"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
My husband, Danny, and I plan our Nantahala Mountain getaways months in advance. This latest one, a return to Hawk's Ridge Hideaway, is much needed as his work load has been unrelenting and my exertion to complete my novels, demanding. While we usually do little venturing from our cabin during our vacations, Danny plans an outing for the first full day there. His idea is to ride across the Smoky Mountains for the Roaring Fork Motor Trail which features enchanting paths for hiking: Rainbow Falls; Trillium Gap, and The Bullhead. I'm up for some exercise and sightseeing myself, and readily agree to the destination he has chosen even though it is near Gatlinburg, the hub of Smoky Mountain tourism. Certainly, we think, the week before spring break in most of the South won't be an issue.
Wrong! We should have sensed the absurdity of our journey when we made a brief stop along the way so Danny could snap some wide-angle photos of a stream; we encounter, of all unexpected things, a dead trout, caught in a pool, its body at rest despite the currents swirling close by. Do you see it in this photograph?
Dead. In the water. And so are we.
To say Gatlinburg is teeming with people is the understatement of the century. They swarm along the sidewalks, and when the traffic lights turn, mob the crosswalks, making it impossible for our car to do little more than crawl toward our destination. By the time Danny and I arrive at the inception of Roaring Fork Motor Trail, our nerves are frazzled and our patience is wearing thin. We are still hopeful that the only crowd we will encounter here is the one we just left behind.
Parking lots for the different trail heads are crammed to capacity. Cars spill over onto the one-way drive, lining both sides of it. Again, we creep along, any thought of a peaceful, serene stroll down a wooded pathway vaporizing like mist before the rising sun.
"I'm sorry," Danny says. "I really wanted us to be able to do something different on this trip, but had I known this place would be packed, I never would have left the cabin. Let's head back over the Smokys. Maybe we can find a place to picnic by a stream."
This sounds like a perfect plan to me (as long as we don't see anymore dead trout). We navigate back through the horrors of Gatlinburg and, finally free of its snares, drive in search of a secluded picnic spot. Danny spies a pull-off by a stream and swerves into it. As soon as we exit the car and look over the bank, we know this is the very place we have been looking for. Not a moment after we settle ourselves on a fallen log by the stream and begin unpacking our lunch, we are ambushed by a family of five. They clamor loudly down the bank, posing for photos in turn as they stand on a massive boulder. The father turns to us with a big grin on his face. "Looks like you two found the perfect place," he shouts over the thundering water.
Perfect. Until now.
When the family departs at long last, Danny and I look at each other and burst out laughing. What a nutty day! What a crazy trip!
"I have a plan for tomorrow," says Danny, still chuckling.
"What's that?" I ask.
"Stay at the cabin!"
As happened with Danny and me that day, any plans we might make can go awry when we least expect it. But when we know in our hearts that God holds the true plans for our lives, we can face disappointments and tribulations with faith, hope, and yes, even humor. When have plans you've made gone amiss? Please share in the comments!
Prayer: Father, help us to make the best of each day, knowing that whatever happens, You are there to give us hope and a future and You hold the best plans for our lives. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.