One of my favorite things about living on a lake in the winter is having unlimited ice skating access. Getting to walk straight out your door right onto your own private skating rink? To a girl who had to hike a good half mile for such a privilege when she was growing up, this is a luxury I don’t take for granted. That is, except for when the weather doesn’t cooperate, like this year, and it freezes and snows at the same time, effectively ruining the ice for the rest of the winter. What a disappointment!
When I was growing up, my siblings and I would solve this fairly common problem by clearing a giant, hockey-worthy rink by hand with the big snow scoop we dragged that long half mile down the road. Then, we’d drill a hole with an auger, from which we pumped lake water to flood the rough surface and make it smooth again when it froze. And did we ever have fun on the finished product!
These days, though, I’m the only ice skater in our young family, so all rink-creating ambitions have been shelved until the upcoming generation I’m helping to raise is old enough to join me in the effort of shoveling for the joy of skating. Thus, when the lake froze rough during a November snowstorm, I just figured skating was out for me this winter and turned my attention to other recreational pleasures of the season.
But I was wrong.February had a change of heart and decided to surprise everyone with an uncharacteristic thaw. That thaw lasted long enough to melt the snow cover and create some pretty massive puddles of water on top of the ice. Then, the thermometer plunged and it all froze solid again. Then, the wind drove tiny particles of ice and snow across it for several days straight like a giant sand blaster, smoothing rough spots, scouring it largely clean of snow. And when the sun blazed up out of the east one morning, I saw a glassy surface shining beneath it—and all my skating dreams buried since the beginning of winter rose up and wooed me out the door.
My oldest daughter, curious to see what I was going to do with those white boots on shiny silver blades, begged to come along to watch. When we got down to the edge of the lake shore, though, she wouldn’t come any further. “I’ll just watch you from here, Mommy,” she said.
So I picked my way out to the edge of the frozen grasses and weeds by myself, where I began the process of standing on one leg while wedging my sock-encrusted foot into a snug skate with the other. Because, of course, in my hurry to get out there I had neglected to bring anything along to sit on. How do blue herons do it, anyway? In my defense, having to put something on the foot while holding it up does complicate the matter. “Are you going to fall in, Mommy?” I heard the little voice call from the pink-jacketed figure perched on the bank, concerned.
“Nope,”—grunt—“I’m not going to fall in, honey.” But I might fall over, I thought wryly to myself. I had gone a little overboard on the warm sock layers.
But I was determined. Stamp, stamp. Loosen the ties again with numbing fingers in the subzero windchill. Stamp, stamp, thump. There. Loop the laces, tie them tight. One down, one to go.
“Are you sure you’re not going to fall in?” I noted that the concerned little voice in the pink jacket was closer and observed that she had moved from high on the bank down to the very edge of the lake.
“Yep”–grunt, grunt, stamp, stamp, thump. “I’m sure, honey.”
And I was off. My little girl cheered.
Back and forth I went for a while, round and round, my audience of one as riveted to my performance as any Olympic crowd . “Can I come out to you, Mommy?” she finally asked. What she really meant was, “I believe, but—help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
“Yes, come!” I said.She made her way out to the edge of the weeds, all the way to the very edge of that great, shiny sheet of ice—and then she stopped.“Can I touch it, Mommy?”
But this time there was wonder in her voice, and by now I had stopped my skating to come near and watch. I had forgotten that she hadn’t been on a frozen lake before, at least that she remembered—and the innocent, wide-eyed first-time experiences of a child are some of the most beautiful things in the whole world to stand audience to.
“Yes, you can touch it,” I said with a smile. And in faith and wonder, she stepped—and the sound of her laughter and joyous delight echoed from shore to shore.
Funny, how my delight over getting to ice skate this winter after all managed to pale next to her delight when she overcame her fears, believed, and walked on water.
“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified… but, immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.“ (Matthew 14:25-29)
Thankfully, we didn’t attempt replaying the rest of that story.