Dive into the remarkable faith-filled stories of the beloved Guideposts writer.
Posted in , Jul 8, 2021
Elizabeth “Tibby” Sherrill is the author of more than 30 books and a long-time writer and editor for Guideposts. For 70 years, her stories on faith, traveling the world, and dealing with depression have been a beacon of light for our community. Check out some of our favorite stories by Tibby—and let her words warm your heart.
I stood looking out the kitchen window wondering how John and I could ever leave this house. We’d lived here for 50 years. There under the maple tree was the garden patch where we grew tomatoes that never ripened. There was the stump of the cedar we cut down to make room for our daughter’s wedding reception... There was no doubt in my mind, with both of us in our eighties, that we were making the right decision to move from New York to Massachusetts, where we’d be near family. Why was it so much easier to make up your mind than to make up your emotions?
I put the letter on the windowsill and looked across the swirling gray water of the Salzach River to the distant Alps. The Salzach takes a horseshoe loop at Oberndorf, and where the river curves, a church used to stand. High water had eaten away its foundations, and eventually the building was torn down. But I wanted to tell our friend about that vanished church. Because there too, one Christmas Eve, the organ had been silent...
My own struggle with depression has not “disappeared,” though it's never come back in such an incapacitating form. That dull gray mist still settles over me from time to time, obscuring light and meaning, making it hard to smile, impossible to get the smile down inside. But the grayness no longer terrifies me, and I think there are three reasons for this.
“There was a baby born here two weeks ago that no one knows what to do with," the doctor said into the telephone. He went on to explain that the infant was a vegetable: a hydrocephalic without sight or hearing or any human potential. The mother had disappeared from the hospital after seeing it and the state had no provision for handicapped children under the age of six.
"It will never live that long," the doctor's voice continued hastily. "At the outside it might live six months. Meanwhile there is the problem of care..."
"Bring us the baby," answered the voice at the other end of the line. It belonged to Sister Marie Patrice, the nun in charge of the day-nursery which the Sisters of Mercy ran for working mothers in and around Charlotte, North Carolina.
It rises like a many-peaked mountain from the heart of the city. Caverns on its steep slopes hold Bible scenes. Birds, plants, frogs and insects inhabit this landscape too. It’s the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia—the Church of the Holy Family—in Barcelona, Spain. And it’s one of Europe’s biggest tourist attractions. I stood in a long line, clutching my ticket, waiting in the hot sun to be admitted. When I was inside at last, the heat and the wait were forgotten. The vast interior pulsed with light in a thousand shades. With each step, breathtaking vistas opened, immense columns branching like trees in an otherworldly forest. All of it based on the vision of an astonishing genius, Antoni Gaudí.
I lingered, puzzling over the carving. There was nothing unusual about the depiction of the compasses; medieval stonemasons often chiseled symbols of their trade as a kind of signature in stone. Nothing unusual, either, about a decorative wreath of roses. What surprised me were the faces of the angels. Instead of the solemn and majestic features conventional for portrayals of these mighty messengers of God, these were children.
The slender brochure I’d picked up at the castle identified this building as “Ruprecht’s Palace”—all that remained of it— “built in 1400 for Prince Ruprecht III to celebrate his election as King of Germany.” Nothing about the carving above the entrance. Footsore and shivering I stayed there, but was unable to walk away, as though those silent angels had something to tell me.
As he entered the lobby of the Miyako Hotel in Kyoto, Japan, a small, erect man of 72, I felt myself stiffen. I had requested this interview because I wanted to hear for myself how it was that this one-time Shintoist had become a Christian. Walk over to him, I told myself. Hold out your hand. But my muscles had gone suddenly rigid. This is the man, those tensed muscles told me, who led the Japanese planes over Pearl Harbor. Three young sailors from my hometown had died in that attack. It was now 1974, more than 30 years later. But in my emotions, it was still December 7, 1941...
It was the picture over the door, when I turned to leave with my new library card, that stopped me. It was a photograph, this one black-and-white: a tall, thin man with his hand on a table and with the saddest, most pain-filled face I’d ever seen. The gold letters on the frame said Abraham Lincoln. It couldn’t be! Lincoln, my brave hero, who won every wrestling match? The ragged boy who told such funny stories that crowds would gather to listen? They’d put the wrong name on the photograph. But of course, it was Lincoln, and over time that portrait made him more important to me than ever.
Want to read more Elizabeth Sherrill? Surprised by Grace will help you understand how to completely trust God in the toughest times of your life, how to recognize your dependence on Him, and how to allow Him to light your way. The book features touching stories about Tibby's family and close relationships, from her unhappy childhood to John’s surprising marriage proposal. Travel with her to fascinating places across the United States and Europe. Find out how she overcame her poor self-image after a stunning encounter with her Creator.