Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Comforts of Home

As much as we have loved our time here at camp, we’re all starting to feel ready to go home. It isn’t for any reason in particular…just a feeling that we need to go home. There is something beautiful about that, though. After all, in a world where people are always moving on and looking for something new, there is something heartening about knowing that the place God has carved out for us in this life is exactly where we want to be.

Hope has certainly done her part in making it painfully apparent that she is ready to be home. She is extremely emotional this week and when I can get past all the silly stuff that it seems like she’s upset about, what really comes out is that she misses her friends, and her dogs, and her home, and the routine we have there. I can relate to that. I really can. But, despite my efforts to be understanding, I have found myself irritated at her a lot. She has been hard work this week…plain and simple. It’s been hard to get her to obey and to do what she knows she needs to do. Her discontent has been a breeding ground for all sorts of bad behavior and I have struggled to get a handle on it. She seems so fickle in her feelings towards me, too. One minute she is dissolving into tears over the tiniest thing and the next all she wants is to be held.

Hope cried herself to sleep last night and it made me really sad. We had a really rough day and bedtime wasn’t any better. But, after I put her to bed (not too kindly, I should add…I won’t be winning any awards for mother of the year with that bedtime routine), I sat and read Romans 8 and prayed and journaled to get a little perspective. And I did. It’s funny how much my kids open my eyes to my own sin. Spiritually speaking, when I find myself away from "home", that place with the Lord where there is rest and the comfort of being known, discontent is always lurking right around the corner. That discontent has always been a breeding ground for sin and the thought of my fickleness towards God in those moments fills me with shame. Unlike me, though, he never acts irritated. I know without question that I am hard work, but he is so quick to forgive even when I struggle, like Hope, to do what I know I need to.

Perspective granted. And then, it was no struggle to do what I knew I needed to do. So, I went into Hope’s room and woke her up because sometimes, what we have to say just can’t wait until morning. I snuggled in next to her and told her I was sorry for being mad and for not being more understanding. She never even opened her eyes, but she whispered, “I forgive you, mom.” I needed her forgiveness so that she and I could start fresh, and it graciously reminded me of how God is always quick to grant forgiveness. Then, we snuggled in for a few more kisses and I love you’s and, at least for a while, we were home.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Out Time at Oakbridge#3 - Down time

I know it looks like we have a crazy life here at Oakbridge and that is partly true. There is a lot to do. The nice thing is, because the girls and I don't have specific responsibilities, we get to pick and choose what we want to do and what we don't. That leaves us with a lot of down time and we have become experts at making the most of it.

We spend lots of our time at the pool. We generally go every day, at least for a little while, which is great because both Bella and Hope LOVE the water. Hope has mastered all sorts of tricks that she is eager to show anyone who will watch...campers included. She does front and back flips and has even figured out how to do three front flips in a row without taking a break. That girl amazes me. She is doing handstands in the water and likes swimming with her "tummy touching the bottom." Her most favorite thing to do, though, is to jump off the diving board. She even surprised me by going off the high dive once. She is freakishly coordinated in the water and we have a lot of fun diving for stuff together.

Bella is on her way to being just as fish-like in the water as her big sister. She has figured out the floaties and so she feels very independent in the pool. This is a little scary for me, since she just goes right off the edge without any warning. She loves going under the water and is constantly throwing her head back and floating on her back. This is so funny to me because it is such her personality. Hope has never been interested in floating on her's not exciting enough.

Hope catching her breath in between death defying tricks.

While we both love the pool, Bella and I both have a great appreciation for soaking up the wonderful California sun. She loves to curl up with me after a while in the pool and warm up.

I took this picture cause Bella had put the goggles on and looked so funny. By the time I got the camera out, though, she was over it. I thought it was the funniest picture, though, and had to share it with you.

We also spend a lot of time playing in our cabin and with the new friends we have met. There are nine other kids here so it makes for quite the crew when we are all together. I'm not totally sure this fits under "down time" cause it doesn't feel much like that when we are together, but it is fun for the kids and they have all gotten along really well for the most part. Hope has started mentioning more and more lately that she misses her friends at home, though. I know how she feels!

This is Brennan and Hope. Brennan's dad works with Loren organizing all the workstaff. Hope and Brennan are the same age and really enjoy playing all sorts of imagination games together.

This is Bella playing out on our deck in the castle. She looked so pretty on this day and I just had to get a picture of her looking so grown up.

Finally, we do get out of the camp property some. We have been into town a few times and this last weekend we went to downtown San Diego and walked around for a while. A week or so ago, the other moms and I took all the kids to the beach. It was a very welcome interruption in our regular camp schedule. We had a lot of fun, despite the fact that getting ten kids to the beach is no picnic.

It turns out that Bella is a little beach bum. Having an 18 mo. old baby at the beach is tricky business, though. Sand was in every possible place on her body, but she loved the warm ocean water and she LOVED digging in the sand.

