Ahh…summertime! Hopefully most of us will experience a change of pace (slower) and perhaps a change of scenery (more time in the great outdoors) and maybe even a vacation! Time away, and time to play! All of us need time for refreshment, in order to recharge our batteries.
When our two sons were younger they enjoyed the Berenstain Bears books and one in particular, titled: “Too Much Vacation!”
Like most of us, the Bear family had been really looking forward to vacation. They had lots of plans and expectations, but the reality turned out to be quite different. The cabin was filled with spider webs and the roof leaked when it rained. The lake was a huge mud puddle. The mosquitos were gigantuous and ravenous. On it goes. But Mama Bear is the intrepid photographer, snapping away throughout the trip so that when they return home, they have a rip-roaring time laughing about all the “bad” things that happened on their much-needed and anticipated vacation.
Fun fiction in a kids’ book, but what about when it happens in real life? Some years ago, on the second day of a camping trip on the Olympic peninsula, our best laid plans when wrong. After a picnic lunch at the National Park visitor center in Port Angeles, we began the drive up Hurricane Ridge Road.
About three quarters of the way up, while rounding a curve, the right front passenger wheel got onto the soft shoulder of the road, sucking our Dodge Caravan into the side of the mountain. In an instant, everything went sideways. After the dust settled, it was determined that my husband and our two sons were shaken, but fine, suffering only minor injuries from flying glass. On the other hand, I was hurting, unable to move without significant pain.
Numerous cars stopped, people offering help. My husband simply asked them to go ahead to the ranger station and alert them. Soon, park rangers came down and aide cars came up from town. Much later in the ER, my injuries were addressed. My right leg was broken just above the ankle. After Rob and the boys were checked and cleared, they walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner and Rob booked a motel room.
We were stranded in town with no means of transportation, our belongings at our KOA campsite about 10 miles from town and our van in a wrecking yard. What to do? We did not know a soul in Port Angeles. So, for lack of a better idea, Rob called the Presbyterian Church. Come to find out, the pastor there was an acquaintance from seminary.
In no time at all, he and his associate were at our doorstep. They offered us use of a king cab pick-up for several days so we could get home. (I wondered about the wisdom of handing over keys to a person who’d just totaled his van, but they were incredibly trusting!) The next morning we stopped by the wrecking yard to recover a few possessions from our van before heading out to the campground. The KOA operators were very gracious, refunding our money and even helping us break camp and pack.
By the time we returned home, our message machine was full:
“Call us when you get home. We’re bringing dinner over.”
“Call us, we’ve got a vehicle can loan you for as long as you need.”
“Heard about your accident. Would you like to use our cabin?”
What began as a disastrous trip was rebooted 10 days later! Given the circumstances, our congregation gave us some additional time off and, besides providing meals, they took up an extra offering and gave us a significant gift – the equivalent of an extra month’s pay to help us with unexpected medical expenses and replacing our van. Eventually, we were able to spend some time away at a cabin in Oregon and the benefits of time to recharge our batteries and enjoy a change of pace and of scenery.
What is the point? While I don’t recommend totaling one’s vehicle on the second day of vacation, life is filled with the unexpected, unplanned events. Even on vacation. The good news is that God never goes on vacation. God is always present. God is always caring. God is always and ever looking out for our best interest. God promises to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Furthermore, the Bible tells us that, according to Romans 8:28, “…in everything God works for good with those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose.”
This was a “teachable moment.” One evening, we sat down with our sons to reflect on this experience. We acknowledged that the accident was certainly unplanned and scary but we began to count all the blessings or “good” that had happened as a result. Together we came up with a list more than a dozen positive outcomes. It was a lesson to each of us in how God cares and provides, even in the midst of difficult and challenging circumstances.
We discovered grace and gratitude in great measure. God met us even in the unexpected and most memorable family vacation we ever had.
Whatever your plans are this summer, don’t go on vacation from God. Be sure to spend some time cultivating your spiritual life and drawing closer to the one who is able to recharge your batteries, and who loves you most of all. Enjoy!
Lynell M. Caudillo is the Pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church in Enumclaw.