The Voyage

I once heard a speaker compare life to a kayak trip downriver. Sometimes the waters are smooth and we can enjoy a leisurely journey, admiring the beauty all around us. But every now and then we hit the rapids and we’re suddenly thrown into a mad scramble to stay afloat. As we navigate past rocks and other dangers, overwhelmed with fear, we wonder if life will ever be serene and peaceful again. Eventually the river smooths out and we sail back into calmer waters. And if we’re wise, we will have learned some valuable lessons that can prepare us for the next patch of rough water. Here’s what I learned on last year’s voyage:

Our family hit the rapids last June when my husband suffered a heart attack. He has fully recovered now, and we’re back to smooth sailing. But during those weeks of frantic paddling, I learned that life is fragile and precious. God can call us home to Himself at any time. More than ever, I want to hold my loved ones close in the coming year, and not squander a moment of time that I have with them. I need to remember which things in life are really important and which ones aren’t worth fussing about.
In my faith walk, I came into some challenging waters last year when our church hired a new lead pastor. He is a wonderful preacher, and our church has welcomed and embraced him. But he is challenging us to get out of our comfortable ruts so we can think more like Jesus and serve more like Him. I much prefer to float in a lagoon with people who are just like me—but Jesus longs for me to reach out to those who are different, those who may be drowning in the rapids, and offer them a helping hand. Yes, the comfortable ministries I’ve been involved with in the past have been good ones. But for the sake of the kingdom, it’s time for me to stop doing “church” and get involved with the world around me in the same way Jesus did.
My writing life has been mostly calm this past year. And yet . . . I have felt God challenging me not to settle for safe waters. As an act of trust, I need to take new risks and move out into deeper water. One way I’ve been doing that is by self-publishing an out-of-print novel of mine called “Fly Away.” It took a lot of work and required learning new things—and you know what they say about teaching old dogs new tricks! But a letter from a reader made it all worthwhile when she wrote to tell me how much “Fly Away” has blessed her. Why start a new venture when I’ve been successful with a traditional publisher? Why not stay in safe waters? Because sometimes complacency masks a lack of faith. I don’t like change—does anyone? Yet I know from experience that my faith grows the most during times of change.
I wish I could see around the bend in the river at what lies ahead for 2018—but I can’t. So, I’m choosing to sail forward into the unknown, comforted by one of my favorite verses from Isaiah: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (Isaiah 43:1-2). Bon Voyage!

Unseen

Here we are on the first day of a wonderful, New Year. I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions, but a verse I read recently in 2 Corinthians has challenged me to view life differently—so why not start today? In the verse, believers are advised to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” The irony makes me smile. How in the world can I fix my eyes on something that can’t be seen? But I do understand what the verse means.

Like most of us, the believers in Corinth are experiencing trouble. Instead of dwelling on their problems, they are told to trust that God is at work in a way that isn’t visible. They are assured that “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Hmm. Does this principle really work? I decided to look back at some of the big and little troubles I’ve experienced over the years. Were the “seen” problems really only temporary, while God was accomplishing something else in the background, something that had eternal results? This example came to mind.

Years ago, I arrived as a freshman at Hope College filled with excitement about all the great courses I would take. But since freshmen were the last ones to register, I was frustrated to discover that the classes I wanted were all filled by the time I tried to sign up. This included “Introduction to Art” which I was eager to take to fulfill a college requirement. My advisor said to sign up for “Introduction to Music” instead, then wait for someone to drop out of the art class and switch. No one ever dropped out! I remember being very angry at being forced to spend time studying music, which didn’t interest me, just so I could maintain a B average and keep my scholarship. It seemed so unfair. But one day a handsome music major came up to me in the hallway and offered to tutor me. Thanks to him, I got an A in the course. We’ve been married for 47 years.

That’s one of the more light-hearted examples I’ve thought of, but of course there have been some serious “troubles” over the years. I thought my life couldn’t get much worse after my husband won a job performing with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in Manitoba, Canada. (Winnipeg is north of North Dakota, by the way). Thousands of miles from my family, I was stuck at home with three small children, buried beneath several feet of snow, and forced to endure sub-zero temperatures for months at a time. Believe me, I couldn’t imagine any eternal results. But that’s when I sat down one day while my children were napping and decided to try my hand at writing a novel. By the time we moved back to the U.S. after eleven years in Canada, I had finished four novels (and made peace with the Canadian climate).

