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Meet Lauren Niehues

August 19th, 2015

Getting to Know You: Lauren Niehues, LLFC Intern


Today we want to introduce you to one of our amazing interns, Lauren Niehues! You may have met Lauren over the summer, but now you can get to know her a little bit better.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, whatever background you’d like to share.
I grew up in Wall, Texas, (outside of San Angelo), on a farm. My dad is a farmer, and I have two older siblings. The nature of growing up on a farm taught me to love doing outdoor things and to figure out how to make our own fun … whatever that looks like. I went to school at Texas A&M and just graduated with a degree in Education. Attending A&M was my favorite four years; I learned a ton and am grateful for the people I met who influenced my life. My last name is pronounced “Nee-Whose.”

What has been your experience in the Canyon?
My older sister heard about Laity Lodge Youth Camp through a friend, and she came first. I was a camper for seven years—two summers at Singing Hills and five at Echo Valley. Then I was a Cabin 9 Counselor for two years at Echo, and I have been at Headwaters for the last three. I was Work Crew Boss, then a Cook, and this summer I was the Kitchen Director.

So what exactly did you do for us this past summer at Family Camp?
As the Kitchen Director, I’m a cook that helps answer questions for others. I’m a cook that knows what’s going on … most of the time. What that looks like is me learning how to humbly serve my fellow cooks and best meet their needs, while meeting the needs of the people coming to camp. It’s a super humbling place; I’ve learned more in the kitchen about my faith than any other position at camp.

Tell us a little bit more about what you mean by that last statement.
The past two summers as a cook have given me the opportunity to think about what service means in light of how Jesus served when he was here. Before I was a cook, I pictured him super pumped and energized to serve everyone, heal people, etc. Being a cook is hard, tiring, and exhausting. I don’t always wake up super pumped at 6 a.m.—sometimes it’s simply mind over matter. I tell myself I’m going to do this because of the people. And when I think about how Jesus served, I think there must be times when he was tired and physically didn’t want to do what he was here to do. But his love overpowered every time. He said yes because he loved the people and aimed to love and serve them—beyond emotion and physical means. It is really encouraging to think that we don’t always have to be super pumped and excited. In fact, it’s almost more meaningful when we say yes that we want to do it—and do it joyfully—even when we’re not super energetic.

Lauren2What do you love about working for Family Camp?
I love the fact that families—specifically parents—can come and find rest. I want to provide that in any way that I can. It’s really sweet to serve families. All throughout the year they are go, go, go with these things (laundry, dinner, putting kids to bed …) but don’t always get to spend real time with kids and have adventures. Then they come to camp and they get to have this week of rest, where meals are provided and they don’t have to clean dishes. They get to experience the Lord in a real and raw way. It’s so necessary, and yet so easy to miss that in their day-to-day lives. It’s cool to be reminded of how important that is. And maybe even go home and remember that too, versus youth camp where the kids have the experience and go home, but their parents didn’t experience it with them. Here at Family Camp, they get to do that together, and maybe it gets to affect them at home.

We talk about how this work is exhausting, and yet we love it even if we’re tired. It’s cool that simultaneously families are rested. We get to pour out, and they get to be poured into.

What have you learned through working at Family Camp that you think you’ll carry with you into the rest of life?
The importance of family and the importance of sharing your faith with your kids and spouse. I’ve also learned how important it is to build memories, especially through adventure beyond the day-to-day life. In watching these parents and families, I’ve learned that it’s so worthwhile. Me taking that into life looks like building a family wherever I go, whether it’s my own family or a community that I find. Community is incredibly important.

What are you looking forward to about your internship?
Growing in my faith and being challenged in ways that foster that growth. I’m super pumped about the community here. For an entire year, I will be surrounded by people I look up to who will pour into me. And I get to spend this year in service to families and to give back to camp. I’m looking forward to a lot of things, but that’s a small summary.

