Dottie Pratchard recalls a harrowing close call she experienced while rafting down the South Fork of the American River and the prayer that changed everything for her.
Knuckles white, I gripped the sides of our ski boat. The storm had hit with almost no warning and we were being tossed about like a cork, the wind and waves threatening to capsize us.   “We’ve got to get back to the dock,” Phil yelled over the gale. We’re veteran boaters. Not easily panicked. My husband and I were fighting for our lives.   From the middle of Kaw Lake, a massive body of water in northeast Oklahoma, I looked to where we had put in that morning, hoping to enjoy the day exploring the lake’s many coves. But, [More]
My little dog, Teddy, tugged on his leash, interrupting my thoughts as we walked through my condo complex. The mornings were our time together and Teddy, a Lhasa Apo, got impatient if he didn’t have my full, undivided attention. “Sorry, Teddy,” I said with a small smile. My thoughts were all over the place this morning. The public school where I worked as a special education teacher was on break. I was thankful for the time off, but I felt completely stressed about the prospect of returning to work. My job was challenging. Too challenging sometimes. Resources were limited. Class [More]
Years ago my husband, Dan, was a missionary pilot in Ecuador. We lived at the foot of the Andes Mountains, and when he flew he kept in touch with me at the base camp by radio. One day I was logging his position and altitude when he suddenly announced that his Cessna had engine trouble. He needed to make an emergency landing. I looked at my map and saw nothing but steep hills dropping off into deep precipices. There was no flat space for miles around. From the sky, Dan searched for a road, a field, a meadow—any place he [More]
The phone rang as I was pulling my elf hat out of the closet.   Every December my husband, Jerry, and I help the Lions Club deliver presents to the 40 students of a nearby residential school, Green Chimneys , for kids with special needs.   Tomorrow everyone would gather at the local firehouse, and in addition to “Santa” and his “elf,” there’d be a magic show and a buffet lunch. The kids would even get a firehouse tour. I couldn’t wait.   But on the other end of the phone was a distressed volunteer. “Peggy, we’ve got a big [More]
“Dot, you’ll know God’s voice when you hear it,” Mama always told me. I needed to hear it now. It was an unusually cold evening in Jacksonville, Florida, but that wasn’t what made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I hurried down a dark, deserted street, eager to get to my Auntie’s place and escape the menacing hum of an old engine. The pale blue sedan was back. It had circled the block to pass me again—for the third time—slow, deliberate. Whatever the driver wanted from me, I didn’t want to find out.   I wasn’t [More]
Every family has its own folklore and superstitions. In our big Italian Catholic family, it’s said that the souls of the dead come back to visit us in the form of a moth. Crazy, huh? “That could be Aunt Ray!” Mom would say when one flew inside, and my younger brother, Charles, and I would laugh. We were 12 years apart, but close. He always wore black and white. I teased him that they were the only colors he knew how to match. At 23, Charles passed away suddenly in his sleep. Part of my world died too. I yearned [More]
When I was growing up back in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, Mother prided herself on preparing us kids for anything life might send our way. Her own mother had suffered a massive stroke when she was only five years old. As the oldest of four children, my mother professed that it was hard work and a strong faith in God that got her through those rough years. She was a shining example of Yankee faith and fortitude, and she passed along those values to each of us.   Still, nothing could have prepared me for the void that Mother’s [More]
I stood before the full-length mirror in the church’s bridal suite, looking past myself in my wedding gown, searching for a blessing. The secret blessing I’d prayed for.   My soon-to-be mother-in-law fussed with the train on my gown, and the reflection got blurry as my eyes welled with tears. Not even my fiancé, Paul, knew the sadness that weighed on my heart, the longing I had for the presence of the five people missing from my special day.  My mom, my aunt, Grandma and Grandpa, and my sister, Audrey.   Five people I’d adored. My aunt and grandmother had [More]
