Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Companion to Grow Old With - Continued

My sister has a PhD in Experimental Psychology and by default has become our family advisor on a wide range of topics. “Let’s ask Becky” has become our mantra. She was my first phone call when all of the odd coincidences began.

“Interesting,” her code word for not enough data, please continue.

“So, you think God is promising me another companion? What about Sara’s seven husbands? Surely God doesn’t mean that literally?

“I do believe God is promising you a companion, but not seven of them. That is symbolic, but I’m not sure what the number seven symbolizes- the biblical sense. I haven't studied Numerology. All I can think of is Creation. Other than that I haven’t a clue.”


“I don’t know either – about the number seven – and to be honest, I am a little scared about trying another relationship. What if I get hurt again?”

“Do you really believe you will be?”

“Deep inside? No. But my rational brain keeps worrying about the ‘what ifs’.

“Listen to your heart, Marie. No, better yet, listen to your faith.”

“I'm trying.”
“And there were dreams?”

“Yes. Three. In the first we - you, Mother and I - were standing on a street corner watching a bicycle race. One man stood out from the rest. He had accomplished a great personal achievement, something no one else could do.”

“That’s easy.” Becky said. “His great personal achievement will be survival. He will survive – something your other husbands didn’t -couldn’t - do.”

“You really think so? That would tie in with the verses in Tobias.”

“Exactly.”

“Wow.”

“And the other dreams?”

“In the second I was being hunted. The man was considered very dangerous and everyone suggested I hide from him. I refused and when I did meet him, I did not feel threatened in anyway. He asked me to go with him, and I did. After we walked a short distance, he laid down on a bench and said he was ill – but it wasn’t really an illness. He was showing me his vulnerabilities, something he never let anyone else see. Then he cut out a piece of his heart and placed it in my hand and asked me if anyone had ever loved me that much. I said, no.”

Becky said, “The imagery and symbolism in this one is wonderful! He shows one face for the outside world, and another for those he loves -trusts. He has a very strong character and is not easily swayed by others and in fact, he isn’t too concerned about what others might think, except those allowed into his inner circle. As for the act of cutting out his heart, his love for you, that of course is an easy interpretation. He will sacrifice more for you than anyone ever has.”

“Sounds too much like the movie, Practical Magic. Maybe I am literally dreaming up a man who doesn’t exist.”

“You don’t know that. And after your previous dreams, which remember came true in every detail, how can you be so skeptical?”

“I am afraid I want it so much that it will kill me if it isn’t true.”

“Faith, Marie. Remember your faith."

"Yeah, I know."

"You said there was another dream?”

“Yes. In the last one our family was standing in the center of a huge fortification high on the side of a cliff. We had just won a horrific battle and everyone was celebrating our victory. This same man was one of the warriors and he urged everyone to keep fighting, and not be fooled by a false victory. The enemy was reforming their lines, not running. But no one believed him. Angry, the man turned to our father and told him he loved me and was taking me away. He picked me up and carried me toward a huge gate.

“Becky, the one thing that stood out in the dream was his gentleness. He was a fierce warrior and yet kind and tender with me.”

“Beautifully put.” Becky said. “Sounds like a true hero to me. Go on.”

“As we approached the gate he noticed it was shut. Under his breath he kept repeating, ‘Hope it’s not locked. Hope it’s not locked.’ I knew what he meant. He couldn’t show any weakness by putting me down to open it. Not in front of my family, especially Daddy. I told him I could open the door. When we came to the gate, I leaned over and opened the latch and he carried me through.”

“Another beautiful symbolism, Marie. By carrying you, he was proving his ability to care for you. Putting you down in front of Daddy, would signify he lacked the resources - strength - to be a good provider. The fact you offered to open the gate and preserve his dignity indicates your relationship will be a true partnership, one of mutual support and respect.”

“It feels like I know him already, and I haven’t even met him…” .....To be Continued

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Companion To Grow Old With

There would be no last minute cure, no miracle. Shannon was dying. I fell to my knees.

