as the music started on Monday morning last week. It was the first day of family camp at Mount Hermon, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Kristi grew up going to family and youth camps there. She loved it. Time spent there played a key role in who she was as a child of God. As a family we enjoyed our own trips we made to Mt Hermon over the years. We always had a fondness for it because it’s where we first met and the spark ignited between us. I knew the week would be good and I knew it might be hard, but I knew it was the right place to be as this first year without her draws to a close.
When the tears came along with the first strains of the song, I didn’t try to hold them back. I let them roll. There was sadness in the tears, but healing was there too. I worshiped. Peace was found. Joy too.
It helped that the children were completely engaged in the camp experience, wringing enjoyment out of every minute and activity. Together, we conquered the climbing wall, the ropes course and the canopy zip-line tour. Together we boarded the train for the winding trip along the river to the beach in Santa Cruz. Together we wandered the cool trails beneath the giant redwoods, exchanging exclamations about their height or girth or the hole in the trunk we could all crawl in. Together we sang, we laughed and we worshiped. Together as a family we laughed and cried. I reveled in the children’s eagerness, excitement and enthusiasm.
Friday morning found me down at the front of the meeting room, kneeling in prayer at the close of the final teaching session. The tears came again. This time the Lord gave me a small understanding of the volume of prayers that have been lifted up this past year for me, for my children and for our family. I realized that we have navigated these first twelve months because of grace poured out on us from family, friends and the Father above. Thank you for praying. I am beginning to understand just how much we’ve been held in His hands.
But the seminal moment of the week was a short, thirty-minute meeting I was blessed to share with Roger, the director at Mt Hermon. A friend and colleague from camp days, he is currently dealing with his own stage 4 cancer battle. He allowed me to pray for him as we shared about our lives over the past few years. The prayer was precious, and lovely. It was authentic and flowed from deepest compassion, bathed in tears. And as it flowed, freedom came. Freedom from fear. Freedom from having to be right. Freedom from having to hold it all together. Freedom to just be present with the Father. Freedom to be joyful. That’s what I needed most.
Saturday morning, just before we departed, I gathered the children in a quiet grove of redwoods and encouraged them that we’ve made it through this first year. Not that its some sort of magic demarcation line for never feeling sad or lonely, but that its a stake in the ground moment, that we’re going to make it…as a family and individuals. That we’ve taken one of the hardest hits you can be dealt and not only survived but done pretty darn well! I’m so proud of who they are, and told them so. It was a peaceful and encouraging time, even with the boys fidgeting with sticks and the dirt. Doves flitted around the low branches above us. I reminded them that in the Bible the Spirit often came in the form of a dove.
“God loves you, accepts you, forgives you.” I echoed the lessons they learned this week in day camp and the youth gatherings. Christ fulfilled the law and through his death and resurrection he broke the power of sin and death. I finished by reading from 1 Corinthians 15:55 “Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting?”
I knew it would be a good week. But to be able to proclaim that, here on the cusp of one year apart… that made it a great week!