And The Light Shines Steadily On

Twisting my body behind the furniture to plug in the lights, I never saw the tabletop tree go over the edge; I just felt the cord go taut in my hand. The crash was louder than I’d expected. Small wonder: Joseph and the Magi were caught in the swath of destruction and dragged to their deaths. Kneeling amidst the carnage, I surveyed the damage. My heart sank as I fingered the words “Our First Christmas, 1982” from a precious silver ornament. Ironically, the lights I’d managed to plug in shone steadily on, oblivious to the broken glass.

Before today, this tiny tree had seen only one Christmas- a long time ago, the year our daughter died. Kevin and I knew we owed our son a real holiday, but the best we could manage was a tree from a box three feet high. It was a far cry from the trophies we had cut from the forest. Still, the colored lights cast a steady glow that got us through that first season.

Lighter spirits and better years slowly renewed our celebrations. Jesse grew up, went off to college, but always came home in December. Whether he was home for a day or a month, we dragged out all our holiday kitsch and decked the halls with abandon. This past year brought yet another transition as he married the love of his life. Turns out her family celebrates Christmas, too. So we’re back to just decking the coffee table, but the lights shine steadily on.

Change. When is it ever more noticeable than at Christmas? Decorations and traditions are hauled out of storage and set like a table: a feast of the familiar for hungry hearts. Regardless of life’s twists and turns, or perhaps because of them, we find comfort and joy in our holiday traditions. Mercifully, we tend to forget the hassles and hurts of Christmases past and cherish the memories of happier times. This is a good thing until circumstances alter the agenda. Please pass us the turkey and icky green jello, but hold off on the platter of change.

Ironically, Christmas is all about change.

An obscure Jewish teenager screamed her way through childbirth in the middle of nowhere and God came squalling into the night. In His short thirty-three years, from the first human cry to His final “It is finished”* Jesus Christ redirected the course of human destiny by taking our sins to the grave. The beloved carol Joy to the World** says it well:

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings known
Far as the curse is found

What we now herald as glad tidings caught almost everyone off-guard. Even the Jews, long awaiting the Messiah foretold through prophecy, were expecting a military leader who would deliver them from Roman rule. Instead they got Jesus: an itinerate rabbi of uncertain parentage who claimed to be Emmanuel, God With Us. His offer to lighten their loads and forgive their sins met with rejection, scorn, and finally, execution. Even change for the better can upset the status quo and irritate people who just want their icky green jello the way it’s always been.

The good news is that His light shines steadily on. Killing Him only fulfilled His destiny, and gave us the greatest gift of all time. No more are we powerless to let our sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest our ground. He came and made His blessings known in our lives, and beyond: far as the curse is found.

Kevin came home from work to find half a nativity scene and the remnants of the  “Our First Christmas” ornament in the trash. In unison, we sighed. We’ve seen loss before. Rather than replacing those who perished in the fall, we decided the scene is a lot like us- missing a few members, but faithful just the same. Together we’ll celebrate Christmas: the Light that shines steadily on.

© 2013 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at Friendship With Jesus

*John 19:30 NIV
** Joy To The World! Issac Watts/George F. Handel

Footprints in the Soot

Pyrocumulous clouds. I’d never even heard of them until now. In all my Colorado years I never dreamed I’d drive under an enormous column of fiery smoke, watching noon turn to twilight through eyes that watered in the heat. No one in their right minds would drive toward the fire but those who are called to save, or whose children lay in the path of danger, or a couple of in-laws-to-be like Kevin and me. We trusted the heroes battling the flames to keep this only road open; that their knowledge, hard work, and sacrifice would keep us safe.

To my relief the smoke thinned, the sun came back out, and we drove into the high mountain town of Creede. We will have new family here. Their Brooke and our Jesse are marrying in August, and we came to celebrate and get acquainted. The men took off to watch trees explode while we women threw a shower for Brooke. From their lovely garden amid flowers and lace, she opened presents against a backdrop of smoke billowing from fires to the south and west. These women are tough. They laughed when I asked them about shopping at the closest mall; the nearest city is just too far away. Summer here is about two hours long. They take care of each other, and the ones I’ve met trust God to take care of them.

