Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Deliverance: Ask and You Shall Receive

My heart was pounding. The fog was so thick that I could no longer distinguish the dirt path from the flora and overgrowth. My hands were nearly invisible in front of me. Do I sit here and wait?

For an instant, I hesitated to continue on, but I sat where I stood; the ground seeming to warm at my touch. I smiled to the heavens with gratitude for the warmth. Can He see me?

When my eyes started to close, He told me to get up and start walking:

Why are you sitting? In fact, why are you walking?
You should be running through these trees with your eyes closed;
trusting Me to guide you Home.

Run? In this fog? I don’t even know where the path is,
let alone the trees, rocks, and everything else waiting to trip me up.

But I stood up, took a deep breath, and started running. I didn’t know which direction I was going, or if I was even on the path anymore, but any instant of doubt was replaced with overflow of something I attributed to love-His love-urging my legs to keep moving, urging my heart to keep faith. The trees were flying by me, the dirt and grass under my feet seeming to give way as I pounded through the fog.

When I stopped passing the trees, I stopped running.
The fog began to dissipate…and in front of me lay a lush meadow.
When the sun dropped below the clouds, I fell to my knees in a sea of sunflowers. 

I took my escape. I got away from the pressures, the noise, the stress, the responsibilities (well, aside from studying for my psychopathology exam), and the fragility of reality. There used to be a time when my breaking point would come and go; where I'd blow slightly, like a beautiful sunflower in the breeze, but my stalk was always rigid and unbreakable. But recently, I’ve dried out, and the slightest gust could completely knock me over. It was obvious that I needed to get out of Tallahassee, if even for just a night.

Living without the distractions
When I was leaving town, I made the decision to turn off my cell phone. I didn’t want anything to get in the way of what this weekend was supposed to mean for me. Seclusion, isolation, silence, separation, retreat. I didn't want Facebook, or the constant nag of status updating. I just wanted to get in the car and drive to the middle of nowhere. 

God will give you what you need
I didn't take my GPS, either. I didn't take a map, or get good directions. I just looked at a map before I left the house, and figured that I'd let God (and my good sense of direction) do the rest. At one point, I felt like I had been driving forever, and I didn't know where I was. Should I stop and ask directions? Should I call Justin or check mapquest? Time and time again, I picked up my phone with the intention of turning the power on, but something inside me kept avoiding the temptation. I wanted to do this alone. I drove for a little while longer, but when I stopped seeing signs for Apalachicola, I pulled over with the decision to give in and turn on my phone. When I did, however, there was absolutely no signal. I laughed out loud, and said, "Ok God, I understand." And got back on the road. I didn't know where I was, or if I was going the right way anymore, but it felt right.  And not long after, I saw water: the Apalachicola Bay.

Loving the simple life
When I drove over the bridge into Apalachicola, I smiled at the purity of this picturesque town. The rust stain on the buildings nearest the bay showed wear and tear over the many years of history that preceded my visit. The pastel painted houses smiled against the dreariness of the stormy coastal sky. I took off my headphones and rolled down my window to hear....nothing. There were a few cars on the road driving about 15 miles an hour past the old local shops and restaurants. There was one stoplight in the entire town. And it was a blinking light. No one needed to be directed. It was so laid back that people just waived you on ahead; they were in no hurry to get anywhere in particular.

The beauty of living in history
When I pulled up to Bryant House (the quaintest bed and breakfast ever!), I was truly in awe. It was a beautiful Victorian house pulled straight out of history. The house was filled with thousands of priceless heirlooms and antiques that you only dream of seeing, but never actually imagine exist. The walls were decorated with old pictures and paintings; the cabinets filled with family china galore. Brigitte, a beautiful German woman in her early 50s, met me with a hug when I walked in the house. After small talk, she brought me to my room....and it the blissful wonderment continued....

Need for quiet and serenity getting us closer to God
It was called "the red room" because it was decorated in hues of pinks and reds and other warm colors that just made you melt. I felt warmer just crossing the threshold. Brigitte smiled at me when she asked if I liked it. I think I may have stuttered. I'd never seen a room quite as beautiful. (The picture does it no justice!) She left me to unpack my things, and gave me keys to the room and to the house before heading back downstairs. I was curious to explore the rest of the house, and speak more with Brigitte, so I hurried down behind her. 

Love thy neighbor
For the next hour or so, Brigitte and I got to know each other, and she told me about her travels from Germany, around America, and eventually to her home in Apalachicola. Apparently, she was never as satisfied living anywhere else. This town felt like family. Like home. She never had a need because her friends were always there, despite her never having to ask them to be. God was present in this little town. And she couldn't be happier. She didn't need Walmart or Publix or a fancy-schmancy mall. She was content with the local businesses, her simple life, her loving husband, her dear friends, and God. I was never more envious.

The necessity of fasting
It was my last night of fasting. (Can you believe it? I feel like I just started. And I feel like I'm still fasting. Some habits seem to have stuck.) Brigitte suggested I go into town and visit the shops and get something to eat. And that is exactly what I did. Despite the rain, I went in and out of all the little antique shops to see all the little treasures once forgotten. In anticipation for the end of my fast, I stopped by the homemade chocolate shop to buy three pieces of chocolate for my ride home. A lot of the business owners knew I looked unfamiliar and stopped to chat with me. It was comforting to know I was noticed. I was safe here. They learned where I was from, and why I was visiting; and I heard about how they started in their business, and some of their adventurous past. I even promised some I would come back and visit.

