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The Beauty of Love
by Sarah and Allan Newburn
I’ll never forget the day we got “the call” we had been waiting on for 13 months. While I was on my way to pick up a cake for our ten-year-old son’s birthday party, our social worker wanted to talk to me about an abandoned child that might be available for adoption soon. She was calling several waiting families to see if they would be interested because the baby had some minor special needs. And even though we were still the 15th family in line, there was a slight chance she could be ours. “The baby has a cleft lip and palate, and she’s three months old,” she said. “Talk it over with your husband. Either way is fine, just let me know.” That night we escorted 12 boys to a local bowling alley for some laser tag, and while they played we sat down to discuss the possibility.
Truthfully, neither of us remembered stating that we’d be willing to accept a child with “minor correctable special needs.” But, of course, we would accept her if given the chance. How in the world could we not? Even though we were pretty sure someone higher on the waiting list would end up with this little girl, I will never forget how wretched I felt over even considering the possibility of saying no. I remember thinking I never dreamed that our Ethiopian baby wouldn’t be quite as outwardly beautiful as our blonde, blue-eyed biological children. I came home and cried, not because I was sad she wouldn’t be perfect, but because I was so disgusted and ashamed with the thoughts that had crossed my mind.
One month later, at a Christmas tree farm on the day after Thanksgiving, my phone rang with the actual call. The one asking us to open our email and see a picture of the baby that could be ours. Our eyes filled with tears at her beauty. Her eyes were piercing. Knowing that other families had already declined to adopt her made it the easiest and most difficult decision we had ever made. God had led us to each other, and she was perfect for us.
Fast forward to July, when we finally brought our sweet baby girl home. The hardest adjustment for our family was feeling the stares of others while out in public. We could never have anticipated the level of insecurity that could bring. The five of us, however, were madly in love with our newest addition. She had a smile that literally went from ear to ear. Her eyes even smiled. She was so joyful, and our entire family was head over heels! Sometimes people would ask questions about her lip, which we all preferred to the stares. Then came the day in November for the surgeon to repair her lip, nose, and soft palate. I remember reading somewhere that it would be a bittersweet day and thinking, how could that possibly be bittersweet? I was so naive at the beginning of this process. I thought I would be counting down the days until her face was “normal.”
The night before surgery, we all prayed for her and cried. We cried for how her face would change. We knew she had to have it done, but we had fallen in love with this wide open mouthed girl with huge eyes that lit up a room. The surgery lasted five hours, and then they called us back to see her. I can’t really describe the intense emotions that came over us. I didn’t recognize her. Her eyes weren’t the same, her nose didn’t look right to me, and her lip wasn’t what I had hoped for. She was swollen and sedated, her vibrant personality subdued, and I was sad. It seemed as if we would have to fall in love all over again, because it was a face we didn’t recognize anymore. One day later, our big kids experienced it too. They cried for the face their baby sister used to have and couldn’t put into words what they were feeling. I don’t think extended family and friends could fully understand, but they supported and encouraged us through it.
We are three months post-surgery now, and she’s still as exquisite as the first time we saw her. It took a while for her to attempt her first new smile. And although her smile is different and more normal, it is still full of the same joy. I will forever be grateful for how God used a cleft lip to demonstrate true beauty to our family.
We are pleased to announce that Daniel Killian joined the Foundations for Laity Renewal (FLR) on Monday, January 6, in the role of Director of Laity Lodge Family Camp. Daniel reports directly to Will Stripling, Executive Director of Camping Programs & Administration.
Daniel will play a lead role in carrying out the mission of FLR at LLFC, developing life-long connections with campers, and encouraging them to seek a richer life with Christ after their Canyon experience. His responsibilities will include designing, developing, and directing all aspects of LLFC’s programs. He will provide direction for team members and manage the financial, marketing, and strategic operations. Daniel’s previous education and work experiences have prepared him for this dynamic and challenging role.
After completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Auburn University, Daniel returned to school in 2009 and completed a Masters of Divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. His work experience began at camp where he served as staff member and counselor for Alpine Camp in Mentone, Alabama. After two years in sales, Daniel moved into pastoral roles. He served three years as Youth Director for Faith Presbyterian Church in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and four years as a Pastoral Intern for Providence Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas. Daniel has been involved in campus ministry at Oklahoma State University since 2009, where he served as Campus Minister.
Daniel is originally from Fort Payne, Alabama, and still misses the rivers and canyons of his childhood home. He met his wife Taylor, a Texas native and ballerina, while attending Auburn University. They have three children: Lainey, Gaddis, and Harper. In his leisure time, Daniel enjoys spending time with his family, playing Ultimate Frisbee, watching college football, and discussing theology. He should feel right at home in the LLFC setting.
