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September 21st, 2016

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One Family’s First Trip to LLFC and the Great State of Texas

August 30th, 2016

Choosing Family Camp speakers is not something Cary Hendricks takes lightly. When he began dreaming about summer speakers for 2016, his good friend Charlie Dean immediately came to mind. Charlie would be a great fit for the ethos and mission of Family Camp, but he lives in Illinois, over 1,200 miles away, with four boys who play summer baseball. Thankfully, after a few phone calls, Charlie Dean signed on as a speaker.

With the end of school and more summer baseball games than she could count, Charlie’s wife Jen didn’t have a lot of time to think about the big trip to LLFC and Texas. How would this Midwestern family pack for more than a week of triple-digit Texas heat? What would camp be like for a family who had never really done camp?

13607052_10154363478084329_4100913975033116269_nAfter a two-day, cross-country journey decked out in Cubs gear, they finally arrived at the front gate of The H. E. Butt Family Foundation Camps. Trekking down the steep caliche road, they took in the sights and smells of the beautiful Hill Country Canyon. What fun driving through the river. What a surprise to have staff help unload their car.

As the week unfolded, Charlie and Jen were able to relax and just be present with no thoughts of cooking, cleaning, or planning. Jen never imagined camp would feel like this.

Throughout the week, there were many firsts for the Deans—jumping off a cliff into a freezing Blue Hole, learning the Texas two-step at the rodeo dance, zip-lining across the tree-lined Frio, surviving a 100-degree hike to Circle Bluff. As many new things as they tried, they also found time to relax in the hammocks and paddle board down the river.

As a speaker, Charlie loved the high energy of Roundup, creatively engaging a broad audience of 3-year-olds, 70-year-olds, and everything in between. Parent devo times in the morning felt more like coffee with new friends, sharing about faith journeys, life as parents, and how it really is with our souls. The Canyon felt protected from workplace stresses, buzzing phones, distracting emails, and breaking news. There was rest in the “away” space.

Camp was also the Texas-style experience they were hoping to have. At the Texas-sized Fourth of July celebration, several dads donned star of Texas shirts, cowboy hats, and cut-off jean shorts with boots. The Deans saw firsthand that “the stars at night ARE big and bright deep in the heart of Texas”— at least in the Frio Canyon. And the boys learned the art of both Texas two-stepping and asking a girl to be their partner at the old-fashioned rodeo dance.

Two months later, the Deans are still talking about camp, sharing their pictures and LLFC slide show with friends, telling stories of the dear families they met, reminiscing about the family vacation that topped the beach. According to all four Dean boys, it was the “best week of their lives.”

 

About the Deans:

Charlie and Jen have been married for 21 years and have four awesome boys—Caleb-15, Gavin-13, Jaxon-10, and Madox-9. Charlie is the pastor of Imago Dei Church in Peoria, Illinois—where he and Jen both grew up. To read more about the life and heart of the Deans, check out Charlie’s blog.

Charlie’s advice to future LLFC speakers:

“Do the very best you can to get all your prep work done before coming to camp. You will be glad you did! Then you can fully enjoy camp with your family while having the most fun you’ll ever have as a speaker.”

Living as Citizens of Our True Home: Cary Hendricks, Senior Director of Laity Lodge Family Camp

January 14th, 2016

I was able to spend some much needed time at home over this holiday season. And I was reminded that home is not something all people get to enjoy.

We have seen and learned a lot about refugees in recent days. The current events bombarding our news feeds and TV screens tell of people who are fleeing their homes in hopes of finding a new, safer reality. As refugees, these people have no legal rights in the new lands to which they flee. They take little with them as they embark on dangerous journeys to find new homes, even if the new homes do not offer the comforts of the places they once knew well, but had to leave.

AbovetheCloudswebAs Christians, we too are refugees. Throughout scripture (Ephesians 2:19, Philippians 3:20), we are reminded that this world is not our home and that our citizenship is actually with God in the heavenly realms. I don’t always think this way. I don’t always long for the day when I will be face to face with Jesus. This is because it would mean the end of my life here on this earth, and I enjoy my life here a lot. I want to watch my kids grow up. I want to attend their weddings and meet their kids, my grandkids. There is so much I want to do. So I can wait until I experience heaven. I’m sure that says more about my finite view and understanding of heaven and God’s glory than it does about anything else. I am sure that if I really understood what heaven is like, then I would long for it desperately.  After all, I am a refugee in this world, and my true citizenship is in heaven, the kingdom of God.

