Tag Archives: girls camp

Summertime Livin’



We find ourselves fully emerged in summertime livin’, complete with cook-outs, trips to the pool, travel and activities that only roll around this time of year. This week we find ourselves down one child as Rusty heads off for a week of fun at Scout camp. Scout camp is always the highlight of Rusty’s summer and this year will be his final year. Last weekend was spent preparing and packing for his 4:45am send-off on Monday morning.

In addition to packing and juggling multiple work schedules, we were able to carve out some summer fun in the midst of the craziness.

Our weekend began on Friday with Grace and Molly both taking the day off work so that we could travel two hours to the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania to join up with 100+ teenage girls and their leaders at Girls Camp.

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This year marked the first year in 10 consecutive years that we wouldn’t be at camp for the week. In the past I have served as the leader over the 17/18-year-old graduated senior girls. It has been an assignment that I have loved, but this year, given the precarious nature of things at home, I simply didn’t feel comfortable committing to a week away at camp when I was asked a few months ago. It was with such mixed emotions that the girls and I declined to return as camp leaders, so when we were asked to come to camp for a single day to teach one of the spiritual focus lessons, we were thrilled!

It was the best of all worlds. We got to get our taste of camp and the special spirit felt there, in a way that was manageable to the family as a whole. We spent the weeks prior to camp pondering possible directions we could go on the lesson topic we were given. We were asked to speak on the topic, ““If you don’t have the Spirit of the Lord, you can not stand.”

Inspired by handouts we found at Dollar Tree, we built our lesson around a flamingo theme and how we can be like the flamingo and stand tall. We each took a portion of the lesson to teach and Grace signed to the song, “I Will” by Hilary Weeks.

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It was such a joy stepping back into camp and seeing so many familiar and loved faces. After our lesson we stayed to watch the slideshow of all the week’s activities and joined the campers for dinner before trekking back home.

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Saturday was a busy one with everyone working except Grace, Tyler and I.

It was $1.00 ice cream day at Handel’s, the ice cream shop where Rusty and Braden work, so it was an “all hands on deck” day for the staff.


Rusty and Braden worked back to back shifts mid-day, so while we were in the process of dropping off one and picking up the other we stopped to take advantage of that awesome deal!

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Is there anything better than ice cream on a hot summer day?!

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From there Molly headed to work at Eat n’ Park.

Molly has been working like crazy this summer, trying to earn all the money she needs for her upcoming year of college. Her hard work has paid off as she is almost to her goal. It hasn’t been easy, though. Molly works almost every day of the week, with the exception of Sunday, often being assigned shifts that have her on the floor from 6:00pm to 4:00am. Eat n’ Park has recently lost key staff members, leaving those who are still there hustling to cover all the shifts. The blessing is that Molly will have no trouble reaching her monetary goals, but the poor thing hasn’t had much of a summer break.

In the afternoon, Tyler and I headed to Zelienople for his weekly equine therapy session at Glade Run Adventures. Since Braden was working, Tyler got to enjoy an individual session without Braden. Because of this, Tyler was put on Leo (the tallest horse at the stable and typically Braden’s ride) to see how he would do with a more advanced horse.

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It was an exciting day as his equine therapist, Ashley, let him canter Leo for the first time, unassisted.

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Tyler did amazing!

It is so exciting to see his growth since beginning equine therapy…both emotionally and in the area of horsemanship.

On Saturday evening we decided to tackle one of the items on the family’s summer bucket list: A Drive-in Movie!!

We have discovered that the stage of life we find ourselves in makes it challenging to get everyone together for family activities. With 5 family members working, 2 going to school, and multiple commitments in the areas of family, friends, church callings, wedding planning, college preparations, etc. we tend to pick a date and time when the largest number of family members can attend, and schedule that way.

