Strange Packages

Apples

Five inches of water in the tent.  Five.  “Record-breaking rain in North Georgia and the Carolinas.”  Someone told me there was 28 inches in 36 hours where we were.  Regardless of the measurement, I can attest to the fact that there was about 27,000 tub fulls of rain.  While there was a hurricane dumping tons of water on the Southeast, we were camping where the hurricane was dumping tons of water.

No, we aren’t crazy.  Yes, we checked the weather.  Unfortunately, to get a camping space (let alone a hotel room) in the Blue Ridge while the leaves are turning requires a reservation months in advance, so we didn’t have much of a choice about the bad timing.  The trip was already scheduled and paid for, so we packed up and hoped for the best.  This disastrous-on-the-outside camping trip turned out to be one of the most wonderful blessings-on-the-inside weekends I’ve ever had.

It started out beautifully.  In fact, we had one really, really nice day up in the mountains.  The air was cool, the sky was overcast, the leaves were turning, and it was just…perfect.  We met friends that we planned to meet, and met lots of others that we didn’t know were coming.  Our camps were set up, supper was done, a campfire was roaring, and we got to relax by the fire.  Ahhh….  But then, sprinkle, sprinkle, roar through the canyon, and DOWNPOUR!!!  That downpour is still going as I type this three days later.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of blessing in this, and I’ll be honest–when I woke up the next morning to the pool in the tent, wet boots, wet clothes, and a broken zipper on the tent door, I was NOT feeling the blessing.  In fact, I cried.  And cried, and cried.  I wasn’t really crying about the rain.  I was crying about a long, stressful summer, too much lost sleep, too much self-imposed pressure to be productive, and the cold rain was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.  When I was younger, I never really understood what my grandma meant when she would say, “I just need a good cry” in her sweet, West Virginia accent, but as an adult, I definitely understand.  I needed a good cry, so in my usual style, I took it to the extreme, since that is what I do with everything, and had a good old-fashioned sob fest.  Twice.

I’ll spare the rest of the pathetic details, but needless to say, after fighting it, we finally decided to cut our losses and come home.  Before you laugh at us for having no idea what we were doing, just hold your horses.  I grew up camping, and am no stranger to making due, and my husband is a great outdoorsman.  Unfortunately for us, his intense, blizzard-proof tent had already been through a lot of New Mexico wind, snow, rain, and ice, and it choose just this particular trip to give up the ghost.  I’ll throw a bone for Honey, though–his fire that he built on the only night we got to have one burned for four hours in the rain! We were all huddled under a canopy trying to stay dry, but that hickory-wood fire burned with steady flames all night.  He’s a good man to have around, even if he did think I was being over-dramatic about the amount of water in the tent at first…

Like any woman, I felt much better and much more rational after I was done with my sob fest .  I went back to wanting to make the best of things, and suddenly, I started to see the blessings.  We were there with lots of people we loved.  We had some wonderful conversations with our friends, and played with sweet little girls.  The campfire didn’t get rained out completely, and we managed to get in one round of s’mores before the downpour.  I got in one gloriously bodacious nap in the woods, complete with the good-sleep-snoring that only happens when it’s the best kind of sleep.  (in case I hadn’t blown it for some of you already, my ladylike facade just got carried away with that last sentence.)  I even got to cook my big breakfast outside, which was really fun!  The rain was still coming down, but we were cozied up under the canopy with warm stoves and aromas of fried potatoes and bacon wafting out as we drank our coffee.  Pretty good when you think of it that way.

That afternoon when we were still thinking we would try to salvage our camp, a friend hopped out in the rain to help put up a tarp to cover the table.  By the time he was finished, he was soaked, but helped with willingness anyway.  The Navy knot-tying skills got to make an appearance, and are some of the most impressive skills I’ve ever seen!  After we finally decided to throw in the sopping wet towels and head home, we still got to do some shopping, apple-picking, and do some barbecue and fried pie eating with our dear friends before it was time to tear down our camp.

As we stared to tear down, a flashlight beamed at us through the rain, and because we live in Georgia, the normal response to anyone approaching, regardless of whether or not you can even see who is coming,  is a slow “Hey” spread out through a quadruplethong vowel (in case you are wondering, that is a double-diphthong).  In answer to that all-welcoming greeting was another couple from our church who showed up with kindness, flashlights, boiled peanuts, and helping hands to tear down our camp.  On their vacation, they chose to help us tear down our camp–in the rain, in the dark, and almost in the middle of the night.  We didn’t ask, they just gave.  Amazingly enough, it was not only extremely helpful, but the activity I was dreading suddenly became fun!  We got the camp torn down and the truck packed in record time, but not without a break for me to be tormented and chased with what I assumed was the dreaded frog-creature, but what actually turned out to be a poor, innocent, slimy salamander.

As we were leaving these folks stopped, after all of the kindness and laughter, to pray with us and give us coffee and hugs to send us on our way.  Another family offered for us to stay in their trailer when they found out we were packing up, and another was upset that we decided to pack up without saying anything, because they would have helped, too.  As we drove away that night, I suddenly couldn’t help but laugh with joy.  I sat sopping wet and cold, but haven’t felt more cared about, loved, and accepted as I did that night.  We experienced the meaning of Christian love and charity so many times that weekend from so many people, that I am overwhelmed by the thought.  The selfless giving–the idea of someone willingly making themselves uncomfortable to help a brother and sister in Christ, the laughter and jokes to make it all bearable, and the direct prayer over the whole thing is something that should never be taken for granted.  I am overwhelmed, thankful, encouraged, challenged, and appreciative of how beautifully these men and women faithfully imaged Christ this weekend.

They say that large blessings come in small packages, but sometimes, large blessings come in large, wet, funny-shaped packages.  In this case, our strange package was a hurricane, a tent-turned-bathtub, and a beautiful group of people brought together under a bond of the church family and a love for the outdoors.  It just goes to show you that even in small things, what looks like a dreadful situation might transform into the most beautiful blessing we have ever received.  If we can slow down long enough to accept the situation given us and open our eyes, we will start to see the overwhelming blessings right where we sit.

Just to be clear, though, I will never, ever, ever go camping in a hurricane again.

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