Photo by Nicole Tarpoff
Two days before college, I was driving way too fast! I wasn’t under the influence but I was a little anxious to get down the road. I had stolen the car.
In a curve, I’d always crossed the line but this time, I hit another driver. Head-on, 65 miles an hour and my dash board was in my lap and my pelvis, fractured. I didn’t have a safety belt on. I broke my right arm in eight places and my fresh young face hit the windshield.
No one was with me. Thank God but just prior to colliding, someone entered the car.
“Hold my hand.”
What? This was totally foreign. I didn’t have spiritual encounters and I didn’t grow up with people who did. If someone had asked me about the accident, I wouldn’t have mentioned a voice but I put my right hand in the middle of the bench seat and felt a hand take mine.
I have no memory after that. I don’t recall seeing another vehicle, loosing control of the car or skidding 250 feet. I don’t recall impact. I don’t know where I was in the road.
My college plans had been arrested! My doctor said, “You’re on doctors’ orders not to go to university.” I rebutted, “I will go to school if I have to go in a wheelchair!”
Then he gave me a choice, “You can either stay in this bed for ten days or I can put you in a body cast?”
Great! I chose to stay in bed and he scheduled my surgery for the day I was to start classes. Now, I had pins in my arm and I was confined to bed. “Your recovery will be six months,” he stated.
As they wheeled me out of the hospital, my high school drama teacher stopped by. She had retired and was starting a community college in our hometown. “I know the doctor told you, you can’t go to university but you can come to my school.”
There was some hope.
Not long after I was released, I reconnected with Teeny, a widow with no children of her own. We’d connected when I was a girl and became close friends through my high school years. She’d recently moved within walking distance of the new college. I moved in with her.
The first time I walked in, I noticed it. The air in Teeny’s place was thick. It was like liquid air, heavy and loving. I never told her, it felt like liquid love. I don’t know how to describe it except to say I was weighted down in peace and felt like that most of the time.
I never said anything to her about what happened in the car. I wouldn’t have thought to but almost daily she would say, “No one would have lived through that but you. God must have a plan for your life.”
How did she know? How was she so certain God had plans for me? I grew up in a home no one wanted to be in. Everyone of us was ready to leave as soon as anyone could and now my plans to escape had been shattered. How was God on my side?
Once she looked me straight in the face and said, “I’ve been asking God why I’m not dead yet. All my friends are dead but I’m not dead cause you still need a momma.”
Teeney was 91 years old. A frail bird of a woman but her heart was big and strong. I slept in the bedroom on the left side of the hallway. Hers was on the right. At night, she’d take her hearing aids out and I’d overheard her talk. Maybe she couldn’t hear herself but I could. It’s where I learned what God is like. I remember thinking, “Everything is gonna to be just fine because Teeney is talking to God and God lives here cause she’s here.”
After I got my cast off, I quit using the walker and I could do a few things. I made Jello and cornbread or vanilla pudding. We spent days sitting in the sunlit room, watching Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune. I sat on the floor and typed my papers and her chair sat low to the ground. I’d push my body as close to her as I could get. I wanted to crawl inside of her and feel. What was it like to be her?
When I think about religion, I think about complexities. Certain things you have to know or do but Teeny made things real simple. She’d say, “I talk to God like He is a friend. I talk to Him like I’m talking to you right now.” She told me, “When I wake up I ask God to take my hand and keep me from falling and He does.” I knew God was her friend and I knew she was my friend and I thought, maybe, somehow that makes God, my friend.
In January, I went to university. I was in the wrong crowd in no time. One night, the needle was just two or three people away. “If I put that needle in my arm, my life is over. These so-called friends will let me die.” Just like that, I came to my senses and walked 2-3 miles back to my dorm room.
My roommate and her boyfriend were asleep. I quietly came in and clung to my mattress, knelt on the concrete. Teeny had shown me that coming to God was not a complex matter. I quietly said, “I want to know the God Teeny knows.” In that moment, the air in my room became heavy and loving.
I’d never had a hunger to read the Bible but I began to devour it. Within a few months, I moved to an apartment off-campus with two closets. In one, I put my clothes. In the other, I put my Bible. I covered the walls with Scripture. It became my place to meet with God. This new hunger for God was supernatural. I wasn’t like that before. I didn’t want the same things. I began talking with Him like a friend, like Teeny did.
A few years later, I joined a discipleship team. Now, I was studying the Bible day and night. Two days before our first missions trip, God told me to go home and tell Teeny goodbye. At this time, Teeny was 95 years old and in a nursing home. I peeked into her room and she leaned towards me, “Are you an angel or are you the real thing?” I giggled. “I’m the real thing Teeny!”
Teeny was sharp as a tack till she died! She knew exactly what she was saying! Obviously, she was hosting angels. I don’t have a theology for that. I just know I had to walk over and assure her I was the real thing. There was room in her bed for us both. We just hung out for the weekend and shared such joy I forgot why I’d come. On my way out God reminded me, “I told you to tell her goodbye.” I turned around and forced the words out, “Teeny, I want you to know, if you die now; I’m going to be okay. I love you and good-bye.”
Teeny died two weeks later, the day I left on my first missions trip.
I learned a lot about evangelism on the mission field but I learned about Christ in a two-bedroom apartment on Old Lair Road in Cynthiana, Kentucky with a widow on a walker.
Teeney taught me to have a deep confidence and trust in God’s ability to do what He does best: Redeem His Children.
A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person