“Lord, why aren’t three enough? Why can’t I keep this husband?”

At that exact moment the narrator on the audio book said, “Don’t you know four completes the circle?”

No. Impossible. It was just a random comment from an audio book. Even if it was meant for me, what were the chances of finding another good man? I had already found two. Impossible.

The next day my daily devotions included Luke 1:37: For nothing is impossible with God.
I still refused to believe God was giving me the promise of another companion. I was convinced I would indeed spend the rest of my life alone, but God had a different plan.

For the next seven days, as I paged from one listed reading to the next, my bible fell open to the Book of Tobias, Chapter 10 – the wedding of Sara and Tobias. Sara was married seven times. Each of her husbands was killed by a demon on their wedding night. Sara, naturally distraught, believed she was cursed and would remain unwed for the rest of her life, enduring the scorn of other women. God did intend her to have a husband – Tobias. On their wedding night the couple knelt in prayer. Verse 10: Sara also said: Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, and let us grow old both together in health.

I closed my Bible, my head bowed with grief. I wasn’t growing old with any of my husbands. Why was God rubbing it in my face? Not just once, but over and over?

That afternoon I received a beautiful sympathy card from a close friend. In a personal note she quoted Psalm 37: But the salvation of the just is from the Lord and he is their protector in the time of trouble. 40 And the Lord will help them and deliver them: and he will rescue them from the wicked, and save them because they have hoped in him.

I read and re-read the passage, clinging to its message of hope.

The next morning, Psalm 37 was listed in my devotions: Trust in the Lord, and do good and dwell in the land, and you shall be fed with its riches. 4 Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the requests of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord, and trust in him, and he will do it. With the Lord, shall the steps of a man be directed, and he shall like well his way. 24 When he shall fall he shall not be bruised, for the Lord puts his hand under him. 39 But the salvation of the just is from the Lord, and he is their protector in the time of trouble. 40 And the Lord will help them and deliver them: and he will rescue them from the wicked, and save them because they have hoped in him.

I chalked it up to just another coincidence. I picked up the book my son gave me, a devotional by David Jeremiah titled A Bend in the Road - What to do when your world comes crashing down. The first page I read quoted Psalm 37.

The Psalm was quoted three times within twenty-four hours from three different sources. Coincidence? I wished with all my heart it was true, that God was indeed promising me a life companion, but I was too afraid to believe, too afraid I would be hurt again…..To Be Continued.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Bus

 I dreamed I was riding in a bus careening down a forest road. It was late afternoon, the sun sat low on the horizon and the thick timber cast long shadows across the road. The alternating patches of light and shadow created an effect similar to that of a strobe light, mesmerizing, hypnotic. I watched, fascinated, until the patterns of light and shadow flew by at an alarming rate of speed.

I looked toward the front to see who the maniacal driver was. There was none. The seat was empty. I tried to go to the front, but I was unable to move into the aisle. Some unseen force held me back. All of my family was also riding the bus. I begged each of them to take the wheel, but they too were held in place.

“Dear Lord, save us!”

He answered, “I will – in time.”

Determined to trust Him, I turned back to the side window. We were moving so fast the trees were just a blur. I looked out the front window. The road ended abruptly at the edge of a steep cliff.

I begged God to save us.

He answered. “I will. In time.”

We were at the edge.

“Now would be a really, really good time!”

God patiently answered. “There is still time.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but never uttered a word. The bus plunged over the side and slid down the cliff face toward the rocky bottom. Dirt clods, rocks, grass and tree limbs flew past the window and I braced for the impact.

Nothing happened. The bus stopped. Its back wheels were caught on the limb of a gigantic Ponderosa Pine and we hung only a few feet from the ground. All we had to do was open the front door and step out.

I fell to my knees in thanks giving. Family and friends, too embarrassed to join me, melted into the gathering crowd one by one.

