The Divine Touch by Nancy Jo Sullivan


sullivan_nancyOver two decades ago, on a snowy November night, our first baby was born with Downs’s syndrome.   It was a winter filled with the despair of dashed hopes and dreams.  But it was also a season when the warmth of God touched my life, in a most unusual way.

The following story, originally published in Guideposts magazine, reminds me that even when we walk through cold valleys of uncertainty, God’s presence always lights our way.

I happily share it with you.

That winter, now twenty five years ago, it got so cold that ice formed inside the kitchen windowpanes.  Gasoline froze in the tank of our family car.  Bare, brittle limbs snapped in the breeze, and newscasters warned of wind-chill and frostbite.  Despite the bitter weather, I walked alone each morning through our new neighborhood, dressed in layers of down and wool.

I walked and I walked.  Maybe defying the elements made me feel I had some control over my life.  That year, I had lost two loved ones to death, and our first baby was born with Down’s syndrome.  As much as I loved our child, I still felt stunned.  God seemed concealed, hidden somewhere in this cold winter of death and disappointment.  So I trudged in solitude, day after freezing day.  Only in front of a stranger’s brick house did I become gradually aware of a presence, a kind of peace.  Here, for a moment each morning, I felt something promising, hopeful, and reassuring.  I didn’t know why.

Spring finally did come, and children once again pedaled bicycles on the side-walk, men swung golf clubs on the green fairways, and I exchanged my down and wool layers for jerseys and faded blue jeans.

One morning, I took my newborn, Sarah, with me on my walk.  In the bright sunlight in front of the brick house, I saw a mother playing with her young twin daughters.

I watched as she gently guided the girls’ hands over rough bark and offered them lilac blooms to smell.  Just when I realized the children were blind, the mother greeted me with a wave.

“May they touch your baby?”  she asked.    While the two girls softly stroked Sarah’s face, brushed her fine chestnut brown hair, and held her tiny pink hands,  their mother spoke about what it had been like when her children were born and what unexpected blessings she had found in those early years.  “In adversity, we must be on alert,” she said, “for God will find a way, somehow, to touch us.

I wondered if I should tell her about my walks.   Finally, I said, “Last winter when I passed by your home each morning, I felt strangely reassured and comforted.  Warmed.”

My new friend smiled.  “You must be the person I felt compelled to pray for this winter,” she said.  “I thought someone in this neighborhood was going through a difficult time.  Now I know it was you.”

Reprinted with permission from Guideposts.  Copyright 1996 by Guideposts.  All Rights Reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior permission from the author.


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