Saturday, March 3, 2012
Top Ten Reasons Why Women's Retreats Are Better Than Youth Camp
Youth camp was the beginning of my fear of werewolves (you can read about that here), giant mosquitoes, scorpions, group games, and powdered eggs. At youth camp, I learned to sweat, to pack well, and to spend my canteen money wisely. Most every church kid has been sent to youth camp during the summer. Most of us went year after year, and we have lived to tell the tale. And as fun as some of my camp memories were, I don't want to repeat those experiences.
This weekend, I piled into a car with two of my girlfriends and a very cute four-month-old baby (who happens to belong to one of these two girlfriends... we didn't just take someone else's baby) and more luggage than three girls and a baby really needed, and we drove until we could see trees. Not tiny little shrub-like trees like we have here in the DFW area, but real actual if-I-look-up-at-them-long-enough-I-could-really-hurt-my-neck trees. Pine trees, to be exact. And though it took us a little longer than expected to get there, we were so happy to arrive at Pine Cove, where 20 or so ladies from Ranch Community Church had already started on our weekend of being Transformed. And you know what I learned? Women's Retreats are so, so, so much better than youth camp. And here are the top ten reasons why.
10. No Boys Allowed. Don't get me wrong, I love my husband. But there is something about leaving guys behind that frees us up. We don't have to do our hair or makeup to perfection. There are no cute boys at the snack bar to impress. We can get away with yoga pants and flip flops and ponytails. I would have never done this at youth camp.
9. No Bus Ride. I didn't have to ride on the eighth row of an old diesel-scented school bus, nor did I have to ride on the back seat of a fifteen passenger van, getting carsick with every turn. I didn't have to smell other people's open bags of Funyuns and want to shoot them when they asked for a restroom break after being on the road 35 minutes. Nope. I got to ride in the comfort of a Nissan Maxima with heated seats and air conditioning (not at the same time, of course). And really, I could stop here with the list, and it would all feel worth it.
8. No Camp Food. Don't misunderstand, they did feed us. But this food was amazing. It was not the fare typically served to children at summer camp. I did not eat one tater tot, one hamburger, a single chili dog, no runny eggs, no instant mashed potatoes, and not one cup of generic Kool-Aid. They were catering to women with this menu. We had tortilla salad with grilled chicken, tomato basil soup with gouda cheese, grilled chicken sandwiches, orange cranberry muffins, huge slices of french toast, and tons of fresh fruit available at all times. And our tables were covered with chocolate candy. Seriously.
7. No Cobwebs in the Shower. Apparently, camps don't think that children will mind this, and they know that adults definitely will. I remember being at camp as a teenager, and showering so quickly because I was certain that the spiders that lived in the top of the shower stall were going to attack. Women's retreat showers have cute little changing rooms in front of each shower stall with little hanging pegs for clean clothes, dirty clothes, and towels. And fabulous water pressure. Amen and amen.
6. No Ridiculous Camp Songs, Cheers, or Chants. Honestly, these are only mildly fun during the actual week of camp, but in the weeks that follow camp, they become downright annoying. Songs about mashed potatoes and baby sharks kind of make me want to jump off the nearest bridge. This camp lacked these songs. There were no cheers about the red team being better than the blue team. No "I don't know, but I've been told" cadence ringing through the pines. Just several hours of real, actual worship with songs we liked. Even the ones we didn't know.
5. No Games Involving Shaving Cream, Baby Food, Chocolate Milk, or Plates of Flour with Candy Hidden in Them. We did not play one single competitive game on this retreat, which is good because I hate camp games. No tug-of-war. No tether ball tournaments. No relay races in grassy fields. I just hate those kinds of things. In fact, when I was a child, I feigned illness to escape camp games, and went back to the cabin to take a nap. Turns out I actually was ill, and I slept for almost two days and missed out on the camp singing competition (which was the thing I loved most about camp). On this retreat, we traded the silly games for times of complete silence (which we almost never get in regular every day life) and encouraging notes written to each other (which sounds silly until you go home with a bag full of nice notes from your peers, saying all the nice things we think but don't take the time to say to one another in day-to-day life).
4. No Ratty Towels or Sleeping Bags. I don't know if your house was like mine, but my mom knew better than to send the best towels to camp with us. You just never know which things will come home and which ones won't. On this retreat, they provided us with sheets and towels. And the towels were not the thin, scratchy Motel 6 kind. The kind that take off a layer of skin when you dry off. These were decent, middle-class-America bath towels. They could have been better, but they could have been much, much worse.
3. No Shallow Cry-Fests. Put teenage girls together in a cabin for a week or so, and you will have drama. Give them four days and nights of preaching, and you might preach the devil out of them. What this usually looks like is a Thursday night Cry-Fest. I'm sorry I hated you for stealing my boyfriend back during freshman year. I'm sorry I told the whole youth group that you are a skank. I'm sorry that I didn't keep your secret about making it to second base with your last boyfriend. And in the end, they confess their last night away, crying and hugging and praying and vowing to never gossip again. And I'm sure they are sincere, so maybe it's unfair to use the word shallow, but it's a different kind of Cry-fest than we had. There was definitely crying on this Retreat. Put that many women together, tell them to be honest, and there will be tears. But they weren't the I'm-sorry-I-gossiped-about you-but-I'll-probably-go-back-to-it-next-week kind. Not even close. They were about real life problems and real life healing that needs to take place. And to have a place to be honest about it, and to have friends that will love and pray you through it is kind of invaluable. Oh, and to be fair, there was lots of laughing too. Especially when you mishear someone and you are certain she has just uttered profanity at the table, and it turns out that she doesn't need her mouth washed out with soap after all (Sorry again, Emilie).
2. No Fear of Waking Up to Find Your Underwear Hanging from the Flagpole or Your Toothbrush Wet with Toilet Water. I hate pranks so much. Camp pranks are always the worst. I don't like the thought of people going through my bag or stealing my pillow or checking out my dirty clothes. And I am thankful that no one thought to play practical jokes on each other. Of course, now that I mention this, they will probably make notes to add this next year, but hopefully not.
1. No Soggy Underwear Left in the Shower Room (That No One Will Ever Claim). This is one of the grossest things about camp, and maybe the thing that is most constant. On the last day, walk into the shower room, and you will inevitably find a soggy towel or sock or pair of unmentionables that someone has left and is so covered in dirt, it's never worth keeping. And the owner is so embarrassed, he or she never admits to ownership, and when all of the camp laundry gets washed, somewhere there is a parent wondering "What happened to your Tuesday panties?".
So hallelujah for Women's Retreats. And for air conditioning. And camp in the spring. And for no bunk checks (I didn't make my bed once!). Thanks to the group of awesome women who put ours together. And here's to Pine Cove Retreat 2013!
And in case you'd like to be super annoyed, feel free to watch this video. But don't say I didn't warn you.