God leads me where He needs me (and makes all the arrangements along the way).

I had been going to school for ten years. I started in March 2004 at Lane Community College, and received my Master’s degree from Walden University in March 2014. However, I was finished with school on February 9th. I knew that I had passed my final class and would get my degree because I ended the class with a 100%. I was pretty excited, and decided that I deserved a reward for my achievement. However, I had been laid off work in early January and couldn’t really afford to do anything. The very next day, February 10th, I received an electronic deposit from my taxes: $1000 was added to my bank account. I told my daughter that I just decided that I was going to go to Reno for a night or two as a reward for all of my hard work, but that I would leave on Thursday since I had errands scheduled for Tuesday and we were going to Tillamook on Wednesday. On the return trip from Tillamook, one of the headlights went out on my car. I decided that I would get it changed on Thursday along with an oil change.

Thursday morning I packed. I was only planning on a night or two, and could not understand why I was packing so much stuff. I had three bags packed, but I didn’t argue, I just did it. Then I went to Oil Can Henry’s to get the oil and light bulb changed. Surprisingly, BOTH headlights were burned out, so they were both replaced. I got the oil changed, the tires rotated and the car washed. I stopped at Fred Meyers for no apparent reason and ended up buying three pairs of gloves. I don’t suppose anyone remembers, but it was unseasonably warm that day. Certainly no need for gloves. Then I stopped by to tell my daughter that I was leaving town. I commented that I was shocked by how much I had packed, and she said that there is a reason for everything. Then she did the most unusual thing, she gave me a scarf. She later told me that she had not intended to do that, but something made her do it at the last minute. I thanked her and added it to the growing list of items in my luggage. Then I took off. I had a wonderful, beautiful drive all the way. It took eight hours. I arrived in Reno the night of the 13th and found a Holiday Inn Express that had room availability. I didn’t even go to Virginia Street. I spent the night, woke up bright and early the next morning, looked out my window and saw an amazing sunrise with the orange sun reflecting off of a building across the freeway. I didn’t even realize it was St. Valentine’s Day.

I felt very wonderful being there, and then I suddenly had a very strong need to leave Reno and head to Las Vegas. So I grabbed some complimentary breakfast and headed out.

Somewhere past Walker Lake, but before Beatty, my car turned over 50,000 miles. It seemed important at the time, so I took a picture of the odometer. The drive was incredibly beautiful and relaxing. I have a friend and a son that live in Las Vegas, I called my friend and asked if I could stay with her. She said I was absolutely welcome, and my son was excited to see me, too. I arrived in time to have an amazing Valentine’s dinner (steak, lobster and three kinds of crab legs) with my son and his girlfriend (I really didn’t mean to crash their special time together, but they were very gracious about it). After dinner I went to Mary’s and she gave me a key and a room to myself and said I should feel free to come and go as I pleased. Mary was one of the first people to introduce me to Christ. My son and his friends were all going to a show (Above and Beyond at the MGM) later that night and there happened to be an extra ticket. Imagine that. The rest of my time in Las Vegas was also amazing. I played disc golf twice, I was invited to join people for various events, I saw some folks that I hadn’t seen in years, and I got to spend my son’s birthday with him, which is something that I don’t normally get to do. It was all so wonderful!

I called a friend of mine that lives in southern California, and suggested that perhaps I could drive over to visit with her and her family for a while. She said that it would be great, so I told her that I would keep her in the loop about when I would be leaving Las Vegas. Apparently, that visit was not in God’s plan.

On February 21st, the day after my son’s birthday, I woke up and realized that it was time for me to leave. The Holy Spirit told me that I needed to go to Arizona right then. Not California. I said hasty good-byes to everyone, filled the car up with gas and put Cottonwood in my GPS. I arrived about 7:00 in the evening. I knocked and my sister Melanie (who has Down syndrome) answered the door. She saw me and was so excited. She said “Oh Hi! Fern look who it is!” Then she dashed off down the hall. Mom was really excited to see me. Melanie came back out; she had changed her blouse, grabbed her sweater, and put on her socks and shoes. She said “Let’s go.” I asked where she wanted to go, and she didn’t care, she just wanted to go somewhere. I talked with Mom a little while then Melanie and I left to go visit other family. While we were in the car, Melanie told me that she was moving. I said “You are?” She said “Yes. I am going to live in a white house.” I don’t know how she knew that she was moving because nothing had been discussed about that yet. I can only imagine that God must have told her.

When we returned to Mom’s, I talked with Mom about how things were going with her and Melanie. Mom said that I showed up on the right day. She said that she lost her temper with Melanie earlier in the day and she just didn’t know if she could handle the situation any more. Melanie had always lived with Mom and Dad. They took care of her together. However, since Dad died in August, Mom was discovering what a good buffer Dad had been between Mom and Melanie. With it just being the two of them, the task was much harder. Mom said that she was looking into programs for Melanie there in Arizona for either a day program or a live in situation. I told her that my cousin Rhonda, who lives in Iowa (where most of our family lives), had just called me the day before and told me that there is a room available for Melanie in the facility where she works. To my total amazement, Mom said “Well, that would work, too.” I could not have been more surprised. My Mom agreeing to this huge change without a single argument? God is the only one that could have made her answer like that.

