~by Christine Gough
A little over 12 ½ years ago we were knee deep in wedding preparations and of course this included the opportunity to register at some of our favorite stores. Registering conjures up many images in my mind, not all of them are pleasant. We had a brilliant idea, though. With hopes of outdoor adventures in our future, we decided to register at REI. REI would allow us to register for that water filtration system we would need for backcountry adventures. We could select the perfect Thermarest to keep us comfy. And of course…the sleek, lightweight, 3-season, “high in livability” tent for two.
Fast forward 12 years. I am standing in Costco. It’s mid-March and I am surrounded by outdoor “necessities” on all sides. Air beds. Cots. Coolers. Pop-ups. Cooking accessories. Kayaks. Backpacks. Lanterns. And yes. You guessed it. Tents. No more sleek, easy-to-carry models. We are talking full-on, Coleman, 10 person CABIN tents complete with vestibules, ventilated annexes and netted roves with unadulterated views of the stars. It was almost a shameful moment to imagine the potential purchase. We had become THAT family. The one that succumbed to the mini van. The family that gave in to the tent that could fit three queen Aerobeds. Would this be a slippery slope to glamping?! No more visions of hard core expeditions carrying all we needed on our backs?! Despite the fear of judgment, the Costco card was scanned and the tent procured. We now might break our backs setting up our home away from home, but there was space for “everything we needed.”
Just a week ago, we set off on our second adventure with the tent of amazingness. Our van was filled to the brim leaving barely any room for our poor dog, Sally. We left behind the worries of classrooms and congregations and hit the road. It was a warm Friday afternoon, hitting the low 80s. Blue skies promised a warm and comfortable weekend ahead. I finally exhaled, prepared to enjoy Mother’s Day weekend with wonderful friends in the Oregon outdoors.
After pulling up to the campground we met up with our friends and chose a spot to pitch the tent. The lure of starry skies and trees towering over us led us to naively pitch the tent without the rain fly. We settled in for some beautiful views from the comfort of our pillow top queen Aerobed and down comforter (we nixed sleeping bags years ago…). Night one went fine. Didn’t sleep too much, but at least we enjoyed the starry view. Night two, we crashed hard. Our day had been filled with river exploration. Water gun fights. Amazing food concoctions. Raging campfires and multiple s’mores. Shenanigans with fellow mom friends. Kids running in packs like our very own Lord of the Flies. Suffice it to say, everyone fell asleep without much complaining.
Until…the rain. The unpredicted, unplanned for, early morning rain showers. The rain fly seemed so superfluous just 36 hours prior. But things changed. The weather defied the most reliable apps on our phones. My husband went flying for the car to dig through the box and find the rain fly. We shivered while trying to unroll the fly, attempting to launch it over the almost 9 foot height of the already pitched tent. Somehow the kids slept through it all and we scurried back into bed after securing the fly enough to last until our departure later that Mother’s Day morning.
Mother’s Day. It’s often one of those days that we build up in our minds. A holiday filled with big expectations of handmade cards, colorful flowers, kid-prepared breakfast in bed. Sweet children cooing around their moms’ feet, gazing up with loving affection. But our best intentions and expectations often shift with time and perspective and LIFE. Those sleek, “high in livability” tents for two are soon traded in for the roomier and more comfortable Coleman models. Motherhood becomes an opportunity for best laid plans to be uprooted and changed. Parenting is all about planning for the perfect moment of starry skies perfection, and then running for the rain fly when the unexpected “storm hits,” burrowing down under the wet comforter and laughing at the ironies.
For me, the process of practicing our faith in the midst of raising children also looks so different than I imagined nine years ago, days before having our firstborn. You can “register” for all the necessities, and think you have all the boxes checked, everything prepared and purchased for success. And then these little free-will beings enter your neat and tidy world and change the homeostasis. It’s these same little ones, though, that teach us about God and faith in ways we never could have imagined. They help us expand our thinking and deeply held beliefs when they try and grasp the confusing enormity of God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity. Children ask the tough questions and send us running to grab the rain fly to keep us dry during the storms of their growing years.
Through it all—the warm days filled with lazy exploring in nature to the unexpected rains that surprise us—God grants us community to help us experience a felt presence of the Holy Spirit. We are not left alone. As the disciples attempted to grasp this new reality after Jesus’ ascension, God promises them a gift of presence. God moves amongst them in the craziest of ways. With fire. Wind. And too many languages to count. In the midst of true bewilderment over it all, the disciples are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help them figure it all out in community on that first Pentecost.
Maybe these moments, the surprising and unexpected, send us running for protection, for our “rain fly” that we might have deemed unnecessary. But may we know that true community and support are worth it and often, the means to weathering the hard times.
God, we thank you for the ways you surround us with fellow imperfect friends and family to show us the truest way to experience your grace and love.