Ever since my friend, Annie, moved over a month ago, we've been talking about making plans to meet up - somewhere, somehow. So, our plans finally materialized today after a spur of the moment conversation on the phone yesterday. We picked a halfway point, making it about a 90-minute drive for both of us. I was super excited... except for the bad dream that was trying to haunt me enough to keep me home, safe and sound.
You see, yesterday afternoon as I laid down for a little nap I was so exhausted that all I could think of was how I was going to make the drive home after our play date, right in the middle of my normal nap time. (And, by the way, I feel no shame in admitting I have a normal nap time!) Somehow that thought then translated into me having a dream about making that 90-minute drive back home and getting in a car accident.
So, last night before bed I told Marc about the dream, asking him to help me distinguish between what might be thoughts to heed and thoughts that were being fed by some overactive OCD scenarios. I felt reassured when he responded that he was sure everything was going to go just fine and I didn't need to worry about getting in an accident.
Sure enough, we made it to our meeting point just before 10am without any problems. The boys did great in the car and were great little travelers, even sleeping for the last 30 minutes of the drive.
We let our four boys play at this great little playground for a good 90 minutes or so before we relocated to perhaps the happiest place on earth for four hungry little boys. You would have called it the happiest place on earth too if you could have witnessed what Annie and I witnessed as we all ate lunch together! I should have gotten my camera out to have some proof. It was so much fun. I don't know when I laughed as hard as I did today. Our boys play pretty good together and I was so happy to have some girl time with Annie.
After nearly three hours together, we all got safely buckled into our cars and drove in opposite directions, heading back to our homes. Annie and I promised we'd call each other as soon as we were safely home. I quickly called Marc to let him know I was leaving, giving him a rough idea of when he could expect me home. That was 12:37pm.
The next time I tried to call him was 1:01pm. That was when our really fun day had suddenly made a wrong, very unexpected turn. I thought the stroller in our trunk was the cause for me struggling up some of the steeper hills on the drive. But on one particularly steep incline I learned there was something much more serious going on. I gassed it and the engine was revving, but I watched helplessly as the speedometer gradually decreased more and more until I realized I was starting to drift backwards, back down the hill I was trying to climb.
This is a two-lane, curvy highway through rather hilly terrain. My misfortune occurred in a rather fortunate area - a rare spot where there were passing lanes in both directions and a barely wide enough shoulder for me to slowly back my car into a safer position, making it so cars could pass by me without us being as much of a danger to us or to anyone else.
So, once I was backed onto the shoulder, I tried to call Marc only to realize I was in an unfortunate area where there was no cell phone service. I thought 9-1-1 was supposed to work even in those areas, so I tried that. Guess what? It doesn't work. I looked around me - in the middle of nowhere, miles from getting help, no houses in sight. Oh, and at that moment panic set in. I felt so helpless and scared. Tears filled my eyes immediately and effortlessly, and just as I was about to completely loss my cool, I knew the first and the best thing for me to do was to pray.
I considered praying that my car would just suddenly work again or that I'd somehow get cell service miraculously. And, even though I knew neither of those were beyond God's power to make happen, instead I found myself pleading for two things - "Please, God, keep my boys and me safe. And, please send someone who can help us out of this situation." That was about when I looked in the back seat - Hugh exhausted and sound-asleep and Ben looking back at me with tired, but hopeful eyes. There was something in his eyes that communicated calm and hope to my heart... even if it was just my own survival mode kicking in, realizing this was not a time for me to crumble, this was a time for me to find whatever courage it would take to get the help we needed.
I got out of the car, locked the doors, and somewhat timidly waved down the very next car that came speeding by. They passed me right by and I was so close to falling apart again. My hopeless gaze followed them as they passed and that was when I saw that maybe their reflexes had just been a little slow. Maybe they felt some empathy for such a desperate-looking pregnant lady. They slowed down and then backed down the hill a little, while I ran up to meet them.
My biggest fear about waving someone down was not knowing who would stop and if they'd turn out to be someone I'd want to have stop. Hence, the timid wave. But, in this situation I really didn't have any other choice. You can imagine my relief when right away I felt reassured that this middle-aged couple was the answer to my simple, yet urgent prayer. They didn't have cell service either, but wrote down my cell phone number and my husband's, promising they'd call him as soon as they had service again.
So, with that, I climbed back into the safety of my car where Hugh was still sleeping and Ben was my sweet source of calm. He should have been asleep like Hugh, but there was something about having him awake with me that made the whole situation easier. I had to find things to distract him, to keep him happy... and in the process I was distracted and kept happy, too.
About 20 minutes later my helpful couple came back from the direction they'd left in, just to let me know that they'd found a Call Box a few miles up the road and that CHP would be on their way to help me out. They said the dispatcher would call Marc, but that they'd also call Marc as soon as they had coverage.
About 20 minutes later a CHP officer arrived. It's now about 2pm. After talking for a few minutes outside our cars, he offered to push my car up the steep hill with his car, putting us in a much safer place where there was a turnoff - a Vista Point.
The officer wrote down Marc's cell number and said he'd call dispatch to confirm he'd been reached and was on his way, before leaving. He went back to his car and I got back into mine. Both boys were wide awake now and I was distracting them with apples and water. After about ten minutes the officer came back to let me know that Marc was on his way, but that he had decided to stay with me until help arrived. I can't tell you how comforting it was to not be left alone there in the middle of nowhere, still more than an hour from home and still with no available communication with anyone. Even when his shift change was about to happen, he called for another CHP officer to come take his place, as my sort of personal guardian.
At this point it was 3pm and the boys were just starting to get a little restless, so I got them out of their carseats and let them play in the driver's seat and roam freely from the front seat to the back. They clearly thought this was such a great game, completely protected from the stress and worry of the situation.
Another hour passed before Marc and my Dad showed up, the most welcomed sight ever! I heaved a huge sigh of relief. The CHP officer stayed around long enough to make sure Triple A was on its way to help us get towed, and then we thanked him profusely before he left, no doubt ready to serve the public in any way possible. Such kind and thoughtful CHP officers helping us today, more heaven-sent help for sure.
After getting everything out of our car and into my Dad's, the tow truck arrived and we finally made it back home at 6:30pm (over four hours later than originally anticipated), just in time to eat some dinner and get the boys in the bath and settled for bed.
It ended up being a much longer and more exhausting day than I expected, but it was so much fun to see Annie and her boys! And, as much as I could have done without the car problems and the extra drama that followed, I'm sitting here feeling such an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the simple (yet profound) reminders that God does answer prayers and is aware of the details in my life. I know He was watching over us today. I know He kept us safe and I know He sent us people that would help us get home. It's good to be reminded every once in a while that even when we are among millions of others in the world seeking help and guidance, we are not forgotten or overlooked by a loving Father who loves us all individually and perfectly, and responds in simple (yet miraculous) ways.
Some might argue that the way things came together for us today was simply luck, but I know better. Luck doesn't happen the way things happened today. Today I experienced a bit of heaven as I witnessed very specific answers to some very specific pleas come help me in an urgent time of need. There is no other explanation.
(And, Annie, if you're reading this, even at the end of the day I have no regrets about meeting up with you today... if I could do it all over, I'd still have made the trip to see you. Let's get a date set for next month!)