Worst. Birthday. Ever. The second my husband was out the door, I collapsed in a heap on the living room sofa and cried my eyes out. He’d gone off to work without so much as a “goodbye” or “I love you.” Not even a “happy birthday.”   Our seven-year marriage was over. That much was clear. We’d just come home after a long weekend in San Francisco, where we’d intended to celebrate my 41st birthday with friends. We were trying to work through our problems. Maybe a mini vacation was just what we needed. But he’d ignored me the entire [More]
I sat at the kitchen table to read the paper, a quiet moment in a stressful morning. A familiar face smiled up at me from the obituary page—Eleanor, a grandmother figure I’d befriended in church. Everyone knew her as a deep and caring person, someone who would listen to your problems, pray for you, and know exactly the right thing to say to put you at ease. If only I could talk to Eleanor now. I felt like a terrible mother and I needed a friendly word.   My only son, Michael, and my two other girls didn’t give me [More]
 I drove slowly down the road, peering through the frozen rain striking my windshield. My 12-year-old son, Eric, shivered in the passenger seat while the car warmed up. I should have headed straight home after church, especially in this weather. But we had gone to visit a friend in Grymes Hill, a neighborhood in Staten Island, New York. By the time we left, the sun had set and a sleet storm had begun.   My friend’s townhouse was at the top of the hill and the way down was steep. There were patches of black ice everywhere along the winding [More]
For over 20 years, I had prayed for Joe, my stubborn, beer drinking, pool shooting father to become a follower of Jesus Christ. My mother had prayed for 30-plus years of marriage for the man she dearly loved who had no time for God and little time for her or me. At times Dad’s belligerence toward the things of God grew so hostile, his salvation seemed an impossible dream. Yet, our Christian family and friends prayed and waited. Then around 1980, God’s “still, small voice” impressed upon me to fast and pray every Saturday for my father. “Fast? Me…fast?” I [More]
As Mike Spicer laid 8-month-old Ryder Lockwood on the passenger seat of his truck to start CPR, he said a prayer to God. Minutes before, Ryder had been in the back seat of an overturned vehicle that struck a tree off the side of Highway 198 in Visalia. Spicer, a retired California Highway Patrol officer and head of security for Adventist Health in the central San Joaquin Valley, spotted the wreck Saturday morning, pulled over, and was handed a dead baby. The 61-year-old Hanford, Calif., man had seen many dead bodies over 27 years in the CHP. He was sure [More]
I was a college student in Illinois that Thanksgiving, and I couldn’t wait to get home to Massachusetts for the holidays. A friend’s mother offered me a lift as far as upstate New York, where my parents were going to pick me up.   Mrs. Case and I drove all through the chilly night. Just after sunrise on Thanksgiving morning, the engine quit and we rolled to a stop on a deserted highway somewhere in western New York.   Mrs. Case said calmly, “God doesn’t get you just halfway. Let’s pray, Richard.” After we prayed a little, she turned the [More]
We ate a big breakfast at a local restaurant, like we did every Father’s Day. Then off to church. Pastor talked about how God is a father who never lets his children down. I wanted to be a father like that. One of the presents my daughters gave me was a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “World’s Coolest Dad.” That was good enough for me. After church I put the shirt on. Then we’d leave for a car show the next town over. That was also our tradition. Just like any other Father’s Day. That’s what made it so great. [More]
My employer’s words struck terror in my heart: “I’m sorry, Jock, but we have to let you go. We’ve got to downsize to stay afloat.” Just like that, my 14-year career with a marketing agency was over. The chances of my finding another good job at age 51 were minuscule. How would I support my wife and four-year-old son? Panicked, I prayed, “Lord, please lead me to a job.” Then I signed up for unemployment and scoured the want ads. Read More: Prayer to Find a Job | Guideposts
I don’t know who was happier to be out hiking that beautiful autumn day, my dogs—Sophie, a nine-year-old white standard poodle, and Tex, a five-year-old parti-color miniature poodle—or me. We were out in the Sierra foothills on one of our favorite trails, by Feather Falls, the sixth highest waterfall in America. A mile down a wooded canyon to a creek, then two miles back up to where I had parked the car. A good, vigorous hike. We were almost to the creek when a squirrel darted across the trail and into the trees. Sophie bolted into the canyon, hard on [More]
