I was so thankful to hear that the weather was going to be clear and the nights once again cool for the next three days. I was afraid that all the nice spring days were gone for this year and that I had missed my chance. We, (my grandsons Bryant and Bradyn and I) had been talking about, looking forward to and planning this outing for a long time. After months of either too much rain or conflicting schedules, we had now planned our adventure during the upcoming Spring Break and the weather forecast was projected to be perfect. At last, our long anticipated time had come!
All I had to do was speak at one last meeting on Monday night and then on Tuesday we were packing up and heading out. Well, to make a long story short, on Monday I started having some disturbing health problems. I was determined that this was not going to interfere with either the event or the trip that the boys and I had planned for so long, so I proceeded with my plans and started getting cleaned up and ready to go speak. By the time I got out of the shower, it was evident that I was not going anywhere. About an hour later, I found myself in the emergency room and ended up spending the entire week that the boys were out of school in the hospital. Being sick was bad enough, but missing this trip with my boys was for sure the hardest part for me--especially not knowing if I would ever have that opportunity again, at least not this year with the weather like it needed to be make it enjoyable.
With Spring Break over, now my only hope would be for a weekend together. On top of that, I was too weak physically to do what I had planned to do with the boys. The first weekend after getting out of the hospital, it was just physically impossible for me to do anything. The second week started out hot and raining once again. Just when I thought all hopes for the trip were gone, a cold front passed through on Thursday and the forecast for the weekend was once again perfect! The only problem now was that I was still too weak physically.
On Friday morning, I had an unexpected boost of energy. I was far from 100%, but I felt like I could pull it off if we just stayed close to the house so I could get home or at least so that they could get home if they had to without my help. Needless to say, I called the boys and we got busy packing up and went to the south pasture by the pond across the road.
The cool weather was important because the adventure we had been planning was a primitive camping trip. There is just something about sleeping under the stars by a warm campfire all wrapped up in snuggly sleeping bags. Once you wake up to the smell of sizzling bacon in a cast iron skillet cooked over the coals, you never forget that smell or that feeling!
Now that they are 7 and almost 9, they are old enough to learn and experience some things that Mama would not normally let them do, like carrying a small pocket knife that they can use to carve with whenever they want to as long as they are sitting down. To top that off, I gave them a "Rambo" style survival knife (complete with a compass, sewing kit, matches, and a fishing line and hook). They could not use this knife, but they could wear it on their belts and hold it every now and then when I sat with them by the fire. I wish you could have seen the looks on their faces when they saw those 'big' knives! I also gave them a flashlight that clipped to their belt loops. They could hardly walk with so much on their belts and in their pockets, but they sure looked and felt tough!
We also got to drive individual four wheelers through the pastures and down dirt roads. We shot turtles with BB guns. They got to use a real ax to chop up a big old log until they cut it clear through. I do not remember how many times they did that, but I know they, nor I, will never forget the first one! To keep from getting in trouble for fussing and fighting, they worked out a deal where they would each get 11 strokes before swapping out. The lucky one got to place that final chop that finished the cut and got to start the next one.
The first afternoon, we went fishing in the pond and caught a good mess of bream and small bass. Nothing like catching your own fish supper and frying them over the fire! Just before dark, a big doe came running across the pasture and stopped and just stared at us for several seconds. The next morning while the bacon and eggs were cooking, a coyote did the same thing. At night, we lay back on the four wheelers and found the few star constellations that I could remember. In the mornings and at sunset, they learned how to determine direction using the sun. They learned how to start their own fire with kindling and with fat lighter splinters. We even went rattlesnake hunting! One thing I noticed: I never had to tell them when it was bedtime! By the time we had finished everything at night, everybody was ready to hit the sack. No TV, no electronics, no video games, just enjoying nature and one another!
There was a lot I had planned to do that we did not get to do, but I am so grateful that I got to spend this time with my boys. I'm grateful that they got to experience all this for themselves (with me) so that they would have the memories and learn the lessons that only come from these kind of adventures.
One thing I was reminded of 'again', was of God's goodness and His grace. The day before we went camping, I did not have the physical strength to go. The day after we got home, I could not have gone--but the days that were available for us to go, God gave me the strength just because He loves me and He loves my boys. He gave me just what I needed to do what I really wanted and needed to do with my boys. He blessed me because He loves me! I really believe the weather was better this particular weekend than it was the week of Spring Break when we had originally planned to go.
While we sat around the fire on Sunday morning, we had our own church and we sang praises, prayed and talked about all kinds of things. We reflected on all that we had experienced during this weekend trip and we learned that God created all the beauty of the earth just because He loves us! He sent us the deer and the coyote right out in the wide open for us to see just because He loves us! He made the stars and the moon so beautiful just because He loves us! He let us have fun catching and eating the fish just because He loves us! He created and maintains order in creation just because He loves us! He established the seasons just because He loves us. He created us uniquely special and He has a plan for each of our lives just because He loves us. He gave us family and gives us the desires of our hearts (like this trip) just because He loves us! He gave us the law and the Bible to help us know how to live just because He loves us! We learned what sin and repentance means, and learned that God calls us to repentance just because He loves us! Most importantly, we learned that God sent His only son Jesus, to die for our sin and to defeat death for us, just because He loves us! We learned that when we confess and turn from our sin, ask Jesus to forgive us and save us, that He will do just that and will become the Lord of our lives who meets our every need, just because He loves us! We learned that no matter what we face in this life, He will never leave us alone or forsake us, because He loves us! We learned that one day, we will be with Him in the place He has prepared just for us, because He loves us!
God's timing may not always line up with ours. What we want may not always be what we need. But, God will always keep His promises and provide what we need when we need it, just because He loves us! Let's go camping!