On Friday if you had asked me to share a special memory associated with Psalm 23, I would have shared about little Drew, who had the chapter memorized at age 2. Of course I was eager to share his brilliance with extended family, and on one occasion asked him to recite the passage at the dinner table. His sweet voice confidently proclaimed, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want . . . ."
At one point Drew paused in his recitation, so his uncle, whom the children called "Bobo," gently prompted him: "What about 'Thy Rod and Thy staff?'" Drew didn't skip a beat, but turned matter-of-factly to his uncle and calmly explained, "They comfort me, Bobo."
Yes, that would have been my Friday story. But by Sunday afternoon? My Psalm 23 story would have gone a little something like this.
|The forest trifecta: moss, creek, and a split rail fence.|
|Don't let the halo fool you.|
This weekend my cup overflowed with God's goodness and abundance. I took part in our church's Women's retreat and delighted in the many ways God revealed to me the blessing of community. From a skit performed with co-workers and late-night conversations with kindred spirits, to English Country dances with new friends and hikes in the woods with fellow moss lovers, I could feel my somewhat depleted cup beginning to fill.
|Glenwood Staff Ladies. Business as usual.|
|Dancing with 30 exhausted, hyper ladies is hilarious. |
|I love learning from Judy!|
|Isn't my Marmee cute?|
If I could liken this overflowing "cup" to a cup of tea, I would say the cream and sugar were about to be added . . . in the most unexpected way.
My dear friend Dayna was our retreat speaker, and she taught from Psalm 23 with wisdom, insight, and encouragement. Her faithful "yes" to her Savior is a constant inspiration to me and many others, and time spent with Dayna -- limited now that she lives in North Dakota -- is always a balm to my soul.
I regretted not having had more time with Dayna over the weekend (alas, Annie and I had to share her with dozens of other ladies), so I was excited when, at the end of the retreat, she suggested taking a quick hike up to the falls before heading out. Annie and I -- her fellow carpoolers -- were game: the sun was bright and warm, the sky a brilliant blue, and those mossy trees and gurgling streams beckoned irresistibly.
|Did I mention the moss?|
So we informed Michelle, our fearless leader, that we'd be taking a quick jaunt. She, in turn, informed the camp personnel that a few hikers were still on site. We took to the woods.
An hour later, we returned to the car, refreshed, yet eager to head home. We pulled out, approached the gate . . . and found it to be locked. Very securely . . . locked
. Not yet alarmed, we figured someone must still be on site. We drove around and hollered . . . and honked . . . and hollered and honked some more. Yet the only sign of life was the grazing deer who quizzically perked her ears and then calmly sauntered toward a patch of sunlight.
At this point we decided to rope Michelle into our awkward predicament. Dear, faithful Michelle, already on her way home, ready to rest after a full weekend; Michelle, who pulled over to the nearest gas station and remained a steadfast point of contact for us as we, one by one, exhausted our resources.
Resources which included scaling the fence to ask neighbors for help . . . .
|Brave, strong Dayna.|
. . . trying to contact the retreat center itself . . . calling friends and family for advice . . . and finally scouring the grounds for implements with which to perform our great escape.
We looked at each other with calm determination. Dayna reasoned, "We can do this, girls. We've read all about things like this, right?" Surely three literary homeschool moms could break out of a chainlink fence. Dayna valiantly, romantically attempted to pick the lock with a hairpin. It works in movies. It works in mystery novels. It did not work for us.
|Brave, creative Annie.|
Annie, who was starting to feel a bit claustrophobic, was ready to resort to more desperate measures. She procured a pick axe and cable from some shed and determined to miraculously combine these tools with her van's tow hitch. I tend to be more cautious, and nervously pointed out that it might be unwise to yank the entire gate out of the ground. This might be considered vandalism?
I wondered at which point we should call 911. Annie wasn't so sure. "No! We'll end up on the news
! We'll be the three lunatic moms
who got trapped
inside a Bible camp!
Where had we gone wrong? At about this time I recalled having passed fellow hiker-friends on our way into the trail. We had waved goodbye to these friends who were just finishing up their hike. It dawned on me. What if the retreat personnel had seen those women return to camp and assumed they
were the ones to whom Michelle had been referring? No one would guess that three more women were trapped in the idyllic woods.
|A path on one of our earlier hikes. I was so blessed to visit with a number of younger women this weekend.|
My phone battery was uncomfortably low by this time, and service was limited. I continued to run back and forth from the van to the one patch of land where my coverage was strongest, keeping Michelle up to date on our escape attempts. Michelle continued to try calling those whom she thought might be able to help us out, and was ready to come fetch us herself. (I could envision the three of us scaling the fence upon Michelle's arrival and began to consider which of my possessions I should toss over. The church curtains would be a definite must . . . . )
Fairly certain we were out of options by this time, Annie's husband was ready to head north with some bolt cutters. If we were resorting to bolt-cutting, I was thankful to contribute the suggestion that my in-laws lived less than an hour away. I hated to inconvenience them, but I knew they'd not only have the necessary tools, but they'd also be all too willing to help. I gingerly made the call, embarrassed we had gotten ourselves into such a scrape. "Hey . . . so . . . do you guys happen to have any . . . bolt cutters?" My mother-in-law laughed, checked their escape-tool-arsenal, and assured me they would head over as soon as possible.
Knowing that help was on the way, we began to relax. Yes, we were still locked in. Physically, things hadn't changed; but our outlook had changed: we had a new, calming assurance. So, with Psalm 23 fresh on our hearts, we spread out our coats in a patch of green pasture . . . right beside the still waters. A table was prepared before us in the form of the various leftover snacks we had on hand: Red Vines, carrots, hummus, one apple and several granola bars. Dayna positioned an unlit candle in the middle for ambience. We could survive for quite some time.
|(Kayla, your leftover Dayna-snacks were a banquet that saved our lives. Ann, thanks for letting Annie snag the Red Vines.)|
It was a powerful picture to me that these camp boundaries became beautiful in my sight. Here I was, trapped with two of my dearest friends. We were forced to sit, to rest, to talk about the real, heart-felt things. And, really, in that moment, we had everything we needed. We were blessed to think of the many friends and family who were ready to jump in and help. We were blessed by the snacks which had been shared with us by others. We were blessed by a weekend full of laughter-inducing activity, delicious food, gracious camp hosts, thoughtful conversation, and deep wisdom. We were blessed by the warm sunshine that continued to pour down on us. We even found comfort in the rod and staff which reminded us of our glaring need for a wise, forgiving Shepherd.
|He restores my soul.|
The cream and sugar were added to my figurative cup of tea. Annie refers to the three of us as the Bermuda Triangle. She's right. But we are also tea with cream and sugar. Annie is the tea: her energy is a hearty dose of caffeine that has always bravely inspired us to push limits and take risks because we serve a mighty God. Dayna is the cream: her words are soothing, her presence calming, her spirit rich, and she pairs beautifully with a piping hot cup of tea. That leaves me as the sugar: I quietly insert myself here and there, sweetly attempting to keep my friends grounded and rational with gentle, unobtrusive questions. Questions like, "Is this considered vandalism?"
|The Great Escape.|
Finally, my in-laws pulled up, and they worked their magic. Never have I hugged them so tightly. We laughed over the story, secured the gate behinds us, climbed into Annie's van and breathed a sigh of relief. My ever-mindful father-in-law pointed us toward the road we should take to head home. We grinned our cutest grins and bashfully demurred, "Ummm . . . can we just follow you out? We have no idea where we're going."