A few weeks ago, Jenni and I had the chance to spend a few days in Banff National Park. In our almost 8 years of marriage we have spent very little time taking vacations, always assuming that there would be a better time, we’d have more money, etc. A few months ago, Jenni sent me pictures of Banff and said that someday she’d like to go. While I didn’t expect to actually travel, it still seemed like a fun idea to spend some time on Priceline dreaming of the possibilities. As I saw the pricing and I started to crunch some numbers, I knew that it would be tight we might be able to make it happen now. To make a long story short, we decided that there was no better time than the present to go and so we booked the flight.
One of the good things about the trip is that we planned it out long enough to be able to enjoy the anticipation quite a bit. We purchased the travel guide on Amazon. I spent hours on Yelp looking up restaurants. Jenni looked at places she’d like to see on Pinterest and Instagram. We took all of our information, compiled it into a list, and ranked the places where we most wanted to go. We decided we would go to try to go to the #1 place on our first day and work our way down the list. That way we could spend less time stressing about missing our favorites. Admittedly though, my brain wouldn’t let me completely relax until we got to see the top things on the list.
Fast forward to the first morning. Number one on the bucket list was a placed called Moraine Lake. It is super popular and because of limited parking it is hard to actually get to go see the lake. We read lots of things that said as long as we got to the parking lot before sunrise we would be fine. On day one sunrise was at 7:25 so we got up early and made the hour long drive to Moraine, getting there by 6:45. We thought we had planned well and were there in plenty of time to find a parking spot and await sunrise on the lake. It was dark and the road was pretty empty but I had a nagging feeling in my mind. I couldn’t relax until we got there. Things were going well and we were ahead of schedule as the GPS said our turn was approaching. I looked to the left and much to our dismay the road was already closed! I was mad. I was up early. I didn’t want to waste a day of our vacation. Even though we did everything we thought we were supposed to do, it was closed.
Thankfully, number two on Jenni’s list was Lake Louise, located in the same area as Moraine Lake. After already making the hour drive to this area, we proceeded to Lake Louise just a few minutes away. There are worse places to spend some time, but all I was still upset about Moraine. We parked the car and headed over to the lake where we saw a crowd of folks lined up to catch the sunrise. Traffic, early mornings, and crowds stress me out. It was breathtakingly beautiful, but this was not how I expected the trip to go.
A few minutes later we found a clear spot along the side of the lake to set up camp and watch the sunrise. It was amazing and my anxiety was starting to lessen…but there were other people there…and that means reasons for stress. As we jockeyed for position, I had a short exchange with someone who demanded I get out of their spot. I kept thinking about Moraine. We watched sunrise. It was beautiful and memorable, but my mind wouldn’t slow down.
As we were finishing up I heard Jenni say, “Jeremy, look!” Usually that means some kind of dangerous creature or something she needs me to handle so I curiously approached the edge of the sidewalk. I looked down where she was pointing at the rocks below and growing there by the boardwalk was a daisy. Daisies are Jenni’s favorite flower. They were all over Banff, but we didn’t know it at the time. As I looked around the entire row I looked and looked and looked and nowhere else in that place was a daisy. It felt like it had been put there for us.
The moment that I saw the daisy is the moment that my anxiety completely dissipated. All of the stress leading up the the trip, the problems in not seeing Moraine Lake when we wanted, all of the encounters with the crowd were things that messed up my plans but led to the moment where I saw something that felt like it was placed in that location by God for us. It was a confirmation that the trip was a good thing for us and that the God that brought us to that trip was not going to turn it into something bad.
My brain likes to look for the logic in things. Daisies grew all over Banff and so it probably was not all that uncommon for one to grow where we found it. For a good portion of my life I would just chalk it up to coincidence, say it was just a lucky moment, and move on. Increasingly, I have had to remind myself that these are the moments that deserve the most attention. Things that appear too good to be true are often indicators of the Spirit speaking in our lives. The problem is that we have calloused our hearts and closed our minds to embrace it for what it is–the Lord speaking to us in our own unique ways to meet our own unique needs.
The longer I live and the more that I read scripture, the more that the image in my mind of how things are supposed to go is never as good as the plans that God has for my life. Even when I try to do things a certain way, there is a good chance that there will be things that get in the way. My awareness of God’s presence is the difference in how I handle those things. If not for that daisy, my grumpiness might have continued and ruined the rest of the day. Instead, I got the confirmation that I had so desperately desired all along.
Oh…and guess what? After spending an incredible day at Lake Louise we decided to go back to the hotel. As we passed Moraine Lake, the road was open and we were permitted to enter! We asked in the days that followed and were told that this never happens. We got what we had wanted all along and the way that it played out was better than we could expected.
If life doesn’t look like you hoped, don’t give up. Perhaps the Spirit is preparing to show you things better than what you think you want. We serve a God who redeems and restores and who speaks to use in so many different ways. Pay attention!