We read in 1 Peter 2:9-12, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” What are those passions of the flesh that cause us to view this world as our home? Too often the passions of my flesh involve working to make myself comfortable in this life. But the Christian journey is not about being comfortable. Jesus never called me to be comfortable. Yet I strive for comfort in material things or incessant activity and busyness, and the comfort that I seek actually wages war on my soul. I try to put down roots and make this my home and act as if my legal rights are here. I forget that I am a refugee. This is not my home. I forget that we, as Christians, are citizens of a greater home. In the meantime, as refugees, we are called to live as God’s image bearers in this temporary place, bringing God’s kingdom to this earth. So, there is much to do in this home that is not ours.

I hope you will join me in the work of loving God and loving people, and in so doing, live in a way that reflects our true home.

Getting to Know You: Harris Hipps

November 20th, 2015

Over the summer we caught up with some of our Central Staff and senior counselors. You might still catch some of these amazing folks at our weekend retreats or next summer, but for those of you who got to meet them this past summer, here’s a little more inside who they are.

Getting to Know You: Harris Hipps

Tell me a little bit about yourself, whatever background you’d like to share.
I’m from Corpus Christi. I am heading into my sophomore year at Texas A&M in Corpus, where I am a mechanical engineering major. I am involved in Young Life at Ray High School.

This is my 11th summer in the Canyon. I was a camper for eight years and was on Program Crew at Headwaters the first year it was opened. I was a counselor at Headwaters first half and a cook at Echo Valley the second half last year. This year I’ll be a counselor first half at Headwaters and second half at Singing Hills.

So, what exactly did you do for us this past summer at Family Camp?
We are here to get to know families and their members and see where they are in life. We serve the families and make sure they’re having a good time. We play frisbee with their kids, engage them, get them food, whatever they need. Our job is to be a servant.

What do you love about working for Family Camp?
Being able to get to know the families and see how they live their lives outside of the Canyon. This serves as a great example of what I want in the future. I remember what it’s like to be a kid, do the activities, and get to know the staff. I love everything about it, really.

What have you learned through working at Family Camp that you think you’ll carry with you into the rest of life?
How to be patient. One of the biggest reasons for my success in college, is having learned how to be organized and seek help if I need it. I’ve also learned basic life skills: how to take care of a child, properly clean, live with roommates, take orders, and be both a boss and take a secondary position.

How are you spending the rest of your summer?
I’m going home to Corpus, resting a week or two, and then starting school again.

If I jumped into your car right now, what kind of music would I hear?
The new Mumford and Sons album. Or rap music, like Kanye West or something.

What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
I haven’t had time to read this past year. Pass :).

What is the funniest or strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
One of the kids mountain biking today accidentally fell into the cactus … I guess he broke in the trail.

Diet coke or coffee?
Coffee.

What’s your favorite treat?
Mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Best story from camp?
When I was on Program Crew, I’d have to go on trash runs and sometimes took Work Crew kids with us. Once we told them a scary story and then pranked them really bad.

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

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Meteorologist. Then I changed to an engineer in high school.

Dogs or cats?
Dogs.

Favorite study snack?
Welch’s fruit snacks.

Morning person or night owl?
Night owl.

Advice for families who are preparing to come to camp?
Bring more than one pair of shoes. Bring a scooter. Bring a positive attitude and be willing to try everything.

If you enjoyed meeting Harris, meet more of our staff here!

Where Are They Now: Meredith Nunnelly

November 18th, 2015

We have been privileged to work with some outstanding young people as our Family Camp interns over the years. We had the opportunity to catch up with a couple of them recently, and we wanted to share an update with you.

Where Are They Now: Meredith Nunnelly (Cain)

When did you work as an intern for Family Camp?
I was an intern in 2013-2014.

Would you share one of your fondest or funniest memories from being an intern with us?
I have no clue where to begin … most of my fondest/best/funniest/most fun from the internship have to do with Emily Ballbach and Sean McDonald. Aside from Emily and I laughing at/with Sean, walking to Valero for a mid-afternoon snack, putting together family’s packets, scheming about songs or program, traveling to visit our college staff, etc, one of my fondest memories is during the weekend retreats setting up sound in the pavilion and getting to hear Emily and Sean rehearse for Roundup. Great friends, great sound, and great view.