Sunday is our one day of the week where everyone is home in the evening, as all have committed to not work on the Sabbath, so that is the day for worshipping together at church and enjoying family time at home. It is also the day we sit and calendar out our week so that everyone knows what is on everyone else’s agenda. It is a necessity for our large, busy family. Last Sunday, as we planned out our week, we decided we would go to the drive-in on Saturday night. Molly, unfortunately, had to work, but everyone else was free.

Grace invited Zach to join us. We met up at Dependable Drive-in at 8:00pm to watch a back to back showing of Toy Story 4 and Aladdin.

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After finding spots side for our car and Zach’s, we set up our chairs.

The boys brought a football, in anticipation of the one hour wait until showtime.

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It felt like summer, surrounded by the smells of the concession stand,

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And the sounds of parents visiting and children playing, as we waited for the movie to start.

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As dusk rolled in the screen came alive with the sounds of the national anthem.

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Everyone got settled in their spots, prepared for 4 hours of movie-watching fun.

Both movies exceeded my expectations. They were both wonderful and we enjoyed them immensely…

Well, most of us did. Tyler was fast asleep by the time the second movie, Aladdin, began to play, but the rest of us made it through the double showing and had a wonderful time.

I love the not-so-lazy days of summer!


Hold on Tight!


(Beware: Photo Dump!)

Life has been crazier than normal this last week as preparations for camp come to a head, while corresponding with basketball camp for Tyler and house preparations for a visit from CYS on Friday to clear us for overnight visits with Tyler’s biological brother, Brandon. I feel as though I have been moving at a clip comparable to a bullet train, holding onto my seat for dear life.

Next week the girls and I are off to camp for the week and I am looking forward to the slower pace, the quiet and the peace I always find at Girl’s Camp. But until Tuesday arrives we will keep on keeping on. Here is a look at some of the moments that have filled our days this week…

1.We always know when summer has arrived because the dining room begins filling up with camp supplies. In the weeks leading up to Girls Camp, stacks begin appearing on the table as I think of things to pack or finish projects that will be part of my 7th year girls’ experience at camp. There are camp store piles, craft supply piles, post office supply piles, pillow treats and free time activity supplies and we haven’t even begun packing our own personal gear for this week away.


2. In the midst of preparations for our CYS home inspection and girls camp preparations, I found myself on the run every afternoon this week, taking Tyler down to Monaca for a summer basketball camp at Central Valley High School. One of Tyler’s buddies from church is a CV student and extended an invitation to join him at camp for the week. I was surprised and delighted when Tyler showed interest because it is really a testament to how far we have come in the last year with his anxiety struggles. The fact he agreed and even looked forward to joining a large group of boys he didn’t know, to learn a sport he isn’t familiar with, made me sing songs of praise for the healing Tyler has found this past year.


The week was a success. Tyler learned that he really enjoys basketball and more importantly, he learned that he can stretch himself and do things that are scary and hard.

3. Grace has now been enjoying life as a Subway sandwich artist for almost two months. When she was hired the manager made it clear she wanted to hire Molly as well but had to wait until a few of their current employees left for school, freeing up spots for new hires. Well, last week Molly got the call she was hoping for and was told they were ready to begin training. This past week she began her new job with three evenings of training at our local Subway. Molly was thrilled to discover that for her first day of work at this new job she would get to train with Grace. We now how two sandwich artists in the house.


4. Speaking of Miss Molly…I don’t know if you have heard, but our sweet Molly is headed abroad in a couple weeks. She is preparing for an adventure to Costa Rica.


About 6 months ago Molly approached me. In some research she was doing about colleges and the Peace Corps, she stumbled across and opportunity offered  to teens. The program is Global Leadership Adventures and offers teens opportunities to travel to locations around the world and serve in remarkable ways. Molly felt called to look into the GLA further and began prayerfully exploring their different programs. She has often expressed a desire to serve in the Peace Corps when she is older and thought this would be an awesome way to try the experience on a smaller scale.

