When a Picture Says a 1,000 Words

One of the difficult things about being an adult is knowing that often times, experiences fail to live up to your expectations. Even my 12 year old daughter expressed this worry a few weeks ago concerning a youth group trip to the mountains for the day.  Though she recognized the potential of being let down with such high expectations, she has not learned the skill of tempering the imagination so that she won’t be so disappointed.

Yet, sometimes  in life there are those rare moments when you allow yourself the freedom to dream. To unbridle your excitement like a child who knows of no such boundaries of the heart. There are the moments when you simply cannot contain yourself. Even if you tried. This was where I found myself on Thursday morning as I was getting ready to head up to the mountains for the Andrew Peterson concert.

On the way, I spent some time praying for the show. I was pretty certain that this was a different venue than what the performers were accustomed to because it was a private concert for the high school retreat of a local christian school.  Most of the students had never heard of Andrew Peterson or his music, and it does not matter who you are…..that can be intimidating.

I prayed that the audience would be kind. As a public speaker/teacher myself, this is so important as the risk of standing in front of strangers giving them the deepest parts of yourself can be very unnerving. But if there is kindness in the room, regardless of what kind of ‘performance’ you are having, you can be at rest in the moment.

But mostly, I prayed that the kids, parents, and school staff would come in contact with the beauty and mystery of the gospel story which is where Andrew Peterson and his friends, Ben Shive and Andy Gullahorn take you with their music. They lead you into the stories that are true.

I got there early(shocker) and listened to the sound check. Though familiar with all of the music, I had no idea what they were going to play. What does the set look like for a room full of high school students? A room full of kids torn by the messages of the world shouting at them so loudly that they are unable to pick out the wooings of the Love of God for each of them.

When I heard the first notes of one of my favorite songs called “All Things New“, the stress I felt for those three men and in my own life simply melted away. I knew it was going to be wonderful because Andrew Peterson’s music is full of integrity and excellence. I turned to my friend and said, “I am so happy right now.”

After the third song, I was no longer just happy. I was proud of the performers, because I realized that weren’t going to pretend. Like always, they were honest, open, and vulnerable. Which was great because these kids could spot a fraud a mile away. And really all anyone wants is for you to be honest with them.

I think as we age, we err in forgetting, dismissing, or even worse…shutting down what it was like to be 15yrs old – 18 years old. When we encounter teenagers, we critically think that they should just “know better”whether dealing with social pressures or parental expectations. Sadly, as we grow in wisdom and knowledge ourselves, we lose sight of the fact that we did not ‘know better’  during the same stage of life. I feel sad when I have very  little humility in how far I have come in my journey with Christ that I cannot conjure up compassion for  high school shenanigans. As if I had anything to do with the changes inside of me.

Even if we did know better back then, it is important not to belittle the struggle and angst that comes with such a difficult season. We do a great  injustice when all we offer is a set of rules.  Because honestly, we have so much more to give them. We can give ourselves, and our own stories of journeying  to the Father. To the well of living water and of hope.  Which is what Andrew did, and frankly….does so well.

He began telling stories of what it looked like to be broken and needy, but did so in a whimsical way with humor and mystery. We were all swept up into his tales, and the kids found something they did not expect. They found grace and hope.  They saw  that we do not come to the Father perfect, clean, or even “cool.” We come to Him battered, bruised, and full of sin. And the beauty in that is because of Christ…..we are not turned away.

It was a magical night, and I was thankful to be a small part. I loved watching the students rest and enjoy themselves. They laughed, they pleaded for it not to end, and they were encouraged to dream child like dreams of freedom again. It was an invitation to let go of their own boundaries of the heart and in doing so,  they were able to take a small step of faith towards letting the hope of the gospel move them and their imaginations away from cynicism and fear.

Dare I say, we all began to have high expectations again of “the stories that are true.”

oh, and as for a picturing saying a 1,000 words….i’m just sayin’

left to right: Andy G.(his music astounds me), Ben S.(his music inspires me), and Andrew P.(his music anchors me.)

