Part 2: Making Room for God, From No Reservations to the Lakehouse Bed & Breakfast

Elba  WELCOME.

Sweet home Alabama.

Now that I had arrived safely in Elba, Alabama, the next stop: Florala for a Friday night event, and then a Saturday drive to Panama City Beach. I had no clue of the distance between Elba, Florala and Panama City Beach, nor did I have hotel reservations in Florala when my mother said that’s too much driving.

At 4 p.m., we set off to reach our destination before nightfall sans a place to rest our head. Additionally, we waited for my cousin in Florala to call us back with directions and an address.

In the parking lot of Subways, I checked my telephone for hotels. One night stays, pricey.  Finally my cousin called with directions. I asked her about hotels and she paused.

“I didn’t know you had planned to stay,” cousin Hazel said. “I would invite you to sleep at my house, but I haven’t cleaned and I’m leaving early in the morning or Pensacola.“

I heard the trepidation in her voice. As the event planner, she needed to arrive at six, two hours before her guests. She said, “Come on, I’ll arrange a place for you to stay.”

“She’ll arrange a place at friend’s house,” my mother predicted.

“Maybe, she’ll let us sleep on the floor,” I said.

“It’s an adventure,” my mother said. “God’s in control.”

“I did fly first class, unexpectedly,” I said.

We set off standing on God’s promise.

I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take,
 make sure they don’t fall into the ditch.
These are the things I’ll be doing for them—
sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute” (Isaiah 24:16, The Message).

Five minutes across the Florala city line, my cellphone rang. Hazel asked our location, afterwards she Elba florala WELCOME.instructed me to pull over. She parked next to us. After family hugs, she said, “Check-in is at 6:30 p.m.”

We followed Hazel to her home. A beautiful home with room enough to house us. Again we sat and chatted about distance relatives.  As a writer, Hazel and my mother told stories about family members that were characters in novel, a family saga. This reminded me of words of a famous author, “A good writer has a storyteller in the family.”

What a blessing to sit with two wise women with family stories, that I could fictionalize in a novel sequel.

Family storytellers.

Family storytellers.

At 6:20p.m., we headed to Lake House Bed & Breakfast. The owner welcomed
and escorted us to one king size bedroom and one queen on the first floor.

brabhamlakehouse

“The house is empty tonight,” he said. “Check out is 11 a.m. And what time would you like breakfast?”

I met Hazel in the hallway and asked if we should pay now or in the morning. She simply replied, “All has been taken care of. Just enjoy.”

My second God-sized gift in less than 48 hours.

lakehouse BTwo hours after lounging in the sitting room, sipping tea, Hazel returned to the Lake House and gave us a tour of Florala. Then pulled into the driveway of another cousin whom we hadn’t seen in a year.

I knocked on her door. She opened it and screamed, “My cousin from New York.” She slammed the door.

An impromptu family reunion; plans only God could have ordained.

Hooks Cousins

Hooks Cousins night out.

My mother and I by the lake Saturday morning.
My mother and I by the lake Saturday morning.

Part 1: Making Room for God, From Zone 4 to First Class

inside_white_plains_westchester_airport_1614_400_400_1Last week’s post was about the challenge: Did the Bible live in you, today? This week, my challenge included making room for God when plans go awry. I could only face this test by living the Bible specifically standing on God’s promise, Exodus 14:4: “The Lord will fight for you; you only need be still.

At 6:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, I arrived at Westchester Airport for a 7:30 a.m. two-leg flight. At 7:00 a.m. my cellphone rang, the robotic voice said: Your flight has been delayed until 8:00 a.m. Fifteen minutes later the same number popped up on my cell, again flight scheduled for 8:30 a.m.

Immediately, I checked my itinerary for the departure of my connecting flight, 9:50 a.m. in Philadelphia. I shoved my book and trail mix in my knapsack and headed toward the US Airways counter.

I stood waiting, watching, praying and listening as the airline representatives begin rescheduling new flights for passengers. The lady behind me asked. “What’s the status?”

My cellphone rang again. The lady said, “The flight is delayed.”

I pressed the speaker button, turned to her and said. “This flight is cancelled.”

The voice announced: 9:30 departure.

“Something is wrong,” I said. “Did you see the movie “Flight”?” I silently prayed. “Be still God is working this out. Don’t panic.”

The airline representatives rearranged passengers to different airports sixty miles south. The older gentleman in front of me looked distressed. His wife was disabled. The back and forth was not good for her knee.  The lady behind me, Jen, had spent her last dollar taxing to the airport because her friend stood her up.

“Ma’am, “ I said to the representative. “Is the plane here?”

“Yes and the crew, but it’s not leaving this airport. The hydraulic hose is the problem.”

Laguardia-airport-LGAThank you Lord for keeping me off that plane.

Then the rep told the older gentleman they would put him in a car and take he and his wife to LaGuardia airport for a straight flight.

“God is good,” he said.

“The Lord will fight for you, just be still,” I said.

Another woman said, “I don’t need a seat. I didn’t want to go on this trip anyway.”

Finally, it was my turn. US Airways representative asked a Delta representative if there were flights. “Only first class. But she can’t have it.”

