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Hurricane Elena was developing in strength and intensity and was heading toward North Florida, our travel destination. We kept an eye on the weather report on the radio as we packed clothes and books in our suitcases. Outside the sun was shining and the sky was clear, a typically beautiful day in Yuma, Arizona, but my heart was sad and heavy. Living with an alcoholic and an abusive husband had brought great sorrow and turmoil into my life, much like the dark and menacing storm brewing on the other side of the continent.

I know that it's human nature to repress the painful, excruciating details of our lives, yet it is important to keep fresh in our minds the wonderful intervention of God in making the painful experiences less painful.

I remember a favorite quotation from a book entitled Steps to Christ: "Let us keep fresh in our memory all the tender mercies that God has shown us--the tears He has wiped away, the pains He has soothed, the anxieties removed, the fears dispelled, the wants supplied, the blessings bestowed,--thus strengthening ourselves for all that is before us through the remainder of our pilgrimage."

Because of abuse in the home and our constant presence at a home for battered women and children, my young son was temporarily placed in a foster home. To get him out, the state of Arizona required me to divorce Gary, his stepdad, and move away. We left Gary and rented an apartment until we could leave Arizona. At this point, I suspected Gary had left town to be with his parents.

"Mama, I hardly have any clothes to pack." I heard my son lamenting in his room. "I know because most of our things were at the house, and the church people came and put them in storage, remember?" "Yes, I remember now," he said sorting through his books trying to decide which to read on the plane. "When you're done, please help Grandma, okay?" "I sure will, Mama," came his reply.

Before we left Yuma, I checked the airlines to make sure the flight to Florida was not canceled because of the imminent storm. It wasn't, and I heaved a sigh of relief. We were on our way to Florida to stay with my sister Ruth and her family.

For this trip I made special arrangement for a wheelchair for my aged mother, who used a walker to get around. She had recently come to stay with us temporarily. So, between my Mother in the wheelchair and five large suitcases filled with books, this trip proved to be the hardest trip I have ever taken--physically, not to mention mentally and emotionally.

We stopped in Phoenix for a connecting flight to Denver. According to our itinerary, we would board Frontier airline in Denver to Florida. But now they were telling me in Phoenix that the Frontier flight to Florida was canceled because of the storm. What am I going to do now? I asked myself greatly troubled and frustrated. We didn't have extra money with us for motels, taxi cabs, tips, etc.

There were three options to consider: Go back to Yuma, go to Denver with the possibility of being stranded at the airport, or go to San Diego and stay with my brother until further arrangements could be made.

The decision was not easy to make, and there wasn't enough time to evaluate the options before the plane was to leave. If we went back to Yuma, there was no place for us to stay except maybe with one of the church members. But I didn't really want to do this. The church people had already done so much for us; I did not want to impose on them further. Going back to San Diego meant Gary would be close enough to harass us still. After contemplating these options, I decided the best thing to do was go on to Denver and then to Florida.

The flight from Phoenix to Denver was most distressing to me. I must have said a thousand prayers, but peace eluded me. I continued to allow questions, doubts, worries, and uncertainties to plague my mind and chase away the faith I had in my Heavenly Father--Where are we going to stay in Denver? We don't know a soul there. Maybe, we'll just sleep at the airport.  The thought of sleeping at the airport with strangers around frightened me.

I turned to my Mother, and she looked at me and smiled. "Don't worry, the Lord will work things out for good" she said. That's just like Mother, I thought. She had an abiding faith in God. But how frail she looked. The emotional stress she went through staying with us in Yuma had taken its toll on her. I could tell that this trip was wearing her out. I blamed myself for exposing her to grief, heartache and sorrow in the sunset years of her life.

And my son Michael? Poor little guy--what I put him through. I shall never forget the night I went to his room to tuck him in. I felt something hard as I sat on his bed. "Mike, why are you going to sleep with your shoes on?" I asked. "Oh, Mama, I just wanted to make sure I have my shoes on if we have to leave the house in a hurry."

I felt a dart pierce my heart, and a lump caught in my throat. Should Gary get mad about something and chase us out of the house, my son wanted to be prepared for flight.

Then there was the night he locked us out of the house in the dead of winter. "What are we going to do, Mama?" My son asked greatly worried and shivering from the cold. "We'll figure out a way, Son," I answered, "and don't you worry your little head."

Our pickup truck was parked in the driveway. "Look, Mike," I said pointing to the truck and trying to sound cheerful, "we'll sleep in the bed of the truck."

There was a plyboard in the carport that we hoisted to the top of the bed to protect us from the elements. Then, I remembered the clothes hanging on the line in the backyard. "Mike, let's get all the clothes and use them like blankets." I said. "Will they keep us warm enough, Mama?" he asked, deeply concerned. "Yes, Mike, they'll keep us nice and warm."

