Natalie Ogbourne

Gary Smalley, founder of the Smalley Relationship Center, says that the secret to a “close-knit relationship is shared experiences that turn into shared trials.” He mentions camping as one source for shared trials and a potential relationship-building activity. Makes sense. Camping is fraught with potential for trial.

There’s the weather. The bugs. The work. The hard ground.

He grants that you don’t have to camp to invite such trials. I agree. A picnic will do nicely.

The year of the October heatwave that turned to snow, we adapted to the rain with less time on the trail and more time on the road. Lunchtime still always found us nowhere near a restaurant. We picnicked in spite of the weather.

We stopped during sporadic sprinkling rain at an understandably empty picnic area, unloaded our supplies and got ready to make lunch: fruit, veggies, and—because it was cold—soup from a can. All was well until no one could find the can opener.

Long before this, back when we had one or maybe two children, we took a weekend camping trip five miles from home. By the time I had everything packed, piled, and ready to load, it filled two vehicles. My easy-going husband was less than happy. Now I try to be more reasonable when I pack.

The can opener was necessary, and not purposefully left behind. It probably sat alone and overlooked on the kitchen counter, utterly useless to my hungry family.

My husband is a creative guy, not easily flapped because he knows that there’s usually a solution if you stay calm and look at all the possibilities. In this case, the possibility was my son’s axe, which he lifted and struck the can—hard enough to open, yet gently enough to keep from spilling the contents everywhere.

The whole family watched him work on the can, too engrossed in what he was doing to notice the rain that once again began to fall until we heard the crunch of gravel. We turned and saw a Yellowstone Association minibus filled with students enrolled in a wilderness class. They drove past, staring but not stopping. My kids suspect the sight of a man hacking open a can with an axe turned them away.

It’s an image that sticks in the mind.

At least, it sticks with my kids. They weren’t mortified by it. It was just another family adventure and just their dad being their dad, saving the day in his quiet and slightly off-the-wall way.

Life’s an adventure, one filled with trials–otherwise known as opportunities to knit relationships closer together. Sometimes it’s our relationships with people that are strengthened and other times it’s our relationship with the God who created us. It’s hard to remember that in the midst, but worth it when we do.

A question for you: Do you see trials as something to be avoided at all costs or as opportunities for something good?

This is the first post in a 3 part series on the pitfalls and joys of life outdoors, especially those related to camping. Why post about camping in September? Fall’s weather is perfect for camping.

Sharing stories at Unforced Rhythms and Coffee for Your Heart.