royal family kids camp

To my Royal family: 1+1+1=1

To my Royal family,

I started writing this on Friday in the gazebo around 7am which turned out to be a horrible idea as I swatted away multiple mosquitoes (I rounded out at 19 bug bites).

Before I get into it I want you reading this to take a deep breath with me and say the following statement (which you can obviously edit if you don’t like my word choice):

“We did the damn thing”

I don’t know about you but this was my most exhausting year at camp. It’s Sunday and I barely did anything yesterday and I might feel rested now. Maybe.

Since Friday morning I’ve been contemplating what I learned this year from the kids and from you guys. I’ve been trying to think about what my first thoughts of take away are from this year.

Every year there is a small piece of me that thinks I might hit a point where the magic wears off. Where my love for this kids and this camp won’t be enough to push through. I came into this year of camp probably at the lowest I ever have. I’m pretty burned out, fresh out of ideas for things happening in my own classroom and just plain tired.

I wrote about this at the beginning of the week but the moment I got out of the car at Pinecrest I felt new again.

And then the week began.

And as I am every year- I am amazed by the way all of you love and serve the kids.

Obviously we aren’t all perfect and there are things that happen that I don’t agree with and that frustrates me, but it’s those moments that you all think no one sees. It’s when you bend down to listen to a tinier camper or when you give an older, tougher boy a chance to be a kid.

It’s when you get into the pool with the kids and see the look on their faces that you would get in the water. Or when you get up on stage to dance and it lights up their faces.

The thing about a week at camp is that the effects last a lifetime. Five days can change the course of everything.

Even just one of those five days.

I think we know that, somewhere deep inside, but I think sometimes we forget that each year of camp changes us and leaves a mark on us.

This year camp changed me more than others. And even as I sit here on Sunday morning I’m overwhelmed with just how much I love those kids. Even more than I thought possible.

I’m not quite sure how it changed me yet if I’m being honest, but this year left a mark on me (and not just the bug bites and the two bruises I got in the pool). I’m not ready to go back to life yet, I’m not ready to leave and I’m not sure how to take what I have now into my life.

But, in that, I want to remind you to take a moment or two or three, today and next week and the week after and jot some things down about camp. What you learned, what you didn’t want to learn and what you are holding on to. I want you to shake off things you don’t need and place things at His feet that you don’t need to carry.

I want you to remember that you are amazing. Whether you are a teen staff, a counselor, a staff member stationed at activities or a staff that was constantly moving locations, a grandma or grandpa, aunt, uncle or a dean. If you are someone who can’t come to camp but in hours with quilting or fundraising or the birthday party. If you were my team coach or work with the LIT. If you were one of our amazing staff counselors or last but certainly not least- if you are Becca or Susan:

You are amazing and out of this world.

Every year I am blessed, excited and beyond words with getting to work with, laugh with, and say all the words or no words with.

We did the damn thing for the kids.

We learned what worked. (The pool system)

We learned what didn’t go well ( #ripvarietyshow2k19)

And we on top of all of the that: we loved, we WERE love and I think we received more love than we can comprehend.

Every year I’m in awe of the kids and every year I’m in awe of you guys.

Another year in the books.

So let’s take a breath, write some reminders for next year and take what we learned into Monday and see how we can bring a little bit of camp to ourselves each day.

I love you all.

Until next year,

Meg

royal family kids camp, To dream

He restores my soul

I rarely take the time to write at camp.

I know I should- I should pause, still myself and take a breath and look around.

For me camp is giving out every last piece of who are to the kids. It’s piling layer upon laying of sunscreen on myself and logging 20,000+ steps. It’s saying yes and yes and yes again.

It could be in the form of helping lug something upstairs or walking from the chapel to the dining hall and back again because counselors need another human to walk with them.

Camp to me is sitting outside the bathroom in the mornings watching campers go in and out and in and out so their counselors can go get coffee.

But, tonight as my friend Tyler was leading communion and reading from psalm 23 something hit me.

Now, I’ve read that psalm multiple times, memorized it with kiddos and even taught it at camp five years ago.

As he read it tonight the words “He restores my soul” caused my throat to get a little scratchy and caused phrases to pour out of my mind.

Because, yes, this week is about the kids. It’s my most favorite, hardest, hilarious and tiring week of the year and it’s all about the kids.