As each shared a moment of marriage advice, I could almost smell the smoke of the fiery trials they’ve lived through. I was a stranger among them. But I know women; women of faith, who have watched as noon turned to twilight when darkness fell on their lives. They are like these women. They show up for each other no matter what. The smoke may be choking them while tears run from their eyes, but they gather and nurture and protect one another. Danger drops them to their knees where they storm the gates of Heaven on their sisters’ behalf. They’ve learned to trust the Hero. His children once lay in the path of danger, and only His sacrifice could make a way to safety. To paraphrase the great hymn: Because He lives, we can face tomorrow. Soot may cling to our skin and smoke to our hair, but we can walk through the flames by stepping in the footprints He left behind. He always leads us into the light.

Monday we drove out of Creede. The fire keeps growing and threatens the town. I am storming the gates of Heaven for a soaking Colorado rain, and for God’s hand of protection and provision to cover these people. I pray for this young couple, my son and daughter-to-be, who are so excited to walk the fiery pathways of marriage together. From where I can see there is no rain in the forecast and no exemption from the hardships life will bring. But I know my greatest triumphs left me covered in soot. I emerged from the fire by stepping into the footprints Jesus left behind. I trust the Hero who keeps me safe.

When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set your ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:2b-3a

©2013 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Glory On the Other Side of the Storm

In satellite images they seem almost solid, like you could hop down onto the swirl of clouds and bounce your way across the Caribbean. Astronauts’ photos capture the spirals of silver thunderheads cartwheeling against a deep blue sea. From the heaven side, hurricanes are magnificent: silent, beautiful, powerful. From the earth side, not so much.

As a kid in Miami, I found them exhausting. Battening down the hatches, riding out the storm, and living without power were just the beginning. For weeks afterward we’d work our tails off clearing the carnage. On the earth side of the storm it seemed all was broken: budgets and branches, houses and hearts. The grownups were grumpy and the yard was a mess.

But in South Florida, renewal springs eternal like a fungus you can’t get rid of. Drenching downpours and a scorching sun smother the land in humidity soup, ensuring Nature’s speedy recovery. Life goes on in a hurry. Survivors have precious little time to decide if they want to participate, as mold has already started growing in their closets. The sun will come out tomorrow, all right- but it will roast you in your recliner if you don’t patch the roof today.

So with sweat in their eyes they hammer and saw, repairing the damage and rebuilding their homes, all the while knowing that hurricane season comes every year. How do they do it? How do they keep their faith alive with wild winds ever on the horizon?

How do we?

Jesus told his disciples (and us, by John’s account) “In this life, you will have trouble.” (John 16:33 NIV) This does not sound like good news. But in the next breath he encourages us with these words:

“But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Like spirals of silver across the deep blue sea, Jesus sees our troubles from the Heaven side of eternity. Could it be that overcoming the world offers a view of our struggles as ongoing works of art: magnificent, beautiful, powerful? We know that our cries for help and mercy aren’t lost on the wings of the wind. Jesus remembers what it was like to live here on Earth, and he is ever interceding for us at the right hand of the Father. (Romans 8:34) But how does that help? What does renewal look like in the face of a broken heart?

Hurricanes drive us to Home Depot. Heartache should drive us to God’s Word. The apostle Paul knew more heartache than most of us will ever have to endure, but he had a promise from God that he shared with the church, and also with us:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)

The rain may drive in a sideways slant and the wind blow down your trees, but the temporary shelter we call hope is open ’til the day we go home to Heaven. So let’s grab the hammer and patch the roof; renewal is ours if we choose it. Glory is just on the other side of the storm.

© 2012 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at

Living Between Heaven and Earth

She seethed with all the rage an eleven-year-old could muster. I hadn’t even stopped the car completely when she jumped out of the front seat and glared at me through the window. Catherine was a force. Never had she been madder at me than she was at that moment, and she was making sure I knew it before she stomped off to her classroom.

I put the car in park and waded into the indignant fury radiating from my beloved daughter.

