After Michael's contract with Costa was complete for the season, the Lord put it on Michael's heart to call some friends of ours in Arkansas, Dane and Heather, to pray about what God might have next for us. Michael was still considering giving up performing altogether, but after many months of prayer, Dane and Heather called and asked Michael to come and perform at a theater in a quaint, tourist town. We accepted, and moved our family to Arkansas.
Rachel's Raft Excerpt
The day before we left for Arkansas I was reading in Psalm chapter 34. Many verses jumped out at me, but these spoke to me the most:
“The poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and rescues them.”
I circled the word “rescues.”
Then I went on to read:
“The righteous cry and the Lord hears them and delivers them out of all their troubles.”
I circled the word “all.”
Then I read:
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
I circled the word “all.”
“God, I pray that you would rescue us. I pray that you would help Michael. Set him free. Use him in the way you want to. Give him success and help him to provide for us.
It was normal for me to pray for Michael and to ask for favor and for the Lord to bless his shows and all his work. But this time I heard something that took me by surprise:
“It’s you I’m resurrecting.”
“It’s you I’m resurrecting.”
“It’s me?” I wondered.
But it was such a clear answer and a thought I’d never had--I knew it was from God. It was the way He spoke to me--it was clear, out of the ordinary and it gave me a lot of peace and joy! For the first time in a while, I felt it was me God who was about to do a work in.
“It’s me You’re resurrecting? Okay, Lord. I’m ready.”
Five days after we arrived I wrote in my journal:
I think I’m going to write a book, Rachel’s Raft.
I enjoyed writing the blog, which I had started three months before we moved, but all of a sudden, I had an overwhelming desire to get the entire story out in a memoir. It was like I couldn’t tell the stories fast enough--like I’d been held under water for a very long time, and our move to Arkansas was my first breath since immersion.
“I want to turn Rachel’s Raft into a book. What do you think?” I asked Michael.
“Sure! Go for it! It’s a great story.”
So my time down at the library went from writing posts to starting a memoir. The first day I sat down to write, I knew immediately where I was going to start.
Then I wrote and wrote. It flowed out of me—there was no stopping it.
And when I prayed about it, the only direction I got was to write it, and to trust God with all the rest.
“What will you do when you finish your book?” my mom asked me.
“I have no idea, I know I’m supposed to write it and that God is going to show me what to do with it when I’m done.”
“You think you’ll find a publisher when you’re finished?”
“Yeah, I think so. Actually, I think the publishing will be part of the story.”
Rachel's Raft Excerpt
After Michael came home from work, one night, the kids were in bed, and we had our usual “what should we do with our life” conversation.
“I just don’t understand why we’ve been led down this road,” I said. “We stepped out in faith, from everything that was safe for us, and have landed in hurdle after trial after crisis. It’s been relentless.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I don’t know. Sometimes I feel that I have taken my eyes of Christ and His plan and placed my eyes strictly on the money,” Michael said. “It’s like Abraham and Sarah. He would have been just fine not taking his eyes of God. But he did and took it into his own hands and messed it up.”
“So, how do we do it?” I said, “We have to have an income for our family. But, you’re right, it’s like I don’t even want to mess with it. I want to do what God has called us to do and just forget about it.”
“I don’t know. It’s like I make it the focus because we need it. But, I have to put my focus on Him.”
We sat a moment in silence.
“You know, babe, there was a time in college when God rescued me. You know when I was dating that guy, and I thought we might get married. But my family wasn’t happy, and truthfully, I didn’t have a peace about it. I was desperate. I didn’t know what to do. I asked God to rescue me,” I paused, “And He did. He can do that again. I’m praying He will.”
“Yeah, we’ve made a decision to follow Christ, and we’re gonna do that, no matter what it looks like. No matter where it leads us.”
We had committed our path to Him. No matter what it looked like to other people or where He would take us. We had decided to follow Him. Follow Him if he came in and rescued us or if He didn’t.
“Remember that song I love, Burn Us Up?” I asked Michael as he folded his hands and placed them across his chest.
It was a song I loved about Shadrach, Meshach and Abendago—about them being thrown into the fire. It said, “You have made us, come and save us, we are yours,” but the lyric that always stood out to me was, “but even if You don't, we will burn. . .”
“They said that even if God didn’t save them from the fire, they’d obey.”
“True,” he paused, “but He did.”
