A Riddle and a Miracle

A childhood memory

It was kind of handy for my parents to have the only grocery store in our little town – and to have the store be in what used to be the living room.  I guess dad started the store right before I was born in 1943, so Mom would have some money in case Dad got sent to war.  But Dad didn’t get sent and now I’m 11 and we have the first TV in town right in our living-room store.

 Most everyone from town stops in our house every week to get something from the store (while they check out one of the few TVs in town and watch it awhile), and then they catch up on the news. My older sister Marlene gets to help after school. She gets cookies out of the bins and puts them in bags. And Junior – well, he likes to lean on the glass counter looking important until Dad sends him to deliver something on the bike, but I mostly watch the babies while Mom takes care of the customers.  I don’t think my parents know that many times I am on the other side of the swinging kitchen door listening to all the adults talking.  For some time now they have been making plans to get our little town its first fire-house.  Ever since the Larsen’s house burned down last year because it took so long for the volunteer firemen to get there, everyone has been talking about it.  Most everyone is willing to help and pay some money except for two families – the Bolingers and the Nettlers. 

They remind me of stories I’ve read about people in the hills down south who have family feuds and teach their children not to talk to someone just because of what their last name is.  It seemed funny to me that the Bolingers and Nettlers are against everyone  – even each other.   The Nettlers don’t seem so bad to me but they live in one of the big fancy houses on the rich side of town and I don’t see them so much, but right before we’d moved to this house the Bolingers had lived right next door!  One time I took an apple from a branch that was hanging over into our yard and Mr. Bolinger yelled and yelled at me, and called me a thief.  All the kids are scared of him, and one Halloween the big boys put a bucket of water over his door and knocked and ran when he came out and got dunked.  I think even the grown-ups don’t like the Bolingers because I heard Mrs. Kirchman complaining about the Bolingers one day in the store, and then I heard Mom’s voice saying “Hurting people hurt others.”  I heard Mom coming toward the kitchen then and ran outside, but all afternoon I wondered how the Bolingers got hurt, and how it helped for them to hurt others. It was a riddle that kept me up that night.

That was about a month ago, and I still go over and over in my mind what might have happened if that riddle hadn’t kept my imagination going and I was tossing and turning in my sleep.  It was the middle of the night when I woke up all of a sudden.  I just sat up straight like a shot. It was pitch dark and I thought I heard something in the house.  Sure enough as I sat there, I heard a soft thud and then another one.  I got out of bed and tiptoed over the cold floor to my big sister’s bed, but Marlene was fast asleep and I wondered if what she had said was true – that my imagination was always running away with me.  Maybe I had only dreamed it – and I turned to go back to bed, but no – there it was again – out toward the hall.  I edged out of our room into the hallway to see where the sound was coming from and it seemed to be coming from above me – by the big square of wood that Dad sometimes pushed open to put stuff in the attic.

 I stood in the hallway a minute looking up at that square in the ceiling and listened really hard.  I heard some crackly sounds and just about flew downstairs to my parents’ room to tell them, but the door was closed and that meant privacy.  I stood in the moonlight from the big living room window mom just got put in and was so proud of.  My feet were cold on the floor but I was worried – what if I woke my parents up and it was just my imagination like Marlene said – would they get mad at me?  But what if SOMETHING was in the attic?  I shivered and this time my imagination did get the better of me so I BANGED on Dad and Mom’s bedroom door.  I was scared when the door opened so quick and Dad was suddenly right in front of me wearing his white long johns, his hair all messy and, what scared me the most, was that Dad looked scared. 

“What’s wrong?” he asked me real loud.  For a second I couldn’t talk, and then my voice croaked – “Upstairs – there’s something upstairs.  I heard noise”.  “What kind of noise?” Dad asked.  Thumping and snapping sounds, I told him, by the attic door, and Dad just RAN.  He went to the back hall and grabbed the ladder and ran up the stairs with it.  He put it under the big wood square trap door in the hall ceiling and pushed it up.  The whole attic was full of huge orange flames!  Dad shut the trap door and yelled – get your sisters – grab some clothes and get outside. I’ll get your brothers.  I ran to my room and woke my sister up yelling, FIRE!  Boy, you never saw her move so fast.  We each grabbed an armful of stuff, not even looking to see what we grabbed.  She picked up little Marvel and we ran out to the front yard.  That’s when I saw something I will never forget – it did something even bigger to my heart than seeing the fire.