How did you spend the rest of your summer?
I didn’t have much really defined. I spent time with family at home, traveling with some friends, seeing some friends in College Station. I enjoyed some free time.

If I jumped into your car right now, what kind of music would I hear?
Martina McBride’s greatest hits.

What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
Cold Tangerines—loved it! I would recommend it to anyone. Shauna wrote about life experiences and seeing God in everyday things. I loved every word.

Lauren3What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you?
When I was a kid, my older brother and sister used to pick on me. I couldn’t retaliate with physical force. But one time I was provoked by my older sister, and I had a child genius moment! I turned off all the outside lights and turned on all of the lights in her room, opened the window, and shut her door. Then, honestly, I forgot about it. When she went to bed her room was full of bugs everywhere. She was screaming, and my dad came in and started laughing. It was the best retaliation I ever had. She wanted to sleep in my room, but I didn’t let her.

Diet coke or coffee?

What’s your favorite treat?
Chips and dip (hot sauce and guacamole).

Best story from camp?
One of my favorite memories was when I was a Work Crew Boss. The day before had been really stressful, and this day we were just delirious. We had finished cleaning and setting all the tables, and then every girl was standing on a different table, and we started playing Frisbee with plates. We laughed and played fun music and danced. When I think about being a Work Crew Boss, I just think about how silly and fun that was. Making fun out of random things.

Fill in the blank: Chocolate is …
A gift.

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

Dogs or cats?

Favorite study snack?
Hot Cheetos.

Morning person or night owl?
Night owl.

Advice for families who are preparing to come to camp?
Go all in. For a week, forget about what’s going on at home and work. Allow yourselves to be loved on by counselors, and love on them. I would hate for you to miss out because you aren’t mentally present. Dive into the fun. Through being present, you get to hear God’s voice most. When you can stop in silence and still the busyness of everyday life, you get to see his beauty (especially out here). Go all in.

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

Meet Richie Reitmann

August 17th, 2015

Getting to Know You: Richie Reitmann, LLFC Intern

Today we want to introduce you to one of our amazing interns, Richie Reitmann! You may have met Richie over the summer, but now you can get to know him a little bit better.


Tell me a little bit about yourself, whatever background you’d like to share.
I’m from Portland, Texas, (north of Corpus Christi). I have one sister who is 24 years old and a second grade teacher. I just graduated from Houston Baptist with a Psychology degree. I started out in athletic training, going to PT school. But when I was sitting through my classes, it just didn’t feel right. Psychology had always been there in the back of my mind. I want to work with adolescents in professional counseling. I wanted to return what that has done for me and be able to serve kids in that way … to help some who need help and be there for people who may not normally have that.

What has been your experience in the Canyon?
I worked for two years at Singing Hills as a counselor both summers.

This summer I was the Activities Director at Family Camp. In that role, I focused mainly on the afternoon activities, setting them up, assigning counselors, answering questions, setting out the sign-up sheets. Sometimes I ran activities. I was also the lead for Rodeo.

After activity time, I tried to plug in in different places, like seeing if the crew bosses or programmers needed help.

This year, I am going to be the Family Camp Intern, so I am also trying to see the summer from the Family Camp perspective. Unlike LLYC, at Family Camp you work with the whole family. We get to help families learn how to love one another and provide a safe place. I am excited to learn how to do that well.

Richie3What do you love about working for Family Camp?
It’s been awesome to see the families come together and work as family in order to grow closer. As Activities Director, it’s fun to see families find new things that they can do together. This summer, I had a dad come tell me that his daughter isn’t very outdoorsy, but she discovered at camp that she loves mountain biking. Hopefully they have found a new thing that they can all do together. It’s amazing that families get to learn new things about each other out here, even though they live together.

At LLYC, we must be more hands-on with campers. At Family Camp, it’s nice to sit back and see what the kids can do on their own, since they don’t always need you to watch over them. You can learn from the things they do for themselves.

