Serendipity Overload

is one of my favorite words.
My definition: finding something wonderful that you weren’t looking for.


One of the most splendid serendipitous events of my life took place on Monday night.

I was packing for a trip to Chicago to see my family and friends. I had inherited my Aunt Betty’s photograph album. She died in July near Cape Town, South Africa. She never had children; her friend wanted to send her few personal effects to a family member and asked me if I wanted them. Of course, I replied. When the packages arrived there were two paintings, some brooches, a cross-stitch I had done for her, and a photo album.

I was interested in seeing pictures of my grandpa and grandma, Aunt Betty, Jean-Blaise—my Congolese cousin (my aunt’s foster son)—, and dear Virginia who was my aunt’s best friend. My aunt survived three husbands and I couldn’t distinguish #1, #2 and #3 in the pictures. Obviously, I didn’t pore over each picture. My life was full when the packages arrived; I remember enjoying the photos and setting them on a shelf.

When I was picking pictures to bring with me on the trip, there were a few bunched up underneath another photo. I drew one out and saw Aunt Betty pushing a stroller with two toddlers: my oldest sister and brother. She had come to help out my mom.

The next picture was my mom holding a baby. I turned it over and read, “Nellie and Carol Ruth, 3 months.” Electricity sluiced through my body. There was my mom. And there was me.  I have never seen a picture of me as a baby. I didn’t think one existed. One of the hazards of being a seventh born.

The next photo was just overload. I was stunned. The date down the vertical margin was MAR 55. Elisabeth Elliot holding Valerie with Jim Elliot next to her. I don’t know where this picture was taken. Or why my aunt had it. Two possibilities exist. 1) Aunt Betty was a classmate of Betty Howard (aka EE) at a girls boarding school in Florida. But I never got the impression from Aunt Betty that they were particularly close. 2) Jim Elliot and my grandpa were close friends during his time at Wheaton. Perhaps my grandpa was the original recipient of the photo and my aunt inherited it after Grandpa and Grandma died? 

Who took the Elliot family photo? These scans don’t show it, but both pictures are the same size with the same border. This will take some research.



I love spending time finding the right word, the word that best fits the need. But, gentle reader, I am flummoxed and befuddled. To articulate the treasure that I have been given requires words I don’t yet know. I do know this: I am forever thankful. Thank you Aunt Betty, for saving a piece of my history. Thank you Virginia, for ensuring these treasures weren’t thrown away. Thank you, Almighty God, from Whom all blessings flow.



11 thoughts on “Serendipity Overload

  1. Oh, Carol, what a sweet, wonderful discovery! I’m thinking enlargements to give to your offspring and their wives would be a great idea (hmm, maybe even a Christmas gift idea?). Blessings to you!

  2. Goosebumps here. And baby Carol looks like the Carol know. Same smile! I hope you can get the other pic to Elisabeth and that she remembers the story behind it. As stuff goes, this is about as good as it gets.

  3. How wonderful!  Thank you for sharing the photo of the Elliot’s, I didn’t expect to see the photo in the post!  I have not read very many of her books, although I grew up knowing about her and the 5 martyred missionaries. I do own her biography of Amy Carmichael and have enjoyed it many years ago.  If you have time or inclination, would you or one of your readers be able to recommend some other EE titles?What interesting family stories you have!   🙂

  4. That’s wonderful, Carol! You should try to send this story and copies of the pictures to Valerie, Elisabeth Elliot’s daughter. Do you have a way to contact her? Enjoy your trip, dear lady, and know God is with you wherever you go. These special providences are His kindness reminding you of it.

  5. Both pictures are treasures…..but I’d lean toward the one with your mom as being the most precious!  Look at her smile as she beams at her seventh born!    I know I was beaming about my seventh born who was a girl (!!!!) after a string of boys     (And I’m still beaming over her most days now as a teenager as she’s such a character…..hee hee…..)Blessings,Tammy ~@~

  6. Isn’t it amazing what a gift a single photo can be? I have one, and only one, picture of me with my best childhood friend. One picture of us together despite the thousands of hours we spent in each other’s company. That photo is one of my most treasured possessions. How much more treasured must this photo of you with your mother be!

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