Surprising Rest

God delights in blessing us when we least expect it...

Last time we talked about Thanksgiving in July.

This week we’re talking Christmas! It’s my favorite time of year, mainly because I love trying to sneak up on my family with a surprise that will generate joy and laughter.

Lauren and I decided awhile back that material gifts should form a small part of our giving at Christmas or any other time of year. We would rather invest in making memories together in special places than in buying another bauble that will wind up in someone’s garage sale.

We can’t afford the big trips very often – once every couple of years fits our budget fairly well. And we make it count.

North Carolina reminded me that you can’t box up sweet memories like so many truffles. They will not grow cobwebby. They will never get shoved up in the attic alongside Nick’s old ninja swords. Memories – the really good ones – last!

So we all flew to Jillian’s Cabin on the Tuckasegee and it was perfect. There wasn’t one square inch of memory space that we didn’t cram with laughter, and singing, and joy.

And yet…

That wasn’t enough to satisfy the Lord. He granted me two really special surprises. I’ll tell you one this time around, and then fill you in on the other one in a week or two.

We hiked up to Clingman’s Dome, which is the highest Rangers’ lookout in the Smoky Mountains. Absolutely stunning views! I was there 43 years ago with my sweetheart, Lauren. We were engaged at the time, and we hiked up to the Dome before dawn.

It wasn’t the beautifully smooth path that welcomes visitors today, but a rough walk through a good bit of forest – in pitch darkness! The station had been abandoned for a while and we had to jump up to a ladder that hung off the observation deck and climb up together.

It was worth it.

Back in 74, we watched the world being created to the east with slow “smoke” rising from the dense forest. Glitter spangled the velvet-black sky to the west until the slow dawn swallowed up all the stars.

I don’t remember much of our conversation, but one thing I recall vividly:

“Someday,” I said, “we are going to bring our children here.”

Not only did we bring our three grown kids, but I was able to bring my grandson, Evan, as well!

As an extra added blessing – this was the surprise – it was the one day of the year when the Great Smokies National Park commissioned a photographer to take free portraits of families on the Dome! So, we were able to get a large-format photograph taken by a professional photographer (“Vincent” – great name for an artist with a camera) in the very spot where Lauren and I were sitting 43 years before, promising to bring our family there one day!

I stood alone for a moment after the picture, and I felt His pleasure. His delight in blessing us.

Sneak up on someone you love today. Surprise that special person with a blessing.

And wish them a Merry Christmas!

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