When I think of fog

October is not my favorite month. I’m not a fan of witches and other creepy creatures that make their appearance in store aisles, and I don’t really appreciate the previews for movies I’d never in a million years want to watch coming on in our living room when we just want to enjoy a football game with the family. Not to mention, the amount of candy that finds its way into this house, and maybe also my mouth, is more than a bit unnecessary.

If it weren’t for the fact that my favorite girl was born in that month, I don’t think October would even make it into the top 10.

This particular October was a bit better, though. Mostly because the kids and I kicked off the month with a car accident on October 1st.

I know what you’re thinking: Car accidents aren’t usually something to celebrate. True. Only here is the thing about unhappy surprises and totaled vehicles…  they sure are great reminders of what is actually important in life, and they are perfect opportunities to see God at work.

I’ve been thinking of a verse in Luke where Jesus has just performed a miracle, and the recipient of the miracle wants to continue on with him, and just be with Jesus. Because really, wouldn’t you? But Jesus says to the man, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”

So here it is now, nearly 8 weeks since the accident, and I have yet to share how much God has done for us. He showed up on that foggy morning in October – in more ways than one.

It was a pretty typical Thursday morning in our house, except that we were leaving about 25 minutes earlier than usual so I could go into the school with the kids. Just 4 days earlier, a beloved kindergarten teacher had passed away somewhat unexpectedly, and we had a staff picture scheduled for that morning in her memory. We all planned on wearing matching blue shirts with a sparkly silver “1-4-3” written on them, a phrase Mrs. Williams always said to her students. It was her way of saying “I Love You.”

While it isn’t unusual for us to leave the house late, the kids and I piled in the van and left a few minutes ahead of schedule. That was a good thing, because I hadn’t realized how thick the fog was until we were already on the road.

The majority of our drive to school is spent heading west on Birch Bay-Lynden Road, a 50 mile-per-hour road with one stop sign about half way to our turn onto Custer School Rd.

I had reached my full speed after the stop sign when I saw the truck pulling out of a driveway just barely ahead on my right, crossing over in front of us to turn left and head east. He was in my lane, and I was about to plow right into the driver’s door. I remember thinking, “He’s going to die!” as I swerved to the right, trying to avoid the collision. As quickly as the thought passed, I saw what I was now headed towards. The man was pulling a flat bed trailer with a massive piece of farm equipment on it, and my thought quickly changed to the fear that I was the one who wouldn’t make it, that the farm equipment was going to crush me.

I remember the impact, the car fishtailing, being amazed that the corkscrew shape metal on the plow hadn’t gone through the windshield, and then sitting there at a standstill staring at the airbags that had deployed, surprised at how small they actually are, thinking about the Statue of Liberty being the same kind of small surprise.

The kids were screaming in the back, both holding their chests where the seatbelts had held them tightly. They were complaining of pain there, but nowhere else. I wondered if they had broken any ribs.

I tried to open my door to get out, but it was jammed shut. I could feel pain in my knee and knew I couldn’t climb to get out another door, so I decided to wait. The kids started to calm down and assured me they were okay. While I talked to the 911 dispatcher, the other driver got out of his truck and tried opening my door from the outside but to no avail.

I made a few more phone calls: first to Matt, then to my boss. I couldn’t reach either. I was starting to panic and couldn’t figure out how to work my phone. I knew coworkers would be expecting me soon, but I couldn’t remember how to call the school. My neighbor teacher is listed in my contact favorites (because she is a serious favorite.)

I called her. She answered. I went from calm to hysterical in about 2 seconds. So did she.

By the time I got off the phone, Jacob had gotten pretty worked up again, because it was all super scary. And because his chest hurt. But mostly because of the amount of panic coming out of his mother.

It was about this time – when I was panicking and getting super frustrated with the door that wouldn’t open and the electrical locks that wouldn’t work – that my 1-week-shy-of-turning-8-years-old girl calmly said, “Mom, don’t worry about the doors. I unlocked mine. I can get out. See?” And sure enough, she had opened her door and was calmly unbuckling. She didn’t climb out yet, though, because she was staying close to her brother who was pretty upset by now.

“I’ve got to get him,” I thought. I absentmindedly reached for the door handle so I could get out, and my door easily opened. It wasn’t until I was out of the car that I realized I had just exited the same door that wouldn’t open from the inside or out just one minute earlier.

As I reached in to get Jacob, I saw an officer that had just arrived heading towards us. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him. Deputy Pete Stevenson is a family friend, the dad of one of my dearest friends in the world, grandpa to Annalise and Jacob’s bestsest buddies, the worship leader at our church, a guy I sing and laugh with often (usually at the same time), and a man I love dearly. He and his wife are the sweetest people you’d ever meet, both servants in all they do, and they’ve been a huge support to Matt and me. He could have been anywhere in the county, yet here he was headed towards me just minutes after our accident, before anyone else arrived.

Around the same time, I started to set Jacob down so I could hug Annalise, but he wasn’t ready to let go. He was pretty shook up and just wanted to be held. While I felt badly about it, I didn’t give him a choice: I needed to check on my girl, too. As I set him down, Pete and I saw a man walking towards us – Pete’s brother Phil. Phil is our pastor, another family friend, another guy we love dearly, and one of Jacob’s all-time heroes. As I hugged Annalise, Phil scooped Jacob up and hugged him tight.

Paramedics had not yet arrived to look us over, and Pete had just been scanning around for a warm place for us to sit down. (He has since told me he was worried about me being a “walking wounded,” internal injuries or bleeding and unaware because of shock.) He had Phil pull his car up so we could sit. Phil also called Matt and let him know what was going on and that we were all fine.