As a new year begins, I’m taking time to reminisce about all my experiences, looking for the “unseen” blessing in each circumstance. In most cases, I can see that an eternal purpose was accomplished. In the cases where I can’t, perhaps that particular story isn’t finished yet. I’m amazed at God’s faithfulness in every circumstance. And while I won’t call it a New Year’s resolution, I wonder how different my life will be, how much less stressful, if I face any troubles that come my way in the new year with this verse in mind:

“. . . our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an

eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on

what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary,

but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

The Angel’s Message

I had the privilege on Saturday to speak to the ladies of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan at their annual Advent Brunch. What a wonderful morning we had! The ladies had decorated the hall for Christmas with each table beautifully set to welcome the women who gathered there. The men of the church treated us like royalty as they served our meal. There was Christmas music and good food and lots of new friends to meet. I love events like these that come early in December. They help me slow down and focus on celebrating Christ’s birth instead of racing around with a mile-long to-do list in my hand.

As I thought about what I wanted to share with the ladies, the angels in the Christmas story came to mind. One of them appeared to Mary in Nazareth to announce God’s plan for her to give birth to His Son. The angel’s message began with the words “Do not be afraid.” Another angel spoke to Joseph in a dream when he learned of Mary’s pregnancy, and once again his message began with “Do not be afraid.” A third angel appeared to the shepherds to announce Christ’s birth, and he also began his message with “Do not be afraid.” Angels must be awesome beings indeed, to spark fear each time they appear!

But I think it’s more than that. Mary and Joseph had all their plans in place. They were going to be married soon, and they probably envisioned a future much like that of other young couples in the village of Nazareth, with work and children and a new home. Then an angel appeared to announce that God was about to turn their orderly lives upside down, bringing a baby before they had a chance to marry—a baby who was the Son of God and heir to Israel’s throne. Were they willing to give up their dreams and let God’s plans go forward? The angel said, “Do not be afraid.” Trust God. Trust that He is working for good. Trust that events are taking place in the spiritual realm that they couldn’t see. Trust God, even though everything in their life is about to change. Mary’s response to the angel and to God was, “I am the Lord’s servant.”

Most of us have made a lot of plans for the future. Our calendar pages are filled with programs and events and travel arrangements. But change can come unexpectedly. Accidents, illnesses, job losses, financial problems, relationship problems—these don’t stop so we can celebrate a “magical” Christmas holiday. If only an angel would appear to us whenever our lives are turned upside down and comfort us by saying, “Don’t be afraid! Trust God! He is in control and He is working for our good.”
I’m guessing that most of us have recently experienced some sort of unwelcome change. (If you haven’t, you’re probably about to!) Whether we like it or not, change is part of life. Before we start to panic and fret and worry, what if we took a moment to listen for the angel’s message from our Heavenly Father. It’s the same one that Mary and Joseph heard: “Don’t be afraid. Trust God in this. He is in control.”

When change comes, will we wrestle and worry and try to get our own plans back on track? Or will we put our hand in God’s and say, like Mary did, “I am the Lord’s servant.”

Thanks a Lot!

