After leaving Fort Meyers, we travelled as far as Anna Maria Island. We were there with our children when they were much younger, and it was a favourite part of our vacation that year. It was so interesting to visit 30 years later. Yes, things had changed; but the long wharf was still there with its pelicans and other seabirds, and the restaurant at the end of the wharf still served grouper. 30 years ago, it was our first taste of grouper, so naturally, we had it again! Sometimes things seem brighter and better in the past, and when repeated in the present are not quite the same. Not so with the grouper – just as enjoyable as ever!
After getting lost for an hour, we finally arrived at our beach front resort in St. Pete Beach; lovely! Our room overlooked a refreshing centre court with manicured lawns, beautiful flower beds, and a cascading fountain. Two pools completed the court view. A short walk along a paved path took us to an outdoor restaurant overlooking the beach and the Gulf. Beyond this, it was a short walk to the beach. I find it very moving to walk along a sandy beach with the waves rolling in beside me, seagulls screaming their joy as they scour the shore looking for their next meal, children playing in the waves, dogs frolicking in and out of the water, para-sailing overhead, and elegant sailboats criss-crossing the water just beyond the reach of the swimmers. The sun danced on the waves, warmed the sand, and darkened the sun bathers. The sights, sounds, and smells of the ocean speak of home to me. I don’t realize I miss it until I stand on the shore, in awe of God’s special creation; the sea!
After quickly settling into our room, we jumped back in the car and travelled up the coast a short distance to have supper with my cousin Heather and her husband Rick. They were vacationing in a lovely condo just up the shore from our destination. We watched the sun set from their balcony after enjoying a wonderful meal together. There is nothing that compares to family and although we live far apart, when the cousins get together it’s like time has not interrupted our relationship. The female members of our group all talk at once, and it’s a miracle, but we hear each other and understand the garbled conversations! We have so much to say to each other, that we can’t waste time taking turns talking – or so it seems!
We spent one day at Tarpon Springs, also a distance farther along the same Gulf shore. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this unique place, I would highly recommend it! The atmosphere is incredible. It’s like taking a step back in time and experiencing the early sponge diving trade. The town was originally founded by Greek families who were skilled in sponge harvesting. The town still has a distinct Greek flavour and is a delightful place to spend a day.
All too soon, it was time to pack up and head for home. But, like the Wisemen, we returned by a different route.
Hot sun beat down on the beach and warmed every rock and log in its path. Jeremy stood on the rocky path and watched the beach from his vantage point.
“Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a house right on the beach?” he asked his friend Aaron.
“I’m not so sure that would be a good idea,” Aaron replied.
“And why not?” Jeremy laughed. He gave Aaron a little shove with one hand and threw him off balance for a moment.
“Be serious, Jeremy, a house on the beach wouldn’t be safe.” Aaron’s frown drew his eyes together.
“Now that’s a ridiculous statement if I ever heard one.” Jeremy shoved Aaron again and the two struggled together, laughing as they pushed and shoved.
They stopped when they ran out of breath.
“I’ll race you to the beach,” Jeremy yelled at Aaron.
The two set off running down the steep path and reached the beach together. They kept running until they were submerged in the cool waters just offshore.
A few years later, Jeremy stood on the same beach, watching the waves and dreaming. I’m going to build that house. Now that I own that property at the end, I’m going to have the most amazing house ever. Drool Aaron! You’ve never seen anything like what I’m going to build.
Jeremy consulted the plans again that night. It’s perfect. He pushed the plans across the table to rest in front of the contractor he had hired for the job.
“Well, what do you think?” He couldn’t keep the grin out of his voice.
“Wow, it’s wow. What else can I say? No one will have anything to compare with this.”
“Then you can do it, Lloyd?” Jeremy rubbed his hands together and watched Lloyd with raised eyebrows.
“Of course I can do it.” He grabbed the plans and folded them into their carrying case. “When do you want me to start?”
“How about yesterday?” Jeremy laughed uproariously at his own joke.
“Then yesterday it is.” Lloyd stuck out his hand and they shook on the deal.
Each day Jeremy came to the site of the new house and watched it being constructed. The workers drove long poles into the sand to anchor the house.
