The last car pulled out a few hours ago. John and I are beyond exhaustion. We can hardly speak a complete sentence; muscles we didn’t know we had ache. Our brains seem to have quit functioning. We are totally unmotivated and can only sit in a stupor on the patio, eyes glazed over.
BUT our hearts are filled to overflowing.
Family Camp 2022 has just ended and once again we are humbled by God’s goodness. After 11 years of hosting Cousin Camp (read all about that here in my book and other blogs) we have moved to a Family Camp over Labor Day weekend. This year there were 33 of us including 21 grandchildren and a grandson in law!
So, what was this year like?
Our grands range from age 10 to 24, with the majority being teenagers.
It was LOUD.
Muscular male bodies doing chest bumps and wrestling accompanied by various grunts and groans. (Why do boys like to wrestle?) Shrieks and screams playing flashlight tag in the dark, slathering one another in the annual cool whip fight, pushing a cousin off the end of the pier into our dirty pond, or beating an older cousin in Spike Ball.
It was CROWDED and MESSY.
Grandchildren sleep in sleeping bags, covering nearly every inch of the floors. 4 teen girl cousins cuddle up talking until the early morning hours. A big danger: tripping over one of the 120-plus shoes scattered about. (I had tubs for shoes but . . . )
The first year of Camp I cleaned my house before everyone arrived. I have never done that again!
It was FOOD, FOOD EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME.
Teens eat and eat and eat. Each family is assigned a day to purchase and cook the evening dinner and provide fix-your-own meals for breakfasts and lunches. Spreading out the responsibility makes a big difference for all. You can only imagine the grocery bills.
It was CONNECTING.
Because our kids live in different states the cousins don’t get to see one another much. So Camp is one time they can bond. (Of course, feelings get hurt and we have to separate quarreling kids. We are a normal family!)
Over the years we have watched 2 cousins who did not get along become “besties.” We have seen older cousins reach out to the “littles.” Aunts and uncles, nieces, and nephews tease, confide, compete, and hang out — step by step building a relationship.
It was POSITIVE PEER PRESSURE.
One morning we had a sharing time all together highlighting the grandchildren. The kids shared answers to these questions.
Especially sweet was hearing from our 3 college kids who came for Camp. And one of the youngest who shared her favorite verse (Psalm 73:23) which tells her God holds her.
What has been surprising over the years is how natural these times of sharing are. John privately asks a couple of the kids of different ages to jump in to begin this time and others quickly raise their hands.
It was SWEET ADULT TIME.
Three of the nights, we adults (our 5 children and spouses) gather around an old table in the barn for dinner apart from the kids. They are quite happy to have us out of their way!
Our tradition has been to have each couple take an extended time to share what has been going on in their lives — highs and lows, challenges and blessings, meaningful books, and lessons from God. We long to go deeper with one another. Someone prays for each couple after they share.
As John and I slowly return to consciousness we thank God for this precious time. And we continue to pray over these precious children. We pray Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:6:
That He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
If you want to hear what some of our grands think about camp, check out my Family Camp highlights on Instagram. Sylvia, who’s a freshman in college, interviews some of her cousins.
I’d love to encourage you to design your own family camp with your kids and grandkids, nieces and nephews, or dear friends. If you want a whole bunch of ideas, check out my book Cousin Camp — it includes examples from all kinds of family groups, and ideas for so many different events!
You can also grab the free Camp at Home download right here, which will give you 100 activities you can do now without leaving home!
I’d love to hear what you do.