Monday, June 29, 2009

Heaven on Earth

I have been spending much of my time this summer at our church camp. Maybe I am trying to make up for lost time but I cannot explain the sense of peace I feel when I am there. It is as if the world has stood still when you drive through those gates. My world has been turned upside down so many times and I have had to find my footing again and again but when I go to this place I find that there are some things in life that you can count on and many people too.

As I have walked the hills and paths of Whitehall Camp this summer I have tried to put into words in my head the spell it holds over me and so many others. I have tried to look at it as if I am seeing it for the first time. Tried to imagine what it must look like to a newcomer.

I see the rows of cabins and think that maybe someone else may see a bunch of run down buildings that should be torn down because they are a fire hazard (which they are). But I see the porches that I sat on with my friends and shared my secrets and dreams and formed bonds that have lasted a lifetime. I see the cabin that my family stayed in and the many funny moments we still laugh about together.

I see the campers in all shapes and sizes and I think about the campfires that we sat at and sang and prayed together. The decisions that were made around those campfires have literally changed my life and made me who I am today.

I see the buildings like Pioneer Hall, the Barn, the Missionary Cottage, and the tabernacle and I know they must look like ordinary buildings but to me they represent a rich heritage. People have worshipped and been changed forever in those buildings for over one hundred fifteen years. I feel a part of something so big and it is an honor to carry on the traditions.

And the view!! There is no way anyone can stand at the top of the hill looking down at the lake and not know that they are standing on holy ground! Even the sounds of the trucks on route 80 in the background cannot dim the song I feel in my heart as I realize that the God who created those mountains in front of me loves me so very much.

As I looked around and tried so very hard to put my feelings into words I realized that there are no words to describe this place and what it has meant to so many people for so many years.

How do you explain the place that as a child I gave my heart to Jesus and rededicated my life to Him for real as a young lady?

How do I describe the place where I came running to for refuge after a rough time as a young adult and looked into the eyes of my future husband and knew I was home again?

How can I make people understand how I feel when I stand in the gazebo and remember the night my husband proposed to me?

Or how can I even help people imagine the peace I felt when I carried my precious Emma up to the alters as a baby and heard the prayers of so many friends lifted up on her behalf? And how nine years later I found that peace once again when I went to that sacred place to mourn her death?

How do I explain the joy of celebrating almost all of Allie's birthdays at this very special place with so many of our friends and family?

Most recently, Dean and I dedicated our Anna Grace to God there. How do you put that into words?

No, there are no words to truly capture the essence of this place. All I can say is that I am so very grateful that it has been a part of my life for so long. This is the place that holds my memories, my dreams, my hopes, my secret prayers.

There have been so many times in my life when I have lost myself to the world. The world strips away the heart of me and I find myself wandering once again. Searching for peace. And then I come back to this place and the world becomes strangely dim as I close my eyes and listen to the gentle whisper of my Savior. Breathing life into my tired and weary soul and reminding me of who I am in Him.

This is the reason I will make sure that my children are a part of the story of Whitehall Camp. Their memories will be filled with images of this place just as mine are. I will share with them this place that to me is just a little taste of what Heaven must be...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bring the Rain

Our Father knows what's best for us, so why should we
We always want the sunshine, but He knows there must be
We love the sound of laughter and the merriment of cheer,
But our hearts would lose their tenderness if we never shed
a tear.
For growing trees are strengthened when they withstand
the storm,
and the sharp cut of the chisel gives the diamond grace
and form.
God never hurts us needlessly, and He never wastes our pain,
For every loss He sends us is followed by rich gain.
And when we count the blessings that God has so freely sent,
We'll find no cause for murmering, and no time to lament.
For our Father loves His children, and to Him all things are
So He never sends us pleasure when the soul's deep need is
So whenever we are troubled, and when everything goes
We know God's working in our hearts, to make our spirit
Amy Carmichael

I read this this morning as I sat on my porch listening to the rain come down. I thought I would share it with you all. I am slowly learning to thank God for the rain in my life and even the storms. I can feel my roots going deeper and I am getting stronger. There are so many shallow people and I don't want to be one of them. So, today I will praise Him for the storms!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer Fun

Allie and Dean before the Father's Day dinner at church:

The Altoona Curve baseball game:

The infamous eye roll:

Just hanging around:

Monday, June 15, 2009

How to Eat a Popsicle:

First, make sure you wear something that is okay to get messy, like a bathing suit.

It always helps to use both hands so that you can get a good grip and don't lose the thing.

Feel free to have some fun playing with your toys as long as you keep your grip.

