At the end of this week, I will be going off-grid for a few days. The kids and I will be heading to my parents’ cabin on a small lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We’ll be deep in the forest, miles away from a paved road, using an outhouse, and washing dishes with water that’s been heated on a camp stove. Cell reception is iffy, depending on which way the wind blows and where the lumberjacks have been clearing trees. It’s heavenly.
Every year, my parents, siblings, and our families head to this place where none of us grew up yet all of us feel at home. We have four days and three nights of canoeing, swimming in the lake, bird-watching, hiking, cooking, building blazing camp fires, relaxing, being silly, and remembering what it was like to share breakfast with my brothers and sister and argue over whose turn it is to sweep the outhouse.
And every year, there are two absolutely perfect moments.
We pull in, unload food, and carry our things to whichever cabin or tent we’re staying in that year. And at some point that first day—sometimes shortly after we arrive and other times not until we’re lying in bed almost asleep—we hear it. The loons. Ah, the loons.
I wish I had words to describe what happens inside me when I hear the loons. My breathing deepens and slows. Hearing them lifts my heart out of whatever I’ve been letting drag it down. The sound wraps itself around my heart, filling it with wonder and reminding me that there is much more to God’s design than the details in my life. Healed of whatever ails it, my heart resettles itself in my soul with the knowledge that all is in God’s hands and it is good.
I don’t know why the loons affect me this way, but they do. The otherworldliness is haunting. It fills me with both the sadness and joy of life and makes me feel whole. Every time we hear the loons, my whole family stops, absorbs, and resettles its collective heart. The first time I hear them every year, time is suspended in a moment of perfection.
The other perfect moment comes when I am swimming in the lake for the first time. Even when the temps don’t top 70 degrees, I try to get in the lake for a while every day. I’ll jump in off the dock and quickly kick away as I try to keep my feet out of the lake muck and avoid the leeches against the shore line. I swim out into the bay. And right in the center of the bay, I lean my head back, spread my arms out, get my feet and butt into perfect balance—and I float.
It is a perfect moment. I am weightless. My ears plugged with water, I hear both the blood rushing through my ears and the sounds carrying through the air. I am of this world and I am apart from it. As I lean back and feel the water catch me to hold me up, face to the sun, I feel the arms of God around me. And in that moment, I know what it is to let go and let God, to immerse myself in His presence, to be in relationship only with Him, to let Him fill me with perfect balance with full knowledge that He holds me.
Every year, I have two perfect moments—the first time I hear the loons and the first time I float in the middle of the bay. For several years, these moments helped me through the knowledge that my marriage was struggling. I would hear the loons and feel healed for a few moments. I would float in the knowledge that God had me. And last year, oh, last year those perfect moments were so different. Each moment evoked the same moment from the year before–only last year, I was able to see that our marriage was truly different from the year before, and the year before that. These moments were when I knew, deep in my heart, that our marriage was healed. And this year, when I experience these moments, it will be with deep thanks for what our marriage has become.
Every so often, I will have another perfect moment, one that surpasses these. It is the moment when I am floating, immersed in the presence of God, and the loons call out to fill me with joy and sadness and wholeness. It is a moment of absolute perfection.
So in a few days, I will unplug. I’ll have a few posts scheduled ahead. Blog comments will be set to full moderation. I may check now and then depending on how the wind blows. While I am gone from this place for a bit, rest assured that all is well and know that I am having some perfect moments, resting in wholeness and the arms of God.