Warning Signs

I adhere to the universal signal of flashing my lights so that oncoming drivers know there is a cop running radar ahead.

I do this because I believe in the universal theme of being warned.

(Though, yes dad, I suppose the posted signs are fair warning enough).

I can’t stand it when I have passed 29 miles of bumper to bumper- kids out on the median playing frisbee- truck drivers have called it a night and abandoned their rigs to smoke a cigarette with other drivers- woman’s having a baby on the side of the road- highway is shut down until Easter- kind of traffic and I know that I have no way of telling the poor unsuspecting drivers headed into this nightmare to STOP.


There really should be a universal signal to let people know there is upcoming traffic the same way there’s a signal for letting people know a cop is hiding in a bush past the next intersection with his radar gun. It’s just the proper, kind-loving thing to do.

I have tried creating a new signal.

I really have. I sit in the front seat and stare at the people with bulging, terrified eyes (which Ryan says will get me confused for a kidnapping victim if I’m not careful) and I wave my hands back and forth and mouth out the word S*T*O*P* and NOOOO.

(This is a practice I swore I would never do because, as I have explained numerous times to my mom, “MOM that’s embarrassing. Nobody knows what you are saying when you are mouthing to them from a different car. You just look like a crazy lady. Even if you are using hand signals at the neglect of your own steering wheel and giving them a thumbs up and vigorously shaking your head to tell them that you like their license plate or their dog is cute or making the pumping motion so they know their gas knob is opened or their kid is hanging out the back window. They honest to God don’t know what you’re saying).

But there I am in the front seat and I am terribly concerned about getting the message out that people need to turn around.

Ideally, in a perfect world, I would have my own public announcement system attached to the roof of my car along with bright pink flashing lights and an LED screen that gives people a fair warning that they’d rather hear finger nails scratching a chalkboard and then have to floss their teeth with big sheets of aluminum foil than continue on.

Ideally, in a perfect world, they would then nod their heads at me and raise one hand off the steering wheel in a friendly wave of human camaraderie, the way my Papaw would greet every single car that drove by him whether they paid any attention to him or not; and cars would turn around in droves. Because that’s what happens in a perfect world… someone gives you a warning.

Everyone wants a heads up right?

That’s why we have websites like Tripadvisor.com and other outlets that allow us to shoot straight with each other. And while I am quite sure there are a lot of people out there with pent up anger that turn to these online sites to spew rage, seek justice for their product gone bad, or dish out their passive aggressive opinions, in the beginning these online sites began as useful warning tools for the public.

Don’t go here, go there.

We have signs on the highway that tell us ‘20 minutes of traffic from this point on’. Signs at Six Flags that tell us how long we have to wait to get on the roller coaster. The GPS gives us the ETA. We have a count down for Christmas. We take numbers at the deli so we can constantly gauge what is coming next: number 29. Pastrami on rye. Number 28. Tuna. I only have to wait through 7 more orders. We even get a countdown at the DPS. Seven more miserable people in front of me before I go pay the state money to take a really bad picture that will haunt me for years. Still, something about knowing how many people are in front of me and watching the numbers disappear on the screen makes the whole thing bearable.

I think in general we can take the blows if you just shoot it to us straight.

Six months of chemo? Twelve? Ok. I can do it.

My company is putting me up at a shoddy hotel for two months? Ok. I can do it.

We have to live on a budget this year? Ok. I can do that.

27 minutes before I get to my exit five miles down the street? Ugghh. Annoying. But at least there is an end in sight. A goal. A set your eyes on the prize. At least there is a warning. And I am convinced, with warnings we can weather anything. (Because it makes us feel like we have some control.)

But it’s the unknown road that I seem to be on lately.

The road feels desolate. There are no road signs, no mile markers, no countdown clocks, warning signs, no websites where well meaning people can tell me what to expect. No girl with an announcement system, pink flashing lights, and an LED screen on her car that says, “Warning: Hell is straight ahead of you. Turn around.”

And maybe that’s good, because I’d take the road to Canada and forget the original plan all together. I’d go somewhere safe. Somewhere with lots of bright lights and police officers and countdown clocks and warning signs. I’d take the easy road and not look back.

People have said a lot of amazing things about Ryan and I this week. How we have encouraged them to keep going in the midst of their own trials. How we have been a part of renewing their faith because we are what it looks like to persevere under fire (literally). How we will be blessed for not quitting and how we are doing this amazing thing for God. And I just want to say, “thanks, but no thanks.”

I can’t be anyone’s poster child for what a warrior looks like.

There’s an old song by an artist named Twila Paris that has always stuck in my heart and the chorus says:

“People say that I’m amazing, strong beyond my years. But they don’t see inside of me, I’m hiding all my tears. They don’t know that I go running home when I fall down. They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around. I drop my sword and cry for just a while. Cause deep inside this armor, the warrior is a child.”

The warrior is a child.

That’s me.

Put me on a highway without warning signs and throw some curveballs… like a fire that takes away my favorite pajama pants, my daughter’s only embroidered baby gifts from her baby showers, and my new make-up, and you will see me fall apart.

My vision is limited.

My faith hangs on by threads.

My endurance for roads deplete of road signs is waning.

My mind tells me to go home. Go to a place where warning signs are a part of everyday life and the next step is always, mostly certain.

And then my God, that voice that speaks quietly to me, that is constant even when the Bible seems to make little sense, Christians seem to embarrass me, and I wonder if I’ve made it all up… even in the midst of my small, defeated faith, my God who is very real and very near to me shows up on the plane ride from Atlanta to Chicago… on Sunday, when I am very much missing being in a place where I can worship.

The sky is beautiful. The clouds are puffy like marshmallows and the sparkly blue-sky dances on as far as my eyes can see. I am lost in the beauty of this perfect day. And yet minutes later, as we descend through the clouds I realize that Chicago is wet and nasty. The sky is full of dark clouds and the city looks dreary from 20,000 feet.

And I hear His voice. “You want to tell them it’s a beautiful day today? It is, isn’t it?”

That was it. Nothing booming or profound, just a single thought that God clearly floated through my mind and into my heart. It might be rainy in Chicago today, but it is beautiful 33,000 feet above Chicago. The sun is out and shining… even if they can’t see it.

There’s your warning sign Jenny. You don’t know the scope of what is going on in a single moment. Your eyes cannot see it. Your mind cannot perceive it. No clock can tell you. No estimated time of arrival. No game plan. No warning. No weather channel can tell you that it is miserable on the ground but beautiful above the clouds.

Your vision is limited. But mine is not.

You have to trust me.

You have to trust that.

The road is not desolate. There will always be a warning sign… because I see what you cannot see. And I give the signs. The warning signs that tell you no matter what the road looks like on the ground, there’s something else going on beyond your vision. And detouring to Canada won’t change anything.

It’s cloudy in Chicago today baby.

But the skies are dancing and I am watching them. I see.

I can give you your warning signs… trust me.