Tent, Sweet Tent

by Annabelle Townsend

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I did not grow up camping! Had to get that out there right away, because for most of you who know me, you would think camping and I are one. To tell you the truth, my only memory of camping was a summer church camp with the teen group, and I stayed in an RV. So there it is. What changed? I married a camper!!

Love him so! So much I wanted to try and learn what he loved. First time camping with him was on our honeymoon. After a few days on Paradise Island, the Bahamas staying at a luxury hotel by the beach, I agreed to go camping for the second half of our honeymoon – that would be tent camping end of August in Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas. To celebrate the inaugural Townsend family camping, God’s blessings by way of rain came down upon us on our first night! Love him so!

I became a camper. In a tent, sleeping on the ground. My husband would be the cook, and he can cook anything! Could be as simple as mac and cheese to the roasted chicken in the dutch oven or alpine spaghetti with cornbread. I was usually the one in charge of setting up the tent and placing everything inside the tent – pitching the tent, rolling out the pad so I would not feel the hard ground and occasional root, and then finally my bed, my sleeping bag. Not the most comfortable at times, but this was home for the night, and I was thankful. This tradition kept going as we had children, as God blessed us with jobs where we could go camping for long periods of time.

What kept us as a family going and doing this thing called camping? Sure it saved us money – campgrounds were much cheaper and add to that, cooking our own food instead of eating out. It was not all fun and games. Staying in one tent, all four of us, was not the best sleeping arrangement. We did this until the kids were into their late teens. And there’s the usual argument as to which child will sleep first between the parents on this trip. That was the “safe” spot. There were bears, wind and white caps while canoeing, freezing temperatures, illness, van breaking down, no hot shower for 3 days in a row!!

So you asked why this tent camping? Well, I still love him so, that has not changed. You can say I've learned a few things:

1. God has created some incredible things out there, and I don’t want to miss it and miss Him. Have you seen the stars on a really dark night? Have you ever heard a wolf howl in the wilderness? It is His pleasure for me to delight in Him. Look for Him – He will show up.

2. There is no substitute to being physically together as a family. We made time to be together, without distractions. And when you’re out in the woods, you pretty much have each other and nature. Nothing new, fully present, all our attention. Did we get along all the time? NO. Did I speak under my breath to voice my unhappy opinion? YES. Was it always fun? NOT always. But I would not trade being in the tent at night, all four of us, as Ken tells a story from something he has read. 

3. Live simply. Maybe that is why I love camping and being in a tent – it’s inexpensive, no frills. It was enough. God has provided everything I needed. Having the biggest, the latest, the priciest, the fastest, the brightest, the most – well, yes, these may be nice but not necessary. It’s the little things, the spontaneous quirks, the uncomfortable moments, the surprises (like when a bird pooped on my dinner plate), the smells, that good book, that splash in the creek, the sunset.

Our last camping trip was to watch the total solar eclipse. The kids are grown up, so it’s back to the original 2 plus a dog. We took the canoe out on a lake. In the middle of the lake was a sandbar – we were able to step out of the canoe onto the sandbar, and watched the eclipse. No words, just joy and wonder…


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Annabelle is a nurse at Greater Atlanta Christian School where she gets to share Jesus' love with students every weekday. She's a wife to Ken, mom to Abigail and Caleb, mom-in-love to Henson and Chloe, and Belkie to her first grandbaby, Eva. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, running, and camping.