Family Retreat Day 4

Today was not the last day of camp, but it was for us. As I think back over the events of today, I can’t help but cry all over again.

Family Retreat day 4 was bittersweet. We always start the day with inclusive worship. Nothing is more beautiful than to see God’s children, able and disabled, praising the Lord. Some with hands raised and other full-out dancing in the aisles. It’s freeing and pure…and I never wanted it to end.

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The message today had me in tears. I’m planning a separate blog about it, because it’s too much right now for all that I want to share with you.

Kevin and I went skeet shooting this morning with some great people. I opted out of shooting myself because I didn’t want to nurse a bruised shoulder for the rest of the day. Lame excuse, I know. I’m expecting to catch flack from the Allens.

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The rest of the day we just hung out. We went to watch Gideon swim with his STM. Check out my FB page later for that video. It is precious to watch.

The kids came back to us with frames they made containing some sweet photos. For our 3 pm – 5 pm family time, the kids got to paint real miniature horses! We didn’t do Gideon’s hand in paint but he did enjoy petting them eventually. (The paint was non toxic and washable in case you were worried for the horses..)

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Afterwards we went back to the lake so Laynie could show off on the blob and slide. I still can’t believe she swam in the lake. My mom is going to freak out.

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And finally the night ended with the long-awaited talent show.

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This is where the kleenex would have really come in handy. My sleeves are still crusty with snot even as I type this. Imagine children with all forms of disability singing, dancing, doing magic tricks. And even their siblings were welcomed to perform. Some did solos, some did duets…even moms and dads performed with their kids.

Laynie sang the books of the Bible to represent for the Jolicoeur family. We were so proud.

Nothing was turned down & nothing was off limits. When someone messed up and forgot the words or moves, the audience encouraged with cheers and clapping. And everyone got a standing ovation…from the first act to the 40th.

Joy and praise. It’s how the day began and it is how the day ended. We were sad to leave but as we drove back tonight we decided that this will be our annual vacation.  True respite for us. Total fun for our kids.

Thank You Joni and Friends for making this a memorable and restful experience.

Family Retreat Day 3

Well, I’m all in. I’ve chugged the JAF kool-aid and I will never be the same. I cannot even begin to describe this place. It’s truly life changing.

Family Retreat day 3 rocked. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did.

The activities just keep getting better, for us AND the kids. Today Kevin & I rode horses. I haven’t been on a horse since 5th grade camp at Sky Ranch. I made the mistake of wearing shorts but thankfully it was overcast with a breeze.. so the chaffing was minimal. Kevin was less than thrilled about this one, but nevertheless he came along for the ride.

I forgot to get his photo (plus my phone was in his pocket). But if you can imagine duck dynasty, in cargo shorts, riding a horse named sugar, you’ll get a good metal picture of what he looked like. The trail had the most beautiful views.

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Laynie’s group did a tote bag craft & went to the lake after Bible time. She did the blob AND the big slide. I will have access to their group photos after camp wraps up. Gideon’s group colored t-shirts and after their Bible time, they got to pet different animals!! His STM provided me some photos..

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When we came back together for family time at 3 pm, we took this kids to ride horses. Both kids loved it and they rode multiple times.

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Later that evening (after we all showered) the parents attended a split dinner with Joni & Ken.

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A split dinner means the adults enjoy a fancy 3 course meal by candle light…and the kids eat pizza somewhere else. Upon completion of our meal they pulled back the curtains to reveal the beautiful view of our children having a shaving cream fight. Even the kids in the wheelchairs were covered with white foam. They had more fun…and it was a blessing to behold. (We thought it best that Gideon sit this one out.)

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Afterwards, Kevin put the kids to bed while I attended spa night for the moms. I got a neck rub and a foot message by the sweetest ladies. They were even painting nails & toes! (Thanks Stacy for my nail art!!)

Later I ended up in a recliner sharing a heart-to-heart with my sweet new friend Camilla- a fellow mom who knows all to well the struggles of disability. Turns out they live in Garland. So many families here are from the DFW area.

We feel so blessed that God placed us at this camp, this week. It’s been so amazing.

Family Retreat Day 2

As I sit here this evening reflecting back on the events of today, I am overwhelmed with joy. There is so much love here….an abundance of love that never ceases to flow.

Family retreat day 2 was awesome! Today’s big events included the big swing, fishing, swimming, a giant slip-n-slide, and a Pirates and Princesses dance. The staff and volunteers have gone above & beyond to make this fun for the kids and relaxing for the parents.

I think my favorite thing about camp is the immediate relationships that are formed here. It’s like a family reunion with people you’ve just met; except I feel like I have known these people my entire life.  And the best part is that they get my sick sense of humor!! When the spoon misses Gideon’s mouth and I say, “Well he didn’t see that one coming!” they laugh!! Apparently my blind jokes are funny here!

Speaking of immediate relationships, Laynie has bonded (and I mean like gorilla glue) to a sweet teenager named MaKayla. Since we got here, they have been inseparable. Tonight Laynie told her, “I’m so glad my brother has a genetic disorder because if he didn’t, we wouldn’t have come to this camp & I wouldn’t have met you!!”

Yall….I can’t even begin to tell you how significant her statement was to me. During adult chapel time this morning the speaker challenged us parents to really quiet our spirits long enough to see our children’s circumstances through God’s eyes.

Do we recognize that our circumstances serve a unique purpose in this world?

Apparently my 5 year-old does.

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***For more pictures and videos visit my Life with a Happy Heart FB page. You don’t want to miss the video of Laynie when the DJ played…. Let it Go.

Family Retreat Day 1

Today we arrived at Camp Allen for our 1st ever Joni & Friends family retreat!! I have been eagerly awaiting this time away and my first thought upon arrival….I don’t ever want to leave.

The short term missionary (STM) assigned to Gideon couldn’t be more perfect and of course Laynie has already made friends with several STMs assigned to her age group.

They served us a delicious dinner, helped us unpack our car and after some time of worship, they let our kids spend time getting to know everyone in their groups. The night concluded with an ice cream social which naturally led to lots of jumping on bed for Laynie.

On the schedule for tomorrow- fishing for Laynie and swimming for Gideon. As for Kevin and I, we will be doing some giant swing thing after chapel and then maybe something really crazy…like a nap!!!

This is going to be the best weekend ever!!

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