Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Exceeding Joy of Rained-out Vacations

My husband went on a business trip, and obligingly let me and my little nursling tag along. My generous sister-in-law was even willing to take the three big kids for four days and continue homeschooling them in my absence. (It's definitely a blessing to have another homeschooling mom in the family!). So on Monday afternoon, Don, Abby and I boarded a plane in Boston and headed to Orlando for some necessary business and some fun in the sun.

Abby was a doll on the plane ride, bouncing happily in the beginning and end, nursing on the way up and down, and sleeping on my lap in the middle. Since I tend to get sick on plane rides myself, I am very thankful for children who tolerate them well. Our flight was delayed about 20 minutes by some bad weather, but we eventually landed, and my ear popped enough to relieve the painful pressure I had experienced in the air. After a long trek and then a wait at baggage claim, we gathered our suitcases and went to pick up our rental car. Although we were staying on Disney property during the conference and a shuttle was provided, I had requested renting a car for a day so that we could spend a few hours at Cocoa Beach, just an hour away from Orlando. Why come all the way to Florida without seeing the ocean? Don had agreed that it would be fun if we rented a cool sporty convertible to cruise to the beach, so we went to the rental counter to pick up our Ford Mustang.

Except, the Mustang wasn't there. They wanted to give us a Sebring instead, but we had paid for a Mustang convertible. After a few minutes, a suitable car was found, and we crammed our suitcases, stroller, and selves into the black sportscar. It was now much later than I had anticipated leaving the airport, and the skies looked ominous, so we weren't sure if driving all the way to the beach was a good idea. We decided to take our luggage to the hotel and make a decision there. We drove with the top up, because it was raining, and Abby - who had been so sweet and wonderful on the plane ride - screamed the entire way. The car had great pick-up, but the headrests were uncomfortable, and the voice commands took ages to respond correctly. At check-in, there was a brief scare where Don thought that we were being charged $500 to add Abby and me to the room (thankfully it was just a misunderstanding!). Then we found our way through the maze of the resort paths and halls to our room, and breathed a small sigh of relief.

In case you haven't guessed by now, we weren't going to the beach. As much as we wanted to, the thought of driving all the way there only to find rain was discouraging. Abby was asleep in her carseat, so we headed out to dinner at the Outback instead. Some good food helped the evening take a turn for the better, and then we returned the rental car and rode the shuttle bus back to our resort. Our room was nothing terribly special, but it was cleaner than some hotels where we have stayed, and it was nice to finally relax.

On Tuesday morning, I had planned to take care of some business computer tasks and get a tan by the pool. God had other plans, though; the internet was painfully slow, and it rained all morning. A mid-day overcast sky gave me just enough time to take a walk with Abby before more rain came. We were here in Florida, the Sunshine State, and the sun was nowhere to be seen. With no beach, unfavorable pool weather, no where to go without stepping outside, and a slow internet connection, the cable TV was starting to look like the highlight of the trip. As I walked along winding paths through the muggy grayness, I wondered what God was trying to say to me. I wasn't happy, but I knew that He is in control. For some reason, He saw fit to send rain.

Back in the hotel room, as I wondered what God was saying, I clearly felt Him tell me to listen. I hadn't bothered to pack a Bible, since I knew it would be accessible on my phone and laptop, but thankfully the Gideons had placed one in my dresser drawer. I opened it up somewhere in the middle to see how the Lord would speak to me through His Word, and here is what I read:

Psalm 43
Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.
For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.
Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

Isn't it amazing that when we listen, God speaks? There in a simple Psalm, He clearly told me: "I am your health, your beauty, your joy. Sunshine and swimming pools can't give you the joy that I can. When you feel discontent, and things aren't going perfectly, look at ME! I am Light and Truth and the Way. Come to me, because here is not some shallow, sun-kissed happiness, but deep and lasting exceeding joy!"

And by God's grace, on Wednesday, the sun came out. I probably wouldn't have appreciated it so much if it hadn't rained on Monday and Tuesday. And I may never have looked up and wondered and read and remembered that no matter what the weather, exceeding joy is mine in Christ.

Friday, May 18, 2012

How to Have a Happy Birthday

If you want to have a Happy Birthday, decide ahead of time that you will. Attitude is 90 percent of having a happy day.

If your husband happens to be home and agreeable, kick off the celebration by going out - alone! - for an hour on your Birthday Eve. Enjoy the quiet drive to the electronics store. Return the tablet that you bought to replace your deceased laptop, and pick out a shiny new Samsung laptop instead. The tablet is a neat piece of technology, but not very functional for managing a home, school, business, and social life at the same time. Don't waste time mourning the death of your old laptop, even if it did eat your baby's six month pictures and all of your documents when the hard drive crashed. Your blog readers will understand why they'll never see those image-laden posts you had intended to write last week. Take this as a reminder to back up anything important. Right now. (I'm talking to you. Stop reading and go back up your pictures!)

Before heading to bed, change your earrings. If your husband has turned you into a girlie-girl (and he has), he'll want you to have a girl's best friend, and you'll want to look a little extra special for your special day.

On your birthday morning, wake up early - even if you think you could use another hour of sleep. You don't want to waste your birthday lying around in bed. Enjoy your husband's presence, since he is usually at work long before you open your eyes in the morning. Graciously remind him and your children what day it is. Never resent others for not being as date-conscious as you are. If the day matters to you, tell them, smile, and return their birthday hugs.

Check in with your Bible study group on Facebook. Spend some time in the Word, remembering Who gave you this day and every other. Read messages and emails from friends. You just might have a message inviting you to a tour of a local dairy farm on that very day. Since the sun is shining, everyone is healthy, and you have a vehicle for the first time this week, you should go! Plus, you love cows. (Don't you?)

Don't skip your workout; exercise will help keep you happy, and burn off a few of those birthday treat calories too. Shower, eat, and pack up the children for a fun field trip adventure. Meet up with your friend Nancy and her little ones, known by your children as "the family we met in the bikes," because she recognized you from your blog posts and introduced herself when your families were both shopping at WalMart one day. Meet some other homeschooling families, a farmer, and lots of cows.

Learn alongside your children about how the cows are cared for and the milk is processed. Buy plenty of goodies at the farm store - it is your birthday, after all. Rare treats of ice cream, pie, and honey sticks will make the day so much sweeter.

When you arrive home in the afternoon, watch with delight as a monarch butterfly flits arounds your front door. Let the children stay outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. Accept and cherish their offerings of weeds, wildflowers, and a heart-shaped leaf. Then send the older ones to your mother-in-law's. They'll have fun playing with relatives while you enjoy some relative peace and quiet.

Snuggle up with baby in your favorite nursing chair and take a nap together. You won't get much done, you might not even get much rest, but you'll want to savor this moment. Remember doing the same thing half a year ago with your tiny newborn? Before you know it, a few more half-years will go by, and she will be too big for nursing and snuggly afternoon naps in your arms.

If you have time, send a few emails so you can feel like you were productive. Smile that birthday cards and the book you pre-ordered a few weeks ago arrived in the mail. Share your testimony with friends, and reflect on God's grace in your life. Bake the chicken pie (that you bought at the farm) to share with your family when they come home. Finish the day with apple pie, Bible stories, and hugs. Contemplate writing a blog post to recount all of the little blessings of the day. You have had a simple but wonderful birthday, and you are thankful!

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17