What have you learned through working at Family Camp that you think you’ll carry with you into the rest of life?
Coming from a family that’s broken in some ways, I appreciate being able to see the families that are still going strong. Even if they are struggling, they are still at camp being together and doing things together. And there’s still hope and still families that are pursuing growth together. Sometimes that’s what it takes is to take time away from everything, spending time loving your family and discovering what they love to do.

How did you spend the rest of your summer?
Our church group comes out for Foundation Camp the day after Family Camp. So I helped out with my church’s youth camp over at Linnet’s Wings. Then I headed to Georgia for a wedding. After that, I enjoyed time with family before moving out to Kerrville to start my internship.

If I jumped into your car right now, what kind of music would I hear?
Country music or sports radio.

What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
Mere Christianity. Absolutely enjoyed it. I read it for class. I’m not much of a reader, but I enjoyed the book. I have heard of the concepts before, but this gave me better words in my mind and explained things better. It had good illustrations and guided me along with stuff I already knew, helped me explain it, and use it in teachable situations.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you?
When I was three, I got into my parents’ Suburban and put it into reverse. I slowly went down the driveway and smashed into a neighbor’s car. Mom grounded me from driving for 13 years.

Diet coke or coffee?

What’s your favorite treat?
Chewy Sprees.

Richie1Best story from camp?
Last year, one of my old co-leaders was in a car accident. It was amazing seeing everyone come together and how the Lord moved in tough situations. I got to see how he still shows grace and still teaches in hard moments. And how people can come together and love someone so much during a tough time.

Fill in the blank: Chocolate is …
Great in ice cream (but otherwise … eh).

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Definitely a starting player on the San Antonio Spurs.

Dogs or cats?

Favorite study snack?
Gummy worms.

Morning person or night owl?
Morning person.

Advice for families who are preparing to come to camp?
Get ready to have an awesome time and be served like you’ve never been served before.

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

Meet Cary Hendricks

August 13th, 2015

Getting to Know You: Cary Hendricks, LLFC Senior Director

Cary1Tell me a little bit about yourself, whatever background you’d like to share.
I grew up in The Woodlands, north of Houston, and have lived in Texas for most of my life.  I attended Austin College in Sherman, Texas, where I majored in Religious Studies and Theater.  I worked on staff with Young Life in Frisco, Texas, for five years after college. I married Jenny, whom I met during our college years while we both worked at Laity Lodge Youth Camp.  We moved to Illinois, Jenny’s home state, and lived in the Midwest for nine years as I served on Young Life staff and church staff and had three children—Seth (11), Stella (9), and Sloane (5).  We moved back to Texas so I could work for Austin College as Director of Development.  In the summer of 2013, we brought our son to Singing Hills at LLYC, and Chandler spoke to me about a Director position he wanted to fill at Echo Valley.  We felt that the Lord might be leading us in the direction of camping ministry at LLYC. Since then, I have served two summers as the Director at Echo Valley. During our time with the Foundation, we have grown passionate about the ministry of LLFC, and we are excited to transition yet again as I take the role of Senior Director for LLFC.

What is your vision for Family Camp?
The concept of Family Camp is something that excites me a lot. My vision for Family Camp is that it will continue to be a place where families can experience profound connection with one another and profound encounters with God.

What do you love about working for Family Camp?
I love seeing families connect with one another on a personal, authentic level.  Life is busy. We don’t slow down enough. It excites me to work in a place that provides opportunity and space for families to slow down, connect with one another, and encounter God in the process.


#TBT Rodeo, circa 1993; Cary is second from the left. Photo credit: Jack Skaggs

When you’re not working up at the LLFC office, what are you doing?
I love to run, coach my kids as they play soccer, and sit on the front porch with my wife and a good book or magazine.

If I jumped into your car right now, what kind of music would I hear?
Texas singer/songwriter stuff or just good rock-n-roll with a southern influence.

What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
The Epic of Eden—I read it for a class that I was taking. I did enjoy it.

