So today is a heavier post.
Today is my No Drown-a-versary (as my mother calls it)- the day I can't help but remember and re-post the story of God saving my life. Today, I am grateful to be alive, grateful for God's powerful hand in my life that I will never forget, grateful for His beautiful grace and goodness towards me. In 2004, as a 19 year old college student, I was in a place in my life where I felt angry at God and distant from Him. But as He promises, all I had to do was cry out for Him to save me, and He did- no strings attached. He swooped in with love.
I wrote this the day after if happened because: "His word is like a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot" (Jeremiah 20:9).
"The Night I Almost Died"
I was driving home from work at Gristmill (restaurant) around 9:20pm in the mist on slick roads when suddenly, without warning, my car slammed into 4 or 5 feet of water at a low water crossing. It was pitch black and I didn't know where or how high the water was. I didn't know what to do. I called Mom's cell phone and Dad picked up. I was going to tell him that I got stuck in some water and could he come and get me. Then the car started moving and I panicked! I hesitated before rolling down the power windows, which by the grace of God, worked! I climbed out and was sitting on the window ledge, frantically and incoherently screaming at my Dad to come and get me and that I was in some water on 1863. The signal faded because of the sudden surge of current that swept me away from the car. The last I saw of the little green Camry was the rear end sticking vertically out of the water- it had taken a nose-dive and was filling up with water.
The current swept me away into pure blackness. I remember panicking and thinking, "is this it, God? Is this how I'm going to die?" The current was so swift and sucked me under the water. I kicked and paddled trying to stay afloat and keep my head above the masses of debris that were piling up. Once or twice I got sucked underwater and debris piled up over my head. I was scared it I wouldn't be able to come back up for air, that too much debris would accumulate over my head. I fought and kicked and paddled to stay on the water's surface. I was freezing and could barely feel my limbs. I tried grabbing some of the cliff's edge as the water rushed me past it, but there was nothing to grab. I screamed, "Jesus save me!" I had read about stories in which some one drowns because they kick and tire themselves out. So I floated on my back like they tell you to in swim lessons and life guard training. I'm not sure how long I floated.
Miraculously, a medium sized tree branch floated by and I grabbed onto it. It proved to be a stable flotation device. I just hung onto it and began yelling, "Help! I'm in the water! My car got swept away." My voice echoed on the cliffs and some houses on the hilltops began turning their lights on. I kept yelling. My own voice scared me as it echoed in that canyon-like space- it sounded scared and pitiful. The water slowed down around a bend in the creek and I kicked my legs, still clinging to the log until I got across to the left side of the bank where it was soft and muddy and full of bushes.
I climbed up the side of the bank and looked for any kind of light. "Jesus, save me." My cell phone was still in my hand. Of course, it didn't work. There was some sort of light in the distance. I yelled and yelled. I saw only headlights in the water from a car. I started running through the brush hoping I would find a house and someone could help me. I continued yelling and running. I hoped I wouldn't hyperventilate- I was so scared. "God, don't forget about me. Help me!" I ran through this dark bushy area, bumping into trees and getting caught in brush- it was so dark out there. I finally saw a barbed wire fence. I hoped it lead to someone's property, so I climbed over the fence, and found the painted stripe of the road! I had never been so happy to see 1863! There were blinking lights! I went further a little ways down the road to exactly the low water crossing that had swept me away. On the other side were 2 ambulences and about 3 police cars along with some trucks of neighbors. I screamed and waved my arms and ran towards them. "I'm over here! My name is Stephanie! My car got swept away! Come and get me!" Their flood lights hit me along with a surge of relief. "God, thank you for saving me! Thank you!"
EMS didn't do anything. They just stood there. I don't think they could hear me over the roar of the rushing water. I kept yelling, "Can you send someone from New Braunfels?" I thought, surely they were radioing New Braunfels and in 15-20 minutes an ambulance would come from behind me and rescue me. I was freezing. I felt every breeze. I realized that my standing still on the roadside would only make me colder. I just wanted to sit. What about hypothermia? I sure could be in danger of it! So I jumped up and down to keep warm. I jumped up and down and prayed.
