CHAPTER 1 – Copyright 2023 – Carla J. Wood
Praise You in This Storm
And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
Written by: Bernie Herms, John Mark, Mark Hall
Saturday, July 20, 2013
On a blistering hot summer day, I sat watching a detective show while waiting to pick up our youngest of four and only daughter, Bethany, from her new barista job. We planned to drive together to a late afternoon wedding in a little town near our home of Boise, Idaho. In the heat of our non-air-conditioned home, I decided to ignore my frazzled house and just relax. My husband of almost 30 years, Gary, had left home in the wee hours of the morning for his 12-hour day shift at the power company. Our eldest son Shawn and his wife Angela, who had recently moved in with us with their sweet baby, Josie, were enjoying a family day at home and catching up on laundry. Drew, our third son, waited for Shawn to take him to his afternoon shift at the sandwich shop. Our newly married second born, 23-year-old Taylor, was river surfing on the Boise River. His recent Maui honeymoon had inspired our always-adventurous son to find a way to surf landlocked Idaho. His wife Michelle was planning a celebratory dinner for Taylor and his friends after the river surf adventure. Earlier that week I’d cautioned him to wear a life jacket during this newest crazy adventure, but he’d assured me there was no need for worry. My life of parenting was a constant practice of trusting God with Taylor, who had been cliff diving and undertaken several other wild pursuits that would give any parent cause for alarm.
The anticipation of seeing Taylor and Michelle the following day floated in the forefront of my mind as I thought about attending another wedding, just about a week after our new couple returned from their honeymoon. I was excited and eager to hear about their trip, see their photos from Hawaii and receive the gifts they’d brought home for us.
Later, driving to pick Bethany up for this wedding of our children’s good friend, I reveled in the new memory of Taylor and Michelle’s wedding less than a month earlier. Many who attended the event noted that the wedding seemed “magical.” I labeled it a “holy-anointed-joy-filled evening”. It was the happiest day of my life! A strange statement to say in light of all the good things God had given to me, but never before had I felt such joy. At the time, I even remember thinking This must be what the joy in Heaven will be like.
When we arrived at our friend’s wedding location, Bethany and I roamed around the beautiful riverside setting, eager to see that radiant look on the bride that we had so recently seen on Michelle. Like Michelle, our friend had planned a lovely outdoor wedding. Looking around, I envied the owners of the wedding event center, which boasted two houses, ponds fed by the Boise River and landscaping that would compete well with any English country garden.
My friend, and high school principal of our school, came and sat by us. I had been the music teacher and worship leader for years at our Christian elementary campus, and I was waiting for approval from her and the superintendent to become the worship director for both campuses. With school starting in just three weeks, anxiety for me (a planner by nature) was rising, but patience in waiting on God’s perfect timing was something I had been learning.
But as we got caught up on our summer activities and news, the secondary principal surprised me by giving me the much-hoped-for news that I would indeed be worship director for both campuses. After six months of studying worship and thanksgiving at a deeper level, I was elated at the opportunity to take my new vision of worship and what I’d learned about God to the students at the secondary campus. I had taught most of them from kindergarten through grade school and cried every year when they left sixth grade – I was ecstatic to now be allowed to “grow up” with my older “graduates.” I would soon find out why my study of worship was so important in my life.
With my heart full of joy, we enjoyed a beautiful spirit-filled wedding ceremony. Afterward, Bethany went to get a cool drink, and I visited with the bride’s family. Her cousin Tom had just been killed in Afghanistan, an event that had shaken all of my children who attended school with him. Tom’s aunt was about to introduce me to his mother, when suddenly, out of the sea of happy faces, our eldest son, Shawn – who had not attended the wedding – appeared stiffly in front of me.
“Where’s Bethany?” he asked. I pointed to where she was, and he said, “Go over to that porch, Mom, and wait for us.”
I waited only a few seconds, but a whole novel of thoughts raced through my mind as something obviously was wrong. I knew it was probably Taylor. After all, hadn’t Gary and I had dreams about him drowning? But I had prayed he wouldn’t drown in Maui, and he didn’t even have a close call. Maybe I didn’t pray enough this week. But I did give him to God, so it can’t be that. Or maybe it was just a fire at the house, and no one was hurt. Or maybe someone was in an accident, but they would be okay, and we just needed to get the hospital and pray and see God glorified in their healing. Was it Gary? He had high blood pressure. But in my heart, I knew it was Taylor… because all his life, God had been preparing me to let him go.
Shawn found Bethany and they came together to the stairs of the old farmhouse where I was standing. Shaking, Shawn slowly explained to both of us.
“Mom, you need to sit down.” I sat obediently, knowing it wouldn’t matter if I was standing or sitting.
“There was an accident on the river and Taylor is gone.”
“Is he at the hospital? Is he on life support?”
“No, Mom, he drowned. A policeman is in the parking area ready to take us to the hospital.”
Bethany and I both cried out. “No! No!” In complete shock, we hugged each other. Almost immediately, I felt we had to go to be with Michelle, Gary, and the rest of our family.
But first, I needed people praying. I had to tell my principal friend why we were leaving. Running to her, it seemed I was in a nightmare. I couldn’t move fast enough, the reality was a foggy wave, then it slammed me again as my head throbbed.
“Kim! Taylor drowned and he’s dead!” There – I said it! It pierced my heart.
I don’t know what she said in response. She was in disbelief too. It was such a shocking thing to happen. Tom’s aunt saw me and asked what was wrong. I remember telling her that it was crazy, but that our son had just died. I apologized that we had to leave the wedding and left to cross the acre of garden between me and the parking lot. Holding hands with both Bethany and Shawn, I felt someone run up behind me and tap me on the back. Theresa – the mother who had just lost her son – hugged me, crying, and said she’d be praying for us.
Arriving in the dirt parking lot, we walked past my van. As you would expect, I wasn’t allowed to drive it because I was in shock. Standing next to the police SUV was an officer, who was also a respected parent and friend from our school. This first kiss from God in this tragedy – He sent a familiar face who understood our faith and our family. I sat in the front, Shawn and Bethany in the back. We headed to the hospital.
From my recent deep journey in worship and thanksgiving, I knew it was imperative that I pray and worship our Lord in that police car before anything else because I knew in His presence was the only place I would find peace.
“Father, we thank you for the strength you promised us. We thank you that Taylor trusted your Son as his Savior and is with you. Please be with us. Be with Michelle. Oh, Michelle! Carry us through this storm. Help us and be glorified as we trust you with Taylor.”
After that prayer, I knew this was where the rubber met the road; I had to make a clear decision to trust God and commit to basing all my responses on that defined truth. I drew a line in the sand with my soul and knew on which side I was standing.
Jesus, now is the time for me to decide if everything you have promised me, everything you taught me and everything I have taught others is what I really believe… Yes! I believe it and just like Job, I will praise you no matter what. I know you are in control; my son is in Heaven, and many will be saved and changed from this. I know now, from my birth, that you have prepared me for this moment. The enemy will not have victory in this! You will be glorified in this!
Many who have had near death experiences say their whole lives flashed before them as they remembered all the key events of their time on earth. Realizing that my son’s body was dead, in that moment in an SUV, my mind was fixed on God’s eternal love as my spirit experienced a confirming flash of all the promises and truths the Lord had planted in my heart since I had made him my best friend 46 years prior, almost to the day.