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by Emily Ballbach
In true nerdy form, one Sunday I spent a lengthy car ride to Austin listening to NPR. Sundays are some of NPR’s best stuff: lots of storytelling, culture studies, and opportunities to learn the unexpected. This day I was surprised to be moved by the story of a flight attendant. She let the thousands listening into a veiled world that many of us find curious. I was encouraged by her insights as she recounted story after story about not joining other flight attendants in making fun of customers, rude passengers interrupting her with a cold coffee complaint while she was aiding a passenger having a heart attack, and the countless acts of service and hospitality she offered without even the smallest show of appreciation.
While I was not surprised that some flight attendants must find it hard to keep from growing jaded in their service, I was struck by the way this particular gal found a way to see beyond the surface of her needy customers and consider the stories they brought with them on their weary travels. She told the story of growing internally agitated with a particular customer, holding her tongue at each difficult pass. Later she found out that this particular passenger was returning from New York City, having just collected the uniform of his son, a fallen hero in the 9-11 attacks. The man only carried a garbage bag with his son’s old uniform and few remaining effects. She was moved to compassion for the man and began to give thanks for the things she was grateful for, right in the middle of the seemingly menial tasks of her daily life.
I sometimes wonder about this kind of hospitality. The kind of hospitality that looks for the story beyond the surface or most immediate need. The kind of service that smiles and receives requests with humility and understanding that all is not always as it seems; each person has more to his or her story than we see. God’s word talks about this kind of care that we ought to offer one another. The book of Romans talks about being devoted to one another, honoring one another above ourselves, and practicing hospitality (Romans 12:9-13). This is a Biblical mandate as Jesus calls us to love each other in such a way that unbelievers are struck by our love and drawn to the Gospel (John 13:34-35).
Our friend the flight attendant, whether a believer in Jesus or not, found a way to maintain a level of service and hospitality without growing jaded toward her demanding customers. She committed herself to the acknowledgement that everyone has a story – some of joy, love, and grace, but others of pain, tragedy, and difficulty. She found herself making lists of things she was grateful for as she served others, keeping her perspective in check.
Some may walk through life with significant need. Most of us carry burdens with us wherever we go. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity to rest so deeply in the story of grace found in the Gospel that we can manage to see the needs and stories of others over our own. We fuel our hospitality with the love of Christ. This can feel hard when grocery store lines are long and the checker seems slow, or when traffic keeps us from arriving to a meeting on time, leaving us ready to argue the next point on the agenda with emotional fervor instead of kindness and love. Taking a minute to stop, be grateful, and look for opportunities to see the individual over the task, will give us room to express God’s love and genuine, Christian hospitality.
1) Tell me a little bit about yourself, whatever background you’d like to share.
I was born in Pittsburgh, PA grew up in Seattle, WA. I spent my college years in LA, attending Biola University, went to Seminary at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston, and then did some college ministry at a church in Orlando before landing here in Texas. I felt called to ministry at a young age and love watching that unfold. My folks still live in the Seattle area and my sister and her family, including my cute niece, live in Austin. I love to visit them whenever possible and enjoy time spent outdoors, hiking, running, etc. I also love music, writing, and being with the people I love.
2) So, what exactly do you do for us at Family Camp?
Haha, great question. I recently received the title Associate Director but have probably done about everything you can think of at camp in some way, shape, or form. My specific role is to support the vision of Family Camp by recruiting, managing, and spiritually developing seasonal staff, as well as being involved in developing the program that we offer. In camp ministry, we are prepared to lend a helping hand wherever needed and work toward having a great team effort.
3) What excites you (or what do you love) about working for Family Camp?
I love when everything runs like a well-oiled machine. I like watching when staff are well-equipped and live into the responsibilities they are hired for, as they are blessed and grow in their service, and when we get to see families served well and renewed while at camp. I also love being outside and watching people enjoy God’s creation with us.
4) When you’re not working up at the LLFC office, what are you doing?