There won’t be a basement, but who cares? I’ll have everything I need on the main and upper levels. Wow, it’s going to be an amazing house.
One day when he arrived, the workers were running around frantically. Lloyd was yelling at some so them, and all seemed to be confusion.
Jeremy approached Lloyd. “What’s wrong, Lloyd?”
“Oh nothing for you to be worried about, Jeremy. Just a little water got in and we’ll have to drive more poles into the sand.” He wiped his brow with a wet hand and left dirty streaks on his forehead.
“Nothing to worry about? What about the cost of this kind of setback?”
“Just keep calm, Jeremy, I have it well under control.” Lloyd said.
The next day when he arrived, everything seemed to be back to normal and the walls were taking shape. It’s amazing. Too bad Aaron is away and can’t see the house. But his mother said he’ll be back from Europe next week. I’ll bring him to see it then.
Meanwhile, Aaron had met a wonderful girl in France and was bringing her home as his wife. He wanted to build a house for her and knew exactly where he would build it. His uncle owned property on top of the cliff overlooking the water where he and Jeremy had spent so much time when they were younger. His uncle was happy to sell a lot to him, and he could hardly wait to begin construction.
When he arrived at the site with his architect, he was surprised to see a house being built on the beach.
“Who would be foolish enough to build a house on the beach?” Aaron remarked.
“I understand it’s your friend Jeremy,” the architect replied.
“But he knows better than that.” Aaron was appalled. “What was he thinking?”
After discussing plans with the architect, he climbed down the path to the beach and walked over to the construction site. He quickly spied his friend Jeremy who turned to him with a glad shout.
“Aaron, you’re back. I can hardly wait to show you my new house. Come.”
The two men looked over the building site and Jeremy showed him the plans for the mansion.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Jeremy bragged.
Aaron remained silent. This was no time to tell Jeremy how foolish this was. He was in way too far to back out now. Besides, he’d be too stubborn to change his plans.
Construction began on Aaron’s house soon after. There was much noise as a drilling machine was needed to reach down into the rock to anchor the house. It took a long time to make the cuts and dig out the basement.
“I know this part will take a long time, but it’ll be well worth it. Nothing will ever move this house once the foundation is established.” The architect grinned at Aaron. “You’ve made a wise choice, my friend.”
“Thank you. I just wish Jeremy had made the same choice.”
“True, but he’ll have a beautiful house when it’s done.”
Eventually both houses were completed. Jeremy had been living in his home for more than a year when Aaron’s was finally done and he was able to move in. The two friends enjoyed being close together again, and their families got along well together.
One September, after they had been living there for a few years, they were alerted to a hurricane warning.
Aaron climbed down over the bank and rapped on Jeremy’s door.
“Come in, my friend.” Jeremy threw back the door and welcomed Aaron. “How about a game of pool? Or did you want to swim in my indoor pool.” He laughed a deep laugh. “You should have listened to me and built an indoor pool. It’s too chilly and windy today to swim outside.”
“I can’t stay, Jeremy. I just wanted to make sure you knew there was a hurricane warning out for our coast.”
Another deep laugh came from Jeremy. “Aaron, Aaron, surely you don’t believe all that media hype? They say the same thing every year. You know there won’t be a big storm. They have to have something to make news, so they invent bad storms.”
Aaron put his hand on Jeremy’s arm. “Listen to me Jeremy. Maybe it won’t be as bad as they’re predicting, but it’s worth getting ready for it.”
“Getting ready? Now how are you going to get ready for a storm? You’re a funny man, Aaron.”
“Actually, I’m putting plywood over my windows and bringing in any outdoor furniture that might blow in the wind.”
Jeremy slapped him on the back. “You always were a worry-wart. Okay, go cover your windows. I’m going to swim in my pool.” And with that he closed the door and Aaron climbed the bank and made his house ready.
During the night the wind arose. Aaron went to the door that opened onto the patio overlooking the bay. It was very dark, no moon, only angry clouds. It was impossible to see the waves in the total darkness, but he could hear the surf pounding on the beach below. The rain had not yet started.
He went back to bed, but sleep would not come. He finally became drowsy and drifted into a light sleep. Then the rains hit. The wind rose higher with the coming of the rain, and it lashed the side of his house facing the beach.
