We drove along the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. It was the last evening of our week long experience of Scotland and all were a little tired. The previous night we had our first taste of “glamping” (glamorous camping?) and not many of us were well rested. The comfort received from thin blue camping mats did not increase as I layered more and more of them under my body on the wooden floor – you’d think four would help! Lindsey offered what sounded like whooping cough to the confined space as Kelly sought to stifle her cough by putting her head under a pillow.

But, a new day had begun, it was sunny (or at least not raining) and it was August the 4th – Kya’s 9th Birthday.  Kya started the day with a large piece of chocolate cake from a local café and we drove on to the beautiful Isle of Skye. We listened to bagpipers and saw the sights of this legendary corner of the ancient and storied land.

But it was now the end of a long day, the girls were drifting in and out of sleep, and Kelly and I had no place to stay. When we had tried booking a place two weeks previous there was nothing to be found for Saturday night at a reasonable rate. The Edinburgh Tattoo had just begun and the crowds had arrived.

As we drove along the shores of Loch Lomond, we enjoyed the beauty, yet had that sinking feeling that it would be a sleepless night leading to an exhausting last day – not a great way to end the tour. Our plan was for the girls to fall asleep in the van and then we’d pull over at the side of the road and rest for a while too. As we drove we began to hope that maybe somewhere there would be ‘room at the inn’. We pulled into a couple little hotels and were told that there was nothing anywhere, but at the third place, in a town called Troon, the staff did some calling around and found a room in another hotel with one double bed. Though it wasn’t a great area of town, nor was it quite suitable for six of us, we were so delighted with this inexpensive, last minute find. We were so thankful to have a flat place to lie down (it was the two birthday kids – Kya and myself who got the bed!); also, to have a shower and toilet was wonderful! We started the Lord’s Day with a grateful heart. We played in the local playground then chose from three Church of Scotland’s within one block of each other and worshipped our Lord with joy.

There have been so many occasions where we expected little and were surprised with so much more. Where we planned for challenge, great expense, or disappointment and rejoiced in a pleasant sense of ease, or startling generosity or encouragement. The Lord grants opportunities to see grace but often I’ve overlooked those moments. Paul said in his letter to the Philippians:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every   situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.    Phil. 4:11-12

Experiences outside of our comfort zone prepare us for challenge but also stimulate great rejoicing when the goodness of God’s love, often displayed through loving people, is expressed. As I finish this reflection, our family has just returned from the cattle market auction in downtown Kilrea. Someone from the Church saw us there and took us out for lunch afterwards.

The generosity, sincere welcome, care and interest in our lives that we have experienced in Northern Ireland will never be forgotten. With gratitude and joy in Christ, Tim Bruneau