Plain or peanut M&Ms?
Peanut. No question.

What are your passions in life?
I am pretty passionate about the church and about traveling with people on the journey of learning how to allow Christ to have control of the totality of our lives—family, work, social—all of it.

What is the strangest or funniest thing that has ever happened to you?
I currently am the Director of Echo Valley at Laity Lodge Youth Camp.  So, strange and funny things happen every day throughout the summer.  Most recently, I helped some college guys come up with a plan for a good “sneak out” that involved the use of one of our Rodeo pigs.  The plan was not completely successful. The pig escaped. He didn’t go far and was located the next morning. Memories were certainly created.


Cary without coffee or Diet Coke

Diet coke or coffee?
Coffee. For sure.

What’s your favorite treat?
I’m not a very big “treats” guy, but since I have to pick—ice cream.

If you could go anywhere in the world for vacation, where would you go?
A beautiful beach. Greece maybe.

Fill in the blank: Chocolate is …
Especially good when it is in ice cream form.

Best camp story?
I met my wife Jenny while working at camp. We were friends for two years and even sent letters to each other during the year. Finally, on year three of working at camp together, we went to Kerrville on a day off. We sat and had ice cream and talked about how our summers at camp had been. On the drive back to camp I told myself, in my head only, of course, that I would probably marry this girl. It took her a little longer to come around, but she did.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A Top Gun pilot.

Advice for families as they prepare to come to camp?
Be open. Be open to try new things, to give yourself space to disconnect and slow down.


Cary and his amazing wife, Jenny

Dogs or cats?
I have one of each. The dog is my favorite.

What kind of ice cream do you hope they have this summer at the Outpost?
Nothing flashy—chocolate and/or mint chocolate chip is good with me.

Morning person or night owl?
Tough one. I have been known to be both. Lately more of a night owl, but I do enjoy an early morning run every now and then.

Anything else you want to share?
Just that I feel so blessed to be given the opportunity to be a part of the ministry of LLFC. I am so excited to serve alongside my family as we watch what the Lord is doing and will continue to do through LLFC.

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

Welcome Cary Hendricks (Senior Director) and William Collins (Director of Operations)

July 22nd, 2015
We are pleased to announce after an extensive recruitment and interview process, that two new leaders have been selected from within The H. E. Butt Family Foundation to provide vision and oversight for Laity Lodge Family Camp (LLFC).


Cary Hendricks has been named Senior Director of LLFC. After two successful years in leadership at Laity Lodge Youth Camp, he will begin serving in this new role in September, at the close of the LLYC 2015 season.  Cary will provide a strong vision and direction for a thriving program that is making a significant impact in the lives of more than 700 families each year.

Click here to read more about Cary

William Collins has been named Director of Operations of LLFC. After twelve-and-a-half years as Guest Services Manager at the H. E. Butt Foundation Camp, William will begin serving in this new role in September.  He will support Cary Hendricks by helping set priorities, shape processes, guide investment in people and systems, and develop an infrastructure that creates an even stronger and more efficient program.

Click here to read more about William

Cary and William bring a depth of family knowledge and experience that will be such a blessing to families of all sizes and ages—as together, they span the seasons of life from raising young children to the joy of being grandparents.

David Rogers, President of The H. E. Butt Family Foundation, expressed profound excitement that the two leadership roles were filled by such seasoned and talented people from within the HEBFF family. “There is nothing more satisfying than to watch our staff flourish and to be able to reward hard work and talent with new levels of responsibility.  Deborah and I have great confidence in Cary and William, and we anticipate much success down the road.”

We want to thank everyone for your tremendous support these many months as we’ve discerned a plan moving forward for LLFC’s leadership.  We ask that you join us in prayer as these transitions take place and as we look forward to an exciting next chapter for this program.


July 22nd, 2015


by Emily Ballbach

It all started about five years ago. My friend Angela Aadahl invited me to the Texas Hill Country during a staff training week to guide students through worship and devotionals as they prepared to be Laity Lodge Youth Camp counselors for the summer. Little did I know, I would join the ranks of Laity Lodge Family Camp just one year later.

