Category Archives: Family

What I learned from Clark Griswold

Some of you may already know this, but my family and I just returned from a two week vacation in which we rented a 30 foot motor home and drove over 2,500 miles,  across 6 states, visiting 5 national parks including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone NP. While some people might cringe at the idea of spending two weeks in a 300 square foot box on wheels with three kids and their spouse, this was actually a vacation I’d dreamed of for a long time. I wanted to have a real-life Griswold Family Vacation (minus the dead great-aunt and dog)!

The decision to make the trip this year had a lot to do with me turning 40 and wanting to check-off a few things on the bucket list. But when my husband had a stroke less than a month before the trip, the significance and meaning of this trip took on even greater magnitude.

love at the Grand Canyon

I had begun planning for this trip months earlier. As I researched and evaluated each stop, campground, and driving route, I dreamed of the family time spent around a campfire; of my kids happily playing card games at the table while their Dad or I drove to the next destination; of the life-long memories we’d make together seeing some of the greatest sites in the country.

But as the trip got closer and closer I started to realize my ideas of the perfect family vacation spent on the road were highly optimistic, if not entirely unrealistic. I began to worry that I was building-up this vacation too much in my mind and that could only lead to disappointment when things didn’t go as planned. I jokingly referred to myself as the female Clark Griswold, but when I began to list the things that could  go wrong on our real-life Griswold Ballon Family Vacation, and calculate the chances I might have my own Clark Griswold-esque meltdown, I wondered: did I really want to try and pull this off? Wasn’t I just setting myself up for a huge, expensive disaster?

So I tell you truthfully, there was no small amount of anxiety plaguing me in the days before we left, and even the first few days of the trip. But I decided the best thing to do was try to stay flexible (completely out of character for me), and know that things might go wrong, but that didn’t mean the vacation would be ruined.

And you know what? For the most part the trip went off without a hitch. Sure, we had a few minor issues, but none of them were enough to ruin an entire vacation, or at least we didn’t let them become so important they were allowed to ruin any one day of our trip.

It was, indeed, a wonderful vacation. And while I liked to tease the kids that I was making them learn on their summer break by going to places like the Pueblo Indian cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park, or reading about the geological history of the Grand Canyon, I think I was the one who learned the most on this trip. Channeling my inner “Sparky” taught me a lot about myself and my family. Here are just a few of those things:

Be a family first.
In “National Lampoon’s Vacation” you hear Clark say over and over, “Why? because we’re the Griswolds!” I can’t say that I’ve ever said to my kids, “Why? because we’re Ballons! But I did learn from this trip that establishing  identity as a family creates unity.

Today there are so many places in which people claim an identity — even kids. We’re runners, dancers, drummers, teachers, students, etc. We belong to our employer or our school, our church and our clubs. And there is a sense of unity that comes when you claim them. Often they begin to define us. It becomes easy to forget that the first place we belonged was a family.

By spending such a concentrated amount of time together — away from our jobs, schools, and friends — we were able to just be a family. To be the Ballons. For 15 days straight we got to experience these wonderful places and things,  together. We will always have that. And while others may take similar trips and see similar sights, none will have the exact same experience that the five of us had together.

Garden of the Gods

Arkansas River

Sisters

 

When things don’t go as planned, have a Plan B, even if you make it up as you go!
Like I mentioned above, I had a great deal of anxiety leading up to the trip as I thought of every thing that could potentially go wrong.  Overall, we were fortunate that none of my biggest fears came to light. However, I don’t think it’s possible to go on a 2 week road trip and not have something go awry, and our trip was no exception.

We found out two days before we were to pick up the RV that we were not going to be able to get it before 4 p.m., when we had figured on a 1 p.m. pick-up. This meant not only a 3 hour delay, but also dealing with rush hour traffic in Denver. It didn’t take long to figure out that our original plan to drive three and a half hours that first day was not going to work out. After getting over the initial frustration, we looked for a new, closer destination for our first night and adjusted our plans accordingly. As it turns out, we loved the campground we stayed at the first night, even if it was a short stay, and by dedicating our second day to driving (originally we were going to visit Sand Dunes National Park, but had to scratch that plan to allow for a longer drive), we were able to go slower and enjoy everything we saw (see number 4).

