Caitlin’s kids practiced setting up tents in the backyard and each time learned new techniques to expedite the process. And after they had worn out Caitlin’s old dog, Rusty, playing ball with him in the back yard–Caitlin, proud of their accomplishment, rewarded them with a new puppy–a golden retriever. The puppy was already a year old and had been trained as a service dog.
The kids were thrilled and begged to sleep overnight in the tent with their new “puppy.”
After the fifth time of putting up the tent, Caitlin advised the kids to leave it so they could show off their good work to her parents, Jas and Junia, who were coming to visit. When practicing polite introductions, Caitlin and the kids decided on the affectionate title of Grand, short for grandpa and grandma when speaking to Jas or Junia. What they hadn’t practiced was the introduction for the new dog, who squeezed out the front door to be the first to greet the new grandparents. All the kids ran out after Jazzy, calling him to come back inside. Caitlin also went out to intervene in the commotion.
Grand Jas’ ears perked up when he heard the dog’s name called. “Looks like you all have a new doggy. His name is Jazzy?”
The youngest boy, Corby, giggled. “Named for you.”
Caitlin grinned, thinking her Dad would be annoyed at having a dog named after him. Tactfully, she explained. “We were trying to think of a name other than Goldie.”
Then the oldest boy, Denver, who was called Deni, quickly added. “Corby named him Goldie since he’s a Golden Retriever, but Goldie’s a girl’s name. And Jazzy’s male.” Deni looked down to the ground embarrassed by his brother’s mistake.
Caitlin quickly finished the explanation. “So anyway, I told the kids it was your idea to get a puppy…they asked about your name and one of the kids…I think it was Benjie…came up with Jazzy.”
Benjie blushed and grinned. “Yep, it was my idea.”
Jas had stooped over to pet Jazzy and then stood up, proudly beaming smiles at each of the kids. “Jazzy is a great name.”
Junia smiled at the youngest brother and patted the top of his head. “Goldie’s a good name too. Think I’ll save that name for my next puppy male or female.” Then Junia stood back, looking at the three boys as if making a photo of the moment and clasped her hands together in praise. “My goodness, you all look sharp today with new clothes–jeans, t-shirts and tennis shoes–Caitlin told me how you all had great fun shopping at the mall…going to the movies.”
The kids remembered their manners and that Grand Jun had sent a gift card for clothes shopping. Then beginning with Denver each said thank you and Corby added, “Thanks for the movies too.”
After completing introductions as practiced Caitlin motioned for everyone to go inside. “Let’s get lunch ready for out on the picnic table. Boys you can show Grand Jas the tent you’ve been working on.”
Jas had fun playing inspector of tents, giving kudos to all. Then he chuckled with delight watching his new namesake play ball with the kids. Jazzy brought the plastic bat to Benjie and then retrieved the plastic baseball after it was hit, bringing the ball back to the pitcher. Rusty, the older dog in the family, who slept most of the time, joined in the fun too by barking each time one of the boys hit the ball.
Soon everyone settled down around the picnic table for Hoagie sandwiches, chips and Brownies. Jas prayed and then while the boys built their own sandwiches he encouraged them on their tent practice. “Guys, I think you’re ready to go on a real camping trip–what do you think?”
Denver was first to agree along with the others. They expressed their excitement with all sorts of questions, when, where and can we…?
Jas chuckled, glad for their enthusiasm. “We’ll need to check with Ryan…see if he can get off work…maybe check the weather…but you know real outdoorsmen go camping any weather. In fact we’ll read about it in the Bible sometime, but tents used to be homes for people. Abraham, who was a friend of God, dwelt in tents. Actually, even the very first house of God here on earth was a glorified tent called the Tabernacle. We can read about it later if you want to.”
While munching on chips Denver and Corby mumbled, “Wow!”
Benjie also expressed amazement. “Wow, even God lived in a tent!”
Caitlin, Jas and Jun smiled at each other in an unspoken agreement of joy as they observed the boys’ interest in God.
Jas added, “Yes, God’s Spirit was there in the tabernacle.”
Suddenly, everyone noticed a noise from the garage. It was the garage door opening and just as Caitlin got up to check, to her surprise, Ryan came outside the patio door. “You’re home early…everything okay?”
