Friday, November 4, 2016

November 4th

Letter written to a friend and sister in Christ on July 11, 2016, edited, describing our move to Indiana on June 13.

We have moved! We are still in the temporary apartment while the house is being finished up. It should be finished by the end of this week, which is so much ahead of schedule that the bank is now scrambling to get all the documents necessary to close the loan.

We have been in this apartment now for about a month, and I can still remember the misery of the days leading up to the move. After our last day in the house, we had gotten up at two thirty in the morning after a bad night of almost no sleeping, with Merissa in the same room with us, because it felt too lonely for her to stay in her empty, lonely room all by herself for the last night. She didn’t sleep well, either. We left the house by four thirty.

I had been facing a lot of fear about the drive. I rarely drive in cities or for long periods of time, but I had known for some time that I would have to follow Keith’s truck with my car and that there was no getting around this. Of the whole drive, I dreaded the most driving through the city of Nashville. It’s the largest city with the most complicated intersections on the route.

I tried as much as possible to prepare my heart in faith in Jesus beforehand, and right before the drive, Jesus reminded me to look for His goodness- gifts of His goodness- instead of dreading the stresses of driving.

At the last minute, however, I learned that although my car has a touch screen, it wouldn’t load the driving directions, and that I would have to follow the directions from my iphone, which still has a cracked front glass plate from when Merissa accidently dropped it. Also, the audio didn’t work, and so I couldn’t hear the advance warnings for which turn and when.

To look at the directions on my phone meant that I had to steer with one hand and lift the phone to my face with the other, in order to drive and glance at the screen at the same time- not convenient and not the safest arrangement, naturally speaking. This meant that I had to stay right behind Keith’s truck and trailer and not ever get separated from him, as it was much easier to simply follow him than look at the phone.

I recognized these things as tests of my faith and so I braced up my faith in Jesus alone and regardless of what might come, and off we set, leaving the house behind for the last time. For so long, we’d been driving back and forth from Georgia to Indiana, and each time, I longed for it to be the last time, but now that this was happening, it was almost a desolate feeling to leave the house where we’d brought Merissa as a newborn and where all of her baby milestones had been celebrated. It’s a lovely house and we have loved it, and driving away from it in the dark of early morning left me with a poignant, lost sort of feeling.

However, with each mile that we put behind us, I felt my spirit lift. For a year, we have been working and planning for this move, and now finally, we were lifting away and free. Each time, in the last year, when we had to return to Georgia, it was with a steeling of nerves and faith to get through the next stretch of the transitional process- retiring from the army, putting the house on the market, waiting for an offer, etc. But now there would be no more return journey to face and no more challenges in that direction- all those gates of faith had been passed through, and we were leaving for the last time, our new future in place and in view.

When we reached Atlanta, it was still dark outside. We went through the southern edges of the city, which I was familiar with from getting Keith and my parents to and from the airport. Then we reached the other side that I was not familiar with, and in particular, an entrance ramp that curved around slowly toward another highway. There was another exit ramp that also was curving around in a similar manner to one side of the car, and there were cars all around us, but I could not see the cars, just their headlights and tail lights sweeping the roads, with the glow of the street lamps.

I have quite poor vision, especially at night and especially when I must glance to the side and behind me, as when preparing to change lanes, because of my glasses. But this is exactly what I had to do when changing lanes on that curving entrance ramp. I saw that there were headlights sweeping along from behind, but I couldn’t tell if they were from the lane beside me, or from the lanes further away- everything seemed a confusion of lights and movement. I checked, and checked again, and thought for sure that those lights were from two lanes over, leaving me a space to move, but I couldn’t linger, as Keith was already in his lane and I knew I had to keep right with him, so I swerved over to the right to follow him.

As I did, I felt a rushing movement and a great deal of intense energy on my right side and almost simultaneously, a loud, angry and long blare of someone’s horn. I realized with horror that those headlights must have been from a car right in my blind spot, and not the next lane over as I had thought, and that I had very narrowly missed being in a car accident on a fairly crowded road with Merissa sleeping in the back seat.

In the moments afterward, I became aware- was made aware that I had been assisted in avoiding this accident by divine help. I was reminded of the rush of energy and movement that I had felt, like intense colliding pressures, and that this energy had not been physical, but spiritual. I was aware that I was being reminded of this because Jesus wanted to encourage me and to remind me that I was not alone. What I saw was as though there were angelic side guards, though this sounds a little grandiose.