Share one thing you learned from your time being an intern that you have taken with you.
I learned that work is hard work. I know that sounds silly or “Duh, Meredith, that’s a given,” but having a full time job is hard work. But it’s worth it and it’s so rewarding. I have been able to apply that to my current job in reminding myself that even the sweetest jobs take a lot out of you. I also learned that you should do something you love and do something where you can see the Lord everyday in what you do.

Looking back, how would you say that your time working for Family Camp helped you grow?
My time working for Family Camp helped me grow because in the moments when I was exhausted and didn’t think I could do anymore, I had to rely on God to give me the strength. It was a constant reminder that in my weakness, he is strong.

Where did life take you after your internship?
After the internship, pretty much every single thing in my life changed. I have been living in Houston with my husband, Vince, and my puppy, Duncan. I have been working as a college advisor in a low-income high school.

What are you up to these days?
In the last few days (Editor’s Note: We actually caught up with Meredith back in May), I have been packing up my apartment because in five days I am moving to Denver, Colorado!!! Along with packing, I have been dreaming of life in the mountains and what this adventure will bring!

Any big milestones pass or on the horizon?
I’d say the huge milestone was, you know, getting married. And now moving to a whole new state! Whew, life is crazy right now …

If you enjoyed meeting Meredith, meet some of other staff—past and present—here!

Take Time to Slow Down: Cary Hendricks, Senior Director of Laity Lodge Family Camp

November 16th, 2015

I’m always excited when the holiday season is upon us. The thing I love most? Taking some time to slow down. I know it may sound a little crazy given that we’re inundated with holiday parties, Christmas concerts, travel, and so on. However, at some point during the holidays I take some extended time off work. I build fires at night, play chess with my son, watch movies with my wife and daughters, and really just try to slow down and be with my family. I’m so thankful that Laity Lodge Family Camp is a place for slowing down amidst the craziness of life.

When we slow down, we can listen intentionally to the needs of those around us. At Family Camp, this allows us to provide generous hospitality to our guests by extending an invitation to a warm meal or a welcoming home for a good night’s rest. But sometimes an even more powerful expression of generous hospitality is our willingness to slow down and listen to one another in the first place.

This is not a new idea. When I spend time examining the life of Jesus, I am struck by the fact that he never seemed to be in a hurry. Even amidst the craziness of his public ministry, Jesus was never rushed. He routinely offered generous hospitality to those whom he encountered simply by slowing down and listening.

In the accounts of Jesus healing the hemorrhaging woman who touched his robe (Mark 5:21-34), eating at the home of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), healing the blind man on the road (Matthew 9:27-31), and so many others, we see his display of generous hospitality over and over again.

In our preparation for the holidays and our anticipation of the Christ child’s coming during this Advent season, we will continue to practice generous hospitality at Laity Lodge Family Camp. I pray that we might do the same with our own families and in our personal lives. May we slow down and listen, just as Jesus did.

Getting to Know You: Bella Martinez

November 16th, 2015

Over the summer we caught up with some of our Central Staff and senior counselors. You might still catch some of these amazing folks at our weekend retreats or next summer, but for those of you who got to meet them this past summer, here’s a little more inside who they are.

Getting to Know You: Bella Martinez

Tell me a little bit about yourself, whatever background you’d like to share.
I’m from Alamo Heights, which is near San Antonio. I have an older brother and older sister, and we are a close family. I heard about Laity Lodge Youth Camp growing up, but wasn’t a camper. I am attending Texas A&M, and I am a special education major.

So, what exactly did you do for us this past summer at Family Camp?
This is my second year in the Canyon, and I have spent both with Family Camp as a Counselor. (with the second half of the summer at Echo Valley). Being a counselor is a relational job –sharing life with families, getting to become a family member, experiencing the joys and the struggles of the families, praying for them, loving them through whatever position they are in life, and sharing life for a few days in a beautiful environment.

What do you love about working for Family Camp?
Faith in my family growing up, wasn’t really sparked. It’s very hopeful to be in a place that kids are growing up having parents –even if they don’t get it right all he time– that are putting in the effort to bring them here and grow them up in Christ.

