Sheri Wren Haymore
Recently, with Hurricane Idalia crashing Florida’s coast and aiming for the next three states, I realized that each of my two sisters would be right in its path. I sent a “take care of yourselves” text to them both. My sister Pat, in Southport, expressed hope that the storm would wear itself out before reaching her home on the NC coast. My sister Meg, in Columbia, SC, replied: “It’ll be just fine. Mama didn’t spend years praying over us for nothing!”
Her comment called up a memory from not too many years ago. Meg and I were visiting our parents while they were in their eighties. Because it was just the two of us, with no spouses or kids along, we settled into the twin bedroom. From the next room came two voices: Daddy’s low rumble, then Mama’s LOUD response; low rumble, LOUD response. We were puzzled for a moment, then we both started giggling as we realized what was happening. It was their nightly prayer time, but Mama had removed her hearing aids. I guess she thought the Lord couldn’t hear her voice unless she could. Our giggles soon turned to tears as we heard our names, and our other sister’s name, and our families, all held up to the One she knew would hold us eternally.
This brought to mind all the things I’ve been through in my life, all the times that I’ve felt taken care of, in the physical realm as well as spiritually. Like the time I had dropped my husband and daughter off at the docks in Morehead City before dawn for a fishing charter, then blew out a tire crossing the railroad tracks on my way back to our rental home. Even though it was dark and pouring rain, a kind stranger stopped and changed my tire. In fact, in all the miles I drove alone to visit my parents in South Carolina, or going to book signings, I never had a flat tire that I wasn’t in a safe place. I remember four specific incidents when I either had a flat or my car died just after I’d pulled off the interstate highway.
Or earlier this year, a malfunction happened to my body requiring a barrage of tests, scans, and scopes, and finally, major surgery. Navigating the complacency and incompetency of the medical scheduling system required me to advocate for myself in ways I had never had to do. Through it all, I felt held and guided, and most of all, I felt grateful. I felt grateful for the people in my life—my little family, sisters, cousins, and friends—who have my back. I felt grateful for the sheer magic of life.
I remember a couple of incidents when I’ve been inexplicably taken care of. Once, I was standing on a sidewalk watching some work being done, and I forgot that I was at the very top of a flight of cement steps. When I started to step back, my foot found no purchase. That feeling of starting to fall still takes my breath when I think of it, but some force stronger than gravity set me upright, both feet squarely at the top of the steps. There was a day years ago when I lay flat on the floor in despair, calling out to the Lord, and I felt a physical weight cover my body, as if I were held by an unseen being.
I’ve seen it happen to other people as well, that undeniable feeling of being held. Once, when our group of ladies was heading to the beach for a retreat, a lumber truck ran a stop sign and T-boned the van carrying five ladies. The impact threw Melanie from the van as it rolled. In her words, she was thinking, “Oh my, I’m flying through the air. Oh my, I’m going to hit the pavement. Oh my, there are cars coming.” Sure, she had scrapes and bruises, but she was able to testify to having felt carried through the air, set down almost gently, and protected from harm.
Did you notice a singular truth in my stories? There’s no promise that a bad storm will never hit your home. Nor is there a guarantee that you won’t be in a wreck or suffer a devastating diagnosis or always be happy. For that matter, there’s no guarantee of tomorrow, for any of us. Even as I write this, a friend’s life hangs in the balance. What I am telling you is that when we entrust it all to Someone who is in charge, then as my sister said, “It’ll be just fine.” We will be held, no matter the outcome.
Where are you in your life’s story? Perhaps, you also know that you have come this far because you have been taken care of. Or perhaps you see life through a different perspective. Either way, we’re all here, and we all will find ourselves in a place where we must be the one to stand strong and hold another person up. There have been times when all I’ve had to offer were words and a prayer. And there have been times when I’ve held a hurting friend in my arms in a place beyond words and been grateful simply to have the strength to stand.
Gratitude is a powerful force. When we move through life in a spirit of thankfulness, we can view the world with open hearts.