Heaven Help Us
By Corrie Lynne Player
I named my column “Heaven Help Us” because I wanted to remember, with a bit of whimsy, just where the focus of my life should be.
Like you, I’ve endured my share of problems, some of which I definitely didn’t want or even resented. During this Christmas season, I’d like to share an experience from many years ago which taught me a wonderful lesson.
“Mom, maybe we need a little prayer.” Six year old Sherri stared at her younger brothers, Gary Willis and Roch, who tangled in a puddle of red Jell-O. Eight month old Linda howled from the playpen, and my toddler, Eric, shredded a loaf of bread. Dolly, 10, had dropped a can of formula on her foot and quietly sobbed while she rubbed ice on her toes.
Today, when I begin to feel overwhelmed by demands, I remember that dark winter night in Anchorage, Alaska and how little Sherri put everything into perspective.
A series of events had combined to make me feel like running away. Gary worked on the North Slope (We lived in Anchorage, Alaska), the thermometer on my porch hadn’t read above zero for three weeks, and the sun rose about 9:30 am, skimmed the horizon and set at 2:30 pm. Temperatures and darkness wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been forced to go out in them with a bunch of little kids.
I taught Bible study in the afternoons, a 20 minute drive over rutted dirt roads from my house. And I drove eight children besides my own.
On the way home from class, all 14 kids dripped with snotty colds and either whined for supper or coughed. I usually dropped two of the children at the bottom of their .5 mile driveway, but their coughs prompted me to deposit them closer to their house.
Slipping and lurching in low gear, my van bounced about 100 feet. Suddenly we skidded into a ditch and buried the van to its fenders, then the motor stalled.
After wrapping everybody up in blankets, I trudged almost a mile to the nearest phone. Luckily, a good friend answered my call and winched me out with his 4X4. He towed me all the way to the main road, before the engine caught. I delivered the rest of the kids and finally got home about 9 p.m.
My four youngest cried non-stop from the point where the van slid into the ditch until I carried them, one at a time, up our stairs.
Fixing a bottle for Linda, Dolly dropped the can of formula on her foot. Sherri bustled to set the table, but lost her grip just as she lifted the Jell-O from the refrigerator. The bowl shattered and splashed red goop across the floor. Roch, 3, ran for a dishrag and cut his stockinged foot on a bit of glass. Gary Willis, 4, tried to hug his wailing brother, slipped and landed in the middle of the Jell-O puddle.
Just as my last shred of self-control faded away, Sherri said, “Mom, maybe we need a little prayer.”
The five of us knelt in that sticky kitchen and prayed. I don’t remember the exact words but I remember the warmth, like a cloak that settled over my shoulders, and I felt the knot in my stomach loosen.
I peeked at Sherri; her arms were folded across the gelatinous mess on the front of her dress. Dolly peeked back at me; she cuddled Gary Willis against her shoulder, and her hands stuck to his shirt.
My girls and I got the giggles, then Dolly put her brothers in the tub and Sherri helped me clear the glass and mop the floor. By 10:30 p.m. everyone was clean, full of scrambled eggs and asleep.
My reactions to the broken glass and sobbing, hungry children could have been to quit teaching and avoid such dark night disasters altogether. I could have screamed at my kids, releasing my frustration. I could even have decided motherhood, Alaskan winters, and me were not a fit combination and left for a new identity in Florida.
Sherri’s “Maybe we need a little prayer” helped me act in a way consistent with my faith and eternal goals. Today, I can laugh and remember the events of that dark, cold night as part of my growth.
Everything went wrong—even though I tried to do what was right. I was serving in Church, helping my neighbor, providing for my children and still everything went wrong.
Life is like that. We do our best and nothing happens the way we want it to. Friends prove unfaithful, children make wrong choices and a collapsing economy dumps us into poverty.
Our reactions to the tragedies and comedies of our lives decide the kind of people we will ultimately become. When we keep our sights fixed on eternal goals, then spilled Jell-O, broken glass or cut feet are hurdles to climb and not barriers to spiritual and personal development. When we meet our challenges and lean on the strength of our individual faiths, no circumstance can defeat us or deprive us of everlasting joy.