The mailboxes at the top of the hill, were in sorry shape. Someone had crashed their car into one side, so it slumped in a sad and broken manner. The package box sagged alarmingly, there was a wasp nest inside, and the door would occasionally fall off and hit you on the head as you reached in to grab a parcel from the far back.
A new mailbox structure was put on, “The List.” What is the list, you ask? Well, it is composed of all the many many projects that need to be done. It is quite lengthy and thus the new mailbox structure remained on, “The List” for some time. Then my brother, CamoMan, decided to lend his considerable carpentry skills (first honed during childhood as he constructed dubious watercraft made from old boards, inner tubes, and duct tape … and also a small log cabin that did indeed employ 12″ spikes pilfered from Del) to the cause.
The first step was to move the old mailboxes so that the new structure could be built.
With the help of a Memorial Day work crew, Camo Man built and poured some incredibly sturdy footings.
Why did he need such a large base for this project?
Well, you never know when an earthquake, exploding volcano, or horde of zombies might come through. A mailbox should be sturdy! It should be epic! It should be a force to be reckoned with!
Behold, the Camas Mailbox Structure!
This one should actually be able to handle the occasional vehicle sliding hither and yon on our icy winter roads and giving it a bump.
Massive structure complete, it was time to employ some enthusiastic teen volunteers. One of these is my middle son and one is his friend. Their hair color and style is so similar, that we confuse them all the time. Can you tell which painter is which?
Much enthusiastic staining occurred at this point … as well as no small amount of wrestling.
But eventually, our golden-haired workers settled down and completed the task at hand.
Thus the structure was preserved from snow, rain, heat, and gloom of night. Well, it is actually the sunny days and weather that damage the wood, but the postman’s motto seemed appropriate even though the mailboxes are pretty secure from gloom of night. But the fresh coat of stain will definitely help with the snow, rain, sleet, and beating sun.
And finally, CamoMan constructed a new package box. One without a hornets nest, where the door doesn’t ever fall off, or even hit you on the top of the head as you reach way inside to retrieve a parcel.
Princess Leia Freyja approved the project with a few happy wags.
But there was one remaining piece needed. Campers continued to get lost while driving to camp. To be fair, this was not entirely their fault. Yes, through the misdirection of various labor-saving-devices (phones, GPS systems, mapquest, Googlemaps …) they drove left instead of right. The took ancient logging roads with trees growing in the center of the trail. They turned onto roads covered in three feet of snow, or conveniently featuring impassible mud in a variety of depths. Finally, Jon Torrence presented us with the much-anticipated solution.
Two corona virus quarantine P.E. days later …
with a bit of wood shop thrown in for good measure …
The project was finally finished! Thank you CamoMan, Jon Torrence, Scruffy and sons, and of course Princess Leia Freyja for your skill and determination to see The Great Mailbox Project reach completion!
Phillipians 1:6–“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
This was our biggest Jr. High Winter Blast yet with 49 campers, 15 counselors, a big kitchen crew, and several hundred snow ducks! (Yes, this was before concern about the corona virus increased. I know you were worried about all those ducks, clearly not practicing social distancing!!!)
Parents and youth leaders urged weary vehicles up the snowy camp road and into the parking lot where the rowdy fun immediately commenced.
What was the very first game of the weekend?
The chair game, of course!
The goal is to keep the person in your chair from escaping when the person with the empty chair calls their name. This allows staff and campers to learn each others names.
It is also more than a little bit entertaining to watch.
Of course it isn’t camp if you are not outside. So Scruffy took the campers who were bold, brave, and had two working legs, on an amazing hike into Poison Canyon. Down, down, down … and then ALL the way back up!
Poison Canyon is just a wee bit steep. Hiking here causes Princess Leia Freyja to whine with concern and give everyone revitalizing slurps.
Here she is, looking worried for the health and safety of others. Which is actually a fairly common expression for our sweet camp dog.
During the amazing hike, some campers played board games in the lodge or worked on crafts.
Others built a tower of Kapla blocks that rose all the way up to the second story! Campers reached through the rails on the second story balcony to place the final block, until I got out my camera and the invisible power of its nearness seemed to cause the tower to fall right as I snapped a photo!
