by Phil Callaway
Thanksgiving weekend began the way Bob and Audrey Meisner had planned. Piling a full‐size van high with mattresses, sleeping bags, and children, they drove a thousand miles through the flatlands of Manitoba to the in‐laws in Michigan. It was a beautiful trip. Patchwork prairies sprinkled with lakes stretched toward the horizon. Bare poplar branches held up their arms in surrender to winter. The children counted columns of Canadian geese deserting their homeland and heading for Florida. Neither Bob nor Audrey knew that the beauty of the first leg of their trip would stand in sharp contrast to the journey home.
The weekend was filled with relatives, turkey, and laughter. On Sunday night the Meisners said their good‐byes and headed for home. Leaving at 11:00 P.M., they drove through the night, arriving in Minneapolis about 8:30 the next morning. Though Mom and Dad were tired, the Mall of America beckoned, and it was many hours before they watched the skylines of the Twin Cities disappear in the rearview mirror as they drove toward the setting sun.
When Audrey offered to drive, Bob clambered into the back of the van, where he disappeared behind some sleeping bags and drifted off to sleep.
An hour and a half later, Audrey pulled into a rest stop as quietly as she could, hoping the family would sleep on. As she let the engine idle, she noticed how it seemed to be missing a cylinder, which made her think of Bob’s snoring coming from the back of the van.
After using the restroom, Audrey climbed back into the van, stirred some coffee, took a long sip, and pulled back onto the freeway. Two hours passed quickly as she tapped her fingers to a country gospel station and spun the dial, sampling talk shows. When she arrived in Fargo, North Dakota, the kids began to wake up. But not Bob. Wow, he’s tired, thought Audrey. Her seven‐year‐old appeared in the rearview mirror, rubbing his eyes.
“Go back to sleep, honey,” said his mom.
Suddenly, the peacefulness of the morning was shattered. “Where’s Daddy?” one of the kids asked.
“Very funny,” said Audrey, adjusting the mirror. “He’s back there sleeping… isn’t he?”
The children began pushing pillows aside, looking for Daddy. “Nope,” said her seven‐year‐old, “he’s not back here.”
“Do you think maybe he got raptured?” another child said. “You know, Mom, like you’ve been talking about when Jesus comes to get us?”
Audrey wasn’t laughing. Panic overtook her as she looked for the next exit. Should she turn around and go back? She had no idea where the rest area was. Was it two hours ago? Three?
Calm down, Audrey, she told herself. Then she prayed, Dear Lord, help me find Bob. And please keep him safe, wherever he is.
Pulling into a truck stop, she picked up a pay phone and called the police. “Um… I… uh… left my husband in Minnesota,” she told the officer. “At… well… at a rest stop.”
There was a moment of silence. “Sorry, could you repeat that?”
After a few minutes punctuated by desperation, Audrey was able to convince the man on the other end of the line that this was no joke— that she had left her husband, but not intentionally, although he might be thinking so.
“Tell you what,” said the officer. “You hang on. I’ll get all the numbers of the rest stops in that area. You don’t go anywhere now, ya hear?”
Audrey didn’t go anywhere.
After thanking the officer for his help, she started down the list. One number after another. Each phone call was met with surprise, but no success. Almost out of hope, she dialed the last number on the list. “Do you have a guy there who—?”
“Yaw, I shore do,” said a thick Norwegian accent. Moments later, Bob was on the phone.
“Honey, I’m so sorry,” said Audrey. “I didn’t mean to—” Audrey started to cry. And Bob started to laugh.
Two hours earlier he had climbed out of the van to use the restroom. But when he came back, the van was gone.
“Ha,” Bob had said. “Very funny.”
He had walked around the service area three times, expecting to find his family grinning around the next corner. But they were nowhere to be found.
“She wouldn’t leave me like this,” said Bob. “Would she?”
To pass the time, Bob washed people’s windshields and prayed that God would speak loudly to his wife, making his absence apparent. He even climbed in with a trucker who needed some spiritual encouragement. “You know,” the trucker told Bob, “this time with you was a divine appointment. I really needed this.”
“Dear God,” prayed Bob, “please, no more divine appointments tonight.”
Early the next morning, Bob watched the headlights of a familiar van pull into the rest stop. He stopped cleaning windshields and breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was a return trip for Audrey. But this time she honked the horn loudly, not caring whom she woke up.
“It’s the first time I ever left him,” she says, laughing now. “Believe me, it will be the last.”
“At first I wondered if the rapture had taken place,” Bob says. “Then it seemed like something out of a horror movie. But I thought, Well, make the most of it.”
Audrey learned a few things, too. “That night I realized the importance of casting all my cares on God. They are His, and He is completely trustworthy…. And I learned that it’s always a good idea to count bodies before you pull out onto the freeway.”
It happens to all of us. Just when life seems to be humming along smoothly, something as simple as a trip to the restroom turns into one little surprise after another.
There’s probably no way to avoid such unwanted twists of fate—but we can control our reaction to them. I’ve found that adversity in married life is easier to handle when I choose to face it with a smile instead of a frown. So the next time your spouse leaves you stranded by mistake, remember Bob Meisner. You can stew for hours sitting on the curb—or get up and wash a few windshields.
– James C Dobson
by Gary Smalley and John Trent
Sixth grade hadn’t been a banner year for Eric. Never very confident in school, he had a particular dread of mathematics. “A mental block,” one of the school’s counselors had told him.
Then, as if a mental math block wasn’t enough for an eleven-year-old kid to deal with, he came down with measles in the fall and had to stay out of school for two weeks. By the time he got back, his classmates were multiplying fractions. Eric was still trying to figure out what you got when you put a half pie with three-quarters of a pie…besides a lot of pie.
