Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Church Camp Week #1

It has been a highly emotional few days, as Olesya, Kenny and Joshua returned from church camp. I have no idea how other people's kids react when they return from a week away at camp, but it never, ever fails to have an enormous impact on our children...and this year more than ever.  All three kids were moved to the point of tears upon their return, and all expressed a wish that camp never had to end.

Joshua has spent the past 3 days crying off and on, because the experience was deep and rich for him.  He wishes desperately that camp were longer, and came away for the very first time having a far better understanding of what/who God is, and encountered the Spirit perhaps for the very first time in a recognizable way.  He also internalized that he loves who he is, and though he struggles with emotions he told me he realized he doesn't want to change a thing about himself.  Camp also seems to have helped him be able to talk more about his feelings of insecurity, and how he still has feelings of complete terror that arise in minor situations.  As he cried, we talked about ways for him to handle those emotions, and how they may never fully disappear but that his awareness can lead to healthier ways of dealing with them.  Watching his eyes well with tears over and over again as he spoke, I was struck by how this child has the strength of 10 men, and has come further than we ever would have imagined when he was young and full on RAD.  Yet there is still so much work to be done...

For Olesya, there was an awakening to her own wonderfulness, as she excitedly told me she figured something out. She had a  rough couple of weeks prior to camp that came out the day before when she had a very emotional meltdown as she talked about feeling bad about who she was, about not being super skinny, about not being attractive in her own mind.  Speaking with a firm resolve I have never heard from her before, she told me about how being at camp somehow helped her see herself as perfectly normal, and she saw how she needed to start speaking up for herself more rather than just give in to everyone around her.  Of all our children, Olesya's self-esteem is by far the lowest, and we constantly work to try and build her up.  Sometimes it feels almost impossible to undo what was done to our kids...or in Olesya's case to help her stop wanting to make herself invisible to the world.  Something clicked for her at camp which I hope carries over long afterward, and she began to see herself as somehow worthy of more than being relegated to the back seat of life.

For three solid days, Kenny has been doing nothing but writing.  He decided at camp, with the encouragement of his wonderful counselor, that he was going to write a book about his understanding of God.  He is titling it "The Human God", and he has literally written for hours and hours without stopping.  Kenny always cries at the end of camp, because he loves it so much and it allows him to spend an entire week immersed in all things theological.  For him, that is a little slice of heaven, and it hurts when he has to part ways.

Kenny shared one final thought before going to bed the night after camp. He told me that he realized something very important at camp in a way he never had before.  "Mom, I think I came away even more grateful for my amazing family than I ever have been.  I always know I am lucky to have all of you, but for some reason, this year I heard more stories that were hard to hear, and for most of the kids their families were a big part of why they were unhappy.  When it was my turn to share, I could only think of how my family is the greatest thing to ever happen to me, and how we are all kind and respectful with each other.  I guess I didn't appreciate it as much as I should have.  We are boring because we don't have any drama, but I think I really like boring!"

This year was incredible for these three, and as I explained in a thank you message to their counselors, for our kids La Foret is not just a chance to have a great time and learn more about is like a year's worth of therapy work crammed into a single week.  They come away with pieces of their hearts put back together, having healed a little bit more with each passing summer.  I usually spend the week post-camp dealing with the emotions that have arisen, having quiet conversations and helping them work it all.  It is an honor that they are willingly sharing such things with me, particularly at this age when many shut down completely and hide behind a mask of disdain for all things parental.

Three down, two to go...I hope Matt and Angela are having the time of their lives and learning more about themselves.  I hope we have lots to talk about after they arrive home and we debrief.  Those two are both very deep rivers, and it will be interesting to hear what they have to say if they feel called to share.

Camp weeks are awesome.

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