10 Reasons to Be a Camp Sponsor This Summer

1.  To remind you how blessed you are not to be a pre-teen girl anymore.

2.   Because you never know when archery skills will come in handy.

3.  Camp food.  Sometimes delicious, sometimes a little strange, but always cooked and cleaned up by someone else.

4.  Because you don’t need coffee when you sing 40 verses of a song with motions at eight in the morning.

5.  To experience the joy of buying a chocolate bar at the Sugar Shack that you don’t have to share with anyone.

6.  So you can try out some Parent Trap-style maneuvers while campers are sleeping.

parent trap2

 

7.  Because sleeping in a room filled with 20 hyped up ten year olds makes sleeping with your toddler’s feet in your face not seem so bad.

8.  Because where else can you get puppets, fire-eating, and potty humor in conjunction with a sermon?

9.  So you can make up cheers about how much better your church is than anyone else’s.

10. Two words:  camp t-shirt!

When God Shoves

It’s our last night at camp, and while I’m sad to see the fun end, I’m also thrilled to know that at this time tomorrow I will be in my own bed.  Today it dawned on me how fragile kids can be when I saw Sawyer come close to shedding a tear over the lack of cinnamon on his churro at dinner.  The boys loves his churros.  He drooled over it all through his dinner, just waiting to gobble it up, and then with the first bite he realized it was not up to his standards.  He was terribly disappointed.  But, I’m sure somehow a mediocre churro is a character builder.

Speaking of which, this afternoon we went out to the zip line to watch some kids conquer their fears and fly out over the west Texas dirt.  As each one of them made the shaky climb up the pole to the rickety platform, adults on the ground were shouting encouragement.  You can do it!  You’ve got this! they hollered, which seemed pretty easy to say from their firm positions on the ground.  And, each time a kid got to the top of the pole and stood looking out over the field in front of them, they wore expressions of panic.  Sometimes they would close their eyes and jump.  But, more often than not, the kind and funny fellow who was running it would say something like, Say night-night, and would gently bump them off of the platform.

It was such a perfect picture of basically everything I’ve ever done in life that was a calling from God.  I tend to get pumped about something, get right to the point of actually going through with it, and then start panicking and looking for a way to back out.  And, then God, in His gentle and wise way, gives me a push that sends me soaring, however ungracefully, into a new endeavor where I have to depend on Him during every heart-thudding moment.

I’m facing one of those times now.  I’m on the edge of the platform, and I’m leaning out there.  But, it just looks too high.  It looks like it’s going to be dangerous and terrifying and that it will defy everything that makes sense in my head, which is keeping both feet planted firmly on the ground.  But, I know that soon the bump is coming.  The gentle push that sends me plummeting into a whole new thing that God is doing.

I’m not going to lie.  I’m a little bit panicked.

But, here’s what I know. He built this platform.  He doesn’t need ropes and pulleys and safety harnesses because He is all of those things.  He can hold me up with one word from His mouth.  All of the safety and assurance and guidance I’ll ever need is in Him.  And, He is the soft place to land.

In a world where sometimes churros just don’t have enough cinnamon, it’s good to know that God still has big plans.  He knows when to push and when to catch.  And, He doesn’t just shout encouragement from the ground, either.  He never shoves us off of a platform that He hasn’t already leaped from Himself.  That’s how incredible our God is.

The jump is coming.  Or the shove.  But, either way, I land in His arms.

 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.  Hebrews 4:15

Hello from Camp

As I write this, I’m sitting on the somewhat grimy floor of a well-used room at a Christian camp.  Normally I wouldn’t be lounging on the floor in a “rented” room.  I generally feel like hotel floors are pretty disgusting, and there’s no doubt that this camp’s carpet has seen a few things.  But, I don’t know what it is.  Snuggled up here in one of those sandpaper-y wool blankets that they stash for cool nights, typing by the light of a bathroom strewn with wet clothes and dirty towels, it just feels cozy.

I’ve always loved Christian camp.  Baptists are quite the campers, and our camps just always seemed awesome to me.  I grew up going to the oldest Christian youth camp in the world (no kidding) in Lueders, Texas.   And, I don’t know if it was the archery or the canoeing or the fact that there always seemed to be a snake sighting,  or maybe it was the puppets or the funny songs or the skits, but I thought the whole thing was wonderful.

