Sunday, May 17, 2015

Vacation, Part 3: ("It's hard to believe out of this came something so great...")

The skies were murky and the streets were wet. Everyone had slept well. We decided to drive to Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America.

The area is a little confusing, because there is one museum at the actual historical site, and another larger one just down the road with replicas of the English and Indian villages and the three English ships that first sailed there. We decided to visit the latter (more young kid-friendly), but first took a drive around Jamestown Island, which is adjacent to the historical site.

I loved this. I loved the threatening skies and lonely marsh and the murky James River. I loved that this place had been preserved and really appeared, in many respects, the way it must have to people 400 years ago. I loved the quiet. I loved that there were no chain restaurants and hotels. Just land and water. We drove for close to an hour, stopping at various historical markers along the way.

When we arrived at the living history museum down the road, we decided to start with the movie that provided an overview on how Jamestown came to be. There are times when educational pieces like this tend to bother me -- I feel as if we've gone 180 degrees from "Rah-rah, America!" to "Everything about America is evil," but this one was pretty even-handed.

I saw a cast of characters -- both English and American Indian -- who made decisions out of all kinds of motivations. I saw flawed people who sometimes got it right but other times failed hopelessly. I was reminded that behind every story, there will always be good and bad, but also an awful lot of gray. This is not always a bad thing. Like the skies above. Melancholy and beautiful.

We walked down to the ships, and Dan climbed on several with the kids while I stayed back with Chloe since they weren't quite stroller-friendly.

I was standing watching them from a distance when an older man, alone with a pretty nice camera, came by. "Amazing," he said to both me and himself, shaking his head. "It's hard to believe out of this --" he extended a hand -- "came something so great."

He kept walking, searching for something to capture on film.

I thought about humble beginnings.

I thought about how something worthwhile can grow out of imperfection.

I watched the choppy waters and remembered. I remembered the way I used to melt down every time something went wrong and snap and Dan and try to control the minutiae. I saw that the past few days had illustrated I was getting just a bit better. Not perfection -- never that -- not even close. But progress.

Jamestown nearly failed. Eighty percent of its colonists died during The Starving Time. But somehow, they made it. The town ended up serving as the colony's capital for 83 years. It had a gritty start, as did all of America. As do all of us.

That can't mean we discount the good. That can't mean we don't stop to reflect on what has gone right. That can't mean I shouldn't take a minute to thank God for taking this muddled piece of clay that I am and molding it into something better. And asking for the grace to continue to be pliable.

The next day, we drove home. The sun was shining again; the traffic returned in full-force just a few hours from home. We did our best to choose patience and gratefulness. Not always succeeding, but doing just that. Trying. Because that is what we are called to do.

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