Sister to Sister: Still Using a Little Dixie Cup?


Looking at all of this water as I sit here watching the waves roll in on this beautiful Alabama Gulf shoreline brings to mind my two-year-old grandson, Ezra. It was a painstaking task for such a little one who  loves splashing in a puddle even more than I love putting my toes in this deep and expansive one.  But he was determined to make his own puddle for splashing in my bathroom floor with a dixie cup and a tiny stream of water running in my bathroom sink. I saw him pour the meager ounce of water on the hardwood and I asked him “Ezra, why on earth are you pouring water in Mammy’s floor?” 

“I make a puddle. I can spwash.”

“Well, you may NOT make a puddle in the floor, but you are welcome to make one in the bathtub, if you like.”

He smiled broadly. That was even better! He would get to carry the water in his little Dixie cup, that with each fill held a little less of its shape and got a little more crumpled. Tirelessly, he went back and forth from the sink to the tub, pouring his little purple and yellow cup half-full of water into the big garden tub, barely even making a wet spot for jumping. In truth, he was spilling more on the floor en route than he was collecting in the tub. 

It occurred to me that we, finite little creatures in the workings of an awesome God, are a lot like Ezra. We keep doing the same futile things over and over again, trying to make our own “puddles”. We painstakingly try to collect the things that will make for happiness in the end. We often spill and make messes in the process and what we ultimately accomplish is  small and temporal. We fail to realize that we have a Helper, who could give us unbelievably effective and permanent results if only we would come to know His ways for our lives.

See, Ezra didn’t think about the fact that there was a big and powerful source of water in the spout of that tub. What would come out of that waterspout, if I but turned a lever for him, would fill up his tiny Dixie cup hundreds of times without the trip he was making back and forth. In fact, he would not even need the crumpling cup. There would never be a mess on the floor and the danger of him slipping in that mess would never threaten. Not only that, but there’s a stopper in the bottom of that tub. With the turn of a big knob, I could plug that reservoir up, so that none of the water would be wasted. None of that big stream of water would go down the drain where his little trickle of a puddle of water had been slowly disappearing. All of the resources were there for Ezra to not only jump in a “puddle” and have a splashing good time, but there was enough ingenuity there for his little Scuffy tugboat to sail or even for him to have a heated sauna swim, had he preferred, as I would have if I were his two-year-old size. 

Sometimes the blessings and opportunities are all around us, but we keep carrying the Dixie cup, spilling the contents along the way and processing through the same futile routines over and over again. We think we can work our way to desired goals only to find out in the end that our dreams are disappearing down the huge drain that only our God can plug. He has every resource we need to achieve what really will make us happy and fulfilled, but we fail to investigate His Will. We fail to ask for His wisdom. We fail to understand fully His resourcefulness. He controls all the levers and knobs and he freely offers His limitless capability for our ultimate progress and benefit. But often, like Ezra, we just go on about our vain tasks with impotent precision, expending life’s time and energy in fruitless pursuits. (In this case, it was profitable for me to allow Ezra to be “entertained” for a while before I showed him the “puddle” I could so easily make for him. See, I needed to dry my hair and put on my make-up. But God is never too busy to turn on the living water for those who are seeking it [John4:10].)

I know many people who have thrown away the Dixie cup and turned on the waterspout. Can I help you know His will for your life? You can stop living small and messy and start basking in His spiritual abundance!

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. (Ecc. 2:11)

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc. 12:13)

Sister to Sister: Water, Bread and Meat

This week at the Colley house, we have been without internet. My husband started digging on Sunday afternoon to repair an underground water pipe that was leaking and he dug right through our internet cable. At our house, there is no television cable or dish, so the sole source of information/ entertainment/communication this week has been our two little iPhones. That means there’s been no printing at all and all of this in a week when we have Ezra, our grandson who is a bit of an avid  Sesame Street and Peppa the Pig fan. Add to that it was scheduled to ne  a week of some pretty intense problem-solving meetings via Skype and Facebook and messaging. Worst of all, it’s PODCAST WEEK! The most interesting caveat is that the podcast this week is all about the consequences of  murmuring. Yes, the study is about some people who got in some pretty big trouble for complaining about that manna in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. I keep thinking, “You know, if those Israelites who were smitten with death by poison because they murmured could have enjoyed one percent of the luxuries I’ve enjoyed this week, they would have been wide-eyed with wonder in the wilderness!” Add to that the practical challenge of this month’s study, which is to make it through one day without verbalizing a single negative thought and I am a pretty delinquent Digger, for sure!