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon tower

Jelise at the Grand Canyon

My body is still strong, even when it hurts.
So the truth is that I’ve been mourning the days when I was more fit and exercise wasn’t quite so hard. Turning 40 has magnified a lot of the things I don’t appreciate about the aging process…and gravity. But on this trip we did a lot of hiking and moving. In fact my fitness tracker calculate I walked over 140,400 steps, or 66 miles in two weeks! And I can tell you a big portion of that included some strenuous, up-hill hikes, and even climbing wooden ladders through rock crevices in Mesa Verde.

Of course, it hurt. I was physically exhausted each night, and took a few more ibuprofen than usual. But I did it. And it felt good. This 40 year old body is still strong and capable of new challenges.

Bryce Canyon

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone

Sunset over the Grand Canyon

Enjoy the unexpected moments.
I’m a planner. Like my Sparky namesake, I spent a lot of time mapping out routes, researching parks, reading reviews, and making reservations. But, like I mentioned above, on a trip like this you will have moments that don’t go as planned. However, what really surprised me were the unexpected sights and experiences that became some of my favorite moments of the trip.

For example, day two’s focus was on driving from Buena Vista, CO to Cortez, CO. The most direct route that Google Maps indicated was a 5 hour trip through the Rio Grande National Forest, so that’s what we did. What I didn’t know was that this path would take us through an area called Wolf Creek Pass, which was not only a beautiful drive across the San Juan Mountains, reaching 10,000 feet elevation, but it brought us across the Continental Divide, provided an unplanned snowball fight, and hike to see Treasure Falls. It was one of my most favorite days, not just of the trip, but of all time. Totally unplanned and unexpected.

Snowball fight at Wolf Creek Pass

Bison baby at Yellowstone

Bottom of Bryce Canyon

Everyone is allowed at least one meltdown.
So, Clark Griswold’s meltdown in the movie is pretty iconic and long been quoted. Watching the movie before we left I laughed nervously at that scene because I could totally relate to how he felt in that moment and knew that I was fully capable of having a similar meltdown if faced with a trip where it was one disaster after another, and a vehicle full of whiny, complaining family members.

I confess, that it didn’t even take a series of ridiculous events to trigger my meltdown. On our second-to-last night in the RV it took nothing more than fatigue, lack of fire-wood, and a slightly ruined dinner. While I was at least about my wits enough to know I needed a time-out and went to bed early, it was not my finest moment. As soon as my head hit the pillow I felt guilty. The next morning before we left our campsite I gathered my family to apologize and I was met with the most unbelievable grace and love. They understood and forgave. And then they all thanked me for the planning and effort I put into the vacation. It was a very sweet moment and reminded me that everyone is bound to mess up, it’s how we deal with the mess-up afterwards that matters.

Old Faithful

Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde

Horseshoe Bend - Page, AZ

There was so much more I learned about myself, my family, and my country on this trip. But I realize this is already a pretty long post, so I’ll wrap it up with this: spend long periods of time with your family, disconnected from electronics. Take long drives and explore places you’ve never been. Be willing to let plans change, and make unexpected stops. And remember, if things go wrong, if you get pushed passed your breaking point, if you have a Clark Griswold meltdown moment, things always look better under the light of a new day and an apology.

 

 

The unexpected Thanksgiving gift

Christmas may be the holiday best-known for giving and receiving gifts, but just a few weeks ago I experienced an unexpected gift on Thanksgiving. A gift that will live in my heart forever.

Before I tell you what the gift was, I have to tell you a little bit about my family. Families are usually the people who have known you the longest, and yet sometimes you feel like they don’t really know you at all. Misplaced loyalties, unspoken expectations, and strong personalities can often lead to hurt feelings, tense moments, and even estrangement. Families can be complicated, and mine is no exception.

My family tree is a little more like a juniper bush – dense and wide spread. Due to divorces and re-marriages, I have many I consider family that are not blood related. I have two moms who raised me at different stages of my childhood and a lot of aunts and uncles and cousins. I also grew up knowing and loving three grandmothers and two grandfathers. When I was a little girl I spent a good bit of time with my grandparents during holidays and summers.

I remember a lot of family dinners at my Grandma and Pappy’s house (my dad’s parents). Their house was the central hub for my  dad’s three siblings and all their kids to gather. It was always loud…there was usually a football game being watched in the basement, aunts chattering in the living room, and kids playing on the floor or running in the yard. My Pappy was always trying to pull a coin out of someone’s ear and my uncles were relentlessly teasing someone — usually my aunt, me or my sister. It was a bit chaotic and not always happy, but it was family. It brought us together and my Grandma was the central force in that.

When I was 13 things changed. My Pappy died. For several years we all continued to gather at my Grandma’s house, but things weren’t quite the same. A few years went by, some family moved out of state, I went off to college, my dad and step-mom got divorced and suddenly there weren’t big family gatherings at Grandma’s anymore. Or at least they were a lot less frequent and smaller.

During the next few years I didn’t see my Grandma very often. And when I did I usually got a bit of a guilt trip for the lack of frequency of those visits. If there was an Olympic sport in handing out guilt trips, my Grandma could take home the gold. I laugh now, but back then I didn’t.

The honest truth is it was not always easy to visit with her. I wasn’t sure what to talk about. I took everything she said very personally, which often led to hurt feelings. I was wrapped up in my world as a young wife and professional and I felt like she just didn’t understand my life. Of course I didn’t really make much of an attempt to understand hers, either.

Things changed a little bit when I had my kids. They were, and still are, her only great-grandchildren and she really treasured that. I wouldn’t say that the frequency of visits improved much or we became closer, but at least now when we visited we had the kids to focus on as our common ground.

During my early 20’s and 30’s I lost both of my grandparents from my mom’s side, whom I had been close to. We also lost my uncle Bill, my dad’s brother, who was just 50 when he died. It was incredibly painful to watch my Grandma go through the loss of a child. I remember her saying to me after the funeral that parents aren’t supposed to out-live their children. As a mother of three I couldn’t begin to imagine what that was like for her. But it was then that I started to see her in a different light. I saw her not just as my Grandma, but as a woman. A woman whose greatest joy in life had been being a wife and mother. She had lost her husband and then a child. I suddenly saw how strong she was and even began to understand that the “guilt trips” came from a place of genuine longing to be with her family.

Late last year my step-Grandma passed away and I found myself with only one living grandparent, and a lot of regrets for time not spent with the ones I had lost.

In March we celebrated my Grandma’s 90th birthday. I took on the project of putting together a photo book of her life and it was a special gift for me to go through these old photos of her as a girl, young bride, and mother…to take a look at the journey of her life. Being my only living grandparent, I silently vowed I would spend more time visiting and calling…

…then two months ago I got a call that my Grandma was sick and in the hospital. The details didn’t sound promising. After a few days in the hospital they moved her to a rehab facility. She didn’t do well there. She couldn’t rest, she ended up with bronchitis and almost developed pneumonia. After several weeks of her being there and some conversations with my aunt I agreed we needed to get her out and offered for her to come stay with us. I wasn’t sure how long she would need me, but made arrangements with work so I could be home with her.

Grandma was only with us for one week, the week of Thanksgiving, but that time was a gift I will not soon forget. It was a week of sitting around the table drinking tea and talking, watching her play checkers with her great-grandson, and shopping together for new clothes. It was time spent napping in a recliner while a Hallmark movie played in the background, eating too much food, and reminiscing about times past. I got to hear about her first job cleaning outhouses at the public school, and how she saved that money to buy a yearbook and go to her senior party.