I spend a lot of time on the road visiting our seasonal staff at their college campuses and getting to mentor and laugh with them. I am still learning more about Boerne, where I live, and love hiking and running the trails at Cibolo Nature Center. I have also tried my hand at writing prose and also writing music.
5) If I jumped into your car right now, what kind of music would I hear?
Oh man, a compilation of all kinds of things. You’re likely to hear Patty Griffin, some worship music, some hipster/popular pop tunes, a little bit of jazz/blues, and some fun upbeat workout music.
6) What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
I read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. It’s a book about having the courage to be vulnerable. It was a great read and fun to read while trying to remember Biblical truth along the way. It is not a Christian book, but a lot of her points can lead right into the Gospel and how it ought to transform how we relate to and communicate with one another.
7) Plain or peanut M&Ms?
Peanut all the way, but even better if they are the dark chocolate with peanut.
8) What are your passions in life?
I’m passionate about good books, live music (although I don’t get to it very often), and seeing people made whole and healthy by the Lord.
9) What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
One time I almost bumped into Ryan Gosling at the Austin Whole Foods store. I was in line looking at the chocolate selection, (as we all should) and he wanted to pass me in order to pay. He had to speak up so I would move out of his way. When I looked up and saw him I abandoned the chocolate and tried to figure out what to do. I ended up in line behind him but chickened out on saying anything. It was magical.
10) Diet coke or coffee?
Coffee or Coke Zero
11) What’s your favorite treat?
Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. I could eat them for days. Thank God they’re hard to come by.
12) If you could go anywhere in the world for vacation, where would you go?
Australia. I’ve wanted to go since elementary school.
13) Fill in the blank: Chocolate is ….
a food group, right?
14) What’s for dinner tonight?
A yummy Winter minestrone soup with lots of veggies in it, which cancels out my last answer. (Editor’s note: we sent this to Emily in the winter!)
15) When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A teacher…or a pro basketball player, seriously.
16) Now what do you want to be when you grow up?
I love what I’m doing now and open to whatever God has in store.
17) Dogs or cats?
Dogs, all day everyday.
18) What kind of ice cream do you hope they have this summer at Headwaters?
Mocha Almond Fudge…that stuff is amazing.
19) Morning person or night owl?
Night owl if I don’t have to wake up early. Unfortunately, life makes me wake up early.
20) Anything else you want to share?
Not that I can think of I’ll pray about it
A Texas Transition
by Jennifer and Phillip Reichle
As we were packing up our car to leave family camp, a young college Worker asked me what was my favorite part of family camp. I knew this would be a difficult question to answer. Truly, family camp was so important for our family on so many levels. First, it was a blast! Our boys loved all the activities. My sons face lit up at the prospect of doing archery and fishing and horseback riding. They know the game Gaga ball from before moving to Texas, so that was a welcome sight and source of much joy! After the Friday night round up, our boys disappeared into the enthrallment of playing dodgeball with older kids, even, unbelievably forsaking s’mores!
Our family needed this weekend so much. We moved to Texas last August and have gone through a major transition, leaving our closest loved ones and moving to such an unknown part of the country. This weekend was a pause for us to laugh together, to play together, to catch our breath, to really sit and ponder what God is saying to us, to enjoy great beauty and to have a whole lot of fun. I can’t describe how much this meant to us.
The talks by the director were completely timely for us, and we appreciated his candor, humor and transparency. I have to admit that each person in our breakout small group agreed that when he announced that we would break into groups, we all looked for the nearest exit! But, really, this was a highlight. God literally put our group together as each of us had recently gone through a major move and experienced all the disorientation that a move cross country brings. Plus, there were several shared experiences in what we all struggled with and it brought enormous encouragement to hear we weren’t alone in our struggles. I only wish we had had more time with those couples.
The college men and women were such a blessing. They were each delightful and brought a sense of calm to our dining tables even when our children were out of sorts. The men were so great with our boys, especially helping them fish and do archery, and of course, dodgeball.
