|Photo source: mysanantonio.com|
The thick smoke hovers.
I cannot breathe the fresh mountain air. I cannot see the beauty.
This is not what I wanted. Or what I needed.
We drove 10 hours for this?
I craved long walks around the lake, soaking in the pine and marveling.
I expected wiffle ball games on the back lawn.
Kids would cannon ball off the dock, waves rippling to the shoreline, and I would be on the beach, watching their childhood, taking snapshots of memories.
I anticipated milkshakes at the Pine Shack Frosty, in the quaint town of Chester, and a massage from Dawn, my favorite masseuse.
What we got was ... fire. Torched trees and bellowed clouds and smoke so thick we couldn't play outside. Ashes kissed our arms on the deck of the lake house; nearby mountain towns evacuated.
This ... our vacation ... the one we take every year with my family ... ruined.
We scrambled for another plan, something to salvage what wasn't. Heads together around the kitchen table, googling on iPhones, notepads and pens, we search. Miraculously, someone responded to our inquiry, and a few hours later we hit the road again, four more hours, crossing the Oregon border, renting a home in Klamath Falls.
[Here's one of those moments when, as a parent, you know that how YOU respond dictates how your children will respond. So you paint it as an adventure--"We're changing our plans! We're going to OREGON! Isn't that exciting?!" (ack, ack)]
Thirty minutes from our destination (almost 11 pm) we were pulled over by a cop. (Bookguy barely dodged a ticket). Finally we arrived to a lovely home, white wood floors, granite counter tops, three bedrooms, but NO electricity (power company had turned it off for no apparent reason).
During our stay the refrigerator broke, so we ate from ice chests. (It took three days to get it repaired). We forgot to pack spices and sauces fleeing the lake house, so our meals were less than what we hoped. (I made my own concoction of ketchup, Worcestershire, mustard, Lipton onion soup mix, garlic powder, and Tabasco to BBQ chicken.) The mosquitoes and midges were out in the millions--my dad and I could not step outside before 9 am or after 7 pm without being eaten alive. We had no boat, and we missed all the activities the boat afforded.
We drove 14 hours for this?
How do you recover when things don't turn out how you hoped?
[And they're watching me.]
For five days I faked it. "We're making lemonade out of lemons!" I said with a smile. And I was genuinely trying to stay positive.
Attitude is a choice, but it sure gets old playing Pollyanna.
On day six, I began cussing (in private, of course). I was so angry. I grieved my late night walks, now trapped inside because I didn't want to eat bugs or get bitten on my scalp (the one place I couldn't adequately spray). I grieved the lake and no boat--my dad and I were going to wake up on the water, serene and quiet, and fish. I grieved that Pumpkin wasn't going tubing, and I wouldn't ski, and there would be no s'mores, and my shoulders were massaged by someone not Dawn, who I paid to jack knife his fingers into my right armpit and make me cry.
Why do we work so hard to shoo away disappointment?
When the job is different than we thought it would be.
When the marriage is not what we dreamed.
When our child struggles before our eyes and it breaks us.
When the ideal we have in our mind isn't.
Don't we think God can handle it? Don't we think stuffing our feelings breeds false faith and fake joy? Don't we think people around us can tell, as my children and parents could, that we're disappointed?
We're not spraying poison by being honest. But we think that, don't we? Chastise ourselves when we're legitimately disappointed. Spin ourselves out of authenticity because we think we should, or it's the right "Christian" response. Guilt myself saying: "At least you HAVE a vacation, Karen! Many people don't even have that luxury!" (which is true).
What God wants, my friends, is surrender. Surrender even when we're disappointed. Not denial. Not suppression. Not us shaming ourselves for our feelings.
I don't know why this vacation turned out the way it did. But I know for sure He is in it. He is is the disappointment just as much as the exultation.
He reaches through the smoky haze trying to grab hold of us--hoping we'll turn toward Him with our frustration, rather than trying on our own will, with our own minds, limited by our own humanity, to make it into our definition of beautiful.
In everything He draws us to Himself.
In the job that isn't.
In the marriage that isn't.
In the child that tries so hard and slips.
In the ideal that dies.
I see some blessings, and I name them. 1,000 gifts.
For one, we are together. We, my family and my parents, (and we live 400 miles apart).
And look at my children--they're giggling and swimming and laughing like crazy monsters. What joy they have, even in the mosquitoes!
We saw beautiful creation, explored lava caves and took a hike to a waterfall. We listened to Phil Phillips "Home" driving along the rim of the deep blue Crater Lake.
I stayed offline (for the most part)--off of email and social media and texting. I made significant headway in Angie Smith's book, What Women Fear, and spent a chunk of time thinking through a big decision (I won't be homeschooling next year. More on that later).
So I encourage you, wherever you're at, it's ok to be honest. It's ok to say, 'This stinks. This, what I dreamed, it ... it isn't. And I'm disappointed.'
And with that, to surrender.