Fumbling Around in the Dark

“What hobby would you like to pursue in the future when you have the time to do so?”

This was a conversation starter at a women’s dinner I went to this week. It was interesting to hear what the ladies I go to church with dream about in their quiet moments. As we went around the table, I heard the words sewing, pottery, reading, and photography.

I left thinking about the importance of having and pursuing interests as we age. Learning new skills just for the pure enjoyment of the art or craft. I also thought while driving home, just how easy it is to merely dream about such endeavors and never really make them into a reality because our personal hindrances can feel so great.

For me, “the hobby I would like to pursue” has been music. I’ve been taking violin lessons for about 3 1/2 years now, and it has been an amazing teacher. The things I have learned have been simple,  yet very profound and life altering. By that, I don’t mean that there is ANYTHING simple about learning an instrument with zero frets or keys. I’ve often wondered about the music snob who came up with such an instrument based completely on the ear.

You may be thinking, just how far I have to go, if I think the violin has more to do with the ear than with the hands. But what I didn’t realize or take into account before I began was that there is nothing on the violin that tells you where to put your fingers. Which is why my first violin looked like this….only bigger.

I had to have tapes placed on the neck so that I would know where the notes were because my ear could not hear them. Tapes and my favorite….a yellow smiley face sticker for my fourth finger.

A cellist explained it to me this way. “Playing a stringed instrument is like trying to navigate in a dark room. At first, you don’t know what is around you, and you keep bumping into things. But then, if you are willing to be patient and humble, over time you will learn where everything is located.”

Pursuing any hobby or endeavor as an adult is much the same. The unknown can feel threatening, and it is very embarrassing to fumble around in front of others. To have people who can ‘see’ watch you struggle to find your bearings requires a depth of maturity that I lacked before music came into my life.  And now that I have gained more peace in being “seen”, I have found that the final product is not really the point anymore. Of course, I will continue to work towards my goal, which is playing the violin in church or in Nashville, whichever comes first.

But if neither of those things comes to fruition, I will rest in the knowledge that I did not just sit in the dark room, so to speak. I got up, slowly found my way around, and brought music into it.

Measure by Measure

This is the violin piece I have been working on this summer.

More accurately stated is that this is the violin section I have been working on all summer.

If you do not speak music, and I am only learning this language as I go, this section is full of ‘double stops.’ Meaning that for 27 measures, I am playing two notes on two different strings simultaneously.

Yesterday, I was determined to finish this section. I have only 5 measures left to learn, and while practicing, a light finally clicked on inside of me. I was desperate and thankful for the illumination to see by because today, we will begin our school year in my home. Though, I believe that being a homeschooling mom is my calling for now, I often struggle with doubt and fear when I look up and see the big picture. When I look at the entire ‘piece of music’ so to speak, I become lost and overwhelmed.

Much like Peter in Matthew 14.

“In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here.”

Then Peter called to him, “Lord if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink.  “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “Oh, little believing one,”(this is how my pastor translated this sentiment in a recent sermon series) Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

In my mind, the question that resonates deep with in my soul is Jesus gently asking, “Little believing one, why did you take your eyes off of me?”

I know that when I do look away, I lose sight of the reality that He is with me, and I begin to sink into the murky, tumultuous waters of my fear. I begin to sink into the sea of inadequacy and overwhelming responsibility of educating my children. Not just their minds, but also their hearts and their spirits.

So, yesterday, when practicing I  tried something  a little different. (Which incidentally is the ‘something’ that my teacher has encouraged me to do since day one.) Instead of looking at my last 5 measures grouped together, I separated them measure by measure. And actually, I only practiced one measure for the entire day.

As I did that,  an amazing thing happened inside of me. I felt at peace and at rest. I was breathing again. Breathing deeply and slowly. I noticed that there was a big difference between looking at this…..

compared to focusing on this…

Today, May I fix my eyes upon Jesus, and live life ‘measure by measure’.

