Castaway Hour by Hour

Here it is. Finally, my attempt to capture a sliver, a piece of the awe, a slice of the delight, and a smidgen of uncontainable amazing-ness that was Castaway, Session 2, 2013. While I was at castaway June 29-July 22nd,  there was too much life happening for me to slow down and write about it. A few weeks ago, geographically and chronologically removed, I’m tentative and cautious, afraid that if I try to write about it, it will solidify the finality and make even more apparent that so many of the experiences are too rich for words.Castaway TransportationP1030657

Alas, I must write to record. It’s my “prescription” for the “agony of endings” diagnosis for my full soul, magnificent memories, and tender spirit in reflecting on what happened and who we became because of Castaway this year.

Putting my writing into a form and giving it a theme is my coping mechanism. Brief? No and yet still incomplete. Ok, here it is:

A DAY at Castaway :

6:30am– Linds wakes up and sneaks out quietly with a water bottle and towel to coach a Crossfit workout for summer staff, random campers who woke up too early and wandered into the gym, and other brave souls who caught the bug along the way (Crossfit is sooo fun!). Biggest honor of the month came on the last morning when I got to hear that one of the property staff men who came to just two workouts, was healed from a year of loss and pain by coming to a workout and receiving the spark and reminder that our spiritual and physical selves work together to make us whole and healthy. He thanked me for my meager Crossfit efforts that God used in a mighty way for him. I’m most humbled and very honored.Lake Pelican family pic

8:00 am- Staff Breakfast. Michelle and I get the kids out the door and up the hill to the dining hall for a quick and tasty breakfast. French toast Monday and cinnamon roll/egg buffet Saturdays were my favorites.

9:00am – I lead the Summer Staff morning Bible Study  (SSBS). Sitting around with 20 or so college students discussing scriptures that showed, told us, reminded and awed us with the truth that God, always about relationships, pursues, accepts, relates to, unconditionally loves, and sends us.

10am- check in with Eli and Andi- Oaks takes a consistent morning nap the whole month! Yay! I find Eli reading a chapter book in his bunk and Andi swinging on the swing set alone or with a few little friends.

photo (4)11:30am- Staff lunch. Eat, try to feed and coordinate three kids, and relay afternoon announcements for summer staff…in 20 mins.

12:30pm– Meet with a summer staff girl for a 1:1. The chance to hear their life story, their current questions, their latest take-away from a quiet time or devo, and how much patience they are learning by working on a team here at Castaway or because they are living in a room with 11 other girls! I was reminded once again that people function in the present as a result of, or so amazingly

Right after Eli lost his first tooth!

sometimes in-spite of, their unique history. I was moved to tears to hear of many divorced, deceptive, damaged, and disrupted childhoods these girls had endured. Others told of life with great families and friends. Many were engaged in the individuality of their faith journey for the first time in the Castaway environment of serving and community. ALL these women were amazing, joyful, open, honest, and refreshing. They became my friends and I miss them each and every one. 

1:30- Life  the beach! Andi frolics and mermaid swims in the lake every day. She dives deep for rocks, combs the sand for snail shells, buries her feet, builds a castle, and runs to greet friends who are just making it down the hill. She bravely picks up dead mud puppies and delivers them to the lifeguards who hold out their bucket at a full arms length to receive Andi’s bold deposit!

2:30- Life at the beach! Eli invites a similarly-aged staff kid to ride down the zip line with him. They ride and are unhooked by the gracious summer staff lifeguards who swim out there 5 or more times a day to grab our short lil guys. One week, there was a small person named Trevor there as a camper. Eli made friends with him; from what I saw, he was respectful and kind, not overly obsessed with his appearance or rude. Trevor was gracious to ride the zip line with Eli and later told me they had a great chat on the climb up to zip top. Eli loves conversations with older campers, kids his age, or adults.

