Earlier in August, my wife Lauren and I took a vacation. More appropriately, we took a ‘stay’cation. We didn’t travel to some far away destination. We didn’t drive the hundreds of miles to the coast. And our available time and budget kept us from flying to a more exotic or foreign locale. Instead, we focused our attentions on the beautiful area in which we live.
As part-time residents in Brevard, we have access to the mountains on a regular basis. As part-time residents in Asheville, the city and its many shops and restaurants are always there. So the question became, how do we get away without going anywhere? The answer presented itself in one of our favorite local treasures, the Biltmore Estate.
Long time pass holders, Lauren and I have frequently visited the house. But we have also had picnics, taken walks, enjoyed meals and shopping on the expansive grounds. We had never before stayed on the property, however. The reason being, until recently, only the Inn with its posh interiors and expansive suites with price tag to match was available for such accommodation. Since this Spring, though, Biltmore has opened the Village Hotel. It isn’t as posh as the Inn and the rooms are far from expansive, but they are well appointed and provide a perfect place to get away from it all without going very far.
While there, we enjoyed all the estate has to offer from dining to tours to activities. But it wasn’t until near the end of our stay that I began to realize just what treasures I had been overlooking. You see, each day we began by waking up to the sun quickly throwing on some clothes and going for a walk. We would return after an hour or so and pick up the morning paper. Upon returning to the room, we would divide the paper and make tea. We would then sit and discuss the paper, sip our tea, do the crossword puzzle, and laugh. It’s rare that our morning starts this way, even on our Sabbath day. So this time we spent together became all the more valuable.
On the last day of our stay, I decided to skip the morning walk and instead took a walk that afternoon. It was while on this walk that I experienced several more treasures. The first is pictured above, a rainbow. Even after 32 years of life, the rainbow still impresses me. It is beautiful, captivating, and mysterious. At the same time, the rainbow is an easily explainable scientific phenomenon. As a Christian, it is also a sign of God’s loving promise to never flood the whole earth again. A sign of God’s compassion and care, this beautiful refraction of light has its greatest value from a relationship.
The second treasure I found was peace. Some might attribute this to the gorgeous landscape along a flowing river. Others would say it came on the gentle breeze and the near silence of relative solitude. But again, the peace I found was a treasure to me mostly because of the one who created all those things and whispered through them, I love you.
The last treasure I found was curiosity that led to surprise. Though I had walked these trails for days and several times before, I had never walked them as far as I did that day. I was curious. Where did the trail end? What would I see along the way? I had no idea. But I wanted to find out, so I kept walking. Eventually, I found that I was on my way to the main house. How delightful! Had I thought about the distance or known the destination, I probably would have turned back long before I arrived. Instead, my curiosity led to a happy surprise. But the best surprise came when I met Lauren at the house. She had gone up earlier to explore the gardens and didn’t expect to see me. Her surprise and joy at my presence was better than other.
As I reflect on these treasures, I am reminded of another treasure. Jesus talks about it using a parable. He tells of man who was walking through a field and found a treasure beyond value. So, he went, gave up his former life, and bought the field. In so doing, he now had something that could never be purchased and that he would forever cherish. (paraphrase of Matthew 13:44) Jesus says this is like the Kingdom of God.
I found many treasures that day. Some I will always cherish, others will fade with time. But the ones I keep forever, will be the ones that stem from my relationships. For those I would give up everything I have. I would change my life just to have them. And yet, they are often the treasures I take most for granted. They live right under my nose, but I rarely see just how beautiful they are. Hopefully, we’ll all take more time to value the invaluable treasures of our relationships. I know I will, at least for today.