I’m so thankful I put plywood over the windows. I haven’t heard it rain and blow like this for a long time. He listened as the storm increased. Above the noise of the storm, he heard pounding. It seemed to be coming from the front door.
He rose, put on his robe and slippers, and walked through the house to the door. He flipped the switch to turn on the light just as the power went off. The shrieking of the wind sounded eerie in the sudden complete darkness. The pounding continued. He grabbed the door knob and eased the door open a bit. He was immediately drenched with the gust of wind and rain that rushed in. He felt someone push past him, but could not hear the voice.
Once the door was closed it was slightly quieter.
“Thank you, thank you.” It was Jeremy’s voice. “I’ve lost everything.” Panic sounded in his voice and Aaron hastened to light one of the candles he’d left around the house in case of power failure. When the light chased the darkness, he was alarmed at the sight of his friend.
“Oh Aaron, you were right. I was wrong to build on the beach.” Tears streamed down his already wet face. “I’ve lost everything.”
“Everything? What do you mean?” Aaron asked.
“The house is gone, gone. I’ve never experienced wind like this. It pounded on the sides of the house until I felt the house sway, then it was collapsing around me. I was lucky to escape with my life.” He wrapped his arms around himself and hung his head. “Once I was clear of the house and on the path, the whole house shuttered, then just kind of folded in on itself, in a great pile. The waves were attacking it when I ran for my life.”
Aaron reached him and put his arm around his shoulder. “This is awful, Jeremy. Come, sit here and I’ll light a fire in the wood stove.” Once the stove was lit and sending out its light and heat, the two men talked through the night.
“Aaron, I was such a fool. I knew you were right, but I had to do it my way. I wanted to prove that I could build a house right on the beach.” He shook his head sadly. “But I was wrong, so wrong. Everything’s gone.”
When daylight nudged the horizon, the two struggled out of the house and to the edge of the path. It was still raining, but the wind had eased somewhat. What they saw would forever be etched on both of their minds. For as far as they could see, there was nothing but the waves pounding the shoreline. There was nothing left of the beautiful house so recently resting on the sand. Jeremy’s house was gone. Aaron’s house with the basement hewn from the rock, stood tall and solid behind them.
Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matt. 7:24-27 NIV
Once again the sun was shining as we travelled north over the many causeways and bridges of the Florida Keys. The seven-mile causeway was just as beautiful on the return trip. Without incident, we reached Fort Meyers in the afternoon to visit with one of my cousin’s and her family.
We enjoyed many activities while there including a vocal concert put on by a graduating music student. Several family members joined us for supper the second night of our visit. It is always such a joy to catch up with family and see how the children have grown and to find out what they’re doing and their plans for the future. Some of them are now young men and women, pursuing goals, preparing for University in the fall, and ready to write exams.
The next day, my cousin and I were taken to a Tea Room by one of her granddaughters. What a delightful experience. We loved the tea room, the menu selections, and just spending time with this special girl. After our tea, we took a tour bus around the downtown area of Fort Meyers – a lovely city.
Earlier in the day, we visited a huge Flea Market, not usually one of my things to do, but this one was amazing. I was able to find some interesting things to bring home to my family.
The following day was Easter Sunday. We got up at 4:30 a.m., ate a small breakfast, drove 30 minutes to a beautiful beach where members of their church were setting up for a sunrise service. We walked the beach in the predawn and marvelled at the setting. The service started just before sunrise, and we listened to the service, watched the light grow brighter, and the sun rise; all to the rhythm of the waves of the Gulf of Mexico breaking on the shore beside us. And of course, lovely palm trees lined the beach, swaying in the light breeze. There were over a 1,000 people on the beach. What an incredible experience!
This was followed by breakfast at Denny’s, Sunday School, and the morning Easter Service. At noon, we were guests of one of my cousin’s daughters, and most of the family were there as well. After a short afternoon rest, we attended the evening service, then made a trip to Wendy’s. It was a tired crew that climbed into bed at the end of an incredible day.
After breakfast the next morning, we headed out again, this time destination: St. Pete Beach.
