The past several years of my life have had so much…. hurt, trouble, conflict, pain…. at times it seemed like I simply couldn’t go on. But I had a human rock, the man who is now my husband. He is my anchor, my other half in every way. When I start to get lost in the things going on, he brings back to where I should be.
Shortly after our wedding, we decided to start “church shopping”. We had been thinking of going back to church for some time, but after our wedding made it a serious commitment to find a church home. I had shared that I thought returning to church would help me as the troublesome things in my life moved forward. He shopped with me for himself, but also for me. After a few weeks we stumbled into this little church- Grace Wesleyan Church– and I promise I saw the holy spirit shining out of the faces of the congregation when we walked in. I have never seen anything like it, though I am positive it exists in other places too. It’s an older congregation- sometimes when I talk about the things I do (software support, blogging, infographics), I can almost see their eyes glaze over, not fully understanding what it’s all about. But they love us, very much so, and we love them.
Attending church regularly again has brought me back to so much, and given me so much. So much peace, so much healing.
And it has killed my belief in coincidence. And in “gut feelings”.
Let me share a list of the things that started happening, within just a few short weeks of regularly attending services and letting the Holy Spirit wash over and restore me:
The Begging Man
It started with a man on the corner begging. You know, the ones you see as you are driving out of the shopping center. To be honest, typically, they are just there to me. Often I don’t even notice their existence. Even if I do, they don’t necessarily tug at my heartstrings (like perhaps they should?). But, one day, we are driving along and see this man. It was hot out (August). I noticed him, but didn’t say anything to my husband who was driving, not initially. And just as the light turned green, “something” in my gut told me that we should give him some money. We had extra, we were going out to get dinner, we didn’t have to worry – at least not in regards of where our next meal would come from. And so, I say something to my husband about it.
You should have seen the look on his face. It screamed, “You have to be kidding me, the light just turned green and we are sitting in 4 lanes of traffic that wants to MOVE!”
So, I explained to him, that I just felt like we were supposed to give him something.
He does what most of us do, “How do we know what he is spending it on, how do we know that he even really NEEDS it?”
And I said, “Truthfully, we don’t. I just feel like we should, and that isn’t normal for me. Perhaps he does go spend it on booze, we will never know, but when we give it away, it’s not ours to decide what to do with anymore. He could be paying for a night in a hotel so he doesn’t have to stay in the shelter another night, too.”
I am eternally gratefully that my husband trusted my gut, and turned the car around to drive back to that specific corner to give the man some money.
And you know what he said when we drove away- “Sometimes we have to trust our intuition, sometimes it’s someone higher up telling us we need to do something.” Was I listening?
The Death of a Stranger
Not long thereafter, a woman lost her father and another woman lost her husband. A common enough occurrence (albeit sad). At this time, I was reading the book about KonMari (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up) and applying the principles.
Across the country, a woman flew to help her mother pack and prepare to transition her life, and was reading the same book. Using the principles in that book, she helped her mother go through a lifetime worth of collecting. In all of that this woman and I joined the same Facebook group where she shared how the process was helping them. Many people didn’t understand why she was having her mother go through things so completely so quickly after loss and she took a lot of flack. I read every comment on that post and didn’t say a thing.
But it stayed with me for days.
This post, and a “feeling” that I should act on it, simply wouldn’t leave. That was until I finally offered my time and skill to try to help facilitate healing in their difficulty. So finally I took the leap and offered to make something for them from something of his. She was inclined to decline- I would have been the same way- but her daughter refused to allow her to say no. Three times her daughter said, mom let her do it. (Bible Scholars will likely understand why I mention three times…)
And so, she let me know she would like that and after speaking to her mother sent me a pillowcase. She made this pillowcase for her father, and he loved it dearly. When the pillow case arrived I could feel so much, it literally brought tears to my eyes.
I had hoped to turn the pillow case into bears very quickly, but life kept calling. Finally, after too many weeks, I cut the fabric for the bears. Taking more care than I probably ever have with a project. The nature of the project demanded care and reflection. And forced me to deal with my own losses in life- while not the loss of a husband or parent, but the loss of years with my own children. I always wanted to sew as a kid, but I learned to sew for my children. The same pattern I was using had been used to make a bear for my daughter and a puppy for my son one “poor” Christmas. I was reminded of how sewing was woven into the important parts of my life.
