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  • Susanne Johnson-Berns

Susanne's Boat Renaming Ceremony

Our group gathered Friday night at Red Top Mountain State Park to participate in renaming Susanne's boat. Before unveiling her new name: HEAVEN SCENT, she shared the following story sent to her by Beth Gray :

When is a time that God’s sovereignty intersected your human story?

The reality is, when has God’s sovereignty NOT intersected my human story?

If I truly believe that He is sovereign, the answer to this question is always, every single day….whether I recognize it or not.

In March of 2015, my husband of 26 1/2 years died. During the year and a half prior to that day, our family experienced His sovereignty on a daily basis. We were aware of it during the days immediately following diagnosis, throughout chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, immunotherapy, and ultimately home hospice care. However, I am going to share a different type of story with you. It is a story that illustrates God’s tender and personal care and love for us.

My husband loved to sail. If it was Tuesday afternoon and warmer than 50 degrees, I knew he would be at the lake, out on his sailboat which we had named Transfusion. The name had significance on multiple levels. Rick was an oncologist. As you may know, chemotherapy can cause a person to be anemic, and at the time, it was not unusual for him to prescribe a transfusion for one of his patients. When a person is anemic and receives a transfusion, they usually feel better, stronger, with more oxygen to the limbs and brain. Going out on Transfusion was like that for Rick. He thought more clearly, rested more deeply, and came home energized as a result of his time on the boat.

For some reason, I never developed a love of sailing. I decided it was the constant adjusting. We would get settled with the sails trimmed and me sitting in a comfortable position. Then, before I could really relax, it was time to come about, constantly readjusting. A little bit like life actually! There are so many lessons to learn from a boat!

After Rick died, I was faced with multiple decisions, one of which was, “What to do about the boat?” I knew I needed to sell her, but how, and to whom? When faced with these types of challenges, I have found myself increasingly saying, “Lord, I don’t have any idea what to do here, so you’ll have to show me clearly.” With the sailboat, He showed me clearly and it is one of my favorite reminders that He is in control over the big and small aspects of my life!

One day I was stopping by his office to drop off some paperwork. I “happened” to meet a woman at the door that I had never met or even heard of before. She was an aspiring sailor, captivated with the love of the sport, and was spending her free time at the marina learning to sail. This was the same marina where Transfusion was docked, and she shared with me how she had seen his boat and had even communicated with Rick via email about sailing in the past.

She made me a generous offer to do anything that she could to help me going forward, no strings attached. So began a friendship, mostly forged through emails being exchanged. She connected me to sailing club members that helped me find out where to get the boat cleaned, taught one of my sons to sail, and even met her at the dock on Saturdays to look for an elusive leak that I didn’t even know about and seemed to be impossible to find. We shared a key to the boat, and I allowed her to sail when she wanted to. The following spring, one son came home from college and the boys spent some time sailing on their own, but it became clear that we could not keep the boat.

Transfusion needed to be tended to, loved, and most especially sailed. Without attention she would become a gray, mildewed mess, falling further into disrepair.

In June of 2016, the sale was made final. Susanne and I shared coffee on the boat, talked about her love of sailing, which had originated from her father (who’s birthday “happened” to be that day), and we both felt the love of God shining down. We recognized that only He could have brought us to this moment. Transfusion was in the perfect hands. I have never had one second of regret.

This spring I received a special email from Susanne, detailing the restoration of Transfusion. She and her husband pulled her out of the water and completely refurbished her. The pictures show her looking better than ever. This quote from Susanne captures the heart of a very special interaction:

“I hope you continue to feel good about the decision to allow me to take ownership of Transfusion, I certainly continue to feel incredibly blessed to have her. She has and is continuing to teach me so much about life. She has transformed me in many ways, and has giving me courage to step beyond what I used to think were my limitations. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart, know that she is loved and cared for, always.”

I never could have engineered or even imagined such a perfect ending. Transfusion is still in the same slip, in the same marina, is loved a cared for, and will be used for bringing restoration to more people. This could never have happened had God not brought our paths to intersect on that day in April 2015.

“The storms of sorrow through bereavement are intense, but they are one of the Father’s ways of driving me to Himself. His purpose is to softly and tenderly speak to my heart in the secret, hidden place of His presence. There is a certain glory of the master that can only be seen when the wind is contrary and my ship is being tossed by the waves. Jesus Christ is not my security AGAINST the storms of life, but He is my perfect security IN the storms. He never promised me an easy passage, only a safe landing.” —from Streams in the Desert.

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