Monday, July 5, 2010

"Keep the candle burning..."

"All it takes is one steady heart,
in a world that's turning...
Shine a light and pierce the dark.
Keep the candle burning,
keep the candle burning..."

-  Point of Grace

"Keep the Candle Burning" by Point of Grace reminds me that there is a vital year-round relationship that runs like a thread of gold, between Adventure Unlimited campers, counselors, and senior staff.  Each contact...each letter, Facebook message, phone call, and email...has encouraged, and strengthened my daughters' love for good.   Each contact keeps the "camp" candle burning in their hearts throughout the year, until June rolls around and we are driving through the gate again.

I love watching the girls' faces light up when we run into former camp counselors at school events, or after Sunday School in church.  It makes me smile to hear them Skyping with camp friends, laughing and giggling, on a Tuesday night in November, when swimming their horses in the Sky Valley lake is only a memory.

But it's the camper notes that really carry
me through the year. 

At the end of each session, cabin and program counselors write personal notes to parents about their children.  These notes are filled with spiritual insights about each camper's strengths, contribution to camp, and a window on them at their best, most selfless selves.

At our house, I can be found eagerly checking the mailbox each day for the post-camp packet that comes filled with messages of gold...camper notes!  Bunkhouse camper notes are in one color, and program (waterfront, horsemanship, mountaineering, rafting, theatre-specific areas each camper chooses as their focus for the session) notes are in another color.  Each are read with relish.

I will carry the large white envelope with the red square A/U logo in the left-hand corner to the kitchen table.  I will put on the kettle to make myself a cup of tea and wait for the water to boil, the tea to steep, and pour a fragrant cup of Ginger Lemon Grass tea into my favorite hand-painted periwinkle, yellow, and white mug.  Then I will take the envelope with me, out onto the front porch, settle into an Adirondack chair, and open it carefully. 

It is a holy moment.  I will soon be reading the careful script of a counselor who has loved, nurtured, and encouraged the very best in my daughter for four of the most important weeks of her year.   I will have the sacred experience of looking at my daughter through the eyes of someone who has placed extraordinary demands upon live up to her highest spiritual potential...and has seen her step up to that opportunity and discover new things about her own fathomless gifts with courage and grace.

After I've read each camper note a dozen times...or so...and shed more than a few tears of amazement  and deep gratitude, I will call the girls down, one-by-one, and read their camper notes with them.   It is a time of remembering, a time of celebration, and recalibration.  It is a time for each of us to align our home-based expectations of who she is and who she has the potential for being,  with what we both know she is capable of.

She will bounce off to tell her sister that it is her turn now. And while I wait, I will read her notes one more time before I turn my complete attention to her sister.  

For a few weeks I will leave them in a folder on my desk to revisit...often..  Then I will place them in each girl's Adventure Unlimited folder in my filing drawer. 

I have every camper note my children have ever received. 

Twenty-one years of camper notes.  I will often pull out each of my daughters' "camper notes" folder throughout the year...and just remember.  I will use them to recalibrate my own expectations, to refocus, to refresh my inner browser to the most beautiful "home page" about each of the girls.

One day last winter the girls had a bit of cabin fever and were bouncing off the walls, and into eachother, for a few days.  They were bored.  There was nothing to do.  They were prickly.   I was starting to believe this was what, and who, they really were.  They were pre-teen twins who'd really "had enough" of one another's company.  But something told me to pull out their camper notes from last summer.  So I did. 

There they were, lime green and hot pink half sheets of bordered paper covered in tiny careful script.  Thoughtfully worded reports about the genuine goodness of each of the girls.  They were joyous, cooperative, deeply caring with each other and their cabin mates, eager to be helpful, self-starters who took initiative without complaint.  Ahhh...I felt like a reformatted document.  Perspective refreshed, expectations recalibrated based on this "better lens" on my daughters' true identities.

These camper notes are always at the front of my file drawer.  I would grab them in a fire.  They are one of the most valuable "heirlooms" I will hand on to my children.  To see themselves through the eyes of counselors who expected the best from them...and always saw it.

Thank you to each counselor who has "beheld" my daughters' spiritual identity, born witness to her at her best, encouraged her to trust herself to the breadth and depth of God's abundant gifts of love, and has, with great thought and care, labored over...draft after draft...of the right words, perfectly telling us just what you have seen. 

Your role in keeping the candle burning, the flame of spiritual awareness alight, the incandescence of our highest expectations aglow throughout the year, is a most precious gift.   It reminds me of Mary Baker Eddy's statement in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy."

Bearing witness to the best in eachother, whether we are campers, counselors, sisters, neighbors, or work colleagues, is the best gift we can give one another.  It is the breath of Spirit on a flame that is burning low...helping it to leap to the heights of holiness.

Thank you for seeing the best in our children...thank you for sharing your perspective, and thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully put your thoughts down for us to read, and to cherish...for a very, very long time.

More love, and gratitude, later from the porch of Crowsnest....

Kate Robertson, CS

[photo credits: Ashley Bay 2009/Anna Glotzbach 2009]


  1. Anonymous12:55 PM

    So glad you posted your blog when you did. I was just about to write my camper notes, but after reading you blog I feel like I need to put some more prayerful thought into what I want to say about the girls in my cabin.... Thank you!!

  2. thanks, Kate. After reading this, I dug through some files to make sure that I still have all those camper notes from years past. I, too, have relished the heartfelt words and the fresh views they have given me of my boys. I love the idea of revisiting them in different seasons, of allowing them to be the "home page" at times when we all need a reminder of true identity, and of passing these notes along to my kids as an heirloom.