A Romance Rekindled

Equinophobia is a real condition, and I have it. It is also referred to as Hippophobia, but I prefer to refrain from using the word ‘hippo’ in any regards to myself.

Equinophobia is the fear of horses. I have always been someone who admires them from a far, and have wanted to feel a zen like connection that others feel when they are near them. But, the only emotion I exude when close is terror sprinkled with a smidge of paranoia.

Until, I met “Dude.”

“Dude” is a horse at the equestrian center at Sea Brook, SC. I met him last November when my daughter’s and I went on a trail ride around the island. It was not my first ride. On my inaugural jaunt, I was given a horse named Sherman.

Let’s go to that moment shall we; my first time ever riding a horse.

trail guide: “Ok, you are the last one. You will be riding “Sherman.”

me: “Kind of like…”I was a nerd in high school, Sherman?”

trail guide: “No, as in “General Sherman”. He brings up the rear and makes sure all the other horses stay in line.”

me: “Did I mention that I am a beginner?”

trail guide: “Then he is perfect for you because he will do all the work.”

And Sherman was true to form, because he in fact did all of the work. It was Leo, the horse in front of me who kept taking a terrified mother of two through the bushes and rubbing her against the palm trees in hopes of knocking her to the ground. I did not know whether to laugh or cry hearing her desperate pleas for him to behave.

When we returned to the island for Thanksgiving and went riding, I only knew to say, “Just please do not give me Leo.”

Standing on the rider’s block to mount my horse that fall day, I was very anxious. They brought around “Dude” for me to ride,  and the trail guide told me a little bit about him. As I listened, my ears honed in on one pertinent piece of information.

Dude and I were the same age. I was in love.

There were only four of us riding that day, and the weather was perfect. It was cool and the air was fresh. I brought up the rear once again, but it was not like my experience riding Sherman. Sherman was all business, and always on task. He would nudge(*read goose) other horses in the rear for stopping to eat a little snack along the way. He would make sure that everyone stayed in line and no horse lagged behind.

Dude had no such interests. His only desire was to just plod along. One time there was a small dip in the trail and all of the horses were having fun and feeling a little frisky with the cool weather. So, when they hit the slope, they cantered down and then back up. It is my youngest daughter’s favorite memory to date.

Then there was Dude and I. We just loped down and back up. Everyone laughed because they had stopped to let us catch up, and saw him take his sweet time with the obstacle. The trail guide asked me how I was doing, to which I could only reply, “You know…..Dude and I really understand each other. I am a huge fan.”

So, last week when we were scheduled for a trail ride, I was praying that “Dude” was still alive and well. I do not know much about the life span of horses, but my deep fear was that he had been put on the Elmer’s glue aisle ‘put out to pasture.’ As the trail guide was divvying up horses, with his clipboard in hand, he looked at my oldest daughter and said, “You will be riding, Dude.”  Her face dropped with disappointment. She then asked him, “Do you think I could have a more interesting horse? One that is a little faster?”

She was given another horse, and he looked at me, and said, “Then, you will be riding Dude.”

I love it when a romance is rekindled.

Our Last Dig

We had our last dig this morning for the KITP. There was a large crowd, and they were not disappointed. We had two, very lively baby turtles that were excavated from a nest that hatched this past Sunday. I was having trouble with my camera, but I got a few good shots.

From SB Island over the past year

*(left)my youngest daughter’s foot. (middle) my husband’s foot. (right) my oldest daughter’s foot. i love this shot because it was  not staged.

*2009 Sea Turtle Patrol

*SB island bike ride

*porpoise play

Tomorrow morning is our first Kiawah Island Sea Turtle Patrol dig at 6:15am. The TP excavates a nest 3 days after it hatches to ensure there are no turtles trapped down inside. It is a good thing when you do not find baby turtles left in a nest, but it’s SO fun to uncover a few and watch them fight their way out to sea.

I will keep you posted.

Here’s my official t-shirt!

I assure you that ‘burnt orange’ is not in my color pallet. But, whattayagonnado.

