Lessons Learned While Camping
Recently, my family spend twenty-four hours camping at Lake Aquabi near Indianola. While we were technically not “doing school,” God taught us so many lessons over that brief period of time that I almost thought I should be able to count it as a school day!
Lesson #1: “Remember there are still chicks in our nest even when one chick is missing.”
At first I did not want to go camping because Joshua, our oldest son who is seventeen, was in Washington DC for a TeenPact event. I knew it would not be the same without the whole family there with us. However, the Lord gently reminded me that I had four more children who would enjoy the family time together. He also reminded me that my oldest is now a young man and as he goes to Bible College, and even eventually gets married, he will no longer be part of many of our family activities. Josh believes the Lord has called him to be a pastor and, as a mom, it is my job to step back and encourage him to pursue the goal God has given him. As it turned out, we all missed him very much on our camping trip, but we had a very nice time with our younger four children. It was also exciting to see Joseph and Josiah rise up and help their Dad with many of the things that Josh would have normally helped Jeff do, such as put up the tent and gather firewood.
My five children will not always be in our home. Someday God may give them homes and families of their own. As they leave our nest, I need to learn to adjust and to remember that I need to continue mothering the children still in our home and trust to the Lord those He has led elsewhere.
Lesson #2: “Trust God when scary things happen.”
We had no sooner packed our van, pulled out of our driveway and gone half a block when my worst nightmare occurred. My husband Jeff very calmly said, “The brakes just gave out.”
Since Jeff has quite the sense of humor at times, I thought he surely must be joking so I asked incredulously, “Are you serious?”
His clipped “Yes” and the look on his face told me that he was very serious indeed.
The next minute or two, until Jeff was able to maneuver the van to a stop, was one of the scariest of my life. The children in the back seat were scared, too, but thankful they stayed silent as we all prayed. Praise the Lord that no other vehicles came through the two intersections we went through and that no child ran out in front of us. As frightening as it was, though, throughout the whole thing, I had peace that God was in control.
We still ended up going camping. We took another vehicle and managed to arrive safely at Lake Aquabi only three hours after we originally anticipated arriving.
Lesson # 3: “Just because we go on vacation doesn’t mean we leave our sinful nature home.”
Even though we had a lovely time together at Lake Aquabi, there were moments when our sinful natures reared their ugly heads. Two of my children argued several times while we were on our camping trip I wanted to just overlook it and distract them instead of dealing with their hearts on the issue. After all, we were on vacation, even it if was a twenty-four hour one! But then I realized that just because we were on vacation did not mean we could overlook and ignore our children’s sins.
Likewise, I struggled with my own sinful nature several times over the weekend. I became impatient with different member of my family more than once. I nagged my husband (more on that later). I ate s’mores to the point of gluttony. Several times I found myself needing to pause to ask the Lord’s forgiveness.
Lesson #4: “We can be nice and show respect to others even if they don’t treat us the same way.”
We had to have had the nosiest camping neighbors in the whole place! They laughed and talked loudly long into the night. Even when the DNR came at 11:50 PM and asked them to quiet down, they continued to be loud, oblivious to all those sleeping in tents just a few feet away from them, including us. At one point I turned to my husband on the air mattress next to me and told him, “I want to go home” and, at that moment, I meant it with all my heart. I was ready to take down our tent, pack up and head home in the middle of the night. They were very loud into the wee hours of the morning.
The next day, we had several opportunities to interact with these camping neighbors. We chatted several times and shared sharpened sticks with them (for roasting marshmallows). Our children learned the valuable lesson that just because someone annoys or irritates us, that is not a reason to be unkind to them. It was basically an opportunity to 'return good for evil,' although "evil" seems like too strong of word to use for their lack of consideration for us
Lesson #5: “Hiking is a lot like life.”
I almost subtitled this lesson “Contrary to popular belief, Iowa is not flat.” On Saturday morning, the six of us walked around Lake Aquabi. The hike itself was only a little over three miles long. However, keep in mind that the trail went up and down steep hills. The trail was also uneven and had many roots and stones along the way. Towards the end, Jennifer, our youngest, and I were getting really tired. The last mile felt like it would go on forever…and ever!! But we had to get back to our tent and so we had no choice but to keep going. Even though we were tired, Jennifer and I encouraged each other along.
Joseph, Josiah, Jessica and our dog Pooch enjoyed running ahead and they were back at the tent resting by the time we arrived. Jeff went much slower than he needed to because he made sure that Jennifer and I were always in his sight. He looked back often to make sure we were okay and often dropped back to walk with us. Jeff jogs several times a week and could have easily been the first one back at the tent. However, he chose to stay with the slowest ones in our little group to make sure we got back safely.
Life is like that, too. Often the trail of life gets long or steep or bumpy or narrow and we want to give up. Yet we, as Christians, can and should encourage each other to keep going when the trail gets extra tough. The faster, more “fit” Christians can edify and encourage the younger or more “out of shape” Christians along life’s often difficult road.
Lesson #6: “Nagging my husband puts a wedge in our relationship.”
Sigh! I try hard not to nag my husband but sometimes that part of my sinful nature rears its ugly head. When we arrived at our campsite, it was warm and I had my window down. I forgot to roll it up before Jeff turned the vehicle off. When I noticed this, I became concerned that a raccoon or some other critter would get into our station wagon in the night and into our food supply. Since Jeff had the only key, I wanted Jeff to turn on the car again so I could roll up the window but every time I asked him, he said he would do it later. I asked him at least ten times throughout the afternoon. Looking back, my timing was often terrible. I kept asking him when he was busy putting up the tent or gathering firewood or some other needful activity. Eventually, he himself rolled up the window but I put a temporary wedge in our relationship, however small it might have been. It is very hard for a husband to feel very loving towards a wife who is constantly nagging him to do something that he just can’t or doesn’t want to do at that moment.
When I am tempted to nag my husband, I try to ask myself, “What is the worst case scenario?” Usually, it is not nearly bad enough to justify my nagging. In this case, the worst case scenario, if the car window had not been rolled up, would have been that a critter could have gotten into our food and we would have had a bit of a mess to clean up and we would have had to go into the nearby town to buy more food. Neither of those things are worth me becoming a nagging wife.
Lesson #7: “God’s creation is amazing!”
Since we love nature, we truly enjoyed the fact that most of the weekend, we were outdoors. The whole weekend we marveled at God’s creation. What human being could possibly come up with so many shapes and sizes of trees? And who could imagine that there would be so many shades of green? The wild flowers were abundant and colorful. The lake was beautiful, especially in the morning when a light fog drifted across it. There were so many different kinds of birds. The chorus, “What a Mighty God We Serve” kept going through my head as we looked around at God’s creation. If, for no other reason, the camping trip was worth it just to be able to admire the beautiful world God made and to stand in awe of our Creator.
I could include a few more lessons like not bringing one’s dog on a camping trip and watching out for tent stakes sticking out of the ground but since those don’t necessarily have spiritual applications, I decided to leave those out. I am thankful for the opportunity our family had to go camping and for the lessons we learned, or were at least reminded of while we were camping. I praise the Lord that He is faithful to teach us these things as we go through life, even on a family camping trip