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?