God In My Ipod

“Oh, now it makes perfect sense.” That is what my friend said to me after discovering my reason for accepting a small ‘unpaid’ venture in august. My husband and I have agreed to shepherd a group of college kids for a couple of days while they do kitchen crew at Windy Gap.  If you have followed my blog long enough, you know that I love camp. And Windy Gap, the Young Life camp in North Carolina, is one of the most happily situated sanctuary’s you could ever find in the NC mountains.

In spite of loving to be at camp for any length of time, and even though WG is one of my hubby’s favorite places in our home state, these are not the main reason’s why I jumped (sky-high, I might add) at the opportunity to tag along on this retreat in any capacity.

It is because on Thursday evening, I will be attending a  private Andrew Peterson concert!

I love Andrew Peterson’s music. For the past three years, we have attended his Christmas concert, and I’ve dragged my family to the location 2 1/2 hours early in order to get a good seat.  It is not really sitting up close that inspires me to leave at a ridiculous time. It is because I’m simply too excited to sit still. So much so, that I cannot sleep the night before, and from the moment I arrive, I begin taking pictures of random things to fully capture the experience of the evening.  here’s an example….

it’s his tour bus. jus sayin’.

Yesterday, Andrew released his new album, called Counting Stars.

And it is pretty incredible.

How could it not be, really? Though his music is listed under his name, Andrew Peterson is not a musician who over confidently stands alone. He has surrounded himself in friendship and community with some of the most amazing artists and music producers in Nashville, TN. Everything he puts out is genuine and is marked with excellence. From the deep thoughtfulness of his lyrics, to the musical arrangement of the strings, piano, percussion, and sometimes on this new album…the subtle and settling nature of the french horn. To uncover the treasure of his music is to discover a trove of what i feel is the  best of what Christian music has to offer.

Names like Jill Philips, Andy Gullahorn, Ben Shives, Andy Osenga, Michael Card, Sara Groves, Gabe Scott, and many more.

Attending one of his concerts is an experience you should not pass up, if afforded the opportunity to do so. Particularly if you are able to sit up close.  Andrew Peterson makes a concerted effort, though a very natural one, to make eye contact with all of  those around him. It is not for show or to boost his public relations rating. He simply enjoys watching you, enjoy his music. Your presence means as much to him, as his music means to you. It is a very rare thing to see that kind of connection between a performer and his/her audience.

The last time I saw him in concert,  he ended with the song,   Many Roads which is the first song on his new album. I was immediately caught up in the magic of his imagery, and how he communicated the reality of God’s hand in the small details of my life.  The song also describes what I was trying to convey above about how special you are as a listener and participant. Not just to him and his music, but ultimately to The Creator of all Life and in the journey of faith.  After leaving the show in December, I looked everywhere for a recording of that song, and am ecstatic to finally have it.

I guess you would classify AP as a folk artist due to the melodic range of his voice, though he is nothing like the images that are conjured up by that genre. He is very humble and personable in his music. He is honest and real about what it is like being a Christian walking the road of faith on this side of heaven, which honestly is what draws me to his song writing.

No matter what the day or the circumstance I find myself in, whether i’m discouraged, lonely, lost and needing an anchor for my soul. Or if i’m full of gratitude, joy, and contentment in all that I have been given, Andrew Peterson is always able to draw me into the ‘bigger’ story.

To me, being close with his music is like having God in my iPod. His words and music can always take me to another place. A place where I feel my story matters, and is redeemable. A place where God is so very near, and loves me deeply.

****This is AP’s video from a song on his new album. It’s about finding beauty and purpose in the commitment and struggle of marriage.

Dancing in the minefields.

When A Word Speaks Volumes

Last Sunday, I introduced myself to some new comers at our church.  I asked them my standard ‘meet and greet’ questions.  First, their names. But, my American ears found their words too difficult to discern.

“Where are you from?,” I asked.  The man said the name of his homeland in a thick African accent. “I’m from Rwanda,” he said. In an instant, he had told me volumes about himself,  tucked away in a three syllable word. And though, i did not get the particulars of their journey that brought them to where they were at that moment, i knew enough about where they had come from to know it must have been a long road.

