Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Fun

From lounging at the pool to lounging in the sunroom, we've had some pretty fun memories for the little time we've been home this summer. Our AC was acting up so we spend a few nights in the sunroom which has it's on window unit AC. Lydia decided it was her night to sleep with me and I wasn't really sure how we'd both fit on the couch but I figured I would let her fall asleep and then move her. Well, I guess she figure out a way and I found her sleeping on the top of the couch, kind of like we'd be in bunk beds. That only lasted about half the night until her feet came crashing down on me and I gently moved her to the floor. Later that week while the AC guy was fixing the unit, we were all outside playing and I looked over and Lydia was working on her car. As you can see, remembering daddy is NOT an issue around our house, but by the time I got my camera, all you could see was an abandoned car up on blocks and not the little girl who was working on it! I hope everyone is enjoying their summer! It's been a hot one, but we've been staying cool and having fun...just waiting for Daddy to come home soon!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

YoungLives Camp

I had the great pleasure of getting to serve at the YoungLives Camp just outside Austin Texas. Young Life is an organiztaion that sets out to reach teenagers with the gospel of Christ by loving on them and building lasting relationships. Scott and I have served for a few years in our local YL group at North Gwinnett, and recently I have begun to explore the possibility of starting a YoungLives group in our area. YoungLives has the same mission as YoungLife, but focuses solely on reaching teen moms and their young children. In order to learn more about YoungLives as an organization, I signed up to visit one of the camps this summer and serve by doing childcare. This was a new venture for me, leaving the kids behind with Lolli and Pop, getting on an airplane alone and flying to Texas to meet up with total strangers and spend a week living, eating and serving with them. I successfully raised my money and set out for an adventure that I knew would be life-changing. I arrived at the airport in Austin, TX a little later than planned because of some plane delays, so I rushed to the shuttle bus and loaded aboard with about 20 other people headed to Camp Buckner. At first, I sat in an awkward silence while I texted back and forth with Scott, but soon, I became intrigued listening to some conversations and joining in the talks about starting clubs, how YLives runs in their area, and why these people were all headed to spend a week serving like myself. I met people from around the US who were all as passionate as I am about sharing the gospel with these young girls and already I knew it was going to be an awesome week. When we arrived at camp we pretty much hit the ground rolling. We had a short meeting together (all 100 something childcare workers) and then we made beds (for the campers who would arrive the next day) and by 11:30 we were finally settling into our own cabins for the night. As leaders we stayed in similar cabins to the girls (which fortunately had AC), but there were about 14 of us to one room and two rooms per cabin. The next morning was busy as we continued to take a few training classes, set up our nurseries and meet our other nursery workers. I was assigned to the Lime nursery which was children ages 14 and 15 months old. We had one "head" leader, Ms. Emily, myself and 5 high school helpers. We spent most of the morning and early afternoon arranging pack n' plays, setting up our changing station and organizing the check in system. It was quite amazing how they had converted a cabin style hotel room into such a functional nursery. We had a huge carpet taped to the floor for playtime, all of the traditional "hotel" items had been moved out and we had 6 pack n' plays, a lot of toys and a few chairs. Every detail from safety outlet covers to changing table cleaners and cubbies for diaper bags was attended to. It was truly amazing how organized and efficient our "work crew" was at getting it all set up. (Work crew is a group of people who are there volunteering just like us, except instead of childcare, they clean laundry, serve food, take out trash, clean up the club room, etc).
About 4:00 we all headed outside the pool area to start greeting our moms and babies. This is quite an experience for anyone who hasn't ever been to a YL camp before. The concept is that we "roll out the red carpet" and treat these moms like queens from the moment they arrive on the property. Some of these moms had travelled with babies from Memphis on airplanes, some had ridden on a charter bus 20 hours from Jacksonville, FL and others had come a mere 2 hours from their hometowns in TX. Either way, we wanted these mommies to feel like they were welcome at camp and that they and their kids would have a week they could never forget. So, the staff at check in radios to us, letting us know our first group is arriving. We all line up where the bus is going to drop the campers and work crew gets ready to carry their luggage. From loud music to cheering, to high fives and snow cones, those mom's definitely felt welcome (and maybe a little scared at first at the overwhelming response we had to their arrival). From then, we just kept welcoming in groups of girls, in 105 degree weather, for 3 hours, with SMILES on our faces!!! I am pretty sure that's the most I have ever sweat in my ENTIRE life!!!
After welcome, we pretty much went to dinner and then straight to our nurseries to receive babies. We had 9 babies in our nursery and that first night was LOUD. Babies were crying, moms were skeptical to leave them behind and we were wondering what we'd gotten ourselves into!!! The first night we tried to follow all the "check in" rules and other rules we thought would be useful- like signing out whenever we left the room, checking diapers every 15 minutes or so, etc etc. Well, we soon realized a few things...this room is small for 9 kids and 7 leaders--- we needed to get outside, especially when other babies were sleeping inside. Things didn't always go as planned, like the child who threw up on us the first night because he was crying so hard. And, check in is not actually all that important. There's only 9 kids, we know their moms, we got to know their stuff, and really the whole hassle of all the paperwork was a bit much while problem A, B, and C were also happening!!