I kept this perfect stranger updated and we found a nearly immediate kinship. She was able to help me process in a time that quickly became tumultuous in my life and had a place to go when she just needed a no judgement not in the middle person to “listen”.
By listening to my “intuition” and offering to make a bear, two people in need ended up with a lifelong friendship, and a third woman got a piece of healing. After the bear was given to her mother, I got this note:
“I just delivered it to
My mother and read her this post. She and I both cried–A LOT!!!!! She LOVES it and says thank you sooooo much.
She reiterated how much my dad loved that pillowcase. She’s just holding it so sweetly and I’m sure it will go from room [to room] with her. She LOVES it”
And you know what, I am sure that without my help, this family still would have found a way to heal. As would I have. But, out of ALL the people in the world that could have come together, it was the three of us- and the number of things that had to line up to make it happen…..
At this point, I started to understand what was happening.
These things I called “nudges” that I was listening to….. they were coming from God, He was calling, and testing. Was I listening?
The “life calling” from the previous story included a phone call telling me that I would finally, after two years, get to see my children. (yes, that story, again, is on it’s way, you will get to read it!)
I went to that meeting nervous, excited, not knowing what to expect, but determined to be me. I had my husband drive me- I am a terrible driver when emotional. By now, we had been going to church for several months, and on the way, I texted the ladies from my church group- “I am on my way to see my kids. Please pray for a miracle. I don’t know how this is going to go.”
And they responded: “praying now.” and “the pasta ladies and I stopped making pasta and are praying” (the pasta ladies make pasta for the church and sell it to help pay the church bills).
A bundle of nerves, I went in, and they brought my kids to me. They were nervous too. And didn’t want to be near me. And then, the therapist helped us get the conversation going. And, next thing we knew…. we were talking, of our own accord. And at one point my daughter says “I realize that I need to lower my standards, people can’t always be perfect.” I could feel tears filling in my eyes, and I asked “can I give you a hug?” She nodded, and held on to me for dear life.
On the way out, my son said he had to use the restroom, turned down the hall, and waited until no one could see. Then, turned around ran back to me and gave me a big hug “this stays between us” he said. (oops 😉 I think he will understand).
I know that day was, and those hugs were, a miracle, I could feel it while it was happening. I could feel the church praying for us, and the spirit guiding my words and behaviors through that entire session. Sadly, They went home, and the walls were rebuilt. To this day, I have not had another hug from them. But, I will hold onto the hugs I did have, and pray that someday, with enough healing, there will be more.
What if I hadn’t gone to church? What if I hadn’t met the pasta ladies with their prayers? It’s possible that my children would have hugged me anyway, but then again, what stopped me from pushing the kids, what allowed me to have peace and calm, not knowing if I would get a hug or not? I was listening.
The Angel in the Goodwill Store
I was supposed to be dropping packages off at the UPS store, and then getting gas and returning home. I was NOT supposed to stop anywhere else. Especially not the Goodwill store next to the UPS store. But on the way out of the parking lot, that “nudge” that was now becoming familiar came. I argued with it this time: “what on earth could I possibly need?” “I don’t need anything and I only have x dollars” “the last thing I need to be doing is walking into a place like that and spending money”….. OK… FINE. And I drove over there.
I got a cart (required when shopping at Goodwill, on 50% off day!). I put some shirts and pants and such in there and was going to the jacket aisle- I did want a blazer after all- when this woman stops me- as I am talking to my husband on the phone.
“What size are you? Can you wear a Medium?”
“Well, yeah, usually” (at the time I could). “Honey, I gotta go, I will talk to you later,” I said into the phone.
“You have to try this jacket on, it’s beautiful and I have to find someone to get it!”
I did, it was a perfect fit. We talked and tried on jackets together. Even looked at a couple pair of shoes, and then moved on. I thought that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t.
A couple aisles later, “Are square toed shoes out of style now? Do they look silly?”