Ryan frowned. “Well no…but we’ll talk about it later.” He waved and said hello to everyone. “Any food left–I’m hungry?”
Caitlin added a chair to the end of the table. “Plenty of food…come sit here…we’re having hoagies…make your own.” Ryan was now included in the discussion about camping and relieved to be planning something fun instead of talking about how he had just lost his job.
After the Grands had gone home, Caitlin cornered Ryan. “What happened at work?” But he put off discussing anything while the kids were around.
Then after the family Bible reading and prayer time and after the kids were tucked into bed, Caitlin who had fought with imagined events all evening, patiently waited for Ryan to join her for a snack at the kitchen table. Quietly, she nibbled an oatmeal cookie and sipped iced milk.
Ryan finally came to the kitchen still smiling about a silly kid’s joke that Denver had told. In a hushed tone he raved about the homemade cookies. “Oatmeal chocolate chip–my favorite!”
Caitlin covered her mouth while chewing a cookie to comment. “Mom brought these over today for our picnic.”
Ryan quickly gobbled a couple of cookies, drank his milk and then sat back in his chair to relax. He playfully and purposely remained quiet knowing Caitlin was anxious to know what was going on at his work.
Exasperated, Caitlin took the plate of cookies away. “No more cookies for you until you tell me what’s going on!”
Ryan who had been smiling a playful grin the whole time became somber as he discussed the company where he had worked as manager for the past five years and cut backs and then layoffs because profits had continued to decline. They discussed prospects for the future, but fear of the unknown began to creep into their minds. There at the table they clasped their hands together, bowing their heads in prayer to God. Together they cried and then prayed again, their foreheads pressed together as one.
God looked down and hugged them with his comforting love till both had peace–peace that God would somehow provide–even if for the moment, they couldn’t see how.
The next day, Caitlin took a private moment while the kids were outside playing with the dogs to call her parents with the news of financial setback, explaining that she couldn’t bring herself to worry the kids, so for now they would keep it a secret. “But we want to go ahead and plan the camping trip since Ryan is available to go…you and dad don’t have to go this time if you’re not up to it…”
But Jas was sitting next to Junia listening to the conversation and at the same time thinking about how he longed to visit Oldfather Lake again. “I’m ready to go on another trip if you’re ready Jun.”
“Caitlin, your dad says he’s ready to go camping again–so if he’s ready then I’m ready too!”
Caitlin began to feel less anxious at the thought of planning something fun with the kids. “Good! The boys will be so exited–and it will be good for Ryan to relax before he gets busy looking for work.”
Later, Jas called Farmer Johnson to ask if the family could camp out at Oldfather Lake and go fishing and swimming there. He had left a voicemail message and received a call back right away from Farmer Johnson, who extended a welcome to all.
This time Oldfather Lake was easier for Jas to find, which was a relief to Junia since Caitlin, Ryan and the kids were following close behind in their Jeep. Finding the gate on the bridge unlocked, they drove up to the lake and parked near the dock. Then Jas and Ryan searched for the perfect place to put up the tents. The kids begged to go swimming, but were told putting up tents was priority. Jas found an area with a stone campfire pit and an old picnic table, then Ryan called the kids who went to work immediately erecting the tents while Ryan and Jas supervised. Caitlin and Jun brought out folding chairs, cushioned them with blankets and then cleaned the table. After they had all settled in their tents, making them as comfortable and cozy as possible, Junia and Caitlin prepared lunch while the boys played frisbee with Jazzy.
After lunch the Grands were sleepy and wanted to take a nap, but couldn’t put the kids off any longer on swimming. All changed to swimming clothes and life vests and headed down to the dock. And Jas took his fishing rod too.
Jazzy didn’t hesitate to jump right in after the boys, swimming along with them, while Rusty was content to lay in the sun on the dock and watch. Grand Jun and Caitlin sat on the edge with their feet dangling and splashing in the water while Jas fiddled around with his fishing gear preparing to cast in on the other side of the dock.
Soon it was evening and clouds began to gather. The wind came up with darkening clouds. Then distant thunder. Grand Jas called for everyone to get out of the water. “Storms coming in! Hurry…hurry to the tents!”
