God’s Strange Providence

23 05 2018

Timberley and I just had lunch with a friend of ours who drove up from London to meet us at the Tyndale House. We met Lindsay when she and her husband came to Indonesia to begin their work there with our same organization. They moved to our city because to do their language study. After several years in Indonesia, they moved to London to continue their work there.

Lindsay was there when Anna died, and was one of the ladies who helped Timberley while Anna was missing before we found out what had happened with the bicycle accident. She was very much part of what took place during those very difficult few days.

But as it turns out, Indonesia was not our first interaction with Lindsay. I did not know this, but Lindsay was in a class at Southern seminary in Louisville in 2006 when our family was on a stateside assignment. During a missions emphasis at the seminary I was invited to speak in a church history class. Lindsay was in that class. I don’t remember now much of what I said, but I do remember that at the end of my presentation there seemed to be an inordinate number of questions about the struggles of family life on the field. They wanted to know how my wife was doing. How were my children adjusting to life on the field.

Lindsay reminded me of that day as we had lunch today. She told me that I shared a particular story about Anna that she has never forgotten because that story helped with her decision to go to the mission field.

When Anna was five or six years old, we were preparing to move from Salatiga to Semarang. She had finished a year of Indonesian pre-school. I asked her on her last day of school if she was going to miss school.


“No,” she said.

“Well what about your friends there. You’ll miss them, won’t you?”

“No, I don’t really have any friends at school.”

“But at play time, don’t you have fun with the other kids in the play yard?”

“No. I just go to the swing, because I can be alone there and I don’t have to talk to anyone.”


Keep in mind that at this time, Anna knew no Indonesian and was quite shy about learning any, so her attitude was not unexpected. Still, I kept grasping for some positive aspect to her year at school. “Well what about your teacher? You’ll miss her.”

As I recall, this last question made Anna laugh out loud at the suggestion. “No. She’s really mean. She always yells at the children.” I always thought that her teacher reminded me of a female, Indonesian, Sgt. Carter, so I guess I should have know better.

Finally, in desperation, I asked, “Well Anna, is there anything at all that was good about your year in school?”

“No. Not really. I won’t miss it at all.”

“But Anna, I thought you liked going to school every day.” She made a funny face and shook her head no. “Why didn’t you say something to us?”

“Because I knew that that’s what I needed to do.” Anna knew that her Mom and Dad were in language school and that God had called us there. Sam was old enough to go to the international school for first grade. She was doing her part at the Indonesian school. That was her bit of sacrifice.

So that was the story I told in class that day back in 2006. What I didn’t know was that a young Lindsay was in the class struggling with understanding how God might be calling her and her husband to the mission field. One of the big questions she had was concerning children. How could she take children to the mission field. When she heard Anna’s story about sacrificing even at five years old, she knew that God would take care of them, too.

About two years later, Lindsay and her husband arrived in our city and there we were. And there was this little girl that was so instrumental in bringing this new family to the field. She so wanted to meet Anna. When she did, she found this vibrant, young girl who was excited about the Lord.

But then, just as quickly, Anna was gone from our lives.

At lunch today, Lindsay told us this story of how Anna helped to clarify God’s call on her life. She told us as well that she tells all of the teams from America about how Anna affected her life and about Anna’s vibrant faith in Jesus.

It was encouraging for Timberley and me to hear this story. We never know all of the various ways that God is using us and the events in our lives in so many ways that we are not even aware of. The tragedies in our lives are part of a much larger picture of what God is doing. The fact that God is using these tragedies does not make them any less difficult or somehow cause us to view these events as good things in and of themselves. But it does help when we step back a bit to see the larger picture of God’s work in our lives and in the lives of those around us, and even in the lives of people that we do not know. Anna had that impact on Lindsay, and today, in some small way, I think Lindsay had that impact on Timberley and me. To hear about the ministry Lindsay and her family is involved in and to know that God had used Anna, in her seemingly small way, to bring all of this about . . . how would I say it? It doesn’t make it worth it. But it does help give meaning to these things.


