This blog is really about last year's trip, but the pictures I'm posting were taken over the past few years.
Last year, Mama had just bought a brand new car and our annual trip was a perfect time for her to try it out. She left on a Monday (a little earlier than I), and even though she knows the route like the back of her hand, she followed along behind Wes and Darlene, my brother and sister-in-law. Wes exited at Ellijay where he has a house, and mama kept going on to Warne, NC just an hour away.
My plans were to leave on Friday morning with my niece Chelsea riding as far as Alpharetta, a suburb just a little north of Atlanta. My niece (and Chelsea's sister) Brooke, Wayne, Camden, and Kinsley had all previously moved up there, so this was the perfect time for her to visit them and check out the area they were living at that particular time (they now reside in Cumming). I'll tell you what, if you don't have one, it's well worth the money spent to purchase a GPS because it took us right to her front door. From their apartment, I left (in unfamiliar territory) and used my GPS to get me back to 575 so that I could get back into more familiar surroundings, and find the fresh apple donuts in Ellijay that mama had asked me to stop in and get on my way up. She had it all planned out, had called the people to set a box aside since I would be there within the hour. Of course by the time I get there the truck hadn't made it with their delivery of the fresh batch of donuts, so I chose to move on down the road...doughnuts were the last thing we needed.
The part of the story I'm really writing about is to come though...the trip home. Due to the fact several family members left on different days to go up to NC, there were 3 cars following each other on the return trip home. We never fail to pray for God’s hand of protection on our travel wherever we go, so as we pulled out that morning to head back home to Florida, we had already been prepared by the Weather Channel that we more-than-likely would have bad weather to drive through. We just didn’t realize it was going to be a combination of driving in a monsoon, hurricane-like, and tornadic weather. We left at 8:00 that morning with our windshield wipers on, along with our headlights, and I also had a set of walkie-talkies for my mother and I to use to keep from using our cell phones so much. I find myself engrossed in the phone conversation rather than concentrating on my driving when I talk on a cell phone at the same time I'm driving (my mother and oldest sister are ones that feel the need to get on the phone as soon as they get in the car). Well, add trying to hold on to a set of hand controls with one hand, and your other one on the steering wheel. A Bluetooth and speaker phone comes in handy for me, but I didn’t have my Bluetooth charged on this particular day since we were going to use my walkie-talkies. The only time our headlights went off was when we stopped for breakfast at Cracker Barrel north of Atlanta. Back in the car again, and the headlights didn’t go off until we arrived in Williston 8 hours later. The usual 8 hour trip from home to Warne, NC turned into 10 hours. When we weren’t riding with the windshield wipers on high speed, they were on a quick delay. Closer into Atlanta (and also the quickest route), we have to merge onto I-75 and into mannnny more lanes of traffic. I thought of my mother when merging, as she said she never fails to ask God to "open up" an area for her to get into, and if I know my mama (the mother hen), I knew she was praying that morning for her children traveling behind her to get safely on also. Sure enough, we merged ok and I smiled and said to myself, “Thank you Lord”. The closer we got to Atlanta, the harder the rain fell. Now for someone that's been used to driving down the 2 lane back roads of Levy County all of her life, anything too much over that can get a bit hectic, if the traffic’s bad (Gainesville and Ocala I would consider minor). Since mama and daddy had the house built up there, my family has made this same trek numerous times in the past 8 years and know full well if you don’t move along, you could get ran over while driving through Atlanta (or any other big city for that matter). So here we are moving at about 60 mph with all lanes of traffic full, zigzagging in and out, brake lights, rain, and then some more rain. I kept an eye on mama and from time to time she’d brake, I’d brake, and my sister & her husband behind me would follow suit. At one point I looked in my rear view mirror for a mere split second, then looked back down to see mama’s brake lights on and how quickly she’s made a complete stop behind several more cars. I had enough time to hit my brakes and hear the loud squeal of my tires as they slid on the wet pavement. In a matter of about 1 - 2 seconds, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to come to a stop, so I squinted my eyes and prepared for the crash….and I hit the back of mama's brand-new car, and braced for the hit that I knew would come from behind from Greg and Pam, but it never happened. My walkie-talkie flew to the floor, as did my cell phone that was on the seat next to me. My first thought was, I do hope no one decides to call me because I can't reach down and find the walkie-talkie or my phone. Pam did call me a minute or so later, but I couldn't answer it. My suitcase and other things came off the back seat and hit the floor in between the seats. In a matter of seconds the traffic started back up, and so did we. People probably thought, "What are those crazy people doing leaving the scene of an accident? We pulled over into a rest area about 45 minutes later, and the amazing thing…there was not one scratch or dent to either my car or my mother’s car. No other explanation except the Lord cushioned the hit and protected the cars and ourselves from any damage. Obviously, the devil didn’t like it when I thanked the Lord for helping us onto I-75, so he probably thought, “I’ll show her…” Don’t get me wrong, I did question why it even happened in the first place, but the more I thought about it, I realized it could have been much worse and someone could have been injured, or even killed.
Trust me, God’s hand of protection is around us each day. It would be so easy for me to wonder where he was in 1981 when I had my accident that left me paralyzed, but I'm alive and well today, so that's what I've got to be thankful for. If you look hard enough you can find something positive in whatever situation you find yourself in. I truly believe I don't have to be thankful "because" of my accident, but have a thankful attitude regardless, after all, that's what it took for me to look up, as all I had my eyes on were myself (whatever it took to make me, myself, and I happy). Ephesians 5:20 says to Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus.
In closing, the other day I put bumper guards on Mama's car (factory-made, not homemade). Seems as though she scratched it on the brick wall when she was up there some months ago. Thing is she didn't even feel the bump until someone told her later that evening they saw her slowly back into it. This year's fall trip is right around the corner and I'll be praying beforehand, while there, and on the trip back home for God's hand of protection. In the meantime, I'm thankful to be alive to enjoy a part of God's creation...the Smoky Mountains in particular.