Summers of Unfiltered Love

Close your eyes and allow God to lead you to your ultimate place of peace. Look around, what are the sights, smells, sensations that engulf you? Breathe in deeply, and breathe out. Now open your eyes. Where were you taken? What details were you most drawn to that helped you feel God’s presence?

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Summer, for me, always includes my ultimate place of peace. McCarthy Beach State Park is nestled in the woods of Northern Minnesota. True to my native state’s knowhow, this campground was on the shores of Side Lake which was connected by small water passageways to several other lakes. When life takes me far away from peace, I still close my eyes and find myself there.

Closing my eyes, I feel refreshed. Crisp, cold water laps against my legs creating a spread of goosebumps from my feet to my fingertips. My skin is warmed by the sun shinning, its light brightened by a cloudless, blue sky. A cool, gentle wind breezes through my short, layered hair, chilling my bare neck. Unexpectedly, my foot jerks up as a fish suctions its lips to tickle my toes. Breathing in slowly and deeply, I sense my favorite aroma: campfires, nature, lake water, and slight essence of fish.

I hear birds singing in the trees as the leaves rustle along the breeze. In the distance, I hear a loon’s lonesome call. 

This humble campground is where I feel God’s presence most strongly. Amidst His creation’s natural praise, far away from man’s inventions, and distraction-free, I hear His whisper of love through the silences. No word-filled proclamations or grand gestures, but presence, peace and God’s loving touch as a breeze passes by or through the brisk waters that lap against my bare legs.

From day-trips to the long-weekends of my youth, my mind drifts off to the memories. This lake-side campground would abound in laughter, lunacy, and the most beautiful forms of unfiltered love. We little ones would listen to the life stories of our elders as we would dream of our futures. As we grew older, we’d share the trials we faced, and soul connections would strengthen in the light of a star-filled sky. My mouth waters as I remember the fragrance of fresh-caught crappies frying over a campfire. Quickly, we’d devour this palatable product of a patient day. My adrenaline begs to rush as I remember the exhilaration of tubing behind a boat pulled by one of the fathers of the trip. He always loved testing our limits. Taking a sharp turn, we’d fling into a toppling frenzy. Water and rubber-burned, we’d laugh away the pain and climb up on the tube for another challenge.

Summer crushes healed our wounds and kept us warm in the chill of the night. There was always someone to admire. More beautiful than His natural creations are those He made in His image. The conversations we shared late into the night only fed into the allure of a summer romance. As a marshmallow oozes its guts over the heat of the campfire, so would my insides melt with proximity to my seasonal crush. Unfortunately, these hopes never became anything s’more than a marshmallow, chocolate, and graham crackers “crushed” together into a sweet mental treat. Then we would slumber, huddled deep into the warmth of our sleeping bags. Eased into sleep by our memories of the day, fire-hot fantasies would simmer into dreams and fade away into the abyss of the night.

Waking up fresh and renewed, I’d find my way to my favorite T-shaped dock in the dim dawn light. Though my evenings were spent admiring boys, my mornings were spent admiring God. Finding the perfect spider-free spot, I’d simply sit and breathe in the presence of my Father who loves me. With a dew-damp quilt wrapped around my legs, my pen would dance praises along the lines of my journal.  The birds and trees worship their Creator in adoration harmony alongside the quiet, still lake. Clouds coat the sky as rays of light shine through the darkness. Another day begins, with the peace of His presence within.

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