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What My Parents Did Right: Treasures from My Mother-In-Love

May 26th, 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: Treasures from My Mother-in-Love

by TJ Wilson

I’ve always loved my husband’s mother. And it’s truly no credit to m, because she’s an easy person to love. She gives of herself generously and lavishly, and she’s a lot of fun to be with.

Even as a newlywed, watching many of my friends struggle under the tyranny of controlling (or worse, disinterested) mother-in-laws, I recognized I had something special in Jamie. I admired the way she handled our relationship. But I’m touched by her wisdom even more so now, nearly twenty years after those marriage vows. Many evenings at our kitchen counter, I listen to my own boys, towering above me and consuming unheard of amounts of food, talking about certain girls that hold their attention. I can tell you, not one of those teenage girls can take care of my boys like I can! So I’m packing away treasures from my mother-in-love, Jamie, of this “giving away” process she’s handled so beautifully.

A few things I hope to remember ~
Verbally gave me reigns to her son’s heart. The week after Corbin proposed, Jamie (who did not know me very well at the time) pulled my attention from perusing a magazine in her kitchen and said, “TJ, for 25 years I have been Corbin’s biggest cheerleader. I will always be cheering him on, cheering you both on. But now you take the lead.” Wow. I knew it was a significant moment, but looking into her brilliant blue eyes, I had no idea the weight that statement carried. No idea how it would boost our marriage for Jamie to step back and allow her first-born son to put another (very young!) woman in her “place.” The boomerang effect following Jamie’s “letting go” actually pulled me into a tighter relationship with her, primarily because she removed the temptation of competing for Corbin’s attention.

TJJamie3Continues building an intimate relationship with her husband. Because of the marriage she and Charles maintain, Jamie is free from leeching onto my husband (or me) for attention. And whether my father-in-law Charles delivers or disappoints emotionally, I rest in that Jamie ultimately finds her satisfaction in the Lord.

Communicates in my love language. Personally, I speak “gifts & encouraging words.” In those early years especially, upon arrival to my in-laws’ home, I’d find a small gift or note waiting on my pillow. Even now sometimes I’ll discover a box of sweet stationary or a novel she’s passing on to share. She pays attention to the little things I love. Jamie also verbally affirms me as a wife and mom – amazing how a simple phrase or text at the right time can provide a boost.
Engages in open communication. Two decades of marriage, four births (not to mention seven other grandchildren for her!), and long-distance communication naturally allows for some “tense seasons” in a mother/daughter-in-law relationship. The birth of the first grandchild – my oldest son – brought tremendous blessing and tremendous stress in ways we didn’t expect. I recoiled emotionally, and then she recoiled emotionally throughout my pregnancy. But we learned that pushing through edgy talks rather than avoiding them dissipates tension. Years ago I recall her saying, “TJ, I’m 50. I can handle it,” opening the door for one of those not-so-fun discussions.

Puts up with my moodiness. Such an unfortunate trait. Wish I didn’t have it. But I do, and she lets me be me. This is often a “mom” quality, and my own mother could write a thesis on how to give me personal space when I’m maxed out. But for my husband’s mom to not take it personally and defensively . . . that’s an art! Whatever the vice, we all demonstrate personality ticks, and I feel liberated in this relationship that I am not expected to always be “on.”

TJJamie2Includes me as one of her own children. Jamie often refers to her three grown kids and spouses as “the 6 of you.” The line between daughter and daughter-in-law often feels blurred, as marriage truly grafted me into this family. Early in my marriage to Corbin, Jamie was the keynote speaker at a women’s conference, and she invited me to share the speaking duties with she and her daughter. It communicated her trust in me as I represented their family so visibly.

Lets me make a salad however I want. Even in her house, her kitchen, with her food. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to cook – or clean, or even parent for that matter. She lets me take the reigns regardless of my qualifications. Hallelujah!

I’ll say it again: the fact that I love my mother-in-law so deeply is no credit to me. She is amazing. And she’s not perfect. She’s full of sin and messy stuff like the rest of us. But she holds my admiration, and I know she loves me deeply. Fortunately for us, we share common interests and tastes, which certainly simplifies our relationship. Watching her with her two other “grafted in” adult children, I see these qualities played out as well. Regardless of potential personality clashes, long distance relationships, and the busyness of life, it’s good to know that this mother-in-law thing can be done well. God willing that I’m able to welcome a couple of young women into our family one day, I’m taking notes!

TJ Wilson is a wife and mom-of-four (among many other things) in Fort Worth, Texas. You can read more of her writing on her blog, Lift My Noise.

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

Top photo credit: Corrina Hodge. All other photos: TJ Wilson

Instagram Contest!

May 21st, 2015

Show Us Your Family Camp Style!

We’ve heard from you about how much you love wearing your Family Camp shirts (they are so comfy!). And we figure you’re wearing them now in anticipation of coming to the Canyon this summer. We want to see you in them!

