Family vacations are so precious. To get away and have new adventures with our children is a priority each year. As soon as Chris was able to pick his vacation in February, we had rented a cabin up north for a week in August. We must have looked at 50 different cabins and weighted the pros and cons. All the children voted, and we settled on a three-story log cabin overlooking a lake and acres of forest. We would visit my dad’s hometown and the New York Finger Lakes, maybe even the Corning Glass Museum. We were so excited!
Four weeks before our vacation, the owner of the cabin called and started out with, “I am so sorry but…”
She explained that her husband had accidently double booked our week because they had donated it to a “Make a Wish” child back in November. For a spilt second, I wanted to get mad and list all the reasons why we couldn’t change our plans.
A sweet breath of grace blew on me, and I felt God whisper, “I will work this for your good.”
In turn, I extended grace to the property owner. She offered us a free week anytime in the next year. Wow! A free vacation in 2022! God was already working it out for our good.
My quest to find a new rental started with joyful expectation but soon deteriorated into dismay. Almost everything was already rented. What I could find was too small, too expensive, or too ugly!
“God has something planned for us,” I kept thinking. I just couldn’t find it.
Finally, a week later Chris found a listing on his VRBO app as we were taking a trip to King of Prussia with Cadin. It was a new listing with a discounted price, four hours away in Virginia. The house looked beautiful, and so did the surrounding 550 acres.
When we arrived back home, laden with bags of books and Legos, Areli met us at the door.
“I think I found the perfect place!” She told us. “You have to see the pictures. I will feel like I am in a Jane Austen novel. Just the kind of place I was hoping for!”
It was the same house Chris had found. There were no reviews, which normally would turn me off, yet we felt that this was the place. I spoke with the property manager on the phone, and she was wonderful. We booked it!
I was certain that God had something special for us on this vacation: divine appointments or treasures that we could only find four hours away. Plus, the rent was $700 less than our previous cabin! I began to research the surrounding area and plan outings for the family. Very close by was Goshen Pass, a spot on the Maury River where you could picnic, swim, and walk across a swinging cable bridge.
“Could we jump off the bridge?” Chai asked.
“What is your obsession with jumping off of things lately?” I asked him. To him it was just fun. He wondered if there were any waterfalls or cliffs around that they could jump from.
“Not if I can help it,” I thought to myself. He didn’t realize that what brought him joy touched on one of my deep seated fears: watching a child fall from a high height while being powerless to save him. A vision of Chai getting tangled in the bridge and breaking his neck flashed into my mind.
I dismissed the thought immediately. This vacation was a blessing from God. No matter what happened, He would work it out for our good. I knew that there could still be many disappointments, irritations and failed expectations. I prayed that God would keep me in joy and peace the entire time.
Two days before we were set to leave, Uhaul informed us that they had no 5×8 trailers available, but they were going to give us a 6×12. Chris was annoyed. They are heavier, harder to pull, and would use more gas.
“Maybe God has treasures to give us (like furniture) that we will need the extra room for,” I suggested.
“Maybe,” Chris replied.
Later that night, as I got ready for bed, a thought dropped into my head with the force of an atomic bomb.
“What if you need that extra room in your trailer to bring home a casket? What if this is the trip when tragedy strikes and one of your children dies. Would you still call that God’s goodness?”
Fear descended upon me with a menacing power. I wasn’t sure how to answer that question, and I was afraid. I pushed away the fear and started declaring what I knew about God and all the scriptures I had put up on my mirror.
The next morning God gave me Ps 145 to read, and I was encouraged again!
On Saturday, we were up early loading our 6×12 trailer, checking and rechecking my extensive list. I spent a long time packing three coolers with food.
Finally, all the children were in the van and the trailer was locked up and ready to go.
“Come on Cutie, the children are waiting. Let’s get going. I have walked through the house four times already.” Chris said.
We began our journey with excitement and anticipation. After four hours of driving and two hours of eating and exploring, we arrived at the very secluded Virginia homestead. The big, white house was surrounded by cow pastures and mountain ridges. It would have been impressive back in 1850 when it was built.
The inside was very large and spacious, and we all picked our rooms. The children erupted with pleasure upon finding more books, toys, and dress up clothes than they had ever imagined. The boys began attaching their climbing rope to the big tree out back and setting up their BB gun targets.
