Thursday, November 12, 2015

False Expectations & Failed Attempts

A couple weeks ago, our family adventured south for our first multi-night camping trip. We had dreamed up this adventure with dear friends who live in Florida, an exhausting 18 hour drive away. A plan unfolded last summer to meet halfway in the Great Smokey Mountains and camp for a few days in order to ease the driving burden of a visit for both sides. 

Up until this point, our family had only ever camped for a single night on land owned by family near our Ohio home. In venturing south, to the foot of the Smokey Mountains, we envisioned great expanses of wilderness, brightly colored Fall forests and a sense of solitude during our stay. Indeed, for the last two hours of our drive, our car was animated with awe at the beauty of the surrounding landscape. 

At 2:00 in the afternoon, our family pulled into the Cherokee, North Carolina KOA, and quickly realized our expectations had been all wrong. Since we hadn't been the ones to book the campsites, we had somehow neglected to educate ourselves about what a typical KOA entails and what sort of camping we were getting ourselves involved in. 
Rather than great expanses of wilderness, we found our tiny site along the edge of a large barbwire fence, lining the main road we had just driven off.  
Rather than brightly colored Fall forests, we found a campsite with one tree strategically placed on either side to mark where our space started and stopped.  
Rather than a sense of solitude, we found ourselves just feet from the large parking lot and enormous office/store/pool house where hundreds of RV's would come and go in the coming days. 
I wish I had been with it enough to think of snapping a few photos to show you - it would have provided a good laugh for us all. But my husband and I were completely dumbfounded. We froze, mouths agape, starring at our tiny plot of pavement and barbwire. 

Finally, my husband broke the silence, "We just drove eight hours, through gorgeous countrysides, to camp here?! I'm getting back in the car." 

That's all I needed. "Unbelievable! How is this camping?! There are two trees! TWO TREES! We have more nature in our suburban backyard! How are the kids going to sleep with traffic rushing past all night?! @*#<{>*@&!!!"

As my husband and I were busy losing our minds with disappointment, our kids were gleefully exploring the area. Happy to be out of the car, they found those horrible two trees more than sufficient, each claiming one as their own personal climber. Eventually they wandered back and heard our fury.

My son was the first to chime in, "Mom. Dad. Stop complaining. We're on VACATION!" 

Then our daughter, "Yeah! We just drove all that way and now you want to leave. We have to stay and see the Webster's!"

Again, my husband and I stopped in our tracks, this time rightfully rebuked by our own children. True, this campsite was far from the wilderness adventure we had expected, and true, the on-street tent placement could make for a rough night's sleep. But here we were, and our three and four-year-old were showing us something we had yet to see: This was our adventure. 

Our friends arrived around dinnertime, and the kids joyfully reunited and picked up where they had left off several months earlier: playing, laughing, enjoying the moment. My husband and I, too, relaxed into our situation, setting up camp, preparing dinner. Before long, we had forgotten about our frustration and had moved on from our disappointment, focused instead on the gift of each moment with these dear friends. 

Because in the end, life is too short to spend fuming over false expectations or failed attempts. Life is in the moments, even when those moments deal us something different than we had hoped for. Whether it's a block of pavement at the end of an 8 hour scenic drive, or a day of crying, cranky kids despite our most heroic efforts at love and patience, or a bad medical report after months of praying - sometimes our only choice is to look the cards we have been dealt directly in the face and say, "This is our adventure. Let's make the most of it."  This mess, this madness, this magic, this moment. 
This is our adventure.  
This is our life.  
And maybe even this is grace disguised. 

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