“Freedom from God is slavery to circumstance”

Yesterday, Granny took the boys to Mount Mitchell, elevation 6,684 feet. My lovers of geography were thrilled to visit the highest peak east of the Mississippi.

They did some light hiking, ate a picnic lunch, and cheerfully weathered the 63-degree temps in summer clothing. What a nice and safe adventure in the great outdoors.

Warming up & drying off after a fun-filled afternoon swimming @ Hanging Rock Lake. Little did we know what craziness what in store for us on day two of our camping trip.

Now let’s compare this with our camping trip to Hanging Rock from July 11-13. That Saturday was sunny and warm, so setting up camp was easy enough. Once Stephen’s friend from work, Dan, and his 12-year-old son, Brendan, arrived, we were off to do some lake swimming.

That night featured all the things that make camping so rewarding: relaxing around the campsite in an organic state, building a kick-butt fire, feasting on smokey campfire-cooked meat, munching guilt-free on junk food, making s’mores, burning sticks, drinking icy cold brews, and playing with glow sticks and glow necklaces after dark.

Overall, day one was a smashing success, and it felt as though Hanging Rock had welcomed us with open arms. Now, the next day was another story.

Zeke celebrates finding a good s’more-roasting stick, while Houston tosses the football — a harbinger of things to come the following day.

It began innocently enough. We’re pretty slow-moving campers in the morning. After Stephen boiled water for coffee, and Dan cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast, we lounged lazily around the fire, not quite ready to start off on an adventure.

Instead, the adventure came to us in the form of a football landing smack dab in the pan with still searing-hot bacon grease. It flew up onto Dan’s hands, Brendan’s arms and forehead, and Zeke’s legs. Screaming and crying filled the campground, and freaking out ensued.

Houston was the one who had been tossing the football up into the air. I actually thought to tell him to move away from where we were hanging out as to avoid hitting the lantern or some other breakable piece of camping gear. The grease hadn’t even crossed my mind as a possible disastrous target.

The twins are in awe of Gabriel’s fiery stick. Burning stuff is one of the best parts of camping, well, unless it entails burning-hot bacon grease.

But against my better judgement and my gut intuition, I said nothing. I felt like during the week leading up to camping, I had been riding Houston a little hard. So, I thought, “Lighten up, Rebecca. Let the boy have a good time, and stop ruining his fun.”

Interestingly, both dads said after the fact that they hadn’t even noticed Houston throwing the ball. Hence, it was me who dropped the ball, so to speak. Ultimately, I was responsible, and I felt horrible.

Of course, poor Houston felt even worse. He was saying how he was the worst person in the world, but we couldn’t really tend to his shattered self-esteem, since the medical needs of our burn victims were the most pressing issue.

Dan assists in getting the boys to pose for this forced photo @ Window Falls. A little morning trauma, a stressful hike, & my nervous & shaky hands weren’t about to stop me from getting my obligatory nature shot. Now smile, daggone it!

After being iced and slathered with ointment from the first-aid kit, Zeke eventually calmed down. We assessed the burns, which were pretty bad, but not blistering, so we opted forego a trip to the hospital.

After that, we were finally able to talk to Houston. We explained that he wasn’t in trouble. It was abundantly clear that this was just an accident, and we could see that he felt great remorse. We lovingly assured him that no one was mad and that we all forgave him. Poor kid.

Sure, we told him he should learn from such mistakes and make wiser decisions in the future, but the mishap was ultimately Mommy’s fault, since she was the only adult who happened to think about the consequences beforehand. Sigh … not the proudest parenting moment of my life.

Zeke shimmies down a rock on his bottom (as has been advised), while Gabriel does a jig near the steep ledge … Mommy’s blood pressure goes up.

I felt like my entire foundation had been rocked. I was guilt-ridden, shaken to the core, and shaking life a leaf.

Instead of practicing grace with myself, as I’m called to do in Ephesians 4:32, I felt feeble and defeated. Instead of remembering that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness, like Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, I was discouraged and wrecked by my failure.

Once we determined that Zeke could indeed get a sock on over the bandaged burns, we forged on with our hiking plans for the day. We made it to Window Falls and Hidden Falls, where the boys quickly got ahead of us with Brendan. This, I didn’t handle well.

“Is my wife having a nervous breakdown?” ponders Stephen. “Will we survive this hike?” I wonder, as I let the circumstances control me & affect our group. Sorry for not embracing the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, y’all! (By the way, nice photography work, Houston.)

Once we caught up to them, I witnessed my young, inexperienced hikers jumping from slippery rock to slippery rock, while exercising absolutely no caution. They haphazardly climbed up and descended down slime-covered terrains, heeding no skills we’d previously taught. I was just a mass of twitching nerves.

At our urging, the 3 Amigos were a bit more vigilant in the safety standards at our final destination, Lower Cascade Falls. This one has a pool deep enough for swimming, so we stayed there for a while to let the kids cool off and play, and allow us some time to chill and decompress.

Back at the site, Gabriel was sitting on his knees and leaning forward (as is his wont) while eating chips at a picnic table. Behind him was a cooler with a detached lid. His foot pushed against it, the lid slid off, and Gabe’s face smashed into the edge of the table.

Houston, who is such a sweet, forgiving & grace-filled boy, manages to have fun hiking behind Hidden Falls, despite Mommy’s stressed-out demeanor. So glad you didn’t let the accident or me ruin your adventure!

Blood gushed. Shrieks filled the campground for a second time. And ice was once again utilized to doctor an injury.

Turns out that Gabe took a chunk out of the gum above a top, front permanent tooth. Yikes. But because we were able to stop the bleeding promptly and he was able to eat without pain, we opted against the ER. Plus, I figured I’d just take him to the dentist once we returned to civilization.