“Honey, I know you’re mad, and I’m sorry about that. But you and I never know when will be the last time we will see each other. I never want us to part on these terms. I love you.”

She was literally taken aback. Her head jerked upwards slightly in shock, and the body that had been quivering with rage slowed to a stop. She thought for a moment, then came over and hugged me. I’m sure she was still angry, but I was amazed that a kid her age would take that to heart. For the next three years, until the day she died, she seemed to live with the perspective born of that moment. Thank God, thank God. I had no idea I’d lose her so soon.

After her accident, I seethed with all the rage a forty-four-year-old could muster. I didn’t understand God’s perspective on my loss any more than Catherine understood why I made her go to summer school. I stomped and screamed and glared through the windows of Heaven, shaking my fist at the God who’d abandoned me. Had He not heard my prayers for her life? Didn’t He love me?

How could He do this to me?

Night after night, when I wanted to die, I instead searched the Bible for comfort. Words that had once only warmed my heart now pried open my eyes to eternity. So long ago, in an upper room, the man who was God faced an excruciating death. Rather than pleading with His friends for compassion, He gave them a hope: a hope they could cling to, a hope I could cling to, the hope that would save my sanity. He took me aback with this promise:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am. You know the way to the place I am going.” (John 14:1-4 NIV)

I wish I could say I responded to God as quickly as my child had come and hugged me. Rather, He suffered my rage and endured my fury until I collapsed at the foot of the Cross. From there He could lift me out of the pit. In the darkest of nights, when her accident haunted me, I learned to picture Jesus coming for Catherine in the high mountain meadow where she died. With her unbroken smile she’d be so happy to see Him! He’d hold out His hand, and she’d grin and accept, and together they’d fade from my sight. My daughter’s in Heaven, waiting for me. What a comfort! What a Savior. Thank you, Jesus.

…as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”– (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV)

©2012 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at

Hiking In Winter

Lugging our suitcases and weighed down by winter, Kevin and I high-tailed it out of the house a couple of weeks ago, down to the flatlands of Colorado Springs. Cabin fever had me by the throat, and I was itching to hike in the great outdoors. Surely warmer weather had come to our lower altitudes! Arriving late in the day, we hustled our bags into the room, drew back the drapes, and drew in our breath. Even for jaded mountain-dwellers, the view was spectacular. We had come to the Garden of the Gods.

Here, camels and castles of red sandstone rock rise sharply from the valley below. This desert-like fantasy stands directly in front of massive Pike’s Peak, her icy-white summit scraping open the sky. Her purple mountain’s majesty may have been covered with snow, but the park at her base offered hiking year-round. The next day called for breezy sunshine, highs in the forties, no forecast of snow. Obviously, a great day for a hike!

As I slept, I heard the wind rise. It started like a quiet hug, a welcoming embrace blowing down from the hills. By morning it was like an elephant on the loose, shaking the windows and buffeting the walls as it rampaged across the valley. But, we were here. The sun was out so we packed our bags and set off to walk among the red sandstone giants. I had forgotten what it’s like to hike in the winter.

It was cold. And dry. So dry my fingertips cracked and my lips shriveled into a couple of prunes. My hair whipped my face and grit coated the rest. We toughed it out for a couple of hours, bracing ourselves when gusts turned to gales. It didn’t take long to figure out why our fancy resort was practically giving rooms away. Everyone else was smart enough to know that March is still winter in Colorado, no matter what part of the state you are in. There’s just no rushing spring.

There’s just no rushing God, either.

The weeks and months and sometimes years I’ve waited for an answer to prayer can feel like the winter that never ends. One day, impatience sneaks up behind me. It grabs me by the throat, drags my backpack out of storage, and hands me a list of things to do. I gear up, watch the forecast, and strike out on my own. Going somewhere is better than going nowhere, right?

Probably not.

