Working the weekend at the marvelous West Coast Christian Writers Conference in Pleasanton, California, topped off weeks of preparation for my role as the Critique & Coaching Director. I’d suffered a recent, personal loss & God gave me this task to keep me busy & affirm me going forward. Organizing appointments & interacting with both faculty & the attending writers were activities I enjoyed. (Loved.) So I put my heart into performing the job well & found myself rewarded at every turn. God knew this writer needed a win & it was a huge one. I left on Saturday night uplifted beyond expectation.
I was joyful! And exhausted. So weary, in fact, I worried about falling asleep on the drive home. Adding to my concern was a little matter of massive flooding on Interstate 5 – my usual route. Several times I’d received news of two-to-five-hour waits on the freeway and single lines of cars led to safety by police. Was it foolish to risk getting stuck out on the road? Alone? Should I stay another night? Probably wise.
But I so wanted to go home. I’d made a date with my pillow & longed to keep my end of the bargain.
Trying not to fret, I determined to check for traffic conditions once in Vacaville. If reports still sounded negative, I’d grab a motel rather than venture out. An hour later, I pulled into a gas station in Cordelia Junction. Better fill my CRV’s tank. What if I became a fixture on the freeway for hours? With hungry engine idling?
I’d sent up several prayers for protection & for guidance as I drove, the evening darkening, rain threatening. More nervous with each passing minute, my hand shook as I aimed the nozzle into my vehicle’s gas tank opening. Once the fuel flowed, I gazed toward the bright blue car parked on the other side of the pump.
The gal in the front seat sure reminded me of my friend, Becky, from church. Maybe feeling my stare, she turned toward me & her big eyes opened wider. I’m sure mine did, too. It was Becky!
No, it was Christmas. Or felt like it, seeing my friend open her car door and rush over to me, laughing. We hugged, amazed to see one another. What were the chances? In fact, Becky told me they’d just decided at the last minute to top off their cars before going on. As I waved to her daughter Sarah, sitting in the passenger seat, husband Jeff appeared. He asked if I was on my way home. When I said yes, he warned me not to take Interstate 5. Instead, he recommended opting for Hwy 99, the old highway. A safe, dry route.
What a relief to have a plan. Jeff explained how to get on the right road by choosing a certain Sacramento exit. After explaining it to me a couple times, Becky intervened. “We have two cars. Why don’t you follow me? Jeff will stay behind you and we’ll just shepherd you all the way home!”
I almost cried. God’s provision was so sweet. Plus, Becky used the word shepherd. A perfect word. I pictured Jesus, the Good Shepherd, carrying one of His lambs protectively close. Near His heart.
With Becky & Sarah in the lead car, Jeff’s vehicle guarding from the back & me in the middle, we set out. Caravanning through myriad small towns, all dressed up in nightlights, we trekked along Hwy 99. Once, our vehicles sent off sprays when we splashed through a short strip of water. But it seemed good fun, like a child playing in a puddle after the rain. None of the flood trauma I’d envisioned.
Throughout the weekend & all the way home, the Lord carried me above my sadness. Gifting me through His people & through the work itself. Later, secure in my comfy CRV, I wore an unabashed grin at the beauty of God’s kindness as dear friends guided me home. My time had been blessed from the moment I was offered the assignment to the last mile driven, shepherded between His own.
Why do I ever worry? His Word promises He will care for me. And again, my experience agrees. Maybe it’s a simple cliché, but whatever the problem…God’s got this!
He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. Isaiah 40:11 (NLT)