Thursday, August 1, 2013

Angels On Earth

It’s interesting how God works and how He prepares the way ahead of time before we set out to do something.  For my 13th Anniversary, I had decided long ago that I would stay in Yosemite National Park for a few days in a rustic cabin.  This was the first time that I was actually in the park on the same day as my anniversary.  It was pivotal for me to be in control of the outcome (for the most part) and have a "redo."

Prior to me coming to Yosemite for my 13th Anniversary, I had sent out a letter to close friends and family asking them to pray for me and to pray against all evil that may occur.  I wanted to be surrounded and bathed in prayers lifted up to our Heavenly Father by prayer warriors who were praying for me day and night.  I had been preparing for this moment for several months, and the time had now come. 

I was blessed by a family who was staying on the other side of the cabin that I was in.  They were up from the Bay Area and offered to help me as they saw me unloading my car.  Joan and Tom have two grown children and still wanted to be parents to younger kids.  They have "adopted" (but not legally), two great kids.  They met them at church while the eldest was a baby, and they have been in their life ever since.  Grace is 10 years old, and Zach is 7 years old.  These kids are great!  They all literally took me under their wing as they heard my story of why I was there.  We had the typical exchange of "where are you from," "why are you here," etc, and when they heard of my reason for being there, they had such an open heart to listening.  In fact, Grace was very concerned for Jennifer (the driver of the car) and how she was doing.  She wanted to make sure she was okay, told me that she must have been very scared during that time, and probably didn't know what to say to me during those early years.  This 9 year old's intuitive and loving heart gave me compassion for Jennifer.  

I had forgotten how dark “dark” can be at night.  I fumbled for my flashlight and tried to position it between my legs so that it shined on the path in front of me but doesn’t fall off at the same time.  I was quickly reminded that I never needed a flashlight here in Yosemite when I was walking at night.  I didn’t have to watch out for every crevice, rock, or tree branch that may cause me to fall.  Somehow innately, I just knew where to walk.  I miss those days.  As I was pushing towards the Curry Village store lost in my thoughts, the flashlight dropped to the ground and made a sound as if something was broken.  I looked down, it just laid there as if someone was running from something and dropped their flashlight on the chase.  I quickly picked it up out of embarrassment and squished it between my legs again.  I’m sure I was giving quite a chuckle to those who passed me, seeing as I had a flashlight between my legs.  I dismissed the thought and continued on to go get dinner before the store closed.
On my way back, I tried to not use the flashlight.  I wanted to see if I could do it.  I didn’t get very far before I was forced to turn it back on.  I went very slowly without the flashlight to prevent from falling, but now with the light shining ahead of me, my path was clear.  A few employees who were off work passed me by and headed towards the place I used to live when I worked there (in Huff, for those who know the area).  I eavesdropped as much as I could on their conversations, remembering what it was like to be carefree.  And then I stopped.  I wanted to soak it all in.  I heard music coming from a few tents, the clatter of pots and pans and laughter from the employee kitchen, and faintly off in the distance, a guitar was being strummed.  Night time, for me, was always entertaining in Yosemite.  I looked up at the sky and saw more stars than I could count with the silhouette of enormous sequoia trees surrounding me.  It was my hedge of protection, yet I still felt so small compared to their grandeur.  
As I got back into the cabin, I noticed that it was almost 11:30pm - the time that Jennifer and I would leave the park and begin our road trip back to Atlanta (thirteen years ago.)  I briefly reflected on that time period, but then got out my computer and started writing in my book.  After two or more hours, I shut the computer down, opened all the windows in the cabin, and drifted off to sleep as I listened to the sounds of nature and the nighttime.  

I woke up the morning of my anniversary as Joan sweetly whispered through my open window that there was a gift and a latte on the bench in front of my window outside the door.  It wasn’t but seconds later I saw her and her daughter far down the pathway headed towards the bike rentals, so I was unable to thank her at the time but left a note on their door handle.  What a pleasant way to wake up to! A complete stranger – or so I thought – cared enough to bless me in such a sweet way on such an important day.  

Later that afternoon, they asked if I would join them for dinner at the Ahwahnee to celebrate my anniversary.  Are you kidding me?  I love the Ahwahnee!  Who were these people??  I had no connection to them nor did I expect to talk to people about my experience and why I was there.  They were literally angels on earth sent from the Bay Area during the exact time I was going to be there so they could be there for me - all God-ordained.  I was immensely touched by the mere fact that they brought a latte and a poignant mug to me as a gift!  That was enough to make my entire trip.  So all of this extra stuff just blew my mind and was more than I could have ever imagined.  Those of you who were praying were working in overtime!  

Dinner at the Ahwahnee Dining Room is always a treat.  The atmosphere and ambiance makes one feel fancy, even if you aren't.  The tables, candles, chandeliers, music from the piano, food preparation... it's all so nostalgic.  I couldn't help but remember the last time memorable moment I was in that Dining Room was for the Bracebridge Dinner back in December.  So many memories over the years.

