10 ways to improve camping (for a non-camper like me)

We went camping on Memorial Day weekend.  

For pictures and another perspective on the trip check out Andy’s post.

It was just one night, with our small group.  It was a lot of fun; beautiful surroundings and even more importantly, wonderful people.  The kids had an awesome time, and would probably make our permanent home a tent if they could.  

I could forgo the tent part in a heartbeat.

So, having had a day to reflect on our camping experience I have come up with some important things to keep in mind for next time.  You see, I’m new to camping.  

And camping isn’t exactly my first idea of “fun”.  It’s something that I have to work at having fun at.  And I think it’s probably something worth working on, which is why I’ve decided to write this list down for future reference.

1) Always, always, always bring an air mattress.  We slept on the ground.  And using the word “slept” to describe what happened while laying in the tent all night long is a stretch.  More like, laid in uncomfortable pain for many hours with my eyes closed pretending to be asleep.  

I realize that having the air mattress won’t change the ongoing night noises of camping (which also hinder sleep for a very light sleeper like myself) but at least I’ll be awake on a soft surface.  

2) Pay careful attention to the Movement of the Group (or, MOG).  It can happen in a split second and you never know when the MOG will do something unexpected (which will inevitably turn out to be the most fun thing to happen on the whole trip). I have a keen ability to be doing my own thing when the group is on the move, potentially doing something that will be the defining momentous occasion of the trip.  

Multiple times I found myself not doing what everyone else was, and having no idea where everyone was or how to find them.  It wasn’t anyone else’s fault; I just really need to improve my “group-looks-like-it-might-be-ready-for-a-move-and-I-better-pay-attention radar.”

3) Don’t sweat putting up the tent.  If it doesn’t go up perfectly right away, it is not a reflection of poor life skills or a sign that Mr. TommyD and I have a dysfunctional marriage.  Tents are tricky.  Especially if it’s a borrowed tent.  Putting up and taking down the tent is not a race or timed event.  

4) Bring a bib.  For heaven’s sake, bring a bib!  

5)And while your at it bring a broom and dustpan too,

6) Oh, and some coffee.  Don’t forget the coffee.

7) Go ahead and wash your hair in the outdoor faucet by the campsite.  Who cares what people think?  I would have been a much happier camper if I had been a little cleaner on the second day.  

8) Related to #1, just forget about sleep.  I actually already knew this going into it, but somehow still got caught up in the hope for decent sleep when we went to bed fairly early.  (Actually, it was just me and all the kids in the group who went to bed early.. see #9)

#9) Be sure to study up on the What Every Parent Intuitively Knows To Do While Camping Handbook.  Which doesn’t exist.  Because everyone already knows it.  The piece of the protocol I was unaware of was that after everyone gets into their tents as though they are going to sleep (psyche-out!), they just stay there long enough to get their kids to sleep, then come out and have a good time together.  

Mr. TommyD informed me of this after I was situated with PJ’s on and about to drift off to “sleep” with the kids.  At this point I thought, “Oh, they’ll just be up for a tiny bit and go to bed.. if I get up, it will be just in time for everyone to head to bed.”  I kept thinking this every 15 minutes for the next hour or so.  

Next time, I’ll get that right.

#10) I actually don’t have a number 10.  Except to remind myself that, as with everything, it’s about the people.  Enjoy the people, enjoy our family and let the rest go.  I’m not going to win a “best camper” award.  I will probably always be a little bit out of my comfort zone while camping.  

But I do want to be about loving people, loving my family and being a happy and delighted child of God, if not always a “happy camper.”  And I couldn’t have asked for better company this weekend.  I got to witness four other amazing families enjoying each other and God’s creation.  

I got to get to know them a bit better and the more I know them, the more I love them.  I love that they take an interest in my kids and spur us on to be better parents and spouses.  And it was a chance to get to know something (ie camping) that my husband really enjoys, and through that, to get to know him a little better too. 

All in all, I say, “Bring it on.  I’m ready for next time.”

parents, are you moralists or theologians?

Of course the two aren’t mutually exclusive.  

But what’s your bent when you teach your kids what Christianity is all about?  I admit that it’s easier for me to fall into teaching my kids the moralistic part of Christianity as the main point.

Bruce Ware, Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Seminary, has a new book out called, Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God.  Justin Taylor interviews him about it on his blog.  

Here’s the killer excerpt:

I suspect that most parents are more comfortable teaching their kids Christian ethics (love God, don’t love the world, tell the truth, don’t cheat or steal, etc.) than they are teaching them Christian theology (how can God be three and one? How is Jesus God and man?). Why is it important for parents to learn good theology and pass it on to their kids?

He follows up the question by saying:

The Christian faith is not moralism. Yet, we can (wrongly and dangerously!) pervert the Christian faith into this, in our homes and our churches. Our lists of “do’s” and “don’t’s” can become the sum and substance of our understanding of the Christian faith, and in this self-esteem saturated culture, this ends up redounding to the glory of the “self,” not the glory of God.

How much time do I spend making sure my kids understand the morality of Christianity compared to the time I spend diligently teaching them the truths of who God is, why Jesus came, and the total depravity of man.  We do talk about them, but is it primary?    

Moralism is easy.

It’s easy for grown-ups and kids.  We all know what to do with a rule.  Don’t lie.  Be kind.  Pray often.  Don’t envy.  And then we either feel good about keeping it or we feel good about breaking it.  Or guilty.  But massive weighty truths about God affect us differently.  They actually have the power to transform our mind, our heart, our worldview.

Here’s some truths that Dr. Ware says we all need to embrace, learn and teach:

  • who God is in his eternal fullness as the triune God,
  • who God is as Creator of all that is,
  • who we are as created in his image,
  • what sin is and has done to us,
  • why Christ came, who Christ is,
  • what he accomplished,
  • how we receive the benefits of his work on the cross,
  • what God provides for us to grow as his people,
  • what these communities of faith called “churches” are and what they contribute,
  • and what hope we have for life now and forever

I haven’t read Dr. Ware’s book, so I won’t endorse it.  But the stuff from his interview sure is helpful.  

How do you navigate being a parent-theologian?  It’s a big job isn’t it?!

some good and not-so-good reasons to memorize fighter verses

We memorize fighter verses at church.  They’re just sets of verses that take us through the year.  For more info on them check out my “I recommend” page.  Also this week’s fighter verse (and every week’s) can be found and meditated on at fighterverses.com.  Here’s this week’s:

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!  Psalm 34:1-3

I encourage everyone to memorize the fighter verses.  Or memorize Scripture according to whatever plan you have set up for yourself.  It’s beneficial.  

That said, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.  Who can know it?  So, even something like memorizing the Bible can be done with the wrong motives.  Here’s some examples of good and not-so-good reasons to memorize fighter verses:

no-so-good: I learned the fighter verse because I wanted to be called on Sunday morning to recite it and show everyone how holy I am.  

good: I learned the fighter verse because I wanted to be called on Sunday morning to recite it and encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ with the Word of God on my lips.

not-so-good:  I learned the fighter verse so I could recite it Sunday morning in the hopes that one of the pastoral staff would recognize me and congratulate me for my job well done.

good: I learned the fighter verse so I could recite it Sunday morning and one of the pastoral staff could point to me and say, “If Abigail (low brain function) can do it, then you can too!” and encourage others in their goals.  

not-so-good: I learned the fighter verse and taught it to my children so they could recite it Sunday morning (and on cue everywhere else) to show everyone what a good parent I am.

good: I learned the fighter verse and taught it to my children so that God’s Word would be in their mind and hopefully make its way to their heart.  

not-so-good: I learned the fighter verse so that next time I see “so and so” I can slap them up side the head with it.  They are always boasting and this week’s verse is about that.  They definitely need to work on that area of their life.  Plus, they’ll see how holy I am.

good:  I learned the fighter verse so that with humility, I can begin to look at the wickedness of my own heart through the lens of Scripture.  

