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The Greatest Pursuit

October 23rd, 2014

The Greatest Pursuit

by Andrew Sullivan

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In hindsight I suppose it’s no surprise to me that when I graduated from TCU in Fort Worth, Texas in 2009, I declined a job lead at ESPN Radio in Dallas to pursue a career as a performing songwriter. My parents have always been supportive of my goals, but like any good parents, they often expressed a healthy amount of caution when it appeared like I was about to take a big risk in life. This, of course, was one of those times as I turned down a “normal job” to follow my passion. But my dad and I are cut from the same cloth in this respect: we don’t like being told we must do something, and we share an entrepreneurial spirit.
Making a steady (not to be confused with “large”) income in this industry often takes time, and for me it was no exception. For the first two years of my career I had a day job working as a trainee in a DFW-based real estate appraisal office. Since my Dad owns an appraisal office in Houston, it was a logical fit that allowed me to pay my bills while pursuing my music career on the side. After about a year of working in the DFW appraisal office, my Dad called with an extremely competitive offer to work for him at his place down in Houston. I would gain all the experience I needed to move from trainee to a full-on real estate appraiser. The only catch was that my wife and I would need to relocate from Fort Worth.

imageWhile at first this decision seemed like a no-brainer to me, I began to lose sleep over the proposition of leaving a place where I had finally forged an identity of my own. Also concerning was the reality that moving into a full-time career as an appraiser would probably mean the death of any goals I had about being a full-time performing songwriter. It was the proverbial fork in the road: do I take a path that seemed safer and easier to navigate, or do I trust that God gave me musical talents for a reason, no matter how hard it may be?

It was at this time that one of my non-believing friends called me up to ask if I would play one of my original songs while he proposed to his girlfriend. I agreed, and later that evening as a light rain fell, he got onto one knee and she said yes. I had the pleasure of playing at their wedding later that year.

This sequence of events helped forge my decision into something more firm. I had been given talents in music for a reason, and that reason was to live a life on mission that helps draw people closer to knowing who Jesus really is and what putting faith in Him is all about. 

Though the songs I write aren’t overtly “Christian” in nature, a majority of them are love songs written with the Gospel and grace in mind. I have seen how God uses this music to connect my heart to those who need to know Him, and for that I am continually excited for what I’ve been able to be involved with and see God do.

Both my parents and I believe that knowing Jesus Christ as our only hope and only savior is greater than any other pursuit in life. Many prayers were answered when I saw over time how my parents’ eyes opened to how God was using the songs I’ve written, and how I wanted to use my talents to be faithful to His instructions in the great commission. As of today, I have been working full-time as a singer/songwriter for over three years. Even though my wife has been in medical school, and despite the numerous flaws inherent within me, my wife and I have been continually provided for and our bills continue to get paid on time. I consider it an affirmation from God.

Though I am not a parent myself, I hope that one day I will have the boldness to let my child follow after the goals and visions God has set before them, even if it seems like a long shot. In the last three years I have seen God do things that I considered highly unlikely, in both my career and everyday life, and for that I will always put my faith in Him alone.

Andrew is a singer-songwriter based in Fort Worth, Texas. Though he has only been playing professionally for the last three years, he has been writing and performing music since he was 13. Andrew is currently working on his third album, which he is crowd-funding through Kickstarter.

Family Runs Deep in the Frio

October 21st, 2014

 

Family Runs Deep in the Frio Canyon

by Susan Arnold

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Last month, we made our way to our family reunion in rural Kentucky. Over the river and through the woods (just as the song claims) led us to a gathering of our kin spanning the ages of 9 months to 95 years. It was a day filled with reminiscing and celebrating the newest of generations. And did I mention there was fried chicken and pecan pie? Glory!

As I looked around that day, I did not know everyone and many folks I was meeting for the very first time. How strange, as this was my family. However, I was reminded that we all had a place at the table that day and the hospitality felt divine. Not because we had grown up together (although some of us had shared some wild times as kids) and not because we were willing to make the trip to the Bluegrass state (although some had come from as far as California), but we were there because we shared a common connection…a deeper connection as family.