So there you have it. We have ample down time and I am thoroughly enjoying spending some quality time with my kids. We have had lots of laugh out loud moments and lots of tender times. I have a real sense that we are making some serious memories here and I love that. We have about ten days left and I am looking forward to what those days will bring.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Our Time at Oakbridge #2 - The Adventure

One of the things that Young Life camps do so well is provide kids with a week of adventure. Each camp is a little different as far as what activities are offered, but trust me when I tell you there is never a dull moment. The girls and I get to participate in a lot, but watching is almost as much fun. It is fun to see campers having the time of their lives and discovering the unique person God made them to be. Here are pictures of just some of the activities.

You can't really see him in this picture, but Loren is up there, on the high ropes course, guiding kids through the tightrope walk. In fact, he was up there for almost eleven hours, on a 3x3 platform, as every camper made their way through the course. It is always a highlight of their week as they are challenged and encouraged by their leaders and by their fellow campers. It really breaks down walls among campers and it physically demonstrates the trust you have to have in Christ. No matter where you are in your walk with Christ, the lesson of the ropes course is a good one. No matter how well balanced, or strong, or smart you are, if you don't have a harness(Jesus), you're not gonna make it.

On day three, we have the All Camp Water Olympics. This is such a gift to our kids! They have all these gigantic blow up, bouncy things that are also filled with giant slip and slides and a slide that you climb up and swoosh down. There is a window of about thirty minutes between the time they set these up and the time that campers converge on them and we make the most of it. Both the girls are wild about water...they must take after their mama. (In case you are wondering, yes, I slip and slide, and no, you will not see any pictures of it.)

On night two there is a carnival during dinner. We have barbaque and then the campers can play all sorts of games where they win tickets which can then be redeemed to do all sorts of crazy things to their pie them in the face (hence the picture), send them to the dunk tank, give them a hairdo made out of shaving cream, etc. It is really all designed to set the leaders up to be approachable and to make them heros. Oh yeah...there is also cotton candy and snow cones, which makes it another highlight for me and the girls.

Here is a leader at the carnival getting a bucket of water dumped on them by a camper at the "Splash Zone."

Hope thought it looked fun and managed to get enough tickets to send her daddy there. Here she is holding her hammer that she used to send the bucket full of water over...

right onto her dad, who was a very good sport about the whole thing.

This is such a small little bit of all that goes on in the way of adventure. There are also mountain bikes, a rock wall, a dodge ball/paint ball tournament, a Mission Impossible event, Glow in the Dark capture the flag, a dance party, and so much more. It is definitely a month full of adventure for my kids and I'm afraid we're gonna have some withdrawal when we come home. We are used to being entertained from the moment we get up until well after bedtime. Anyone want to volunteer to put on some spectacular events for us when we get home...just to bring us down slowly?

Coming soon...the post about all of our down time and what we do when we choose not to go to some of these activities and instead do whatever we please! Be prepared for lots of pool pictures...that is where you will almost always find us when we aren't at prepared activities. Yeah for the pool!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Our Time at Oakbridge #1 - Is This Really Our Job?

Several people have asked for pictures of our time here in Young Life Land and, until now, the prospect of trying to find a few pictures that give an accurate accounting of our time here has seemed intimdating. I think that's because there is no real way to sum up all the parts of camp in one post with a few pictures. So, I've decided to attempt my first ever “blog series.” (Is there a better word for that…probably.) So, this first one, called, “Is this really our job?” is about all the weird ways we get to dress. We, in Young Life, like to take the verse that talks about becoming fools for the sake of Christ to the next level and we do it all in style.

Before the pictures, I have to relate one specific story to you. I was sitting at a table with other Assign Team members at dinner during "Tacky Prom Night" (more on that later) a few days ago and we were eating. One of the ladies looked across the table and started cracking up. She said, "Is this really our job?!?" We all started laughing as we looked at what she saw...a bunch of middle aged people dressed up...some of us in old prom attire (not the cute stuff, either), the kids in their princess costumes(that's the best we could do in the way of prom attire for toddlers), a couple of people as superheros, and one as Wendy, as in the mascot for Wendy's Burger Chain. It was quite a site.

So, here are some the costumes we adorn at camp and their perfectly legitimate explanations.

This is our family at the "tacky prom" night, which is the last night of camp. At Young Life camp the last night is the one where you dress up fancy and have steak. But Wyld Life camp is for junior high kids and they somehow feel less of a need to get all dressed up...or even shower in the case of the boys. We do still have steak but the dressing up part is a bit less refined. I thought our family looked particularly dashing on this night. Can someone say Christmas Card?

The quality of this picture isn't great, but I think you get the idea. This is Hope in her superhero outfit. The whole theme of the program is superheros and so on one day everyone is asked to come in their own superhero gear. Hope calls herself "Thunder Lightning." I wish I had a picture of my own getup. I didn't really have anything so I pinned a blankie around my shoulders and declared myself "supermom"...always prepared in the case of blankie emergencies.

This is less of a dress up picture and more of a "look how cute Bella is" picture. Actually, this is at the "Birthday Dinner" that we have...hence the hat.

Finally, this is Hope with Wendy and the Burger King...the arch enemies of superheros Captain Caffeine and Fireball. (Just ignore that sentence if it seems to make no sense me, it does.) Though you may not recognize him, Loren is the Burger King and this should have been a picture with both the girls, but Bella would have none of it. She screamed from the time we came near them until the time they left. She is learning a hard, but necessary lesson about what a freak her dad is.