Everything about camp this week, where I am sitting in what smells like a decade’s worth of mildew, feels familiar.

As a kid you come to these camps and you’re faced with a truckload of truth, which is genially sandwiched between the most fun stuff you’ve ever done in your life.  You hear the truth of your sin problem and the good news of Jesus, and then you head outside where the heat hits you like a sweaty punch to the gut but you don’t care because you want to be first in line at the snack shack.  You buy a giant pickle and three candy bars and whatever else your mom would never let you have, and you enjoy it while getting in a few rounds of tetherball.  I mean, it’s just the perfect combination of eternally significant truth and pure enjoyment.

And, even though it’s hard to sleep at night on a camp bed and it’s unbearably hot all day, I am still just a little bit giddy about the prospect of getting up tomorrow morning and eating a big all-the-fixins breakfast in the dining hall, singing some crazy songs with plenty of dance moves, and maybe playing a little laser tag before lunch.  And, all of this is happening because kids need to know that they need Jesus.  Somehow the Holy Spirit works here, in the midst of the great fun and the mosquitoes as big as Texas itself.  And, I feel blessed to know what Christian camp is like, and to really love it.

Maybe that alone is just grace from God.  Because, y’all, my kids are little, and I’ll be camping for many, many more years to come.  Better brush up on my archery skills tomorrow!

In the Grip of Fear, In the Hand of God

Tonight this world is spinning along its usual path in a universe so gigantic that we can’t even really conceive of its magnificence.  Earth is just one small dot on a grid of millions of heavenly bodies of different kinds.  Yet, here we are, special creation, made in the image of God, bent under the weight of incredible sin, grieving over wars that are raging as I write, powerless to control what cannot be controlled.  Worried.  Terrified.  Wondering how it all turns out okay in the end.

And, where is God?

We wonder what He is doing.  We question whether He is good.  The bad news just keeps coming.  And it seems like there’s a hole in our faith bucket.  We read the stories that seem to point to the end of the world as we know it, and we tremble inside.  We wish that we could see what God’s ultimate plan is.  We wish that we could understand what is really happening when it looks like everything is chaos and craziness.

But, we don’t have to know every aspect of God’s plans or His will or His interesting way of accomplishing things.  We don’t even have to like what we see Him doing.  We don’t have to approve of His methods or be happy about every twist and turn that He has built into our road ahead.

But, even when we are heartbroken, when we are discouraged to the point of despair, when we are crippled by the fear of what is to come, when we are angry at God, when we feel abandoned, when we feel anxiety coming over us in waves, when we don’t even know who we are anymore, the Truth is still true.

Our feelings about the Truth don’t change it.  They don’t weaken its power.  They don’t deny us access to it.  The Truth is always completely real, even when we are feeling around in the pitch black of our own fear just trying to lay hold of one tiny corner of it.  It is there.

The Truth is that everything is going to be okay.

If we are in Christ and He is in us, if God has us held tight in His hand, nothing can snatch us out of it, not even our fear. So, in the light of Truth we can imagine our worst fears, things we are too afraid to even give words to, images and terrors that reside in our minds that seek us out as we lie in bed at night.  Fears borne in irrational thinking or fears based on what we have already experienced–it doesn’t matter.  We can imagine that our very worst fear comes true, and we can face it because we have the hope of Jesus Christ.

A friend revealed that she had a crippling fear that someone would break into her house and murder her family.  The Truth came back to her in the echos of Scripture she had memorized as a child:  The Lord is good and His word endures forever. . .Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding. . .Fear not, for I am with you. . .I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from my fears. . .If we are faithless, He remains faithful.  She agonized over this fear for quite some time before she finally embraced the Truth that even if her very worst fear came true, everything would still be okay.

Because God is in the business of making things right.  He is good and trustworthy, and His Truth remains, even when we are having a hard time remembering it.

Maybe you have already faced your worst fears.  Maybe you are angry with God.  Maybe you are so heartsick that you don’t believe you will ever recover.  And maybe you won’t, in this life.  But, God is working.  Please believe it.  His Truth stands, despite our circumstances.  We can trust Him.  And, at the end of it all, which is really only the beginning, everything really will be okay, if we know Him.  Rest in His hand, my sweet, tired friends.  He is good.

