Have you ever had a rather profound thought in the middle of what was actually quite a ridiculous situation?
A couple of weeks ago my family and I stuffed our car full of all the bare necessities you need for a camping holiday, and we took off in search of sunshine, warmth and adventure. Much to our delight we did find lots of sunshine and warmth. The weather for the weeks on either side of our holiday week was awful – but not for our holiday. And much to our delight we found a few adventures.
Not all of the adventures were all that delightful.
Leading up to our holiday I’d been unwell. I’d also been doing some extra hours at one of my jobs and I left it for a few too many days before I took myself off to the doctor to get some antibiotics for a double infection.
So I was already pooped before the first day of our holiday; I worked the night before and then we were up early to head out of town. All of those factors added together, combined with the fact that my antibiotics were slow to kick in meant that my pain factor went up and up. We set up our campsite, explored the beautiful area, and I made dinner, all with my ‘fine face’ on. Then as soon as the kids had gone to bed, my pain levels increased even more and I started to throw up. Mmmmmm mmmm. For the first reappearance of my dinner, I managed to make it to the campground facilities. Hi de hi campers! That’s a rather humiliating thing…..have you noticed that no matter what time of the day or night when you’re using communal facilities, there’s always an emphasis on the ‘communal’? No chance of spewing solo thank you very much.
Anyway. I made it back to our tent just fine, but the next five episodes of being ‘chunderstruck’, had to happen in the tent. Fortunately I had some plastic bags with us. Unfortunately some of those bags had holes in them. Unfortunately I managed to find and use exactly those ones.
By the time the seventh vomit came along I was sitting in the car, while my dear husband (in sickness and in health) was packing up what belongings we thought we might need for a trip to find Fiona some help. (We knew I needed stronger painkillers than what I had, some anti-nausea meds and some decent hydration). Just before he woke up our three sleeping children to bundle them into car, to drive to who knows where (we honestly didn’t know where I could get the medical help I needed because we didn’t know what small towns near us had middle of the night urgent care), I remember looking up at the sky and marveling, just for a moment, just before I reached for the spew bag again.
You see those stars were dazzling. They were scattered across the night sky, blazing boldly. It was a stunning sight. Apparently on a clear night you can see about two thousand stars from one vantage point. I think I glanced up and saw my two thousand and it took my breath away.
I saw them and I couldn’t help but think, ‘hello my old friends’.
Now I was pretty sick, and pretty out of it for a while there, and it took me the whole week to recover, but I promise you that me thinking of the stars as my friends was a perfectly sound and rational thought.
When we lived in the Northern Hemisphere the night sky there was something I was unfamiliar with. If I had taken the time to study it and to get to know it, I’m sure I would have loved it too. A few years ago I remember talking to someone who was about to become a parent for the first time. I told them I reckoned that looking at your newborn baby and getting to know that baby, studying his/ her features and expressions and mannerisms was way more entertaining that television ever was. That person may have looked at me weird at the time, but now as his baby three is on the way, I reckon he may be in agreement with me there. You see the night sky that we see here in New Zealand is something I’m more familiar with, because I’ve gotten to know it a little. I’ve studied it a little. I’m not a constellation expert, but when I see some of the main formations that are visible to the naked eye, I see them and I know them. They are comforting to me. Old friends. And they remain constant.
Life is so very full of movement and change. Family dynamics change. Kids change year levels at school and sometimes begin different schools. Jobs change. Expectations change. All sorts of situations change and even our physical selves are constantly changing – we gain weight/ lose weight/ grow hair/ lose hair/ lose skin cells every single day.
Sometimes change can be overwhelming, especially when it is thrust upon us.
When I was in the midst of being so very sick, on what was supposed to be a glorious summer family holiday, and I looked up at the magnificent tapestry above my head, those stars reminded me of God’s steadfastness. Those stars that I’d admired as a teenager camping with friends, leading camps for small children in the summer holidays where I got to tell them about a great big God who loves them so, those stars were the very same stars twenty five years later. Old friends. We didn’t know where we were going, we had three pretty worried and tired children with us, but as I gazed up with wonder, I knew that God was also with us. He is steadfast. Resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.
When I think of steadfastness, I can’t not think of God’s love. Sometimes we don’t always feel it, or see it, just like we can’t and don’t always see the stars. Sometimes we choose not to look up. Sometimes there are things that move into the space between our line of sight and those stars – but that doesn’t ever change the fact that the stars are there. Shining brightly. Shining gloriously. Sometimes we just need to drive out out out, far far far from the hustle and bustle of the city’s own lights. There’s a verse in the bible that says ‘God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!’ (Lamentations 3: 22 – 23, The Message. And for me, living in the world with some much change, so many unknowns and variables, it is remarkable how comforting and calming it is to know that God’s loyal love is never going to run out. Another version of the same verse says this: ‘Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness’.
This world will continue to swirl and the pace of life doesn’t seem to calm as much as we would like, but we are not consumed.
The next time you feel a little overwhelmed by change or you’re holding onto your sanity by your fingertips, because life can be incredibly hard, take some deep breaths until it is dark outside, then take a little walk and look up. Look up and know you are carried. Look up and know He cares. Look up and know that creator of those stars is creating new mercies for you every day. You are not alone. You are not forgotten. There is a love that never changes. Look up.
‘If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how men would believe and adore’. – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
(And if you’re wondering, we ended up driving 40 mins to the closest town and talking to the ambulance service, before I spent about three hours at the small hospital there, and the kids recovered just fine, but I’m never going on holiday without anti-nausea meds again…..)