Arnold3God reminds us that families are important. And making time for fun with our family is a must for us. So, we were beyond excited to get back to Laity Lodge Family Camp this past summer. Having been a camper, counselor and on work crew, the Canyon has deep roots in my life and my faith story. I am so thankful to my Godfather Dwight Lacy and to my parents who encouraged me to experience this wonderful place so many years ago. And how fantastic that many of my camp friends were there to celebrate the beginning of our family, as my husband Kent and I said “I do” nearly 14 years ago. WOW!

Spending time at Family Camp is quickly becoming a tradition for us. Our kids are already asking when we can go back to Texas and are specifically investing in cowboy hats and boots for next year’s rodeo (a big statement for us mid-westerners). We love the freedom that our son and daughter experience while at camp and are humbled to watch the counselors build into our kids at every turn.

Family Camp represents the best of everything. From the extraordinary hospitality of the staff, to the delicious home-cooked meals…and from the outrageously silly counselor skits to the customized devotion times for kids and parents, we couldn’t ask for a better family experience. There is something for everyone.

Arnold1Not only does Family Camp give us time to disconnect from the pressure of work and school schedules, it gives us the chance to re-connect with one another while having fun on the zip line, swimming in the Frio River and worshipping together at round-up. And yes, our whole family conquered the Giant Swing this past summer…together. Having just turned 40 this past year, that is no small feat!

God continues to grow our vision of what family means. Our family has connected with so many other families just like us while at camp; doing life together, praying for and encouraging one another in our small groups and Bible study. And our kids have met other children at Family Camp with whom they still keep in touch during the school year. While we only expected to re-connect within our immediate family, we discovered we were making new friends and growing in God’s family with each day at camp. What a blessing!

We welcome the reminder that we are all part of God’s family, with more in common than we could have thought possible. And we are thankful that there is a place like Laity Lodge Family Camp that celebrates families and rolls out a fun-filled agenda to ensure that families walk away from the ultimate family reunion.

Pumpkin Time

October 17th, 2014

photo It’s that time of year when pumpkins come out in full force. Mary Echols has your pumpkin carving ideas covered!

Here are a couple of tips for pumpkin decorating;

  • Clean and dry pumpkin completely before decorating.
  • Washi tape works very well and is rather fool proof, even for littles.
  • We used brads, push pins, and colored tacks to make the dots.  Just push them in.
  • We also used straight pins to adhere buttons to the pumpkins.
  • Some people did it the old-fashioned way and actually carved.  We used disposable table cloths for easy clean up.

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You can find more ideas on our Pinterest page.

Getting to Know You: T’Nikko Clarke

October 2nd, 2014

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Getting to Know You: T’Nikko Clarke

Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I was born in the Bahamas. I have lived in Turks and Caicos since 2006. I am currently the Kids’ Counselor at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort. I take the kids to do things like snorkeling and scuba diving, and I am the activity planner. I love my job because of the kids. I’ve always loved kids. Since I am the oldest of 14 brothers and sisters, I have been helping out since I was young, so I am very comfortable with it. I love to laugh and have a joyous time.

Tell me a little bit about your faith journey.
I grew up in the faith., but as a teenager I wanted to go out and experience the world. I came back to Turks and Caicos, and a friend invited me to church. I didn’t know at the time that the pastor of this church had known me since I was young. That day he was saying “There’s something special about you and you don’t even know it. He is calling you. He wants you to come back because he has things for you.” I knew he was talking to me. That was about four years ago.

Now I have the opportunity to minister to a lot of the teenagers and kids there in the resort. I have standards about who I want to be as a person and I have to keep that in forefront of my mind.

How did you find out about Laity Lodge Family Camp in Turks and Caicos?
The Hallerman family came to to Turks and Caicos last year, and their kids were a part of my program. They had so much fun that they told their dad, Sven, they didn’t want to go back. Sven was touched by that, and told me, “The way you shine on my kids, I want you to do that here (Laity Lodge Family Camp).” So he extended the invitation to come.