Over the past four years, I have seen countless shaving cream fights, set up camp out of a trailer at Singing Hills and Echo Valley, helped in the opening of Headwaters, played on slip ‘n slides, in paint wars, and in the Frio, and participated in about 275 Roundups. Yes, I’ve counted. Among the silliness and fun, I have also seen both coworkers and campers have very real encounters with God’s grace and love.

And now that the end of my journey with Family Camp is here, it’s time for a confession of sorts. You ready?

I have only been to the archery range twice in four years.

This is not so much a confession about my feelings toward archery, but more about the reality that it has taken a village of people to make this ministry happen. I have only been to the archery range twice because someone else has managed it well. Many other details just like this have been taken care of by people who care deeply about every family’s experience when they come to camp. I would be remiss if I did not mention my gratitude for our full-time Family Camp team who make it all possible: Mary Echols, Denise Stripling, the interns each year (Sean and Meredith, Forrest and Maryn), Matt Huffman, Kate Batchelor, and Theresa Powles. During my time here, one of my biggest joys was working with the full-time and seasonal staff who delight me to no end. And, of course, many others have supported the ministry of Family Camp as we have grown, changed, and transitioned so much over the past few years. Truly an army of prayer warriors and gracious givers of time, energy, love, and encouragement have come alongside us to make Family Camp work.

Though I’ll take with me a repertoire of Roundup songs, two-stepping lessons, and helpful hints on throwing a good dance party, I have much to celebrate about what God has done. We end each summer retreat with a “Say-So,” and it seems fitting that I end my time here in the same way. God has done a redeeming work in my life, and I am here to Say-So (Psalm 107:2). He has taught me about his character, about my story, and about how our lives can be so beautifully shared as we enter into life together for a weekend, week, summer season, and beyond. I have been blessed to encounter so many families and staff who love the Lord, and I will carry these special lives in my heart as I go. You have been an incredible part of my story, and I am grateful. Thanks a million for it all, and keep in touch!

Lunchbox Ideas: Broccoli Salad

July 22nd, 2015

Broccoli Salad Recipe

by Matt Huffman

Broccoli Salad was a popular hit at Family Camp this summer, so we thought we would share the recipe! As you can see, it is fairly easy to make. Some people say it actually tastes better the second day, after the dressing has had a chance to meld with the other flavors to create the perfect harmony of tart, sweet, and savory.

Broccoli Salad

1/2 pound bacon

4 heads of broccoli

1 cup raisins

1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds

1/2 cup red onion, diced small

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Dice red onion. Chop up bacon and saute’ ahead of time. Cut up your broccoli. Mix all the dry ingredients together.

Whisk the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar. Pour over the dry ingredients. Add shredded cheese, and let sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two before serving. Delicious way to get kids to try something new who don’t otherwise like raw green vegetables.


If you are tired of the same old peanut butter and whatever you can come up with for lunch to help your kiddos get through another day of school—here is a simple way to make something new out of something so simple.

Banana Dogs

1/4 cup lemon or orange juice

2 ripe bananas

2-6″ tortillas

2 tablespoons peanut butter

The lemon juice is used to keep the bananas from turning brown. You can either dip the cut ends or roll the bananas in juice before starting.

Spread the peanut butter on one half of each tortilla shell. Place a peeled banana starting on the half where you spread the peanut butter, and roll up the banana and tortilla. My recommendation is to leave the rolled up tortilla whole and you can even add a dab of peanut butter to help seal it shut on the other end. Thinly slice your tortilla/banana wrap and there you have banana dogs!

The Best Week of Our Lives

July 22nd, 2015

The Best Week of Our Lives

by Denise Stripling

We at LLFC can sum up our 2015 summer with one phrase: “The Best Week of Our Lives!”

