The Lamplighter Summer Guild had just ended! Despite going to bed around midnight, I was up early and heading to the airport. From Mt. Morris, New York, to the airport in Pittsburgh was about 4.5 hours. It was important that I get there no later than 2:00pm so I could park the car, meet up with my brother Donald, and hop on our flight to Phoenix on time. Our flight left at 3:40pm and arrived in Phoenix just barely not too late to be an inconvenience to our hosts, the Scott family. I was looking forward to the Photo Class at the Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) homeschool convention that weekend!
Now, let’s do the math. 2:00pm. 4.5 hour drive. Give myself half an hour for stops, leave absolutely no later than 9:00am. Leaving earlier would be better, of course, but, no later than 9:00am.
Well, if you’ve ever been to the Mt. Morris area, you’ll know there’s a place called Letchworth State Park. And it has some epic waterfalls! Three of them, at least. All right next to each other: Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls. The entire Lamplighter group had just been there the previous day, and the photography students I was teaching got some pretty great shots! But since I was teaching, I really didn’t walk away with many keeper photos of my own. Why not stop there on my way to the airport?
With the way things happened that morning, I didn’t arrive at Letchworth until 8:30am. I photographed Upper Falls. I photographed Middle Falls. It was so much fun! But when I got back to the car, I realized it was 8:59. “No later than 9:00am, James.”
“Yeah, but that was the departure time for up in Mt. Morris. I’m 30min in the right direction. That means I’d still be on time if I left here at 9:30am.”
I’m good at making logical decisions. And this was a very logical thought. But Christians don’t make decisions solely on logic. God has sent us the Holy Spirit. And in that moment, looking at “8:59” and thinking “No later than 9:00am”, the Holy Spirit graciously gave me a prompting not to go photograph the Lower Falls. Since He knows the future, He knows what’s best for us even when we don’t know the future. He doesn’t want us to run into unnecessary problems if they can be avoided. But it takes a relationship with God to first know what His voice sounds like, and then to actually heed it.
Well, in that moment, I heard His voice. It’s becoming more and more familiar to me. But I didn’t heed it. A lot of other harmless logical thoughts were popping into my head too, so I decided to “check out” Lower Falls.
Well, I don’t have a photo of Lower Falls because it was further away than I was expecting. Arriving at a trailhead at 9:15am, I knew it would not be possible to hike in, take a photo, hike out, and exit the park in 15min, so I left the park, driving out right “on time” at about 9:30am. I was feeling pretty good about myself.
But I really can’t explain what happened to the time between then and 3:40pm. I took my normal short pitstops, there was no substantial traffic or construction, I met up with Donald no problem, we got the car parked, we got our bags dropped off, and we got through security. When I checked the flight, it even said it had been delayed by 10min. We should have had plenty of time! But every little piece of the puzzle just took a long time. By the time we were through security, we were running to our gate. And forget about the 10min delay. At 3:32 we arrived at the gate, panting, looking out the window at the plane we were supposed to be on, a closed door blocking the way. Would we have been allowed to board had we been there 15min earlier? 1min earlier? I don’t know. But what I did know was that this had never happened to either of us before, and I had this awful sinking feeling of, “if only I had listened to that prompting!”
I immediately told Donald everything. Whatever chastening I was going to go through, he would have to go through with me.
Thankfully, there was another flight leaving in 2 hours that Southwest was graciously going to put us on instead. It arrived in Phoenix at 11pm instead of 9pm and this made me sad since it would now be an inconvenience for the Scotts. But after telling them, they said “No problem” and I was grateful that this was the extent of my punishment.
Well, turns out this was only the beginning of our troubles.
Getting to Chicago, the first half of our trip, went fine. But I couldn’t believe it when we arrived at the gate for the flight to Phoenix (the second half of our trip) and saw that arrival time was now 1:00am the following morning! Our connecting flight had been delayed 2 hours too.
Finally. 1:00am in Phoenix. At the baggage pickup: “Here are your 3 bags!” “Wait, we had 4.” “Oh?”
2:00am. Our lost bag is in Denver. We can pick it up tomorrow. Now to pick up the rental car!
Rental cars are hard to pick up in the middle of the night. Especially when the rental company says the car you reserved a couple of days ago doesn’t exist on their lot. In fact, there were no cars on their lot at all. After 30min of lugging around 200lbs of luggage in the middle of the night in 100 degree Phoenix heat looking for the right place to pick up the car, I was grateful to hear that another rental company would allow us to use one of their cars instead. They said it was their last one.
But, guess what? Turns out the last one left had a dead battery. How could it get any worse?!
It was now 3:00am. There was no prospect of getting sleep any time soon. We had no car. Plans were ruined. Who knows how all this might effect the Convention! All because I didn’t heed that one, little prompting!
But God must have thought I had gotten the message. The second rental company found another car that they said we could use. And we finally made it to the Scotts and fell asleep at 4:30am. Being 7:30am Eastern Time, it was the first time (and hopefully the last) that I was wishing Julianna a good morning at the same time she was wishing me a good night.
Did I learn my lesson?!
Last night I was photographing an epic sunset. Are you familiar with that feeling of wanting to take “just one more?” There was still color, but it was starting to fade. Things were getting dark. I got this prompting to start heading back. But then I saw one more potential composition! My logical brain kicked into gear as I started to take a few steps forward, “I’ve hiked back from sunsets in the dark before. It’s not that far down to the campsite.” But then the whole “No later than 9:00am!” and Letchworth Falls popped into my head. I stopped dead in my tracks. “No siree!” And you’ll ever guess…. I made it back to the campsite at just the perfect time.
Had I not needed that prompting? I’m sure this time I would have been bitten by a rattle snake and died!
“Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake. O Lord. Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.” Psalm 25:7-8