The cool, spring breeze blew softly, contrasting the hot, Indiana sunshine. The excitement level continued to grow as the team of horses clip-clopped past the sign for Covington, only several miles ahead. Looking back on the unfolding of their journey, Tim smiled at his former naiveté—having planned to reach their hometown by the first winter and then see their journey completed after a total of eleven months. Nearly two years later, here they were, finally crossing over into the familiar territory of their childhood stomping grounds.

“Thanks for calling, Ryan,” Tim spoke, cell phone to his ear. “We’re excited for you and Hannah… Okay… Love you too… Bye.” He hung up the phone and slipped it back inside the front pocket of his plaid, long-sleeved button-up.

“Hannah just got a job offer in Indianapolis,” he told Lynn.

“Really?” she answered, intrigued.

“Yep. They’re moving in three weeks,” he concluded. She pondered the news.

“Will we make it to Memphis before then?” she asked.

“Doubtful,” he replied, pausing a few moments. “Maybe that’s our confirmation that we’re not supposed to go to Memphis.” He looked over at her, watching for her reaction. They exchanged a glance and both waited on the other to speak. “There is no reason for us to go,” Tim said, finally.

During their winter in New Bloomfield, Missouri he had sensed a stirring to ride through Memphis. Lynn, however, was anxious to ride through their hometown in Indiana in order to share the journey with all their family and friends. The two options left him torn, given that there was no convenience to go through both. Until now he had toyed with the possibility of heading straight south to Memphis after traveling through Covington, backtracking slightly. Ryan and Hannah leaving the area seemed all too timely to be a coincidence. He gladly took it as a sign to continue straight on for the coastline. After all, what good is it to backtrack? It didn’t seem to fit the overall course of their mission at all, which was to reach the east coast. Tim could virtually smell the shoreline of the end, snagging a mental taste of the victory that seemed so close now.

“It would be crazy to go, right?” he continued, his progression of thought arriving at pure logistics. “I mean, it’s nearly 500 miles in the wrong direction.” He looked at Lynn for confirmation, her expression neutral.

“I am all for continuing onward if you feel that was a confirmation you needed,” she affirmed.

He settled into the new firmness of the direction before them.

“We should be home by nightfall,” he said, smiling.


It was nearly seven weeks later and the crew of horsemen had faced the many new challenges of teenage hormones and sibling rivalry, along with the exciting bursts of new joy and revelation at the character of God. Marshall and Chelsey’s mother was on her way to pick them up after traveling nine weeks on the road with the cowboy couple, and it was an emotional departure. Tim and Lynn settled down for the evening in the fairgrounds of Madison, Indiana, heart saddened to separate from the two rascals they had come to love as their own.

“Man, I have a really bad headache,” Tim told Lynn as they unpacked their gear under the announcer’s booth covering. He set down a saddlebag and massaged his temples, closing his eyes.

Lynn stepped over the bed roll and placed her hand across his forehead.

“You definitely feel warmer than usual. I think we have a couple ibuprofen left if you want me to get it for you,” she responded.

He took the pills and felt fairly confident that a good night’s rest would most likely clear things up. They settled in for the evening and within seconds of closing her eyes, Lynn was fast asleep. Tim’s head throbbed with every beat of his heart. He lay awake in prayer that God would bring enough ease just to fall asleep, but minutes turned into hours and the misery wouldn’t seem to let up.

Lynn awoke the following morning to Tim’s groans.

“Sweetheart,” she said, shaking him gently. “Are you alright?”

He opened his eyes and grimaced. “What?” he muttered.

“You were moaning,” she said.

“My head feels like it’s going to explode,” Tim mumbled. She put her hand on his forehead again.

“You are blazing hot,” she told him. “You’re running a high fever. We shouldn’t go anywhere today.” The nurse in her kicked into high mode, taking authority and rendering him her patient. She rose out of the bed to get him some water.

As the day wore on, Tim lay in a pool of sweat, shivering. Lynn dabbed his forehead and cheeks with a wet t-shirt, providing temporary relief to his hot face after his third time vomiting.

“This is a little worrisome, Tim,” she admitted, breaking the silence. “This kind of sickness isn’t usual for you at all.”

“It’s just the flu or something,” he retorted, eyes closed. “It’ll pass.”

“I don’t like just letting something like this ride its course,” she persisted. “It’s just not a good idea. Especially when you have thrown up every bit of food today and we are waiting for your sickness to leave in an announcer’s booth at the fairgrounds.” She motioned with her arm to further emphasize the silliness of the pseudo-clinic.

“We’ll see how tonight goes,” he resolved. “Maybe I’ll get to sleep and it’ll be mostly gone in the morning.”

She didn’t argue with him and continued dabbing the beads of sweat from his face and neck, imploring him to keep drinking water.

