Monday, January 31, 2011

Some Where Over the Rainbow - Part Two

The next dramatic incident involving the song Some Where Over the Rainbow happened several years later during another difficult time. The nature of my anxiety is not really important, and so I will not bother with details other than the situation caused nausea and nightmares. It felt as though I had been dropped into a black hole without any hope of rescue. I prayed. I read my devotions. I meditated. Still, I felt submerged in a pit too deep to get out of. Just going to work was a struggle.
At the time I was a receptionist for an Assisted Living Community and part of my job was keeping the old time jukebox playing. On this particular morning the machine was stuck on one song, a classic hymn such as This Rugged Cross. Nothing wrong with the song, except Tuesday morning breakfast was not the time our residents cared to listen to it. I tried changing the CD. Didn't work. I tried re-programming. Didn't work. Tried unplugging it and plugging it back in. Didn't work. At this point our Activities Director tried. Same results. Finally she held down the Forward button until the CD changed.

The jukebox played normally the rest of the morning until I returned from lunch.  This Rugged Cross was playing again. I went over to the machine with the intent of turning if off and call a technician.  I touched the control and the song changed to Some Where Over the Rainbow.

Our Activities Director called down to me from her office on the second floor. "That isn't possible. That CD is not next in the rack and that song is not the first on that CD."

Of course it wasn't. I was being reminded that blue skies always follow a storm - after the rain, the rainbow appears.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Some Where Over the Rainbow


When my third husband passed away my sister gave me a beautiful book of Maxfield Parrish prints, breathtaking landscapes coupled with the words to  Some Where Over the Rainbow. The book and the song became beacons of hope, heralds of miracles I believed, prayed, were yet to come. I kept the book close, referring back to it frequently when I felt overwhelmed with grief and uncertainty.

A few years later while on vacation in Hells Canyon in Eastern Oregon, I became very ill. Somehow I had contracted an infection which quickly turned into a staph infection and then to blood poisoning.  The nurse-practitioner in the little community of Half Way announced I should be hospitalized, but did not believe I would survive the sixty mile trip to Baker City. My only option, other than a Mercy Flight, was treatment in the clinic.

After an injection of the most powerful antibiotic available, plus a prescription for an equally strong oral antibiotic, I was restricted to complete bed rest - flat on my back. If the reddened area progressed beyond the line the nurse drew (with a ball point pen, no less) I was to call her immediately. I had the clinic number, her cell phone number and her home number.

I don't know which was worse, the agony of the infection or or being forced to lay in the back bedroom of a small camp trailer, while outside the Canyon was ablaze in sunlight and Autumn colors. I was on vacation and wanted to be out walking along the river or sitting beside the creek. Instead, I had a small view of a few trees and a section of sky.

Every morning I went into town for my injection and inspection. Then back to the trailer and bed. Gradually the redness receded and I was pronounced well enough for light activity. I could sit or stand for short periods - as long as the redness did not reappear. I felt I had been paroled from prison - short parole,discomfort sent me back to lie down after only a few moments of sitting or standing - walking was still too painful to go but very small distances.

By the end of the next week I was well enough to travel home, with explicit instructions to make an appointment with my doctor for further tests. The general consensus was the infection might be a symptom of a chronic disease. I arrived home on a Saturday. My doctor appointment wouldn't be until Monday morning. I tried not to worry.

As a distraction, I watched the movie Meet Joe Black. The story line is inspirational, and the reason I chose it, but my miracle happened at the end while the credits were rolling. The first verse of What a Wonderful World, another song with special meaning for me, played, followed by the first verse to Some Where Over the Rainbow. Verses to both songs were alternated until the credits finished. As if I heard a voice, I understood my doctor would tell me I was healthy, the infection was a one time incident.

That is exactly what happened. A small blemish had become infected and due to a weakened immune system (thanks to excessive stress) staph had taken hold. This in turn led to the blood poisoning. As long as I carefully monitored other infections, I should never have another issue.

From that moment on, the song became a herald of miracles during other black moments - reminding me that there will again be blue skies after the storm - a symbol of God's promise that as long as I held onto Him, my faith, the flames would never burn me.
(To be continued)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Inferno

Palm Sunday. A lazy morning. Slept late. Ron and the kids slept even later. Church wouldn’t be an option that morning. I took the second option, reading the Passion while having my coffee.


