I hesitate to tell this story because some of you will not believe me.... some may think I'm crazy.... but others will believe with all their heart, be encouraged beyond words and will be touched knowing that they truly do not walk alone.
If you read my last post, my Soap Box post, you know about my daily walking. I walk on the rail trail nearly every single day and I walk typically about 7.5 miles a day. During the summer, I walk early in the morning and I'm usually alone. I was considering carrying a concealed weapon, but found that due to my eye condition, I may not be considered for a concealed weapons permit. I've got some additional information on that though, which I will share later. It may be possible for me to get one. That is not the point of this post though.
Before I go into the story, I need to give a little background. First of all, I'm an impatient person. My fuse is short and I know it. I anger quickly. This is not a characteristic of a good Christian, and it does not do justice to the Holy Spirit that lives in me. It is part of me... I've been like this my whole life. I'm a determined person and I've always just had a short fuse. That being said, I know it is wrong and I know with the power of Christ I can change. I know I can't do it on my own. I always knew that I was quick tempered but I never really focused on it. It (for the most part) served me well at work. I was able to make decisions, stick by them, and defend them - and I could do it quickly. Looking back, I probably shut people down more often than not and I probably was not the easiest person in the world to talk to. When I started to be at home full time, it became apparent to me that my fuse was REALLY short. I lived a regimented life for a long time. Everything was done by a schedule and that schedule revolved around work. Everything else fell into place around work. Suddenly I was in a situation where work - the anchor of my daily schedule - was taken away. I found myself ill at ease. I also found myself being short with the kids.
It certainly was a stressful time for me, but I am not able to use that as an excuse. One day it hit me - I NEED to change. Knowing I could not do it on my own, I made a commitment to myself to pray each morning that God would give me the patience I needed for that day... not for the rest of my life raising my children, not for a week, but just for that day. And I would repeat that same prayer every morning. It began to work. I persevered and so did God. He daily gives me the strength I need to change. He fills me each morning with His peace and it really has changed my interactions with the children. I could not have done it on my own, and I won't be able to do it tomorrow if I don't get up and ask God for help. I certainly have times where I do lose my temper, but the times are much, much fewer. I attribute it only to God.
I tell that story as a prelude to the next one. The point of it is, God will answer your prayers. He answers them in due time. In HIS time and at the perfect time. I don't always get the answer to prayer that I want, but when you are asking for something like patience to raise your children, something that is clearly within God's will, something He would applaud, then surely He will answer you and provide abundantly.... at least for that day. He considers tomorrow, tomorrow.
There is another thing that I petition God for every single day. And this is where the second story comes into play. Just remember, it's my story. I experienced it. Whether you believe it or not, it happened. I know it happened because it happened to me. It's not anything super dramatic, but there is NO question in my mind what was happening, and I knew it right when it happened. So, here's how it goes.
During the school year, when the kids were off to school and Tim was off to work I would walk to the gym with Sara. I'd take a class, she would go into the childcare area during my class and then we would walk home. We did it nearly every day. We were on the trail ALOT! Usually it was just me and Sara. I began to worry about what would happen if someone tried to do something to me or more importantly tried to do something when I had Sara with me. It's when I began considering carrying a concealed weapon.
Since you have to take a class, apply for the license, etc to carry a concealed weapon, it's not something that can be taken care of instantaneously. While I was researching my options I wanted to do SOMETHING. My first thought was to pray for protection as we walked. I added this to the list of things that I prayed for each morning. I would get up and as I was getting ready to go out, I'd have a discussion with God, always remembering those two specific requests... to give me patience for the day and protection as we walked.
As summer came and the kids were home, I started to walk longer distances and for the most part, I was walking it alone. I get up in the morning, head out the door with my iPod and my shoes tied tight and usually walk right around 7.5 miles. I love it. It's time to myself to clear my head, gather my thoughts, breathe some fresh air and get some exercise. I do it early while it is cooler. Sometimes I find myself walking down the trail and I have, in my haste to get out the door, I put my discussion with God on the back burner and then forgotten about it. It's sad, but it's true. There were many times when I was walking that I'd be on my way home and I'd finally remember. I'd thank God for the safety He had given me to that point and ask for safety for the duration of the walk, and of-course patience with the kiddos.
For some reason, one day I started to be more specific in my request to God. I think it was after I came upon the police on the trail looking for a burglar who had been caught trying to break into a home and used the trail as an escape route. I'm not sure though. Anyway, with regard to my protection on the walk I started to be more specific with God. I asked that I not walk alone. I asked that if there was someone that I encountered that meant to do me harm, to not let them see me alone. Send an angel to walk with me and protect me. Silly as it is, I asked for a big, burly, scary looking person that NO ONE would want to mess with. I didn't have to see my protector, but whoever was out there with the intent to do me harm, let them see the angel with me and continue on without harming me. I truly believed God would protect me on my walks.
So, I've been meeting God in the morning with these same two petitions for months. Maybe even six months. It's been a long time and literally it has been daily. Each day I walk, I never forget. Sometimes it doesn't happen until I'm part way through my walk, but every time, it happens and I ask for these two things - patience and protection.