When we crossed the last causeway and entered Key West, I immediately fell in love with this tiny, unique island. It is 2×4 miles in size, small compared to some of the other keys, but certainly the most populated (24,909), and for me, the most interesting of all the keys. We stayed at Ibis Bay Beach Resort and enjoyed the room, the grounds, the pool, and the excellent restaurant; The Stone Crab. Stone crabs are local to the area and are very famous. Strange as it may seem, we chose the lobster which was stuffed with crab – awesome!
For those of us who love history, this key is a treasure trove. It has been called, “one of America’s most historic places.” The architecture alone is worth the visit. Southernmost House is a beautiful example of Queen Anne Victorian architectural style. A visit to Ernest Hemingway’s house and grounds must not be omitted. It is open to visitors and is a lovely residence graced by beautiful, restful, grounds. To walk the pathways was to feel history invade your being. Here he wrote a number of his famous works.
John J. Audubon House and gardens are also open to the public. Audubon visited the island during his painting career and painted pictures of several local birds. The house contains several of his paintings.
Tennessee Williams and President Truman were also frequent visitors to the island. One lovely home is named Truman’s Little White House. He apparently stayed there eleven times while he was president.
The island offers a wide variety of activities including snorkeling on a nearby coral reef. Florida Keys Reef is the only living coral reef in the continental United States. It is the third largest coral barrier reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef and Belize Barrier Reef. It lies a few miles to the east of the Keyes.
Other activities include sailing, parasailing, jet skis, kayaks, fishing, tours, and great restaurants; to name a few. We chose the trolley tour for our full day event. It is a hop on, hop off tour and we were able to visit many historic sites during the day. We were amazed to see hens and roosters wandering freely through the yards and parks. I understand how they would be very important if communication from the mainland was interrupted during a storm or other disaster.
When our tour was complete, my husband realized his glasses were missing. In his quest for pictures, he had hung them over a pocket (I have no explanation for this method of carrying prescription glasses!) We had been on several different trolleys during the hop on and off events of the day. He phoned their office, but was not able to make contact. He now has new glasses (which I’m sure he still carries by the same method!)
When it was time to leave, we wished we had planned more days on this wonderful key – but there is always the next time!
Morning arrived early and we were soon on the much anticipated part of our trip, the Florida Keys. I still had a bit of apprehension, but felt relatively calm as we began the trek. Leaving the mainland and arriving at the first Key was a breathtaking experience. I quickly became fascinated and fell in love with this unusual part of North America, in fact, the southernmost point of the US is found in Key West.
Our first stop was the Welcome Centre in Key Largo, the largest of the Keys, but not the most populated, nor the busiest. Tourists pass through here on their way to Key West, definitely the most sought-after tourist destination and ours too. At the welcome centre, we were able to obtain a map of the keys, a fascination in itself. The ladies on the desk that day were local and friendly. I asked one of them if she thought I’d be able to handle all the causeways and bridges, especially the 7-mile one. She laughed and said I would have no problem. She grew up on a Key mid-way to Key West, and had to travel the railway bridge via car to go to school each day. She said the causeways and bridges of today are a breeze to what she experienced as the cars were close enough that their side mirrors almost touched.
Each new Key provided unimaginable vistas from every angle, in every direction. Smaller, uninhabited keys were visible to each side of the causeways. I did some research and found that we crossed 43 causeways and bridges from Key Largo to Key West! The seven mile causeway / bridge, the one I worried about most, quickly became my favourite! The view was spectacular. My husband couldn’t believe it as I raved and exclaimed over each new vista, after all the discussion he had to endure before we left home!
The word Key is derived from the Spanish cayo meaning “small island.” At the southernmost tip of Key West, it is only 90 miles to Cuba. Hence there is a Cuban population on the island. Apparently at one time, there was a large cigar production there.
Before 1910 it was only accessible by water. Then Henry Flagler had a railway built, at his own expense, to run from Miami to Key West. Quite a feat of engineering and a huge expense. It ran for several years, but hurricanes caused difficulties for the rail line. The Labour Day Hurricane of 1935 hit the Keys as a Category 5 storm. It was the end for the railway. It is still visible running parallel to the road and some parts are still in good shape, but with the damage to it and the estimated costs to repair, it was abandoned. The causeways were built and road traffic is now more than adequate. The one road through the Keys is called the Overseas Highway and is US 1 Highway. It is the only way into and out of the Keys. When there is a hurricane coming or some other potential disaster and the islands need to be evacuated, all southbound traffic is suspended and both lanes run north until the danger is past.
