Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Land of More

Last week I made the 10 hour trek from Florida to Tennessee to serve on the director's team for the Navigator's summer program! Today is an exciting day! Our student team leaders arrive with their hearts full and their cars packed for a summer of leaning into the Lord, impacting college students from all over the southeast with the Gospel, and growing in character, wisdom, faith and skill.  They will be joined in a few days by the 120+ students who will be under their leadership and participating in SMS2013.

I have been challenged this week with my own inadequacy. I've been fighting a cold, some emotional ups and downs, and a bit of overwhelmedness, thinking, "Can I really handle the pace of the program and run with these students for the summer?"

This is when the Lord continues to remind me, "Rachel, not your strength, but mine. Not your ability, but my power through you. Where you are weak, dear girl, I am strong! The author of strength." 

This has been encouraging to me.

On a different note, I have taken several walks and breathed in the commercial mountain air of Pigeon Forge! It is crazy how many shows, shops, and neon signs line this town. I'm excited to check some of them out, but I realize that Pigeon Forge, who's slogan is "The Land of More" never likes silence or solitude. Its actually a kind of exhausting reality of how our world longs to be filled, and fills themselves with entertainment, earthly purchases, and grossly overpriced expenditures. 

Yet, beyond the parkway, are some amazing views of the Smoky Mountains! The Lord has used this to say "Look beyond the circumstances, the hustle and bustle, and see me! Keep your eyes fixed above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3).  The real "Land of More" lies in Jesus Christ, who purchased us with his blood and filled us with all the full measure of Christ (Ephesians 3). This too has been good for my heart.
Smoky Mountains and the Parkway from my Room!

I've also visited the local Walmart where, my roommate for the summer says, "Walmart is where everyone and their momma and their Bubba go to shop." I will say, in that one 30-minute trip I saw more beards and more mullets than maybe in all my life.

Please pray for the program as we all get excited for all the students to come this week:)  

This blog brought to you by Dolly Parton, who started Dollywood here and who, regardless of who you are,  will always love you.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Flock of Birds and A Chance Meeting

Boarding my connecting flight in Dallas, I made my way past my boss' seat and two other people going to the same conference as myself on how to train new staff.  Row 18..row 20...row 21. 21D. I take a deep breath. I put my red carry-on suitcase into the compartment overhead, sit down, buckle up and try not to focus on the last experience I had on a plane. I decide to take the inevitable risk of saying hi  to the person next to me, hoping to get my mind off myself. For the first time I look over and I actually take note and evaluate the state of the blonde lady in the window seat, and realize she looks a little like I feel.

"Hi. I'm Rachel. Are you ok?" (I try saying this without being offensive, as I notice her puffy red eyes with smeared blue eyeliner and disheveled hair.)

"No. No, I'm really not! Ive had the worst day," said my window seat companion with a panic in her eye.

"What happened?" 

At this point she starts waving her hands like she's having a hot flash and says, "my first plane caught on fire and we had an emergency landing. I was sitting next to the engine, I look out my window and I see a flock of birds fly into the engine." She gasps a little as the plane we are on revs up. "I can't do this! I can't do this," she says. 

"Wait what?!"

"On the first plane, I saw the flames and I smelled that awful smell, and smoke came through the cabin...and the air masks..and I texted my husband "I love you..I love you" over and over...Oh, I shouldn't be on this plane. But I've been waiting for 5 hours to fly to see my best friend in Colorado." She quickly closes the shade as our plane moves faster.

"What! That is crazy," I exclaim. "How are you feeling? You are brave to get on a second flight today," I say.  At this point, I ask a few more questions about what happened, but quickly realize that she may have a repeat of my own anxiety attack a month earlier if we continue to talk about the emergency landing. So, for a few minutes I try to calm her down. I ask about her kids, her husband and how they met. This seems to work. She shows me pictures on her phone. 

But after a few minutes, when the plane is still bouncing as it comes to altitude, I realize she is still not doing great. "I'm such a mess! I know its a hard story to believe! I'm sorry you have to sit next to me," she weakly smiles.

"Hey, Melissa...Can I tell you something? A month ago, I was on a plane, and had an anxiety attack, that I thought was a heart attack. So I kinda get it! And I've been nervous to fly on this plane too, because I've been wondering if I might have another anxiety episode."Would it be ok if I pray for us?"

At this Melissa grabs my hand dramatically and immediately bows her head with determination. Then she looks up, "I knew you were a Christan. Ok. Go!" She returns to prayer state. I say a quick prayer and then we continue talking.

I find out she has two kids, that her and her husband were high school sweethearts, that she's mad at the airline for not doing anything when all that happened earlier. I learn that she lives in Houston and has a new ATV that is bumblebee yellow--"to match my hair as it bounces in the wind." 

Then she asks the inevitable question. "Are you married? Do you have kids?" I tell her no, and she says "Don't worry, don't worry. I just know this is going to happen for you! You have a good heart. This is going to happen. You will get married, don't worry. Don't settle, but don't worry. You have a good heart." She repeats this probably 5 time throughout the remainder of our flight.  

After a little while,  she pulls out a encyclopedia size book, and shows it to me. "Actually I have this children's Bible that I borrowed from my son. I started this morning and because its been such a terrible day, I read from Genesis to Zephaniah." 

"You read all of this today?" I ask! 

"Yes! Its been a pretty stressful day! Did you know Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible? I didn't know that, but that's amazing to me. I want to read the real Bible someday, but don't know where to start."

 At this point, I get to share a Bible reading plan with her and she's so excited! "Yes! A Bible reading plan. You and I were suppose to sit next to eachother," she exclaims. And then "You wait for the right one, honey. You have a good heart. I know you won't be single forever."

I laugh to myself at how random and awesome this lady is.

By the end of it, I had a new friend in Texas, a place to stay if I ever come, food to eat that she will cookout for me, and a free pass to ride the yellow ATV, which "also will look great with your hair color, honey." She gave me a hug, thanked me, exchanged emails and numbers, and walked away as my director stared incredulously with wonder on his face. He said "Let me guess.." 

I interrupted and said "There is no way you will figure out what just happened. Its a CRAZY story."

As I walked out of the airport, I thought about how thankful I was that these things happen in life. When you bump into someone's life with your own, and you have an encounter that makes you friends, even for a moment, that's a real look into humanity. That somehow, ordained by God's sovereignty, I sat next to a lady on a plane who was in a worse state than I was, and helped me with my anxiety as I helped calm hers. That I could pass on a tool that's helped me in reading the Bible, and help her. That I was welcomed and loved by a random lady in the midst of something I was really nervous about. Really, it was God helping both of us. Its like this quote:

"Along the way you bump into people who make a dent on your life."~The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Thanks to my airplane friend, that dent was actually not a dent at all, but a blessing. 

This Blog brought to you by the ATV dealers of Texas and a God who knows the combined number of blonde hairs located in American Air flight, Row 21, where two random friends met one day in April.