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picture 12by Julie Walker

It was a year ago this week that Noel and I went on our trip of a lifetime. (You can read our travel log here.) What an amazing experience it was. In so many ways it was exactly what we needed at just the right time. Neither one of us had ever been off the continent before and initially it was a daunting task to even think about planning, at least for me. Noel was right into it and planned pretty much all of the London/Cambridge portion of the trip. I really wanted to spend some time in Scotland so Noel left that end of the trip up to me for the most part except booking the planes, trains and automobiles. 🙂

Every time I look at our pictures or think about the trip I’m just so incredibly thankful and amazed at the way God works. From the beginning of the planning stages He was paving the way. We asked my Dad and Bonnie (my second mom) if they would consider watching the boys for us and without hesitation Bonnie said yes. I couldn’t believe it. She didn’t even want to take time to think about it or look at her calendar or anything. Maybe she regretted it later but she never let on. 🙂 We had no worries about the boys while we were gone. Bonnie could run this place better than me.

Noel and I spent many hours planning what we wanted to see and looking for good deals on accommodations. We had everything booked from the plane tickets, train tickets, B & B’s, hotels and rental car about a month before we left. Then something totally unforeseen happened – a volcano in Iceland erupted. This volcano had been dormant for quite some time and the eruption was so violent that British airspace was closed for more than a week. Our vacation was in serious danger of never happening and we were so disappointed.

We began trying to come to grips with losing our carefully planned holiday and we started thinking of different things to do instead with this chunk of time we now had. I did suggest that we could replace the shingles with the money we didn’t spend in the UK but that idea wasn’t received well by my loving husband. In the midst of this God was working. We were upset and anxious and feeling sorry for ourselves but God had something of a treat in mind for us. We got word from the airline that our flight was postponed by about 12 hours but it wasn’t cancelled. We could hardly believe that, but off we went to the airport and we boarded. Then we actually took off! No other planes heading to London were taking off. That got my attention. I could almost hear God whispering to us “Get ready and watch what I’m going to do for you”.

We did land, not in London but at least in England and then we started to experience God’s delight. I think God sometimes does things for all of us simply because it’s fun to spoil His kids. He showed us beautiful sights and beautiful friends. He was there with us through the whole trip. I kept saying to Noel “What have we ever done to be this blessed”. There were virtually no crowds because no tourists had been able to get into the country. We did start to see just how crowded it could get by about day three because airspace was starting to open up again. Wow! Am I ever glad we didn’t have to deal with that for long. We left for Cambridge just when it was getting bad. We had a wonderful opportunity to see some lovely friends in their daily environment. The visits with them were soul nourishing. We loved it.

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God’s fingerprints were all over this trip. We didn’t just see some great sights, we experienced God. He reminded us from the beginning that He was in control. It was His doing that we even got to go at all. We met God in a London restaurant with Cathy, while walking along the Thames listening to Big Ben count out the hours, in Jen and Mark’s garden over a wonderful alfresco meal (in April no less), in the Scottish highlands on our drive through Glen Coe, in a beautiful Scottish castle during a delightfully sunny day. So many adventures and God was right there with us. He took a walk with us through Edinburgh while Amy showed us the sights, and He was very present during Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral. An experience like no other. God reminded us that He is so much bigger than just our worship experience. He doesn’t just touch our lives on Sunday or in Bible study. He is life. Everyday and in everything.

God blessed us with such excellent weather that according to Mark was uncharacteristic of April. It was warm and sunny (for England) the whole time except for two days, which didn’t really effect our trip much at all. We were in Edinburgh for Sunday and we had planned to climb up to Arthur’s Seat that morning to have a worship experience together while we looked out over the city. When we woke up that morning it was our first day of rain. So cancel the plans for a lovely hike. What’s plan B? I felt like God was telling us that He was in charge of how we were going to meet Him and He wasn’t going to follow our plans no matter how great we thought they might be. When we picked up our rental car that afternoon and drove into the Highlands I could feel God’s presence. First, it was nothing short of a miracle that we managed to get out of downtown Edinburgh in one piece and secondly the Scottish countryside is beautiful. When we got to Inverness we checked into our B & B which was my favourite place that we stayed the whole trip. That night we walked along the River Ness to a lovely local restaurant for dinner. It was fantastic. Just to walk along the foot path and over the pedestrian bridge and just to simply ‘be’ was a wonderful experience.

By this point in the trip I felt like a spoiled brat and was wondering why God was giving us an experience that was so way over the top. I routinely feel God’s blessings and presence in my life and without a doubt God is with me no matter where I am. Like most people, when things are wonderful I find it easy to praise God. Even when things aren’t going well I know God is working on me through those difficult times. He is accomplishing something in me when things go wrong. Even if this trip was just a lovely experience I would have been convinced that we had been blessed by it but God had so much more in store for us. He made it a spiritual renewing that completely blew my mind. It was exactly what we needed at exactly the right time. I was coming off of a very difficult year at work and feeling pretty emotionally exhausted. Almost to the point of needing to take a leave of absence. Noel had been doing his best to support me but both of us were to the point of needing a great deal of rejuvenation. We both needed time to get our focus back and find the real priority in our life. Boy, did God ever give that to us in spades. I never would have thought that nine days away could make such an impact.

picture 25As a belated Christmas gift this year Noel gave me an enlarged photo on canvas that we took while touring Uquhart Castle in the Highlands. It was a gorgeous sunny day and Lock Ness is beautifully blue in the background. I love it. To me it serves as a reminder not only of a wonderful trip but of God’s presence in our life. It reminds me of just how great God is that He takes care of all our needs both physical, emotional as well as spiritual and He does it with flare.

On the day we were to fly home God had one more surprise for us. We got upgraded to first class! Is that not just the icing on the cake. I could almost feel God laugh with delight. I thought “Now you’re just showing off”, but what an absolute treat. When we started planning this trip, it was just a nice vacation and that would have been great. It took a volcano to get my attention and make me sit up and take notice of what God was up to. He had me riveted the whole time just watching for what He was going to do next. It’s taken me a year to be able to put into words just how God affected us during that trip. We not only saw the beauty of His creation from a different perspective in His world. We experienced God’s fun. We felt His healing power on our fragile emotions and we felt His love. We learned to trust Him to know what we need in a whole new way – not just a fun vacation but a renewed mind that looks for God in everything.

Thank you Lord for your blessings.

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