I looked at the young man, “I’m not good enough for first class.” I was annoyed, but held my temper.

He looked away.

Then I said to the representative. “This young lady also needs a ride.” I pivoted to Jen standing behind me.

“Thanks for looking out,” she said.

However the representative snapped, “You want to give your seat to her.”

I bit my lip, “Be still,” I whispered to myself. “You’re right, I need to take care of me,” I said to the representative.

After my flight was rebooked, I realized my cousin had planned to meet me in Atlanta at 12:30 p.m. I sent him a text explaining I wouldn’t be in Atlanta until 5:22 p.m.; however I would sleep in a hotel and find my way in the morning.

My final destination was Alabama, a three-hour drive.

He texted back, “Let me see what I can do, I don’t want you staying in Atlanta.”

When I got in the town car, Jen followed. I offered her the front seat.

“You’re polite,” she said.

“God’s working on me; my patience and my politeness. I can be quite rude at times.” Let the Bible live in me was challenging.

One hour later, I walked into LaGuardia airport.  The line was long. “Hey,” a voice called. I was Jen. “Come stand here.”

Jen and I chatted, made our way to security and then to the same gate.

I bought a twenty-three ounce bottle of water, remembering her funds were low. For some reason Matthew 25:35b popped into my head” I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me.”

I got an extra cup. Returned to my seat and poured Jenny a cup.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

Jen had a Bible. Jen carried the Bible for protection only. She stopped attending church, yet she believed in God. She didn’t read the Bible because she couldn’t understand the language. Nevertheless, she didn’t judge.

I explained that church is a place of fellowship, a place where we meet God and his people for worship. Then I suggested she read The Message version for more insight.

She looked puzzled. So, I stopped talking and offered her some trail mix.

I opened my magazine and read the following verse: Exodus 14:4: “The Lord will fight for you; you only need be still.”  I chuckled. God really does have a sense of humor. In another article the writer used The Message version of Psalm 47. I ripped out that section and handed it to Jen.

“This is for you,” I said.

She read. She thanked me. She folded the torn sheet and tucked it in her pants pocket.

Minutes later we walked down the aisle of the aircraft: Zone 4 seat 34, me in C her in F. She said, “This really needs to be first class after all we’ve been through.”

“Let’s nap,” I replied. “The day will be over soon.”

Upon deplaning, we hugged each other in the airport lobby.

On my way to course B in Charlotte, my cousin texted me: We’ll be there thirty minute late.

I pulled my ticket out of my back pocket: Zone 1, Seat 4, First Class.

Reading the words twice, I hurried to the front of the line grateful I made room for God to do what He does, while I remained still.

Read Part 2: Making Room for God, From No Reservations to the Lakehouse Inn.

Faithwalk: What happens when women talk?

 

I

“I can do the job better than those with Masters and Ph.D.s,”  the woman said.
“A woman who has a degree and has stayed at home to raise a family is usually the best candidate for the job,” the other woman said.
“They have more time, more organized, and career-driven.” Woman looked at text iphone message. “After raising kids,…”
“And caring for parents,” the other woman interjected.
“Less life interruptions,” the woman said.
“We’re better candidates, volunteerism and community service alone is major experience.” “You have a Masters,” the woman said. “And even freelance experience.”
“Yeah, but a Ph.D. got tenure track, not me,” the other woman said.
“Does she have children?”
“Two toddlers and a baby on the way,” the other woman said.
“I can’t imagine trying to take care of my babies and a full-time job,” the woman said. “But I made the sacrifice, family first.”
“Our life is in God’s hands,” the other woman said.
“His plans are always better than my plans.”

II

Two days later the women talked over the telephone.
“Speaking of plans have you been writing down your ideas?” The other woman said.
“Not really, working two jobs is exhausting,” the woman said.
“Do you know if you write things down it happens?” the other woman said.
“Please, Girl,” the woman said.
“I’ve been journaling for years, but last week I started rereading old journals and…”
“What did you find?”
“A list I wrote in 1999 and all things happened. Even you, a dear friend that I could trust,” the other woman said. “That’s not all. After the divorce I wrote a letter to God describing my next husband.”
“Did it happen?” the woman said.
“Money, homeowner, no kids; but he was creepy.”
“So sometimes we don’t know what we want even if we write it down, or not,” the woman said.
“Taught me a lesson, I need to leave room for God,” the other woman laughed.
“Did you throw that list away?”
“No, I crossed it out, and wrote Lord, you know best.,” the other woman said. “Now, when I look at that page in my journal, I’ll know who’s in charge.”
“Good way to look at it,” the woman said.
“I did have a fabulous summer traveling, and that was one of my prayers…that I wrote down.”
“Maybe I’ll try it.”

III

Three weeks later, the friends talk again.
“I got the full time position, a raise, and the company is paying for me to go back to school.” The woman throws her hands in the air. “Oh, my daughter is engaged. She’s waited for that man to propose for three years.”
“I’m happy for you.” The other woman smiled.
“I did what you said, I wrote it down.”

