Tag Archives: Tennessee

Communication Camp

Last week, my two oldest children traveled to Tennessee with my sister to attend their first Communication Camp. My sister and niece taught the camp, and actually, it was their first one too. And what a learning experience it was!

Following a curriculum my sister created, campers learned through instruction, workbook exercises, and group games and assignments. Both of my children came back saying they had so much fun and learned a lot. After reading through the teacher’s manual, I learned a lot, too.

Topics covered at the camp included the good manners in communication that you’d expect, as well as many more you might not. Students ages 9 and up learned how to introduce themselves and others, even when they’ve forgotten someone’s name; how to give their full attention when another is speaking; how to reach out to people who would normally be left out; how to make small talk; how to speak in front of a group; and much, much more.

How did the camp affect my children? They came away from the experience having gained some very important life skills, ones I’ve let slip by in the busyness of schoolwork and life in general. We’ve already begun implementing some of them in the way the kids communicate with each other. My daughter used to come running to tell me the latest unkind comment her brother said; now, she goes to him first and tells him how it made her feel, and he is usually receptive and offers an apology, even without my prompting him.

One of my favorite parts of the curriculum is how the lessons in communication tied in with lessons about the Great Communicator, Jesus. A short Bible study is related to each topic covered; by following Jesus’ example, we too can learn to be attentive, understanding, aware, welcoming, and transparent — lessons not only for children, but for adults as well.

Next year, maybe we’ll all attend the camp!

Photo by Calgrin


At a Doe River Gorge, a Christian campground in Elizabethton, Tennessee, my family was introduced to the game Octoball. An easy game to learn, it’s been a hit with all of my children, and it’s a game they can all play together.

Octoball is an outdoor game played in an octagonal “ring” made of eight boards, each one 12′ x 8′ x 2″. New wood from the lumber store can be expensive, but older pieces can be used. Once the ring is set up, all you need is a volleyball, and you’re ready to play.

The object of the game is similar to that of dodgeball — avoid getting hit by the ball. The last person standing in the ring is declared the winner.

To play, one person starts the play by throwing the ball and hitting it on the side of the ring.  Then players try to hit each other with the ball. If a player hits the ball and it touches another player below the knee, then that player is out; if it hits above the knee, the player is still in the game.

Additional rules include:

  • No player may hit the ball twice in succession unless the ball hits the wall in between hits.
  • If a player hits the ball and it goes out of the ring without touching the wall, that player is out.
  • If a player hits the ball and it touches the wall and then goes out of the ring, that player is still in the game.

While older kids can usually hit the ball with more force and better direction, the younger ones can run and jump quickly out of the way. The last two left in the ring often differ a great deal in age, making it a fun game for everyone!

What is a home?

park 002aWhat is a home? Or rather, what is my home? What is the home I’ve created for my family?

I thought about that this past weekend when we went to visit my sister and brother-in-law in Tennessee. They had just moved into a new home last month.

There are lots of sayings about home. “Home Sweet Home.” “A man’s home is his castle.” “Home is where your heart is.” “A home is built with love and dreams.” But the one I like best I heard in a song by Michael Card, and this weekend I was reminded of that song.

My sister and her husband live near the Virginia state line, where the landscape consists of grassy meadows and rolling hills. During our visit, we went to look at some cabins at a nearby campground. The cabins were situated next to a river, and in the stillness all you could hear was the water tumbling over the rocks.

What a peaceful place, I thought, and then I remembered the chorus to Michael Card’s song Home. The first part of the chorus goes like this:

Home is a comfort and home is a light
A place to leave the darkness outside
Home is a peaceful and ever full feeling
A place where the soul safely hides.

This is what I want my home to be. I want it to be a peaceful place — much like that cabin by the river, where my family can come to feel safe and secure, wanted and loved. I want my home to be a place where someone can escape from the struggles of this life, “a place where the soul safely hides.”

I don’t think our home is quite there yet. But it gives us a good goal to work towards, as we learn as a family to love and appreciate each other for who God made us to be.

Blue Ghost Fireflies

The_MoonOver the Memorial Day holiday weekend, we went to the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee for a camping trip/family reunion. Late Saturday and Sunday nights, we saw a most amazing sight: the blue ghost fireflies. 

I had first seen these fireflies last year when a friend told me about them. A gentleman in our community, Mr. Don Lewis, has acreage out in the country that is heavily wooded, and each May he invites people to his land to watch the fireflies. We went on Mother’s Day, a good time to go since it wasn’t crowded, and witnessed these beautiful insects. 

The blue ghost fireflies don’t blink – they just glow – and fly low near the ground. If you catch one and shine a light on it, you can see that it’s dark in color and only about as big as a grain of rice. But when you let it go again, it will fly and glow a beautiful luminescent blue color. There were quite a few of these fireflies in Tennessee this year, glowing back in the woods, much like little blue fairies. 

Mr. Lewis has found other types of fireflies on his land as well. Besides those that blink intermittently, he’s also discovered some that blink at exactly the same time, as if they were synchronized. 

Though we’ve learned a lot about fireflies from Mr. Lewis, he taught us another lesson as well. He encouraged us to go out and watch the fireflies in our own yard and woods, to sit in the dark and just see what appeared. What amazing wonders of nature we could observe if we just took the time to slow down, sit down, and see what comes into view, both during the day – and at night.

Family Land

streamdr5About 25 years ago, my father purchased some property in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. He had several different plans for the land, including a youth camp and a place for his retirement home. Sadly, he passed away before his dreams could be realized. We still enjoy the property, however, as a family reunion site every Memorial Day weekend.

 This year was one of our biggest gatherings yet. My mom and seven of the eight children made it, along with spouses, 26 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Some of older grandchildren went hiking while the younger ones played in the river. Some slept in the cabin while others camped in the valley. We played volleyball and soccer in the open field. We painted rocks to look like bugs and mice. We cooked hotdogs over a fire and ate more than a few s’mores.

Traveling to see family has always been a priority to me, and this past weekend was a good reminder of why. What a blessing it was to see my children having such a great time with all of their cousins – cousins who ranged in age from one year to twenty-six years old. They played games with aunts and uncles and talked with their grandmother – it was good to watch them just enjoy each others’ company. 

Even though my mom and siblings live quite far from us, we’ve been able to maintain close relationships, due in part to get-togethers like this one. And the family continues to grow. This year, one new great-grandchild has already arrived, and two more are due in the months to come. We’ll take trips to see them, and hopefully they’ll make it to the mountain property next Memorial Day.

 Though it may not be exactly what my dad had intended, I think he would be pleased with how the land is being used, as it brings his family together again and again.