I don’t know what has been worse these last several months: watching Jackson as he endured tests, diagnoses and surgery or watching Braedon finish another year of school without one single friend.
Then there have been days my husband comes home from work, and his stress is too much, reaching the brim of every brain cell, hyperalert after patroling.
Seminary is hard, not impossible, but hard. I struggle to keep up with family, marriage, and myself, let alone school work.
But we who love Jesus are never without hope.
Our Rock and Redeemer has touched Jason’s tight temples, has whispered I love you to Braedon while eating alone, has given Jackson wisdom the kind that comes from suffering in the body, and me … He who restores my patience for all things continues to do so … each time a miracle in my occasionally crusty heart.
A couple years ago we took the boys to the North Carolina mountains. After that trip Braedon said he didn’t want to go back to any mountains … hiking and bugs NOT his thing.
Fast forward to this PA mountain trip, it was BRAEDON who chose to do a second family walk instead of hanging in the cabin to play on his phone.
Family time is restorative, not because of us but because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross, taking every burden, every shame, every sin.
This trip was held together by His supernatural presence.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17 NIV).
Though there were struggles: a puppy who threw up because he ate too many sticks, a puppy who didn’t sleep well, teens who just couldn’t be quiet during stargazing time atop a mountain, our marriage way overdue for its alone time.
When I sat to write this, I sensed His presence all over again.
You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV).
Both our young men shared that family walks were more interesting with Rocko. Our pup turned out to be a pretty good car traveler. Thank You, Jesus.
Here we had arrived at our outing, the Pine Creek Rail Trail:
As we walked, I basked in His peace. Smiles, a distinct lack of arguing about taking photos, a quiet but inquisitive pup. Just being as one in Him. I stayed behind the tallest ones to be with my Jackson, who is not as fast … yet.
His Son warmed my heart, melted away the accumulated thorns.
I chose this section of the rail trail because there was a waterfall mentioned at Darling Run. We poked around in its ending pool. I realized almost immediately how the entire hike would have been undue stretching for our family unit.
Within a group, under His Sovereign rule, unity does not mean we always think and act alike. It means we lose ourselves, living in His Spirit, not our flesh, that we can meet each other where we are, leaving demands where they belong, in the depths of hell.
I had to remember this laying down of MY wants when we went to Cherry Springs State Park. This part was my noted, much anticipated treat, perhaps overly anticipated. Cherry Springs boasts a huge field (we estimated about 5 football fields long) atop of an undeveloped mountain. There is little competing light to allow gazers to absorb the twinkles and glimmers of His stars.
We arrived before dark, which translated to waiting and boredom for a member of our group. By the time His curtain closed, shrouding His Sun, someone wanted to leave. I had a hard time relaxing, seizing the moments. I saw stars through crimped eyes and a disgruntled heart. This picture proves we were there (no Rocko, no pets allowed) but gives a false impression of joy in me.
The old Julie would have yelled, whined even, from a victimized heart crying for her right to enjoy her vacation. His presence put a guard over my mouth. Once we got ready to leave, I asked everyone to go to the car and to give me five minutes beneath His amazing sky.
Amazing it was. I couldn’t get Abraham out of my mind. That when God chose him to be the father of nations, to secure a covenant with this very ordinary, childless man … God showed him a sky pregnant with star families. All the peoples who would come to know Him, through the blood and seed of Abraham.
Stars don’t show up on dirty phones too well. No matter the man-made obstructions, His stars will shine upon you and your children, and your children’s children. These incredible bursts of heavenly glory, each one named and given significance. Stars are mysterious gifts, blessed assurance that we will never be forsaken to black nothingness.
It was a silent ride back to the cabin. I am thankful the Lord guarded my mouth and my family’s hearts. I didn’t sleep well, because of puppy and because I felt like we as a unit squandered an opportunity to honor God.
In the wee hours of the newly-mercied morn, God whispered light:
Family devotion, stars.
I awoke thinking I would lead the Dibble men to remember Abraham and the stars, but God drew me back to Genesis:
And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:14).
Again, His presence covered us, held us tightly, like we were right where we belonged, in that cabin, sitting on those couches, with His word alive and active moving throughout our midst.
Love covers sin, those thoughts I had even though I didn’t speak them. Spirit unlocks chains that bind, freeing us to draw near not only to Our King but also to each other. We talked about God and Jesus and prayed, even as Rocko flitted around wondering why nobody was paying attention to him.
Thankfully, God created a natural playground for our whole family of five, right outside the front door.
When one would be outside, others would follow. Rocko may have gleaned the most in terms of entertainment, yet we were not left to be sideline snoopers.
Jackson braved the antiquated swing hung between two trees:
Jason noticed two, not four, horseshoes hanging outside the cabin.
“Aren’t we going to play, yeah let’s do teams?” ~I can be a kid at heart, too.
Jason and Jackson:
Braedon and me:
Fun. Challenge. Exercise. Together. Love. Peace.
Remember I mentioned our marriage lacked alone time?
I could focus on all the things Jason and I did not get to do as a couple, or I could recall the one night we sat by the fire, eyes exhausted from focusing on Skipbo and Rocko’s oral exploration of a plethora of sticks and insects.
Beneath the logs lay emboldened coals radiating heat, too powerful to touch. His glory, the power of our mighty God, bubbles beneath the surfaces of our daily lives. When we forget fear and dare to draw near, we are empowered by the Living Spirit of God.
I took this picture not for aesthetics but for the truth that speaks.
My husband, given by God Himself, is heaven’s treasure chosen for me, and I, Jason’s heaven’s treasure chosen for him. This moment is etched upon our hearts, the same hearts woven by God, the same hearts upon which God etched eternity.
May we never again be so spiritually shallow that we doubt His power to effect change in our lives within the confines of a single moment.
Royal splendor radiates from Him, a powerful beauty sets him apart (Psalm 96:5-6 MSG).
May our hearts be ever-filled with awe for Our God who reigns over all Creation and still spends time to care for each of us, for our families, for our communities, for our states, for our countries, for our world.
While we still breathed the fresh mountain air, this shirt arrived. I forgot I ordered it.
What a beautiful reminder of His presence, what cleansing grace He bestowed upon us.
How is it that I deserve to be dressed in His splendor?
The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another, and star differs from star in splendor (1 Corinthians 15:41 NIV).
Thank you for coming on vacation with us! We are looking forward to hearing how God spoke to you here. I say we, I write, Jason reads.
May God bless each of you who read this post in ways you least expect.
Love in Christ,