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.
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…
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
A very blessed Advent, my friends.