From time to time I will share with you overwhelming situation or season in my life and not only how I survived but gained a blessing from the chaos as well. This month is the 21st anniversary of a life changing car accident in my family. Honestly I am really shocked that it was such a long time ago since the memories are still so strong. But I think we measure time differently when it comes to those life altering events.
I was a senior and a few months away from graduating high school. I was driving home from our church’s youth winer retereat with my brother and sister in the family’s jeep. All three of us sat in the front row while all of our gear was in the back seat. I was tired and my mind was elsewhere while driving on country roads back to our house.
It just took a few seconds of distractedness and the jeep veered into the icy shoulder and then the snowy right ditch. Being a new driver I overcorrected and ended up driving into the left ditch, rolled the jeep several times and crashed into a utility pole. Finally the jeep was upside down and the roof was crushed to the same height as the dashboard. The utility pole actually broke through the front of the car.
I can still remember the feeling of weightlessness and holding onto the steering wheel as we flipped and the screams of my brother and sister. Feelings of absolute shock and horror flooded me as the vehicle slowed to a halt.
After the vehicle stopped moving I tried to get myself free from my seatbelt and airbag. Hearing my brother and sister screaming in pain was an energizing bolt. I got free of my seatbelt and after several attempts kicked opened my crunched door by God’s grace.
Now this is where God’s hand can be seen in so many details of this awful crash. We crashed in the country and there are not a lot of houses on the road home. And back then . . . . no cell phones.
There was a house a few hundred feet away and the owner “happened” to be home and came out. I asked her to call 911.
My health education teacher “happened” to be driving by and saw the accident. He broke in the back window and began pulling out our gear so the rescue crews could get better access to my brother and sister.
Then a state trooper “happened” to drive on this rural country road and began coordinating the response. We were so blessed by the intense efforts of the police, fire and EMS who responded.
My parents “happened” to receive a phone call about the car accident, drove to the crash and were redirected by police to drive to the hospital since EMS was still working on the scene.
Our vehicle was so smashed and with the utility pole puncturing the car the Jaws of Life were used to get my siblings out. You see my sister in the middle seat fell far forward and she hit the dashboard but this allowed my brother to bend to the side behind her as the utility pole came crashing through the window. Finally two ambulances took my sister and I to the ER and my brother’s status was so grave he was transported by helicopter to the ER.
Those moments and hours in the ER were so hard for my family. Three kids in three different rooms, my parents and dear family friends were with us. Friends from church and school came so that none of us would be alone as we went to receive x-rays and scans. While I suffered injuries that took a long time to heal my brother and sister suffered very critical injuries which took even longer for recovery.
I can not even write words strong enough to describe to you how much I wish I could change those moments before the car crash, preventing my siblings from suffering pain. But then I would also be changing how this awful car crash became such a positive life changing milestone in my family’s life.
After this accident my dad became engaged in our family at a whole new level that began a new journey for him and changed our family. The younger siblings showed us older siblings such love and how even at a young age they could be such a great help. Now one of my siblings is a nurse and continues to help those who are hurting. Our church family supported us in so many ways we were overwhelmed by love and care. My parents, brother and sisters only showed me love and not judgement. Also this is one of many experiences in my life that called me to become an Emergency Manager and help others in disasters.
Slowly our family began the physical and emotional process of healing. Was this overwhelming, oh very much yes. For months the main activities were recovery, doctor appointments, crying tears and resting. But God met our needs during this overwhelming time and it was the first time I learned how to rely on God during such a hard time. Because I could not rely on myself in this situation. Also I began to understand God is bigger than any mistake and his forgiveness is complete. Yes, I wish the accident never happened and no one experienced this pain. But I can not wish away the stronger family we became.
I extend a big hug to you if you are in the middle of an overwhelming season and pray you will receive encouragement today. God is bigger than any time of chaos and pain, He is waiting to show you love during your trials. I don’t know what is in store for you at the end of this season, but hold on and you will see blessings that can so easily be missed if we only focus on the pain.
God used people doing their normal routines to help us in our overwhelming moment. My first challenge to you is never underestimate your ability to be used by God to help someone else who is overwhelmed. Even small acts of helping with groceries, bring over a meal or sending a card make an impact. Over 20 years later I still remember the kindness of these people. You can do the same for someone else.
Now my second challenge, can you think of one or maybe more overwhelming events in your life that made such an impact it became a milestone for you? Are you able to look back and see a blessing from such a hard event? If you still feel stuck in time from that event, maybe now is the time to begin the small steps of healing and moving forward. Then you too can look back eventually and see the blessings beyond the overwhelming chaos.