For the rest, brethren, whatever is true,
whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely and lovable,
whatever is kind and winsome and gracious,
if there is any virtue and excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think on and weight and take account of these things
[fix your minds on them].
Philippians 4:8 (Amplified Version)
I think if I were to write a book, the title would be Living a Beautiful Life in a Difficult World. For it seems there is always a combination going on... a symmetry so to speak of the world's Beauty and that which is still in a state of Fallen-ness.
I needed South Haven. I needed family and old friends and most of all I desperately needed the Lake and its' surroundings. But I didn't know it until I was there. From the time I arrived, I realized it.
As a family, we never did make it into Holland as was originally a priority. Hubby and I traveled there to meet a dear friend (who started out as an online friend in the 90s!) for a couple of hours at Russ' but otherwise we never went back. I'd hoped to meet with Sallie there and then show my grandchildren the town in which their mother was raised. But it never happened as South Haven was filling my soul.
I'm reluctant to admit that I hadn't been looking forward to this vacation from the time I opened the Christmas gift with the announcement to the day before we left. When one lives with a chronic illness, the easiest way to have some control of one's illness is by staying at home... and travel can be quite difficult as one keeps insulin chilled and meals are at all times of the day.
But, of course, we would go. The mail was stopped while we were gone. My friend, Linda, and her husband checked on Victoria. My new neighbor took our newspapers to her house until our return. So I prayed and took a deep breath and we headed to the highway that would take us to the Interstate heading for Michigan.
God knew what I needed, long before He put the inspiration for the vacation into Stephanie's brain... and once something gets there it gets done! Inside I felt much like my garden when the sky had provided no rain and I haven't gotten around to watering it.
I prayed and there would be a brief respite and sometimes a book lifted my soul and sometimes the flowers would lift my soul and sometimes an e-mail or letter or gift from friends and family would lift my soul.
For God is everywhere and He does know that a good cup of coffee and a little pot of favorite tea... perhaps with a cookie or two... they still can lift me from the doldrums. But I needed more. I needed the water and the boats and the gardens and the lovely meals and my second hometown (so to speak) of Western Michigan.
I walked more that week than I have in years. Our cottage was situated within walking distance of Lake Michigan and the quaint Downtown area. Stephanie found one like that on purpose. So I walked, sometimes alone and at various times with my family. I walked until I thought I would drop and then walked some more.
The first walk was taken with four year old Anna holding my hand and as she chatted away (she is much like her mother), I showed her the beautiful flowers and we walked near the Marina and breathed in the air. Oh, that air. I'd forgotten how air smells and feels near large bodies of water.
I flew to San Francisco on a business trip in the 80s, when we lived in Holland. I was shown the Pacific Ocean and knowing I was from the Midwest, my compatriots thought I'd be amazed. They were a little disappointed when I told them it looked like Lake Michigan but with bigger waves. People outside the area do not realize just how big the Great Lakes are up close and personal. But I digress as usual...
Sometimes it takes a special something to remind us of just how much God loves us. Especially when daily we live with illness or lack or pain or grief or challenges or difficult people or any other of life's uncertainties.
We tend to become our greatest challenge, even as we are trusting Him each day.
It is not a lack of faith, it is just the way we are made up as finite humans. Much like how all we can think about is our pinkie finger if we accidentally hammer it while putting up a picture on the wall. The rest of the body may be fine but the area with that pounding injury... no matter how small... becomes all we think about.
So God took me back to an area that He knew would fill me with life. To breath in the air. To walk the beautiful sidewalks. To sit and watch the Big Lake. To lean against the second story landing of a Marina club that was For Members Only (but their landing was open to all) and gaze at the boats in dock.
He filled my soul with the Beauty of Michigan produce at the Farmer's Market as I walked along with my daughter and listened to the folk musician's live music in the background. He filled my culinary delight with the best meal I have had in years (absolutely in the top five ever) when we celebrated the actual day of my birthday at a Spanish style Tapas restaurant with all the immediate family laughing and eating together. Something we do best.
It was hard to leave at the end of a week. I would miss my daughter and her family most of all (since Mr. & Mrs Christopher live nearby). I would miss the quaint shops and the boats and the lighthouse. I would miss breathing in that air.
But I also missed my cozy house. I really missed my cat. I knew it was time to re-enter the real world for life is not a week long vacation at the beach. But the vacation, one that was God inspired from the beginning, would stay with me for a long time. It sparked my creativity and gave a boost to my soul.
Since I have been home, I re-did the Study and changed the china cabinet. I have been packing up for charity those things I know I will not use, even though I like them. Life is too short to hang on to that which is just... clutter. Keep the Beautiful that makes me happy. Keep that which I use even if it is not Beautiful. The rest is just pretty clutter.
I've been thinking about Beauty and Creativity and Music and Art and Literature and all that is Lovely. Much like the above verse, which I have typed out and taped inside the cover of my Bible.
It turned out that the very "getting away from it all" that I had feared was just what I needed. I think God has a way of doing that all the time in our life. The trial we are going through with great annoyance turns out to be the very turning on the road of our journey that leads to answered prayer.
The personality attributes that drive us batty about our child in his toddler and preschool years blossom into exactly the attributes that make a young man who holds firm to his faith. The little girl who drew on walls became the young woman that paints pictures. The frustrating block in the path we thought we had all figured out... saved us from a bad decision down the road.
We are to "think on Him" always, to go running to God when the journey is too hard. He knows that on this fallen planet there will be pain and suffering and illness and lack and weeds (don't even get me started on weeds).
But there is also much He created... those Echoes of Eden that I wrote about before... that makes us know without a shadow of a doubt that Beauty exists and ultimately that is where we will reside.
In the meantime we must remember this, we worship a God who wants to be a part of our everyday existence. The Father sent the Son to redeem us who sent the Holy Spirit to help us in our journey. He cares enough to pull us out of our comfort zones when He knows what we need is elsewhere.
I wonder if God ever smirks. Even a little? Or does He ever tell us "I told you so"? Perhaps... but in a gentle manner that sounds like laughter in the wind.
Photo: Taken with my daughter-in-law's iPhone