TNiko2What did you enjoy about your time with us this summer?
I loved meeting new families, the kids and the activities. I’ve never shot a rifle before, so that has been a blast. Everything at Camp is new, so it’s fun. I have learned so much that I want to take back with me to my job: the teachings, the arts and crafts . . . I even learned about Wyldlife (Young Life) from some of the other counselors, and I would like to implement that in my community.

What brings you joy?
Seeing joy on little kids’ faces. Seeing joy in families. Arts and Crafts, babysitting, having fun. Being a kid all over again. And serving. Serving brings me joy because it puts a smile on people’s faces, and I know that they are having a good time and experiencing something that maybe they wouldn’t be able to on their own. I also appreciate when others can learn from my experiences.

Coffee or Coke?
Neither one. But I’ll drink a French vanilla latte when I need a jolt.

Morning or nighttime person?
Morning, all the way. I need to sleep. I go to bed about 9pm or 10pm, and by 6am I’m awake.

What kind of music would I hear in your playlist?
Gospel music and smooth, calming music. Like Ellie Holcomb. I like music that is soothing, and brings you into that place where you can meditate, think, and focus on the positive.

Tell me one thing about you that others might not know.
I’m a baby whisperer. I have a special connection with babies. I think it’s because I can get down to their level and be more comfortable which gets them calmed.

What’s your favorite treat?
Chocolate with cranberry fruit and nut or Kit Kat. Oh, and cheese Pringles and cheese balls.

Fill in the blank. Chocolate is….
Amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing.

TNiko2-MDCats or dogs?
Dogs.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a doctor. I changed that because I saw how much kids struggle and need someone to just listen and show them someone cares. When you listen to them, it opens them up to trust you. Now I want to come back to the US and study theology and counseling.

What was the strangest or funniest thing that happened at camp?
My first rodeo…I was very nervous, and it was crazy. I was a rodeo clown. And it was amazing!

What advise would you give to families who are preparing to come to Family Camp?
Bring your fun hat for sure. Bring your childhood back with you. Let yourself go. Otherwise, it’ll be much harder to be there.

If you enjoyed meeting T’Nikko, meet more of our staff here!

Rodeo Clown photo courtesy of Martha Danielson

An Unexpected Rest

September 22nd, 2014

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An Unexpected Rest

by TJ Wilson

My husband Corbin came home one day last fall and told me that he signed us up for a weekend in the Spring of 2014 at Laity Lodge Family Camp. As our typical spring schedule clicked through my mind, I simply smiled and said, “Sure, sounds great,” thinking it was a nice, but unrealistic gesture for our family to get away at such a busy time of year.

I’d heard of Laity Lodge before, a camp birthed from the H. E. Butts Family Foundation in the rolling Texas Hill Country, and in fact some good friends who work for Laity Lodge had begged us to attend the new family camp facility even before construction was completed.

Our friends kept telling us we needed to get to the new facility and experience it. “Amazing, incredible,” they said. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them, but I wasn’t fully convinced. We’ve taken part in various camps and retreats before, and have experienced some fantastic properties with fantastic people. Perhaps out of loyalty to those camps we already have ties with, I didn’t feel the need to start again at an entirely new camp.

So I kept the Family Camp date penciled in on my calendar, but felt sure that as the weekend inched closer it would drift away like a ballon let loose into a gusty wind. But even as our commitments threatened and the calendar filled, Corbin held to our Laity Lodge weekend like an unwavering anchor. Even when both of our boys’ baseball teams announced the first tournaments to be played that weekend, Corbin held his ground. And when our older son’s select basketball team advanced to the championship game for that weekend, he never flinched. I felt quite irritated with my husband, thinking that surely he understood that a road trip to the Hill Country that particular weekend simply added stress instead of relieving stress.

Regardless, we all followed Corbin’s lead and threw our bags in the car – rather grudgingly – Friday afternoon to head out for Headwaters. Our younger girls were excited about Family Camp, but the boys and I silently stared out the car windows. I kept asking myself, “Will this really be worth all the effort?”

After a simple four-hour drive from Fort Worth, the boys and I perked up when Corbin exited the highway and followed the signs telling us to literally drive into a river. “Dad, seriously? Are you sure you’re supposed to be driving into the water?” To access the camps, we drove about a mile in a couple of inches of water through the bottom of a gorgeous rock canyon. The scenery captivated us, instantly turning our hearts towards adventure.

