A Near Miss

Life comes into perspective with a close call on a rain swept highway  

It was cold, windy, and raining like crazy, but we had tickets for a play in downtown Atlanta and reservations at a fabulous French restaurant. It was going to be a memorable Sunday afternoon for all the girls in my Atlanta family. We didn’t want to drive or try to find a parking place in pouring down rain, so four of us took Uber to be dropped off at the front door.

I sat in the front, the other three sat in the back. Of course it’s only natural that I engage in conversation with any of my Uber drivers. I love to ask about their family, what they enjoy doing, how long they’ve been driving for Uber – anything that helps reveal more about who they are. Everyone has a story and I’ve heard some interesting tales and heartwarming sagas over the course of my travels.

Harold was his name, he was probably in his sixties, divorced with grown children and grandchildren, former military, and a retired Greyhound bus driver. When we all expressed our concern about driving in a hard rain in four lanes of traffic on the freeway, he assured us in a calm voice that he had learned how to drive in all kinds of weather and emergency situations with his Greyhound training. Knowing that, I felt somewhat relieved.

About half way to Atlanta, the rain had gotten worst and the windshield wipers couldn’t seem to move fast enough. We were in the middle lane when a small, low, two-door sports car passed us on the left going much too fast. The driver hit a pocket of water at high speed, swerved into the HOV lane, hit the cement barrier, jig-jagged over into our lane and the lane on our right and then did a tailspin in front of us. We saw it unfold right before our eyes in panoramic view, not knowing if we were going to hit the car or the car was going to hit us. I could do nothing but pray.

I reached over and grabbed Harold’s arm with one hand and braced myself with the other hand on the door. I didn’t panic, but watched helplessly, only repeating Harold’s name several times. Harold said nothing. He calmly began to break slowly in intervals, rather than slam on the brakes as I would have done. His eyes quickly checked the rear-view mirror and both side mirrors. Because of the rain, traffic behind us was slower, with enough distance behind our car to brake and pull off the freeway once they saw what was happening.

We swerved slightly into the right lane, missing the sports car, then came to a complete stop that seemed inches away from the car’s fender. Only by God’s grace and mercy did we avoid what could have been a deadly accident for all of us. I truly believe Harold was our angel of protection behind the wheel.

We arrived at the restaurant and the play on time, still shaken from our experience, but enjoying every minute. It turned out to definitely be a “memorable” afternoon.

I always try to reflect on what I’ve learned from a life experience, whether it’s good or bad. God teaches me something in any or all circumstances, if I just take the time to let Him reveal it.

As the New Year begins, most of us will face circumstances beyond our control at one time or another. It’s a part of life. It’s how we learn to cope and how we learn a lot about ourselves. Sometimes we grow stronger and wiser from our experiences, other times it can cripple us emotionally or physically.  Sometimes we don’t have a choice.

Here are some of the things I was reminded of on the freeway that Sunday afternoon. I hope they will encourage you and bring you hope for 2020. . .

The unexpected will happen

As much as we try to do everything right and everything possible to avoid a situation, we can be blindsided by the unexpected. So buckle up and know you are never alone. God will not leave you – ever. His presence accompanies you when the unexpected happens.

Take a deep breath

You may or may not see a situation coming, but don’t forget to breath! Taking a deep breath gave me a little extra dose of oxygen I needed to think as I tried to wrap my head around what was happening.

When you see it coming, pray

Breathing and praying go hand in hand. As I took a deep breath, I prayed. I was totally helpless when I saw the driver of the other car completely lose control. There was absolutely nothing I could do, but pray. I knew we were in God’s hands, regardless of the outcome. I knew that before we got in the car and before any crisis I face. Knowing that I am always in God’s hands is embedded in my soul.

Stay calm

It’s not always easy, especially when it’s life threatening or life changing. You may not feel calm inside, but remember that being calm in a tough situation will help to calm your family, children, or friends.

Reach out for support

I remember grabbing Harold’s arm for support. Thankfully it didn’t distract him, but it somehow gave me the comfort I needed in the moment.  One of life’s greatest blessings is having someone next to you to share the good times and walk with you through the hard times.

Sometimes it’s a spouse, a family member, a friend, or even a stranger, like Harold. Maybe someone is reaching out for your support right now.

When you don’t know what lies ahead, trust

We can plan, dream, and hope for the best in the new year. Yet, none of us knows what lies ahead in 2020. But, this much I do know – I know my Savior. I trust Him in all things. Do you?

My hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. Psalm 62:5-6

Trust in Him at all times… Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:8

From my heart,

Susan Miller

Everything I need to know, I learned from my grandchildren

grandchildrenCousin Camp has come to an end for another summer. Every July I look forward to having all six grandchildren, ages eight to fourteen, together for a cousin reunion. I must have fixed 12 gallons of lemonade, made 35 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, found 12 missing shoes, fixed an overflowing toilet 5 times, took at least 100 pictures to the tune of “Nana, please…n-o  m-o-r-e pictures,” and said “wash your hands,” at least 8 times a day. I do believe my daughter can fix mac n’ cheese and chicken nuggets 10 different ways!

It was reminiscent of my childhood as I watched them enjoy the simple fun of playing hide and seek in the dark, learning how to play the old-fashion game of Jacks, watching the boys play roly-poly races with small, round bugs on the sidewalk, and for everyone to run around in the rain as they squealed with glee. You can imagine the laughter when a Nerf ball was accidently (?) thrown, and hit a plate of pancakes filled with sticky syrup, or when hands were washed in the sink where the spaghetti was draining in the colander, and we all ate “soapy spaghetti.”

I set up the now famous “Nana’s Nail Salon” on our deck, and painted nails for my three granddaughters and their friends for a whole morning. My three grandsons, their friends, and all the girls, played board games on our deck, and played soccer, dodge ball, and capture the flag in the park for hours of fun. Kick-ball was a late afternoon ritual, with a growing number of kids participating every day. Even the parents would gather to watch. I made the world’s largest chocolate chip cookie (on a huge pizza pan), along with a “build your own ice-cream sundae” for a dessert-night treat.  Bunk beds and sleeping bags filled the loft and the sound of giggles and conversations continued until “lights out” echoed up the stairs.

I loved every minute. I watched, participated, listened, and learned. I captured the memories with pictures, and have tucked the tender moments in my heart.

God teaches me life lessons through the world of my grandchildren, and reminds me of things I know, but can easily forget in the busyness of my daily life. I thought it was worth repeating the things God continues to teach me at Cousin Camp each summer.

It’s not about me. I learned to put aside my schedule, my agenda, and my wants. Cousin Camp is just that—it’s all about the cousins.

Have no expectations. The sooner I learned to relax and let go of any expectations of our time together, the smoother the days went, and the more fun we had.  God had to work with me on this one!

Above all, don’t compare. I was reminded that comparing grandsons and granddaughters who are different ages, have different personalities and temperaments, and come from two different family life-styles, is unfair to the child. Accepting their differences allows each one to be who God made them to be, without the pressure of performance to please.

Movies vs. games. There is a huge difference in watching movies and playing board games together. You have to be quiet to listen and watch a movie. Board games encourage conversation and interaction. There is a time for both, but I learned not to defer to movies to keep everyone occupied.

Crafts are good for all ages. I was surprised to learn that everyone from eight to fourteen, both boys and girls, loved doing crafts! It was fun, messy, and an opportunity for them to express their individual creativity. A lot of things happened. They shared ideas and supplies, learned from each other, and complimented each other on what they did.                                                                       

Deck talk is magic. After dinner, we would sit on the deck, with only a few lanterns to give us a glow in the dark. It was amazing how the conversation flowed, when there were no distractions. With a few questions, I learned about what they were thinking, things they were doing, and caught a glimpse of life through their eyes.

A little space is a good thing. Every child needs some time and space to do their own thing. I learned they don’t have to always do everything together, or in a group. 

It’s caught, not taught. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and being considerate of others are best caught through the example of how I treat them and others. Pointing out the error of their ways, in front of everyone else can be embarrassing and humiliating. If I had to resort to correct someone’s behavior, I would do it one-on-one, away from everyone else. We would sit on the floor together, eye level, and talk it through, ending with a hug and a smile that conveyed my unconditional love.

Choose your battles. I learned to ask myself—“Is this a hill high enough to die for? Am I making a mountain out a mole hill? At the end of the day, will it really matter?” 

A sense of humor goes a long way. I learned to lighten up and laugh a lot, and that being silly brings giggles from all ages.

Manners matter.  Please, thank-you, excuse me, I’m sorry, chew with your mouth shut, elbows off the table—have always been a part of “Nana’s Manners,” and manners are not left at the door at Cousin Camp.  My daughter often says in jest, “You don’t want to have to go to “Nana’s Manners School”—it lasts for hours!” I learned that you don’t give up on what matters.

Hold hands, and stick together.  Cousin Camp is all about connecting with each other, building memories, and learning the importance of being a part of something bigger than yourself: your family. I learned that when you encourage them to hold hands and stick together, one day you will have the joy of seeing them do it on their own.

I am also reminded that these are not just lessons learned regarding my grandchildren, but also with my adult children and their spouses, extended family, friendships, and those I serve with in ministry. Lord, keep teaching me, reminding me, and never let me forget.

May Cousin Camp memories live on…

Susan Miller signature