EDITOR’S NOTE: One Saturday in September, while on a photo assignment at Caesar’s Head State Park, I ran into an awesome couple named Justin and Stephanie who started telling me an awesome story. They were in the middle of an Upstate and mountains adventure. I asked them to share everything that happened. What follows is their story, in their words.
“On September 16th 9:15 a.m., I met with my buddy Todd for men’s accountability. We had a discussion about hitting pause in our life and taking a minute to just slow down. This is a really good idea to do but what happens when you hit pause and nothing happens? Do you keeping hitting pause like a mad man or do you shut down? Todd and I started to pray and the Lord spoke to me and said hit reset. I opened my eyes and explained “Reset” to Todd and he was like “yeah..that’s awesome”. And the journey begins..
I called my smoking hot girlfriend, Stephanie, and told her what God had told me during prayer with Todd and she said “okay, I’m down”. She said, “Where do we go?” I mentioned that my son had mentioned North Carolina on Thursday and that sounded good. So I prayed again and I asked for confirmation. My last appointment of the day around 3:30 p.m. was with a guy named Wes who just moved to Historic Tampa and needed some work done on his house. He was tall and with a southern drawl like myself and I asked where he was from: Asheville, North Carolina. I was like, no way. I told him my prayer this morning and he said I am a believer too. Sweet. I called Stephanie and told her. By this time its 4:30 p.m. I looked online and they had a 6:00 p.m. leaving to Greenville, SC, 1.5 hours away from Asheville. They had 2 seats left and I took them.
Stephanie doesn’t normally get off until around 5:45 – 6 p.m. and I went to her house and threw some stuff in bag for her and headed to airport around 5:15 for a 6:00 p.m. flight. She left work at 5:45 and met me there. The parking lot was full and we grabbed offsite parking and just so happened the shuttle was 10 spots down waiting for us. I ran to the shuttle while grabbing everything, except Stephanie’s shoes. We both jumped on the shuttle at 5:52 p.m. and we started to make our way to the terminal. The shuttle driver had a helper named John, big burly guy, super nice. The shuttle guy broke the rules and dropped us off at terminal.
We started to run and the desk lady said “You ain’t gonna make it…You better run”. We managed to strip down while running and make it through the TSA in a record 2 minutes and were escorted out to the plane. The time was 5:59 p.m. 4 minutes later the door was shut and away we went.
The man we sat next to on the plane we sparked up conversation with. Stephanie when she flies turns into a little kid and acts very playful and different. The man sitting next to us was named Michael and he got to talking to her about his trip and wanting to see family. During the conversation he said he almost didn’t make it because of his back. I saw Stephanie’s eyes light up. He continued to tell the story and once done, we prayed with him for totally healing in Jesus Christ name. He pulled out his phone to show us his sister – [we prayed ] almost the exact same prayer we prayed with him for healing. When the plane landed he got up, grabbed is stuff, and walked off the plane with no pain. Praise Jesus.
We had no plan at all except to make it Asheville. For some reason, we got called there for. We rolled up to [the car rental] and we over heard the lady behind us heading to Asheville and we asked if we could hitch a ride. Her response, “I don’t know you and that’s just weird”. Okay, we will Uber. Jesus loves you.
Our Uber driver was short and stocky and dropped us at a BBQ place on the water – Smoke On The Water BBQ in downtown Greenville. Tamika was our waitress and was great. We loved on her and she told us about her daughter and the constant hustle as a single mom. She started to preach to us and we got blessed with a great meal and a new friend.
While eating, the couple next to us was an adorable 12-year-old red head girl and dad eating BBQ. This little girl reminded me of a young Pipi Longstocking and she was tearing up some sides. They were in town for soccer tournament and told us some cool places in Asheville where they were from.
We called everywhere in Asheville [for a place to stay] and nothing was open. Clemson was playing and everything was booked. We found a little bed and breakfast in Tryon named Pine Crest Inn. A fellow named Lindsey answered the phone and had a room out in the boonies. They gave us a military discount and we took the room. He called us back and said you’re gonna be in later let me upgrade your room and make you right by you. Praise Jesus.
On the way to the bed-and-breakfast, our awesome Uber driver who happened to live 20 min from Tryon ,stopped at Walmart so we could get toiletries and stuff. Stephanie got $40 cash back and left it in the machine and walked out with toothbrush and paste. We left, and by the time she figured it out, we were in Tryon getting dropped off.”