What have you learned through working at Family Camp that you think you’ll carry with you into the rest of life?
Parent Training 101! I appreciate seeing different learning and parenting styles, and different approaches to address behavioral issues and learning.

How are you spending the rest of your summer?
I will get to spend a little bit of time to at home, and then I’ll head back to College Station.

If I jumped into your car right now, what kind of music would I hear?
Judah and the Lion

What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
Captivating (John and Stasi Eldridge) and The Magician’s Nephew (C. S. Lewis).

What is the funniest or strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
When the Spurs were in the Campionships against the Nets, we sold lemonade for $0.25 a cup to raise money to get tickets to the game. A radio heard about it and ended up giving us tickets, and we were on the news. We even had a promotional chant: Spurs. Lemonade. 25 cents. Go Spurs! Go Baby! Beat the Nets!

Diet coke or coffee?
Dr. Pepper.

What’s your favorite treat?
Cookie Log. That’s a Tollhouse log of cookie dough cooked at 300 degrees for ten minutes. That’s what we do for birthday cake!

Best story from camp?
To get the kids centered in Kids’ Club, we did a Bible story, but then we still had 12 minutes to burn. So we sang camp songs, gave all the kids tambourines, and sang the songs gospel/jazz style … every day for five weeks.

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

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Chef.

Dogs or cats?
Dogs.

Favorite study snack?
Celery and peanut butter. Or popcorn and hot sauce.

Morning person or night owl?
Night owl.

Advice for families who are preparing to come to camp?
Be excited and expectant. Get involved. Participate.

If you enjoyed meeting Bella, meet more of our staff here!

Download Your 2015 Advent Devotional

November 13th, 2015

With gratitude, we invite you to download this free Advent Devotional which includes art and reflections from friends and staff of the Foundation.

November 29 is the first Sunday in Advent this year. We encourage you to set aside time each Sunday during the season of Advent to read through the devotional material for that week. It takes about fifteen minutes to read each of the passages and the short reflection. These reflections are an anthology of entries from years past and new contributions from various friends. You’ll also find quotes on Advent sprinkled on pages here and there from voices within the Foundation family, including our LLFC Director.

If Sunday night doesn’t work for you or for your family’s rhythm, just adapt to whatever suits your schedule best. Some might like to spread the readings out across the entire week, covering one passage each day during a shared meal at breakfast or dinner. The point isn’t to follow a bunch of rules in exactly the right way, but to create space for reflection amidst the bustle and excitement of December preparations.

Download your 2015 Advent Devotional.

Getting to Know You: Katie Irwin

November 13th, 2015

Over the summer we caught up with some of our Central Staff and senior counselors. You might still catch some of these amazing folks at our weekend retreats or next summer, but for those of you who got to meet them this past summer, here’s a little more inside who they are.

Getting to Know You: Katie Irwin

Tell me a little bit about yourself, whatever background you’d like to share.
I’m from Lindale, Texas, and I just graduated from UT Tyler. I will be starting as a nurse at UT Southwestern soon. I have one younger brother.

What has been your experience in the Canyon?
My dad was a Singing Hills counselor for a few years. I’ve been in the Canyon for three years. I worked as a healthcare assistant first year, and as a counselor the following two years.

So, what exactly did you do for us this past summer at Family Camp?
I was a counselor. When you come into this environment as a counselor, you essentially serve families diligently, constantly anticipating needs. If a baby is crying in round up, you take the baby so the parents can be with other kids. During family activities, you get to teach things that families don’t get to do in every day life. I’ve gotten to see so many firsts! You get to be a part of these families, praying and crying and playing with them.

What do you love about working for Family Camp?
I love the idea that families come and are together. I enjoy simultaneously building relationships with children and the parents. I feel like the parents in the families teach me way more than I help them. I’ve made some relationships that have lasted into the years, with families praying for me and loving me. It’s such a unique environment.

What have you learned through working at Family Camp that you think you’ll carry with you into the rest of life?
Besides birth control? Ha, ha. It helps me know how I want to raise a family, being saturated in the church and christian community. I can see the importance of that, and that if I’m not helping my child grow up, someone else is. It’s awesome to see teens and college-aged students who are well-rooted in the Word and Christ pouring into families, as well.

How are you spending the rest of your summer?
I start my nursing job July 20th.

If I jumped into your car right now, what kind of music would I hear?
Musicals –my new favorite is Matilda. And of course, Rent.

