I was glad to get away and unplug for the weekend. News of COVID-19 spreading across the world—and now into our city— filled my mind as I collected sleeping bags and reminded my boys to pack their toothbrushes. Thankful we hadn’t planned a Spring Break trip to a populated place, I was looking forward to the open air away from suburbia and media messages. It was a beautiful day—temperature in the lower 70s with with a cool breeze and overcast skies—when we arrived at campsite number 26. After scoping out the best places to stake our tents, we unloaded the car and set up camp.
It was a great weekend. We fished. We hiked. The kids waded in the lake and played in the sand. We threw frisbees. We made multiple treks down the little trail to the bathroom.
We ate hot dogs and breakfast tacos and sandwiches and s’mores—lots of s’mores. There is something about sitting around a campfire under the broad expanse of a starlit sky and toasting fluffy marshmallows to perfection.
All seems right in the world.
And it did that night.
I reveled in the magic of the moment—my husband and four children around me—mesmerized by the dancing embers, fingers sticky with marshmallow-chocolatey goodness. My heart was light, the moment fortifying me from the impending difficulty in the days ahead.
Of course, camping isn’t all magic and Kum Ba Ya moments, is it? Leaving the comforts of home and sleeping 17 inches away from family members can create tension. Not to mention trying to instill fire safety into the mind of a four-year-old and somewhat abandoning the routine hygiene practiced at home. And the lack of sleep. All of this, along with typical sibling squabbles, overflowed into several regretful reactions from me. I stood up abruptly from my blue camp chair. “I’ll be back in a little while,” I uttered, walking away from our campsite. I could feel my emotions bubbling, the need to remove myself and take a few breaths while taking a few steps alone. I walked down the road and prayed through my feelings.
Later that night, lying on a lumpy air mattress listening to the locusts, I reflected on the weekend. We had such a good time together as a family, yet there were moments I wished I had responded better—with more grace, more patience, more love.
Uncertainty about the future seeped back into my consciousness…
Will the kids’ schools be canceled after Spring Break?
Will I have to homeschool them?
What about our spring plans to _________ and _______?
There in the dark, I realized the weekend was a lesson for me in the coming weeks. My kids would most likely be at home more—which like a camping trip, can be full of sweet memories but also tension. How will I respond when emotions escalate?
I like to plan things. I want to know how my days/weeks/months are going to go. Yet, I’ve learned (and I’m learning still) that holding too tightly to my framework for life makes it difficult to adapt when things don’t go according to my plan (and things often don’t). So I set myself up for resiliency when I hold my day with open hands.
Releasing invites resiliency.
Clenching inhibits adaptability.
Inside a tent at a State Park, I drifted to sleep with such thoughts.
I awoke to the gentle drops of light rain falling on our tent. It was dark; I was unaware of the time. I stretched my legs down to the bottom of my sleeping bag. My toes wiggled against the fuzzy lining—it was cold…and wet!
My ears picked up a different sound. Splat. Splat. Splat. Those were raindrops inside the tent, splatting on the surface of the floor! I opened my eyes, trying to focus in the dark, yet unable to see. I rubbed my hand across the sleeping bag and air mattress, feeling a few damp spots. My mind raced as I sat up.
Our tent is leaking!
How bad is it?
Are we about to get soaked?
I reached over to my right and touched my son’s sleeping bag. It was dry, and he was snug as a bug inside his cocoon. I reached to my left and covered my daughter back up with her Frozen sleeping bag so Anna and Elsa could keep her cozy. When I felt for her pile of clothes in the corner, they were wet. I shuffled through her bag, trying to find the driest outfit to piece together, then stuffed it into my backpack. I did the same for myself. The kids were sleeping peacefully. I hated to wake them, not knowing what time it was. While I dreaded the next couple of hours of packing up wet camping gear, I reminded myself that it would all dry out.
The muddy messes will wash out—and no matter how soaked we get—we will eventually dry.
Listening to the rain drip outside and inside our tent, I didn’t miss the metaphor of the moment. I don’t know how much rain—how much inconvenience and difficulty—the Coronavirus will cause for me, for my family, for our community and nation and world. I don’t know how messy things will get or how hard it will be to adjust to a new normal (which feels increasingly abnormal).
There in a damp tent, I put my red rain poncho on and got to work. I prepared for what I could, getting dry clothes for us to wear. I stuffed everything else into bags and zipped them up so they’d be ready when my husband loaded the car. I gently woke up my children, resolved to be pleasant in my tone and actions. I calmly directed them to get dressed, then helped them put their arms into rain jackets. I rolled up sleeping bags, deflated the air mattress, then asked my husband if he’d drive us to the restroom, so we didn’t have to trudge down the muddy path.
I did what needed to be done at that moment.
I prepared. I assisted. And I asked for help when I needed it.
I smiled at my husband with raindrops on our cheeks.
I got muddy and wet and a little cold. All of us did.
We rolled up the soggy tents and loaded wet gear into the SUV. We abandoned the notion of a pancake breakfast by the campfire, opting for Egg McMuffins on the way home instead.
And we eventually dried out.
I don’t know how the Coronavirus is affecting your neck of the woods, and I don’t want to minimize what you are experiencing. This pandemic is more than putting on a poncho and braving the elements. But in a way—it is—isn’t it?
When tents lose their weatherproofing, we deal with it.
And life isn’t weatherproof, so we adapt as best we can.
We prepare. We assist. And we ask for help when we need it.
We resolve to be calm and loving and patient in our responses, for these are the things we can control right now.
And when we mess up? We ask for forgiveness.
We recognize the necessity to go on a walk (or shut the door to a bedroom) to clear our minds and pray.
And we smile through the rain.
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