I’d taken my mom out for her birthday: falafel and jasmine rice at this great new Mediterranean place with only a handful of tables. We headed out, Barnes & Noble-bound to spend a birthday gift card for her, chatting and laughing. At a stoplight I glanced at the clock on the bank across the street, marveling at how fast time passed when she and I were together. Green light: my trusty minivan gathered its strength for the uphill left turn.
It’s then that I saw the headlights in my peripheral vision. I gasped. Braked. Then braced myself as a Corolla barreled into the front of our van. Barreled it off, to be more specific. My head and shoulder hit the door. We spun about 90 degrees.
Mom and I sat there, stunned, assessing each other and ourselves—unhurt, except for what would be a goose egg tomorrow. Quizzed each other: I had the green, right? Yep. Still green. Did you see him? She wanted to know. Because I didn’t see him. Looked into the car that was now adjacent to us, where thankfully driver and passenger were conscious, certainly shaken.
In all the ensuing chaos of lights, paperwork, and metal, the list of kindnesses from God began unspooling. They piled themselves around us in so many heaps: My mom and I stepping out of the van, virtually unscathed. A sober, insured, and humble driver who admitted fault, along with a witness who heard him. My four kids sleeping at home with a trustworthy babysitter. Fast, insightful emergency personnel. Responsive insurance companies. Kind, intuitive friends to pick us up since my husband and father were out of town together. Even free drinks at the nearby Starbucks when at last we walked in to use the bathroom, dazed and scattered.
But my greatest revelation didn’t show itself until the next morning on the phone with my very relieved grandma. I was attempting to explain the damage to our van—how it had shook and lurched when the tow truck separated the two vehicles so crunched together, our grill and fender now gone, wheels cocked sideways. (The speed limit on the cross road is 45.) I was telling my grandmother how I braked, and then…
What if I hadn’t braked?
That smashed front end that groaned when it was separated would have been—my door.
I had not just walked away unhurt. I had walked away alive.
In a split second, God had possibly saved not only my health, but my life. Mine. God seemed to make it very generously, kindly clear that He still had plans for me here on terra firma. When I put down the phone, I went over and kissed my daughter’s head. I was suddenly hugely, somberly thankful to be making her oatmeal as she waited there (on the floor; we had already sold our table) in her pink flannel nightgown, wrapped up in her quilt.
It was in that season where we were first headed to Africa. I had increasingly felt like a spectator–in a good way. God’s plans seem to buzz around me in gracious and powerful ways that opened my eyes to how I was (still am) part of His plans, and not the other way around. It was a feeling of Psalm 91:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty…under his wings you will find refuge.
As I watched God work powerfully around us—this little family in way over our heads, running like hamsters on a wheel trying to get ourselves out of the country—I felt covered.
Nuts? Well. A Little
Side story: Retrieving some medicine from the pharmacy the other day, my kids were bouncing up and down like little pogo sticks. “We’re moving to Uganda!” one of them brightly announced to the pharmacist. She probably thought something like, What a nice story. Where did you hear about that place? Isn’t that in South America somewhere?
So I offered a lopsided grin. “Actually, they’re telling the truth. We’re moving to Africa.” She looked at me, then glanced at the kids who were racing around me. Her eyebrows lifted.
“Are y’all nuts?”
Good grief. I didn’t even have all my kids with me.
The comforting theme of that story to me, which surfaces in little vignettes all over the place: Apart from God, yes, heaving our lives a hemisphere away was pretty close to bonkers. But with God, we are covered by Him.
It’s as if our family kept doing our little part, working and working away at all the strange and widely scattered details of immunizations and lists of items to bring and pricing garage sale items. Things were careening at breakneck speed and even crashing around us. A few months later, in the utter chaos of developing-world traffic, I would remember that minivan was totaled twice before we left (or had to mess with selling it)–and we stepped out without injury.
But over all these things that were so far beyond what we’re capable of, my family heard, Just watch. I’ve got this one.