In England: A Different Kind of Remembrance and a Different Kind of Prayer

7 05 2018

0505181241_HDRTimberley and I are in England as I am writing today’s post. We are staying for one month at the Tyndale House in Cambridge, where I am reading and writing for a few projects. Our change of place and routine brought on a few unintended changes for me. Yesterday (May 6), Timberley asked me something about today (May 7).  My slow response must have alerted her that I did not know the day’s date. “You do know what tomorrow is, don’t you?” Just then, I remembered the date. Yes, today is the sixth. Tomorrow is the seventh, I thought. How could I have forgotten? It is that day.

But then, I began working through the events and adventures of our day. There were reminders of Anna everywhere. Well, some were reminders of Anna. Others were those events that are new to us for which we can only wonder about Anna’s response. The first were things like being in a church service at Eden Baptist Church with what seemed  a hundred families with young girls, from babies to young teens. Was there even a boy in the congregation? I didn’t see one. Or, perhaps more darkly, walking on a street and being passed by a young girl on a bike, being followed by her mother who was carefully calling out cautions to the young girl about not riding into the street without looking, which seemed to go unnoticed by the girl. We walked on silently, as I prayed silently that nothing would go wrong in front of us.

0506181456b_HDRThe second type of event was on our afternoon bus ride to nearby St. Ives and the beautiful walk along the Ouse River to Houghton. Along the way we saw a pack (is it called a pack? Or a herd? Or some other name?) of llamas or alpacas, freshly shorn and enjoying the recent sunshine that seemed to have arrived in Cambridgeshire at the same time we did. In moments like those, we know of course what nine-year old Anna would have thought of those funny creatures. But we have to enjoy those new things without her.

We have had a delightful time so far in England and look forward to many more good experiences and adventures. My brother Richard and his wife, Dianna, flew with us from America to London and we stayed for a few days with them there. On our first day we visited the Churchill War Rooms. The second day we traveled to Windsor to see the Castle. Among our other adventures that day, Timberley saw a family touring the castle, and she went and listened in on their conversation to discover that they were Indonesian. They were traveling from Medan and had visited the United States and the United Kingdom. We had a nice conversation. They were very excited that we were able to speak Indonesian with them. Timberley remembered her language very well. As would be expected everyone exchanged hugs and handshakes. Hugs for the women. Handshakes for the men. And photos. There are always photos to be taken.

We stayed after the castle closed to attend an Evensong worship service in St. George’s Chapel, where the upcoming royal wedding will be held. Earlier in London, we attended an Evensong service at Westminster Abbey. I decided then that when it was in my power to do so, I would visit old churches during times of worship rather than simply during the tourist hours. Doing so, we could experience the church building in the context in which it was designed–not as a museum piece but as a part of a living and worshiping community.

After our walk to Houghton yesterday, we experienced a bit of the living community of the church in St. Ives. We came back into town, hot and tired from our walks, looking for a place to have afternoon tea. We happened to see in the churchyard a sign advertising tea at the church. A few folding tables were set up in the grass in front of the church where a half dozen people were enjoying tea and conversation. We decided to join them for their tea time. We met some quite friendly people who helped us through the ritual of tea and scones. It was our first “proper” tea. (The British seem to take pride in being the only people who know how to do something the “proper” way. In Cambridge there is a restaurant advertising a “proper” hamburger. Another advertised “proper” pasta. Perhaps some Italians will venture here to find out the right way to make their own food!) While we were there we picked up a printed announcement about next month’s event, which we will unfortunately miss. “Booze in the Pews” is a three-day event to be held in the church with “12 Real Ales” and other beers and ciders. I don’t know what a “real” ale is, but I suppose it is something like a “proper” ale. The things we miss in America.

While today marks ten years since Anna died, it is also the most unusual day of remembrance for us as we are in a place where nothing is normal and everything is new. The newness of things ought to be a reminder to us of the newness of heaven.

I am writing this in the library at the Tyndale House. A gong recently sounded which marks the first of two tea times. I retreated with the others to the Common Room where we have tea or coffee and socialize. There I engaged with a man I was just meeting for the first time. In the course of our conversation, we had an opportunity to speak of the three NT aspects of salvation–what we term justification, sanctification, and glorification. I made the observation that it could be helpful to pray for others through all three stages of this process: for the lost that they would come to know Christ, for those who believe that they would increase in holiness, and for those whose life here has ended that God would complete that act of salvation in heaven. My new friend commented on the third prayer, “It seems to me, though, that that is already decided. Isn’t it a bit of a wasted prayer?”