Waiting for spring is like waiting for God. They will both show up in their appointed time. Hiking in winter has its share of adventure, but there’s snow in the shadows and ice on the rocks. When the breezes blow warm and winter has passed, camels and castles of red sandstone rock will welcome us back to the great outdoors. God will call me outside and I’ll follow His lead. It is His garden, after all.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the LordPsalm 27:14 NIV

©2012 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at

Finding Our Way When the Boat Turned Over

Like a wounded white whale washed up on the beach, the Costa Concordia lies on her side. The pictures shock and frighten us. What’s worse- an incompetent captain running aground, or the realization that cruise ships really can sink? As a dedicated cruiser I never thought twice about putting my life in the captain’s hands. I took it for granted he knew what he was doing.

We’ve always departed from US ports, where the first order of business is the safety drill. The horn blasts, we cast off, and before the coast is out of sight we dutifully file into our assigned common areas. We grumble and groan as the crew straps us into our life jackets, until the crowd resembles a sea of heads afloat on an orange tide. “Remember your muster station,” the head strapper warns. “Come here in case of emergency.” I’ve sometimes wondered what it would really look like: passengers running in every direction, trying to remember where to go. In my wildest dreams I never envisioned the ship turning over, the lights going out, and the crew swimming ashore without me.

But now we’ve seen the pictures. The passengers must have been terrified: crawling uphill, blind in the dark, fighting the pull of gravity as the water rose around them. Photos show tiny figures rappelling across the belly of the beast, desperate to reach the lifeboats in the sea far below. Even in the movies it’s horrifying. I can’t imagine how they had the courage to try. But I have experienced the adrenaline-fueled panic of my own surreal disaster.

Last week we observed the anniversary of our daughter’s death, the result of a snowmobile accident. Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw in the Emergency Room. Blessedly, her spirit had gone on to Heaven before we saw her body. In my wildest nightmares I never imagined the worst could actually happen, but it did: our ship went down in a matter of minutes. In its place spun a vortex: a cold, silent tide, sucking the warmth from my hands and the blood from my heart. I breathed in the dirt from the ER carpet, lying on my side like the Costa Concordia.

“Expect the unexpected.” Insurance companies thrive on helping us prepare for emergencies. For peace of mind we gather under the umbrella of impending doom with like-minded others, sharing the cost to cover the poor slob with the rotten luck to die early. We are ready- just in case. As we set sail into the future we ignore the rocks under the surface as best we can.

“In this life, you will have trouble,”1 Jesus said to his disciples. Like the life jacket drill as we pull out of port, we are warned. On this night, the last night before his murder, he told his dearest friends what he really wanted them to remember. Likewise, he gives us a heads-up: once in a while we’re going to hit the rocks. This is not good news, but it’s no surprise to anyone who’s been around a while. What can be surprising is what he says next:

“But take heart! I have overcome the world.”2

What does that mean?

I will leave the literal interpretation to learned theologians, but I can tell you what it looked like to be a friend of Jesus the day our ship went down. On that day, and for weeks to come, we were surrounded (and fed, nurtured, and cared for) by our church family. We hurled our furious questions at God every day in the same place we always met him- in the Bible. God’s Word assured us we will see Catherine again; the same girl she was, only made perfect. We survived and eventually thrived because we knew what to do in an emergency. It wasn’t a matter of expecting the unexpected; it was a matter of accepting the invitation long before we hit the rocks.

Finding our way when the ship turned over was as simple as going to our muster station. Jesus drew the map on our hearts. The captain knows what He’s doing.

©2012 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at

1. John 16:33b NIV
2. Ibid.

Learning to Swim by Trusting the Lifeguard

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.– Psalm 32:8 NIV

Despite the miserable heat of Florida in July, a cold panic gripped my gut as I balanced over the deep end of the pool. Below me, golden sunlight danced in the depths. The undulating blue would have seemed inviting were it not for my terror of heights. Twelve feet of vertical air stood between me and my Intermediate Swimmer’s pin. Weeks of lessons and tests of endurance culminated in this one last obstacle: stepping off the high dive and into thin air.

In the summer of ’63 I was seven years old, a child of Miami with a perpetual tan. I never could stand the heat down there. No one had air conditioning in their houses back then, so we kids lived outdoors year-round. Watery dangers lurked everywhere. Sandwiched between the sea and the swamp, we lived on land coaxed out of the Everglades. A network of dangerous canals crisscrossed our neighborhoods to keep our houses from floating away. Learning to swim was not optional. That was fine with me ’til I faced the dreaded drop to the deep.

