So if you’ve talked to Jennifer or I lately, you probably know that our family has discovered a new hobby – GeoCaching. Well, as we were heading out on Saturday afternoon, we decided to invite our neighbor girl that lives across the street – I think she’s 10. I’ll call her Kate. Well, we find our way up to the remote area at the end of a long winding road, and after maybe an hour of hunting and looking up the wrong tree several times, Haylee discovered the cache. Great job!
Jennifer was checking her smartphone for clues that others had left about this particular cache in the meantime, and had read one poster’s comment, “Wish I had time to find out where the trail goes…” and we got curious. (first sign of a problem!)
So we set out with a couple walking sticks just to have a looksee – the trail was not sloped, and it looked to be a good little sight-seeing trip into some beautiful woods. After 15 or twenty minutes of walking beneath these huge powerlines and speculating where they went, we discovered that through a couple of breaks in the branches to the west of us, we could see downtown Orting, and specifically the bell tower. The trail appeared to be sloping slightly downward, so we pressed on.
Over the next several hours, realizing that we couldn’t easily get back up that hill, we wound our way down the valley wall towards Orting, down several more dirt hills, one of which was probably twice as long, and along several small streams. We could see the river below us, and it looked beautiful from up high, but to foreshadow a bit, looks can be deceiving!
But we pressed on, adventurous yet a little nervous at the same time. I don’t think on the way down, I was fully thinking about the river at the bottom- I was envisioning going back up by myself before dark, getting the van, and meeting the rest of the family at the bottom and driving them back home, neighbor girl included. That was when we were stopped dead in our tracks. Spanning probably about 15 feet wide (the trail was maybe 4 feet wide) was an enormous bog.
(Now, I’ve seen Stand By Me, and I KNOW what lives in bogs like that!!!) So I had to figure out how we could get around the thing as the wife and kids waited. This was when the first miracle happened.. the whole way down, I had been noticing horseshoe prints going down hill, but none going back up. I figured horses can come down and get SOMEWHERE without needing to climb the hill again… sounds logical right? WRONG. I am no tracker, apparently. So Jen and the kids start praying for a horse to come by – somebody who can carry us thru the bog and to the other side, since again, we can’t go back.
In the meantime, after sinking in mud up to my knees in an attempt to check the terrain, I managed to knock down enough small tree limbs and branches to cover some of the mud – enough for a quick hop across to firmer ground and around the pond. I helped each kid across, and then Jennifer, and thankfully we were past. This is how we fared with the mud afterwards:
The kids had finished praying, when no sooner did we hear a bunch of dirt bikes coming up the path from the river. We were saved! Thank you LORD! Well, that joy was short-lived, because right after stopping the last biker and asking him where he came from, we were informed that there was no way to cross the river from where we were.
That’s when the dread set in, and that’s when I started praying the hardest. We set out for a fun day of geocaching, but now my family is stuck between a river we can’t cross and a cliff we cannot climb back up. Not to mention the neighbor girl who’s parents would be flipping out if they knew what we were going through now, and were probably wondering what was taking us so long with their daughter… but I had to believe over all the doubts and despair I was feeling, “with God all things are possible.”
Michael and I scouted ahead to check out the patterns and possible places I might cross the river while the ladies rested. Having found what I thought was the least swift and hopefully most manageable place to cross, I had to attempt to fjord it myself. After I found out how swift and deep and bone-chillingly cold it was (remember this is spring snow-melt right off of Mount Rainier!) I looked for any fallen tree limbs or narrow trunks I could drag across. I found one, but it was only about 2/3 away across, and as soon as the river caught it, it was pulled off to the bank again. Jennifer had done the same thing and held the limb outward so the kids would have at least a quick barrier before we went into the deep section. I crossed back to the others.
Now, I’d crossed many rivers before, and being a teenage boy, wasn’t that deterred by the quick current – but this was the first time I actually had lives depending on me. The responsibility was heavy on my shoulders, but knowing that I can’t just leave them stranded, and that I cannot just expect them to cross on their own (the depth was about 5 inches from the tops of my legs, and enough current to push me over in an instant if I lost my footing), I got moving.
First, I went with our neighbor girl. She was by far the smallest of the group, and didn’t add much weight as I crossed, but the added knowledge that her parents trusted us with her safety, I had to be even more… i don’t know if cautious is the word, but I really can’t describe my feelings at that time. All I knew was that I couldn’t let go of this child. I took her by both arms, and gradually we made it across. I set her to wait on a log to warm up a bit, and I went back for the next kid.
Haylee came next, and this was a really difficult one – she panics REALLY easily and freezes up. I HAD to calm her down, or we’d both be swept down the river. I just said the first thing that came to mind – “Don’t look at the water. Don’t look back. Don’t look anywhere except in my eyes.” She did it, and before I knew it, we were both across. Michael and Jennifer were praying together as I crossed the river for the fifth time.
My boy is next. He trusts his dad, I know he does. And he may never see this kind of example in me again. He’s ready to go – to let go of mom, to grab ahold of my hand, and to watch my eyes. He didn’t panic, but I knew he was scared. But he was trusting me to do this. And kids think their parents can do anything. All of these thoughts swirl through my head in an instant, and we start back across the river. About half way across the swirling icy river, my feet catch in a root of a tree underneath the water, which until now I’ve managed to avoid. I almost lost my footing and fell forward, and my grip on Michael’s arms slipped fast. That had to have been the longest half-second of my life. Thankfully, I got my balance quickly, and we managed to make it across the rest of the way.
