[ Miracles ]

Wrapped in Fatherly Embraces

My father died of a brain aneurysm when I was twelve. In 1979, as Hurricane Frederick approached the Gulf Coast, my father was in the ICU at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, Miss. As this massive storm approached, it was clear that my daddy wasn't going to be there to protect me for the first time in my life.

Fast-forward twenty-five years to 2004's deadly Hurricane Ivan.

Our home literally rests less than 100 yards from Mobile Bay - exactly where the storm was predicted to come ashore. As the storm moved closer and the day wore on, we found ourselves finding more and more to do to secure our property. My husband and I debated whether or not we should stay or flee. But it wasn't long before our escape routes were jammed or all together cut off. It looked like we were staying whether we wanted to or not.

I prayed. We all know God works in mysterious ways and rarely just bursts out answers. So I found myself "talking" to my deceased father who had died in 1981. "Daddy, God doesn't answer in Yes or No, so I am going to toss this coin into the air. Heads, everything is going to be fine; tails, I'll call EMA and get lifted out by helicopter if need be. I have faith in you and Father, and I trust that you will lead me through this."

I tossed the coin into the air. It landed on heads.

So much for resolve. I began to argue with myself,"It is a coin toss. You can't rest the safety of your family on a coin toss! For crying out loud, God isn't going to send you a message in a coin toss. You've lost your mind." But for some reason, I was at peace.

Hours later, as the winds grew and the storm moved closer, I became frightened. When the power went out, I thought we were fully prepared, as I had bought new batteries to go in the new weather radios. I popped the new batteries into the radios – and nothing happened.

I changed the batteries, checked the connection. Nothing.

My husband, Stephen, asked our youngest to get the batteries from his walkie-talkies - batteries we knew to work and that were also new. He plugged those batteries into the radios. Still nothing.

Two new sets of 9V batteries, in two brand new radios that I had checked for operation prior to the storm. Why in Jesus' name did they not work? I was beginning to get concerned when Stephen remembered that the radio we had on 24/7 in our shop also operated on batteries. In the howling wind and driving rain, he ran to retrieve it.

He installed the brand new package of C sized batteries and turned the radio on. Nothing. He checked the connection, and insured that the batteries worked. Nothing.

Stephen asked me, "Do we have another radio?"

I said, "No, only that radio of daddy's. Honey, that thing will never work." The radio was my father’s when he was a teenager. It was one of the only things I still possessed that had belonged to him. It was so antiquated, you had to flip this little switch from AC current to DC current. It doesn't just have AM and FM, but also frequencies listed as WB and SW. The radio would have to be more than fifty years old now.

I was beginning to seriously doubt our decision to stay. I felt I was jeopardizing our children. Still, Stephen grabbed the radio from its shelf in the shop. Crusted with dirt, dust and years of grime, there was no way it was going to work. Stephen unsnapped the back and installed the C batteries. He flipped the radio over, and turned the knob.

The radio blared to life.

There have been many times I my life that I have asked God to look out for my children and me. And there are times I feel such anger because I feel God just isn't listening to me. Yet, God always brings us through whatever it is I believe to be "the end". And when Hurricane Ivan roared on shore September 16th, I firmly believe God and my beloved daddy showed me that everything would be all right – I just had to trust in Him. In 1979, my father was unable to be there. In 2004, I think he was looking over God's shoulder when He wrapped his protective arms around my family and me.

As we emerged from the storm on Thursday we noticed that every single neighbor in our neighborhood had some kind of damage - leaves, limbs, shingles, roof, brick walls knocked over... something. We had no damage, not even a single limb down. Our home and yard were completely unscathed. It was nothing short of a miracle and yet the miracle is threefold.

My brother lives four blocks off the beach in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, near where the hurricane made landfall. As he returned home after the storm, he traveled his street to find every house on his street damaged or destroyed. As he approached his own home – nothing. His was the only home on the street with no damage whatsoever.

Our oldest son, who had opted to stay with his father in Baldwin County, Alabama, had a tornado pass literally in front of his house. The tornado took out pecan trees, dropped trees on his uncle's house and tore apart fences and porches. Baldwin County was one of the hardest hit areas in the state, and yet, as my child emerged from his second home – nothing. No damage at all.

How is that for coincidence? Or was it coincidence at all? Perhaps, as I like to think, my Fathers, both of them, protected us. Now, please, don't take this as I think my family was protected as others suffered. I don't, and I feel blessed to have been spared the brunt of this terrible disaster when so many of my friends and neighbors have lost so much. But I just have to believe that living in this fifty-plus-year-old house, 100 yards from the bay, surrounded by a forest of trees, that it was only by God's grace we were spared. I am eternally grateful.

Starrlene C.

Mobile, AL