On September 16th, I began the first draft of this post. I was sitting at a REALLY upscale coffee shop in the suburbs of Seattle… that serves cupcakes with champagne… waiting to meet with a woman I don’t know. I had no clue what she even looks like. (And yet ANOTHER example of how INCREDIBLY weird my life is… this mystery woman is best friends with Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries International. Seriously.) I’m still dealing with the fallout of a Facebook post I made earlier this week that was COMPLETELY innocuous in intent. But, the conversations taking place behind the scenes, because of that post, are AMAZING… and an answer to prayer. So, I’m here drinking coffee and, yet again, wondering WHAT IN THE WORLD IS MY LIFE?!?
Back to the story, it’s April 14th. We’re leaving Virginia and heading to our next stop in eastern Tennessee, but we find out a really bad storm is heading our way. In fact, it’s so bad advisories are popping up on my cell phone telling mobile home owners to take cover. Awesome. Like we needed another reason to question whether this little adventure was a good idea. We weren’t sure what to do, so decided on the tried and true fall back: ask for help via Facebook.
People often ask how we decide where to stop on this little road trip of ours. Well, truth be told, 95% of our connections are through Facebook. I reach out to friends, tell them we’re in the area and ask if we can get together. People usually say yes if they’re around, but sometimes we get a no. And that actually happened a few days before the storm.
We have some dear friends in Knoxville. We’ve known the Atherton family for years. Pete actually co-led my first mission trip to Nicaragua YEARS ago. A few years after that he also co-led Jamie and Sydney’s first mission trip. I had reached out to Pete a week prior to our arrival to see if we could spend some time with him and his wife, Michelle. But, given the time of arrival, he thought it might not be a good idea.
I want to stop here to say this one thing: I look back over the past six months, and I see the Lord’s hands ALL over this trip. Sometimes we can see it in the moment, but mostly, it’s looking in the rearview mirror. This was one of those times. Long story short, Pete and Michelle’s oldest child, Katelyn, committed suicide in 2018. Her birthday was the following day. Simply put, with absolutely no need for an explanation, they needed space to breathe. But, within five minutes of posting my S.O.S., I received a message from Michelle telling us to come stay with them!
Immediately, Jamie and I felt horrible. We didn’t want to impose. But, they were insistent on us spending the day with them. So, we planned to arrive early the next morning, parking our RV before the storm hit. Upon arrival, Michelle made us the most amazing breakfast and then we spent some time talking about Jesus. We talked about the church. We talked about immigration and the “wall” along the Texas border. We talked about refugees and what Jesus must think about it all. We talked about mental health. We talked about how many in the church shift in their seats when you bring it up. We talked about the NEED for the church to not only talk about it… but be one of the loudest voices in the conversation.
About three weeks later, the Lord would completely wreck out lives. COMPLETELY. Looking back on this time with Pete and Michelle, we understand what God was doing. He was preparing us. I’ve talked about my friends SO MANY times on this trip. I’ve shared Michelle’s book with several people who lives have been affected by suicide. The Lord was adding yet another thread to the tapestry He’s creating with our lives. We see this thread still weaving in and out. Hopefully, it will for a long time.
And the funny thing about all of this…. THE STORM NEVER CAME! It just dissipated, with the exception of some pretty crazy winds. It was almost like the Lord created this crazy weather pattern just so we could spend time with Pete and Michelle. (This won’t be the last time He does that either!) Jamie still refuses to believe that the Lord would do that just for us.
I’ll let him continue living in denial.