The Anchor Holds

She loved him with all the emotion that a 10 year old girl could possibly have, and she called him Daddy and he called her baby-doll. She had an older brother and a sweet mom, both of whom she loved dearly, but this little lady was a daddy’s girl all the way. She loved to sit on his lap when he came home from work even though he brought with him the scent of the machines where he worked. In fact, her mom would often race with her to see who would be the first to get to sit on his lap. I suspect mom let little Tonya Wilson win most of the time.
Charlie and Geneva and Tonya and Tim Wilson
It was a wonderful time for this family of four that loved to go on camping trips when they visited relatives. They were a faithful family who attended church every week where Daddy was a deacon, and they loved to sing. Musical instruments seemed to come easy to Daddy as did the harmonies he brought to the songs he sang. Singing together was an important part of this loving family. Her mother was a “stay at home mom” who loved Jesus, her family, praising the Lord and praying.

Tonya asked Jesus to be her Savior as a young child and was baptized several years later. Her dad was part owner in a business with industrial machines and he often had to work long hours to keep the company moving ahead. His faithful wife and faithful family helped him stay strong in the Lord. Her mother was strong in the Spirit of the Lord and her prayer efforts were an essential part of the spiritual fabric of her household.
One day in December of 1980, Tonya and her brother Tim were shopping with Mommy for gifts for some of their relatives. With the excitement of Christmas getting near, they wanted to be ready by avoiding the last minute rush. As the time of day grew later, Mom decided to call her husband and ask him what he wanted for dinner. She couldn’t get connected with him so she talked to someone else and asked where he might be. What she heard shook her world. She was told, with no explanation, that there had been an accident and she should immediately come to the hospital. Due to the tone of the call, she had a strong sense that he was already dead. She told her children that their daddy had been seriously injured at work and they were going to the hospital to check on him.

Not knowing just what circumstances they might find, and with hearts pounding, they left the store and rushed to the hospital. Mom was ushered into another room while relatives and friends watched over the kids. There she found the body of her husband, who had already been pronounced dead by the attending physician. She and her children were stunned, and their tears flowed, and oh, the pain. That awful pain of the sudden tragic loss of the life of this 38 year old man that Tonya called Daddy. There would no longer be a need to rush to sit on his lap, nor would he ever again call her baby-doll. In a blink, this wonderful man they all loved dearly was gone to Jesus. I have had the responsibility, as a chaplain, to accompany police officers when they notified a family of the death of a loved one. This type of news, especially when it is not expected, is heart breaking and devastating to those left behind.

The medical examiner was not able to determine just what had happened to this young father on that fateful day. Whether it was a heart attack or an electrical shock of some kind could not be stated for sure. All they knew for certain was the heart of an otherwise healthy 38 year old man had suddenly stopped and his life ended. The family would always believe that there had been some sort of malfunction of the equipment involved.

All the details of this death had to be tended to and their family and church did what they could to help during those early days of this loss, but life goes on and those left behind must move forward. However, in this situation there was a 10 year old girl who was grieving deeply, and was just plain angry. Fear also overwhelmed her heart as she went through many uncertainties.

She could not, and seemingly would not understand “why!!” her dad had to die. Mom bore the brunt of her anger outbursts and her fear, as she lashed out at those who loved her the most. Tonya dove into eating food as a release, and tried to eat her way out of the pain which led to a difficult-to-tolerate weight gain. Then there were the difficult dreams that disturbed her sleeping during these times. Often, in the middle of the night, her mom got up and anchored herself in prayer to her Savior. This wounded wife and mother lifted her daughter and then family up to the Throne of God and, like the old song says, her anchor held in the midst of the storm and so did theirs.

Heb. 6:19:18-19 tells us “So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.”
As a child Tonya had been afraid of storms, when the wind blew strong, the rain came hard and the lightning thundered. She would often sing this song during these events.
While singing “Till the Storm Passes By” God would comfort her heart by reminding her that He was right there. That is exactly what God did for her as she suffered through the great life storm of losing her father. In the midst of all these tragic circumstances, and her personal struggles, He gave her a sweet dream about her father that comforted her heart and soul, and gave her peace. It was a beautiful dream that she would never forget. The Spirit of God began to move in a strong and wonderful way in her heart, as He called her to serve Him through music. She knew it and was determined to answer that call. This situation would require an extremely shy young girl to allow God’s grace to help her step out of her reclusive shadows and into the spotlight.
By the age of thirteen Tonya had a new step father, Mr. David Grove who loved Jesus, her mom, and the kids. She was in a new family configuration, and things were looking up.

She had a calling to sing for her Lord and that is what she did as she began singing in her church worship services. God had gifted her with a voice and she was going to use her gift for His Glory. Along with growing up physically and in her singing abilities, she was also growing in God’s grace.
Isaiah describes the journey she has made in her life and relationship with her Lord.

Isaiah 43:1b-2a.When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

When you see her leading our worship and listen to her sing here at Southside, remember that she has been through some terrible storms that brought grief, fear, anger, and heartbreak and has come through them singing praises to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She looks around and sees her faithful and loving husband Neil who stood with her through the difficult miscarriages she endured. She considers the amazing grace that brought to her home her wonderful children Tory, Connor and Aubree, and don’t forget those beautiful grandbabies. In all the hard times of her life she has found that when the rain of the storm has hung her eyes with tears and filled her hearts with fears – The Anchor Holds.
Tonya and Two Brothers
Geneva, (Mom and Grandmother): Tory expecting Marin: Tonya (Mom and Grandmother)
There is a glorious day coming for her when there will be no more storms and no more tears. A time when her days on earth are over and she has experienced the joy of seeing her Lord and Savior face-to-face. Perhaps the next thing she will hear is a familiar voice calling out from among the saints saying—I’ve been waiting for you baby-doll.

If your life is in a storm, or if you can see a storm on the horizon heading straight for you, the question may come to your mind—can I survive this? Will the anchor of my soul hold for me? He absolutely will! Ask Tonya Bethune about it.

Isn’t God’s Grace a wonderful thing!?

Roger Allen Cook

I love to write stories about God’s grace. If you have a story I should consider, please contact me at:
Other stories can be viewed at: Southside.Church/grace

Below is a video of Tonya Singing "The Anchor Holds"