It was instinct and adrenaline, a hopeful protector but futile shield:

“Close your eyes, Abby.”  

Impotent words, like the reflex a mama uses when brakes are slammed and her arm flings across the front seat of the car.

The big sister in the driver’s seat says it to the one born 18 months after her, before her brain has time to process their perilous and present reality.

She’s lost control of her car and it’s spinning spinning spinning and no one wants to see what happens next.

Before the car landed on the wrong side of the road, bruised in front, battered  in back and windshield shattered, I wonder if their young lives flashed behind squinched shut eyes.  Did angels embrace them?

I had hugged them goodbye 14 hours earlier.

* * * * * * *

It was rare gift–

a week-long visit with my sister, brother-in-law and two college-age nieces, something that has never happened before and will likely never happen again.  Nine of us sardined into our small German apartment, learning how to share a single shower, a solitary toilet…life.  It was crazy/wonderful.

My sister and I have almost always been close, bound more tightly due to the death of our mom before she had the chance to buy our first bra.  We needed each other though I suspect we didn’t realize it so much back then.

That’s why I’ve always delighted in my nieces’ interaction with one another–they’re about the same age difference as we were, and their friendship is as thick as the sister-blood running through their veins.  While my own daughter fiercely loves her two younger brothers, I’ve sometimes felt like I failed her by not providing a sister.

Living on top of one another for a week ~ and I do mean literally when driving short distances ~ we collectively dismissed convenience, privacy and loss of comfort; minuscule price to pay for my family investing a week with us in Germany.  My brother-in-law would call such inconveniences “first world problems” because, h e l l owe’re living in and they’re visiting EUROPE!

I’ve never before seen seven days fly by in such a hurry.

* * * * * * * *

The sisters…

my nieces…

their daughters…

make the nine-hour return flight home without incident.  

My sister and her husband planned a few more days exploring Italy on their own, a rare treat and an early celebration for their 26th wedding anniversary.  My husband and I joined them the first night.

Beneath the backdrop of verdant mountains whose peaks shyly hid behind clouds, my brother-in-law softly emptied his thoughts:  how fortunate we are to journey this grandeur, something our own parents never experienced before death.  He also admitted a little guilt of the parental variety, questioning their decision to stay longer but sending their daughters home.

Within hours the girls would have a tire blow out and be spinning out of control on I-985 just outside Atlanta, 30 minutes from home.

Thank you, Jesus, thank you, Jesusthey were the ones to tell us.
* * * * * *

There’s a happy ending to our story–miraculously no other cars were involved and my nieces weren’t injured.

A thousand “could’ves” and “what ifs” creep into our mind, and the only response is to dismiss them with praise and gratitude to the God who loves them more than we do.

But “what if” what “could’ve” happened, happened?  Would we still be praising and thanking God who loves them more than we do in the face of tragedy?

It’s a valid question, isn’t it?  Because life can be so hard….

As I consider our (in)courage community, I know many dear ones are facing challenges, and heartbreakingly, even tragedy; not every story has a happy ending or the one we’d choose.  Just remembering Sara reminds me when thousands longed for a different ending, and yet God deemed her worthy to tell that story.   Sara’s exquisite testimony continues to travel far and wide because she chose joy in the face of painful human tragedy.

When (not if) you face a time when your faith is tried, when you want to shake angry fists in the face of God, cling to Ancient Truth, our hope, our healing.  My eyes and heart are steeled towards God when I remember ~

His story is being told through my life; only in Christ’s presence am I am capable of rejoicing always despite circumstance, and that’s the story I so long to share.

His ways and thoughts are not like ours, and though it won’t always make sense from an earthly perspective, His is infinitely better. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Everything…everything…is beautiful in God’s time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Every circumstance in my life can be used for my good, God’s glory and the advance of the Gospel.  (Even the hard or horrible ones…especially the hard or horrible ones??)

Close calls provide opportunity to consider what I hope my response would be in a worst-case scenario, when the actual outcome is far better.  And when the circumstance is “worst-case,” I’m thankful for the truth of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:

No life experience is wasted ~ that is grace upon grace!  During the storms, God is refining, maturing and conforming us to the image of Christ; eventually, in turn, to be able to encourage and minister to others who find themselves in similar circumstances.