After i learned that they had only been in town one week, our small conversational window closed. It was time to move on in our worship service. But, I thought of them often while working at camp this past week. I saw their dark, beautiful faces in my mind. Faces that carried the weight of being unknown in a foreign land where their need and vulnerability were so obvious to any who took the time to observe.

It got me thinking about all the words we carry that whisper a larger story.  We may be in a place where we know the language perfectly, and our appearance may allow us to blend seamlessly into the fabric of our lives, going unnoticed. But, we are no less vulnerable, or in need of help and compassion when the words part from our lips.

Words like cancer, neglect, abuse, divorce, bankruptcy, in debt, lonely, single, difficult marriage, anxious, depressed, loss of a child, infertile, addiction, suicide, confused, lost….

What do we do with these words that we are afraid to utter?

What do we do when we hear them from those we love or from strangers?

Mostly, i ignore them. Or i hide them.

But, I remember one evening last year, when i listened.

I had been working on a seminar i was going to give on “how to care for wounded women”.  While getting some dinner, I was standing in line at a burrito place behind a person wearing an over sized, black hoodie and baggy basketball shorts. The person had very short hair and a stocky build. She opened up her mouth to order her meal, and I heard a soft feminine voice. I was shocked. She had me completely fooled that she was a female from behind.  This young woman was wearing her “words” with her demeanor and her dress.

I wondered how she got to where she was at that moment.

After we both ordered, they moved us down the assembly line and went to wait on the other customers. Our meals were paired together on the same tray.  i looked at her, then down at our burritos and joked, “i guess that means you are paying for us both.” She was startled at first and then laughed. We struck up a casual conversation for a couple of minutes while we waited.

Then an amazing thing happened. As they totaled up her order, she said to the guy behind the register, “I’m paying for her as well.”  She looked at me and said, “Thank you for taking the time to talk to me and for making me laugh.” Embarrassed by her own gesture, she hurried out, leaving me to accept her graciousness alone.

I hope i can remember to slow down more often in order to listen to the words that speak volumes.

Chosen To Know Me

We are home from camp with four loads of laundry completed, heads scrubbed that hadn’t been brushed in a week, and a wonderful nights sleep in a heavenly temperpedic wonderland.

We are sad to not be waking up at camp, but also very thankful to be home.  I had the opportunity to drive home with my daughter’s and their best friend and hear their recap of the week over lunch before we reentered into city life. They all said that Camp Lurecrest feels like home to them, and that 5 days is not long enough.

My youngest told her dad last night that she had her future all figured out. Ironically, her plan corresponds with the age restrictions of being able to work at camp. She said, “First i am going to be a lifeguard, then a CT(counsoler in training), then a counsoler, then the one who talks to the kids about God(the camp pastor), and then I’m going to be the camp director. “Beware Jeremy, someone is after your job:).

What is it exactly that takes me up to the mountains year after year? It’s exhausting but enjoyable work to be a kitchen volunteer. We are up early to prepare breakfast with an hour break between the first meal and lunch. Then, we are on our feet most of the day chopping, stirring, plattering, icing, scooping, bunning,(well some are allowed to bun) and serving with an hour and a half  break between lunch and dinner.

**here are some of my friends making the last night’s signature dessert….’cookie mush.’

On the last evening of camp, i was reminded of one of the main reasons i love to go up once a year. It wasn’t because i enjoy the laughter and the comradery in the kitchen. Nor because the camp cook is kind, gracious, thoughtful, and easy to help. It wasn’t because I love to catch the smiles of elation from my children and their friends while doing the various camp activities or watching my two friends and their children being obedient to the call of camp ministry.

It is because i love the sound of children worshiping and hearing the gospel of Christ whether it’s for the first time or the 100th time.

Thursday evening, i sat in the back row of the last night of chapel. It was cooling down from the warm mountain day and on my left, the sun was fading in the west.

