As I rounded the bend on the Cherohala Skyway on April 21, 2019, I came to a sudden and complete stop. While praying no one came speeding up behind me, I sat in unbelief at what was in the middle of the road before me. As tears sprung to my eyes all I could utter was, “Thank you, Lord, thank you! You heard me.”
Making Jesus the focus
I chose to spend the day, quietly, with the Lord and my dog. It wasn’t how I initially intended to spend the day, but the weather across the Great Smoky Mountain region the prior few days had brought flooding to the basins. Originally, my plan was to plant myself on a big rock, along the Little River, and do nothing but be still for as long as I could. I desperately needed rest and relaxation, so driving over 100 miles wasn’t what my weary self desired. Nope, I longed for a thought-free, dog-free, care-free day.
But God…the one who plans our steps before we even have a thought of them.
But God…has a plan and purpose for every detail of our lives.
But God….who tends to show up when you least expect it, like in a burning bush – why not at 5,000 feet on your birthday?
I purposely did not want to draw attention to myself that day as not to take away from the One who is more deserving of celebrating than me. It was Resurrection Sunday, Jesus’ day to shine, and despite it being my 45th birthday I wouldn’t take focus away Him. So, perhaps, what I experienced was my Abba Father’s way of celebrating me and showing me He was paying attention, even on Resurrection Sunday.
You see, the weekend prior, I executed the biggest act of obedience God had put before me, to date (well, outside of recommitting my life to Christ): I moved to Eastern Tennessee after over two years of strong leading from the Holy Spirit that this was God’s next step for me. I did so with a job in tact (working from home), friends awaiting my arrival (God connections) and a deep peace about it that no one who hasn’t done such a thing, could understand, nor could I explain it. I left behind what little family I have living, in order to carry-out God’s will.
I had no plan but had spent a lot of time in prayer over this both beforehand and on the day I drove the moving truck to Tennessee. I was simply told to go and trusted that God had arranged everything in advance…apparently, right down to His plans for my birthday.
He ordains our steps
It wasn’t until the morning of the 21st that I knew what I was supposed to do since my own plans were spoiled. But, as usual, what God plans for us is always above and beyond what we could ever give to ourselves. I started down the road, dog in the backseat. I was an angry, tired bird that morning too – I did not want to drive and the dog saw my backpack – and had to go to. (He knows the backpack means hiking or something outdoors. See the photos below – he began by sitting only beside my foot then sat on my foot, which was his way of saying you can’t leave me here. Yeah, I’m a sucker! lol)
I drove down HWY 129 to Madisonville and turned left onto US 68. I have written about US 68 in the past. EVERY instance I’ve driven this road leading to Tellico Plains, Tennessee my spirit leaps and I find tears running down my face. This time was no exception, however, I finally decided to ask the Lord to please help me understand my reaction to the area. My route was to take US 68 to the Cherohala Skyway which runs across the mountains, and through both the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests, into Robbinsville, North Carolina. I planned to make one pit-stop along the way, but ended up making two. The first was at Bald River Falls and the second, the intended, Indian Boundary Lake. Both were on my bucket list so thought, ‘why not’!
Indian Boundary Lake, was open but the campgrounds were not, so I hoped it would be quiet and it certainly was. This hidden gem was the perfect place to get the dog out for a long quiet walk and also refresh my weary mind. It is a place not many people know about and I’m glad because I can see spending quiet time there in the future.
After what seemed like hours, I got back on the Skyway and enjoyed it’s breathtaking views and the curvy road. Pictures, unless perfectly timed, just cannot do the scenery justice. I tried but the sun was high by the time I rolled through. (The image atop this post was taken from one of the pull-off vantage points.) It was also unexpected yet fun to run into snow on the higher elevations. It is funny how well our Abba Father knows us and what will truly delight our souls.
When your spirit leaps
I hadn’t been to North Carolina since I was 11 years old when visiting Qualla Boundary area, home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians with my great grandparents. (Her mother was full Cherokee.) As I came into the area of Robbinsville, North Carolina, and the further I drove, the more something within me began to stir. I also noticed something different about the street signs but couldn’t quite comprehend it.
The stirring in my spirit was so severe I became discombobulated and had to pull over and get myself refocused. I felt a pull to simply supplant myself next to the gorgeous lake where I parked, but time was not on my side; evening was drawing close and I was getting tired, so wanted to get back across the mountains before dark. I didn’t realize where I was exactly, however, once I was back on the road I saw signs belonging to a senior living, community center, and the Boys and Girls Club, for Cherokee people. Suddenly, the street signs made sense: they were written in both Cherokee and English.
As I mentioned, my great great grandmother (my maternal grandmother’s grandmother) was Cherokee. For the past several years I have felt a need to connect to that part of my heritage but never understood why. I mean why would God only care about the Cherokee portion of my DNA? My paternal grandfather’s mother was full native from a Florida tribe (I believe Creek); my maternal grandmother’s father was an immigrant from Ireland. Yet, I haven’t felt the need to connect to either nation.
Rounding the bend
Traveling back across the mountain, racing with the sun, I wasn’t interested in the scenery much – something told me I’d be coming back across these mountains more than once in the future. With the temperatures cooling and the snow being more apparent, I knew I was approaching the upper elevations. I came to the sign that read “Elevation: 5,000 feet” and rounded a stiff bend in the road. I was forced to an abrupt stop and sat completely in awe, as I prayed no one came speeding up the road behind me. Standing in the road before me were two, young, white-tailed deer. (They were the first I had seen since arriving in Tennessee.)
My reaction, as you read earlier, was disbelief and gratitude at once. You see, while walking at the lake I had said to my Lord, “I am here now. Please show me a sign that I am moving in the right direction.” Even as another car, from the other direction, came to a stop awaiting the deer to cross – the pair simply stood there looking at me. I knew He was responding in a way I would completely recognize. Finally, the deer jumped up onto the snowy embankment and went on their way. It took me a second to move on.
We often drive through our days forgetting that God works supernaturally. (As I was led to write this story, the Holy Spirit kept reiterating this to me.) Miraculously, God used unexpected people in my circle to provide information in the coming days that led to a deep spiritual revelation. Revelation which explained more than I could have ever fathomed.