You see our house was at the bottom of town, and most of the houses were up on a big hill right in front of our street.  I could hear the fire bell clang and lights were going on all over the hill.  The Cornings, the Schmidts, Sheriff Renold’s house, and Oh! The Bollinger’s and the Nettler’s places had lit up too!  As scared as we were as we stood there holding hands on the lawn with the fire behind us, we couldn’t take our eyes off the lights on the hill.  Marvel was still asleep over my big sister’s shoulder and I could see Marlene was crying when she turned toward me and whispered,  “They’re all coming – we’ll be OK”.  I felt strange and warm inside to think that we were the hurting people now and all those people were coming to help us – even the Bolingers and the Nettlers. 

It was then we heard our big brother Junior calling us from up in the tree house by the street.  He had Baby Lee up there with him and we climbed up and watched Dad and our two closest neighbors, Mr. Miller and Mr. Jackson break Mom’s new picture window and throw stuff out on the lawn.  Junior was almost 16, and I think he was kind of mad that Dad made him watch the baby, because he shoved the baby at my sister and yelled that it was real interesting how quick she got up there ‘cause yesterday when his friend Gary (that my sister likes) was up there, she acted so scared and got Gary to help her up.  Then he ran down and disappeared into the house with other people who had come to help.  I told my sister what Mom had said about hurting people hurting others and I told her then how scared Dad looked when I woke him up.  I thought nobody’s Dad ever got scared, and if Dad was scared, Junior must be scared too. She said “Yeah, I guess you’re right”, and we got all quiet thinking about it.   

We sat there in the dark and hugged with Baby Lee and Marvel between us until Lee began to cry.  Then we looked down, and it seemed like practically all the men in town were there running in and out of our house.  Finally, the fire was out and there was a big dark hole up where my bedroom had been.  Pretty soon after that Junior came back all messy like he’d been playing in the dirt like a little kid.  He told Marlene he was real sorry he yelled at her before and she looked right past him at the house and whispered, “Yeah, I know”. 

We all got down from the tree house then, and Marlene carried Baby Lee on her hip while we all walked around the house and looked and looked.  The men had nailed boards over the hole that used to be the big living room window and there were big stripes of black (from the smoke I guess) that ran down the front of the house. Mom and Dad came out with a bunch of other people and Mom told us we’d be sleeping at Aunt Angie’s tonight.  Uncle Tony came over and hugged us, and said Auntie was getting the beds ready and we would go with him soon.  I saw Mr. Nettler slip something lumpy in my Dad’s shirt pocket, and then everybody all over our front lawn was hugging and telling us how they could help and everything would be OK. 

I must have had a hundred hugs that night and suddenly there was Mr. Bolinger in front of me.  I didn’t think he’d ever hugged anyone in his life, and I kind of stepped back at first when he leaned down near me.  He cleared his throat and said “Girlie, I’m sorry I been such a grouch. I’ll bring you all the apples from my trees you want, and Mrs. Bolinger will make some pies tomorrow and bring them to your Auntie’s house.  You tell your Mom that, OK?”  I felt all teary and couldn’t answer; so I just stood there and nodded, and then he hugged me real quick and walked off fast toward his house.  I just stood there for a minute, kinda shocked, you know, and then I looked up at the stars all twinkly and peaceful like they knew something wonderful had just happened.  I didn’t know Mom was there until her voice softly whispered, “It’s a miracle!” and her hand closed around mine as we walked in the moonlight to Auntie’s car.

Announcement

There is nothing like publication to get a writer and author excited!

I am thrilled to have two more stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul publications.  The most recent – Miracles and the Unexplainable, released September 13. 

I also recently signed a contract with Guideposts for a story to be published in a James Scott Bell compilation– Gods Constant Presence, and I am honored to be one of eight writers selected to participate in the 2022 Guideposts Writer Workshop – a workshop focusing on training and developing attendees to become contributing writers and content creators for all Guideposts publications and platforms.

Great pleasure is found through encouraging new writers or want-to-be writers. Welcome Deborah and Carmen to the tribe!

I hope to soon publish ebooks of material I have been sharing – I Want to Write a Book and I’ve Written a Book – Now What?

Gratefulness abounds in the many requests I’ve had for a follow-up to my book Be the Miracle.
The most popular title suggested is Never Miss a Miracle! What do you think?

Delores

Trusting God to Open and Close Doors

~Delores Liesner~

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9.

A couple of months ago I felt God telling me to sell our smaller car. We were avoiding using it due to the low fuel economy. We figured maybe God wanted us to try going without the second car for awhile.

Two days after we sold it, we decided we needed a second car ASAP.

I started searching and researching. We needed a small car with good fuel economy, low mileage, and a backup camera…all within our low budget. Some car dealers laughed or hung up. One tried to make me a deal on a car that was already sold with pickup scheduled the following day. I refused, and told him if he would do that to another customer he could do that to me.

Then the emails came. All four in one day.