3:30- Life at the beach! Oakley comes down with Michelle after an afternoon nap. At first he is tentative- holds one leg up out of the water while seated on his bottom in the sand. Eventually, he uses his hands, toes, and tummy to explore the sand and the lake. He loves to splash in the water and smiles and shakes sand with everyone who comes to play with him. He was a popular attraction and very well loved. He was so friendly and full of expressions and personality the whole (5)

4:30- Eli and Andi run from the lake to the hot tub for a warm up (the 8th trip between the two water orifices of the day), OR speed into the Seabreeze for a beach-side snack (Eli: the big bopper cookie ice cream sandwich and Andi, a bag of Skittles) OR they receive high fives, a hug, and an invitation to ride on the boat with summer staff boat driver friends (Jordan C took a sweet and genuine interest in Andi, and Matt Moore was a big, strong, tender and intentional friend of Eli’s). All of my kids received so much positive attention from the summer staff, assigned team, and other families. They were encouraged, cheered for, played with, and loved on. They were told and shown that they are beloved children of God in so many ways.  As a parent, I cannot be more grateful.Oaks a swimmin

5:30pm-I give Oakley self-feeding practice during staff dinner and take grate-full advantage of the fact that the work crew vacuums the carpet under the tables after every meal. Thank YOU high school work crew kids!

6:30pm- We sit outside the Windjammer for the “golden hour”, watching campers strewn across the swooping landscape of the lush Castaway green grass throwing frisbees, playing games, hanging out. The 25 flower beds and boxes in sight from our seat are popping with color and growing because of the tender and consistent watering of my summer staffer Tess. Oakley is wriggling out of my lap to grab at the person whose stopping to chat, or trying to flirt with fellow assigned team kid and slightly older girl, Olive, who is oh so cool and walking at 15 months. He loves her! Eli and Andi whiz by on their scooters and stop to ask if they can go down to the game room to play with their buddies- 9-square where the older kids are kind and patient with Andi’s double bounces, or Foosball where Eli’s super spin moves actually do get the balls to score. I get to chat with friends I value for their wisdom, love to laugh with, and only get to see because we do assignments together from time to time. Some of these people I’ve known before but many are friends I’ve just met and yet immediately, deeply connect to and care for just because we share life together in the kingdom way that is a Young Life assignment. Thankful for you Robyn, Annie, Amy, Amy, Katy, Melissa, Mandi, Kaitlin, Linds, Megan, Eli, Tasha, Sarah and others!P1030666

7:30pm– We head to Young Life club. I sit in the back with summer staff and my family. Eli can read so he sings the lyrics loud. Andi dances with her girl friends freely and spinningly on the steps near the door. Oakley comes only to a few clubs all month but when he does, his whole body gets caught up in the energy. He faces outward from someones arms and kicks his legs with enough intensity to shake his whole body. He flails his arms just as hard and smiles with his whole face. He lets out screams because he knows the room is loud and wants to join in with exuberance.P1030650

8:30pm- Club is over and a few summer staffers and I are headed to one of three weekly summer staff gatherings (worship, discussion, story sharing, praying, and relationship discussions and games fill these times). We are stopped mid-stride by yet another majestic Castaway sunset- God lays the sun to rest splendorously here– and we cannot bring ourselves to go inside. Instead we run into the meeting, already in progress thanks to my more timely counterpart-coordinator Chris, and invite everyone to make a run for the beach. Caleb grabs his guitar (and the music stand) and all 40 of us run to the beach. Climbing and clamoring for high ground (shhh…perhaps a few ascend the Seabreeze roof?!), as a team we take it in. Then we gather around the hot tub to sing and share how God is moving and Jesus is using and changing us. It was a spontaneous adventure I’d been wanting to have for 3 years as summer staff coordinator.P1030655

9:30pm- Eli and Andi get to stay up late to help run the Obstacle Course on Night 1 for campers. They are invited into the “hype tent” where Claire, Tyler and Zach have crafted a hilariously motivating chant to send campers out on a shared adventure to “protect their leader” at whatever the cost- “jumping in mud for them, getting spit on for them, doing a flip for them“. With all the intensity of a child covered in charcoal face paint, E and A were so excited to be a part of the action with their gracious and inclusive SS friends.

OR Eli and Andi get to stay up late for the night 4 fun including the Opera and carnival. The third week’s carnival fell on Eli’s birthday and he got to take full advantage of the t-shirt gun (helping Nate to shoot, and catching one shot off just for him!) and enjoyed a birthday dunk in the dunk tank! Andi shoots hole-in-ones on the putting range and milks a mean cow udder in-between another free carnival popcorn and chatting with her friends.  photo (1)

10:30pm- To bed for those party animal kids who daily amaze Drew, Michelle, and me with their energy, ability to stay friendly and agreeable most of the time, and their pure enjoyment of the simple and the extraordinary daily happenings.

