Whenever I drove my car around my Idaho town, this question popped up. After all, I live in the Rockies with Louisiana plates.
While living there for over 13 years, the opportunity didn’t always allow a full rendition of the details, but it always reminded ME of how I made the leap from web-toed, bayou country to the highlands of the Northern Rockies. Talk about a leap…
In the winter of 1995-96, I had the opportunity to fulfill a dream. Go to the Rockies, experience living in the snow and learn how to downhill ski. I took a leave from teaching Chemistry at a local high school, loaded up my Honda Accord, and with map in hand, took off. I just knew I had to go, if not I would crumble inside.
During my 2.5 month stay, I learned how to cable-up my all-season car tires (which I quickly learned the locals did not do), drive up and down mountain passes in blizzard and icy conditions, shovel ten feet of snow in seven days, ski the powder, and bike on ice (I don’t recommend). That winter, I found myself fulfilling the adventurous soul created inside of me, but something was still missing.
I left the Rockies with a touch of satisfaction, but a deep longing to stay. I returned to Louisiana to open my snowball stand that operated during the seven months of summer. Upon my return, that void inside of me started to grow to what felt like the Grand Canyon—set out to consume me. It brought me to my knees—to the end of my self-sufficiency. I realized I needed something bigger than me. Bigger than my adventures. Bigger than all the things in life I’d worked so hard to achieve. I needed God. And the good news was, God wanted me.
He wanted me, not because I was good enough—believe me, I AM NOT. He wanted me because He had created people for a purpose—to glorify Him. But it was my choice. To serve Him, or to serve my own will and desires.
Since I had tried the latter and was left engulfed by my choices, my heart surrendered to God. I admitted that I am a sinner who falls short, but that God is there to meet me right where I say “yes, I will follow you.” After years of living my way and trying to define “good enough,” I realized God is too holy for my self-righteousness. When I accepted the final sacrifice for my sins—the life, death and resurrection of his only begotten son, Jesus Christ—that’s where freedom and life began.
From that moment forward, the void I’d tried to satisfy with accolades, busyness, people, the god-within-myself, and adventure, filled up with peace, hope and joy amid many storms. I saw the world through different eyes. I experienced the sweet surrender and knew that this relationship-with-Jesus stuff was real. Not some made up thing I’d once thought it to be. Nothing else could explain the radical shift inside of me. No amount of adventure, money, social status, possessions could make me go back to that lost place again. I was blind, but now I do see…it’s true!
By 1999, the tug to return to the Rockies was stronger than ever. After seeking God’s will, I took another leave from teaching Chemistry. This time without pay. I headed west again for the winter. During those four months, I sensed God’s work inside of my heart to let go of everything in Louisiana, and move, yet it didn’t make sense to me. I fought letting go of what I’d worked for, yet God began to weave a deeper faith in me as I sought him, and reaped the benefits of trusting him more. And toward the end of this winter, I traveled with my new friends for a weekend snowmobile retreat. This would be my farewell time with the people who took me in for a winter of fun.
Heavy snowfall made the sixty-mile trip long, but exciting. To ride a snowmobile on top of fresh winter fluff is like no other experience. We reached the cabin around sunset, unloaded for the evening, ate, drank coffee and decided on a midnight ride before calling it a night. I first geared up with an open-faced helmet. One friend said, “Here,” handing me a different helmet, “wear this helmet. It’s safer.” I placed the helmet with a face guard onto my head, and the five of us took off. We floated on top of the deep snow, as the tracks we made quickly filled in. I rode in the middle of four experienced riders. I felt safe enough to let loose, squeeze the throttle and fly. About a mile down the trail, I lost track of the taillights in front of me and assumed that guys would stop if we took a turn. I squeezed the throttle tighter to catch up. I stood up. As the wind blew around my goggles and helmet, I remember saying out loud, “Life doesn’t get much better than this!”
In a flash, the trail came to an end and took a ninety-degree turn. An impossible turn for anyone traveling full throttle. I lowered my body to try to sit, squeezed the brakes, saw an electrical pole in front of me, and thought, “Oh, I’ve blown it now.”
Everything went black.
