Having just returned from Spain I have been reminded of all the ways God gives graces every day. It seems though when we are in our own element we often miss these ways He provides, protects and orders. We go about our routines, thinking we are in control, and give little or no thought to the One who holds us in the palm of His hands.
But feeling helpless in a foreign country, unfamiliar with everything and unable to speak the language, it was oh so very clear how God provides. And also so very clear how our unmet desire for control leaves us anxious and stressed. Praise be to God – He draws near to us even so.
So much so that I listed in my travel journal all the tangible graces we saw while away as a way to remember again His faithfulness. I share some here in hopes we will all be encouraged to look for these daily graces. And no matter how seemingly small or insignificant I hope seeing them leads us to Him with thanksgiving and praise.
God’s Grace to Foreigners in Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and Morocco:
- Right off the bat our flight was delayed. Praise God our connecting flight was also delayed or we would’ve lost our whole first day – which happened to be my youngest child’s birthday.
- The next morning we went to pick up our rental car and about panicked that our luggage would not fit in the trunk and that it was stick-shift so if anything happened to my husband the rest of us would be stuck! Praise God our suitcases did fit and though the entire trip was met by stressful driving, bad signs and unending roudabouts we were protected and brought safely back.
- At the time of our first stop in Toledo, Spain we had not yet mastered the parking garage pay stations and mistakenly put our credit card in the slot to discover it only takes cash Euros. Praise God after a couple heart-stopping seconds the machine spit out our main method of payment!
- Next on the itinerary – Portugal. With only my Mapquest printouts and no GPS or guarantee we were on the right track, we nearly decided to abandon plans for Portugal. But then the highway sign mentioned in passing by a Toledo museum security officer appeared, confirming we were headed the right way. Praise God the town of Marvao, Portugal that night ended up being one of our very favorite spots of the whole trip and a much needed “oasis” after the long, hot stressful first two days.
- Navigating the San Francisco like city of Lisbon is amazing grace in itself. But after not being able to find our hotel and randomly parking just for the sake of not getting ourselves run over we stopped in a shop to ask for help. Praise God we were pointed to a hotel with a name nearly identical directly across the street and the receptionist was able to give us walking directions to ours plus a much needed bathroom!
- After all the stress getting into Lisbon we were worried about finding our way out and on to the highway back to Spain. Praise God for the light rain and it being Saturday morning so the streets were much quieter.
- The time on our side however was nearly lost when we discovered the parking pay station would not take our larger bills. Needing to make change, we furiously ran out in the empty, shut-down street looking for any passerby. Praise God for the one small open cafe where we were able to buy a coffee, which we desperately needed anyway, and get change.
- Finally thinking we were on our way out we came up on a major traffic jam extending across Lisbon’s big bridge (think Golden Gate Bridge) due to an accident. After 30 minutes of barely inching forward just as we hit the bridge the lanes were cleared and cars flowed freely. Praise God, just in the nick of time, as my husband is totally freaked out by heights and may have had a panic attack if we were stuck indefinitely on it over the river.
- Sevilla, Spain was our next stop and the location for reuniting with good friends living in Spain. Praise God, meeting up with them could not have come at a better time.
- The wild monkeys on the Rock of Gibraltar are evil. We watched one tear into a lady’s purse almost destroying her passport after biting her arm. Another ran down a lady eating a sandwich and it seemed as if they were going to jump into our friends’ stroller. Praise God they didn’t and we got out of there unscathed.
- For various reasons we felt apprehensive about going down to Morocco. Praise God for the fabulous English-speaking tour guide and the comfortable place we stayed.
- After ferrying back to Spain we planned to lunch with our friends in a Spanish beach town before going our separate ways. But the “guys” car and “girls” car got separated from one another with her phone in his car and his phone unbeknowst to the girls uncharged. An hour passed and we worried a wreck had happened. Praise God that was not the case and my son’s iTouch charger fit as the only right cord to recharge the drained phone so when we called again using a stranger’s phone we found each other.
- Much anxiety came from driving and parking but we were also worn down from lots of sight-seeing, fast-paced days and the late-night schedules the Spanish keep. Praise God our last few days were met by a nice resort near a Mediterranean beach away from the hustle and bustle of a big city. We were able to sleep well and significantly slow our pace.
- Despite the mishaps, Praise God for the many laughs we shared with each other and the memories of spectacular sights and experiences!
The more I ponder on these trip snippets and others, the more I am moved to gratitude – amazed by my God who gives graces in abundance all the time, even when they go unnoticed.
Not only that, but in giving abundantly He didn’t even hold back his Son. He gave His greatest gift for our greatest need – the righteous life of our Savior for our sin – changing our status as “foreigner” and the unrest that comes with it to naming us His children with all the blessings of undeserved grace, mercy and peace.