Tuesday, June 04, 2013

summer church camp for grown-ups {and a GIVEAWAY!}

Last weekend I got to do something I love.
Go to church camp.
But not just any church camp.
Church camp for grown-up ladies.
{Well, gals  who masquerade around as grown-up ladies by day anyhoo.}
In theory I was there because I was leading A Homemade Year workshop.
In reality, I was there because it was exactly where I was supposed to be.

And where was there
Camp Mitchell on Petit Jean Mountain that is where.
That is where I joined the most wonderful mix of women  for the annual Arkansas Episcopal Church Women's retreat- Women's Institute.

Camp Mitchell sits on a ridge that overlooks Ada Valley, which is dotted with small farms and pastures. 
The view is amazing and beautiful. 
I loved standing near the edge, imagining what it would be like to receive smoke signals from the ridge across the valley. (Yes, I watched a lot of John Wayne with my Grandaddy as a child.)

But even when we were fogged for a full day-and pelted by rain and shaken by thunder rolling over the valley-camp was still beautiful.
All the main buildings sit on the edge of the cliff (or hang a wee bit over it) and there were times when it felt as if we were eating, or singing, or walking in the clouds.

I was extremely glad to have brought my old faithfuls, my Ariats. 
I was able to stomp all through the grass and mud and rain without a care in the world.
I love that feeling that really great boots give me- especially post broken foot.
Walking in them I feel stronger and more confident, as if I can take on anything that crosses my path.

The entire time I spent at Women's Institute was refreshing, encouraging, joy filled, thought provoking and filled with laughter and kindness. And there was beauty everywhere- both inside and out.
My favorite moments where the ones where I got to just sit and listen.
When I was able to listen to someone other me - or my nervous, chattering mind- talk.
Listening to other peoples stories, their jokes, their hearts, was water on parched land.

 I don't know if this is true of Episcopals world wide, but the ones in Arkansas have a very strong bent towards the arts, design and things handmade. Even the dining hall at Camp Mitchell is beautiful.

But not everything there is tall ceilings and glossy finishes.
Simple beauty is celebrated around every corner as well.

Remember what I said about the Episcopal love of handmade things? All over Camp Mitchell, in all of the cabins and lodges, are handmade quilts. (Handmade by ECW gals is my guess. And why again do we fuss again about women leadership in the church ? It has always been there. Will always be there. Why do we need  to hide it under the disguise of sewing or cooking or teaching children or other women? Who do you we think those blankets cover, those bowls of soup nourish, those children grow up to be? Why can we not have both? Women teaching and women stitching? Why must we always choose?)

These quilts are such a practical ministry, such a tactile way to experience and share faith- quilting together scraps of fabric to cover campers of all ages and phases of life as they sleep far away from home.
This was my quilt, look how perfectly it went with my Holy Cross Day pillow.
 If it hadn't been church camp I might have just stuffed it in my bag.
So cute.

The workshop I led went just lovely, though I can never remember exactly what I say.
I tend to get very wound up and passionate when I speak about living at the intersection of beauty and mess. About faith, and grace, and authenticity and finding them all  in the most unlikely of places.
About the importance of telling our stories- to each other, to our children, to the world. 
Every one's story can help erase someone else's aloneness.
Everyone's story can be connected to the story God is telling.
If we stop telling our stories then we stop creating connections, which in turn breeds the very isolation that comes from believing that no one else has ever faced or felt or failed or fought the things we face, feel, fail and fight for daily. Which is bad. 
God created the world because he wanted to keep company with us. And he created more than one of us, so that we could keep company with each other, and with him.
Sort of like a big southern summer porch gathering.
And like any great southern summer porch gathering, storytelling is an integral part of what makes the gathering so special, so unique, so memorable.

(did I mention that I tend to get wound up and passionate???)

In addition to my workshop where I got all wound up the retreat also included a lot of laughter, new friendships, yummy food, sweet worship, and wonderful teaching.  There was also a lot of old fashioned church camp fun, including silly skits, silly songs (just imagine women of all ages- yes ALL ages- singing AND doing the motions to Pharaoh, Pharaoh -so, so funny,) and craft time.
When camp was over I felt as if I should go home and immediately start writing letters to each of my new friends, just like I did after camp during my junior high years.