For months she researched the various service programs and the various countries available, knowing that she wanted to serve in an area with a focus on environmental protection and animal conservation. She finally decided on Costa Rica where she will spend 10 days working with the Sea Turtle conservation program. Once she received personal confirmation that this is where God was calling her to serve she began saving all her paychecks to pay for this GLA experience.

She is now just two weeks away from stepping onto a plane by herself and leaving the country for the first time…EEK!

She is over-the-moon excited and we are all thrilled to see her chasing her dreams in such a bold and brave way. She is one who is destined to change the world.

5. Tuesday night was Tyler’s last baseball game of the regular season. Tyler was very excited for this particular game because rather than taking place at the normal time slot of 6:00-8:00 pm, he was playing a late game from 8:00-10:00 pm. This meant he got to play ball under the lights. He was very excited, expressing that playing under the lights makes him feel like a professional baseball player.

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Mimi Joy was able to meet us at the ball field and we enjoyed watching Tyler team take the win. What started as a dark sky in the distance, eventually became a rain shower over our heads, but we didn’t let that dampen our fun.

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After the game we took Mimi Joy out for ice cream at Berry’s, ending a fun night in a sweet way!

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6. This week we also managed to fit in an afternoon of bowling with friends. A few months ago we has a school-planned field trip to Sim’s Bowling Lanes. It was a fun day with two other families from co-op, but because of miscommunication between the school and the bowling alley we were overcharged for the event. The result was a certificate for us to return another day for two hours of free bowling.

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Last Wednesday we met up with the McCready family and the Caylor family to use our bowling certificate. The girls were both working at Subway that day but the boys and I enjoyed meeting up with friends, visiting, and engaging in a little friendly competition at the bowling alley.

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7.  This week also entailed a trip to the orthodontist. Tyler has had his braces on for 6 weeks now and was due to go in to have his wire changed and things checked and tightened. I scheduled Ozzie for the same time to be evaluated for braces. While in Harborcreek he was seen by an orthodontist in Erie who recommended braces. We opted to put that recommendation on the back burner until he returned home so that he could be seen by someone closer. So, while Tyler was having his gear tightened and checked, Ozzie was seen by Dr. Spokane who agreed that Ozzie does in fact need braces as well…

So now we wait and see if his insurance agrees. We could have two “brace faces” in a few weeks.

8.  This past Friday we continued with our plan to meet our Family Based therapy team away from the home to see if that lessens the anxiety Ozzie is feeling about family based therapy. This week we met at Brady’s Run park for some fishing fun. All the kids were able to attend, although only four of them fished. Molly chose to watch. Her tender heart struggles with the idea of a hook piercing the fish’s mouth and it suffering at her hands.

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The other kids, however, had no such qualms and jumped right into the task of prepping their lines, choosing their bait, and casting out with hopes of catching a big one.

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Tyler ended up being the only one who had any success, catching a couple blue gill, but everyone had fun soaking up the sun, connecting as a family, and enjoying the beautiful views on a perfect summer morning.

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From our Family Based therapy appointment we headed home to meet with Washington County’s CYS to have our home checked and get approval to be able to pick up Brandon without a social worker supervising our visits and have him be able to stay for overnight visits.



After a crazy week of prepping for this inspection in the midst of A LOT of running it was good to close out this crazy week by passing our inspection and receiving approval to visit with Tyler’s biological brother without supervision.


What a week!






Girls’ Camp 2017


The theme for Girls’ Camp this year was,

“Just Ask”

and is based on the scripture …


The activities, focus classes, firesides, and devotionals all revolved around the invitation to, “Just Ask.”


Tuesday through Friday the theme was broken down to the more specific challenges of

Tuesday: Just Ask for Friendships

Wednesday: Just Ask God

Thursday: Just Ask for Strength

Friday: Just Ask to Know

The theme was inspired.

Youth and leaders alike were invited to be still, call out to their Heavenly Father, and lay the hidden prayers of their hearts at His feet,

And “Just Ask.”

