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    A while back, I was sitting here at Sandy Cove, looking out at the river, and thinking. I was trying to imagine what it would feel like to come back for a visit in 20 or 30 years (assuming I am not still working here then). I’m sure I would notice changes.

    In the 14 years I have been here, I have been involved in adding and implementing some cool stuff. But I can’t imagine that in 30 years the playground I built will be here—if it is, you might not want to play on it! Ditto the zip line, big swing, and all that good stuff. Hopefully, someone brilliant will have done a bunch of stuff to make this place even more ridiculously awesome, and I’ll be happy about it when I come visit.

    But in 30 years I’ll be different too, and I suspect that the best place to realize the changes in me would be back in that same chair looking out at the river. Because the river is going to look about the same—even if they build a Howard Johnson's across the bay on the Charlestown bank. I’ll just block it out with my thumb and enjoy “my river.” It will still be the same colors, the same size, and the sun will still set across it the same way, and because of that it will be my measuring stick.

    We tend not to notice growth or change until we compare it to something that is staying the same.

    At our house when a kid has a birthday, we hang one of those “Happy Birthday” banners, except we hang it vertically, and have the kid stand in front so we can take a picture. Every year, each kid is a letter or two higher in front of the sign, which stays the same height. (When we moved, I had to measure the screw in the door jamb of the old house, to make sure the sign could stay the same height in the new house!)

    I think sitting in front of the river would juxtapose my “now” self with my “then” self, and highlight where I have (hopefully) grown as a person. Where I have matured spiritually, what things are no longer as important, and how I am trusting Jesus more. I’ll probably also be reminded of loss, and failure, and how that contributed to my growth.

    I bet it might be the same for you, too, especially if you are only here periodically. Are you able to see change in yourself when you come back and stand in front of the river? I know people have other favorite spots on the grounds here—the tree you got engaged under, the rock where you first talked to Jesus about taking over your life, and other places with great memories connected—but it seems to me that the river is the place we go to compare the images, and can see the change most clearly.

    Where is your favorite spot at Sandy Cove? Do you think deep thoughts at that spot or just go with
    “Wow . . . Pretty! Good job, God!”?

    Nate Ransil
    Nate joined the Program department at Sandy Cove in 2003, and transitioned to director of that team in 2014. Nate graduated from Houghton College with a double major in Communication and Outdoor Recreation (yes, it is a thing) and got to know his wife Evelyn while co-leading backpacking trips for at-risk youth. Hopefully not as at-risk are their two sons, Caleb and TJ, who have spent all their summers at Sandy Cove, Camp Sandy Cove, and The MARSH! Nate enjoys being outside, being inside, being handy, the beach, snowboarding, roller coasters, training aardvarks, bodybuilding, contributing to quantum theory, and making up fanciful, if not entirely accurate, biographical details.
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