How to Enter the Family Camp Style Instagram Contest:

  1. Take a photo of you and your immediate family wearing your Family Camp shirts outside of the Canyon. (You know, you doing your daily life, sporting your favorite Family Camp shirts.)
  2. Upload your photo to Instagram between May 25, 2015 and June 3, 2015, and use the hashtag #famcampstyle. You can tag us @familycamp, but we’ll be using the hashtag to validate entries.
  3. In the caption, tell us what you love about Family Camp.
  4. You are entered into the drawing for a free Family Camp shirt for everyone in the photo who is wearing a Family Camp shirt!

Bonus: Receive an additional entry into the drawing if your family is doing or re-enacting something that you love to do at Family Camp.

You may upload as many entries as you want, as long as you are in an identifiably different location for each entry.

The Fine Print:
This contest isn’t sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Instagram. Please be sure to accurately tag your entries! Click here for official rules.

Getting to Know You: Annie Hanks Ceramic Studio

May 21st, 2015

Getting to Know You: Annie Hanks Ceramic Studio

From time to time, we’d love to introduce you to some of the people behind the things you will find at camp. Today we interview Katherine Rogers and Stephanie Martin from Annie Hanks Ceramic Studio. They created the new Family Camp mugs that you will find in the Outpost this summer.


Tell us a little bit about yourselves; whatever you’d like to share.
20150408-IMG_3446Katherine: I was raised in San Antonio, Texas, with a great appreciation for the outdoors, imagination, and creativity. My love for art was fostered through spending summers in the Laity Lodge Canyon, and the landscape of the Texas Hill Country has since been a motif that is reflected in much of my work. I studied photography at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and upon graduating, moved to Chattanooga where I discovered a passion for clay. Both my photographic work and ceramic work is full of natural references and an isolated focus on beauty. In October, I will be married to Robert McAlister, and we will live in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Stephanie: I grew up regularly relocating with my family to various towns within the Southeast. My familiarity to transition is what began to 20150430-L1004325shape my character—eventually instilling within me a desire for wonder and adventure. Encouraged also by my family’s endless expressions of creativity, I remember searching for my own unique means of artistic self-expression until I found ceramics. After years of building a world around a corporate lifestyle, I was able to submit to my adventurous spirit and open Annie Hanks Ceramic Studio with Katherine.

The two of us met as neighbors in 2012 and quickly became great friends. We just so happened to be taking pottery classes from the same local potter. We began rock climbing together and growing through our weekly ceramic classes. Eventually, our weekly classes turned into apprenticeships/assistantships within that pottery studio. Through our time together within that space, we quickly learned how well we artistically understand and relate to one another. With our merging knowledge of the ceramic process and business development, in October of 2014, we began our own studio and named it Annie Hanks Ceramics—a marriage of our names: Stephanie Anne Martin and Katherine Hanks Rogers.

How did you become interested in ceramics, and would you tell us about the moment that you realized you wanted to pursue opening a studio?
Katherine: I grew up in a creative and artistic household, always playing with cameras, mud, and paint. I pursued photography for several years and felt very seriously about the medium, but I never felt comfortable enough to call myself a photographer. After graduation, I taught preschool for a few years and found pottery as an outlet for my own personal artistic self-expression and fell deeply in love with it. It came naturally to me, and I felt confident in my abilities. It was only two years before Stephanie and I began dreaming together about opening our own studio.  We are lucky enough to live in a city that fosters and promotes artists and small businesses, and so we began moving that fun dream into reality.

Stephanie: I, like Katherine, grew up in a very creative family. However, I grew frustrated in my endeavor to find my place artistically. Always having been drawn to ceramics, I found myself in a transitional period of my life that allowed me to explore the ceramic medium in a greater depth. Katherine really nailed it in her description of how our business came to light. However, what she didn’t mention was all of the late nights we would spend together in the studio we were working in together. Because of the nature of our work there, there was little time that our boss allowed us to further develop and grow our throwing skills. So putting two women like ourselves in a position where we feel that we could not grow without boundaries just wouldn’t do. This is where Katherine and I found ourselves sneaking back into the studio late at night and throwing on the wheel, dreaming of our own business “one day,” returning to our homes early the next morning. We both fondly look back at those days and laugh at the ridiculousness of our “bad girl sides,” even down to throwing with a little tea light between our wheels for fear of being caught.

AHCWhat is the story behind Annie Hanks Ceramic Studio? How did you form? Why?
Within the last months of working together within the setting we just described, our growing eagerness to set off and begin our own studio grew stronger. Within two weeks, we had found a studio space—a bright and open floor plan with a western-facing wall of windows that gently filters natural sunlight, exposed cement ceilings, and inspiring energy that permeates the space and encourages creativity. Since that day in October of 2014, we have created a working studio that they we’ve named Annie Hanks Ceramic Studio—incorporating both of our names. Annie Hanks purely reflects the essence of our friendship and our respective aesthetics—an aesthetic that, more often than not, blends effortlessly into one. Katherine likes to say that our work is a marriage of our forms and is a beautiful reflection of our friendship. All of our work is created collaboratively—each piece is created by both of our hands—Stephanie may throw a piece that Katherine glazes, or Katherine may perfect a form that Stephanie originally created … and vice versa. It is not uncommon to find one of us centering a lump of clay on the wheel that the other shapes and forms into a vessel. When we’re asked about the ways in which this affects the dynamic within the studio, we explain that this creates an atmosphere where we are constantly excited for one another: constantly encouraging the other to stretch herself, and consistently celebrating one another’s accomplishments. It’s a special thing of which to be a part. We take pride in our fine attention to line and form and have a keen awareness of the relationship and connection between the earth and ourselves. We find constant metaphors within our work, particularly the connection between clay, a piece of the earth, and the humanness of ourselves. Our work often reflects natural references—whether it is the horizon lines in our glazes, or the form of our pieces.