Pulling into Family Camp at dusk, we drove up the main road where a handful of smiling staff greeted us, handing out cabin assignments and directions. We hadn’t even parked the car when someone called out our name – an old Young Life friend who brought their family for the weekend. What a precious gift to reconnect with these friends – and to feel connected right off the bat. Relishing in the camp’s scenic beauty, the incredible facilities, and the enthusiasm of the staff, it took about two minutes before baseball, basketball, and birthday parties back in Fort Worth vanished from our thoughts.

Some highlights:
- Scenery. Laity Lodge Family Camp’s placement in the canyon is remarkable. Since we arrived at dusk, we woke the next morning astounded with the commanding, striated cliffs rising out of a clear waters of the Frio River just feet from our cabin.

- The amenities. The Austin stone dining hall, cabins, meeting rooms… just superb. One of our favorite family get-aways is the Hyatt Lost Pines resort in Bastrop, TX. It’s got nothing on Laity Lodge Family Camp.

- Worship. Biblically based sessions for parents and for kids in the morning, and zany yet meaningful worship times each evening.

- Activities. I most enjoyed keeping up with my 14-year-old on a dirt bike. Well, trying to, anyway. Our boys woke up early and fished and swam. Swam – in the Frio in early March – no thank you. And paddle boarded and kayaked. Even in March, the weather proved warm enough to put the water slide to plenty of use.

- Guests and Families. Letting our kids run wild and knowing they were safe, and that they were with great families. Really sweet kids. The kind who look you in the eye and smile and greet you with a clear conscience. Stimulating conversations at mealtimes and throughout the weekend with like-minded parents navigating their families well.

- History. Learning more about the H. E. Butt family, their foundation, and the history of programs in the Canyon. Amazing what God can do through one family’s vision, sacrifice and generosity.

The people, people, people. More than the amenities, the gorgeous setting, the activities… the mostly volunteer, mostly college staff who took a weekend away from school to serve us were tremendous.

- A weekend to breathe. I (obviously) wouldn’t have believed it, but our Family Camp retreat was the most restful weekend. Probably the best weekend our family shared all spring. All four of our kids got in the car Sunday begging to stay, asking when we could come back. Even our oldest on the way home said, “Mom and Dad, I can’t lie, Laity Lodge Family Camp was waaay better than I thought it would be.”

Incidentally, back home, both of our baseball tournaments were rained out, and we made it back to Fort Worth in time for that championship basketball game. But even if we’d have missed it all, it was certainly worth every bit of effort – truly a family weekend that provided more than I could have asked for or imagined.

Meet the Interns!

September 19th, 2014

 

Meet the Interns!

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So hopefully, you’ve had a chance to meet our new interns, Maryn Swierc and Forrest Parks. But you might be wondering what it is that they do? Well, besides fanning Emily with palm fronds and fetching her cool beverages in the Texas heat, here are a few things they tackle in their spare time:image

  • Develop and support the program with skits, games, late night events, etc.
  •  Join the team in recruiting staff for both weekends and summer
  •  Visit and care for seasonal (college) staff on their college campuses
  •  Overall, get their hands dirty learning and working on all the things that make camp happen!

So when you see them at Camp during this coming year, grab an Icee from the Outpost and get to know them. And thank them for being the awesome interns that they are!

Meet Forrest Parks!

September 18th, 2014

 

Getting to Know You: Forrest Parks

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Tell me a little bit about yourself, whatever background you’d like to share.
I’m the third of four kids and I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. I just graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Industrial Distribution.

This was my second summer in the Canyon. Last summer I was the Transportation Director for Youth Camp in Echo Valley. I heard about LLYC through my roommate Joe Shaw who was the previous transportation director. He said I would love it. That job involved things like maintaining the trucks, assigning them out, coordinating parking for parents and buses, and transporting kids to activities.

Interestingly, my degree helped me out with my role in the Canyon the past two summers. A lot of Industrial Distribution is about operational management, so it was cool to see the way it plays into the operations side of camping ministry.
After camp finished, I spent some time with family back in Atlanta, and then I moved to Kerrville in August.