Family Camp served 143 families, totaling 632 campers, over the course of five weeklong sessions this summer. Families experienced many breathtaking moments zip-lining through the Canyon, catapulting across the Frio River in the giant swing called Goliath, or simply jumping into the water at Blue Hole. All of those activities provide memorable moments, but nothing compares to our last day together when families and staff join in the pavilion to participate in “Say-So.”

Sitting together in the pavilion with the scenic backdrop of the Canyon wall, a gentle breeze sweeps through the air, and you can’t help but feel moved as God’s presence is sure to be among us. This moment provides both guests and staff the opportunity to share the highlights of their experience at LLFC and recognize those who made it possible. God has blessed us all with so many things to be thankful for, even simple acts like someone praying for you, preparing your meals, washing your dishes, or helping with the children. The sweetest words are spoken here with grateful hearts. We hear tangible reminders of how people helping people, serving the Lord, resting in his grace, and being filled with his word stimulates the family unit. This is my favorite day at Camp!

Below are just a few of the comments shared during this past summer at “Say-So.”

It’s been an awesome week, and I hope our family comes back next year … or maybe even next week!

We are thankful for LLFC showing our kids it’s really cool to follow Jesus!

I like the water fountains because I can get in them, and it’s okay.

We are thankful for everyone at Family Camp for showing our family the true love of Jesus by their servant hearts in all the ways they cared for us.

Thank you for teaching my child how to swing and encourage them to try different things that were new to them.

We are thankful for great dads, praying dads!

We are thankful for “this place”! Thanks to the Butt Family Foundation for providing such a place for our family and others to rekindle our joy of being together.

We are thankful for the opportunity to serve and pray together freely.

Grateful to know people are praying for me even when I am not aware.

Thank you for letting my mom take her nap!

Grateful to feel the love of Christ fill my heart.

Thankful for pancakes, milkshakes, Ga-ga ball, Rodeo, talent shows, dance parties, and most of all NO CHORES!

We are thankful to all staff for going above and beyond to make our visit amazing.

The best week of our lives. Who could ask for anything more than this?

We all want to be better Christ-followers who demonstrate God’s grace in our daily lives, loving our neighbors as ourselves. With a busy family of my own, I am aware of how hectic our lives can become in this drive-thru lifestyle, where we constantly try to do more and be the best at all things, faster and cheaper. Family Camp has taught me to enact “Say-So” in our home. Everyone takes a moment to highlight the positive around us, and it reminds us that we have much to be thankful for.

As we bid farewell to the summer months, enjoying nature and one another, let us delight in the new friendships and the memories made. We look forward to preparing for the fall, back-to-school routines, homework, and practices that create new opportunities to share with others. In this new season, remember to take some time to give someone a shout out or start your own “Say-So” as you rejoice in the Lord’s daily blessings.

What My Parents Did Right: The Power of Staying

July 20th, 2015

In our world of public shaming and pointing fingers, we are hard pressed to find the stories about things that went well. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be hearing from some sons and daughters about what their parents (or in-laws) did right. We think it’s important to highlight the good that is happening in the world, especially as it relates to this high calling of parenting. We hope you are encouraged!


What My Parents Did Right: The Power of Staying

by William Sanders

When I was five years old, my birth mother abandoned my sister and me. She left us with some neighbors, drove to the airport, and flew hundreds of miles away. She returned some nine months later to kidnap us.

My birth mother did nothing right as a parent.

But that’s only the beginning of the story, the first chapter of a life-long parenting book that my dad, and subsequently my stepmother, whom I’ve called Mom, have been writing beautifully for four decades now.

imageThe greatest “right” thing my dad did was to stay. Staying is taken for granted until you become intimately tied to being left. Subtly, without ever talking about his decision to stay in my life and that of my sister, he modeled a trait for me that now is my most cherished quality as a father.