I read the familiar words, resisting the temptation to hurry through. When I reached the end, I realized for the first time how personal the passage was. Not intellectually, but intimately, in my heart. For the first time I fully realized Jesus did indeed die for my sins. He died in my place. I collapsed onto the dinning table, sobbing.

An overwhelming desire to attend church propelled me into the bedroom. I had to go, even if I crawled the entire distance on my knees.

Ron rolled over and sat up. “What are you doing?”

“Going to Church.”

“Now?”

“Yes. I have twenty minutes to get there. You and the kids don’t have to come, but I have to go.”

By the time I was finished, he was dressed. I had another surprise when I headed for the door. All the kids were ready and actually waiting. That never happened.

As we raced across town I recited my usual mantra  “Better late than never.”

We pulled into – an empty parking lot. My heart dropped. No! We couldn’t be that late! Ron pointed to a sign beside the door. Services had been moved back a half hour. Instead of being late, we were twenty minutes early. How I had missed the announcement? Stuffing that question into the back of my mind, we shuffled in and sat in our usual pew.

It happened during the sermon. One moment I was sitting next to my family, the next I was standing in a white void. I was not alone. Jesus was there. He opened His arms and beckoned me. I ran to him and was enfolded in a tight embrace. As my face pressed agianst His chest, I could feel the coarsness of His garment. It was rough, like burlap, not the soft linen I had expected. I could feel the mass of his body, the strength in His arms.

Ecstasy. That is the only word that fit. No sorrow. No pain. No fear. Joy - unparalleled with anything the world had to offer. I wanted nothing, needed nothing. , Unbidden and unwanted, my sins paraded before my eyes. I did not deserve to be in His presence, let alone touching Him. I drew back, my head hanging in with shame.

He urged me to look up. His eyes held no accusation. He loved me just as I was – flawed and imperfect. It did not matter how many times I failed, only how many times I tried. It was the effort that counted.

I reached for Him, but was stopped by the deep sorrow in His eyes. He directed my gaze to my left. There lay a huge pit of fire. Black smoke roiled over white hot flames. I would have to walk through the inferno, not as a result of my sins, but as a natural part of my life. I would endure great pain.

“I can’t! It will be too great!”

He told me I had no choice.

I stepped into the pit expecting and fearing a horrific blast of heat. Instead, I felt His hand reach through the flames and grasp mine. As long as I held onto Him, my faith, the fire would never burn me and He would be waiting on the other side.

The next momet I was back in church. I still feelt the impression of His garment on my cheek. An overwhelming sense of peace kept my head down, unwilling to return to the world. The feeling lasted for nearly a month before the world eventually wore it away. It was months before I could talk about my experience, and then to only a few very close friends and family.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dream Come True


I met my second husband in September, five months after the divorce. He told me he loved me by December. We were engaged by January and married the following June.


We went to the Oregon coast for our honeymoon. It rained the entire week. On the last day we headed south on Highway 101. As we entered a long sweeping corner, the sun came out and Ron opened the roof on our red Peugeot. I recognized the white guardrail, the cobalt ocean, and the emerald hills from my dream all those years ago.

“Honey, we are going to have a child – a girl.”

Ten months later our daughter was born, premature. Her lungs were not developed and she could not breathe on her own. She was rushed by ambulance to a neo-natal center seventy miles away. Ron and I stayed by her beside, praying an fearing the worse. Then, miraculously on the third day, she was taken off the ventilator before brain damage could set in. She improved daily and finally after fourteen days we brought her home.

Ron was the father the boys needed - Dad from the beginning. He was the loving husband I had dreamed of. And it got better. "Eddy" moved out of town and for the most part left me alone. Life was pretty quiet until I had my second vision.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Back to the Future

I wrote this post all most two years ago not realizing at the time the words of comfort and hope would be exactly what I would need in the future, touching my heart more profoundly at the time they were actually meant to be read. Of course, I didn't look into a crystal ball and foresee my future. It was God who knew I would need these words at this exact moment in my life, and He used me as His intstrument months in advance. I find that amazing, even though I know it is so like Him to do just that. 


Disappointment. After a year of working in a temp to hire position the company wide hiring freeze is still in effect. There is no estimate as to when it will be lifted.