Faithwalk: Hungry Writer’s Early Arrives at ACFW Conference

 

What do you do when you do not see anyone that looks like you? This question has haunted me for days. On the plane, I read the ACFW Journal The Voice of Christian Fiction and none of the columnist look like me. Not the same hair texture or skin color.

Once I arrive in Dallas-Forth Worth, I get on the hotel shuttle, and politely ask the other women, “Are you attending the conference?” They reply yes. I say, “I’m nervous this is my first one.” They smile. I wonder what are they thinking.

I check in, and then head downstairs to pick up my registration packet. Still no one looks like me, and I get that stare. If you have been in my shoes, you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself and say I’m being paranoid. And then again, it is what it is.

I go to my hotel room and call my three favorite people. They look like me but they are not at this conference and they are not writers. I unpack and head downstairs for dinner. Not even the staff looks like me, however they notice me, for I look like no one else in the dining room.

After dinner, I browse the hotel. Not even the people in the paintings look like me. I head to the ACFW bookstore to see what’s been published. I’ve looked at thirty books and the cover images, you guessed it, don’t look like me. I sigh. A lady passes me, and says: “Is that a good sigh.” I say, “No.” I continue walking through the tables and looking at books. I stop at books published by Zondervan, simply because I have a Saturday appointment with an editor from that publishing house. I take a breath. I focus. I remember the morning devotion.

God is the source of all creativity and innovation. He created the world in seven days. He has made you to create. If God has placed an idea in your heart to do, ask the Lord for His help in bringing it to reality. He desires to see His people create new things that can serve mankind and bring glory to God. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.”
Faith plays an important role when considering stepping out to launch a new endeavor.

Well, I had faith that I could. In May of this year, I decided to write full-time. Despite the color of my skin, the texture of my hair, the editors and agents that I would meet at this conference were looking for one thing: a writer who could write a compelling, emotional story that millions of people wanted to read. And my goal is to do God’s will because when I don’t see anyone that looks like me, and hopefully I will, I have to remember I’m God’s child and according to His Word we are all made in his image. So maybe everybody looks like me.

Stay tuned for next week when the Hungry Writer shares her conference experience.

Faithwalk: Sign of the Times

Inspirational wall décor is everywhere: Facebook, Pinterest, Tweeter, souvenir shops, department stores, kitchens, living rooms, and offices…the list goes on. These words remind us of the small things like cherish, love, and embrace every moment of life and the people in our lives. I’ve posted a few on Facebook, and wondered if people really are doers of the sign of the times. Then I simply thought about me, since I can only speak for myself.

So when I posted the sign with these words: RUN, CREATE, PUSH, KICK, ASK, CHANGE, GIVE, OPTIMIZE, SEARCH, SEE, WRITE, DREAM, SPIN, HEAR, FLY, DESIRE, and MOVE—I was on a hiking vacation in Virginia. And when I reread the words, I realized I had lived these actions. Why? I was walking on the path of peace knowing that no one can bring me peace but me, which meant I had to face realizing I may not be perfect, but I’m always me. (My cousin Eugene commented on my Facebook that always being me meant: I’ve always been crazy.)

Imagine a sign coming true. Who knew my DESIRE to travel this summer would place me on the seashores of San Diego and offer me a DREAM of living on a houseboat for a year? How crazy is that to live on a boat and can’t swim? I guess that means swimming lessons this year. Well, if I PUSHed myself to stay on the MOVE during my first seven-mile hike in Shenandoah National Park, where I CHANGEd my mind about the importance of maps, I can learn to swim. Electronic gadgets don’t work above 1800 feet, and sometimes there’s a fork in the road and only a map will help you choose the right path. Speaking of the right path, after the second hike I could SEE how hiking was like a faithwalk through rocky terrains, noises in the brush, lonely trails, and maps as guides.

After leaving Virginia, I decided to CREATE the same intense exercise routine at home. In VA we, Sharon and I, went hiking, and walking, attended a kickboxing and Zumba class as well as yoga and pumped iron in the weight room. I’ve been home for ten days and have taken two Zumba classes in which I had to SPIN and KICK and then ASK myself what was I thinking when I couldn’t RUN out of the class that was like a bad movie thinking it’s not over yet. I ‘m sure I should GIVE Zumba another try, but when one is directionally challenged she, meaning me, needs to HEAR the instructor count and point. I’m proud of myself because I didn’t FLY off the handle and criticize. I considered it OPTIMIZing  my exercise benefits. After all, I purchased a discount ticket for 10 classes; eight more to go.

Living the signs of the times has offered interesting stuff to WRITE in my journal. In the words of author Maud Hart Lovelace, “Isn’t it mysterious to begin a new journal like this? I can run my fingers through the fresh clean pages but I cannot guess what the writing on them will be.”

Until next week: dream, scream, love, take a long hot bath, live abundantly, just let go, and be.

Faithwalk: Nature’s Museum

Usually when I go on vacation, museum musing is a must. I enjoy artifacts, sculptures, paintings, photographs of varied centuries and cultures. So, while in VIrginia I did not imagine nature’s museum in Shenandoah National Park. Check out the majestic waterfalls, a brilliant butterfly, rocky terrain, knotty trees, wild flowers and Corbin’s cabin–the first .