Everything We Need to Know About Life: Things Learned From the River


It is very difficult to have your mind blown in high school and remain cool about it so people as ambivalent as you hope to appear don’t know you’ve just had your mind blown.
I’ll never forget sitting in Mrs. Mattich’s 9th grade art class that day twirling a strand of freshly-permed hair around my finger as she droned on about some abstractly boring things from a slide projector.
I’m sure I must have been chewing gum.
Next slide:

‘What are you seeing, Class, when you look at this image?’
A dumb vase. Duh.
‘Is it a vase?’
A pause while while half of us duh’d simultaneously silently and the other half looked confused.
‘Or two faces?’
My bubble popped so suddenly it almost reached the edge of my hard-as-steel bangs.
I saw a vase.
But now I could not stop seeing two faces.
I maintained my aloof cover and even managed a hard eye roll in Tiffany’s direction…but that was, like, seriously cool.
My mind works like that in life a lot: sometimes a thing may look like one thing, but it really could be another.
Thank you, Mrs. Mattich, for messing with my soft, young mind and teaching me how to think.
My people and I took a little trip last weekend up to Caddo River in Glenwood, Arkansas.
At the beginning of the day, all I saw was River Trip.
But very quickly, I could not stop seeing Life.
The river, she sure was talking this day.
Here are some of the things she told me:

*’It’s hard to steer this thing.’ My youngest, perched precariously at the front of our canoe wrestling with her paddle, tossed these words back in my direction. She tried to make me believe she was framing our current situation of backwards stuckness.
But I knew, and winked at her to let her know I knew, that she was really talking about life. Coaching her through the nuances of working with and against the current, using our canoe as the metaphor for what we both knew she was really talking about, I came away from being stuck in that swirling eddy knowing it would be years before she was capable of steering her own boat. Until then, it was my job to be patient, teach her helpful things while making her feel loved, and minimize whacking her in the head with my own paddle.

*Face your fears. My middlest offspring has a fear of putting her feet into unknown depths of water she can’t really see through. I saw her tiptoe, kicking water around, all the while watching the other two monkeys who had disappeared under the muddy depths somewhere near the center of the river almost immediately. She voiced her fear to us, said ‘Forget it! I’m going for it!’, screamed and jumped in, trusting there was no hairy, scary crocodile waiting to eat her toes.
She was right.
But she would never have known that had she not jumped.
*Never lose the ability to marvel. I lost count of the number of rocks each twinkly-eyed child brought to me. I knew there was something different I was supposed to see in each one.
After awhile, I remembered to kneel down and really look.

*The rain has nothing to do with you: so just keep going. Nothin’ but blue skies all week, we thought we were a go for the same on the day of our trip. It was everything but. It rained so much it literally rained upside down. I thought God was mad at me and wanted to ruin the only day I wanted to just hang out and have fun with my family. I could be grumpy about it (and I was at first—just ask my people), and it would still be raining and I would still be with my family.
I could get glad in the same pants I got mad in, it would still be raining and I would still be with my family.
As it turns out?
It was more fun in the rain anyway and it might just be our favorite part of the trip years from now when we laugh about how we had to stop and help each other dump water out of our canoes just to be able to stay afloat.

*When you see someone needs help…lend a hand.

*The waters get rough. We got stuck several times. We had to backpaddle. There were tears from my youngest when we almost turned over and she said I was a bad driver and wanted to be with her dad. There were a few rough spots, yes. And I guess we could’ve hung out in the chaos all day…but we just kept paddling until we got to a smooth part and it all evened out by the end.
*Family is a gift. These are the people we get to trip on this journey with. That makes your whole casserole of people pretty special. Fight and make up. Forgive and be forgiven. Love and be loved. Skip rocks and hit your brother in the back sometimes. Just know: you are each other’s gift (no take backs).
*God makes cool stuff. I am always sure of God. However, I am never more sure of Him than when I sit with Him smack dab in the middle of all the things He made. From staggering rocky cliffs to playful dragonflies and regal cedar trees to water to humans…when I take care to look past my own nose, it is delight and wonder to sit at the feet of the One who created all of it.

*Keep a sense of humor. A football field’s length from the end of our journey on the river, a tearfully bright yellow orb, the flippin’ sun, pops out of the clouds like bread from the toaster. Even though I had already reconciled it wasn’t just raining because God was picking on me, I did suspect He was having a little fun with me at this point.
Plus? There are many hilarious things and it’s just fun to laugh.
*Learn how to make the best with every day you’ve been given. Whether it’s rain, hanger, car sickness, unmanageable little people, marital squabs, or things generally not going your way…grab the sugar and make your lemonade. This is the only today like this you will ever get.
Make it count.


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  1. Holly | 16th Jul 15

    You are the master lemonade maker! Love you, friend! Thank you for sharing your heart!

    • melissablair09@gmail.com | 17th Jul 15

      Hi, sweet friend. I love making lemonade alongside you. I’ve been missing you since I saw you last!! We need to make plans. Love you much.

  2. Casey | 16th Jul 15

    Cool spot! Where was it? Would you go again?

    • melissablair09@gmail.com | 17th Jul 15

      It’s Glenwood, Arkansas. Caddo river. Arkansas is some of the most gorgeous land I have ever seen…especially in that area. The float is about 3-4 hours for the short one and you can stop and picnic, you can camp, you can stop and swim. Very tame but fun for your whole crew. We will totally go again. Also? You should stop here on your way. Or better yet? Let us show you all the hot spots 😉

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