Should fortune ever chase me down, I know where I would spend my Michigan summers - anywhere on the Inland Waterway.
Charm abounds in this chain of eight lakes and rivers, allowing small craft passageway from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. Boaters shove off into Pickerel Lake and Crooked Lake, voyage through Crooked River, Burt Lake, Indian River, Mullett Lake, Cheboygan River, and spill out into Lake Huron.
This summer our family traveled this nearly 40 miles of nautical magic. It did not disappoint.
Lakes glisten in the sun, boats tucked atop clear sandbars while children throw frisbees, adults talk with a cool drink in hand, or people simply bask in the warm sun above. In the spacious lakes, tubers stream behind speedboats, no care in the world.
Weather-beaten Lock Masters signal to boaters and kayakers before gates swing closed, allowing the water elevator to wield its magic, carrying the boat to new ground...erm...water.
Quaint rivers quietly meander without care through untouched rushes swaying in the breeze. Verdant forests curtain the passage way, making one forget that civilization is just around the corner. Boaters pass through fascinating watery neighborhoods, reminiscent of the Netherland’s Geithoorn, minus all of the hustle and bustle.
The potamography continues to delight both young and young at heart. A permanent ice-cream truck in the form of a nautical gas station calls with promises of fuel and ice cream. Swing bridges from childhood Brio train pieces come to life in front of our eyes. Colorful Adirondack chairs line themselves up on shore. Children fish from docks, noisily scaring away their catch. Families splash in the shallow waters. Boaters pass each other with a simple lift of the hand communicating inclusion and belonging, but most importantly, recognition of this magical place.
Unpretentious. Picturesque. Full of life.
My soul was at rest here.
Having just launched and almost out of the no-wake zone, my eyes fell upon a structure up ahead that instantly enthralled me. Camera in hand, I waited as we passed this captivating thing that turned out to be a boat garage.
This boat garage was not for one boat, not for two boats, but rather, a neighborhood of boats. An old weathered building, its advertisement glared from the ancient tin roof, the structure itself nothing remarkable, except that it reminded me of a floating barn. I adore barns. Enough said.
And thus, with the snap of that picture, I unknowingly started a chain event that would cause me to photograph every boat garage we passed while on the waterway.
I may, or may not, have begged my husband to turn the boat around because I “missed that one over there” or because the angle of the picture wasn’t quite right. Unless he comments here, you will be none the wiser, but I suspect you know I did. But, oh, what a glorious new addiction I have found. Like I really needed another addiction, huh?
As I continued to snap pictures on route to Cheboygan, the variety of boat garage styles mesmorized me.
Grand boat garages proudly posed next to equally grand homes. Sturdy and non-decorative boat houses plonked down into the water, steadily swigging back waves with closed garage doors. Vibrant and eccentric boathouses, aflame in color, opened up without pretense. Quirky boat houses with weather vanes and flower boxes fetched smiles. Dilapidated wooden structures. Gleaming metal structures. Condo structures. Boat garages of the Inland Waterway speckled the chain of eight lakes and rivers, creating a dot-to-dot in my mind, one that I simply had to finish.
Each boat garage was beautiful in its own right, a testament to a life lived in the shadow of the water. Each charmed this chain of waters with history and a dedication to a job well done throughout the years.
And in my mind, the dot-to-dot started to form a more complete picture. The words "worth", "value", and "differences" began to take shape, signaling to me as a Lock Master, a simple but beautiful truth.
Just as each of us has our own character and charm, we all matter to our heavenly Father.
Some of us are grand and wow others with our big personalities. Others of us are small and inconsequential, quietly doing our job in the shadow of greater and grander. Some days we happily look upon life as the boat garage who has every little detail framed, painted, and attended to. Sometimes we feel like the run-down boat garage who struggles to get through the day without falling apart, barely keeping our wood above the water, while the waves crash upon an already fragile structure.
Yet each of us carries an inherent value and worth.
Father works through us all to live his very life, no matter what our individual outside portrays.
As the old adage states,
It’s not about what is on the outside, but rather, what is on the inside that counts.
Just as the oldest, most dilapidated boat garage could carry a boat beyond price, we all carry a person beyond price. The person of Jesus Christ lives in each of us, expressing himself through the unique creation that we are. Old. Young. Loud. Soft. Crazy. Demure. Each one of us is a unique expression of the life of Christ. Even more, what’s better yet, the Great Boat Beyond Price calls the garage valuable, whatever its condition, because of what is contained inside. How awesome is that?
We are called a treasure by Father.
Even as much as Christ is loved to the Father.
That last sentiment thought just blows my mind and astonishes me every time I think about it.
Father loves me as much as He loves his son?
Mind blowing, isn't it?
This simple but majestic truth allows me to exhale.
It gives me permission to let down my guard and simply be who He created me to be. It allows me to see His smile towards me. His delight in me. His understanding of who I am - even in the struggles and capsized messes I create. Maybe even especially then.
So, when you’re on the Inland Waterway next time, enjoy viewing the many and varied boat garages along the charming route. Just remember one thing. Just as I snapped a picture of every boat garage that we passed, trust Father has snapped of picture of you for his heavenly collection. You matter to him. No matter what. Unlike my photos stuck in my phone, Father has hung up your picture in the palm of his hand. He wants to be reminded of you often. You are the joy set before him that allowed him to willingly go to the cross.
"...who for the joy set before Him endured the cross..." Hebrews 12:2
You personally, my friend, are that joy set before him.
Let that sink in for a bit.
It's a profound truth my dearest friend reminds me of often.
"Even if I was the only one here on the earth, Christ would have died for me alone."
So, go ahead and embrace who you are. Embrace your color. Embrace your size. Embrace your condition. Father longs for you to know his heart toward you.
Unlike me, at least with Him, it’s not a quirky addiction.
And in a time where the very word COVID 19 brings instant thoughts of divisions, of riots, and disconnection, let's remember...
...for even them.
Note: If you are blessed to live on the Inland Waterway and would like to add your boat garage to these pictures, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to include it with these pictures. How awesome would it be to have EVERY boat garage on the waterway! Share this with your neighbors who live there, please. You all are very blessed with a beautiful and quaint place to live. Please let me know if there are any cottages for sale on Burt Lake because I’d love to be your neighbor. If you haven’t guessed, I’d also really love to own a boat garage, especially if it has a weathervane. How could I not after an entire post about boat garages? After all, it is part of your charm on the Inland Waterway.