We cannot thank you enough for our experience at family camp. You gave us such a rich deposit of fun and togetherness as a family that we have sorely needed.
We also all really enjoyed the worship. My boys were telling us to hurry to the round up when it was time to go there!
Thank you again. We cannot wait to return!
Spring is finally peeking it’s head out, and it’s a great opportunity to get the family outdoors for a little playtime. Here is a fun idea to get you started.
Supplies: balloons, marshmallows, small plastic storage cups, tape
1. Using sharp scissors, cut off the bottom of the plastic cup.
2. Cut off the top 1/2″ of the balloon, and tie the other end (as you would if the balloon were filled with air).
3. Slip the cut end of the balloon onto the cut end of the cup. Tape into place if needed.
4. Put marshmallows into balloon, pull back, and hit your target!
Try different sized marshmallows. Shoot targets or have a longest launch contest. Have a marshmallow war! Sky’s the limit, so have fun and then eat the leftovers as a reward.
To see a pictorial guide of this project, check out Spoonful.
Next up to bat in our illustrious lineup of Family Camp staff is one of our amazing interns, Sean McDonald.
1) Tell me a little bit about yourself.
My name is Sean Arthur McDonald, I’m 24 years old, and I graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Finance and an International Business Certificate. I love traveling, adventure, Labrador Retrievers, swimming, and eating.
2) What do you love about working with Family Camp?
I love facilitating the outdoor activities and encouraging families/campers to try something they would never do at home. But even more than that, I love hearing parents’ life stories.
3) What’s your favorite study snack?
I snack on any and everything. So, Food.
4) Where are you headed right now?
I’m heading out to the Canyon. But as far as future plans, I may try to work at a small business as a personal assistant.
5) Will you share with us a funny camp memory?
As I was scurrying down to the pavilion from the sound booth about to perform a skit, I purposefully ran on the pavement, the longer route, in order to bypass the muddy, SLIPPERY, shorter route, which I had previously taken earlier that day and almost ate it real hard. Well, Emily Ballbach, who was also booking it down to the pavilion, decided to take the short route. This ended with her slipping on the mud and painting her backside with mud. She quickly ran out into the pavilion and spoke in front of everyone with mud covering every inch of her tush.
6) Coffee or Red Bull?
7) Morning person or night owl?
8) What’s your favorite thing to do at Headwaters?
9) What time is it right now?
10) Anything else you’d like to share?
Tevas are better than Chacos!!
If you enjoyed meeting Sean, meet more of our staff here!
Family and Sports: Summary
by Tina Howard
At Family Camp we love having fun, playing outdoors, and working together as a team. And we know sports activities fill the schedules of the families who come visit us in the Canyon. So it seemed only natural that we spend some time talking about sports along with our friends at The High Calling and LLYC.
You can read our three-part series on Family and Sports right here on the Family Camp Blog.
- Kristine Leathers shared with us how sports are a requirement in her family, and I resonated with their thinking. From my sweet childhood memories to my daughter’s experience with team sports, I have seen how positively sports can shape our family.
- Sarah Wolfe reminded us to capitalize on those teachable moments (for us parents, too!) that occur so frequently in sports. The lessons learned from playing sports don’t end when our kids walk off of the field.
- I had never really thought about the community that we built through our sport, but when I read Angela Culpepper’s article I realized that we, too, had formed a lovely little community of parents that we enjoyed seeing every Saturday morning through our sports activities.
The High Calling discussed Sports for the Glory of God, with a series of posts from athletes and sports professionals.
Lastly, over at LLYC, we learned three great tips for getting our kids ready for spring sports.