Smiling Anyway

Originally posted December 13, 2012.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sawyer has always been a laid back kid. “The Forgotten Child” would sit for ridiculously long stretches and entertain himself when he was smaller.  He didn’t walk until he was fifteen months old, and I’m convinced it was because he honestly didn’t have anyplace he was just dying to go.  He was pretty pleased with wherever he was at the moment.

Today I was reminded how wonderful laid back children are because it was flu shot day.

When I was a child, if my mother started driving in the direction of a doctor’s office, I got hysterical.  It didn’t matter if shots were on the agenda or not.  In my little worried mind, anytime I stepped foot in that office, a shot was a real possibility, so I went ballistic when a visit to the doctor was mentioned.

But, Sawyer sat cheerfully in the waiting room watching Disney Jr. He giggled when I told him he was getting a shot. His eyes lit up: “Do you think they’ll give me a Band-aid?” I assured him that not only would he get a Band-aid, he would probably get a sucker, too.  That knowledge pushed the whole event into the realm of a great day.  I just shook my head in amazement.

I wish I were more like that.  I would love to trust God so much that I don’t get all worked up about what’s about to happen in life.  I want to be able to turn to God when I get bad news and just giggle and say, “Well, I’m sure something good is going to come out of this!”

Or maybe I just need to stop looking at the Band-aids and the suckers of life, the small blessings, as insignificant.  Maybe I should believe that those small things really do make for a great day, instead of focusing on the bad stuff.  At the end of his day, Sawyer’s shot was completely forgotten.  But, how often do my bad experiences dictate how I feel about my whole day?

Sawyer got his shot, his Roadrunner Band-aid, and his orange sucker.  He started and ended his day with smiles.  And as far as I can tell, he didn’t worry about a thing.  Faith and joy and Band-aids and suckers.  In Sawyer’s heart, the shot was just a footnote in an otherwise lovely day.

I love that kind of faith.  I want to be like Sawyer when I grow up.

The Importance of Reminding Children That They Aren’t In Charge

Parenting these days is tough with a capital T.  It’s so difficult to find a balance between what you know is important to instill in your children and all of the other stuff that magazines and blogs tell us about raising kids.  According to the magazines, one wrong move too far toward disciplining children will surely land them in therapy where they will work through their anger issues over all of your “unreasonable demands.”  Well, I hate to be difficult, but I sometimes wonder if half of the people who write those articles even have kids.  And I certainly wonder if their kids are even remotely pleasant to be around.

Because there is one element of childhood that is really missing in lots of kids’ lives these days, and it is the undeniable, honest truth that KIDS ARE NOT IN CHARGE.

At least, they shouldn’t be.

BOSS_002

But, go into any restaurant or grocery store and you will see hoards of parents acting like kids rule the world.  I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of it myself.  It’s easy to slip into patterns that send the message, “Hey, kid, you’re the boss and what you say goes.  I’m only here to try and create a life that is in line with your every whim.”

Think about it.  You’ve probably done it, too.

Like when you ask your toddler if you can put her shoes on her.

Or when you let the kids choose the restaurant.

When you make three different dinners to please three different kids.

When you are afraid to tell the kids to go play when you are having an adult conversation.

The truth is that kids aren’t born expecting to get to make all the decisions and run our lives.  They actually depend on us to do that.  But, we can quickly teach them that they are in charge when we are so worried about valuing their opinions that we consider their opinions above all else.

When we instill an “I’m in charge” mentality in our kids, we’re inviting them to disrespect teachers, police officers, clergy, waiters, cashiers, and anyone else they come into contact with.  I mean, if we are always living just to please them, then they will expect everyone else to do the same.

We are actually doing our kids a great favor when we send them this message instead:  “I am going to make the decisions and take care of things.  All you have to do is sit back and enjoy being a kid.”  I think they are happier, better adjusted, and more fun to be around when they know that they aren’t in charge.

After all, you’re a grown up.  You know that being in charge isn’t usually all that fun.  Our kids are better off when we clearly show them that they aren’t the decision makers and they don’t always get their way.  In the end, I think it causes them less stress and makes them more pleasant people to be around for the rest of their lives.

 

Sometimes It’s a Drag

Tonight we went to see some good friends of ours off on a new adventure.  They had a going away party at the park, and we joined lots of sweet friends from our small town as we said goodbye.  The kids ran and played until it was too dark to even see whose kids were whose.