I don’t believe so. When I pray that God would save Anna, I am not praying that she would be justified. That happened long ago at our house in Salatiga. I am not praying that she would sanctified. We saw that happening daily in her final five or so years. What I am praying for is that God would complete that work of salvation by giving to Anna “that inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade–kept in heaven” for her. Is there some uncertainty over whether God will do that? Not a bit. I am completely certain that God will accomplish these things according to his word. Does that mean we do not pray for it? I hope not. Our prayer should always be based on the promises God made to us in his word.

And so we pray now. Come, Lord Jesus. Bring all things to their proper and fitting conclusion. As you have saved us in the past by bringing us to the point of faith, continue to save us through the sanctifying work of your Holy Spirit, and save those believers who have gone before us by bringing them into their unperishable inheritance. Amen.


Another Birthday; A Milestone; A Discovery

29 03 2018


We are entering into that time of year again with the remembering of Anna’s birthday, Easter approaching, and then the day remembering her death. I have written a number of times here about the confluence of these days and the perhaps backwards ordering of the events–it would have been very nice if Easter came last in the sequence, but we have what we have.

Anna would be 19 today. My goodness, how difficult that is to think about, but as Timberley reminds me, Anna will always be nine years old.

I had a moment of confusion the other day. The kind of moment I have had before, but not often. It was not about Anna, but rather my mother, who passed away one year after Anna. I was thinking about some good friends of ours here in Wake Forest and I began remembering the times that they had spent with my mom when she and my dad visited here. I had very vivid memories about how much my friends loved my mom and our laughter together. And how they missed my mother.

And then I remembered. My mom never came to Wake Forest. She passed away three days before I received my first communication about the job I have here. She didn’t know anything about my position at the seminary, or Wake Forest, or anything else related to our current situation. And yet from time to time I have these memories of my mom’s presence here with us. It is interesting how our memories work over time.

There was a milestone that came and went without my realizing it. It happened some time last June. Around June 15th or so, if my calculations are correct. We passed the time when we have spent more time without Anna than we had with Anna. That is hard to imagine because in so many ways time tends to stand still now. Yet, I think what happens, as with these memories of my mother, is that in our memories we bring those people along with us into the remainder of our lives. Their absence, in a way, is only partial. They are physically absent, yes, but our memories of them create a real presence in our lives. Since we are living on with those presences of Anna, of my mother, and of Timberley’s sister and the several others we have lost in recent years, the time without them doesn’t seem so long as the calendar would indicate.

It is interesting that this year Anna’s birthday coincides with Maundy Thursday, when the church remembers the evening that Jesus spent with his disciples prior to his arrest and crucifixion the following day. On that night he took bread and wine and shared it with his disciples saying, “Here is my body.” And then, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Various factions within the church have interpreted those aspects of the Lord’s Supper in various ways: transubstantiation, real presence, symbolic memory, etc. But perhaps these views are not so far apart as the history of the church would say. Perhaps, as I am finding with Anna and with my mother, the memory is a type of real presence. And is this real presence so different from the physical presence of the person herself?

I shared some of these thoughts with Timberley this morning. We both shared the pangs of missing Anna. I told Timberley that I better understood the meaning and importance of the clichéd charge to “keep their memory alive.” I suppose that for some, keeping the memory of a lost loved one is too difficult. It is better to suppress those memories. If that is someone’s path, I do not want to quarrel with them. But it is not my path. The memories do create painful moments. Not always. But often enough. Yet I can’t imagine life without the twin siblings of memories and pains.

Which then brings me back to our remembrance of Jesus’s death. It might seem odd that the church would want not only to remember his death, but to celebrate it. To call tomorrow Good Friday, of all things. Yet in a very real way, our memory of Jesus, which he called us to have when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, is one aspect of the sustaining of Jesus’s real presence in our lives.

I pray that for each of you, Jesus would have a real presence in your life this year.

You Must Believe in Spring, Again

9 05 2017


On Sunday’s post I mentioned a tune I had recently heard by the jazz pianist Joel Weiskopf. After I wrote that, I found the lyrics for the song and wanted put them here. If a Christian did not write this lyric, then here is surely an example of common grace.

