Definition of CONFLUENCE
1 :a coming or flowing together, meeting, or gathering at one point
• a happy confluence of weather and scenery
• a confluence of cultures
2 a :the flowing together of two or more streams
b :the place of meeting of two streams
• the Mississippi River’s confluence with the Missouri River
c :the combined stream formed by conjunction
We recently took an adventure road trip to the Ozarks. We had never considered this a vacation destination or really even knew the area existed until we discovered the Netflix series Ozark. While I didn’t really care for the show (one of the few Jason Bateman shows I didn’t like), the area looked absolutely stunning. As the show panned the scenic lake and Ozark mountains, Patrick and I found ourselves researching the area. To our surprise it was only ten hours away – we could make it in a day. Next we found what looked to be a beautiful campground for our RV – and before I knew it, Patrick was on the phone with reservations and booked the trip.
He relayed the conversation he had with reservations. She had asked him if he’d been there before. Nope. To which she replied “make sure you pack everything you need, because this campground is very remote. The closest store is 45 minutes away.”
Yikes. What have we signed up for? While we knew it was going to be an adventure, we had no idea what kind of adventure. What played out in my imagination was not the good kind of adventure – it involved snakes and alligators. Upon talking to my friends about our upcoming trip, I was also told that we could expect to see old men in overalls, not a problem in itself, except that they wear nothing under the overalls. Ok, that’s just plain weird.
But I went along with an open mind and told Patrick that I would step back and let him do all the planning. This was his adventure of unknowns. I did, however, ask dear friends to pray for good adventure. I am not foolhardy!
Before I knew it, we were on our way. Bounding down Interstate 35 in the RV, our two dogs, Maisy and Mowgli, perched between our seats. This RV has become our happy place. Three years ago I never dreamed we’d own an RV, never even considered it! But after my diagnosis we reasoned it as a way that we could travel together, despite my imminent decline in health. Now we love it and look forward to every trip. As a bonus I’m still healthy and can fully enjoy the experience!
After an uneventful day’s drive, we passed Branson, MO and were within an hour of our destination. We exited the main highway and traveled a narrow road winding through the hills, the lake, and the trees. As the miles clicked by, I asked “Are we going the right way?” We hadn’t seen another car in miles and the land was getting more and more desolate. Patrick responded, “I think so, but my GPS doesn’t seem to be changing. I’m not sure it is working, there’s not much coverage out here.” I knew this place was remote, but as we continued to drive I started to question what we had gotten ourselves into!
At last we saw the sign for the resort and turned onto the driveway. The driveway was long and quiet – no visible signs of life. We could see nothing but hills and trees. Too quiet, my imagination told me. Then suddenly we descended into a breathtaking valley and gazed upon our campground, nestled next to the majestic Table Rock Lake. It was beautiful. My fear was calmed. This was a hidden gem of sorts with a phenomenal view. Maybe this wasn’t going to be too bad after all. Quiet but good. I can do quiet.
After we checked in and situated our campsite, we decided to go for a walk and explore the campground – our home for the next seven days. This was probably one of the nicest campgrounds we’ve experienced. We later learned that this campground is like a condominium, mainly occupied by people who own their little piece of paradise. Each campsite is slightly different; the owners add their own improvements. Hardscapes, plantings, furniture. Fortunately, some of those owners rent their spots when not in use – which is how we obtained our spot.
As we walked the campground we struck up conversation with many of the “campers”. Over the years we’ve learned that campers are always very friendly and eager to talk. Especially those in retirement – which seemed to be the commonality of those we met that day. They always comment about our two big, black dogs and then we comment on their little dogs (retired people always seem to have multiple small dogs) and then the conversation sways to where we’re from, where we’ve been, etc. Harmless small talk.
It was a great start to our trip. After the first “passing by” we were treated like old friends. On the first night a couple of groups told us that there was another Minnesotan there that we must surely know. Well, we don’t all know each other! They told us we must meet this guy. Ok, but we are Minnesotans, we don’t seek out strangers, right? Well, that is what Patrick basically said to me. Haha.
Later that evening, as we sat outside enjoying our new found paradise, a man walked up into our campsite and introduced himself. His name was Joel. He was the infamous Minnesotan we’d heard about all day. His next words were kind of odd for a first encounter. “What’s your story?” What? He repeats, “What’s your story?”
Where to begin. Yep, from Minnesota. Umm, came in our RV. We have been RVing for a few years. Uh, well, we started RVing because life changed and we wanted to grab ahold of what life had to offer and do adventure and visit our daughter out of state…well, life and cancer…
I never lead in with that. Because people generally don’t know how to react. They tend to shrink back. They become embarrassed. It can generally become awkward. But there was something about this man. The words just spilled out and within minutes we’d shared more than we typically share with anybody – ever!
He smiled at us and said “God is good” and came in with a hug! Right then and there I knew he was our kind of people. Doesn’t shrink away from the hard stuff.
Within the ensuing conversation we quickly discovered that he and Patrick had several things in common. Work stuff, motorcycles, worship team, and Faith. In my mind I realized that this is no coincidence. This was a cool moment of connection with another guy who loves Jesus and is walking life with Him.
