*This is late but I feel like it needed to be said. It’s much more than just a reflection of what happened here at Lakeshore. Also I’m pretty sure there will never be a post as long as this or more difficult and meaningful for me to write*
This past weekend Lakeshore was host to many wonderful people enjoying the beautiful weather. We held our Scrapbook Retreat, which is always an amazing group of women, hosted a new group from Murray State University, Summer O (Orientation) Leaders, and had the privilege of being the location for an amazingly beautiful wedding of a former summer staffer. This past weekend provided a glimpse into who we are, not just what we do.
Anyone who knows anything about scrapbooking understands that it is a never-ending hobby. For those who have never seen the sunroom full of tables,colorful decorative paper, and bags that carry supplies that the average person had no clue existed, it might be slightly overwhelmed at the drastic difference of worlds. While the supplies and stuff might be of a different world from our typical camp and retreat groups, the people are just the same. They are an amazing group of women who are welcoming, sincerely kind, and full of life. You can not walk into the room without feeling the life that overflows from each table. Those who are new to the retreat unpack their supplies and quickly become a part of a new family.This is a family that enjoys preserving the memories of the past. Scrapbooking is not something that is just a crafty project. These women gladly share their stories of holidays, silly moments with friends and family, and even the lives of loved ones who are now gone but the memories stick with them forever. While they are looking back over their lives it is done with a joyful heart.
Not all of the Scrapbook Retreat is looking back over our lives. Embracing each movement with arms of joy and passion is truly what you will encounter when you join the retreat. It is group overflowing with life that is expressed with loud talking, laughter, jokes, story telling, and spiritual enlightenment. I had the honor of leading the worship services for the women, and I can honestly say I have never been more challenged to grow as I have been with theses women. Open and honest discussion about our thoughts and beliefs as adults is something that rarely happens outside our church family. I was uplifted by an amazingly faithful group of women. I was encouraged to continue to grow and be who God created me to be. I felt a sense of community that had nothing to do with scrapbooking.
What I find spiritually beautiful about the groups that join us here is the desire to help the ministry grow. Rarely do groups and individuals walk on these grounds and do not find a desire to enhance and spread the “thing” they have felt. At times most of us can label and explain this “thing” but we understand that it must be shared. Talking to the women about Lakeshore as a whole was amazing. I was given the opportunity to share what we believe and how that translates into actions. It was uplifting to see our guest encouraged to join in other aspects of this ministry by bringing others on retreat, spreading the word back home, donating to the ministry, and signing up to participate in future events.
Wedding In The Woods
Home-In-The-Woods holds a special place in the heart of so many. A new moment took place this weekend that I dare to say only enhances the beauty of the woods. Former Summer Staff joined current Summer Staff and those who have only heard of our ministry to celebrate the marriage of two amazingly beautiful souls. The thing that always uplifts me about Lakeshore, is that no matter how long it has been since your last visit, this is always a home. It was beautiful, confusing at times, to see faces of so many different summers staffs mingling in one location. After a few years it becomes difficult to know who served what summer and who know who, but that’s the beauty, this is one family. While we have so many summers of memories, one thing united the Lakeshore family with the world, the wedding of Ingrid (Harper) Vander Woude and Joe Vander Woude! Weddings are always full of tears, joy, memories, laughter, and visions of love. This past weekend was not lacking. Weddings are those types of events were each moments holds special meaning to each person in attendance. Those in the wedding always have moments of joy and excitement preparing for their part in support to their dear friends. Those in attendance mark their calendars in order to not miss the very moment that a friend or loved one unites their life to another. Weddings lend themselves to thought. Thoughts of the past and how we journeyed to this very moment always flood my head. Reflections on how the couple met and love sparked. No matter the wedding the bride is a vision of beauty tha
t walks right before our eyes bringing out an inner beauty that surpasses all others.
Not only do wedding stir up memories and bring joy in the moment, they provide glimpses of the future. No wedding is without hope for something greater in the future. Joining together in hopes and visions of a life consumed with unconditional love and understanding, while always striving to find the “secret” to a happy marriage. Families come in all shapes and sizes and their hearts are united by the very love they have for one another. The Vander Woude family is no different. It only takes a moment around them to see the love that pours from their hearts. Their very life and passion for one another is clearly seen through their actions and words. A desire to love, protect, and share a life living for God is evident. This weekend a family was united and a community saw an overwhelming amount of love between three, yes three, very special people.
Congratulations Ingrid, Zoe, and Joe we are so excited for your family. We pray for you all are you continue to build and live your lives together. Thank you for allowing us to be able to share in this moment with you. Joe, welcome to the Lakeshore family!