In the weeks and months following our abduction, Dad could have caved. It was 1971. Dads didn’t get custody over moms, even ones prone to leave and then steal their children from what little sense of security they’d found since being abandoned. For Dad to stay in this particular arena, to not settle for anything less than total and complete custody of his children, cost him in every way. He was bled dry financially, and he bled on the inside from an ulcer that had take root in his gut.

He fought for three days to get me back. He fought for 18 months to get my sister back.

A few years later he met a women who eventually became the mother I never had. She too stayed.

What else did they do right?

They modeled a love for each other that I learned from and now have with my wife. They told me they loved me every day, particularly my dad, but my stepmom too. I never wondered if their love for me was based on my performance. Eventually that led me to believe that God’s love for me was not performance-based either. Not too many of us get to that place where we really believe, as author Brennan Manning said so often, that God loves us just as we are, not as we should be.

imageMy dad and stepmom taught me manners, how to look an adult in the eye and shake his or her hand. They took me to church every Sunday, something that I didn’t do for my children. Looking back on both decisions, I can’t definitively opine as to which method was better. But I’m glad I went to church growing up. It established a foundation of truth. Sure, it took years to learn that man-additions and restrictions on the gospel were not really the gospel. That sin-management was no way to live. That really and truly, the world will know we are Christians by our love, not by whether we sin less than others. But I did learn those things.

My dad was an all-state athlete in baseball and football. I was never brave enough to take up football and wasn’t good enough to make the high school team at baseball or basketball. I never once sensed the least bit of disappointment from him that I had failed to be a chip-off-the-old-block. I’m not sure how he pulled that off, either. It’s one thing that he didn’t verbally belittle me because I wasn’t the athlete he was. It’s a whole other thing to have a kid, then a teenager, never once wonder if his dad was letdown because of it.

The laundry list of things my parents did right though, all come back to this, though: they stayed. In every sense of the word, they stayed.

Never underestimate the power of staying.

William Sanders’ memoir, Staying, is available on Amazon.com or through his website, William-Sanders.com.

Read more of our series on What My Parents Did Right.

Art Matters: Lessons in Mystery

July 18th, 2015

This week our friends at The High Calling are discussing the topic Art Matters. As with last week’s topic of Imagination, we couldn’t help but see how important a conversation this is to families as well. We hope you are inspired by the thoughts you find here this week!

Lessons in Mystery

by Maryn Swierc, 2014-2015 LLFC Intern

DSC_3180The first time a piece of art took my breath away was in Paris at the Louvre Museum. I rounded a long hallway and encountered the Nike of Samothrace. She’d been strategically placed at the top of a long, white staircase that was flooded with soft light from the Parisian winter sun. The whitewashed walls around her were bare. She stood on her stern as the grand finale, extending her massive, stony wings as though she were a dancer in a ballet. She was scary. She was so lovely. Her elegance and command required me to stand and marvel. In my memory, the room was completely silent; she was everything I could see and hear, and that was enough. My emotions were arrested, and my senses felt overwhelmed.

She was utterly magnificent.

DSC_3187My recount of the Nike seems strange. Even kitschy and dramatic. She is just a marble statue, after all. But it was significant. Something inside of my being was moved by her, and I was powerless in my resistance of it. All I could do was sit and allow her to be. As I attempt to articulate it, I am disappointed because any mastery of words or perfect sentence structure fails to convey my experience that day in the Louvre.

In part, it must be because creativity is so obviously a part of the character of our God. The Lord formed the earth with his own voice and man with his own hands. Be it through sculpture, cooking, music, engineering, or impeccably formatted excel spreadsheets, every time we make we live into our identity of being created in the image of our God. So as the Lord created, so you and I must create; our souls long for it, and there is something mysterious about that.

There is mystery in God. There is mystery in art. I’m not sure what happens when we have emotional responses to beautiful buildings or lovely melodies or unintelligible doodles from our children, but I know that art, no matter what kind, in its vastness, mystery, beauty, confusion, and all other things, is so much like our faith—it moves us in ways that we cannot explain, articulate, or describe. Certainly we can know scripture and write devotionals and sermons. Certain truths and applications we can make sense of in our minds. But what about the times that the Lord’s character and plans are too much for us to know? What should we do when we are completely overwhelmed by his justice, sovereignty, or mercy?

