“A Snowy Christmas Story”
“Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.” (Prov. 17:17, MSG)
During our seminary years and into the years of our first pastorate, Melanie and I would celebrate Christmas morning and would then drive to South Carolina to visit our family. Our goal was to arrive so as to have Christmas dinner with family. But after Isabella was born in March 2004, we made the decision not to travel on Christmas day. Instead, we would drive on the day after Christmas.
We will always remember December 26, 2004. It was a Sunday. Because I had to preach in the morning, we would not be able to leave for South Carolina until after church. The problem was that there was a winter storm threatening the east coast. Some folks at church questioned whether we should travel or not. I said, “We will be fine.” (Typical husband!) We loaded the family Christmas gifts, our bags and some lunch. We buckled ten-month-old Isabella, our most precious cargo, into her car-seat and off we went! We set our eyes on I-95 south!
When we hit Emporia, the sleet started. I figured we should keep going because the roads weren’t slippery at that point. Soon the conditions changed very quickly. Traffic came to a crawl. It took us about five hours to drive what should have taken two. We called my dad in Florence to provide updates. Finally, we arrived in Rocky Mount and could travel no farther. We tried to find a hotel. There were no vacancies (sound familiar?) People were scattered all over the hotel lobbies, and gas stations and restaurants were packed. It was dark and we were getting worried. Where would we stay and keep our baby warm and safe?
Then I remembered our seminary friends who lived in Tarboro. We called information (no smart phones then) and got their phone number. Then we made the desperate call and they answered! We told them our dilemma and they said, “Come on!” They pulled out their pack-and-play for Isabella and we had a safe place to rest for the night and an unexpected reunion with some old friends. When the temperature warmed up a bit the next day, we continued our trip and arrived safely with our own Christmas story to tell.