Of all this year challenged me with, the one that stands out most is the thought of how much I actually trust God. When circumstances make zero sense or simply don’t follow the plan I hoped for, how quick am I to reach toward frustration? This year exposed the impatience which dwells in me.
The last day of the year can hold a tinge of pressure as we look back and assess the last 365 days.
- Did we learn anything?
- Did we grow?
- Did we reach our goals?
- Did we grieve our losses well?
- Did we heal?
- Did we forgive?
- Did we achieve?
- Did we strengthen our faith?
As I typically do when the year draws to a close, I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned.
For Christmas this year, we gifted our boys with a trip instead of material gifts. We’ve done this several times over the years. This time we flew out the day after Christmas to enjoy five days in Arizona. While soaking in the Arizona sun, the Lord began showing me some similarities in how I plan trips with how I attempt to plan my life.
Intentionality is important to me. Without intention, so much is at risk for loss and waste. Missed opportunities and time escaping before our eyes. The tagline of my blog is “Inspiring & encouraging you to live with intentional purpose.” I parent this way. Attempting to make the most of the brief time the Lord allows to raise these boys, to create as many memories and experiences as time permits.
Trip planning is one of my favorites. In fact, one of my dream jobs is a travel agent. I love to travel, but I love to plan almost as much. I love the hours and hours I spend searching for the perfect house to rent or hotel to book. I love planning the itinerary, deciding what to do and plotting out the logistics to fitting it all in perfectly. If given as a gift, I become giddy with excitement imagining the creative ways to present the gift and the looks of excitement to come.
I spend more time than necessary planning trips because I’m reaching towards perfection the entire time. I want the experience to be the absolute best it could possibly be. Perfection has been a battle my entire life. I’ve learned it’s not something I will overcome once and for all. It loves to rear its head in various forms.
I’ve shared about this in Illuminate – Seeing God by the Light of His Word.
“I strove to prove myself worthy, to validate my roles and positions, to find identity in all the wrong places, even as a believer. In my personal quest for perfection, I created idols – idols of family, ministry, home, and work. I worshiped at the altar of Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or words of encouragement from the ones I served. In my strive for perfection, I could at times leave no room for the perfect God because I worked too hard to be my own god.”
God often speaks to me through story. I want to share a story with you from our recent trip and how God brought me right back to the question, “Do you trust me?”
Follow with me along this story. I’ll point out roadblocks, provision points, expectation + gratitude moments, disappointment, and ultimately the decision to trust God no matter what, even if I never know why. Yes, it’s through the story of a trip plan gone wrong, but God often speaks to me the deeper questions and answers through the experiences in my life He walks me through. I hope He speaks to you here as well.
For our Arizona trip, I planned two golf outings, three hikes, much shopping/eating/exploring, and the once in a lifetime, bucket list excursion in a hot air balloon.
Finding and deciding on which hot air balloon ride took a couple of hours on the internet. I read all I could find on the most reputable companies. In the process, I found a Groupon special for the company I chose to book with. I tried no less than ten times to complete the purchase through Groupon, but each time the site timed out on me and refused to process the transaction. (Roadblock #1) (Frustration #1)
The Groupon special offered savings worth a couple hundred dollars. I emailed the hot air balloon company explaining the situation. She immediately responded what a great price it was and offered to match the Groupon price for us when we booked direct through their site. That’s when I discovered the hidden blessing in the frustrations of a site not working. Groupon required full payment and no refund for cancelled excursion. It’s the risk you take to save hundreds of dollars. Booking direct through the company offered zero risk. You paid after the balloon flight and nothing in the event of cancellation due to weather circumstances. (Provision #1)(Gratitude #1)
Road block #1 + provision #1 = Foreshadow #1
I could not WAIT to see the boys’ expressions when they discovered this gift. I ordered a handpainted ornament through the company. It was painted with a desert scene and a picture of the hot air ballon. This is how we would tell them what we planned to do with them, plus we would have the reminder on the tree each year going forward of an incredible experience of a lifetime. (Expectations)
I ordered the ornament weeks before Christmas, yet it never arrived. Tracking information showed it began the journey toward us the day I ordered and spent weeks in a postal facility in Denver, CO. (Frustration #2)
Christmas morning, rather than the expected moment of opening a handpainted ornament, we simply showed them the website and explained the gift. (Expectations, Disappointment, Gratitude all intertwined) (Foreshadow #2)
Our excursion was booked for Day 3 of the trip. It was a sunset ride lifting off at 6:30 am. This required I wake around 4:30 am. We all managed to wake on time, bundle up for a chilly ride, and drive the 30 minutes to the location. We arrived about 15 minutes early. I had a nervous feeling. It felt we were in the right spot, we saw other cars waiting, but we didn’t see the van for the balloon company. (Foreshadow #3)
The van arrived, he began setting up his check in table. The exterior building light wouldn’t turn on. He tried several times to no avail. He made the comment how weird that was. “It was working fine yesterday. Guess we will do this a different way.” He pulled out his iPhone flashlight. (Foreshadow #4)
He handed me the waivers to sign, told me we were riding in the van to the liftoff location. We’d leave within minutes. No less than one short minute later, the check in guy called everyone over with these words, “Guys, I’m sorry I have to ruin your day, but your balloon flight has just been cancelled. We received word from the pilot that the winds are too strong for a safe flight this morning. But you can try to rebook for a later flight.”
