I take her to the river on a Saturday. Billowy cumulous clouds make promises about what’s to come, and I lean in for the quiet whisper on the wind. It seems to be an invitation to refresh our souls.
She’s five, but she’s begged me to take her to the woods with a tent for months, and I finally concede. I want to go too. I want to tell her about the nights on this river with friends and open Bibles. I want to tell her how I encountered God on these rocks – how I memorized Psalms and felt like new life poured down through the summer rain showers that always caught us unprepared.
I strap fifty pounds to my back: two sleeping bags, two sleeping pads, the tent, water bottles, snacks, extra clothes, a baby doll, playing cards, and more. I push the rest in a double stroller, and she bounces into the woods for three whole miles, overflowing with the excitement of this novel adventure.
We’re two girls in the middle of the woods, and our cares slip away. After erecting the tent, gathering firewood, and hanging the bear bag, we wander to the river. The water slips past emerald, and she asks if I have my Bible. We read Psalm 97 and I tell her about the rainy day when I memorized this very Psalm along this very river.
She smiles, thoughtfully, and asks, “Did you bring communion?” She wants to remember him on the river.
We retrieve a small hotdog bun and the bottle of juice I brought for her breakfast, and I break the bread. We eat it in his memory and give thanks for the new covenant. We pour the juice into metal camping cups and drink, remembering the blood he shed. It’s a holy moment.
After a song and prayer, she scampers up the riverbank in search of toads, and I think of the words of Job: “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).
Something about this place makes me long to open a Bible and recite beautiful words. It apparently stirs something in my child as well. But I pray that it won’t end here. I pray that I’ll treasure these words more than my necessary food, even when we return home with the demands and requirements for daily living. Do I really treasure these words?
“These are more than just idle words; they are your life” (Deuteronomy 32:47), I read, and I wonder how much I’m really drawing my life from these words. Bekah returns with a snail, and she’s jumping in sheer delight. We put it into an empty peanut butter jar, and she hurries back to the rock where she found it.
This river feels like it’s refreshing us in the deepest way, but these words in my hand offer even better promises of life and rest. I cling to these promises and rest in them until the sun sinks low.
When the shadows fall long on the water, we go back to the tent, cook dinner on the fire, and talk about dreams and hopes. She sleeps deeply, and I watch her all night, this protective shield rising within me, keeping watch for bears and raccoons.
I also consider what it might practically look like, in this season of life, to stay in a place of refreshment. I turn on the flashlight and scratch words on waterproof notebook paper:
- Treasure the written Word of God more than food (Job 23:12)
- Get away to quiet places when I can.
- Spend time with people who refresh my soul.
- Stop striving.
- Stop hurrying.
- Count blessings.
- Look for toads and snails more often.
- Give thanks for the work I get to do.
- Stay in community.
- Speak words that bring life.
- Cast my cares on the Lord.
- Turn away from perfectionism.
- Stop trying to prove something.
- Laugh more.
- Live vulnerably.
I close the book and close my eyes. I trust that the One who led us on this journey will protect us from bears and raccoons, and I drift into the deepest sleep I’ve found in months.
For more thoughts on refreshment and joy, check out this link and receive a free printout: 10 Steps to Greater Joy