Shortly before John and I took Arie on our two-week-long road trip vacation, I shared with you about an amazing spiritual experience I had; a gift of prayer and the laying on of hands which I was so blessedly given. Since I wrote that post, God has confirmed to me again and again the reality of what happened. By that I mean this: I am tempted to question whether something spiritual truly happened that night and in the weeks leading up to it, or whether I strung a few coincidental experiences together and made them falsely appear to be divinely arranged.
Those questions have been answered by outside events and voices, confirming that I'm not just painting a magical picture in my mind. Some of those confirmations I have hidden in my heart. Some I will share in due time, though I do not believe that time has yet come. This is not a hidden pregnancy announcement; I have not conceived, yet I believe God has begun something beautiful in my life. I walk around these days feeling like a little girl who knows her parents have an exciting secret surprise waiting for her after school. I don't know what the surprise is exactly, but I have an unshakable feeling that something great is about to happen!
One confirmation I do want to share with you is a small but meaningful thing that happened among the 50+ hours my little family spent driving in a car over the last two weeks:
Before we left I asked friends for some audiobook recommendations in a tough category: I wanted something that John and I would enjoy, but that would be safe enough for Arie's little ears. Not scary, no swearing, no mature themes, but not a kid's book and not boring. I actually didn't know if anything would fit the bill, but I got some great recommendations and headed to the library to see if I could find them.
Everything recommended to me was either already checked out or not available. Darn. With a shrug I grabbed three other choices that seemed acceptable and left the library. Among the three audiobooks in hand was Beth Moore's "Jesus, the One and Only."
I have to tell you I feel a little guilty that I didn't finish listening to the audio book (in fact I only got through the first of 10 CDs!), but everything I needed to hear from that book was in the first chapter. Despite the fact that I was straining to listen as I drove our car, not wanting to wake sleeping Arie in the back seat, and sitting on about a week's worth of trail mix crumbs, listening to Beth Moore's first words was a divine moment for me. Based on Luke 1 which includes the story of the old childless couple Zechariah and Elizabeth who would conceive and birth John the Baptist here are her words:
Have you almost given up on God answering an earnest, long-term prayer of your heart? Not becoming hopeless over a repetitious request can be terribly challenging. God never missed a single petition from the children of Israel to send their Messiah; nor did He miss a solitary plea from the aching hearts of a childless couple. God does not have some limited supply of power, requiring that we carefully select a few choice things to pray about. God's power is infinite. God's grace and mercy are drawn deeply from the bottomless well of His heart.
Do you have a long-standing prayer concern? If you have received a definitive no from God, pray to accept it and trust that He knows what He's doing. If you haven't, don't grow weary or mechanical. Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, continue to walk faithfully with God even though you are disappointed. Walking with God in the day-in/day-out course of life swells your assurance that God is faithful and enjoyable even when a request goes unmet. Recognizing all the other works God is doing in your life will prevent discouragement as you await your answer. Zechariah waited a long time for God's answer, but when it came, it exceeded everything the priest could have thought or asked.
That last paragraph was an answer I have long sought. I have not received a definitive "no" from God, but I have wondered what to do in the face of his responsive silence to my request for a child by birth. I have shared before how I have tried so hard to let this desire go, to put it to rest, and to accept it…. not only have I been unsuccessful but I have grown frustrated and more upset in the process. These words from Beth Moore were like the closing bow on a beautiful gift I have been given: renewed strength, perseverance, and hopeful expectation that God will answer my prayer in his way, in his time, and in a way that will exceed that I could think or ask.
I can't wait to share with you what God has already done, when the time is right.
With all these feelings of hopeful expectation playing in the background, our vacation was awesome. John and I have focused so much of our time and energy this last year on trying to add to our family; while it's a task worthy of our best, it was so good to put all that aside for a couple weeks and simply enjoy the gifts we've already been given. This month marks two years since we met Arie and there is just nothing better than being able to revel in our family and marvel at how God put us together!
We drove from Michigan to Prince Edward Island and back again: up through Canada and down through the US, packing all our camping gear in our trunk with jenga-like precision and putting exactly 3,430 miles on our little Corolla. Arie had a blast! I don't know how much he'll remember- being only four- but I know John and I made memories we'll cherish until we're old and grey.
Our first stop was in Ontario, visiting my parents and siblings at my childhood home. When my parents came to visit last Easter, they brought a kite to fly with Arie, however the wind refused to cooperate. Armed with a newer and better (yard sale) kite, we tried again! And… were moderately successful. My dad said it doesn't "count" as flying a kite unless you get it up for at least 15 minutes. I bet our recored was about three, but I'll take it!
