I’m sitting in the middle of paradise. I have a 360 degree view of the mountains and a roaring waterfall to my right. I’m looking down on a mountain lake where the fish are jumping. To my left is Mt. Quandary, where I can see tiny stick figures climbing up the ridge. My kids and some dear friends account for five of those stick figures. After three nights in a tent, I’ve had a hot shower, a great meal that someone else cooked, and I slept in a bed last night. Ahhh, vacation. I’m loving it.
But it didn’t start out that way. When we first loaded into the cars last week to make the 750 mile drive, I was mad at one of my children. And I do mean mad. Not just slightly irritated or frustrated, but angry. For this story it’s not important which child or why I was angry. The point is that I wasn’t excited about spending 9 days with this person.
So how do you do a family vacation when you have conflict that is greater than “We’ve been in a car too long, and I’m sick of you,” but real conflict? We had already tried to talk it out the day before and just ended up arguing. My husband had a long conversation with the “offender” the night before and came away encouraged, but I was stuck. So what is the best thing to do when you are stuck? You pray of course! (I’ll also add that I texted a few friends and asked them to pray as well.)
It wasn’t a holy or religious prayer. In a car full of people, it wasn’t even an audible prayer. It was more a quiet cry of my heart: “Lord, please help. I’m not sure how I got here, and I don’t know what to do.” The sweet thing about trusting God is that He is loving and faithful. When our hearts are committed to Him, (and sometimes even when they aren’t), He pays attention to our prayers. The challenging thing about trusting God is that He regularly answers our prayers differently than we expect Him too.
There has been no big conflict resolution conversation, not even an exchange of apologies. Quite simply, grace has covered us. Gradually, over a few day period, a shift took place.
Maybe it was during the laughter around the campfire. Or possibly it came right in the middle of the joy of having the whole family together in one place doing something we all enjoy, which is hiking in the mountains. I posted a blog a few months ago here on Destiny In Bloom about the power of play (Athena, Queen of the Sea), and I’m realizing a new dimension of that in how play bonds relationships. I’m so thankful to my husband for initiating play in many forms in our family life, because I can see how it has strengthened our family. Laughter has helped me let go of my anger.
Maybe grace came while we all worked together to set up our campsite. Camping is one of our family traditions, as is this yearly trip to Colorado. I have been aware this week of how traditions also bond relationships. I’m not talking about rigid, restrictive, close-minded ways of doing things, but intentional, repeated (although never exactly the same), shared experiences that build trust and unity. We’ve been busy building new experiences within our traditions even while we revisit the old memories, and I can see that the whole of my relationship with this child is a good, loving relationship. The temporary shadow of our conflict will be resolved with time as we both grow.
Perhaps grace crept in as we have spent time with friends. While reconnecting with old friends and including newer friends on our family vacation, I’ve watched them interact with my children. Both have given me new perspective on who this child is becoming. I can see where I’ve slipped into a trap of expectations for this child, and that’s something I need to let go of. Ouch. The good part is that I can pray for grace in that too!
I believe grace came in all those forms and others that I haven’t recognized yet. The important thing is that it did come. Without grace, this and all of my relationships would be broken. Grace brings forgiveness and peace. It brings the power of God’s love into very human situations. Grace is the foundation of our relationship with God, and it is also a gift that we can use to heal our relationships. All it requires on our part is a choice. (Sometimes a choice we have to repeat several times.) We have to choose to humble ourselves, let go of our anger, and extend to another person the same grace we’ve been given.
I’m thankful for vacation and for beautiful mountain views. I’m thankful for family, including fun and traditions. I’m thankful for prayers answered by a loving God. And I’m thankful for grace. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go on a Starbucks date with a person whose name I won’t mention.