It was Valentine’s Day, but I was feeling a little blue. I was still grieving the loss of our family’s long tradition of a mother-daughter Valentine tea. What began as a thoughtful suggestion by my precious mother-in-law when my daughter Rachel was three had continued each year into Rachel’s twenties. Our tea — never limited to just tea — was a celebration of love among three generations of women. Almost as soon as one year’s celebration ended, we were already cheerfully anticipating the next year’s gathering of family and friends.
But eventually, our annual Valentine tea slipped quietly into history with little fanfare. Slowly — and yet seemingly overnight — my mother-in-law’s mind had become trapped in dementia’s snare.
Given our mother-daughter tradition, I had long before stopped viewing Valentine’s Day as a strictly romantic observance. Consequently, my husband was off the hook for lavishing me with flowers or chocolate. Still, ever a words-of-encouragement girl, I always treasured his cards. Now, with my former tradition sidelined, my focus shifted back toward him. How might we celebrate?
Neither of us was interested in going out to a crowded restaurant, so we planned a simple steak dinner at home. Spinach salad with berries and balsamic dressing, baked potatoes with all the fixings, a filet for me, and a ribeye for him. Tad can grill a steak like nobody’s business, and I was already smacking my lips in anticipation. Until I remembered our grill was broken. The part we needed for the repair hadn’t yet arrived.
Undeterred, I changed up our menu. I’d stir-fry a sirloin the way my father had when I was little, with lots of black pepper and a pile of sliced onions. It wasn’t Tad’s favorite, but it was still steak, and for me it held a sweet association with my childhood.
The first hint something was wrong came shortly after dinner. My husband complained about indigestion, an issue he seldom experiences. He just as quickly brushed it off, attributing whatever was going on to taking over-the-counter cold meds earlier in the day. We resumed our movie watching (I’m the fortunate wife who’s married to a guy who likes a good Meg Ryan / Tom Hanks rom-com), but a while later I noticed him holding his upper arm.
“Does your left arm hurt?!” I blurted.
“A little, but it comes and goes,” he admitted, minimizing his own worries but having little effect on mine.
“YOU’RE HAVING A HEART ATTACK!” I shrieked, flinging open my laptop to search “cardiac arrest symptoms.” He insisted he was fine and scoffed at Dr. Google’s credentials. I countered that he was not fine and we needed to go to the ER. My pleas to seek medical attention were about as effective as his attempts to dismiss my concerns.
It was understandable that he wasn’t taking this seriously. Under fifty and in good health, he had no family history of heart disease. Was I unreasonable for jumping to conclusions?
After the movie, I crawled into bed, still unsettled and whispering a looping prayer. Please keep Tad safe, give us Your wisdom, prompt us to act if needed. Somehow, I drifted to sleep.
You might say I won the argument when at 3:30 a.m. we were on our way to the emergency room. Barely an hour later, our suspicions were confirmed. The cardiologist on call swished back the privacy curtain, mounted a stool, swiveled to face us, drew a deep breath, and delivered the news. Though he couldn’t be sure exactly what had happened until further testing, the lab results pointed to a “cardiac event,” a nice way of telling us my husband had experienced a heart attack.
It felt like we were watching a movie. Or somebody else’s life. This wasn’t the kind of thing that happened to us.
That is, until it did.
I felt like we were in the eye of a hurricane. An inexplicable calm surrounded my husband and me, and I wondered when the backside of the storm would whip around and lash us to pieces.
As the medical staff tended to Tad, my natural reflex was to pray. This was no atheist-in-a-foxhole moment. I knew how badly I — we — needed God’s presence to face the next few hours. And I knew beyond shadows and doubts that He was with us because the peace He promises in Philippians 4:6–7 was exactly what we were experiencing: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Peace that surpasses all understanding.
At the first chance I got, I enlisted a legion of prayer warriors, inviting family and friends to battle with us. What they offered through God’s Word, their own words of encouragement, and prayer were weapons of heavenly proportion.
It astounded me, really, how calm both Tad and I remained as we learned more about what had already happened and was yet to take place. Paul’s words in Philippians 4:9 contain the key: “Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”
For most of our lives, Tad and I have attended church; we’ve studied the Bible in group settings and on our own. We’ve learned, received, and heard from Jesus through Scripture and in sound teaching.
So when a life-threatening scenario played out in front of us, we didn’t resort to prayer out of panic or fear; we responded in faithfulness with an already established practice. Praying united us with God and ushered His presence into the midst of our circumstances, and then His peace—a peace that doesn’t begin to make sense—guarded our hearts and minds.
