Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Vacation Fake Out

Last year, I stood in Times Square with some of my best friends in the world. “The Color Purple” on Broadway, purses on Canal Street, and dinner in Little Italy filled our weekend. We traveled by plane, train, and automobile to gather together for our annual Girls’ Weekend.

We decided in college that people rarely get one really great friend in life; somehow we were lucky enough to have a handful come along. So, each year, we celebrate that friendship with a hand-picked vacation. All travelers decide on one vacation spot where we plan to travel the next year. This year, we had hoped to travel to Washington, D.C.

However, plans can change. Stephanie is eight months pregnant; Ellen is nursing; Sarah has two babies under the age of three. During Christmas, the women dropped from the trip one-by-one. We decided to postpone Girls’ Weekend next year.

When our vacation weekend rolled around, I found myself overwhelmingly disappointed. I should have been hopping on a plane to meet my friends under the Nation’s Capital. Instead, I sat and painted my toenails.

Everything can change in a moment. My cell phone buzzed with a text message from Ashley. “Noon tomorrow. Spa Sydell. Spend the night at the Westin. Girl, we are going on vacation!” The three of us who live around Atlanta would gather anyway.

My brain spun as I formulated our vacation weekend rules. #1: No one we meet can know we are from Atlanta. #2: We only eat at restaurants recommended by someone. #3: We must ride in a cab once we arrive. #4: We must resume all vacation spending behavior (magnets, postcards, celebratory shoes, etc).

So, Ashley, Cathy, and I walked into the spa last Saturday as visitors in our own hometown. After our delicious spa experience, we shopped in the boutiques on the block. “Excuse me,” I asked the girl behind the counter,” if you were on vacation with your girlfriends, where would you eat lunch?” She stopped, smiled, and directed us to her favorite restaurant just down the road. We sat and enjoyed homemade guacamole and did not count one calorie because they evaporate on vacation. During lunch, a dear couple from my church stopped by our table to say hello. They looked a bit confused when I told them I was on vacation; they were just in town for a Tech game.

The rest of our vacation filled up with movies in the room, fantastic restaurants, cab rides, pictures, dessert at the Sun Dial, hysterical laughter, free therapy from two ladies who are wise beyond their years, and endless conversation with lifelong friends. It was as grand as New York City.

How could one small decision to walk in my own town with a new purpose change my entire experience? Nothing felt the same.

My mother tells about how her life changed when she made a decision to become a follower of Jesus. She always tells that she walked outside and “saw the color green for the first time” that afternoon that she said a simple prayer. It was if God opened her eyes when she opened her heart.

Last weekend, I walked through my city as if I was a visitor. My only purpose was enjoying every second. This weekend, we will all walk through our own town just as we do every day. Maybe we can really see God’s design in it. If we are lucky, we might even see the color green.

I am worried about the daffodils

I am worried about the daffodils. Usually, like Wordsworth, my heart “dances with the daffodils” when I see them splash a hillside with color in spring. This time, the daffodils are a few months off on their timing. The unseasonably warm December confused them. They think spring has come, and some of them have decided to go ahead and show us what they are made of. So, in the middle of January, a few daffodils are peaking up and taking a glance around. They must be terribly disappointed.

After consulting with a few friends at lunch this week, I have learned that many pre-season bloomers will not flower again when their time comes. How can they complete another cycle in just a few months? Instead, my yard will be a bit barer when the weather warms.

The daffodils are not my only little friends in bloom. A few dear ladies are waiting for babies any day now. Last week, I joined two lifelong friends for Pad Thai and spring rolls. One of those friends is days away from having a baby girl. We celebrated her birthday a few days early in case the baby came on her special day. Between the Thai food and birthday cake, we listened to her tell about having this baby inside. “They told me we could go ahead and induce labor, but I am not in a hurry. It is so healthy for her lungs to keep growing, and I honestly will miss having her so close to me.” Instead of pacing the floor and wringing her hands, my friend waits with purpose.

How can we see waiting as a blessing?

So much of life is marked by waiting. High school seniors are waiting to hear what colleges have accepted them. Their younger friends are waiting to start driving. Their parents are waiting for them to grow up. We wait for pay raises, job changes, housing upgrades, and betters cars. We wait for true love, a moment of peace, and a glimpse of a better life. One satisfaction compels us to more waiting. College happens; we wait for a job. Careers happen; we wait on love. Marriage happens; we wait for babies. Children happen; we wait to retire. When can we stop waiting?

Psalm 37:7 reads, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” Maybe my understanding of waiting needs to expand. Instead of clocking down the minutes until the waiting ends, I can shift my perspective to understand the waiting as an experience in itself. Be still. Wait patiently. My friend holds her pregnancy, her time of expecting, as the time her little one will be closest to her. Is our waiting the time in which we find ourselves closest to God?

In Thailand, they respond with “mai pehn rai,” meaning “nevermind, no problem, no worries.” Maybe our Thai food with the pregnant mom was symbolic. Instead of fretting over the waiting, she relaxed, enjoyed a meal, and laughed with her oldest friends. No problem. Nevermind. She showed no worries.

Well, “mai pehn rai” for the daffodils. Maybe they need to just wait a little longer, or I should learn to enjoy the rare pleasure of daffodils in January. If my friend has her baby before they go, I know what I can do. Baby Rylee will have a vase of daffodils in her nursery. It will remind all of us that life is worth the wait. Sometimes, we might even find our life in the midst of the waiting anyway.