On the first evening, Scruffy dusted off that Watchamabob favorite of old, the Chocolate Marshmallow Drop.
The participants were ready and eager to go.
The chocolate was gooey and drizzly!
The results: stickiness overload!
The benefits: eating a marshmallow if you actually succeeded and of course the pure and unadulterated joy of having chocolate on your face!
Of course, Watchamabob naturally morphs straight into–all the camp people know the answer–worship!
Hand motion songs first, then quiet worship, and then the lesson.
Our speaker this week was Faramir, and he spoke about turning points.
Of course, he told an amazing story about the time that (although he is terrified of roller coasters) he let his youth kids talk him into riding a super scary roller coaster since he was trying to impress them. Then the operator saw that no one else was in line, gave them a cheery smile, and sent them around the track a second time! The point of no return. That moment that the front car on the coaster (yes, his youth group kids talked him into sitting in the very front) is hanging over the edge of the precipice and it is only a matter of time before the other cars follow. Sometimes we come to a point of not return in life. A time where we must decide the course that we will follow. Faramir did a wonderful job of urging kids to make a decision to follow Jesus when they come to these important turning points in their lives.
On Saturday, every cabin participated in an epic broom hockey match-up!
An afternoon well spent.
Although Princess Leia Freyja was quite dissapointed that Scruffy wouldn’t let her play. She totally understands the game. The first person to run through the gauntlet of smacking sticks, grab the puck, and wildly charge between people’s legs with it in their mouth as their tail wags happily … is the winner!
After hockey, snow duck production went into overdrive!
Sweet Tea, our wonderful camp cook, let campers use her new snow duck makers. They look like salad tongs with half a duck on each side. When you pack them with snow and squeeze the duck halves together, voila, a snow duck! It started with just a few ducks watching the hockey game.
Then two stern leaders in parlay were discovered having a serious discussion in the middle of the ping pong table.
But what is a king without his army? So, two opposing armies of ducks were born.
One side consisted of bald ducks and one side was made up of ducks with charming hair made of lichen. There was also a spy in the midst of one army and a few ducks who really loved Legend of Zelda and created this iconic monument.
Of course, after all of this hearty snow duck creation, it’s also nice to just sit on the couch with friends. A whole lot of friends! Which inevitably turns into a competition. Exactly how many campers and counselors can fit on these particular couches. And a dog … there should definitely be a dog on the couch. Don’t worry, Princess Leia Freyja was happy to help out.
We didn’t let them sit too long. There were still more strange and baffling games that absolutely needed to be played!
OK, these two sisters are ready to go!
What is this? Obviously, some kind of face off between two determined campers. But why?
Hmmm … not sure that this makes things any clearer.
Well, balloons are always fun.
OK, more balloons more fun.
Aha! A chase, a mighty battle!
The goal of this game was to hop after your opponent and pop their balloon without allowing them to stomp on yours.
Princess Leia Freyja seemed concerned.
But the campers had a great time!
Finally, it was Sunday and time to clean up the camp and present cabin awards. No, we do not normally ask the campers to mop with their cute toesies. But when presented with a mop, this cabin of girls begged for permission to mop their own way. They also charged out of the bathroom and seized the camp photographer so that their triumph could be captured on film!
While the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place cabins received bags of candy in various yummy sizes, the staff team got something even better.
A bag of russet potatoes!!!
Little did they know that in a few short weeks Scruffy would walk into Costco to find every single bag of potatoes gone!
Or perhaps they did know, deep down inside. Either way, the potatoes were received with great joy and were distributed among the staff while the candy was distributed among the winning cabins.
It was such an amazing weekend. Not only were many snow ducks created, wild games played, God’s beautiful forest enjoyed, and songs sung at a tremendous volume … but several campers raised their hands to follow Jesus for the very first time. And please do not discount the vital role that a weekend of camp plays in the life of a young Christian who already knows the Lord. Without the encouragement of fellowship, teaching, and the fun of being with a whole herd of rowdy young believers, their Christian walk would be much more difficult. Through the grace of God, we were able to provide a safe place for these 49 children to learn about their Lord and rejoice in the beauty of following Him.
