On Saturday Jeff and I went on a 19.5 mile kayak trip with our friends Jenn and Brian. The four of us have been talking about taking a kayak trip together for almost a year, so it was great when we finally got it on the calendar. And it was even better when it happened!
You don’t set out to paddle 19.5 miles when you have other things to do….it’s a long, lazy day. That’s not to say that there isn’t work involved….just ask my arms; but it is to say that can be relaxing, slow-paced and a good time for getting to know one another better.
We met at 9:00 am [ok, truth be told we really met at 9:04:57] on the beautiful campus of Messiah College. We unloaded our boats and gear from the car, packed our kayaks and headed for the water. I am used to Jeff and I kayaking alone so I must admit that I was feeling a bit spoiled when Brian carried my load in some situations…a girl could get used to such treatment, but then where will I be when it’s back to just me and Jeff and I have no choice but to carry my half of the load!?!
We were anticipating beautiful weather for our float, but when we began paddling the sky was cloudy and there was a very light rain that actually sounded quite nice as it bounced off the water. And as the day progressed, the weather gradually improved until the sun was finally shining and the sky was a brilliant blue.
As we paddled I couldn’t help but think about how our behavioral styles (at least mine and Jeff’s) were demonstrated on the water. If you know anything about the DiSC behavioral inventory or Gary Smalley’s personality inventory (which assigns an animal to your personality type based upon how you answer questions) or even if you’ve just lived for a while – you know that we are not all created equal. Each of us has his/her own personality quirks.
Having taken the Gary Smalley inventory MANY times, I know that I am a LION and Jeff is a GOLDEN RETRIEVER. And if I didn’t know this prior to Saturday, I could have figured it out based upon our behaviors. The LION is goal oriented, likes to lead and enjoys challenges so it should come as no surprise that I was out in front most of the day – not because of a need to be first or to “win,” just because that’s where I am most comfortable. Safe or not, I was ready to plunge headlong into most of the rapids without even assessing the current. The GOLDEN RETRIEVER looks for security, is great at making friends, and works best in a steady situation so I was not surprised to hear Jeff behind me talking up a storm and watch him going last through most of the rough patches – because that is where he is most comfortable.
Our positions changed throughout the float, but I can tell you that I could feel myself getting frustrated when I was at the back of the pack and I could see a bit of anxiety begin to show around Jeff’s eyes when he was at the front or when he wasn’t sure what was coming next. I love (but don’t always understand) that we are all wired differently and I find it interesting when you can clearly see the “animals” come out in real-life situations. But, the float was not all about personalities…
Although we see Jenn and Brian often at church, we haven’t had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with them – so the kayaking trip was the perfect day for learning about one another. Floating along at approximately 3 to 4 mph gives you time to tell stories, ask questions and listen!
You also work up an appetite….you didn’t think I’d forget about the food, did you? We stopped at approximately the half-way point and had a great lunch. Jenn and Brian brought a variety of beverages and I volunteered to make the food – you know I can’t resist an opportunity to cook for people!
I made the food on Friday and packed it all in containers I thought would withstand a dunk in the water and that were light enough not to sink our kayaks on the way to our lunch spot! We had quite the buffet when we spread it all out on the picnic table. Jeff went to Alvaro’s in Harrisburg on his way home from work on Friday to pick up sandwich rolls so that we could make chicken cutlet sandwiches. I prepped a bunch of things to go on the sandwiches and packed them in small containers so that everyone could assemble his/her own based upon their likes and dislikes. Our sandwich extras included mayonnaise, balsamic jelly (stay tuned for a post), thin shavings of sharp provolone cheese, arugula with a light lemon vinaigrette dressing, and roasted red peppers with herbs.
We also had chips and citrus marinated mushrooms for the side. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, I enlisted my mom’s help with dessert (you need a little something sweet when you’re paddling for hours). She makes some absolutely wonderful chocolate oatmeal brownies and we were fortunate to be the recipients of her baking skills. When he bit into the brownies, Brian proclaimed, “You can tell some love went into these!”