And then he says “I’m taking a couple guys on a motorcycle ride tomorrow, I have a spare motorcycle, you guys should come!” No, no, we pushed back. Being friendly is one thing, but that is crazy! Who does that? Who lends out their motorcycle to complete strangers? And odder still, who in their right mind would agree to go? But he did not let us off the hook that easily. “You’re coming” he stated. “I have helmets, gloves, leather, whatever you need. “We’re going to see the Grand Canyon of the Ozarks. It’s beautiful. You’ll love it.” And for good measure he stated again “You’re coming!”
“OK” we responded, secretly thinking we’d find a way out of it the next day. I haven’t been on a motorcycle in years. I used to ride with Patrick, but I just decided I didn’t enjoy it anymore. And I think he prefers to ride by himself anyways, so it became one of those things I don’t do anymore.
The next morning, Joel arrived at our campsite once again. Patrick and I had discussed it and had all but decided to decline. I was not going, I encouraged Patrick to go, but he said he wasn’t going without me. We were, after all, on vacation together. But there was Joel, and “No” was not one of his options. He said “God has been generous to me, and I want to share what I have. It’s where I find my joy. You have to come.”
And then I knew I had to accept. Why not? This was certainly adventure, right? It was like a switch. What was it about this guy? We couldn’t say no to him. We followed him to his campsite, just down the road from ours. His friends were already there, geared up ready to ride. We introduced ourselves, they were super cool and really good guys. Our new friend outfitted us with helmets, and anything else we could possibly need.
Joel gave us the run down on his spare motorcycle – it was his wife’s. She’s a Delta flight attendant and was currently working. Her motorcycle was a Boss Hoss trike. It is a three wheeled motorcycle with a car engine, automatic transmission, and luckily for me – a comfortable back seat. After a quick tutorial on how to operate the motorcycle, we were on our way. Traversing our way through the Ozarks on a borrowed motorcycle from a new friend we’d met just yesterday. It was surreal. It was fantastic. The views were awesome.
Midway through the ride, Patrick was a hot mess. He started sneezing uncontrollably. As it turns out, ragweed is in full bloom and we soon discovered that he is very allergic. Like sneezing, puffy red eyes, runny nose. I was concerned because he was incessantly sneezing as we’re winding through the tight curves and hills with oncoming traffic threatening us on the other side. With each sneeze he took his hand off the handle bars to cover his mouth. “I’m fine” he kept saying, but it was getting worse. Finally, he admitted defeat and determined he needed some allergy medication.
At last we stopped at a little shop along the way to stock up on Benadryl and Kleenex. We find that the people working at the store are from Minnesota, too, and went to school with one of the other guys in our group! You can’t make this stuff up. We get Patrick dosed up and head on our way. Lunch at the destination point -The Grand Canyon of the Ozarks. Cool. This is worth the sniffling and sneezing. Lunch gives us a chance to talk together.
Again, our new friend asks us to share our story.
“We already did” Patrick stated.
“These guys haven’t heard it” Joel stated back.
OK. So we do. And the conversation turns into wonderful discussion of adversity. And having the choice in what you do with your situation. We all shared our stories. How we are built for adversity and the challenges in life. It is what makes life life. Everybody faces adversity. Challenges are the spice to life. The stories are wonderful and inspiring. We all agreed of the importance of Faith and to encourage each other on our “journeys”. It was an interesting time together and before we left I told our host that I would like to pray with him, if he would be willing to. Yes.
When riding on the back of a motorcycle you have a lot of quiet time to think. I was reflecting on how incredible this day was. The unexpected fellowship we discovered in the Ozarks. The incredible generosity of this new friend who offered to let us tag along. And it got me thinking, what do I have to offer? Just like Joel, God has been generous to me too. I want to share what I have been given. Here is the thing. Generosity takes on many forms. It can be in the form of an invitation to travel on a motorcycle. It can be food. It can be time. It can even be your story. It depends on what you have to offer. I may not have a super cool motorcycle, but I feel like I have been asked to use my time, presence and story to encourage others. I have tried to be obedient when I have felt the nudge, push, shove to pray for someone or to be available. It has been such an incredible opportunity to see God at work, up close.
A few days later we met with Joel at his camp site. We talked some more about the details of each other’s stories: The good, the hard, the ugly. We prayed together. It was one of those moments that stands still for a time.
On the final morning of our vacation, Patrick and I (as well as Maisy and Mo) got up early to watch the sun rise. As the sun began to appear over the mountain, it’s rays of light exposed the majestic valley before us. Table Rock Lake reflected the sunlight, ripples in the water glimmered like diamonds. The steam formed over the lake turned the sun’s rays into huge beams of light. Like giant flashlights illuminating the breathtaking view before us. With each second, more of the valley – its trees, its crevices, its rocks, the lake – came into view.
I wish I could put into words the overwhelming feeling I experienced. The one word that came to mind was: Confluence – the coming or flowing together. Here I sat on this beautiful morning, watching the start of a day, with my husband and my dogs. Three years into this life changing voyage. Feeling the presence of God and all His power. Seeing His majesty revealed before my eyes. Experiencing this adventure, meeting new friends, engaging in fellowship, and receiving generosity. Confluence – the coming together of God and His love, his children, our brothers and sisters. It is wonderful.
My friends, I share this because there are so many times when God brings lives together for a moment in time, a season, or a lifetime. Let’s not take these most sacred of moments for granted. What has God blessed you with that you need to give of generously? Love, time, your story…