Paramedics arrived and asked me to climb in so they could look me over. By now, a third comforting face had arrived – my boss of many years. He climbed in the ambulance with me. I wasn’t alone. My kids weren’t alone. By the time I got out, they had already been checked over and were calmly sitting in the back of a warm car, Pastor Phil’s arms around them. All was well.

Matt arrived shortly after and took our family home. Home. No one went to the hospital. No one required further attention.

In the next hour, a lot happened. While I was resting with my hurting – but not seriously damaged – knee up:

  • The kids had a dance-off for my entertainment.
  • My boss, our awesome secretary, and the 2 other members of Custer’s third grade teaching team (a.k.a. the wind beneath my wings) made sure my afternoon shift was covered and plans were done so I didn’t have to do a thing. Except continue watching the dance-off, of course.
  • My dear friend (the daughter of Deputy Pete) brought Matt and I lattes and laughter. (Laughter usually accompanies her presence.)
  • A friend from church texted me to tell me she was bringing us dinner. She had driven by the accident and didn’t stop because she saw we were well taken care of by Pete and Phil, but she wanted us to not have to worry about dinner.
  • Pete’s wife Judy brought us fresh home-made biscuits, jam, and soup for lunch. I still don’t know how she whipped it all up so quickly.
  • My dad – who was on a call this way from Oak Harbor, stopped by for hugs, as did Matt’s mom.
  • Another sweet friend who heard the news brought cookies and flowers.
  • My boss texted to say someone from school would be bringing by “a meal.” (The “meal” arrived in a cooler and fed us for the rest of the weekend and then some.)

The next day, the kids and I were back at school. I was able to be in our rescheduled staff picture in memory of my co-worker. People were surprised to see us there perfectly fine, save one swollen knee, a cut on my leg, and a few seat-belt bruises.

From beginning to end, October 1st felt like one miracle after another. God’s protection from harm, provision in the form of people we love bringing comfort, warmth, care, food, laughter, and love. His perfect timing in placing Pete just minutes away on his shift that day and Pastor Phil unknowingly just a few cars behind us on the same road. Even a car door opening after it would not previously budge was so clearly the hand of God.

Miracle after miracle after miracle. So much so that I struggled to write this after our community has felt the pain of car accidents with tragic results.

Except for that verse. “Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.” (Luke 8:39)

I don’t know why some accidents end in tragedy and some don’t.
Or flights, for that matter.
Or illnesses.
Or pregnancies.

But I do not believe any of the events of that day happened by accident. I believe my God – in His limitless love and mercy – spared my family. I believe it was because of His great grace that He provided people we love to bring us further comfort in some very scary moments.

And I believe when I don’t understand why, it is okay, because He knows a whole lot more than I do. It is not my job to know. It is my job to trust.

On the morning of October 2nd, Jacob climbed in bed to cuddle me. He stayed quiet for a while, obviously thinking about something he wasn’t ready to say out loud just yet. Then he broke the silence. “Mom? I still can’t believe it. When you had to set me down, Pastor Phil was just right there to scoop me up and hold me tight! Me and him have been buddies for a long time, and right when I was really scared, he was there to pick me up.”

He’s right. Phil was there at the exact right moment. And isn’t that just like God? Just what God does? He picks us up when we’re really scared. Right when we need comfort and peace in the middle of our storm. He just picks us up and holds us tight. And His timing is always perfect.

As is the case for many others, this year has not been easy for our family of four. On January 3rd, we lost our second set of twins to miscarriage. On June 27th, my Auntie Jill passed away at the young age of 62. In September, Annalise’s kindergarten teacher – a co-worker and friend of mine – passed away as well.

But can I tell you what the Lord has done for us? He has provided comfort and encouragement. He has sustained us. He has answered prayers of protection. He has surrounded us with loving family and friends. He has blessed us with a new home, a new van, and an abundance of joy. The God who is great and mighty and has command over angel armies has not left our side for a moment. He has held us tightly through it all, and we will continue to follow Him through the good and through the storms. He is good, faithful, loving, and unchanging. He is our only Hope.

And because I am always a slow learner and quick to forget, I will look at these photos often to be reminded of His gifts of grace. In the first one, the van front smashed in, but not enough to cause injury. Protection. And Pete’s car, first on scene. Comfort.

car2

And in the second one, Pastor Phil’s car behind ours. God’s perfect timing. And a reminder he holds us tightly.

car1

And that thick, thick fog. Although I cannot see through it to what lies ahead, I know the One who can, and I choose to put my trust in Him. 

 

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. ~ Hebrews 10:23

We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone. ~ Psalm 33:20-22

 

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5 thoughts on “When I think of fog

  1. I am sitting in my office after a memorial service, Holly. People are visiting with plates of food in their hands. I can’t cry–not here–but I must tell you I have a huge lump in my throat. And I have a heart swelling with praise for our great God! He has proved His love and faithfulness to our family repeatedly!

    Love you–Dad

  2. Holly, I am sitting in my office following a memorial service in my chapel. People are walking around with plates of Filipino food, visiting and enjoying each other’s company. I had to take a break from reading this because I nearly lost a grip on my emotions. I couldn’t do that here and now. But I must tell you that I have a heart filled with gratitude to God for His faithfulness in all things! He has never failed in His promises! Grateful to God for you and Matt, Leesie and Jacob and how He has blessed your lives!

  3. What an amazing testament of God’s power and love and grace and protection in our lives. He is a God of miracles!! So glad you and your little one’s are okay Holly!!! I miss seeing you and would love to catch up in person sometime soon. Hugs to you from all of us!!

  4. Again, I am so blessed to read the testimony of God’s faithfulness! Thank you for writing it out and declaring His goodness!

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