“When we got up, we realized just how beautiful Pine Crest Inn was. Gorgeous. We had an amazing breakfast and we asked about getting into town and who can take us. Mary our waitress mentioned a taxi driver named Mitzi. We called Mitzi up and she was heading back to airport so we caught a ride into town. She came to pick us up in a Kia Sportage. Her other passenger was named Sam and she had a little wiener dog with her flying back to California from a 6 month stay. Her story was, she got into a fight with her family member who pushed her down some stairs and she broke her hip. Steph and I looked at each like, what? She ended up staying and having surgery/rehab and finally she was ok to fly back. Her son had died several years earlier from a drunk driver and some other sad stories. We get to the airport I go to help Sam unload and realize she has hockey bags filled to the brim with stuff from the past 6 months. I can barely move the bags, and when I finally get to the scale, I realize her bags are way over weight. I start helping unpack. Mitzi is waiting out front and we get ride to a local [rental car dealer], and Mitzi decides to wait to make sure we get a car. They give us a weekend deal for $9.99/day for a jeep. What? Praise Jesus.
We head out of there with nowhere to go except Pretty Place where Stephanie saw a pic from Facebook several months back. On our way, we see an older couple [one] in a sling trying to mow their yard, and we stop to see if they need help with anything. The older man, come to find out, is 84 years old and his wife is 82 years old. I ask if he wants help and he says “back up. I’m trying to impress my lady”. Come to find out they have been friends for 64 years, and when their spouses died they got together. Awesome story. They asked if we wanted to join them for tea on the back porch when we headed back through. We talked to them about the Lord and they were believers also. They were heading to church the next day.
We pulled up to Pretty Place, and if you don’t know, Pretty Place is gorgeous and everyone books it up to get married at this chapel on side of mountain overlooking North Carolina. On the way to Pretty Place we hit a produce stand on side of road and buy some flowers. Who knows what they were for – Stephanie just said “we need these”. We get to Pretty Place and get shut down and turned away. Wasn’t meant to be today.
Once we got shut down at Pretty Place, we went to head out of the park and happened to stop by a lake on the way out. There was an employee with red hair and a red beard name Brian who was shutting the water area down, and we begged him to get into Pretty Place. He had no tips for us but said to come back with the group.
When we left Pretty Place Park we made our way to Downtown Brevard. We wanted to do some shopping and get Stephanie a pair of shoes and visit the antique shops. In one of the shops that we visited we met a young lady named Natalie. We hit it off with Natalie and told her the story of trying to get into pretty place and how we got shut down, but on the way out we met this really nice guy named Brian. It just so happened that [Brian] was her husband that we ran into, so she called him to see if we could get into Pretty Place or had any area that we could stay that night. They recommended the Black Forest Lodge.
After we left Downtown Brevard we headed towards Caesars Head to watch the sunset which was recommended to us. There are we met Heather (Upstate Exposures Magazine editor-in-chief) and Mary, and they were doing a photo of the sunset. We sparked up a conversation, and you know where that went from there. At this point we still have no place to stay. We hadn’t it made it to the Black Forest Lodge yet.
Once we left the sunset, we made our way back towards the Black Forest Lodge. We were starving and we came across a place that was lit up and we thought they might have food there. Everything else was shut down. So we stopped and it happened to be a community center and they were preparing for a wedding reception. We asked if they knew where we could find food because they were eating. They told us about 12 miles down the road, which took us back into Downtown Brevard Area. We hit it off with them. I went out to the car and grabbed the flowers that we bought earlier to give them as a wedding gift. Joking around, they asked if we would like to go to their wedding and we said “absolutely where is it”? They said Pretty Place, tomorrow at 5 o’clock. We told them the story how we couldn’t get into Pretty Place and we got shut down, and they were super excited to have us come.”
“We decided to go watch the sunrise. While we were there waiting for the sun to come up, these guys started making their way over to us and asked if we would help them film their buddy who was proposing. We said, sure no problem and they handed us some GoPro cameras and pointed them out to us. While we were sitting there waiting, this entire group of YMCA youth group started filing in. The leader went to the front by the cross at Pretty Place and started preaching a message. It was a beautiful message about God’s creation, and then they started to sing. Meanwhile, this guy is standing off to the side waiting for his moment to propose. Finally, he gets down on one knee and proposes. I make my way over to them filming and we obviously strike up conversation with them and find out they’re believers. We tell them our story of hitting reset and then they start to tell us about their not-for-profit. They’re skipping church that morning back in Greenville and we told them we had no church to go to and they recommended New Spring.
