Friday, May 02, 2008

Expectations and greater purposes:A little retreat

Things are not always what the appear to be. Right? Well, Coty and I experienced that on Sunday night when we arrived at the lovely stone house on the mountaintop where we went for our annual two night get-away. Coty had done his research and found what appeared to be a beautiful and inexpensive place that catered to people in ministry, offering a quiet place for rest, reflection, and relaxation.

I am always glad that my husband makes the plans for this yearly retreat. He always comes up with interesting and beautiful places. This time he didn't fail. He did his homework carefully. What appeared, on the website, to be a lovely home really was...from the outside. But when we walked inside, oh my goodness! It was very cluttered, rather dirty, dark, and musty. The furnishings seemed to be thrift store leftovers - not that you can't get great things at the thrift store, but still...I was disappointed.

Unfortunately, instead of laughing at our situation, I got sad. This was our one time away this year together and we were staying here! In this musty old house! I felt so let down. I got quiet and cried. My disappointment crowded out everything else, and what should have been a lovely evening became rather silent, brooding and unpleasant.

If that wasn't bad enough, when we went to find something to eat, the restaurants in the small village close-by were either closed or very expensive. We ended up going down the road a ways to the Super Walmart (the only grocery store in town....gag!) to buy a few items for our meal. By this time, I was not hungry, not happy, and not helpful. We managed to get some salad, fruit, yogurt, and tea and went back to the house. I still felt miserable. I was disappointed in the situation and in myself. Self-pity was ruling and I was unable (unwilling!) to turn the corner and be thankful to be away with my husband, no matter what the setting. We could have been in a tent in the pouring rain but we had a warm house and food to eat. What couldn't I be happy?

Morning was not much better. I was still disappointed and still having a hard time breaking out of it. Oh, I am slow. God is, thankfully, very, very patient and gracious. So is my husband. Instead of the whole time away being a disaster of the first degree, God had his plans. Plans which were not mine.

My poor reaction brought out some issues that had been under the surface for awhile. They came pouring out Monday morning in a torrent of tears. Coty and I wrestled with them, talking on the couch in that big old cluttered room. I think now that if we had arrived at a lovely, clean, perfectly appointed, beautifully furnished home or hotel with a lovely four course meal, we would not have scratched the surface of the deep issues that needed addressing.

After talking together that morning, life seemed back on track, our relationship restored and our time away rescued from disaster. We went out to lunch at the cafe that had been closed the night before and it was wonderful. It was so good we ordered a second meal to be boxed up that we could eat that night back at the house. Good thinking! Then we drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway and took a hike to a waterfall, passing lots of wildflowers along the way and breathing in the sweet air of the mountain stream and surrounding forest with its massive rhododendrons. It was a lovely hike. One of many that we have shared together over the years.

Back at the house, I was at last able to see the humor in the whole situation and thank God for letting us start out our time away on a rocky note. We sat in the potentially beautiful great room with its walnut paneling, high ceiling and exposed beams, its picture window overlooking the mountains in the distance and played Upwords, read books, and wrote. Coty sketched out a sermon series and I worked on my stitchery project. It was just what we wanted to be doing, resting and relaxing together. The surroundings really didn't matter.

Tuesday morning we visited the other restaurant, the one that was too expensive for dinner, and had breakfast, peering out windows that spanned the width of the dining room at gardens and birds and mountains. We had the sweetest waitress ever, very southern, very mountain. Her manner was quiet, gentle, and kind and we felt very blessed by her gracious attention.

Home again to boys who took good care of each other in our absence. Thanks, guys!

There is lots to learn from our little get-away. We have been married 28 plus years and we are still stumbling, picking ourselves back up, crying, talking, laughing, loving. Marriage is never static. I am very, very thankful that my husband doesn't give up on me. I don't give up on him, either. We're both a mess sometimes but we're a mess together, striving to help each other grow more and more toward the beauty of Godliness. We will never do that apart from each other since God has taken our two lives and made them one.

I come back from that retreat thinking more than ever about the blessedness of a covenant relationship that weathers little showers and big storms to emerge again and again into the sunshine of joy. A covenant relationship that takes unmet expectations, wrestles with them, and looks for God's purposes in disappointment. A covenant relationship in which we remind each other through all of life's vicissitudes, that God is faithful and that He will keep us walking together. Lord willing, we have many more hikes to take together. And more sweet retreats - no matter what the setting! House or tent, clean or musty, gourmet meal or Walmart salad! As long as I'm with my husband and together, we are in Christ.


ukrainiac said...

Thanks for sharing these very personal moments. I continue to marvel at how God arranges the details to help us look at our own hearts. What a precious time for you and your husband...

ed elliott said...

Beth, That! was truly beautiful...