After that, we had an uneventful dinner (thank God!), feasting upon MREs and sausages, and just trying to recover from the stresses of the day. Once Dan and Brendan hit the road, the boys easily passed out in the tent.

Zeke frolics in the pool of Lower Cascade Falls, happy that the cool waters provide relief to his injured legs. Thank the Lord his burns have healed well & hopefully only one small scar will remain.

That night, however, a thunderstorm raged and caused our tent to leak a bit. (Well, our laziness in not tying down the rain cover was the real culprit.) The boys were a bit scared, but we convinced them we were safe and, no, we wouldn’t float away, never to be seen or heard from again.

Gabriel had said he felt badly, but I chocked that up to fear and fatigue, so I didn’t think much about it. That is, until he puked all over his blankets, sleeping bag, and therma-rest around 2 a.m.

For once that day, I took God’s advice, and heeded the words of Isaiah 26:3 by finding peace in Jesus in the midst of this literal and figurative storm. I calmly reassured the boys that we would be okay, and that we could and would press on, despite our circumstances.

Zeke tries to slide down slippery rocks @ the bottom of Lower Cascade. Fortunately, it was a very bumpy & unsuccessful ride, so no more attempts were made. Don’t worry, thrill-seekers … there were more injuries & mishaps in store for us later on back @ the campground.

I used one of the remaining two therma-rests and slept down on the ground with Gabe to help him through the night, and Houston and Zeke snuggled with Daddy on the blow-up mattress. Sure, the smell of puke hung in the air, but we did indeed make it through the night no worse for the wear.

The day after we got home, though, I told Stephen I felt like I was having a stroke. I was speaking like I had dyslexia, jumbling up my words into a mixed-up order. Somehow, Houston managed to translate for me, articulating my unintelligible sentences into thoughts that made sense.

Stephen explained that people having strokes don’t even say real words and convinced me that I was fine. Still, I felt like someone was sitting on my chest and that I had no control over myself, mind and body. It was truly frightening.

Our trip w/ a few CC families to All-A-Flutter Butterfly Farm was both stress-free & injury-free … no standing on dangerous ledges for these merry pics!

Since then, I’ve determined that my physical body was merely suffering the symptoms of a spiritual sickness. I had gotten to a place both leading up to and during the camping trip where I wanted to have control, instead of letting the Holy Spirt control me and allowing His fruits to take hold of my life, as is spelled out in Galatians 5:22-25.

I was ignoring the words in John 15:5 that says by abiding in Christ, you will bear much fruit. And I wasn’t listening to Paul’s wisdom in Philippians 4:10-13As Pastor Andrew explains these verses, “Freedom from God is slavery to circumstance.”

I’ve gained a deeper faith since all this, and feel like a stronger mom and wife, and a more mature Christian. I’m not saying I won’t screw up again and feel that human impulse of letting circumstances control me, but I will recognize the darkness sooner and be able to use the light of Christ to conquer it, hopefully, with much less drama.

Zeke dons Monarch antennae as tissue paper is wrapped around the kids to symbolize the chrysalis, from which these “butterflies” will emerge.

Simply put, I am learning ever so slowly to be content like Paul. It’s difficult and it’s radical, but it’s indeed doable. And honestly, it is the only way to survive and thrive in our brutal world and in America’s culture of death.

As my pastor further explains it, “I am tied to the source of life. It is strength to stand against the circumstances of the world through weakness of total dependence on God.”

In other words, when God controls us, our circumstances don’t, and our dependence on other worldly things is broken as a result. That is power. That is strength. That is blessing. That is freedom.

Although Monarchs are supposed to be attracted to vibrant colors, they were particularly drawn to Zeke, even in a black shirt. I think his butterfly popularity came as quite a surprise!

Other stuff:

  • Gabe’s gum is healing well and his first ($91!!!) x-ray showed that there was no damage to his tooth’s root or socket. He has to get another trauma check in a couple weeks, so you better break open the piggy bank, buddy.
  • We went to the sprayground with some Mercy Hill mamas, which included Kim, who just so happens to be the midwife who delivered Houston. He’s friends with her son, Casey. Small world, eh?!
  • Houston’s swimming like a champ and taking on diving boards, like he did at John Hunter and Gray’s house recently. He was even able to swim out to the platform at Hanging Rock and jump bravely from the board into the lake’s 14-feet water!

Even Houston (not a huge fan of critters these days) likes feeding the the Monarchs from his Gatorade-drenched pad.

  • Gabriel can now jump into the six-feet end of the pool and swim his way back to the edge without my assistance — a new feat realized while at Will’s pool the other day!
  • And Zeke is technically swimming, but just needs to build his confidence and not rely on floaties or the noodle. I’m so proud of all my little swimmers!
  • Stephen and I had an eventful date night. We saw Robert Randolph & the Family; then feasted on phở, bánh mì, and delectable cocktails made by a very serious bartender; indulged in a pricey cigar at an all-black bar, where we stuck out like soar thumbs, but didn’t care. Good times for sure!

Many Monarchs flutter about, while Gabriel & crew enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the butterfly house.

  • Gramsey and Papa came to visit and took us out to a restaurant of Houston’s choosing. He picked Mario’s Pizza, which impressed the skeptics. And then the boys enjoyed working on a 500-piece puzzle, playing poker, and showing off their reading skills to Grams and Pops.
  • We went to a baseball game with Tricia, Jeremy, Bret, and Bella. We met this cool family through the J-Crew and hope that our friendships with them blossom over the coming months.
  • In fact, we are planning a camping trip with them this fall. Crazy, you say? Well, that’s the just the way we roll.