Two words I wasn’t sure I would ever love together as I didn’t grow up going to camp and the cold, dark winter season is not my favorite.
But here we are, five years after my first experience with winter camp, and it’s changed how I feel about both.
There is something about the time of the season, the magic, at the end of December. The kids come home from school and they are wired with anticipation of the arrival of the fat man in a red suit in just a few nights. The sugar highs from the treats in abundance often have the kids bouncing around unable to sit still. Adults have different reactions and most focus on running around trying to locate the perfect gift, hide presents, be present at one or two (or more!) Christmas parties, all while attempting to carry on with the normal duties we have the rest of the year. At least, that’s how it is in my world and I consider myself an average wife, mom, employee and friend. Every year, I vow that next year won’t be as busy.
While I know I should slow down and enjoy the season and all it represents, I don’t. And because I don’t, my kids don’t.
Until we arrive at Winter Camp. Suddenly, the world disappears behind us. The busyness and the chaos stop. A peace comes over me that I can’t understand, especially because there are 60 plus kids in the dining hall all excited to meet new friends or reconnect with friends from past camp sessions. There are no cell phones. There are no electronics. It’s just me and Jesus and the stillness of camp (and 60 plus kids!)
In the same way, the kids feel it, too. It’s different for them as I know the shock of the lack of communication with the outside world is scary, but it allows them to be kids for 48 hours. Forty-eight hours of four-square, hiking, crafts, singing, playing, and friends. Forty-eight hours they don’t have to worry about life outside of camp. Forty-eight hours of Jesus and counselors and staff who want to make sure the kids at camp encounter Him in a real way. Isn’t that the greatest gift we can give our kids just days before we celebrate His birth?
My kids and I began attending camp five years ago. I’ve served in the kitchen and as chaplain and have watched Winter Camp grow these last few years. My children have attended as campers, CITs, and now one as a counselor. Last year, after walking through a particularly tough situation, I looked at my son and said, “aren’t you glad Winter Camp is this weekend?” His emphatic nod was all the proof I needed to know the profound effects Winter Camp has had on my own kids as well as the kids I bring from the neighborhood.
Due to life and changes in seasons, I won’t find myself at camp this December. While I won’t be, my kids will. Given the choice of the annual Christmas Party with the youth group or Winter Camp, Winter Camp won. I knew it would. Even though I won’t be at camp, I’ve promised myself I’ll take that time without the kids (which, hello? They take your kids for the whole weekend before Christmas – what a gift for you!!) and spend time with him. I’ve already blocked off time on the back deck, under the stars, with the fire going for my “Winter Camp at Home” experience. Winter Camp has taught me so many things, but the biggest is to slow down and rest so that I can truly prepare my heart for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.