I understood I was to apply this lesson to all the issues in my life, but it was hard. I wanted to see someone in the driver’s seat.



Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Blind


Over the course of seven consecutive days my bible fell open to Tobias 11: 12 -14 -Tobias is cured of his blindness. It was obvious it had a message for me, but I did not understand exactly what it was.  What “blindness” was the passage referring to – mine or someone else’s? I puzzled over it for months without any clear revelation.


Then one morning my bible fell open to Tobias 14: 1-4:

And the words of Tobias were ended. And after Tobias was restored to his sight, he lived two and forty years, and saw the children of his grandchildren. And after he had lived a hundred and two years, he was buried honorably in Nineveh. For he was six and fifty years old when he lost the sight of his eyes, and sixty when he recovered it again. And the rest of his life was in joy and with great increase of the fear of God he departed in peace.

I was fifty-six the first time I read the passage, and needless to say the coincidence caught my attention. Obviously I was the “blind” one. But what was my “blindness?”

My husband and I decided to relocate to a different state, one closer to family and friends. Financially it seemed a bad idea. The housing market, the stock market, the banks, the auto industry and numerous other businesses were going under. Every day millions were being laid off from their jobs. Relocating to another state and attempting to find another job was close to insanity. I should be thankful for the job I had, regardless of how miserable and homesick I was.

At first I resisted the negativity, but gradually my confidence was worn away and I began to fret. What if I couldn’t get another job after we moved? What if I waited to relocate until I had a job offer and that never came? What if we were stuck, isolated from family and friends for years?

Then something happened.

I watched a TV program, Disorder in the Court, a count down of the twenty most amazing court disruptions. One of the cases shown was the murder trial of famous celebrity. As he walked toward the court house he noticed a man with a guitar among the gathering crowd. The celebrity stopped, borrowed the man’s guitar and played the song, Some Where Over the Rainbow. As you know from past posts, God has sent Rainbows as heralds of miraculous delivery from whatever trial I happen to be struggling with. However, my doubting mind wasn’t sure this particular incident was a “sign.”

The next morning my bible fell open to Tobias 14:1-4 - once again. I “told” God if He had a message for me in that passage He would have to make it clearer in order for me to understand.

As I turned to the listed Gospel reading for my morning devotions, I “accidentally” read the wrong passage. I was convinced I was reading the same verses listed in my devotional. But I read this Gospel instead:

Mark 7:14-23, I read Mark 8: 14-21:

And they forgot to take bread; and they had but one loaf with them in the ship. And he charged them, saying: Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. And they reasoned among themselves, saying: Because we have no bread.

Which Jesus knowing said to them: Why do you reason, because you have no bread? Have you still your heart blinded? Having eyes, see you not? And having ears, hear you not? Neither do you remember. When I broke the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took you up?

They say to him, Twelve.


When also the seven loaves among the four thousand, how many baskets of fragments took you up?

And they say to him, Seven.


And he said to them: How do you not yet understand?

I understood. He had to literally spell it out for me, but I finally “got it.” The point of the story was God met the needs of the crowd plus. How many times had God provided for me above and beyond what I needed? My heart was “blinded” by worry and anxiety. These fears eroded my memory of all the miracles He had given me in the past.

Streams in the Desert added: Faith that moves forward triumphs. It used Christopher Columbus as and example of faithful perseverance in spite of circumstances.

There was more. Another devotional dealt with being homesick. There really wasn’t any place as dear and sweet as home….

The words exactly expressed my feelings about my job and Arizona. The desert was beautiful, I had made friends among my co-workers, but, it wasn’t “home.”

Three days later Mark 8: 1-10 was listed in my readings. In these verses Mark recounts the feeding of the four thousand – a reaffirmation of God’s divine providence.

Now, exaclty two years later, I find myself worrying again. This time about the job God so graciously gave me. With the economy still weak, concerns about cut backs errode any sense of permanance. Adding to my disquite are rising taxes. The little gains we manage, even with unexpected windfalls, melt away through higher expenses. I barely slept last night.
 
