New Year’s at a New Park: Elijah Clark State Park

Camping makes me a happy girl.

Jennifer Greene-Sullivan

December 31, 2020

Good Times

The year 2020 brought so many challenges, changes, and concerns. Problems do not stop amidst a pandemic; do they? This past year, my family has had periods of serious turmoil, yet there have been seasons of rest and restoration of our hearts and spirits. Each January, I attempt to schedule camping trips for our family. I used to tentatively plan one per month, and we would probably end up successfully having four or five a year.

When Chris began searching for a fifth wheel, I had no clue what it would take to actually plan and pack for family trips. Chris’ biggest contribution to our camping hobby was the purchase of a used 2005 Sprinter Fifth Wheel, and he also had to find the best hitch and truck to pull it. Chris spends more money for this hobby than his time.

The consuming of time comes from me and the children. First, I schedule places and times on the calendar, then I search for campsites, next I put down deposits or pay for our campsite in full for each trip. When the time comes to leave, I have purchased groceries and staples needed to survive a week or a weekend in a campground that may or may not have stores nearby.

My first night at Elijah Clark State Park

Then, I must act as manager of my help aka the girls. Each girl has chores in preparation to leave, and each girl has to load the camper before we depart. The morning before we leave often looks very chaotic at our house. I feel stressed, the girls are bickering, and Liam is running around demanding for us to cater to the whims of his four-year-old mind. Chris usually goes to work, and he conveniently arrives just minutes before he needs to hook up and pull the camper out of the driveway.

Site 17, Campsite 1 Elijah Clark State Park–Lincolnton, Georgia

He uses the guise of “I have a business to run,” but I have figured out that these escapes are strategically planned to limit his time with us girls and our drama. Whether or not he runs away for the packing, he cannot get away from us once we get to the campground.

Our stay, most of the time, strengthens are bond as a family. This trip, we arrived at Elijah Clark State Park in Lincolnton, Georgia. It has rained each day but one. We also had a few wayward co-campers. We were supposed to camp with a group of special people, yet they chose to camp with others instead. Both of these set backs did not deter us from our trip.

Liam and Me

Our goal for our trips has not changed: we use camping as a mode to spend quality time together as a family. During our pre-martial counseling, Chris and I learned that “Quality Time” is our dominant love language. So, it makes perfect sense that we would enjoy camping with our children because we get to express our love to them by camping with them.

In my mind’s eye, I envision each trip as a “love bubble” that we encapsulates our children. All our struggles pause for a moment in time so that we actually enjoy each other and show love towards each other. Our first evening at Elijah Clark State Park, Sophia created our only campfire. Each one of us pulled our chairs around the fire pit, and we laughed and talked.

Campfire, Night One

We came inside just in time to get our pajamas and turn out the lights for bed. A night like this provides the time and attention needed to heal a multitude of hurt. Our camper has a queen size bed in the master bedroom, so Chris and I have to sleep closer to each other than we do at home. It may just be me, but I always go home feeling closer and more in love with my husband than I did before we arrived.

Ultimately, my dominant love language speaks to his dominant love language because we both have spent quality time together whether for a weekend or a week of time. The Lord uses our hobby as an opportunity to strengthen our relationship as a couple while healing our bonds with our children. The week of Thanksgiving we drove to Chattanooga, Tennessee to spend time with Chris’ Dad and Stepmom.

Spending time with them both does my heart so much good. However, just as soon as we returned home, Sophia had two incidents that set us back yet again as a family. Her choices had negative repercussions for each of us. Her ICD (Impulse Control Disorder) often rears its ugly head just as I become comfortable in my job as mother or protector of my children because I am delusional to think that I am actually in control of what teenagers may or may not do.

The fall out from her impulse decisions have forced Chris and I back into therapy, made me find her a new psychiatrist, and increased our dependency on the LORD. I laugh at my previous comment: I am always dependent on the Lord. He doesn’t check my schedule or my need for quality time.

He will reset my schedule whenever He pleases. Just as the verse below states: “…at the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out.” (Numbers 9:22). However, He will use anything or any circumstance for His purpose. While we stop and spend time together during our camping trip, He prepares us for what is yet to be, or He heals us from what has already happened.

