Our family went on vacation just this past week. We were in desperate need of a recharge and reconnect. Our lives had been full of busy since the last time we stopped to go anywhere and we were feeling like weary travelers in a foreign land. My husband made a recent change in his ministry obligations that will free him up to join me more fully in our joint ministry effort for couples and families and with school looming on the near horizon we knew it was now or never in the vacation department. Between our careers, school activities, ministry and community we were stretched pretty thin and needing to regroup and spend some time in the company of God without the distractions of electronic communications, plans or obligations.
We had originally planned to head to the western side of the U.S. and take in the scenic vistas of the Grand Canyon and meander up to a national park or two; however, upon a family poll it was quickly abandoned in favor of a beach setting (seems to be the McKinley’s preference). Although we do have a favorite spot we opted to try a new destination and see what we could see along the way. Arrangements were made for a fantastic condo on the beach taking in the views of the ocean and it inhabitants and a route mapped out that suited the clan and its need to wander around.
Each year when we budget we plan either for a large vacation and lots to do or a low key vacation with relaxation as the primary activity. We do this to accomplish several things. One is to teach our kids its ok to plan for a vacation that wows their socks off as long as it doesn’t break the bank and that it is also ok to plan for one that isn’t chock full of non stop activity. Two we want to teach them to enjoy what God has already provided for their enjoyment. We want them to know how to slow down and savor each others company and wonder and marvel at the creativity of our savior.
Often when we are moving through life at the speed of light we lose our ability to revel in the things of God. We miss opportunities to slow down and spend time with our heavenly father and thereby miss some of what he desires to share with us. We forget how to wonder and marvel at a God who used his hand to form the oceans and with just the sound of his voice he declared there would be light. AMAZING!! He is the same God who forms the smallest seashell and tiniest crabs along side the largest boulders and giant redwoods. We want our kids to know that this same God who took the time to form this fantastic planet we call home took the same time to put every exquisite attention to detail that makes up them. He is God and there is no one like him! We also want them to know that in all; God will teach us meaningful things if we are just tuned in.
This journey was no different for our bunch as our vacation drew to a close and we looked back over what seemed a short amount of time and lamented we needed at least one more week. God graciously spoke to us and revealed just what we had been taught in those few short days we were totally together without the buzz and hum of business. In six days God was able to build a complete nothing lacking world, fill it with creatures, and create man and woman. In the 5 days we were blessed to spend reveling in one of those spots he made he taught this family four important lessons that were much more timely and with more lasting value than the souvenirs we chose to take home with us at the end of our stay.
Lesson #1 – God provides. As the day of departure approached my husband was looking at the weather where we were going to see what how hot it might be and discovered rain forecast for the entire time we were scheduled to be there. We began discussing how this would affect the recreational activities we had planned. This was one of those years we planned to relax more with only a few commercial activities on the agenda. As we were talking God reminded us to test him in this area.
Our church has been in the midst of a three month tithe challenge which we have pledged to be a part of; the premise is biblically based in that God says in Malachi 3:10-11 that we are to bring a tenth and give it to the storehouse or church and test him in this area that he will pour out a blessing that will not be able to be contained. It also says he will protect our crops (investments) and the fruit on the vine will remain until it is ready for harvest. That’s exciting y’all to have supernatural favor in your finances!
Now we had as a family tested God in this area (this girl is all about testing to see) and knew he was faithful to provide. When we first came to our church we began with what we could afford and as debt cleared and God provided we increased our tithes to the tenth percent. We weren’t sure how or what God meant by this reminder to test him but we dutifully began to pray for God to protect our investment in our family vacation and give us beautiful sunny days to enjoy. Let us tell you, God is so Good! He is faithful and provides. We encountered rain on the way to our destination but the whole time we were there; there was nothing but sunny breezy balmy days. There was rain but it remained all around us – never where we were.
Lesson #2 – Our trust must be firmly rooted in God. I am the early riser in our family. Occasionally I will have a child or two but mostly it is me who solos onto the beach before dawn. This particular morning my middle joined me in an effort to garner some shells before they were all picked over. On our walk we discovered baby crabs, several washed up jelly fish and a rather large thankfully dead horseshoe crab. What we couldn’t seem to find is the ever elusive conch shell still intact.