There were lots of hugs and kind words shared. And for just one brief week, Grandma let herself be taken care of by someone else, in the way she’d taken care of her family for so many years.

In 39 years of being grandmother and granddaughter, I don’t think anything we’ve experienced made me feel as close to her as that week did. And I’m sure that’s partly due to my age and a bit of perspective…things look a little different in middle age than they did in my 20’s.

I’m learning to let go of old hurts and unspoken expectations, to lower my walls and get rid of fear. I’m learning to focus on what really matters and family is at the heart of that.

I hope in ten years we’ll be celebrating Grandma’s 100th birthday and there will be many, many visits and phone calls in between. But the truth is, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

If you have kept family at a distance, or let old hurts linger, causing separation; if you are waiting for tomorrow or next week to pick up the phone and tell someone you love them or go visit that relative…I just want to ask you this one question: what if tomorrow never comes?

Don’t wait. Let go of your fears and your pride and do it today. Even if it’s hard and messy, it will still be worth it. And you might just be surprised at the results.

Let’s all give ourselves that most precious, beautiful gift.

The gift of time.

 

 

God is bigger than my pain

Spring has begun here in Winchester, VA. The temps are rising and the daffodils and crocuses in my yard have just started to bloom, looking like sleepy maidens trying to awake from a long winter’s rest. This time of year is a beautiful reminder of fresh beginnings, new starts, and of course the miracle of resurrection.

I can’t imagine better timing for the release of my friend Crystal Sutherland’s new book, Journey to Heal: 7 Essential Steps of Recovery for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. While we still have a little over one month to wait for Journey to Heal to reach stores, I am honored and blessed to be part of Crystal’s book launch team, and was recently given the opportunity to read the first few chapters of her book. As I started to read, the primary message that leapt off the pages and into my heart is that God is bigger than our pain. His ability to heal will far surpass anything we can fathom. Crystal emphasizes this truth by sharing some of her story of healing – the healing of her heart and soul, and the healing of certain relationships.

In my own life I have experienced similar circumstances and been humbled by God’s awesome power to heal, especially within my family relationships. I confess, I have not always understood the importance of working at healing and restoring fractured relationships. At times it has seemed much easier to just walk away. But by my mid-20’s I started to realize that even if I walked away I still had to carry the burden of hurt, anger and pain – in fact walking away just made the baggage I was hauling heavier. This was especially true for me in my relationship with my mother. I had spent years waiting to hear the words “I believe you” and “I’m sorry,” thinking these would be the magic words to cure all, and as time passed, without even realizing it, the seed of bitterness grew larger in my heart.

Click here to continue reading the rest at CrystalSutherland.org

 

16 things to give up in 2016

Did you make any new year’s resolutions this year? We’re a little over 1 month into 2016, and according to Statistic Brain Research Institute, 36% of all resolutions have already been ditched.

I’m personally not a big fan of new year’s resolutions. In general I find them to be lofty goals, like lose weight or quit smoking, at which you can either succeed or fail, with little room for anything in between. I am, however, in favor of trying to be my best self…the self God created me to be. The older I get the more I find that my journey to personal betterment has more to do with letting go of worldly tendencies and self-destructive behavior, so that I can make room for the truth of God’s promises. This is not a pass or fail exercise, it is rather a continuation of my journey to live a life of joy and freedom.

Here is my list of 16 things to give up in 2016:

    1. Trying to do it all by myself – or as I sometimes refer to it, the “I got this” syndrome.  It’s my default setting. Whatever comes my way, my initial response is “I got this.” But the problem is, trying to do it all alone is, well, lonely. And sometimes overwhelming. And almost always not what God intended for me.”For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘fear not, I am the one who helps you’.” – Isaiah 41:13

 

    1. The illness of busy-ness – A typical conversation with just about any friend or family member: Them: “So, how are things going with you?” Me: “Oh, you know, the usual. Busy!” And it’s the truth. We always seem to be busy…my husband and I juggle full-time jobs, three active kids, leading a small group, church commitments, family and friend relationships, house projects, and occasionally try to squeeze in some favorite hobbies and past-times.In the last year we have been intentional about trying to reduce the amount of commitments in our schedule, but I will tell you we still have room for improvement here. It takes a real effort to say “no” to the wrong things and “yes” to the right things. Even if the right thing is a Sunday afternoon napping on the couch.

 

    1. Self-doubt – I don’t think this one requires much explanation. but if you’re a chronic self-doubter, like I am, the good news is when we doubt our own abilities, we can turn to Jesus, who said: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

 

    1. Not getting enough sleep – Probably the single worst bit of self-sabotage I inflict upon myself is not getting enough rest. And I know better. It’s critical to our mental, physical, and spiritual health to be well rested. So giving up the late nights is going to be a priority for me in 2016!”It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” – Psalm 127:2

 

    1. Resentment – Oh boy, am I really admitting this out loud? I have a problem with holding on to resentment. It’s usually over little things — washing dishes my children forgot to put in the dishwasher, folding laundry while my husband falls asleep on the couch, compromises I didn’t really want to make — and often I don’t even realize I’m doing it. But it starts as a little seed and then grows into a heavy stone in the pit of my stomach, causing me to either withdraw from the ones I love, or get angry with them. This is not healthy for me nor my relationships!

 

    1. Rushing to everything – My family is perpetually 10-15 minutes late. It seems no matter how early we start, or how much warning we give our children, something happens — a lost shoe, bad hair day, cat vomit, etc. — to delay us. And I HATE being late and feeling rushed! I turn into mean-mommy and start yelling and it makes everyone miserable.While I don’t know that there is a full-proof way to avoid all of those things that slow us down (cats will inevitably vomit at the worst possible moment), I do know that doing less will result in more margin, and more margin comes with less rushing from place-to-place. That, coupled with a hearty dose of keeping things in perspective (is it really the end of the world if we are 10 minutes late to that event?) will hopefully help me ease up on the rush and accompanying stress.

 

    1. Time sucks – This definitely goes with number 6 and the idea of creating more margin. But to me it’s not just about doing less, it’s about doing less of the meaningless, and creating space for the meaningful. Not turning on the TV in the evening guarantees I won’t get sucked into a show and stay up too late. Not opening the laptop or picking up my phone, means not getting sucked into Facebook or Instagram.  I don’t think I’m alone when I say the FOMO syndrome that makes us feel the need to stay connected 24×7 is sucking up too much precious time! Time better spent playing with my kids, sleeping (see #4), reading the Word, praying, or talking to my husband.

 

    1. Waiting to pray – this one is somewhat connected to item one. In my attempt to try and take care of everything on my own and juggle everything, I often forget to seek God’s guidance for things in my life until they get really messy. I strive to live a life where praying before and over each decision or area of life is my go-to move.”Do not be anxious about anything , but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6

 

    1. Complaining – Are you familiar with the app Time Hop? Basically it connects to your social media accounts and then every day sends you a screen shot of what you posted 1, 2, 5, or however many years ago. Having kids, I enjoy this because it can be a nice reminder of how small they were only a few short years ago. But as I started reading these posts of Facebook past, I realized I like to complain. A lot. Seriously, if I read one more “oh it’s been such a long day, work is so hard, blah, blah, blah” post, I will block myself from my news feed!This little bit of personal insight has really motivated me to start changing my tune. Not only do I suspect people are tired of hearing it, but the more we complain and focus on the bad stuff, the harder it is to look for the good stuff. And there is always good, if we choose to look for it.

 

    1. Putting on a brave face – Can we all just agree to stop pretending everything about our lives and our families is happy and perfect and clean? I mean, not only is this not authentic, but it actually prevents us from developing deeper connections and relationships by not being honest and open with our friends and family. I realize this might seem like I’m contradicting myself after reading number nine, but I do think there is a balance between always complaining about life, and being willing to answer truthfully when someone says, “how are you today?”

 

    1. Wanting to change the past – Oh gosh, do I ever need to let this one go! I kid you not, I will lie awake at night re-hashing conversations that took place 10 years ago, wishing I could have done or said something differently. Really? What a waste of energy. I cannot change the past. I can always apologize for things I said and did and, often, I can confront someone who hurt me and tell them how it made me feel. But none of that will change what happened.”Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” – Isaiah 43:18

 

    1. Wanting to change others – Can I just say, writing this list is starting to hurt a little bit? I don’t really like publicly admitting all of the things I need to work on. But the good news I can make changes in my life to correct these unhealthy behaviors. What I can’t do is make other people change theirs. And just like with number 11, agonizing over it, wishing it, obsessing over it is a waste of time.God can change people’s hearts, I can’t. And truthfully, I am not qualified to diagnose what is wrong with everyone else (except when it comes to my children’s personal hygiene habits. I will diagnose unbrushed teeth all the live long day).

 

    1. Preconceived notions – Oh boy, if I had a dollar for every time I ended up disappointed due to false, preconceived ideas of how someone or something should turn out…well let’s just say I wouldn’t be wearing shoes from Payless. I do this a lot around holidays and big events. I get these big ideas in my head of what the day will be like, fantasizing about how perfect it will all be. Then the slightest mishap or conflict will send my Utopian bubble a-bursting.In my heart, I know this comes back to the idea that I struggle with just letting go and trusting God. How different would holidays and special events look if I just walked toward each one thinking “whatever you want for me to learn, to experience, and to feel today God, I praise you in advance, and look forward to this day”?

 

    1. The comparison trap – Related to numbers 3 and 10, the comparison trap is just that — a trap. It captures your joy by making you think that you are less than that woman or family over there. When the truth is, you probably don’t see the real them anyway. And even if you do, what God has designed for another, is not what He’s designed for you. But that doesn’t make what you have any less. I need to do a better job of remembering this, especially when watching HGTV.

 

    1. Guilt – Oh guilt…my old nemesis. I am so over you! The mommy guilt, the wife guilt, the friend guilt, the daughter guilt, the employee guilt — enough already. We are parting ways in 2016.”There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

 

  1. Waiting for Godot syndrome – Remember reading Waiting for Godot in high school? Just in case you forgot, it’s a play by Samuel Beckett about these two guys named Vladimir and Estragon who spend the entire play waiting in vain for someone named Godot. Poor Vlad and Estra are not happy people and in the end as they realize that each day pretty much plays out the same way: waiting for something that never comes.How much time have you and I spent waiting for something important, something big to come that would change our lives, or fix everything that we don’t like? “Once I get that promotion” or “as soon as the kids are all in school” then life will get better/easier/etc. The problem with this frame of mind is that we end up constantly looking ahead to when we can be happy, instead of just being happy right now in this very moment. And often that “thing” we keep waiting for never comes. Or when it does we are painfully let down because the truth is that “thing” cannot make our lives whole. Only God can do that.

Do any of these ring true for you? What else are you giving up in 2016 to live a life of joy and freedom?

Dear camp counselor

Dear camp counselor,

September is here. Backpacks are packed, pencils sharpened, and yellow school buses wait at the corner. Orange and brown leaves are starting to cover our yard and the sun is coming up later and going to bed sooner. Alas, summer is officially over.

Despite the excitement and energy that surrounds a new school year, there is one bit of summer that lingers in our house; one topic that resurfaces at the dinner table, in the car, and at bed-time. Of everything my kids did and experienced this summer (and it was a lot) the one subject that comes up again and again is camp.

While you camp counselors have returned to your college dorms and apartments or your regular jobs, my children are still singing those same songs 100 times in a row, re-enacting that silly skit and arguing over who gets to play what part, and trying to teach their school friends how to play spit and color tag .

