By Nancy Carlson
My first miracle begins as a 28-year-old mother of a three-month old and two-year old. I was not able to stop drinking alcohol for even one day. I now know my three-month-old daughter was colicky because of my daily use of alcohol. I had pretty much quit eating as well. God’s intervention into my alcoholism started with having a colicky baby, which pushed me to drink even more. Then I became suicidal. I met with a family doctor, he was part of a medical system that housed a rehabilitation program for alcoholism and other drug addictions. Again, God’s intervention was the doctor directing me to go into treatment the very day of my appointment.
The darkness for me was simply these two little girls deserved better than an alcohol-dependent mother. So, my commitment to myself was either get fixed in this treatment program or suicide was my other choice. Thank you, God, that I followed every suggestion of the rehab staff. Back in 1973, it was unusual for a 28-year-old young mother to enter rehabilitation centers. The fact that I was able to enter and complete the treatment center, I felt God had thrown me away because I was such a disappointment to Him. This was truly a dark situation. I would not have believed I would someday be counseling alcoholics and their families. I have since spoken to large corporations and educational institutions on the signs of addiction and recovery. Now 46 years of recovery from alcoholism, I see I was used as a disciple of God’s grace. That grace included, not only to help myself but to help other alcoholics and their families.
My second miracle happened in 1998, when my spouse accepted a job opportunity in Alaska that was six thousand miles away. It was a beautiful spring day in the Ozarks when my children, friends, and I decided to go on a canoe trip before I left for Alaska. We picked
the 11 Point River. It is important to note we set sail the end of March. Rivers at that particular time are cold, full, and fast. We did not know that information, coming from Nebraska and Kansas City. The canoe my son and I were in came upon a dead tree lying crosswise to the river. Our canoe rolled over, my son later stating, “I knew mom couldn’t handle this.” As I am underwater, the canoe pushing against my body, my body pined against the tree.…it was all underwater. The water was in charge of me. My first thought was I’ll dog paddle to the top. No movement happened! My next thought… ”I think this is it!” A calmness came over me. Then a shaking of my shirt. My son had crawled out on a branch of the fallen tree and shook my shirt to dislodge me. After we recaptured some of what was in the canoe, I had a clear view of my possible demise. I knew deep in my soul it clearly was not my time to go. Such a comforting peace comes from knowing God is in complete charge of when I leave this earth. I received the gift of the fearlessness of death. The next Monday newspaper had a write up on a man that drowned on the 11 point river that same weekend.
My third miracle happened in 1976, I was pregnant with out third child. Everything seemed to be going very well. I continued to not use alcohol but did continue to smoke cigarettes. It might have been the sign of the time or my denial or thinking the baby in my womb was protected from the mother’s behaviors. I didn’t think smoking would be too harmful because I wasn’t drinking alcohol. My daughters were three and four at this time. It was a beautiful summer day when I went into the hospital in labor. I was 12 weeks early and we were told our baby was too little to survive only weighing 2 pounds 7 ounces. When our son was delivered, he was so small that we could fit him in the palm of our hand and we could barely hear him crying. The specialist in premature babies said his first 24 hours were the most crucial. My husband, Jim, named him Seth, later to find out Seth was the brother of Cain and Abel; Seth is also responsible for the continuation of mankind (Genesis 5:3). Seth’s son was Enosh. Our Seth continued to cling to life with bouts of failing to breathe. Jim and I lived in Omaha, Nebraska at the time. We asked every person we talked to, to pray for Seth. We also had a deep discussion with the specialist, Dr. Phillip (1st name only). Dr. Phillip would tell us Seth’s outcome would depend on Seth, not prayers on God’s intervention. At four weeks old Seth was still under three pounds. The doctor said surgery would have to be done to repair a blood vessel. After that surgery, the situation was grim, Dr. Phillip had to put Seth on a respirator and the doctor said he looked like we would lose Seth during the night. Dr. Phillip would call us when he passed. He was on a respirator full of tubes coming out of this tiny little body. He had a tube coming out of his side from the surgery. He had two cut down IVs into his head and ankle. I decided to go the hospital to say goodbye to our son. Jim took our two little girls home. Standing over the intensive care incubator, I prayed this to our Lord, “God, I’m ready for you to take him. No more IV’s, cuts, or pokes on this tiny baby boy. Your will be done, not mine.” In the middle of the night, the phone rang with Dr. Phillip calling saying, “Okay, I’ll believe in your miracles now…”
“Seth pulled the respirator tubing out of his throat and he is breathing on his own.” From that point on, Seth never had any more bouts of not breathing. He simply grew and put on weight as any full-term baby does. Was the miracle Seth pulling the tubing out of his throat? Was the miracle Dr. Phillip admitted prayer works and miracles happen? Or was the miracle that when we took Seth home, I vowed to quit smoking? How could I continue smoking after God performed such a miracle saving out Seth? So many miracles surrounding our son. Seth now is a healthy policeman in Washington with his own family, wife, and three daughters. With this miracle, I received the gift of knowing God is in charge of all things and miracles do happen.