11:00pm- Drew and I stay up late to enjoy friends. A most special privilege to be on this assignment with Brett and Robin Hersma and their kind, respectful, fun, helpful kids. From Brett and Robin, we receive parental encouragement and wisdom, fantasy sports banter (not so much Robin and me but the “Blues!”), spiritual conversations and lots of fun. Eventually, reluctantly, we pry ourselves away from the great conversation and comfy chairs to go to bed.

2am and 4 am- Oakley wakes up on cue, every night at Castaway, to eat. There is just too much going on during the day for him to get all the nourishment he needs so he and I enjoy sweet and still cuddles while he grubs nocturnally.

Every day was indeed full. I cannot contain or capture the bliss of life lived in such a great community in such an amazingly beautiful place. I love walking across the camp and greeting people or tasks- the sounds of summer staff girls “Hi Linds”  still ring in my head and I very much miss the simplicity of life without my phone, wallet, or shopping list.

We grew as a family. Oakley grew two new teeth and Eli lost one.  Eli turned 7 with a Lego pinata to mark the moment and stood up to pray out loud during an all staff worship gathering one Sunday morning. He prayed for Jeff City, MO kids saying, “God we pray for Jefferson City, the capital of our state. For all the kids…safety first.”Lego Pinata

Oakley learned how to wave, said some impromptu and nondescript “Mmm, mmm, Ma- Ma”‘s, and figured out the all important move from the side lying crunch pose, to back onto his bottom. On his bottom he would turn around in circles to catch all the action- I love “sit-n-spin” baby stage! He was scooting by the end of the three weeks and in the final few days, getting up to a rock on his knees. (Update since original draft of this post- Oaks is a crawler! 1 leg, 1 foot, all over, crawling!)

Andi loved playing with friends and being outside. She learned interpersonal and conflict resolution skills that she’ll get to put into practice in two days with the start of kindergarten. Andi loved the lake the most of all my kids and spent sweet time by herself in the sand.  Conquering a deep seated and legit year-old fear, Andi tried the zip line again! She waited til Drew got there and indeed, overcame. She rode consistently that last week but couldn’t quite catch Eli on his 50 rides goal- which he carefully calculated and met. Eli would plan each day’s rides with friends- I was lucky to make it on a 3 ride day and I thank Ben for getting bumped off that day’s schedule.

Because they felt loved, secure, championed and in community, all 3 of my kids risked anew and pushed past current levels of comfort into the unknown- caught by Jesus’ arms that looked a lot like JJ’s, Emmy’s, Casey’s, Nancy’s, Beth’s, Amy’s, Zach’s, Robyn’s,  Matt’s, Tyler’s, or Madison’s.


Young Life couldn’t happen if it weren’t for the sacrificial service, the donation of time, tears, sweat, and unpaid time off, of all the volunte
When I left for Castaway I was overwhelmed with anxiety in getting the devo written, my family packed up, and my to-do list accomplished. I arrived June 29h at the end of my rope and started the whole trip with a scare that I had lost my two oldest kids in a small Minnesotan mall- a whole other long story!ers that work during a session. Joining the ranks of servants, were our own aunts and uncles. Zach and Christine and Adam and Mary Kate Osborne came to visit and to work- the soccer field hedges received a much needed haircut and our family received a lot of fun!P1030809

Looking over the small schedule in my pocket on the second day of camp, I began to piece together that it seemed impossible to both breastfeed Oaks and be at the beach for the beach party set up with the summer staff! With palpable panic rising up, I heard God say, “Take it one day at a time. Depend on me every day” and I felt a real and soothing peace settle inside. From that day forward, I was able to stay present with what was right in front of me. I loved really being with people, listening, talking and praying. I was grateful for good food all ready for me and cleaned up after me. I was beyond blessed by the help people gave me with my laundry or my children which enabled me to give of myself in whatever way Jesus needed me as shepherd, leader, listener, or chair carrier/breakfast sandwich maker, that day.

I am profoundly shaped by the chances we’ve had, 5 Julys in a row, to live, work, play, experience surprise and joy, and serve in that place.

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