Daniel expressed his feelings about joining the Foundation with these words, “I am very pleased to accept the position of Director of Family Camp at Laity Lodge. Thank you for the opportunity. I am eager to make a positive contribution to the company and to work with everyone on the Laity Lodge teams.”
We are all very excited to have Daniel join the FLR family. LLFC team members have gone above and beyond expectations during this time of transition and are deserving of a huge round of applause. This team expressed their feelings with “extreme jubilation” when learning that Daniel had accepted the position of Director. We expect great things to continue from the efforts of this amazing team.
Welcome, Daniel, we are so glad to have you join us!
We are excited to announce that Kate Batchelor is now serving as the Family Camp Registrar and Assistant. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Texas A&M Corpus Christi. After graduating from college, Kate substituted at elementary schools in San Antonio and then landed in Midland, Texas, teaching third grade.
Kate will provide support to Daniel Killian (the new LLFC Director) as a member of the administrative team. She will also organize details related to registrations and fees and ensure guests are prepared for attendance. Kate will be the first point of contact for inquiries to LLFC programs, act as the Family Camp liaison to other FLR departments, and will communicate individual guest needs to the program staff. In addition, she will assist the team in the planning of future retreats. This is a position for a person with great multi-tasking skills, a person who is gracious as a hostess and adept at planning and organizing, and Kate has demonstrated her strengths in each of these areas.
Kate is thrilled to be back home and close to family in Kerrville where she is currently living with her husband, Aaron, and their son, Rylan. Kate’s passions are her family, serving others and the Lord, cooking, and exercising. She is excited to utilize her organizational, relational, and administrative skills as the Family Camp Registrar.
The Simple Things
by Wendy and Eric Davenport
We returned to the states from the mission field a few days before coming to camp. LLFC was a tremendous time of renewal and relaxation – filling us back up as a family! We love the camp location and enjoy being out in nature. LLFC is superior in every way. Such a blessing to be with each other and other families in God’s beautiful creation. It was very encouraging for us to hear about other families and how God was using them where they were.
Our week gave us time to really connect as a family. We were on furlough from working in China and LLFC provided us so much that we hadn’t experienced in over a year. We were really able to enjoy simple things like fresh, clean air, a mattress, American food, and so much more. The time spent as a family was focused time and not cluttered with the busy-ness of life.
We liked the facilities, location, and mission best. Also the fact that we were fed, cleaned up after, and pampered like never before! Our kids enjoyed having a space outdoors to roam and play safely.
It was significant to make some new friends and hear how the Lord is working in their lives. We were greatly encouraged in our faith by a few of the families as well as the counselors – what great hearts for Him and ENERGY everyday! Wow!!!! Emily’s leading of worship was inspirational. Thanks for using your gifts for His glory!
A Different Kind of Entertainment
by Perri Rosheger
My husband was doing some summer reading for a seminar he took as a school teacher. One of the books is Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman. As we have discussed the focus of the book, I am struck by how much we, our family, fills our time with trivial screen engagement – Netflix, the big screen, smart phones, tablets . . . You get the picture. Sure, we work, and perform responsibilities, exercise, and read books. But often, when we have time to detach from the “have tos” and plug in to “what we want to do,” it has something to do with a screen.
Trust me, we believe entertainment simply for the sake of entertainment has its place. Yet, when we find ourselves at Laity Lodge Family Camp together, life looks different. We slow down. We spend a good deal of time in nature. We talk about our lives together. We watch our girls interacting with other young people, phone-free and social-media-free.
And frankly, we look into each other’s eyes a good deal more.
That may seem silly to say. Yet, I’m guessing you know what I’m talking about. Audio visual competition with Instagram or Vine can really irritate me. In addition to worship, activities, and relational downtime together, Family Camp is probably the only weekend out of the year when I don’t have to be the computer, iphone, itouch, ipad police officer. Can I see a show of hands from parents who have said no to one more social media application simply because you just don’t want one more thing to monitor? That becomes a non-issue while we are at camp together.
Plus, we’ve chosen to enjoy Family Camp for the past three years with a group of families from the girls’ school. Our time there has been the single most valuable community building event we’ve experienced during our five years at the school. And I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we aren’t amusing ourselves with screens full of mind-numbing entertainment. Rather, we are engaging each other in thoughtful, relational conversation, play, and reflection.
