Monday, October 21, 2013

Ramblings from the Road ~ Finding Strength in Unlikely Places


Here's a little story about a prayer I prayed many years ago. The way God chose to answer it floored me then, and still does today. I hope you enjoy it.



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October of 1998 found me preparing to teach at a ladies conference on the East coast. The invitation had come a year earlier. Had I known that the fall of 1998 would find me emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, I would not have accepted, but a promise is a promise, and I intended to keep this one. Besides, the hostess of the event was a dear friend of mine. Not only did I need to go, I wanted to go.


On the night before I was to fly out of Houston, I penned a simple prayer in my journal, Lord, be me strength. I am at my weakest.

The next day found me being the last unfortunate soul to board the packed plane headed for Baltimore. The only seat left was the first seat that actually faces backwards, forcing you to sit there staring awkwardly at the folks in the first row. I had no choice but to take it. 


Across from me sat a group of ladies who seemed to be on top of the world—laughing and joking with each other between sharing, what appeared to be, a giant chocolate bar. 


Of all places to sit, Lord, I muttered to myself, why here? I really wanted a bit more privacy, Lord. I practically have an audience already. Way to go, God. 

Easing down into my seat, I felt all eyes on me. Nodding in their direction, managing a hint of a smile, I stuck my head in the book I'd brought, hoping the happy gals would leave me alone.

My sour attitude surprised me. It even upset me. It wasn’t like me to be so unfriendly. I’m a Southern gal, and talking is something I enjoy (just ask my husband, or any of my relatives), but today the idea of chatting with strangers sounded nothing short of agonizing.

So much for my prayer for strength. I sensed it would take every ounce of strength just to get through this flight, let alone the weekend. Way to go, God.

Soon, we were airborne. Just about the time the plane leveled out, the lady in the middle seat leaned forward and said, "Are you from Houston or Baltimore?"

Oh, boy. Hardly off the ground and already a question for me. Did she not notice that I was reading? Forcing a smile, I looked up and said, "I'm from Houston," hoping that would end the conversation.

It didn’t. 

“Well, I'm Janie, and this is my mom," she said, pointing to an elderly woman. I smiled at mom, who was wearing the biggest diamond ring I’d ever laid eyes on."

Janie wasn't finished. "And this here is our friend." She pointed to the woman by the window who smiled and nodded my way. "We’re all from Austin, going to visit friends in D.C. and we are so excited!"

"Well, that sounds like fun," I said, forcing another smile. "I really hope you enjoy your weekend."

"Thank you," she said, and leaned forward again. "Now, what did you say you were going to Baltimore for?"

I didn’t recall saying at all, but I suppose that was her polite way of asking. 

"I’m teaching at a conference this weekend," I said, knowing there would most definitely be a follow-up question.

"How interesting. And what are you teaching about?"

There it was. "I’m teaching a class about writing for publication," I said, wishing for a parachute at this point.

"No kidding?" Her eyes widened. "You’re a writer?"

I don’t know what it is about that word that tends to send folks into orbit, but mention that you’re a writer and they often flip out on you. They must envision you sitting home all day eating bon-bons, pecking away at the keyboard, ideas popping into your head effortlessly, while waiting on your next big royalty check. If only they understood the struggles of this business. If only they understood how much labor is involved in writing well.

But to answer her question, I said, "Yes ma’am, I’m a writer. Nobody famous though," I said, with a laugh.

"Oh my!" she said, clearly intrigued. "That is so interesting! A writer." She was whispering dramatically. "Well," she said, "what kinds of things do you write?"

By this time, I must admit, Janie was starting to grow on me a little, so I just went with it, going with the flow.

"Oh," I said, "I write articles for magazines, newspapers. I’ve written a couple of books …"

She was instantly transported. "You’ve written books? Oh, my goodness! What are the titles?"

I shared the titles of my books, which were only two in 1998, and that’s when her jaw dropped. She leaned way forward, and, barely above a whisper, said, "What was that first title?"

I repeated it. "Whispers From Heaven." Her jaw dropped yet again, then she touched my knee and fairly squealed, "Girl, I have that book!"

Without meaning to, I laughed out loud. "No, ma'am," I said, thinking how adorable she really was, "I’m quite sure you don’t have my book." There was no way a perfect stranger from Austin, sitting across from me on a plane bound for Baltimore, would have my book, so I repeated myself, "I am sure it isn’t the same book; there are other books with that title. But it's a nice thought, that you would have my book."

She wasn't listening. "Does it have a stained-glass window on the cover?"

"Well, yes, it does, but ..."

"What is your last name?"

"Shockley, but ..."

Turning to her mother, she beamed. "Mother, you know that book we’ve read several times … the one with the pretty cover that looks like a stained-glass window?" Her mom was nodding enthusiastically, her diamond blinding me. "Well, this lady right here—" She reached over and patted my hand. "This lady wrote that book!"

Covering her mouth, the elderly woman gasped and said, "Really? Oh, my goodness!" She stared at me and smiled endlessly. "I can’t believe it," she said. "I just can’t believe it. We love that book. I sure wish we had it with us so you could autograph it."

Since they’d perfectly described the book’s cover, I had no choice but to believe them, but I was even more stunned than they. "Whoa," I said, still in a bit of shock. "Are you sure it's my book?" 

They were in a trance, but nodded in unison. 

Suddenly, we seemed like old friends talking across a dinner table.

I remembered the prayer I’d written in my journal—prayer for strength. And I'd been certain that God would answer by allowing me to have a quiet, peaceful, uninterrupted flight.