The second night was no better than the first. He slept in thirty-minute increments, waking to the heartbeat in his temple each time, rising twice to throw up.

The next morning Lynn opened her eyes, facing Tim’s back. It rose and fell with each breath, indicating that he seemed to be resting. She reached over and felt his forehead. The heat overpowered her hand with no less severity than the previous twenty-four hours.

Phoning a friend they had met in the area a week prior, he insisted on taking them to a nearby hotel to help Tim rest. He made arrangements for the horses to be taken elsewhere to ease their burden, and he also left Lynn his BMW to cart around her sick patient. Although the more comfortable setting of AC and running water helped little to ease Tim’s misery. He could keep no food in his stomach and he barely moved for being so weak.

The next morning Lynn couldn’t take anymore.

“We’re going to the hospital,” she said, wiping his forehead-sweat from her hand. She gathered her clothes without waiting for his response and went to the bathroom to shower. Two hours later he was admitted to the local hospital on the Kentucky-Indiana border with a fever exceeding 104 degrees.

After initial bloodwork and a CAT scan, the couple awaited the doctor’s diagnosis. A knock on the door brought an older man with salt and pepper hair through the doorway.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Tuggle,” his low voice boomed, peering down at Tim from six feet high. He wore a long, white lab coat and carried an official clipboard, looking like a scientist about to perform an experiment. He smiled warmly at Lynn and stood at the bedside. “How ya feeling?”

“Pretty well the same, doc,” Tim said sluggishly, eyes drooping.

“What were the CAT scan results?” Lynn asked, cutting to the chase.

“Well,” the doctor began, hugging his clipboard to his chest. “The results didn’t show much of anything. And neither did the blood work. To be perfectly honest, we have no idea what is wrong with you.”

Tim and Lynn exchanged a glance.

“So I have a fever of 104 and you can’t tell me why,” Tim stated.

“We want to keep running a few more tests and see if we can perhaps get a good lead on something,” the doctor concluded. “In about an hour we will do an ultrasound to see if it could be your gallbladder.”

Lynn asked several questions and discussed various options with him, making evident her strong medical experience. She held back the urge to request a set of scrubs in order to officially be recognized as his personal nurse. Tim convinced her to go back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep since it was already paid for and little could be accomplished during the night hours.

As the hour grew late and hospital traffic slowed for the evening, Tim grew pensive, unsettled about the uncertainty of his severe condition.

Lord, what is this? Am I missing something?

He lay awake, searching his inner man for any oversight, and he came to an unsettled awareness of something slightly off. Suddenly a word entered his mind that he had escorted out nearly two months ago: Memphis.

With very little clarity and no resolution, he fell asleep. The morning brought more strength and less temple-throbbing than the previous three nights. The IV was a huge help to staying hydrated, although his system was still not able to retain solids. The doctor returned at 8am and confirmed that his fever was still lingering at 103. He sat down on the edge of Tim’s bed and began his spiel.

“My next suggestion is to have a neurologist come today.”

“Before you go any further, doctor,” Tim interjected. “I want to ask you something. Can we pray?”

The doctor hesitated at the unexpected assertion.

“Sure,” he replied after a moment’s pause, blinking.

“I think I’m supposed to go to Memphis,” Tim added.

The doctor stared at him blankly, unsure how to respond to such a random divulgence.

Tim leaned forward and grabbed the man’s hand, closing his eyes. The doctor awkwardly obliged and mimicking Tim’s posture of bowing, attempted to seem natural.

“Dear Heavenly Father,” Tim started. “Thank you for another day of this precious life. Thank you for this doctor and for his service to providing health to the sick. Thank you for all of Your provisions. God, if I was supposed to go to Memphis, I pray that You would remove this fever from me, and I promise to go straight there. Please forgive me for not listening to You.” Tim paused, stifling the emotion rising in his throat. “In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”

Just then, the telephone rang at the bedside.

“Hello?” Tim spoke into the receiver. “Hi, sweetheart. Yes, I got some sleep. The doctor is in here right now and he recommends a neurologist come and see me today.”

“A neurologist?” she repeated on the other end. “Will you ask him what the reasoning is for that?”

“She wants me to ask you for your reasoning,” Tim said to the doctor.

The man swallowed, gathering his bearings after the unexpected turn of his routine visit.

“Why don’t we wait on it a little longer and just see how you do today,” the man stated. “I’ll come back to check on you soon.” With another warm smile, he rose and left the room.

The hours pressed on and Tim’s temperature slowly declined until the fever was entirely gone. By evening, he was ruled completely healthy and discharged with no known cause of illness.

Lynn rolled Tim’s wheelchair into the elevator and pushed the button as the doors closed. He looked up at her and declared, “We’re going to Memphis.”

The corner of her mouth slid upward in a half-smile, recognizing the weighty significance of that about-face turn in her husband’s leadership. She had no second thought.








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