Ingrid, Zoe, & Joe
We have had the privileged of working with many college age groups, but I have to admit that I was very excited to hear that the very college I attend would be joining us for a retreat. Murray State University (KY) has had a few groups that faithfully visit our grounds to hold retreats and participate in our ropes course. The Murray State Summer O leaders are college students that have gone through applications and interviews to be selected to lead the Summer Orientation days for incoming Murray State students. They are leaders in every sense of the word. They are a group of university students who sacrifice their time and energy to give to something bigger than themselves. They come from all walks of life, different cities and state. They are a mix of people representing the whole of Murray State University. Whenever any group joins us who have the label of leader upon them, a certain image and attitude is deflected on them. We read their papers and see “leader” and expect them to take charge, be vocal, hard-working, and strive to accomplish a common goal. I personally expect them to build each other up and create opportunities for others to step forward as leaders. That word, leader, carries with it some much weight. The entire weekend no one was disappointed in the effort and drive shown by all the students.
Often times groups rent our facilities to host their own retreats. Murray did just this. They were here to bond and prepare for their upcoming responsibilities. We were able to have a hand in one aspect that I have come to realize is my favorite part of retreats. We (some former Summer Staff) were give the opportunity to help lead the Summer O Leaders in low ropes. Low ropes really has nothing to do with ropes, but it is a series of challenges presented to a group to overcome. The challenges depend on those leading it and how they set it up, but each challenge also changes based on the group. Just because a person has done it before a certain way doesn’t mean each time that one way will be the best solution. It’s team building. It’s challenging each other to work together for a common good. The overall point of low ropes is not to simply finish the task, but to dig deeper, seeking more meaning out of the activity that was just done. There might be discussion about what we could have done better in the challenge, but more often the discussion leads to revealing inner thoughts about truth, communication, community, and even our spiritual lives. Murray state was no exception. We split the larger group down into 3 smaller groups in order to allow for more people to have opportunities to step up as leaders. Some of the challenges presented to my group appeared to be simple task, but in reality they were much more difficult. Of course the added challenges of “no talking” and having a member blindfolded increased the difficulty, but they still accomplished the task. The goal is to allow the group to see how they communicate. Allow them to see how they function to accomplish their common goal, even if that goal is as simple as getting from one platform (about a foot off the ground) to another platform. What I believe helps low ropes work, is that the participants see the value of their efforts. If their goal is to learn how other communicate, then they must go a long with the restriction we give to not walk on the ground because its “lava”. Hopefully all college students understand that in reality they can just walk across the ground, no harm will come, but I am always amazed how groups follow guidelines in order to grow and become closer as a unit.
Murray State was no exception. Every task was taken with a desire to grow and challenge themselves. I wish I had the words to fully paint the picture of what low ropes feels like. Some of the participants knew each other, while all the time expected to work as a smooth unit. Young men and women joined physically hand in hand to guide their boss, who had her eyes close, across a 2×4 board held securely to a larger platform only by the hands of the others members. While the board is only about a foot off the ground there is a sense of fear and danger that calls for all to carefully navigate the course. It’s difficult to explain the feeling you get when another person is physically depending on you to safely get them to their destination. For some it causes a feeling of anxiety. Leading another person around unfamiliar territory while they have no sight of their own can be nerve wracking. This person, no matter how well they know you, is placing their safety and life (in a sense) in your hands. It might seem as thought I am describing an overly dramatic event, but these are the thoughts and ideas that these students had. A simple trust walk lead to discussion of trust within a community, trust with the team, and trust within our own lives. Low ropes participants are never limited in growth or discussion. It is a few hours of open, honest, unscripted conversation about life. To me that is the beauty of low ropes. The value is in the lessons learned and vulnerability experiences within the groups.
