“For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all the deeps.
He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
Who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.”–Psalm 135:7
It was the first morning of worship at Laity Lodge during The High Calling retreat last November. Laura Boggess read aloud Mark 4:34-39 in the contemplative style called Lectio Divina. The soft lilt of her voice with a slight West Virginia dialect slowed my breathing and focused my mind on the syllables of a well known story as they rolled off her tongue.
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’
(I cannot confirm through research or otherwise what version of the Bible Laura read from. I know it was not exactly what is above, a direct quote from the New International Version, but the words below are identical to what I journaled in my bright green Moleskine during contemplation.)
*Leaving the world behind
*Just as He was
*Asleep on a pillow
*Why are you so afraid?
*Who is this?
It was June, 2009 when we last saw the shores of the Atlantic. Delaney was six. Danica was eighteen months. A few weeks before leaving we realized something was horribly wrong with our baby, but the trip had long been planned. We went anyway. I will never forget how each mile of Route 12 seemed like one hundred as Danica screamed in agony in her car seat. Every single photo from our week shows Danica with a crooked head and neck wincing in pain and confusion. Through the years we have begged God to redeem that trip to Corolla in His time. He did this through the love of dear ones who have carefully watched our struggle and wanted to make some kind of respite happen for us all in a place we longed for and needed to return to.
The last week of May God made a way for my family and I to literally and figuratively “go over to the other side.” We left this life behind and took a real vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Our time was sacred in every way. The seven days we spent together were our happiest in at least six years.
The week was peace.
The week was still.
The week was completely calm.
We didn’t speak much about the trip before leaving. Our plans have a way of tragically falling through. Those who knew said things like, “You guys deserve this.” I would squirm. I know too much. I read too much. I pray too much. My heart touches too many lives that suffer and break without even a hope of a beach vacation. I never once thought this was anything but pure gift.
This is what Grace feels like. This is what Grace looks like. This is what Grace lives like.
My June surgery was all scheduled. We knew this week was in all reality the sum total of our summer fun. I spent the days taking continuous amounts of medications to fight the pain and feel the best I could to enjoy my family. I am always more well in the sun. I am always more well near water. I am always more well away from Ohio. I made a conscious effort to not even once say to my husband or children, “I have a headache.” I didn’t tell them about losing feeling in my fingers or my hands and feet going numb. I wanted our time to be about who we might be. I wanted it to be about who Dan and Delaney remember I once was. I wanted to know somewhere deep down inside I had the capacity to taste and see unfiltered good. There were minutes and even hours of this kind of clarity. It fueled our hope. For too long it has been deferred and made all of our hearts sick.
During our time we didn’t have a drop of rain. The seas were calm. The temperature perfect. It was like the great big God of the universe, our Father God, planned the weather for just us. We were sleeping on a pillow in the stern of the boat. We were resting. We had no idea here in Ohio there were several huge storms including high winds, hard rains and strikes of lightening. The same God who gave us peace also allowed a huge bolt of lightening to hit a very old and tall tree behind our home and split it down the middle. It did not just fall. The water inside the tree conducted the electricity and caused a bomb of sorts. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve seen something like it. It threw shrapnel chunks of the tree from the woods behind our home over our house and plunged deep into the front yard. One strike and the tree exploded. It was Tuesday night of our week away.
My father was coming by daily to check on our house and check the mail. When he arrived Wednesday afternoon our neighbor came running out to explain the war zone and show him the worst of it. Half of the tree split down the middle was hanging over their fence, into their yard, threatening their home. Another storm would most likely cause great damage to their property. He didn’t call us. He didn’t text us. He got on the phone with homeowners insurance and determined because our home wasn’t damaged they would not cover anything. He called several tree companies. A few would not even take the job. The position of the tree and the almost impossible way you could access it with necessary machinery would make the job a financial loss and risk. Finally he found someone to bring a crane up our neighbor’s driveway into our yard and do the difficult job of taking down the entire tree to the stump.
As we flew back into Cleveland Saturday night we hit lightening and bumpy storm clouds. We drove home in torrential rain. I held my head filling with pressure and pain and cried. I was thinking, “God, don’t you care if I drown?” I can’t live here. I can’t do this. Sunday morning Dan went out to try to mow our grass in between bursts of showers. He came in and told me in the most serious tone, “Someone stole one of our big trees while we were gone.” I laughed and explained how ridiculous that was. He then began to worry something bad had happened, and we would get some crazy invoice for it. I told him to go knock on the neighbors door and just ask them. He came back with a story I could hardly believe. My parents texted that morning asking if they could stop by after church. The photos and videos my dad showed us were astonishing. When we found out how much it cost to take care of the situation we went numb. $2800. I felt like throwing up.
Over the next day or so I looked up all the verses I could about lightening. God could have made that lightening strike any tree. We have a dead tree that is threatening our home, and we haven’t had the money to have it cut down. Why not that tree, Lord? What purpose did this storm have in our lives, my father’s life and the lives of our neighbors? I then thought of the passage from Mark. I reflected on the great love of my earthly father showing discernment and love by not calling us at all. He stepped in and took care of the disaster knowing we needed to rest. He paid the price knowing we did not have $2800. He loves us so much he did this sacrificial thing that pointed us to Jesus. At the very same time our Heavenly Father calmed the literal seas. He gave us peace. He reminded us who He is.
Today is my earthly daddy’s birthday. I celebrate him in new ways each year. Our relationship grows more pure as we both get deeper in our walks with God. I realize how very like him I am. When I look back across the landscape of our Gauntlet years I am brought to my knees remembering the countless ways he and my mother have done everything they could to love us and support us. We have come to trust them with our hearts and our storms. My father will do anything he can to calm the seas for me. He counts my husband as a son. He loves my daughters perhaps even more than he can love me, because that’s what love on top of love does. Most of all he points me to my abba God.