Soon two coolers were unpacked into the tiny fridge in the tiny kitchen. But where was the third one with all the frozen food? It had been left in our basement at home! All my planning for nothing! All my efforts spent buying the healthiest food at the cheapest prices for nothing!
I began yelling and ranting at anyone who was close by.
“God will work this for the good! Don’t worry!” kept playing in my head. Yet I continued to rage. How quickly I had let that peace and joy slip away. I soon wore myself out and decided to repent and go back to trusting God that He would work this for our good.
We used the food that we had and roasted sausages, veggies, and apples over the firepit. We watched the children jump on the trampoline, throw frisbee, and set up tents in the yard while cows meandered in the pasture. The sunset was lovely.
And the night sky? One of the most stunning views of the handiwork of God. I studied the thousands of stars and the clouds of stars that I imagined to be a spiral arm of our Milky Way Galaxy. I kept spotting flashing lights out of the corner of my eye and thought they were shooting stars. But as I looked more closely, I realized that the stars were blinking at me. Twinkling stars! I had never seen that before. God was truly so good!
The next morning, I woke up with joy to be in such a lovely place. We had a quiet day at the house and all the children were busy exploring. After a gentle rain, a rainbow appeared in front of a mountain ridge. God’s promise!
On Monday we drove into Lexington and walked the historic brick sidewalks. Most of the children found it boring, and Ashlyn was downright upset.
We found a large antique mall but discovered that the prices were so much higher than we had ever seen before! We purchased some food to replace what we had left at home. We all went to bed early, and I slept peacefully until Courage woke me up because he had a nightmare.
In the morning I learned that Chris had had disturbing dreams as well. Chris and I agreed that something was off in the atmosphere: more oppression and fear than normal. Was it the home, the property, the area? We didn’t know for sure, but we sanctified the whole place, rebuked fear and evil, and prayed the blood of Jesus over our family along with angels for protection. Why didn’t we do this the first day?
We are in the habit of covering our family with prayer every morning and evening but we had to take it up a notch!
Chris and the older children left for Panther Falls; a local swimming hole popular with thrill seekers like Chai who love to jump from high places.
I stayed home with Ashlyn, Aria, Annalise, and Courage (who we call the “little ones”). Courage spent the morning stomping from one room to another, slamming doors and pouting. He had wanted to be an “older” and jump off rocks. I let him wear himself out while the girls and I sat together on the back porch. I felt like I needed to declare some truth to myself and the spiritual realm, so I began to read Ps 145. God’s goodness is overwhelming!
Then I read Ps 91 and realized that much of it is in the music video that the children just love, “Crushing Snakes” by David Crowder. I asked Annalise to point out the verses that she recognized from the song, and she got almost all of them. Then we watched the video. The girls sat in rapt attention: a good teaching moment.
I began to look up other verses that are referenced in the video and read them aloud. I felt fear fleeing and courage rising!
No one can defeat our God! No one! He holds the keys to death and hell!
About this time Courage came around and wanted to watch the video. I asked him to point out all the scriptures and he did! He also quoted to me a related scripture he had learned at Kidz Kamp.
Some of the verses were about the lake of fire created for the devil and his demons. Those who refuse to accept Jesus would be thrown into the lake of fire as well. But those who follow Jesus would never be hurt by death, would never be overcome by evil, would never be defeated!
A sweet little voice spoke up. Aria was on my lap listening until she said, “What if I can’t find Jesus and go into the lake of fire.”
“Jesus is your shepherd. He will always come find you. He will never let you be lost! He loves you Aria,” came my reply.
The answer came straight from the Holy Spirit and spoke to Aria’s spirit. Peace returned to her face, and she said, “You’re the best mama ever.” She snuggled into me.
Then I started to read Ps 91 and 145 again, but this time inserting the children’s names.
“Does it really say my name in the Bible,” Annalise asked, amazed.
“God had David write these words thousands of years ago because they were true about David. But God knew that they would be true about you and that you would read them,” I said.
“Do you call on Jesus? Do you trust in Jesus?” I asked.
“Yes!” all the children said.
“Then it is like your name is written in the Bible!”