My thought on rising: I have sinned, numerous times. This constant state of uncertainty and struggle must be my punishment. However, my first devotional reading this morning was taken from Genesis - the story of Noah. An obvious reference to Rainbows. The next bit of encouragement came from Psalm 32. I was supposed to read Psalm 29, but just discovered I had actually read 32 - the one God wanted me to read.

Verse 10: Many are the scourges of the sinner, but mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord.

Rainbows and promises. But there was more. The Gospel reading for today is Mark 8: 14-21, once again. Then God went one step further. Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman quotes Psalm 37. This Psalm was intrumental in leading me to my current husband and our wedding in Africa. Using the quote as a starting point, the text goes on to say: Do not fret. Do not get unduly upset. Stay cool. Even for a good reason worrying will not help you.
 
And so once again I am told to put my faith and trust in Him regardless of my circumstances. And you know what? I am tired of the constant turmoil created by worry. It ruins my nights and days, robs me of what joy I may have at the moment, and destroys my rest.  With God's grace and strength perhaps I can finally lay the ugly baggage of worry at His feet and never pick it up again.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chief Joseph


Original Photo - Chief Joseph Canyon
I had another dream. Our family was on vacation, traveling through a mountainous region of steep, timbered hills. It was beautiful country and I remarked it looked more like a park than a wilderness.

After several hours of winding road we needed to stretch. A sign announced a historical site and we pulled into the wayside. The large parking area was unpaved and edged by a low stone wall. It did little but warn the visitor of the thousand foot drop on the other side.

Danielle, aged six, ran up from behind, dodged around me and headed toward the wall.  I yelled for her to stop, but she ignored me and kept on running. Just like in a horror movie, she tripped and fell. I threw myself forward, but was too late. Only the tips of my fingers brushed hers. For a moment, she hug suspended in mid air, her eyes clearly reflecting her terror. Slowly she fell away and disappeared into the rocks and trees thousands of feet below.

I collapsed in tears, my body shaking with grief. I heard a noise and looked up. An old Indian man walked toward me, carrying my daughter. He broke her fall and save her life.
******
A year later, while on vacation, we drove through  the Wallowa Mountains of northern Oregon. The steep hillsides, timbered and without the usual underbrush, were some of the most beautiful country I had seen. I commented it looked more like a park than a National forest.

We passed a sign announcing a historical site. After hours in the car we all needed to get out and stretch. Ase we pulled in and parked, I felt a chill as if I had suddenly been plunged into a tank of cold water. The spot was the same one I had seen in my dream.

I grabbed Danielle's hand and held on tight in spite of her ardent protests. With her in tow, I walked over to the historical marker. The cold feeling intensified. Chief Joseph was born in a cave below where we stood.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Be Careful What You Pray For


The fresh dug grave was somewhere in front of me. I couldn’t see but sky and a few inches of ground next to my feet, certainly not enough to keep me from falling into the pit. I calculated the distance back to the truck, too far to make it back. My arms were already shaking from effort. It was better to keep moving forward. I tried shifting the box to increase my vision, but it was too large, and too heavy.

My first graveside floral delivery – alone. I always had assistance before, either from my staff or from the mortuary. This time I arrived before the funeral director and there were not any grounds keepers in sight. With time sensitive deliveries waiting I had no choice but to carry the casket piece - on the large delivery box - by myself. Too late I realized I did not have the upper body strength to lower the box without dumping the arrangement and breaking all the long rose stems. Adding to my anxiety was the disconcerting news one of the funeral directors had fallen into an open grave and dislocated his shoulder just the week before - in this same cemetery.

A cold wind blew in from the north. The sun disappeared behind dark clouds. Trees bent, swayed and moaned. I swore I felt rain. The desire to pick up my pace was tempered only by the fact the grave was still somewhere in front of me. I felt forward with my toe, hoping I would feel some kind of disturbance in the lawn - before I stepped out into thin air. Nothing but grass. 