From eyewitness accounts and piecing the evidence together, I hit the guy-wires that secure utility poles in place. One wire hit directly across the face guard, taking a chunk out of the helmet, then others ripped the helmet off my head.. Another across my chest. I was blown out of my boots, catapulted over a line of trees as the electrical pole bent and exploded.
After the explosion, my friends arrived to the impact point. The snowmobile I rode was wrapped in wires, my boots lay on both sides of the machine, and my helmet lay several feet away from it all. There was no me. I’m not sure how much time had passed, but I started to come to and babble, “Is this a dream?” This directed them to my location. And after repeating, “Is this a dream,” one friend said, “This is NOT a dream. This is a nightmare. And it is REAL.”
And it was. The pain was real. My fear was real. The wrinkles of concern upon the faces of my friends was real. The anger at myself was real. The 120-mile trip to the hospital. The prayers for God’s mercy and healing. The EMT’s, paramedics, nurses and doctor all confirming that my femur was broken. The operating room was reserved for my surgery. This was ALL too real.
I let go of my surroundings and drifted into the deepest prayer I’d ever been in as they drew blood, ran more tests, CAT scans…all the while I prayed, “God you are the healer, the surgeon, you are the one who can repair my broken femur. If this cup can pass from me, please let it. It’s just not a good time in my life for a broken femur. All glory be to you.” For over an hour and a half, I prayed. Not only was this too real, it was too scary. Too much for me, but not for God.
“I can’t believe this,” the doctor said, walking into the ER room. I heard him shake an X-ray. His words, foot steps and actions drew me out of my prayerful state. “I would’ve bet my medical practice your femur was broken. Your femur is fine.”
His verdict lifted me up to sit straight on the gurney. To get the right picture, my top lip dangled by threads of skin on both sides. My left wrist hung limp—broken. My wet hair had dried, leaving me with the look of a bloody-faced, female Einstein. The doctor showed me the x-ray of a perfectly intact femur. I no longer asked if this was a dream. The words I chose to repeat in reply to anything said was, “Praise the Lord, Jesus Christ.”
The people with me that night stood in exhausted awe, and said, “The ONLY reason you’re still here is ’cause God’s not done with you. You should be dead.”
A few weeks later, I was back in Louisiana, recovering and seeking the reason God saved me that night. I couldn’t work for months due to a deeply ruptured quadriceps muscle and chest muscle, broken wrist and a multitude of other soft tissue injuries. I praised God for sparing me from what could’ve been MUCH worse, but realized that He wanted my undivided attention. For the following three months, I literally prayed, wrote my thoughts and prayers in a journal, read the Bible and listened. “Be still and know that I am God,” whispered through my heart. I knew it was ONLY by God’s hands that I did not leave this earth. I knew He had something more for me here. I only wanted to live for that reason.
At the two-month mark, I heard, “Go to Idaho and trust Me.” I realized God wanted me to resign from teaching, sell everything I owned, and move out west to serve him. At that point, I started talking to him in poetic phrases. Amazed, I started to write them down. Fifty pages of poetry followed in the first four days. I had never written anything poetic in my life. Rarely read poetry. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t explain it. I couldn’t eat, sleep or do anything without poetry oozing out of me. I just wrote them down.
Eight months from the day of the accident, I loaded up my car, and let go of my DEEP southern roots. Many thought I was crazy to walk away from a career with benefits, sell a successful business, and leave my relatives, and a strong network of solid friends. You know, the kind who love and support you…no matter what. But God said, “Go.” So I obeyed. After all, he had saved my life—more than once.
For the first 2.5 years, I lived in no less than 30 places. From a tent by a stream, to a barn filled with mice, clear up to a 5000 square foot paradise. That journey solidified my faith in God’s provisions, not my own. After that time of sojourning around, I landed a care-taking position without a departure date. I would no longer live out of my car and storage unit. And a month into the position, I had another “Okay God,” moment. “What do you want me to do with this provision?”
I heard, “Write a book.”
So I did.
Now, I live, trust, and obey, because it is all too real for me to do otherwise.
This story was first published on a blog in 2007. I accidentally deleted the entire blog, but I saw it as an opportunity to start a new. Magpies in Trees was that new start. I have a few books in progress at the time of this post on Magpies in Trees. Following many interruptions , this journey to publication continues….ALL for the glory of God.