I knew eventually that this summer would come; my first summer since I was 10 that I would not attend church camp. As a 20-somethings adult, I was lucky enough to attend longer than most get to. But having a June due date meant that my July would be spent at home with my baby, not an AC-less environment filled with sweaty kids to minister to. For the first time in 14 years, I would not attend even one session at my beloved church camp. But not attending camp this summer has taught me several things about myself and my faith.
I don't need camp
I had hoped that I didn't, but I had gone for so long that it had become such an important part of my faith. While my Mass-attendance record may have dropped a bit (Mass solo with an infant is intimidating!) I don't feel like I'm lacking anything spiritually by not attending
My faith has grown
Camp used to be the place I felt closest to God. I connected best to the Mass at camp, my confessions were the most heartfelt, and let me tell you about adoration in the great outdoors! Being away from camp has proven to me that my faith has expanded beyond those borders. Many who attend church camps or other religious events depend on them to reignite and maintain their faith. But we should be self starters who can notice when our faith is dwindling and seek God of our own accord, not just because our faith-social event of the year reminded us. I'm so glad that I have reached that point.
Camp doesn't need me
Camp, as an institution, does not depend on any particular person. The same about churches, youth groups, and other religious groups. The ministry will go on when God calls you away; don't put yourself on a pedestal as a volunteer.
My vocation is my family
Granted, this is something I already knew. There were days and moments where I truly missed the peace of my mornings at camp or the Wednesday night skits. But in general, I am much more content at home with my husband and son than I would be at camp. Volunteering and ministering outside the home is something I love and feel called to do, but my primary ministry will always be is in my home, in my own small ways to my family. And right now, I don't have time to do anything extra and God knows that.
Hopefully, my opportunities to minister and volunteer will continue as life goes on. I enjoy working with teens and children and helping them develop their faith. But the time for that isn't now. I have a little man whose faith development started on day one. God will lead me where God mays. The little whispers I heard throughout the last month have reassured me that I am right where I am supposed to be.
Friends, I know you miss or will miss camp, but there will be a day for everyone when we can no longer attend whether for a year or two or forever. Don't let that prevent you from seeking and serving God. Just like the Hebrew people has to learn that their God isn't confined to one holy mountain or temple, God is not just at camp or in the people there. God is always with you.
Mindfulness, or careful consciousness of what and why things are being done started becoming a part of my day to day life around the time minimalism did. It was first introduced as a form of meditation by a professor but quickly came to be much more than that. Mindfulness has helped me minimize the waste that Josh and I produce, maintain a budget, limit my use of technology, and cut out certain negatives that were bringing me down. It has brought joy in the small things and strengthened my relationship with God.
Since mindfulness entered our lives, we have been able to reduce the trash we create significantly. We are spoiled in Kansas City by having free pickup of our recyclables each week with our trash. This makes it easier for us to reduce our waste, but I also try to purchase our food that comes in containers that are recyclable. I choose brown paper bags over plastic when I forget to bring my own, mindful of the footprint my household is leaving.
Mindfulness has also helped improve my relationship with God. By helping me to practice focusing on the immediate present, whether in the car, at church, or at home, I have been able to connect more deeply to moments with thankfulness and joy and offer it back to
God. Being mindful of the task or project at hand keeps you focused on what is going on around you rather than filling your time (and mind) with the clutter of pop music, daydreams, or other distractions. As I go about daily or weekly chores, I dedicate different tasks to different intentions. As I fold laundry, I reflect on what I am thankful for. I pray for my marriage and spouse as I tidy up our bedroom. I intercede through St. Francis of Assissi as I fill up the dogs' bowls each day. Each little prayer goes a long way to helping me make God the center of each day.
The mindlessness our society is scary. We eat without considering if we are actually hungry, we purchase without asking ourselves if we really need it, and we quickly forget that everything we have, we owe back to God. But by practicing a little mindfulness each day, we can return our blessings back to God.