God’s Garden

img_3953the LORD will guide you always:

he will satisfy your needs

in a sun-scorched land

and will strengthen your frame.

you will be like a well-watered garden,

like a spring whose waters never fail.

Isaiah 58:11

God’s garden

Each morning at Joni and Friends Family Retreats, as I head out the door of my cabin, I grab my camera.  I can’t wait to see the flowers that are blooming.  New flowers seem to appear over night!  I marvel as the morning sun hits their intense colors, brilliant and breath taking.  Every day, they grow more beautiful than the day before, I can’t resist their magnificent display.

Mission Springs, where our Northern California camp takes place, is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  The coastal fog and mild temperatures are the perfect environment for so many of these colorful species, which grow better here than anywhere else on earth.

The reason why one of my greatest joys in life is being on staff at Joni’s camps, training volunteers to work with people touched by disability, is because I get to observe another kind of transformation taking place.  Volunteers first arrive, some with fear and trepidation, second guessing themselves.  Some walk in the door excited, having enough experience that this isn’t something totally new and unfamiliar.  Some are returning, knowing what is ahead, knowing that this is a special place.  We throw so much information at them in a day and a half, not just preparing them to work with the families affected by disability but hopefully, enough information to take home with them and change their everyday world.

Finally, the campers begin to arrive and spill out of their cars from mid afternoon into the early evening hours, ciaos erupts, people try to adjust, eyes grow wide as nerves are on edge while most every face is smiling whether authentic or forced.  People are making adjustments as they are learning how to place the right amount of food onto someone’s  spoon, how to corral an eight year old with autism, how to push a wheelchair over door jams and how to describe the food line to someone with a visual impairment.

By the second day, nerves have eased and everyone has calmed, bonds are beginning to form.  We watch as the smiles become genuine and the atmosphere begins to actually shift as the giving and receiving of love can be tangibly felt.  And so, God tends to this garden, prunes away the unnecessary, the protective layers that many wounded hearts have formed in self defense out in the elements.  He waters the roots and cultivates the soil, his love begins bursting forth, and we all get to see the flowers bloom before us, every day more beautiful than the day before.

The scenery is spectacular.  Campers transform, feeling that they are loved and accepted for who they are, no longer stared and looked at, made to feel different but appreciated and celebrated for who they have been created to be.  Volunteers who came with each hair in place, make-up perfect, nails done, or toughened physic, begin to realize that there is no need for the superficial because the beauty here is coming from within.

The nature that surrounds us is just a reflection of what is happening in the lives of each individual within our camp as people purpose to serve and love one another.  The glory of God spills out, revealing the beauty in all of his children, the beauty in all of his creation and we see it here, better than anywhere else on this earth.

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