Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Phyllis Vavold

On July 11, 2004, Phyllis and her husband, George, were enjoying the drive to their vacation on the Oregon coast. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a stolen car driven by teenage boys at 130 mph slammed head-on into their convertible. Phyllis was the only survivor. With devastating injuries, she faced the possibility of never being able to walk again. Through six surgeries and two years of recovery, the Lord began to miraculously heal her body . . . and her broken heart. 

Phyllis recently shared her story with me through excerpts of her book, Grace for the Raging Storm. I think you'll enjoy "meeting" her in this unique manner! 

Phyllis, what was the hardest thing about widowhood for you? 
. . . I woke to a pair of compassionate eyes watching over me. They belonged to the Chaplain of St. Charles Medical Center, Bend, Oregon. His words had brought comfort to me through the long night. The grave responsibility to contact my family fell heavy on his shoulders. Now it was his turn to compassionately tell me the tragic news. I stared into his eyes as he peered back in concern.
“He’s gone, isn’t he?”
He replied with a quiet, “Yes.”
I knew before I asked, but I did not want to believe this tragedy had entered my sphere, uninvited. Maybe it was a horrible nightmare or a hallucination gone wild, but my pain was real, and my heartache throbbed beyond words.
With unrelenting pain and a gaping brokenness I cried, “I don’t want to be a widow!”
My world, as I knew it, ended when I lost George. I was completely helpless, bombarded with life changes like selling my home and watching as others packed my possessions, personal and domestic. I could not dress myself, shower myself, or even get out of bed without help. My daughter had to care for me in ways that were difficult for me to accept. (Excerpt from Chapter 2)

Besides prayer, of course, what was the most helpful thing someone did for you?
Although left with overwhelming challenges, a constant flow of the [church] support squadron met our needs. A ramp, built by men from my church, assisted in my coming and going. Ladies from the church came once a week to do housework and laundry for Cheryl. Many meals and household items were brought in. To make sure everything was taken care of, friends checked on us daily. Truly, the family of God was at its best!
A few weeks later settling in at Cheryl’s home, God gave me the name of a lady to call to help me through this thunderous downpour. I did not know her very well . . . but I admired her for her godly insight and the way God guided her through her own journey of loss . . . To this day, I cannot believe I called her and asked her to come and visit me. Even more than a visit, I hoped she would be my counselor through this storm.
Mona said, “I will be glad to come and visit you, but we will see from there what my role will be. From there has turned out to be many hours weekly of scripture, tears, insight, and just being a friend.
As she entered my room, I asked her to close the door. “I have a question for you. It is deeply troubling me, and I have not shared it with anyone,” I quietly said.
She feared the question would be beyond her, but she answered, “What is it?”
Still anxious about saying anything, I whispered, “Is there a future for me?”
Mona took a sigh of relief, because she knew the answer. “I can promise you God has a future planned just for you.” (Excerpts from Chapter 8) 

What did you do that helped you the most? Was it a book you read, a grief group, moving or traveling, etc. ?
Since I was bedridden for months and heavily medicated I could only listen to music, others reading to me and scripture on CDs. After a few months I began journaling. This proved to be healing and I recorded the events I would use for my book. One notable entry is found in Chapter 7.
"Just as the scripture of Isaiah 42:9 says, See, the former things have taken place, and a new thing I declare. From that first moment, God began preparing me for a new beginning as He tenderly carried me day by day. I have treasures in my heart of all George and I had together. Furthermore, that will never be taken from me. They are mine to remember and enjoy but not to live in or focus my life around. God is doing a “new thing” everyday in me and for me. I cling to Him. His promises are true. He is my Rock, my Foundation, and my Strength."

What would you like most for others to learn from your experience?
My doctor told me that the trauma of my horrible accident was enough to destroy me. The horrendous loss of my husband added more than should have been tolerable. In my own natural strength, there is no way I could have made it. Only by God’s grace, love, and strength am I able to take each successive step forward into the future. Having God with us in the storm does not make the trauma painless, but it does give our pain purpose. God is always there to lift you up.
I am a living testimony that God is a miracle-working God. I have walked on the stormy waters of pain and sorrow, but Jesus held my hand and kept me from sinking into the depths of despair. He is the one who has given me the strength to press on through the six surgeries, the wheelchair, the cast, and all that recovery involves. Not only have there been the obvious physical and emotional miracles, but amazingly miracles happened every day in unseen ways. Only in retrospect have I accounted for the grace-filled blessings given to me.(Excerpts from Epilogue)