So, what exactly did you do for us at Family Camp this past summer?
I was the Activities Director, in charge of assigning counselors to facilitate activities, making sure everything was ready to go for the families, and maintaining equipment and supplies. We also tried using Sign Up Genius this year to allow families to sign up for activities ahead of time. I got to help facilitate a few adventure rec activities as well – alpine tour, rock wall, zip line, etc. I also helped out coordinating additional activities like the late night stuff.

What excites you about working for Family Camp?
I’ve developed a heart for camping ministry over the past couple years and I am trying to see where that’s going – if it’s career long or just a couple years. Being a part of Canyon programs the past couple of summers and observing the mission and how the directors went about it, I wanted to be on board carrying that out.

I love that Headwaters is still a little new, and we are still figuring out the best practices. I also appreciate the holistic view and mission of the complete family unit. I am excited to grow and think this role will stretch and challenge me. The atmosphere is so different between youth and family. Working with youth is much higher energy, but a lot lower pressure. Kids will go along with just about anything. Families are more easy going, but there is more pressure to please parents and meet their expectations.

If I jumped into your car right now, what kind of music would I hear?
The radio would probably be off. Every now and then I surf some stations. I enjoy all types of music; acoustic folk is my biggest interest right now. But for the most part my radio is off.

What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
Um, I don’t remember . . . I’m not a big reader. It was probably for a sales class. And I didn’t really enjoy it.

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Plain or peanut M&Ms?
Peanut

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
When I was little, my brother and sister said that if you saw a plane at night with blinking lights, it was about to open fire. So for a while, I was scared of planes . . .

Diet coke or coffee or red bull?
Coffee

What’s your favorite treat?
Kit Kat or Reeses

If you could go anywhere in the world for vacation, where would you go?
Colorado. I’m not a huge traveler, but I love the weather and the view in Colorado.

You’re not a big traveler, but you’re pretty far from your family. How’s that been?
It’s hard being away from family, but we siblings have all gone our own way to blaze our own trails. Being at TAMU wasn’t so bad.

Are you close as a family? And what do you think contributed to that?
I’m very close with my siblings. I have two older siblings – a sister and brother – and a younger brother. We don’t always talk, but when we do it’s always good. Growing up, we spent a couple years in a room together. My parents also homeschooled us up to sixth grade, so we were together a lot. The foundation of who I am is my family.

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Fill in the blank: Chocolate is . . .
. . . Rich

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A clown in the circus. I thought walking a tightrope and riding a unicycle was awesome.

Dogs or cats?
Dogs

Favorite kind of ice cream at the Outpost this summer?
Coffee

Morning person or night owl?
Night Owl

If you could share some advice with parents getting ready to come to Camp, what would you say?
Truly vacation. Leave your work at home. Feel like I still see a lot of work here. I truly want them to relax.

Anything else you want to share?
I’m so excited to start in my internship. I’ve already thought of ways to improve from being out at Camp all summer. Living in community in Kerrville will be very different. I know I will grow individually, especially in learning contentment away from friends and comforts I’m used to having.

 

Remembering the Great Things God Has Done

September 11th, 2014

Remember

by Emily Ballbach
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Fall is nearly here! Although Texas weather does not always give us the reminder of a changing season, most of us are at the crossroads of another school year, business decision, or even sending kids to school for the first time. Whatever hustle and bustle you find yourself in, it can be easy to forget all that God has done for us during times of rest, renewal, or seasons of great joy.

There is a Hebrew word in the Old Testament, zakar: (זָכַר), that means “remember.” God used this word repetitively throughout the Old Testament books to call the Israelites to remember his faithfulness and provision and to act out of that “remembering” kind of faith. Although easier said than done, remembering God’s care for us can give us the kind of rest and renewal we seek from him.

Whether at camp with us this summer or spending some quiet time at home, our hope is that you experienced some of God’s comforting, renewing presence this summer. Maybe you enjoyed a reminder of his love during a quiet time of prayer, or perhaps you found him faithful through the love of a friend or family member. Perhaps God gave you a renewed vision for your life or your work. Regardless, as we enter into a new season full of moving parts and potential, let’s all do our best to remember the great things God has done among us this summer, give thanks, and have faith in his continued care.