I had to stop and rest – my jeans and boots were FULL of water, I couldn’t feel my legs, my breathing was short and I was extremely overwhelmed by the whole thing, and at last the kids were safe. I know Jennifer was joking, but when I heard her call across in a light tone “You’re going to come back for me, right?” that’s when my emotions hit me. I imagined what it would be like if I lost her. If I had to raise these kids on my own, when I depend on her for so much. I realize how the stupid arguements we’d been having for days suddenly are the most trivial, stupid things in the world. Before I knew it, I was up and moving again. I don’t remember much about that last trip, only how relieved I was when she was across with me and we were all safe. It would be smooth sailing from then on, if we could get back up the river bank.
As I’m dumping out my boots and recovering, Jennifer is looking around. Always resourceful, she uses my phone (which thank GOD i had the foresight to stick in the ziplock bag in my pocket and leave on the bank after the first crossing, in case I fell), takes a few photos of these remnants of a bridge in the river bed, and calls some friends of ours. This is the next miracle – of anywhere we could have came out of the woods, and anywhere we were able to cross the river, we came out only a few blocks from where our friends Jason and Jessica lived, and they go out exploring a lot. PRAISE GOD! She called Jason and asked if he recognized where we were, and he said he did, that it was very close, and that he’d be over in a few minutes. Unfortunately his wife was away with the truck, but he did have a little gas powered scooter in his garage.
Relief came when we saw him appear on the far bank of the river – up high enough to guage where we could cross since I was down in the river bed and unable to see to plan the next crossing. He worked his way down and helped me get the kids across the rest of the river, and then took the scooter across town and drove my car back to his house, where Jennifer and the kids safely made it. Jason and I took the car back up to get our van, which was unfortunately left WIDE OPEN in the middle of nowhere. Miraculously, when we arrived back at the van about 8 hours after setting out, everything was still intact. Nothing was stolen, no wild animals decided to hop in and explore, all was well. Again, PRAISE BE TO GOD. I started up the van (thankfully the battery wasnt dead after the door being open that long) and followed Jason back to Orting with the heat blaring, and when we arrived back at his house, Jennifer had ordered pizza and fed the kids, two of whom had fallen fast and safely asleep under warm blankets.
We got home, and all I could do, from the time we crossed the river until arriving back home, was be constantly in prayer and amazed at the faithfulness of my God. To anyone who doesn’t say prayer works, or that God is there to answer it, this story shows otherwise. If I’m ever in a similar experience again, I hope I’m watching it from a seat in a theatre with a big bucket of popcorn, because that sort of excitement belongs in the movies, and ONLY in the movies.
As we lay in bed that night, Jennifer thanked me for being so brave. And I thought about that for a minute, and I think I’ve come to a realization. Being brave does not mean not being afraid. It means doing what you need to do, even though you are afraid.
The next day at church, I overheard Jennifer retelling the story, and saying that I was a good example of Christ that time… I don’t know about that, but it suddenly got me thinking about the story of Peter walking on water. Like I told Haylee, “don’t look at the water, keep your eyes on me.” Funny, when I said it, that was the furthest thing from my mind, but really, that’s probably why Jesus told Peter what he did. It wasn’t because of an amazing amount of faith on Peter’s part that allowed him to stand on the waves as if they were solid ground, and it wasn’t a supernatural trick either. It was his trust at that moment in CHRIST ALONE that did it. He gave over his worries, his fears, his stresses, and everything else that didn’t matter at all. All that mattered was trusting Jesus with EVERYTHING. I guess looking back, that’s what I did. So I don’t know if I was as much an example of Jesus as I was of Peter’s trust that God could save us, but either way, I guess it’s not such a bad compliment to get.
Here’s an overview of our journey, as close as I can recall the twists and turns:
Before I finish, let me tell you the most important thing I was shown this last weekend. That night when we were all safe at home, I remembered a story I’ve heard in the past from a couple pastors. I asked my kids this question when we were getting ready for bed: “If I could have only saved one of you today on the river, why do you think I would have chosen Kate?” Michael and Haylee thought about this for a long while. Michael probably gave me at least 10 well-thought-out answers, but none of them were correct. Then as she was brushing her teeth, the answer came to Haylee. “I’ve got it, Dad! I know the answer! It’s because Michael and Mom and me are Christians. We’re already going to heaven!” I was so proud of her. That’s exactly the answer I was looking for. You see, Kate is from a Mormon family. How powerful of a testimony would that be to a family caught up in false teachings, who struggle not having the assurance of salvation – depending on the chance that their good deeds are enough to get them into heaven… if a Christian had to choose someone he felt was not yet saved over his dear family who loved God in Spirit and in truth, just so that other child would have a CHANCE in this life of accepting Christ’s offer of forgiveness with no strings attached, no good-behavior clauses… I only pray that if I had to make that choice, I could live up to this imaginary scenario.
As I learned on Saturday, with God ALL THINGS are possible.