Although we travelled through more than 40 Keys, there are apparently more than 800 in the chain, most of which are uninhabited. The main industries are tourism and fishing.
We reached Key West without incident, our minds and hearts filled with the majesty of God’s creation, and thankful for his protection.
We managed an early start from Beckley and joined I-77: destination Jacksonville, Florida. If you have never travelled through the beautiful mountains of West Virginia and Virginia, then you need to add it to your bucket list. I have been in more than 20 states, and these two are my personal favourites. The scenery is spectacular as you weave around the mountains, uphill and down. Two tunnels through the mountains add an extra spark of interest; the first one, East River Mountain Tunnel, spills you into Virginia from West Virginia.
The steep grade of the highway, both up and down, can be a little frightening, but the views are well worth the heart-stopping moments.
We stopped at each Welcome Centre as we moved through the Virginia’s into North and South Carolina, Georgia, and finally into Florida. Our hotel tonight was an improvement over the night before, and in the morning, after a continental breakfast, we were on our way again, this time to Florida City: last stop before entering the Keys.
Once again we were paying close attention to our lovely GPS lady, and followed her down I-95 and right onto the streets of Miami in rush-hour traffic! How did that happen? We wondered if we should have taken the ring road that circles Miami, but decided to follow our leader. What we weren’t prepared for was I-95 ending and us being unceremoniously dumped on a city street! It was bumper to bumper traffic, but amazingly there was a proverbial silver lining: we loved Miami. What a beautiful city (at least the part that we saw, in great detail.)
Eventually we cleared the city and soon after entered Florida City. Once again we listened to our guide who took us down a side street where we caught a glimpse of our hotel to the left and facing another street. We turned the car around and found an entrance and breathed a sigh of relief, until we discovered that the entrance was the drive-through for Burger King! There was no way to exit and we had to explain to the girl at the order station, that we were in the wrong place and just passing through. She laughed and told us to just drive through. We had to wait for others to receive their orders, then we slipped by the window and into the next driveway where we found our hotel.
We chuckled half the night thinking about how embarrassed our sons would have been if they had been in the backseat! Getting old does have some side benefits; the ability to laugh at yourself is one of them. We were tired, but happy to have arrived safely.
Now the apprehensive part of the trip loomed before me. How would I cope with the causeways, bridges, and water everywhere, through the Keys? A good sleep was in order.
The trip down I-79 was smooth and without complications. We had reservations in Beckley, West Virginia, a city where we have stayed on previous occasions. As the proud owners of a new GPS, we were excited to follow her voice to our hotel.
We left I-79 north of Beckley and followed route 19 south into Beckley. The GPS took us off the exit before the one we would have taken, but we were committed to follow her directions. (I say her, as the voice is an authoritative female voice!). We wound through side streets and intersections unfamiliar to us, but at last we were told that our hotel was coming up on the left. There were two hotels along this stretch, but we saw the sign for ours and pulled into the driveway.
When you book online, you’re never quite sure if the hotel will look like the pictures on the internet, but this one looked fabulous! Gratefully we climbed from the car and entered the hotel. The friendly faces at the desk felt very welcoming. We told them we had reservations and one lady keyed in our names.
“Sorry, but we don’t have a reservations for you for tonight.”
I knew I had made the reservation, but wondered if I had made it for the wrong night. My husband went back to the car and brought in the confirmation we had printed from our computer. She looked at it, and yes, it was the right date, BUT, it was the wrong hotel! The hotel we had booked was behind this one, and the narrow driveway was between the two hotels we had seen.
Well, one could be embarrassed, but sometimes it’s better to apologize, laugh at yourself, and leave quickly, which we did. Now we entered the right driveway and parked in front of the correct hotel. Perhaps it would have looked better if we hadn’t just been in the other one, but I’m not sure if it would have made much difference. The entrance was unattractive and in need of repairs. The foyer was small and not appealing. We thought of cancelling our reservation and going back to the first one, but in fairness, we checked in and went to our room. The room was small, but clean and satisfactory.
