Photo by jrhampton

This past week I took my family camping. If you have spent any time in my home state of Michigan, you probably know that while we are running on empty when it comes to jobs we are chock full of natural beauty. We’re nearly surrounded by some of the biggest fresh-water lakes around. We’ve got rolling hills so big and pretty that we sometimes call them mountains. The sun rises on Lake Huron and sets on Lake Michigan. We ain’t got money but we sure have something special to help us hang on to hope. The beauty of my home state helps us locals experience a little bit of goodness that’s as out of our control as the ability to bring new life to our economy.

My wife and I packed our car to the brim with camping supplies and all of the necessary items to sustain the life of our 16-month-old in the woods for a week and headed north to Harrisville State Park. I grew up going to Harrisville each summer with my mom and dad. My dad worked for General Motors and his entire plant shut down the first week of August every year. So every year while the assembly line was taking a break, the Kotarski’s were too.

Growing up, I could hardly believe that Harrisville State Park was actually a campground with its paved roads and beachfront lots. To me, it felt more like some sort of paradise. My parents only had a couple of rules for me during our vacations:

#1. I could play wherever I wanted to in the campground as long I didn’t go in the water without their supervision.

#2. I had to check-in every few hours.

From sun-up-to-sun-down, I rode my bike, walked the foot trails, played on the beach, and made it my goal to meet every kid that looked close to my age as I could. I was free. I can’t think of a time in my childhood that was more exciting than the times we spent at that park.

I had a blast sharing a little piece of my past with my girls last week. I told them stories about my childhood as we rode our bikes on the same road where I lost nearly all of the skin on my right shin after losing control on my super-sweet, white and flourescent pink, BMX bike when I was 12 years old. I showed them the place where me and my friend Joe built forts in the woods. I told them about my “girlfriend” named Lisa I had one summer and even pointed out where she camped with her family.

As we strolled down that black top memory lane, I started thinking about that freedom my parents gave me as a child. I was free to enjoy the park because my parents gave me boundaries that kept me safe while allowing me to explore. I think good boundaries gives us the ability to live more freely. My parents gave me rules out of love so that I could have a great time without getting killed and/or making them lose their minds.

I loved sharing this special place with my family but it didn’t seem quite as grand as it used to. Sure, it was still a beautiful place but something had changed.

It was me. I realized I was the one who had changed. I get to be the parent now, learning to create boundaries that help my daughter to flourish within healthy boundaries. I get to help her create great memories and share glimpses of God’s beauty that are right under her nose. I’ll bet she’ll even surprise me by sharing some of those glimpses that I miss along the way. I can’t wait hear about what the world looks like through her eyes.

May God help us all find ways to create Harrisvilles for the ones we love.

  1. great post Jason! As we traveled north 2 weeks ago, I too, was reminded on what beautify Michigan has to offer. I love it here and doubt I’ll ever leave. We had a fantastic vacation with our kids, enjoying things through their eyes, too. Whether it be Adam pointing at all the “Wawa!” in the bay or Jacob squealing over every cement truck, in every color, or Sarah saying she loved ALL of it wanted to “stay on vacation for 5 weeks”…it was one of our best vacations ever and I am excited to know we have many more family adventures ahead of us!

    • Thanks, Barb. It’s pretty awesome to look at life with the dad shoes on. I am so glad you guys had a great trip. It sure seems like you are getting glimpses of God’s goodness everyday with those awesome kids around!

      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

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