I had spent sixteen months praying for God to send a raft after a vision I'd had in my prayer time one morning. One night Michael said, "We should just go get on a cruise ship, and the Holy Spirit awakened something within me. I knew it was "the raft" I had prayed for. He decided to apply for an entertainment position at Costa Cruise Lines because he had a friend who worked there. We were waiting to hear back from his friend when the Lord did this:
Rachel's Raft Excerpt
“Anything new today?” I asked hoping to hear that he’d gotten a response about the ship.
Michael and I had just finished putting the kids to bed and getting into our own pajamas. We had Internet news, so we’d watch the program each night, in peace and quiet, after getting the children tucked in. I was tired from still getting up with the baby every night, so I put a pillow on the armrest of the couch and lay down. Michael grabbed a pillow too and tossed it on the floor.
“Good evening, America. Today is September 17, and this is the Nightly News.”
The music played and the cameras turned to the news anchor.
“Will you throw me a blanket?” he asked.
I grabbed the cream-colored throw from the back of the couch and tossed it his way.
Our evening ritual—news, then re-runs of The Office.
In between the shows, we’d pop popcorn, grab a drink and relax. We’d pause the show, talk about the news, the day, the kids or whatever was on the schedule for the following day. It was one of my favorite times of the day, honestly. Time with just Michael and me, no interruptions. Just us. It was a relief to laugh at the characters in the evolving office politics and their love stories—a temporary escape from reality.
I looked at Michael lying on the floor. He looked so tired. He was spent.
“He‘s such a good man,” I thought to myself as my heart ached with sorrow for him. It ached for the downward spiral that had brought him so low that I wanted to lower down a rope to help, only I was there with him too. The only small bandage, wrapped around my heart on this night, was in the form of a thirty-minute situation comedy on the screen on my mantle.
“Tonight we are following a story that has been developing over eighteen months. We turn now to our correspondent, Josh Elliot.”
He began, “The stunning feat of engineering overnight. You see the Costa Concordia. The cruise ship that capsized. Affixed to a reef there. Lifted from its watery grave and giving us a new view of the immense damage."
My ears perked up.
“What did he just say? Did he just say what I think he did?”
His words filled the room. His report echoed off the walls.
I squinted to get a closer look. My eyes fixated on the TV.
The Costa Concordia. Submerged. Tilted over in the water. Wrecked. Submerged for twenty months, now being lifted out of the water. Today. This day. This day—of all days.
It was being lifted out of the water in slow motion.
“Oh, God. Oh, my God.”
I seemed to also be in slow motion, as I lifted myself up off the armrest and into an upright position.
“Oh, God, is this happening? Is that ship being resurrected?”
The words rang in my ears.
My mother had always described baptism as a watery grave. Death to your old self. Alive, once more, in Christ.
“A watery grave, Rachel.” My mind flashed back to a time when my mom was telling me how she described baptism to a young lady she had led to the Lord.
“Oh, Lord.” I felt like I had been submerged. For years.
Then the reporter continued, “Lama Hasan is there to show how engineers did it all.”
“Good morning, Josh,” she said. “It took nineteen long hours, seven hours longer than expected, because they needed to use more pulling force, but they were finally able to pull off this amazing feat. All of it was captured on camera in a stunning time-lapse video. After a long day of pulling and rotating the vessel, maneuvering it so it slowly inches its way up and out of the water, the engineers were able to lift the vessel out of the Mediterranean waters. Celebrations rang out as the most complicated salvage operation in maritime history is now 80% complete. Everyone was very pleased, but it's not over yet. You can see the side of the ship covered in slime and scum, where it's been under water for the last twenty months and crushed like a building in an earthquake. Pulling this ship more than twice the size of the Titanic was an epic effort.”
And as I was now sitting upright on the couch, my eyes not moving one bit. My whole body was like a statue. The words fell on my ears with a THUD.
Then, so clearly, the Lord said this to me, “Just like this ship is being pulled up out of the water, so I am going to pull you up out of the water.”
“Oh, Lord. Michael, can you believe this?”
The Costa Concordia was lifted from its watery grave the exact same week that God delivered my raft in the form of a cruise ship. Not just any cruise line, but the same cruise line that was resurrecting a ship, twenty months after submersion.
“God, you’re going to do it. Oh, God. You are going to pull me up out of this watery grave.”
And as I watched the news clip in slow motion and listened to the news anchors talking about how a feat like this had never been done before, I knew my resurrection was coming. That although I had felt God had forgotten about me, He hadn’t. As sure as this ship was being lifted up out of the water, so He would lift me up out from a watery grave.
Rachel's Raft Excerpt
“I don’t know what to do anymore,” he said. “Maybe it’s hopeless.”