Thunder began to get louder…clouds darker…and then lightening, but everyone was safe and sheltered. While checking the weather on her mobile phone, Junia noticed a voicemail message indicator. She handed the phone to Jas since the missed call was from Farmer Johnson. His message was of concern about the weather and an invitation to their family to stay inside the house if the storm got worse. Said he had left a key hidden in the flower pot on the porch. Jas discussed it with Jun and then checked the weather again. The radar from the local news station indicated heavy rain and warnings of strong wind and hail. They estimated that in about thirty minutes it would be right over them.
Quickly, Caitlin, Grand Jun and the kids packed up everything inside their tents to stow away inside the vehicles while Grand Jas and Ryan worked on dismantling the tents and piling everything back into the Jeep. The kids were reminded that emergencies are the only time the tents are not neatly folded.
During the commotion Jazzy had gotten spooked by lightning and ran into the trees. Benjie followed after his new doggy, but couldn’t find him. Then Benjie got lost in the maze of trees and not able to find his way back again in the dark. He began crying and calling after Jazzy, but the thunder was louder and the rain heavier. He stumbled over a fallen tree trunk hitting his head on a branch.
He laid there for a few minutes in a daze and then a memory came to mind–Ryan teaching him and his brothers to pray at bedtime. Boys, Caitlin and I are here for you, but if you’re ever alone and afraid in the dark or anytime you’re scared–Jesus cares–Just pray to God–ask him to help you.
Benjie cried out to God with all his heart. “If you’re here God, please help me!” Scared and not knowing what to do he crawled under an arch of branches along the ground, branches from the same tree trunk he had stumbled over. There he took cover from the pouring rain.
Spending more time indoors than outdoors had not prepared Benjie for being lost in dark woods during a rain storm. Benjie, age eight and middle of the three boys in birth order, had always been the quiet, more studious of the three. His older brother, Denver, who was age ten, seemed to always have friends in the neighborhood even though his family moved often. Denver usually played ball or rode his bike (when he had a bike) with his friends while Benjie usually stayed inside reading or playing video games. Corby, his youngest brother, who was age six, also preferred playing outside with friends, riding bikes or playing in the sandbox. But when “trouble” came up at home the three of them stayed close, protective, watching over each other. Benjie longed for his brothers now. Where are they?
After what seemed like a long time, he saw flashes of light in the distance. The flashes got brighter and brighter. Suddenly, there was Jazzy, licking his face, followed by Jas and Ryan shining flashlights. Ryan picked him up and hugged him.
“What happened? Are you hurt?”
Benjie swallowed back tears of relief. “Bumped my head, but I’m okay now.”
Ryan carried Benjie while Jas and Jazzy led the way back to the house. Then Ryan and Denver helped Benjie change into dry clothes and placed him in a warm, comfortable bed. Caitlin applied some ointment to the small scratch on his head and hugged him. “We prayed so hard to find you–glad you’re okay.”
Benjie’s eyes lit up. “I prayed too…for God to help me.”
“See–he answered our prayers.” Caitlin raised her eyes up toward heaven. “Thank you God!” Then she patted Benjie on the head and asked Denver and Corby to watch over their brother while she helped Grand Jun make dinner.
Denver looked up and smiled as he dried Jazzy with a towel. “Sure, will do–can we play Chess? I saw a chess game on the table downstairs.”
“If Benjie is up to it.”
Benjie smiled saying an enthusiastic yes. Caitlin again thanked God quietly from her heart for the sign that Benjie was well.
Corby, who was only five years old, wasn’t interested in Chess, but sprawled out on the floor with a coloring book and crayons next to Jazzy, who was content to rest and take a nap. When Denver began winning the chess game, he decided to let Benjie win by dropping big hints about maneuvers he should make. Then later after dinner, Benjie used the same maneuver to win a game with Jas. Again, everyone was reassured that Benjie’s bump on the head wasn’t serious and no need for a doctor.
Everyone slept well that night except Corby. He had awakened from a scary dream and then thunder frightened him even more. He thought of curling up with Jazzy who was already sleeping at the foot of Benjie’s bed, but instead he carefully climbed up the ladder from his lower bunk bed to Deni’s top bunk, curled up at the foot of the bed with his pillow and went back to sleep.