What do you hope to accomplish through your studio?
We would like to have a strong focus on our fine art line, putting energy toward having a presence in galleries, ideally all over the world. We want to continue to cultivate our utilitarian line and develop a reputation for fine utilitarian pieces.

How are you connected with Laity Lodge Family Camp?
Katherine: My family is deeply rooted in the development of Laity Lodge. I’ve grown up watching it evolve and allowing it to have its deep impact on my character and spirituality. Each year, my family would move from San Antonio to the Canyon, and I would essentially have free rein to explore, swim, climb, attend Roundups, and stargaze. I was a camper for ten summers and later became a counselor at Singing Hills for the youngest girls’ cabin. Since graduating from Sewanee, I have been unable to be there for extended periods during the summer, but I have watched Family Camp grow and flourish, heard about the plans for its future, and have visited the site upon its completion. I have been utterly blown away with pride for the work my family has done and is doing at Family Camp.

What do you love about being down in the Canyon?
Katherine: This is an unfair question and could become a novel incredibly quickly. I’ll narrow down (painfully) to three favorites. I cannot get enough of the Frio River. I have memories from twenty-plus years ago, feeling the most deep-rooted joy by jumping into its waters, making homemade fishing poles with my sister and Rylie Echols, canoeing as far as my young arms could manage, and swimming for hours. I love thunderstorms in the Canyon—the beauty of gray clouds rolling in, the slowly growing scent of rain, the deep rolls of thunder, the sounds of hard, large raindrops on a tin cabin roof, and the way in which it washes all the accumulated dust off of all trees and brush. I also love the relationships I’ve created throughout my life within the Canyon walls. The place has fostered beautiful friendships that have lasted the entirety of my life, and I have known individuals who have impacted my character and personality on a spiritual level.

Tell me a little about the mugs, their design, the process of making them, and any specific thoughts or intentions as you created them.

The mugs have been really enjoyable to create. Finding a balance between a good “camp feel” and our delicate aesthetic was a fun venture. Our favorite part of this process was then creating an effect within the glaze that resembles the divine beauty of the Frio and the horizon line created by the tall canyon walls. Through our glazes, we wished to encompass the essence of this very special camp.

All images courtesy of Annie Hanks Ceramics.

Top photo—Left to right are examples of our glazing process. The first: bisqueware. The second: bisqueware with iron oxide and wax resist. The third: glazed and ready for the glaze fire. The fourth: completed fired piece.

Final photo—Mugs before they are glazed and fired.

What My Parents Did Right: A Dad’s Perspective

May 18th, 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!

Editor’s Note: On Mother’s Day, Family Camp friend Jeff Anderson posted some thoughts about his recent insight into motherhood. While slightly different that a son’s perspective on his parents, we still felt like this fit right in with honoring parents in what they do well.


What My Parent’s Did Right: A Dad’s Perspective

by Jeff Anderson

My insight into motherhood.

A little 3-year-old foster kid came into our home earlier this year right before my Nikki found herself in the throes of extreme morning (actually all-day) sickness. I was blessed (and I use that word intentionally with no sarcasm) to play both of our roles for a season.

There is something awesome, refining, empowering, and exhausting when you give yourself to all that is essential to raise children. I think of myself as a pretty good dad. I’m engaged and loving. I’m crazy about my kids. However, this spring I learned a new respect for my wife and mom.

Here are 7 insights that I learned from my months of getting to be mom as well as dad. And since this is coming from a dad, I apologize in advance for any potty humor!

1. Mom-ming is a daily miracle. People have said that the newspaper is a daily miracle, but it’s got nothing on trying to get everyone up, fed, lunches packed, kitchen cleaned, and throw in a kid with some demanding needs and a sick spouse … and this is just the morning. Oh, those dreaded mornings! Just when I would fall in bed and think I couldn’t do this for another minute, the alarm goes off and another day has begun.

2. Sometimes moms have to make quick decisions. Sometimes because there isn’t a dad or because dad is consumed with work OR because there simply isn’t time for consultation. I found this when I looked at my 8-year-old, Avalon, whom I’d NOT homeschooled for 3 weeks, and I asked, “How would you like to check out Vandagriff (our local elementary school) tomorrow?” And off to school she went!

