There is something about being on vacation that offers tiny hints of heaven. I say tiny because well, don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of moments that are quite the opposite, when the state of my spirit is quick to grumble and complain, to demand and criticize, to seek my own comfort and pleasure meanwhile oblivious to the needs of others. Even on vacation, it can be difficult to cloak myself in a spirit of thankfulness, to appreciate the time as an opportunity to slow down and be still, to bask in the wild beauty around me and cherish the time with my loved ones.
But this time, I have taken more notice of His grace-filled moments. Sure, they are sandwiched between moments of whining, complaining, arguing, tattling, bored, over-tired, over-sugared kids (and parents who aren’t much different). But they are there. I just have to notice them. The moments of giggles and silliness. Of imaginary games and hide and seek. Of old-school see-saws and tetherball and ziplines. Of sharing and kindness, of gentleness and love.
For the past four days, we have been enjoying our time at a wilderness lodge, tucked into the lush forests of Missouri. Our cabins are located near a cold, refreshing river, where we’ve spent several hours tubing, swimming, and fishing. I appreciate so many things about this place. I love the lulling whir of the cicadas in the evenings. I love the way the lush green trees tower above me, making me feel small, but safe. I love the way the kids can run about freely, without having to be supervised every moment. And somehow, in all of it, I get this feeling that this is how things are meant to be. And will be…one day.
My highlight of the trip was our day trip to one of Missouri’s state parks. I was a bit nervous when I heard there would be a lot of hiking and climbing and stairs. You just never know how long litttle kids will last at places like that, especially without snacks or even water (this park would not allow you to bring ANY food or drink into the park).
But oh, it was SO worth it.
After ascending an impressive number of staircases that wrapped around rocky cliffs, then descending a steep, slippery path leading down to the river’s edge (which the 3 year old cousin and 70 year old grandparents were both able to achieve without injury or complaint!), we made it.
This place was spectacular. We were standing next to a section of the river that had, over thousands of years, carved into its rocky bottom to form little inlets and tunnels and waterfalls and cavernous pools of swirling water. After years of water erosion, the rocks had been whittled down to rounded shapes that made them easy to climb, jump, and even slide down, as cool, refreshing water rushed over them. It was magical. Truly magical. I felt like I was in the Blue Lagoon. Minus the scantily clad teenagers. The kids felt the magic just as much as I did, perhaps more so. The older ones immediately headed towards the swirling pools and waterfalls and rock cliffs to explore and play. The adults looked on with delight (and a slight bit of supervisory concern).
My highlight was jumping off one of the rock cliffs into a narrow pool of water with my 5 year old son. Not everyone thought that looked fun or safe, but well, my son and I share a love for all things thrilling and adventurous, so we did it and absolutely loved it.
I tried to soak it all in, as I watched the cousins splash and play in water so clear you could see the bottom, where fish darted to and fro beneath a flutter of churning arms and lega, and I thought: this is what heaven must be like. Days filled with adventure and beauty and play. Days enjoying the wildness of nature (minus potential concussions, injuries or drownings that can so easily occur in places like these!!). In that moment, my spirit soared, believing deeply, this was a piece of heaven. I longed for it to last, but prepared myself for its brevity. Eventually my attention was interrupted by someone crying because they skinned their knee, then someone else was hungry and tired, etc. Yet one day…there will be no more tears, no more pain…oh, how I long for that day!
And while we only catch glimpses of those moments right now, we can look forward to a day when all things will be made right, in a new heavens and a new earth, basking in the presence of Our Maker. Oh, how I long for that day!
Thank you, Lord, for these tiny glimpses of what is to come. Help me to seek You even in the ordinary moments of the day. I know You are there. Take this longing in me, this desire for more, and turn it into something praiseworthy, something that lifts my gaze to heaven and aims all of my heart at bringing you praise. Lord, I can’t wait for what’s to come. It will be amazing. But until then, help me to live fully in the present, seeking to give you praise in all that I do and sharing my delight in You with others.
Blessed be your name!