Of course, in order to come up with these reasons, you can safely assume that I’ve had inklings towards all of them.  Even if subconscious at times.  I’m not sure the human race is capable of a motive that is 100% pure.  

But even if your motives are wrong or partly wrong and you’re working on making them pure, keep memorizing.  When I was a child in AWANA, I guarantee you my motives had nothing to do with putting God’s Word in my heart.

They had to do with winning.  I was ultra competitive.  I wanted to say more verses than anyone else and I wanted my team to win.  Memorizing verses was a means to winning.  Yet, God in His grace has not let His Word return void in my life.  

The foundation of verses stored up in my mind as a child have made their way to my heart.  And I am exceedingly grateful that they are there.  And I long to add to them.  Maybe you’ll consider what God might do through Scripture memory in your life?

Mr. TommyD and 13 things

At the marriage retreat we were given an assignment to make a list of 25 things we appreciate about our spouse.  I thought I share some of my list with you.  I’ll do 13, because his birthday is on the 13th of April.  And you might get bored with 25.  

Mr. TommyD is a great guy, it’d be a terrible thing to keep all his wonderfulness to myself!

Did I mention I like lists?  

1) He extols and praises God in everyday speech with whomever he’s around.  

2) He leads our family in worship and when he worships God, it’s contagious.

3) He takes risks.  Not dumb blind risks, but risks that require trusting God and are for our good.

4) He goes for things.  He started his own business.  He’s good at it.  

5) If I’m exhausted from being up with the baby and he doesn’t have an early meeting, he does breakfast with the kids and lets me sleep.

6) He listens to and values my input.  He actually asks for it and wants to know what I think about things.

7) He regularly examines his own soul.  He doesn’t often accuse me of things or judge me or question my motives.  He looks for the flaws in himself before he approaches me with a problem I have.

8) He is hungry for our kids to see God in a transforming way and for them to fall in love with God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

9) He does most of the bills.  (that one looks small, but boy is it big).

10) He’s a great gift-giver.  He surprised me with the MacBook I’m now typing on, and for Christmas got me gift certificates to a spa (one for me and one for a friend to bring along).

11) He initiates prayer with the kids and me, everyday.

12) He’ll pick up supper when I’m worn out and doesn’t view it a deficiency on my part.  In other words, he’s gracious and understanding about what it’s like to take care of three little ones and the home.

13) He uses my hairdryer to warm up the bed sheets before I get in at night.  

Yep, I know, he’s great.  What does your spouse do that you appreciate?  Have you told them?  They might be pleasantly surprised!

sunday misadventures

Every parent knows the strange things that can happen on a Sunday morning that prevent you from getting out your door and into the doors of church.  

It’s a universal phenomenon.  

The baby spitting up moments after getting her sunday clothes on.  The preschooler who’s missing a shoe.  The school-age child who is buckled in the car, only to remember they forgot the baby bottle they’ve been collecting change in that is due back this very Sunday.

This Sunday surpassed our usual Sunday slow-downs.

It started with Elianna.  My 17-month-old’s nose started to drip blood out one side like a leaky faucet, just a I’m getting coats on the older two.   By the time I reached her, she had smeared it everywhere and looked like she came straight from Nightmare on Elm Street.

We made it to church on time, but were slowed by a lack of parking and long lines at the kids’ check-in.  When I sat down for the service, the announcements had just begun.  I’m thinking, not too bad.

After church, I herd the kids to the car by myself, because Tom had been to first service, having played on the worship team.  He left after he was done playing for second service to head home and shovel/salt the driveway for small group at our house later that night.  So it’s just the kids and me.

The kids are buckled and I hear Eliza push the lever to close the automatic sliding door on our minivan–not unusual, however, the sounds I heard upon the door latching were quite out of the ordinary.  Her screams still echo in my head as I write this.  

Her hand was shut in the door.  The 3-5 seconds it took me to find the button to re-open the door and free her hand were some of the longest in my life.  

