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My Night in the Belly of the Whale

Posted by Cheri Akers on

Today, I will open my devo with a full confession: What you are about to read is totally based on First-World problems. I admit it. But as an average, middle-aged mom to a 20-something college graduate daughter, what is, more often than not, the logical next step? For your daughter to be engaged and married, right? And so, as our story goes, our daughter was engaged to her boyfriend of four years in August of 2018, graduated college in December of 2018, and the wedding planning began! The date was set for April 4, 2020, and everything was moving along for a destination wedding at Crystal Beach, Texas.

Enter the Great Pandemic of 2020.

We waited until the last possible second, but in the last week of March, the odds were just stacked too high against us. The state shut down, and we had to cancel. To avoid losing money, we had to pick a date and reschedule. We chose July 25, 2020, never dreaming at the time the word “pandemic” would even still be a thing. (Yes, we laugh in hindsight).

As the days, weeks and months ticked by, we continued to watch and wonder what would happen. Would there be another shutdown? Would we have to cancel again? At what point should we just throw in the towel? But the closer we got, our guest list continued to shrink, which actually put us within all the wedding guidelines the governor had issued for the state of Texas. We were a go! We loaded all of our cars, two trailers, one wedding gown, the kitchen sink and a partridge in a pear tree, and headed for the beach!

Enter Hurricane Hannah.

As the day of the wedding approached on the calendar, the tropical depression, turned tropical storm, turned hurricane barreled straight for our four front-row beach houses that were supposed to host our festivities. Every attempt at an adjusted plan was literally ripped to shreds by the winds and rains. The rehearsal and dinner following was almost a comical disaster, with food literally blowing off of our guests plates, and we were only at the beginning of the storm. The worst had not hit. Defeat was definitely in the air, and certainly in the eyes of one particular bride. We went to bed Friday with heavy hearts.

“When we face things that we don’t know, let’s remember who we do.”
— Jeremy Fisher

I tossed and turned and slept maybe two hours. I was awakened by a wicked wind and rain beating the house. It was three stories high and it was literally swaying side to side. The road below us that led to the beach was washed out. As the mother of the bride, I felt a lot of weight on my shoulders to care for the safety and well being of all who had come to support us because they loved us. I was laying in the middle of the bed, watching the ceiling fan sway when the final hit came. The power went out on the whole island. All I could do was laugh. I literally had that moment of thinking, “Well, it’s over. I did my best, but it’s over.”

It was only then I remembered what I had so easily forgotten. My boat was rocking (quite literally). I was thrown overboard. I was in the belly of the whale with nothing but a bag of Lay’s potato chips to comfort me. I had let my fears get in the way of crying out to the one who comforts me in spite of myself. And so I began to pray.

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
— Jonah 2:1–2

The story of the next day is kind of a blur, but let me give you the 30-second recap. The power was back on by 10 a.m. Everything about our plan had to be scrapped, changed and reworked. Family and friends banded together and worked so hard. The wind continued to blow and the rain continued to come down, but the plan came together, perhaps even better than we had designed it before. God knew the exact number we could seat when we had to move it inside: the exact number of attendees. God knew the exact moment the weather would break: long enough for her to walk down the sand to her groom. God also knew that the best pictures (and memories) come from two families and a bunch of friends laughing on the beach in the rain, so moments after everyone was in place, it poured. We chose to stick it out, laughing and celebrating in the pouring rain and pounding surf, coming right up over that perfect white lace dress.

We laughed, we loved, we celebrated. Our expectations were of a Pinterest-perfect wedding day. God’s expectations for us were so much more. The kids said it was a perfect day. They loved it. The guests said it was their honor to be a part of it. The memories made will be talked about far longer than a cookie-cutter wedding would have ever been. The pictures captured so much more than was said. God loved us enough to rock our boat, and we were left with nothing but gratitude for the perfection that literally came out of a storm.

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