At every restaurant, I stopped to look at the menu. When I stopped at the Magnolia Cafe, I was approached by the chef who asked if I was having trouble finding something I wanted to eat. When I explained my fasting diet, he suggested I come back in an hour ("When they were actually opened for business", he added with a chuckle.) with the promise that he would make me something special. Well, I made good on my word, and returned. And Chef Eddie made good on his word to make me something special. I came back to a vegetable soup filled with a plethora of vegetables; a salad with mangoes and oranges, topped with chopped walnuts and a citrus dressing; and a main course of black beans and rice with fried eggplant. 

This man didn't know me. Never met me in his life. And none of these meals were on this menu at this seafood restaurant.....but he went out of his way to make sure I was happy. And even came up to me afterward to make sure he had done a decent job. I was beyond impressed.

Pray for everyone you meet
The last place I went before heading back to the Bryant House was Jim Lee's antique shop. Jim Lee was a reporter in Apalachicola for 30 years. He also had a few roles in some movies that were filmed in the town! His shop was filled with movie props; the movie was playing behind the prop to authenticate the location of the prop in the scene. I was just about the leave when he called from across the store, "There must be something here that caught your eye!" I stopped walking and smiled before turning around. Jim and I talked for a while about our lives, and about his incredibly one-of-a-kind past. At one point, I asked him about the honey sticks on his counter, and he told me to taste them. My first thought was, man the people in this town are strange. But my next thought was the realization that I simply live in a world where I've gotten used to people who don't trust one another, who judge each other, who give and expect to receive, and who generally only care about their own well being. I could learn a lot from this town. Everyone I'd met cared so much about me. I've recently added the saying, "I pray to inspire every person I meet today, God." to my daily prayer. I hope that I can make others feel just as warm as I felt this weekend.

After saying my goodbyes, I headed back to the house for some good ole' studying.

Comfort in familiarity
When I woke up in the morning, I laid in bed for a few minutes thanking God for the trials I had faced during my fast, and the wonderful opportunity I had in getting to experience my weekend in Apalachicola. I made my bed, packed my bags, and trekked downstairs to find an elegant breakfast setting laid out on the dining room table for me. (GOLD SILVERWARE!!) Brigitte's husband, Ken had been up cooking for me. An array of meats, cheeses, breads, muffins, jams, juices, and teas were just waiting to be devoured. Ken sat to talk with me while I ate, and I'm sure he got sick of hearing me repeat how great everything tasted. After fasting, everything in my mouth tasted so sweet. 

It was a bittersweet parting with my new friends at the Bryant House. I assured them that I would be returning soon, and that the "red room" would definitely be my pick. But I knew I couldn't leave just yet. In fact, I drove around town for another hour. 

Prayer: America’s Only Hope- 2 chronicles 7:14
I saw this sign everywhere around town. I didn't stop to read the verse just then, but I looked it up when I got back to Tallahassee:
"if my people, who are called by my name, 
will humble themselves and pray and seek my face 
and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from 
heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

 I knew God was working in this town, but I didn't realize how much until I saw another sign. This sign said "Prayer Corner. STOP HERE." Instinctively, I pulled over to the side of the road, got out of my car, and looked around. I saw this house: 

but I didn't know if that was what the "prayer corner" sign was referring to. I prayed anyway. The rest of my drive around town was spent just looking at the old houses and stores, and waving to people sitting in their rocking chairs on their front porches. I didn't know people still did that! They waved as you were driving by, like you were an old friend. I smiled at the familiarity. I felt at peace. This was exactly what I needed to feel this weekend. God had led me to exactly the right place. 

Breathe fresh air once in a while
I left town with one last look back at my escape. I was hard pressed to drive back over the bridge; as if the dark cloud of reality was waiting for me at the other end. But, faithfully, I put on my headphones, scrolled to my playlist, and drove over the bridge. And waiting for me was nothing but an endless road of sunshine.

I drove with my windows down for the rest of my drive, eating my homemade chocolate and singing along to my perfectly apropos selection of music. I decided that my trip shouldn't end with my goodbye to Apalachicola. 

I stopped at the Carabelle Lighthouse. 

And climbed it.

I stopped at the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea.

And played with starfish.

The remainder of my trip was spent talking to everyone I met and interacted with; asking them where they would go next if they were me, asking what they would see, and where they wouldn't miss for the world. My phone was off, my music was sweet, and the wind in my face was as refreshing as a kiss from Christ.

When I finally crossed back into Leon county, I came home to a relaxing one hour massage, and a superbowl party with Justin and my AFC friends.

I am here to testify that God is good, people. I went away knowing that I was falling to pieces. I was lost on my path, and suffocated by the fog, but once again, I see clearly. All I needed was 24 hours without the distractions of my everyday life; a chance for me to hear God amidst all the clamor that surrounds me. I prayed to be saved. And now I am restored. Thank you, Lord, for healing me.


mindseessoulspeaks said...

Wow Samantha - I'm speechless.

Your journey was so awesome! And the way you detailed it! That town sounds beautiful and the pictures along with your descriptions...just beautiful!

I had a similar moment this weekend although I didn't have 24 hours I was able to go to the beach early Saturday morning. Amidst all the craziness of this past weekend I went to the beach to watch the sunrise and it was beautiful. And that moment of silence that I shared with my brother and sister restored me back to the sanity that I felt I was losing...

God is so kind! He knows what we need and it is there for us to reach out and have we reach with our faith not just with our hands.

I admire your tenacity and the genuine desire to be a light in a dark world as much as that city was a place of solace for you in a time you needed it the most.

Grace & Peace my friend.

Loving you...

GodStrongGirl said...

I love sunrise. It reminds me that I've made it through another night. I once drove three hours to see the sunrise over Pensacola....just for the heck of it. I'm glad you got to experience that. <3 Keep strong and stay blessed, darling.