Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Lucky me! I got to go camping again!

My church had a wonderful family camp out this past weekend and the fall setting looked much like the photo above. Brown and golden leaves are just beginning to drift off the trees and settle into a crunchy mass on the earthen floor. Every breeze brings a shower of more color swirling to the ground. It is a lovely time of year and a welcome setting for our church family to revisit each other.

Back in our traditional church setting we seldom have time to do more than meet-and-greet and quickly rush off to teach Sunday school, perform in the puppet skits, or sing with the praise team. We feel it when we are missing that deep inner connection that binds us together. That is when we know it is time for a change of scenery. So we headed for a local park in the area.

Thrusting us into a new setting creates new layers of friendships. Because of the setting we were forced to slow down, relax, rely on each other and share. We shared our band aids, our fishing poles, firewood, air pumps, and our food.

One member brought barbecued brisket, sausage, chicken and ribs for a tasty lunch for all of us. What a generous, unexpected treat. After inviting him, to then, share our dinner I panicked when I discovered I had left the veggies at home. Not to worry my best friend offered to pool her meal of fish and veggies with ours and together we fed 4 families. It reminds me of another meager fish meal that fed so many. . .

I learned about the romantic back stories, hilarious honeymoons, and current concerns of these fascinating people I have been worshipping with for years. Spirited games of volleyball brought on more laughter than points. Wandering toddlers always had at least 3 sets of eyes upon them. And although none of the fishermen and women brought home any catfish they brought home a closer understanding of each other. Fishing poles were even laid on the ground in favor of more in-depth conversations by the shoreline.

Something good was going on here. Growth!

It was with great reluctance each of us packed our camping gear and made the transition back to reality. But we went away from this setting better than when we came.

For the first time, I began to realize the power of setting upon us, upon our characters. Donald Maass in his "Breakout" book describes a good setting as having an "impact on the characters". The setting should have some kind of psychological effect upon them. Setting is also listed as one of the key elements to spice up a plot in Bell's, "Plot and Structure."

Questions: Is your setting having any impact on your characters? Does it cause them to act in unexpected ways? Are you using setting to enrich your plot? Let me know.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I love camping! Anyone that knows me, knows it is my favorite hobby.

No RVs in this family, only lots of tents, sleeping bags, lanterns and hiking boots.

I often ask for camping gear for birthdays and for Christmas. One Mother's Day I specifically asked for only one item. . . tent stakes. I got them too!

For us Texans, the camping season is pretty limited. Most of the year it is just too hot and that is why all of us trek up to Colorado in the summer, especially if we have camping on the brain.

Sleeping under the stars is a tradition that I grew up with. My parents invested in a Starcraft pop-up camper when my sisters and I were young and every summer vacation found us in our favorite Rocky mountain campsites. I have such wonderful memories of cold rainy nights and competitive card games with my cousins. Luckily I found a terrific guy who also shared my outdoorsy love of the wild. Can you believe that our exotic honeymoon destination was a tent in an Oklahoma campground? Shocking, huh?

Hooray!!! It is finally cool enough around here to go camping again and we headed for the pine forests of Tyler last weekend. One night, while all my guys went fishing, I stayed behind to relish the smoky fire and do some reading. Campfires have a way of stopping time and bringing out our reflective sides. Why do I love camping so much? My fireside contemplation revealed 3 key reasons:

1. It nourishes my soul. I feel closer to God and seem to feel his presence more in a natural setting. My husband feels it too and says it is worshipping God in his natural cathedral. Several campsites have Sunday morning services as well.

2. It strengthens family bonds. This is family time and we are making memories that will last a lifetime. We have time to walk, talk and catch up with each other.

3. It is a welcome break from reality. We leave computers, televisions, agendas, and "to-do" lists behind. If I were home I would not be sitting still absorbing the beauty of God's world and appreciating His gift of the changing seasons. I would be busy, too busy for God to visit with me.

As I sat quietly enjoying the last few orange coals of the fire, it struck me that these are some of the same reasons our readers will pick up our books. Hopefully they will come away with a restored soul, ideas and techniques to strengthen relationships and have a refreshing break from reality in the process.

What do you think of camping? Do you have a hobby or getaway destination that restores you?