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  • Writer's pictureKelly Marks

Going Abroad

I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I once heard that two of the most stressful things in life are the death of a loved one and buying a new house. It seems legit. In 1994, Paul and I had been married not quite a year. We were buying our first house, and Paul’s dad was dying. The cosmos decided that we were to test the stress theory.

In between working full-time and spending part of our off hours at the hospital, we were dealing with the owners of the new house, since it was For Sale By Owners. Definitely not the best way to buy a house. Realtors are impartial, but the owners are deeply invested. This is akin to handing over a very prized possession. You don’t get to wander through and look the house over; you get a guided tour, complete with running commentary about the life events that occurred there.

As we concluded our tour, I was confused as to whether it was a domicile or a chapel. Every open space has been filled with a crucifix or a picture of the Virgin Mary.

The wife mentioned several times that they were devout Catholics. No kidding lady. I’m still shocked to this day that she would consider selling to a then Baptist, but luck was on our side.

The house was surrounded by hundreds of tall, skinny pines that really swayed even in the slightest breeze. As we were leaving, the woman told us that during Hurricane Hugo, she had prayed that God would place angels on each corner of the house and protect it. They lost some 25 trees during the storm, but not a single one hit the house.

It struck me as an odd thing to pray. Baptists don’t talk a lot about angels; I chalked it up to Catholicism.

29 years later, I was putting my daughter on a plane all alone and sending her off almost 5000 miles away. The “all-by-herself“ part had my anxiety ratcheted up several levels. Even she admitted to being a little nervous being all on her own.

I found myself praying the way the Catholic woman had prayed and asking God to put angels on that plane to guard and guide her. I’m not sure why that many years later it bubbled up in those terms but it did.

Just before the plane took off, we got a text from Madi. “Guess what." International passengers were given priority boarding. In those few, quick moments, Madi met two college students who were headed to Florence Italy; one happened to be a student at UNC as well. Unbelievably they had the exact same flight path to Florence by way of Boston and Amsterdam. In addition to them, the woman sitting beside Madi was a UNC alumna. I breathed a sigh of relief. It seems God knew some angels who were headed to Florence and introduced them to Madi.

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