Do you have “close call” stories to share?  How has difficult life circumstances enabled or emboldened you to minister to others?  Or how has someone else’s experience been precious to you?

by Robin Dance, a seeker of Truth and beauty.

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  • http://www.arock4him.blogspot.com Amy Hunt

    SUCH important truth, Robin! And just what we need to reach for…moment by moment as we learn to trust and He strengthens our faith.

    For years I saw my parents’ divorce as a thorn in my side. I could just feel that God would use it, though it hurt terribly to live separated from my father. Through time, He did indeed use it…to show me His love for me and for me to be able to choose Love for my own parents, in spite of my disappointment over how they parented me. It’s amazing grace, truly. And I’m so grateful for this story. Again, only by His grace.

    • http://www.pensieve.me Robin Dance

      Amy,

      Isn’t it amazing how God can use time to balm and inform our perspective? And how He redeemed such a painful part of your life into something that gives Him glory? Unconditional love is beautiful but such a challenge. You’ve chosen well :), a true grace upon grace.

      (and THANK YOU for always being such an encourager!! Your words make a difference!)

      • http://www.arock4him.blogspot.com Amy Hunt

        YOUR words made a difference in my life today, friend. I appreciate you. :)

  • http://www.arearrangedlife.com Miriam @ a rearranged life

    Yes! The place where “the thorn pulls back the veil!” We live in that place!

    • http://www.pensieve.me Robin Dance

      Poetic, Miriam… :)

  • http://www.beautyoutofdust.wordpress.com Libby

    Wild. I was just working on a post for my blog on giving thanks in the hard things and was thinking about Sara. The things she shared online and her life’s choice to choose joy was one of many things that God used to grab my attention and change me radically. That was when our family was right in the middle of a job/ministry loss and total change of direction…more of a total feeling of lostness actually! And out of it, in it, I learned that God really doesn’t waste anything. He’s also not surprised like us about these situations. In fact, looking back I see his kindness in even allowing what He did for our family because it brought about a new understanding of things like freedom in Him, His love and strength, His Plan being truly beyond ours, His incredible grace that uniquely touches all our lives, and much more.
    I wouldn’t chose to experience those “close call” things again, but wow! I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned from those situations either! As Ann says, It’s all grace!

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance

      Oh…Libby…THAT gave me chills!

      The wilder thing is, I wrote this before today, and that you would be working on a similar post now…is just a cool God thing :).

      I really believe it’s during those sometimes awful, hard times that we’re most changed for the good. Conformed to Christ; it’s when we need him so desperately that we know apart from him, WHAT do we have?

      xo

  • http://www.kathycheek.com Kathy @ In Quiet Places

    I also have a close call Blow Out story, and knowing it could have ended differently, I just know to thank God for His sovereignty in protecting our daughters when their tire blew out, and I very recently posted that two part story.

    When we see God send those protecting and rescuing angels, it is humbling and we know it wasn’t their time yet, and when it goes the other way – we cling to His grace to take us through as only He can.

    I hope some of you will come over to In Quiet Places and read Blow Out Part 1and 2, there is more to the story than the blow out…

    http://www.kathycheek.com/2012/08/blow-out-part-one.html
    http://www.kathycheek.com/2012/08/blow-out-part-two-rest-of-story.html

  • Karen

    Robin, thank you for this beautiful post! Thanking God that your nieces lived to tell the story themselves.

    Just yesterday I went through a miscarriage at 10 weeks of pregnancy. I’m so sad and I don’t understand the “why” yet, but I know that God will redeem everything we go through on this earth. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

    • Anna

      I have had several miscarriages and they hurt, I also have two daughters now and God has provided a lot of healing through them. Allow yourself to be sad it is ok, also allow God to comfort you, he may never let you know the why, but simply call you to trust Him as your rock and saviour.
      Isaiah 40 v28 on (it was quoted on here recently )
      The Lord is the everlasting God,
      the Creator of the ends of the earth.
      He will not grow tired or weary,
      and his understanding no one can fathom.
      29 He gives strength to the weary
      and increases the power of the weak.
      30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
      and young men stumble and fall;
      31 but those who hope in the Lord
      will renew their strength.
      They will soar on wings like eagles;
      they will run and not grow weary,
      they will walk and not be faint.