My spirit was rejoicing that my children were understanding these powerful truths at 2, 6, and 8 years if age. Yet I was having trouble taking in a breath, almost like the air was thick, or I had whooping cough…but I wasn’t coughing.
“Strange air here in Virginia,” I thought to myself.
Chris and the older children returned later in the day with entertaining stories of Panther Fall and Todd’s Barbecue. It was the best part of the trip for many of them. I was so glad that my fear hadn’t held them back.
As they continued the tales of fun at the dinner table, I felt Calvin tap my arm. I looked over to him and he was choking! He couldn’t take in a breath!
I immediately started the Heimlich maneuver. I had never done it before, and it wasn’t working. I looked at Chris with a face stricken with fear.
“Can you help me!” I called to him. Calvin started to breath again. I had dislodged the food just enough.
This was crazy! We needed to stand on God’s truth! The enemy couldn’t harm us. Even if demons had some sort of access to this property or this land, they had no authority over us!
As Chris and I were talking about this, Cooper said, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power or the enemy. Nothing will harm you.”
“That’s right Cooper! So you do read those scripture I put up on the mirror!” I exclaimed.
I really felt that God was teaching us to take our authority in Him and not be afraid of anything. I had no delusions that we would be spared trouble, trials, or sorrows; but we didn’t need to fear them. Most of our lives with God are about blessings. When fear comes, it is usually the enemy telling us lies that will never happen. When tribulations come, God always gives us the grace we need AT THE TIME to handle them. What a strange lesson to be learning on vacation.
That night Cooper got really sick, and I hated to see him suffer. Chris and I prayed over him, and by the morning he was better. Spiritual Warfare?
The next day I could see that even in our resting and leisure activities, God was teaching us. The book I was reading was a story of a family who loved Jesus. They had to interact with a very annoying relative. What they didn’t realize was that the relative was working with a spy for the enemy, trying to gather intelligence from their two sons who had just returned home from the war.
As soon as the mother saw the difficult cousin coming to her door for a visit, she started to pray.
“She must be cautious. She must be quiet, to be guided. ‘Oh god help me!’ Perhaps it was a petty trial to bring to the great God for help, and yet Margaret Graeme had learned through long years that there is no trial so petty that may not work out to unpleasantness and even sin if allowed to sway the spirit. Mrs. Graeme had learned how to keep that spirit of hers placid, unruffled by little things. She was always looking to her Guide for strength.”A Girl to Come Home to – Grace Livingston Hill
That was just what we needed to do on this vacation! What we all need to do every day of our lives, but especially now when the battle between good and evil is getting more intense. This is what the scripture God had given me just that morning meant.
“So, the let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” 1 Thes 5:6
We can be sober and still revel in God’s goodness and enjoy every blessing.
I fulfilled my heart’s desire that day by shopping at the farmers market in Lexington. What a bounty of fruit, veggies, baked goods, and specialty items were ours! We had BLTs that night and enjoyed the fruit of the Virginia countryside.
Areli, Cadin, and I set out early on Thursday morning to arrive at Natural Bridge State Park by 8:15 am. The forest was cool and shady. The trail was wide and even. The Natural Bridge was majestic and breathtaking!
That evening Chris and I had the perfect date night at the Southern Inn. Chris got their famous fried chicken, and I was delighted by the fried brussel sprouts and lamb meatballs with microgreens.
The goodness of God was hunting us down each day!
Friday, our final full day had arrived. The boys wanted to swim at Goshen pass and leap off large rocks. And of course, there was that swinging bridge to cross. This time Courage was allowed to go. We prayed together, and then I took my place on the back porch with my girls again. We read over Ps 91 and 145 and watched the video. Afterwards we took out the kiddie pool, and they had a ball in the back yard.
Before I knew it, Chris and the boys had returned. They had a good time and were anxious to show me the pictures. I scrolled through the pictures on Chris’ phone.
“Looks like fun,” I said almost distractedly until I saw something.
“What was that?!” I scrolled back and saw a picture of all the boys on the swinging bridge, suspended over the river. Arcing over them was a rainbow!
Immediately the forgotten image of dread came back to me: Chai tangled up in the cables, falling, and breaking his neck.
God had taken an image of traumatic fear and painted it with a rainbow of His promise!