Glimpses of His ways

6 09 2010

“I drew comfort from knowing hundreds of other Christians were praying. From the first day, we received amazing support. Cards and letters poured in, and the pile just kept getting bigger. Many arrived from friends and relatives. Others came from people we’d never met, people who had read the paper or seen the news, people such as Mamie Mattern, an elderly homebound widow in Marshall, who wrote promising to pray for Jacob daily and continued sending him encouraging notes. Ripples spread, and people responded.” p. 36, Parting the Waters: Finding Beauty in Brokenness.

Community at its best is a powerful force for good. This is one of the main themes of our story and one of the reasons I’m not at all surprised to see our little town rallying around the Skinner family now.

As I mentioned in my last post, Madie Skinner is a fourteen-month-old child who fell into a swimming pool a couple of weeks ago. She was discovered and pulled out unconscious. No one knows exactly how long she was under. Because of our similar experience fourteen years ago, quite a few local people contacted me immediately after Madie’s accident. The first phone call came from an OT at the hospital. I didn’t know her, but she was familiar with our story and said she called because we would “know how to pray.” She wasn’t the only person to use that phrase. George and I immediately began to pray, but it wasn’t until later that we pieced together some startling connections between Madie and Jacob.

For one thing, the nurse on duty when Madie arrived at the local hospital was Amanda Wynne Fancher, one of Jacob’s former classmates and a close friend who frequently participated in his therapy.

This photo was taken in early 1997 when Jacob was relearning how to walk. Amanda is on the left and Natalie Dowd Grubbs on the right.

I don’t know if helping Jacob contributed to Amanda’s desire to become a nurse, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it played a part. And I’d be willing to bet she remembered her friend as she cared for Madie in those crucial first hours. It’s beautiful to me to think of this sweet, compassionate young woman playing a key role in Madie’s early care.

But the most remarkable connection involves Mamie Mattern, the homebound widow mentioned in the paragraph quoted above. Not too long after Parting the Waters was published, I heard from members of the Ritter family, thanking me for the mention of their beloved family member who had since passed on. We were delighted to hear from her family. Mamie’s faithful cards and prayers buoyed our hearts and helped keep us from sinking into despair. She may have been physically old and frail, but she was an important part of the strong spiritual support that held our feet firmly on the Rock as the wind and waves beat against us.

The day after Madie’s accident, I received a facebook message from Wendy Slayter. Wendy has also prayed for our family through the years. After the book came out, she was part of my inspiration to collect photos depicting other people’s re-postings of the message Jacob had printed and taped above his bedroom door. Here’s the original:

And here’s the version Wendy painted for her daughter’s apartment:

Wendy’s facebook message was short and to the point: “It just dawned on me that little Madie Skinner is Mamie Mattern’s great-great granddaughter. Remember the sweet little lady you mentioned in your book? Hmmm….”

I was stunned. Then I was amazed. Then I closed my eyes and worshiped the God who weaves this delicate tapestry, life crossing life, colors blending and bleeding into one another, a work of art we can only glimpse tiny portions of, lest we be undone by its excruciating beauty.

My heart is inextricably knit to Madie Skinner and her family. I couldn’t untangle it if I wanted to.

This morning before Rusty came, Jacob and I spent some time together in prayer. I love praying with Jacob, because his faith is so pure. Among other things, we prayed for this beautiful little girl whose parents are choosing to “trust and not be afraid,” even though they have no idea what lies ahead. They are casting themselves on the One who does know, who is working out His plans with perfect faithfulness, and who promises to give good gifts to His children. Always. (Though we may fail to recognize them as good.) I wonder how much of their faith is a direct result of Mamie’s faithfulness.

Mamie didn’t live long enough to pray for her great-great grandchild. But she prayed for our child, and now we have the privilege of returning the blessing. May God multiply it a thousand fold.

Ripples spread. Lives are touched. People respond, and in responding, they become part of the beautiful tapestry God is weaving. This is what community is meant to be. And you’re invited.

You can follow Madie’s story here, and you can still follow Claire’s story here. You can become part of their stories, too, but only if you want to glimpse His ways and be amazed.



11 responses

6 09 2010
Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

“..a work of art we can only glimpse tiny portions of, lest we be undone by its excruciating beauty.”

For such a time as this, Jeanne,.

Thank you for sharing the gift of Jacob and a beautiful glimpse of those blessed ties that bind.


