Hubby turned 50 last week. Instead of the usual birthday bash, he opted for a week-long getaway in a farm-style cottage on a thriving, mountainous wine farm at the foot of a treacherous mountain pass.
It was incredible: the views, the calm, the winter-sun pushing through icy temperatures and warming our days there, and the abundance of freedom that came with simple living. We had no reception, so there was no glaring at computer screens, no constant checking of text messages, and no being distracted from the glory of YHWH displayed in all creation by the pressures and stress of city living. In short, it was bliss.
We went for a mountain hike and almost two hours later arrived at our cottage to soak a little in the comforting swell of a jacuzzi, silently soothing away the hint of an ache in our muscles. Afterwards, we exchanged the warmth of massaging water for the warmth of a fire in the rustic, well-used fireplace on the wooden deck that compelled us to rest in the beauty of lush vineyards and alluring river water. The sun rising in the east and setting in the west also provided reasons to return to this resting place, again and again, in the future: cascading over sharp mountain tops jutting their strength boldly into the sky and over ripples of river water surrendering to the caress of its red glow.
Each morning, our fellow worshippers would flirt with the leaves on the trees along the river bank at the end of the grass-framed steps leading to the rowing boat tied to the grassy shore. They would chirp along, each in their own brand of song, heralding in the new day. Some came close enough to accept our invitation to share in bread with us, from the rail of the deck where hubby left it for them to eat. Others would show off a little, their wings spanning colours of the rainbow, reminding us that the Hand of our Creator only ever creates masterpieces.
We played games too. Scrabble, with hands wrapped in fingerless gloves – blue for hubby and pink for me – and searched through the fog of tired minds to find words that fit the rules of the game. Until we reached a stale mate, with no words to build with the last of the tiles left in the green bag. We also played a new game: eye-spy-with-my-not-so-little-binoculars what the surrounding terrain had to offer in terms of spectacular views. Across the path of the river, there was a home, where we saw children playing long after we heard their joyful shrieks and the thumping of a ball. The vineyard workers in their red and blue also attracted interest from these city dwellers, fascinated at the sight of physical labourers in the physical vineyard, authenticating the process of turning grapes into liquid fruit.
And so we relented and savoured and tasted the life of a soul at peace and rest. A soul held in this place and time to be revived, renewed and refreshed for the days ahead. A breakfast of fried eggs on toast, with cheese, filling our bellies enough to add to the abundance of blessing we found ourselves mellowing in; and pancakes for the birthday celebration breakfast on the day of hubby’s big five-o.
Indeed, we were blessed. Indeed, we were alive and well. Indeed, we were safe!
But then the weatherman spoke and we didn’t quite mind what he said, except that it meant change for us. It meant the sun would not be warm, and the clouds would scold at the earth and the watersheds of heaven would send torrents of rain gushing forth to pound the earth. The farmers in the area were elated – they desparately needed the rain. The city dwellers in the cottage by the rising river waters and atmospheric temperatures … well, they were elated too. The majestic display of power was – yes – electrifying.
Of course, the change in circumstance brought with it a change in action. We prayed for safety for the trip home just hours after thanking YHWH for the safety we had basked in during the last few days. We moved with speed and purpose, just hours after moving at leisure and as if tomorrow was an eternity away, and we only had one task to complete – inhale, exhale.
There was no lightning – no thunder. But the piercing noise of the torrents kept us alert and on guard. The river level was checked – a few times while packing. The boat oars were quickly rescued from the clutch of the swelling river waters, and the assisting shove of the rain. I packed, indoors, while hubby packed, outdoors, into the bakkie. We were aware of the danger, but not afraid of it.
Finally, we were all packed up and packed in and came together to hold hands in prayer before leaving. The rain had stopped. The sky was clearing away all the evidence of its winter scowl. And we were resting our hands in each other’s, as we placed our trust in our Father and rested our beings in His care.
Hubby handled the drive back home, meandering through clear skies here and storm skies there, with only patches of road still being tackled by the rain. I handled the picturesque views, the music and the short naps on the way. And soon, we arrived home, and again held hands, to thank our Father for the safe passage home.
We unpacked – quickly – so that we could relax on the firmness of our sofas and chat more about the time away. We already missed the tranquillity and simplicity of resting there.
But the memory of the rising river waters, threatening to reach over the grass and touch us, was uppermost in my mind. I thought: the blessing for the farmer could so easily have been a curse for us.
We were safe now. We were home now. But what if the clay roads had become muddied pathways that prevented us from manoeuvring our vehicle off the farm and onto the tar road? What if the tar roads were flooded in places that prevented us from moving forward and forced us to drive back? What if the cottage was on floor level and the water overflowed from the river into the lounge, the kitchen, our rooms and our luggage? And left us stranded, without reception, without a way to connect to another and scream for help to one that would actually hear? What if our vehicle had been washed away?
These were rational thoughts. Not thoughts born out of fear, but rather, questions that seemed right to ask. Because a blessing for one often may result in a flicker of a moment for another that completely devastates a life.
I’ve often wondered what flood victims experience at the core in that moment they know their lives have changed. When the water pounds louder than their beating hearts and does reach into their lounge, their kitchen, their rooms and their luggage. Here, in this day and in just one moment, I tasted the tiniest measure of the hopelessness of one of those victims. I cringed.
But, we were home. We were safe – and grateful to have been blessed. We were grateful to have been held in the Hand of the One who commands the wind, the rain, and sun, in the heavens and on earth. Yet, I grieve – for the one who may not escape the storm.
Linking up with Holly Gerth at Coffee for You Heart