3. Mom = putting others needs before your own. I have never in my life showed up more places without showering, without brushing my teeth, without having gone to the bathroom, and most surprising, without having had my coffee, all in an effort to make sure everyone else had what they needed.

NAnderson4. Being a mom means you get dirty. Once when little dude was on his 3rd and last diaper, we were racing thru Academy for a small Valentine’s surprise for my son Beckett, and I realized that little guy did the unthinkable. Let’s just say I got creative. And this was nothing compared to that kid’s intent on often going in the tub, which created an emergency situation with his skin condition.

5. Being a mom breaks you. So much surrender. Surrender of personal space. I remember holding our whinny little dude on my side while putting away dishes, trying to give love while keeping our system working. And late nights when school work wasn’t done, the night routine was stalling out, or when little dude fought infections with cantankerous screaming while I held him, rocking him, both of us in tears, just trying to give him some peace.

6. Being a mom takes faith. In this season I realized how dynamic caring can be when you have such a front row seat into everyone’s day, everyone’s needs, everyone’s life. Trying to meet each of them where they’re at while I was frayed. And the pit in my gut I experienced knowing that I could see each of them so clearly, and yet feeling so limited in all I could do for each of them. A mom sees how needy she is for God to stay the family.

7. Being a mom requires grace and mercy. So does being a dad. We’re human, and we can only do so much even when our hearts, health and capacity is in the right place. The foster system is a reminder that sometimes moms really struggle. Seeing Nikki beating herself up because she couldn’t mom was almost worse than seeing her miserably sick. All moms, the skilled and the weak, need God’s and our grace and mercy.

So to my mom, who loved her boys well my whole growing up and still does …

My wife, who sacrifices for our family so well, and is gearing up for that early phase of mom-ming again …

And to all the moms who show up each day, think on their feet, put family first, get their hands dirty creatively navigating their duties, and sacrificing their heart while trusting God, please know you are appreciated.

May you be wildly celebrated!

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

What My Parents Did Right: Shine Like a Star!

May 11th, 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

by Faith Danielson

On May 11, 1985, David Danielson married Cindy Carlile. Over the course of the next ten years, they had five children—two boys and three girls—effectively diving headfirst into the calling of parenthood. They celebrated their 30th anniversary this May, and their five kids, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, and granddaughter will celebrate with them! Though the Danielson clan is dispersed across California, Colorado, and throughout Texas these days, we remain a tightly knit family. I wholeheartedly believe our continued closeness is the result of the firm foundation my parents established when we were young. The time, encouragement, discipline, and trust that my parents invested in us fundamentally shaped our identities and enabled us to become the people we are today.

Time | A unique part of our family story is that all five Danielson kids were homeschooled through elementary school. My parents used our time at home to engage with each of us and truly get to know us as their children and as distinct individuals. Beyond school, these years included family meals around our “round table,” devotional times, sports and theater practice, nighttime reading sessions (The Chronicles of Narnia and Tales of the Kingdom series), and the joys of simple, honest conversation. All of these facets strengthened our relationship because they focused on being present and attentive to each other. We were children thoroughly known by our parents. Having this time with our parents when we were young enabled us to enter into the broader world with a good understanding of our identity and legacy.

Encouragement | “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord. . .”—Colossians 3:23
With this scripture as the springboard, my parents supported each of their children as we ventured into gymnastics, soccer, pageants, theater, cheerleading, education, work, and friendships. We were encouraged to pursue activities that we enjoyed. My parents coached and critiqued us when we asked, but more importantly, they reminded us that they loved us regardless of ranking or scores or grades. They were also present at the majority of our various activities and events, which was a substantial time commitment. They often drove hours just to cheer and see one of us finish in the middle of the pack at a cross-country race. This sacrifice of their time left a deep impression of just how generous and humble their support for us was, and it was so appreciated.

Discipline | My parents were purposeful and thoughtful about the way they disciplined us. As a rule, each child was assigned weekly chores and expected to help prepare and clean up meals. When we disobeyed or acted out, my parents were intentional about distinguishing our wrong actions from our worth and character. Their discipline reflected the Holy Spirit: it brought conviction, but conviction without shame or condemnation. They wanted what was best for us, reminded us of their love for us, and called us to a higher standard of action than we had displayed when we acted in disobedience. We had consequences for our actions (cue spanking spoon), and I believe we are better people as a result.


Trust | In our family, when the time came to make decisions about college and career plans, my parents put their trust in us to make our own decisions. They always offered guidance and prayers along the way—editing dozens and dozens of essays and applications, driving us to campus visits, and discussing our reasoning behind our decisions—but ultimately they trusted and supported our choices. Because of their trust and support, we now have a handful of universities represented in the family, as well as degrees spanning from physical therapy to archaeology to accounting. Although we have diverse interests and areas of work, we all enjoy our work and find fulfillment in what we do because my parents trusted us to seek God and follow our unique callings.

Above all else, through each of these areas, my parents encouraged us to develop our own personal relationships with Jesus. They taught us that our lives should reflect our beliefs and would reflect our convictions. “Shine like a star in the universe today!” That was our daily challenge as we hopped out of the minivan and headed into our middle schools and high schools. We were and are expected to work with diligence, humility, and kindness that reflects our identity as children of God.

