Drew and I had started to talk about this trip in the Fall of 2007 (before Brock died in January 2008). We thought the summer of 2008 would be a perfect time for us to go as Brock would be 3 yrs old and able to enjoy some of the kids' events. We looked at our schedule and decided that the first week of June would probably be the only time we could go around Ball and Swim schedules. Months after Brock died, I told Drew I did not think that I wanted to go to a Family Camp, especially on a year my family felt so strange. I couldn't imagine seeing other little 3 year olds having fun. I would shudder to think about introducing our family to strangers that didn't know we "really had four kids, not just the three" that were with us. But for some reason, we left it hanging and never canceled our plans.
I mentioned to Drew one morning that we really needed to make a decision about the trip. That afternoon a friend of mine from college, Victoria, called to check on me . She and her husband are on staff with Young Life. I mentioned to her that we were trying to make a decision on still going to Trail West. She asked,
... what week are you thinking about going?
....the first week of June.
....Really?! We're going the same week! And so are this family, this family and this family (all of whom we knew from college!).
We knew then that God had once again gone before us. We trusted Him that, for what ever reason, in this first year without Brock, we would take such a family vacation.
We mentioned it to our friends the Smiths and they decided to join us. They were even brave enough to ride in the same RV with us!
So we loaded all 11 of us on the RV and headed to Colorado.
(We actually didn't make the kids ride on the top) We spent the night at KOA's across the country. While the men hooked up all the hose connections (don't get blue water and brown water mixed up - a true RV moment), I said to my friend Shannon as we sat by the small KOA pool watching the kids, "It just doesn't take much to be happy." And it didn't, but little did I know what God had in store for us.
Go West Young Men........
Finally, we arrived at Trail West. We were greeted by cowboys on horseback to escort us to camp. Then we departed the RV to board "Big Red" - a wagon of sorts. The staff took our vehicle and unloaded our belonging to our rooms. As they sang to us in a greeting, their mission that week was to serve us in the name of the Lord. They didn't know what a big job they had with us!
The introductions were easy as almost every other person would come up to us and say, "You don't know us, but we have been praying for you!!" We realized there were several other families that we knew from Georgia. Yes, all of us ended up in Colorado during the same week.
...It ended up there were 7 of us that were sorority sisters in college. That is 1/4 of all families there, from across the Nation!!
We were overcome with God's goodness! We were blessed by the love that happens when you pray for someone. It was most evident on the faces of the children that had prayed for us as they just gave my boys, whom they had never met, a big hug. One of the moms mentioned that just seeing us and seeing that we were "okay" was so strengthening to their faith. Mason could not get over the feeling that these people didn't know us, yet were so nice to us. I told him, "Mason, that is because they have prayed for us every night; they have grown to love us." He said it made him feel special. I reminded him how he felt about people he had prayed for. Learning of their prayers and feeling their hugs encouraged our faith and gave us strength for our journey. As if being surrounded by our "extended" family of faith wasn't enough, we were there in the gorgeous setting of the Rockies. The blue sky, the snow capped mountains, the crisp air, the sparkling Aspen trees...all cried out of God's existence, His glory, His beauty (read Romans 1:20).
...Aspen Trees are our favorite trees. We felt like it was another gift from God that many of our activities took place in an Aspen Grove.
It reminded me how much God loves us. As if sending His only Son to die for us was not enough! He also went to such great lengths to show us His love for us in His creation. A creation that is just temporary. "But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" 2 Peter 3:13
....We were amazed at what a foretaste of Heaven this was - from the fellowship to the surroundings. It was truly one of those glimpses God gives us to keep us moving on.... awaiting the soon coming day of Heaven.
We experienced the vastness of His creation as we rafted down the Arkansas River. When we got in our boat, our guide even had the verse Isaiah 43 written on the back of his life vest. "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you." This "just happened" to be one of his favorite verses. God is so into details!
....and sledding down the Continential Divide, in shorts!?
There was a square dance the last night of camp. Everyone dressed in their cowboy attire. From the smallest camper to the Moms and Dads, all danced and had a great time. My scripture the next morning in my quiet time was Jeremiah 31:4b "Again you will take up your tambourines and go out dancing with the joyful." That is what we did that night as God confirmed more sweet times to come even though the ache in our heart was still so deep and raw.
That night is when we took the picture that is on the header of this blog. When we were packing for the trip, the boys had gone to the basement to get all the cowboy dress up clothes we had. They came back with Brock's hat. They asked if we could take it. Not sure what we would do with it, I said, "Yes." It felt right to take it as we all sooo wished he were there to wear it. Oh, how he would've loved it!!
...We took it with us that last night and snapped a few photos...never knowing God would call me to this blog nor that it would serve as our opening picture. God is so good!
...That night in my journal I wrote, "Thank you Lord for the time to take the sweet picture of our family- with the extra cowboy hat for Brock. It felt like the most 'normal' picture we've taken since Brock's death, since it acknowledged him missing."
After a tearful and reluctant goodbye, we left Trail West, loaded up the motorhome, with a little more in store before we reached home. We traveled home over the Father's Day weekend.
....and followed Route 66 into Oklahoma.
We arrived home and to Drew's sheer bliss, our Sunday School Class had landscaped our yard for our return. This was a big undertaking and a huge blessing!
God continued to remind us of His love through His people. I have cried and smiled as I have written this post. Thank you for joining me on a journey in remembering.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.