When lonely feelings chill
The meadows of your mind,
Just think if Winter comes,
Can Spring be far behind?

Beneath the deepest snows,
The secret of a rose
Is merely that it knows
You must believe in Spring!

Just as a tree is sure
Its leaves will reappear;
It knows its emptiness
Is just the time of year

The frozen mountain dreams
Of April’s melting streams,
How crystal clear it seems,
You must believe in Spring!

You must believe in love
And trust it’s on its way,
Just as the sleeping rose
Awaits the kiss of May

So in a world of snow,
Of things that come and go,
Where what you think you know,
You can’t be certain of,
You must believe in Spring and love

You Must Believe in Spring

7 05 2017

WP_20170504_07_49_17_ProToday marks another year since Anna’s death in 2008. The days and weeks and months begin to string together over time but markers continue to arise to remind you of your loss. I say at this time every year that navigating spring time is a challenge and a blessing. It is an interesting period of time in that we are remembering Anna’s birth and death and usually right in the middle we celebrate Easter and remember the resurrection of our Lord. But it is not only that we are remembering Jesus’ resurrection, bat we are looking ahead to the resurrection of all followers of Christ.

Another marker that reveals itself during this period is the beginning of spring. God grants us each year this time when dead things come to life. Roots buried deep under the earth whose tops had long withered and died from the winter’s frost and freeze now have new life coursing through them. Seeds planted in the soil die and spring to life in flowers and food.

I recently became acquainted with the music of a man named Joel Weiskopf. He is a jazz pianist and a believer. I was struck by one of his compositions entitled “You Must Believe in Spring.” Rather, I wasn’t so much struck by the tune as by the title. It captured for me in just a few words the feeling I have each year at this time as I watch my garden grow. Spring becomes a sign, if you will, of the resurrection of the dead. It is not a period of time that I believe in. It is not the fecundity of the earth in which I believe. No, it is more than all of these things and yet none of them. We believe in the Lord of the resurrection and we have hope in the future resurrection which he has promised to those who believe. It is the springtime and its fecundity that is a sign of those things in which we hope.

We pray that Christ would return soon. Come, Lord Jesus. Anna resurget.


Happy Eighteenth

29 03 2017

Today it is 18 years since Anna was born. Tonight we will have some variation of our typical Italian meal to celebrate together. Anna loved eating at the Olive Garden when we visited my parents in California, so while we don’t often go to that restaurant anymore, we always choose some variation for the birthday celebration.



Sam and Anna enjoying some birthday fun by the pool.


I have two things to share this year. The first will be brief. The second is more important. First, Timberley and I went to see Michael Fabiano last night give a recital in Raleigh. He is a fantastic singer. If you love opera, you need to hear him when you get a chance. He performs with opera companies around the world so he will likely be coming to some place near you. If you do not love opera, what are you waiting for? What does this have to do with Anna? I am pretty certain that she would have loved the recital last night. But I am absolutely certain that had she gone to the recital, she would have decided to have 18 children instead of 17 and that her 18th child would have been named Fabiano. You can read a bit about her children here.

The second thing I would like to share is about a recent trip we made to Indonesia and about how you can help children and families living in poverty.

Sam and I and a group of other students and professors from Southeastern seminary left after Christmas for a trip to Indonesia. We had a fantastic time there, working with a family as they try to reach several people groups with the gospel of Jesus. There is much I could say about that part of the trip, but it is the second half of our trip that is important now.

After we returned from the island where we served and landed back in the capital city of Jakarta, and after the rest of the team returned to America, Timberley came and joined Sam and me. We took another week to visit our old stomping grounds and meet with old friends. We wanted for Sam to see the places where we lived and to solidify for himself some of the memories that for all of us were beginning to fade from view. We visited the homes where we lived and the school where he attended first grade. We visited friends whom we had not seen in almost ten years. It was a good trip.



The kids enjoying the playground at the coffee plantation.




Sam recreating the photo years later. There might be a weight limit on that thing.