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.


This year we had around 100 teenage girls and 25 adults at Laurel Hills State Park for the week.


This year was my 7th year returning as the level leader over the 7th year girls, otherwise known as Junior Camp Directors (JCDs). These young ladies are our oldest group of campers, having just graduated from high school. Their final year at camp is unique in that it is not a church designated level with a set of certification goals, like the younger campers have.


Rather, these young ladies serve as quiet, behind the scenes, good will 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 in 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. Last year Grace served as one of my JCDs so last year should have been her final year, but because of being held back in school when she was young, she ended up serving as a JCD between her junior and senior year of high school instead of after graduation, so she asked if she could return in some other capacity.


She was invited to return as a level leader assistant, helping with the 2nd years girls with Tanya, a friend of ours.


It was a bit surreal watching her step up and serve as a leader…an equal. She rose to the challenge beautifully and had a blast. It was a bit surreal watching her from a distance as she helped shepherd 28 13-year-olds, leading, comforting, and teaching them. When did my baby grow up to be such a competent woman?!

Each level also had their own theme that they used to distinguish each level from each other. My JCDs’ theme were The Incredibles with the tagline:
“Be Incredible!”


Gracie’s level embraced the Peter Pan theme of “All you need is Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust.” Their theme carried over into their cabin decorations as their four level cabins were decorated as the Pirate, Indian, Fairy, and Lost Girls cabins, with corresponding decorations.


 They were so cute!


Molly also returned to camp this year as a youth leader. This is her 6th year of camp and she was assigned to be a youth leader, helping with the 3rd year girls. This meant she helped her level leaders with teaching certification over camp skills like fire starting, orienteering, hiking, and protecting the environment. She was also assigned 3 14-year-olds that she was personally responsible for keeping track of and connecting with during this week at camp. She took the responsibility quite seriously, planning fun pillow treats and special surprises for her girls.


Our time at camp was spent learning outdoor survival skills and being strengthened spiritually through a series of awesome focus classes on things such as: how to receive personal revelation, how to be a friend to yourself, how to be a friend to others, and how to receive answers to your questions.


The week was also spent giving the girls opportunities to serve others. In addition to small service opportunities around camp, the girls had the opportunity to participate in two large service projects.

The first was building benches for the camp rec hall. Our awesome camp director had done the leg work, putting together bench parts that the girls assembled, sanded and painted…gifting the park with some beautiful new seating.


The other HUGE service project we participated in, one that we offer the state park every year, is the weeding and mulching of the beach front. This is a huge undertaking, one only made possible by our vast numbers. This year our beach service project took place on Thursday, and we were blessed to have nice weather. For 3 hours, the girls and leaders labored, weeding and mulching, providing the state park with 300+ man hours of service.


But it wasn’t all labor and sweat. There were also many opportunities for fun and friendship building.


Following the beach service project, the girls enjoyed an afternoon at the beach to swim, relax and enjoy the boats and paddle boards.


In the evenings, the girls gathered around the fire for campfire singing and s’mores.


One evening the girls enjoyed a variety of “night games” like “Hit the Dirt” and “Beavers and Castles.”


It was a wonderful week. There were a few hiccups, as there always are at camp, but the blessings outweighed the burdens, tenfold.

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.

“Be Still and know that I am God”



On Tuesday morning I woke to the sound of the birds greeting the rising sun and the trickle of water running off the eves of my cabin,

warm and content beneath the heaviness of my sleeping bag,

feeling embraced by the sweet spirit that permeates Girls’ Camp.

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,

So, what do I mean?

 I mean camp is my port in the storm.

I feel this way every year,

But it has never been more needed than it is this year.

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.

It is my place to answer His challenge:

“Be Still and Know That I am God.”

I am empty.

I came to camp weary to the marrow of my bones,

With a dry, empty well…

Hungry for His peace,

Desperate for His strengthening power.

