Savannah & Skidaway Island State Park, Camp Vol. 3

The first weekend in June brought us sweet time with several college friends in Greenville, South Carolina. My friend Amber texted me while we were there; somehow even though she had recently visited us in Waco, we completely missed the fact that we would be in Greenville the exact same weekend. She lives in California with her new husband, so this was a pretty wild coincidence. In a series of fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants decisions, we ended up going to church together, barging in on a family lunch, and then… changing our travel plans completely. We had intended to drive north that afternoon to the Smoky Mountains to camp for a couple days, but Amber and her husband coaxed us most wonderfully into driving 5 hours south to Savannah, Georgia. Well, we’re nothing if not spontaneous, I guess. Amber graciously used her points to set us up in a hotel since we’d be arriving after dark, and then we would plan to camp the next night.

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As Cody and I got on the road towards Savannah with the boys, we felt overwhelmed by the generosity of so many towards us that day, and well, it was really hard to swallow. We felt crummy.

But why? We had just enjoyed an incredible lunch with amazingly generous hosts, Cody was finally able to meet Amber’s husband, Will, and we were about to travel to a beautiful new place and spend even more time with dear friends. The feeling we were looking for was something like giddy joy, but it wasn’t there.

What followed was a long discussion between us about gifts, and how to receive them well. We are notorious for being the last people to leave any kind of gathering, but I like to think we normally don't outstay our welcome. This day was different; this day we had spent hour after hour accepting abundant generosity. It felt like too much, in a way, and we were overwhelmed with the uncharacteristic feeling of having accepted more abundant, glorious gifts than we could possibly ever return. We were even accepting hotel points for a night on a vacation that we were about to crash. Cody and I both were wrestling with this feeling of uncertainty. Were we absolutely positive we hadn’t been a burden on the strangers who had welcomed us into their home for lunch and an afternoon of conversation and coffee? Were we absolutely sure that our newly-wed friends wanted us moving in on their vacation in Savannah? Were we absolutely sure that we weren’t inconveniencing everyone?

Oh wait, yes, there it was. We weren’t sure of any of these things. In fact, it was completely obvious that we most certainly had been an inconvenience.

But we knew that as all of these feelings were weighing us down, that it was exactly the kind of practice of receiving that we needed to engage and wrestle with. If a gift is only one that you can repay, is it really a gift? Why are we, Cody and I, so obsessed with only accepting that which we can offer in return? I wonder, do we really understand the measure of Christ’s gift of himself for us, if we can’t even accept with joy a gift of a hotel room and a surprise beach vacation with friends? Either we don't understand the gift of the Gospel, or we don't accept it. What an alarming thought. The only proper response to Christ’s sacrifice of his very life for us has to be crushing humility and joyful praise. We are so unworthy of such an invaluable gift. And yet, it is given with complete surrender. Can we admit our shortcomings, our unworthiness, enough to accept the gift Christ not only offers to us, but urges us, with the joy of a dear friend, to accept and embrace? Jesus wants us to accept the most invaluable gift ever given, and still play with him at the beach, still break bread, still drink his wine.

Our deep discomfort was a needed call to begin to practice the art of receiving gifts with gratitude and humility. It was a hard and convicting look at how self-sufficient we had supposed ourselves to be. Are we uncomfortable with the level of vulnerability that we hope others will have with us? How can our friendships go deeper if we’re not willing to be an inconvenience? When we have the opportunity to offer a crazy generous gift to our friends, will they accept it? I hope so. But first, we need to practice receiving. We need to practice vulnerability.

By the time we rolled into Savannah, we were not just grateful to be there, but happy. Our prayer was that we would be a burden of joy on our friends.

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We met them at Savannah Coffee Roasters for brunch the next day, stopping in one of the squares for a little morning footrace with some kids we met along the way. When we arrived at our brunch spot, we discovered with delight that Will and Cody own the same swim trunks. This vacation was meant to be, obviously. The coffee was good, but the joy of seeing familiar faces waiting for us at a table surrounded by spanish moss bedecked trees, was exhilarating. Friends! We split up afterwards to walk back to our car, while they did a CVS run. We didn't realize the same CVS was on our walking route, so we bumped into each other again. Friends who buy you bug spray, sunscreen and baby dipes 'n' wipes, are friends for life. Later we all reconvened at Tybee Island. The water was warm and the beach was dotted with glorious tide pools, perfect for Seb and Bruno to play in independently. Amber, a.k.a. Mom, kept us hydrated with tall bottles of water and capri sun pouches. Beach lounging and sunscreen application alternately gave way to wave jumping and ocean piggy back rides. This was Cozzie's 3rd seaside visit in less than 9 months of life! I think it rather serendipitous that the 1st and 2nd were both with Amber. As for me, I am learning the ways of adventure, but the ocean and I haven't yet made friends. Soon, I think, but I was more than content to soak up the salty air and bask in an unexpected beach vacation. 

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After we left the sand and waves, we made our way over to Skidaway Island State Park. What a breathtaking spot! There we pitched our tent with Amber and Will's help, and set up camp. I've never had more difficulty getting my skinny jeans on than in that sticky tent after an afternoon at the beach! Ha! Next, dinner at a nice little German spot. Will took Cody's suggestion of ice cream seriously, as one always should, and found Leopold's, an iconic Savannah creamery. Amber made sure we took advantage of Savannah's open carry law, and purchased us some beer for our stroll. I learned that it's a good problem not to have enough hands for all the tasty things you're consuming. We walked and chatted until the boys began to fade. We put them into our car and they were all three asleep before we arrived back at our campsite.

A sticky, hot night awaited us. I made a mental note to purchase a battery operated fan before our next tropical camping trip. We knew we were going to get on the road again the next day, but I hated the thought of leaving without a chance to explore a bit of the island. I went out for a 2ish mile trail run, and it was so beautiful, I demanded that Cody also take a turn. Our trip may have been short, but I am not done with the south and her spanish moss, no siree. 

Thanks, Amber and Will, for giving us the gift of conviction, an air conditioned hotel room, a day at the beach, helping hands eager to pitch a tent, a German dinner, and a late night walk out for Ice Cream and beer. Thanks for loving that woman at the convenience store who sacrifices the ability to parent her 7 year old, so that she can feed him. No one should have to make that choice. Thanks for holding Cozzie like he was your own, and for getting down at the same level with Seb and Bruno and laughing at their jokes and teaching them about the world.

We pray to be friends like you, and are so glad you are ours.

Skidaway Island State Park

Skidaway Island State Park

Trail run sky

Trail run sky

Trail run path

Trail run path

Mary StreckerComment