Unplanned holiday - 3 Aug 2009 (Chrisna)

Lying with my family on the grass in Millenium Park, looking at the Chicago skyscrapers hugging us from above, listening to a symphony orchestra and mass choir (all free of charge), I had one thought the entire time: How blessed, lucky and fortunate we are! This is sooooooo special!

But before I go all watery eyes and hyperventilating about Chicago, let me take a few steps back to the week before Chicago...

Since our Chicago home exchange was canceled, we spent many many hours searching for other accommodation. We ended up staying in Atlanta for an extra week (which I say one last time was a real blessing). Then we managed to secure an apartment in Lincoln Park, Chicago for the period 26 July - 6 Aug, and a hotel near Willow Creek for the time of the Leadership Summit, 6-11 August. That left us without accommodation for the time between 21 and 26 July. So, we decided to go on a road trip!

Although we wanted to get a RV and tour and camp that way, it worked out way to expensive. We settled for a car and planned to do hotel hopping for the 5 nights. That sounded easy, exciting and like a good solution. That also meant that we would have to take a mid term brake at school, because traveling and working does not go together. None of the pupils or teachers argued on this point .

On 21 July we had our projector experience that Dawie wrote about, we greeted my mother at the security check point and flew from Atlanta to Chicago.

Avis upgraded our car rental and we drove south, away from Chicago in a Cadilac DTS. We crossed the Illinois/Indiana border and found a hotel as the sun went down. That evening we ate (for the first time that day since morning cereal) at a country style restaurant - with money that Ouma gave as a goodbye gift with instructions to use it for eating.

The morning of 22 July we went to a visitors center and then had to plan our trip. This was a first for us. Not once in the 7 months before, did we not have an address to go to. Not once in the previous 7 months was it necessary to decide where we will go and how far we will go. We always had a place to stay and if there was not a specific suggestion as to where to go or what to see, we would just stay home. Not this time. But, how hard could it be, right? - Wrong!

While sitting in the car, ready to go, we did not have any consensus on what to do at all! We knew that we had to sleep close to Willow Creek (north of Chicago) on the 25th of Aug as we wanted to go to church there on Sunday, but that was about it. Some wanted to drive for miles, others had only a few kilometers in mind. Some craved a lake experience, while others saught the less densely populated plains to the south. Every individual in our family had a different idea as to what to do with these 4 days.

We had a passionate (which is a holy word for almost ugly) discussion and did not win any ground. I then realized how important the whole and complete planning of the world tour prior to our departure has been and was thankful that God gave us the wisdom to go into it with so much structure . There is no way that a few months of traveling could go without planning (teamwork and planning are 2 essential ingredients for success in any situation). But I also realized how good these 4 days of unplanned holiday are for us as a family. It is an opportunity for teamwork and spontaneous planning together. I also realised that I was the biggest culprit in this passionate discussion - my suggestions sounded like commands. That was not the right way. I had to say I am sorry, and give a few steps back, giving everyone opportunity to share their needs and suggestions. That change in my approach created the atmosphere for the breakthroughs in our following discussions.

We finally decided on what to do that first day, and decided to plan as we go on.

We drove along Lake Michigan, through the Indiana dunes and spent our first night in Michigan City. There were so many things to do there and Dawie had some urgent e-mails and other work to do, that we ended up spening a 2nd night there. At this point everyone finally had peace as to what the rest of the trip should basically look like. The 3 boys and I went (for the first time since we've been in America) to a mall to give Dawie time to work. More presisely (hold on to your chairs), we went to a Premium Outlet to go shopping for clothes and we all enjoyed it!

We went to the beach later that afternoon, played cricket (which made the Americans stare) and swam in the lake.

We pointed our car in a northern direction the morning of the 24th, crossed the stateline between Indiana and Michigan and drove all the way up to St Joseph, stopping along the way for a swim in the lake. That was the turning point of our journey. We traveled south east, away from the lake and entered Amish Country, back in Indiana, where we called it a day.

The Amish people are exactly like you see on pictures. They look like they looked 300 years ago, with long dresses and lace bonnets. It's almost like stepping back in time in modern surroundings. They are the quilt people, farmers and put high value on families. They live good lives.

Our target for the 25th was St John's, via Elkhardt and Nappanee in Amish country. The brochures told us that St John's is home of a pathway portraying the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and we wanted to see it.

We reached The Shrine of Christ's Passion just before 17h00. There is a shop right next to the highway, from which you enter into the park. When we started to walk on the cemented path and went around the first corner, we completely forget about the highway, and did not even hear the cars anymore.

There, at a long table, with open chairs, Jesus is sitting with wine and bread in His Hands, inviting us to have communion with Him. We follow the pathway through Gethsemane, with the sleeping disciples and Jesus praying. Then we were at the palace of Pontius Pilate, Jesus standing there, not defending himself, not saying a word - all because of me. We follow the Via Dolorosa, we see Jesus struggling with the cross. We listen to the facts and the challenge or questions that is given over the speaker at every station. Still going higher up the mountain, seeing the hammer in the hands of the Roman soldier, slamming down on the nails through the Hands and Feet of our King. As you walk there, you hear and see and know: He did this for me...

And then, on the hilltop, the 3 crosses, with my Savior hanging there, paying for my sins.

All I could do and wanted to do, was to go on my knees and say: "Thank you Lord, Thank you for the price you've paid!"

Then, still deep under the impression about what you saw, the road starts to go downhill again. On the way seeing Mary with the dead body of her son on her lap - not knowing what I know as I walk past her. Around the next corner is the grave where he was buried. Then you enter the grave, and it is empty, except for a few linen cloths lying there. THE GRAVE IS EMPTY! He has risen, He has conquered death. The road does not end at the cross, but goes through the empty grave. Because of the cross and the empty grave, I am free, I can live victoriously! Can I get a "Halleluja!"

Still the road does not end there, it goes right to the place where Jesus is ascending into heaven, saying: "Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world. " Mat 28:19,20 The voice over the speaker challenges: "Go! and go make the difference that He is asking you to make. Go!"

And I say:"Yes Lord, here I am, use me"

We drove north towards Chicago, our home for the next 2,5 weeks, full of excitement and with thankful hearts. Not only did our unplanned holiday end on a high note, but it was a true success, an exciting spontaneous family midterm break. Charlie remarked that for a holiday that started with a small war, it ended as a victorious occasion, and all agreed.

And quietly I prayed and said thank you to God for showing me my mistakes and giving me the courage to say I am sorry and to get out of the way. Obedience and a soft heart God asked from me. Once we offer that to Him, miracles can happen.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dawie and Christna (and boys),

    In the week I reconnected with Cehesta who told me about your round-the-world trip and how to follow your journey. Clearly I get on your list as your experiences come to an end but it has been great reading your blogs and postings.

    2009 has truly been a phenominal year for me to and I have also been blessed in more ways that I am sure I deserve. I have my own company expressions namibia (www.expressionsnamibia.com) have a look - but the essence of this note was to wish you well for the last few weeks and come home safely.

    God bless