While on a family vacation in Hawaii three years ago, a surprising event reminded me God never takes vacations.

My husband and I had rented a car for the day and driven around the Big Island with our two grown kids.  We’d been exploring the island all day and were ready to just relax on the beach and enjoy the sunset. 

We found a nice little spot north of Pearl Harbor along Highway 93 called Maili.  There wasn’t anyone else nearby on the beach, although some divers were fishing not too far away.  We put out our umbrella and bright beach towels, definitely looking touristy. The picnic basket held snacks and some forbidden beer and wine.  Like rebellious teenagers, we disregarded the sign that read “No alcohol”.  (Admittedly, I am a bad example to my kids.  I’ve been known to smuggle bottled water and candy to the movie theater, too, although I do always ‘pack it out’.)

My tolerance for alcohol is pretty low and it didn’t take long for me to feel tipsy.  We were all being silly and enjoying the gorgeous sunset. 

Merry in Maili!

Happy in Hawaii

Before long, I had to use the restroom.  It was a short walk from our beach nest and off I went, feeling a little wobbly.  As I exited the deserted building, I noticed a woman sitting at a picnic table just above our site.  Simultaneously, I heard a voice say “go speak with her.” 

Whoa!  That wine was affecting me more than I’d expected.  I tried to clear my head, but instead the voice became more insistent.  “Go Speak With Her.”  Abruptly, the tipsy was gone and I became very aware this was God speaking, not the wine. 

I strolled over to her table, feeling a bit self-conscious.  She looked very intent and reflective as she stared out at the ocean.  I said, “It’s a beautiful sunset, isn’t it?”  She responded with a gorgeous smile and nodded.  Surprising even myself, I just plopped down at her table and settled in. 

My daughter snapped a shot from the beach while I was sitting with Amber

My daughter snapped a shot from the beach while I was sitting with Amber

It didn’t seem odd at the time, but we soon started chatting like long lost friends.  I knew I was on sacred ground when Amber unexpectedly began sharing some of the most painful things I’ve ever heard.  She confided past and current life choices she was wrestling with and trying to decide how to remedy them.  I don’t remember most of my responses, probably because they weren’t really mine.  I was just the messenger after all.  At one point, she commented, “I was praying for God to tell me what to do, and you just told me exactly what I needed to hear.”  We sat together in comfortable silence for a time, then embraced before she walked away.  Just like that, my life and faith were inexplicably touched.

Amber said I was an answer to her prayer.  I didn’t realize until much later she was also an answer to mine.  (I can be pretty slow sometimes!)  I’d been struggling with feeling like I didn’t matter, that I had no purpose.  I guess I’d forgotten that I’d asked God to please give me something, anything to know I could be useful, that I did matter.  Through Amber, He told me exactly what I needed to hear, too.  I don’t know what answer she heard that evening, that’s between her and God.  But I heard that I do matter, and He can use me in the most unpredictable ways. 

I often think about Amber and wonder how she is.  I also wish I would have realized the impact she had on me soon enough to tell her so. 

How about you?  Have you had an unexpected visitor that impacted your life or faith?