A lake with a dock and a hammock and a boat.

In honor of Memorial Day weekend when summer is unofficially welcomed, I wanted to share one of my favorite summer memories with you...

Five years and what seems like many moons ago, when I lived in Nashville, some friends and I spent time at a place called "Shiloh" on Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia.   This gorgeous place is also where What About Bob? was filmed, although it's called Lake Winnipesaukee in the movie.   More importantly, Smith Mountain Lake is the home of our friend Betty-Ashton's parents - Deke and Boo, two of the most generous people you will ever meet, who are constantly opening their spacious home to their children's friends, to neighbors, to strangers - really anyone who wants to come and enjoy the peace and natural beauty of Shiloh.  To young twenty-somethings living in Nashville, it was a retreat from our daily lives of jobs and schedules, a place where those of us with families in all different states could come together and be taken care of by someone else's mom for the weekend. 

An 8-hour drive away, it was worth every minute as we wound further and further out of the city and into the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains.  Finally, around midnight, as we slowly rolled down a tree-lined gravel driveway, we would spot Shiloh's warmly lit windows, beckoning us to come inside and rest.

Shiloh was built for company.  From the multiple sleeping quarters, to the huge L-shaped couches, to the drawers and bowls everywhere stocked with snacks and candy, this was a home used to having people around.  Love was worn into its furniture.  The two amazing weekends I spent at Shiloh, there were about 15 of us from Nashville.  By day, we relaxed in white lawn chairs on the sun-soaked private dock, rode in the speedboat with one of Betty-Ashton's brothers, jumped off the dock in crazy poses, and floated on rafts shaped like palm trees. 

By night, we curled and piled up on those L-shaped couches and watched movies, played guitars and games, sat in a row on the rocking chairs on the backporch, and inhaled the sounds of night in the mountains, a place where time stands still. 

All day long, we ate Boo's delicious cooking - giant salads, scrambled eggs with sausage - one amazing meal after another that she seemed to constantly be preparing, because with so many of us, once one meal was done, it was practically time to start on the next. 

Even with so many guests on a Sunday morning, "church" still happened at Shiloh.  Still hapazardly dressed in PJs and hair matted from swimming the previous day, we all gathered on the carpeted floor in Deke and Boo's bedroom, and Deke preached us a sermon from the treadmill.

One of my best life moments happened at Shiloh.  It was nothing monumental but a single memory where my surroundings were so perfect, and I felt so alive, so free, so in love with life.  It was a heavenly summer day, the kind where it's warm in the sun but not too hot, and a gentle breeze is blowing.  It was early morning at Shiloh, and no one else had yet awakened.  The bright sun glaring through the windows wooed me outside.  I walked down the hill barefoot through the soft grass of the backyard down to the dock and found the hammock under the enormous weeping willow tree.  For a few moments, I just swung in the hammock slowly, the branches of the weeping willow waving above me.  I heard nothing but the sounds of crickets and the lap of water against the boat in the boat dock.  There, I wrote this in my journal:

Could this be any more beautiful?  I can say that this is one of the most peaceful mornings I've ever experienced.  It's about 8:45am...I woke up naturally and tiptoed over to the window and peeked out the blinds.  Glorious sunshine, not a cloud in the sky.  I grabbed my journal and walked down here to the dock.  This is what I saw before me: The lake is glistening under the light of the morning sun.  There is not even the least bit of humidity and the sun shines brilliantly, lighting up the gorgeous green meadow across the lake.  A weeping willow hangs lazily over the water's edge and light shines through the threads on its branches as if through a little blond girl's hair.   This morning is the Sabbath.  I feel closer to You here than I do in a dark, cold church building.  And I'm so thankful you give us these little spots of heaven on earth...

Later that day, another experience I will never forget - Jen and I took out the kayaks for a peaceful paddle through the cove.  I recall the sun beating down on us and that I closed my eyes for a few seconds to feel its warmth as my oar made a hollow sound on the side of the boat.  There was a gentle, smooth resistance to my paddle in the calm lake waters.  As we glided through the cove, we were at the same level with the ducks and birds skimming the water, surrounded by nothing but green.  It was one of the most peaceful times I can remember...

These memories make me realize that I have become more of a "lake" person over the last several years, and I long for a lakehouse of my own one day - one with a firepit and a small dock with a hammock and a willow tree.  A place where summers are warm but not scorching, and autumn leaves begin to flash in the trees come early September.  A place where people feel warm and welcome and enveloped by trees and water.

But I do not have that now.  And that's okay.  So I will treasure my memories of Shiloh and remember the lessons I learned there - that we desperately need moments of peace and fun and rest.  And that we are made for the enjoyment of the things God has created - the community of people, and the beauty of nature.

Past Memorial Day weekend posts:

2009: First Pool Day.

2008: The Welcoming of Summer.

2007: Simple Truth on Memorial Day.