I can’t recall when my life started. I don’t know if it was when my heart began to beat inside my Mother’s womb, or if it was when two cells met and began to replicate and specialize, ultimately becoming this body my soul walks around in (I call it my “soul suit”). I don’t remember being born (with a big hemangioma just above my cute lil belly button that disappeared in time, just as the doctors said it would). I can’t remember the day my Daddy came back from the Army. They tell me I stood at the top of the stairs and asked “Who’s dat man? Who’s dat man?” in my 21-month-old voice…not quite the greeting he’d hoped for, I’m sure.

After that there are bits and pieces I remember. I can remember the smell of the new trailer Mom and Daddy bought for us to live in, across the road from and up above my Mammaw’s house, where I’d lived since birth. I can remember crying for Mammaw, but Daddy, in his wisdom, limiting my time with her because he knew HE had to establish a presence in my life. I can remember having a tiny piano, a little table with two chairs that were just my size, and my very own bed in our new home. In the daytime Daddy worked at a textile plant and Momma took care of home and me. They were a great team…each was strong where the other was weak. And that never changed.

My first true, strong memory came in July, 1965. Afternoon and evening thunderstorms are normal here in the mountains. Momma and Mammaw had learned from Mammaw’s mother, Grandma, that everyone should be together in one room when a storm hit. Momma scooped me up and dashed across the road to Mammaw’s just before the storm hit.  Suddenly there was a HUGE CRASH!!!POP!!!BOOM!!! of lightning. The lightbulbs in Mammaw’s house exploded. Fuses flew out of the fuse box, and outlets flew out of the walls. I’d never experienced ANYthing like it before, and haven’t since. And, amidst all the scurrying around to make sure the house was ok, my Momma yelled “Mother! Your house is on fire!!! I can see the flames reflected in Preacher Parker’s (he lived just below our trailer) roof!”

Someone picked me up, someone went to the window where Momma stood…and suddenly my Momma was screaming and sobbing “It’s OUR house! Oh God it’s OUR house on fire! Oh GOD!”  Someone called the fire department while others tried to calm Momma down. At that instant I had my first thought that I can remember–I thought “If it’s bad enough that Momma is crying, then I should be, too. She’s my Momma!” I sat down on a little round brown vinyl ottoman and sobbed. Momma had picked me up with just a diaper on and she was wearing one of Daddy’s t-shirts and a pair of shorts. By the time the fire trucks got there, that was all that remained of our possessions.

Lightning-the same bolt that caused all the electrical carnage at my Mammaw’s-had entered the trailer at one end and passed out through the other. All of my parents’ belongings were scorched or gone. And after the fire crews left…the scavengers came. Someone found Momma’s jewelry box and took it. Others kicked through the rubble, looking for anything of value. It was gone, though; all of it. The 20  months of reel-to-reel tapes of me talking that Momma had sent Daddy while he was stationed in Ethiopia were destroyed. Our clothes were gone. My little piano, the one I remember loving so much, was gone, too. There was a jar of money–Daddy was in charge of counting and depositing our church’s offerings each week and hadn’t gotten around to it for that week yet. Years later (at least 30), after my Daddy’s father died, Daddy found that jar of burned coins and scorched money. My Daddy’s father, my Pappaw, had brought it to his house, and replaced the money destroyed in that fire with his own. He’d hidden the charred money in the basement, I assume out of modesty and because he didn’t want the reminders seeing that jar would bring to mind.

When my Great-Grandma, who I never met, taught her children that they should all be together in the storm, I wasn’t even born. My Momma wasn’t born. Yet Grandma felt strongly, for some reason, that it was of the utmost importance to be together during thunderstorms. That lesson saved my life. If Momma hadn’t grabbed me and gone across to Mammaw’s, we’d have been in that trailer when the lightning hit, erupting the trailer into flames as if it were made of tissue paper. There wouldn’t have been time to get out, even if we DID survive the strike. She was obedient in teaching something God had placed upon her heart, even though I’m sure she didn’t fully understand why.

In the Old Testament, a very brave woman named Esther was chosen by King Xerxes to be his most favored queen. Esther, however, was an Israelite. Her father, Mordecai, warned her never to let that fact be known or she and her family would be in grave danger. Eventually, through a series of deceptions and lies, an evil man named Haman tried to persuade Xerxes to make it legal and desirable to kill Israelites. Esther, having been warned by her father, went to King Xerxes and invited him to a feast that evening; a feast which Haman would attend. After the meal the king offered Esther anything she desired up to half his kingdom. She refused, but asked him to return again the next evening and feast again, along with Haman.

The next evening Xerxes and Haman enjoyed another splendid feast, prepared and served by the most beautiful Esther.  Again Xerxes was pleased and offered Esther anything she wanted. She asked that her life and the lives of her people be spared. She’d never told the King she was an Israelite, and he was confused. When she explained she, too, was an Israelite, Xerxes became outraged. He ordered Haman hanged and restored safety to the Israelites living in his kingdom.

There’s a verse in that story which has always stuck with me…a verse spoken to Esther which says “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” When I think of people being placed upon the Earth with a specific task to accomplish, and then of their completing the task despite their doubts, I think back to Esther. She could’ve been killed at Xerxes command at any moment–and would have been had she not been obedient to God’s calling. She had lied to the king!

I never met my Great Grandmother, Zora Hestella Robinson Bugg; she passed before I was born. I’ve seen grainy photographs of her, and I have the sewing machine upon which she sewed clothing for her children and grandchildren. I’m sure she never dreamt that her fear of storms would one day save the life of her Granddaughter and Great-Granddaughter. Her life, though, is a perfect example of someone being placed in a certain place and prepared in a certain manner to protect God’s children.

Momma’s always said she loved Grandma Bugg’s name–Zora Hestella. I don’t believe Momma realizes that my middle name, Starr (although creatively spelled) is actually the English equivalent to part of Grandma’s name–Stella. I DO believe that God realizes it, though, and placed that name in Momma’s mind so *I* wouldn’t forget that *I* was placed upon the earth, just like Grandma, for a specific task. For such a time as this, or as one that is to come.

His ways are higher than our ways. We must never forget that.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”