I prayed that God would fill me with His Holy Spirit, that He'd give me strength and warmth and endurance. I mostly prayed for warmth. I prayed that He wouldn't let me pass out, that I'd stay conscious, that I wouldn't get hypothermia. I prayed for supernatural warmth. I reminded God of His Word, "God, you've engraved me on the palm of Your Hand. You promised not to forget me! You also said you know the plans you have for me, plans to prosper me, not to harm me. Plans to give me a hope and a future. Thank you God that you have a plan for me! Oh Lord, you aren't finished with me yet! Thank you for saving me! Thank you for saving me! Thank you that you created me in my mother's womb and knowing me completely even then. Thank you that you aren't done with me. There is still a chance for you to grow me to be that Proverbs 31 woman!" I prayed for my parents that they would have peace and God would help them to not be worried.
I thought I saw a light in the distance behind me on the road, so I started yelling for help, that I was on the side of the road. I heard some man's voice, but couldn't make out what he was saying. I thought that someone on the New Braunfel's side just couldn't find me.
The flood lights across from me began to turn off. "NO!!! Don't leave me!" Then a voice on a bullhorn said, "Ma'am, we're not going to leave you. Help is on the way." I continued jumping to stay warm and began to pray for someone to come from New Braunfels. What I didn't know was that I was caught between 2 low water crossings. I was stuck in the middle. I didn't know at the time that my Dad and EMS were at the New Braunfels side of the water crossing looking for me, not seeing the car and thinking I was dead. "Jump up and down if you're name is Stephanie," the bullhorn said. So I jumped higher and waved my arms frantically screaming "Yes!" I wondered if mom and dad were among the people with EMS standing near the flood lights. At one point I called out, "Mom! Dad!" But no one could hear me over the rushing water. I continued praying for the Power of the Holy Spirit and for someone to come from the other way.
Eventually, headlights came towards me from behind. I turned and waved to get their attention. They slowed down and told me to get in. They asked if my name was Stephanie. I said yes and that I live in Rim Rock Ranch and was driving home from work in New Braunfels. They began radioing someone saying they'd found me. They said I'd be staying with them tonight.
They took me to their house at a shooting range. Mr. Ferris and his son took me inside, where Mrs. Ferris handed me towels and sweats to change into and the phone to call my parents. I called my mom to tell her I was okay. She told me to call my dad. When I called him, he was still at the water crossing on New Braunfel's side and he cried. Mrs. Ferris had already called them to tell them that they'd found me, but they wanted to hear my voice. When I went into the bathroom to dry off and change, I saw that I had cattails and thistles tangled up in my hair. My formerly white shirts were khaki-ish brown and one sleeve was torn. Debris was all in my hair and all over me. I left a trail of it where ever I walked. I couldn't believe I was safe. The previous hour and a half seemed completely surreal and UNreal. I wanted to cry and tell God how thankful I was, but no tears would come. I just thanked God over and over in the simplest words.
I stayed at the Ferris's overnight. They were incredibly nice to me and took care of me. They lived in the only house on the hill stuck between those two low water crossings. They had taken care of a couple people in floods before. I told them how God had saved me. The next morning, when the water went down, my Dad came to get me. We went home. I was so glad to be home.
I am so blessed to be alive today. God had His Hand on my life. He saved me. He's the only reason I am alive. He's not done with me yet. If I had died that night, I would have felt that my life had had barely any value to the Kingdom of God. But I have another chance, more life for God to use. I really believe He has a plan for me and that it wasn't fulfilled yet, so He brought me through this whole ordeal in one piece to accomplish what He planned for my life before I was even born. He still has something for me to do in life. I'm so thankful that He's allowing me to fulfill that purpose, whatever it is.
I have prayed that this story would be written in an unexaggerated way, that God would use this story (even in written form) for His glory. The clearest point that I need to make, if not clear enough yet, is: God saved my life! I did none of this in my own strength. I could not have done it! I am a girly city girl. I could not have survived this on my own! And God protected me from being harmed, from breaking bones, concussions, and all of that! And I am so incredibly grateful for everyone who prayed for me. God saved my life! I hope this testimony of God's unmovable will, amazing power, loving protection, and undeserved grace towards me blesses others and gives testimony to how I am now changed because of it.
I love the Lord because He hears and answers my prayers. He bends down and listens. I will pray as long as I have breath! Death had its hands around my throat; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: "Please, Lord, save me!" How kind the Lord is! How good He is! So merciful, this God of ours! The Lord protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and then He saved me. Now I can rest again, for the Lord has been so good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. And so I walk in the Lord's presence as I live here on earth!