Christmas at Camp Marah

I’m a namer. Shortly after we moved into this RV, my husband asked me what we were going to call it, knowing full well I’d have something in mind. I did–though it had taken a few days to rise to the surface.

“Camp Marah,” I told him.

And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter… ~Exodus 15

It seemed so appropriate for a temporary home in the midst of chaos and trauma: a resting place, but also a place of great challenge and eventual deliverance.

And so, Camp Marah it was from that day. Marah—where, not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, the Israelites were absolutely convinced they would perish.

Marah—where in the miraculous mercy of God, the bitter waters were made sweet.

I’ve had a taste of that sweetness this Advent, even amid some of the more acrid realities of displacement. From making ornaments for the smallest Christmas tree we’ve ever had, to early morning tea-light devotions, to sipping an only-at-Christmas treat of a St. George “Terroir” martini, it’s been a sweet, albeit deeply tender season. In endeavoring to honor the heartache of homesickness and the beauty of the “present little moment” I’m finding to my joy that there’s room for both in this place.

All that said, I thought I’d give you a peek into what Christmas looks like at Camp Marah. It’s amazing what a little holly and a few red ribbons can do…

A sweet friend sent me these embroidered tea towels for Christmas. As I told her, only a Southern woman could understand just how much another Southern woman would appreciate a gift like this! 🙂

Last week, Laura and Rachel came here for our annual Advent Tea. As it turned out, the day was an oasis for me in the midst of a crazy week (anyone who’s ever built or restored a home knows what I’m talking about!), and even the small preparations I was able to make were good for my heart. It was good for me to set a pretty table, to light candles and simmer a pot of fragrant coffee. I made scones, sausage and apples, scrambled eggs with shallots and goat cheese–and I felt more like myself than I have in months. Simple as it was, it was an offering of friendship, and a small feast in the name of the one whose birth we’re all honoring this season.

Over the weekend, we had a record-breaking December snowstorm–10 inches, which is unheard of in Atlanta. There’s a certain holiday-making attendant upon a Southern snowfall, and while the beauty and the cold alike made me ache for my house and my fireside (and my kitchen!), it also gave me this place in a new light. The barn felt cozier than ever, and I spent more time out of doors than I ever would have done under normal (snow) circumstances.

We were woefully unprepared. We had no winter coats, hats, scarves or gloves. And by the time we tried to make a grocery run, we couldn’t get out of our driveway.

But we’ve got some truly wonderful neighbors. Without our having to ask, they fed, provisioned and outfitted us for this weather event, making what would have been a rather cold and hungry weekend a beautiful memory of friendship and warmth. We feel so blessed.

So there’s a little glimpse into the most unusual holiday season we’ve ever known. Home, but not at home; sorrowing, yet full of joy. There’ll be no frenzy of baking and candy-making this year, no stuffing of freezers and making of beds. With little time and less funds for Christmas shopping, things will be rather spartan in the gift department. And while my heart aches for many of the blessed comforts that mean ‘home’ to me, and especially this time of year, there’s an undeniable sweetness to this little camp in the wilderness.

“We may be the only ones who ever spend Christmas in this trailer,” I told Philip the other day.

If that’s the case, and if our celebrations sanctify the spaces we occupy as Christians (and I fully believe they do), then this is where what we’re celebrating intersects with the realities of our lives. Right here is where we welcome our Lord; right here is where He meets us with “a crown of beauty instead of ashes,the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. ~Isaiah 61: 3

Ah, my dear angry Lord, Since thou dost love, yet strike; Cast down, yet help afford; Sure I will do the like. I will complain, yet praise; I will bewail, approve; And all my sour-sweet days I will lament and love. ~George Herbert, “Bitter-Sweet”

A very blessed Advent, my friends.

 

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11 thoughts on “Christmas at Camp Marah

  1. well, I always said that beauty can be made anywhere and while your trailer is really quite nice generally speaking, you made it full of magical beauty! Your hearts must be full of deep appreciation for the many things you have had and that you are restoring and rebuilding; I hope for this for you and am so glad to see such beauty and snow! and I really hope by next Christmas you will be back in your lovely home, awash with glow at the riches of it. God bless and keep you and your beloved!!! … Also that tea towel is SO SO beautiful! I love tea towels too and the one you have is such a treasure!!!

  2. I loved everything about this post! You conveyed peace and joy and reverence in every word and photo. Thank you. Just beautiful.

  3. Lanier,
    This Advent at Camp Marah really spoke to me. It solidified a lot of feelings I had suppressed in this season of commercial “do it our way” propaganda. You cut to the heart of what has true meaning, and make me want to read Isaiah with a new enthusiasm and openess. You and Laura are two very gifted women. Thank you both for making my Advent more meaningful each year. Any time you want to bring Camp Marah to our House Mountain cabin in Virginia, let us know. We have made some improvements, but it looks as if Camp Marah has everything you need.

  4. I was just checking in (iMessage) with my daughter who has to be up at 2:30am for a flight home from Prince Edward Island where she began studies in September (I know, Anne and all!) She had spent the earlier part of the evening with a farming family she has got to know there. Her message said simply that she’d had a GREAT time at the ‘V’s’- to which I responded, “that sounds happy.” Her reply, “Yes, I got to feed goats. Enough said!” – A first for her. I’ll be sure to show her your lovely barn and animals in snowy Camp Marah when she gets home tomorrow, Lanier.

    Snow, ten whole inches – a blanket of grace falling on Camp Marah this Advent, to be sure.

  5. Thanks for sharing your joy in sorrow. That’s really what Christmas is all about, I suppose. Christ coming to save a broken world- a joy, quiet and unrealized, but so deserving of our notice! My Christmas “plans” were slightly disrupted this year, too. My mom was in an accident and broke her leg this week – I’m away from home and husband for a bit to help mom recover, but praising the Lord for my mom’s life and strength. No Christmas presents will be under MY tree this year (I packed them all up and brought them with me to wrap) and some might arrive late, but they’ll still be given with joy. God is good and has me where I need to be. Lucky for us, He is everywhere. Happy Christmas, Lanier & Laura!

  6. Oh, Lanier. How your words lift my spirits and remind me of the deeper realities I so quickly forget. Thank you for your example of acknowledging and welcoming the tension of sour-sweet days. Much love and appreciation!

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