I thanked Jesus fervently for the help and leaned my whole self on Him even more than before, because it was clear that He would have to be my ears and eyes, because mine weren’t working well. My anxiety was extremely intense and I had to continually hand this anxiety over to Him in confession and to bear with myself as compassionately as possible.

By the time we got out of the city, my anxiety had subsided, but the thought of Nashville was never far from my mind. We went through Chattanooga with no problems, which increased my confidence and began eventually to approach Nashville. About an hour outside of the city, I heard on the radio that there had been a large accident north of the city, completely closing off an entire interstate, and that traffic all through Nashville had ground almost to a halt and that the wreck would not be cleared for several hours yet and to plan for a long, long time to get through the city, because traffic was stopped up for hours on either side.

Then I learned that what caused the wreck was an eighteen wheeler that had landed on its side, completely blocking the interstate- I think it was 40W. (40 was the interstate that crosses east to west across the city, we were going south to north) I kept thinking about how my prayers in advance for the drive were for the Lord Jesus to get us straight through- right through, as through the Red Sea or any other potentially frightening or impossible looking obstacle, and here was a physical object that was physically blocking the way through! The significance of this was not lost on me.

However, I steeled my faith further and insisted that we would go right through and that maybe this would work out for the better- now we would go through quite slowly, and that might be less stressful! I could hardly miss an exit when I was going one half a mile per hour, or at whatever rate we would be crawling along!

When we reached the outskirts of the city, I had found a lovely Christian music station, and I recognized that this was a gift of goodness from Jesus, which I thanked Him for sincerely, as it was such an encouragement to me at the time. He had sent many such little gifts along the way.

The music helped as we entered the stop and go traffic and then got entirely wedged into the four or five or sometimes six lanes of mostly stationary traffic that stretched out as far as sight could see, forward or back. The traffic went on for miles. It was hot and the sun glittered off the metal and glass. I had an intense, pounding headache from the glare and from the lack of sleep.

When Keith is driving in such traffic, he likes to change lanes, being convinced that always the lane that is not his is the one that is crawling forward faster, which I think is a common thought. It always seems to be that way. Anticipating this, I called Keith and reminded him not to attempt that sort of lane changing here, because there would never be room for both of us to get over at the same time, and if I got detached from him, it was doubtful that I could ever get back in place behind him again, as the space between vehicles was quickly eaten up by those advancing from the back in each lane, and this movement was erratic and hard to predict.

Merissa was tired and cranky and began to cry, and there was nothing I could do, as I could not take my eyes away from the road, and even if I could for a few moments turn around, I couldn’t reach her to hand her things. I just kept talking to her soothingly about following Daddy’s truck.

“All we have to do is just follow Daddy’s truck and we will find our way home,” I said to her, as confidently and calmly as I could. “Daddy knows the way, and all we have to do is stay right behind him and follow him right along.”

However, soon Keith called me and informed me in a quiet voice that the driving directions from his phone had just rerouted him. This reroute had also shown up on my phone, when I had a chance to look at it.

This was a sober turn of events, as we had previous experience of the directions often turning out wrong for no reason- the GPS taking us on random routes up one unnecessary highway, to a u-turn and back out again, for example. This was not a time when we wanted to be taken on a little side excursion of the city, or to be attempting anything like a U-turn.

“I’m going to take the new route,” Keith decided, and I didn’t argue with him, because often times, the directions were correct and Jesus directs me to trust Keith when he makes a decision. So I accepted this reroute as best I could, but now my fear and my sense of being under attack were so great that I could not ignore them, and for a long time, as we inched in the hot sun, I felt terribly oppressed and mocked by this.

As we very slowly approached this new and unexpected exit which was taking us who knew where, all of a sudden, Keith switched lanes to the left, which was away from the exit lane. I felt a burst of intense anger at him and bewilderment which was mostly my nerves being shot, but after glancing for one moment to the side, I saw with astonishment that the lane was clear far back enough for me to move into it, if I moved immediately. But if I doubted his judgment and held back, the opening would close and I would be in a different lane, and falling back from him and begin to get hopelessly separated from him. So without hesitation, I switched lanes with him, so that the movement of his truck and trailer, and my car, was almost seamlessly synchronized.

