Saturday, February 25, 2012

Difficult Highways in Life

 It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage,
that we move on to better things.
- Theodore Roosevelt

Tom and I were driving across Wyoming in February on our way home from Salt Lake City.  The weather was sunny when we left but became increasingly windy, snowy and cold as we traversed the state, causing the Interstate to finally be closed due to snow and ice.  We were forced to stop for the night in a small town along the highway and I found myself feeling irritable and annoyed that my trip would be so rudely interrupted.  I was three hours from home and I wanted to be in my own bed for the night, not here in some small, windy town in rural Wyoming with nothing but miles of empty land and blowing, howling wind and snow around us.  We had been traveling for several days already and I just wanted to be home.

We checked into the local Holiday Inn Express and as I looked around the packed lobby with all of the stranded travelers, I abruptly realized that I had prayed for safety on this trip and my prayers were being answered.  I was safe, in a clean hotel and I would not be left to sleep in my vehicle, stranded on the side of an icy highway in sub-zero weather.  I felt shame at my attitude sweep over me and was thankful to hear that we would have a room for the night.  As I looked around the lobby, my eye caught sight of a mother with four young children, all under the age of 7.  She looked worried but I could tell that she was trying to keep up appearances for her children's sake.  I heard her promising snacks and a trip to the hotel pool once they had checked in and I smiled, remembering the times we took our kids to a hotel for a weekend of swimming and fun.  I knew that she was not stopping here for purposes of entertaining her children, but appreciated her attempts to make the unscheduled stay seem like fun, making the best of the situation. 

As Tom and I sat in the breakfast lounge the next morning listening to the news and hoping for the Interstate to open, mom and her brood came down to partake of the free cereals and yogurts.  She sat at an adjacent table and caught my eye, smiling shyly.  I leaned in to speak with her.  "Where are you headed to?"  I asked.  She hesitated for a moment, then spelled out "T E X A S".  I was surprised - she was a long way from Texas!  She looked at her children to make sure they were occupied with their breakfast then slipped into the chair next to me, obviously feeling the need to talk and share more.  "I am leaving my spouse", she whispered.  "He's abusive and doesn't know that I've left.  I took the children while he was at work.  We don't have anything but our clothes and our van and I'm traveling to Texas to be with my parents."  I searched her face - she was anxious, yet determined.  "Where are you from?"  I asked.  "Oregon," she answered.  She looked at my pleadingly.  "How long will this interstate be closed?  I need to get my children back on the road."   I shook my head.  This was Wyoming - who could tell?  I've seen this interstate be closed for days at a time.  We discussed her travel plans and I provided her with as much information as I could about her route and what she could expect.  My heart ached as I thought of her driving so far, all alone with four children.  I did not know what the circumstances were that had prompted this drastic step, but I silently prayed for her safety and her future. 

The Interstate remained closed and Tom pulled out the Wyoming state map.  We found an alternative route that was open, although it would add an additional six hours to our trip and we had no idea what the road conditions would be.  We opted to leave and as we checked out of the hotel I glanced back into the lobby.  Mom and her kids were still there, waiting out the storm.  She waved and gave me a weak smile and I acknowledged her with my own wave.  "Lord," I prayed, "protect this woman.  Provide her with safety as she travels and bring peace to her and her children." 

We arrived home hours later and the Interstate remained close for another two days.  I was glad we had made the decision to re-route but I could not stop thinking of that young mother, stranded alone with her children, anxious to be with her parents and start a new life.  I mentally followed her travels, thinking about how far she would get once the roads opened and how soon she could be joined with her family in Texas.  I don't know why she felt the need to share with me, but I'm glad that she did and as a mother myself, my heart goes out to her and to her parents.  I will continue to pray for her and the challenges ahead, praying for courage and wisdom as she recreates her future in "T E X A S".
Give me your eyes for just one minute, give me your eyes so I can see. Everything that I keep missing, give me your love for humanity.....Brandon Heath

What did you see today?

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