Two more chapters to write and I will be able to type those wonderful words—THE END. The novel I’ve been laboring on for nearly a year is almost finished. Maybe I’ll be able to enjoy the Christmas season with my family this year without stressing over my deadline. But when I tried to start my computer yesterday morning, eager to make the final sprint to the finish line, I discovered that it had crashed. An automatic update had failed, locking everything up. The fatal blue screen wouldn’t allow me access to my computer no matter how hard I tried. I did the only thing I knew how to do—I panicked!
Unlike most writers, I am NOT computer savvy. I know enough to answer email, write my novels, and post this blog. That’s about it. I called my brother-in-law in New York who is my computer go-to person and he diagnosed the problem. The solution? I could pay a local tech $95 an hour to try to fix it (and still have an aging computer), or I could purchase a new computer and pay the tech to try to retrieve my novel and everything else from my old hard drive. I chose the new computer. (Not exactly what I wanted for a Christmas present. Sigh.) It’s going to take a few days to get my new computer back home with everything on it (hopefully) restored from my old one. In the meantime, I’m limping along at a snail’s pace with this tiny laptop.
A crashed computer isn’t the only discouraging “glitch” I’ve experienced in my writing life these past few months. On the day of my book launch—a day I waited an entire year to celebrate—the book was unavailable on Amazon. Then I learned that the members of my Launch Team wouldn’t be receiving their advance copies of the book until more than a week after the launch date. And there were several other glitches, each one frustrating and worrisome and stressful. I call them “joy stealers.” Instead of the euphoria of another successful launch or a nearly completed novel, I’m wasting my energy stewing and worrying. Joyful? Not so much.
What I needed more than a restored computer yesterday was a restored sense of perspective. I got it this morning as I read through the newsletters from several of the Christian organizations my husband and I support. People whose homes were destroyed by hurricanes and forest fires will need much more than a new computer. The children we support in Zambia and Vietnam need food and clean water on a daily basis. Christians being persecuted for their faith need prayers for their churches and families. Young girls being trafficked need deliverance and justice. I should be thankful that I can afford a new computer and still have a roof over my head and three meals a day—not to mention the freedom to enjoy them. My problem will soon be fixed. Their problems are ongoing.
This week I will celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. It’s a yearly reminder to stand back and get some perspective on how God has so richly provided for us. Have there been “glitches” and “joy stealers” this year? Of course. But in the larger view of things, my family and I have been abundantly blessed. We could have been eating Thanksgiving dinner without my husband this year if a serious health issue a few months ago hadn’t ended well. Then there are our spiritual blessings, such as God’s grace and redemption and love. The security of our heavenly home. And a calling that I love in spite of the glitches.
I think I know why the enemy tries so hard to steal our joy. Because “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). I think I need to do some thanking and rejoicing while I wait for my new computer.

Fearless

The real-life sisters, Agnes and Margaret Smith, who inspired my newest novel, “Where We Belong,” had a favorite motto that continues to intrigue me. Whenever they were in danger or in a precarious situation they would say, “God knows when the end of our days will be. We have nothing to fear.” I borrowed their motto for my fictional sisters, Becky and Flora Hawes, to use whenever they found themselves in a sticky situation. I added a humorous twist to it in one scene when they are onboard a steamship during a ferocious storm at sea:

Flora cried out as the ship suddenly leaned so far to one side she feared it would tip over. Her body was crushed against the wall as her bulky steamer trunk pinned her there. When the ship righted itself a moment later, Becky shoved the trunk away, freeing her.

“Are you all fight, Flora?”

“Yes, I think so.” They both took a moment to steady their nerves and secure their luggage again.

Becky exhaled. “God knows when the hour of our end will be,” she said in a shaky voice. “But I sincerely hope it isn’t tonight.”

It’s one thing for me to be fearless when I’m sitting in my armchair by the fireplace, and quite another when my airplane hits turbulence midway over the Atlantic Ocean. Or when I get bad news from my doctor. I’m not afraid of dying—but I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen yet! We live in fearful times. The most frightening thing about acts of terror is that we never know when or where they may occur. We could be enjoying a concert; sitting in a restaurant; taking in a tourist attraction; attending an office Christmas party; sitting at our desk at work or at school. The suspense of continually looking over our shoulder intensifies the fear—which is the terrorists’ goal.

My niece faced a dilemma. Her fourteen-year-old son wanted to take part in an event called the Life Chain. Participants line up shoulder to shoulder along a busy street and hold up signs to remind the people driving past that “Abortion stops a beating heart,” or “It’s a child, not a choice.” It’s a peaceful, pro-life demonstration that synced well with her son’s passionate, Christian beliefs. Understandably, my niece worried about fanatics or terrorists taking aim at her sweet son and plowing into him on the sidewalk. Should she let him take part? How would you advise her? It’s one thing to be courageous when our own life is at stake and quite another to let our precious children and grandchildren be at risk.