All the Danielson kids will be in our twenties this year. As we have grown, so has our confidence in and appreciation for our parents’ guidance. They exemplify trust, love, forgiveness, joy, and encouragement in their marriage and in their lives. Notably, they also admit their failures and ask for forgiveness from us when they make mistakes. They love people genuinely, serve others freely, and shine like stars in their work and relationships. My parents say that they want their ceiling to be our floor, and that sets an impressive and humbling challenge to us Danielson kids. It is a challenge to surrender our lives to reflect Jesus—and I believe my parents got that just right.

Faith Danielson has served with Family Camp for a couple summers and many weekend camps. She is currently attending Baylor University. You can learn more about Faith in our interview with her and her sister Martha here.

Read more of our series What My Parents Did Right.

Getting to Know You: Lauren Montalbano

April 27th, 2015

As we head into Spring and graduation season, we like to honor some of our college juniors and seniors by highlighting them here on our blog. We’ll get to see some of them this summer, but others are already jumping into the “real world.” Regardless, they have loved and served our families well during their time with us, so we want to be sure you know who they are. Many of these interviews were completed last summer, but here’s a look back at our LLFC Junior and Senior staff.

Getting to Know You: Lauren Montalbano


Tell me a little bit about yourself, whatever background you’d like to share.
I’m from Houston, and am a Junior at UT Austin, graduating in Spring 2016 with a major in Child Development. This is my first summer at LLFC in the canyon. I’m also a Young Life leader in Austin.

Any idea what your post-graduation plans will be?
My current plan is to pursue a job as a child-life specialist in a hospital, but I really have no clue. I don’t know if I could stay in a hospital all day. I’m planning to come back to LLFC this summer, though.

So, what exactly did you do for us this past summer at Family Camp?
I was Senior Counselor, which means I was assigned to a family each week, and hung out with them during meal times and other times when I was able. I also lead a devo group for kids during the parent devo.

What do you love about working for Family Camp? Lauren3
I enjoy getting to know the families, hearing their stories, and seeing how similar ours can be to theirs. I like making connections and building relationships, learning from parents about parenting, and learning from the kids how much they love their parents.

What have you learned through working at Family Camp that you think you’ll carry with you into the rest of life?
What it looks like to have a family where Christ is the center – seeing how much parents love each other, how they parent from that place where Christ is the center, and how the kids respond and how excited they are. It definitely makes parenting in the future be a less stressful thing to think about.

How are you spending the rest of your summer?
I am part of Ignite at UT, so starting in August I’ll work there introducing new students to the body of Christ on campus. Until then, spending time with family.

If I jumped into your car right now, what kind of music would I hear?
Need to Breathe

What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
Mere Christianity.  Yes, I enjoyed it; it was awesome!

What is the funniest or strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
I went to eat in Concan with mom and sister on day my day off, and there was a motorcycle accident. We stopped, and my mom, and ICU nurse, got out and saved his life. They life-flighted him out. He had some crazy broken leg.

Lauren1Diet coke or coffee?

What’s your favorite treat?
A pazookie: a half-baked cookie with a scoop of ice cream on top

Best camp story from this summer?
One of our good friends, Brandon Leatherwood, was leaving to go to Echo for the last week. So we went to the closest Walmart and bought Sparkling Cider and drank it and hung out and shared memories in the one of the empty kiddie pools down by the waterfront. (They drain them each weekend).

Fill in the blank: Chocolate is ….

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

Dogs or cats?

Favorite study snack?
Almonds – lightly salted

Morning person or night owl?

Advice for families who are preparing to come to camp?
Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone

Anything else you want to share?
Headwaters is cool because the staff gets so close. It was hard when people had to leave early. And that’s part of the experience that families get to see.


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

Getting to Know You: Trevor Schoen

April 20th, 2015

As we head into Spring and graduation season, we like to honor some of our college seniors by highlighting them here on our blog. We’ll get to see some of them this summer, but others are already jumping into the “real world.” Regardless, they have loved and served our families well during their time with us, so we want to be sure you know who they are. Many of these interviews were completed last summer, but here’s a look back at our LLFC Seniors.

Getting to Know You: Trevor Schoen


Tell me a little bit about yourself, whatever background you’d like to share.
I grew up in Dallas, but now I live on a ranch in Ben Wheeler, Texas. I am a senior at the University of Arkansas in Fayetville, graduating in 2015 with a major in Agriculture Business, and an emphasis in Marketing and Management, but I really want to go into ministry. I love camping, fly fishing, rock climbing . . . anything outdoors, and I love to be with people. This is my first year in the Canyon. Stacie O’Shea (my girlfriend’s cousin’s girlfriend) texted me about the opportunity, and then that same day Emily Ballbach called and did a mini-interview with me. She offered me the job, but I had already interviewed with two other camps that I had history with. I prayed over it, and really felt called here and felt God’s presence. So I asked God to let me know what I felt was him, and at that moment Emily texted me!