“No, babe. It’s not hopeless,” I said as I turned my head to look at him in his eyes.
“I don’t know anymore,” he paused, “maybe it is.”
His shirt hung out. His pants worn. His hands and fingernails black from the assembly line work at his job.
“I think it just might be,” he said.
“I don’t know why God gave me a family when He knows I can’t take care of them.”
“That’s not true. You’re doing a great job. We have food. We have our house. The kids are happy. We’re fine,” I said trying to encourage him.
“No, I mean that. I can’t support y’all like you need me to,” his voice faded. He lifted his eyes to look at mine, “I think y’all would be better off without me.”
“No,” I said as I stood up, “you don’t mean that.”
“I don’t know, maybe I do,” he said. “Rachel, you’re beautiful. If something happened to me, you’d have someone else to take care of you and our kids right away. Someone that could really take care of you. Not someone like me.”
I ran over and knelt down by the couch where he was sitting, took his hands and looked in his eyes.
“No. You don’t mean that. I love you. You only. God has a plan. He does. You can’t say that. The kids and I, we don’t want someone else. We want you. I don’t want you to talk like that. God put you and me together for a purpose. He did.”
“I know. I used to believe that,” He said, “But He doesn’t open any doors for me. I’ve tried everything. I’ve asked everyone I know. You’ve sent tons of resumes; I’ve called for years for shows, the only job I have is not cutting it, and the ones that interview me don’t want me. I can’t take care of y’all.”
He paused, “If God doesn’t want me doing the things He’s put in my heart then I wish He’d take away the desire. Why would He give me talents and not want me to use them? But it’s more than that. I can’t take care of my family like I want to.”
“Yes, you can. We can do whatever, whatever you want to do.”
“No, we can’t. We can’t sell this house, I can’t get a job that supports us--we are stuck,” he continued, “Y’all would be better off with my insurance policy than with me.”
“God, no!” I yelled. “No, that’s not true! Please don’t say that Michael. We love you. I love you. I want you. I don’t care if I’m living on the street in a cardboard box. You’re my husband, they are my kids. This is our family. Don’t talk like that, please!”
“I want to be with you and the kids, just not like this,” he said.
“Don’t even think about suicide. It’s not the answer and you know it. Wait. It’s coming, babe. It is. God will rescue us. He will. Don’t lose hope. He’ll do it.”
“No, I know. I’m not going to take my own life. But sometimes it crosses my mind,” he said as he looked at me with watery eyes.
“Yes, I know. It crosses mine, too. But we know that it’s never God’s answer. Never. There’s always hope, there is.”
We sat in silence for a moment.
“Just keep reminding me of that.”
“Let’s shake on it. Let’s promise each other we’ll never take our own lives, no matter how bad it gets,” I said with all seriousness.
He reached out his hand and took mine.
“Promise me, we’ll never take our own lives, no matter what,” I said.
“Okay, I won’t take my own life.”
“No matter what?”
“No matter what.”
I wanted to add to this excerpt today. If you feel like all hope is gone, for whatever reason--it's not. It's never a hopeless situation. If you feel like you need someone to talk to, I'm including two phone numbers that came to my mind as I wrote this post today. Don't feel isolated. Don't feel helpless. There is always hope.
Focus on the Family 1-855-771-4357
The 700 Club Prayer Line 1-800-759-0700
Rachel's Raft Excerpt
One night, I got into bed, thankful that I could sleep and not think about what was going to happen to me or my family.
“I just want to sleep so I can escape from whatever it is that God is doing. . . or not doing.”
I realized that it was probably unhealthy for me to want to escape through sleep, so I tried to think of verses and words that were comforting. I was reminded of a conversation I’d had with my friend, Eppie, the previous year. I’d called her for prayer for our family and several weeks later she called me,
“Rachel, you’re going to think this is crazy. . .”
“No, really, I promise I won’t,” I said.
“Well, okay. This morning during praise and worship at our church I was praying for you and Michael, and God gave me a vision of an anchor. Rachel, God’s not going to leave you flailing around at sea, He is your anchor.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. It was so personal. The continuance of the maritime theme. So, as I lay in bed that night, I wanted to totally trust Him, but it was so hard. I couldn’t see what He was doing. I thought I knew for sure but it seemed nothing was moving, nothing was opening.
“My anchor holds within the veil. . .” I said to myself. “God, I don’t have a clue what You are up to. I thought we’d all be out living on a cruise ship and here we are in Pulaski. I thought you’d freed us. Where is this resurrection you promised me?”
I couldn’t see it.
So, I waited, hoping He would deliver on His word.