A friend of mine, who is the director of an international prayer ministry, recently met with a group of Christian women from South Korea. She asked how they handled living with the daily threat of destruction from North Korea. The women responded that they didn’t have time to live in fear. They were too busy preparing to flood across the border to bring the hope of the gospel to their North Korean brothers and sisters once the evil regime was finally destroyed.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately, and what the Bible has to say about it. Several favorite passages come to mind:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
These are great verses to know the next time I’m in danger. But even more, I need to know the Savior who makes those promises. If I’m ever asked to take a courageous stand for my faith, as persecuted Christians in other nations do every day, I want to be fearless, knowing without doubt that the God I know and love is with me. He knows when the end of my days will be. I have nothing to fear.

To purchase my latest book, “Where We Belong” click here.

My Newest Baby

People often ask me which of my books is my favorite. I tell them that my books are like children—I’ve labored hard for many months to give birth to each of them, so how can I choose a favorite? Yet the birth of each new book is very exciting for me. And now I can announce that my newest baby, “Where We Belong,” is here!

I wrote a brief summary of the story in my last blog, and told how it was loosely based on the true story of two remarkable, self-educated sisters, Margaret and Agnes Smith who made the discovery of an important biblical manuscript. Their story inspired me because the sisters felt God urging them to pursue a calling that was “out of the box” in their Victorian era, yet they didn’t allow the social and cultural expectations of their day to stop them from doing it. What if we all lived that fearlessly for God?

I studied very hard when I was in high school so I could go to college and become a clinical psychologist. I clearly recall the day when I met with my high school guidance counselor for advice on which colleges to apply to, and he told me I should re-think my goals. The most suitable careers for women, he said, were teaching and nursing. I didn’t listen to him.

I chose to attend Hope College because I wanted a Christian foundation for my education. And I majored in psychology. Imagine my surprise when my college advisor told me I should pursue a teaching certificate along with my psychology major. He explained that I would need a Master’s degree or PhD. to become a clinical psychologist and I would probably get married and have children before getting that far. I would be wise to have a teaching career to fall back on, he said. (The generations of women after me can be grateful that they aren’t limited to two career choices!)

In hindsight, I can see that it was God who was advising and directing me all along. I’m not sorry that I never became a clinical psychologist. And I’m glad that I worked as a teacher for several years. Majoring in psychology gave me the chance to study human behavior, which helps me immensely in creating my characters and stories.

Each of us will hear a lot of voices telling us what we should do, and what we ought to do, and what society expects us to do. We’ll also hear our own inner voice telling us we can’t, that we aren’t smart enough, or talented enough, or good enough. I hope my newest novel will encourage readers to ignore those other voices and listen to God’s. Like the sisters in “Where We Belong,” we can examine the gifts and resources we’ve been given, along with the unique passions that have touched our hearts, and then decide if we want to live fearlessly for God or not. As you read this story, I hope you’ll decide to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). What a difference it will make!

If you would like a chance to win one of two free copies of “Where We Belong,” be sure to leave a comment below or go to my website www.lynnaustin.org to enter.

 

Congratulations to Bonnie Jean Fulcher and Patti H who were chosen by Random.org as the winners of an autographed copy of “Where We Belong.” Please look in your email for instructions on how to claim your prize.

A Wonderful Visit

I just returned from a wonderful visit with my mother and my sister Peggy and her family in the little village in New York State where I grew up. The town is nestled in the Shawangunk Mountains, and seeing the mountains again is like seeing old friends. I always forget how much I’ve missed them while living in the flat Midwest. Peggy and I had a chance to go on several hikes while I was home, taking her new rescue dog, Franny, with us.
We hiked around a mountaintop lake.
And admired the vistas of the valley, below.
We let Franny swim in this creek and she “shared” the cool water with us as she shook herself dry.
We hiked across the Hudson River on a former railroad trestle that has been converted into a rails-to-trails pathway called “Walkway Over the Hudson.”
Hiking in the woods and enjoying nature always restores me. When I take time to look at creation, I’m reminded of what a glorious God we serve. Seeing His infinite creativity renews my own urge to create. And being with my family—the people who know me the best and love me the most—helps me remember who I am and where I’ve come from.
It puts my lifelong journey into perspective and helps me see how God has shaped me along the way. I returned to my home in Michigan refreshed and ready to dig into the work that God has given me to do. My prayer is the same one that Moses prayed:
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. . . .Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. . . . Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. . . . establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90)