Ephesians 2:4-5–“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.”
CamasCon is our strategy board game camp. A way to connect Christian Geeks and Gamers with each other, some amazing games both new and old, and with their Lord through the awesome chapel sessions.
This of course necessitates the arrival of many games. So, so, so, many games! Games with beautiful cover art and massively thick rule books.
Games with fascinating miniatures and intricate pieces of all kinds.
Games with adorable Medieval villages and towering cityscapes.
Games with cool spacecraft.
Games with galloping camels.
Actually, there’s more than one game with galloping camels!
Games with fearsome lady pirates and their unique pets.
Games with intricate maps of the world, both realistic and fantastical.
And everyone’s favorite, games that employ both cute, wooden meeples and ferocious dragons!
Amidst all these games, are competitors of all kinds. New gamers, lifelong gamers, non-gamers who simply wandered in, and even individuals who work in the gaming industry. Though they employ many different stratagems and love many different genres, they all share a passion for table top board gaming and the way it brings people together.
In a world where our eyes are constantly glued to screens, a board game provides fun, competition, and a way to actually look another human being and see them for what they are, beautiful sons and daughters of the Lord.
This year our speaker was Chris Gwaltney of Love Thy Nerd fame.
With Choco leading everyone in some amazing worship
The campers took a moment to step away from the fierce competition, let go of the fact that Scruffy probably was a Cylon even through he swears to his humanity, and come together as the people of Jesus Christ, called to love in His name in a broken world.
After a beautiful weekend together, the CamasCon campers left refilled, refreshed, and ready to try out all the new games they learned on their unsuspecting friends.
Perhaps your passion isn’t strategy board games. But something that CamasCon always reminds me of, is that God made each of us uniquely. After creating us to be like none other upon His world, God then desires to use our passions and abilities for His kingdom. So what about you? How do you connect with others face to face? And are you willing to use that hobby, talent, gifting, or even geekiness for the Holy Kingdom of God?
2 Corinthians 4:7–“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
2019 marked our third annual Mountain Muse Christian Writer’s Retreat and this year brought us the fabulous (and award-winning) Becca Whitham to be our speaker!
I wanted the Mountain Muse to be similar to reading a great book on the craft of writing and then jumping right into the creation process immediately afterward. So Becca, brought us together for short sessions on the craft of writing and then released us into the wild to write or wander, whatever our creative process demanded.
For some, that meant rushing to the computer to get to work.
For others, it meant chatting with the speaker about their plot or characters.
And for others, it was a walk in God’s glorious creation to get those creative juices flowing.
This stunning view is only about a mile from the camp and was well worth the hike there.
Add in worship time with Choco
And the loving attentions of Princess Leia Freyja our Mascot
And the weekend was just what I had envisioned. A time for writers to gather, learn, encourage one another, and relish in some much needed quiet so that they could create.
Princess Leia Freyja is all ready for next year’s retreat! What about you?
We were blessed with another large group of kids for Middle School Camp 2. Fifty-five crazy, beautiful, and hilarious 6th to 8th graders. For our last Camas Camp of the summer, we set out to provide the pure delight of a week chock-full of fun in the forest combined with incredible teaching from God’s word.
Sadly, these girls were completely sorrowful and somber and totally bored on the 100 foot camp slip-n-slide.
Ha ha! No, they were so fun and enthusiastic, I have way too many pictures of them. Jr. Highers are just the best!
Our camp speaker for Middle School 2 was Faramir. And for this rowdy horde, he spoke on the life of David.
“God often chooses the unpopular, the weak, the stinky, the poor, the outsiders, the anxious, the fearful” –Faramir
How many of us felt like this in Jr. High? Well, as they jumped into David’s story, the campers got to see that God is very much interested in what is underneath our awkward clothes, abysmal social skills, and lack of hair-brushing prowess. God looks at the heart!
Why does God choose simple, unimpressive people? Why did God anoint the youngest brother, that scrawny shepherd boy, the one so forgettable that his own father left him off his list of sons when chatting with the powerful and respected prophet Samuel?
To show His glory!
