One never knows exactly what you are in for when leaving your driveway to go on a journey. You anticipate making it to the destination smoothy, and all the well laid plans for the visit to go off as planned.
My journey to Bloomington, Ind., last week went smoothly. My well made plans to help my youngest daughter Stephanie look for a wedding dress went off as planned. However, the third day took an unusual twist.
We awakened early, ate breakfast out and decided to go on a morning tour of Indiana University's AmeriFLUX tower in Morgan-Monroe State Forest north of Bloomington.
It was a pleasant drive out to the forest, snow was still on the ground. We parked in a small lot, about 200 yards from the tower. Not wanting to trek to the tower carrying our purses, we left them safely locked in the car. Just around the bend on the trail we heard what we believed to be a gun shot. Unusual but not unsettling.
We observed the 40 foot steele tower, designed to measure CO2, H2O, and heat fluxes over a deciduous forest while collecting meteorological data. It is the pride of the IU Geography Department.
After a brief visit we returned to the car, only to find the front passenger window knocked out and our purses missing. The sound we had heard, when just out of sight, was the glass being broken.
Using the hidden car key, we surveyed the loss of missing cell phones, driver's license, credit cards, ATM cards, palm pilots, USBs containing wedding mailing lists, and of course, that old favorite, cash.
How invasive the loss of a purse is. How difficult to remember all the items lost while at the county sheriff's office. How time-staking the process to cancel all forms of I.D. and request replacement, to try to regain information stored and lost, not to mention repair needed for the vehicle (vehicles).
The keys to my faithful Crown-Vic were gone also, which meant towing the car from my daughter's front yard to the Ford dealership. Pulling the lock (with a chip stored inside), replacing it, and the making new keys proved to be very costly.
The fourth day was spent on a landline phone going through the process of cancellation and replacement of items.
We were thankful at least that all we had lost was stuff, not any damage to our personal selves. Stuff can be replaced.
Ah, then comes the fifth day. Time for my journey home. With my new keys, a sack lunch, borrowed cash and a borrowed credit card, two sheriff's deputy cards and a burglary case number, I headed back to Arkansas.
It had snowed Monday morning, Feb.26, when I left the driveway for the eight hour drive. How would I call for help if I slid off the road? How would I prove who I was if I got pulled over by a cop? I dreaded the 420 mile ordeal, but I was anxious to get back to Monette.
Little did I know last July when I interviewed John Steele that his gift to me was going to make the difference in a scary journey or one of sweet peace and solitude.
When I had left John and Betty Steele's house, north of Monette, John gave me a parting gift--his daughter Elizabeth Steele's first CD.
The musical album had stayed in my car since last year, as my CD player was broken. Mysteriously I got a new CD player put in before making the trip to Indiana. I listened to Elizabeth's beautiful contemporary Christian music during my trip on Thursday, and had already fallen in love her songs.
There in the passenger seat was Elizabeth's CD case, with her picture looking up at me, and the disk was already in my player. What a comfort that sight was, knowing that someone I knew was going to be there beside me all the way. I would not be alone.
At Terra Haute, Ind., I pulled over for a soda, and read the inside jacket from her album case. Not only did she sing the vocals, but she wrote or co-wrote all the songs, in the appropriately entitled "Elizabeth Steele."
With each passing mile I became more familiar with her songs and sang along easily. They included "Dancing with Mercy," "On my Way," "In your Arms," "One Prayer at a Time," "Come Reign Lord," and "When You Come Down." They were all so appropriate for me at that time.
A scripture on the back cover read "Proverbs 16:9 - In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."
Before I knew it I was at Effingham, Ill., and turning south. Then I could see the steele frames of the Mississippi River bridge at Cairo just ahead. Here I am again, steele in the form of a big beautiful bridge, holding me up. Missouri, how welcoming it looked, almost home. Then Sikeston, Mo., and my entrance into Arkansas just ahead. At Blytheville I felt I had arrived, as Monette was just 30 more miles.
Home at last - I wanted to kiss the ground. I was safe.
On the sixth day I contacted John Steele to thank him for the gift that gave me such comfort.
I soon found out that Elizabeth, now 21, was married and living with her husband Phillip Mangrum, in Nashville, Tenn. She has a web site that tells of her musical journey and her songs: www.elizabethsteele.com
Elizabeth is an accomplished vocalist and plays the flute, the piano and guitar. She wrote her album songs during the ages of 16-18, moved from Texas to Monette during that time and graduated from Buffalo Island Central in May 2004, and headed for Nashville the next January. She had used three different studios to get her first contemporary Christian demo CD produced. After falling in love with and marrying Phillip, the record business did not look nearly as glamorous to her. She chose to stay by his side instead of giving thoughts to hitting the road seeking a recording career. The talent remains, and music still fills her home. Only time will tell what she chooses to do with it.
John and Betty Steele recall vividly how at age 4 Elizabeth stood on the couch and belted out songs with her little microphone. They knew then she had received a special gift from God.
God is so good to us all, and always sends someone to make the road we travel, much lighter. Needless to say, I am hooked on Elizabeth's music, words and witness. She is a very talented young lady with a bright future.
After hearing of my plight, John Steele told me, "That just goes to show you that God is already busy solving a problem, before you even know we have one."
How true. Stolen goods turned to finding delight in the form of Steele blessings, from steele towers to steele bridges home again comforted by Steele music. Quite a journey.
Photos: #1 by Nan, #2 used with permission from Elizabeth Steele.
1. Steele Indiana University AmeriFLUX tower, in Bloomington, IN
2. Elizabeth Steele's first CD