With the Smores and the Stars
You wouldn’t be surprised to hear 4 and 5 year-olds Caroline and Amelia Frye explain how tall and fast the waterslide at Family Camp was. Nor would it seem odd that they had a favorite camp song that they’re happy to sing for anyone who’s interested (it’s about bananas and it has some pretty cool hand motions to go along with it). However, it was the answer to the question, “What was your favorite part of Family Camp?” that made me stop and realize what a special experience the Frye family had.
Caroline immediately declared that her favorite part was a special afternoon that the family spent playing a game of make-believe together in a grounded aluminum boat—imagining exciting lands of marshmallows and candy to explore together. Amelia spent a little more time thinking but landed on their family devotional time.
“We did our devotional near our campsite thing,” Amelia describes. “We sat on the back porch and daddy read the devotional and I filled in the blanks. Remember how the sick people are the ones who need the doctors?” she reminds her dad, referring to when he had read Jesus’ words from the book of Mark to the family.
Of all the exciting things the girls told me about—including but not limited to canoeing, waterslides, smores, and banana songs—it was the simple times that stood out to them. Times the family spent being together, enjoying each other, and learning about Jesus had earned a special place in their memories.
Jon and Kaely signed up for Family Camp expecting a fun weekend for their three little girls, Amelia (5), Caroline (4), and Elinor (1), and a chance to get to know more people they went to church with. And though they got those things, Jon and Kaely both describe the weekend turning out to be so much more.
“It was mostly the time we got to spend together.” Kaely describes, trying to articulate what made the weekend so special. “They (their three daughters) really thrived getting our full attention. Even our little one-year-old seemed to just blossom over the weekend.”
“We’re with our family all the time but we’re not spending quality time together,” Jon says. “You couldn’t have told me beforehand what a great experience it was going to be. You just can’t articulate that.”
And that was the theme they kept coming back to— family time. Looking back over their daily lives, it isn’t that they have a hard time being physically together, it’s that the time is so easy to fill with other things. Being at Family Camp, they couldn’t believe what a difference it made for their family to have things like TV, email, and even the chore of preparing meals taken off the table for them. And it turned out that what was left was just precious time to appreciate and relax with each other. Time to learn with and about their family.
One of Jon and Kaely’s favorite takeaways from the weekend (and Amelia’s too!) was how to do a simple family devotional together.
“Prior to camp, I don’t think I knew what a family devotional was or what it might look like,” Kaely describes.
The family has continued to practice devotional time together on Sunday evenings since Family Camp and have enjoyed keeping that little slice of camp active in their busy lives. Amelia agreed and recounted their most recent devotional when they talked about how “Jesus calmed the water and Peter was amazed.”
“What stands out to me was just singing and having my kids in my lap and being totally in the moment...being outside with the smores and the stars and just relaxing together. There aren’t many times in life when you get to relax like that together,” Kaely explains.
With the unexpected and yet totally welcome time of refreshment and growth for each of them and as a family, the Fryes agree that Family Camp hasn’t seen the last of them.
“In my mind, we’ll go every year until the kids think they’re too old...and then we’ll probably still make them go!” Jon says with a laugh. “That was just a shock—how much you realize that you need it.” he adds, “Every year, we’ll make this a priority. It’s just that good of an experience.”