When awe breaks in

Jenna Liechty Martin serves as executive director at Camp Friedenswald (Cassopolis, Michigan), the camp of Central District Conference, where she lives with her husband, Peter, and son, Henry. She enjoys walking the woods, especially in the freshly fallen snow.

From Mary’s Song:

My soul proclaims with wonder

The greatness of the Lord;

Rejoicing in God’s goodness,

My spirit is restored.

 

On a recent morning, I awoke to light filling the bedroom; it was dazzling bright, and I knew why. I lifted my two-year-old son, Henry, from bed and carried him to the window. Together we drew back the curtains to find a woods blanketed with the first fallen snow of the season. His lips curled at the corners and jaw drew open; his eyes sparked. “It’s everywhere!” he exclaimed. Snow was on the birdfeeder and roofs of neighboring homes, on the branches of the already white sycamores, on the sandbox tools played with just the day before. He was filled with wonder and awe. And so was I.

Days before, I walked the prairie and woodlands of Camp Friedenswald, struck by the various hues of brown. Even after four years, four cycles through the seasons, I hadn’t before noticed the vibrant and contrasting colors of late-fall. Wildflowers, now dried and seed-dropped, covered the landscape. Dried sedges, grasses and cattails seized my gaze. I wanted to preserve and remember its beauty. I started plucking grasses from their beds, and flowers from the field, and assembled a dried bouquet. A reminder of beauty and wonder that filled me that day.

From the camp office, I headed out towards the mailbox, a short jaunt and timely break, to get the day’s mail. I walked through the “boys’ cabins,” remembering that a year ago, this earth was torn up, bare and ready for new foundations to be laid. Now, one year later, six new cabins stand, ready and able to welcome campers and families to rest. I pause, considering the careful planning, work and generosity that was poured into the project by so many who love this place — and awe fills me once again.

As I write on this day, my stomach flutters. Kicks, tiny punches, from a baby not yet born, remind me of the mystery growing within. So again, I pause, take a deep breath, and notice the awe that unsettles me to the very core.

Of course, the routine and mundane mark most of my life, but awe does break in from time to time. And so, especially in this season of anticipation, this season of Advent, I recognize the in-breaking of awe as a gift. It’s a gift intertwined and mingled with beauty, fear and mystery.

The awe of a freshly fallen snow … Beauty fills and captivates the senses, as I’m also aware of the slick roads caused by too much snow in Cass County, Michigan. I’m reminded of the mystery that ground which was just cleared of fallen oak leaves lies covered once again.

The awe of a once green landscape, turned brown … A masked beauty that presents itself each year, often unnoticed. A mystery of death and life that unfolds without any effort on my part, season after season.

The awe of a project complete … Something more than one, or two, or ten people could accomplish, but something that came into being because of something greater than ourselves. Recalling the fear of taking on a project too large and unattainable and the beauty of it coming together.

The awe of a new life, taking shape within … Knowing that this baby that grows depends on me, and yet is so utterly beyond my control. Living with hope and yet with fear of loss, of hopes dashed. Life at Camp Friedenswald, a place of beauty and natural wonder, provides an opportunity — daily — to be awed. And while days will be routine, and senses might become dulled, I hope to welcome the mystery, the beauty and the fear, and to linger awhile. To be swept up and open to where the awe might take me. Holding onto Mary’s Song:

My soul proclaims with wonder

The greatness of the Lord;

Rejoicing in God’s goodness,

My spirit is restored.