What sort of opportunities do you have to serve the Lord?
I am an ordinary woman with an extraordinary story to tell. Life happens in spite of our hopes, dreams, or plans. Good people experience bad things in life. However, as a child of God’s we have the assurance, in His promises, that He will provide strength in any circumstance, shelter through any storm, and peace in the midst of any grief.
Since the accident and my miraculous recovery I ventured out as an inspirational speaker sharing my journey of faith at women’s luncheons, women’s retreats, and churches across America. The lessons I have learned prove that the unexpected tempests of life are no match for the Lord who has the power to calm the storm.
I was the featured guest on the radio program, Words to Live By. I also shared my testimony on a local TV program called OOPS that shares testimonies of God’s faithfulness. This fall I introduce my Bible Study, Grace Gems--The Covenant of Grace based on Hebrews 4:16 “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” The thirteen lessons correspond with the chapters of Grace for the Raging Storm, and invite you to delve into the contract created by God for your healing, providence, and challenge. (Excerpts from Chapter 13) 

How did your kids do with their grief?
My daughter, Cheryl, became my caregiver. The definition of caregiver is, “Someone whose life is in some way restricted by the need to be responsible for the care of someone who is physically disabled” (Wikipedia).
Cheryl’s care for me involved many duties. If I was getting out of bed, I needed a security belt placed around my waist to support lifting me and prevent further injuries. She was my nurse, dispensing prescriptions around the clock. And she became my maid and my personal chef. Cheryl experienced exhaustion as she had never known . . 
My boys, George Jr. and Ben, along with their wives, also engaged many hours at the home place for clean-up, transporting me to my doctor visits, bringing comfort and counsel, and making needed business arrangements.
The strain of losing their Dad and the piling responsibilities weighed heavy upon my children’s shoulders. However, they found God can always be trusted with our emotional burden or physical task, even when those things are thrust upon us unexpectedly. He gives the strength to navigate through the furious situation with His grace.
      With the publishing of my book my children are very supportive and have grown through our journey together. As I mention in the Dedication: “To Cheryl, George Jr., and Ben – whose faith in God not only grew but overflowed to all who witnessed Jesus Christ in you. This has been your journey also through the raging storm.” An added bonus is that my grandchildren will get to know their Grandpa George through reading my book. (Excerpts from Chapter 8)

Is there anything else you'd like to share? 
Jesus Christ is my provider and my protector. He is my hope and strength for each day I continue down the river of adventure and wonder. The challenge is allowing God to daily be the Guide. Sometimes I am on the quiet waters of waiting when my anxious thoughts long for the excitement of the rapids. Even so, God has proven to be faithful when I surrender the oars into His capable and loving Hands. My heart’s cry is that my life will be a testimony of hope to all that come upon a life challenge too big for human capability. God’s bountiful grace is available in the calm days of life or in the midst of the raging storm of grief and pain.
The lessons learned prove that the unexpected tempests of life are no match for the Lord who has the power to calm the storm . . . Although my story of loss and grief is unique, loss is universal. My desire is to share my testimony of hope. My real-life narrative is confirmation of God’s restoration and grace.

Thank you Phyllis! And readers, Phyllis's book, Grace For The Raging Storm, will be featured tomorrow, but feel free to visit Phyllis's website today at 


  1. Great testimony of God's grace and faithfulness. I have asked the same question in different ways-'is there a future for me'.Phyllis story answers that question. We can look forward to a great future! Halima

  2. Phyllis is an amazing woman and excellent writer. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I thank the Lord for ladies like Phyllis who through their tough experience they continue to serve the Lord and are an encouragement and a living testimony to new widows like me.

  4. What an inspiring story. She must have wondered many times whether or not she had a future. I would love to see Phyllis in person some day.

  5. I have not yet read Phyllis's book, but am in awe of her Faith and her Love for God. I'm sorry she has had to endure so much pain and loss! But oh how the Lord has used her ( and still is) and her tragedy to reach and touch others for HIS glory! Sometimes we (me) need to look ourselves in a mirror and try to quit feeling sorry for ourselves. Our blessings are plentiful. God can use amazing instances, including pain and loss, for the good. Bless you, Phyllis, I know God does. (ReginaV)


Thank you for taking the time to comment. I am not always able to reply but your remarks mean a lot to me and will appear as soon as possible.

Here are some tips for commenting:
Remember to click the Publish button when you are done.
Choosing the anonymous identity is easiest if you do not have your own blog.
Using a computer rather than a cell phone seems to work better. Thanks again!