I thought about calling him and demanding why he had made the completely unnecessary lane switch, because now we would have to go back again right, eventually, and when would we again find an opening in traffic large enough for our little convoy? However, a few moments later, I saw that the lane we had been traveling in had become an exit only lane for the exit before ours.

Keith had seen this because in his lifted, heavy duty diesel truck, he was sitting up much higher than I, and he had seen the opening when it appeared and had taken it, but had not had time to call and explain to me. He had to trust that I would trust him, and I had to trust him. This point also was very impressed on me. It’s one thing to hear about a principle in theory, it’s another to have it play out right in the midst of one’s very pressing life, to have the consequences of right or wrong decision be immediately appreciable and unavoidable.

As we approached our new exit, my anxiety had reached its highest point, like a buzzing in my ears and an intense feeling of oppression concerning terrible outcomes on the other side of the exit- the worst being a descent down into the actual roads within the city, which are usually narrow, confusing and congested, and where it’s easy to get separated by the advance of a red light from a yellow, or a red from a green, and then where would I be? Lost and alone in the middle of a large city, completely exhausted with only a few hours’ sleep, and with Merissa crying in the background.

Or, just as awful, not being separated from Keith, but having to face an almost endless succession of turns, intersections, and lane changes as one lane changed from straight ahead to left turn only, and having to face this again and again as we made our torturous way through the city in heavy traffic.

At that point, however, Jesus reminded me that I was investing a lot of emotional energy in worst case scenarios, and that worst case scenarios were far from guaranteed, and how about trusting Him instead?

So with an effort that almost seemed physical, I pushed the oppressive thoughts away from me and began to praise Jesus for His wonderful plan and will that awaited me on the other side of the exit. This also was marked in my mind, because I was vividly aware of the clear difference between my soul, which was not at all convinced of goodness ahead, and my spirit, that was doggedly insisting, by nothing but faith, and in the face of those very pressing and enticingly convincing fears, that goodness was ahead, because of Jesus.

That was my state of mind as we approached the exit. My fear reached a new peak when I realized that very few other people were taking this exit- most were still locked in bumper to bumper traffic as far as the eye could see. I saw a few of their faces through the glass of their car windows; they looked mostly apathetic and exhausted. Realizing how few other travelers were taking this exit, I almost called Keith in a panic to insist that we not take this reroute, but that we continue on with everyone else, because why wasn't everyone else on to this?

However, this burst of fear went out as quickly as it had flared up, because I was already committed and there was no backing out, no matter what came. I followed Keith away from the congestion and up a slowly curving ramp and suddenly out onto a wide open highway and not the city at all! Far from the small, congested roads of inner city traffic, we had been led to a nearly deserted highway that was lifted up and was clear as far as eye could see, and as I was driving up the ramp to this highway, a new song came on the radio, and these were the words I was hearing:

Hold on to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
'Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
'Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
'Cause I’m going to make this place your home.
-Home, by Phillip Phillips

This is not a Christian song that I know of, and yet it was playing on the Christian radio station, and as I was hearing this, tears were filling my eyes at the wonder of it, and because of the intensity of my gratitude. I worshiped and adored and praised Jesus and poured out my heart in gratitude, and asked forgiveness for my doubt and worshiped Jesus for His good plans that are laid out ahead of time.

That new highway led serenely to another, via a long, gentle entrance ramp. That ramp led to Highway 65, and at that point, my worship of Jesus reached new heights, because far from being taken down into the city and far from being taken to a route that I didn’t know, here I was being taken to a highway that I had driven up and down many, many times when Keith and I lived in Kentucky and were going home for holidays.

“Do you recognize this highway?” Keith asked, his voice lifted by joy, when he called me shortly thereafter. “I got on it and I thought, “Wait, I know where we are! I know exactly where we are!”

We cruised right up this well known, lovely highway with rolling green banks of hills until we reached a rest area that was like a green oasis and took Abby our black Lab and Merissa out to stretch our legs and we all went walking under the trees where there were picnic tables and deep shade and peace, though the roar of the highway was close by.

I will never forget that drive up. It was a pivotal moment in my life, marking the end of one thing and the beginning of another, with all the most intense lessons played out right in front of me, in physical life, in real time. Especially, I thought of that eighteen wheeler that was lying on its side, actually, physically blocking the route and causing massive problems and confusions for many thousands of people traveling, and how knows how much sorrow for the driver and whoever else was directly involved, and how, despite the blocking of the way, it was not possible to keep us from the destiny that the Lord had laid out for us, and that the detour only led to a more direct route home, filled with peace.

