Every. Single. Step. of this planning was marked with leading and blessing from the LORD. Each time I stumbled upon an obstacle, or stared over a hurdle, He would effectively clear it away and give an additional blessing! Through opportunities and finances, He directed where we were to go (which is pure excitement to re-live and realize!), and He has been faithful to provide for every detail.
The greatest evidence that I have yet seen of this loving provision came two weeks ago. I had just sent off the final check in payment for the tour, and was consequently feeling a little lean in the bank account, when we (the tour group) received the first official email from Mr. Bond:
"118 days before we meet in Paris!"
Excitement and anxiety immediately picked up a game of tag on the field of my emotions. Mr. Bond had advised waiting until March or April to buy plane tickets, but how low would prices actually go? As things were, the tickets hovered well out of budget. An uncomfortable wad of worry began to grow in my stomach ~ had I misjudged my expenses?
Finally, in desperation, knowing there was nothing I could do, I snapped shut my laptop and went upstairs to do what the LORD has been urging me to do in all situations: pray. (In fact, I begin to wonder if prayer is the number one lesson on God's "teach Sarah" list right now.) Asking for peace, for faith, for contentment, and lowering prices on airfare, the Holy Spirit began to soothe me. Praying for our tour group, for the people we will meet while in Europe, for the opportunity to boldly proclaim Christ, I was wrapped up in a peace straight from heaven. God is in control.
Settling down to my Scripture reading a little while later, I found myself totally refreshed and amazed by the beauty of the character of the LORD as revealed in Deuteronomy. (I can't believe I used to think Deuteronomy a "boring OT book" - it is now one of my absolute favorites...if not "the" favorite.) Over and over again, God asserts and reveals His intense love for Israel, which in and of itself is the ultimate humility. Immersed in the story of His people, I was struck by chapter 5 verse 29:
"Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!"
This is our God, Who yearns for the times when we will turn our eyes on Him and give Him glory, so that He may shower blessings on us and cause all to "be well." Underlining the verse, I wrote in the margins, "the great mercy of the LORD, that He longs always to bless us!" Mercy. Love. Selflessness. This is our God.
Before supper that evening, mama and daddy had some errands to run, and while they were out I retrieved my "Europe 2013" notebook and settled to down to find which airlines/travel agencies had the best prices at the moment.
It was to no avail - I could find no better prices, but I knew Who was in control. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, there was a Portland-to-Paris ticket price, staring back at me from my screen, for a full $200 less than anywhere else.
We're talking under $500 here, people.
There are days when you can't even get across the country for the price at which I could fly to Paris.
Another hour, another couple giddy phone calls, and we three little travellers where most certainly going to Europe! (coming home is still TBD)
Another prayer. Another gift. Another evidence of Love.
Another assurance that He will provide.
Another reminder of Who is in control.
Another praise. Another opportunity. Another plea.
LORD, keep my eyes open always to be blessed by Your work and watchful of Your purpose.