Any idea what your post-graduation plans will be?
Seminary probably, but not immediately.

So, what exactly did you do for us this past summer at Family Camp?
I was a Senior Counselor, so I am assigned to a family and get to hang out with them all week. I am also certified in shooting sports and adventure rec (like high ropes), so I helped out with those activities.

What do you love about working for Family Camp?
Building awesome relationships with people – this kind of a place really creates that. It also puts parents and families in a safe place where they can be vulnerable to open up their hearts. Even as a college kid you realize how much of an impact that you can potentially have on a family and their lives. Personally, it was also cool listening to dads open up and share their stories and their struggles.

What have you learned through working at Family Camp that you think you’ll carry with you into the rest of life?
I didn’t realize it, but being here I find it easy to get into deep conversation with families and adults. I always felt a little uncomfortable going deep and talking about spiritual things with adults, but I’ve learned here that we’re all human beings, and I can share with them from where I am, and they can share with me. I’ve learned about how to direct conversation. I appreciated that they talked to me like an adult, and didn’t belittle me as a college student.

It also helped me learn that ministry is what I want to do in life, and you can just do it. There aren’t obstacles that hold you back if this is what you’re called to do. My life idea is living radically…if you know what you’re doing it for and that God has sent you there, it’s just simple. If I want to do work for Jesus, just do it.

How are you spending the rest of your summer?
I’m going to Florida to lead a church camp for a church I was a part of. The we may take a family vacation.

If I jumped into your car right now, what kind of music would I hear?
The “Trevor Ultra-Chill Playlist” on Spotify, with Matthew Mayfield, Bonn Iver, Walk the Moon (chill Walk the Moon, no drums), The Local Natives, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. Or you might hear the “Trevor Gospel Playlist”.
What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
Epic by John Eldridge. At first, I kept wondering where he was going with it, but by the end, I loved it. (Editors note: he had just finished it the night before our interview!)

What is the funniest or strangest thing that has ever happened to you?Trevor1
I was driving with Jacob (another counselor), back to camp on 183 after our morning off. We drove through a foggy place, and the whole windshield went white. Defrost didn’t clear it. Finally the windshield wipers cleaned it off. We drove through a cloud!

Diet coke or coffee?

What’s your favorite treat?
Ice cream! Rocky Road, Mint Chocolate Chip. Or mixed nuts.

Best story from camp?
At midnight, when we had the morning off the next morning, some of us hiked up to Circle Bluff, hung hammocks and spent the night. We saw porcupine! We all kind of knew each other, but we went around and said nice things about each other and then prayed over each other. It was the coolest night ever. Everyone had something really awesome to say about each other, and we did it without any direction from adults.

Fill in the blank: Chocolate is . . .
To be put in milk

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A professional baseball player

Dogs or cats?

Favorite study snack?
Unsalted plain raw Blue Diamond almonds

Morning person or night owl?

Advice for families who are preparing to come to camp?
Leave all the junk that’s holding you back at home. Come with an open heart. Stay off your phone. This experience will not be what it should if you don’t disconnect.

Anything else you’d like to share?
At Family Camp, you feel like you’re one big family. Everyone has a role and takes it and runs with it. And then that energy gets brought and poured onto the families. The connection you build here is no joke; people get real.

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

Emily Ballbach’s New Journey

April 16th, 2015

Get that ball back! Get that ball back!

I remember it like it was yesterday; my first summer here, Emily Ballbach was introduced to a large staff gathering, and the entire crowd erupted with the phrase above. This is one of the many illustrations of the depth of Emily’s work, level of her relationships, and of her endearment to our organization.

Although very bittersweet, I’m pleased to let you know that Emily has accepted a position with InterVarsity Fellowship as a student pastor at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

About this upcoming transition, Emily says: “Some of the greatest joy I have experienced in this work has been the delight of relationships shared with families at camp. Those relationships have helped prepare me for this next phase of my life. I am excited about this new opportunity God has given me to continue to share his love with those at the University of Colorado, Boulder campus. Remembering with gratitude the impact everyone has had on my life makes saying goodbye very difficult. I would love to keep in touch and continue to share God’s work in our lives in the years to come. I am looking forward to watching how Family Camp will continue to grow and contribute to families in the future.”

Emily has been an amazing part of the H. E. Butt Family Foundation and of the Family Camp team from day one. David Rogers, President of The H. E. Butt Family Foundation, expresses his appreciation to Emily by saying, “I’m so grateful for Emily Ballbach and her contributions to helping the dream of the Laity Lodge Family Camp become a reality. She has used her gifts and passions to launch one of the finest family camps in the nation and we are indebted to her.”

Emily is very excited about this next step in her life’s journey, and we are excited for her.  She will continue to work with the Family Camp team through the end of our summer program in July.  This is simply another example of Emily’s commitment and loyalty to Family Camp and to our families. Please join us in recognizing Emily for her work with Laity Lodge Family Camp and, more importantly, celebrating with her in this next step in life, ministry, and service to others.