But now it all made perfect sense. I knew why He guided me to this awkward seat, and to these three friendly strangers. God knew, as all who write know, that there’s no better way to strengthen a despondent writer than to place her in the company of readers who find something remotely meaningful in her words.

When the conversation lagged, I leaned back in my seat and marveled at what had just occurred. By the time we landed, I was ready to share what little I knew about writing with those who showed up for the workshop. I wanted them to know that writing well is hard work; getting published even harder. I wanted them to understand that there might come a day when they feel empty and out of steam, a day when they want to throw in the towel and quit. 

But keep the faith, I would tell them, because their second wind would come. And, sometimes, from the most unlikely people, in the most improbable places.

Way to go, God!


***

Linking up with:

 Hazel for True Stories
Jennifer for TellHisStory




27 comments:

  1. Loved this, Sis! I was right there with you on the plane, feeling those exact emotions from beginning to end. What a way to lift a writer! God's ways are always perfect.

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    1. Thank you, sweet sister! As a writer yourself, you understand perfectly. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life, no kidding. God's ways are past finding out, and oh, so perfect, yes. It was as if He said, "No, dear Dayle, you're not going to get to sit here and mope the entire flight. I've got a much better plan for you today." And did He ever. I wrote this story many years ago, but am sharing it for the first time today.

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    2. I remembered the story, but it had been awhile, and I forgot how truly amazing it all way. I mean, truly.

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    3. I meant to say it all "was." :-)

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  2. Dayle, tears of joy are just streaming down my face right now. I have been struggling as of late - and my writer's pen has threatened to dry up. I've been questioning God and His purposes - wondering if my writing dreams will ever venture past my blog. (And, if I'm totally honest - will I ever do anything to make that happen??)

    I have found such great encouragement here today. I musn't give up. God will help me find a way, and He will give me the strength to go and search for it.

    I feel like I sat on that plane with you - and I am overwhelmed at the faithfulness of our Lord.

    GOD BLESS!

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    1. God's timing is perfect, Sharon. Keep the faith and keep knocking on those doors.

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  3. We all know that God works in our lives...but we are still shocked when it's little things like this that He shows His powers. What a wonderful story. I've heard that there are no coincidences. How amazing that you would have this experience just when you needed it most. I'm so glad you shared it with us. You're such a good writer, that I could imagine the whole thing just as it happened! What a gift. Sweet hugs!

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    1. So true, Diane. Even though I've experienced miracles, I'm still often "shocked," as you say, by how God shows up. He's just an awesome God and He cares about our smallest need.

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    1. Mysterious ways, yes. When something like this happens, it always makes me realize how small I am and how big He is, and just how much He cares for us all.

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  5. A lovely story! You just never know, do you. Things do happen for a reason.
    Brenda

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  6. What a wonderful story! How beautifully God answered the cry of your heart.

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    1. Makes you feel small when things like this happen, and so aware of how awesome God is.

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  7. Hi Dayle
    This encounter with these dear ladies is such a good example how our Lord works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform!
    Blessings XX
    Mia

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  8. That is a wonderful, wonderful story, Dayle. God works in such unexpected ways, doesn't He? I have put your new addy on my sidebar....I think....lol xo Diana

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  9. What a beautiful story of how God knows just what we need, even when we don't! Thanks for sharing this story, which encourages others to trust Him with our deepest needs.

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  10. Dearest Dayle-
    What a treasure you are and a conduit of messages- especially for me today.
    This is a wonderful story and I now have a wonderful prayer for those days when I 'can't breathe'.
    "God be my strength. I am at my weakest."

    Laura
    White Spray Paint

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  11. The steps (and flights) of a Good woman (or man) are ordered of the Lord. This is truely an amazing story that you have shared with us here at "Tell Me a True Story." My books are self published, as they are journals of my life, and as I sell some and give away others, they are touching lives.

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  12. Doyle, this was awesome. Thank you for sharing & encouraging us. I always pray. God put me at the right place at the right time with the right people. I want to be a blessing & be blessed. God does do that & especially when we are feeling weak. Been there. God bless you!!

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  13. Oops. Dayle. Auto correct spelled your name sorry about that.

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  14. How neat! What a blessing! So much fun when the Lord drops people together and will fill their souls with each other and with more of Him.

    I'm in the final editing process of a book I've written, and then my husband will go through it again [others have in the past stretch of time], and then I'll be contacting for publishing through one of my blog friends, but it's such a heart-challenging thing to get done. You are an encourager. And a "realitor"... NOW, I have to finish getting through Hazel and work on a 100 page portion of the book, finish that through tomorrow, and then the last 50 pages on Friday/Saturday. Then give it all to my hubby, and I'm heading out of town for several days and he can just fit it in and I'll see when I get home. Again, bless you. Encouraging is a good God thing.

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  15. What a wonderful life story - one I needed to read and take to heart. Thank you.

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  16. That is just amazing and it's true, to call ourselves 'writers' is hard and awkward and just feels funny, but God did give us a reason and a voice and it is good to share when we can 'our matters of heart' so we can encourage others. We never know who might be blessed by them.

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  17. This is so encouraging. Someone told me just today, "If you don't quit, you win!" Thank God for encouragement!

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  18. I'm always in awe of how God reveals himself to us. What a great story!! Thanks for sharing!

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Dear Readers, I adore your company and your comments. If you ask questions here, I respond to them here, so please check back when you have a chance. Kind regards, Dayle