I'm currently sitting in a little room with creaky wood floors and a giant window. Last night I slept to the sounds of a new city, in awe over how I got here, how I went from empty to full so quickly, and how I truly do have a whole forest of trees cheering for me, loving my leaves longer and my tree rings wider.
Back in May, when I first moved home and hardly left my house, or even my bed, I received a text asking me If i'd like to spent a week in the mountains, drinking coffee and doing different projects. My heart leapt and life pulsed and I shouted into the cyber world, "yes!", but secretly, deeply, I felt like It probably wouldn't happen, that people say things like that all the time and forget. But something in me knew that I needed to go, and not only for a break from feeling so stuck, but also because I felt a whisper that I might find some answers while I was there. And I couldn't shake that thought all summer.
Fast forward (quickly please) through the hardest three months. Press play at the text that said, "you still want to come to the mountains?". Hell Yes. The trip was the light at the end of the tunnel, a reason to feel excited. I wanted to be with people so badly. Loneliness sucks the life out of you. Some days I felt barely human, or like a dehydrated piece of fruit. Moths had eaten holes.
Two days before I left I ended up connecting with friends I hadn't seen in fifteen years. It was such a random series of events, and on my way to South Carolina, I spent the night in Savannah, Georgia. Nicole and Hannah had a beautiful apartment in the city, and we spent the evening on the porch, drinking coffee and smoking cloves, talking about the love of the Father and sharing stories about the His faithfulness. I laid in bed the night, overwhelmed by how Holy Spirit reconnects old friends, kindred spirits, really, and their stories floated in my mind, reminding me of Papa's care. My faith was growing again; life pulsing again.
The next day I pulled up to the house in the mountains and was greeted by five hugs. Spending time with the Millers was really more than I could have ever imagined. I genuinely felt happy and at peace, so safe and loved. I painted in view of the mountains and had conversations until three in the morning. There too, I laid in bed overwhelmed at the difference one week made, and once again, how Holy Spirit connects people. Being in the mountains with the Millers was like being handed a glass of ice cold water, rehydrating all that was parched. My tree limbs were visibly growing with each moment spent there.
The second day I was there we were all worshiping during dusk, blue light shining through the windows, and for the first time in months I had a vision. I saw a hand reach out of the sky and open the top of the mountain outside the window, like it was a trap door on a hinge. Inside was treasure. Treasure for ME! I still get chills at the thought of the picture.
Three days into the trip, Mandy took me to Asheville, North Carolina for the day. We had plans to thrift and explore and eat delicious food. After we ate, we googled different thrift shops, and right away the map led us to one that didn't exist. Instead we ended up exploring an adorable neighborhood. We tried again, and ended up on the interstate, a bit lost. We searched google one more time, finding one called "Second Chance". It seemed pretty great, had five star reviews, and was supposedly only a few miles away. When we followed the map, however, it led us to a plaza with no store. We were still having fun, but it was starting to get a bit frustrating. We kept trying to find these stores, and none of them seemed to exist. Finally we picked one and actually got to it. It was about fifteen minutes away and the products were over priced and neither of us found what we were looking for.
We left, laughing at our bad track record of finding these stores, got to the car, and realized the phone was completely dead. Deader than dead. No more GPS. In the few long minutes it took for the phone to wake back up, Mandy decided to just start driving. We didn't know where we were or where we were going, but she made a few turns, and all of a sudden, got my attention. "Rach! Isn't that Second Chance?" I looked up and saw that it was the thrift store from earlier, twenty minutes away from it's posted address, right in front of us. I have no idea how this is even possible, but we looked up, and there it was. Where it wasn't supposed to be. Appeared. For. Us.
Inside we found treasures. In fact, it was the only place we bought anything all day. Before we left, Mandy took a picture and said, "I think Jesus is speaking through this". I agreed.
We didn't talk about it again until the way home. Driving with the windows down, in view of the mountains, we fellowshipped over the events of the day and I was reminded of some things. We tried so hard to make things work. We searched. We drove. We brainstormed and problem solved. And nothing. But the second we put down the GPS and our own striving, we looked up and there it was; a gift, the treasure. That's so Papa's heart, and half of the treasure is the anticipation, just like half the fun of Christmas is waiting and seeing the presents and shaking them and KNOWING it's coming soon. The journey is part of the gift; sometimes it's almost more than the gift. Proverbs 4:18 says,
"The way of [those in right relationship] is like the first gleam of dawn,
which shines ever brighter until the full light of day."
The journey keeps on getting better. You think you reached your peak, that the sunrise is perfect, and then you look again and it's even more glorious. With each second it gets more beautiful and brighter until the climax, which is seeing Jesus for who He really is. So, so breathtakingly, stunningly, beautiful.