Getting to Know You: Katie Cooney and Stacie O’Shea

April 10th, 2015

As we head into Spring and graduation season, we would like to honor some of our college seniors by highlighting them here on our blog. We’ll get to see some of them this summer, but others are already jumping into the “real world.” Regardless, they have loved and served our families well during their time with us, so we want to be sure you know who they are. Many of these interviews were completed last summer, but here’s a look back at our LLFC Seniors.

Getting to Know You: Katie Cooney and Stacie O’Shea


Tell me a little bit about yourselves.
Katie: I’m from Dallas, Texas (Richardson). I like running, doing crafts, painting, and being outside.
Stacie: I’m from College Station. I love baking, anything outside–hiking, walking, etc. I love being outdoors.

Where do you go to school, when will you graduate, what’s your major?
K: Texas A&M, graduated December 2014, with a major in Psychology.
S: Texas A&M, graduating either in August or December of 2015, with a major in Community Health.

Any idea what your post-graduation plans will be?
K: In the fall of 2014, I started working at Still Creek Ranch in College Station, and then I went full-time once I graduated. At Still Creek, we work with kids pulled from crisis situations who are dealing with neglect and abandonment. I’ll be volunteer coordinating with the community, finding new ways to get people involved. And I will also do relief work with the girls’ side, staying with the girls two days a week to relieve house parents. The Ranch has kids from ages 10-17 in three different houses. I’ll be working in the 13-16 year-olds’ house.
S: I originally was doing nursing, and I moved into Community Health. I don’t have a specific thing I am set on doing, but I really love health. I don’t want to do government, but maybe health promotion, working with kids, or a health intern at camp. My dream job is to cook healthy meals for families with working parents, providing an affordable, good meal.

So, what exactly did you do for us this summer at Family Camp?
We were the Work Crew Bosses. We were responsible for the spiritual development for the girls, preparing and cleaning up the Ranch House and the kitchen, prepping and cleaning up for each meal, setting things out, and then fellowshipping with the ten high school Senior girls on our crew. We prepared a Bible study for them for the summer, starting with creation and going through having an eternal perspective. Every day we go through that, and every two weeks spending one-on-one time with each girl. We also plan fun activities in the afternoon because faith is fun; it doesn’t always have to be serious! We really wanted to set an example for their relationships, in working as partners, acting as community (being vulnerable and working well together). Our relationship had to be healthy so that our relationship with the girls could be healthy.

When did you start working in the Canyon?
S: I worked some weekend family camps and at Singing Hills two years ago.
K: I’ve worked at Echo Valley in Canyon Club and as a counselor; last summer was my first summer at Family Camp.

What do you love about working for Family Camp?
K: I loved the relaxed atmosphere, and it’s a smaller group of staffers. It’s not as intimidating to get to know people. I also enjoy getting to see families interacting, even from a background perspective. It’s been cool to be around them, despite not having direct interaction.
S: My favorite thing is the small and close atmosphere for staff. I know everyone’s name, which is not typical. I also love the families, even though we don’t really interact as much with them. It’s cool to know we are providing the opportunity for families to sit down and interact together. We talked with our crew about meal time being communion and a blessed time. I just really like allowing families to be together by relieving them of their normal responsibilities.

What have you learned through working at Family Camp that you think you’ll carry with you into the rest of life?       KatyStacie2
K: I have learned a lot from working in such a close partnership; it’s sort of a glimpse of marriage, learning to be vulnerable, trust one another, depend on one another to love on best days and worst days. It was cool to experience it in a small way. Also, we got to see what it is like being a parent, taking care of and managing ten girls, loving them no matter what, showing patience, giving hard love when needed, and being selfless with our time.
S: I learned a lot about leadership. Our attitude was going to be reflected in the girls, so if we came to work in a grumpy mood, it will flow out of them as well. Being a leader is being like-minded as Christ. We have to be vulnerable, even with silly things, and we communicate so much. Our perspective will be their perspective. Also, I’ve never worked so close with someone for so long. Like Katie said, I learned about parenthood. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we are four years older, and those are four significant years. So I learned about being patient with the Lord as well.
K: We wanted them to grow spiritually as well, which was at times an adjustment when we were expecting them to be in a certain place and having to realize that God has a plan and that these might be the first introductions to this concept.

How are you spending the rest of your summer (2014)?
S: I have a brother who is about to have a little girl and a sister who is getting married. I’ll get to have some rest and then do small flexible jobs to free her to help sister and babysit.
K: I’ll be between Dallas and College Station, moving in and visiting the Still Creek Girls. Plus our family is going on vacation. I made the second half of summer goal-less so I could just rest.

If I jumped into your car right now, what kind of music would I hear?
S: All Sons and Daughters
K: Well, my CD/tape player doesn’t work, but I love Penny and Sparrow and All Sons and Daughters.

What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
S: The Hobbit, I loved it. It was great; it was my first time reading it.
K: Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I loved it; I learned a lot.

What is the funniest or strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
S: A vulture flew in front of a car in front of me.
K: Yeah, that vulture flew into MY car that I was riding in and hit the windshield.