Family and Sports: Sports on Sunday
by Angela Culpepper
The local little league team used to frame the edges of my “mini-athletes” lives. Today we have three high school and college athletes, and gone are the days of the local home team. For the past five years, we have been entrenched in the whirlwind of what it takes to produce and support dedicated athletes in today’s modern world. Each of my children has practices between two and five nights a week, and then one to two competitions on the weekend. For my two runners, we have to drive 90 miles round-trip to give them the best opportunity and community they need to flourish. When we became a part of this group, we realized that there were families driving in from other states! My youngest daughter is a freshman playing on her high school’s varsity soccer team. This achievement, however, does not lead to a college player. In order to achieve success in this sport, you must be involved in a club team, so it’s back to the highways for us. The ebb and flow of a normal family week has certainly been turned upside down by the choices that our family has made to pursue sports. Walking this path with my children has offered me moments of pride, frustration, anxiety, and exhilaration.
As our weekends are spent traveling, we are frequently not in town to attend a local church. Instead, we are inserted squarely in a community of parents who come from many different backgrounds and religions. We are not singing hymns on the sidelines, and there is no sermon on the field, but there is community. As time has passed, we have built friendships and a love for these families that we spend so much of our lives with. We pray for one another as we watch each other navigate the waters of injury, surgery, and separation. We watch our children build character as they cheer for friends’ successes, even when they themselves have been knocked down.
The rhythm of this life is not what I anticipated years ago as I became a mother. I have experienced tears and anger as the weekly composition of my life was turned upside down. Despite all of that, just this week I signed the letter of intent for my son to commit to a school for a track scholarship. The coach praised my son’s accomplishments and said “I want you to attend and to be a leader on this team.” In those words I hear true success. His character shines through in his sport, but more importantly, it shines through in his becoming an outstanding young man. It is a very exciting time for our family and a time to celebrate God’s goodness. His faithfulness and creativity has opened up the opportunity to love others, build community, celebrate, and support the most unlikely of fellow worshipers.
Angela and her family call the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex home, although it feels like they live on the road. Angela also balances her home life with her work as a real estate agent.
Image by Angela Culpepper. Used with permission.
Family and Sports: Spiritual Growth and Little League
by Sarah Wolfe
On any given night in the spring, you’ll likely find our family of five boys (six if you include my husband) at the ballpark. Over the years, baseball and other sports have become a big part of our family’s activities. My husband and I have questioned our level of participation every season, especially as we’ve felt the pressure of other parents who seem to be doing more “spiritually intentional” activities and posting about them on Facebook. I mean, we play baseball, but I guess we could be at home memorizing Scripture, gathering organic eggs from our chickens in the backyard, or perhaps reading from one of the classics by firelight. There are only so many hours in a day, so why fill them with something like sports? After all, sports are trivial. God doesn’t care about something as superficial as a Little League game, right?
As we have wrestled with our participation in sports, we have come to understand that God does care about things like Little League. Because he cares about us. He cares about our kids. And most importantly, he cares about our sanctification. He will use what we love, whether it be something inherently good, bad, or neutral to refine us and make us realize our need for Him. Baseball has been one of those refining tools for our family.
Our experience at a tournament just last weekend illustrates this. One of my boys played a great game, and he handled it humbly. As his mom, it was fun to watch him succeed. He worked hard, and that hard work and good attitude served him well. On that same day, my other son played poorly. As a result, his attitude was really bad. But the learning and the sanctifying doesn’t stop there on the field. We talked to the boys on the way home that night and over the breakfast table the next morning about how we will handle things, like striking out, better next time. We talked about how hard work pays off. We also discussed how sometimes, even though we work hard, our best may not be as good as someone else’s. Baseball, and life, is full of success and failure. These lessons are some of the toughest that life has, especially for these boys turning into men. Playing ball is helping them understand that God has our best in mind both when we fail and when we succeed. It’s helping them understand that it’s not only about the wins and losses, but how you play the game.
I guess what I’m saying is that teaching your children how to walk with God doesn’t have to be that complicated. Some of the best lessons are made from real life. And real life is just like baseball . . . or at least that’s what my husband says.
“In the dust of defeat as well as the laurels of victory there is glory to be found if one has done his best.” Eric Liddell, winner of the 400 meters in the 1924 Summer Olympics
Sarah and her house full of boys live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. You can find her at her blog, my life in a house full of boys.