22 “Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. 23 At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.” Numbers 9: 22-23

Our job as parents and as followers of Christ is to be open to His schedule and His moving in the lives of our family members. God can and will deliver Sophia from her impulsive decisions. If He so chooses not to deliver her, He will use the negative affects of those impulse decisions to strengthen our family and to mature Sophia’s walk with Him.

Sophia, Liam, Bailey

My prayer for 2021 and for our future camping trips in 2021 is simply this: “Lord, use our lives, our livelihoods, and our quality time for your service and renew a right spirit in us all.” Before Chris and I left the house, we prayed together for a hedge of protection on our children and on our vehicle as we drove to Clarks Hill. The hedge of protection would consist to His protection by angels and by His Holy Spirit. His peace, understanding, and love has filled our little camper and flowed from our campsite since we arrived.

The storm came and went yesterday 1/1/21; I was so nervous and afraid of a tornado that I sat in our bed, and the nervousness of my legs shook the camper. Chris laid his hands on my leg and said, “Honey, stop that. This is the time to relax and to enjoy the sounds of the rain.” I wanted to argue with him. I said, “you’ve never been inside a tin can during a tornado. I have.”

He response to me was “no, but I have enjoyed the best sleep of my life during rain just like this. Just enjoy it.” In that moment, I gave up the anxiety and the fight, and I relaxed and closed my eyes. I closed them long enough for the thunder to pass and the rain to become steady and light. What was I being taught in that moment? Was I being taught that if I just wait the storm will pass? Or was I being taught that having FAITH in the storm allows the PEACE of the Lord to permeate our bodies, our minds, and our spirit?

Elijah Clark House’s Kitchen

Having trust and faith are not easy for me, but they seem so simple for my husband. My anxiety is a direct result of my need to control every situation or at least find the falsehood of control because it isn’t mine to have. Control is God’s alone. I am not the only human to suffer from the falsehood of control or struggle with doubt.

In the book of Matthew, the apostles remained on the boat as Jesus walked on the water to join them on the lake after He and the disciples had fed the multitude. Jesus had remained in solitude to pray most of the night before walking on the water to meet them before dawn. The disciples were afraid it was a ghost and cried out to Him.

Jesus told them not to be afraid, and He called Peter out on the water. Peter walked on water until he noticed the waves and was afraid. He cried out: “Jesus, save me!” Jesus grabbed Peter’s hand and lifted him back on top of the water and said, “Why did you doubt? You of little Faith?” (Matthew 14: 25-32).

Then, all the disciples worshiped him and said, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”(Matthew 14: 32). These men had watched Jesus perform so many miracles, heal so many people, and deliver people from demons. On that very day, they saw Him multiply the 2 fish and 5 loaves in order to feed five thousand men and unnamed amount of women and children, yet their faith waivered that morning before dawn on the lake.

Yet, these were the men that He called to create the church of Christ in a hostile world. Surely, He can use me while delivering me and my family despite our doubt and our moments of fear. Today, I will fight my battles with the sword of the Word of God and put on the breast plate of righteousness while wearing the belt of truth. I will wear my shield of faith and my helmet of Salvation because what battles come after this camping trip only He knows. I will cover my feet with the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:10-16).

God, I ask you to continue to use our trips to renew our hope and our strength in you. Cause this park to be a “thin place” where the veil of spiritual closeness is pierced and earth and heaven meet right here in Elijah Clark State Park. Cleanse this place of negativity, death, destruction, and failure while filling it with your Spirt and your Grace. God, I pray a special blessing on the reader and for each family that he or she represents.

May each of you experience reaffirming travels and thin places wherever you are in your life.

Replica of Elijah Clark’s Dogtrot House

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I am an English teacher, mother, and wife, but I love to write. I feel that I am blessed to be able to use my talent to write about my children's books, poems, short fiction, and parenting. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about my experiences with beginning a writing career while focusing on my children and my job. I look forward to comments and to hear from my readers!

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