Emily Ballbach

P.S. One way to remember the blessings of God from our summer at camp is to join us on Instagram and reminisce with fun photos from the summer and weekend camps. Maybe it will jog a happy memory or funny moment you shared with your family and friends this summer!

Meet Maryn Swierc!

September 11th, 2014

Getting to Know You: Maryn Swierc

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We have two amazing new interns working with our Family Camp staff. Today we are excited to introduce you to Maryn Swierc.

Tell me a little bit about yourself, whatever background you’d like to share.
I was born in San Antonio, Texas, grew up in Bulverde, Texas. I just graduated from Trinity University with a BA in Ancient Mediterranean Studies and a minor in Latin and Art History. I also played varsity volleyball while I was there. This past summer was my 12th summer in the Canyon. I attended as a camper for six years, served on work crew and as a counselor at Singing Hills, worked as work crew boss, cook, and counselor at Echo Valley, and as a girls counselor at Headwaters. This past summer I was the Kitchen Director at Headwaters.

My goodness! That’s an exhaustive list of experience. What did you do between leaving the Canyon and coming to work for us in Kerrville?
I was able to go home to Alamo Heights for a little bit, and then I went to Peru and hiked Machu Picchu! In high school I was able to visit London and Paris, and I have been on the Haiti Outbound trip twice, but I had never been to South America.

So, tell us more what it means to be the Kitchen Director at Family Camp?
Wow, it was really hard. You have to manage lots of moving pieces, especially as we are still working out some kinks in being a new facility. I oversaw training the kitchen staff, ensuring completion of all the daily tasks like having the right food each day and abiding by health codes, preparing meals, and managing expectations. It was a huge job, but I grew up a lot in this position. I learned what it means to have total dependence on the Lord, trusting him every single day, especially when the day before left me completely drained. I also learned what it means to be a leader and better understand my strengths and weaknesses.
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What excites you about working for Family Camp?
I love it here! I mean, I’ve spent twelve summers here. I believe the family is the basic social unit of society, so ministering to families is taking care of society. Ministering to families has the potential to solve a lot of problems. I’ve enjoyed working with kids, and now I’m excited about the opportunity to focus on the family as a whole.

I planned on applying for the internship because it’s a great learning program. Plus I would be working with people who I know and love, and who love me back. I don’t know what I want to do in life, but I have time to figure it out.

What do you enjoy doing outside of working for Family Camp?
I love traveling, writing, being active and outdoors, and exploring other cultures. I love learning and finding something that is important to me, in whatever it is that I do. I also enjoy trying new restaurants and eating good food.

What drew you to be an Ancient Mediterranean Studies major?
When I was in my freshman year at Trinity University, I had the worst GPA I’d ever had. I realized I just didn’t like the classes I was taking. My second semester I took art history and really enjoyed it. I chose my degree because of that. And it helps that I love Latin. Really, I love words. Choosing a certain word can have so much meaning. I like picking out the Latin meanings and roots of words when I hear them.

If I jumped into your car right now, what kind of music would I hear?
I only have one CD: The Great Gatsby soundtrack … but I haven’t listened to that in six months. I listen to all types of music — country, pop, Texas country, indie, oldies, ’90s alternative. If I like the song, I like the song.

What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. We read it in a Creative Writing class last semester. I really enjoyed it; he’s a great writer. I just love literature.

imagePlain or peanut M&Ms?
Peanut.

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
Well, when I was a freshman in college I was watching a volleyball game. During the national anthem and the introduction of players, I tripped on the way up the bleachers and got a laceration on my shin. I thought I was going to die, and then … I fainted. They had to bring in a stretcher, take me away by ambulance, and I had to get stitches. But I played on it later that night!

Diet Coke, coffee or Red Bull?
Coffee.

What’s your favorite treat?
Well, I’m gluten and dairy-free, but it would be cinnamon Chex mixed with chocolate Chex and bananas. Or gluten-free super crispy toast with peanut butter, banana, honey, and cinnamon.