I felt every ounce of shock and deflation in that moment. The weather looked beautiful to me. I felt no wind at all, but also I don’t understand weather patterns in the slightest.
The moment held that realization of the fact that we had no control of the situation. We held in our hands our hopes and expectations for that morning fully deflated, frustration welling up, and a whisper to trust God. All the foreshadow moments began filling my mind. God’s provision ahead of time, protecting our money He knew would be lost if that Groupon had processed.
Steve quickly found a breakfast spot and as we drove to eat what did we see over the mountains? Yes, hot air balloons floating gently, peacefully into the sunrise. (Frustration, Disappointment) Why did others get to experience a safe ride and we couldn’t? Have you ever asked God these questions?
I attempted to rebook, but no flights were available. The next few moments we had a choice to make. Which path is right? Is God directing? Do we simply trust the cancel and stop trying to make it work? Do we accept it simply wasn’t meant to be? Or was God directing us to another company? Or was that us trying to control the situation and make a way no matter what God suggested?
In those minutes I’d found another company with spots open the next day. It would cost more by a couple of hundred dollars. Because we saw a way to make it happen, did that mean it was wise? Or should we accept the fact that our expectations didn’t come to pass, allow ourselves to feel the disappointment, but ultimately trust that God is good and knows things we simply don’t know.
The hard thing for me is the fact I always want to know. I always want to put all the puzzle pieces together and see the picture, even if it looks different than I envisioned, I find comfort in seeing it make sense. I also want to follow God’s path rather than my own, but in this situation, I simply was unsure.
We began praying and asking God to guide. I had a thought after praying. I would not book with another company, even if spots allowed, but instead if our current company had cancellations the next morning, we would be prepared to take the spots. We let the company know we’d be open to taking any cancellations they had, but it never happened.
When the day passed by, we had fully accepted the disappointment of the excursion that simply wasn’t meant to be. We didn’t understand why, but decided the only choice was to trust God. God is good. Always.
For me I realize it’s so easy to trust God when I see the path and the reasons for the roadblocks, but so very hard when I never know why.
What do I believe about God truly? Do I believe He is a very good God who desires to give good gifts? Do I believe He’s not a God who delights in watching His children disappointed but is also a God who knows our character and faith can only be shaped and strengthened at times when circumstances don’t go our way?
And this is how my year is ending with God allowing me to walk through a scenario that really is a picture of my entire year. Do I REALLY trust God like I say I do? Do I trust Him in the good and bad equally? Do I believe He is good when life is floating in the air as much as sitting in deflated hopes and expectations? Will I follow Him where He leads even if I see I can make my own way on a path I create because I think I know better? Or will I hold His hand on a different path knowing that anywhere with Him is better than alone along my own rocky way?
Before I wrap up this post, I have to mention our trip was beyond amazing. Truly losing one excursion didn’t take away any joy from five days of amazing family time and memories we created. If I thought I could hold your attention here a bit longer, I’d share how many times God showed up with surprise gifts along this trip. It was all a gift.
This year has been quite the year. It’s taught me to continue living with intention. We simply don’t know what tomorrow holds. If you can take the trip, take the trip. If you have breath in your lungs, live today fully. If you have your loved ones in your life, tell them what they mean to you.
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.” Revelation 19:11
Trust God. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. He is true. Even in the roadblocks and frustrating disappointments, He is good and we can trust Him.
- “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21