The kids look forward to our annual beach vacation all year. It’s an opportunity to get away from the day-to-day pressures and routine of school, home-life and chores and simply sleep, eat and play! I look forward to it as well. It’s the only week of the year that we are all home at the same time with no obligations and I am not the only one in the house they can go to for whatever they need. Here they have other adults and older cousins who can drive and are responsible enough to take them to the beach,the local recreation center or keep an eye on them at the house. It’s also a gift to spend quality time with my youngest brother, my god-daughter, nephews and their friends. So much laughter shared among us and I take the opportunity to inject some elder wisdom into our conversations when the subject permits. To have all of this goodness occur at the beach is the icing on the cake!
I plan and save all year. This year, right before our scheduled trip my largest client fell behind considerably on the payment of my monthly retainer. As a precaution I always keep a reserve in my savings but I reserve it for emergencies, and a vacation does not fall under that category. I thought for a minute about cancelling the beach trip but I knew how disappointed the kids would be and I was looking forward to and deserved a break before the school year began. I was angry and frustrated but I moved some money out of my savings, made sure the bills were paid and the fish was fed before I packed up the three of us, and prepared my mind for the six-hour drive ahead of me. Six hours with three anxious and excited kids, and I couldn’t stop worrying that this could be our last trip down here for a while. If my client couldn’t bounce back from their financial problems, could I manage until I found more work? I was supposed to be relaxing but I have to admit I was a little on edge and still wondering if I made the right choice to continue with the vacation.
At about the four-hour mark, my bladder insisted I pull over at the rest stop in Virginia. Stuckey’s is famous for their variety of nuts. Anything from fajita almonds to honey salt cashews; most travelers stop for their fresh pecans and peanuts. I walked in and was instantly reminded of my grandfather Jabez (Pop Pop we called him) known to bring a bag of fresh peanuts home every time he went south to visit his Southern Baptist church family. He grew up near Jimmy Carter’s family peanut farm and founded a Southern Baptist Church nearby Bainbridge, Georgia. I grabbed a few cans of cashews to snack on for the remainder of the trip, handed them to my daughter for safekeeping and hurried to the women’s bathroom.
When I came out of the bathroom my daughter had both cans and a piece of wood shaped like a heart in her hands. She smiled and began to say as if reading my mind “don’t ask Mommy, just buy it..you have to trust me.” I gave her a look that translated into “what are you up to now, Janai and how much is it going to cost me?” I asked her if she could at least tell me the price. She wasn’t sure and again she said “Mommy, just buy it.” My daughter has such a kind heart. She is always giving or creating something to give to a friend or family member, usually at my expense. I love her compassion but it sometimes comes with a high price tag. I finally gave in figuring it must be important to her and I could always return it if it’s too expensive.
Somehow the woman at the register figured out what she was doing because she didn’t say the name of the item, just the price and smiled behind me at Janai. I had to chuckle and was relieved that it was under three dollars and not another high-priced souvenir. When I turned around to go to the car she ran in front of me saying “just wait a minute Mom, I have to do something, just wait.” and shooed me to the passenger side of the car. I still hadn’t a clue what she was doing until she gave me permission to open my car door and reveal her gift. I saw this beautifully painted heart hanging from my rear view mirror with the words “Mom, you are a blessing”. I had to hold back the tears. It’s a special moment when you feel that your children understand all of the strain, struggle and sacrifice you have to go through to make their lives more joyful and take the time to show you how much you’re appreciated. It’s a rare moment and I had to sit there a moment and take it all in before I grabbed the wheel and continued to drive two more hours to our destination.
Later that evening, as I sat back on the balcony with a glass of wine enjoying the sounds of the crashing waves heard from the nearby beach and children’s laughter coming from the pool below I thought about that moment at the rest stop. Not only was my daughter being her sweet thoughtful self, but maybe she was also being used to send me a message from a higher source. I know that there are often times in my life where I am fearful of taking a step and doing something because I can’t see the outcome and I don’t know what lies ahead for me. I want to know what I’m getting into. I don’t trust what I don’t see. Then I’m reminded of one of my favorite anonymous quotes. “God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame”. The blessings I often blindly receive are such a powerful statement of love that I never know they are coming. And they are always much more than I could ever have thought to ask for.
This was yet another reminder to trust the process and have faith that something greater is going to be revealed to me. All I could see in my daughter’s hand was a piece of carved wood, but when she was ready to present me with my gift I found it to be more beautiful than I could have ever imagined!