The park has an old fashioned merry-go-round in it–the kind where some kids sit and some kids push while it spins round and round and makes everyone dizzy.  I have several vivid memories of a girl riding one and then vomiting in the trash can in our first grade classroom when I was a kid.  I’m not sure why she kept getting on it at recess, but I guess she figured the pros outweighed the cons, though I doubt our teacher agreed.

merry

All three of my kids were loving the merry-go-round tonight.  Emerald kept wanting me to ride in the middle with her while the other kids ran as fast at they could, pushing until they finally jumped on and enjoyed the ride.  Sawyer was enjoying trying this.  But, pretty soon some bigger kids came over.  And, when they started running alongside the merry-go-round, they went fast.  From my vantage point I could see that Sawyer was struggling to keep up.  Finally, his feet just couldn’t move fast enough, and instead of pulling himself up to ride like the others, he was holding onto the bar with all his might while his body was being dragged behind.

I could see a look of real fear on his face.  I don’t think he could see a way that this would end well.  He couldn’t get his feet under him to jump on, but he couldn’t let go either.  He was stuck, just being dragged around in a circle until someone finally stopped the merry-go-round and he was able to stand up again.

I have been there.  I admit I haven’t been dragged by a merry-go-round recently, but I have been dragged around by other circumstances.  I have been in spots where I couldn’t quite get my feet under me.  I’ve been in situations where I knew good and well that my feeble legs weren’t going to be able to keep up.  I’ve panicked when I felt my feet come out from under me.  I’ve hung on for dear life when things just wouldn’t slow down.

And, when those times come we may wonder where God is.  Why doesn’t He stop this thing?  Why doesn’t He make me faster so I can keep up?  Why does He let me look so silly, being dragged around like a rag doll in a world full of people who seem to be running at top speed?

But, maybe we’re focusing on the wrong things.  When life starts dragging us down, when bad times come and hurt and disappointment and anger seem to be hauling us through the dirt, maybe our focus shouldn’t be on the falling, but on the hanging on.  Because I can guarantee you that when the tough stuff comes around, I don’t have the strength to hang on by myself.  If there is any hanging on happening around here, it’s because God has got a hold of me.

And, He’s not letting go anytime soon.

So, if you feel today like you’re barely hanging on while you are dragged through the dirt of life, just know that one day you will be able to stand up again.  Until then, God is holding on tight.  You may panic a little.  You may be convinced that this cannot end well.  But, God has got you, and He isn’t letting go.

Come On Over!

fefitHey, y’all, I’m hanging out over at the Fe Fit blog today, telling stories about childhood athletic traumas:

My nine year old walked out of the school building slumped in defeat.  I could tell as soon as I laid eyes on her that something had happened.

I tried to act nonchalant:  “Hey!  How was your day?”

She wasted no time getting to the source of her troubles.  “Today we practiced for the school track meet.  They put me in the very back so I won’t get in anyone’s way. . .because I’m the SLOWEST PERSON in SCHOOL!”

I think if she’d had a couch to faint on out there on the schoolyard, she would’ve collapse dramatically with her hand pressed to her forehead.  Yet, even as I inwardly rolled my eyes at the drama, I also felt a twinge–okay a huge wave–of sympathy.

My mind went back to seventh grade.  At my tiny Texas junior high school, all kids were forced to run track, regardless of their lack of ability.  And I was lacking.  Oh, was I ever lacking.  My coach stuck me anyplace she needed a runner at track meets.  Sometimes I was with the sprinters, sometimes with the distance runners, and always at the back of the pack.  Not just at the back, but past the back.  Like, way past.  Like, the race was over and my fellow runners were heading to the concession stand for a Coke while I was still trying to finish the stinking, miserable, humiliating, I’m-gonna-need-therapy-over-this-one-day race.  Continue Reading. . .

The Art of Hearing

There I was, in an arena with almost 7,000 women.  The music was loud.  The lights were low.  And all around me, thousands of sweet voices blended as we worshiped the true and living God.

My seat was directly behind a small section reserved for the hearing impaired.  A beautiful, graceful, and wonderfully expressive interpreter was signing all of the music, but I couldn’t help but feel so sad and sorry for the deaf women standing there, who couldn’t hear a note of the incredible worship experience we were having.