First a Christian dealer: Wait. (Implying I should be waiting on God.)

Next our son: Mom, what are you doing? You said you were going to try one car.

Daughter: Mom, TWO DAYS 😦 – are you sure God wants you doing this? (By now I’m convicted because I hadn’t asked Him).

The fourth email was a meme with this message: Are you asking God to open and close doors? Then get your hand off the doorknob!

Ok, God. I cancelled all car searches and put my trust back in Him.

A week later I got a call from my cousin Elaine telling me our cousin Joan had died. I was the executor of her will. Hours after I got to town, Joan’s caregiver called to tell me that Joan had instructed her to tell me she’d bought the car. “What do you mean?” I asked. “She told me she leased the car.”

Her reply stunned me. “After a few months of lease payments, she asked what the payment difference would be to buy it. Only $50. So she bought the car so she could leave it to you!”

This car is one of the most economical small cars on the road. It has only 10,000 miles on it. It has a backup camera! I realized then that the reason God led me to sell our little old car was to make room for something better!

Is there something you are scrambling to resolve with one hand gripping the doorknob? Let go! Let God. He has a wonderful surprise in store for you!

Miracles Happen and Here is Proof!

On sale date is September 13th!  #CSSMiraclesandtheunexplainable

Im excited my two stories, (# 46 and #86) are part of these 101 true stories of unexplainable happenings that will lift your spirit and bring hope.

I’ve had many experiences like these, and multiple friends have shared stories of God’s intervention in their lives. Have you had circumstances happen that answered a prayer, a need, or gave resolution in such a way or timing that it was unexplainable?

I am very excited to have another Chicken Soup book on my shelf with an example of God working in my life. It gives me great hope to remember what God has done in the past and hope for the future.

Great gift —- You can preorder this book now https://bit.ly/3cxxYe4

Angelic Job Assistance – a true miracle story

I met Kay at a public event and after realizing we originally met 30 years prior, we got to catching up on all that had gone by.  We both have active faith but Kay wanted a deeper knowledge about God.  We talked about the difference between knowing about God and knowing God in a spiritual relationship.  She asked if she could call me once a week and then Covid shut down our world and her income was running low.  A widow now, she shared that she needed a job, but who would hire a disabled woman close to retirement age with limited part-time job experience and deceased potential references?  The odds were stacked against her and she had a pretty low self-image. I wanted to help Kay, but wasn’t sure how I could.  It appeared impossible.

Because of our schedules, contact restrictions and Kay’s challenges job applications via computer were out. With the pandemic even job interviews were no contact. As impossible as it seemed, the more Kay and I talked about her needs and her love for seniors, the more I felt drawn to help her. But how?

Kay and I chatted on the phone several times a week and she expressed that she was a person of faith and believed that God would provide her a job and part of that job hunt was our meeting. She joked that I was like an angel and we laughed at the picture I described of my guardian angel holding her head in her hands in exhaustion.  Kay had the faith of a child and inspired me to keep praying for help.   After she read a book that I wrote which quoted scripture from an easy to read version, she called me excited, asking if I wrote that page.  I explained about various translations of the Bible and her voice was animated with joy as she exclaimed, “I could understand it!  You mean there’s a whole a Book out there like that?” Yes, I told her, let’s pray for the right one. The next day, I took a neighbor to a doctor appointment and she asked if we could stop at a resale shop on the way home. There, of course, I found an easy to read version of the Bible.

Kay’s faith was building from that experience and she exclaimed if God will do that, He would find me a job, too!  

We thanked God for that answer and talked about the various ways God had helped each of us in the past.  What a faith building conversation!  She asked if I would continue praying for the job that would allow her to help others and something she could do within her limitations.  How could I say no. 

Of course, when God asks me to do something my next action is usually to ask God what I can DO?  I could go on the computer and look for a job even though she couldn’t.

My eyes glazed over after looking for hours – online applications only, add resume, references…all the usual.  Was I praying or whining when I whispered – God help – am I wasting my time?  I’m not sure. But… just then a full-page ad popped up.  It was for a senior companion and it said apply online OR IN PERSON.

I quickly printed off the 8×11 ad and mailed it to Kay.  She called me several days later, her voice elated, to tell me “I got a job and boy do I have a story to tell you! I had the strangest but nicest interview ever,” she said.  She explained how she went to the address on the ad and asked the woman there if she took job applications, then handed the woman the ad and said she would like to apply for a job, any job working with seniors.  