Eric’s teacher, Mrs. Gunther—loud, overweight, terrifying, and a year away from retirement—was unsympathetic. For the rest of the year she called him “Measly” in honor of his untimely spots and hounded him ceaselessly with makeup assignments. When his mental block prevented his progress in fractions, she would thunder at him in front of the class, “I don’t give a Continental for your excuses! You’d better straighten up, Measly. Them ain’t wings I hear flappin’!”
The mental block, once the size of a backyard fence, now loomed like the Great Wall of China. Eric despaired of ever catching up and even fell behind in subjects he’d been good at.
Then came a remarkable moment.
It happened in the middle of Mrs. Warwick’s ninth grade English class. To this day, some twenty-five years later, Eric still lights up as he recalls The Moment.
The fifth period class had been yawning through Mrs. Warwick’s attempts to spark discussion about a Mark Twain story. At some point in the lecture, something clicked in Eric’s mind. It was probably crazy, but it suddenly seemed like he understood something Twain had been driving at—something a little below the surface. Despite his fear of sounding foolish, Eric raised his hand and ventured an observation.
That led to the moment when Mrs. Warwick looked straight into Eric’s eyes, beamed with pleasure, and said, “Why, Eric…that was very perceptive of you!”
Perceptive. Perceptive? Perceptive!
The word echoed in Eric’s thoughts for the rest of the day—and then for the rest of his life. Perceptive? Me? Well, yeah. I guess that was perceptive. Maybe I am perceptive.
One word, one little positive word dropped at the right moment somehow tipped the balance in a teenager’s view of himself—and possibly changed the course of his life (even though he still can’t multiply fractions).
Eric went on to pursue a career in journalism and eventually became a book editor, working successfully with some of the top authors in America. His newfound confidence placed him on a path he might otherwise have never discovered and enjoyed.
All it took was a kind word at the right moment—and a teacher who was a bit perceptive herself.
The world can be a forbidding place for children, especially if they feel that they somehow don’t measure up. A relatively minor difficulty—such as Eric’s “mental block” with math—can easily develop into a crisis of confidence, particularly when a child must listen to constant reminders of his or her deficiencies.
I still recall my own thirteenth and fourteenth years, which were the most painful of my life. I found myself in a social cross fire that gave rise to intense feelings of inferiority and doubt. Yet I survived this period, and even gained several positive qualities from the experience. I was sustained, though I wasn’t fully conscious of it at the time, by the faith I had developed through my parents’ teaching and example. I believed in a loving God who valued me for the person I was, who—even though I was unworthy—sent His Son to die for me (John 3:16).
If your children understand in their hearts that the Creator of the universe loves them personally and has sacrificed His own Son on their behalf, they will enjoy a much healthier self-concept and be far better equipped to take on the trials of adolescence. We’ll talk more this week about the relationship between self-worth and your family’s faith.
– James C Dobson
“Perceptive” by Gary Smalley and John Trent. From Leaving the Light On by Gary Smalley and John Trent (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 1994). Used by permission.
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Death Valley is one of the most bizarre, unique, and extreme places in the world. It’s below sea level, experiences some of the highest recorded temperatures, and even has mysterious rocks that move around by themselves. So, what exactly is Death Valley and where can you find it?
What Is Death Valley?
Death Valley is an area of extremes. It’s the lowest, driest, and hottest region in North America. It’s a valley between the Panamint and the Amargosa mountain ranges that runs roughly 140 miles north to south and stretches between five and 15 miles east to west. Much of the land has been designated as a national park. Death Valley is located in the western United States in California and Nevada.
Death Valley is a land of extremes. Not only are there extreme high and low temperatures, there’s also an extreme geographical diversity throughout the valley. Badwater Basin is a salt flat that’s home to the official lowest point in North America. Its salt-lined floor is 282 feet below sea level!
Death Valley is also home to Telescope Peak, the highest point in the park, which is 11,049 feet tall. In addition to the mountains and valleys, there are also plenty of geographical oddities that fill the valley. There are sand dunes, salt flats, canyons, and jagged rock formations known as The Devil’s Golf Course.
Death Valley also has the hottest and driest climate in North America. In the summer, Death Valley becomes unbearable. Temperatures in the lower regions often soar beyond 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In 1913, Furnace Creek in Death Valley experienced a record temperature of an astounding 134 degrees!
As you’d imagine in such a hot climate, winters in Death Valley are comfortable — at least in the valley. Up in the mountains, it’s not uncommon for temperatures to dip below freezing and you might be able to see some snow on the peaks — even in summer. Although uncommon, it’s possible for the temperatures down in the valley to reach the freezing point as well. If the heat isn’t enough for you, Death Valley is also the driest region in North America. Average annual rainfall is less than two inches. It’s not uncommon for it to take years to rain. For 40 months between 1931 and 1934, only 0.64 inches of rain fell.
Surprisingly despite its name, Death Valley is filled with life! Hundreds of species of animals call the valley home including bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, tortoises, coyotes, and jackrabbits. There’s also many species of birds, which makes the area a popular travel destination for birdwatchers. One of the most famous residents is the roadrunner. Much like the “Looney Tunes” cartoon series, roadrunners and coyotes live together in Death Valley.
There are also plenty of insects crawling and flying around. Many people travel to Death Valley to see the variety of butterflies that enjoy the warm weather. Unluckier visitors might run into a desert tarantula, which are also common. If you do find a tarantula, don’t worry. They might look scary, but they’re docile and mostly harmless.
There are about 1,000 species of plants that call Death Valley home. Of course, some areas of Death Valley are uninhabitable like the salt flats, but other regions are filled with life. Every now and then, when the conditions are absolutely perfect, Death Valley will experience a wildflower “superbloom.” During this unique event, the desert is filled with brilliant colors from the millions of wildflowers blooming together. The last superbloom was in 2016.