  • Lisa

    I have been praying to God that I have hit rock bottom last week and it’s all going to be on the up and up from here on out. This coming October will be a year of a roller coaster of health issues I have been challenged with, from a bee sting that sent into anaphylactic shock and the difficulties that has caused my bodies adrenaline, then a surgery in Feb to remove a hardball sized ovarian cyst, the ovary and Fallopian tube along with a great deal of endometriosis , and this last great big almost tragic happening, didn’t feel good for a couple days and after labored breathing and severe back and chest pain I was admitted to the hospital for 5 days because of Pulmonary Embolisms. I am a woman of great faith and I am surrounded by a huge support team, which has kept me grateful for all that I am blessed with and the faith to see a full recovery. Your post today is something I needed, when people open up about their close calls and the trust they have in God and in purpose, it helps me cope, gets me through another day, telling myself ” do not be afraid”. Thank you for sharing :)

  • Beth Williams

    My close call was years ago. I was driving down a hill & the road took a sudden turn. Going slightly fast I overcorrected and the car turned on its side. The only problem I had was deviated septum & bloody nose. Did get a newer car out of it, but no damage to me.

    Why? I believe it was so that years later I would be available to help my dad when mom got sick–dementia & bed ridden. I was also blessed to meet my wonderful husband of almsot 9 years & we have shared many good times together.

    Blessed that your nieces lived to tell about the incident!

    God bless you and your familY!

  • Anna

    My friend has just lost his wife a few days after their wedding. I know God is in control but so struggling to see the good and the God in it. Praying that my memories and experiences of Gods love when my mum died may be of some use.

  • http://www.triciawit@blogspot.com Tricia

    I never dreamed I’d be helping other mother’s who lost children to cancer or mom’s who have lost children tragically….but I am doing it. God puts me in the places I need to be and gives me the ability to help those hurting. I still have days where I’m angry that I’m one of them. But I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that’s Jenna’s life has touched and impacted so many people. God had/has the perfect plan.

  • http://www.chasingblueskies.net Kristen Strong

    You are ridiculously smart, you know that?

    You know that I love you, too?

    You offer such perspective and hope here, friend. Thank you.

  • Gina Maserang

    I expereinced my worst-case scenario just 6 short weeks ago when my 15 year old stepson walked out the front door and down the street to the flea market just 4 blocks away. An hour later we recieved the phone call that forever changed our lives. Mitch was walking down the train tracks with his earbuds in his ear and never heard the train blowing its whistle.
    I became a Christian at a young age, but married a man who wasn’t raised in a Christian home and does not have a personal relationship with Jesus. This experience has been a wake-up call to both of us. God is using this to work in both of our lives in defferent ways. Please pray that we are open to his calling.

  • http://canaanboundbrigade.wordpress.com Kim B.

    Just yesterday I was at a red light with my 2 younger boys in the car. I was talking to my youngest in the back seat when the light turned green. My older son told me to go & I waited as I needed to hear my son’s answer. When I looked up to go a car sped through the red light at an alarming speed. We just sat there for a second knowing had I not paused, it would have hit us full speed. I told my boys God’s hands were protecting us at that very moment!

  • http://None Mary Ann

    i was traveling home on a heavily traveled highway when I hit a spot of something that caused the car to skid. All of a sudden the car was facing the cement barrier. I said, “Lord, I’m going to hit that cement.” Just as quickly the car spun further until it was facing the right direction on the road. Although there were cars in back of me, they must have slowed down because I was able just to keep on going. “Thank you, God, thank you!” I exclaimed over as I continued driving. One of my friends said one time that she thought sometimes it wasn’t just our guardian angel that rescued us from predicaments, but legions of angels. I felt then and other times that she was right.

  • maria

    Great article!!…so much truth packed in and so encouraging. Thanks for focusing my eyes back on to him!!

  • http://www.16ballsintheair.com lib

    today i am having a hard time believing that all my mothering flaws could ever be b e a u t i f u l… but i am incredibly grateful for the reminder which gives me hope that in HIM that’s possible
    wonderful post…
    blessings!