Today, I realized something beautiful.

This week, every year, without fail- he restores my soul.

I come tired, wearied, and feeling as if I have nothing to give but the moment I set foot on this campus: He restores my soul.

I felt it the moment I opened the car door and felt it seep down to my toes.

It took my back to each year and the memory and feeling.

I’ve always known this week brings me life and laughter and joy.

But this week He brings me back to a piece of myself that I forget about.

He reminds me of stories that need to be told and stories that have already been written.

He helps me take a deep breath and he restores parts of me I thought not able to fixed.

Now, I write all these things for three reasons:

One is to remind you to think of us this week, as we keep going and going and going for the kids.

One is for me to remind myself of the feeling of hope that lives here.

And lastly again, for you to remember to find the things that piece you back together and fill your nooks and crannies.

Whatever it is that restores your soul find and keep it.

Deep breaths to the toes my friends.

And to my friends at camp: let’s do this.

royal family kids camp

YOU are my lighthouse

Dear Royal Family,

I am tired.

I’ve been pondering words to you about this week since Friday morning before the week was over. I wanted to take time to sit at the gazebo and write some words in my journal but, instead, my journal is filled with a couple pages of drawings from one of the LIT girls who needed a bit of space from her room.

I wasn’t really sure what to write honestly, because I am just exhausted.

This past week was full. It was fun. There was a lot of laughter. There was a lot of water. There were a lot of deep breathes.

And, right now, as I am typing this, I am getting tears in my eyes.

Because even though I’m exhausted and have no desire to be around people, I would do it all again tomorrow.

The moment for me this year at camp was during LIT graduation.

I turned to face the 22 LITs on the stage and I looked in their eyes.

And I saw it. I saw all the things that they had inside of them. I saw the leadership, the care, the encouragement.

I saw the courage.

I saw all of those things shoving down all the bad, all the hurt and the shame and the pain.

I saw a flicker of hope.

It was there.

Starting to burn a little brighter, starting to rise up out of them.

It might have only been for that moment, but they believed what I was saying.

It might have been only a split second, but they understood what it meant to believe in themselves.

They understood what it was to be believed in.

Obviously at camp, my goal, my reason for being there is to love the kids.

I want to show them love, out of the overflow of love I’ve been given.

But, in that love I want them to know that they have power inside of them. I want them to find the ability to believe in themselves.

I want them to know that we believe in them.

I got my 8th tattoo today (ironically at the end of my 8th year at camp).

This tattoo is for all who are apart of my Royal Family.

For you, the adults, and for every kid who has crossed my path at camp.

I got my first “picture” tattoo. A starfish.

It’s my reminder for so many things. To stop for the one. To remember that I have gifts and abilities that I can utilize. It is to remind me of the one week a year that impacts over 100 kids and over 100 adults.

It’s my reminder of you guys.

Because you guys are amazing.

On Monday, I was looking at everyone at devotions and thinking of the hundreds of work hours that were being missed, of the families still at home, of the projects put on hold.

All for the kids.

Woof.

I had typed thank you. But that doesn’t seem big enough.

Because, yes, everything we do during Royal Family, is for the kids.

But, it’s also for each other.

We encourage the kids.

We encourage each other.

We cheer them on.

We cheer on each other.

We believe in the kids.

We believe in each other.

So, that being said:

I want you to know that I believe in you. I want you to know that I have hope for you and courage for you.

I want you to know that you might have things in your life that have been hard or traumatic or scarring but I want you to know that there is love for you.

You have things that are ready to rise up out of you.

We have 51 weeks out of the year to live life out of what we’ve learned at camp, 51 weeks to be a lighthouse for others.

So, let’s the do the damn thing.

I love you and treasure you guys more than you’ll know.

Meg (Gem, Junapera)

royal family kids camp

To my Royal family 2017

To my Royal Family,
I put off writing this as long as I could, mainly because I didn’t want to start crying. 

So, obviously writing this on an airplane is something that sounded right.

I’ve been closing my week of royal family out for the last 4-5 years or so with a letter to you, those whose I do the thing with and it’s become one of my favorite writing pieces that I work on.

.family.

I learn something, as we all do, every year at camp.

Day in and day out for the better part of the last 11 years I’ve taken care of tiny humans. Even amidst my travels abroad and the times in between, I’ve found myself filling in at my old preschool, teaching English, babysitting and volunteering at VBS.