The next day I called the facility (it is called C.A.R.E.) and spoke with the director. She took our application and information over the phone. She said that we would need to get Melanie’s medical records and have the results of a TB test before we came to Iowa, but that everything else could be handled over the phone. Apparently, I was going to be driving Melanie to Iowa. We had to wait until Monday to get all the records and the TB test. On Tuesday Melanie and I started packing all of her belongings. I asked her if she was OK with moving and she told me again that she was going to live in a white house. I told her I was taking her to Iowa, and she was really happy about it. This is the picture I used to create “I am moving and here’s my new address” postcards to mail to everyone. Then we had to wait until Wednesday for the results of the test (it was negative). During the packing, Mom kept saying there was no way that everything would fit in my car. As the pile grew and grew I was starting to think that she might be right, but as it turned out, God took care of that as well. On Thursday morning (Feb 27th) when the car was loaded: Melanie and I sat in the front; her big screen TV and my Dad’s antique lion’s head clock were wrapped in blankets and strapped in on the back seat. Our overnight bags (the things that we would need during the trip) fit on the floor of the back seat, and everything else that Melanie owns (the TV stand, her 390 movies, 180 CDs, bathroom items, clothing, shoes, books, crayons and markers, toys…everything) fit perfectly in the back section of my little Chevy HHR. Truly, it was a miracle. We had plenty of room, which allowed for putting our seats back for naps or whatever. I am telling you, there is no way that everything would have fit without the hand of God. When we left it was 72 degrees.

The first day, Melanie and I went to the Grand Canyon. By the time we got there and drove around and stopped at a couple of places, it was getting late and we hadn’t had lunch so we tried to find some place to eat. However, the wind had blown so hard that it knocked out all the power to all the businesses. We finally found a hotel that offered a cheese and cracker platter, so we had that. Then we continued on our trip and made it to Gallup, NM to spend the first night. The next day (Friday) was glorious! Beautiful temperature and beautiful sunshine! We drove and drove and made it to Kansas that night. We were driving along and out of the blue Melanie said she was tired and hungry (it was about 8:00 and we hadn’t had supper yet), so I told her that the next town we came to with a motel with a vacancy, we would stop. No surprise (with God at the wheel) the next town was only a few minutes further and the very first thing on the right hand side was a motel with a vacancy sign. We got a room and asked about a place to eat. We were the 11th person to do a Facebook check in at the local pizza joint. It was 45 degrees when we went to bed.

Saturday morning was 22 degrees, blowing, and freezing rain. Oh joy! Thank the Lord for the gloves and the scarf (which I wrapped around Melanie). I had to pull over several times scrape the ice off of the windshield. The defroster and wipers just couldn’t compete with the freezing rain. However, the freezing rain gave way to blowing snow shortly after lunch. The remainder of the drive to Lincoln, NE (where an aunt lives) consisted of snow and falling temperatures. It was 6 degrees in Lincoln according to the temperature gauge, but it was -34 according to the wind chill factor.

In the last five years, my aunt Vera has had a breast removed, part of a lung and a rib removed, her gall bladder removed, she broke her arm, and now she has diverticulitis. She is 82 years old. I think this will probably be the last time that Melanie or I will be able to see her. It is a blessing that we were able to during this unplanned trip.

Sunday, March 2nd, we finally made it to Iowa. We visited friends that I will probably never see again in my lifetime, we saw some family, and we practically froze to death! Not really, but it was incredibly cold. We stayed with Rhonda. Monday we got Melanie completely enrolled, had a tour of the facility (and her room, which they already had decked out in her favorite colors), and went to have an interview with her new doctor. Tuesday was my birthday, and two of our sisters came to visit, We all went out to lunch and spent the rest of the time inventorying all of Melanie’s belongings, as well as writing her name on everything she owns (390 DVDs, 180 CDs, etc). We were going to let Melanie spend the night, but then something very traumatic happened, and we decided against it for this night. Wednesday everything was fine again, and Melanie ended up staying that night. Thursday morning I visited and she was fine. Then I went back again Thursday evening. I had planned to stay at least a few days to make sure my sister was settled in. However, that again was not part of God’s plan. Perhaps Melanie just needed to get acclimated without me being there, because the Lord told me to leave Friday morning. However, I had promised several people that I would see them again before I left, and I am a person of my word. As a matter of fact, one of the people I promised was a couple that my parents have known forever. Marvin and my dad had known each other since the 8th grade. He said that I would not have had to stop back by, but I told him I had said I would, and my word is my bond. He said that I am definitely my father’s daughter, because my dad was always a man of his word no matter what. I can think of no greater compliment in the world. By the time I left, it was 5:00 pm. Several people tried to talk me into staying until Saturday, but I said that I definitely had to leave on Friday. I had completely run out of money, had maxed out my credit cards, and had just enough money for gas to get home (I slept in the car, and only ate some snacks I bought at the grocery store because I had no money for eating out). I really would have loved to stop at some of the sights along the way. Utah is soooo beautiful!!! However, I arrived home in Eugene Sunday evening at 8:00.

None of this trip was planned by me. I didn’t make reservations anywhere. I didn’t have a route plan. I didn’t even know that I was going to Las Vegas or Arizona or Iowa (I certainly would have chosen a time with better weather). The entire thing was orchestrated by the only one who can make it all happen. I look back now and I know part of the reason that I lost my job in January was so that I would be available to make this trip. Everything fell into place. Everything. God is good all the time.