Believe it or not, this is only a little taste of the weirdness we encounter and get to be a part of every week. It's awesome!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Coopers Came to Town!

I have been meaning to share some pictures of our fabulous visit with my sister and her family, but have been so busy, trying to get to California and then getting settled in, that I haven't really had time until just now.

My sister, Amy, her husband, Daniel (Deedee I like to call him :) ), and their boys, my adorable nephews, Carson(5) and Cameron(almost 1) came to town the week before we left for our trip. We only had a day and half with them, but the Lord graciously stretched our time so that we both felt we got a really good visit in. We did a lot in just a bit of time and Amy and I even had time to take in a good cup of coffee by ourselves, with no kids in sight.

I love my sister so much. We had a rocky relationship when we were growing up, though. Oddly enough, I think she resented the fact that I consistently felt compelled to make the "right" decisions. Okay, I was a miss goody two shoes...there's no sense sugar coating it! I can't imagine why it wasn't more appealing to her. :) Anyway, regardless of all that, we managed to forge a friendship in more recent years that only gets better with time. She is an amazing mother, a thoughtful and encouraging wife, and a woman who seeks after God. I am proud to be her little sis and was so blessed to have her in my home. There's just something special about sisters!

Here are some pictures from our visit.

Carson and Hope are only a year apart and love being silly and having adventures together!

The cousins at the Royal Gorge (minus sweet Holden, of course :( )

The Cooper Family

Amy and I

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Permanent Press

Hope has a loose tooth. It’s true. It seems really early to me, but, luckily, the husband of one of the staff ladies up here is a dentist and he assured me that there was no trauma and that her permanent tooth is just making it’s way up and pushing the baby tooth out of the way. It will probably fall out within the next two months. So, it’s all perfectly normal and yet I felt this rush of fear. Seriously, it was my first real taste of this kind of sickening fear. I have alluded to it in the past. “Oh…my children are growing up too fast.”; “I can’t believe she is already doing that. It happens so fast.”; “It seems like she was a baby such a short time ago.” etc. Yeah…this wasn’t that. This was a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, rapid heart beat, feeling hot all over kind of fear. And then, I got mad at the permanent tooth.

I mean, how dare that little tooth get to say when my baby becomes a big girl. How dare that tooth push its way through her gums as if to say, “I’m here. I’m a grown up tooth and I don’t have any use for that baby tooth anymore. Get out of here, baby tooth.” And then, it manhandles that baby tooth right out of it’s comfy gums and shoves it right out of her mouth. How rude!

Okay, this may seem a little overdramatic, but here’s the deal. I think I resent the grown up tooth because it is such a huge symbol of all that is to come. The things that represent Hope’s childhood will soon start to slowly disappear. Not only that, they will be replaced with things that will carry her into womanhood. Permanent teeth. The teeth she will have when she starts to date and gets married and has children. And, I’m not really ready. I thought I was ready. When some of my friend’s children started loosing their baby teeth I thought, “Wow! We are next. Won’t that be fun?!?” Turns out, not so fun. At least not at the moment.

I know this is just the first of those many moments when I will feel desperate to hang on to a part of her childhood that it is time to let go of. Lord, give me the strength to let go. The teensiest part of me is excited, though. I know that moving forward means a lot of hopeful, happy things, too. There is so much that I want to teach her about life, and identity, and boys, and friends, and God. So much that I get to journey through with her.

Last night, when she discovered her loose tooth, Hope was teary at first…worried about it. Then, when we told her she was getting to be a big girl and her tooth was gonna fall out soon, she broke out in a huge grin. A little while later, she secretly confided in me, “Mom…I’m kinda nervous.” My thoughts exactly.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

"After the Leaves Fall" by Nicole Baart

Wow! I just finished this debut book by Nicole Baart and I was blown away. She is such a gifted writer and I am so looking forward to reading everything she writes. If you need a good read, pick up her book. You will not be disappointed and it is worth every minute of sleep you lose while reading it. Here is an excerpt from the end of Part One of the book to tantalize you:

My life became a cautious mosaic, slowly taking the form of a shabby mixed media - shattered glass among cool, round stones and tentative, interrupted strokes of inoffensive color. I couldn't see myself as much as I could feel myself in the angles and corners and lines. I was well hidden. Unrecognizable.

I was unfamiliar even to those who knew me best. It wasn't that I was afraid of getting hurt, of losing more than I had already lost. I wasn't trying to hold them at arm's length or be evasive. The truth was, I didn't know who I was, and I was afraid of being defined by who I wasn't. By what I didn't have. By all the tears that I had cried and the catalog of dates that told me who I could never be. By remembering with predictable, cyclic accuracy all I had lost.

I decided I could do better than that. I could handcraft the life, the person I wanted for myself. I could be my own artist, and I surrendered myself to the creation of a Julia who was too smart to attach, too independent to want to, and so secure as to be untouchable. I wasn't interested in allowing myself to wait a single second longer for something I was convinced I could walk up and take.