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Friday, August 11, 2017


I watched with a wrinkle in my heart as I saw a woman in a wheelchair lifted aboard the "Crystal Dawn" set to depart for a sunset cruise from the Outer Banks. When her following decided to cram into the small bow of the boat where my husband and I sat nestled, I nearly panicked. The problem lay not with the woman or the wheelchair, but with the fear that my husband's mood would plummet when he saw her. The situation had the potential to bring up painful memories of his brother who suffered from severe cerebral palsy all his life and never learned to walk or talk. My husband sometimes has difficulty processing all the pain he sees around him, and wrestles with God about this very issue. I thought for sure this trip was already sunk.

I sat quietly for a while, observing the group and waiting to see what my husband's reaction would be, but he said nothing. The woman looked very pretty with nicely applied makeup, and short, brown hair. She was well dressed in a turquoise blouse and white slacks. The group was comprised of the woman's family and friends. They talked with the pretty brunette frequently and took care of her every need. Her husband even tried to lift her against the railing with the wheelchair propped behind her back, but she only lasted for a few minutes in that position. During that time, they made several references to the Titanic movie and laughed copiously. She nodded and smiled.

As the boat slowly made headway through the Roanoke Sound, the people began to chatter and started making introductions. I heard one of them say he was from Saugerties, a small town only 20 miles from where we live, so I struck up a conversation with him. Through this I discovered the woman in the wheelchair was his aunt from Kingston, New York, my husband's hometown! While no one knew the small village where we were living, she nodded in recognition. I wondered what God was up to.

At first my husband thought the ride a little boring, but as for me I couldn't keep my eyes off of the family's loving interactions with each other. They were talking and laughing, posing and snapping pictures, showing the woman in the wheelchair their I pad and in general having a great time. As the sun slowly began to set, the chatter and picture taking heightened. At first it seemed like it would be a washout of a sunset, nothing impressive because too many clouds blocked the sun. But as it continued to descend, the clouds opened up and the hot glowing ball of gas showed its true colors. The sun glowed brilliant, red orange like the most florescent color you've ever seen. Then it splashed crimson, red colors across the entire indigo sky.

As the boat shifted position, my husband decided to go to the back so we could see the sunset better. A few minutes later the woman and her family joined everyone else in the stern. This time her husband and daughter successfully lifted her out of the wheelchair against the railing and he embraced her. Someone ran over with the theme song for Titanic playing on their phone. Her husband continued to hug her as her hair tossed in the breeze. That's when it happened. The sun transformed the water into liquid gold and the heavens opened up. A holy hush descended and no one spoke a word. Only the sound of the boat splashing through the water and the flutter of angel's wings could be heard.

My husband and I stared transfixed. The colors deepened their shades and splashed gold and red across the waters. It turned out to be a spectacular sunset. Along the back railing, the grey haired husband stood embracing his wife while she clung to the railing. Love radiated from the back of the boat and everyone was enveloped in it. It pulsated from bow to stern as heaven opened its gates for a brief moment. All the sea danced with joy in celebration of love.

Tears poured from my husband's eyes and he turned to me. "The seventeen hour trip down here was worth it just to see this! I saw a picture of heaven tonight." I nodded my head in agreement, not wanting the moment to pass. I continued to take in the magnitude of the scene. I knew I had to say something to the man, so I waited for just the right moment. I walked over and whispered to the husband, " You have deeply touched my husband and I with your profound demonstration of true love." He turned around and smiled. " I've found that in life, you can't always choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you react to it." I was speechless. His words rang so true.

All of us face difficulties and challenges. Some face tragedies, cancer, loss of function, memory or loved ones. Through we can't control our circumstances, we can control our attitude and response. This man and his whole family showed amazing, unconditional love. As Christians we know the greatest example of spectacular love is Jesus Christ. He lay down his life willing for us, before we even knew or understood what His love did for us. He's always surprising us with gifts of His love and glimpses into heaven.  God also showed me how He can take any situation and turn it for good. Here I was worried about its potential negative on my husband and it turns out to be the highlight of his whole vacation. Not only did I see God's unconditional, unforgettable and spectacular love demonstrated to me, I also witnessed God's transforming power. He took a man, a woman, a wheelchair, and a sunset and etched it forever on my imperfect, wrinkled heart.

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