My kindergartner, Henry, got out his Lincoln Logs last night (which he never does and I wish he would more often) and he built something.
“Look Mom!” he said so proudly. “I built CABIN 11.”
We decided to attend Family Camp at the eleventh hour. I was facing a rainy weekend in the city with housebound children when a friend emailed to tell me that she’d heard there might have been a last-minute cancellation at the 3-day Family Camp. So I called Dana in the registrar’s office, and she confirmed that they could accommodate us.
Wade (age 12) has spent a session at LLYC for the last four years, while Anna (age 10) has been a camper for three years. Henry is a kindergartener and has always been forced to drop off his older siblings, but he never gets to stay. He’s very close to Wade and Anna, and it makes him very sad to be away from them and for them to come home full of stories about camp when he isn’t old enough to attend yet.
My children had left for school on a rainy Friday with no idea that we might do something as wonderful as Family Camp, so when they arrived home in the afternoon, they were absolutely over the moon, and the sweetest thing was that they were excited for Henry. “Henry gets to go to camp! Henry!! You get to go to camp!” They spent the entire drive to Leakey planning sneak-outs and talking about ziplines and rodeos and things that I knew they wouldn’t be doing, but he was so happy to be included with the big kids. He talked about Blue Hole and the Devil’s Bathtub and Round Up like he’d been going to camp all along.
At Family Camp, my big kids were thrilled to see some of the staff from their youth camp cabins – especially Spencer (whom they call “Turkey”), John and Lindsey. I think they spent half the weekend in the gaga ball pit and the other half at the waterfront in kayaks.
I am a single parent, and I am responsible for these children 85% of the time, so I confess that I didn’t take part in too many activities with my children. I ate with them, we slept in the cabin together, we walked to and from the center of camp, and we worshiped together at Roundup, but while they canoed and swam, I caught up with my friends, I read a page or two in my novel, and I watched the children run wild and enjoy themselves. My chosen activity was not being on the telephone or the internet or in the car.
Henry loved “Cabin 11″ aka Horseshoe Bend, and he loved Family Camp. We were very comfortable and happy, and we had a wonderful time being together as a family. I enjoyed not planning meals and activities or feeling the pressure to clean and prepare for the upcoming week.
It was a great weekend, but the best part was finding a place and “activity” that nourished and enriched each one of us. Thank you for building a place where Henry can join in his siblings’ adventures. He has been endlessly fascinated with the lore of “camp” and now he feels like he is a part of it too.
Quenching our Thirst
by Kim Hall
Our family is large in both size, and number. A road trip with four little ones wasn’t always a walk in the park, as I recall, but it’s become a different kind of hard to coordinate, corral, and transport the teenage members of our clan anywhere these days.
For one thing, their bodies are huge! Climbing into the way, way back of the car is a sacrifice of the highest order, as is the Hurculean effort of clearing their various school, sport, work, and social schedules for an entire weekend.
The kids are no longer on our carefully crafted parental program. Rather, we the parents are now on the wild roller-coster ride of a program that is theirs.
With teenagers in the house, everyone seems to move at the speed of light in a thousand different directions. Life is often a breathless blur, a revolving door, and (always) an open fridge. So you can imagine our delight when we unfolded from the crowded car into the rugged canyon; greeted by an emerald river and wide open sky. We could immediately taste and see God’s goodness.
For two days we would be all together in this Texan Garden of Eden, unplugged (literally) from the world and her noisy demands and distractions. Our family would eat and sleep and worship together, and there would be no arguing over the dishes. I still don’t know how we managed to get actually get ourselves there, but I am so grateful to God for making a way.
And then it rained. Was it possible that things could get even better? After months of drought, the clouds gathered dark, and the rain fell hard on the tin roof of our family’s cabin. Is there a better sound in all the world to hear as you fall asleep? We all agreed that there absolutely is not.
Laity Lodge watered the souls of my family. The kindness of staff, the thoughtfulness of landscaping and architecture, the intensely rugged beauty all around – each was a sip of physical and spiritual refreshment that filled up our dry places.
Six Halls arrived at Family Camp for the weekend, not knowing how thirsty we truly were. We left brimming over with worship and thanksgiving, humbly rejoicing in all the good gifts our Father pours out on those he loves.
Thanks be to God, for his mercy and grace in all things.
All the Halls
Kim and her family recently attended one of our weekend camps. You can read more of Kim’s writing at Given Breath.
by Sam Van Eman
I’ve loved the woods since the days we lived at my grandfather’s old homestead, where the Pennsylvania foothills rose high to the ridge behind his house. Dad cut wood there, I got water from the spring there when ours wasn’t working in the house, and I climbed every tree and swung every vine I could find there. Winter, spring, summer, fall, the woods were my playground.
