“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.
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.