Going to Second Chance Thrift was even more fun because we looked so hard for it. The store really wasn't anything too interesting, it smelled like cats and moth balls. I've been to better thrift stores, but the journey made it amazing. The anticipation made it more valuable. It was the best gift.
In the middle of this crazy searching, I got a text from Nicole, the old friend from Savannah. She said she was praying and Jesus wanted her to invite me to stay at her apartment for two weeks while they were on vacation. I laughed. So impractical. So irresponsible. I let the text sit, with internal conflict brewing inside. As I laid in bed that night, I felt Jesus say, "You know the expectancy you felt over coming here at the beginning of the summer? Its not over. This is your Second Chance Thrift. You've been striving, struggling, and now you look up and here's an opportunity to stay in a new city. To explore. To create. I'm giving you a gift. A gift in the mountains."
His voice was so clear, I couldn't ignore it. The next day I texted back "yes" before I could change my mind. I love adventure. I love moving and driving and staying different places. I felt really strongly that Savannah was a beautiful gift, that my expectant trip to the mountains was only the beginning. I would spend an extra day there, then go to Alabama and see my family. From Alabama, I would go to Savannah and have my sister visit me for a few days. I would then go home for one week, and drive back north to Nashville to see friends and go to Onsite. I had the next month all planned out and it was going to be awesome. I wouldn't have to be in Florida, and I would see so many people I loved.
I saw ELEVEN of my favorite people the three days I was in Alabama. It was the most beautiful surprise, and with every day my spirit was getting stronger and all the holes the moths had been eating all summer were healing. I felt like a new person; hope had been rebirthed. It felt like the month of december, the butterflies leading up to Christmas.
On my way to Savannah, I had to call a stranger in order to meet him and get the key to the apartment. After a few seconds on the phone with him, talking logistics, he stopped me and said, "Rachel, I'm sorry to interrupt, but I'm overwhelmed at the calling I'm sensing over your life. Do you know how loved you are by the Father?" Not kidding. Oh I knew. He gave me this gift, after all!
My first three days in Savannah were a dream. I biked everywhere, woke up early, and felt so inspired. I explored and met new people and even cooked beautiful meals for myself. It felt like the sun was rising and with every second it was getting more and more beautiful.
Two days after I wrote all this and saved it to the computer, I was in a bike accident. A vehicle hit me and drove off. A stranger carried me out of the road. Paramedics came. I was admitted as a trauma patient. They cut off my clothes, gave me a neck brace, and strapped me down to a board so I didn't move my head or back. What the hell? I was sent to Savannah for this? Was this the treasure inside the mountain? I couldn't understand but I also couldn't think straight, my brain was so foggy from the pain killers. The first night in the hospital I was alone and in so much pain. I cried on and off the whole night, so overwhelmed, so confused. Maybe I misheard. This wasn’t part of the plan, the adventure. I was finally doing better, and now this? Every time I closed my eyes I saw the accident again, heard the crack of my bone again. I called the nurse, and she was the hands and feet of Jesus as she took her break sitting next to me, praying with me. Around 2am, Holy Spirit totally surrounded me, like in Genesis 1 where it said she was hovering over the waters, like a mother hen broods over her chicks. I felt that, like I was surrounded by feathers; I felt so much peace and ended up falling asleep with no bad dreams.
From that moment on I had complete peace. I woke up from surgery the next day, with a rod, a plate, and six screws in my leg, completely at peace. Later on I recieved the medical bills in peace. I had moments of meltdown, but no depression, no anxiety. I didn’t understand, but decided to say yes to whatever this crazy journey was. All my plans for the fall had to be canceled. No Onsite, no job. Its lonely. But I’m saying yes.
I know Jesus told me to go.
I have confidence that I can hear Papa’s voice.
I know He didn’t send me to Savannah to get hit by a truck.
He’s not mean, not a tyrant.
And as my friend told me, He’ a redemptive genius, so this will end beautifully.
I’m still living in the rising of the sun, waiting for the full light of day.
Laying in bed after reconnecting with my old friends, Jesus was faithful.
Laying in bed in the mountains, visiting the Millers, Jesus was faithful.
Laying in bed in Alabama, after seeing my family, Jesus was faithful.
Laying in bed in Savannah, so excited for my treasure trip, Jesus was faithful.
Laying in my hospital bed after the hit and run, Jesus was faithful,
And now laying in bed in Florida, confused but at peace, Jesus is STILL faithful.
Jesus told me that Savannah was my gift, my Second Chance Thrift Store. And that doesn’t change just because I got hit by a truck. Jesus is way more powerful than that. I still don't know whats going on, but I'm convinced of His faithfulness and love and voice. And the journey will be beautiful.