Mourning into dancing (Vacation saga 1)

On our honeymoon 40 years ago, David and I tented in Yellowstone National Park. When we walked into Old Faithful Inn, we were so struck by its rustic architecture and unique beauty that we said, “We’re going to come back and stay here some day.”

We vaguely thought “some day” would be when we were old and rich, maybe our 25th anniversary. By the time our 25th anniversary arrived, we joked that we were halfway there: we were old. But we were so poor that we didn’t trust our old vehicle and borrowed our son’s, which blew a head gasket in South Dakota. Although the trip was marred by time-consuming and expensive vehicle problems, we rented a van and made it to Old Faithful Inn to spend our reserved night in the newest part of the building. We sat on a balcony and watched people come and go on our one wonderful evening. As soon as we slept in the rented van on our way back to pick up the repaired vehicle, that relaxing evening seemed like a distant dream.

David and I talked in January about how we’d like to celebrate our 40th anniversary, and we thought there was no place we’d rather visit than Old Faithful Inn. We made reservations for three August nights in the “Old House,” where rooms are really not all that expensive if you don’t mind walking down the hall to a shared bathroom. We set aside some money for the trip.

Then David had rotator cuff surgery, and by now he’s been off work for five months. Having exhausted his sick leave, he began using annual leave. When August arrived, we asked, “Can we afford to go to Yellowstone?” In addition to the financial question, other burdens made us wonder about the wisdom of  such a lengthy and expensive vacation. But David was off work anyway and we had some money set aside, so after much prayer and discussion, we decided to go. We did, however, implement economy measures: we packed two coolers with food, a crate with canned goods, and took along lots of camping gear and a very small tent.

We spent three nights in the tent and two nights in camping cabins (providentially one blustery night in Cody, WY, and the other in a campground where an 800-lb grizzly roamed). We stayed our two Saturday nights in hotels so we could use a private bathroom to shower before Sunday worship. And we spent three nights at Old Faithful Inn!

Walking on the Inn’s balconies is like stepping out of time into a more relaxed era. Sitting or writing on original furniture transports your mind and spirit from modern mundane into timeless treasure.

Our time at Old Faithful Inn was so precious that we postponed checking out as long as we could. We truly grieved the prospect of leaving.

Finally picking up the last of our luggage and our metal keys, we went downstairs to check out. The clerk typed on her keyboard and scanned her screen. “Your balance has been paid by your children.”

“What?” I couldn’t process what she’d just said. I thought I heard David crying beside me, but he claims I was the first to cry. The clerk smiled at us while she repeated, “Your balance has been paid by your children.” She passed us a box of tissues. The woman working beside her began to cry. The gal in the office behind them stood up and asked, “What’s wrong?” When they told her, she began to cry.

Our clerk dabbed her eyes. “Excuse me a moment.” She came back with a wooden box of Yellowstone wild huckleberry cordials that she presented to us as a gift from the Inn. God had turned our mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11).

Isn’t that what he does so often? We view something as negative or distressing until we see how he is using it as a positive and helpful experience, even a great gift. In what ways have you seen God turn your mourning into dancing?

May you see such gifts in your life today! And may he help you pull mourners to their feet and begin dancing!

[Photos and text property of Glenda Mathes.]

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Surprise!

A few days ago, I was surprised to see these beautiful lilies outside my office window. While its scientific name is Lycoris squamigera, the plant is known as “Surprise Lily” or “Magic Lily” or even “Resurrection Lily.” It has earned its nicknames because the leaves die down in late spring, usually disappearing in May. After months with no external sign of the plant, bare stalks suddenly shoot up in August and burst into these striking blooms.

After seeing the blooms outside my office, I noticed more Surprise Lilies. This clump was near the south end of the bank of flowers (and weeds) on the west side of our front yard.

I found this horizontal grouping about ten feet to the right of the first group.

About another ten feet to the right, I found these.

Almost hidden at the back of bank, I saw these blooms catching the morning sun.

And along a small ravine spanned by a little wooden bridge are these lovely lilies.

I know that this type of lily exists and that we have planted some in our yard, but I am always surprised when they bloom.

My surprise demonstrates the short-term memory of my human nature. I know that God exists and I know that he is good, yet I am always surprised when I see his beauty bloom in life’s dry seasons.

Being surprised by beautiful blooms is a good reminder that God surprises us with blessing and beauty when we least expect it. Thinking about the name “Resurrection Lily” fills me with praise and thanksgiving for God’s great gift of salvation through Christ.

May our resurrected Savior bring surprising blooms of blessing into your life today!