But we also took one day and visited a little girl that we had not met personally but whom we had photos and letter correspondence that had been going on for several years. Timberley and I had decided some time ago to begin sponsoring a child through Compassion International. We were at a Keith and Kristen Getty concert at Southeastern and a plea was made to support a child there. When we went to the table we picked up several cards with children’s information. Then we found one that immediately ended our search. A little girl that lives in Bawen needed a sponsor. “Bawen,” we thought. “That is 30 minutes from where we lived in Indonesia!” So began our journey with Compassion International that has grown to where we now sponsor three little girls. (Sam has noted that each of the children, in some way, look suspiciously like Anna, but I’m sure that is merely coincidence.)

When we learned that we would be going to Indonesia, Timberley contacted Compassion and arranged for us to meet our child. We had a wonderful time with the family and with the good people that run the orphanage where our child and her older brother are cared for. I won’t go into the specifics here, but just let me say that your sponsorship of a child through Compassion will change the lives not only of that child but of the whole family. If you allow it, it will likely change your life as well. I strongly urge you to consider this ministry in your giving.

Anna, we still miss you and think of you always. Turning 18 is am important milestone for young people. But you have passed through many much more significant milestones already and I am sure would look back with a bit of a condescending but charitable laugh at the idea that having another birthday was of some significance. But allow us to have our little parties nonetheless. We are not where you are and do not see the things that you see. But soon, Anna, soon. Maranatha. Anna resurget.







Mother’s Day in the Mountains: A Cautionary Tale

11 05 2016



We began a kind of tradition a few years back. Tradition is not the best word for it, or rather, it is not the word I would choose for it. Yet I know not another word for what we have been doing. So that is what I will call it.

In our season of remembering Anna and mourning her death, which begins with her birthday on March 29, continues through Easter, and ends with the day of her death on May 7, the calendar plays one last cruel trick on my wife. The first Sunday following the date of Anna’s death is always Mother’s Day.


We learned long ago that we could not, nor should we, expect that everyone around us share in whatever emotion we happened to be experiencing at that time. Events would take place that for most were just ordinary moments. For us, however, a mundane event, a song playing in the background, the look of a child running by, it could be just about anything, would make us stop while Timberley wordlessly leaned in. I would put my arm around her and draw her in. We would just silently and momentarily mourn again the loss of Anna. After a deep breath together, we would go on.

It becomes difficult, however, when events around us are celebratory and meant–rightfully so–as times of rejoicing. So once a year, our church–again, rightfully so–celebrates motherhood. We want the church to do that. We have no problem with the church doing that. We have just decided over the years that it is easier if we don’t participate.

Hence our new tradition. We now plan each year to be out of town on Mother’s Day. Sometimes it is a trip to the beach. If we don’t leave town, then it might be a day trip to a museum in town. But we just plan to be away somewhere for the day.


This year we decided to tackle Mount Mitchell. In hindsight, it would be better to say that Mount Mitchell tackled us. Mount Mitchell is the highest point in the US east of the Mississippi River. My friends from California or Colorado might snicker, but Mt. Mitchell towers above the rest of the Blue Ridge Mountains at 6684 feet above sea level.

Several years ago, Sam and I went there with Sam’s scout troop. I knew that I needed to bring Timberley back at some point. The hike we took was strenuous and beautiful. I knew she would love the combination. We made our reservation to camp for two nights in the state park located at the summit. Then we planned to hike out to Deep Gap and back, traversing about four peaks on the way and getting an incredible view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from each peak. In between the peaks, the wooded areas are full of interesting flora, conditioned by the altitude and the extreme and varying climate.


So we set out. Things went well at first. We made our way out I-40 and up into the mountains. We found our exit from the freeway. We followed the directions through the small town of Marion. Timberley made an off hand comment about a gas station and wondered aloud how much gas we had left. I knew we were getting close. I knew that the next day we could almost coast down hill to the town. We would be fine. I said, “Yeah, we’re fine. Don’t worry.” Hmmm.

Then we started up the winding road. Uphill. In an old Volvo 240. Loaded with camping gear. With every switchback I silently watched the fuel gauge dip further and further. I started asking navigator Sam questions like, “So Sam, where do you see us on the map?” “So Sam, how far do you think we have from here?” And all along, I knew that we driving to the top of the highest peak in the state. As I gazed around, all I could see were dozens of other peaks higher that the ridge we were currently driving. Far higher. At some point, our fat, overloaded, Volvo 240–which I dearly love–would have to leave the ridge I was on and begin climbing again one of these other peaks I could see. And then I would l look back again to see the fuel gauge laughing at me as it descended further into the red.

