We blew a tire and had to change it just a few feet away from traffic. Emily got sick, then sicker, and the neighboring campsite refused to turn off their music even an hour after curfew, so she couldn’t sleep, which made her even sicker. We finally had to break camp at midnight and drive home, which made her even sicker (mountain roads and nausea – not a good combination). Ryan followed suit about 5 miles from home. And when Alan unhitched the trailer at 3:30 a.m., the small wheel on the hitch popped off, causing the hitch to slam to the ground, punching a hole in the asphalt.
On Sunday, as we stumbled through a sleep-deprived version of unpacking, I began calling the weekend the Worst Camping Trip Ever, but Alan pointed out that we should call it the Best Camping Trip Ever. Why? As my father used to say, (craning his neck to the right), “You can look at it this way,” (and then craning his neck to the left) “or you can look at it that way.”
The thing is, it could have been SO much worse. Not that we sit around thinking of worst-possible scenarios; it’s just that it easily could have been worse in many ways.
Alan and I make it a practice trust God with every detail of our lives, and when we find ourselves in crisis, we turn first to Him. And while some may say that we were just lucky the circumstances played themselves out the way they did, or that maybe we just encountered a few coincidences, I believe that God is actively involved in our lives, especially when we ask Him. It would be hypocritical to ask for His help and then dismiss it as serendipity.
After I prayed, and right about the time Alan started jacking up the car, a traffic jam started just ahead of us. Traffic slowed to a crawl and stayed that way until he finished changing the tire. As soon as he was out of the way, it picked back up again.
Roger and Cathy Dreger were caravaning with us, and since they were ahead, they had to turn around and come back. As a result, they saw the reason for the traffic jam. A 4×4 truck had pulled over to the side of the road with some problem or another, and the girls riding inside it took the opportunity to work on their tans from the bed of the truck. In bikinis. Everyone was slowing down to take a look.
Miracle Number Three happened while Alan was changing the tire. The driver of a sedan wasn’t paying attention and didn’t notice the brake lights ahead of him until the last minute, so he slammed his brakes on and swerved into the shoulder. The miracle is that traffic was stopped just PAST where we were at the time. If it had been ten feet back, the car would have swerved directly into Alan.
And so the camping trip continued, largely uneventful until late Saturday afternoon, when Emily began feeling ill. We waffled about whether it was wiser to pack up and go or whether it would be better for her to sleep through the night first. We chose to stay, not counting on our new camping neighbors, who started their family dinner and karaoke night at 9:30 p.m. At 10:30 p.m., we asked them politely to turn the music down, explaining the situation, but they didn’t. By 11 p.m. Emily was getting sicker and we came to the conclusion that we really did need to leave, so Alan packed up the campground in the dark while I sat in the van and tended to the kids. At around 11:45 p.m., the neighbors finally turned down their radio, only to be overshadowed by the campers down the road who turned theirs up. At that point I almost lost it. And then, as I sat there rubbing Emily’s feet and listening to the wind blowing through the trees, I suddenly thought of Paul and Silas singing praises to God after being thrown in jail. I thought, if they can do it, I can do it too. So I did. It was an amazing oasis of peace in the middle of a storm of chaos. And for a few minutes, while I was singing softly, the music was turned down. We found out from the Dregers that it was turned back up louder after we left.
Miracle Number Four happened on the drive home, when Ryan got sick – he had been asleep and therefore showed no symptoms of being ill, but the thought suddenly popped into my head that he was going to throw up, so I got the bowl ready. A few minutes later he coughed, so I flipped around in my seat and got the bowl in place just in time. TMI, I know, but if I hadn’t been ready, well… you know.
And the final miracle was when the wheel fell off the trailer. Alan had been pushing on the wheel with his foot to line it up in the right direction just seconds before it fell off. If it had fallen off then, the hitch would have punched a hole in his foot instead of the road. And at 3:30 a.m., who would have been around to help me pull the trailer off his foot?
So, all things considered, it was the best camping trip we ever had. Just like life, it wasn’t entirely comfortable, and it wasn’t what we’d expected, but it was a clear reminder to all of us that God protects us and provides for us in every situation. To quote Laura Story’s song, “Perfect Peace”:
Stay close by My side, and you’ll never be alone
Keep your eyes on Me, and you’ll never be in need.
Though I may not calm the storm around you
You can hide in Me.
And besides, during the time between the Blowing Out Of The Tire and the Throwing Up Of The Offspring, we had a really nice time camping with friends, paddling around a lake and enjoying some beautiful scenery.