This is another reason why art matters so much. I will never be able to articulate the ways that the Nike of Samothrace stirred my senses. What we can glean from art at the very least is that it matters; it matters to me, and it matters to you. The mysteries of our faith and our Lord are things we know are there and have sensed and experienced, but cannot explain. Perhaps that is enough. Perhaps sitting in front of something that we cannot access or understand is a way that we can know it. In Psalm 46:10, the Lord commands us to “Be still and know that [he] is God,” so let us be still and allow the mystery of the Lord to be. Though we cannot begin to understand it, let us sit before him, and allow his vastness, mystery, and beauty to wash over us.

For more articles in our series on Art Matters, click here.

Art Matters: Embracing Possibility

July 17th, 2015

This week our friends at The High Calling are discussing the topic Art Matters. As with last week’s topic of Imagination, we couldn’t help but see how important a converation this is to families as well. We hope you are inspired by the thoughts you find here this week!

Embracing Possibility

by Cindee Re

I’ve been a mom for over two decades now, and I can, without hesitation, say, Art matters. A lot. Not a little and not just for some.

Art matters to every single, living, breathing person on this spinning blue planet of ours.


Because art teaches us see, to notice, to begin to glimpse what can be, instead of just what is. Art teaches us to embrace possibility.

Early in my children’s lives, I learned that if I set an art project with a specific outcome in front of them, they would balk, impatient with step-by-step processes, easily frustrated by prescribed outcomes, overwhelmed by their competitive need to “do it perfectly.” But if I laid out materials and showed them a possible end result, my kids would spend hours intently focused, enjoying the process, and creating something far beyond what I’d imagined.

My kids loved creating, and through art, began to see differently. They began to explore possibility in the simplest of supplies: empty cereal boxes and oatmeal containers, cardboard tubes and fabric scraps, empty spools, buttons and beads, lids and wire, paper, glitter and glue, jars and tins, pencils and paints, brushes and scraps of wood. Anything and everything became a possibility, and they would build, string, sew, stack, fold, weave, erect, and create for hours.

There was no rush. No hurry. No right or wrong. There were simply possibilities, and they’ve carried that creativity right on into adolescence and beyond, pouring it into photography and Photoshop, computer programming and graphic design, music and game design, cooking and pastry decorating, make-up and nail art, weaving and beading, intricate origami, canvases of acrylics, pastels, and watercolor, sketches with pen and ink. Their world is full of possibility.

That is why art matters.

In the beginning, God created . . .” Genesis 1:1

imageJust five words into Scripture, we learn an intimate truth about God. He is Creator. Of everything. Light and dark, land and sea, color and shape, texture and taste, hue and smell, touch and tears. Creator of every plant from single-celled euglena to giant sequoia. Creator of every creature to walk, fly, slither, hover or swim. And Creator of us, every single, one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-repeated, fearfully and wonderfully made human beings, a masterpiece of our Creator God.

Art matters, for it teaches us to observe, to begin to recognize variety and diversity, for nothing from the Creator’s hand is an assembly-line, single slice, standard flavor creation, but rather, each is a unique expression representing, en masse, the fullness of creation.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth . . . God saw all that he had made and it was very good.” Genesis 1:1,31

Yes, art matters. With every fiber of my soon-to-be fifty-year old being, I can, without hesitation say, art matters. For when we create we breathe deeply of what can be instead of just what is. We begin to see differently. We begin to embrace possibility, the heartbeat of the Holy spoken into every facet, every moment, every breath of creation.

Cindee Re is a wife, mom-of-five, and writer from Wisconsin. You can read more of her work online at Breathe Deeply.

For more articles in our series on Art Matters, click here.