I came to commune with my God.

I came to be fed.

And I have been.

It was a wonderful week.

Oh, how I love Girls’ Camp!


More Camp Fun!!


This past week was spent in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, as the girls and I attended Young Women camp with our church. As illogical as it may sound, spending this past week with 100 teenage girls was just the break I needed from the drama of a certain 10-year-old boy at home. 🙂 Getting away and heading into the woods was the just the boost I needed to recharge my “batteries”, refocus on the bigger picture and spiritually refill my bucket so that I could go back home a better wife and momma. 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’s 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’s 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.”

The theme this year was, “Come Unto Christ,” with COME serving as an acronym for the focus words: covenant, obey, minister and endure. Each day there were devotionals, scripture study and focus classes that revolved around the word of the day. As the girls studied, discussed and applied what they learned they gained a deeper understanding of what it means to covenant, obey, minister unto others, and endure to the end, as daughters of God.


The girls at camp spent their days working as levels and their nights sleeping as levels with their 2 adult leaders. This year Molly was a 3rd year girl (It was her third year at camp) and Gracie was a 5th year girl, which meant she got to serve as a youth leader and help plan classes and devotionals for the 1st year girls she was assigned to. I was there as the leader over the 7th year girls. These are the 18-year-old girls that choose to come back to camp the summer between their senior year and the start of college. The activities that fill the girls’ days vary depending on the level and the certification that is needed for that level. Their days are spent going on hikes, swimming, canoeing, knot tying, building and cooking over fires, identifying constellations, animal tracks, plants, using a compass, etc.

Gracie canoeing.

Gracie canoeing.

In addition to certification activities and spiritual focus classes a large part of the girls’ days are spent serving and ministering to others. Around camp we have a way of acknowledging and rewarding kindness, hard work, selflessness, and Christ-like behaviors. The leaders and youth leaders carry around tokens that are handed out to the girls when they see girls being Christ-like in word and deed. The girls can then take the tokens they earn and spend them at our camp store that is managed and run by the 7th year girls. It is a fun way to encourage and acknowledge all the good choices and kindness we witness while at camp.


One of the big service projects for the week happened on Wednesday when we weeded and mulched the beachfront area of the state park we were camping at. We spent 4 hours working and with the man power of 100+ girls we were able to spread 10 truckloads of mulch. The park was incredibly grateful for the 380 man hours of service we gave them and the girls were able to experience the blessings of working hard as a team as well as the satisfaction of a job well done! Go girls!!


After a hot, sweaty morning working with mulch the girls enjoyed some beach time at the lake…

Beautiful girls!

Beautiful girls!

The 7th year girls also headed up additional fun, free-time activities for the girls. These were optional activities that were offered for those who wanted to participate. They were a chance to just have fun, be silly and enjoy girl time. Here are some of the relay games they offered…

The "post it note" race.

The “post it note” race.

The girls having "fat Santa" races with balloons and large sweat suits :)

The girls having “Fat Santa” races with balloons and large sweat suits 🙂

There is so much good that comes from Young Women camp for these girls: They are spiritually fed, they are able to escape the distractions and pressures of the world for a while, they are able to learn new skills, be silly with each other, serve others, become more Christ-like…but one of the greatest blessings that come from escaping into the woods for a week are the friendships that grow from that shared experience. Not only among the girls but among the leaders as well. What a joy it is to stand in the darkness of the camp commons and hear the giggles of girls, coming from the cabins, as they talk, laugh, share and bond with each other.


Molly and Miss Rosie

Molly and Miss Rosie

 On Saturday we arrived home tired, stinky and sore. Physically I was drained, but emotionally and spiritually I was recharged and filled to capacity. Heading into the woods for  week with 100 teenage girls and leaders was just what I needed. 🙂 I am so grateful for the amazing, inspired leaders that made the “magic” happen. What a joy-filled week it was!!