There’s an empty bedroom upstairs, still with the evidence of a hasty pack up. This time last week we didn’t know she would get the call that a place had come up. I haven’t had time to adjust to moving my second born out to college so quickly.
Two weeks ago I started my long-awaited vacation. We went away for a long weekend. We had to get away as stress was starting to take its toll, and were grateful to be able to do so. Our hopes for a whole family getaway weren’t possible for many reasons – things get complicated as children get older, work, and have lives and plans of their own, plus we’d procrastinated for too long – so it was Tim, myself and our youngest.
A short six-hour drive from here takes us to North Conway in the White Mountains, New Hampshire in the US. While Tim went along with us thinking, as he told me later, that we were going on a shopping trip (he didn’t care where we were going just that we were going away, so he didn’t even protest!), my daughter and I were looking for a little adventure. Her mandate to me was to find places to explore, especially waterfalls. So we did. It was fun. It was just what was needed.
I love mountains. Getting up high and looking out on a beautiful view helps my heart, even while the rest of me suffers from vertigo if I, or anyone else, get too near an edge. The landscape is so unchanging, peaceful and majestic. Then on our walks the peace is broken by the roar of the waterfalls that get louder as we approach. The weather was hot so the spray was refreshing. At one falls, not even a big waterfall in comparison to many, it had information about the number of gallons a second flowing over and so on. It was a lot, enough in a day to provide six towns with water. Incredible.
I thought that there must be a Bible verse about refreshing waterfalls – I could remember some words, and found it in a Psalm.
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me. Psalm 42:7 ESV
Looking closer at the meaning in the context of the whole Psalm I found that it’s not about the Psalmist being refreshed, but speaking to his soul to trust in God in the midst of being bombarded by one thing after another in life, facing real trials. In The Message version it says,
Chaos calls to chaos,
to the tune of whitewater rapids.
Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers
crash and crush me.¹
Crushed. Great picture, I thought a little sarcastically, please let it not be speaking to me.
God, I came away to ESCAPE for a few days. I’m here for some peace, I don’t want to be reminded of that stuff.
Fast forward just over a week, back at home, and the phone call comes to offer my oldest daughter and second born a place at college in a city 176km away, one she has been waiting for, to start the next Tuesday. It’s now or wait another two years. It’s a shock to have to deal with it. From nothing organized to having everything sorted in five days seemed impossible, on top of getting the others ready for school as well. It felt to me like a wave breaking on us and messing everything up, even though it’s a positive thing for her to go. It’s probably nothing compared to the ‘thundering breakers’ the Psalmist experienced, but it was enough for me.
From finances to emotions, everything was, and some things still are I suppose, in a tumble, everything up in the air. I got stress pains in my chest – I know a little dramatic, I’m not even the one going to college! Even though I know God provides for us every time, these kind of challenges still have a physical effect on me. I didn’t know if it could all be pulled off, but made a list, prayed the whole time, and most did get sorted – a place to live, student loan applied for, and so on and so on.
No matter how busy things are at home, I wouldn’t want to miss being with my church family – it feels like getting to an oasis, or climbing to the top of a mountain to get some perspective again, just to mix up all the metaphors. So, on Sunday morning I knew that I needed to get prayed for at the end of the church meeting.
I was done, emotionally wrung out and exhausted. This latest wave had knocked me off my feet a bit, but my friends helped me find rest in God again. I’m glad I can be a tearful mess in front of these people and still be loved. I don’t have to have it all together. Sometimes God lets me get to the end of myself so I realize how much I need to rest in him instead of trying to do everything. He lets the water crash over me sometimes, but it drives me to Him.
So, as I reflect on two weeks of vacation, I’m thankful that we got away at the start for those four days. I’m thankful even for a day on the beach with friends the day before we got the call about the college. We wouldn’t have done either of those things had we known and they were rests that were needed before all this change happened. I’m thankful that Lois got the call and that she’s starting something new. I’m thankful that I had the vacation time to help her out. I’m thankful that we have family and friends who help us through.
I’m thankful to God for all of this and most of all that He is there through everything that is thrown at us in life, in the peace and in the turbulent water.
Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He’s my God. Psalm 42:11¹
¹The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson