I should have known better or simply paid more attention to the movie. My brother and I always watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at this time of the year and have memorized almost every line. At one point early on in the movie, Ellen says to Clark, “You set standards that no family activity can live up to.” He responds, “When have I ever done that?” My family has similar tendencies and this year was no exception. All nineteen of the relatives on my side of the family decided to spend Christmas with us and we had been looking forward to the week for many months. Deb and I decided that since our boys were no longer so little any more, we would volunteer to be hosts for the week. How hard could that be?
As the week drew nearer, we realized that the time together would require some planning and preparation. I put together a schedule of suggested events and potential meals and asked for feedback. After some initial suggestions for changes, things were finalized and it was going to be a full and fun time. In the days leading up to our week together, Deb and I went shopping for food, checked to sure that everyone’s accommodations were in order and welcomed my parents who arrived two days early. Then we checked the weather. Sure enough our perfect planning was about to be disrupted.
Normally at this time of year, we would have been dealing with the possibility of snow and ice, but with warmer temperatures, rain was the issue. Our family has a tradition of going into Center City Philadelphia on Christmas Eve by train and visiting various locations including the Holiday Spectacular at the Comcast Center and the light show at Macy’s. Of all the events we planned, this one was non- negotiable and could only take place on that one day. Sure enough, the weather was forecast to be the worst on that one day – torrential rain and blowing winds. One TV channel even referred to it as “extreme weather” though I suspect that they refer to lots of other weather events as “extreme” in order to increase ratings.
After much discussion with the family, we decided to brave it, wear proper rain gear, take umbrellas and pray. On Wednesday morning we all woke up to light rain that seemed to be getting lighter – maybe it would not be so bad after all. At the appointed hour we bundled into our cars and took off for the train station and sure enough it began raining like cats and dogs. We made it to the train and took off for Center City. With one small glitch (one of our families got on at a different train station), we headed to our first destination and waited to see what would happen.
Somehow, despite the rain, this turned out to be one of the most memorable days of a great week together. We sloshed through puddles, helped the little ones jump over standing water and generally had a wonderful time. My Dad, who has suffered from lower back pain and walks a lot slower these days, made it just fine and was able to walk almost ten city blocks to our lunch destination. Each place we stopped was a welcome departure from the rain and an oasis on our journey. Amazingly, no one seemed to be complaining and we had some unexpected blessings too. The train into the city was much emptier than normal and we almost had one entire car to ourselves. The food court that would normally have been packed with people on Christmas Eve was an echo chamber. We did not have to wait in lines for food and we had the pick of the tables to eat our lunch.
Every now and then God likes to remind me that He really is in charge and that he does have “plans to prosper us and not to harm us.” While things do not always turn out as I had hoped and suffering is a reality in my life as well, it is wonderful to serve a God who delights in providing surprises in the rain. While He does want us to be prudent and to use our time wisely, He also calls us to commit our plans to Him. I am so glad that I have a family of adventurers that would rather brave the rain than ever give up on a cherished family tradition. More importantly, I am overwhelmed at the goodness of a God who pays attention to the details of crowded trains and food lines. Now if I could only learn to trust Him more with every weather forecast – I guess I should just take it one wet footstep at a time.