The Biltmore, The Brave and The Bear

We had just arrived back to our vacation townhome in Lake Lure around 9:00 p.m.. After a summer trip to see The Biltmore House in  Asheville, the Waze app decided to direct our family back a different way than the way we came.  I had gripped the steering wheel of my van for 21 miles through kiss-your-elbow curves while braking on the steep declines.  Twice, two different cars passed me on a double yellow line because they didn’t like my slow, yet brave, driving through the mountains at dusk then at dark.  The mustang raced past me when the road straightened for half a mile.  I really didn’t care because I was responsible for keeping my family safe.  A few miles later, a truck passed me while honking its horn.  I was stunned with the truck driver’s road rage because I was feeling relief that I had just successfully navigated the curvy mountain roads.

As I turned onto our street in Lake Lure, my family noticed the trash can lids which were laying on the ground.  Apparently, an animal had opened the lids and strewn trash all around.  Suddenly, I spotted the bear.  I am not talking about a cute stuffed animal bear like the Snuggle bear or the bear who advertises for Charmin.  No.  This bear had drug a bag of garbage to a comfy spot on a driveway two houses down from ours.  She was as big as me, an adult.  She sat on her bum and continuously engaged in gulp after gulp of delicious leftovers which she retrieved from a trash bag.  I was stunned to see this bear no more than 20 feet from my van.  My family decided to keep driving past the bear, arrive in a cul-de-sac, sit and watch the bear for a minute then turn around and leave our street.  There was no doubt.  She was hungry, black and big.

I turned left out of the street and headed north to the next street.  I pulled into a driveway and sat.  I guess that I knew it was possible to see a bear, after all, we were surrounded by woods, but in reality, I was stunned and bewildered as to what to do next.  How would we be able to get into the house without the bear seeing us?  The trash cans are installed deep into the ground so that the lids are only possible to open as they are close to the ground.  The idea is to keep the bears from going through the trash.  This bear, however, had figured out how to pull the bag from the garbage can and get her fill.  I say it was a her because I was told from a housekeeping manager the next day that there was a female bear who was pregnant and due any day in the area.  This person also told me that since it was hot and the bear was pregnant, the Prego bear was more likely to be aggressive and that we should watch out.  

I will tell you that we finally drove back to our house and pulled into our driveway.  The bear crossed the street and went into the woods behind my van.  We all looked back, couldn’t see any more signs of her and bolted out of the van into the house.  We slammed the door and heaved a sigh of relief.  My heart pounded so I took deep breaths.  We had been brave to get into our house.  Soon, the TV was on.  Disney Channel was on showing, believe it or not, the fight scene from “Brave” involving huge bears.  Seriously, of all the movies that could have been on, and of all the scenes that could have played, we saw the Bears fighting and a human getting attacked.  It was time for bed so I turned off the TV.

My heart felt a lot of things that day:

Elation when my kids asked if we could go to Biltmore

Excitement to drive to my favorite mountain destination

Joy to see the mountains through the lens of the back porch of Biltmore

Peace as I walked with my family through the gardens

Happiness as my kids flew through the air in the swings and on the see saw in the serene playground area with the backdrop being mountains 

Amazement that we were seated at a table we have been able to sit at two other times before at Cedric’s Tavern

Thrilled to have found a “Be-YOU-tiful” plaque for a gift for one of my kids and a positive message plaque with phrases beginning with each letter of the alphabet for the other child at a gift shop

Warm as I tasted the Shepherd’s Pie which brought back a memory of eating the same meal two years ago on a cool evening with my family

Then, as we drove away from Biltmore, the app took us a way that was unfamiliar.  It also led me to unfamiliar emotions which contrasted greatly with our visit to Biltmore.

The next emotions that I felt involved concern for our safety, stress over the twists and turns on the narrow two lane mountain roads, irritation over the road ragers who made sure they sped up or honked as they illegally passed me on the double yellow line, relief once we finally made it back home, then shock over the bear.

I had a hard time falling asleep that night.  This ride home had been no joke.  I do not recall Ever having to drive through constant curvy roads before for 21 miles in the mountains and I Never have been greeted by a bear, well, not until that night.  It was a truly eye opening experience of what it means to live in the mountains.