As we walked along we decided to venture into the surf to see if there would be any fantastic finds on the floor of the ocean in the swell line of where the wave crested and crashed onto the beach. We swished, tilted, and swayed our way out into deeper water and quickly realized we couldn’t see anything in the depth of this particular part of the sea. As the waves crashed over and over we began to regret our decision to wander out as it was harder and harder not to step on whatever might be under our feet we could not see. Our steps went from confident to faltering and tentative. We lost the ability to see what was in front of us and knowledge of this particular path unknown to us had us cautiously rethinking our brave stroll into the unknown. We needed to be able to maneuver but more than that we needed a guide who had been there to walk us safely around.
In life we often venture our farther than we feel comfortable or get into a project we are not quite capable of tackling on our own. God reminds us that in circumstances like this its necessary for our trust to be firmly rooted in him. He is the one who can calm the seas because he made them. Only he knows the path better and more completely than anyone else. Just as it was important for us then to rely on the creator to keep us safe and on the path moving in the right direction when we could not see the next step; its important for you to trust Him completely when he calls you out into the deep past the gentle surf and safety of the sandy beach.
Lesson #3 – Stay steady and focused. I am the resident photographer of the McKinley household. My husband bought me an expensive camera with attachments one year for Christmas and I have used it to capture scenes from our life every since. One of my favorite things to photograph is the local wildlife in the area we are visiting. Birds in flight are a particular bane of my existence as I have yet to successfully get a really good in focus snap of my favorite beach birds mid air, wings spread. I’ve caught plenty just off center, grainy and looking quite like a blob in the blue of the frame.
Late one evening my husband and I were setting on our balcony talking watching the dolphins in the water, the birds in the surf and various ships meander passed out into the deep and I commented to him that I wanted a picture of one of those birds as it flew. The sky was breathtaking at this particular time with streaks of orange, pink and blue and big beautify fluffy clouds. My husband asked me to pass him the camera and he began to aim and shoot steadying his hand on his knee keeping his focus on the target of the photo and moving as the bird moved. He was able to snap pics of various beach birds that I had tried for several days to capture only to delete as sub par.
As I pondered his superior ability to capture what I could not God spoke into my spirit and gently reminded me that we lose out on the best version of what he has planned for us when we lack the ability to stay steady and focused on Him or when we lag behind as he moves or try to zoom ahead in anticipation we often miss the mark as it is all too often a grainy out of focus version of what He had planned to begin with. On the other hand; when we rest in his capable steady hands, focus squarely on him and move when he moves our picture of our lives lines up with his and becomes a breathtaking portrait of magnificence.
Lesson #4 – Correction sometimes hurts but is necessary. Our family loves beach vacations and we enjoy strolling the sands looking at the surf. We stay up late at night to catch crabs and get up early to hunt shells. On this particular strand of beach we noticed the tide going in and out at various hours and leaving a littered path of shells in its wake. We also noted that if your not careful you get sidetracked and step on one crossways and it hurts your foot.
As we strolled one evening with our head down at times and at others our gaze out on the water; we realized there became a pattern to our walk. Step on a shell our stroll suddenly halted to a stop and we would often change course to avoid the littered shells strung out by the sea as it came in or went out. Gaze at the water our pace slowed or changed course according to the surf.
Our walk with Jesus often looks the same. We walk along head down searching but off course and along comes correction. It is sometimes painful but it forces us to stop and change course to avoid a pitfall or hazardous event. When we gaze out at the savior our pace is slowed, deliberate and will change course as he directs.
Even though our time together seemed short and we longed for one more week. None the less it was full and rewarding as we spent time with God and each other reconnecting. For this momma it was a heart-full to see my kids embrace a simplistic vacation agenda finding joy in just being together. It was even more endearing to hear them wonder and marvel at all of God’s creations and watch as they eagerly held up for examination the latest treasure and extol its virtues. I felt blessed beyond measure hearing how God connects with them giving them songs of praise to fill their heart and sing to him all day.
I wonder if our father ever feels the same. Does he long for us to embrace the simplistic agenda finding joy in just being with each other? Is it endearing to him to hear us wonder and marvel at his creations? Do you think he delights in us as we eagerly hold up and extol the virtues of the treasure we have found in him or he has placed in us? Does he exclaim “She is going to love this one” as he places a song of praise in our hearts to sing to him that day. I wonder…
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