85: Help Amidst the Storm

85: Help Amidst the Storm

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

Help Amidst the Storm

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

~Psalm 91:11-12

I was fifteen and so excited to take a friend with me on my family vacation. My parents had rented a camp on a lake in upstate New York, only an hour away from where we lived, but I knew it would be a great adventure. I was a dreamer and could always find magnificence in the smallest things. So the idea of spending a whole week on a lake in the woods made for great anticipation.

My parents packed up the car with luggage and groceries. My friend and I, and my brother and his friend hopped in the back seat and off we went. This was the first time we had ever taken a vacation like this, so everyone was looking forward to it. In less than an hour we were driving up a dirt road through the woods and on to our destination. The three-bedroom cottage with a large kitchen and living area was set in the midst of pine trees, picnic tables, and a boat dock.

With no other camps close by, it felt secluded. It was the perfect setting for a fun experience. We stayed up late and told stories around the campfire. We swam and barbecued lots of good food. My friend and I set out early in the mornings to walk and explore the area. We talked about our futures, clothes and boys, like most teenage girls. Every morning when we left for our walk, my mother would say, “Don’t get lost, girls. Your father will be making us all lunch at noon.”

One morning, the two of us took out the rowboat instead of taking a walk. It was an overcast and humid day. We leisurely rowed for about an hour toward the other side of the lake. Then we heard thunder. Within minutes, the dark skies opened up and bolts of lightning hit the water.

We knew we had to get off the lake, so we rowed back to shore. But then we had no idea where we were. We ran through the woods trying to find our camp. I was barefoot and the ground was rough with twigs, rocks, and pine needles. We had to yell to each other over the noise of the pouring rain and thunder. We didn’t see any other camps as we made our way through the dense trees. Everything was wet and loud and frightening. We were blazing our own path, dodging branches and shoots.

My feet were burning and I was well aware that being in the woods near a lake in the middle of a thunderstorm was the worst place to be. In my mind, I heard my mother’s words: “Don’t get lost, girls.” Yet here we were deep in the forest with no one around to help us. I silently prayed for assistance.

I knew that my family had to be frantic wondering where we were. My mother was a worrier and I knew she had probably called the authorities by now. I thought if we could just get to a road and out of the woods, we would be all right. But we couldn’t find the road. We just kept moving and hoping the storm would stop. I was never much of an athlete; breathing became more difficult, and my feet felt like they were shredded.

After about twenty minutes, the pain in my feet eased and I could breathe easier. It felt like I was being carried. I still saw lightning and felt the rain, but it got quiet for me. I lost all track of time and place and felt like I was shrouded in a protective embrace. I saw my friend running alongside me, but somehow I knew someone else was with me too — someone who knew the way back to camp, someone who knew I couldn’t run anymore. It wasn’t my strength or sense of direction that was taking me back to camp. I felt a guiding peace, and an assurance that we were going to be okay.

We never saw a road, or person to help us, but all of a sudden we were in the back yard of our camp. We emerged through a break in the trees as if we had been delivered and placed back into the safety of my family. My mother was clearly relieved to see us, and in fact had called the authorities to help locate us. She got us towels to dry off and sat us down on the sofa. The bottoms of my feet were blistered and bleeding, but I was safe, although a little shaken and mystified.

Something happened in those woods — something extraordinary. I knew I didn’t get back to camp safely by my own doing. Later that day, after we had gotten into dry clothes and had something to eat, I said to my friend, “I felt like someone was carrying me and guiding me back to the camp.” She looked at me in amazement and said, “I don’t understand it either. I wasn’t going to say anything, because it seemed so crazy, but I felt the same thing.”

The rest of the week was peaceful and beautiful. We all stayed close to the camp, cooking together, sharing stories, and laughing. It was one of my favorite vacations and still stands out in my mind today. I had been anticipating a great week away, but what I got was far more than a fun vacation — I got a helping hand from above.

~Marijo Herndon

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