7 09 2010


7 09 2010
deb @ talk at the table

Oh, Jeanne.
And yes.
this has be undone for a bit.

7 09 2010
Joyce Hammers

I remember the accident with Jacob as if it were yesterday. The same sadness that I felt for the Damoffs is the sadness I feel for the Skinners. No parent should have to endure this pain. I didn’t REALLY know the Damoffs, but my heart broke for these young parents. I treasure what they taught me about strength, and faith, and God’s love. After Jacob returned to Marshall for rehab I visited every Friday from 1:00-2:00. What a blessing! That young man taught me so much without saying a word. I was AMAZED at his determination and will. He is my hero! I am much closer to the Skinner family having known Kristen and Matt since they were toddlers. My heart broke when I heard the news of Madie’s accident. How many, many blessings I have received since August 25th. I’ve seen the outpouring of love from Marshall to this family, I’ve seen a young couple stay strong as they care for their 2 girls. And I saw God at work daily to have us all “love one another”. There is a lot ahead for Miss Madie, and I can’t wait to be a small part of it all. My love to all of you, Mrs. Joyce.

7 09 2010

Joyce, thank you for this comment, and thank you again for all the hours you spent beside Jacob’s bed, reading to him and talking to him and being a vital part of the loving community that so powerfully transformed his life. You are a treasure. There’s no way we could ever repay your kindness. I still pray God’s blessing on those who prayed (and continue to pray) for Jacob. I also pray His abundant blessing on you for opening your generous, beautiful heart to us.

Much love,

8 09 2010
tommie mcwhorter

This is so awesome! We always hear the cliche “Everything happens for a reason”, and “Certain people are put in our lives for a reason”. It is so amazing that God has once again brought the two families together for love and support! This story has just blown me away! Words can not describe it! I will continue to pray for both Jacob and Madie!

8 09 2010

Thank you, Tommie. It blows me away, too! Thank you so much for your prayers.

8 09 2010
sandra hardin

Jeanne: we are members of IBC and Tiffany was at my same bible study table when she was pregnant with Claire. At that time, my brain injured grand daughter was only about a year old and we were still in the desert with those words “wait and see”…. we heard answers like, “fluke, genetic, dr. error” ect… all of these mulled over in my brain…God finally had to get me to the place, where Psalm 139 became so real to me..If we believe the bible from Gensis through Revelation, how I can not believe, that v.13-16 is true? I have prayed like you, to use our experience for God’s glory..and be there for some one else in their “I can’t breath” time… never would I have wanted this to be Claire..but God does put people in our lives for a reason.
Only through visiting them did I learn of your book, “Parting the Waters”, and I wanted you to know how much it has blessed my life…thank you for being friends and ecouragers to this sweet family and the Skinner family. They are using Jacob as their hero, as I know others do as well…my prayer for them now is “peace beyond understading”… thank you for your ministry. Sandra Hardin

8 09 2010

Dear Sandra. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your story. It is full of such mystery, this fragile life, and how kind of God to give us assurances like those verses in Psalm 139. I’ve loved that passage and clung to it for years. Now that we have an infant granddaughter, I take such comfort in knowing that He wove her in the womb and every one of the days formed for her were written in God’s book when as yet there was none of them. That doesn’t mean all her days will be easy or fun, but it does mean they will all have eternal purpose behind them.

I’m so glad to know you are in the Martin’s lives. I know you are a light and a comfort to them. I pray all is well with your precious granddaughter.

Love, Jeanne

23 09 2010
A Simple Country Girl

I occasionally stop by here and always catch such glimpses of His beauty. I just went to Madie’s link…these statements will stay with me for a long, long time:

“What we knew as “normal” on the morning of August 25th is of no concern to us now. This is our new normal and we are determined to make it miraculous. God has had a plan for Madie long before she was born.”

If only each of us was determined to make each day miraculous…

Baby Madie and her family will be added to my fridge dry-erase board for prayers.

I don’t always leave words after a visit; nonetheless, you continue to bless through Him. May all you touch this day shine for His glory.


30 09 2010
Miles 4 Madie « The View From Here

[…] 4 Madie 30 09 2010 I’ve mentioned Madie Skinner several times on this blog, sharing the remarkable story of how our families are inextricably entwined and asking you to pray. Sunday afternoon I met some […]

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