I don’t seem to find kids; they seem to find me.

The job that I’ve held for the last two years has been the most exhausting to date. It pulls out of parts of me that have been hard to refill. It’s thrown my life more out of balance than anything I’ve every encountered.

It’s been hard.

And for reasons, some still out of my grasp, I belong there. The people make my heart soar and I’ve adored the families I’ve been privileged to walk alongside of for the last two years.

But, as per usual, camp did something. It reminded me of things I think I’ve tried to bury and shove to the side.

I was pretty busy this week at camp. Moving from an Afro and sequins, to khaki pants and a field guide, to a swimsuit and back again.

#itsbecauseweprayed

I was exhausted.

BUT I wasn’t weary.

These kids get me every year.

It’s in the moment where they comprehend they get birthday presents, or the moment where they hold the slimy sea creatures, or pass the swim test.

It’s in the moment where they understand they are allowed to be a kid.

And especially in the moment that they realize that we believe for their futures.

Some things never change.

Getting to find ways to tell each kiddo that they were meant for more, for greater, that they are allowed to dream.

That gets me.

That got me.

This year, albeit exhausting, I was able to grab some of that for myself. 

I had forgotten or maybe even chosen to push aside the fact that I am meant for more.

I think I’ve had so many unsuccessful feeling days over the last year that I’ve lost that fact that I’m good at what I do.

Camp grants us a week to allow the gifts and talents and abilities inside of ourselves to be used to the fullest potential possible.

We don’t hold back at camp.

This week I was reminded of a few things: I have the ability to find joy in what I do, I miss telling kids about Jesus and lastly, that I shouldn’t hold back, ever.

what happens in drama (doesn’t always) stay in drama

The Sunday after camp I went to NMC, a place that has become my home church in California and Pastor Jordan talked about how Jesus delegates his ministry to the disciples. He used a passage from Mark that always hits me in the eyes:

“He went up in the hillside and called those whom He himself wanted and chose; and they came to Him” (mark 3:13)

I remember when I first heard that verse. It’s an action verse. There is nothing passive in picking up and following Christ. There is nothing passive in choosing to pick up and step into the things that God has given us to use.

LIT partner in crime. And my cousin Terra-cotta

This weekend it reminded me that all the things I use at camp, all the acting, all the leadership, all the yelling and all the love I delve into at camp is with me the other 51 weeks of the year.

And my amazing, breathtakingly awesome royal family: they are all in you too.

So in a month or two, when the thrill of camp is gone, or when you are back in your job, or feel as if you have nothing to give, please remember that camp is always in you.

The love you have to give. The gifts you bring to the table. The silliness to get you through. It’s all in you, each and every day.

You guys inspire me. With you are, what you have and what you bring.

It’s always with you.
It’s not about taking the joy of Christmas with you all year, it’s about taking the joy of camp with you.

On Wednesdays we match

I cannot wait until we can physically do the thing again together, but I know in spirit, spread out from there to here and here to there, we can choose, daily, to bring what we have to camp, to the people in our lives daily.

I love you all so much.

Sincerely,

Dr. Pembroke, Junapera, Coach Sox, Meghan,

Meg.

hope is a verb, royal family kids camp

To my counselor: a letter

A day or so into camp I was asked if I’d write a letter from the perspective of a camper. I got teary-eyed just contemplating the words I’d scratch on paper. There are a few key things that get me every year at camp. So I took a couple mornings in the gazebo and part of the car ride home to change my perspective to the other side of camp. I’m working on my letter to my Royal Family, but wanted to post this first. Hidden in it are parts of my why. Why I come to camp and why I chose to fly to California to do the thing with the humans I do. 

To my counselor,

I was really nervous to come to camp. I had never been to camp before.

There were so many kids there, getting on busses and it was loud and busy. Whenever there are a lot of kids, I usually get forgotten about.

I’m nothing special.

When I got on the bus a kid sat next to me that had been to camp. They told me that the camp people were the nicest people they had met.

That they loved us no matter what.

I couldn’t believe that.

How could someone love you no matter what?

The bus ride felt really long and bumpy.

I felt butterflies start again when it was announced we were almost there.

Would my counselor like me? Would I have a place to sleep? Would there be enough food?

