This past week was spent in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania as the girls and I attended Girls Camp with our church. This year marked my 9th year attending camp and as illogical as it may sound, spending this past week with 100 teenage girls was just what I needed. Getting away and heading into the woods was just the boost I needed to recharge my “batteries,” refocus on the bigger picture, and spiritually refill my bucket so that I could return home and be a better momma and wife. It was wonderful laughing with the girls and other leaders and stepping away from the distractions of the world for a short time.
Camp week was just as Kimberly Rinehart describes:
“Camping is more than just getting away.
It is the clear blue sky, the song of a bird, the beckoning woods, the wide open spaces.
Camping is greeting the breath of dawn unhindered by the walls of city life and watching the sun set in ribbons of color as it says, “goodnight” to a perfect day.
Camping makes hearts grow lighter and food taste better.
It’s sharing songs around a campfire and gazing up in silence at a star-filled sky.
Camping is more than just getting away. It is the thing we need to rekindle the spirit of a simpler time, refresh our hearts with nature’s beauty, and remind us that life doesn’t have to be so complicated after all.”
Girls Camp is a program in our church that takes girls (12- 18 years old) away from the noise and busyness of everyday life, into the beauty of nature for a week to learn, build friendships, commune with nature, and connect with God.
The theme this year was “Peace in Christ,” with our daily devotionals and activities revolving around how we acquire that PEACE through learning of Christ, listening to Christ’s words, and walking in the meekness of His spirit.
The theme led to a fun 1960’s vibe with our focus on the word “Peace,” including cabin decorations and tie-dyed t-shirts for each level. They were by far the cutest and most creative camp t-shirts yet with each level leader picking their own colors and tie-dye patterns for their girls.
These were the 7th year’s shirts…
Aren’t the JCDs adorable?!
As 7th year leader I am in charge of our Junior Camp Directors (JCDs). These young ladies are our oldest group of campers, most having just graduated from high school. Their final year at camp is unique in that it is not a church designated level but rather something that was prayerfully developed on a local level as a means of providing our graduating young women an opportunity to return for a final time and serve as leaders rather than attending as campers.
Each year our JCDs serve as quiet, behind the scenes, goodwill ambassadors around camp, silently serving and blessing others at camp and bringing a sense of unity and connection to camp through daily activities, acts of gratitude, and service projects they plan.
They also run the camp store. At our camp we have instituted a token system used to encourage kindness, selflessness, and goodwill. When girls are caught doing good works they are rewarded with camp tokens that they can spend at the camp store. The JCDs head up this program, making purchase decisions for the store, pricing items, and managing the “economy” and flow of “money” around camp.
I adore this assignment and really feel blessed to get to work with this special group of girls.
This year both my girls (Grace and Molly) returned to camp as well. It was a special year as I had Molly as one of my JCDs and Grace served as my 7th year assistant.
This meant I got an entire week with my two girls, sharing activities, devotionals, and cabin space.
In addition to Miss Molly, Grace and I had 6 other JCDs under our stewardship, making this the largest of all our past 7th year groups. It was an awesome group of young ladies who each exemplified the very best of what the JCD level promotes. They were delightful, hard working, diligent, thoughtful, creative, and encouraging to the younger campers. It was an absolute joy working with them!
I began working with the JCDs when Grace was 13 years old. It has been almost a decade of returning year after years to work with our 18 year old campers. My intention all along has been to continue putting in my time until Grace and then Molly were JCDs…
(Now that both have made it to their final year of Girls Camp we will see if God calls me back for another year…)
Being part of camp leadership is a huge amount of work but the blessings that are reaped far outweigh the months of planning, preparing and packing that go into creating the camp experience for these young women.
Girls’ Camp is a place of refuge and rest for this weary traveler.
For those who have never served as a Girls Camp leader, that statement may sound contradictory…especially if you had walked into my dining room three days ago and saw the piles and piles of packing, shopping, wrapping, writing, creating and organizing that go into being a level leader at camp.
It is a lot of work that is months in the making,
And the process of bringing the vision of camp to life is laborious,
(Especially for our incredible camp directors!)
So, what do I mean?
I mean camp is my port in the storm.
It is a place where I can be still.
Not physically, mind you…but emotionally.
Away from the frantic pace of everyday life. Away from the feelings of worry, hopelessness and the weariness of everyday trials, I find rest.
There is something special about the camp atmosphere.
Something special about the people who return year after year.
Something special about these sweet 12-18 year old young ladies who, too, discover a special spirit found intermingled within the lessons on fire starting and first aid.
Something special about the contagious displays of good works and kind words that makes one feel as though they have stepped away from the world for the week and have elevated to a higher plane.
It is a place that has become my annual sanctuary and retreat from the hustle/bustle of life and the place where I can drink deep from the well of renewal. It is my place to reorient my compass and take note if I’ve gone off track. It is my place to talk to my Heavenly Father, pour out the burdens of my heart at His feet, and hear His answers to my struggles.
Every year I leave physically exhausted but spiritually strengthened by the Spirit that permeates camp.
It was a wonderful week.
It was just where I needed to be this last week,
And I am so glad I got to be with my girls.
Girls Camp is my happy place,
My quiet place,
My searching place,
My renewing place.
It was a good week.