Grace in the storm

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Grace Notes

I’ve started this column at least a dozen times today, and there are a dozen wadded up pieces of paper in my trash can.
How do I even begin to put into words the events of this past week? My heart overflows with awe and gratitude -- and shame that I had doubted the love and kindness of God my Father.
So, I guess I’ll begin with my confession: In the days leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Irma on Sunday, even though God said, “Fear not,” I feared.
The weather experts all said the Category 5 storm would pretty much level Florida, and I believed them.
I only sort of believed God.
On Thursday, just days before what I feared would be my last day on earth, I called my sister in California, crying.
She said, “Didn’t you recently write about Jesus being in control of storms and that God would keep you calm even in a hurricane? Don’t you read what you write?”
She let me cry and then told me I would be OK -- no matter what.
I remembered the words to one of my favorite hymns, “In Christ Alone” -- “From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.”
I believe that, but I was still afraid.
Note: I am not afraid of death itself, but I am afraid that I’ll be afraid as I die, if that makes sense.
My husband told me, “All these years you’ve said you believe in God, but you really don’t. If you did, you would trust him -- Psalm 91!” (That’s his favorite scripture passage.)
Once a man came to Jesus, asking him to heal his son who was possessed by a demon. In desperation, the man said, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
Jesus replied, “If I can?”
Every-thing is possible for him who believes.”
Then the dad said the very words I say much too often: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Next, Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy -- and it did. (Mark 9:14-27)
Just like when Jesus commanded a violent storm to be still and it was.
Jesus commands our destiny.
My sister said she would bring out the big guns -- the prayers of her granddaughters, my great-nieces -- Leah, Emma and 2-year-old Lily.
My niece Jennifer sent me videos of them praying for their “Tee Tee Nancy,” asking God to help me not be afraid and to send the hurricane away.
Leah, 6, also sent me a personal message: “Hi Tee Tee Nancy. Please don’t be scared ‘cause God is always with you. I love you.”
Leah has huge faith in God, and she believes that he answers her prayers.
On Sunday morning, I watched two local church services that were recorded on Facebook on Saturday night, led by two of my favorite local pastors. Hearing their words of encouragement and their unwavering faith that God would be faithful to his people buoyed my faith and started to calm my fears.
Also Sunday morning, my pastor sent out an email: «Today is the Lord›s Day...Every Lord›s Day is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, his conquering not only of our great enemy, death, but ultimately all the brokenness of our world.
“So as the winds howl tonight, cling to (Jesus) our victor. When you are afraid, sing, ‘Be still my soul, the waves and wind still know, his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.’”
He ended his email: “So church family, Jesus has you and he won’t lose his grip! I can’t wait until we are together again to share our Irma stories. I am praying for you.”
On Sunday night we lost power to our house, but never lost the power of God to still even the most fearful of hearts.
I went to bed in my ‘hurricane closet’ and slept soundly as the wind howled outside. I did not know which side of heaven I would awake, and yet I was at peace. It was well with my soul.
Then came morning and the news of a miracle spreading on social media: The monster storm had been tamed by the One who created the very wind and rain it contained.
The weather experts were perplexed, but not the people of God.
So, on Monday, I got up, took a shower, put on my makeup by the light of a lantern, ate Oreos for breakfast, painted my toenails and cried for joy that once again God had proved himself faithful and merciful to me.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927  or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.