Summer camp life lessons

A Christian Science perspective: The qualities instilled in a young girl at summer camp became useful years later at a tough time when she was a mom with three kids.

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As a child I attended a summer camp for girls named VEBYNIN. Each letter stood for a quality, and we were encouraged to watch for opportunities to express one or more of them in our daily round of activities:

Vision
Enthusiasm
Bravery
Yieldingness
Naturalness
Inspiration
Newness

Through the example of the camp director, staff, and my fellow campers, I saw these qualities being put into practice on a daily basis.

I remember standing at the end of the eight-foot-high diving board, too afraid to attempt my first dive. The waterfront counselor assured me that each of the Godlike qualities represented by the acronym VEBYNIN was always available to me – the vision to know that I could fulfill what was expected of me, the enthusiasm and bravery to embrace this challenge, the willingness to yield to the naturalness of inspiration that is fresh and new.

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Buoyed by her confident statements, I began to see that with God’s help, I could spring into the water below. With arms outstretched and really feeling God’s presence with me, I finally dived into the water, surfacing to the cheers of my camp mates.

I’m continuing to learn that the qualities embodied in that acronym, and many related ones, expand through expression. They are God’s qualities, and the God-power that supports our expression of them is ever available to each of us to express in our individual uniqueness. I believe that each one, when made active in my experience, has shaped my character for the better.

There was a time, however, when I had to learn anew the value of activating these qualities that seemed to lie dormant in my thought. I lived on the outskirts of town with three small children and a husband who worked long hours.

For a considerable period of time my days seemed dark, repetitious, and devoid of any inspiration. When a friend I complained to suggested that making room for enthusiasm and joy in my thinking, and actively expressing them, could help lift my thought, I felt rebuffed and defensive.

She reminded me that each of those qualities and many others, emanating as they did from God, the source of all good, were an inherent part of who I was, a loved child of God.

Her caring words, impelled by love, gradually pierced the clouds of self-pity and depression that seemed to hold me prisoner. I recalled the VEBYNIN acronym. Wasn’t enthusiasm tucked in there? I began to accept once again that the qualities of enthusiasm and joy, which my friend mentioned, were God-bestowed; and as His child, they were mine to be expressed, just as I had while at camp.

My initial efforts felt forced and false; but I persisted, answering the telephone with a cheerful hello instead of a dull, poor-me tone, and refusing to rehearse what I considered my sad plight.

As I continued identifying enthusiasm and joy as imparted by God, and, therefore, at the core of my very being as His expression, the darkness gradually faded, and I began to feel alive and responsive. Once again, fear and trepidation retreated.

The more familiar we become with God’s attributes, the more opportunities we have to express them; and, conversely, the more opportunities we have to express them, the more familiar they become to us. Having their source in God assures us of their continuing availability.

When presented with a new challenge, we can pray for the courage and willingness to express the Godlike qualities that are already ours by reflection and that will light the way to a successful resolution. Prayer expands thought to see that the qualities required are ever available to us and need only to be put to use.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, wrote, “He [God] gives His followers opportunity to use their hidden virtues ...” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 204). This opportunity is right at hand; and we can take advantage of it, knowing that God will reveal our “hidden virtues” as needed.

Anyone can adopt what VEBYNIN stands for – vision, enthusiasm, bravery, yieldingness, naturalness, inspiration, and newness. These seven qualities, and the many others that make up our unique nature as God’s reflection, are ours to be activated and nurtured as the situation requires. Each one assures us a strong foundation to meet with confidence and surety not only present challenges, but those that lie ahead.

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