Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Monday, August 1, 2016

Trusting God in the woods

 My sister and her family were the singers for a church camp in Kittanning, PA that I attended regularly as teen and young adult. From the age of 13 til around 22, I went every year, and stayed all 10 days most of those years, washing dishes and later running the small bookstore to pay for my room and food.
  I hadn't been to the camp for around 24 years, so I decided to go after work on Saturday and surprise my nephews, sister, and brother-in-law. And I did. I had a great time, got to see people I hadn't seen for years, got to meet some new cousins I had never met (4 siblings a cousin of mine adopted 9 years ago), and got to meet some people I had only previously known through Facebook.

  I attended the Saturday evening service, which was great, and the Sunday morning and afternoon services... then I packed up and headed for home around 4 pm

. I had bought a sub, some tomatoes, and chips and planned on stopping halfway home at McConnell's Mill State Park to eat and sight-see a bit. I got there around 5:00, ate my little picnic meal, used the bathroom, then drove down the 1/2 mile or so of very winding road through the woods to the mill and covered bridge.

  There is limited parking.... which was all taken, so I parked beside the road where it said "no parking", planning on only being there 5-10 minutes. I wandered around, took several pictures, got back in the car...... and it wouldn't start. I tried several times, and no success. It turned over, but wouldn't start. I got out, put the hood up and peered underneath as if by looking under the hood, I would suddenly turn into a knowledgeable mechanic.......... and that didn't happen. Just as I closed the hood, an SUV pulled up to the mill and two young park rangers pulled up and exited their vehicle. They noticed me and headed my way. Uh, oh..... they're going to yell at me for parking where I am not allowed....... But no.... they offered assistance, and one went to get his portable battery jumper, even though they and I didn't think it was the battery. The other ranger asked for my license.......great, they are going to fine me.......but again I was wrong. As if he read my mind, he explained they always have to get that information and a signature in case of damages when they help someone. Sure enough, the car couldn't be jumped. I thanked them, and they headed off promising to check on me if I was there when they came by again.

   I decided to call my dad for advice.... and there was no signal/service at all. I was way down, surrounded by trees and rocks..... so taking a drink of water, I locked my car and headed up the steep trail through the woods all uphill up to where I had eaten. I hadn't gotten too far before I wish I had traded my sandals in for the tennis shoes in my car, and I also wished I had brought one of those bottled waters along.

  I finally reached the top, and called my mom's cell......nothing. It was around 5:45, so they were probably at church. I called the church....no answer. I called my sister Vicki.......no answer. I called AAA and discovered they would only cover your car being towed 3 miles, then it was $3 a mile......really?! So you have to break down within 3 miles of a garage or home? Yuk. So I called my brother-in-law back at the camp. He knew a pastor close to where I was who was good with cars, so he called him.... that pastor couldn't come, but said he could send a member of his congregation that was good with cars. I headed back down to my car, hoping and praying that the rain that was approaching would wait until I got to my car.... so down the steep trail through the woods I went, and got to my car...... not too long before it started pouring down the rain. I put more sensible shoes on for walking, and waited.

 I waited, and waited. I got my umbrella out and wandered around, went over to chat with a Mennonite family who were standing close to the mill to avoid the worst of the rain. Finally, the rain slowed down to a trickle, and the mechanic arrived shortly after. After introductions, he started trying things, checking things, having me try to start it while he did this or after he did that. The car started a few times, only to immediately stall. The Mennonite guy came over and tried to help... no success. A tattooed dude with a shaved head in a black Escalade  stopped with his wife and asked if we needed help, and said he'd be back through. The mechanic dude kept trying things with no success, telling me his story of being saved from drugs and other stuff. The Escalade dude came back, and came over to help, with no success. He and his wife walked around for a while, then came over to wish me luck. He said he had cold water in his vehicle and offered me some. Out of water by now, I took him up on it. He also offered me a sub from Jimmy John's, which I turned down. He shook my had, and wished me luck. I thanked him for everything and said "God bless you", and he told me that back, and they left.

 I told the mechanic a few times I was just going to have it towed home - about 50 miles at $3 a mile......sigh. He kept wanting to try one more thing. Finally, he gave up and gave me a ride up to the top so I could call AAA and have my car towed to a garage near my church. I got up there and got several text messages and other messages from concerned family and friends who couldn't get hold of me for a couple of hours......it was now after 8 pm. I called my parents, answered some texts, and called AAA to order a tow truck. They said it should be there within the hour - which by this time meant around 10  pm..... or as late as 11 she said if they were behind. Eyeing the approaching darkness, I headed back to my car, choosing to walk the winding road instead of the trail through the woods since it was getting dark.

 I got to my car, and started waiting.....and praying.....and worrying. There I sat in the dark in the woods with no one around. I put my passenger window up that was by the woods, afraid someone would sneak up on me that way. I found myself wondering if anyone had ever been murdered in this area. If someone murdered me and threw me in the water, my body may never be found.... A man stopped and asked if I was OK. I thanked him and told him I was waiting for a tow truck. I waited more. Wished my cell had service so I could keep in contact with people. Listened to some music, but was afraid I'd run my battery down, so I went back to watching the darkness and listening to the rushing of the water over the dam.

 I prayed more, got freaked out more.

Another man stopped and asked how I was.

I waited more. It was close to 10:00. Turned on Christian radio and listened to a few songs. Shut it off, drank some more. Prayed some more.

Maybe I read too many suspense/mystery novels.....

Another guy stopped and jumped out to see if I was OK.

Now it was  10:00 What if the tow truck driver can't find me and goes home......he can't get a hold of me. I can't walk up that road at this time of night..... it is dangerous.

I wonder if there's any bears around here?

Why me God? I just had such a great time at a camp meeting and got help and encouragement... now this?!

This guy isn't coming. What will I do? Stay in my car all night, but my family will be freaked out.....

I wish I hadn't even gone to camp. My week-end is a disaster. (As soon as I thought that, the meme went through my mind I shared recently "did you really have a bad day, or did you have 5 bad minutes that you milked all day?" OK, touche', God.....

   It was now after 10. I was really doubting this tow truck driver now. I had occasionally tried to start my car, but had no success. I tried again.....and it started..... and stayed running. I cautiously put it in park and headed up the long winding road through the woods and rocks, knowing if the car quit again, I would be in an even worse place..... but it kept running. I got up on top and headed for the main highway.... still no cell signal. I pulled onto State Route 422 and restarted my phone..... and called my parents. Dad figured I might as well drive it home, and said to call them if I had problems. I called my worrying best friend and told him what was going on, only to be interrupted by my little sister calling me to tell me they were on their way home from church and was about an hour behind me if I had trouble.

   But I didn't. I made it safely home at 11:30, five hours later than I had originally planned. I unpacked, and started the car again.....success. This morning, it started again, so I drove it to a mechanic we use and he is checking it out, figuring it is the fuel pump.

  I'll never get those 5 hours of my life back, and sitting there in the woods between 9;00 and 10:30 pm at night is something I didn't enjoy, but I am glad I went. The car would have had trouble at some point anyway, and God helped me through it and no bears or deranged murderers ran across me. I am not out the $120.00 or more I would have paid in towing - and yes I canceled the tow truck who truly was on his way - and I ran across several people who went out of their way to help..... the mechanic who would take nothing for his trouble, the 2 nice park rangers who tried to help, Mr Escalade dude, the other 3 guys who stopped to check on me.....

 I learned a few lessons last night. I still feel sorry for myself too easily. I still don't trust God enough. There are some really nice people out  there. And God is always with me, even in the dark in a deserted state park in the woods.

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