It’s okay. I can swim!

I stood in the middle of the warter park wave pool, my skirt swirling around my skinny legs.  The sea of water could barely be seen for the waves of people.  Some floating in tubes, riding the tops of the waves in a messy, uncontrolled fashion.  Others bobbing on the balls of their feet, rolling with the waves like seaweed that has lost all its gracefulness.  And others – like one of my little charges – becoming fish-like despite lack of space.

Dive she would – though I told her she better not.  She might come up for air only to find herself under a floater on a tube.  I watched her dip beneath the water and swim beneath its surface, inevitably knocking into legs and bumping her head on inner tubes.  But she didn’t seem to care.

(“Don’t go too far.  You might get in over your head!”)

A bit of anxiety set in as I realized that I had lost sight of another one of my charges.  There was my little fish – there was my floater – but where was my bobber?  I scanned the water, looking for blonde-headed little girls adept in the art of screaming with glee at the onset of each new wave of water.  Nowhere in sight.

And what was this?  My floater was starting to float out a little too far.

(“Don’t go too far.  You might get in over your head!”)

I bumped and dodged my way through inflatables, bare arms, shoulders and dripping heads of hair.  Heading for my floater, looking around for my bobber, checking up on my fish.

“Miss. Liz!”

Ah!  Here was my bobber, popping up safe, sound, and happy behind me.

And aha!  My hand caught at my floater’s tube and pulled her back to shallower waters.

(“Don’t go too far.  You might get in over your head!”)

Our time at the water park was coming to a close and it was time to head home.

If I had time to stop and ponder the mystery of life while keeping tabs on my young charges, this wave pool might have put some ideas into my head.  I might not have been able to help but think that wave pools are rather like life.  Sometimes calm and simple, calling for untroubled swims and breathing space.  Sometimes choppy and complicated, making those feet that you thought were solidly planted suddenly unsteady.  Sometimes causing us to lose sight of the few things that we meant to keep our eyes on amidst the distractions of all the flotsam and jetsam.

But I think we adults would sometimes benefit from handling it like a kid – getting enjoyment out of it either way.

And when the naysayers would cry out “Don’t go too far!  You might get in over your head!”

We’d say, with a smile and a reassuring touch of the hand, “It’s okay.  I can swim!”

Hewing and Planting

Sometimes I wonder who it was that beat his way through this rock.  The sweat streamed down his face, the smoke from the dynamite clouded his vision, the sharp rocks bloodied and hardened his hands.  And yet still he pressed on.

Sometimes I wonder who it was that decided to place his roots here.  His breathing came hard, the horse stumbled on the stones, the trees beat him back, the land rejected the seeds that he planted.  And yet still he made it home.

Was it a hunger to conquer?  To tame the seemingly untameable wilderness?  To make things easier for Man?

Was it that immigrant longing for a sight of the home country? Willing to break his back to feel a sense of belonging? To make life easier to live?

I see you hewer of trees and blaster of rock.

I see you weary traveler longing for a home.

I see you.  Though you left long ago.

Life Lessons from Preschoolers

This past week was the first week of our summer day camps.  It was our week for the 4-5 year olds.  Now, little kids aren’t exactly my area of expertise.  Little kids have really short attention spans and can throw hissy fits over the simplest of things, which is something that I often feel ill-equipped to deal with.  So I approached this week with a little bit of trepidation.

But, as it turned out, I really enjoyed it!  And so did the kids.  And I discovered that there are a lot of things that can be learned from preschoolers:

1. LIFE IS SO COOL!

Little kids have this really awesome ability to see everything as new.  Everything is an opportunity for adventure.

“Look at that bird!”

Sure, they’ve seen birds like these numerous times.  But this one is sitting on this patch of grass in front of us right now!  Let’s stop to take a good look at it, shall we?  And then maybe see how close we can get to it before it flies away?

2.  Worried about looking stupid?  Well, stop it.  There’s no such thing.

Little kids know two things very well (that, sigh, most of them will no longer know by the time they’re in middle school).  The first is this:  It’s okay to be silly sometimes.  The second is this:  It’s okay to ask for help if you need it.

I think I could use a little more of these…

3.  Love is a replenishable resource

I’m always amazed at how freely preschoolers give out their love.  They’ll want to sit next to you and hold your hand when they’ve only known you for a few hours.  They’ll tell you they love you when they’ve only known you for a few days.  They’re adorable.

As cynical adults, we might say that this is just because they don’t know any better.  Kids haven’t seen enough of the world yet to know that people suck and you can’t just go out loving everybody because some people don’t deserve it.

We adults all too often treat our love like an unreplenishable resource that can only be handed out to a chosen few.  But love is a replenishable resource.  It’s free and there’s an endless supply of it.  So, why not give it out a little more often?