Lessons learned: don’t believe everything you read on the internet, recognize that pictures can be made to look appealing, and hotels are given stars for a reason. From now on, we will pick a hotel chain we know to be good, and book with them.
But there are always positives if you’re willing to look for them. Sometime during the night, I sensed God urging me to give a copy of each of my books to the lady on the counter. I agreed, but what were the chances that she would still be on duty in the morning? When we went to be lobby in the morning, she was still there. I got the books and approached her, telling her I was an author and would like to give her copies of my books. She was overwhelmed. She told me she loves to read and was thrilled to get the books. I signed them for her, which delighted her.
Who knows but that God directed us to that hotel because the lady on the counter needed to hear a message from him? I will never know the results from that encounter, but God knows and so I know it will be good.
Friday evening saw the car packed with all but the last minutes items. Those would be thrown into overnight cases in the morning. Butterflies were doing their usual number inside me as I usually am more apprehensive than excited the night before departure.
Morning came with overcast skies, but no rain (or snow) and we were on our way. Our destination: The Florida Keys. My husband has always had a desire to see the keys, but I must admit, they weren’t on my bucket list! My inner vision of them was a series of swampy islands with scary causeways linking the chain. High waves breaking over the roadway, washed out bridges, and creatures I had no wish to encounter; completed my picture. No wonder I was apprehensive.
I have yet to discover why we do this to ourselves. It certainly does not display a trust in our Heavenly Father, but in my defense, bad things do happen to even the sweetest saints.
The first leg of the trip was uneventful, with just a short wait at the border. Crossing the border into the USA has never been a source of anxiety for me, as I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. We lived only a couple of hours from the New Brunswick / Maine border and crossed it often when I was a child. My mother taught me to sit quietly and under no circumstances to speak; unless I was asked a question by the border guard. The questions must always be answered truthfully. I still obey my mother, and my husband answers the questions without my “help.”
As is usually the case, he asked our country of birth, where we were going, how long we planned to stay, and did we have reservations. He glanced at out passports, handed them back, and said to enjoy our trip, and we quietly entered the US.
Our first official stop is always at the Service Centre in Angola, New York. We find it interesting as there is parking on both sides of the highway with an enclosed walking bridge between the two sides. It’s fun to stand at the windows of the walkway and watch the traffic rush below.
This was also our first picnic of the season. We found a picnic table close to where we parked the car and ate our sandwiches in the beautiful, early spring air. By this point in the trip, I am totally relaxed and enjoying every moment. Today, I don’t need to worry about the water and bridges of the Keys, that’s for another day.
Today I will enjoy God’s beautiful creation, time alone with my husband, and help navigate when needed. Next stop: Erie Pennsylvania where we will leave I-90 and join I-79 for the long trek south.
The day was hot and dusty. He had hoped it would be cooler in the mountains, but it seemed to get warmer with every step. Maybe it’s because my heart feels so heavy.
A glance over his shoulder revealed Isaac struggling along with a pack slung over his shoulder. Sarah had insisted they bring a lunch. He wasn’t sure if he’d have the heart to eat it, but up ahead was a level place he remembered with a bit of shade.
He turned and waited until Isaac and the two servants reached him. “Up ahead we’ll stop for a rest.”
It was a relief to sit and to enjoy the slight shade afforded by the overhanging rock. He leaned back, sighed deeply, and raised his face to the sun. Oh Lord, I know you’re there. I know that you’ve given me this task for a reason. It’s hard, Lord. It’s really hard. But Father, I know that you have a plan, and I know that you’ll reveal it to me, in your time, and in your place. Help me to accept your plan, and trust you.
“Father, look.” Isaac jumped up and pointed toward the north. “What is it father?”
Abraham shaded his eyes with his hands and squinted in the direction Isaac had pointed. “I believe it’s an eagle.”
Father and son stood together and watched the powerful bird. While they watched, it plummeted to earth, rising again with a small animal in its powerful talons.
“Father, the little animal will die.” There was a catch in Isaac’s throat.