Anybody who asked me about babies when I was a little girl got the same answer: I would rather have puppies. I’ve sure changed since then, I thought as I stepped into the pre-dawn darkness one September morning. My job started at 6:00 a.m., so this time of year I made the 45-minute commute in the dark. The drive gave me a lot of time to think, and lately all my thoughts were the same: Would John and I ever have a baby? I pulled onto the country road that led to the office. The sky was still full of [More]
The old wooden shed in our backyard was falling apart. “We could get one from the store,” my husband, Fred, suggested one afternoon. “The ones you put together yourself. DIY.” I groaned. Do-it-yourself never appealed to me. Too many things could go wrong. But that weekend we bought a new shed. The assembly was even harder than I imagined. By the time we put it together we were exhausted. All we had left to do was anchor it to the ground. “We can do that tomorrow,” Fred said. But when I looked outside the next morning, the night wind had [More]
“You kids get to decide what we’ll do this weekend,” my wife, Tina, told our three children at dinner one Friday evening. “Can we play mini golf tonight?” our oldest, Rose, asked. “I want to ride a train,” five-year-old Matthew piped up. “What about you?” I asked Lauren, our eight-year-old. “I don’t know,” she said. “We’ll just have to surprise you then,” I said. Tina and I worked hard to make sure all our kids felt equally included in family activities, but I knew Lauren often felt overlooked as the middle child. And she was by far the most sensitive [More]
“How many times does God want to help us if only we would ask.”  Admin There were two ways I relaxed: quilting and smoking. Quilting was my passion. Smoking was my addiction. I was a nurse. I knew cigarettes were slowly killing me. But I just couldn’t stop. My good sense couldn’t stop me. My husband couldn’t stop me. My kids couldn’t stop me. I was a smoker, and that was that. Read More: The Angel That Helped Me Quit Smoking | Guideposts
“God’s timing is always perfect, we just have to be patient if our timing does not line up with His.”  Admin My husband and I had a house-sale prayer that had never gone unanswered. We’d prayed it often for friends: “Father, You know that Jim and Marge need to sell their home. You also know the particular family who needs this particular house. In Your perfect timing, Lord, we ask You to bring these needs together.” And soon the friends would call to say they’d found the perfect buyer. So when the time came to put our own home of [More]
Just thirty-two cents in our bank account , I thought when I awoke one breezy fall morning, my stomach tightening. How am I ever going to pay the babysitter today? My husband, Boyd, and I had just moved back to South Carolina from Tennessee with our five-year-old, Mindy, and baby, Meredith, to be closer to my mom. Boyd had found a good job as a HR manager, but wouldn’t be getting paid till the following week and the moving expenses had drained our bank account. I was taking a class in the afternoons to renew my teaching certificate since I’d [More]
Every Friday for three years I baked for our church’s staff. They enjoyed the homemade cookies and cakes during coffee break, and I loved showing my appreciation for their hard work. While I was at home recuperating from knee surgery, a friend telephoned one Friday and offered to take the weekly treat to the office for me. “I don’t know if I can send anything,” I replied. “My supplies are low, but if I can, I’ll bake an apple pie.” It was one of the specialties I could do in my sleep. However, a search o Read More: God’s Help [More]
Finally, in 2008, after eight years of hard work, Tinsel Time Christmas Tree Farm opened for business. It was a family affair just like we’d imagined. Our kids, along with my brothers, my parents and our nieces and nephews helped out. We dressed like elves and stood by the side of the road waving a banner that read, “Chop down your own Christmas tree!” We drew people in with marshmallow roasts and hayrides in a red-and-white sleigh.   Business was great! After the first year, Karen and I both took early retirement and sunk all of our spare time and [More]
My son and daughters are all grown now, but as their mother I still worry about them. Especially when Gina, my youngest, told me about the car trouble that she’d been having. “I turn the key in the ignition, but it just won’t start,” Gina said when I was down in Texas visiting her and her sister for a month. It sounded to me like battery trouble, but Gina told me that she didn’t have enough money to get a new one right away. Her sister had given her a charger to keep in the car. It fixed the problem [More]