One of the benefits of having tiny children is being able to holiday in term time. We were delighted to find a cheap deal and were excited about escaping the winter chills for sunnier climes.
Our two year old was excited about going on the aeroplane to “Rote” (Lanzarote). In his mind (and according to the YouTube video we showed him) holiday equals beaches, swimming pools, ice creams and aeroplanes. He couldn’t wait to get going!
So we packed our bags and jetted off. We are so thankful to God for a really refreshing and fun time as a family.
But here’s the thing…
The holiday didn’t quite go as planned.
Towards the end of the holiday (and Scott’s birthday no less) little red spots started to appear on the baby’s body. We were in disbelief!
Now it shouldn’t have surprised us that much – our toddler had just recovered from chicken pox a fortnight prior to our trip (so we were lucky to get away at all). But we had assumed that the baby was immune from chicken pox. Clearly not! It turns out that our Sherlock skills weren’t quite up to standard, and our calculations of his exposure to CP and our belief that my breast milk had made him immune were incorrect!
So there we were, with a spotty baby who needed to see a doctor and NO DOCUMENTATION! We kid you not! We forgot to pack everything! We didn’t have our boarding passes, our hotel or transfer tickets (although a good thing about a package holiday is that the company reps know how to look after goons like us, so it was fine, praise the Lord!) and we hadn’t even packed our European health insurance cards or our travel insurance details. Hmmm… perhaps we need to brush up on our organisational skills.
Despite all of this, we saw God’s grace and provision for us in so many ways.
Initially we panicked. What do you do in this situation?
But then we saw God answer so many prayers and provide for our needs abundantly.
The hotel staff were amazing. They were sympathetic, well-informed, excellent multi-linguists and they navigated us through the process. A doctor came to our hotel room within an hour and confirmed what we thought – pox had struck and the baby would not be fit to fly on the date we originally intended.
Scott sprung into action and got it all organised with the insurance company, doctor, airline and hotel. Within 24 hours all the plans were in place for Cathy and the baby to stay until he recovered from his illness.
Phew, all was sorted, and only a small excess to pay.
(It’s worth just pausing here to let you know that the baby had a very mild dose of chicken pox, he didn’t seem to suffer much discomfort and was in good spirits – a huge blessing!)
We were grateful, we were relieved, Cathy was even a little bit excited (4 whole days of Mummy and baby in the sun – a REAL holiday with someone else footing the bill!)
But then something happened. There was a change in the atmosphere. The happy, relaxed, enjoyable holiday experience began to morph into a more subdued and sombre affair. Scott’s departure date loomed large before us as we contacted friends and family at home to arrange childcare for the toddler, so Scott could return to work. We rearranged church meetings, work rotas and discussed meal plans. We were thinking about life back at home sooner than we had hoped for, and we were feeling sad about being apart for the longest time since our first year of marriage.
But there were many evidences of God’s grace and of his Spirit working within us to remind us of gospel-truths. Here are some that Cathy’s reflections, written during her time away:
Let’s be clear. I am not deserving of a sun-soaked, all expenses paid, quiet – (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever spent any length of time with a toddler!) mummy-son date with our baby. And yet, that’s what God has given me. I’m tempted to feel guilty. I’ve definitely got the sweeter deal while poor Scott is juggling childcare, work and is back in the chilly UK. But what does this reveal about my heart? Well, that I still function as a legalist. I functionally believe that I get what I deserve. I get according to my performance. But this anti-gospel!
We all deserve God’s just anger at our rebellion against him, and yet we get grace, grace, grace. We get past grace – forgiveness of our sins, Christ’s righteousness given to us and adoption into God’s family, we get future grace – eternal life, the resurrection of our bodies, forever in the new creation – and we get present grace – God’s holy presence dwelling in us, working in and through our situations to make us more like Christ. God is gracious even though we’re undeserving. So in light of this truth I should enjoy the gift of this mini-break with my baby with gratitude and joy. It’s evidence of his grace to me and I want to treasure every moment of this unique time with my little boy. I’m not in this situation because I deserve it, but because he’s gracious. What a God!
A few weeks ago we wrote a post about discontentment as a parent. And about how the gospel is the antidote to the “grass is always greener” syndrome. Well this is the perfect scenario to practice what I preach. In many ways I’m living in the scenario of what I often feel envious about when I look at my Facebook feed. Sun, freedom, comfort, and yet now I have these things I could easily be envious for life at home! Familiarity, structure, family. But God is sufficient. He is what I truly need to feel contented. My circumstances will change, but God does not.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
God’s design for Christian community
As wonderful as it is to wake up and wonder what I’m going to do with the day, to have no responsibilities like laundry and cooking, and to enjoy the sun, sea and sand, the truth is we’re not designed to to live in a perpetual holiday seeking our own individualistic comfort. I think I would be very lonely indeed if I didn’t have the baby with me. He’s only 6 months old but his smiles, snores and snuggles make my day. Today I strapped him on and we went for a 4 km walk over rugged paths to see 4 beautiful golden beaches along the stunning Papagayo coastline. It was absolutely wonderful!
But this desire for community and for shared experiences, and yes, for sacrificial service to others rather than simply living for our own comfort, points to gospel truth. We desire community because we’re relational beings made in the image of a triune God. Within the very godhead is a loving family of Father, Son and Spirit. So of course I miss my family – I’m wired that way. And I miss my church family too – because followers of Jesus Christ are given a new family, the church. But as I feel this ache to be reunited with those I love, it should cause me to crave that day when I’m reunited to firstly, my saviour God and also to all his people in the New Creation. Wow! What a staggering thought.
Now we get to the end (well done if you’ve made it this far through my meandering thoughts!) and you’re probably thinking. “Yikes Cathy, you’ve overthought it there! Just enjoy it.” And you’re probably right, but then again, I’ve had WAY more time to think than usual.