In a world where we try to control as much as possible, one thing we know as mommas is to “expect the unexpected!” This month’s From the Heart Blog is a creative dialogue between a mother daughter pair (Diane and Christina Cullen). As each describes her own unique perspectives on an Unexpected Adventure, we will be encouraged to celebrate our different viewpoints of shared situations. But perhaps most importantly, we will be called to embrace the unexpected! This mother and daughter were among the first to dive in to Heart of Womanhood Portraits Bible Studies when Christina was young. Their shared adventures in studying God’s Word together over the years prepared their hearts to “now live with great expectation…” (1 Peter 1:3 NLT)

Diane: An unexpected adventure lingers in our memory to this day. A few years ago our family travelled to Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. Our oldest son Nathaniel, an avid hiker, eagle scout, and all things outdoors, had found a travel destination not too far from our home in Indiana that offered a beach and a national park.  We made our reservations and headed south.

Christina: One day Nathaniel had the brilliant idea to call upon our already kindled spirit of adventure by planning a one-night camping trip. We were thrilled with the idea… especially when he told us that the ideal spot would be on a nearby, deserted island. I, for one, did not stop to consider that it would be helpful if I knew something about camping. My eagle scout brother would take care of everything, right? So, with stuffed backpacks and coolers in tow, we were dropped off on the island’s single dock which creaked nervously under the weight of our supplies. We completed our trek to shore, walked further inland, plopped our bags in a heap in a safe looking spot, and then ventured out to explore.

Diane: And what beauty did we find. The island was nearly deserted. We saw a few others who had stayed behind as we had, when the last ferry departed for the day. Perhaps those who left knew something we didn’t. Nevertheless, this was the closest we had ever come to knowing what it would be like to be stranded on a deserted island and the idea of it (which I am sure was fueled by watching too many unrealistic movies) was exciting. The beach stretched out unencumbered before us and the water gently lapped upon the shore, which was strewn about with thousands of shells, as far as the eye could see. We gathered as many multifaceted shells as we could find, stuffed them into already too full pockets, and a few grocery bags we happened to bring along with us.  Even though the kids were all older, they laughed and ran as they discovered new treasures. I was taken back in time. It delighted my heart to see such joy on their faces and an unbridled carefree spirit that had been harnessed since childhood days. The sun was setting. It was picture perfect. All was well with my soul.

Christina: I was having a blast. My freshman self forgot that I needed to be cool. However, we failed to correctly estimate how far we had walked to reach the tip of the island, turning what we thought would be a two-mile hike into a FIVE-mile excursion. By the time we returned, it was almost dark, and our camp had not yet been set up. As I watched my siblings fumble with the tent, we realized we were missing a pole. Or maybe it was two. With nothing else to do, Nathaniel hauled a nearby picnic table over to secure one end of the tent to keep it from collapsing. By this point it was completely dark, and we were famished.

Diane: The wind had begun to pick up. We weren’t sure if these were normal evening breezes or if we were in for a storm.  With the tent fairly secure, or secure enough, we scurried inside pulling our sleeping bags and coolers to safety.  We settled in with our picnic for the evening – a tried and true delicious feast of PB&J.  After a long day, and an even longer hike, we were tired, so we cuddled into our sleeping bags.

Christina: The six of us filled up the floor of our tent, like a family of caterpillars crowded on a leaf. However, we failed to realize that the lack of a tent pole (and the massive billows of wind now coming off the ocean) would cause our tent to sound like a sailboat mast being whipped from side to side in a storm at sea.

Diane: We said a prayer, laughed, and hoped for the best. My mom’s mind filled with questions: would the tent still be standing by morning?  Would we would be wet or dry? Needless to say, I don’t think any of us slept much that night as the wind continued to beat against the tent swaying it from side to side. Morning came, the wind died down, and the tent still stood—–well mostly. We woke up laughing and thanked the Lord for His tender watch care over us through the storm. We joyfully packed up and headed to the ferry which would take us back to the calm and safe, but crowded, mainland. We realized later it was probably a good thing we didn’t know what to expect, because we might not have camped on the island. And we would have missed so very much.

Christina: I think I had sand in my suitcase for a year after that.  And I have never had so much fun in my entire life.

Diane: Proverbs 19:21 says “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” And 1 Thessalonians 5:18 states, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  As I look back on our island adventure, I am struck by how different the outcome could have been if we had chosen to respond differently to the many unexpected and unplanned things that occurred. What could have been viewed as a disaster (lack of adequate supplies, working in a dark windy situation) was filled with delight! What could have been viewed as frustration (no modern conveniences and a half-equipped tent) became the funny jokes that brought the most laughter! What could have incited fear (the possibility of the tent collapsing in the storm and no one to help us on the deserted island) became the place where our faith was enlarged! What could have been viewed as foolish and risky (when we could have been in our safe warm predictable condo) ended up being a favorite family memory.

Christina: Even though our experience could be made to sound miserable, in truth, it is one of the most enjoyable memories of my life. No one was stressed trying to make it a fancy trip. The meals weren’t  elaborate, and yet my mother was providing food for her household (Proverbs 31:15). In fact, that PB & J meal is one of the best feasts I have ever had!  And even though at first there was little grumbling on the part of us kids, even that subsided as we helped each other shift our focus.

Diane: There are so many situations in our days that are unpredictable, challenging, scary, overwhelming, and totally out of our control. Even our best laid plans often turn out differently than we expect. Moms and daughters, I pray our deserted island experience inspires you to live today from a greater place of trust and thankfulness so that our families will “now live with great expectation…” (1 Peter 1:3 NLT) and “laugh at the days to come.” (Proverbs 31:25)