I believe you could say that this is where it all started….
If you haven’t been to northern Michigan, you really must make the effort to get up there! Not only do you have the Big Lakes to enjoy (Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are the Big Three that surround the State as a whole), but you also have countless smaller lakes that just beg for a relaxing swim. Add to that the beauty of the Pine, Maple and Birch trees that are so plentiful up there, and you are simply surrounded by Nature’s expression of God’s smile.
The Mackinac Bridge (the spelling is French–it’s pronounced “Mackinaw”) connects the upper and lower peninsulas of the State. It is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the western hemisphere, connecting St. Ignace on the north side of the bridge and Mackinaw City on the south side.
About seven miles south of Mackinaw City is a lake with two names. Its original name is Carp Lake. I have heard that the lake got this name from the man who first settled on it. He thought it was so beautiful there that he figured a name like “Carp Lake” would help keep tourists away (there aren’t even any carp in this lake–but you can find bass, walleye, perch, sunfish and even northern pike). With that said, if you look on a Michigan map you’ll see that the lake is also referred to as Paradise Lake. This is due to the efforts of a construction company from Cadillac, MI, who got the name legally changed back in the early- to mid-1900s to bring up more people from down-state. Nice idea until they tried to change the township name from “Carp Lake” proper to “Paradise” proper only to find that there was already a Paradise, MI in the upper peninsula. Oops…..
My great-grandfather on my Dad’s side discovered this beautiful place and had a cabin built on it in 1928. Our family has been coming up to this cabin ever since! So I grew up with family trips in the summer (at least once, sometimes twice) where we would leave around 3:00 in the morning to get up to the cabin about 4 hours later. I’ve got memories of my Dad carrying me from bed out to our big Chevy van where he would lay me and my brother down in the back. The lull of the street lights passing overhead and the hum of the tires on the road put the two of us back to sleep in no time. Then we’d wake up a few hours later and my Mom would have donuts and milk for us to have in the van. Then, the inevitable would happen: Kids need rest areas like fleas need dogs–something my Dad hated to stop for (you know why: all the cars that have been passed will all get in front again). But that all counts towards fond memories….
One memory in particular stands out. There is a place on I-75 (somewhere between mile marker 333 and 334) where you come around a bend in the highway and you can see the top of the Mackinac Bridge over the treetops. For a kid that loves to be “up north”, that thrills a kid’s heart to no end! It is also the worst place to be for the trip home. At that same point heading south, you see the top of the bridge disappear behind the pine trees–it’s like saying goodbye to an old friend that you don’t know when you’ll see again.
It was on one of these trips home that I was watching the bridge out of the back of the van. I was somewhere between the ages of 10-12 at the time. I distinctly remember that as I watched the bridge disappear over the treetops, I began to cry. It wasn’t the usual “I don’t want to leave” tears that happen at the end of a vacation. It felt deeper than that…more than just some reaction. I remember thinking, Some day I’m going to live up here so I never have to leave. And you know something? I remember hearing these words in my spirit, “Say it out loud”. (I know now that this was the Holy Spirit prompting me.) So I did…I said it as I watched the bridge disappear from view. And I remember feeling like something significant had just happened.