I realized that I needed to be thankful that God had given me the ability to drive and to think though the bear experience allowing us to get inside and to safety.  I do not know why that day seemed to have such a wide variety of emotions.  I decided to process the hard emotions through a thankful heart and through reflecting on wisdom from the Bible.  

2 Timothy 1:7 King James Version (KJV)

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

He has given me a spirit of power, of love and a sound mind according to His Word.  He has not given me a spirit of fear or timidity.  I appreciate the power He gave me to persevere as a driver on unfamiliar roads in dusk then dark conditions.  I am grateful for the love that I have for my family and for their safety.  I also know that God gave me a sound mind when He soothed my heart from reading His Word.

A sound mind even in the unfamiliar.   

The writer of the old hymn, “Oh, I Want To See Him” had probably encountered bouts of uncertain or unfamiliar conditions, but had been given power, love and a sound mind too.  The song writer penned these words:  “Many arrows pierced my soul from without and from within, but my Lord leads me on.  Through Him I must win.”  I turnd out the lights, laid down and felt safe.  God had brought me through and led me through some tough times and emotions.  

Thank you, Jesus, for giving me power, love and a sound mind.

Peace

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Isaiah 26:3-4 NIV

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.”

My summer days as a teacher on summer vacation have been filled with relaxing days, most of them fairly peaceful and uneventful, well, until today.  They are coming to an end in the next few weeks.  I already have my classroom ready and am filled with anticipation about the coming year, not only for myself as a K-5 Technology Teacher, but for my own children.

Today, we had planned to go to a nearby amusement park which we haven’t been to all summer.  After a morning check of weather, we decided that we’d get soaked in the afternoon so we put off the trip to another date. Instead, we decided to go to my inlaws’ house in a nearby town to hopefully get in some swimming at their pool.  Even if it rained there, we wouldn’t have paid $150 to be soaked like we would have if we had gone to the amusement park.

After getting ready, I started cleaning the kitchen when I saw the first ant.  Not long after, I saw the second one then a third one.  My inner dialogue fussed,”Oh no!  I am ready to leave but now I have to deal with ants!”  So after discovering that they had gotten into our trash can, I emptied it and began the process of spraying for ants and putting out some never opened ant motels that I found in the garage.  We headed out the door to grab lunch at our favorite Chicken restaurant to take to my inlaws’ house.

After ordering and picking it up at the window, I drove off, paused to quickly check for all orders, then realized we were missing an order of the three count chicken strips.  So, I needed to pull into the lot again, park and go inside to collect my missing order.  Upon trying to pull into the parking lot, a guy in an older model Porsche was backing out of his spot but apparently, got stalled.  I patiently waited because it was what I was supposed to do to allow him time to get moving.  Suddenly, I noticed agitated hand movements from the Porsche driver as he was motioning me to go around him.  He, clearly, was mad that one, his car was not working properly and two, that I was having to wait.  He seemed to be mad because he cracked his door to be sure that I saw his hand movement which startled me.  I turned my wheel as far to the left as it would go and tried to turn but was unsure if I would hit the rear of the Porsche.  I decided to back up so that I could clear the turn.  While I backed up, the other driver finally got his car moving so he sped through the parking lot.  I had not even got around him but he floored it which was absolutely unsafe since we were in a small parking lot of this restaurant.  My youngest daughter commented, “That guy had some road rage.”  “He sure did,” I replied while feeling depleted from the experience.  How quickly this guy lost his patience!  Fortunately, I kept a cool head, but believe me, it didn’t take long until my state of mind stalled like his car in a murky mess of irritation.  By the way, I was so excited to have gotten my inlaws peach milkshakes as a special treat.  I placed them in the cardboard drink holder with a nice handle which the restaurant had provided and had placed them on the floor of the passenger side.

