We returned late this afternoon from a weekend up at our church's Bible Camp. This is the third year we've gone. Four years ago we had gone to Des Moines and had accompanied my grandmother to the cemetery to clean up and put flowers at family members' grave sites. That was a special way to spend Memorial Day, and since my grandmother is now in a nursing home, I'll cherish the memory of doing that.
But spending the weekend at Covenant Pines is very memorable as well. When I was growing up our family would usually spend this weekend at our Bible Camp there (Twin Lakes). The camps have an almost-free weekend (you often give a little money to cover the cost of meals) where your family comes and works to help get the camp ready for summer. It's part of our church culture (we met our church family there a few years back while we were up for the weekend and discovered that half the people there were from Abbey Way).
One of the fun things this year was that the boys were big enough to work with me. Usually they do the kids' project of picking up sticks. This year Anders started with me staining the wood on a shed on Saturday morning. He did really well. It rained, though, and we had to find something else to do which ended up being building a railing for a cabin (the old one had been damaged by a tree falling on it). This wasn't as much up Anders' alley (between the threat of slivers from the wood--which was negligible, but looming in his mind--and broken glass from a window, he stood by drawing and helping when I asked for it). We got the railing built before lunch, and after lunch Nils wanted to join in helping. So we installed the railing (they helped pass the screws and held it in place). Since the rain had stopped we were able to finish staining the shed.
Sunday is a free day with worship together in the morning and time to play/have fun/relax the rest of the day. After a rainy morning, the sun came out enough for us to enjoy some canoeing and paddle boating. Nils wanted to try the climbing tower, which he succeeded at and enjoyed the zip line ride down from it. Anders had fun playing with sling shots.
This morning, because of yet more rain, we couldn't do any more staining projects, but we worked with another family in hauling cut firewood from the woods to where it needed to go. I think having other (older) kids to work alongside helped Anders stick to it (normally he would have complained a bit about picking up logs).
One of the other neat things of the weekend for me was a couple who came up to me after lunch on Saturday because they had seen my name on the sign up sheet for a job. Their family had been up to use the family cabins I was in charge of 16 years ago when I was on summer staff there. They had remembered me and said they had really enjoyed that week there.
Sometimes it feels because of the messiness and imperfections in my life that I had wasted a lot of time in ministry; I know there are plenty of thing I would have done differently that summer 16 years ago. But despite my mess, God can still work. That's encouraging.
Our whole family had colds (or some unpleasant illness) while we were there. I had been sick the week leading up to it, needing a lot of rest. So we spent a lot of time in our cabin (which was separate from most of our church group, which ended up being nice in this regard--also, it was right on one of the lakes and we enjoyed listening to the loons at night) going to bed early. So we didn't get the relational time that we enjoy with our church family, but we still enjoyed it. We had toyed with staying home, but it was good to get away and get some fresh (albeit damp) northwoods air.
And it was good to work and worship (St. Benedict called it ora et labora--prayer and work--which was at the core of his monastic rule). Our souls need the accomplishment of getting hard, physical work done, and our bodies need the pause to get hard, spiritual work done. The work and the worship/prayers go well together (our church gathers before each meal to pray corporately). Someday I'll get better at that in my everyday life...