I asked, prayed, should I look for another job? In this economy, I am very lucky to have this one. I do have a steady paycheck, not much else, but it is income. Many don’t have even that. Instead of being selfish, I need to be thankful. But, it is hard to accept the fact I will be in a state of limbo with the company for an indefinite period of time.

Shortly after my meeting with my supervisor, I found a small piece of paper stuck my note book. Although it was my handwriting, I don’t remember recording the message. Neither do I remember seeing the note until that afternoon. It said: Isaiah 43: 2. I looked up the verse the moment I got home.

When you shall pass through the waters, I will be with you, and the rivers shall not cover you: when thou shall walk in the fire, thou shall not be burnt, and the flames shall not burn you.

This alludes back to my vision. During my life, I would walk through an inferno, not as a result of my sin, but as a natural part of my life. I stepped into the flames expecting a horrific blast of heat. Instead, His hand reached through the fire and grasped mine. As long as I held onto Him, my faith, the flames would never burn me and He would be waiting on the other side.

In addition to this, another of my devotions had this: This will result in your being witnesses to them. Luke 21:13.

Although God has given me a reason why this is happening, I am still fighting feelings of disappointment. In His goodness He went a step further this morning - He offered me hope.

As I considered my options, looking for another position, or hanging in where I am currently employed, I even thought of leaving the state and going back closer to my home town. Needing comfort, and guidance, I opened one my favorite devotions, God’s Little Lessons on Life for Women. I went directly to the section on encouragement. Psalm 37: 3-4 was one of those listed.

Trust in the Lord instead. Be kind and good to others; then you will live safely here in the land and prosper, feeding in safety. Be delighted with the Lord. Then he will give you all your heart’s desires.

Coincidently, my current state of residency was oddly mentioned in a novel I was reading the day before my job review. In the past Odd coincidences have often preceded an important message. In this case the coincidence referred to land – a precise place I was questioning whether to stay or leave.

But it didn’t stop there. Another devotion suggested we often waste a lot of time and energy focusing on our own circumstances - how we wish they were different - rather than concentrating on our faith and discerning what is God's will for us. Jesus' birth occurred in less than perfect circumstances and still resulted in our salvation, why can't good come from our imperfect situations?

I have God’s answer to my question. Now His question is, do I trust Him enough to believe?

Answered Prayer

For eleven months a co-worker has jumped at every chance to point out mistakes I have made. Although the woman works in another department, one week a month she relieves me at the front desk for breaks and lunch. Since I perform clerical back up to all departments I often carry out tasks for her. Nothing is ever done to her satisfaction and I receive numerous lectures on how to be professional and how important it is to be accurate. I accept the points and tips to perform better and brush off the insinuations that I am purposely being negligent - until last week.

I was responsible for a huge project affecting all regional offices including ours. (We are the Regional office for one and a half states.) Unfortunately, this project was one this woman has handled for the past eight years. Her criticism has me paranoid to the point of doubting my self on everything I do, not just this project. She got under my skin and it is affecting my job and I have to find a way to handle the situation. The woman is a veritable icon in the office and there is no way she will be reprimanded or removed. If I want this job, which I do very much (except for this woman it is the best job I have ever held) it is cope or leave.

As I read my e-mails last night (Friday) I prayed to God, asking for help and guidance. I opened a forwarded e-mail with a beautiful picture of Jesus holding out His arms, beckoning the reader (me) to come to Him. It reminded me of my vision years ago when I saw Him face to face. He told me He loved me just as I was – flawed and imperfect. It didn’t matter how often I failed. What mattered was that I kept trying.

I went to bed with that thought in my mind and in the wee hours of the morning, I heard His voice. He gave me this prayer to recite after this woman’s lectures: Dear God, you know what is in my heart. You know my true intentions and although I am not perfect, and I do make mistakes, You still love me and that is all that really matters. He added instructions: After reciting this prayer I am to counter her negativity by reminding myself of something I have done right, of a memory that will boost my confidence rather than shredding it.

My morning devotions re-emphasized this. Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman: The oil of kindness has worn the sharp hard edges off many a sin-hardened life and left it soft and pliable, ready to receive the redeeming grace of the Savior. A pleasant word is a bright ray of sunshine on a saddened heart. Therefore, give others the sunshine and tell Jesus the rest.

And so, I will retain tips on how to do a better job and throw away the negative. I will try to be a ray of sunshine to my co-workers, sifting the chaff from the wheat and reminding myself the only opinion that matters is God’s.