"The Spirit of Santa" was purchased by Chicken Soup for the Soul today. In honor of that sale, here is another story previously published by that series in their 2014 book Miracles Happen.
Devil Winds and Moon Beams
They call them “Devil Winds”—the Santa Anas that scream across the hot desert, then funnel through the mountains in California, gaining force and tearing across the southland with tree-felling, fire-breathing ferocity. Each year they topple trees and down power lines. Each year they spark devastating wild fires that scorch acres and claim houses and lives. And, we were experiencing a big one.
We had just moved to our new home in the mountains above Palm Springs and I was unprepared for the howl and force of that wind through 100 foot tall cedar trees. As I began to get the kids ready for bed, my skin crawled.
“You’ve never liked the wind,” my husband, Steven, said in an effort to calm me. “It will be fine. We’re all here. We’re all safe.”
I was known, back then, as the family worrier. Steven and I were “old” when we married. He was thirty-seven, I was thirty-four. We’d searched forever to find true love and had both believed we’d never marry when we’d suddenly found each other. I’d been
diagnosed with infertility issues and we’d begun adoption proceedings when I got pregnant with Matthew. Two years later we beat the odds again and were blessed with this round cherub of a daughter whom we promptly named Mary
But, I was always afraid. I kept waiting to blink and have it all disappear.
“Mama, be by me.” Blond and beautiful, Matthew had knelt by the sofa and waited to say his prayers breathing hard against his folded hands, still ruddy from his nightly wrestling match with his dad.
“Now I lay me down to sleep…”
And the wave of fear enveloped me again.
I sat and nursed Mary as Matthew cuddled against my side. But the usual comfort of this nighttime ritual did nothing to ease my unrest. The moan of the wind through the trees shook my confidence just as it shook the windows of our cabin.
Steven had long since taken Matthew upstairs and tucked him into bed, but I could not let go of Mary. Upstairs, I stood paralyzed in front of her crib and rocked my sleeping child. I could not lay her down.
“Please God,” I prayed, “I do not know what’s wrong. But I’m scared. Protect my family. Protect these children. And give me faith in that protection.”
I can’t say I felt peace. What I felt was instruction. “Put her down. Let go. It will be alright.”
So I did. Against every fiber of my being, I released my hands and laid my precious child in her crib. Then I kissed my sleeping son and went downstairs. Later, I checked on my babies and went to bed myself.
The next thing I knew the world ended. The roar was louder than anything I’d ever heard. My screams were lost in the explosion of sound. Bombs? Nuclear blasts? No matter how wide I opened my eyes, everything was black. The world went into slow motion. I jumped up on the bed, running circles trying to locate the direction of the noise, but it completely enveloped my black, black world. The walls of the house were clearly being ripped apart, but from where? How? I couldn’t find Steven. I couldn’t find sense.
Then, in an instant, it hit. The crash threw me off the bed, but suddenly my screams and Steven’s frantic yells were intensely audible through the sudden silence. We grabbed for a lamp switch hoping light would make sense of what had just happened, but the power was gone. Like drunken madmen we ran for the kids. There was no sound from upstairs. Terror tangled our feet and pinched our throats. In the pitch black darkness we stumbled and groped up the stairs.
And there they were.
As we passed the doorway, the light appeared. It was the full moon, acting like a spotlight on our precious daughter. Peaceful. Asleep. On her stomach with her legs tucked under her and her thumb in her mouth. Next to her in her crib, our beautiful boy cuddled up on his side, arm over his sister, his face peaceful and serene.
And just in case we didn’t understand the blessing, the only light came from angelic moonbeams circling our sleeping…living…children’s faces.
We fell into each other’s arms and sobbed.
Seconds later, there was a knock on our door. Neighbors with flashlights had arrived to check on us. With them, we ventured out.
A 150 foot cedar had once stood beside the deck off our bedroom. The deck was gone. So was the cedar. It had ripped out of the ground in the wind, taking the deck with it. A gaping crater replaced the deck and the tree’s roots stood twelve feet into the air. The tree had smashed fences, buckled the road and took out all the power in town. It reached from our yard into the yard of a neighbor two doors down and across the street.
But, no one was hurt.
In fact, the tree crashed at the only angle it could land and not kill someone. We were spared; neighbors in three adjacent houses were spared.
“My, my, my…” whistled our neighbor. “Can you believe that nobody was killed? That’s got to be a freak of nature.”
“Or a miracle,” offered Steven as we all stood assessing the damage.
That was eighteen years ago. I’m no longer the family worrier. I’m now faithful. That has been a difficult lesson for me. I’m the person who always reads the last chapter of the book first—for if the ending isn’t happy, I won’t read the book. Part of me wants to know the ending of my children’s life stories now. I want to direct the play, author the plot line and lead in the drama. Just like that fateful night, I have trouble letting go and walking away. But, especially as my kids have grown into young adults, those unspoken words of that night reverberate: “Let go. It will be all right.”
The truth is “all right” isn’t always how I would have choreographed it. We’re broke—all the time. My kids have disabilities I would never have wished upon them. We struggle. But as I get further into this book, I find that those struggles make for interesting plot twists and definite builders of character. For, my story is not a fairy-tale; it’s a gripping, exciting, real life adventure.
In the end, I can’t always hang onto my kids. I have to let go. And, it’s true—things happen. I don’t have control.
But, I know about grace. I know that, while I’m not in control, there is, nevertheless, a protecting presence in my children’s lives at all times, loving them and guiding them in ways I can’t begin to do myself and, mostly, don’t understand.. But, that knowledge allows me to step away and let go. It allows me to stand back and watch my children fly—to wherever they may go—to however far away.
Yes, there may be devil winds out there—but there are also moon beams.