My fourth miracle happened in 2004. It was a regular Sunday night dinner at my daughter’s home. We had grilled pork steaks and I was helping my three-year-old granddaughter eat her dinner. It all happened so fast…don’t people say faster than the speed of light? Chloe started choking. I took her over to the kitchen sink and turned her upside down – hoping to have what was in her mouth fall out. By this time, my daughter and son-in-law, John, said to take her in on the living room floor so she could stretch out. Ami or I called 911. Ami, my daughter, went outside to flag down the rescue squad. I witnessed Chloe turning blue, more importantly, not breathing. You never forget the sequence of a crisis. So quickly did Chloe’s skin go from blue to white. The beautiful little girl was dying right before our eyes – and – we all knew it. My daughter was hysterical, running from the living room to the front yard to look for the first responders. Those coming would surely save out little girl, right? I got up, went to a bedroom – fell on my knees – screaming, “Please God…help us!” I went back into the living room. Chloe was pretty well gone. Her skin was all white. Ami ran into the front doorway and yelled to John, “John, breathe for her.” I believe 100% God told Ami to yell that direction to John. “Breathe for her.” He leaned over her, covering her tiny mouth and nose with his whole mouth. He blew a big gust of air into her, raising her chest upward. I witnessed her skin color dramatically going from white to pink; and yes, she started coughing. Later after the rescue squad had taken Chloe to the ER, they found no obstruction in her throat or upper stomach. Some people would say “You guys were just lucky.” I choose to believe God intervened. That afternoon we all were given the gift of an immediate miracle happening right before our eyes. Luke11:19 says “Ask and it shall be given to you Seek and you will find.”
Regarding question one were you raised in a Christian home? My parents would say we had a Christian home but now that I have raised my own children and now have grandchildren, I would say not. I never witnessed true kindness to others, never witnessed discussions on Jesus/God or reading the Bible….never witnessed an environment of positive talk to other family members or to each other. The unspoken rule was “do for yourself first.” Possibly that’s why I have a strong urge to share these miracles. It is my responsibility to identify God’s work in my life, big or small and then to thank him for these gifts.
By Sami Johnson
Grief... yuk! I hate the word grief. It implies a loss of
something precious and important. Grief comes in many
forms; death, divorce -- in which I’ve experienced both.
It also comes from the loss of a normal life -- parents who are not together and parents or a parent who didn’t really care if you were around or not. This was my situation.
I grew up in a very dysfunctional home, a single mom with a lot of problems who was not around a lot. But it was also a home full of love, because of my grandparents who raised me from birth. I longed for what my friends had, a real Mom and Dad and siblings. This broke my heart and sent me into having very low self-esteem. I felt different and not as good as my other friends who had what appeared to be a normal life. The song that haunts me even today is “Alone Again, Naturally.” It seemed I was always alone.
Circumstances beyond my control kept me from knowing my dad. I met him in person when I was about 12 but did not connect to his family at that time. Please understand that the circumstances that prevented me from knowing my dad are unclear and I certainly do not judge him for his absence in my life. I’m sure he had good reasons, because he was an amazing and talented man and great dad to my brothers and sisters. But the fact was that I knew for many years that I had four talented, beautiful siblings who I had never met.
Fast forward from childhood to my 30s and two years after David, my husband, died. I was talking to a good friend, Norma Jean, on the phone. She always kept me informed about how my dad was doing and she informed me this time that he was terminally ill. My dad passed away in July of 1992. I took some time off from the Presley Show in Branson, where I was employed, and went to his funeral in Atlanta. I signed the register but left no clue that I was his daughter. I would never have done that. Several months later, I got a phone call from my same friend who had informed me of my dad’s life happenings. Norma Jean told me that my stepmom, Jeanie, had seen a name on the guest registry that she didn’t recognize. She asked my friend if by chance that it was my dad’s daughter. Norma Jean said, “Yes, it is.” Jeanie asked Norma Jean to call me and set up a phone meeting between the two of us. That phone call changed my life.
Mandy and Colt - my children - and I were on the road to restoration of a family and to our brand new life! Jeanie and I talked on the phone for several months, exchanged pictures, stories, and everyday life happenings. Jeanie asked if I wanted to come to Atlanta to meet my siblings. That was a life changer for sure! In January of 1993, I went by myself to Atlanta to meet my family, the family that I had dreamed of my whole life.
