Claire’s Camp Journey
My journey with LLYC started out as a Delta Babe camper at Singing Hills. I attended camp all the way through Cabin I, then served on Work Crew. After that, I was an Echo Valley counselor for 3 summers, finally ending camp years (I’ve lost count) as Sugar Shack Director. Laity Lodge has been everything to me. It started as a place to stay up late, eat candy and sneak out when I was a little girl, then shifted into a safe haven of freedom when I was a high schooler, and then finally became a source of deep community and growth through college. LLYC was the first place I really heard the name Jesus. It was the first place I was told that it was okay to talk about God, and that God loved me personally and deeply. At camp, I experienced friendships on a deeper level, and I watched in admiration as my counselors lived freely and abundantly with their identity in Christ. I loved watching the way people would treat each other at camp, and I especially noticed the difference in dating relationships I saw at camp versus at home. I remember being a young Cabin A camper and telling my best friend Natalie that I was going to marry an LLYC boy one day. And God sure knows how to make a girl’s dreams come true!
I would cry every year when I had to leave camp, but I could never really explain why. I’d say to myself, “Well, this place is just special. It’s so important to me. It feels more like home than home does.” It wasn’t until my last year as a camper in Cabin I that I realized WHY I felt such a strong personal connection to camp. Over my years as a camper, the Holy Spirit had been drawing me back for more and more. I thought it was the fun and the friendships that made LLYC feel like home, but really it was the fact that I felt so ME at camp. I felt loved and cherished and free and unchained and HAPPY. It wasn’t until my last summer as a camper that I realized I didn’t have to experience this feeling only at camp. That the same God who showered me with love at camp was waiting for me at home, too, and that I didn’t need camp to have a relationship with him. He is with me always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20
Claire meets Peter
The summer I met Peter, I had just graduated from high school and was so excited to finally be a counselor. I was determined to totally focus in on my freshman girls, and I really had no interest in finding a “camp crush.” I remember my counselor friend Emma telling me, “There’s this new Houston boy working at camp this summer and he’s going to UT, too! He’s cute, you should meet him.” She showed me his Facebook picture, and I TOTALLY agreed he was cute, but really didn’t think twice. Fast-forward to 1st session at the volleyball courts when Emma introduced us. The conversation was brief, and I actually remember thinking he was awkward to talk to. I later learned he’d been eying me from afar and didn’t know what to say! Peter and I got to know each other a bit, and sort of became friends at camp. I finally started to develop a crush on him at Frio Fiesta one afternoon, when some of his campers called me down to the waterfront. I was very confused that these random boy campers were calling me, so I put down my book and walked down to see what was going on. As soon as I got close to the water, I felt Peter’s arms wrap around me and throw me in the river. I was so shocked by it and started playfully splashing at him (a little bit annoyed because it was cross talk night and I would have to shower again ha). THE BEST PART is that right after he pushed me in, Deep in the West started playing from the speakers. (Like what? They never play that song at Frio Fiesta! Talk about a convenient mistake.) So, like a gentleman, he told me he would make it up to me by dancing with me in the river. We danced, and I think that sealed the deal for me to start crushing on him…and it hasn’t stopped! It wasn’t until after camp ended and we got to college that Peter and I felt ready to start dating. We dated throughout college, he proposed right before graduating, and we were married on September 5, 2015. That was Peter’s only summer at camp, and although God used the summer to grow Peter and pour into his campers, I often think God brought him to camp that one summer because he knew that little Claire Hardy had so much love for LLYC and always dreamed of meeting her husband there. He is so, so good.
Camp Dance: Deep in the West!
Peter’s One LLYC Summer
I only went to Laity Lodge Youth Camp for one summer, the summer before college when I was a counselor at Echo Valley, but God’s work in that one month has had an enormous impact on my life. I was invited to camp by a friend who told me out of the blue that I might enjoy being a counselor that summer. I went home that night and watched videos of Round Up and fell in love with the mission of LLYC. Three days later, I was interviewing with Chandler Pruitt in the Galleria food court!
I got to camp not knowing what to expect – I hardly knew anyone there and I had never been to a summer camp before. I’d begun following Jesus a year before, and I was still fumbling through what that meant. In my month at cap, I learned a lot about what it means to live in authentic Christian community. I loved being surrounded by people who encouraged me to read Scripture, to learn about my faith, and to disciple the campers that God put in my cabin. God used my time at camp to begin showing me how to live out the life he calls all believers to – a life of glorifying Him by making disciples wherever we are. God built me up at camp and gave me a foundation and a community to continue to grow in when I moved to Austin for my freshman year at UT.
Peter meets Claire
My first memory of Claire is when I was talking to a friend who was leading the mountain biking activity with her. I noticed her standing nearby, talking to someone else. I knew nothing about her at that point, but all I could think about was how I wanted to be talking to her in that moment. We spent time getting to know each other a bit. I don’t think Claire thought much of me at first, but I loved how funny and confident she was, so fully at home in the Canyon where she’d spent the last 11 summers. I started striking up conversation with Claire whenever I had the chance. I walked alongside her on the hike to Antenna, I pushed her into the river at swim time, and I asked her to dance every time “Deep In the West” came on.
Austin Young Life Volunteers
I called Claire throughout the month after camp, finally asking her to go on a date with me the first day we started college. Since Claire led mountain biking at camp, I thought it would be a great idea to go mountain biking on our first date. I learned very quickly that Claire was not much of a cyclist, and we turned around a quarter mile into the trail and ended up sunbathing and swimming at Barton Springs. I convinced Claire to go on more dates with me, and I spent the next four years growing up with her. We encouraged each other to grow in our faith, we discipled high school students through Young Life, and eventually got married and moved to Houston.
I never went back to LLYC after that summer, but the month I did spend there had huge an impact on the rest of my life. God taught me so much about the importance of living in community, and he gave me a wife who will continue to encourage me to follow Him in everything I do. I often think about how God has brought me where I am today and I always look at that summer at LLYC as one of the most important summers of my life.