I just got home from spending three days at camp with 40 twelve year olds. I spent my 24th wedding anniversary tromping through the woods, sleeping in a bunk bud and laughing with the middle lovelies and the terrific crew of grown-ups who were brave enough to come with us! There were canoes, live animals, shelter building, drumming, zip lining and teambuilding challenges. We shared bunk rooms, meals, prayer, Mass, both tiny and huge spaces, and thankfully coffee! There were kids who were brave and kids who were apprehensive. There were kids who were intimidated and kids who were confident. There were kids who took risks and those who played it safe. We learned a lot, we laughed a lot and we returned home dirty, tired and a little bit different.
The nature center where we camp is a beautiful place and the staff is awesome. This was my third trip to camp and even though the activities, property, menus and lodges are the same, it’s different every time. It’s a great experience to observe nature and soak in the beauty of God’s creation at camp. It’s beautiful to watch the fog or the sun roll over the lake right outside the lodge but the most beautiful thing I love to watch at camp is the way relationships unfold while we are away. It’s great to watch kids who seemingly don’t have much in common wind up in a group together trying to help each other paddle a canoe across the lake. It’s fun to watch kids practice the art of hospitality as they take their turn serving and cleaning up after a meal. It’s great to see them work together to create and preform and build and accomplish. There are lessons at camp that don’t come in the classroom and each fall I get a front row seat to the beginning of adolescence complete with dirty hands, muddy shoes, frustration, satisfaction and lots of fun!
As I spent the days observing the middle lovelies and paying careful attention to the behaviors and conversations I learned a lot. This verse from Philippians came to mind several times. Sixth grade is a tough year because everything from height, friendships, voices and emotions change at warp speed! There is so much to figure out and most of them are just on the edge of trying to really let God into their lives to help with all the plans and changes. There were some moments of amazing holiness. Those moments didn’t involve halos or flaming chariots; they were tiny, simple, heartwarming flashes of the greatness God’s expects from all of us. In those moments I thought most about this verse and realized God has begun some amazing work in these children and some of them are beginning to take it and run! Some of the moments melted my heart and as the “senior citizen” at camp made me very hopeful. The most amazing moments came in a flash almost as instinct that required no thought; Christ’s hands and feet sprung into motion instantly and it was so cool to see. One of those moments involved the S’more making campfire. Each camper went excitedly to the campfire with their allotted ONE marshmallow and one camper sadly watched as his plopped directly into the fire and without a second of hesitation, another camper had offered hers in its place before he even had a chance to be sad or disappointed. There were several instances where kids would purposefully hang back when campers were being divided into pairs to make sure nobody got left out or felt unwanted. There was the group of boys who enthusiastically offered to be the “choir” at Mass which meant singing in front of all their peers. There were those who took the top bunk instead of the bottom just to make someone feel safer and less homesick. There was the camper who stood patiently holding back a branch on the trail so nobody got smacked in the face even though it meant all his buddies would be far ahead of him. I watched a middle lovely give up his brownie to the friend who didn’t really like dinner all that much so he wouldn’t get hungry later.
I saw kids who decided to stop being who they thought others wanted them to be and felt happy being just who they really were. It also made my heart happy to see the kids cheer when Fr. Eric arrived at camp to say a special Mass just for them. They were grateful and cheerful and enthusiastic and I was overwhelmed at the possibilities of all the things Christ will do to bring them to completion. Many of them demonstrated that God has begun a marvelous work in them and when the words of this verse are lived fully the world will be changed. As I type I’m tired, I need a shower and I have a bag of dirty clothes to unpack and wash but I’m so happy to have seen firsthand all the good works God has begun in these middle lovelies!
A Seed To Plant: What good work has God begun in you that you need to let him complete?
Blessings on your day!