I generally think of myself as cool under pressure.  But it took everything I had to contain the utter chaos I felt inside.  I wanted to scream for help and tear my clothes.  And I hadn’t even had my hand shut in the door!

So, I quickly find a friend who’s cell phone I can borrow to call Tom and tell him I’m heading for the ER, just certain that her hand is broken.  Her crying is still pretty intense and the hand looks ugly.  He agrees to meet me there.  But, after returning the cell phone and having my friend look at it, things didn’t seem quite so bad.

The crying slowed to an intermittent whimper and the hand was now bending and recognizable.  

After making an ice-pack with a plastic target bag and some handfuls of snow, we decide to go home.  At home, Tom is waiting anxiously for us in the garage.  He examines the hand and by now, it is swollen some, but moving well.  And Eliza is cheerful.

But wait, there’s more.

I begin cleaning and vacuuming for small group.  Pretty soon, Eliza comes upstairs saying, “There’s a big flood down there.”  I think, hmmm, maybe Tom overflowed the toilet.  Nope.  Eliza says, “It’s in the laundry room.  Daddy’s cleaning it up.”  

Turns out, Tom had turned the faucet on in our utility sink in the laundry room.  He was going to clean out our Bissel wet vac, which had been used the prior Sunday to clean up vomit (we were all sick), when he got the call about Eliza’s hand.  He had quickly forgotten the water in the sink during the mayhem of the moment.  Thankfully, he cleaned up the flooded laundry room, with no damage to the house.  

And here’s my confession.

When he told me that he’d forgotten about the water turned on in the sink, my first reply was, “Oh, you went to watch the game and forgot about it?”  Ouch.  Nothing like assuming the worst and being 100% wrong.  Well, I’m hoping for a very uneventful next Sunday.  And if I can’t get that, I’ll settle for a Sunday sans blood, mangled hands or floods.  

Do you have any Sunday stories?

pro-life reading for the youngest among us

I just read Dr. Suess’s Horton Hears a Who! for the first time last week.  The kids got it for Christmas and it’s one of the Dr. Suess books that I’ve never read.  I was really missing out!  

This now replaces Green Eggs and Ham as my favorite Dr. Suess book.

Most surprising of all, was the amazing pro-life message it offers.  Horton, a large elephant, discovers a voice coming from a speck of dust.  He comes to find out that it’s not just a voice, but a whole town called Whoville that lives on the speck.

So Horton, lovingly and protectively, guards the speck, now lodged on a clover.  Carrying the clover everywhere he goes, his motto repeats, “Because, after all, a person’s  a person, no matter how small.”  

He faces persecution from a kangaroo and a pack of monkeys, who are set on boiling the clover in beezle-nut oil, in order to get Horton to give up his obsession of protecting the clover.  They don’t believe that there are any people on the speck.  They think Horton is crazy and don’t care about the supposed Who’s of Whoville.  

Finally, after Horton as been mauled and beaten, the Who’s of Whoville shout as loud as they can, all together, with even the smallest Who doing their best, and the monkeys and kangaroo hear the Who’s at last.  

The town is saved and the elephant smiles saying, “They’ve proved they ARE persons, no matter how small.  And their whole world was saved by the Smallest of All.”  

The book ends with the conversion of the kangaroo.  He says, “From sun in the summer.  From rain when it’s fall-ish, I’m going to protect them.  No matter how small-ish.”

Some make subjective the issue of aborting babies, saying, “Is this really life?”  But we know that babies in the womb are alive; they certainly aren’t dead.  Or, “Is it viable?”  The time of viability keeps getting younger and younger. Or, “Is it a human?”  Well, it definitely isn’t a monkey or an elephant.  

The question is, will our society protect the smallest among us?  Those who, like the Who’s of Whoville, have no way to protect themselves from the bigger people around them.  

I want to be more like Horton.  Even beaten and mauled, he protected those who could not protect themselves.  He made converts out of people that had boiling beezle-nut oil.  

Horton had guts and love.  We could all use a little more of those.