Mick and I were driving by one of the small lakes on the Youth With a Mission ranch, Twin Oaks. We planned an outdoor wedding in a few months and were over by the chapel and the kid’s playground this particular night. The headlights of the truck picked out a copperhead over to the left by a tree trunk.
“I need to get my framing square – that snake is right out here by the play equipment and could hurt a child – this is where you walk to have your quiet time each morning" my soon to be husband slammed the door to the truck and grabbed his carpenter’s framing square out of the back.
I began to pray. Then I saw the snake’s partner! There were two of them, one in front of Mick and one behind him that he had no idea was there. I knew if I honked or opened the door he would turn, being distracted and probably get bitten by both snakes. The offenders were dancing (probably a mating ritual I found out MUCH later)
“Lord, please keep him safe! Protect him. Help him be aware…." And I followed that prayer with praying in the Spirit.
Mick got the first snake he was facing and turned around to see the second one behind him. Armed with his helpful framing square he was able to take care of both snakes. Then he hears me opening the truck door.
“Honey, I thought I was going to be a widow before we even got married!"
“Praise God you aren’t! Help me here we need to bury the heads, even a dead snake can hurt someone."
“How do you mean?"
“Did I ever tell you about the time I was barefooted as a kid and stepped by a dead copperhead? I must have scratched my toe and there was enough venom so that my toe swelled up and was a mess… maybe I kicked it – I don’t remember…"
How did his mother survive their childhood with 11 children and most of those boys. This became a mystery to me the more I got to know the Phelps family.
This snake routine was way too much excitement for this Minnesota gal. Yes, we had snakes but nothing poisonous right where we lived. During Mick’s and my engagement, three short months, we ended up killing 6 copperheads on our nightly walks and rides around with ranch. You realize, of course, that is an editorial WE. This part of WE prayed and prayed and cringed as my Texan one time took off a rubber flip-flop to “clobber" the snake, then grabbing it by the tail and snapped its head off. Yes, he buried that head too. The most dangerous encounter was with a baby copperhead. It was almost cute and certainly harmless looking. However, my Texan told me that the little ones haven’t figured out how much venom to inject and go for broke with the biggest does of all. Moral to the story, don’t get engaged in Texas and expect nice, peaceful romantic walks in the cool of the evening. It never cools down much not to mention the venom.
OK. We talked and walked and walked and talked. These vipers were not in the tall grass (well, there were probably plenty there too) or the woods when we encountered them but on the black top or right by the road. There was an old one room cabin on the property that the wrecking crew said was full of copperheads – they wrecked many places in the area and had never seen so many copperheads at one time as they did taking down that cabin.
Twin Oaks had the dubious distinction of having three kinds of poisonous snakes in the one area. The ranch was 500-600 acres and used to be a Teen Challenge. Before that it was some kind of a fish farm with about 4-5 ponds on it. SO we were graced with water moccasins, copperheads and a lone rattle snake occasionally.
Two of my YWAM classmates had a family there with them, sons age 10 and 13. The 10 year old ran into a copperhead one day and stepped on its head. Seemed like a good idea until the shake coiled around the boys leg and he realized if he moved he was in big trouble. His older brother ran to the nearest house and one of the men got a knife. He came to the boy and cut the snake’s head off.
The grace of God was that in the history of the YWAM base there no one that had ever been bitten! There was a jogger once who was running at dusk between two of the lakes in a low lying spot. He stepped down in his running shoe and had something come up and slap him across the cheek. He soon realized he had stepped on a huge water moccasin with its mouth open, probably waiting for dinner to walk in, and instead got hung up in Johnny Cash’s (no, not THAT Johnny Cash) shoe. Johnny had the presence of mind to kick and kick hard and the snake flew off. The fangs didn’t even scratch his skin. After that joggers staying away from low lying areas between lakes.
The rattler was in some autumn leaves, one of our staff was raking and saw it – it just slithered off and no one found it again.
By this time I had been at YWAM for over a year. Every morning I got up while it was still dark, Bible and coffee in hand and walked. Cross country I’d go, over an earthen dam, across grass and by lakes to a little platform with a bench on it. I timed it so I could get there as the sun rose over the lake. There was not a more gorgeous spot to read the Word of God and talk to Him. This was my daily habit. Not once did I see a snake. God is SO good. Had I known who else was out there by that particular lake, lurking and slithering around I suspect it would have put a damper on my lovely quiet times. That was where I often prayed for “whoever he was, wherever he was" before I knew or began having a relationship with Mick. I still smile thinking of the Lord’s wonderful sense of humor and the fact that I actually avoided this bearded red head for over a year as my ex-husband had been a bearded red head.
Mick often said how fun Texas was with all its rattleheaded coppermouths!
So what does this have to do with having a godly relationship and being engaged to be married? Those snakes kind of reminded me how the enemy is alive and well and looking for any opportunity to poison us. We need to be careful and prayerful all the time, ready for sneak attacks and armed to fight, even if it is only with a rubber flip-flop. We can always call upon the Lord Jesus Christ, He is more than ready and willing to help.
More soon in this series about what the Bible has to say about relationships and it is dynamite! There are also several other postings that come before this one, enjoy!
My blog is: http://myincrediblelord.blogspot.com/
(C) Marijo Phelps all rights reserved. Use with proper credits.
Saved by His grace in 1974, from 9 years of professing atheism into His loving arms. RN for 23 years, missionary with YWAM then statistical analyst for Every Home for Christ over 9 years. Living with my husband in the middle of a mountain meadow. GRIN! Wanting to spread the good news
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