“Okay”, I said, pulling the car to the shoulder. “We’re going back down to get gas.” Sam and I had a brief discussion as to whether we should try to go forward to another town, or to retrace the 30 minutes or so back to Marion. We went back to Marion. I worked really hard not to look directly at Timberley on the way down.


We turned the Volvo around and started back down the mountain. The driving was easier going back. No acceleration was needed. I knew we wouldn’t run out of gas now. The car did not get hung up on the steep inclines.

But then we noticed a smell. At first we thought of the poor guy we had passed whose clutch or brakes were going bad. But the smell kept following us. So then we thought there must be a car or truck in front of us, out of sight on the winding roads, that was casting its foul scent back in our direction. And on we went. Then it struck me. We are the smell. Those are our brakes that are stinking up the roadway. I pulled off and we got out to inspect our engine and wheels. The engine seemed fine, but Sam told us the wheels were what was smelling and that the heat coming off the wheels was almost unbearable.

We waited for a while until the wheels cooled a bit. I was worried about getting back down, finding gas, and getting back up the mountain before dark. We made the rest of the way to Marion without further adventure. We bought our gas, and set back out for Mt. Mitchell. The way up the second time was much more relaxed. Instead of staring fixedly at the fuel gauge and listening to its mocking laugh, it was now I who could laugh uncaringly at the poor gauge, helplessly sticking to the full side of the measurement.

We arrived near the summit where the camping spots are located. We noticed something odd, however, as we neared our destination. For one, there was considerably more fog at the top of the mountain than at the bottom. And second, the pine trees were not straight, and they seemed to be in a state of constant motion, leaning one way and then the other in a chaotic dance.

Now, before I say anything more, I need to tell you that I monitored the weather for our trip for days before we left. I was sure, and I assured my wife accordingly, that we would experience 70 degree weather with sunshine and no rain during our two days of camping. The weather as going to be just beautiful. The little sun figure on my phone just under “Mt. Mitchell” and right next to the giant 70 told me that it would be lovely.


I learned this weekend that weather men are hacks. They have no idea. In fact, they probably don’t like me. We stepped out of the Volvo. Instead of 70, it was in the forties. Instead of the sun, we not only had clouds, but we were in the clouds. And then there was that part of the weather report that I did not even think about checking. That was the little matter of the gale force winds at the top of the mountain. (Now, to be fair, I don’t know what gale force winds are. I don’t know what a gale is. But whatever it is, the term “gale force winds” is an apt layman’s term for what we were standing in.)

It was cold, windy, and more than a little damp. But we had arrived. So we enacted our plan to set up our camp site. While I began getting our tent set up, Sam was going to start on a fire. Then while I cooked, Sam would get his hammock set up. Timberley would get the rest of our things put together.

Two problems. First, Sam had some trouble with the fire. Now Sam is an Eagle scout. I once watched Sam at one of his campouts gather material for a fire in the middle of a snowy winter, start a fire with no matches, and then melt a can of snow and bring it to a boil in 30 minutes. It was amazing to watch. But here he was. Damp wood. The aforementioned gale force winds. And Sam blinked. Was he defeated? I saw the faintest hint of doubt in his eyes. But Sam doesn’t give up on things like this. He gets frustrated. He gets agitated. But then at some point he gets smart and figures out a way to get it done. And soon, we had a blazing fire with five little chicken sausages cooking away in the dark.


The second problem. When I went to set up the tent for Timberley and me, I unloaded the bag of its contents at the tent pad. I unrolled the ground cloth, the tent and the fly. I began to assemble the poles. I slid them into place and began hooking the tent to the arching poles. When I finished, I looked at my creation. Something was not right. The tent sagged noticeably in the middle. As I checked all the fittings and the hooks, it suddenly dawned on me. I had grabbed the wrong set of tent poles for this tent. Our two-person backpacking tent was being held up by a frame fitted for a one-person tent.

There was not much to do. It was standing. It seemed stable enough. It would have to do. The general flabbiness of the tent, however, was only exacerbated by the again aforementioned gale force winds.