We all made it through that first night, but by the time mommies came at 11:30 to pick up kids, we were beat. It'd been a long day and we were ALL ready to get in our beds. Those poor mommies who had to go back to cabins and try to get a bunch of babies to sleep all night in a strange place after hours of travel, moments of crying, strange faces and new places. I WAS NOT envious of them at this moment, although I must say I did miss my little munchkins A LOT!! Each day was pretty much the same- we went to breakfast, headed to our nurseries and watched babies from 9:30-11:30, headed to lunch and then either had Ride Care or Free Time. Ride care was when the moms went with their groups to do the ropes courses, so we only had 4 of the 12 nurseries open. Our nursery was assigned the first day and we were kind of glad to just have that day done with (it was a lot of watching kids with not a lot of down time). After Ride Care, which ended at 5, we headed to leader dinner and then to our Leader Club which was a great time for us to kick back and enjoy some YL style games, music and hear from various people around the camp about the impact we were having on the moms just because of how much we loved on their babies. After club, we headed back to our nurseries for the evening shift which was from about 7-11:30. Then it was off to bed and start the next day all over again. Each evening was a different night for the mom's- western night, pool olympics, and a kiddie carnival (which they took their kids too and we got to go visit with babies and mommies).
Every day became easier and easier for childcare. The kids began to know us and the crying stopped more quickly. We had a few with the stomach bug in our class, so we were often cleaning up throw up and poor Ms. Emily got DRENCHED in it one day.
On my one afternoon off, I opted to go experience the BLOB and the huge water slide instead of resting. I had never been to a YL camp when the weather was warm and this was my first time on the blob which is pretty much a huge air bubble on the lake. You sit on the end and someone jumps off the dock and onto the balloon and you are catapulted into the air. It was a lot of fun!!!
By the end of camp (DAY 6) we were wiped out, but we were beginning to build lasting relationships with the mommies and their babies. We had all kind of gotten "our kid" who became our buddy and I was blessed to spend a lot of time with a little girl named, Azelynn. The first night she cried conitnually but gradually she started to go to me with ease and her mom felt better about it everytime she saw me there waiting for Azelynn. In fact, her mom almost didn't go to the ropes courses just because she was fearful of leaving Azelynn with someone new. That happened to be the day I volunteered to do Ride Care and boy was I glad I did when her mom's face showed a huge look of relief when she saw I was there to take Azelynn with me.
Our last night with the babies was hard. By this point, we'd become accustomed to walking them outside, playing in the baby pool, singing songs and playing games with them. They were loving us and we were sad when their mommies came to pick them up the last time. I had taken a lot of pics of Azelynn and me playing all week and her mom teared up when I gave her a few printouts I had someone make while they were in town.
Our final morning at camp was incredible. They have something called Say So which is where the moms all gather and say in front of their friends, leaders and children that they too believe this Jesus stuff and that they are ready to accept this gift of salvation. They then file out of the building for the New Believer's walk and each mom is given a Bible. At camp we had about 160 moms and 120 babies. Of those, about 50 mommies participated in the New Believers walk, which to me was just incredible!!!
Just before lunch we had our last little club as leaders and I just bawled. One of the skit characters all week got up and shared his testimony. He said when he was only 17 he, too, got his girlfriend pregnant. She had decided to abort the baby and he kind of resolved himself to letting her do her own thing. One night he said he'd decided to pray and felt that he was being called to go and marry this girl and help her raise the baby. He went to her house the next day and before he could tell her anything, she said she'd dreamt that she was supposed to have and raise this baby, with or without him. They married shortly after that and 20 years later, their little girl stood in front of all of us ALL week leading music!!! OH MY! I was a crying basketcase at that moment as I thought about what an impact this may have had on all these young mommas!! We boarded the bus back to the airport and I was excited to find out that Azelynn and her mom, Andrea were headed back with us. She was meeting her brother in Austin and was taking the shuttle back with us. I was happy to get to keep helping her out with Azelynn and when we arrived at the airport, I had about 2 hours to just sit and talk with her and learn more about her. I learned that she was the only girl of 8 children and her mom had overdosed when she was 9. Her baby's father was in jail (as were many of the dads) and she knew that she wasn't supposed to marry him. I asked her why and she said, "I just feel that I am supposed to marry someone who believes in the Lord and wants to raise Azelynn in a Christian home." I was stunned at her response and very proud of her decision. I encouraged her and assured her that marrying a Godly man was much more important than marrying Azelynn's biological father. Soon after, I loaded up that little girl into a car with no carseat, beer bottles in the back and an uncle who seemed less than enthused to be picking up his sister and niece. I smiled, waved good-bye and turned around crying as I got a glimpse of the reality this young momma lives in!!! WOW!
I learned a lot at camp for a week. I learned about Texas weather, having a heart of service, the difficulties of being a teen mom, the realities of some people's lives. I learned that a lot of people are willing to sacrifice their time to share the gospel with these moms in need and I learned how important it is to LOVE each person where they are in their life. I hope you enjoy the pictures and please continue to pray for me as I begin to research ways we can bring YOUNGLIVES to our area!!! The mom

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Camp Lolli and Pop

While I went on my mission trip to YoungLives Camp, the kids went to "Camp Lolli and Pop". They enjoyed horseback riding at a birthday party, swimming, and getting to see Chris Tomlin at the Riverbend Music Fesitval. I don't have too many pics of them whil they were there (makes sense, since I was in TX), but I do have pictures of them creating their Lolli and Pop camp shirts when they came home. The picture I took of the back of the shirts is hilarious! We were having a hard tim getting Ella to understand that I wanted to see the back of her shirt. So Harbin told her to turn around and show me her butt. So she turned around and tried to pull her shorts up which is why she looks like she is grabbing her behind!!! Oh and the pic you see of my table...well that was the little mishap we had. I asked the kids to bring up my sewing iron and my ironing board. Harbin put the iron on the table and Lydia decided to plug it in---all to be helpful of course. I momentarily smelt burning wood and went into my kitchen to discover the damage. Needless to say I was thinking of refinishing the table for our new kitchen we hope to remodel soon...just didn't think SO soon! The mom.