I started this blog about 2 months ago and got sidetracked and honestly, wasn't sure what I wanted to say, so I never finished it. But this morning as I was thinking about the new year and reflecting all that has happened and what may come, I realized that this was a story that I wanted and needed to share. A story about God's love and provision...of how He hears when His children call and still shows up in miraculous ways. Pardon the length. Learning to be concise is on my list of 2016 resolutions. But I'm not there yet.
Now, the story:
Besides being a violinist, I have had the privilege of being a road manager for the past several years. A large portion of my job is focused around travel and the task of getting myself and those traveling with me from point A to point B as smoothly as possible. Over the years I've learned how to navigate the world of airports and flight issues and rental cars and hotels and travel clubs and how to plan an itinerary. If you've ever traveled with me, you know that I'm a planner....that I make incredibly lengthy PDF documents bursting at the seams with details...that all my schedules feature the ever famous "cushion;" a buffer of extra time where I plan for things to go wrong and then pray that they don't. All this to say, that planning travel is part of my day-to-day. It's something I'm comfortable with.
This past fall, I was asked to play a concert at the Brooklyn Tabernacle with Christian singer/songwriter Laura Story. I decided to fly up two days early on Friday to visit some cousins in New Jersey and then a friend on Long Island before the Sunday afternoon show in Brooklyn. I knew when I planned my trip that getting from Long Island to Brooklyn on Sunday morning in time for soundcheck would require careful planning, but it didn't worry me. I'm used to complicated travel, and if nothing else, I'm excessively resourceful. My plan A was to drive my friend Michelle's car into the city (she was coming a few hours later in for the show with a friend and could drive it home). Plan B was one of two train routes that I'd mapped out with the help of friends and my born-in-New-York mom.
I had a fantastic Friday/Saturday in Jersey with cousins and friends (but that's another blog) and headed to Long Island late Saturday afternoon to stay with my friend Michelle, when my plans began to systematically unravel. As we drove along we started to see signs reminding drivers that basically Every. Single. Road. into the city would be closed the next morning because of the New York Marathon. Oh, and the World Series was Sunday as well. Hmm. So, the plan to drive in wasn't an option. No big deal. I'd switch to plan B....taking the train.
As soon as we got to Michelle's I hopped on the internet to purchase a train ticket....only to find out that the two train lines I'd need to take were closed for "routine maintenance." I called another friend who lives in Manhattan (which is closer to the Brooklyn Tab than Long Island) to see if I could drive in that night and stay with her. She graciously told me I was welcome and could figure out some sort of sleeping arrangement for me, but mentioned that she already had company. I checked the subway routes from her apartment and they seemed super complicated. It wasn't looking like any better an option than staying where I was.
I started to feel a familiar adversary rise up in the back of my throat and through my chest. The gripping anxiety and almost claustrophobic feeling of being faced with a situation where all my options seemed to be shutting down one by one. I felt overwhelmed and my mind jumped to the worst-case-scenario: I wasn't going to be able to get to Brooklyn for the concert that was the entire reason I was there in the first place.
When anxiety starts to take root in me, it can be crippling. All my problem-solving skills and level-headed thinking go out the window and all I can focus on are irrational, unlikely outcomes and the helplessness that I feel. I've walked with the Lord long enough to know that these moments are when I should turn immediately to Him and seek His comfort. But if I'm being honest, (and apparently I am because I just wrote a paragraph and a half about anxiety), that's not always my first reaction. And it wasn't in this case. I cried. I worried. I Googled everything I could think of pertaining to the New York City transit system. I got so worked up that my poor friend Michelle needed a "lifeline" to deal with crazy Bethany and literally "phoned a friend," Taryn, who fortunately is organized, and had zero emotional involvement in the situation and could still think clearly.
I knew I needed to step back. I went and sat in the next room and thought about what I found most overwhelming about the situation and realized that it wasn't necessarily all the road closures or defunct train lines, (although they were certainly the acute problem at hand.) I felt alone. Despite being surrounded by friends and family all day and even in that moment as I worked to find a solution, I didn't have anyone who was available to travel with me in the morning. I was facing a difficult set of circumstances, and I knew that I was going to have to face it alone. And that was what I found most impossible. And then I began to hear the Lord. He reminded my heart that I was not alone...that He was with me, and that if I were to seek His will in all I do, that He would make my path straight (Proverbs 3:6). That He is my refuge and my strength and my ever present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). That if I call on Him, He will hear me (1 John 5:14).
I began to pray and asked the Lord to calm my spirit, to show me the way, and most of all to provide someone to go with me in the morning so I wouldn't be going alone...however it was that I was going to get there. I felt a stillness and peace that the Lord had already planned my journey long before I asked Him to.
I wandered back to Michelle who was still on the phone. She covered up the mouthpiece and said, "Hey...we've found a train route that's open, but it might be a little confusing. How would you feel about traveling with people you don't know? Would that be comforting to you? Taryn has a co-worker and her husband taking the train in the morning...they go to church at the Brooklyn Tab and can go with you every step of the way."
The next morning, I dropped Michelle at church, drove to the West Babylon train station, parked her car and waited in the lobby for two people who I'd never met. The Levchucks, it turned out, made the hour drive each way every Sunday morning to attend church. Two weeks prior when they found out that the roads in would be closed that day, they almost decided to just skip. But Rick said that he had this nagging feeling that they needed to still go for some reason, so he chose a train route and bought their tickets. Sure it would be a hassle, but wasn't it worth it to worship the Lord? So when Majella's phone had lit up that Saturday night with a text from Taryn asking if the friend of a friend could ride with them on the train in the morning, they had said "Yes" without questioning it...as if escorting a nervous, Southern violinist into the city was the sort of request that came across their paths every day.
Rick and Majella were the loveliest couple who helped me purchase the right ticket, switch trains, navigate the subway when we got to the city and couldn't cross the street due to hundreds of marathon runners. They listened to me share my story, encouraged me, rolled my suitcase for me as I toted my backpack and violin, and shared their faith with an inner-city schoolteacher as we bumped down the train tracks, packed in like cattle. You might not be able to get to Heaven on roller skates, but I'm pretty sure I caught a glimpse of it aboard the Long Island Rail Road that morning.
When we finally walked through the front door of the Brooklyn Tab, I turned to them and teased, "Is this the part where you guys disappear and I find out that you were both angels?" They chuckled and said it was really no big deal. They'd been happy to come with me. (I've since received a Christmas Card from them so I can attest that they are real people. And in bonus "too fantastic to be true" news, their street address is nearly identical to mine.) The rest of the day was incredible and I could (and might) write at least 3 more blogs on the things the Lord showed me that weekend. But I keep coming back to the provisions the Lord made for me over that Saturday night and Sunday morning.
- He calmed my anxious soul.
- He heard my prayers.
- He provided for my specific need.
- He made a way.
- He showed me an incredible example of faith and willingness to serve and the sweetness of community through a brother and sister in Christ that I'd never even met.
And He is willing to do these things for me every day if I only seek Him and believe. So as we start 2016, may you too seek Him always, in the big and the small.