Then the bus turned the corner and there was a big group of people in blue shirts holding signs.

It was so loud and bright and all the people looked so happy.

And that’s when I saw it.

My name.

It was printed on a sign, held up by a stick.

And you were there.

Yelling and smiling and cheering.

You knew my name.

When they called out my name you got so excited, like you’d been waiting to meet me all your life.

When we finally got to our room that first day it looked so cool.

And my name was everywhere.

It was even on a blanket.

You told us that people prayed for us and whenever we covered ourselves up we could remember that there were a lot of people who cared about us and loved us without ever seeing us.

I didn’t get it.

How could people love us without knowing us?

This camp wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

Then it was time to go swimming for the first time.

I got kind of nervous when you said you weren’t swimming with us, but you said you would be back.

I wasn’t so sure. People don’t always come back.

The pool time flew by quickly and then there you were.

You showed up.

You came back.

Just like you said.

And those things didn’t change all week.

You said my name so much, like it was your favorite word.

So did all the people at camp.

My name has never been said, so much, so nicely, ever.

You always smiled at me.

And were so excited about what I had done and accomplished.

You always came back whenever you left for a meeting or dropped me off at the pool.

You always came back.

The end of the week came too fast.

And as we were packing up I noticed you still putting my name on everything. You helped me tuck things in safe places and made sure I had everything I had made. 

Right before I got in the bus you gave me a book filled with notes and stickers and pictures of me.

I noticed something about the pictures: I looked happy.

Thank you for reminding me what a smile felt like.

Thank you for always coming back.

Thank you for laughing with me.

Thank you for showing me I was special.

And thank you for knowing my name.

Love,

Your camper

royal family kids camp, stateside

To my Royal Family

To the fabulous people of the Newport Mesa Royal Family Kids Camp:

Female LIT counselor and our dean (AKA my OC mom)
I’m at my church in Washington right now, holding back tears.

I’m tired, emotionally exhausted, a little beat up-it goes without saying that my heart is broken.

It was a tough week up on the mountain. Every five minutes felt like a battle I wasn’t ready for, every word I said was rememebered, the good, the bad and the ugly. One of the purple people asked me at the church, after all the kids had gone, what my biggest challenge was during the week. I didn’t even have to think about the anwser.

One of the things you should know about me is that I have about ten years of early education under my belt. I never went to school for it, I’ve taken maybe 6 or 7 classes, so most of my knowledge is trial and error. Mainly error.

So when asked what my biggest challenge was–my response was easy. Seeing how the things I know of child development acted out to the extreme. Knowing that structure and rules= love. And knowing that those things will pushed at.

longest tuesday ever NBD
That they were pushed at–all week.

But you keep going. You stay. You remain. Then at the end of the week in the last five minutes the kid who deemed you “mean counselor meg who always says no” runs up to you to give you a hug.

my fellow world traveler
Camp is for the kids. That’s true. If it wasn’t for the kids-I probably wouldn’t do it. It wouldn’t be worth it. It certainly doesn’t always feel good, or make sense. But it’s for the kids so at the end of the day it does indeed make sense and is worth it.

But for me camp is also a family business. Coming to camp is coming home, coming to something that feels like the most wacky normal ever. Coming to camp is coming to family.

I was also asked by purple people why in the world I would fly from Washington.

It’s easy. This is the camp my family goes too. It’s my people. My home base.

family.
You guys inspire me. Year after year. I beam thinking about the amazing people that take a week out of their lives to be on a mountain, eating camp food and sleeping on duct tape for a chance to make a kid smile.

I’m grateful to be apart of your family.

Thanks for always welcoming me home.

With love,

Junapera aka mean counselor Meg.
(Special shout-outs to: Michele for my caboodle, Becca, Kim, Tyler and Priscilla for outfitting my room, Kinda for the same and also lanyards, Krystle for helping my dream of being a gospel back-up singer come a little more true, Casey for being Casey, everyone for never making fun of my makeup when I let the kids do my makeup, teen staff for being the best, Sue for regaling me with a story that made me almost fall to the ground in laughter and tears, Brooke for not judging my morning vocabulary, the ladies of Cedar for being the best, Lauren for being a kindred soul at camp, Ryan for not putting me in a headlock, Sarah for being the best surprise buddy a girl could have and for riding the struggle bus, airplane and coaster with me and of course to my second family the Choi’s for letting me out of dog sitting 7 years ago so I could come to camp.)

royal family kids camp, stateside, To dream

playing haman: be your own sparkle tape

{As you know from my last blog I was up in the mountains of southern California last week at Royal Family Kids Camp.}

The Saturday before we left for camp I got a phone call from the drama coordinator, who happens to be one of my cheerleaders in life, Michele. She asked me if I wouldn’t mind being in the drama that year.

