Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Last week we headed west two and half hours to Junction, Texas to camp at South Llano River State Park. Our second month doing the family challenge to camp at a different state park each month this year. This trip was easier than the first; we came in knowing more of what it would be like to camp with three small children, and even brought a chair we could buckle Foster into. Letting a toddler be "free range" for three days is pretty exhausting, hence the chair. We brought lots of cold, sweet watermelon and other camping snacks so he didn't mind being sat down occasionally.
Honestly I think the pictures speak of almost all the highlights of the trip. We loved bird watching as a family and some of the best bird shots (especially these last two) were Andrew using my camera. We both enjoying capturing more nature this time around. Andrew said we were still growing to be like one another as I asked for time alone in the bird blind to take some pictures, and he went tubbing down the river with Blanche. Normally I am the one in the water and he likes to sit and observe. Either way it was a nice change to give each other time to do special things while there. We had a fire going both nights and Andrew and I looked at the stars and talked and by the end of the trip I wasn't even afraid of raccoons that much anymore. Colorado Bend really had a large amount of hissing raccoons. Thankfully this time we did walk in camping and were more isolated. We hung up our food and tied down our cooler and old Rocky the raccoon pretty much left us alone.
There was hiking and swimming and marshmallow roasting. Blanche loves the water, but was a bit more whiney this time about "being the only one not carried." But I'm hopeful she will get back into the love of hiking. I thank God that one night as I was putting the younger two to bed I decided to check for ticks. I looked very closely and found one on Rosemary's head. That was the worse part of the trip. She was so scared and couldn't be convinced that it wouldn't hurt to take it out. It was close to bed time and we just told her we had to hold her down and do it if she wouldn't lay still on her own. She was shaking and crying but thank God we got it out and she was fine afterwards. Its always hard as a parent to feel mean for a few moments, when you know you are doing the best thing for your child.
We saw a jackrabbit jump through our campsite one morning, a little bunny one evening, and so many birds, some which are even endangered. The love of nature and protecting it is growing into our family culture and it makes the work of the trips worth it. Camping forces us to disconnect from the busy world a bit and connects us to one another and the nature around us. I think its easy in our big and strong homes to feel like we have this world under control, that we are alone in some ways as living creatures. But when you spend a few nights in the wild its pretty apparent that we are one part of a large and beautiful creation. During the day hundreds of lizards ran up and down the sidewalks and over the trails, hiding in the tall grass. The fire ants were busy at work, making their tunnels underground and flattening the earth into a large round circle of hustle. The birds sang as the sun set and the ants and lizards went to sleep. Then came the stirring of grass and trees in the shadows, a spookiness coming alive with a million stars.
Even in my most struggling moments, when I can't seem to put into words what it is that I believe about the world and God, I always have found God in nature. I see the grandness of the stars all the way to the finest detail of a bee inside a flower and know how foolish I would be if I thought I was the one in charge. God has always used nature to speak to me, to show me that he too is an artist. Nature shows me that God and Jesus and the gospel is an earthy thing. Jesus came at a time that he was outside and walking, hiking even, with his closets friends most days. After camping for a couple days, covered by the dust blown by the wind, I feel a little closer to Christ. Maybe it all sounds far stretching but sometimes removing my own control, even of the most basic act, like rinsing in the river over the shower, can show me truth. I can never hike along wildflowers and through fields and tall trees and not thank God for a beautiful creation. It is so stunning. And the thing is, He didn't have to make it this way, but he did.
The week before we camped was Holy week. It was a week that started by waving palm branches in the air for the coming of Christ. Followed by my own priest washing and kissing my feet as Christ himself did to his disciples. And then on good Friday I stood with a rose in my hand and walked what felt like an eternity to a cross, where Jesus was wrapped in black, facing death for my own sin. I had never had the weight of my own brokenness hit me so hard. I often think to my moments of weakness, the times when I am angry and bitter and hateful. And even with Christ I still have those moments. And honestly the moments of good and love and any sort of character come from God himself, teaching me and molding me. And yet, when I was yet still a sinner, Christ died for me. That truth made me want to collapse onto the floor at the foot of the cross. I laid my rose at the foot of the cross and had to take a few minutes to collect myself. All that I am is from him. Then Sunday came the largest celebration. All of the kids ringing large white bells, the entire sanctuary feeling covered in white and flowers. Christ has risen. Food and friends and celebrating the love of Christ. And then, almost like with an old friend, we drove out west. We went into the wilderness. The wild creation not in contrast to the decorated church but the very depth of the church itself. Feeling similar to where it all began when God placed humanity first in the garden. Nature shows me that while we are fallen, the story isn't over. It can't be. There is sadness but also so much beauty.
So, we will keep camping. We will keep working hard to set up tents and herd our children in the wild. I have come back feeling so thankful for all that is around me. It is a privileged life to have time to spend apart from the busyness of work and the daily to dos. My hope is that these trips continue to be a growing and rejuvenating time for our family.