When we booked a reservation for a TENT site in October in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, it was July. I was the driving force behind this decision. All I could think of were sunny days, brilliant color, and hikes in the woods with my family. Though known for my imagination, I had apparently failed to imagine a sleeping bag that wouldn’t keep me warm, frigid fingers that would drop and break my favorite mug, and the intimidation of navigating a deeply wooded trail in the middle of the night to the bathhouse. All I could see was the picture of what a brave boy mom I was, how our family would bond, how nature would bring us together.
So last Friday, with a Nor’easter moving out of New England, we packed (and I mean PACKED—who needs leg room for a 4-hour drive?) our Suburu and headed north. 6.5 hours later (traffic was crazy!) we arrived at the camp, using headlamps to set up our tents on the banks of the Saco River before pumping up our air mattresses (my one requirement) in the cold dark.
I’m not proud to say I was cranky and mumbled more than one complaint under my breath. I like my sleep, and I didn’t get much that night. But the morning dawned pretty and Hubby made bacon and eggs around a fabulous open fire, where we warmed our frigid toes.
Later, we went on a glorious off-trail hike and followed a river back to our car. It truly was a beautiful time for our family, working together to traverse steep inclines and narrow waterways. That night, we bowed our heads around the campfire and prayed. I kept my eyes open and watched the light of the fire play off the heads of my husband and boys, cherishing the moment.
Hours later, I woke to a fierce howling. It sounded like a train or a tornado barreled past our tents (the boys had set up their own tents). I reminded myself there were no railroad tracks and that tornados can’t gain momentum in the White Mountains. But wow, did that wind sweep up a noisy ruckus as it tunneled its way between the mountains! I prayed no trees would fall on any of us and snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag.
The next morning, I unzipped our tent. I expected to see a wreckage, but amazingly enough, there were no fallen tree branches. I looked at my youngest son’s one-person tent. It was in one piece. I scanned the area, my gaze catching on an EMPTY water bottle someone had left on the picnic table. I walked closer to it, unsure what I was seeing. It was still upright. I didn’t understand how it was possible in that sort of wind.
Later, we walked off our campsite to the rocks that led to the river. I could imagine the wind funneling through the pass between the trees, could see how the thick trees at the bank must have sheltered us from the fierce wind.
I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite verses in Psalm 91, of the beautiful provision God gives to us. And you know what else I just saw from this verse—a verse I long ago memorized but still am seeing new things in? HIS faithfulness is our shield. So often I think everything is dependent on MY faith. How well I cling to Him. How well I live out this life. And while these are all certainly admirable things, I find myself suffocating when I obsess over them.
It’s when I turn to Him that I find freedom. A provision of shelter in that terrifying wind. A provision of amazing grace. A provision of endless, scandalous love, even in the depths of my unfaithfulness and grumbling complaints. In the end, it is HIS faithfulness that inspires mine.
I’m not sure if I’ll tent camp again. I much prefer warm sheets and my own shower. But I will spend time in nature. I will search for God in both the beauty…and the storm.