Fill in the blank: Chocolate is …
… A gift from the good Lord.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A brain surgeon. And then I realized I wasn’t good at science.

imageDogs or cats?
Dogs.

Favorite treat from the Outpost?
Diet Coke.

Morning person or night owl?
Morning person, as long as no one talks to me.

Do you have any advice for families as they prepare to come to Camp?
Do everything you want to do, but take some time to chill together. Sit on the porch. Go on a walk. It’s so pretty in the Canyon; don’t miss it.

Anything else you want to share?
I’m excited to begin my internship. I feel like I have good ideas, and I am looking forward to fostering more creativity and having the opportunity to implement it. I’m also excited for a schedule that’s different and to feel like an adult. And being done at the end of the day and not having homework!

 

Photos courtesy of Maryn Swierc, Mary Vanderbloemen, and Family Camp

Parenting a Multi-Racial Family

September 4th, 2014

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Parenting a Multi-Racial Family

by Stacy Conner

Stacy Conner is an amazing mom of five gorgeous kids. She parents intentionally to ensure they all feel well-loved, and she sees the different races in her family as a welcomed opportunity to talk about her heart for adoption. I think one key to Stacy’s ease with parenting a multi-racial family is her ability to not take offense and her desire to have open conversations that engage people, rather than issues. We are happy to share with you a short visit with Stacy.

Tell me a little bit about your family.
We have five kids: Jack (11), Trent (8), Raina (7), Ellie (6), and Jonah (4). We live in Fort Worth, Texas, and love it! As a family, we love to travel, play games, go swimming, go to the park, go out to eat, ride bikes … really anything outside. :)

Jack is our only biological child. Trent is actually our nephew who we have been raising since he was three. Raina, Ellie, and Jonah were all adopted through foster care. Raina and Ellie are biological sisters, which is super special for them to have that connection.

As a multi-racial family, how do you handle it when people are insensitive to that  whether intentionally or unintentionally? How do you walk your kids through that?
I honestly can’t think of a time that I have been offended by another person because of my children’s different races. We do get lots of stares, but since there are a lot of us, we would probably get that anyway! Multiple strangers have asked me if I run a daycare … that always makes me laugh. People are just curious, and in my experience have been very kind and encouraging. We get lots of encouraging words from strangers. I’m always thankful for those! Being a multi-racial family has also opened lots of doors to talk about our passion for adoption. If our kids looked like us, people would probably assume they were biological. I love conversations that transpire because of my kids.

How have you discussed race in your family, and what would you say are the major points you try to teach your kids about it?
Our kids are still pretty young, so race hasn’t been a major issue yet. Raina (who is African-American) definitely notices and loves it when we are around other people that “look like her.” We also have talked a lot about Martin Luther King, Jr and all he did for racial freedom. That means a lot to us since our kids wouldn’t be able to be our kids without the pioneering efforts of him and many others. We also intentionally live in a very racially diverse neighborhood. We believe it’s important for our kids to have daily interaction with others who look like them.image

How do you help your kids walk through having to explain to other people why they look different than the rest of their family?
Raina is our kiddo who is most aware that she looks different from myself and my husband. She loves it when we find other black friends who have white parents. I have found that other kids are usually the ones who ask about this (Is she your mom? Why is she white? :)) Adoption has always been talked about in our family. So our kids know that we believe the Lord chose for us to be a family even though we aren’t all the same color. I’m sure as they get older this will come up more. For now it hasn’t been a big deal. I’m really grateful that adoption is common enough that we have lots of friends with mixed race families.

What do you and your husband do to help your kids feel comfortable in your home and 100% a part of the family?
We try to figure out what makes each one of our kids feel loved and safe. It is different for each one, so we have to be super intentional in trying to meet those needs. One of ours is really good at letting us know when he needs time with just us, and when he says something we try to make that happen. We also try to regularly “date” our kids. I think we would do this this even if we had five biological kids. With so many, it’s important to us to really know them and what makes them tick. A lot of times, this is done through one-on-one time, even if that is just taking one with me to run errands. It doesn’t have to be something super fancy and planned to make them feel special.