In much of the country, kids and parents are getting ready for back to school. They’re picking out backpacks, checking bus schedules, and buying copious amounts of highlighters and hand sanitizer.
We can feel you laughing at us. Here in Tennessee, we started back last week.
That’s ok. Come June first, we’ll be the ones laughing. As you struggle through final exams, we’ll be lounging by the pool.
In any event, summer is over (or nearly over), and it seems as good a time as any to reminisce about the season that was.
I worked my tail end off this summer. While I locked myself in my library and tackled client project after project, my little girls grew roots into the ground before our television. I’m pretty sure they now consider Rainbow Dash a personal friend.
Eventually, I couldn’t take the guilt, so I did what any self-respecting Southern mother does when she’s desperate for childcare – I shipped my girls off to Vacation Bible School.
I love our church. They have a wonderful VBS each summer. They write the curriculum themselves. It’s full of female Bible characters and funny songs and just oozes love and compassion and inclusiveness. Unfortunately, their VBS runs at night, which didn’t help me at all.
I was forced to branch out and take my chances with a local Nazarene church offering a daytime VBS featuring a raccoon in a super hero mask.
I’ve already talked about why I think a basic knowledge of Bible stories is important for anyone seeking to understand Western Civilization. And though I get progressively more itchy each time I admit it these days – our family is Christian. So, I was down for some superhero VBS. Besides, the guiding verse of the curriculum was “Do good, seek peace, and go after it!” How bad could it be?
It was great. The girls LOVED it. They came home every day after spending three hours with Jesus, jazzed to show me the crafts they’d made. I was feeling totally confident about my decision to send them until one night when Juliette, my six-year-old, casually mentioned that she’d been saved. The conversation went like this:
J: Our teacher asked if we’d all asked Jesus into our hearts. I said ‘no,’ and so I got the opportunity to do that today.
Me: Oh. Wow. That’s big. Did your teacher tell you why you’d want to ask Jesus into your heart? (What I really wanted to ask was, “Where was Jesus before?”)
J: Yep. It’s so we can have salva-A-tion.
Me: I’m sorry, what was that?
Clearly, my daughter’s first altar call was officiated by someone with a very strong southern accent.
To my credit, I DID NOT laugh. Until much later. Like five minutes. But I was locked in the bathroom, so I totally get points for that.
The rest of the conversation included Juliette explaining that “salvaAtion” meant you had eternal life and you’d never, ever die. I’m afraid she’s going to be deeply disappointed someday.
Two weeks later, with my middle daughter saved, it was time to send my eldest off to church camp.
I was surprised that she wanted to go. Zoë generally tries to get out of going to church whenever possible. I chalked her enthusiasm up to the fact that a couple of friends from youth group were planning to be there, too.
Zoë is no go-along girl. At fourteen she has a healthy dose of skepticism and a distrust of the patriarchy that she comes by naturally. I was a little concerned when the venue for the camp was changed at the last minute. Instead of sprawling acreage with walking trails and a swimming pool, the camp was being held at a regular ole church in downtown Nashville. What would she DO for a week?
I spent the week wondering if she was bored out of her skull. I imagined her singing “Kumbaya” and rolling her eyes. I contemplated sending her secret text messages asking if she’d like to be rescued.
Little did I know.
This is the part where I try to explain how I came to understand the week’s activities. It’s a bit like trying to transcribe a Candid Camera episode. Lots of “No ways” and “I’m seriouses,” punctuated with generous handfuls of blushing and waiting for the punchline. Perhaps a picture could do it more justice.
Here are the camp T-shirts:
While I worried that my child was slogging her way through the Old Testament, she was actually creating Dora the Explorer skits. Except Dora was looking for the vans deferens, not the Crystal Kingdom.
The kicker is that everyone knew this but me.
I think I should read my church emails more carefully.
So while Zoë didn’t come back from camp saved (our church doesn’t even baptize until age 13 or so), she did come back educated and open, and that’s a major win even if it was a surprise.
The school year may be upon us, but personally, I’m already wondering what next summer will bring.