and listen. We heard from many of the counselors later that not only did the girls love him, but his message totally tied into what they had already been learning that week. Well, you know only God can do that.

One of his illustrations involved a marshmallow. Naturally throwing a large quantity out at them at the end was in order.

 I was already planning to sweep the chapel lest we never be welcomed back, but those girls gobbled up every marshmallow. Even the ones on the floor. Then they were running around crazy in the field. I think everyone thought that was a good idea.

Miss Joy hooked Ben up with a souvenir he could get excited about. She's the best.

 Then the sunset boat ride back to Camp. Seriously God, You overwhelm us.

 To wrap up an already awesome week, some special friends we haven't seen in a while came for a short getaway.

These two now giant boys grew up with ours. I really like them. After dinner Ben, Ben and Charlie even got to play basketball together.

The only thing that could have made it better would have been Drew being here and watching them all on the court like old times.

It was an absolute pleasure to eat dinner together and resume our friendships right where we left off last time. Loved every minute. Grown up time!  

Coming up this week....a baby? Stay tuned.

Monday, July 11, 2016

July Already

My new favorite thing about being here is the returning guests. Many of them remember Scott and me from last year. They are so sweet and eager to hear how we've survived the winter. It is fun catching up on their lives too. This is the stuff.

As for the weather, what a week! Sunny and beautiful everyday. No rain until Saturday. When it's dark and gloomy and semi-cool, we turn the fireplace on for our guests. Then they hang out here playing games, reading, knitting.
It's been raining most of the weekend and I don't mind. I'll tell you why. 1. The lakes are very low. They need a drink. 2. Couch potato time. You see, because of my whacko personality and since winters are long driving us inside for months, I insist on being outside whenever the sun shines and it's more than 70 degrees. No matter what. And not just me, this includes Scott and whichever of our kids is here. 

So here I sit inside, on the couch, enjoying the rain with no guilt. It's good to rest. 

Fourth of July happened this week and I was determined to decorate at least part of Camp for it. Last year when this, one of my favorite holidays, came around and there was no fuss, I was aghast. 

Not this year. I enlisted some help with long arms and we got to work decorating the TeePee. This is where all the families hang out, eat ice cream and buy penny candy.
We started with lots and lots of red, white and blue balloons. I mean lots. 
Got some help from Pinterest for banners and posters. Laminating is fun too. All the cool kids are doing it.
I even wore some combination of red, white and blue everyday all week. Yes, some of my co-workers rolled their eyes. But a holiday girl has to do what a holiday girl has to do. They didn't seem to mind the endless bowl of patriotic m'nms on my desk though.

My (tall) buddy Paul is good at hanging white lights with (for) me. This ain't his first rodeo.

Side note: this is why one should have one or ten boxes of lights never know when you're going to need them.

White lights make everything more festive. And the thing about being in the Adirondacks is that they are not only tolerated, but expected all year round. Too good to be true. Picture doesn't show how awesome it looks.
Kenny didn't help at all, but he's the TeePee Manager and gave us permission to take over his turf, so he deserves honorable mention. May I introduce Christa and Abby, my 4th of July...elves?

There. Festive! Don't you think?

It's kind of a scary, embarassing time to be an American as we approach the presidential election. I think it is safe to say we don't have much to celebrate in light of how far we have drifted from the dream and intentions our founding fathers had for this land. Specifically a nation whose people would worship God and follow the principles in the Bible. Still, there is something worth celebrating. 

Whenever I feel fearful about politics and/or what I hear on the news, I remember this passage, from Daniel 2:

 Blessed be the  name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
He removes kings and sets up kings,
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding; 
He reveals deep and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells in Him
To you, O God of my fathers,
I give you thanks and praise...

Like Daniel, we can take this opportunity to give God thanks and praise because He has made us so many promises, namely that no matter how dark it gets here in the USA and everywhere, He is the Light of the World. Psalm 139:12 says, "Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you." 
When we have faith in Jesus and hope in God, our Father, we have nothing to fear. He is firmly in control of our destiny. We have every reason to trust Him. He has proved His faithfulness to every generation in every possible political climate. Nothing is too big for Him. Nothing is beyond His reach. He loves His people and has set us free. Believers all around the world and believers who live here in America.

We are free to worship and live our lives in a way that pleases God and serves others. That's the freedom I want to celebrate. Bring on the fireworks!

On July 5 after work, I talked Ben into a quick trip down the mountain so I could gather up patriotic decor at 50% off for next year (obsessive personality alert). Great idea except it wasn't on sale yet....

 and this happened on the way home. As Scott put it, Adirondack deer don't play nice.  We are grateful that they didn't come through the window (yes, there were two), the air bags didn't deploy and we were able to get safely home.
The next day was our day off and I was eager to explore more of the mountains and little towns up here. But Scott Burtis. You've got to love him. Even though Ben and I drove the car home just fine after the unfortunate incident, he said we had to wait for the insurance agent. What? Why?

