I’ve told this story a few times in the past few years, but I’m not going to apologize if you’ve read it before. Why? Because, in my humble opinion, it bears repeating. You might say this story is for those skeptics who say, “That couldn’t happen!” I’m sure you’ve heard how truth is sometimes much stranger than fiction? Well, my friends, this is one of those stories.
Grab a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and snuggle up…this is also one those warm blanket moments…
In the late 1990s, we lived on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and my husband, Jim, was an associate pastor for youth/music/worship. It was during the six-year period when I was a stay-at-home mom with three small children under the age of ten. Heavy snow was predicted for Christmas Eve, but that didn’t stop our excitement as we packed up the minivan and headed on our way to Grandma’s house in my native southern Indiana, across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky (where we now live). Stops included, driving straight through, we anticipated it would take about 12 to 14 hours.
The further we drove, however, the more treacherous the highway became. Huge trucks were skidding and sliding into ditches and guard rails, the roads were winding and narrow, and there were numerous fender benders and stalled cars everywhere. Did that stop the Durgins? No way! We were all singing, happy as could be, and nothing could stop us! At one point, I started to get a little apprehensive because of the blinding snow and icy road conditions. I remember giving Jim one of those looks and mouthing to him so the kids wouldn’t hear, “Do you think we should pull over and stop?” His response was to grip the steering wheel that much harder with fierce determination.
Our rumbling tummies finally forced us stop at a truck stop (still on The Pennsylvania Turnpike; it’s a really long stretch of highway). The warmth inside and the smells of a holiday buffet greeted us as we walked through the door. It was so welcoming! We knew we couldn’t stay long and needed to keep moving if we had a prayer to get to our destination before Christmas. As it was, we’d been delayed by creeping along at speeds of less than 20 miles per hour for several hours.
This is where it gets pretty wonderful. Our waitress came to our table with a radiant smile. Her name? Angel. She was sweet and as friendly as could be in spite of being hectic and busy with a number of customers. When Jim went to pay the bill, the cashier said, “Already taken care of, folks. Merry Christmas.” We’ll never know who paid for our meal, but it was one of those random acts of kindness we’ll never forget.
Now, for the part that makes my eyes mist all these years later. When we walked outside to our van, we discovered a man—who’d been sitting at the counter when we walked in (and greeted the kids with candy canes and a warm smile)—had been hard at work shoveling around our van in order to make sure we’d be able to get out of the parking lot. The man told us his name was Chris (or was it Kris?). In a red plaid flannel shirt with jeans and a heavy overcoat, he had a long white beard, thick white hair, wire frame glasses, and yes, I’m pretty certain there was a merry twinkle in those eyes. In case you think this is a case of an overactive writer’s imagination, I have witnesses (Jim and the three kids), and we all share this same marvelous memory (well, except for Matthew since he was very young at the time but he knows all about it!). To this day, we still marvel over the miracles of that exceptional trip.
The snow was falling and accumulating faster than I’d ever seen it. Spying a small motel a few miles down the highway, I exchanged a glance with Jim. He raised his brows and I shrugged. Then we both looked at each other a few seconds later and he said, “Indiana or bust.”
Nearly 18 hours after we started out, we finally made it to Indiana, and never was it so warm and welcoming! But the story’s not quite over yet… Jim had a mechanical problem with the van the day after Christmas. I can’t remember what it was, but we took the van to my mom’s mechanic (a lookalike for Larry Bird, a fact which thrilled my Celtics fanatic of a husband). Know what the mechanic said? “I don’t know how you made it that far, especially in the bad weather. This van should have broken down somewhere along the way.” I remember stopping somewhere in Ohio and filling a tire with air, but wow. I mean Wow! The Lord’s constant watch care and protection for us is amazing and awesome, isn’t it?
Psalm 46:1: God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Isaiah 41:10: Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
I’m giving away three Kindle copies of Starlight in Her Eyes, the fourth and final in my Starlight Christmas Series (released just this week!). Leave a comment by midnight on Friday, December 11th to be eligible. I love Colin’s story, and I hope you will, too!
If you’d like to purchase the book, it’s only 99 cents on Amazon thru the end of this month PLUS all the preceding three Starlight Christmas Series ebooks are also only 99 cents each!
Here’s the link for Starlight in Her Eyes: http://amzn.to/1NpJvac
Here’s the description of the book:
Colin Young embraces the Christmas season as the new television co-host of Wake Up, Philadelphia! His fun and spontaneous “Out and About” segments in the City of Brotherly Love are a ratings winner. Only one problem—the beautiful but intriguing assistant assigned to help make his transition easier doesn’t seem to like him much.
Serena Monroe has no time for the cheeky Brit with a glowing professional reputation but a lengthy personal history with women. Betrayed by one high-profile man, she doesn’t need another. Her sole focus is her daughter, Lily. But then Serena begins to see that Colin is nothing like she assumed. He’s a man of faith who inspires everyone around him. Dare she take a chance on love again?
When Colin invites Serena and Lily to share Christmas with him in the little town of Starlight, Iowa, can they discover a holiday miracle of their own?
Blessings to you and yours during this most precious season!