Catching the Wind

Every spring the youth group at our church holds a banquet where they auction off an assortment of great prizes to fund their summer mission trips. I bought a ticket for a chance to win a sailboat excursion on Lake Michigan. I’ve never sailed before, but I love to sit on our beach and watch the sailboats gliding gracefully across the lake, their white sails billowing. It looks like such a calm, peaceful way to travel. I never imagined I would win—but I did! Last weekend, my husband, our son Benjamin, and I claimed my prize.

Lake Michigan was wonderfully calm, perfect for a first-timer like me. We set off in the afternoon with our host Bob Carlson on his sailboat named “Joy.” After a quick lesson, Benjamin served as his crew member as we navigated the channel at Port Sheldon, Michigan and sailed out into the big lake. The voyage was every bit as serene and lovely as I had imagined it would be as we headed north on a gentle wind. I began to dream of buying my own boat and learning how to sail it.

Eventually, the time came to turn around and sail home. Except that the wind had died down close to shore where we were sailing, and we came to a halt. We drifted for several minutes, unable to catch a good breeze, going nowhere. In order to get home, Bob said we needed to steer the boat farther out into the lake where the wind was stronger. I liked staying within sight of land where it seemed safe, but I also wanted to return home before nightfall. So we fired up the motor for a minute and steered out into deeper water. Sure enough, within a few minutes, our sails filled once again and we began moving swiftly toward home.

I was amazed by how a skilled sailor like Bob could “feel the wind,” as he put it, and use its power to go in whatever direction he chose. I recalled how Jesus compared the wind to the Holy Spirit, and I wondered if there were some lessons here on Lake Michigan for me. I know from experience that when I labor on my own, without the Spirit’s power, I get nowhere—just like our drifting sailboat. I also know the feeling of soaring with the Spirit’s help and accomplishing so much more than I could ever do on my own.

So why don’t I learn to “feel the wind” of the Spirt and harness its power more often? I suspect that sometimes it’s because I want to stay safe near the shore instead of venturing out into deeper, more dangerous waters. I feel more in control that way. What might God ask me to do if I surrendered control to Him? Yet with the wind’s power, we got to our destination much faster than we ever could have by rowing. And oh, what a glorious feeling it was when the wind filled our sails and we began to move! I imagine it was how Peter and the other disciples felt on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirt blew on them like a mighty, rushing wind.

The same power that changed the world is available to me. All I have to do is let it fill my sails.

Time to Pull Weeds

I know there are people who love to garden. They enjoy nurturing seeds, planting bulbs, and planning perennial beds so that gorgeous flowers flourish in every season. My neighbor is one of them. I walk past her home (in the photos above and below) and sigh with envy at her creativity and diligence.

I am not one of those people. While I do love the end result when my garden looks pristine and welcoming, I don’t enjoy doing the work to make it so. Nevertheless, I was forced to become the family gardener when my husband pulled a muscle in his shoulder. The weeds had no pity on his injury and quickly staged a take-over. Can anyone explain to me why weeds are so hearty and fast-growing while their beautiful, cultivated cousins need pampering? Or why the deer and the rabbits ignore the weeds and munch on my plants as if they’re a salad bar?

As I tackled our overgrown garden last week, it occurred to me that the process has some similarities to the way I write. My first drafts are usually an overgrown tangle of words. My strategy is to conquer the blank page and get something down, no matter how bad, and then go back and fix it later. It takes away some of the anxiety if I don’t stop to critique my work as I write. But the day eventually comes when I have to weed out the overgrown mess. Finding weeds in the garden is usually simple: if the roots seem to go down to China, it’s probably a weed. If it pulls out easily—oops! That was probably something expensive. And when I make my first editing pass on my manuscript, it’s easy to find the weeds, especially if I remind myself of the rules of good writing.