Images by Sarah Wolfe. Used with permission.
Sports and families conjure images of over-scheduled kids and crazy competitive parents. While we strive to protect our family’s schedule and not fall into overly-competitive mode, in our home we require both of our boys to play team sports in the spring, fall, and winter.
What, you say? We require it? Yes, we do!
Being part of a team is important to us because it teaches our boys life skills, in addition to encouraging physical fitness. Our sons also learn to support their brother, cheer for each other, and reassure one another. Our family is a team.
Winning the game is the goal in most sports. Whether or not the score is posted, kids know who won. As parents, we absolutely want our kids to win! We also want our boys to lose. Winning and losing are a part of life, and it is important to win and lose with humility, grace, and dignity. Our boys learn to play in a way that maintains the respect of their competitors. A coach once told our older son, “If you win a race, but lose the respect of your competitors, you lost.” We want our boys to learn to hold their heads high when they lose, knowing they gave their all on the field or the court. Sports are an opportunity to teach them how to be disappointed without throwing a fit or turning on their team members, bad-mouthing officials, or blaming others.
Through sports, our boys learn that no matter what, they should give their best effort. Best effort in our house means listening attentively to the coach and following his or her instructions, even if they don’t agree. We always have something we can learn from the experience. Best effort also means giving 100% despite feeling tired, upset, or frustrated. Additionally, it requires cooperating with others, even when we don’t like them. We remind our sons that they will have people on their team that they don’t like, but they should still work hard together. They win as a team and lose as a team.
The boys also learn life isn’t fair! It is not our job as parents to make it fair either. Our motto (which is even hard for us to live with sometimes) is “The official is right 100% of the time, even when he or she is not.” We don’t argue calls. We don’t yell at officials. We don’t blame our loss on a bad call. It is what it is, and we move on. Sometimes things don’t work out the way we want no matter how hard we try, but we don’t want to teach our boys to cast blame on others.
Finally, we expect our sons to help others and to treat their competitors and teammates with kindness and empathy. This looks like helping a competitor up who has tripped and fallen on the court. Or when a player makes contact with the ball for the first time, encouraging him regardless of whether he is a teammate or competitor. It may even mean pitching slower to a kid who is terrified of the ball. We encourage our boys to treat others the way that they want to be treated.
We aren’t perfect parents. Sometimes we get too caught up in the competition or miss the teachable moments. We are learning right along with our kids. We aren’t raising pro-athletes; we are raising boys. We hope our boys are learning life lessons that shape them into great men. So, for all the negativity you hear about sports and families, there are some great life lessons to learn. We think the good far outweighs the bad.
Kristine and her family live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, where she drives carpool, cheers from the ballpark bleachers, and loves her family and friends well. In all of her spare time, she’s also a professional photographer and artist.
Images by Kristine Leathers. Used with permission.
It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”
― Mark Twain
A Note From Family Camp Director, Daniel Killian
Greetings from the Canyon on the cusp of spring: On the cusp of blooming, on the cusp of new life, on the cusp of warm waters and bright rains. Perhaps like Mark Twain you’ve felt the good ache of a heart ready for spring. You may not know all that spring holds for your family, but an unmistakable excitement and courage comes from this very season that is irresistible.
It is the courage of hope itself.
You see the story of our life and the seasons we face – our cold, warms, brights, and darks – are bound not just to temperature change and weather patterns, but to the story of the great Springtime of the Gospel. The thaw of the cold and the green of new life mirror the story of our Lord Jesus. He began a crusade to thaw the terrible cold of death and sin and bring new life through his resurrection and the recreation of his world, his trees, his rivers, his canyons, and most notably his people.
The ache for Spring and the visceral joy that grows in each of us is only the cusp of redemption, like the most pure sunshine felt at last. Our hearts awaken with the rest of creation to the Spring Hope of Easter, and we are strong again in new ways. We smile more deeply and we go into the canyons, our churches, our neighborhoods, with the good ache of spring shared and leading us on.