I didn’t dwell on the thought for long.  I was drawn back in to the singing.  My heart was tuned to the beat of the kick drum, the sweet rise and fall of notes on the piano, and the steady rhythm of an electric guitar.  And don’t even get me started on the gorgeous sounds of nothing but precious female voices, singing with conviction as the instruments dropped out here and there.

I had long forgotten my momentary feelings of sorrow for the deaf women on the front row.  But, suddenly I noticed them again.

Because standing there, in front of their dynamic little interpreter, several of the women who could hear nothing of the amazing music had their hands raised in praise to God.  Women who live in a silent world.  Who cannot hear the sound of their child’s voice saying Mama.  Who have never heard a note.  Who can’t know with any certainty what a bird’s song sounds like, much less a rock band.

Despite all that they were missing out on in that moment, they worshiped.

And, I’m sure with that many women in a room, there was at least one person there who was standing with arms crossed, upset over the ratio of hymns to modern songs.  Maybe she was thinking, I simply can’t worship to this kind of music.  Meanwhile, just feet away from her,  and enveloped in complete silence,  deaf women worshiped the One who had created them.

Jesus said, Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 11)  Sometimes I think we’re confused as to who the true hearers are.

I saw some this weekend in the hearing impaired section.

And God was glorified.

Cowgirls Do Cry

Originally posted October 16, 2012.

Today was western day at Adelade’s school. She loves western day because one of her favorite things in all the world is horses. Oh, how she wishes we had a horse in our backyard! At one point I think she almost had my parents convinced that they needed to buy a miniature pony for her to visit when she comes to their house. So, needless to say, when the girl has an opportunity to dress up like a cowgirl, she wants to go all out.

We had planned her outfit. She was going to wear a plaid shirt, a red cowgirl hat (with braids, of course), a neckerchief from Katy K’s in Nashville, skinny jeans, and, the cherry on her sundae, the icing on her cake–her brown suede kickback heeled cowgirl boots. Yee haw! She was going to look like a riding, roping superstar!

When it came time to slip on those awesome cowgirl boots, it was something like the scene inCinderella when the stepsisters are furiously working to squeeze their gigantic feet into the tiny glass slipper. We pulled. We pushed. We reassured each other that the boots still fit. We tried a different angle. We checked the size on the sole of the shoe. We shoved her overgrown foot in there as hard as we could, with no regard for pain, clearly denying the shape of a foot, with that pesky heel sticking out there. But, it was all for not. The shoe simply didn’t fit anymore.

Even after I had given up, she kept trying, tears streaming down her cheeks, desperately pulling on the bootstraps, determined that she would smash her foot into the boot somehow. I finally took the boots, set them aside, and presented her silver Converse sneakers. Not exactly the look she was going for. I perched that little red cowgirl hat on top of her blonde braids and watched my sad little cowgirl, with tears still flowing, gather her backpack and lunchbag and head for the door.

And I thought about how often that life is like this. We are so filled with expectation. We have plans. We look forward to things working out the way we believe they should. We get everything lined up, and just when we think that things are about to be perfect, the darn shoe just doesn’t fit anymore. We ought to be healthy, but we’re sick. We should be happily married, but we’re struggling just to stay together. We thought our children would make us proud, but they’re embarrassing us. We were sure the house would sell, but no one’s interested. We believed we were overcoming that addiction, but now we’re right back where we started. We tried. We failed. We gave. We got nothing in return. And we feel like sitting down for a good cry, but we have to keep going because life just doesn’t wait for us to have a good breakdown.

One thing I try to remember during those I-need-a-breakdown moments is that God is not surprised by anything that happens. Sure, we made our plans, but the Bible tells us that we can make all the plans we want to–God determines our every step. That makes me feel better. I like knowing that He sees not only what I’m going through but how what I’m going through matters to His kingdom. He sees the big picture, and He works things out for good. Always good. Even when we only see what’s bad.

Well, Adelade survived her crisis. While Chad drove her to school, he convinced her that she was actually going to be the coolest cowgirl at school today because she was no ordinary cowgirl. She was The Silver Sneaker Cowgirl. She liked that. The sniffling stopped. A little smile appeared. She was going to make it. And that didn’t surprise God at all.