The end of May has been great on so many levels. Our winter storm Renovations in Kelsey Lodge and Vicki’s Haven are finally coming together. The salt staff is super excited about their arrival on Tuesday (June 1st) and making preparations for an amazing summer. And on top of all that, I am personally excited that my hormones finally arriving in the mail. I have been waiting for them for weeks. And when I opened up the package in the office to make sure they were correct, I blurted out with excitement that my hormones finally made it! After saying it out loud with such enthusiasm, I looked over and saw some of the staff staring at me with odd looks on their faces. Since I had never talked about wanting hormones before, the confusion I picked up on their faces was understandable and their lack of response prompted my quick reply. I hurriedly added that the hormones were for some of my gardening projects where I am propagating root cuttings for hard to find or expensive native plants.
Gardening, plants, and propagation have been a part of my life since I was a kid. I’m not quite sure when my love for plants began, but I do remember my church family in Henderson, Texas being a major influence. My Uncle Howard also was a significant influence for my love for plants (and rocks) and continues to provide me with new tips, tricks, and updated research. Dirt mesmerized me as a kid. How could beautiful flowers and delicious food come from dirt with worm poop, decaying plants, and rocks possibly be good for a plant. Uncle Howard would tell me that if you take care of the soil, it would take care of the plant. Many people try and “fix” plant problems by looking at the plant rather than by looking at the soil.
Over the years, I have discovered that plants are more fascinating that I ever could have imagined as a child. There are so many types of plants that grow in all types of soils. “Common sense” gardening of a new bag of Miracle Grow potting soil is not always the best route for plants. Some plants need rich, fertile soil while others need soil deplete of nutrients to thrive. Some like to sit in water and others need well drained soils. Some like acidic soils while others do not. The list goes on and on and the combinations needed for plants takes time to discover. It takes knowing the plant, research of its native habitat, and patience (with some trial and error) for a plant to adapt to a new environment. As a hobby, growing these plants in pots can be fun, but as a general practice of landscaping it is always better to learn about native plants that are accustomed to the soils, provide food and housing for wildlife, and can be sustained with the rainfall. This also ensures that the plants are compatible with one another. I never understood why some plants I bought died while others thrived when I was younger.
Another fun discovery about plants deals with their cells which are totipotent. Totipotent means that any cell of the plant is capable of generating a new, genetically identical plant. Propagation methods vary and some plants are much easier to grow than others, but with a little practice and aid from the right environmental conditions, a slew of baby plants can be had (insert mad scientist/botanist laugh here)! Because each cell can form a new plant, the decision for the cell to become a root, stem, or leaf becomes very important. When propagating cuttings, I like to use a rooting hormone to encourage root growth. If I can get roots to grow, the plant takes care of the rest. There have been times that the cutting in the water chooses to bloom or make a leaf without rooting, but the cutting typically dies.
I have gleaned a lot about human nature and spiritual formation from plants. There are many connections and insights to be made with observing the plant kingdom. I firmly believe that like plants, we are products of our environment. The type of nutrition, surroundings, and nurture shape who we are. Being proactive on the care of a plants soil can greatly affect its growth, maturation, and ability to produce flowers or fruit. Humans needs nutrition for the body, mind, and spirit, healthy environments, and opportunities to discover their potential in a loving, supportive environment. We are beautifully and wonderfully made as David writes in Psalm 139.
Being proactive increases our ability to reflect that life that God would want us to experience. Being great as sports or art or math does not happen by accident, but with practice, education, and repetition. Spirituality, connecting to God in new and wonderful ways, and deepening our faith walk requires intentionality. Sometimes this intentionality requires tools like going to church, attending youth programs, going on a mission trip, and church camps to name a few. I firmly believe in creating safe spaces and opportunities for young people to be authentic and grow in an environment where they can try new things, learn from counselors and other campers, and share on a deep, spiritual level joys, concerns, and possibilities for the future.
Church camps are unique in that the community formed is camper centric and teaches youth many aspects of living in an intentional Christian community. We laugh, play, pray, eat, and experience God together. It is good for the soul. These experiences shape not just the moment or a memory, but are embodied within the campers to live a richer and more passionate life. Like fertilizers, going to camp year after year deepens their knowledge base, increases spiritual resiliency, and teaches them how to be faithful leaders in the world. I am grateful to be part of a church camp that understands the sacred ministry in helping our children and youth mature in their Christian journey.
Since 1958, Slumber Falls Camp has offered summer camps that are camper centric, relational, and designed to be fun and relevant. This summer our camp numbers are trending upwards and some camps already have waiting lists for certain genders. I imagine that this is due to many people recognizing how important church camps are. It took a pandemic, social isolation/distancing, and a shutting down of gatherings for some to realize this and make strides to be more intentional about the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness of their child. In the same way we address problems with a plant, we can recognize and adjust course with the needs of ourselves and our children. This summer is going to be amazing! The energy and excitement for camps is palpable.
I am so excited for this summer camping season and seeing all of our camp family again as well as all the new people who will be joining our camp family. I am eager to see how our programs, activities, and spiritual experiences serve as a catalyst or hormone to our camper’s spirits. I look forward to see how some of the “seeds” planted in the past are maturing and hopefully blooming from prior years.
If you have not signed up a loved one for camp, please do so quickly. If you have felt called to do something more with your spiritual life and would like to be a counselor or volunteer at summer camp, please reach out to the office or go online and fill out a volunteer staff application. Try something new. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, we should try and “do one thing every day that scares you.” It helps push us out of our comfort zones and, more often than not, we develop new skills and sometimes new passions. If you’re ever interested in talking about plants or hormones or spiritual formation, I would love to have that conversation with you and glean more wisdom. I hope your summer goes well and that our paths cross soon.