What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
Harry Potter, Prisoner of Azkaban (I heart it.)

What is the funniest or strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
During Week One Rodeo, we got the rejects from Echo Valley: eggs, ketchup, turkey legs, beans … I was wearing a giant fleece dinosaur costume, and the hood of my dinosaur hat got filled up. Then Jamison came and put my hood on, thereby dumping beans, mustard, ketchup dumped on my head. It got into my mouth, and the smell and the grossness of it all just got to me. I vomited in the arena. They had to strip me down and hosed me off.

Diet coke or coffee?
Coke.

What’s your favorite treat?
Cheesecake Factory’s Oreo Dream Cheesecake.

Best story from camp?
Last year, during Week 2 we had an epic shaving cream fight and Slip and Slide. There was a whole line of moms who didn’t want to get shaving creamed, so we sprinted across the field and tackled them and covered them …

Fill in the blank: Chocolate is . . .
A necessity.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Interior designer.

Dogs or cats?
Dogs.

Favorite study snack?
Non-fat chai tea latte and a cherry danish (from the library).

Morning person or night owl?
Night owl.

Advice for families who are preparing to come to camp?
Okay, I have a combo of practical advice and encouragement. Always pack more clothes. And then just be willing to dive head first into everything we do and participate. Be willing to act crazy and silly, and disconnect from the world.

If you enjoyed meeting Katie, meet more of our staff here!

Where Are They Now: Rachel Whites

November 11th, 2015

We have been privileged to work with some outstanding young people as our Family Camp interns over the years. We had the opportunity to catch up with a couple of them recently, and we wanted to share an update with you.

Where Are They Now: Rachel Whites (Horsley)

When did you work as an intern for Family Camp?
I worked as an intern in 2011-2012, back when we didn’t have our own facility yet, and we packed our Family Camp supplies into a trailer each weekend! Those were the good ol’ days …

Would you share one of your fondest or funniest memories from being an intern with us?
Each retreat had its own favorite memory, but some that stand out the most are from the Wounded Warriors camps we used to do at the end of each summer. Those wounded warriors will try anything and think rules are more like “guidelines!” I think our life guards were especially nervous when some of the men started double and triple blobbing their wives. Those women soared! Thankfully, no one got hurt.

Share one thing you learned from your time being an intern that you have taken with you.
I’ve worked with children and youth my whole life, but I feel like my internship with LLFC really helped me connect with adults more than I had ever done before. It was good practice for the real world, especially as I was becoming a “real” adult myself, with a college degree that I didn’t really know what to do with. It made me realize that I love serving people and wanted to find a job where I could do that.

Looking back, how would you say that your time working for Family Camp helped you grow?
It’s impossible not to grow when you’re spending so much time serving people and listening to their stories. Not only did my faith mature, but I gained a greater understanding of how different families function. Each family is going to do what works best for them and it’s not going to be the same across the board. That was a really cool thing to see.

Where did life take you after your internship?
After my internship, I tried to find a job teaching art at an elementary school. This was when many school districts in Texas were cutting funding for fine arts programs, so it was next to impossible to find a job, especially for a first year teacher. I ended up living with a family in Austin and nannying for them for the year. It was one of the best years of my life! The Peters family became my second family and we still get to meet up at an LLFC retreat each spring.

What are you up to these days?
I just started a new job in San Antonio working at a non-profit organization called Blueprint Ministries. We are located in urban San Antonio and we provide servant leadership training for youth and adults while repairing homes for elderly, disabled, and low income residents. It’s been a great fit so far and I’m excited to continue serving these sweet San Antonio families.

Any big milestones pass or on the horizon?
Yes, actually! During my internship with LLFC/LLYC, I had a “camp crush” on this dreamy guy named Dayton who was the Guys Director of Singing Hills. Turns out he had a camp crush on me too and a few years later, he became my husband! We owe it all to Laity Lodge. 🙂 Hopefully, on the horizon is us getting a puppy, but one of us needs some convincing before he’s ready to commit to that.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Camp has blessed me in many ways for the past 15 years. I’m so thankful to be part of the LLFC family! Someday, (many, many years from now), I hope to bring my family to camp and show off that beautiful Canyon I grew up in.

If you enjoyed meeting Rachel, meet some of other staff—past and present—here!