At one point during our kite flying attempts, I had the string and was running as fast as I could to keep the kite up in the air. My sister was standing with Arie who reportedly yelled out after me, "MAMA!! DON'T RUN AWAY! WE NEED YOU!!!"
Next on our journey, we headed to Montreal! Being Canadian, I took French in school through 11th grade so I brushed up a little before we left and summoned all my courage to try speak in another language during our time in Quebec. Every.single.time. one French word even left my mouth, the other person immediately switched to English. I was so dejected! And honestly, also relieved. For however poor my ability to speak French, my ability to understand native speakers is even worse. John got a few laughs out of it through:
Me: *enthusiastically* BONJOUR! Je voudrais un café s'il vous plaît! (Hello! I would like a coffee please!)
Barista: Do you want small, medium, or large?
In Montreal we climbed a clock tower, got an amazing view of the city, walked around the Old Port, ate lunch, and my favorite park: saw the Notre Dame Basilica.
After our day in Montreal, we spent two in Quebec City. I had never been to Quebec City before but always heard it was like the "Paris of North America." Never having been to Paris, I can't compare but it truly did feel like another world! We even saw some picnickers at a park eating a baguette with soft cheese, hard meats, and wine! I now have "French Picnic with John" on my bucket list for the summer. ;-)
From Quebec City, we stayed a night in St. John, New Brunswick and then on our last leg to Prince Edward Island we stopped to spend a few hours among the Hopewell Rocks on Bay of Fundy. This area apparently has the most dramatic tides in the world! We arrived about an hour after they were at their highest and only hours later we were able to walk around on the ocean floor! If you ever wondered what an island might look like from underneath… here you go!
By evening we were on Prince Edward Island, catching up with old college friends we haven't seen in years! I know it is cliché to say, but it is amazing how when you are with good friends you can just pick right up where you left off. Although I certainly wish we lived closer to these friends, there is something so special about getting together after a long absence and being able to see what God has done in their lives while you weren't watching. We spent four days together and the hymnic refrain, "Great is Thy faithfulness!" ran through my head all the while. Our time together was short but an enormous blessing to me.
On one particular day in PEI, we stumbled upon this bungee/trampoline/jumping tourist trapping contraption. Immediately upon seeing it Arie started a plea filled chorus, "CanIdothat???!!CanIjump?!!?CanIdothat!?!?" My immediate internal reaction was to say no because it was ten dollars for 4 minutes (!!!) but then I remembered something an older mom had said to me before our trip: Moms spend so much time saying, "no." They need at least a week every year when they can just say, "Yes!"
So we said yes…
… and it was worth it!
Leaving that beautiful island and our beloved friends behind was hard. Appropriately, we drove through two days of rain. I'm told Maine is absolutely breathtaking. I'll have to take a leap of faith there because to us it looked mostly like a wall of thick, wet fog.
No, I'm only partially joking. Every once in a while the fog lifted and we could see the gorgeous rocky coasts, thick forests, and the endless stretching ocean set our before us. It was beautiful! The rain finally stopped on our last day in the state and- thanks to a reader suggestion- we were able to visit the Portland Head Light which was a lighthouse and coastline like I have never seen before! I love our sandy Michigan beaches, but those blackened rocky coasts were captivating. It was a privilege to see in real life!
On our way back to the car after our lighthouse visit, I heard a woman's voice from behind saying, "Ummm… this might be awkward but… do you write a blog?" Ha! The couple standing behind us turned out to be from Tennessee, in Maine working at a camp related to their church. What are the chances I would meet a reader from Tennessee while on vacation in Maine? It is just amazing how small the internet can make our world.
We left Maine for New York state where we spent our last night on the road before hitting my parents' place again and then heading home. When we woke up in New York, John and I wanted to go on a short, kid-friendly hike. After some online research and a comedy of errors leading us to the "wrong" place, we found an absolutely beautiful path along a rocky stream, leading to a river, and then a stunning waterfall.
One of the other audio books John and I listened to on our drive was Anne Lamott's "Help, Thanks, Wow!" in which she writes, "What can we say beyond Wow, in the presence of glorious art, in music so magnificent that it can't have originated solely on this side of things? Wonder takes our breath away, and makes room for new breath.”
This hike- these last few moments of wonder on our vacation- certainly left me breathless, but also ready for new breath. Ready to begin again. In life and in laundry, in cooking and cleaning, in reading storybooks and in starting a new school year soon with my little boy… and also ready to hope anew and pray anew and open myself up for the life that waits before me.
Counting these last two weeks as a tremendous gift. Grateful.