Diet coke or coffee?
S: Coffee
K: Diet Coke

What’s your favorite treat?
S: Really good coffee
K: Peanut butter with anything

Best camp story from this summer?
S:  Our all PC and Work Crew Worship time. Everyone was really touched by it.
K: One of our days off we spent together at someone’s lake house. We rode rope swings together, and someone got a terrible picture of me with a goofy face and a crazy double chin. We joked about putting it on a camp shirt. It provided lots of laughter.

Fill in the blank: Chocolate is ….
S: Delicious.
K: Sinful.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
S: Teacher.
K: I had no big aspirations, but probably a dancer.

Dogs or cats?
S: Dogs
K: Neither

Favorite study snack?
S: Coffee?
K: Kettle corn popcorn

Morning person or night owl?
K: Morning
S: Morning

Advice for families who are preparing to come to camp?
K: Let Camp serve you. As much you are able. Let the counselors take your kids. Trust that they want to serve you in whatever way that you need.
S: Don’t be afraid to seek out community here. It’s cool when you see families sitting together and discussing similar struggles and things. People get caught up in trying to be a perfect family, and when you can share your brokenness, it can be so encouraging. Come for your family, but know there can be community found here.
K: So true. I remember one session, a group of dads met on the back porch and talked about how to be spiritual leaders and fathers every morning, even how hard it is, too. Be vulnerable.

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

Spiritual Disciplines: Solitude Is Hard

March 27th, 2015

Solitude Is Hard

by Emily Ballbach


Solitude is hard. Being alone can harken deep thoughts, and sometimes anxieties rise to the surface. It can call attention to the things in our hearts that we’d rather sweep under our soul’s thick rug. Or we may encounter a version of God that feels untouchable, distant, or vacant. However, solitude forces our distracted mind to focus beyond our current attention deficits and practice paying attention to one thing only: the God of the universe. The discipline of solitude is not often practiced in our hurried, modern lives because it requires our time, an abiding practice, and a focus beyond what many of us assume we can handle.

During one season of my life, solitude became a request God asked of mea command for me to obey. I had the privilege of studying abroad in Israel during my time in seminary. If you have traveled for an extended period of time, you may understand the kind of aloneness that can follow wanderlust. Spending an extended time away in a very foreign land harkened such a time of solitude for me.

One day I listened to a sermon recorded during a chapel service held at my alma mater. The gifted preacher Jill Briscoe shared a thought that has sunk deeply into my mind ever since. Jill began by talking about the life of king David, the Goliath slayer, and his profound impact on the world and his kingdom legacy. Then she shared that David came to such a position through immense amounts of time spent alone, and she explained how he handled his solitude. I’ll never forget what she said next. “David sat on the steps of his soul and let God stretch out the sides of it.” In other words, David allowed God to stretch him: deepening his grasp for God, opening him up to be able to receive people and God’s grace, and enlarging his soul to be big enough for God to move and people to be changed. Essentially, in his solitude, David sat long enough in reflection about the state of his soul that God was able to change it to make him more like God and more settled in God’s grace and love.

David was not the only Old Testament figure to be met and changed by God in solitude. Moses was a leader-in-the-making during his solitude experience with God. In her book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, author Ruth Haley Barton discusses the life of Moses and the importance of solitude for any leader to be effective. She says, “Solitude will do its good work whether we know what we are doing or not.” In solitude, we might pray, simply listen, or go for a walk alone and hope to hear from God. Regardless of the practice, showing up for solitude seems to be enough on its own. Ruth remarks, “In solitude we stop believing our own press. We discover that we are not as good as we thought, but we are also more than we thought.”

My time of solitude in Israel offered me a renewed sense of God’s presence, providing comfort and grace. It also gave me the time and space to realize that God was making me more like him simply because I shared my time with him more intentionality. There was life and freedom to be found in it.

When we take time to be alone with God, he is able to do immeasurably more than we can even imagine. We all have the opportunity to receive his grace in our solitude, despite the different ways we may express or experience it with God. The discipline is not always easy, and finding time in our hurried schedules might feel unreasonable. With creativity, though, it is still possible. Parents of small children may require a spouse supporting some time alone, or maybe one could find time alone in the car, traveling from place to place running errands or commuting to work. These days, I take time each morning to sit before the Lord in prayer, or I go for walk and ask God to walk with me. Occasionally, I use my 30-minute morning commute to play some worship tunes and pray through a particular thought I am having.

Solitude can be met in our measured practice or forced by our present circumstances, far out of our control. Regardless of how we find ourselves in solitude, what we do with it is all that really matters. My time in Israel, a season of some solitude, became a defining timea refining timeand a blessing I will not quickly forget. I imagine that is true for many of us who attempt to let God “stretch out the sides of our soul.” Though the practice is hard, the blessing is ten-fold.

This week we are exploring spiritual disciplines in our familieswhy they are important and what they could look like, as a part of the greater conversation at our sister site, The High Calling. We’d love for you to join the conversation on our Facebook page or read all of the posts in this series here.