“He sends the springs into the valleys; They flow among the hills. 11 They give drink to every beast of the field; The wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 By them, the birds of the heavens have their home; They sing among the branches. 13 He waters the hills from His upper chambers; The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.” – Psalm 104:10-13
The morning light was still creeping through the foliage that lined the riverbank as we stepped foot into the chilly waters of the Johns River. It was our first family outing in a long, long time. Each of us found an extra spring in our step as we hurriedly unloaded the kayaks. The morning clouds had disappeared as blue skies welcomed us overhead. Off in the distant, before I could even finish changing from my hiking boots to my river shoes, the echoes of the Whippoorwill called. Instantly, my mind was transported back to the days of my childhood. Those evenings near the banks of the Wabash River, we would often hear that night bird’s cry as the shadows ebbed closer to the Sycamore just off Grandma Tron’s front porch. Yet, here he was calling in the morning hour, “Odd,” I thought to myself. The Wabash and the evening Whippoorwill were a lifetime away, yet the smell of the watercourse nearby reminded me of the present adventure, so I finished slipping on my shoes and quickly walked to the water’s edge.
Looking back, the night bird singing in the morning would only be fitting to what we would find as the day progressed, as the comfort He afforded us on our journey would appear almost surreal. We had only planned to just float the river and eat a picnic lunch. All that transpired beyond that was nothing we had never envisioned. As they always say, “If you want to make God laugh, make a plan.”
We are still very much learning the ropes of kayaking, and today’s journey would be another first; a two-hour trek. Unlike that river of memory, the Wabash, the Johns River flows from its beginnings in the Pisgah National Forest high up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. There in the wilderness, each bend, each turn of the waterway revealed another picturesque scene that made you want to stop moving and soak it all in; yet the flow of the life-giving fluid continued. The cascading sounds of white water blended with the gurgle of the paddle as we dipped them serenely into the clear mountain water. All around us birds too numerous to count, called out their chirps, whistles and songs as the symphony of nature treated us to a special performance. Each new turn, each new vista exposed granite walls towering above as our craft silently slipped past, like the time beneath our course.
Rapids after rapids, we found excitement in our journey. Gone were the endless days of moving, countless hours of driving between homes. Gone were the frustrations of living in the tiny house with one bathroom. Gone were the thoughts of countless hours of preparation, before dawn fires in the oven, late night clean up following festivals, and all the tensions that arose between. It was as if God was satisfied with the fruit of our labors and was sharing this day with us. Yes, we were more than thankful.
If that was not enough, He had more plans in store.
We had not finished eating our picnic lunch when, in true Godly fashion, several of our former JAM Band members would unknowingly, and independently find their way to where we were spending the afternoon following our morning float. It was more than humbling to see friends that had become like an extended family find their way into the wilderness, each showing up in staggered arrivals. Once again, as it is with all true friends, we picked up where we had left off in what seemed like years since we had last seen one another. There was so much to tell, share and discuss. Six of the ten band members were present, simply out of the blue, all in one place. To believe it was possible even if we tried would have been nearly unthinkable; yet, here they were. The children have all grown and are all now young men and women. In my eyes, they were all children once again, laughing and enjoying just being together once more. It was a thing of beauty.
Like the river, you try to absorb as much as you can, but there is never enough time.
Before we knew it, our short time together required another goodbye; those painful farewells you try to avoid.
The flow of life continues unabated.
We so desperately want to sometimes stop the current and hold onto the moment, like the breath of life we take to dive below the waters, we must consider those precious moments and store them away somewhere in our memory to recall later, and pray they are never forgotten.
We had made our way to the streams that flowed amongst the hills. There they provided nourishment for all the wild beasts of the field. But the nourishment was more than physical. In all that we do, our souls sometimes need to be replenished with the happiness that keeps our spirits afloat. Sometimes, we must find the time to drift along with the current, if even for a few minutes and let the world pass us by as we listen to Him. He may not speak, he may not move, yet sometimes the message is to just sit back, relax and enjoy His presence and the presence of those we love.
Today we found peace and happiness once more as we basked in the presence of the Lord along with our loved ones.
It was surely a beautiful day.
The flow of life continues, and we cherish each bend in the river.
Thanks be to God.