These linen totes where given to each camper when we checked in.
 I just love mine. So classic looking, and the shoulder strap is just the right length-I have been carrying it around ever since.
Every time I see it I start to hum "Praise him, praise him, all you little children. God is love, God is love..." Which could pretty much sum up the whole weekend.

Even though I really wish I could have brought you to camp with me, I did the next best thing-
I brought home TWO BAGS to give away!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite camp memory or favorite camp song or just any old thing you feel like chatting about.

(The contest will stay open through Sunday, June 9. I will announce the winners the following week.)


  1. Slim Jims. That's it. Church camp is where I met Slim Jims. My favorite part of camp was that as a preacher's kid, my parents were usually at camp with me. My second favorite part was canteen (as we always called it). The camp canteen opened in the afternoon to sell snacks. I only got to eat Slim Jims at camp. :)

  2. i've never been to a camp... however, i think even when i was little the handmade quilts would have been a huge selling point for me! and now i really think that going to camp is something i am going to need to do as an adult! xo

  3. How cute! I think my favorite part of camp was the "serenading" that took place between boy and girl cabins. I still remember some of the songs! :)

  4. I was that weird kid who wouldn't leave home, so camp was out. But as an adult I have been to many, many workshops, conferences, confabs that were just big old camps for big old kids. I love the warmth of sharing my thoughts with other women and lilies listening to their unique experiences. And there is always a tote bag....and that one rocks. Thanks for sharing. Ps, I gotta get to Arkansas someday. Beautiful pictures.

  5. Hume Lake as a kid-just amazing!!!

  6. oh my I love that bag. .........hmm ....favorite camp memory? well first of all I am still making them with my kids! I have attended the same family camp church camp since I was 6 months old. I have tons of memories but most memorable is tent camping, 3 elementary age kids (including me), My mom 7 M pregnant, with my baby brother, POURING RAIN.... I can still remember huddled in a soaking wet tent and dad digging a trench, rain dripping off his face. The next day we packed up. went home. The following year we had a pop up! YAY! thanks for your lovely blog!

  7. Looks like a great weekend - Petit Jean is the perfect location for a church camp!

    My favorite camp memory was walking across our campground with my cabin counselor one afternoon. She stopped by a little wildflower among the rocks and told me that it was the perfect opportunity for a quick little 20 second prayer of thanks to God. I had never thought of a quick little appreciation of a simple wildflower as a prayer. It wasn't 'official' like our prayers in church but obviously just as meaningful and just as loved by God. It made prayer more personal for me and taught me that quick thanks, and requests for help, etc are powerful.

  8. I never went to camp as a child....but I did go to a three day/two night camp with my youngest daughter. It was through her school, when she was in second grade. It was a couple months after we had moved and she was in a new school. My very best memory of those three days was during the "pole climbing" event. My girl climbed to the very top (about 10 ft), and when she got back down to the ground her classmates cheered...and she smiled...big! She felt accepted. I felt happy.
    A women's church camp would make me feel happy too!

  9. What a lovely bag! I loved horse back riding at camp when I was little :)

  10. Cute bag!! One of my favorite "camp" memories actually involves the very place you wrote about. I attended college at ATU and was a part of the Wesley Foundation there....we had a retreat at this same spot. Made my heart go pitter-patter to see it in pictures again. Friends galore, silly skits, late nights.....so much fun :)

  11. My favorite camp memories were made at Brookhill Ranch, outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Thanks for the giveaway!

  12. My favorite memories of stay away camp...I distinctly remember getting assitance from the camp counselors in making my bangs SKY HIGH for the camp dance!

  13. I haven't been to any "camps" but have been to several women's conferences and they were a blast. The companionship and just being with all those women praising God is a wonderful feeling. Thanks for the memories.

  14. Went to girl scout camp when I was very young and had a great time! And now my oldest baby is going off to camp! Can't wait to hear about her adventures!

  15. it was so good to meet you yesterday and chat for a bit!
    camp memory - church family camp :) we would wake up early, start the camp stove for coffee and hot chocolate, and watch our friends crawl out of their tents and trailers looking like they'd been run over by a bus :) such a difference from their normal polished Sunday best!


ok, really. tell me the truth... do these comments make me look fat?

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