The first time we sent our older girls away to summer camp, it was just for a weekend. For younger kids, it was a “get your feet wet” kind of experience, stay two nights at camp, have lots of fun, and then plan on coming back for the full week the next time.
So, for a two-night camp, we packed three shirts and three pairs of shorts so they’d have a spare plus a pair of jeans and a skirt and top they could use for a chapel service if they needed to look nice.
I picked them up at the end of the weekend and they were dressed in some crazy outfit : Skirt and camp t-shirt or jeans (in 100+degree weather).
Why the fashion mish-mash?
Simple. They ran out of clothes.
At home, I opened up their duffel bags and discovered their clothes were wet. All of them.
This year, our packing strategy was simple. Pack pretty much every piece of clothing they own.
Well, that might be a bit exaggerated. But seriously. I packed a lot of extra clothes plus two beach towels and two bath towels and two different swimming outfits.
We packed a lot.
Then, for the entire week before camp, I gave them great words of wisdom.
I said things like, “Make good choices. Listen to your counselors. Don’t be afraid. Try new things. Be kind and make new friends. Sleep. Don’t spend all your money at the camp store in one day.”
Oh, and this little treasure, “If you buy soda at the camp store, do NOT buy Mountain Dew. Sprite has no caffeine–fine. Coke has some caffeine, not the best, but I won’t freak out. But please do NOT buy Mountain Dew.”
Those words came from experience. Last time I picked them up, they’d discovered Mountain Dew for the first time.
But I also gave them this little tidbit of advice over and over and over again: “Hang up your wet clothes. Seriously. Towels get hung up to dry. Do not toss your wet swimsuit and towel into your suitcase with your other clothes.”
These are some of the last words I said to them before we waved goodbye at drop-off.
“I love you” and “Hang up wet things.”
My husband, on the other hand, had his own wisdom to share over and over before camp. And when we said goodbye, he said it again. He leaned over to kiss their heads, told them, “I love you,” and then give instruction:
“Wear sunscreen. At all times. All over your face. Use your bug spray. Wear your hat every single time you go outside.”
This is the what we worry over because we’re not with them to make sure they are safe, taking care of themselves, and keeping their clothes dry.
Or that they aren’t drinking Mountain Dew, are eating reasonable meals, and are being respectful to their camp counselors.
They will be making choices every day and we have to trust that after all our training, these choices will be good ones.
So, we said goodbye for the week. We met their counselors, dropped off their luggage, watched as they picked out bunks, and then left.
And now, I’m praying and praying and praying.
This independence-training has been gradual: a few hours of preschool a few days a week. School days. Middle school starts in just two months for my middle girl with more decisions, bigger ones, and more independence.
Do they know what really matters?
Today, I read how David commissioned his son, Solomon. What were those essential things David said before he died and Solomon took over the kingdom?
And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you…Be careful now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it (1 Chronicles 28:9-10 ESV).
I’m sure David trained Solomon in other ways. He gathered the supplies Solomon would need to build the temple so that his son would be fully equipped for his calling.
But this is the essential truth:
Seek the Lord.
Serve Him wholeheartedly.
Be strong and do the work He has called you to do.
And when it comes down to it, this is the essential truth for us and the essential truth I want my kids to remember when I’m not with them.
Of course, wearing sunscreen and hanging up your towels doesn’t hurt!
But in the middle of a thousand messages and overwhelming choices, here’s what God tells us:
Be strong and fulfill your calling.
This is what really matters.
Originally published 7/20/2016