How Many Summers?
Over 1000 kids gathered under one roof and throughout the grounds for Kid Fest, our church's twist on Vacation Bible School . . . and it's not your mother's VBS for sure! Adults in neon green shirts with Event Staff on the back, many who have taken vacation time to spend these Bible-School -on-steriods days with their 'campers'. Kids in every color under the sun who sing and clap and dance and shriek with joy over the slime machine's next victim and play with total abandon in the inflatables and water slides and who can't help but be pulled into full focus on the story of the prodigal son. Everyone finding out in the high octane large group sessions or the unexpected quiet one on one moments that grace is all about us getting something wonderful that none of us deserve. It's a great way to spend some significant summer days.
But today was different. Today after another exciting high energy morning, I walked out into the sunshine . . . and missed my kids. I drove away without the conversations over a crispy chicken sandwich from Wendy's about what adventures and conversations the morning had brought. For the first time in 19 years it was just me at "VBC". And because that summer tradition was one we'd loved from the days I dragged my son along in a Pack'n'Play while I taped camels and market awnings to our classroom walls, shared smiles of joy with my daughter finally wearing a red shirt as a real camper and not in childcare for volunteers (albeit still not too happy to see me in character for the daily drama sketches), to the last few summers when we'd all served together and knew we all loved it, their absence hit noticeably. All those memories washed over me of their camper days at VBC and then what a privilege it had been in the midst of my own responsibilities to also catch glimpses of ten campers all negotiating for a piggy back ride or the coveted spot sitting alongside their counselors - my kids who'd caught the ministry bug and were doing such a great job of spilling Jesus' love all over their campers, dancing with such joy on her face it was contagious or taking his turn in the slime machine being coated unmercifully with pickles one day and pancake batter the next!
In the downtime today between sessions backstage we found ourselves talking about our kids and bracing for the teen years. Someone said to me, "Wait, you have good teenagers, that gives me hope!" And it gives me hope too, for that's why I miss my son and daughter - they're good kids! God's grown hearts in them that love Him and the kids and peers and people around them. But He's also given them opportunities this summer to live and learn and love those around them a little further away than our hometown Kid Fest. I guess that's the bittersweet part of life for any parent as the transition from roots to wings continues. Tomorrow I'll go back for another day of Kid Fest and I'm sure once again, I'll be rather acutely aware that there's two beloved good teenagers who aren't in service alongside me this year. But intertwined with that little hole in my heart is knowing that they are making a difference in some other corners of the world this summer and carrying on the legacy that was fed in part by all those summers at Vacation Bible Camp. So tomorrow when I leave, I think I'll enjoy a crispy chicken sandwich and raise a Frosty toast to my two good kids.