If the stick falls off, no worries, just hold it with your fingers and keep eating.

As fast as you can, though, before it melts.

If it starts to melt just keep going and don't worry about the mess!

If you have to, just shove the whole thing in your mouth. You don't want to waste any of it!

Now, survey the damage.

Always keep water near by to clean yourself off, a water table for example.

Lick off as much as you can first.

Suck it off if you have to!

Finally, do one final rinse.

If you are still a little blue around the edges it's okay. It will wear off eventually.

Now you can let yourself dry off in the sun.

If you find the stick make sure to pick it up and suck any juice that may still be lingering on there.

That is how you eat a popsicle!! (According to Anna Grace.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It all comes out in the wash...

I have a love/hate relationship with the laundry. I have a tendancy to put it off until the last pair of underwear is being worn and the only towels left are of the beach variety. And then it is overwhelming! I look at the overflowing hampers and think, "Maybe we could all use some new underwear anyway and you can never have too many towels!". But then I picture my wonderful husband's face when he sees the online checking account balance and I begin the sorting process and make the several journeys down the two flights of stairs to the laundry room.

A funny thing happens as I get to my second load though. I actually start to enjoy doing the laundry. I was thinking about this today as I folded towels and trying to figure out why I was finding so much pleasure in such a simple and mundane chore. I came up with several reasons so I thought I would share them with whoever is reading this blog still.

I realized that I really enjoy the rhythm of just folding the clothes and seeing the pile of dirty clothes on the basement floor get smaller and smaller. I find myself just letting my mind wander to so many things while I am folding the clothes (as you can tell from this blog post). I just think about important things and not so important things and I remember things that I need to do. It is soothing and calming and it feels like I am accomplishing something.

I also noticed that I really spend a lot of time thinking about the people who wear those clothes. As I am folding all of those cute, little, pink, frilly things I think about Anna Grace and what a miracle her story is. I think about just a year ago when I was praying so hard that everything would work out for her to come home to us and how God just worked in all of our lives through her. I think about how this picture we looked at for so long is now a living, breathing member of our family. And I think about how her little personality is taking shape before our very eyes. She is no longer that helpless little baby that we brought home. She is an ACTIVE, smart, and so very funny toddler with a strong but sweet spirit. And I pray for her to continue to grow and thrive and to become a part of God's family as well as ours.

As I fold those teenager clothes that seem to be getting smaller instead of larger I think of my dear, sweet Allison who is all a mother could hope for in a daughter. I think of how she broke me into motherhood gently with her quiet and gentle spirit and her eagerness to please. I think of the woman she is becoming and how proud I am of her strong faith and her kind, compassionate heart. And I pray that she keeps the faith in the years to come and she finds the confidence to fulfill all of her dreams. (Even the missionary one if that is what you want, Allison.)

As I wash and immediately hang on hangers (yeah, right!) all of those dress shirts of Dean's I think about how very fortunate I am to have a husband who is faithful and loving. I think of all that we have been through together and I thank God for giving me such a gift. I remember all of the ways he puts me first and I feel so blessed. I pray that he experiences all of the joy that he deserves and that he finds fulfillment in serving others.

It is then that I realize that the laundry has become something sacred to me. It is a time to treasure these special people in my life and a way to serve them and show them the love I have for them. What an awesome privelage!

One other thing I have noticed about my relationship with the wash is that I LOVE Spray and Wash. I apply it liberally to most of our clothing and I find absolute joy in pulling the clothes out of the washer and seeing the stains have disappeared!! How very, very cool!! I find myself wishing that I had a bottle of something that I could spray on myself to make all of those faults disappear. (Like my fears, insecurities, etc.) I would definitely spray it on liberally!! Or bathe in it!

But, wait, I do have some spiritual Spray and Wash!! It is called "grace". Thank God He has made me clean, white as snow even! Through the gift of His Son I am a new creation. And He keeps doing it over and over and over again. Another reason to love the wash!

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

" Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

" 'Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.' " Isaiah 1:18

(By the way, when I am folding my own clothes the only thought going through my head is, "Boy, do I need some new clothes!".)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Just Some Pictures

I am taking a break from facebook for a while so I just wanted to post some pictures on here for my family and friends to see my girls.

Anna has been really into standing on her tiptoes lately:

She loves to ride her rocking horse in front of the window:

She learned this from her daddy, of course:

She is telling Allie something very important:

Allie being cute:

Anna and McDuff waiting for someone to come along and let them out:

Anna after playing in the sand table:

Anna's new playset. She loves to go on the "WEE!":

Trying out some grass:

One of our camping trips at our church camp:

Mother's Day 2009: