Gratitude and the Gift of the Canyon

Our family spends a lot of time in the Frio River Canyon and has made that drive out to Camp more times than I can count. Turning into the gate and driving down through the river feels like going home.

This past week, we had the privilege of going to our beloved Echo Valley once again, but this time it was not for Camp. It was for my daughter Stella’s 6th grade class outdoor education trip. Prior to the trip we learned that almost everyone in the group had no prior connection with the Canyon or any of the H. B. Butt Foundation programs whatsoever. We wondered what it would it be like to be home—in the Canyon—but this time with all new people?

I arrived early to help the teachers and other chaperones unload the kids’ overnight bags. As we stacked the bags by cabin assignment, I listened to the other adults talk about the breath-taking beauty of the Canyon walls, the crystal clear Frio River, and the experience of driving through it. Hearing them talk took me back 22 years to my first trip to the Canyon. I remembered that exact feeling of awe at the untouched, rugged beauty of this unexpected place just off of Highway 83.

The school buses arrived shortly after, and the kids piled off, sprinting across the playfield—a scene similar to that of LLYC Opening Day. These kids, however, had never stepped foot into the Canyon before.

Over the next 24 hours, my daughter and I had the great pleasure of re-experiencing the Canyon for the very first time through the eyes of her classmates and their parents. Listening to their excited commentary and watching their faces as they took it all in—fishing at the waterfront, studying bugs at Pebble Beach, walking along the fall colored trail behind Guys’ Side, learning accordion folk music in front of the Clinic, and team building on the softball diamond, sleeping in the cabins—boys on Girls’ Side and girls on Guys’ side. And despite the many differences to our familiar LLYC experiences at Echo Valley, the heart of this encounter was somehow still the same.

The sacredness of the Canyon experience was weaving itself through this adventure as well.  

We see it every time we’re in the Canyon. Something special happens. People spend time surrounded by natural beauty. Kids run and play in a safe space. Adults slow down and engage without distraction. And God’s fingerprints are all over it.

I watched my daughter’s joy, sharing this place—so special to her—with her many classmates who may not otherwise get to experience it. At one point she commented, “It feels like that part in the [Legacy] video when Mrs. Butt wrote in her journal about wanting all the kids to be in nature and experience a place like this.”

I teared up, and said, “Stella, that’s exactly what it’s like.” My heart was full as my 12-year-old girl made that beautiful connection of stewardship and generosity with the Lord’s good gifts.  

On our drive home, we talked about stewardship, generosity, and what makes the time in the Canyon so special. We talked about this unique trip and LLYC—what was different about the two and what overlapped. We talked about what a good gift from the Lord the Canyon is in our lives.     

I imagine many of us share a heart filled with gratitude when our thoughts drift to the Canyon—whether we attended Camp as a kid, worked there during college, or have a child who attends LLYC.

As we sit around our tables, I pray for conversations with our kids—knowing and thanking the Lord for his good gifts in our lives.

How has time in the Canyon been a gift to you? to your family?

What are other good gifts in your life?

How does your family thank God for those gifts?

Are there ways your family can steward and share those gifts generously?