To my right, i could hear the crickets and cicadas in the woods.

In front of me, I watched 2oo+ children and their counsoler’s singing all of the camp songs they had learned during the week. Some were fun, with great hand and body motions causing the kids  to squeal and giggle as they bumped into each other. And then they settled into quieter songs that would prepare their hearts for the final message from the camp pastor.

I closed my eyes and just listened to the sounds of the childish voices singing…..

“Everyone needs compassion,
Love that’s never failing;
Let mercy fall on me.

Everyone needs forgiveness,
The kindness of a Saviour;
The Hope of nations.

Saviour, He can move the mountains,
My God is Mighty to save,
He is Mighty to save.

Forever, Author of salvation,
He rose and conquered the grave,
Jesus conquered the grave. ”

Sitting there, I was taken back almost 30 years, to when i myself heard the gospel message for the first time at Camp Lurecrest.  I was nine or ten years old. There was so much i did not grasp nor fully understand at the time, and i wandered for years before finding Him again in my early 20’s. But what i did hear so long ago was that there was a man named Jesus who loved me. Loved all of me. Even the parts I hated.

I wondered as i looked out over these kids…..which of them were like me. Which of them had a hard time believing that they were indeed loveable. I knew they were out there. You couldn’t walk past the nurses station at medication time as the line stretches out the door onto the gravel road and not know there were children there who didn’t quite “fit” in.

I knew there were kids who didn’t understand what was going on at home as their families were split apart. I had witnessed the children who lashed out in anger when they were afraid or felt threatened. And i can always spot those  who try to fade away in the background hoping not to be seen because they are too  afraid of what you will see if you take the time to look.

And yet, at Camp Lurecrest there are people willing to take the time. to look. to listen. to care. and to love.

I marvel at the counsoler’s and CT’s(consoler’s in training) who are so sacrificial with their summers. They get very  little sleep and pay as they pour themselves out hoping that just one teenager or child will come to know themselves as  a ‘beloved.’

I think of the young men, who wash dishes ALL summer, three times a day. Often singing loudly to make the time pass. They are quick to laugh as the steam and water coming off the dish washer keeps them soaked and hot all day.

I recall the camp cook who rises at 5:00 am most mornings and generally works 7 days a week.

There is the Lurecrest staff and board and all of the countless hours of prayer and planning throughout the year that goes unseen, but not unfelt. You can sense something much bigger than yourself from the moment you step on campus.

And of course there are my friends, who leave their community at home for four months in order to serve and shepherd the needs of the staff and the kids all summer long.

This morning, i read these verses which touched my heart and made me think of the hope of Camp Lurecrest.

Isaiah 43 NLT

“But you are my witnesses, O Israel,” says the Lord.

“You are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that i alone am God. There is no other- there never has been, and there never will be. I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior.

First I predicted your rescue, then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world. No foreign god has ever done this.”

From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.”

Quote Of The Day

I have to wear an apron and gloves while working in the kitchen. No hair nets, praise jesus. Sometimes, i forget to take my apron off when i eat my meals with the campers and staff. Yesterday, I walked past my youngest in my kitchen ‘uniform’ and she grabbed my shirt.

When i felt a little tug, i turned around to see her shocked face, and she said, “MOMMY! I’ve never seen you in an apron before!” (see hospitality post.)

Last night was theme night. All of the staff and campers were dressed up like pirates.

Here are a few scallywags….

What’s the matter? Haven’t you ever seen pirates with little dogs on their shoulders, instead of parrots?


After dinner, each cabin had to make their own boats with materials provided and then compete in a camp wide boat race in the pool. The winner’s got to inscribe their cabin name into the ‘prestigious’ golden gull. Oh, and get a treat at the ‘ranch house.’

Cabin 4’s planning session….

Here they are choosing, who will ride in the boat, and which camper will be the ‘motor.’

Go Cabin 4!!!!!

in the end, there was no golden gull for our crew. But, i assure you,  it was all VERY entertaining.

Just another great day at camp lurecrest:).