Not only were the brownies packed in a water-tight container, there was also a note inside – kind of like “fortune brownies” – wishing us a good day of kayaking and letting us know that the brownies with the edges were for me!!!!! You see, my favorite part of a pan of brownies is the edges – I’d rather eat the edges than the gooey middle part! And I learned on Saturday that when kayaking on a hot day an oatmeal brownie goes quite nicely with a cold lime beer!
We spent about an hour total on dry land at lunch time, taking advantage of “the facilities” and following the “old wives tale” advice about not getting in the water for 30 minutes after you eat!!! [Yes, I know it's for swimming, not kayaking]. With full bellies, we set out for the second half of our float.
Somewhere along the line, Jenn and I got ourselves into a harrowing situation [ok, no one was really at risk, but it sounds so much better than "we got stuck on a rock"]. We were heading for some rapids and rather than leaving a suitable distance between us as we approached as we had become accustomed to doing, the four of us seemed to be upon the rapids at almost the same time. Jeff went left and cleared the rocks; but I did not and in an instant I saw part of a rock jutting up from the water and knew I wouldn’t have time to correct course. I got hung up and Jenn, trying not to hit me adjusted course, but not enough to avoid the rocks. So we were both stuck.
It was clear to me that the only way for me to get “unstuck” was to get out of my boat and pull. So I did. Now, if you’ve ever been kayaking you know that when you get out you have to hang on to your boat or the current will take it and you’ll be left walking behind it for the rest of the day! So I was holding on to my boat and trying to “unstick” Jenn. The current started spinning my 12-foot boat and I was trying to keep myself upright on the mossy, wet rocks, to hold onto the boat that the water was desperately trying to take from me, AND to keep Jenn from tipping.
This is where the life lesson comes in…..sometimes you’re so invested in your current situation that you don’t see any other options. You keep struggling where you are, doing what you’ve been doing (which incidentally is not working really well), and you begin to exhaust yourself. I could feel myself getting tired, but I didn’t want Jenn to tip and I didn’t want to lose my boat. I lost sight of the fact that there were other people I could turn to for help. Although Jeff and Brian were downstream, I didn’t think to look to them for assistance. Finally they yelled, “let go of your boat.”
Well, for a few seconds that made ABSOLUTELY no sense to me. But they said, “we’ll get it.” So I let go of my boat and in that instant, the rushing current didn’t seems so overwhelming. I was able to get my footing and help Jenn get moving again. THEN I could worry about getting back to my boat.
Of course, all I was looking at was my immediate surroundings (about 1 foot around me in all directions) and at where my boat was. So I began trudging forward through deep, rushing water. But Jeff, being back far enough to see the big picture, guided me to the right where the water was more shallow and the terrain less rocky. Working together, Brian and Jeff managed to get my boat to me as I walked on more level ground.
Safely back in my boat, I couldn’t help but wonder how many times have I held onto my boat [my plan, my way, my situation] and walked through deep, rushing water because either I thought there was no one there to help me or because I was too proud to ask for help or accept it? Then I was reminded of how tightly I held onto my former job – not leaving because I couldn’t step back far enough to see that if I just let go of it, I could get out of the rushing current and onto more level ground. I went with the flow because I thought that was what I was supposed to do and I thought it was the only option.
I shouldn’t be surprised at God’s amazing timing, but sometimes I am. Yesterday’s sermon in church was entitled “Going Against the Flow.” The main sermon points were:
When I live my life empowered by prayer…
- God becomes my anchor against the flow.
- I find peace in the turbulence.
- I find courage to go against the flow.
WOW! I love and greatly appreciate it when God provides a smack upside my head. I know that sounds strange, but you see, subtlety is lost on me. I am fairly literal and so sometimes I need that extra push. Standing in the water on Saturday and listening to those who had a wider perspective reminded me that I CAN turn to others for help when the current is raging….I can turn to God and I can turn to those who can see my situation more clearly than I can because I am too close, too scared, too mired in the details, trying too hard to make my way work.
Kayaking is like life…..it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect, it’s more fun when done in fellowship with others, and it can teach you a great deal about yourself and about life!
Where ever you are in your life right now, do you need to let go of the boat?