My siblings are very musically talented people and that is also what I have done as my life career since I was a very young girl. After meeting my stepmom, Jeanie, my brother Bo, and my young nephew, Alan, at the airport, we went to Jeanie’s home. The family gathered throughout the day and by the end of the evening I had met all four of my siblings. Soon after everyone gathered my brother sat down at the piano and we began to sing three-part perfect harmony! Each one of them, along with their spouses and children, came to welcome me to the family. Glory to God!
My children, Mandy and Colt, and I went back a few weeks later so they could meet their new family. God absolutely restored my family through our Taylor family!
More than thirty years later, my children, their spouses, my grandchildren, my husband, and I are always part of family events (when possible) with the Taylors. They were so influential in the lives of my children; my brother filled a much needed role as a strong, Godly man in their lives, and my sisters helped restore their strong family confidence. We were part of a family -- my family. We love them, they love us, and in the words of Sisters Sledge, “We are family!”
Friends, this is not a dramatic fictional tale. It’s my story about how God has turned our mourning into dancing, our sorrow into joy. I’m not religious when I’m saying this. This is the real deal. God absolutely took away every bit of grief and gave us hope for the future, our family, tons of close friends, and a supernatural peace that has passed my greatest expectation! He is not prejudiced. He will also take away your grief. Your story may not be like mine, but he will restore you and in a way that will be beyond your expectation.
Not only did He give us a new family, but we still have our Straub family as well as my grandparents’ family. They always stood beside me in every situation. I’m so grateful to God for them as well.
Praying as you read this that you will begin to see the hand of God working in your life to give you a story of restoration.
See Sami's story: "Living in His Presence" on the loss of her husband.
IT REALLY IS QUITE SIMPLE
By Debbie Edge
I'm not sure why I'm writing this story, but I think God has something He wants me to share. Because of fear of what people would think, I haven't had the courage to tell my story. Maybe this blessing was not meant for just me.
I was raised by great parents and grandparents who were loving Christians and seemingly had it all together. Somehow I had the impression if u were a Christian, went to church, treated people kindly, and worked hard, that God would take care of you and life would be good, like the examples I had. It wasn't quite that simple.
I was in my 30s with two great little boys, a great husband, and a great career, when that marriage ended after 18 years. What kind of nightmare am I having? This isn't real and isn't how I planned my life. I really believed God would heal that marriage because that’s what He wants, right? I won't go into the details except to say somehow my parents, kids, friends, co-workers and God walked me through all of it.
I married again to a guy I thought I knew well, who would be great with kids, had a great career, and who was a Christian. How could it get any better than that? Once again I found myself in a difficult divorce. How did a Christian woman, who had a good background, end up divorced twice, and why would God or anyone else care? Again with the support of my parents, kids, friends, co-workers and God, we walked through it together.
It wasn't long after that I ran into David at my son’s ballgame. He was my superintendent 10 years earlier, when I was a Special Education Coordinator and teacher. He was the friend who encouraged me to go into administration, and recommended me for three jobs of which I spent most of my career. He was a friend and mentor who I eventually fell in love with and married. We had a blast, traveled a lot, went to many kid’s games, attended many Cardinal games, worked hard, and fell in love with James River Church. It was only a year and a half until we learned he had kidney cancer. My family stood firm that God could heal him. The last week David was here I remember praying that God would heal him or take him home. It took me a long time to realize that God did both!
I did like most people with that tragic loss; I threw myself into work, attempted to take care of my sons, and kept going to the church we loved. As they had before, my parents, sons, friends, co-workers and God helped walk me through it. What happened to that simple plan?
I think the point to this story is that God has a plan, not always to take away the burdens but to walk us through them, to carry us when we can't walk. It’s quite amazing that He loves us no matter how much we mess up.
It's probably rare that something so special happens to us that we can actually feel the hand of God. It wasn't long after losing David that I was in church singing praise music and I fell apart. I was attempting to sing praise songs with thousands of other people, and I just remember praying "I feel so alone." Then an amazing and startling thing happened. I felt His presence and in my heart I heard him answering, "You are not alone." What happened next I have trouble comprehending and explaining in words. God’s presence surrounded me, as an angel embraced me with his wings, like a blanket had been wrapped around me. It wasn't my imagination. It was a simple yet unimaginable hug. It was a gift. A gift that words can't explain. I remember being startled and looking to see who was around. It was real and it was a simple and miraculous hug.
Now eight years later, I'm sharing my story. I recently retired and that changed my world again! As I search for God's plan, I am beginning to understand that sharing this experience is part of his plan. I am deeply touched by the grief and pain that others are experiencing and I want you to trust that He does exist, and through the ups and downs He is always there, walking beside you, sometimes carrying you, and, yes, sometimes He even shows you He loves u with a hug! It really is quite simple!