A few weeks ago, I drove to Iowa for a visit with Emily and Dennis. (Imagine a gigantic, flashing, smiley-face emoticon right here.)
People, I am a house mouse. I am not adventurous. I do not get away from home much, almost never without a traveling companion and rarely further than 30 miles. Plus, the red car is a tad unreliable, prone to random fits of I'm-not-going-to-run-anymore-just-now. With a propensity for getting lost, gunning a car with a moody engine, I was definitely nervous about my Grand Adventure. Driving ten hours from West Tennessee to central Iowa - ALL BY MYSELF - should have made national news...no clue how the major networks missed it.
Anyway, I decided that, being an adult, I should be able to navigate the winding, poorly-marked, two-lane "short cut" from home to the nearest Mississippi River crossing. So, atlas at the ready, I buckled up and headed north. Through the dark. And the fog. Into the bogs and river bottoms lining Kentucky's western border.
Anyone who has driven this route can tell you - it is nerve-wracking. At times, the road is a narrow thread along to top of what looks like a steep levee. There are impossibly narrow bridges to cross, even before you reach the Big River. Dog-leg turns. Miles and miles of scenery like something from the movie Deliverance. A wrong turn, and you could end up composting in a swamp, lost to civilization.
Truthfully, I was not at all confident I would make it to the other side of the Mississippi. As I cruised through the Kentucky dawn, I prayed, "Lord, you are going to have to help me. I am going to get lost. Please, Lord, please help me make the right turns."
You know what God did? He posted flagmen from Cairo to Cape Girardeau. Honestly.
Winding north and west through the middle of nowhere, I came upon a series of large "Road Work Ahead" signs. An orange-vested crewman waved me to a stop, then signaled me to turn left onto...Highway 3. That's my road! I smiled in relieved surprise and waved. Thank you! I mouthed.
Drive, drive, drive....Where is my next turn?! Have I missed the bridge to Cape Girardeau? Nope. Up ahead, another flagman waved me down. I slowed and followed his hand signals - off Highway 3, onto the road to Cape Girardeau, over a massive, four-lane bridge. Civilization welcomed me on the opposite shore.
I crossed the Mississippi River. From here on, it was Interstate and four-lane divided highways. I beamed as I came off the bridge into Missouri.
And then I made a wrong turn.
God had brought me through the tricky part of the drive. Thinking I could handle it from here, I wasn't diligent in looking for road signs. And so, I took a lovely, 20-minute tour of the Southeast Missouri State University campus. I felt trapped. No matter which way I turned, even after consulting my trusty map, I could not get out of the city and back onto the highway.
Sitting at a stop sign on campus, underneath a canopy of glowing fall leaves, I prayed again. Lord, help! You are going to have to get me back to the Interstate!
A rusty, dinged-up silver Toyota sedan pulled out in front of me, its trunk tied shut with a black rubber strap. The driver appeared to be a college student - a large 20-something young man, his long black curly hair still wet from his morning shower. He did not look like a tourist, like someone out for a leisurely drive to enjoy the autumn sunshine.
That's my man! I locked sights on the fellow and stuck to him like glue. He led me straight to I-55. A few miles north of Cape Girardeau, I stopped and called Steve to let him know I had made it safely across the river and to relate my morning's adventures. "Sounds like you're on your way!" he laughed.
Hours later, I stopped at a McDonald's west of St. Louis to grab a cup of coffee. In the bathroom, a woman was changing into her uniform, about to start a shift bagging burgers. When I mentioned I was headed to Des Moines, she told me about construction along my intended travel route and redirected me to another northbound highway. The rest of the drive was a breeze. And my visit? Fantastic.
When you pray for traveling mercies for your friends or relatives, remember this - those prayers are real, and God answers them in amazing ways. Hey, He even let this house mouse feel like Tawanda for a day!