We head back after sunrise to head towards the New Spring service. They told us they had a special speaker there that morning from Australia. Come to find out, New Spring is a mega church- thousands of members, multiple campuses, and we pull up and it’s at this huge convention center. We make our way in and they’re baptizing people in a super-sized kiddy pool, and there’s one older fella who is getting baptized as we walk in, and we thought it was the coolest thing listening to his story of how he fought God for over 60 years with drugs alcohol infidelity. You name it, this guy was into it, and he gave his heart to Jesus and was baptized. The service at New Spring was intense. The band was like a rock show. The message from the Australian guy was what happens when the light hits the dark, and brought us to tears.
When we left New Springs Church, everyone was filing out and we looked up local restaurants and found this amazing mom-and-pop cafeteria-style lunch. The line was out the door, so we made our way in and we happened to sit down next to these young girls who started to sing worship songs while we were eating. So we did what any good Christian couple does and started to sing along. These girls couldn’t have been any older than 10 years old and they have the voices of angels. The sweet potato pie was amazing.
We made our way to Pretty Place for the wedding. This time we had a name and we could get right in. As we were walking up, the wedding party noticed us and pulled us into the dressing room to take pictures with us – they were so excited to have us. The wedding was absolutely gorgeous and it was really interesting because the couple that was getting married was going to be a blended family. I have two children with my previous marriage and Stephanie doesn’t have any children from her previous marriage, so we’re looking to be a blended family. Again it was just beautiful. We left there and went back to the reception where one of the moms made spaghetti and garlic bread. They had a photo booth and we took pictures with the bride and groom, signed their book, and shared cake with them. It was an awesome time and we now have new friends.
Once we left the reception, we still had no place to stay. We started calling around and everybody was booked. We happen to call a bed-and-breakfast that advertised 2-days minimum and they broke the rules and let us stay there. This place was absolutely gorgeous. So again we didn’t plan anything- nowhere to eat, nowhere to stay but three days in a row we ate like champs and we stayed at some pretty nice places.”
“Monday on the way back to the airport, we’re driving down the highway and on the side of the road we see this woman walking and we pulled over to pick her up because the next exit is a couple miles up. The woman’s name is Miss Rhonda and she loves Jesus. She starts telling us about Joyce Meyer and preaching to us about how the enemy can’t take her joy. We drove her into town while listening to her preach to us. It was awesome.
We returned our rental car back at the airport and flew home.
A couple of notes from the trip. We let the spirit guide our every path and lead us to all our encounters. When we started to make her own plan nothing worked out when we surrendered our plan He was able to take over. We could not have planned this trip any better or met the people that we met. We were able to minister to so many people. This would not have been possible if we booked this up ourselves and planned everything out. We reset everything back to the original plan and that’s to give our life over to God and let him lead us.”
“I only have a couple of details to add… miss Judy from the campground will actually be coming to Clearwater (Florida) very close to where we actually live in December… small world– she was so grumpy when we first met her, but after talking to her for about 20 mins her whole demeanor changed and she lit up… On Sunday morning the preacher that spoke at Pretty Place talked about how the sun always rises and it always sets and when the sun comes up it illuminates everything and things are brought into clear view where everything once was just darkness… he also talked about just slowing down and taking a minute to take in the beauty. Which was exactly what our reset weekend was all about. Church service at New Spring – the preacher talked about Jesus is the light of the world. And that light exposes things that were once in the darkness. The whole weekend taught us that whenever we tried to control our circumstances or when we tried to keep a schedule or plan something things just stopped for us. But whenever we just let things flow and we sat back and took a deep breath and just let things happen. Amazing, amazing things happened. I think God was teaching us that when we slow down and let go of the need to control everything- that He illuminates the path for us and makes everything clear… that He is the light, and He’s gonna light the way… it was a great journey :)”
Heather Kitchen, Editor-In-Chief
Heather is the editor-in-chief of Upstate Exposures Magazine. She is also the owner of Heather Kitchen Images professional photography based in Inman, South Carolina.