We finally did it. My mom, sister and I met for dinner and a little bit of shopping after talking about it for a mere eight months. On my way to meet these precious women of mine, I savored even the drive. Sure I was still driving a cluttered mini-van, kicking the Kleenex box from under my feet whenever I made a sharp turn while trying to decipher exactly what odor it was that wafted from the back seat. But it was quiet and I was all by myself.
Pulling onto the main road, I noticed a traffic sign. EXPECT DELAYS, cautioned the large orange diamond. My first thought was one of frustration. But then I realized how appropriate it was to be ushered to this rendezvous along a route fraught with delays. For that is exactly why it took us eight months to meet.
Eight months ago we celebrated fall family birthdays -- my sister's and mine. Dad and Mom's gift to us was the promise of dinner and shopping as soon as they returned from California. California was the first delay, and an expected one. They were preparing to leave for Dad's prostate cancer treatment which would last until early December.
In the mean time, life brought other delays for those on the home front. My sister gave birth to sweet little Clara, and our family moved temporarily into my parents' home.
My parents returned after a positive and successful trip. Still, our dinner and shopping date was delayed. It wasn't intentional, it was just life. First Christmas, then winter birthdays. Basketball and gymnastics, school and appointments. We'd talk about getting together, but something always came up.
We inched our way toward spring, the delays almost humorous by now: a house, Easter, another baby, a volcano, and Europe. Perhaps a little explanation is in order. Johnny and Brooke (my brother and sister-in-law) welcomed Kinsley Jane to their home in Slovenia. Mom scheduled a flight to meet grandbaby number nine. Meanwhile, our family finally found a home and made another move. Mom hopped on that plane. Of course it would coincide with the volcano in Iceland, causing a week-long delay in her travel plans . . . .
Fast-forward to May. By now our shopping dreams had morphed drastically from the original winter plan of boots and sweaters to more seasonally appropriate thoughts of capris and flip-flops. My sister Krista, the decisive one, finally emailed us. "Okay. What'll it be? Saturday, Monday or Tuesday?" We all voted for Monday.
So as I passed that ominous orange sign on Monday evening, I listed the delays in my mind: Cancer. Baby. Move. Baby. Move. Volcano. Europe. But then the delays took shape. The delays became what they truly were: amazing opportunities. For in looking over this list, I saw a very distinct pattern of the Lord's faithfulness to his people. These words translated to far richer meanings: Healing. Life. Opportunity. Life. Patience. Trust. Thanksgiving.
And isn't that exactly what the Lord desires for His people? Didn't He come that we might have life and that we might have it to the full? But life doesn't happen without the passage of time and the pain of sacrifice. Life doesn't land in our laps. We should expect delays and bumps and inconveniences.
But it is in those times that the deep formation of who we are takes place. We learn to seek the Lord's face, all the while trusting in Him, even if it feels like the pavement will never be smooth again. And from time to time we'll be pleasantly surprised by those occasional, refreshing interludes where the journey actually is smooth. We will come out of the construction zone for a spell and praise Him for the work that He has done.
My interlude came while sitting with my mom, sister and little Clara over dinner. The Zuppa Toscana was heavenly, as always, and the breadsticks hardly had a chance to cool off. I squeezed the chubby baby feet at my corner of the table and we talked about life. Shopping was icing on the cake. At least I'm sure it will be. You see, the shoes I hoped to buy were not available in my size. But that's okay. They're on order. And I think I can handle one more delay.