Well, not possible unless I had not trusted Jesus and followed Keith when he switched lanes! Or if I had ceased from following him so closely that there was hardly any space between our vehicles, or if I had not had divine help when I couldn’t see clearly, earlier in the day, when I had almost gotten into a wreck. If I had not done any of those things, trouble would have been multiplied more terribly than I can now envision. But I did trust and I did follow and there was help, and there was a clear, open route right on home, complete with music right on cue.

From the rest area, we had only a few more hours to drive and then we reached our new town, and then there were hours more of stress and labor of unloading and getting the utilities on in the new apartment and setting it up as comfortably as we could, using camp furniture. That night, I can’t remember ever being so tired. The next day was a surreal mix of relief and residual exhaustion and adjustment. Over and over again, I thanked Jesus that we were here, that the house sold, that the drive was over, that this was our town and our home. Every Monday since then, I have remembered that first Monday, and have thanked Jesus each time that it is behind me and that we are here.

In fact, it is a Monday again today, and Keith received his first actual call back for a job, with a phone interview, the house was appraised and the final valuation for the work has come in, so that any lingering fears that we might not have enough money to cover the overages for the work have now been cleared away. If the title company can get their work done this week, we can close on the house on Thursday or Friday of this week, as far as the builder is concerned.

There is also one thing that I must add in this e-mail, and that is a particular lesson that Jesus has been lately impressing on me, and that is the significance of compassion and forgiveness as mighty spiritual weapons. This is going to eventually come out in my journal, but not for a some time.

For example, there was one time when Keith and I were sitting at an intersection, waiting on a red light, and the car before us had many symbols of darkness and witchcraft prominently displayed over the bumper and back window.

I felt a kind of jagged, opposing energy coming from the car and as a result, I felt defensive and offended, and was sort of shrinking back into myself, spiritual speaking, as though afraid of contagion or injury. It is severely tempting to judge one’s spiritual maturity by the level and intensity of one’s righteous indignation, I have found, but this is always a false measure and leads to false pride and bad fruit. I have to depend on the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit to make me aware when I begin to fall into this, so that I can repent and act in a truly spiritual manner, and not a soulish way.

That was one such time, when Jesus reminded me of the power of forgiveness and compassion, and so, in swift understanding, I dropped my angry, frightened defensiveness and indignation, and began instead to pray for and to forgive the person inside the car, whom I could not see. In my spirit, I reached out my hands toward them, and my hands were pouring out mercy and compassion and I was saying to them, “I forgive you, may God have mercy on you. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on them and forgive them and open their eyes to Your light and do not leave them in the darkness…”

The entire energy changed. No longer did I feel attacked or even nervous. I felt supremely calm and unassailable, even though in my compassion, I was reaching out toward that from which I had before shrunk back. I don’t think the light had even changed to green yet when the car pulled out with a jerk, accelerating away. I was amazed.

I have had many lessons and been reminded of this, but none so immediate or clearly played out at that one. But also, whenever I hear a song on the radio that deeply offends me, I now forgive the artist, the producer and the song writer, and I ask God to forgive them and to have mercy on them, and I ask the Holy Spirit to bring such conviction that the sin spoken of and celebrated in the song would become like chalk and like dust to those being enticed by it, and that in the dryness, that they turn to the Lord in repentance and be saved, and I ask that the Lord Jesus do what He came to do, which is to undo the works of the enemy, and that He undo that particular work and deprive it of power and instead to send out His truth and His light into the lives of the people that were listening.

I will write more as I get time, but I will send this off now. May the Lord Jesus Christ fill you with His warm, personal love and clarity of thought, His encouragement in His work and His beauty of person. May His beauty fill your spirit with wonder at the incomparable loveliness of His nature, His goodness and His authority, which is combined in perfect harmony in Him whom we love- the Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.


Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous!
For praise from the upright is beautiful.
Praise the Lord with the harp;
Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.
Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

For the word of the Lord is right,
And all His work is done in truth.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deep in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.

The Lord looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men.
From the place of His dwelling He looks
On all the inhabitants of the earth;
He fashions their hearts individually;
He considers all their works.

No king is saved by the multitude of an army;
A mighty man is not delivered by great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for safety;
Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy,
To deliver their soul from death,
And to keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
Because we have trusted in His holy name.
Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
Just as we hope in You.

-Psalm 33, NKJV