Sunday, March 24, 2013

Oh, Hi, Ojai ! So High !

I don't blog much ever and Christine likes it when I do... so here goes...for her!
The Five of us here, Sveta, William, Me (dad) (John), Rachel, and Anna got invited to a very special place.
In fact, a fellow BSF'er, invited me last year and I didn't go because then I was "too busy".
So this year, I said yes.  Yes to a Friday-thru-Sunday full weekend no less--at a camp 3+ hours away!!!

You must not think for even a second that this was because I'm not busy this year!  Because I actually don't think I've ever been busier, EVER.   You think being a "husband of one wife" is challenging enough? (it is!)  Well imagine the work needed for her to really appreciate the effort!  (like blogging?)  Or do you think having 17 children would make it "impossible" to be a "good father" to all of them?  (Or to any?)  Well imagine the complications of practice and game schedules with having (just) six in organized sports!  Or do you think perhaps helping to run a juice factory is busy?  Well, try that--while helping to build and run a second juicery at the same time!  Well that's me right now.  Too busy.  But this time, I was wise enough to say YES and in fact, yes, because I am too busy.

"Forest Home" is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.  It is a beautiful mountain camp area that Julia served at recently.  It is where the famous Billy Graham, in the 40's, became a Christian.  And Christine has posted pictures of baptisms of many of our children occurring in a fun and pretty lake up there!  However, that's not where we went.

It turns out that 10 years ago the same "Forest Home" started running a camp in Ojai Valley (technically Oak View--about ten minutes due north of Ventura)--And that's where we went !

Annually, they have an event called "Upkeepers weekend".  This is when volunteers from all walks of life get room and board and 'pay' for it with "up keep" --general maintenance tasks like painting, staining, clearing brush, etc.  115 of us showed up (their largest group ever!) and SO much got done.  Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday morning had other activities and the children really enjoyed them.

Even without the activities, William was beyond content in the gorgeous oaks and sycamores.  Here he is before 8am in front of our tent cabin.

His clearly favorite game though was called "carpet ball".  Here he is midroll.

They enjoyed rock climbing and "flying" down the "zip" lines.  Here's Rachel proclaiming victory at the top!

Here are Anna and Rachel waiting to Zip down.

Here is William enjoying a good burger.

Here are Anna and Sveta (and William in line (again) for his next of a total of six hamburgers this trip!)

And for a video of the classic zipper,  here's Sveta:

A great hike was when William and I decided to go up to the top of the mountain--a great view of Lake Casitas.   We couldn't even believe we could go higher than the cross!

At sunset, my favorite, a pretty hair-wind-blown picture of Anna and Rachel:

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly when one shoots into the West, the sunlight blocked out the white cross atop the hill in the background.  Do you believe me that it's there?  Interesting.  Just like in the busy-ness of life, it can seem to disappear.  But I love the picture because I KNOW it's there.  And I love my life because I KNOW it's there--regardless of who else believes.

Rachel once told me a long time ago that she wanted to live until she was about 25 years old or whenever wrinkles start.  Of course you can guess how much that saddened me to hear as she was serious and I clearly still remember.   Well, Anna and Rachel went on a walk and they met two "old ladies".  This is in quotes of course because nothing about them was old.  They were also climbing to the top of the mountain and they were hard to keep up with!!!  Wonderful conversations began and Rachel and Anna came back and couldn't stop speaking of their new friends.  The next day they were recognized as getting their 90th birthdays celebrated recently/soon.  Rachel spoke of how beautiful they were (inside and out!) and has a wonderful new perspective on life.  They exchanged phone numbers and everything!  I'm thankful for that divine encounter.

Regarding the team had the job of staining/protecting all the whiskey barrels that are used as trash cans as well as the half barrels that are used as flower pots.  And then staining all the bleachers around a large fire pit!  And then, lastly, cleaning the bridge that goes over a creek--apparently there was a lot of bird poop on the top of it.

When we got to the bridge, I grabbed a broom and started hitting the sides with it strategically to get off the leaves and cobwebs and general debris that made it look much older than it probably was.   To do the side of the bridge at the middle, I had to stand down near the water.  Unfortunately, from there, I could see the underside of the bridge.  I'm not very descriptive but I'm sure it would have been a troll's paradise--cobwebs on spiderwebs on wasp nests on just undisturbed yuck.  I kind of thought surely this assignment was to do the railings, the top, and the sides--"No one would ever see underneath the bridge and that's just too much to do at the end of the day from the banks of the stream or from in the stream!"

So when the staff maintenance man appeared and the question was asked, "What about the bottom side?"  Without any hesitation, he replied something like, "Yes, that would be great."

Well I believe I got another round of several of life's lessons right there...
1)  Are you a good helper if you only do the "easy"?
2)  Should a job not be done if most people won't see its results?

I had REALLY happy children up there this weekend with me and was grateful for my brief escape--I don't think I could have shown my appreciation in a better way--not only did God make it all possible and He clearly sees even the undersides of bridges, but this one staff person also does go under the bridge occasionally too because there are various water valves underneath.  In the end, he was right, it was great!

I felt so good about it when it was done and I regret him getting asked if it should have been done in the first place!

"Cleaning the underside of a bridge"--in my life, could be analogous to adoptions of children.  Knee jerk reactions of mine regrettably are often, "no way" / "why bother" / "let someone who cares more do it".  But my partner always says, "That would be great".   And I believe I've been blessed with feelings of accomplishments that maybe only matter to a few people that I know my God appreciates.

I hope others decide to leave the busy-ness of life behind them next year and that it is another record turnout then!  I can't wait to discuss it with my other children who are in Mexico now (I miss them).  Christine seems game as well !


  1. Hi! It is great that your family can volunteer and aid a camp that serves the Lord.This week at the Ukraine church two male missionaries came and talked about their work repairing buidings and aiding orphans in the Ukraine. The men are part of a singing group that sells the Christian CD's to fund their projects.They also sold Christian CD'S. Many church members bought the CD's.The CD's are in Russian.The CD's are very powerful.Blessings,Pat

  2. Wow sounds like you all had a great time and were blessed at the same time. Thought it was funny when you mentioned Rachel saying that she only wanted to live until she was 25 years old. When I was her age I said a very similar thing to a friend(who has now been my husband for 15 years). I told him that there was enough left to life after you turn 30 so why would I want to live a life like that. Plus I would look so OLD! HAHA! Well thank goodness I am still 33 years old because I sure would have missed out on so many wonderful experiences. My husband still teases me all the time about it though. It is amazing how far away 25 or 30 seems when you are a teenager but it comes in a blink of an eye. Glad that Rachel got a new perspective on life. Thanks for sharing your wonderful weekend. You should blog more often!

  3. Oh how I love, love, love Forest Home! I've only been to the 'original' - both as a camper and as a CCA, mostly and working with special needs families. It's one of my very favorite places in the whole world...a place God's done significant things in my life, a place of precious memories, and a place from where so many of my dearest friendships stem!

    Thanks for mentioning it - it brought a smile to my face and my heart...something needed today!

    And I'm glad you're getting to make memories at Forest Home, too!

  4. Great post! Thanks for sharing, John. Love the analogies.

    Keep up the good work. You're an awesome Dad.

    mama of 12

  5. It sounds seriously Wonderful! And, I've never seen pix of William looking so happy!! He must be in his element out there!

  6. So encouraging. If you can do it, we all surely can! (Cleaning under bridges, of course! :)
    Such and encouraging post. Maybe next year the adoptive dads retreat could go there together as well?


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