By early morning the storm had passed over, but since they had already settled in the house everyone voted to stay as guests in the house for the next two days. But, as good boy scouts should, they took care of the camping equipment first–cleaned, dried out and folded tents to neatly store away before enjoying the “fun stuff.”
Swimming, fishing, exploring and cooking hamburgers filled the rest of the day with refreshing amusement and ended with making smores out on the patio while watching fireflies flit about.
The next day at Oldfather Lake was a surprise field trip. The surprise was only for the kids. Ryan, Caitlin and the Grands knew about the trip to a neighbor’s farm for a special treat. However, Caitlin and Junia had decided to stay behind and do housecleaning to prepare for leaving later that day. Ryan had offered to stay and help Caitlin so that Jun could go along with Jas and the kids, but Junia insisted on staying behind and leaving the house as clean as they had found it.
Mid-morning after breakfast, each of the kids said goodbye to Caitlin and Grand Jun, then they instructed Rusty and Jazzy to be good as they left in the Jeep with Ryan and Jas. Farmer Johnson had given detailed instructions for getting to his neighbor’s property and specifically the area they would visit, which amazingly Ryan and Jas found easily. When they arrived Farmer Johnson and his neighbor were sitting on the porch of a very small, yellow house.
After introductions, neighbor Wooten, with all the expertise of a tour guide, explained. “Everyone, thank you for coming. Welcome to Bee Haven! This is where we harvest honey! Follow me! Right inside the door here, is an enclosed foyer. There we’ll suit up with aprons, gloves and a special helmet. This protects us, the honey and the bees.”
The kids giggled as they dressed up in what Corby said looked like astronaut clothes. The helmet had a clear plastic shield over the face as well as an extended vinyl covering over the head, neck and shoulders.
First, they were given a tour of the house where the honey is harvested. With a continuous smile and enthusiasm Mr. Wooten explained the process of harvesting honey, which to him was the most exciting venture ever, certainly the sweetest. Then everyone followed Mr. Wooten out into the woods as he carried a bee smoker–a can with a handle and smoke coming out from a nozzle on the top. He also gave one to Ryan and Jas to swing along beside them as they walked to the bee hives. The kids walked between them in a triangular fashion.
Denver teased his brothers as they walked along a small field of wildflowers. “Watch out! Bee’s stingers are as big as carpet needles!”
But they rolled their eyes in disbelief. They had seen little bees on the clover in the yard and had never been stung. Mr. Wooten smiled and reassured them by explaining that he came to the hives every day and that during the daylight hours most of the bees were out working in the fields gathering nectar and doing their most important work of pollination. He stopped to show them a patch of wildflowers and bending down he pointed to the tiny pollen that bees collect as they feed on the nectar. He explained further how the bee transports pollen to another flower causing the flower to bear fruit and make more flowers.
“Without the bees at work, we would soon not have any fruit, vegetables…or bees. Our Creator made a wonderful design with bees. No evolution process could ever make something as complex as bees. Our all-wise Creator God designed bees to live in colonies…work together…hunt…collect and produce food–wonderful delicious honey.”
The group walked a little further into the woods, the bee smokers leaving behind a trail of smoke. Tall thin Oak and Cottonwood trees with sunlight filtering through sheltered the bee hives–hives which were wooden boxes with slotted combs inside, made just right for gathering honey.
Mr. Wooten carefully pulled out a comb to show everyone–honey sealed with bees wax–the result of busy bees at work. He took a little spoon, carefully scraped and scooped a little honey into it for someone to taste and asked for a volunteer. Deni volunteered Benjie to taste it, but Benjie insisted Deni or Corby taste it. So Mr. Wooten gave the spoon to the youngest brother.
Slowly, Corby lifted his mask and with hesitation tasted the spoon full of honey. His eyes sparkled with excitement. “Ohm…wow…this is good!”
Mr. Wooten smiled with satisfaction and promised to give a free jar of honey to Ryan and Jas after returning to Bee Haven.
This story is a fictionalization. Although, historical events, people and places are used fictitiously, details of the time period have been portrayed as accurately as possible for authenticity. All characters are fictional unless otherwise noted. If an actual historical character is mentioned an endnote with citation will be included.
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