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December 13, 2012

Things don’t always go the way I plan them. I know that. I get frustrated when the car ahead of me hesitates and I have to wait for the traffic light to cycle back to green, or when the line at the grocery store doesn’t go as quickly as I think it should. Occasionally, the phone rings on my way out the door and I entertain the option of not answering it, but for some reason, I do…even though I’m already running late.

I have days when nothing goes right. And I wonder why. Sometimes, not often, I let myself wonder why me? Not often, but it happens.

Then, I had a thought. Maybe, just maybe, those irritating events aren’t random. Maybe they’re blessings. I think most of us think of blessings as good things…not things that frustrate us. I plan my day, and I think my plan will work well. Don’t we all?

But maybe we don’t know the big picture.

I can think of one time when my husband Jim and I were protected from fire…literally. Some would call it coincidence. But not us. We believe it was a blessing.

Back in 2002, Jim won a seven day/six night trip to a fish camp in northwestern Ontario. We only had to pay for me to go. And we had a wonderful time. Located on the English River chain, Naughty Pines Fish Camp was phenomenal! All the cabins were connected by boardwalks, and the lodge was gorgeous, all rustic wood and huge windows, especially on the lake side.

We arrived at the landing just before 10 am and were transported by barge to the camp, along with twenty seven other people. The staff was waiting at the camp and carried all of our gear to our cabin. All we had to do was unpack and report to the lodge for a brief orientation. With seven lakes and the English River to fish, the meeting was necessary, and much appreciated. It reviewed a few ground rules: which areas to avoid, make sure we let someone know where we would be fishing, and when we were expected back at camp. Common sense stuff like that.

We were unfamiliar with the area and wanted to make the most of our trip, so we hired a guide for a day who showed us the ‘hot spots.’ And, as part of that package, the guide caught our lunch and cooked it for us. And we were not allowed to help with those preparations. It was part of the service. Definitely a role to which we were not accustomed. .Subsequently, we spent most of the week in the boat, catching fish. Many fish. Mostly Walleyes and Northern Pike. Good sized ones, too.

This was a place we would not soon forget…and we planned to return the following summer.

So, on about February, we booked another trip to Naughty Pines. We were to arrive on June twenty-first. That was our plan.

And then we were blessed. But we didn’t quite see it as a blessing at the time.

First, we had trouble with the car, our 1999 Ford Taurus. The check engine light came on, so we took it in, and received the diagnosis; transmission trouble. We were given an estimate in the range of sixteen hundred to two thousand dollars.

Since it was otherwise a good car with low mileage, we had it repaired. The bill came in at the upper end of the price range. Definitely not what we wanted to hear. Our transmission was toast. It needed to be replaced. The shop found a used one and kept the cost down as best they could. A small favor; and greatly appreciated.

And we knew our vacation might have to be sacrificed to pay for car repairs unless we could figure out a way to pay for both. We were bummed in a big way.

Then, we figured it out. We found a way to pay for the car and go to Naughty Pines. We were elated. Until the well went dry.

It was a dry summer, and our well had problems on a daily basis. We couldn’t fill the washing machine without shutting it off at least twice to let the well recover. Two faucets could not be turned on at the same time. Some days, the faucets only trickled. Laundry was washed in town at the Laundromat, then taken home and dried. It was a hassle.

And that was the last straw. We could not afford to return to Naughty Pines. I reluctantly called and cancelled our trip.

Then, things turned around. I permanently injured my back a couple of years earlier, and was waiting to receive back pay from Social Security, a frustrating experience, to be sure. I got the run-around every time I called their office. They said they were short-staffed, overworked, swamped with claims, etc. They even said they misplaced my paperwork. Finally, a friend recommended that I contact my congressman, Jim Oberstar, with my concerns. And he went to bat for me…big time. In just a few days, less than a week for sure, I received a check from Social Security for the entire amount owed me.

We decided to use a bit of that money to go back to Canada, and I made the call to schedule the trip.

I explained the situation to which the receptionist lamented, ‘Oh…and we had openings in August, too.’

Past tense, I thought. This didn’t sound good. ‘Did something happen?’

‘Yes…we had a fire at the camp.

‘Oh, no,’ I said, ‘Did anyone get hurt?’

‘No, but…’

‘What burned?’ I inquired.

‘The cabins and the lodge.’ She replied.

Reflecting on our last trip, I realized that the entire camp had burned. All the buildings were connected by boardwalks. There was nothing left.

‘When?’ I whispered.

‘June twenty-first, about 5:00 p.m.’

I had to sit, quickly, as I realized that we would have arrived the morning of the fire. We would have been there had our plans worked out the way we planned. Last time we were at the camp, we came back in by 5:00 pm every day for supper, then went out fishing again.

I called Jim and told him the news. To which he whispered, ‘God protected us from fire.’

We rarely get to know why things happen the way they do; but once in a while, we get a glimpse. And sometimes, it’s enough to make us think…make us look at the little irritations and frustrations of daily life a little differently. Maybe those events happen to protect us from something worse…like in our case, fire.

With us, it took two major set-backs to keep us safe. And we are grateful for them.

We never thought we’d ever give thanks for car trouble and a dry well. But we have, many times.  

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