In the hustle of church activities, work, summer sports, camps, trips, and more, summer in this season of life with two adolescent kids is not quite as free and easy as is often advertised.
Consequently, when we realized all four of us were free on the same days of July 3 and 4, we decided to relive some of our best family memories of primitive camping on one of the many TVA-owned islands on Douglas Lake.
Excited by the possibility of disconnecting from the outside world and connecting with each other, we loaded our four kayaks with camping gear and launched our boats across the street from our house.
After paddling a mere 100 feet from shore, the blue sky turned black and a heavy downpour drenched us for roughly five minutes.
We could not communicate in the storm, and my husband and the kids continued to paddle forward while I turned back to the shore. When the rain stopped, the blue skies returned with no hint of the former storm. In retrospect, this was likely God’s loud whisper nudging us to change our plans.
But we failed to hear His warning.
From the boat launch, I could see the rest of my family ashore on an island about a half-mile away and I joined them shortly. We hung up what needed to dry, set up camp and jumped in the lake for an afternoon of swimming and playing on our little island oasis.
Unfortunately, two game wardens in a boat informed us we had chosen the one island, a wildlife refuge, where camping was not allowed. We escaped a ticket but were instructed to head home with a warning to watch out for other boats in the dark.
We set out in our kayaks with makeshift navigation lights: Dad led the way with a cell phone flashlight app in one hand balancing a paddle in the other; 12-year-old sister followed with a small camping lantern between her knees; 10-year-old brother came next with a headlamp; and Mom (me) trailed with a flashlight in my mouth.
Once again, after paddling about 100 feet, the sky clouded over, and soon afterward, lightning began spiderwebbing across the sky and the wind began to pick up. On top of that, a large boat passed in front of us, almost clipping the front of my daughter’s boat. The wake that followed combined with the wind nearly capsized us all. Moreover, as the wind picked up further, we were widely separated, substantially off course and unable to make forward progress.
Over our own distressed utterances, we heard voices on the shoreline where the wind had been pushing us, asking, “Are you ok? Do you need help?” and urging us to “Come over here!”
My husband and I glanced at each other with relieved surrender. The wind guided us smoothly to the shore where about a dozen people from the permanent campground were waiting. They helped us, piece by piece, unload our kayaks and made a ramp out of ladders to bring the boats up from the water. They then loaded my husband and kids into their truck to take them home while I waited with the boats.
When the skies opened with rain, wind, thunder and lightning that would continue for most of the night, the campers gave me shelter until my husband returned. Then, as their final act of kindness, they helped load all four boats on the trailer.
‘Hand of God in all the events’
Our family saw the hand of God in all the events of that evening:
- Looking outside at the tremendous storm that had not been predicted, we agreed that camping that night would have been quite dangerous. Had we not been camping on the only prohibited island in the lake, no one would have come to tell us to leave. As it was, God sent word in the form of two wildlife resources agents.
- On the water, as the big boat passed a little too close to our kayaks, our cries to the driver were carried by the wind across the water to the ears of our rescuers, turning their attention to our poorly lit, tiny vessels.
- Finally, when my daughter lamented that she could not paddle anymore because the wind was too strong, I had told her, “Stop paddling against the wind. Just let go and let the wind push you into the shore.”
God took us from the middle of a storm and, through His wind, guided us safely home.
Change of perspective
This changed our perspectives about the danger we had endured.
We realized that the God of the universe, ruler of the land and the seas and all that is in them, is mindful of a meager family of four on a Tennessee lake.
I often try to power through any struggle in life on my own strength and generally fall short.
But in the future, I plan to take my own advice and remember who is in control: “Stop paddling against the wind. Just let go and let the wind push you into the shore.”
“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts,” (Zechariah 4:6).