We ate our dinner in the dark. We laughed a while. We shared some stories about Anna. And then we went off to bed. Sam got into his hammock. Timberley and I climbed into the sagging coccoon. If it had been a four-post bed with cloth draped over the top, cascading down in luxurious folds, it would surely have been a romantic place to sleep. But this was not a bed with luxurious cloth. We were on the top of an exposed rock, 6600 feet up in the air. In the middle of a cloud. In gale force winds. And the cloth descending a few inches over our noses was what was separating us from the elements. It was far from romantic.

But then we learned something else about the tent and the wind. As the wind turbine continued outside the tent at a steady rate, there was an occasional lull and then a tremendous gust of wind. Every time the gust would hit us, once every minute or two, the wind would get underneath the fly of the tent, blow it up like a giant nylon balloon, and then send it crashing down, slapping against the side of our tent with a tremendous “thwack, thwack, thwack.”

And so it went, minute after minute, hour after hour. And then the rain started. It wasn’t a bad rain, I don’t think. It’s just that, well, again I had assured Timberley before we left. “I’ve been checking the weather. Great weather. Sunshine. 70 degrees. Zero chance of rain all weekend.” I felt like Donald Trump assuring the country of the financial plan he was about to make up. “Your gonna love this weather. Trust me.” And then it started to rain. Every aspect of the trip was working out the complete opposite of what I had expected.

And on and on went the thwacking. Until, that is, the wind finally removed from us the cause of our consternation. Timberley woke me with a start, “Todd, the fly just blew away!” I grabbed my flashlight and started looking into the bushes next to our tent. No sign of our fly. I was not looking forward to getting out into the wind-blown, rain-soaked bushes to search for a fly that by this time had likely blown all the way to Tennessee. Just then, I shifted my feet and realized that I was standing on the fly. It was being held in the ground by two more stakes and was now out of the wind, lying calmly on the ground. I went back to bed.

The rain had stopped by that point. Sam had retreated to the car from his hammock. The wind continued to race through the tent. I say “through the tent” because now there was no fly to keep it out. But neither was there a fly to continue the merciless “thwacking” of the tent a few inches from our ears. So we laid in the cold wind. Watching the stars peak in through occasional holes in the clouds racing overhead. The gusts of wind now just gently rocked our tent back and forth. And after some time, I fell asleep.

In the morning, the wind was still there but seemed calmer. The thick fog still enveloped our campsite. It was cold. I used a small gas stove and made some coffee for Timberley and myself. We talked about our plans and decided we would not spend the second day on top of the mountain.

We packed up our gear and made our way to the head of the Deep Gap Trail starting from the parking lot near the summit. We decided to do just the first leg of the hike out to Mt. Craig and then see how we were doing. The air was clean. The exercise was exhilarating. The hike was strenuous. We had few moments with a view, however, since almost the entire hike was spent on the inside of a cloud. Every now and again the sky cleared, so Timberley was able to get a taste of what the hike would have been like on a sunny day.

We made it back to the car and decided to go into Black Mountain for lunch and then home. We knew of a German restaurant in town that had been recommended. We had Reuben sandwiches there and then got on the road for home.

Things rarely go exactly as planned, and sometimes they go in precisely the opposite way of how you plan them. But we still plan and move on. Did our trip fail because of the wind or the fact that I wouldn’t stop for gas on the drive in? No, those events just added to the experience of the adventure. We have a story to tell now that is different than if we had had sunny skies and beautiful views. In the future we will certainly laugh more about this weekend than we will about the beautiful ones.

We had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend together. We worked together to overcome problems. We laughed together. We helped each other.

Timberley noted that Anna would have loved the camping and hiking. I wasn’t so sure about the camping part of it. Anna was very much the Princess. She put up with a lot, but she also enjoyed her bed. But she would have loved the hiking and being outdoors. She and Sam both love(d) animals and nature. And her fertile imagination would have surely turned the weekend into part of a novel. But, alas, our plans do not always work out. The weather is unpredictable. Sometimes we forget to stop for gas. Sometimes the real weekend ends up being so much different than the one you planned. The reality is always a mix, then, of sadness over disappointment and amazement at how things actually turn out.