No, pause a moment and really let that sink in. Our lack, shows God’s power. Our weakness, reveals God’s strength. Our averageness or even below-averageness, showcases God’s greatness.
Now that is exactly what we got to see this week.
God, doing amazing things, with ordinary people
One guy counselor noticed his campers jumping off the dock at Lake Chelan. He came and joined them, urging everyone to jump in superhero poses. They perfected The Ironman, Hulk Smash, and Batman in jump after jump together.
One of the boys had a hard time getting into the activities as a first-time camper. He resisted the camp counselor’s enthusiastic efforts to get him involved and having fun. It was one of his fellow campers who marched him around from activity to activity and finally convinced him to give camp a try. When we saw his nervous face break out in smiles, it was a sight glorious to see!
From large accomplishments, like finishing the Ga Ga Ball Court after years of dreaming, to small moments such as taking the time to play a boardgame with a child who wasn’t excited about getting wet, acts of love both big and small were a backdrop to the chapel sessions about the life of a simple shepherd boy turned king.
From cleaning up vomit in the middle of the night to limping around camp to locate an absent camper, the counselors consistently showered the campers with God’s love. Knowing that someone will call the nurse and take care of your mess, realizing that instead of being mad your counselor is actually a listening ear and someone who understands, as these young leaders gave of themselves in a continuous stream of little moments during the week they were used greatly by our powerful God.
Like when Orchid took her campers on a hike to The Frog Pond and in a joyful gust of spontaneity, they all jumped into that murky water for a swim!
Or when none of Hiccup and Randalf’s campers were tired and so they read out loud to them, from Leviticus, about how exactly one used to clean up their house after a mold infestation! Hint: in involves painting the walls with a live bird instead of a brush!
Making a bracelet for someone else, listening, sweeping the dirt paths between the cabins and the tube hill for cabin inspections (yes, you read that right. They actually swept dirt!), going on a night hike, Shine jumping around the corner to say, “You’re pretty!” or Zooboomafoo jumping (literally jumping) in to lead motions and increasing the energy in the room by about 400%. It truly is little things, done well, with honesty and consistency that make a difference with kids.
Campers bravely stood during the campfire on the last night and said things like, “I was welcomed with open arms.” Or even, “My favorite moment of this week was learning to grow closer to God.” It is amazing to watch God at work with a group of simple, everyday people. The last image from camfire was this, one camper proudly standing alone, raising his arms and singing the last song after everyone else was sitting down.
The life of David gives us hope in so many different ways. It is often in Jr. High that we begin to feel the terrible weight of our own mistakes, and so often at this point, we question God’s love.
But God is careful to record even His follower’s worst errors in His word, so that we are not left floundering and without hope when we fail.
After facing down giants, David stayed home from the war and sneaked a peek at a beautiful woman bathing in the seclusion of her own roof. His staff pointedly mentioned that she was the wife of one of his famous Mighty Men, and yet he ordered her brought to him, got her pregnant, and arranged for her husband to be abandoned on the battle field and killed. David, the man after God’s own heart, pretty much waged a war upon his own honor.
What now? David had betrayed God in a truly epic fashion. According to 2 Samuel 12, he despised the word of the Lord. Instead of a quick smiting, God sent the prophet Nathan with a story about a rich man and a beloved lamb. When David rages at the horrors brought upon this fluffy innocent (that would be Bathsheba) Nathan utters those chilling words:
“You are that man!”
And it is this moment that should give each of us hope, whether we are struggling through Jr. High or 7th grade seems like a lifetime ago. It is this moment that teaches something incredible about the love of God. David, broken with sorrow, repents. And God forgives! Even crimes like these, He shows mercy when He sees what is in David’s heart.
God anointed a shepherd boy as king because of what was inside, not what others could see. Then He boldly forgave a sinner of epic proportions, because of the broken heart that David offered up to Him. David’s life is full of struggle and mistakes, but in the end, he always came rushing back to God.
Whether we are full of dramatic flair, awkward bumbling, blemished skin, unexpected beauty, or agonizing difficulties with math, God is not looking at our surface. He sees the heart. Faramir made sure that these lively campers know this great truth about the Lord.
Life isn’t always easy.
