I’ve been on vacation for the past week. A good, old-fashioned family road trip with my mom, sister, and her little family. We had an awesome trip, so it was only fitting that I reflect on five of my greatest blessings from the past week. This is my High5 Vacation Edition.
Sweet Wake-up Call
The whole crew of six of us stayed in a multi-room hotel suite the first few nights of our trip. My wake-up call each morning wasn’t the glaring sound of an alarm clock. It was the sweet little voice of my five-year-old nephew coming from the kitchen. He woke up chipper and ready for conversation with my mom, who was the first one up in the morning. Even though I wasn’t in the same room, I could see him smiling as I heard his cheerful conversation and it put a big smile on my face at the start of each day.
I spent last weekend revisiting my college town, friends, and went to a college football game. Being back in that space brought back a mixture of wonderful, nostalgic feelings. I was transported to another time and it almost felt like my time spent there over fifteen years ago had been a dream. The memories from being back in a place where I’ve lived but haven’t visited in awhile come back in waves. The recognition of a building where I had classes or seeing my old college apartment again led to memories of the people and moments and sites and smells that I had since forgotten. The funny thing about being in college is that, at the time, I felt like I was 100% adult, but didn’t realize how unlike real life that college experience really was until I entered the ‘real world.’ My college experiences were steps towards being fully independent, but I was still so sheltered and protected that those experiences only gave me a taste of life on my own as an adult. Last weekend was a bliss-filled, fairy tale experience to live into those memories and feelings again.
I love the new routine vacations provide. Waking up to a leisurely breakfast, walking the beach, showering up before heading out for lunch at an island cafe . . . rough life, I know. Such was our itinerary one day in the middle of our trip. After our morning beach activities, we headed to a sweet local cafe for lunch, were seated, and began looking over the menu. I glanced up and recognized a woman who had just walked in. Her mother was a tremendous positive influence on me as a teenager, so my smiles of recognition at her turned into sheer joy when her mother came in behind her. They were seated at the table right next to me and my mom. Laughs and hugs and a few happy tears were shared, along with the awe of God’s timing of this ‘chance’ reunion. This unexpected encounter will be close to my heart for a very long time.
Toes in the Water ~ Toes in the Sand
Planning with Mom
We put nearly 2,000 miles on my car on this trip (1,993 to be exact), so there were hours and hours . . . . and hours of talk time in the car as we journeyed between destinations. My mom and I are really good at bouncing ideas off of each other and capturing plans and lists and brainstorms for projects back home. There’s something about distancing myself from my everyday life that brings forth clarity and bursts of creativity. I love this time with my mom to dream and reflect and prioritize and I always look forward to returning home with renewed vigor and energy. Vacations are amazing and necessary for my soul . . . but, there’s something about coming back home that brings me new life and renews my spirit.
‘The trail of God at work rarely follows a straight line, which means our prayers may well produce different answers than we expect. For whatever reason – God’s sense of irony, antagonistic spiritual powers, the vicissitudes of a fallen planet – prayers get answered in ways we could neither predict nor imagine.’
–Prayer: Does it make any difference? by Philip Yancey
God’s ways are mysterious. I’ve had the ‘bones’ of this blog post captured since mid-summer, but haven’t been prepared to flesh it out and complete it. I now know why. Since then, I’ve been discerning areas of my life that I didn’t give a second thought to even a few months ago. The ebb and flow of my life and timing of God’s plans for me are always perfect, but sometimes puzzle me.
God’s timing has changed my life. I once met a stranger over lunch at a conference. We had such meaningful conversation that it led me to make connections and move to the current city in which I live. If I hadn’t stopped to eat lunch at that moment and sit at that table with that individual, my life would have taken a different turn. Or, a friend whose boyfriend lost his job precisely at the time he was needed to spend time with a family member who was in need. Or, my grandparents who met and dated, but went their separate ways to see other people. Then, were brought together again years later to date and fall in love and get married and . . . are the reason I’m here typing this today.
Or, my favorite recent story of God’s timing. A former coworker stopped by to surprise me by getting my coffee order and heading to Starbucks. I was unavailable to see her when she stopped by, so she left. But, on her way back to the parking lot, she ran into one of my current coworkers. They had a discussion about a job opening where my former coworker now works and that my current coworker would be a perfect fit for. This chance encounter changed her life. She applied for that job, interviewed, was offered the position, and has been thrilled in her new role ever since. Think of the timing of it all. If I had been available after all; if the girls had parked away from each other in the parking lot; if either of them had been delayed in any way, none of this would have happened. You couldn’t have planned it if you tried. I love the way God works ‘His magic.’ It’s like He’s this puppeteer standing above us, guiding various folks into our path, with inspiring creativity that gives us wonderful stories to tell. I think God has a sense of humor. I love it.
Sometimes God’s timing causes me to reflect and question and wonder. I’ve been struggling with making sense of this curiousity that’s inside of me. It’s a discernment centered around where God is leading me to worship and study. Over a year and a half ago, I accepted the call to serve in a three-year leadership position at my church. I truly believe I was called by God to serve at this time, and yet, even though I’m in this period of seeking what else is out there, I still have over a year and a half of that term remaining. Timing. God’s timing. He spoke to me before I even received the actual phone call to accept this leadership role. Without a doubt, I know I was called to serve at this time.
I met with one of my pastors last week to discuss some church business, but I also shared my struggles with him. He asked me to reflect on why I was called to be in church leadership at THIS time. A simple statement that I have since latched onto. I never assumed that being in this leadership role would be free from difficult decisions, differing opinions, and hard work. Maybe I was called at this time to strengthen my faith in our church’s system of government and order. To trust that the leadership and committees that are in place seek Godly council in their decision making. Or, maybe it’s my time to grow in confidence as a leader, even when it’s difficult or uncomfortable to do so. Or, maybe it’s God’s mode of discernment for me . . . that through my work with committees and church leaders, I am reaching and stretching and growing in my faith. Maybe it’s all of the above. Maybe it’s none of these. I’m still wrestling with this. But, I know God’s timing is perfect. I accepted the call with sincerity and I know He was looking three years into my future, knowing the personal struggles I would encounter, and still led me to accept the call at that time. But, why now? I’m still wondering what the answer to that question is.
I picture God leaning over me with strings like a puppeteer directing a great play. I picture Him with a chef’s hat and a kitchen full of ingredients as he adds a pinch of this and a dollop of that into His great recipe for my life. Sometimes he adds ‘mystery’ ingredients and surprises into His concoction. Sometimes the ingredients are sweet, sometimes bitter, but always the perfect ratio to make it delicious. I’m still in the preparation stage, with chopping and dicing and mixing and stirring. I don’t know how long it will take to finish this recipe, but I know it will be perfectly seasoned at just the right temperature for the exact amount of time needed. God’s timing is perfect. He has shown me before and I have no doubt He has me right where He wants me.