With kids lined up behind me, I turned and climbed back down the ladder. Shame burned my face as the panic subsided. One by one they leapt from the board, swam to the side, and collected their prize. Their moms met them and hugged them and pinned the awards to their suits. Finally all had jumped, and all had left, save for one patient mom, a petrified child, and the kindest lifeguard who ever lived: Robert.

To me, he was a grown man: tall, strong, unafraid. He was probably all of eighteen. No doubt working his way through his summer vacation, he had spent the morning administering tests with rigid Red Cross requirements. His lunch was waiting, the pool was just about to open to the public, and his job was to flunk me for refusing to leap off the board. Instead, he climbed the ladder with me. Standing together above the abyss, he held my hand and encouraged me to jump with him. He promised me two things: he wouldn’t make me, and he wouldn’t let anything happen to me.

We stood there a long, long time. He never threatened to leave me, or send me back to Advanced Beginners. He just waited.

Finally, we jumped. And I had been right- it was a long way to the water. Plunging deeply into the heart of the blue, the feeling of panic gave way to relief when I realized my hand was still firmly in his. We kicked our way skyward, came up to the surface, and swam to the side of the pool.

To this day, I remember feeling safe with him, trusting him, and the wave of gratitude that washed over my heart. Almost fifty years later I remember him vividly; I think because he was so like the Savior I eventually came to know. As I stand on the brink of a new year with its possibilities and pitfalls, I stand unafraid because Jesus holds my hand, my heart, and my life. Into the depths of 2012 we plunge!

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul– Deuteronomy 4:29 NIV

© 2012 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at

Christmas In My Brown Paper Castle

“How blind are men to Heaven’s gifts!” -Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, (39-65 AD) De Bello Civili Bk. V, 1. 528

Ripping through paper and tugging on ribbon, my kids were each about three years old when they discovered this basic truth about presents: sometimes the box seems better than the gift inside. For all my thoughtful choices of educational toys and books, their imaginations went wild when faced with cardboard possibilities. They could sail on the sea or fly to the stars! These humble remnants of sacred trees became space capsules and sailing ships, playhouses and forts, fire engines and jets. After a couple weeks of loving abuse the kids lost interest, the boxes collapsed, and I quietly folded them into the trash. The books and toys from Christmas morning looked a lot better in the light of the new year. Cardboard castles kept them happy for a while, but my kids needed more to grow into their lives.

Just before I had kids, soon after Kevin and I were married, I found out that God loved me. The gift changed my life, and certainly the way I viewed Christmas. Ribbons and wrappings of sentimentality tugged at my heartstrings every year as the holidays approached. Carols and bell-ringers and all manner of cheer brought me to tears, and I treasured the package of Christ’s love for me. So beautiful was the gift I took great care not to even tear the outer paper, just peeking inside to find His story. But like toddlers exploring their brown paper castles, I could only grow up as fast as I was able. Soon enough, the Lord would invite me to learn what was inside the box.

Decembers came and went, and my kids grew up and into their lives, until a January day when Catherine died. She was my firstborn, my only daughter, now alive only in memories of boxes and castles in our make-believe world. In a murderous rage I ripped the sentimental trappings of my love for Jesus from the plain brown cardboard, tearing open the box to see if there was anything worth keeping from this seemingly useless faith.

Without its brightly-colored paper, the box just seemed old and worn; humble remnants of a sacred tree holding only a story stained with blood. While the Biblical account of Christmas reads familiar and sweet, the life story of Christ is savage and sad. He was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3), giving all that He had for the children He loved. In the months, then the years following Catherine’s death, I read and raged and searched for comfort, for reason, for an explanation. Like toddlers exploring their brown paper castles, I could only grow up as fast as I was able. But in time, I found the box and the story it held to be my most treasured possession. The story held the answers, and Jesus held me.