God always delivers what He promises. The natural rhythm of prayer in our lives makes way for His supernatural peace.
Not just on Valentine’s Day but 365 days a year.
This story was written by Robin Dance, and published in the Create in Me a Heart of Peace Bible study.
What a powerful story of peace from the (in)courage Bible Study, Create in Me a Heart of Peace, available now. With stories like Robin’s woven together with Scripture study by Becky Keife, our prayer is that this Bible study will help you experience the real peace God offers each one of us.
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Looking forward to this study. Peace is so desperately needed in these times.
Becky Keife says
Yes, it is! I think we all feel it.
Robin Dance says
Isn’t it? I think this study will lead you to peace because it points us continually to the Prince of Peace :).
Dawn Ferguson-Liitle says
Robin I thank you for writing today message. It reminds me when we are not well or a member of our family not well. They don’t want to go to Doctor then it too late. The damage is done. I can remember with my late Mum wanting her to go the Doctor. But my late Mum was stubborn. Even though not saved. If she didn’t want to go even though not well she not go she sayI be ok. Then one day she rang me and asked come over I not well really am not. I went right away to her house I knew that day my Mum was really not well. I remember her saying the Doctors coming to house. The Doctor phoned Ambulance that day. Something in my head when we got to Hospital I knew my Mum was not well at all and through it all God will with me. He gave me the strength to cope with it all. But she never made it out of Hospital again. But God has helped me through it all. Given me a piece like never before. After it happened I did ask the questions if my Mum was not so stubborn and went to Doctor would she still be hear today. God told me Dawn you have to give that too me and not go over that in your head. As it will only torture you and you be saying why couldn’t I make her go to Doctor my Mum. God said you can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want. So I prayed and gave all my thoughts up to God. God gave me that piece to not have all theses things going over and over in my head. I am very thankful to God for that. I know people who are saved that go to Google before they go to the Doctor or think they this or this wrong with them. Google what they looked up makes them think they have it. When they don’t. I say to myself if I said to them why are not trusting God instead of looking up Google. Standing on his word the Bible and prayers to see what God says you should do. I have told them they still don’t listen to I said it in love to them. But no they still look up Google first then go to Doctor and then trust in God’s word the Bible last. When in everything we shouldn’t be going to other sources first if saved. We should be going to God in prayer and standing on his promises and doing what his Holy Spirit tell us to do if not well or think we something wrong with us. Not going to Google and putting it before God. As I go to God in everything and listen to what he tells me through his Holy Spirit. Sometimes God will tell me to go to the Doctor if not well. I do that and trust his promises over my life. Especially Philippines 4 verse 19 it one of my favourite verses in the Bible. It says “My God shall supply all my needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus” How true that is. My health needs my Money needs etc. God can if he want heal me if not well direct through him or the Doctors. I trust him for everything every day. To many of us are to quick to go to Doctor Google to try and find out what how to heal us if not well. Instead of going to Doctor God in prayer that is what I call God. Doing what he tell us to and standing on the promises in his word. Robin I pray you and your Husband don’t experience anything like this ever again. This will make your Husband go to Doctor quicker. But we all think I even done it I be ok as I had few health issues myself in the past. Then in the end you need to go to Doctor and trust Doctor God as well and prayer and stand on his word the Bible and the promises in it. At times like this it we panic don’t do that. So then we’re is our faith then. God is right there besides us wanting us to pray to him and trust him not panic. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Ruth Mills says
Today has been filled with texted prayer requests so I’ve gotten to practice the focused ministry of prayer. Health issues, mourning death & children moving out of state top the requests this am. Common thread is God’s peace to overwhelm the stresses. Thanks for your encouraging post, Robin!
Robin Dance says
Oh, goodness, Ruth. I cannot imagine getting through any of the things you mentioned apart from prayer! Yes! God’s peace makes the unbearable, bearable.
Beth Williams says
Vince Lombardi said “practice makes perfect.” I believe he meant that the consistent act of doing something over & over makes it second nature. The act of praying all the time makes prayer a first priority when trials come. It isn’t out of fear but just a natural way to ask God for healing or whatever you need.
I was working in a hospital as ICU Step down clerical when Covid hit. I immediately had a sense of peace about the whole situation. I knew God was in control. Just started praying hard for everyone. It became a natural thing to do. That brings super natural peace
Robin Dance says
I love the idea of praying so often it becomes our nature! You’ve got me thinking, Beth :).