Our children have spent their summers serving in camp ministry for many years now, and the camp they have served is only two hours away from our home in Texas.  For several years, our youngest two have desired to visit Alaska.  They wanted to see mountains, bears, and moose!  Experiencing the great outdoors in Alaska has been a dream of theirs.  I commented about a year ago that maybe they should consider serving at a summer camp in Alaska.  Not only would they be able to serve the Lord through camp ministry, but they would also be able to spend their summer in Alaska!

Fast forward to three weeks ago as I was watching my children, who had not been on an airplane since their toddler years, disappear through airport security.  I’m pretty sure that in all the years of homeschooling, we never taught our children how to navigate an airport.  In Texas, we have copperheads.  Bears and moose are on an entirely different level in this mama’s heart.  Read…I am self-counseling as I watch my children disappear towards their gate to fly to Alaska.

Packing for the summer was an adventure as well.  The week before our kids left for Alaska, we spent time on a beach in Florida.  The temperatures were hot, and the water was warm.  As we watched our kids pack, we noticed that most of their clothes would be great for a Texas summer, not an Alaskan summer.  My husband was very wise in not giving them a packing list.  He encouraged them to do some research on the average temperatures and rainfall at the camp.  He guided our kids by teaching them how to think rather than doing their thinking for them.  They soon realized that summers in Alaska are very similar to Texas winters and packed accordingly!

Finally, I gave them two very important things to remember on their day of travel.  First, keep your cell phones charged so you can contact the camp staff when you land.  Second, and most importantly, you HAVE to let us know when you arrive at camp safely.   They were scheduled to arrive in Anchorage at 8 pm Alaska time.  The camp was to meet them at the airport and drive to camp, which is an hour and a half northeast.  As it was getting very late in Texas, my husband and I went to bed with our cell phones beside our beds in anticipation of hearing that they were safely at camp in the middle of the night.  We woke up at 7 am, and no calls or texts.  Our son’s last location was at 3:45 am in the middle of Denali State Park.  More self-counseling ensued.  It was time for me to put into practice what I share with women regularly.

First, I had to remind myself that I was NOT in control!  My husband and I had done what we could: pray and ask the Lord to keep our kids safe.  We discussed how to check bags and navigate airport security.  Honestly, we didn’t have any good advice on how to respond if they encountered a bear, but we figured the camp had protocols for that.  The reality is that God loves our kids infinitely more than we do.  He is their ultimate provider and protector.  He controls His creation, not me!

And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this that even the winds and sea obey him?– Matthew 8:27

Secondly, this was a great time to remember that we are raising adults, not children.  One of our goals in parenting is to work ourselves out of a job!  Our role should change from authoritative to friendship.  My husband and I have had many discussions on this throughout the years.  Our children belong to the Lord, and we have the wonderful responsibility of raising them in the Lord during their childhood years.  We need to raise children who will one day leave and cleave to start their own families.  They need to be encouraged to rely on God and not us.  Their identity needs to be in Christ and not their family.  That goes for us parents as well!  Our identity needs to be in Christ and not in our children.

Third, we need to trust our kids.  We have done our best to raise our kids in the Lord, and they generally have a good track record of making good decisions.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

While we haven’t done this perfectly, all three of our children have made a profession of faith.  We see increasing fruit in all three of their hearts as they mature into adulthood.  All glory goes to God for this!  Serving at a Christian Camp is a great opportunity for them to grow in ways they will never grow at home.  They are challenged spiritually and physically.  Sleep deprivation and the dreaded “camp viral cold” are the norms for camp counselors!  While they aren’t dealing with the heat in Alaska like in Texas, our son was asked to be a lifeguard at camp.  As he went to jump in the lake, the camp staff mentioned to him that he was lucky because the ice had just melted the previous week!  Again, more new experiences and new ways for them to serve the Lord.

I reached out to one of the camp staff members in the morning, who was supposed to let me know they arrived safely.  He kindly sent me a “proof of life” picture.  As it turns out, their cell phone carrier doesn’t work in remote Alaska.  They were smiling and having a great time, and they were probably somewhat embarrassed that their mom had contacted camp to be sure they arrived safely.

I can’t wait for my kids to fly home at the end of this summer and eventually as adults with their own families. I can’t wait to hear about all the wonderful things the Lord did in their hearts this summer and as they fly into adulthood. I am excited to see how they have grown spiritually as they have flown from the nest. This experience has been a good reminder for me that it is God who is in control and that these are His children; we only get the privilege of borrowing them for a while.