“Yes, son, that’s true.” He placed his hand on Isaac’s shoulder. “It’s time to move on, son.”
They travelled for another day before Abraham saw the place where he needed to go. He paused on the trail, reluctant to go forward, dreading the ordeal, but with a purpose in his heart to obey his God.
He turned to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey; Isaac and I will go on alone.”
“Just the two of us, father?” Isaac’s eyes were bright.
“Yes, son, just the two of us. Come here, I need you to carry the wood for the offering on your back.” With a hand that trembled, he placed the wood in a comfortable position for Isaac. He carried the fire and the knife himself. Together they left the others behind and headed higher up the mountain.
No words were spoken for a space of time. Isaac was bent slightly under the weight of the wood. He lifted his eyes to Abraham. “Father, where’s the lamb for the offering? I’ve got the wood, and you’ve got the fire and knife, but we can’t have a burnt offering without a lamb.”
His trusting eyes bored into Abraham’s soul. Oh Lord, how can I answer this child? I trust you completely, but it’s hard to look into his eyes. His throat was tight and his mouth dry, but he faced his son. “God will provide what we need.”
They walked on until they reached a spot that was level. “We’ll stop here and build our altar. Help me gather the stones.”
Isaac scurried off to find the best stones for his father. Slowly, but surely, the altar took shape as father and son piled the rocks on top of each other. “That’s enough now, son. I think it’s finished.”
From beneath his robe he took a narrow length of cloth. “Son, do you trust me?”
“Of course. Father, you know I trust you. I would trust you with my life.”
“And that’s exactly what you’re going to have to do. Come here, son.” Isaac stood still as Abraham wound the cloth around him. When Abraham lifted him and placed him on the top of the stones, there were tears in Isaac’s eyes, but no sound came from him. He closed his eyes and lay still.
Abraham’s hand shook as he raised it above Isaac, the knife gripped in his fist. He was blinded by the tears that would no longer stay behind his eyes. His muscles tensed as the knife hovered over Isaac.
A cry rang out from high above him. “Abraham! Abraham! Do not lay a hand on the boy. Now I know that you trust and fear me.”
Abraham lifted his eyes and saw a ram caught in some bushes nearby. God had provided the offering.
I believe that God has a plan for our lives. I believe scripture supports that belief. Without his plan, our lives would be pointless, and we would wander the paths of our lives without direction.
To be where God wants us to be is the very best place to be. Many of us have struggled over the years with straying from the right way and knowing that we were not on God’s path. What a joy and relief it is when we acknowledge our error and are once again in harmony with God.
But what do we do when God’s plan hurts? Is it still his plan when things go contrary to our ideas? When sickness and death invade our lives? When finances fail? When relationships fail? Is God still in control?
Because we are unable to see the ‘big picture’ of time and space, we are not aware of what God has in mind. He is so much greater than we are; so much higher; without sin; the creator rather than the creature; that we are in a position of fighting uselessly against him, or accepting his will by faith.
But sometimes it still hurts. A lovely young couple has just experienced this. He, a brilliant theological student with an amazing faith; she, his faithful, loving wife also with a strong faith. This week all their plans for the future collapsed. After a long fight with cancer, God took him home. He has no more pain and is in the presence of God. What a perfect place to be!
But what of his wife? Her life has been changed forever, in the blink of an eye everything is different. She now must face the rest of her life without the love of her life, the support of a loving husband, the father of her two small children. Where does she go from here?
If I have read her correctly, she will grieve deeply, but she will lean on her heavenly father through these next days, weeks, months, years. She will raise her children with the knowledge that God is good, and she will keep alive the memory of their father.
Where else could we turn but to the one who knows all, loves unconditionally, knows the end from the beginning, and has a plan for our life? His plan for the husband was eternal rest long before we would think it should happen. But I’ve been struck with the thought in these last few hours that he has a plan for the wife as well. That death should be a part of that plan seems contrary to all our earthly ideas. But once again, we only see this moment in time. We cannot see into the future; and that is a blessing.
So, live today as though it were your last day. It may be, or God may have many more years for you. But it’s essential that we live close to the one who holds the plan for our lives in his hands.