Sunday, September 26, 2010

Letting Go of a Place I Love

The girls and I went to Blue Lake this weekend.  Every good Methodist knows about Blue Lake, and just hearing those two words brings a flood of memories.  It is in the middle of Conecuh National Forest.  The camp surrounds a lake. The accommodations are somewhat rustic, but the surroundings will take your breath away.

I spent a lot of time alone, just walking through the camp and and thinking of days gone by.  The memories flooded in like a tidal wave.  Everywhere I went, there were mental pictures of happier times with my family.  They were sweet and precious, yet at the same time the grief from those memories cut deep to the core of my very being.  I read recently that grief can be summed up in four words:  something ended too soon.  I wish that Jason and I could have taken our grandchildren to Blue Lake one day.  I would love to be with him one day in the new chapel. Those things will never happen.   I have so many memories of our family together there, but no more will be made.

This weekend, I took the book of my life with Jason back out, and I remembered.

  • I thought of when we ran a junior high camp twelve years ago.  We would take the girls with us.  They were five and three.  There are lizards everywhere at Blue Lake.  The girls would go around collecting them and keeping them in a box.  One time Anna was holding one close to her face, and suddenly it latched onto her chin.  She came screaming to us as the lizard held on for dear life.  Finally, her dad pried it off.  She was left with two little holes on her chin.  I had no idea that a lizard could draw blood.
  • I reminisced about all the Sunshine Camps that we worked together.  This is a camp for mentally challenged adults.  My favorite time of this camp is Sunday morning worship.  We would always gather in the old chapel on the site.  The windows were open.  There was no air.  My friend, Alicia, would play "Amazing Grace" with all her might on the old organ as the campers sang their hearts out.  There are no purer souls on this earth than those precious campers.
  • I thought of all the elementary camps that we took part in when the girls were attending.  It was such a privilege to share these experiences with them.  I can still hear all the squeals and giggles as they would go running into the lake.  I see their sweet faces as we would take Holy Communion at Vesper Point overlooking the lake.
  • I remembered the anguish of being with Jason as he went before the Board of Ministry to become an elder with the church.  
  • I relived the Emmaus walks, Pastors' Assemblies, Confirmation Retreats and a variety of other events and retreats.
I took a moonlight stroll last night around the camp.  It was absolutely beautiful with the moon illuminating the lake.  I walked by a group that was cleaning up from a service they had experienced earlier.  I remembered the dozens of times that we held those services.  I saw couples walking together hand in hand, enjoying the quiet atmosphere away from the business of the world.  I wanted to go to them and say, "Treasure this moment.  Realize what a gift it is to walk hand in hand with the one you love."

The most emotional part of the trip was visiting vesper point.  In the Catholic church, vespers is an evening prayer service.  Years ago, someone decided to use this term for evening prayer services out by the lake.  There are three different camps at Blue Lake and each camp has a special gathering place that overlooks the lake where vespers are held during retreats.  I spent time alone at all three locations.  It was a painful reminder of a beautiful time in my life that I didn't want to end.  I had such conflicting emotions.  As I experienced and relived all these memories, I felt sadness and nostalgia.  Yet as I thought of my current feelings, I still felt indifference.  It was hard for me to reconcile these two feelings.

This morning I spent time at Vesper Point for Dogwood Camp.  That is where the strongest memories are.  When we were there, our whole family was together.  As I sat there, I realized that for now, maybe it is not healthy for me to spend time here.  I love this place.  It will always hold a special place in my heart.  But, it is a part of my past that was completely tied to my life with Jason, and the memories there are nothing but funny, sweet, and good.  I am building a new life now.  I cannot build on this new life as long as I cling to the past.  

This morning I said goodbye to Blue Lake.  I love that place.  It will always be special.  Maybe one day I will go back.  But for the time being, I need to break away and build new memories.  

To all of those who have been involved in making this camp such a beautiful refuge from the crazy world we live in, thank you!  There is a wonderful chapter in the book of my previous life about this special place.  This blog is dedicated to that place and to all the people through the years who have served there so faithfully.

If you have special memories of Blue Lake, share them in a comment below.  I would love to read them and I want those reading the blog who have never visited this special place to see it through the eyes of others as well.


  1. I went to blue lake the first time to a retreat as a child in the late 50's. Pinewood was the only camp. I still remember hiking around the lake on a nature scavenger hunt. My next series of visits were various conference youth retreats and fall rallies in the 60's. Hikes around the lake became walks with friends in which we laughed and cried together, shared what we believed, and talked about life.

    As an adult it has beeen the site of many retreats, UMW meetings, and various studies through the years. Each trip brought the same awe of the peace and beauty of God's creation. There is no place where the sacrement of Holy Communion is more meaningful than beside that lake.

    My most meaningful visit was a trip about 10 years ago. I went to a weekend study on Healing and Wholeness with my Mother. My real reason for going was to catch up with a special friend, Minta McDavid. The Lord works in interesting ways! - Minta was unable to go and it was too late for me to cancel. Little did I know how powerful that study taught by Dr. Laycock and a Christian doctor from Vanderbuilt University would be, nor did I realize how much I would later rely on the memories of that weekend as Mother went through 6 rounds with cancer.

  2. My first camping experience was at Blue Lake. I went with a friend. It is a beautiful place! Most of my camping memories (and some of yours, Amy) are from Camp Ambassador. For the last two years I have taken Maddi to Camp Springville. It is not Camp Ambassador, but the Spirit of the Lord hovers there, just as it did at Camp Ambassador. Camp is a unique experience. There is something special about leaving the hustle and bustle of life--all of our electronic connections to this world--and submerging ourselves into God's beautiful creation and expecting to meet Him there! Every day life should be like camp. We should carefully guard our hearts and expect God to do something new in our lives every day! Maybe you and your girls could start new camping memories at Camp Springville. It is also a beautiful place!

  3. In the 1970s, I was a member of the Cain's Chapel UMC singing group "Living Hope." We went to Blue Lake twice to sing for the campers. Mrs. Ann jay, wife of Rev. Winston Jay, was the leader of our group of 12. We had so much fun! Toothpaste and shaving cream fights, volleyball, swimming, etc., etc. But it was also a time of spiritual growth and renewal. A beautiful place, a beautiful time, and beautiful people.