I prayed, "Dear God, please send an angel to assist me!"

The box rose up out of my hands. I looked down at my feet. Solid ground.

The next instant the box swung to the left, revealing one of the care takers. “I saw you from just below the rise and figured you could use some help.”

I could only nod my agreement.

My rescuer laughed. “Sorry to have startled you. I guess I should have announced my presence.”

Another nod from me. My breathing had not yet returned to normal and my heart was still hammering. In retrospect, perhaps I should be more careful how I word my prayers.



Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Lottery

We were barely scraping by and I couldn’t help but think, if we just had a little more money, not a million, just a few thousand, it would be so much easier. I thought about the Lottery.

I grabbed my purse, intent on purchasing a ticket while at the market. Even though the odds were horrific, someone was going to win, right? On the way to the door I passed my Bible. Compelled to stop, I open it and read the first passage I saw. It was from the Book of Wisdom.

Pray for wisdom as if it were money.

I didn’t buy the Lottery ticket.



Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lilies

Finances were very tight. In fact to use a euphemism coined by my mother-in-law, we were squeezing nickels tight enough to make the buffalo poop, and we were still struggling.

Not every bill could be paid. We made a list of the most important expenses: mortgage, groceries, clothing, and gas. Health insurance was no longer an option. I had to trust God that we would remain healthy and accident free until we could have coverage again. This was a great plan until the care insurance came due. There wasn’t enough money. Either it would be insurance or groceries.

I set the bill aside, praying some kind of miracle would happen before our ten day grace period expired. The ninth day dawned. No miracle. Not even a glimmer.

My morning readings included Luke 12: 22-30:

Don’t be anxious about what you are to eat, or drink, or how you are to be clothed. God knows you have need of these things….Consider the lilies of the field. They neither reap nor sow, and yet not even Solomon in all of his glory was not arraigned as one of these. So, if God clothes the grass that is here today and is thrown into the fire tomorrow, how much more you, Oh ye of little faith?

I loved this verse, but I was a realist. God wasn't going to pay my car insurance.

I arrived at work a little early, eager to share my reading with Teri, friend, co-worker and fellow Christian. We usually sequestered ourselves for a few moments in the optical lab, sharing devotions and faith experiences. Teri was of the same opinion: too bad we couldn’t take the passage at face value.

Our receptionist poked her head through the lab door. “We have an adjustment.”

Terri went out. The door had not stopped swinging before she was back. “I think you are meant to help this woman.”

Thinking she was one of “my” patients, I went out.

I had never seen the woman before. Nor had I seen the sweatshirt she was wearing. The front was emblazoned with lilies. Underneath were the words: Remember the Lilies….Luke 12:27.
…..
On my way home from work I stopped at the mail box and gathered up the day’s mail. Among the usual ads and bills was an envelope from our insurance company. I was positive it was our cancellation notice. It wasn’t. The envelope contained a letter and a check. After more than a year, the insurance company had finally tracked down the uninsured motorist who had rammed the back of our car. At the time of the accident he had given us an expired license, false address and had fled. We paid for the repairs.

I looked at the check. It was enough to pay our insurance premium to the penny.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

You Will Never Look at the Stars Alone

Through a dream, a premonition, I was told my husband would leave me. After seventeen years of marriage, our relationship would end. I knew the time frame, just not how it would happen.

As detailed as a photograph or postcard, the dream opened with a view of a lodge, set on a small hill, surrounded by dense timber and constructed of whole pine logs. A creek meandered through a meadow below the main building, paralleled by a foot path dotted with wooden benches and small arched bridges. Judging from the cold air and the patches of snow lying under the trees, I surmised the time frame was late February or early March.

Ron and I strolled along the trail to one of the bridges, stopping in the center to gaze up at the night sky.  Millions upon millions of stars stretched from horizon to horizon.