One day last week I was out walking. It was raining, but it wasn't down pouring, so I decided not to let the rain keep me in. I decided to walk anyway. I was one of the few people out walking that morning. Typically there are lots of people on the trail which adds to my feeling of security. If something were to happen, there are enough people there that someone would see it. This day however, I think I ran into a total of two people on the 7.5 mile walk.
Part of my route goes through a wooded area. It's probably about a quarter of a mile through the woods and it's about half way through my walk. I go through the woods twice - once on the way out and once on the way back home.
On this particular day, since it was raining and there was no one else out on the trail, I turned my music up high and just enjoyed the cool rain on me and the walk alone. I normally keep my music low and even only put one ear bud in, not only for safety sake, but to hear people who are coming up behind me or towards me so I can move out of their way if they are running or riding a bike or whatever. This day though, there was no one out there and I put both my ear buds in and turned the music up loud.
As I was going through the wooded area I started to feel "strange". There is no other way to explain it. You know that sensation when you can "feel" someone watching you? You can't describe it... it's more a "sense" than a "feeling", but either way, you know it. The "feeling" that I got was something similar to that. Like someone was watching me - but different somehow. Whatever it was, it brought me to attention. I was alerted to what was happening around me.
Part way through the woods there is a wooden bridge. I was about to the bridge when I got this "feeling". I kept walking normally but I reached down and turned my iPod down and pulled one of the ear buds out of my ear. I was about a quarter of the way over the bridge when I turned the music down and pulled the ear bud out. As I continued to walk over the bridge, with the music down low and my ear bud out, I heard my footsteps on the wooden bridge. Normally when I'm walking I'll hear my footsteps as there is a lull in the music when the songs are changing - just the soothing "swishing" of repetitive footsteps...When I pulled the ear bud out though, I heard not only my footsteps, but another set. They were walking the EXACT same pace as me, just about a half step off of my repetitive pace, but with the same cadence. There was something about the additional steps though that were different. They were softer than mine - almost like the steps of a child rather than an adult. Same pace, same cadence - just softer. And I couldn't really tell where they were coming from.
Immediately my heart rate quickened. I was in the woods and it was in the early morning so it was still a bit dim. I had been watching around me, but not intently because there was no one on the trail. I immediately turned around to see who was behind me on the bridge. I was surprised to see that there was no one there, but the cadence of the additional footsteps continued over the remaining length of the bridge. They stopped when I reached the other side and the strange "feeling" I had of someone watching me was gone.
It was one of those moments where you kind of look around wondering what just happened. I continued walking, one ear bud in my hand thinking "WHAT in the world". It took me only a few steps to realize what exactly had just happened.
And this is where I don't care if you believe me or not. I don't care if you go visit the bridge and seek to find a physical answer to what I know was a spiritual experience. I don't care if you think I'm crazy or even certifiable. You can believe me or not - it does't matter. I just have a story to tell. It happened to me and I'll forever believe what happened. I firmly believe that God showed me that day, when I was all alone, with no one else on the trail - so there would be no question as to if it was the footsteps of another person - that He heard me every day. That He has sent a protector to walk with me. The "feeling" I got, that nudged me into turning my music down and pulling out my ear bud was from God, I'm sure of it. Had I not done that, I would not have heard the footsteps alongside of mine. They were at a perfect pace with mine, just a half-step off, so I could hear distinctly that there was another set of steps. There was no one out there to give me the "feeling" or sense of someone staring at me. It was me alone on the bridge. When I heard the steps and turned around there was no one. No one in front, no one behind me - yet the footsteps continued the length of the bridge. Once off the bridge they were gone, and so was the eerie feeling.
Maybe you don't believe in angels sent to protect. I do. I literally spoke the same prayer to God daily for months and there on that day, alone on the trail so as to not be mistaken for another person, God showed me that He heard me. Whether I hear the footsteps with me or not, God is protecting me. The footsteps did not continue beyond the bridge - not through the wooded trail, not on the track around the gym, and they weren't there when I walked back over the bridge on the way home - but I'm completely convinced that there was someone there with me. That God heard, that God answered and that God used that day and that bridge to tell me that He heard and he answered. If someone is out there, meaning to do me harm, they will not see me walking alone. I'm sure of it! I always have company.
It gives me the chills to just think about it and recount the story. That Sunday in church it was also no coincidence that we were studying Psalm 4. Psalm 4:8 says "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety". It tied up the whole experience for me. My days are numbered. God alone knows the number of my days. He alone has the power to protect me. He knows my beginning and my end. I went to the right source for my protection.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't be smart in protecting yourself or that you can be reckless in regard to your own personal safety - but once you have been reasonable, know that God will protect you. It became so clear to me that day on my walk. It may sound silly, but if you were there, if it happened to you and you were as convinced as I am (I can not be convinced of any other source for the footsteps) that God gave me an audible answer to prayer that day, you would not find it silly and you too would want to tell the story. Our God is awesome! He is working with me to ease my quick temper and providing safety as I walk... both answers to daily prayer!
In Christ I never walk alone!