Several decades ago my dad and mom purchased eight acres in south-central Iowa. It reminded them of Wisconsin, partially because it was very remote and also because the mosquitoes were as big as songbirds. It is situated on a “lake” that the locals say used to be 30 feet deep, but now boasts about the same number in inches. It is now home to carp, geese, and ducks; and most of the year resembles the landscape of Mars.
About the time we were having babies (actually, to be fair, Burnadette was having the babies), I decided this little patch of land needed to become a place to get away. The first latrine (for about seven young teens) consisted of a hole, a rope between two trees, and a blanket to hide such precious moments. These were the pioneer years at Morningstar – clearing brush, getting poison ivy, building outdoor toilets, getting poison ivy, building awesome tree houses, playing capture the flag, and getting lots of poison ivy.
Our children grew up with Morningstar – from tents, to a camper, then a cabin, running water, indoor plumbing – to a year round getaway home – each step has been a gastronomic, arduous treat. My daughter Rachel and two sons David and John shared this with me. Burnadette (in her own way) shared it as well. Each summer I would take off for a week in the woods with my three kids – looking in the rear-view mirror to find the adoring, lingering gaze of my wife who was free…free…free! For five days she could call her life her own (catching up on laundry – but she WAS alone).
For our community of friendships, Morningstar has become an expression of boys becoming men, girls becoming women, and men embracing one of the highest callings we will ever face – as shepherds of our homes. We enjoy climbing walls, a rifle range, canoes and kayaks, fire pits, deer, wild turkeys – and in the winter – a wood stove with a clear fireplace window on the front. My favorite time here is winter – often when the weatherman predicts five or six inches of new snow, I will jump in my truck and hole up at Morningstar for the duration, looking out the many windows, reading, and doing office work at an incredibly productive, creative rate.
Just last fall about 20 or so dads and daughters gathered for an annual overnight at Morningstar. After grilling burgers, cooking pizzas, and sharing the other fast food destinations we had encountered along the way, we hung out playing cards and board games and eventually gathered around the campfire. We took turns telling why our girls and dads were special to each one of us, taking care to bless our girls with words of affirmation, appreciation, and hope. Miles away from the city on this particular moonless, cloudless night we viewed a panorama of absolutely spectacular stars. We walked into the field that adjoins our timbered land and pointed out constellations, prayed, and sang a beautiful God-song that we all knew. It was perfect. After 25 years many of our girls (and boys) still come home each year. We watch young women with their own children sitting side by side with a new generation of six and eight year old girls, many with their own dads who have now become “papas.” Let’s just say it is a treasure which my feeble word pictures do poor justice.
We have shared many experiences at Morningstar – summer camps, family getaways, and great friendship and neighbor times. There is just something good about leaving your mainstream, even for just a few hours, and reconnecting with reflection upon those you love – and the things that bring true meaning to life. All of this without the distraction of video games, the internet, or time-guzzling television sets.
Several hundred children, teens, and adults have revealed parts of their stories at Morningstar as we have cared for one another, faced the awkwardness of being human, and grown up. Some stories are only fragments, some of the kids are having children of their own and still play a regular part in each others’ lives – but each piece forms an overlapping part of our circle of stories.
Sometimes I will be sitting alone at Morningstar and the Voice will bring one of these soul-strands to mind, and as I recount whatever memory is evoked, I pray for that particular person, and am grateful for the supernatural connections in my life. I am haunted by the fleeting aspects of life. Tonight as I write I am watching my three oldest grandsons sleeping in their bunks in our cabin at Camp Morningstar. I feel a thousand miles away from the busy world that clicks along around me at the speed of light. As I listen to their breathing I pray for Fusion with their Creator. I am hopeful that their individual imprints on the souls of the people they love will be great. I dream of meeting them face to face after they have lived out their own lives of faith, sharing endless God-stories and enjoying a suffering-free eternity – when these shadows become rivers of light.
“We couldn’t be more sure of what we saw and heard – God’s glory, God’s voice. The prophetic Word was confirmed to us. You’ll do well to keep focusing on it. It’s the one light you have in a dark time as you wait for daybreak and the rising of the Morning Star in your hearts.” – 2 Peter 1:19 in the Message
For the Life-influencers among us:
Building a legacy of memories in my family and community enhances personal mission.
What are your successes in your married and family life?
What and how could you continue to improve conditions in your home? With your friends?
A Star Song
Some of this year’s Morning Strong Men 🙂
Thanks to Dave & Mary Nadler for so many awesome Morningstar memories