It's funny what happens when you throw a bunch of women into a tent and charge them with the care of handfuls of young women. Giggles abound, makeup disappears, hairdos morph into works of art, and almost as natural as if you'd given birth to them yourself, those girls become "your girls" and those women become your "sisters."
Girls Camp (aka: LDS Young Women Camp) has been one of the highlights of my summer for so many years that I've lost track. (In fact, the years without camp are easier to count than the years with it.) And, honestly, I can't think of a better way to spend a week of my time than in the company of our fabulous young women!
Last week was our stake girls camp and for the first time in years I had a zero-responsibility assignment. I simply had to show up and take pictures. In a perfect world one might assume that this meant I could shed the responsibility of my young women and simply be a photographer. Fortunately, however, my girls were about as interested in ditching me as I was in ditching them. Before the week was over I'd developed a following. My little pose' of giggly girls became my shadow... okay, who am I kidding? They were the highlight and I was the shadow. They took over my camera and filled it with great (and some not-so-great) photos. They giggled, they teased, and - thanks to my dear friend Amber Packer - they learned how to properly eat corn on the cob!
In a camp with nearly 300 girls you'd have to hide under a rock to have not made a new friend or two, and I'm grateful for each new mark etched on my heart. Inspirational adults uplifted me and amazing young women humbled me with their beauty and strength. But I've got to admit that I hold a special place for my own girls. And, when I say "my girls" I mean all 21 of them! I can't tell you the excitement I felt every time I ran across one of "my girls." Like a Mama Bear with her cubs, my heart did a summersault when I saw their smiles and broke when I saw their tears. I wanted to love them, protect them, and play with them. It didn't matter that their hair was dirty or that they didn't have on a lick of makeup. They were glowing. Beautiful. And I couldn't wait for their smiles and hugs!
So, from one Mama Bear to another, I hope you encourage your daughters to attend Girls Camp. The confidence they gain, the testimonies they strengthen, and the friendships they make are priceless. And, if you are blessed to serve with the Young Women, I hope that you make it a priority to go to camp with your girls. Camping may not be your cup of tea, but if you look beyond a sleepless week in tents, you'll find a irreplaceable opportunity to build a relationship that might just change a life.