I ended up with a large recycling bin full of weeds by the time I finished pulling them, but the garden still looked overgrown. I needed to go back with my shears and trim away some of the good bushes and plants, too. I hate doing that because I’m always afraid I’m going to cut too much and kill the plant. It’s the same with my manuscript. Even after the weeds of poor grammar have been pulled, my beautiful prose sometimes needs to be trimmed. If I’m in an especially critical mood, I can come dangerously close to chopping away too much and ruining it. But it has to be done.

The photos above and below show the results of my gardening efforts. And while I hated to sacrifice writing time for the task, when I finally sat down to write again I was able to tackle some much-needed editing with renewed fervor.

Now what about weeding my spiritual garden? Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches” and “my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” That sounds a lot like gardening and editing, doesn’t it? God is looking for fruit like love, joy, and patience—and not weeds like anger, gossip, and bitterness. If I hope to look like my neighbor’s garden in Jesus’ eyes, I think I have some work to do.

When Plans Change

My husband and I planned our summer vacation months ago. All spring, we’ve looked forward to exploring the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with our friends, seeing Tahquamenon Falls, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the historic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, and taking a boat tour through the Soo Locks. But then a family medical emergency cancelled our plans. We’re thankful that God answered our prayers and the emergency ended well, but our trip will have to be postponed until next summer.

Our change in plans has started me thinking about some of the summer vacations we took with our children when they were small. One of the most memorable was a trip from our home in Winnipeg, Canada to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, towing a borrowed pop-up trailer. We awoke after our first night of camping to find that all four of the trailer’s tires had gone flat. After a trip into town to buy four new ones, we were on our way again. Once we arrived in the Rockies, we discovered that the trailer had a broken heater, so after a few very cold nights, we changed our plans and headed south to the Grand Canyon and warmer weather.

Somewhere around Durango, Colorado, several warning lights on our car’s dashboard began flashing. We made a detour to a repair shop and learned that the pop-up trailer had a faulty electrical system, which was draining our car’s battery. After more repairs and a new battery, we were on our way again.

We showed up at the canyon at sunset, which is a beautiful time to arrive unless you need a campsite. All of the campgrounds were full. Signs throughout the park threatened enormous fines for camping anywhere except in designated sites. And it was a long, hot drive back to the nearest town.

Weary and desperate, we pulled into a parking lot behind a restaurant for the night. We didn’t dare to “pop up” the pop-up and risk a costly fine, so we decided to sleep in our car. All five of us. In our Toyota station wagon. Our sons Joshua and Benjamin slept in the two front seats, reclining them back as far as they would go. Ken and I emptied the luggage from the back of the car, folded down the rear seat, and slept there with our daughter, Maya. I use the term “slept” very loosely. “Dozed” is more like it as Ken and I folded ourselves around the wheel wells and tried to avoid Maya’s flailing arms and legs.

All night long, I expected to hear a dreaded knock on my window, and to face an angry park ranger ticketing us for not camping in a designated area. I planned to reply, “Does this look like we’re camping? If we were camping I would be asleep in the trailer behind us, not folded like a pretzel in our Toyota!” The long night ended without any fines. In fact by morning, the entire parking lot was filled with cars and trailers and rumpled families just like ours. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know how hard it would be to find a campsite at the Grand Canyon.

We saw a lot of beautiful sites on that trip and had a lot of fun. For Ken and me, it was memorable because of the costly tires, the new battery, the electrical work, and the sleepless night. But when we asked the kids what they enjoyed most about that trip, guess what they said. “Sleeping in the car!” One of them asked if we could do it again.

I dislike change, especially when it collides with my well-laid plans. But it seems as though the unplanned, unexpected changes that come our way leave a deeper imprint in our memories than when everything goes according to schedule. I will get to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula another year. But in the aftermath of our medical emergency, I saw how beautifully our family pulls together and shows our deep love for one another. Our faith has been strengthened after sensing God’s presence throughout the crisis and knowing that He hears and answers our prayers. In the end, that’s worth much more to me than a pile of vacation photos.

Where have you seen God at work when your plans were changed?