My sister’s text arrived two days before my twin niece and nephew’s eighteenth birthday: “I wish you all lived closer and could surprise t and t for their birthdays.”
I don’t think she meant for me to act on it; it was more just expressing a longing of her heart. We live eleven hours from each other by car, so getting our families together takes planning, especially as our kids are older and we have to work around sports, school, and jobs.
But something in me thought, “Why not?” I love a good surprise! The more I anticipated the thrill of doing something totally spontaneous and showing up unannounced, the more I loved the idea. Before allowing myself to get too excited, I cleared my plan with James and my brother-in-law, who swore himself to secrecy. In less than an hour, everything was in motion.
That’s when it dawned on me: A wish I had expressed to God, not really expecting an answer, sort of like my sister’s text, was unexpectedly being answered.
A few months earlier, around what would’ve been my mom’s seventy-second birthday, I found myself reflecting on the ten-year milestones 2014 would bring: our move to Magnolia, Mom’s death, homeschooling, and our business. (Honestly, I’m still in awe of the Lord’s faithfulness to truly not give us more than we can handle, but that year came close!)
My heart yearned to visit my mom’s gravesite on the anniversary of her death, but it was a fleeting thought, not even spoken, and quickly dismissed. While logistically unrealistic, because she’s buried in my sister’s small town in Kansas, the notion was a sweet one to my spirit. I held it for a moment and then forgot about it.
Until the pieces of the surprise birthday trip started falling into place, and I realized we would be in town that very day: March 10.
I can’t explain the love I felt from the Lord as comprehension dawned. He used my sister’s wishful text to set in motion the very thing I wouldn’t even consider as reasonable.
My oldest daughter arrived home from college ten minutes before we had to leave for the airport. No time for laundry. We’ll do it there. Let’s go, go, go!
We arrived at the airport, cleared security, and waited to board only to learn our 9:10 p.m. flight to Wichita wasn’t leaving until 12:15 a.m. Facing a two-hour drive upon arrival, I pleaded with an agent for a different route. She secured the last few seats on a flight to Kansas City that departed in eleven minutes! Our luggage would never make it, but our bodies would, and that was good enough! We sprinted for the gate. We were going to make this work, no matter what!
Our change in planes landed us on the road at midnight. An all-night Walmart yielded the bare necessities we would need until our luggage arrived who knows when. Thank goodness we packed all the birthday supplies in our carry on!
As we neared my sister’s county road, we prepared the birthday brigade. Party hats and noise makers at the ready, we killed the headlights and slowly rolled to a stop in front of the house around 1:45 a.m.
We accomplished our mission: complete alarm! Sneaking quietly through the front door, we entered the hallway to the bedrooms and starting blowing our horns, hollering “Happy Birthday!” as we banged on doors and burst into the kids’ bedrooms.
The groggy shock that registered pure delight on each face was worth every minute, mile, and mishap of our travels there, not to mention the dead rental car fiasco when it was time to make the two-hour drive to the airport for our flight home, which we discovered upon attempting to check in was booked for the following day. None of that mattered, though. It just added to the adventure.
Sometimes when God is taking us somewhere special, we need to plow through whatever difficulties spring up and enjoy the adventure, even laugh about it. It would have been easy to throw up our hands in frustration and give up on the surprise when our flight wasn’t leaving until after midnight, thinking, Maybe it’s a sign from God that we shouldn’t go!
Sometimes, obstacles are just that: God diverting our direction. Other times, though, they are simply challenges to be overcome as we follow God where He is leading, not allowing anything to derail our conviction and faith. Knowing the difference is a matter of obediently walking according to the Spirit.
When it is God, we can count on Him to make the way, just as He promised the Israelites in Isaiah 43:19: “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Or a dry path across an impossible sea. Or a new flight to a different city that leads to the same end.
When it’s His will, He’ll make it happen, and we can rest in the assurance and protection of His perfect will.
Lord, thank you for making a ways when there is no way, for hearing the cries of our hearts, even when we don’t voice them, and for answering according to Your purpose and plan. We trust You completely as we become more wholly Yours today.