Lessons Learned in the Wild

This past week we went camping. And by camping I mean sleeping in a nice warm trailer with an actual toilet and a cozy bed complete with sheets and blankets. Nonetheless, this is Alaska, so even in the best of winter camping situations one must battle frozen toes and tingly fingers.

But I learned some things about myself (and life in general) as I chillaxed this last week. First off – I happen to like myself better when I’m relaxed. And my people like me better too. I found myself laughing more. And laughing longer. Like those belly laughs that bubble from the toes on up. The kind where you have to wipe your eyes numerous times because you’re laughing so hard.

It was simply glorious. I wasn’t trying to produce anything except happy hearts and satisfied bellies. And as hard as it was for me to do in my zest and zeal for being the Responsible Mom, I decided to throw any agenda out the window in favor of going with the flow.

You see, our family has this little tradition we do on vacation. We ask ourselves one question:  DO WE WANT TO?

Do we want to go sledding?  Why yes, we do.

Do we want to go snow machining?  Yes please.

How about a bonfire?  Oh yeah!

S’mores?  What a silly question.

King in the Corner, Spoons, and Tenzi?  Let’s play them all!

The one stipulation to this family motto is that the kiddos need to be obedient and respectful otherwise mom and dad’s laissez-faire attitude disappears … at least until morale has improved.

As a result, we trudged up snowy hills and giggled our way down on sleds. We made snow angels and gooey cinnamon rolls out of a tube. We ate chips in little bags and consumed way too many Jelly Bellies while playing games. We watched the sun smile high in the gorgeous blue sky and then oohed and ahhed as the flaming orange ball disappeared behind the mountains at sunset. We basked in God’s creativity and lingered long in the comfort of His creation.

Yes, I was still cooking. Still cleaning up after my people. And still disciplining. But my heart was different. More at peace. More calm. More me.

And as I’ve pondered this heart change, I discovered something. I am more beautifully me when I focus on these 3 things.

When I focus on WHAT’S IMPORTANT. My God and my family. Yes, ministry and work and serving others and the Great Commission are all significant too. But often I concentrate so much on loving others well that I end up giving my family the leftovers; the crumbs if you will, of my love.

When I focus on ONE THING AT A TIME. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “Wherever you are, be all there.” There’s so much wisdom in doing just that. Lovingly doing that next best thing. The next good thing. Or maybe the hard thing. But following the Lord’s leading in whatever He puts before you. One thing at a time.

When I focus on WHAT’S IN FRONT OF ME. So often I miss what’s right in front of my nose. Unless it’s my phone. And then I’m really good at directing all my attention on that tiny time sucker. But rather than be all scatterbrained this last week, I simply focused on the blessing of my family and the beauty of God’s creation. What was here and now. Not tomorrow or next week. But today. The value of these particular moments. And I gathered them up gleefully, like seashells on a seashore. To be treasured in the now. And in the later.

Frankly dear friends, I don’t just want to feel love in my heart for my people. I want to actually love them well. With words and actions. And with my whole heart. A verb vs. noun manner of love. For me that means going the extra mile for my family. It means serving them with joy. With patience. And kindness. Using my efforts for their good. It’s a Jesus-kind-of-love that I know I cannot and will not do perfectly. But because of Him, because of how He loves me, I can try.

These are the truths I hope to carry with me into the following weeks. And months. And years. Nothing earth shattering or world changing.

Or is it?

I know my attitude will not always be at peace or my heart so at rest. But this sort of perspective is healthy for the soul. It’s good for all of us. Sometimes you just have to search it out. And other times you have to go into the wilderness to find it.

For more snapshots of Alaska, follow Anne-Renee over on Instagram, where she loves to share glimpses of their family adventures, peppering her posts with pictures of mountains, moose, and backwoods beauty. Oh, and the occasional photo of their adorable bunny, Flopsy.

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Anne-Renee Gumley

Anne-Renee is a full-time mom who works part-time at her family's party store. She has two children who keep her laughing, a husband who keeps her smiling, and an itch for writing that just won't go away.
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