After leaving the chicken place, we headed south down a highway through a small town. Now, back in June, I had been stopped by a state trooper in this little town because I had not slowed down when the speed changed from 55 to 45.  I was only half a mile or less past the speed change sign so thankfully, he let me off with a warning but believe me, I have been extremely careful while driving through this stretch on the way to my inlaws’ house ever since.  Honestly, I have a good driving record and obey laws, but having an encounter with a state trooper has stayed with me!  As we approached a stoplight, I noticed that it turned from green to yellow.  I was going 45, the current speed limit, but decided to put on my brakes to prepare to stop at the light.  Can anyone guess what happened in the floor of the passenger side of my van?  Yep, you got it.  Ding, Ding, Ding!!  The peach milkshakes turned over spilling out at least half of both milkshakes including the red cherry on top.  I sat there unable to reach the mess.  I was so aggravated that the special treat was now partially ruined plus I couldn’t clean it for 20 more minutes.  About this time, it started to drizzle rain, light rain.  Once the light turned green, I took off, not speeding like the guy in the chicken joint, but feeling so jolted.  The mad steam rolled out of my ears.  My jaw locked in disgust.

Within three or four minutes,  the rain picked up.  The weather reports indicated possible down pours which was the reason we didn’t head to the amusement park in the first place.  Sure enough, the rains came so hard that I couldn’t see.  I was concerned about the standing water forming on the edge of the road.  I made the choice to pull off into a small shopping center.  We waited for five minutes and the rain let up a bit.  I continued our journey but not long after, the fine rain poured profusely and limited my vision.  I turned on my hazard lights.  My lights were on and wipers were at full speed, but I could not see well.  Again, I pulled off the road this time into a church parking lot.  We waited for five minutes or so until the heavy rain subsided.  Finally, we were on the road again.  I moved away from the right shoulder because the deep standing water that we first went through upon getting back on the road, sprayed water up on the windshield and on the side of van.

As we made our way down a country road near my inlaws’ house, I saw some blue sky appear inbetween the pillowy clouds.  Relieved, we drove into their driveway.  My father-in-law hosed off the mess on the floormat while we took in our food and swim bags.  Our lunch was a welcome change from the previous hour, but apparently, my tummy processed the food and within the next hour, I was sick.  Yes, back-and-forth-to-the-bathroom sick.  I would head out to sit in the sun, but was soon back inside.  On one of my visits back to the pool porch, I sat down in a lawn chair.  Suddenly, the chair snapped, my right backside was on the ground and my back hit the arm rest.  So, there I sat, asking for help from my family to get me up because I was stuck.  This was absolutely not expected especially since I had previously sat in the chair on other visits and had sat there earlier in the afternoon.  This chair was actually an old one but a good one dating back to my mother-in-law’s mother who had sat under an old tree in it 50 years ago.

I can honestly say that a lot had happened in three hours to try to rob my peace.  While I was by the pool and in the bathroom, I read my new book from Lysa Terkhurst called “Uninvited”.  In her first chapter, she quoted Isaiah 26:3-4,

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.”

She explained that the Hebrew word for “stedfast” means “to brace, uphold, support”.   I never knew this amazing truth.  I started thinking about my day and the way that my mind had dealt with ants, an unfulfilled order, road rage from the Porsche guy, my own irritation over the tumbling peach milkshakes, my tummy pains and my breaking of the old chair.  I just am so thankful that God braced me and upheld me during a very strange afternoon.  I trust God with my life and love that He kept me, supported me and did not let go during my  irritations.  He knows me because He made me.  He knows what I can handle.  Even when the irritating moments occurred, there was always a right way and wrong way to respond.  I know that it pleases my heavenly Father when I focus on showing love and practice patience.  Today, I was given multiple opportunities to determine how my reaction would look.  In the end, I won’t try to say here that I felt peace during each of my moments today, but I know somehow, that God kept me in “perfect peace” because my mind was stedfast to trust in God to help me through every situation.

What a lesson right before school starts!  Being a teacher starting my 24th year, I know that there will be moments during the school year which may jolt me.  The unexpected moments will happen.  There will be days when the lesson won’t go as planned or I’ll have the child who will come to me with needs that exceed the 45 minutes that I will have with him or her.  But, I know that I trust God to help me.  I cannot do this job without being braced by God.  He has helped me again today.  It is certainly a reminder of what He will do for me as the school year starts.  My responsibility is to spend time with God in prayer and by reading then meditating on His Word.  I appreciate that He will be faithful to me and keep me in “perfect peace”but I must do my part to keep my mind trusting in God and not on my own strength.  He will hold me and help me whether I’m at home preparing lessons or lunches for the next day, whether I am doing laundry or dishes, whether I am spending time with family or with students.  He is my Peace.  The world does not give me peace.  Only Jesus.

Picture Credit:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/8712089084