Sometimes our own mistakes add to the mess. Sometimes the mistakes of others splash over into our lives. Sometimes there is no greater good in sight and a thunderstorm hits the Ga Ga Ball court for no apparent reason.
But from the life of David we can be sure of several things. God values what is inside.
He works with incredible power in the humble, small, fragile people who follow Him.
And though we stray, even when we make incredible mistakes …
He has the strength, grace, and mercy needed to get us back where we need to be.
Though the journey is difficult, and sometimes embarrassing, we are always at our best when we are safely in His arms.
He is the one who knows us best and looks upon the heart!
1 Samuel 16:7–“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'”
MAMO, our camp speaker held up a transformer, then another, and another, until five plastic robots of various shapes and sizes cluttered the camp lectern.
How do you teach 1 Corinthians 12 to Junior campers? The very children who relish leaping about during the fast songs, but have such a terrible time sitting still during chapel?
Yep, these are the campers whose cabin discussion went much better, “After we confiscated the whoopie cushion.” Delightful and full-of-energy youngsters whose attempt to learn Biblical things was described by one of the staff as: “A lot of yelling and chasing each other around with toothbrushes!”
How exactly does one show these little ones that they are greatly loved by their Creator and designed with a purpose?
As a mother of seven, MAMO was not daunted by such a task. Before camp began, she prayed, watched, listened, and ordered a fabulous collection of transformers online that she had no idea how to put together!
Wahoo! The box arrived just before camp began. A colorful collection of teeny weeny plastic limbs, wheels, and befuddling bits that could have been a rocket launcher … but might also be a robotic elbow.
And so MAMO vamoosed unto camp, deeply hoping that faith was indeed the evidence of things unseen. For though the shiny sheet of directions that had accompanied her purchase declared her collection of colorful bits to be five mighty robots which when combined would form a single incredible robotic masterpiece of giant proportions, she saw nothing of the sort within the box that she held in her hands.
And so camp began! Crazy meadow games, wild worship, and an even wilder game of croquet at Lake Chelan. Yes, croquet can be rambunctious indeed! Who would have known?
MAMO jumped into the sessions, not knowing what would transpire if her amazing metaphor concerning “the body of Christ” turned out to be beyond the skill-level of all the counsel staff and campers combined.
While the five plastic robots toured the camp, going from cabin to cabin in a search for one who understood how exactly they were intended to combine, the chapel sessions continued.
She held up a simple but beautiful ceramic pot. Broken, but repaired by the Japanese art of Kintsugi. The art of using precious metals to transform something that was broken into a thing of beauty, even more valuable than it was before.
“You are not an accident.”
“You are a masterpiece.”
The pure, unadulterated fun and rampant joy of camp roared along between chapel sessions. Night games in the forest, starlight hikes, paintball, and horseback riding galore. Amidst all this, those plastic robots made their way through camp, from cabin to cabin.
In the middle of the week we received an unexpected blessing. Like Gandalf the Gray appearing at the Battle of Helm’s Deep, Falkor arrived mid-week to assist Zooboomafoo with his cabin of ten boys who were more often eleven since they’d welcomed the camp nurse’s young son as their official mascot!
At the campfire, children described conquering their fears when they came to camp for the very first time. Themes that showed up around the flickering fire again and again where words about finding a family, a home, and courage.
Finally, the chapel session arrived that required five completed robots, combined into one, just like the body of Christ … this epic creation was no closer to completion than before.
So MAMO handed those tricky robots to her daughter and my youngest son, then she stood at the front of the room, behind the old wooden pulpit. As two determined children squinted at directions and sorted through plastic pieces, she began to speak.
“You are not an accident.”
“You are a masterpiece.”
The session came to its conclusion. MAMO glanced toward the back where the two campers worked feverishly.
Were they done? Was it even possible?
“Just let us put on the head!” The two campers seized the aforementioned piece, shoved it in place, and rushed the completed robot up to the front.
Five robots in one, combined to make a giant. Seemingly impossible to construct, nonetheless there he stood, just as the box had promised!
Not an accident, a masterpiece.
Designed with a purpose. Just like each and every camper who gazed up at the camp speaker while she held the robot high.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”