Out of 12 weeks of summer vacation they only spent two with you, but they are the two weeks that live on in our house. And sure, they did some pretty cool stuff at camp. I mean, who wouldn’t remember a week canoeing down the Shenandoah River, horse back riding on the Appalachian Trail, or an afternoon of caving? But really, in the midst of the stories and the songs and the laughter, what I hear most are your names.

I hear stories told over and over about how Jake did this, or Sarah said that. My kids will say to each other, “remember when Dan and Tori did that skit?” and bust out laughing while trying to explain it to me (for the 78th time) and I still won’t get it, but they will laugh hysterically anyways. Then they’ll ask, “mom do you think Nick/Julie/Dalton/Jayme will be my counselor next year?”

Your names are spoken with a tone of admiration, love, and familiarity as if you’ve been in their lives forever, not someone they just met in June. You are the coolest/funniest/smartest/nicest/craziest person they know. And I get it. I was a camper for 7 years, and thought the same thing about my counselors. Twenty-five years later and I’m still friends with some of my camp counselors, and probably my biggest regret is never getting the chance to be one of you.

Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp - campers with counselor winning the golden broom Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp counselors

But, as awesome as I thought my counselors were when I was a camper, as a parent I have an entirely new perspective. And I’ve come to one simple conclusion: y’all are insane! You spend eight weeks in a row where every waking moment is dedicated to caring for other people’s children! I mean really. I love my kids, but after 5 days of them being home with me I am secretly re-setting the clocks three hours ahead and trying to convince them it’s bed time at 5 o’clock.

It’s not just that you spend all this time with these kids, but you are constantly doing all these things! Like outdoor, in the heat, constantly moving things! You take them hiking and swimming, canoeing and climbing. You play games in open fields where bugs fly up your nose and in your eyes. You have to oversee ten 9-11 year old boys cooking their own dinner over an open fire, in the woods for crying out loud! I can’t even get my 9 year old son to put his plate in the dishwasher!

And after all of that hiking, and swimming, and cooking, and playing, you sit with them on the porch and wave away the gnats as you tell them about God’s hand in everything they did that day. You patiently answer their questions, overlook their foolishness, and hug the ones who miss home. Then you remind them, five more minutes till the flashlights have to be out. Because you are the last to sleep and the first to wake. And you do it all over again the next day…and every day for 8 weeks straight. Honestly, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp - games in the field

Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp - canoe campers

But you know the part that gets me the most? It’s that when I picked my kids up at the end of week 8, you had just as much energy and joy as I saw in you back in week 2. And because no one ever became a camp counselor to get rich, I know that joy and energy must be because camp is in your soul. It is inside of you and fills your heart and overflows into the space around you. It’s contagious. My kids have caught it. Camp is inside of them. Not just while they are there for those two weeks, but every day throughout the entire year.

Yes, y’all are insane. Beautifully, wonderfully, certifiably insane. And I, for one, am so very thankful for it.

Sincerely,

A former camper-turned-mom of three lucky campers

———————————————————————————–
Parents, send your kids to camp! It will be the best week of their summer. Our personal favorite is a magical place here in the Shenandoah Valley called Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp.or check out the American Camp Association’s website to find a camp near you!

Photos by Nicole Todd, courtesy Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp

 

PLEASE READ BEFORE SHARING: Since this blog post was first published on September 3rd, 2015 it’s been viewed over 40,000 times! I never in my wildest dreams expected this kind of response, and I think it’s a testament to how much camp impacts and changes lives. While I am always happy to have a post shared via social media or email, I have a couple of favors to ask:

  1. If you would like to use this post in your camp or church newsletter/magazine/website, I simply ask that you link back to this, the original post, and give credit to the author (me).
  2. Please do not alter/edit/change the content of this letter.
  3. Please do not use the photos in this post without express permission from Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp.
  4. If you do share the content of this post in a publication or on a website, I would absolutely love it if you dropped me a little note to let me know the publication name and date shared! You can email me at jelise@neitherheightnordepth.com