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A year ago, a friend asked me to speak at a Ladies’ Banquet at her church. I enjoy encouraging others with my story, so I readily agreed. She asked me to pick whatever weekend I wanted to in May. I went over my calendar, Let’s see . . . not my granddaughter’s first birthday weekend, not Memorial Day . . . I settled on May 20.

The week of the banquet, I sat down to write out my thoughts. This blog I wrote 2 years ago,

https://southernfriedencouragement.com/2015/05/29/but-if-not-is-he-still-good/

is always the main theme when I speak. I tell my story of sinking into the deepest pit, scared of losing everything, having my worst fears realized, and questioning God’s goodness, only to find out no matter what my circumstances, He is yet still good.

As I prepared, I thought of how I made it out of that pit over the past 10 years. I found a way to still make a home for my children, I was given the most amazing man in the world to walk by my side and his two children to love, my beautiful daughters married wonderful men, and the light of my world, my granddaughter Kinley was born. BUT, and it’s always scary to know a BUT is to follow — I knew in my spirit that God was preparing me. Sooner or later, a valley would come again, and when (not IF) it does, I needed to remember He is still good.

May 19, the night before the banquet, my husband Todd and I went to dinner with our dear friends, Van and Susie, like we do most Friday nights. After dinner, we stopped in at Van’s sister Diane’s house. Coming out of her neighborhood, in a split second, life as we know it stopped. We were t-boned over a blind hill, totaling both our vehicles and knocking us into a third.

If I live to be 100, I think I’ll remember every second of that night in slow motion — the sound of metal on metal, my head whip sideways and my body slam against the seatbelt. The gut wrenching fear that gripped both me and Todd as our car spun to a stop and we turned around to see Van and Susie slumped over in the back seat. The panic as I screamed at the 911 operator to send an ambulance. The anguish as I watched those ambulances rush away with sirens blaring and lights flashing. It’s the stuff PTSD is made of . . . .

However, in the middle of the road, surrounded by broken metal, first responders, neighbors who came to watch, and re-routed traffic, I cried out to the Lord, the only place I knew to go.

God please help Van and Susie!! Please let them be okay! Help us!! Why did this happen?!!? Why couldn’t we have stayed at Diane’s 5 more minutes? Why did that car have to come over the hill? Why didn’t You stop this, God?! You could have!!

Very quickly a hush came over my soul. I physically felt peace replace fear. The Lord spoke to my anxious spirit and quietly said,

I allowed this so I could bless Van and Susie.

I began to pray out loud — and everyone at the wreck scene probably thought I was nuts. (They weren’t the first, and they won’t be the last!)

Yes, Lord! Bless Van and Susie! Let them be healthier, happier, more prosperous, more joyful than they’ve ever been before!!

And as I prayed, I heard Him say,

I’m gathering an army.

Todd and I left the scene of the accident 3 hours later and headed to the hospital to find Van in critical condition with a traumatic brain injury. Susie’s neck was in bad shape. I felt fear start to rear it’s ugly head, and several times since then, but every time I’ve reminded myself that God said He was blessing them. I knew they’d recover, and I knew they’d recover faster and more miraculously than the doctors thought possible.

The next night was the Ladies’ Banquet. Surely they’d understand if I bowed out. Van was still in critical condition and was in a medically induced coma. Susie was in terrible pain with her neck injury and cracked ribs, both in ICU. Todd couldn’t raise his right arm. I was bruised down my entire left side and had slept maybe 45 minutes. How could I speak at this thing?!

But wait . . . hadn’t God known what would happen the night before I was to speak? Hadn’t I been the one to pick the date? I knew it . . . I knew God wanted me to encourage those ladies with my story, and I knew He wanted me to share how He had prepared me that very week that a valley was coming. He wanted those ladies to pray for Van and Susie and be part of the army He was gathering. Over 100 ladies prayed for them that night, asking that Van would come out of his critical state.

When I got back to the hospital afterwards, right about the time we had prayed together, Todd told me Van had given a thumb’s up and wiggled his toes on command! Those ladies were among the first foot soldiers to be recruited in the army. Since then, God’s continued to gather even more.

Van spent four weeks in the hospital, nearly 3 of those in intensive care. Susie had emergency neck surgery. They’re both home and recovering. Susie is cleared to go back to work August 1, and we’re still not sure how long Van will be out. But the army God gathered has been faithful to follow orders. They continue to visit them, send cards and flowers, provide meals and financial support while they are both out of work . . . and they have prayed.

Yesterday Susie texted me and said, “Sometimes the army is overwhelming.” She meant she can’t believe all they ways God is continuing to use people to bless them. I said, “The army is just following orders. God sure does love you.” She cries every time someone does something for them, and yep, she surely feels God’s love.

I’ve never been so thankful for Romans 8:28 in my life,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

The valley isn’t over, and it won’t be until Van and Susie are back to full health. Their doctors are amazed at how well they’re doing. Van’s doctor expected him to be in a wheelchair, and Susie’s thought she would be at least using a walker. They’ve shocked the medical community with their progress!

Van and Susie are not only our dinner buddies, they’re our travel buddies. Here we are in Mexico last fall, and we believe we’ll be back at it again soon!


For now, I’m still having trouble sleeping (that dang PTSD thing), Todd’s shoulder still hurts, we’re wading through mountains of insurance claims, sorting out medical bills, getting another vehicle and trying not to be scared to go anywhere. I’ve never been so aware of how people’s lives are changed in an instant when tragedy strikes.

But this valley was different than all the others I’ve been through. This time I don’t question where God was when the storm hit. He was in the middle of Friendly Avenue, calming my spirit in the midst of chaos. He was there in the dark nights where Todd cried and prayed over Van in his ICU room, and I cried and prayed over Susie in hers. He was there when we all gathered to pray and we didn’t know if Van could hear us until he squeezed Todd’s hand to let us know he did.

God was there. He was gathering an army. And in your deepest need, He will gather one for you too. There’s plenty of room for more to enlist.

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