Ron turned to me. “Marie, I have to leave and you can’t come with me.”

“What do you mean, ‘I can’t come with you’?”

He didn't answer. Instead he turned and walked over to a side road and boarded a waiting bus. I watched the bus pull away until the taillights vanished. I had never known such loneliness. It was a deep hole without light - or hope.

A man approached. “Are you alright?”

“My husband just left me.”

“You must be terribly hurt and lonely. I’ll look at the stars with you.”

I saw things in his eyes I wanted no part of. “No thank you.”

He shrugged. “Suite your self.” And walked away.

I left the bridge, walked up a small rise to a bench and sat down. Unable to look at the stars, I doubled over, put my face in my hands, and sobbed. Someone sat beside me. I looked up into the face of Jesus. He drew me into his arms and laid my head on His shoulder.

He gave me a promise: “You will never look at the stars alone.”

*******
March 6th 1997. Ron complained of being tired. He was pale and obviously not feeling well, but brushed off entreaties to see a doctor. By evening he was suffering from severe heartburn. He still refused to see a doctor. Concerned, but tired I went to bed.

At ten pm he woke me. “Would you run to the store and pick me up some stronger antacids?

“Honey, maybe you should go to the emergency room.” I was thinking of his high cholesterol and his dad’s four by-passes.

“No. It is only heartburn. I just need some better antacids.”

He was sitting in his chair when I returned from the store. He thanked me, took two tablets and went into a convulsion. By the time I reached him he had stopped convulsing and conscious.

I asked him, “Is it your heart?”

He shook his head no and went into another convulsion. I ran for the phone and dialed 911. The dispatcher instructed me to ease him from his chair to the floor and perform CPR, but I realized that would be fruitless. His eyes had changed, his lips were blue and his skin was already cold. He was gone. The dispatcher encouraged me to continue CPR until the Paramedics arrived. I obeyed until the dispatcher announced the ambulance couldn't find the house. Any chance of  resuscitation was gone.  I put the phone down and cradled Ron in my arms.

I felt an intense sense of peace and joy – ecstasy.  I understood I was given a glimpse of heaven, a tiny taste of what Ron was experiencing. I wasn’t angry or bitter. How could I begrudge Ron that kind of joy? But I did not want to be left behind. I begged God to take me too. In His wisdom He did not grant that wish.

The Paramedics finally arrived, after the dispatcher asked me to flip the house light on and off several times. The porch light had burned out, apparently just that evening, and made the address impossible to see in the dark. Ron did not have a DNR document and so by law the Paramedics had to attempt resuscitation even though it was clear he was already gone.  After thirty minutes and no response, the medical team stopped their efforts.

One of the paramedics knelt beside me. “We are going to transport him, but there isn’t much hope of any change.”

I nodded I understood. The ambulance pulled out of the driveway and onto the street, no sirens or flashing lights.

*****

A month later, the first of April, Hailey’s Comet was visible. I was alone for the first time since the funereal and contemplated stepping outside to view it,  but I hesitated, remembering my dream. Did I have enough faith? Summoning my courage, I went to the closet for my coat. Someone knocked on the door. It was “John”, my daughter’s boyfriend.

“Is Dani home?”

“No. She is at the movies with her girl friends, but I expect her back anytime. Do you want to wait?”

"Sure."

I stepped back to let him in.

He hesitated, then asked. “Have you seen the comet yet?”

“No. I was just coming out when you knocked.”

“I’ve studied Astronomy. I could show you some of the constellations….”

We had been in the yard only a few minutes when my dad called down from their yard. “Marie, is that you?”

“Yes. ‘John’ and I just stepped out to look at the comet.”

“I’m setting up the telescope and your Little Mother is fixing hot cocoa, do you want to come up?”

I looked at “John”. He shrugged. I took that as a “Yes” and headed through the horse pasture to my folks’. I had to admit, although I wasn’t with a Significant Other, I wasn’t alone.