It went something like this:

A: I've got some ideas where we can go today.
S: We're not driving the car.
A: It drives just fine.
S: We're not driving it.
A: Well what are we going to do? We are not sitting around here all day doing nothing.
S: We can go to the town beach.
A: We're supposed to get out of town on our one and only day off each week.
S: We're not driving it.
A: What about all the chairs and blankets? How will we get them there?
S: We can walk.
A: It's barely a mile. I think the car will be fine.
The rest sounded alot like blah, blah, blah. Deductibles, further damage, insurance, etc.

Whatever. So here we sat. Scott firmly planted in the shade. 

See that beach there? You guessed it - that's CAMP-of-the-WOODS. Keeping an eye on it.
It was still a good day.

Back at home, Ben keeps asking when we are going to get food in the house. 

I'd love to help the kid out, but we can't drive the car.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Girls Just Want To Have Fun

Hey there! Well, week one of Camp is in the books. Tomorrow our first guests leave and we have five hours to prepare for twice as many.

Something special happens when good friends and family are here as guests. So enjoyed the snippets of time we got to spend with these folks (not everyone pictured). Grown up time. Just what my heart needed.
We had the best ice cream, salted caramel cookies and cream. Makes you want to visit, doesn't it? Please do.

The highlight of this week for me happened on a little island in the middle of Lake Pleasant. Tapawingo is an all girls camp and one of the arms of the CAMP-of-the-WOODS ministry. I've never been to an all girls camp. Having seen what I missed, I certainly wish I had when I was littler.

This adorable young woman's name is Miss Joy. Joy is the Director of Tapawingo. She eats, drinks and breathes girls ministry and lets God use her gifts in so many ways. It's obvious why she is so respected and appreciated. I love every minute I spend with her.
Before we launched into summer season, I asked Joy if she would give my Front Desk girls a tour of the Island and her ministry so we could better answer questions that always come to us. 

She happily agreed and arranged a boat for us, and off we went. This is our friend Paul, the Boat Captain/Marina Supervisosr. He puts up with a lot of our year-round shenanigans. And adds some of his own.

Scott and Ben came too, and we all fell in love. It's the most adorable place! Much smaller than Word of Life Island, but no less wonderful. 

This is the chapel. Isn't it awesome?  
We love how you can see water from everywhere. They do so many fun things like archery, water sports and campfires. Not to mention sleepovers and hikes.
I hope you can see that hand made cross near the swimming area.
On a side note, Ben and I almost went paddleboarding the other day, but Scott wasn't sure I could do it. This aqua bike might be more my speed. 
An Arts and Crafts cabin! I wonder if anyone would notice me coming over on my day off and hanging out in here? 

Next is this cute dining hall.You should hear all the singing while they wait for their supper. These girls are having constant fun, just like Cyndi Lauper told us. 
A few months ago Joy invited me to come over and speak to the girls this first week during their Vespers service. No way could I turn that down. This was Monday night.

Since I usually speak to women's group, I wasn't really sure how to bring it to a 8-19 year old level. So I prayed and asked God what He'd like me to say.

I decided to talk to them as I would to my soon-to-be-here granddaughter. If I had to tell her the most important thing I know, what would it be? (If you're wondering why I didn't insert my daughter Ally into that equation, trust me, she has heard all of my words.)

As it happens, as I am reading through the Bible, I recently came upon a certain king in the book of 2 Chronicles 34. 
Josiah. I knew right then this was for the Tapawingo girls.
Heard of him?

Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

Later in the chapter and a little later in his life, while still very young, the long lost and possibly forgotten Book of the Law (aka book of Moses) was found. When they brought it to the king and he realized what it was, Josiah ripped his clothes in lament (a demonstration of being aware of his own sin in the presence of a holy God). Read on:

29 Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30 And the king went up to the house of the Lord, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord. 31 And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. 32 Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin join in it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. 33 And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.

Pretty impressive for a young boy/man. I asked the 8-9 year olds if they could imagine any boy in their class becoming the President of the United States. They looked at each other and squealed, "Ewwwww! No way!". I mean, think about it. Know any outstanding 8 year olds?

Then I shared what I believe to be the most important thing a young woman who is a believer in Jesus Christ should make a priority in her life. Reading the Bible everyday. What a privilege to testify to a new generation of young women the power of God's Word, and more important, its Author. 

I told them The Bible is full of exciting stories about God, Jesus, the Spirit and us. That everything they need to know for life and godliness is written in that book (2 Peter 1:3). From my own experience, I assured these girls that most every question they have for God is already answered in His Book. Why wouldn't we read an amazing ancient document that He has preserved for us? I told them how God convinced me many years ago that He wants to spend time with me daily and how it's become my most favorite time of day. I hope they accept the challenge to make room in their lives to sit, read and be amazed.

These energetic, giggly girls were amazing listeners. The counselors and staff lead them in amazing ways. They could not possibly leave here without knowing how deeply loved they are. I'm so happy to have been a part of it for just one night.

Because they are girls growing up in a social media world, they were more than happy to oblige me with a group picture for you.

Scott got his turn this week too, and Ben has also been asked to speak here later this summer. My list of gifts just keeps growing and growing.

Wonder what next week will hold? Stay tuned....