(And no, I am not suggesting that you become just like a preschooler and hold practical strangers hands and tell them that you love them.  But, smiles and kind words are easy to share.)

So, go ahead.  Embrace your inner preschooler.  Don’t be afraid to let life fascinate you.

And So It Begins…

The church van pulls up and out pour the kids.  Energetic middle schoolers with arms full of boxes and minds full of fun mixed with church-ly duties.

A line of locals has already formed at the registration tables.  Names are recorded, wristbands slapped on, colorful t-shirts dispersed.  The parking lot becomes a sea of blue and purple.

This is VBS.  This is a summer day camp with the kinds of bells and whistles these kids don’t get to see every day.

Three days full of games, strong men, jugglers, bounce houses, popcorn, cotton candy, waterslides.  Oh yeah, and a little bit of God’s word.

Three days full of excited kids, running feet, and smiles full of gaps from recently lost baby teeth.

The summer has begun here amongst these mountains.

Let fun ensue!

Bluegrass to Faint for

Yesterday was a day of firsts.

I went to my first bluegrass festival.

And then, shortly afterwards, I fainted for the first time ever.

But before I delve into these firsts I’d like to give you a short update on my time at work these past couple of weeks:

Copy summer camp applications.  Staple.  Fold.  Staple. Fold.  Staple.  Fold.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.  Now back to the firsts.

Yesterday Kate and I went to the Sally Gap Bluegrass Festival in Williamsburg, Kentucky (which isn’t too far away from our volunteer house-comparatively speaking).  It was a beautiful day full of good music.  I have found that while I can get tired of listening to bluegrass music albums, I love seeing bluegrass music live.  There’s just something really awesome about seeing these musicians playing the heck out of their instruments.  That is one thing that I will miss when I leave Kentucky:  the music.  They have bluegrass bands playing music all over the place.  And they’re good!

We saw six different bands at the festival.  (We missed the seventh one, the Lonesome River Band, because we had to leave early to go to church).  The first group that we saw was The Colonel Strings.  The Colonel Strings is actually a band made up of students who attend an after-school program put on by the Whitley County School System that is devoted to teaching kids how to play bluegrass music and traditional tunes from the area.  The program is for elementary and secondary students, but the particular group that we saw at the festival was made up mostly of high schoolers.  And they were awesome!  What a cool after-school program.

The other bands (or individuals) that we saw were Coaltown Dixie, Tidalwave Road, Southern Sun (they were probably my favorite), Jim Hurst (that man could play guitar like two people at once), and The Clay Hess Band.  They were all great.  We had a lovely time.  Some other people who were having a great time were this old couple down the row from us who got up and danced whenever they felt like it.  They were really cute.  The guy had a huge smile on his face.  Plus, his hat kind of reminded me of one that my Grandpa used to wear, which added to the “Aw” factor.  Speaking of “Aw,” they had some kid’s activities where the kids got to make banjos out of Christmas cookie tins and other household items.  Which was also cute.

The festival was basically out in some family’s field and it was quite beautiful.  I could have done with a little less sun, however.  When we sat down in front of the stage, Kate offered me some sunscreen.  But I was like “Naw, that’s okay.  I don’t mind getting a little bit sunburned.”

Well, I got a little more sunburned than I wanted to.  I’m quite pink at the moment.  And you can see the outline of my watch burned into my skin.  So attractive.

Anyway, we left the festival before the last band played because we had to drive over to London for church.  Kevin, who is in charge of our McCreary Housing volunteers, was ordained as a deacon in the Catholic church this weekend and he was giving his first sermon.  So, we thought that we would go and see him.

So we went to church.  I had never been to this particular church before.  It was quite large (according to Kentucky Catholic church standards) and Kevin did a lovely job at his sermon.

However, when we knelt down I started to feel a little bit sick.  Then black spots started showing up in front of my eyes.  And then I fainted.  Luckily, I was with Kate (who caught me) and Janet (who brought me a wet cloth and told me to lie down when I sort of came to) and lots of nice parishioners (who brought me more cold cloths for my head and my neck, a few cups of water, two peppermints, and apparently a nun who even said a prayer over me).  After mass had ended, several ladies came over to ask me if I was okay and one insisted that I come down to Kevin’s celebration dinner downstairs to get some food.  The pastor even came over (he knew Janet) and offered to go over to the rectory and get me some aloe for my sunburn.

So we went to the dinner, even though we hadn’t been planning on it, because I was feeling like I needed some food in my system.  (I hadn’t really eaten much of a lunch).  And it was quite nice.  And I didn’t faint again.  Which was good.

All in all, I’d say that it was a pretty good Saturday.

Minus, the fainting that is.  But Janet suggested that perhaps the fainting was a good thing, because we wouldn’t have gone to the dinner otherwise, which was really rather nice.

So all in all, I guess it was a pretty good Saturday, fainting included.