Sure! I’d love to be a part of the wonderfully, wacky group of people who put on the drama.

Who would I be playing?

Haman.

If you don’t know the story of Esther all you need to know is that Haman was Hitler before Hitler existed. He wanted to kill all the Jews and then at the end of the story he was hung in the gallows. (if you prefer the veggie tales version he is sent to the island of perpetual tickling.)

Now the being in the drama was fine. I was in theater in high school and have no problem making a fool of myself in front of kids. So, what was I actually worried about?

It may sound dumb but I was worried I was going to be booed.

In the past I’ve watched the person playing the “evil” character get booed through the week.

So I started in early. All day Monday before the kids met Haman I told the them that I would be playing a man who made really bad choices and I made them agree they would still be my friend.

(Ok ok I may have resorted to bribery with scrapbook tape and stickers)

Guess what? I didn’t get booed.

The kids came up to me and had conversations about what was going to happen to Haman, the choices he made, how tantrums don’t solve anything. On the off chance a kid called me Haman, I would look at them shocked and ask if I was wearing a wig. Most of the time they’d giggle and say no then call me Miss Meg (and ask me for some sparkle tape).

My 5 day stint as Haman made me think of all the times in life where I was freaked out about what COULD happen. Like this week, last year, I was afraid to go to Spain for so many reasons.

One main one was “what if they don’t like me?”. Which, like being afraid of being booed was so very dumb. People I loved, and who loved me were already there waiting to hug me when I got off the plane.

But like my sparkle tape to the kids I took “precautions” when I got to Spain.

I did. I volunteered for things and was overly helpful.

For so long I thought the value I brought was ONLY by what I did.

But of course, when it came down to it none of THAT really mattered. I remember the week of reunion when I had been there a mere 6 weeks Kellen came up to me and told me I was appreciated (and what he may not know is I lost it promptly after). It hit me hard that I had barely been there- and that people were seeing ME, not the role I was attempting to play.

I forget that who I am is someone who is capable of being appreciated and loved. Who I was last week was still a person who the kids knew loved them. So even IF they would have booed me they would still know I loved them. (Though I stand by the fact the sparkle tape DEFINITELY helped.)

I believe it’s one of those deeply rooted human lies that we each have: that we aren’t enough without the things that we can bring to the table. And I believe that singular thing can cause us to NOT bring what we really have. I believe it causes us to bring THINGS not HEART.

It causes us to SET things on the table and not SIT at the table.

Playing Haman was hilarious. I got to spend my nights at camp with some hysterical people and I got to use gifts that have been long buried. I could have said no to playing Haman, because I was a wee bit worried, but that would have been silly.

I shook hands to an agreement to do the thing in Washington back in October, sitting in front of El Ultimo Mono. And that handshake agreement is officially in real life. In now time. There is a cute little yellow house waiting for me with a roommate whom I adore to the moon and back.

And all of those lies that I’m not enough, that I have nothing to bring, that I’m going to fail, they’ve all made rounds in my head.

We can’t be afraid to just sit at the table. We can’t be afraid to bring what we deem nothing to a table that seems bursting with everyone else’s gifts and talents.

It’s ourselves that matter. It’s what is innately in us. We don’t have to bring anything extra. Sure, you can if you want too but it’s not necessary.

And at the table you are surrounded by people who won’t let you be scared off by some silly little lie that you aren’t enough. Or that someone is going to boo you, or not see who you actually are outside of the job you work to pay the bills.

Show up and open your mouth in spite of what people may think and see what happens. Show up even if you think you might get booed because of a way you used to be in the past. Show up even if you think that someone ELSE may deem you unqualified.

Show up not to PROVE you are enough but to ACKNOWLEDGE that you know that you are.

Don’t bring sparkle tape to the table- be your own sparkle tape.