Ashlie Miller: Big little things

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2024

By Ashlie Miller

Sleep-away summer camp has been a rite of passage for generations now. Some of my best summer memories are from one particular camp, Ambassador Camp on Lake Waccamaw. I only had the opportunity to go 2 or 3 times, but the stays there filled my childhood with memories that have endured. Counselors like “Cousin Pamela” or “Cousin Paula” felt like aunts caring for me those weeks. The founder was affectionally called “Aunt Sara.” The cabins felt like “adventure sleeping” (Andy Griffith fans will remember Opie using that phrase) — rustic enough not to feel like home but good enough to get rest during a busy week.

My children know silly songs I learned around the dining hall tables — “Fried ham, fried ham, cheese and bologna…” I share stories of the themes from each week, how I learned to swim in a lake, and being awoken one night to come outside to watch fireworks. Then, there was the kangaroo court with silly judgments from made-up misdemeanors. Inevitably, one counselor would receive the penalty of a dreaded homemade shampoo of cracked eggs and other goop.

At the time, I assumed we were remotely nestled away from civilization, with a field on the back side of the property. Stories of missionaries, like Amy Carmichael, and being caught up in island themes swept me away! Activities reserved only for camp weeks made this seem like a land of structured independence and fun.

Last year, on a trip to the beach with a few of my children, we again drove by the Lake Waccamaw area — passed many times over the years. Not being in a rush to reach our destination, I decided this would be the time to stop to see if the camp still looked the same. After driving by several lake properties and homes, I missed the location entirely at first. When I pulled up to the camp, which was not in session, I could quickly recognize a few of the cabins and buildings. There was little change overall, especially in the size. But — as many recollections of the past now seem — the place seemed smaller than I somehow remembered, and it was not in a remote location but nestled among a lovely lake community.

Have you had moments like that — revisiting the old neighborhood where you rode your bike freely for seemingly endless miles only to realize it was not that big after all? But that freedom made it feel tremendous!

I find that, as an adult, my perception of things today is still that of a child. Trials find their way into my life and seem devastatingly big. Instead of fun and freeing childlike experiences, they are scary and paralyzing. Stepping back — or rather forward — I can see that they are not as big as they seemed to me at the moment. It can be embarrassing to ask others to pray for trials, especially when we compare them to what others are going through. It can feel like an insignificant request or lament to present to the Creator God.

But nothing is too small for a big but personal God. Sure, down the road on the journey, a look in the rearview mirror may reveal that the ordeal was not larger than life. At the moment, however, it was very real and looming, yet that big Creator met you there personally and calmed troubled waters.

I hope this summer provides you opportunities to revisit and reminisce with fondness over simpler times and encourage you for the big, small things today.

Ashlie Miller is mom to five children — one serving at camp all summer, three going to a camp soon, and another waiting for his turn.

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