Then later, coming out of the fitting room “That looks great on you! Does this fit?” Now, I am talkative (can you tell!?) So, I engaged with her… and then she tells me that she just moved to the area, was teaching at the high schools etc. Establishing common ground I mentioned that I had a step daughter in high school, or rather who was a high school drop out at that time. And she says “we have to love them, we all need and want love and give them love.” She told me that she knew, because of her son, and suddenly I was telling her about my biological children, and she repeats “all anyone wants is unconditional love.”
And then, we checked out, and moved on. I have her phone number, and perhaps she is human, but in that moment, I swear that she was an angel. See, by now, I was seeing things happen all over the place that were not supposed to happen, it was getting crazy. Even crazier? Not a week before I told my husband that after months of unproductive, gut wrenching, mean therapy sessions, I didn’t know if I could go on– that maybe it was time to cut it off, let them go, and realize I would never see my children again, nor would they love me. But here, this lady stands and says “unconditional love”.
Was she- God- telling me something? Was I listening?
A Christmas Miracle
My sessions with my kids were not going well, not at all. They were essentially attack sessions, where they told me how incredibly awful I was. They were making me sick- mentally, physically, sick. Not only did I question if I should continue trying to make inroads with them, but I went so far as to tell my husband, “Unless something divine tells me otherwise, I am done as of….”
Leaving aside the fact that we should not ever put a deadline on God’s work (I am still growing, exponentially so in my knowledge and faith); Another chain of events took place.
For weeks, my amazing husband had spoken of a performance to be given at his childhood church. I have been to his childhood church, and the people there are quite sweet, and I am certain blessed, but there are things they believe that I simply do not agree with- to a point that I cannot attend services there regularly. And often decline attending irregularly ;-). Initially, I told my husband that of course he could go to this Christmas program, but that I didn’t think I would, I would probably stay home and clean.
As he is in the shower getting ready to go… it happened again. That “feeling” came, that I was supposed to go. Really? You HAVE to be kidding me! But, I didn’t argue, I got dressed and went.
I don’t know if I can project the depth of emotion that this program had for me, for us. It was about a big big Christmas miracle. And there were so many parts, that were hitting home. A little girl with cancer, a man who was hurt and broken at he loss of a loved one, another who feared losing his loved one. I knew my big big Christmas miracle that I wanted… I wanted to know that I needed to keep trying with my kids. I must have looked quite a mess as tears, snot and other goodness knows started rolling down my face and I cried so much hurt and longing right there.
I worship in private, that is my way; I don’t go to the alter, I kneel where-ever I am. But this time, I all but ran to the alter when the call came.
We got in the car looked at each other and said, “We can’t let it go yet….” (referring to my kids.) I had my divine communication.
I was listening.
I have eluded to it, and in fact, as stated, it’s in drafts, a story that I know needs shared. A story that I know that people need to hear, see….. I knew when things started it would be that way, but wasn’t “ready” to act. I thought it was my lack of readiness, but as I practice listening, it wasn’t my lack of readiness, as it wasn’t my CHOICE to not be ready. Rather, I legitimately was not ready, and it was not time.
As my faith grew, I tucked what I was going through away, gathered information, kept learning through life… knowing that “the call” would come. By now, I have listened enough. It’s not a “feeling”, it’s not “MY gut”, it’s God, talking to me- moving through me in a way that I can understand completely, yet can’t begin to comprehend.
Then it happened. One day, the word was there. “Start.” I was literally 5 minutes from my lunch break, and didn’t have a webpage or anything. And there it was again: “Start”. So I did. I started writing. Researching writing. Practicing writing. To be honest, that is what all of these are- my observations, my practice, my learning how to write to capture you- the reader.
Because, I am listening.
Here I am, Lord
Sometimes, God calls you for something that seems so small and insignificant- offer to help, get dressed and go, just be there, contact this person, or prods you to accept charity (meaning love) out of character- let someone make that bear, let someone hug you and tell you that they need love, go to that thing with that person, for his own purpose, and far be it from us to deny him. When you get that persistent nudge, don’t ignore it… It’s not just a nudge, it’s God calling. Let Him take you where He needs you to be. Listen.
I grew up Catholic. There is a song we would sing during service that I would find particularly moving, and is especially fitting for this post “Here I Am, Lord”. Click the link below the photograph to be taken to a youtube video of it.