Joan, Tom, and the kids were going to a narration about the stars, to which they had invited me to and also got me a ticket for, but I told them I really needed to write.  One of my favorite places in Yosemite is the Ahwahnee Great Lounge.  If I'm ever in Yosemite and I'm not outdoors taking pictures or off on trails, I'm in the Great Lounge.  I decided to go sit in the room off to the side (the Winter Room) where I brought in New Years of this year since this book will come to a close at the same time.  I sat on the same light brown leather couch that overlooked the outdoor lawn and was able to write out two more chapters in two hours.  
During that time, I had a brief moment of relapse where I caved in and texted someone who knew me when I was walking and currently lived in the park and asked if they would come celebrate life with me, even if for 5 minutes.  That person never came and didn't even acknowledge the fact that I had texted them.  I was disappointed.  I mean, not just as a friend, but as a human being you couldn't even fake coming to be happy that I'm alive and not dead?  If someone is going to treat me like that, it's basically like saying to my face, "F--k you."  After a few numbing minutes, I picked my head up and told myself I was done.  I texted four people asking them to pray for me as I was struggling, and three of the four immediately texted me back with one saying they had just been praying for 45 minutes for me and then saw the text, one was willing to call to talk (but sadly reception to talk wasn't good, so I could only text), and the other couldn't sleep because they had a feeling something was "wrong."  I'm amazed how God keeps His people so closely connected that they know when someone needs prayer.  Immediately, I was comforted.

The next day came way too quickly as not only did Joan and Tom treat me to a celebratory dinner at one of my favorite spots the night before, but they also paid for a two hour long horseback ride that morning!  I was so excited about horseback riding as I hadn't done it in ten years (which was in Yosemite, coincidentally).  I was not excited, however, about the time we had to be there - 7am.  But I made it and was so glad we chose that time because it was getting hotter as the day went on.  

The horse I was given to ride is named Roxanne.  She was a beautiful snow white with a cropped mane and very tender and sweet.  The employees were great at helping me onto the horse, and once up on the saddle, I felt at home.  It was important for me to stretch my legs earlier that morning so that my hip flexors, thighs, and muscles in general were ready for a two hour (which I think turned into a three hour) horse ride.  
The trail was rocky and steep with narrow spots.  Every once and awhile we would stop to make sure everyone was okay.  There were a few children on the trail with us who were either crying because their horse did something other than "follow the leader," or their horse was going to the bathroom and it scared them, or they themselves had to go to the bathroom (which wasn't an option).  Not having my legs to secure myself to the horse or kick her when she was stubborn, I found myself slapping her butt a lot.  And these horses are by no means easy to control when you're paralyzed.  In order for me to get her to go right or left, you pull on the reigns in that direction.  (I used to ride horses when I was in junior high, so I at least know a bit about what I was doing.)  But Roxanne definitely made me use muscles I haven't used in a long time.  She's one strong horse!  But I rode like a pro (or at least I thought so)!  It's so therapeutic for people with spinal cord injuries to ride horses because the gait of the horse when riding it moves the human hips in the same fashion they would move when walking.  It also stretches out the muscles in a great way.  Boy, was I so thankful for this blessing.  

While on the trail, I was told by the employee riding behind me that Roxanne was the horse that Oprah rode while she and Gayle did their road trip show across the United States.  No way!  I'm riding the same horse?!  Later when we got back to the stables, I asked the lead manager if it was true that this horse was the same one that Oprah rode.  She confirmed it to be true.  She said they typically reserve that horse for the "celebrities" that come into Yosemite or for really little children because of the horse's calm demeanor. (In actuality, these were mules, but I don't like the thought of that as well as a horse lol.)  She said the last to ride Roxanne was Mel Gibson.  Yeah, totally being a geek on the inside shouting oh my gosh!  Ha! Ha!  I told her that I was Ms. Wheelchair California, so maybe I fit the qualifications, and she was just as excited to know that about me as I was to know about riding Oprah's horse.  LOL!
  Joan, Tom, Grace, and Zach were all with me, and it was fun to have them around.  I had wanted to horseback ride while I was there for this anniversary, but the cost was making me waver on my decision of whether to do it or not.  They made it possible, and treated me as if this entire trip was planned with them.
None of these things were on my list for people to pray for, but it was apparent to me that Jesus had come down to earth in the form of angels to be with me through this time.  I was blessed beyond measure.  God uses people in multiple ways to bless others.  I was fortunate to be one of the ones blessed that day, and in return, I was told by them that I was a blessing to their trip.  Prayers were answered, and God gave me an abundance of blessed closure.

Thank you to all of those who were praying for me before I went, during the day, during the night, and afterwards.  Your prayers were heard in excess!

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