I love the passages of the study this month. They are rich with practical lessons. As I write, we are three hours till live podcast. There’s a make-shift tent in my living room covering a toy-strewn floor. A chubby-faced two-year-old sits beside me eating dry cereal in my bed. Tiny  crumbs are sprinkled on the brown sheet. I was already having trouble sleeping this week because I accidentally left my pillow…MY personal only-one-that’s-comfortable pillow. There’s been a mountain of laundry on the guest bed all week. There’s a huge pile of mending waiting for any day with a few extra minutes. There a dress that was supposed to be for Colleyanna’s Christmas that remains unfinished and she is quickly outgrowing it. I’m supposed to have a gallon of chili made by tomorrow for a benefit for Freed Hardeman University and I have not even purchased the ingredients yet. There are people in the cabin who have also lost their water and their internet in the all of the digging. Ezra ran in the study and interrupted a very serious counseling session Glenn was doing this morning. He poured two gallons of water out of the bathtub this afternoon and stuffed something unidentifiable up the spout of the tub.  A long list of correspondence and thank-you notes await me and there is no current means to catch up. There are still some Christmas decorations up in some of the rooms in my house and tomorrow it’s February. There is a large pile of unpacked luggage in my bedroom floor from two trips by two different people. And there is a little boy who is inviting me earnestly into his tent to “play cars” this very minute. Did my husband ask me this week if I wanted to travel to Chattanooga with him yesterday and pick up a purchase he made at an antique auction and stop on the way home for ice cream? I thought I heard that.

You know where this is going. You know because you live like this, too. Oh, you may not be living quite this frenzied this week, but you’ve had a week or two like this. And some of you are currently living crazier. But you’ve had meat to eat this week IF you wanted it. The Israelites were homeless people in the wilderness with very little variety in diet and a lot of enemies ahead to defeat. Their children did not have cribs and nurseries and their elderly did not have eldercare. They were tired from slavery and intimidated by strong nations. But still, they had a God who was providing their every need and did not take kindly to their disbelief and strife. He loathed their grumbling and punished them mightily for it. 

So here’s the list you knew I was getting to:

  1. There are 4500, more-or-less, women who are interested in the study that drives me bonkers as I try to keep up every month and it’s a study about the ransom that’s been paid for all of us. How encouraging! A bunch of those women have recently sent heartfelt notes of encouragement. I’m blessed way beyond what I could ask or imagine.
  2. We have the technology to study together thanks to wonderful elders at West Huntsville and we have Jennifer Benavides and Mike Deasy who know how to make it work for us.
  3. I have a living room for a tent instead of a tent for a living room.
  4. I have a bed with linens on it and a sweet two-year-old who loves to be there with me. 
  5. He’s chubby. His ribs have lots of flesh on them.
  6. I have a pillow and I can sleep in peace and His assurance when it’s under my head.
  7. I have a guest bed and I have clothes (even enough to make a mountain and even enough to be clothed while there’s another pile waiting to be mended and two more piles simultaneously in pieces of luggage.)
  8. I have a sewing machine (and lots of other machines).
  9. I have a granddaughter who is healthy and growing, even faster than I can sew.
  10. I have enough money to purchase food to share.
  11. I have the room for company and sweet company for the room.
  12. I have a husband who helps people with serious sinful addictions instead of the other way around.
  13. All I had to do to get the running water was unclog the spout; not strike the rock or walk to the outskirts of a city as was the case in our studies this month.
  14. We have a little cable that brings the world to our fingertips.
  15. I have lots of generous family in Him to whom I owe multiple notes of gratitude.
  16. I have reminders of a wonderful time of holiday joy with family.
  17. I have a husband who likes to buy me ice cream.

I am on my way to the promised land. He is fighting my battles and providing for all of my needs. He is my rock in the desert (I Cor. 10:2-4). How dare I murmur! He is my water (John 4) and my bread and my meat (John 6). He is my all in all. 

Sister to Sister: Merry Mayhem!

15391365_10153980383556384_9087184133480203861_oThe anticipation was the kind that brings to mind mugs of hot cider around a blazing fire with Mannheim Steamroller or Celtic Christmas accompaniment softly playing in the background as you tell stories of favorite Christmases past. It was all about seeing new babies and exchanging sentimental gifts that began with a grandmother’s stitching  or the sketching of an old preacher’s pen. It was, in thinking ahead, about chicken and dressing and smoked barbecue and eggnog and strawberry pretzel salad.  It was, in fact, in anticipation, the thing that binds families ever so tight and it was the makings of memories that you wish you could place in the minds of those in the house who are not yet old enough to make their own deposits in the long term memory accounts. All of this was the way it was in anticipation. 

In reality, you ride for an eternity in the very, very “backest” part of the back of an eight passenger SUV while your two-year-old grandson wants to “hold Mammy’-sss-hand” in the middle part of the back. That’s a feat…let me tell you…when there’s a newborn and a stash of wrapped Christmas presents including a breakable 16 X 20 framed portrait of the newborn dressed in one of those sentimental “grandmother stitchings” —all of that in between you and the one who wants to hold your hand. In reality, there’s not much Mannheim, but there’s a lot of baby mayhem. In the real world, that jello strawberry salad is turning to soup as temperatures rise while we travel over the river and through the woods. Reality has those magical gift-giving times transformed into toddler cousins mutiny with a Star Wars saber and spankings over the refusal to say the magic word, “thank-you”. 

But the outside temps were not the only ones rising. The most painful part of reality, happened on the way to the celebration in my son-in-law’s throat, little by little as he first “didn’t feel so great” and then, progressively, ‘thought he might have a fever” and then “was very, very cold.” “Burgers and Stuff” was the name of the place we could find open in Walnut, Mississippi where we finally, at long last, gathered around a table to eat an evening meal after those poor babies had traveled for eight hours. As luck would have it, Burgers and Stuff was right next door to Dollar General. (Well, that’s not really luck, I guess, since Dollar General has found a home on every corner in the Southeast in the past two years.) By this time, we were taking bets (not real bets, okay) on whether or not baby Colleyanna had a temperature. Glenn, the eternal optimist, was all about how her carseat was right above the rear heater. (Nevermind that stuff was coming out of her eyes…We had the burgers….she had the stuff, I guess.) Glenn went over to Dollar General and bought a thermometer. Sure enough, Colleyanna was up over 100 degrees and Ben was knocking on 103. Hannah was coughing non-stop and Ezra, who had already been on antibiotics for five days, was having the time of his life since neither parent felt like speaking, much less spanking. All of this was after Glenn had accidentally taken a sip from Ben’s cup when they switched seats so Ben could drive for a while.  

Two hours and a drug store visit later, we checked the Giselbachs (minus Ezra) into a hotel room, to try and not spread the “cheer.” The rest of us proceeded to the sweet grandparents’ house, where I promptly discovered that my clothes had been left at home. Rolling with the punches, I washed a spot off the front of the hoodie I was wearing and hung it up to dry. The next morning, as I was about to put it on again, I discovered that neither Glenn nor I had brought deodorant. (Glenn needs that, you know.) The folks were still asleep, so I went looking in the upstairs bathroom, There it was in plain view on the counter: Old Spice deodorant. 

Let’s just say that my skin is extremely allergic to whatever is in Old Spice. I’m two days out from that application and I still cannot fully extend my arms without some stout pain. Fast forward through breakfast, gift exchange, lunch preparation, lunch and pack-up time…all with Ezra in tow and all in time for the hotel check-out of our sick friends and you get an idea how much I used those arms (that were on FIRE) that morning

We’re back home.  Ben has strep, Hannah has bronchitis, Colleyanna has ear infection and congestion and Ezra is still having the time of his life! 

Actually, we all are. These are the times of our lives. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but it’s always blessed. Remember that blessing trail (http://thecolleyhouse.org/the-blessing-trail)? We traveled that path to visit relatives this weekend. 

Here’s a few blessings from the trip. There are lots more. 

1.Two parents/grandparents/great-grandparents who love us and love the Lord and couldn’t wait to meet Colleyanna (who bears their wonderful family name). 

2. A sweet, healthy two-year-old who wants to hold Mammy’s hand!

3. A one-hundred-year-old hand-made dress from Colleyanna’s great, great, great grandmother for that big portrait that I was reaching over.

4. Plenty of food even if it did look a little worse for the journey.

5. Comfortable and available alternate lodging for the sick ones and enough money to pay for it. 

6. The help of two sisters in Christ who are nurses, and that of a very kind pharmacist and a couple of urgent care centers. 

7. Life in a  time and place in which medical technology is advanced.

8. Cousins

9. The technology of face-time. The hotel crowd did not totally miss the visit.

10.  Lots of clothes…enough to make it a very rare thing to wear the same clothing for two days.

11. A daughter and even a son-in-law who want to scrunch up in our SUV so we can spend the driving time together. A family that’s close enough to share diseases.

12. Secret deodorant.

13. No strep for me…yet!

14. Diseases that are not terminal. So many for whom I am praying cannot say that.

15. Great, great, great grandmother’s stitching, but more profoundly and eternally important… Great Grandaddy’s preaching!

Happy Christmas! Merry Mayhem to you, too!

Just Monsters Under Your Bed

13226652_10153481188316384_2798949385439034883_nWe had six high school graduates in the congregation at West Huntsville this spring. It’s been great fun watching three of them grow up and getting to know the other three later in the game. They are all special to our West Huntsville family. Savanna is a pianist and vocalist. Ryan is a landscaper and a football player. Emma sings with her dad (and they are very talented!). Rachel likes to perform on stage and lead singing for women. Jacob is also a stage musician. Come to think of it, it was the year of musically talented graduates. They are all wonderful Christian people. 

But Nuris is a stand-out in some other ways. She’s thirty-six years old, a native El Salvadorian, and is the mother of four. You may remember reading about her baptism two years ago here: http://thecolleyhouse.org/crazy-happy. That weekend was even far better than this one. But still, this was a pretty special weekend for Nuris.  It was the culmination of years of studying the English language and then the geography, history and culture of the United States of America, along with some math and science. It took many days (years, actually) of searching, in a house with two small children, for quiet moments to study the materials needed for obtaining this high school diploma. I was there for a few tutoring sessions and we never found the quiet. We just yelled louder than the babies. 

I remember that day when Nuris first visited our services. She was one of those people who didn’t really “look like” a good prospect for conversion to Christ. After all, she could speak little English, she had a demanding newborn baby, her husband wasn’t with her, and she told me she did not want to study on that very first day I met her. Still, I gave her a card with my phone number and told her to let me know if she changed her mind. She did,

She changed her mind, her life, her religious affiliation, her marriage, her parenting and her spiritual family. She changed her eternal status from lost to saved. She was ultimately baptized into Christ for the remission of her sins, becoming a member of His church. Her daughters were given the gift of having a Christian mother. 

With the help of God and many people, now Nuris is a high school graduate. She is the one who received the standing ovation last Friday night at the North Alabama Christian School graduation ceremony. She is the one who requested the song “ They Word is a Lamp unto My Feet” for the music for her graduation slide show.  She is the one whose extra-curricular activities were not softball, guitar and Lads to Leaders, but diapers, dishes, bills and emergency C-sections. She is the one who is over-the-moon excited about a cap and gown.

People can change. They do it all the time. People can change minds, hearts, lifestyles, directions and destinies. Many who are reading the blog, though, do not need to change directions or make big lifestyle transformations . You just need encouragement to stay the course…to finish the race in some of the darkest spiritual days in American history. You need encouragement when you look at the presidential ballot, the restrooms at Target. the Boy and Girl Scouts, the Vatican, the Barna surveys and the pornography and gambling industries. You need encouragement as you empty the over-flowing Diaper Genie (in your sleep) or administer meds to the Alzheimer patient or explain to a four-year-old why you can’t go to the movie about his favorite super-hero. You need to be reminded of the inherent brevity of trials and the impending beginning of eternal perfection. The land of good and right and health and rest is just around the corner for all of those who stay the course. 

I know you have friends who’ve decided that the Bible is for the uneducated, that the old-fashioned religion is for simpletons, and that there really is no eternal truth. They make all kinds of claims about mistakes in the Word and errors committed by the Savior. They make personal accusations about your sincerity and motives as you try to reach out to them and others with the gospel. But be encouraged. The day is swiftly approaching when all of the mockers will bow before the God who put original life and breath in them (Romans 14:11). You will be there as he judges the living and the dead (II Timothy 4:1). You will experience the final victory when sin is permanently banished never to plague you again. 

So for now, let’s praise him for the window of opportunity for change. Let’s ask people to study His Word with us. Let’s pray for His will in this place of our temporary citizenship. Let’s love the fellowship of His like-minded people. Let’s bask in the peace that passes understanding that comes as we turn our sorrows and petitions heavenward (Philippians 4:4-9). Let’s turn a bright light on our fears and realize they are just a child’s monsters under the bed. Our Father will come in and suddenly they will be gone. His Word is the great expositor of evil and the final rewarder of His own. Claim the joy along with Nuris. Sing her favorite Psalm today!

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Nothing will I fear as long as You are near. Please be with me to the end.”

Sister to Sister: Intruder in the Night

th-2Footsteps in the night. It was this last Friday night at 1:30 a.m.  Glenn had locked all the doors tightly before we retired. Something was terribly wrong. The footsteps were a bit muffled, but they were clearly the sound of a human intruder.

My heart skipped a beat as I turned to Glenn and quietly said “What WAS that?” He was already half-way over to the drawer where the pistol is kept. Rushing back over to the bedside to throw on more clothes (after all, you don’t want to be immodest when you appear before the thug who is probably going to kill you), he said, in a voice that signaled his rush of adrenalin, “It  sounds an awful lot like footsteps.  And it did…and it was still happening…and sometimes it sounded as if they were in the kitchen, right beside our bedroom door, which was already slightly ajar.

“Yes it does,” I replied, still in disbelief. I had never been afraid in this house. But this was NOT our normal autumn squirrel in the attic.

Glenn stole over to the bedroom door, and standing behind it, gun in hand, he peeked out into the kitchen. Someone was out there. Now there was no denying it. Moving shadows, shuffling, the kitchen door ajar. I heard the metal-to-metal sound as my husband pulled back the slide and threw a round into the chamber. I could not believe this was happening. The bullet was in the barrel.

In a stunned moment of panic, I said “Don’t shoot Gideon!” I mean, what IF one of those little boys who are temporarily living in our back-yard cabin had been sleep-walking or even pranking someone and had wandered into the house in the middle of the night?

Then it all happened. I was lying there replaying the last moments we had spent together through the day and thinking, “This could be for real. My husband may die. I will have to find some way to make it without him for a time. But I will see him again. ”

Glenn stepped over the threshold into the kitchen, a moment of shuffling as the gun was being raised and the perpetrator looked him in the eye. My husband’s shout was piercing. “Caleb!”…It’s you!”

Moments later, after the “Mommm!!!..Why did you not tell Dad that I was coming home tonight?”  and after we all realized that he, indeed, had told me, albeit weeks ago (and that’s way too long ago for my shorter-all the-time term memory), we crawled back into bed.

Glenn was still trembling, as he put his arms around me. “I almost shot my son. I almost shot Caleb,” he said. “I am so thankful that I paused for one split second to discern who he was. I did not know that I would do that…And those silly lights of yours in the kitchen (He was talking about rope lights that line the top of my pantries; lights that we only have because he’s conceded to the decorator in me.)…if it were not for those lights I probably would have shot before knowing it was him. I’m so glad we have those lights. Someone…no, everyone, in this house could be deeply harmed.”

“I know,”  I said…”Life, as we know it, could have been forever-and-ever irreparably changed. We are so very, very blessed…unspeakably blessed.”

Then he said this: “I just kept repeating in my mind as I stood behind that door…’There is no one who has the right to be in here. No one has my permission. No one has the right to be here.’ But, of course, I was not thinking of my son.”

Then we prayed—a deep emotional prayer of thanksgiving and praise. I cried. And somewhere in the moments just before dawn, we finally fell asleep again. I think, for me, it was around 4 a.m. Even now, 36 hours after that panicked awakening, it still does something to my body to recall it.

There are some take-aways in every painful recollection. Lest you think the lessons are about gun safety—even gun control–please know that we are extremely careful with firearms in our house and we are also pretty convinced that the world, in general, is safer, when citizens have the right to bear arms. The lessons for me are practical and spiritual truths, about which I am keenly reminded as I treasure the relationship I have with the man who will always be my child—my firstborn. I think when he walks down the aisle next month to be married I will drink a little more deeply in the joy of imagining his future and bask a little more thankfully in the realization that he and his bride will have precious time together in this venture we call “life”.

The take-aways for me:

  1. The first is the obvious one. We should all be prepared to lose our loved ones to eternity at any point in time. The part of that last phrase-“in time” is not just rhetoric. If it’s a point “in time”, it’s fleeting. It’s a point that you can identify by a date, hour, minute and second, but, by the time you do, it’s as far away as if you’d never marked it. Gone. But, when we say “a point in time” we really are deferring to eternity. Have you ever thought about the fact that there are no “points” in eternity? A realm so far beyond our grasp of imagination or reason and yet only a heartbeat away for any of us! For the Christian, that’s the adventure of living. It’s getting ready to be forever whisked out of this world and into one beyond the scope of human thought. It’s not just getting ready, but it’s also “being ready”. It’s sometimes, in the panics of life, still being able to know “It is well with my soul.”
  2. I should write things down when they are appointments I am making weeks ahead of time. (I should write things down when they are the next day.) Old people like me are not mentally invincible. Not even close. And, sometimes, that matters. (The silver cord may be snapping or the golden bowl being broken [Ecc. 12:6]) I should write things down.
  3. Pausing for discernment can be a really good thing before big irreversible decisions.
  4. Light is invaluable. It illuminates truth. If we walk in darkness, we stumble and we do not know where we are going (I John 2:10,11). We do not properly assess danger and we do not properly protect  what is good. Psalm 89:15 says “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.”  A little light in the darkness kept Glenn from pulling that trigger. It was a joyful sound when I heard him shout “Caleb!” But the illumination that comes from the light of the world keeps us from eternal hell (John 8:12). That’s real joy.
  5. The son has the right. Glenn just kept saying, “No one has the right to be in my house!” But the son had the right. Caleb has full access to us at any time—complete and absolute access. In the same way, no one has the right to the Father’s house. There is nothing I could ever do that would gain my entry into that house where there is warmth, security, peace and salvation. But the Son? He has the right. And because He is the great Intercessor, he has unlocked the doors for me (Matthew 16:15, 16). Because of the Son, I have gained entry and full access to the throne of the Father. He has the right and I am so very thankful.
  6. Thanksgiving is not the holiday of the week for the Colleys. It is the mantra of the last few days. I pray that our family will live every day in thanksgiving; not just for amazing blessings like the sparing of our son’s life in that surreal moment in the kitchen Friday night, but, most of all, for the Son, who has the right to be in the Father’s house.

 

Total Abandon

12139968_10153059430706384_8136593055007130536_oWe were having lots of fun in New England…doing museums, little small-town festivals, eating seafood and, perhaps best of all, getting up late. We made reservations for the first three nights of our stay; first in the Boston area and then in Yarmouth on Cape Cod. The views we saw were more breathtaking than we could have imagined. But it IS possible to PLAN a spirit of abandon and that’s what we’d done in regard to reservations for the rest of our trip. We were going to just forget about clocks and schedules and firm destinations (after all, we do all of that when we’re home). This was going to be an adventure!

And so we were doing all of our favorite things: wandering down countryside roads in Northern Massachusetts and New Hampshire, scouting out quaint little antiques stores, snacking at 200-year-old country stores and taking pictures of covered bridges. We weren’t worried about being lost, because ”lost” in New England was more of a target destination for us than a routing mishap.

…Until we decided to do a few miles on an interstate to get a bit further inland and a little further north. (“Leaves should be peak if we could get about 100 miles further north.”) Well, that few miles on the interstate took hours. Slammed. It slowly began to dawn on us that our total abandon had better turn into a quick plan for housing that very night. Glenn remarked that the lights on the freeway resembled a giant and unending Christmas village. It registered with us, really for the first time, that we had, quite without intent, chosen the last holiday weekend of the northern vacation season and peak week for leaves and that half the southern population had chosen that weekend as well.  Upon investigation—looking around, telephoning and web searching—we found that the coast had virtually no hotel rooms left. If we found a room, it was going to be a real feat. We started considering options like “reconnecting with dear friends who’d moved up north” or sleeping sitting upright in that packed Kia Soul that we’d rented. Since watching that sunset and deciding that the state of Maine was going to be suddenly off the itinerary for us, I’ve garnered a new appreciation for a few things:

  1. I’ve thought about Mary and Joseph, who heard “no room at the inn” all those centuries ago. I was vacationing. They were not taking a trip of leisure. I was looking for a comfortable place to sleep. Even my car would have likely been more comfortable than the barn that finally lodged them. I was looking for a place to rest; not a place to finish labor without anethesia and give birth.  Little life emergencies often make me think about the Lord and how very much he sacrificed for me on a daily basis—even before the cross—beginning with the feeding trough in the barn. I wanted a clean place to wash up and rest and begin a new day of admiring the beauty that He created. He, the Creator, saw his first sunrise as the Son of Man from a filthy stable where all of the blood and the smells that our sterile nurses wash away in the moments after birth likely lingered on. I worried about where we would pillow our heads that night.  Mary must have been a little anxious about where she’d be and whether Joseph would be a good makeshift midwife for the Son of God.
  2. I’m a bit ashamed of what I believe my “needs” to be. That’s probably enough said about that. But it was surprising how thankful I could be for a room that I would have never “picked out”. We really throw around that word “need” in our very rich society. It was from that room that I read about my sister Roberta Edwards’ tragic death as she carried on the work that was her every day’s agenda for the orphans in Haiti. I need to feel shame sometimes.
  3. I’ve also thought about the “just and the unjust” a good bit. All of those people from all walks of life were traveling by the thousands to see the splendor of the changing leaves in New England. Our  personal “oohs” and “aahs” were often punctuated by comments about our God’s majesty, supreme creativity and grace to us. But, sadly, many, if not most of the leaf lookers, weren’t giving much thought to God at all. We heard them taking His name in vain repeatedly, saw them consuming alcohol and, in general, behaving like the world behaves. Certainly, when we went to praise Him with the churches in Lawrenceville, Masssachusetts on Wednesday night, in Providence, Rhode Island on Sunday morning and in Manchester, Vermont, on Sunday night, those places of worship were not experiencing the same crowd congestion as were the foliage and forest attractions. Jesus said “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).Perhaps we get to inherit the creation in a much more precious way than those who are not meekly walking with Him. Perhaps just knowing that it is our Father—the one who is loving and caring for us, the one who is hearing and answering our prayers—He is the One who made this display on the East coast of America in 2015. He is the One who does it every year. He is the one who makes every display of nature—every sunrise, every shooting star, that amazing expanse of surging water that we saw, the volcanic activity, the marvels of deoxyribonucleic acid and every other marvel in the human body—He is the ONE! It is His cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) and His sun that rises on both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). And yet he cares for ME, even keeping a tally of how many hairs are on my head (Matthew 10:30). I would get to see the leaves even if I was unjust. But I am glad I am among the justified, so that through His grace I can see the One who made them!
  4. It’s important to have a reservation. It was a minor hitch when we failed to have a room in New Hampshire or Vermont. But, if we fail to have a reservation in the final destination of humankind, it will be the ultimate tragedy. A spirit of abandon about that destination is the worst tactical error one can make.

The end of the story is that we did find rooms for the rest of our stay. They were not exactly the ones we would have chosen and they were not in the precise location that we’d have planned. They certainly were not at the price we would have expected to pay for them. But, suddenly, we were very grateful to God for a place to lay our heads. We told Him so. I’m planning to keep the reservation I have made in the place of eternal sightseeing…the place where I will at once never tire of the beauty and yet still find a rest (I Peter 1:4). Have you made your reservation there?