That enormous flash of sunlight and heat that just flew by…that was summer! And with the close of the season comes our final Story of Hope from Lisa Appelo. Her summer has been a whirlwind of weddings, babies, and now Hurricane Dorian. But Lisa is no stranger to storms. Eight years ago, Lisa suddenly became a widow and single mom to seven kiddos. Today she’s shared her story of God’s faithful mercy before, during, and after a tragic family storm.
Be encouraged. Our hope, our certainty, is in God, even when storms are raging.
I’m writing this in the midst of a storm. Hurricane Dorian has been lurking for the last week and we are just now getting bands of wind and rain. We prepped and waited as it lashed the Bahamas, but the storm’s turned and, gratefully, we won’t get a direct hit.
Storms in life aren’t always so easy. Those usually come unannounced, washing over us with such fury that they threaten to pull us under completely. They leave a trail of destruction and often, life is never the same again.
Maybe you’ve had one of those storms?
Ours came a few years ago, in the midst of a glorious, ordinary summer.
I woke in the dark morning hours to the sounds of my husband’s heavy breathing and with eyes still closed, I reached over and nudged him.
“It’s just a nightmare, Hon. It’s okay.” A few seconds later, more awake, I realized this was not nightmare breathing and when I jumped out of bed to flip on the overhead light, I could see instantly that something was very wrong.
I went into storm management mode. “Nick, dial 9-1-1. Seth, run down and get our fireman neighbor. Rachel, take the little kids upstairs.”
As the 9-1-1- operator talked me through CPR on speakerphone and I counted out the compressions, my head swirled to take in the gravity of what was happening. Surely, I was not giving CPR to the rock of our family, the only man I’d ever dated, the amazing father to our seven kids.
“I love you, Dan. We love you,” I said through tears and through compressions. Was he still with us? If these were the last words he heard, I wanted him to know.
Within minutes the paramedics arrived and took over. I paced the living room in my nightgown. “Please, God, have mercy on us. Please Lord, give us your mercy.” Over and over I begged God out loud to spare us.
When the paramedics took Dan to the hospital, I went upstairs to see my kids before following the ambulance. The scene in their bedroom crushed my heart all over again. Six kids from four to 17 years old were on the floor together, each audibly sobbing. My oldest was at camp, still blissfully unaware of the black clouds hanging over our family.
Everything in me wanted to assure them their dad would be okay, but as the words formed on my tongue, I realized I couldn’t promise it. So, I did the only thing I could. I prayed with them. Then I hugged each one and told them I would be back.
Not long after arriving at the ER, I was called back to the room you never want to go into. A kind doctor came in, telling me they’d worked for over an hour but had never been able to revive Dan.
And in that moment, this storm we never saw coming engulfed all of life as we knew it.
Tomorrow’s plans, next week’s list, all our hopes and shared vision for our family were gone and would never be again.
What do you do in this kind of storm?
Honestly, part of me wanted to curl up and just let it wash over. It was too big, and I felt utterly helpless with the tasks ahead of me.
I had no idea how to lead my preschoolers, tweens, and teens through their grief, let alone try to grapple with mine. The future I thought would always be there now felt like a sheer drop off. I had so much fear for our finances, for decisions, for my children’s health.
How in the world would God fix eight broken hearts?
I had prayed for God to spare us from the storm. Begged him for his mercy and yet, in his sovereignty, God had neither spared my husband nor our gut-wrenching grief.
But I found God’s mercy everywhere.
His mercy met me each morning as I clung to his word and his promises, giving me just enough hope to show up for my kids and meet the tasks of that day.
He brought Bible stories and scripture I’d memorized to mind with new insight that lifted my heavy heart.
Multiples times, God gave me words to say to my children and others that felt like a direct download.
God met countless needs as they came up – a new to us car, college expenses for my kids, money for Christmas, and perfect part-time work.
His mercy showed up in the body of Christ who brought meals, who prayed faithfully, who took my sons fishing and cheered for my daughter, who came to clean the house or carol on the lawn at Christmas, who helped with driving and surprised us with flower beds on Mother’s Day.
In a thousand tender ways, God’s mercy has carried us.After a family tragedy, Lisa Appelo asked herself, 'How in the world can God fix eight broken hearts?' In time she discovered, 'In a thousand tender ways, God's mercy carried us.' Stories of Hope by @appelolisa hosted by @shaunaletellierClick To Tweet
As I listen to the last of the wind gusting outside my window, I’m reminded that God’s mercy never guarantees the storms of life will bypass us completely.
God will not spare us from every storm.
But God’s mercy is promised, and those mercies will meet every need, every fear, every weakness we encounter in the storm.Facing a storm? Lisa Appelo writes, 'God’s mercy is promised, and his mercies will meet every need, fear, and weakness we encounter in the storm.' in the Stories of Hope Series hosted by @shaunaletellier. @AppeloLisaClick To Tweet
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
Lisa Appelo is a speaker, writer and Bible teacher who inspires women to deepen their faith in grief and find hope in the hard. Eight years ago, Lisa became a sudden widow and single mom to 7. She’s passionate about rich Bible study and teaches a weekly ladies Bible class at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville. She’s a speaker with She Found Joy and has been published at Proverbs 31 Ministries, (in)courage, Risen Motherhood and more.
As a former litigating attorney, her days are now filled with parenting, ministry, writing, speaking and running enough to justify lots of dark chocolate. Find Lisa’s encouragement for faith, grief and hope at LisaAppelo.com and on Instagram @lisaappelo.