At church, I joined something like Boy Scouts and worked through enough badges to keep it fun. I tasted the finer skills like orienteering and fire-building. I got my first multi-tool. It was so big that the spoon actually measured as a tablespoon.
In my teenage years, I built forts in trees and dug forts underground. I fished and rode trails and stood frozen in the middle of the night while a buck snorted feet away from me in the frost, staring me down in my fear and fascination. I love the outdoors. I grew up in them, and for the past 15 years, I’ve worked in them.
So when this commercial for Nexus 7 appeared sometime last summer, I had a reaction. Take a look and then I’ll say more:
I love so much about this commercial: the father and son companionship, the playful immersion. But I have trouble reconciling the fact that a mobile device is positioned as the mediator for their experience. Without it – the message implies – a good deal of their camping memories simply can’t happen. I know this isn’t true. However, the association fused between digital technology, relational possibility, and my emotional response remains unavoidable. The device makes the experience what it is. One leads to the other and a powerful equation appears.
This is advertising at its best and worst.
Could research on a frog benefit time with my children together? Yes. Could a flashlight app come in handy? Certainly. Is there anything wrong with passing the time with a game of checkers? No way. What is it, then?
I can’t say for sure. Maybe you know. You’ve been to camp, perhaps years of it along the Frio River or some other magical place. Unplugging does the body good, doesn’t it? That flashlight app could save us in a pinch but who among us could refrain from checking Outlook just once or twice to know what’s up in the land of Everyday Living?
There is a place for the Nexus tablet. Father and son can spend an hour researching that frog, using their GPS tool to study movements from the weekend, and to play a game of digital checkers. Just not until they return home.
Tech Sabbaths do all of us a bit of good. Try one this holiday season if you never have.
We concluded our discussion with the Hargraves by discussing some specific strategies for addressing the issues families face today.
Sharon Hargrave is the Director of the Boone Center for the Family at Pepperdine University, and the Director of Strong Marriages/Successful Ministries at Fuller Seminary. Terry Hargrave, PhD, is a Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at Fuller Seminary and is president and in practice at Amarillo Family Institute, Inc.
What strategies can we use to address how we handle technology?
It’s important for us to remember that technology is a tool we can use to connect and organize our families, but it can’t become a lifestyle characteristic of our families. As parents, we must monitor our time on technology, in addition to our children’s time with it. Build in down time away from technology, whether it’s a few days at Family Camp or certain hours, like dinner time. Have a special place to put cell phones during meals (we recently shared THIS craft on Facebook). Be intentional about making time to build intimacy and relationships.
In our newsletter, you talked about navigating the “letting go” process with our older children. Can you provide additional insight into how to do this?
We talked about how economic times are causing our young adults to live at home longer. However, rather than finding ways to teach them the responsibilities and independence they would have learned had they lived on their own, we merely extend their adolescence into their late teens and early-20′s. For example, if mom was doing their laundry at a younger age, she might continue to do their laundry as college students. As parents, we just continue doing life like we always have. Rather, we should look to teach our adult children to be collaborative partners. This doesn’t mean we start charging rent and utilities, because that moves them into a secondary relationship. Instead, treat them as another contributing adult in the household. Divide up the chores. Share the responsibilities of managing the home. Between spouses we navigate these responsibilities; we should depend on our adult children to likewise share in them.
Thank you for your time and for sharing your insight, Sharon and Terry!
From the files of distraction, I pulled this image tracing the upstream and downstream flow patterns of the Frio River. I thought it was interesting since Family Camp’s facility is named “Headwaters.”
I was surprised to see that the Frio River as a whole serves 9 counties with a population of 182,000 people before joining the Nueces River system. Eventually the river empties into the Nueces Bay and the Corpus Christi Bay.
Isn’t it interesting that our little river flows 338 miles before emptying into the body of Christ?
Specifically, water from Laity Lodge Family Camp and the East Frio River will flow through 16 cities and 11 counties serving more than 600,000 people.
It gives me pause in thinking about our responsibility for what flows out of our camp, doesn’t it? Praise God that the Foundation takes such a serious stance on stewardship of the land God has provided for us!
And really, don’t we have the same responsibility when it comes to our giftings and circles of influence? When we dive into the word with people, when we dive into prayer with people, when we swim through theology of family systems and parenting and vocation, everything we do and say is already destined to become the body of Christ.
You can click around the streams of America here: