We just returned from a wonderful trip to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine. I'm gradually sorting through both my photos and my thoughts from the trip, and as I do, I'm writing a few posts about our trip. This is the third and final of those posts. If you missed them, here is the first post about Maine, Part I: Senses, and the second post about Maine, Part II: Places and Things.
This trip was wrapped in emotion for a myriad of reasons: nostalgia, anticipation, natural beauty, family time, and the expectancy that comes from being reunited with loved ones after months apart. The last time I was in Acadia was in 2000, when I was 8 years old. I remember scrambling over rocks and walking downtown to get ice cream every night, holding and waving around a lit sparkler for the first time ever.
Now, in 2018, this trip was the culmination of anticipation, something we planned in January, tied up in all the emotions of the beginning of the year, a time that felt very hard for so many reasons. It was anticipation of movement in a season where the temptation was (is) to feel stuck.
And it was just that, a gift, a time of rest for our bodies and our hearts.
But as I muddled through the beginning of the year, I anticipated this trip, all the while thinking this thing is good because we planned it, and on hard days, that thought led to another thought: if we didn't plan good things in our life, God wouldn't step in.
I'm not very good at waiting. I have my days when I handle my expectations better than others, but on hard days, my response is to run from the waiting, to run from God and press onward with my own plan or at least the facade that I'm orchestrating all things in my life and He doesn't have a say. I'd better step in if I want to experience goodness.
In a world where we only have so much control, that attitude lends itself to grasping for all the control we can hold in our small hands, only to be disappointed with what little we can accomplish. Our limited strength gives way to frustration, powerlessness, and defeat. And I find in myself an even greater need for my Creator, just an empty heart unless its filled with His Spirit, still needing to acknowledge that the portion He has for me is not only a better good, but it's for a much better now than any alternate reality I could conjure.
When the vacation ended, and the flight landed and the key unlocked the front door, and I was 3 loads of laundry into the stack, I found myself tempted to think, God, was that just a cruel trick, teasing us with all our most-longed-for things and then taking them all away at the end of the vacation?
Within a few days of our homecoming, I confessed my bitterness, my hard-heartedness, my misled thoughts that God was just teasing us, with things we long for, things which He already knows we long for, until just the right time, when our hearts are ready and the way is made for us.
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Trust in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.
Can I see the good gifts in my life [and on our trip] for what they are? Gifts from Him, given with intentionality, at the time we need them most: on this trip to Maine.
- The sweetness of Nicholas napping on the sun porch with a puppy.
- Laughing with my sister, cooking eggs and making toast together.
- Drinking hot coffee on cool mornings.
- Feeling so loved by small dogs who want you to hold them.
- Daily walks around the neighborhood, admiring the houses, trying to pick our favorites.
- Crystal-clear water in mountain creeks
- Falling ever more in love with Nicholas, seeing how well he loves his family, how at ease he is outside.
- Feeling my lungs fully expand, filled with the freshest air.
- Sore feet and tired muscles and contented hearts, all in the company of beloved family.
- A warm peanut butter and jelly sandwich eaten on a mountaintop.
- The way the islands dot the horizon, the shimmer of the waves.
These weren't things I manufactured. These are things I couldn't possibly orchestrate. Even if I chose and pre-selected all the things that would make for a restful time away, I would forget things. Because that's not my role on this earth. Only a good Father would know exactly how to love His child in all the ways I needed to be loved that week, all the tangible and intangible ways. His good is different than my version of good. And that is the best.
I'm not proposing a dull, lifeless, apathetic life, but rather the opposite of it. I'm far more effective and alive and flourishing when I'm resting in His grace, trusting in His plan, anticipating His good gifts, realizing they'll be what we need when we need them, waiting, and keeping my lamp filled with oil.
My friend Molly sent me an excerpt from her book The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, a prayer that resonated strongly with me, a prayer about The Convicting Spirit:
Melt my heart by the majesty and mercy of God;
Show me my ruined self and the help there is in Him;
Teach me to behold my Creator,
his ability to save,
His arms outstretched,
His heart big for me. [...]
Help me not only to receive Him,
but to walk in Him, depend upon Him, commune with Him, be conformed to Him,
follow Him, imperfect, but still pressing forward.
Not complaining of labor, but valuing rest, not murmuring under trials, but thankful for my state. [...]
May I be saved by grace through faith, live by faith,
feel the joy of faith, do the work of faith,
perceiving nothing in myself, may I find in Christ wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption.
Feel the JOY of faith, do the WORK of faith. I couldn't get that phrase out of my head. In this week, this life in Austin, this resuming of "normal life," I can feel the joy of my faith in a Father who delights to give me good things, at the right time, every time. I can find satisfaction in my Savior, regardless of my circumstances. And I can joyfully do the work of faith, the faithful part of it--arising each day with a choice to follow Him, to choose Him over my own manufacturing of incomplete dreams. I can look to Christ for wisdom and for answers to my identity in Him and a balm to my flaws, finding in Him alone righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
Acadia and Bar Harbor were magical places to me then, at eight years old, and it was magical to me again this month. He knew that all along, I'm sure of it. He'd know that that sunset over the harbor, or those sparkly blue waves on Jordan Pond would help expand my view of Him, help me better see His majesty and His love for His children.
His great, great love, and how He blesses us with His best good at the best time for us.