Surely the Lord God does nothing
without revealing His purpose
to His servants the prophets.
A year and a half before I got that call that night, Hurricane Wilma blew through South Florida in October of 2005. I had a good view of what the storm was doing in my neighborhood through a sliding glass door that I left un-boarded. The wind was ripping through our backyard. Branches and and giant palm leaves swirled past the window, through our yard, then down the street. Trees were bent over, threatening to snap. As I watched, an Old Testament Bible verse flashed through my mind:
“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.”
A violent gust of wind suddenly rattled the glass door as I stood near it. I jumped, startled, and, I think I cussed.
The violent gust and the specific mental recall of the passage had an eerie effect on me. Spooky. The experience was a strange defining moment for me. The jolt reminded me of the power of God and that when God moves we won’t be ready and the sequence of events won’t unfold in a way we can control. No one has figured out how to control a hurricane.
I felt like God was using Hurricane Wilma to warn me about something; something foreboding. I know that sounds strange, but, that day, I was unusually attentive to spiritual nuance. I usually miss a lot of what I should experience with the five natural senses God gave me, but that day, there was an ultra-natural sensitivity to something I think God wanted me to know. Something foreboding.
The hurricane left much of South Florida without electricity for as long as two weeks for some households. Our neighborhood was one of the last ones to have electricity restored.
One night, while the electricity was still out, I was up by candlelight trying to read my Bible, pray, and wrap my brain around the hurricane experience. I had such a sense that my life was out of control. I felt, in that moment, that I was being shown that my life could be worse than I could imagine.
A week later, eighteen-year-old Charity called to tell us she was pregnant.
Children are on loan
Children are on loan to parents for such a short time. You teach them, preach at them and share all your stuff with them. You try to give them the best head start in life that you possibly can, and then you have to let them go. I’m not sure which is more challenging; the time you have them to yourself, or the time you don’t. You want to be very hands-on when they want your hands off! Kids have to make their way in the world just like you had to.
You discover, as your children start to spread their wings, they have their own ideas about how things should work in the world. How dare they! They start to tell you what they think. They quit asking you for permission and begin informing you about where they are going and what they are doing. They aren’t asking for direction or your thoughts. They’re asserting their opinions now. You begin to see that the children you raised are becoming unrecognizable in some ways and incredibly familiar in others.
These are the thoughts that went through my head as I listened to my wife’s side of a conversation on the phone with my pregnant daughter.
The young grandmother
Charity lived at home with us when Ali Rae Mondok was born. Susan was the best 39-year-old grandmother I knew. She loved having a baby in the house again after all these years. I loved it, too. I was constantly giddy but having an identity crisis at the same time. I knew someday I’d be a grandfather, but I wasn’t ready at 40 years old!
I’m an early riser so I took the first shift with Allie’s morning feedings while Charity and Susan grabbed a couple more hours of sleep before the day got busy for them. I fed her. I rocked her. I changed diapers and washed bottles. I loved every second of it.
It was hard work for us, though. We wanted to support Charity while she worked, continued school, and tried to have a bit of a social life. This wasn’t what we imagined we would be doing as we neared our empty nest years at a relatively young age. When our kids were younger, we worked for a short time in Africa as missionaries. We planned a future that looked more like that. Our new reality looked like we would need to provide a safe and nurturing place for our daughter and new granddaughter. This seemed like a logical expectation of the future so we began to adjust our lives to this reality.