“Fire extinguisher, quick!” she yelled. As 12-year-old Josh raced through
the snow to the canvas shelter, Sara removed the fuel canister and dumped a
box of baking soda onto the flames. The fire settled and she closed the
stove lid. Josh arrived holding a fire extinguisher, his mom close behind.
“It’s okay, we won’t need it!” said Sara, surveying the damage.
“Are you alright?” asked Mom
“Yes, but there may be a leak, or damage to the stove. To be safe, let’s
not use it!”
Josh sat down and caught his breath. This was his first time running for a
fire extinguisher; he was thankful they didn’t need it. What a start to the
At least Aunt Sara knew what to do. She had invited Mom, Josh and his older
sister, Megan, to go yurt camping while Dad was at a conference. When they
arrived, it was 7°F (-14°C), there was tons of snow and the campground was
nearly empty. Josh loved it.
Megan poked her head out the yurt door.
“Fire’s out!” Josh said, hoping to deflect a complaint.
His sister stared at the burnt stove, covered in baking soda. “Great,” she
mumbled. “And we’ll eat… how?”
“Don’t worry,’ said Aunt Sara brightly. “I’ve brought lots of food. You
won’t go hungry!”
Megan, whose idea of roughing it was being out of Wi-Fi range,
didn’t look impressed.
”Now, let’s get a campfire going,” said Aunt Sara, and Josh jumped up to
After a dinner of cold pasta salad and hot campfire sausages, everyone
tucked into bed. Josh and Megan each took a top bunk. Dressed in layers and
nestled in his sleeping bag, Josh bristled when the complaints began again.
The beds were too small. Megan was too hot from the wood stove. She was too
cold when the fire died down.
“Who are you, Goldilocks?” Josh shouted.
Aunt Sara offered to switch bunks with Megan. Josh, thankful, fell asleep
thinking of tomorrow’s adventures.
In the morning, Josh snapped on his skis and adjusted his cross-country ski
poles. He waited. “As usual,” he thought, “ always waiting for Megan.”
When they were ready, Aunt Sara led them on a meandering ski trail through
the snow-covered forest. She paused, pointing to a small hole at the base
of a tree. Miniature tracks led to and from the hole, perhaps leading to a
cozy nest buried beneath the snow. As they continued, Josh scanned the
forest, looking closely at the barren trees and wondering how many pairs of
eyes might be watching from hidden doorways.
Megan’s skis slid onto his from behind. “Hey,” she said, “you’re slowing
Josh glared at her. “Why do you have to ruin everything?” he snapped.
Josh reached the warm-up hut before Megan. Taking off his skis, he followed
the women inside.
“Hey, it’s not very warm in here,” he grumped.
“Well no, the wood stove’s not going,” said Mom. “But we’re out of the
“How do you like the trail, Josh,” asked Aunt Sara, rummaging through her
“I can’t stand being with Megan,” Josh moaned. “She ruins everything. All
she does is whine!” Aunt Sara handed him a granola bar and water bottle.
“Don’t we have anything warm to drink?” he said
“Josh!” said Mom, “now you’re complaining too. How does that help?”
Josh looked out the window at his sister. “Sorry,” he said. “Megan just
makes me feel so, so….”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Well, you have a choice,” said Mom. “Remember, God teaches us to treat
others as we want to be treated. We can either let Megan’s negativity
affect us, or we can let our optimism affect her.”
A wail erupted from behind the hut.
Mom raced outside, and Josh followed, trudging their way through the
drifts. They found Megan standing knee deep in snow in front of a small
outhouse. Her face aghast, Megan pointed to the wooden door, half open and
buried deep in snow. “It’s frozen open!” she cried.
Josh laughed and Megan glared at him.
“Well Megan,” said Mom, “I guess you’ll get a scenic view!”
As they walked back to the hut, Mom smiled at Josh. “Don’t give in to the
negative,” she said. “Help change it to a positive.”
After a snack, Josh found a trail leading down to the lake. Megan followed.
Snow swirled and spun around them, making spirals of whirling snow across
“Isn’t that wind cool? Like a mini tornado of snow.”
“Cool? You mean cold,” grumped Megan. “I’m freezing!”
Josh looked at the lake. “Don’t give in to the negative,” he
thought. “Hey, do you remember coming here in the summer?” he asked.
“Sure,” said Josh. “This was the beach where we nearly lost our air
mattress. Remember, we were pushing each other off and the wind blew it
down the lake?”
“Oh yeah… right! And that kayak guy grabbed it for us! Wow, it’s so
different now,” said Megan, looking around the snow-covered beach.
“Awesome,” she added quietly.
Later, as they prepared a campfire, Josh brushed off the picnic table and
discovered a small pile of birdseed left by a previous camper. Seeing a few
chickadees high in the trees, Josh gathered the seed in his hand and held
it up as an offering.
“Seriously?” said Megan, “will that work?”
“I’ve done it before,” said Josh. “Here, you try too”.
He poured half of the seeds into Megan’s hand and they stood quietly,
scanning the trees.
With a sudden flutter of wings, a chickadee darted down to them, its black
cap and wings a blur against the white snow. Megan suppressed a squeal as
the little bird landed on her outstretched hand. She watched, wide-eyed, as
it picked up seeds, hopping from finger to finger. In an instant, the
chickadee was gone.
“That was amazing!” said Megan. “It’s so light, I could hardly feel it! How
do they survive out here?”
“They’re pretty hardy,” said Josh. “I read that on really cold nights, they
actually lower their body temperature to save energy.”
“No way! Let’s see if one comes to you next,” said Megan, standing next to
her brother, watching patiently.
That night, stars lit up the sky and the forest glowed with moonlight. The
only sound was the crackling of the campfire.
Megan sat next to Josh. “Hey, sorry I’ve been kinda grumpy,” she said.
“That was pretty cool, what we did today.” She took a sip of hot chocolate. It was just right.
“Yeah,” agreed Josh, smiling.
An eerie call suddenly broke the stillness.
Megan froze. “What was that?” she whispered.
“A Barred owl,” said Aunt Sara. “Listen!”
“Hooo- Hooo-Hoo-Hooooo… Hooo-Hooo-Hoo-Hooooo!” The call echoed through
Delighted, Josh looked at his sister. Megan’s eyes sparkled and she smiled
as they were serenaded by the night visitor. It was positively magical.
Huddled around the campfire, they reminisced and enjoyed the wonder of
God’s wintry world, together.