Under the tree this year are brightly-colored gifts from Kevin and Jesse, and the Santa hat Catherine wore every year. God has graciously lent us an amazing son, and we are grateful beyond words for the privilege of having raised him. With all my heart I believe the promise of Heaven (John 14:1-4) and that Jesus is holding Catherine close to His heart, and I have finally grown out of my cardboard castle. It kept me happy for a while, but I needed to grow into my life with Him. And the ribbons and wrappings of sentimentality to celebrate the birth of our Savior? I’m always a sucker for a good Christmas story.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)

©2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at

Merry Christmas to All!

Thanks for the Pardon

They’ve probably arrived in Washington by now, sequestered from the media in a hush-hush location. Born and raised to be the rock stars of their generation, every detail of their lives has come together for this moment. Even their names have been kept secret. These two made the cut from the cream of the crop, but only one will carry on the proud tradition. Only one will strut into the Rose Garden. Only one will come face-to-face with the President.

The other serves as an alternate in case of disaster most fowl. Just for riding along and waiting in the wings (sorry!) he enjoys an all-expense-paid trip to DC. Oh, and his life is spared. He, too, is pardoned. While millions of their feathered friends make the ultimate sacrifice, these two birds grew fat enough and preened well enough to receive this year’s presidential pardon. Nice work if you can get it. A pardon is a gift beyond measure.

Kind indulgence or forgiveness of a serious offense? Both fall under the definition of pardon. Of course, the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey Celebration, a White House event since 1947, is little more than an American anecdote. Last year President Obama joked that this tradition is “one of the most important duties I carry out as President.” We Americans love to root for the underdog, until it’s time to eat him. Pardon schmardon, pass the drumsticks, please.

Compared to the God of the Universe, we’re probably not much smarter than turkeys; however, He made us in His own image. He gave us the ability to understand our need for a reprieve from the selfishness we are born with. Unlike one or two special birds, chosen from a flock and the rest be damned, each of us is loved by God with a passion that flows through His very heart. In the apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he says “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 NIV) The truth is that our pardon is no kind indulgence, no American anecdote, no warm, fuzzy feeling dressed up for the holidays. Our pardon is forgiveness for all our offenses; a ransom for the redemption of our souls through the blood of Jesus Christ. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Last year’s turkey duo, Apple and Cider, are living out their retirement at the historically preserved Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, former home of George Washington. This year’s winners will join them in gobbling around the Virginia countryside. Prior birds presided as Grand Marshals of the Disneyland Thanksgiving Parade. Again, nice work if you can get it. But we who have accepted the pardon granted by God Himself look forward to our everlasting home, safe in the arms of the One who loves us most. No special privilege required; just believe, ask, and receive. Nice work, done on our behalf. Indeed.

© 2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

For more information on the love of Jesus, please visit my website at

Waiting For the Sun to Come Out

When darkness veils His lovely face I rest on His unchanging grace…

Sometimes, when we least expect it, dark clouds roll in from the sea. Thunderheads form along the horizon and the rain sweeps ashore before lunch. We grab our stuff and run for cover, duck into the car, and watch the windows steam up.

Do we give up hope for a day at the beach, or wait for the sun to come out?

Sometimes in life, when we least expect it, troubles roll in on the wind. The forecast may have called for fair skies but the dark cloud of recession blew in, or our health gave out, or a child went astray. Fill in the blank with your own thunderhead. The question becomes: Do we give up hope, or wait for the sun to come out? And what shall we do while we wait?

Seven months have passed since my last rained-out beach day; at long last, I feel like the worst is over. At first I cowered in the car as lightning flashed and thunder roared. The windows fogged up, which was fine with me; I locked the doors and hid under my blanket. But when I finally had to decide whether to breathe or not to breathe, I rolled down the windows and let the tempest blow through. Unexpectedly, but just as He promised, God came in with the weather. He was all I could see at the height of the storm, but He brought all I needed to survive:

Some people to care for
His Word to sustain me
The love of my family
The support of my friends

Now that the downpour has slowed to a drizzle, I step out into air freshened by the rain. The wind is gentle, the sea calm. Down the coast, sunlight shines on a distant shore.

…In every high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil
On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand.*

© 2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at

*The Solid Rock/Composer William B. Bradbury, Author Edward Mote

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