After saying a prayer for God's protection, we settled in for the night. "Good night, Mama. I think this is great. It's like camping out, isn't it, Mama?" "Goodnight, Son, yes, it's like camping out."

My son was making the best out of a bad situation. But, what a way to live! How could I ever forgive myself for putting my son through this. The guilt I felt consumed me. Oh, I was greatly troubled in mind and spirit as I waited for the plane to land in Denver.

The announcement to fasten seatbelts as we approached Denver interrupted my thoughts. I braced myself for the inevitable--that we might be stranded here in Denver with hardly any money on us. The thought was unsettling to me as I have never been in such a predicament before.

From a phone booth, I called my sister and whined. "Hey, the flight to Florida is canceled, and we're stuck here with no place to stay for the night." Without missing a beat she said, "I know someone in Denver--Mrs. Tidwell. Call her."

I knew Mrs. Tidwell, and hope sprang in my heart like a beautiful white lily protruding from a watered garden. "Give me her number, and I'll call her as soon as we hang up," I said, searching frantically for a piece of paper and pen from my purse. However, after a short pause, my sister glumly added: "I'm so sorry, I'd forgotten Mrs. Tidwell recently fell and broke her hip and is in a nursing home there." "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," I told her, but I was greatly disappointed, and the feeling of helplessness and despair I felt in the plane engulfed me all over again.

With a sigh I told my sister I'd keep her posted what we decided to do. I felt stressed out being forced to make a decision I didn't want to make. Should we go back to Yuma or go to San Diego? I didn't want to do either, but I knew I had to do something. I parked my Mother's wheelchair at the loading area for those going on the San Diego flight. I decided if all else failed, we would just go to San Diego and stay with my brother.

Then out of the blue came a young black gentleman. "May I help you?" he asked. "Yes, you may," I said, greatly relieved. I showed him our tickets and explained our predicament. He took our tickets and disappeared into the crowd.

There were wall-to-wall people and confusion about flights to Florida because of the storm. After a while I saw the man coming our way, and I sensed that he had good news for us for he had a smile on his face that stretched from ear to ear. He handed me our tickets on Delta Airlines going to Orlando, Florida.

A great burden rolled off my shoulders when I realized we would not be stranded, after all, in this beautiful but strange city. While Frontier Airlines canceled all flights to Florida, Delta didn't. They did not consider Hurricane Elena a threat to central Florida. The kind man took our heavy luggages and checked them in.

With this good news came one problem. "You don't have a lot of time to get to the gate. The plane will be leaving in a few minutes, and if you're going to make it, you'll need to run fast," the man warned us. "Wait a minute," I said, "I need to let my sister know that we're taking the plane to Orlando, not Jacksonville." The man was gracious enough to make the collect call himself. Then he turned to us and told us to hustle to the gate.

Michael and I hustled as we have never hustled before. We ran as fast as we could almost bumping into people and almost slipping at times. We were running like competitors desirous of winning Olympics gold metals. We ran through one corridor and about to enter another when I stopped dead in my tracks, out of breath. "Where's Mother?" I asked. In our haste to make it to the gate, we forgot my Mother back there in the San Diego loading area. "How could we forget Grandma, Mike?" I muttered, feeling ashamed that I had actually forgotten my poor Mother. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw something zoom by at top speed. It was the black man running with my Mother in the wheelchair! And would you believe it? We made it to the gate and to the waiting plane!

I think a lot about the black man who helped us at the airport in Denver. Had it not been for him, we would not have made it. I like to think of him as an angel whom the Lord sent to help us on that journey long ago--a trip that proved to be the most unforgettable trip ever! Even though that chapter of my life was stormy, dark and bleak, so much like Hurricane Elena, the Lord pierced the darkness with His comforting presence and whispered softly in my heart: No matter how dark and threatening a storm in your life may be, just trust Me; I'll be there to keep you safe 'til the storm passes by.

'Til the Storm Passes By

In the dark of the midnight
Have I oft hid my face,
While the storms howl above me,
And there's no hiding place.
'Mid the crash of the thunder,
Precious Lord, hear my cry,
"Keep me safe 'til the storm passes by."

'Til the storm passes over,
'Til the thunder sounds no more,
'Til the clouds roll forever from the sky.
Hold me fast, Let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe 'til the storm passes by.

Many times Satan whispered,
"There is no use to try,
For there's no end of sorrow,
There's no hope by and by."
But I know Thou art with me,
And tomorrow I'll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies.

'Til the storm passes over,
'Til the thunder sounds no more,
'Til the clouds roll forever from the sky.
Hold me fast, Let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe 'til the storm passes by.

When the long night has ended,
And the storms come no more,
Let me stand in Thy presence
On that bright, peaceful shore.
In that land where the tempest
Never comes, Lord, may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.

'Til the storm passes over,
'Til the thunder sounds no more,
'Til the clouds roll forever from the sky.
Hold me fast, Let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe 'til the storm passes by.

--Mosie Lister

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