The day marks the halfway point of the summer. Two weeks of staff training and almost four weeks of over 200 campers a week converging on these 93 acres. It is our weekly staff solo time: an opportunity to sit still and bask in the serene silence before organized chaos ensues. It is my first year on the job as program director at Camp Tilikum, so there is a lot I don’t know. My brain is constantly running with check-off lists, to dos, and logistical concerns. I start back to the office, thinking maybe I’ll be able to catch up a bit, but then I stop. “I don’t have to walk the same well traveled road; I’ve got time to follow that little path by the lakeside.” I turn around, cross the bridge, and enter the quiet woods. Correction: not so quiet woods. My brain is still swirling, watching for poison oak; ooh, that’s a toenail-catcher stick across the path, should have brought my clippers with me; this trail hasn’t been traveled…does the staff know it’s here? I should tell them what an awesome path this would be for their nature hike time. As I go deeper into the woods, the nature rhythm takes over. I slow down a bit, yet still mentally checking off what I need to do today. The path turns toward the lake, discarding the soothing ferny shade for an early morning sun, already warm, reflecting off the water. In the grasses next to the water, sprouts of color appear—purple, deep pink, yellow. Wildflower. That’s my camp name. “Maybe I should at least sit and contemplate my namesake today.” So I sit among the wildflowers and take a deep breath.
But not really silence.
A dragonfly flits by. Birds call in the forest behind me, three to four distinctly different tunes. A crazy hummingbird buzzes near me. Back and forth, its wings sounding like a kid blowing a raspberry. I start thinking about the lilies of the field, about how they don’t worry, God takes care of them, yet they only last for a season. Whoa….camp only lasts for a season. This group of people, this moment in time, this opportunity to make a difference in a kid’s life, in a summer staff person’s life. My opportunities are fleeting. I wonder if that’s what Jesus thought as he sat on the mountain talking to those gathered near him, sharing his ideas of being peacemakers, meek and humble.
I finally settle into the silence. The never really silent silence. Out in the forest or sitting in open worship, I strive for quiet and peaceful centering. But life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. These quiet times are needed, are special, are necessary. But I need to hear God’s voice in the day to day, centered in the midst of chaos.
How do I maintain the “breathing deep the breath of God”—in and out—in the midst of “I forgot my lunch,” “the calf is sick,” “there’s a water leak in the craft room,” and “what are the contents of reusable ice cubes…one of my first graders just drank it?”
It comes through appreciating moments: watching my summer staff giving big crazy hugs after having not seen each other for 12 hours; seeing a kid conquer huge anxiety issues and have a blast being pulled 30 feet up into the air on our Flying Squirrel; at the end of the week loving the problem camper who has now become my favorite; in a quiet evening after camp has ended, being grateful for the unexpected turn of events that God orchestrated to land me and my family in this beautiful place.
Creator, give me eyes to see your handiwork in all situations and in those around me. Teach me to breathe in your peace in moments of stress and chaos. Thank you for your goodness, even when I can’t see clearly. Amen.