Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Confessions of a Tent-dweller

Confession time.

I have a hard time asking for or accepting help. The reverse is true, too. When I feel like other people are imposing on or taking advantage of me (or someone I care about), I become inwardly, secretly critical.

Last weekend, our church went to the Flying H Ranch to serve. We painted part of a building and cut firewood, amid the beauty of a brown-and-gold canyon through which the Naches River runs. The Flying H has a wonderful campground. Several families from our church brought RVs. We set up our humble six-person tent, in which we stuff our seven-person family.

At lunchtime, the sandwiches I’d put in the cooler that morning looked rather limp. My older kids wandered away to their friends’ RV, which was spacious and cool and boasted a stove. Their friends’ mom offered them hotdogs. Limp sandwiches or hot dogs? Of course, hot dogs.

After our work was done for the day, my father-in-law had a great idea. Why not drive up the road and see the view of Mt. Rainier? We weren’t far. My husband asked our friends if our three big kids could stay behind and play.

I envisioned us driving up the road twenty minutes to see this view. I gave them a confident, “We won’t be long!” as I climbed in our minivan.

TWO HOURS LATER, when we finally straggled back to the campground, dinner was in full swing. Not only had we not helped prepare it, but our kids had already been fed. #momfail

The next morning, after a hot, lumpy night in the tent, I hauled a Ziploc of blueberry muffins from the cooler only to hear a chorus of “Is this all there is for breakfast?”

My ten-year-old daughter then announced she wanted an RV for Christmas.

One of our RV friends kindly offered to cook pancakes, which of course my children accepted. By this time my pride was mangled. There was no way I could compete with the RV group. I was helplessly accepting assistance right and left.

I kept thinking of how I would judge myself if I were in my friends’ shoes: “Why did she come on this trip if she wasn’t planning to take care of her own family?”

But nobody seemed judgmental. If anyone was critical, it was me of myself.

That’s when it hit me like a baseball to the eye: life is not a level playing field. Some of us have tents, some RVs. This is not competition, this is community.

We had our church service on Sunday at the campsite. My father-in-law – who had slept in his car overnight – summed it up nicely when he prayed, “Thank you for those who came on this trip well-prepared, who graciously shared with those of us who came with empty cups.”

Yep, I was the one with the empty cup. Next time I’ll remember what it’s like to be a tent-dweller, drop the critical attitude, and put on grace instead.

A.L. Sonnichsen enjoys writing YA novels and literary short stories when she's not feeding, clothing and nurturing her five children -- or taking off for the day to gaze at Mt. Rainier. She lives in a small town on the sunny side of Washington State and writes about life, books and avoiding housework on her blog, The Green Bathtub.

*A.L. is one of those women I just click with. I’m so grateful you brought it with this guest post, Amy. Thank you for being such a generous & cool guest!


  1. I love this life lesson! I love your father in law's prayer.

    I rather needed it today, too.

    Thanks, ladies!

  2. I enjoyed reading this. One thing that i liked about this post is that is teaches (me) to learn from every experience, taking a positive out from every negative! Great post!

  3. God sure knows how to humble us in a gentle way. I love Him. Thanks for this reminder.

  4. Thanks for the reminder, "This isn't a competition. This is a community." Great words to live by.

  5. Great guest post! I struggle with accepting help also. Too much pride on my part, maybe? lol Anyway, this is a great reminder. Thanks for sharing. :)

  6. Love this post! We must enjoy the ride, even during a d-tour :)

  7. Loved this post! Thanks for the reminder about community and accepting help and turning a frustrating experience into something worthwhile.

  8. “Thank you for those who came on this trip well-prepared, who graciously shared with those of us who came with empty cups.”
    What a beautiful prayer.
    Sometimes I've been the one with the empty cup.
    Other times I've been blessed to have the chance to share what I have with others.
    Thanks for such an encouraging blog post ... You filled my cup today.

  9. Wonderful life lesson! I will tuck that away to remember in the future when I am that tent dweller.

  10. Great post! I love that attitude. That "A" thing is so hard to put up with sometimes. Great lesson for me, too. Thanks

  11. What a great lesson. It's so hard not to feel inadequate when others around you seem to be getting it more right. And it's hard to remember that we were all created with our own special gifts that are used when the timing is right.

  12. What a great message! Some have tents, some have RV's...haha! Love it! :)

  13. Thanks for all the nice comments, everyone. It's so nice to go through these life lessons with other people who can commiserate with me! :)

    Thank you, Wendy, for this opportunity to be a guest. I was so nervous (as you know!), but this has been a great experience.


  14. Tents can be frustrating. It makes me think, too, of the tabernacle tent of the Israelites. It was a big production to carry and set up. I think the gold, silver and bronze alone accounted for 12,000 pounds. But all that work and frustration helped to maintain a visible symbol of God's Presence with His people as they trekked through the wilderness. Despite their inadequacies, tents have a way of reminding us of where we have our true home!

  15. Oh, Amy. This is lovely. It's hard (and humbling) to be on the receiving end. So glad you were, though.

  16. Amy,

    Like I tweeted, you brought it. And aren't the people who comment here thoughtful and full of wisdom? Constantly inspired by the comments. Actually, one of your comments, Amy, is what made me want to invite you to guest post!

    ~ Wendy

  17. Wonderful post!
    I could do with printing this and pasting it to mirror? my face? and I mean for both the giving thing and the receiving thing.
    I do believe that many times the giver gets more pleasure in giving than the receiver, but as receivers we owe it to accept graciously and enjoy!
    Now if i could remember this, i'd be home and dry!
    well done, Amy!

  18. Amy, your post rocked! You even made me choke up a bit, you goose. (Maybe just maybe because I'm a little like you on the accepting help thing). Thanks for the inspiring post!

  19. I loved this post, and can totally relate. We just got back from a boating/camping trip. We have a beverly hillbilly boat, while the others in our group have amazing boats. One of them even had to tow our sad little boat off the lake, because ours broke down. I felt horrible.

    But I was reminded of the time, two years ago, when our little goofy boat towed another boat off the lake. It was a great lesson for our kids..sometimes you're the one who helps, and sometimes you're the one who needs help. Round and round it goes!


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