Saturday, April 16, 2016

The National Zoo Saga

"And then, of course, there's the zoo story."
The zoo story, one of my favorites. I've heard it a thousand times but every time my Mom recalls the National Zoo saga of 1991 it is as if it were brand new. I love it for the part it played in my life, the absurdity of its consequence and how it reminds me that God will use any means necessarily - from the silly to the sobering - to get me precisely where He wants me.
The zoo story dates back to 1991 when I was eighteen months old and, in my Mom's opinion, at the perfect age to enjoy a trip to the local zoo. Local at that time meant the National Zoo in Washington D.C. It was an hour drive from my family's home in Northern Virginia but it was the closest zoo and, despite terrible Saturday traffic, my Mom packed a diaper bag full of everything we would need for a day of animal exploration. With my brother's and I buckled into our seats we set off on my first zoo adventure.
Mom maneuvered her clunky blue Astro van along the interwoven highways of the I-95 corridor and through the congested beltway. Even on Saturdays Washington doesn't sleep. Downtown was a buzz with visitors, families and site-seeing buses. As she entered the parking lot of the Smithsonian Zoological Park she was greeted by sign after sign that stated, "LOT FULL." Determined to show her only daughter all of the sights of the zoo, from polar bears and to pandas, Mom weaved up and down every row. But not even my Mom, the woman with the God-given talent of happening upon primo parking spaces could find an empty spot to park the van. There was no room in the inn. Or should I say, no space for the Astro van in the lot.
Over an hour later, fuming with frustration, Mom gave up. All she had wanted to do was show her daughter some animals and share a photo-worthy memory with all three of her kids. Instead she ended up spending her afternoon in jam packed parking lots and over crowded highways.
Once home Mom had made up her mind. She was moving. Back in Northern Pennsylvania, in Mom's hometown, was a small zoo that never ran out of parking spots. A city small enough that the zoo could be reached in under twenty minutes from practically anywhere in the county. There were no beltways to contend with and not a single site-seeing tour bus company. Mom decided that day that she was going to go back to that town with her kids and her Astro van.
At first Dad was reluctant. He couldn't see a future in Pennsylvania that would support his family and he didn't want to leave his business in Virginia. But when he looked into the eyes of my Mom and heard the passion in her voice he knew this wasn't a passing phase. So Dad made Mom a proposal. "You find a buyer for my business and a new business to start in Pennsylvania and I'll move."
Piece of cake.
Within two months Mom had that business sold, another one found and half of her boxes packed. The little family of five who had yet to go to the zoo with their youngest child moved to Northern Pennsylvania. And the rest is history.
Dad has had a thriving business ever since. Mom took me, her daughter, to the zoo regularly with the yearly membership she purchased and cherished. All three of her kids graduated from the same high school she attended. Both of her sons live in that same Northern Pennsylvania town where they are raising their kids and taking them to that same local, parking-friendly zoo.
If ever you wonder how God is going to write your story, just hold on. He isn't going to do it in the way you anticipate. God uses the most unlikely of events to write the story of our lives. The plots He creates are creative and unique. He infuses each chapter with unlikely occurrences and surprising twists. God can turn a storyline upside down with something as silly as a trip to the zoo.
Whenever I doubt that God has a plan all I need to remember is the 1991 zoo saga. It changed the whole course of my life. Where I grew up, who I became friends with, where I went to college. Who I've become can all be traced back to a frustrating trip around a Washington D.C. parking lot.
God is still writing my story and as I travel through each page of His book for my life and enter each new chapter I do so with great anticipation and absolutely no idea where the twists and turns will take me. Life is a real page-turner and I can't wait to see where God takes it next.

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