Every year for the past ten years, Village Creek Bible Camp has hosted four scrapbook/craft retreats. In the week prior to the retreat, the staff at the camp transforms the gymnasium into a work space for 110 women. Although the weekends are not billed as “women’s retreats” per se, there is something inherent about the subject matter that makes this event a female-only crowd. Eight foot tables cover what normally is a volleyball/basketball court or floor hockey area. The rock-climbing wall is completely blocked off from use by tables.
I love to spend a weekend each year with this group of women.
I am not a scrapbooker. In the first few years after my mom passed away when all of her leftover scrap and craft stuff moved into my basement, I tried to like scrapbooking. My sister-in-love and I even made a book of our kids for our mother-in-love. This really showed me that attempting to make a square peg go into a round whole truly is a futile moment. It just did not work. I am not something…patient, maybe?…enough to do well at scrapbooking. I also did not enjoy it. Those are the two elements that need to occur in any activity one pursues: enjoyment and success. If I would have had success, perhaps I would have enjoyed it more. And I even would have persevered and tried to get better if I had enjoyed the activity…even without success. I simply did not accomplish either.
My name is Stacy Bender, and I do not scrap.
Although I have accepted that I am not a scrapbooker myself, I have several friends who both enjoy the activity as well as being successful at it. They make beautiful albums for their children, their trips, and their families. These women tirelessly produce great books of memories. They put pictures, journal pieces, and embellishments into their beautiful scrapbooks. Because of my love for these women as friends, I choose to be with them on weekend events in the midst of their creativity while I do other activities such as blog or create presentations for an upcoming workshop. Sitting around the table with them at these events has been a learning experience.
The group of women who tend to scrapbook together at these events at camp or on evenings throughout the year have created a community that celebrates accomplishments as well as mourns together. They have seen children be born as well as pass away; they have seen children get married as well as have marriages fall apart; and they have watched as rebellious children graduate from high school and mature into wonderful adults. As they sit around the scrapbook tables and ask each other for advice about color combinations, they share life, support one another, and pray and cry together.
Although I am not a scrapbooker myself, being with these women around the scrapbooking table helps me to understand community. In the same way that pioneer women would have crafting bees, quilting evenings, and ladies’ aide meetings in their churches, modern women have “Crop ’til You Drop” nights. I originally had written “Scrap ’til You Crap,” but that did not sound right on so many levels! It would make a funny tshirt slogan, though! On the outside, these evenings appear to be about finishing pages and creating books; however, once inside, it becomes clear that they are less about productivity and more about connectivity.
In a world that is becoming more and more fractured with relationships that are less and less authentic, this practice of coming together around a table filled with photographs and memories allows women to connect, share, and remember. Whether through creating scrapbooks, taking walks, or sipping a cup of tea, we need one another to support each other and to celebrate with one another. Life is hard; we need community to walk through it with us. It not only makes it eaiser, but it also is the way that we were created.