By Reba Phelps
The warm summer winds started to blow with a deeper purpose. The umbrellas were whipping around but they were too securely planted in the sand to blow away. The white-capped waves were growing larger as the sky was darkening. You could hear the unmistaken rumbles of thunder and even see beautiful lightning over the horizon. It was a beautiful scene but it also served as a warning that we would have to leave the beach soon.
A storm was brewing. We were not overly concerned because they are almost a daily occurrence on the white sand beaches of Florida. We thought it may pass over, but no such luck.
The bottom soon fell out and it left hundreds of beach-goers scrambling for shelter. Our family found a small place located under the rickety eaves of a beach snack shack. We were still slightly rained on but it offered enough protection.
Just as we were settling in and waiting for the storm to pass I noticed a mother pushing a wheel chair through the sand while her arms were loaded with beach bags. As if that wasn’t hard enough she also had kids with her. I was becoming anxious for them not knowing where they would go. In our tiny shelter there was literally no room left, even with everyone huddled tightly together.
I watched her huge smile as she struggled with the chair, the kids and the bags. It was a physical demand for her but you could tell she was full of joy and had done this a time or two.
Being the polite person that I was, I relocated my party into the rain to let the family enjoy our shelter, what little there was. After a few minutes of shuffling it seemed as though the space expanded where we could all fit. We were shoulder to shoulder and still half drenched but we made it work.
We gathered towels to cover our new friend’s husband in the chair and we began to get acquainted with each other.
We became fast friends and had an immediate connection that could only be ordained from above. She was a local who was enjoying a day at the beach with her family and meeting church family later for a baptism in the Gulf. As many times as I have visited the beach I have never witnessed a baptism, weddings yes, but not a holy dunking.
She shared their intense story about how her beloved husband became wheelchair bound.
She went on to say that he had not always been in a chair and with God’s help he would not be there forever. My new friend was very candid about the fact that the accident was caused after a night of reckless partying. She was very aware that she could have lost her husband that night but God had other plans.
Not once in our conversation did she talk about herself. I always put myself in someone’s situation and wonder how I would respond. This would more than likely be a permanent pity party situation for me. But, she just talked about how good God was to her family and has seen them through so much. She was excited about their future and knew they had an awesome testimony that would eventually help others one day.
She also knew she was still living their testimony and God wasn’t done yet.
We became friends on Facebook before we parted ways as the storm began to pass. I have been able to follow her family’s journey and ministry. Her husband is no longer completely bound to his chair. He can walk with the assistance of a cane. Watching the video of him walking felt like I was watching one of my own family members. It was so special.
There were so many lessons learned on this day. My new friend was living what most people would call a nightmare but she never complained and only spoke in a positive nature. Here was this lady with infectious joy that was so sincere. You would never know she was the main caregiver for a handicapped husband and young children. She was active in her church. She worked a full-time job too. Last, but not least, she was not a complainer and chose to find the positives in her storms.
What started out as an unpredictable stormy and gloomy day at the beach ended with much light and families being baptized in Gulf at sunset. God will shelter you from the storms of life and if you keep your eyes and your heart open you may meet some really amazing people while you are being sheltered.
“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge, in the shadow your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” – Psalm 57:1