I've always been an outdoors woman. I'd rather be out in nature than stuffed up inside. I grew up playing in the creek beds dodging cow pies, climbing on rose quartzite boulders rubbed smooth from when the bison herds used to roam the prairies, skipping stones while my dad fished a hundred feet up the pike, swallowing lake water from splashing so much, camping with my family and feeling closer to God and His creativity than ever. My most intimate memories with both my family and my Lord have been while enjoying nature together. I married an outdoors man. And together we've shared many adventures we fondly remember with a twinkle in our eyes. A twinkle that says, "that was an amazing experience and we probably should have died or at least have been severely injured."
One such adventure that comes to mind took place in the Italian Alps at the end of our honeymoon. We decided one morning that we wanted to take a walk. Maybe up that mountain there. We didn't really have any intention of climbing the whole thing; we only packed one bottle of water each and a light lunch. Never-the-less we climbed all the way up a barely marked trail which included a 100-foot-climb on a metal-rung "ladder" up a cliffside. We ran out of water 3/4 of the way up the mountain (and it was HOT and HUMID). We had not "trained" for mountain climbing, so we were relatively out of shape. We just decided to do it. But God was with us. He gave me courage for the scary ladder. He provided a natural well for us right around the time we ran out of water - a well so deep and pure, Jon couldn't even tell where the surface of the water began. He gave us an easier, faster path back down the mountain and just enough daylight & strength to reach the bottom safely. We look back on that experience thinking, "No one knew we were up there; if we would have gotten hurt, no one would have found us for days. We barely had enough food and water to sustain ourselves. We were not adequately prepared. But WOW we saw amazing sights. WOW we saw the glory and wonder of our Maker's hands. And WOW we experienced the provision of our Father who took care of us while we enjoyed His creation." We look back at that adventure with over-flowing hearts.
We had another adventure this morning. Since moving to our neighborhood, we've always wanted to canoe Minnehaha Creek. It's a gorgeous, windy, well-preserved stream that meanders through the western Metro area from Lake Minnetonka all the way until it empties into the Mississippi under Minnehaha Falls. The logistics of canoeing the Creek have always held us back. For one, we don't have a canoe, so we figured we would have to rent one for a few hours. Two, we'd need to have two cars at two separate locations, one for the drop off, and one for the pick-up. Three, we weren't really sure of our Creek-meandering skills via canoe, so we didn't really want to embark on this adventure with kids in tow. Four, the Creek has to be at the perfect depth for navigation to be optimum. If the Creek is too low, we'll get stuck on sand bars. If it's too high, we will have to portage around all the bridges. Well, finally all the pieces fit together: friends of ours were willing to lend us their canoe & gear for the day, Jon drove one car to our pick-up site and ran back for his morning run so we wouldn't have to make 10 trips with 2 different cars, my parents had the kids for the week, and the Creek was quite high so as to go over the sand bars and rocks, but low enough for the canoe to get through most of the bridges. So we embarked boldly into our adventure!
Even though the weather had been insanely hot the past few days with dewpoints in the 80s and temps in the upper 90s, this particular morning was perfect. Still humid, but overcast. As the canoe sat on the dewy grass, Jon took my hands and we prayed over our trip. We put in 4 miles upstream from the Falls. The current was strong (which I admit, frightened me at first) and took us through level I and II rapids swiftly in the beginning. It was amazing to see my beloved Creek from this viewpoint. As the Creek slowed down near Lake Hiawatha, I felt like I was part of a Monet painting at his home in Giverny. Then the Creek widened up and as we drank in the beauty around us, my heart worshiped God. In the mountains I saw Him in His majesty. Here I could see Him in His tenderness and gentleness as He must have appeared to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
At one point I asked Jon, "Are we still in the City?" only to look down and see an orange construction cone buried in the creek bed. "Yup!" he laughed in response.
There were some less-than-glorious moments, as well! Low-hanging branches gave us many a mouthful of leaves, cobwebs, mulberries, and strange insects. We killed close to a dozen spiders during our trip who landed in our canoe and crawled up our legs (ACK!). There was one footbridge that was so close to the surface of the water that we had to lie down in the bottom of the canoe to get under it! But we never had to portage! About a half-mile from our end point, we started to hear the rumbles of thunder. It was actually incredibly romantic hearing the stream and the coming storm orchestrate together. I was so thankful to share this time with my husband and my God. We pulled into the end point before the Falls and Jon hoisted the canoe up onto the platform. We could see the gathering darkness and suddenly felt a bit of urgency. Jon went to fetch the car as I took our supplies out of the canoe. As I was unbuckling the seats I heard the sirens for Hennipen County start blaring. I looked up at the now very unfriendly clouds, and almost smiled. I knew we needed to hurry, but I also knew that the storm wouldn't hit until we had the canoe back up on the car and we were safe inside. We worked quickly to tie the canoe to the rack on top of the Volkswagon, and sure enough, just as Jon made the last of the hitch knots to secure the canoe, we felt the first rain drops and the wind kicked up. We jumped into the car as torrents of rain cascaded from the sky. As we drove the car through the flooded streets, we mused about the timing of this storm. We knew that this adventure was God-given. We could see His hand in every stroke of our paddles. We knew He was also in the timing of the storm. Maybe He hurried the current a bit to enable us to reach our destination in time. Maybe He slowed the development of this front in order to let us get to safety before we were caught in the storm. Maybe He gave us a little extra urgency in our packing this morning so we put in the Creek at 10:00 instead of 10:30. Whatever the case, God knew the plans He had for us, and He took care of us as a father takes care of his children.
Since becoming parents, we've had few such adventures (taking our almost-2-year-old to Central Asia while being 7 months pregnant was one of them) but they are more stressful. When we were climbing the mountain, it was just us: two adults. Now we have these little precious ones who trust us to take care of their every need. They aren't going to realize they will be hungry in an hour while we're on our hike, so Mommy remembers to pack a snack or two. They don't think about how it will be chilly and maybe rainy when we get to higher elevations, so Daddy packs sweatshirts and an umbrella. And because Mommy and Daddy have planned so carefully, their children enjoy themselves. And their parents enjoy watching them discover the world around them. I get it now. Seeing Abigail's face light up when she sees a beautiful flower or hearing Lucie squeal when she sees a duck makes me want to show them more; it makes me want to love on them more. That must be how God feels when He takes me out into His fields, His mountains, His streams, His spaces. And He's already done the planning. He just wants me to enjoy.