After the small group bonded, we decided that the entire group needed a moment to accomplish something as part of the whole group. So we gave them the challenge. The Wall. The wall is a tall flat wooden ball with no hand or foot holds. The objective is to scale the wall as a group. Devising a plan to lift and pull each member over the top is the key to success. Murray was amazing! This group of young men and women joined together immediately to safely lift and pull member of their team over the top. Guys encouraged the girls to lift others and help pull up members, which is a rare event in mixed sex groups. Girls quickly stepped up to the challenges presented to them. Those not lifting spotted (a technique we teach when we lift people in air to ensure safety in the case of a fall) as members willingly gave themselves other to the team. Image a group of people standing in front of this wooden wall in the middle of the woods and no one can even jump to reach the top. It’s your turn to go over the top. You step up from the back of the crowd to take your place in the center of the all surrounded by your peers. All that is before you is a very close up view of wood grain and possibly a bug or tow. You give your commands, if you remember them correctly. “Spotters Ready?” Then come anxious wait for the crowd to confidently respond “Ready!” Still not even in the air yet. “Climbing” which if you think about it too much will only seem like a silly statement, because there is absolutely nothing for you to climb. You are about to be at the mercy of everyone else in your group. The spotters respond with permission, “Climb on!”. So here you go. This is where there is always the awkward “I’m physically standing in someones hands” which i guess is only nature if you have ever been a flyer in cheerleading. Some stand without fault, while other wobble their way up the wall. For a few moments you are up in the air with people shoving you toward the top and it’s just you leaning into the wall reaching as high as you can for one of the two people’s hands to reach down from the top and latch onto your wrist. It’s a moments of helplessness. You must depend on the ones on the group to lift you up, and you are frantically searching for the hands to pull you to safety. As soon as you make contact with those at the top of the wall a sense of urgency kicks in. Those at the top fight and reach to grab knees, legs, feet, whatever they can to pull the climber up, all while those on the group keep their hands up just in case someone slips. Then it happens. Hands reach the top, an elbow locks over the top, a knee is pulled up and then, no matter how messy it looks, you are standing up smiling to the crowd below because you did it. Image this about 25 times. Image getting tired and never stopping. Image being strong enough to pull yourself up, but still depending on others to help you. Image not feeling strong enough to make it. Now image doing all that and being afraid of heights. This is a small glimpse of what it means to do the wall. It’s not easy. It’s tiring and draining. It involves strategy and physical strength. It involved getting over yourself and depending on a group of people who are willing and waiting to share in the joy of victory. It is the wall; when you are finish and say that you have conquered the wall it is a true statement of team building and honor.
I am so proud to say that I attend Murray State University. I would gladly take of the Summer O Leaders as counselors of our summer camps. They strive to be the best by pushing themselves to grow and cling to the idea that this is not about them, but the bigger picture of who they represent.
From One Family To Another
Please note that this was the part that challenged me more than anything. I ask that if you have stuck around this far, please be in prayer and read with an open heart.
While most moments that spark memories are full of enjoyment, unfortunately not all are. No one wants to think about the worst of life while so many are celebrating in fellowship with old friends. No one wants to feel heart ache around such a joyful community that has been built at Lakeshore, but sometimes life brings us moments that we would rather not face. This weekend Murray State University’s Summer Orientation Leaders joined us for a weekend of bonding, fellowship, and training. Many wonderful things occurred while Murray was here with us, but no matter how secluded we might be from the world we can not escape the pain that occurs without us. I would like to take this moment to share with our Lakeshore family the heart ache and pain that a new part of our family has experienced. Our guest received word that a beloved friend and peer had passed away. The lost of any life is hard, but there is something especially difficult about the loss of a young life. While I did not personally know Daniel, I know a few that loved him dearly. It is always a strange feeling when tragedy hits one part of your life and you realize that it affects other aspects of your life as well. This is not to make this about my thoughts or feeling, or about me in the least bit. To hear of a death on campus is difficult, knowing the person or not. It is not just news of something happening, but news of a life lost; a person, a story, a family member, a friend who we can no longer call up and chat with. Loss is always difficult to comprehend and justify, and for that very reason I do not believe it needs justification. I do not believe it needs a sugar-coated “it will be ok”. I think what all those who are hurting needs is a heartfelt, honest, loving “we love you”. No words can bring complete comfort. No extension of hand can mend a broken heart. I do not say these things to seem hopeless, but to redirect our focus. Hearing of Murray States’s loss broke my heart. It broke my heart because it’s a peer I will never know, but have heard so much about. It broke my heart to know that those who knew Daniel were hurting. It breaks my heart to know that this loss is not separate from our Lakeshore family. Members of our beloved community were close to Daniel. People we claim as our family lost a dear brother. So many times we see ourselves at camp as separate from the world, but at times the world reminds us of the community we need. It reminds us of the love and joy we share and how it must continue on past the Lakeshore sign.
To Daniel Milam’s family and friends we can only offer unconditional love and support. To our Lakeshore family, including the Murray Summer O Leaders, we are very sorry for your loss and we willingly step forth in prayer and love to support you. We are thankful that you were able to be in community with us. Let us all remember that we should never be so far removed from the world that we forget to share in the worlds hurts, especially those within the lives our of very family. I can say with a lighter heart that without knowing Daniel, I have seen great joy in the celebration of his life. Facebook has blown up with new cover pictures and profile pictures with those who loved Daniel and themselves in them. All loss is difficult, but let us celebrate life. Celebrate not to dismiss the loss, but to embrace the impact and love that a single life can bring to our own. It is amazing how one person can enhance the lives of so many. Let us embrace one another in love, understanding, compassion, and joy. Let us celebrate the life of all those who have helped shape our hearts into the person we have become. Let us all join together in experiencing life, love, and the God of grace.