The woman looked at the ad a few moments, turned the paper over and asked her where she got the ad.  Kay admitted she thought she was going to get booted out because the woman typed some in the computer and looked up puzzled before she said, “I have not seen that ad, I did not place it/WE did not place it.  But…as long as you are here, tell me about yourself.”  Kay told a couple stories about opportunities she had in the past to encourage or help a senior and how fulfilling she found it. She also explained why she could not use a computer. 

The lady was quiet a moment and then she said, “You know what, I believe you are just the type of person we are looking for…someone who can bring joy to some lonely seniors.   Let’s fill out that application together.”  Very patiently, the lady asked Kay each question and then typed Kay’s answers into the computerized application.  When they were done she reached behind her as she told K she was confident they could find the right fit for her, and she handed her a company shirt (uniform) and said to wait for their call.   They soon called and gave her several small assignments. She is companion for a few seniors, each a few hours a day, and does little household and shopping errands for others who are housebound. 

The following week Kay called, her voice escalating with excitement as she reviewed how the seniors have become more joyful and upbeat since she started.  She reported her boss said the families of her clients are happy with her work and they are still mystified where that ad came from as no one else saw it, and searching found no such online ads from their company – only the typical listing for hiring agencies saying you must apply online.  

I wished I’d kept a copy and started searching while we chatted on the phone. Kay’s laughter interrupted me. “I know what you are doing,” she said, “but you won’t find it.  It doesn’t matter if it is there now, anyway,” she continued, “it was there the day and the minute it was needed.”

The impossible happened.  Kay finished her story, saying she thanked the woman for the encouragement and the nicest interview ever.  The woman smiled and raised her eyebrows when Kay leaned in and whispered I think my guardian angel posted that ad. It was an answer to prayer.  “You may be right,” her new boss replied, “you were an answer for us too!”

Selfies – me and…

I am never satisfied with the pictures I take of myself.  Perhaps because my ‘selfies’ reveal too much physical truth.

I should be more concerned whether they reveal the real truth.

What is my real truth?  It is my spiritual selfie –Me and the Spirit – Who God says I am, not who I think I am, not just what I think I see, not dependent on what I feel, and no matter what those condemning thoughts try to reduce me to.

I am

Who and what

God says I am.

I found this documentation I completed years ago. I was dismayed at first to realize on one hand, I apparently needed to learn these lessons again, and then realized how Biblical and comforting cycles are.

The foundation of this Spiritual Selfie is John 15:5 – I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;

Three points of John 15:5

  1. Christ IS life. That life is in me according to His promise
  2. I am His fruit-bearing branch, dependent on Christ
  3. It is my choice to remain in him (focus – my one thing) and He will remain in me as much as I allow Him

I am learning to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs.  The growth and development of the main portion of the plant, sustains the branches and the health of the branches supports the development of fruit on them. But before I see the growth I have to prepare the soil to accept the plant, place guards and protection against invaders (critters, pests, storms), and lovingly tend the branches.

That compares to both my physical life (health giving food, water and exercise [pruning] sustaining the core so I can be healthful and productive) and my spiritual (eternal me) life being fed, watered and pruned to produce.

I have tried to help branches survive off the vine. Not only have they not borne fruit, they withered and died. I’ve also overworked myself and seen vines over-pruned so they collapsed. This lesson teaches me that I must look for strength (not within the branch of self) but within the vine.

I struggle to be a clean conduit (branch from the vine to the fruit), yet according to the Word Jesus has spoken I am clean already. Why do I waste so much time and effort maintaining an untruth?  Instead, I must abide (live, rest, consistently trust) in Him so I can bear healthy fruit. I must remember, the more I withdraw from the vine the harder it is to reconnect.

Changes in my life from this passage –

One — I used to struggle whether I was worthy of living- or rather that by living I would do more harm than good, and the enemy had convinced me that Verse 13 (to lay down ones life for another) was actually encouraging suicide. That victory was won years ago when I heard a man explain that truly laying down ones life could perhaps be harder than giving up ones life, because it means to keep on living while giving up ones “rights”.

Two – it is my choice to accept offenses or to remove the “suckers” that would drain my strength and not allow His life to flow through me.  Some of those could be of my own making – not tending to myself (physically and spiritually) as I should: (water, food 3x a day, rest, fellowship and pruning).

Three – It is also my choice whether I respond to feelings or to truth. But even if I make the wrong choice, that does not change the real truth of who and what I am in Christ.

What is your real truth? 

Who does God and others say you are?

Marriage and Men-O-pause

When things happen in the haze of early morning awakening there is no evidence of reason – it’s simply panic – especially if the wife is in menopausal fog.

The evening before I’d been restless, out of sorts hormonally, and as my easy-going hubby had learned from experience, was best left alone to beat “it” into submission through a fit of cleaning.  Rearranging the basement pantry at the bottom of the stairs, including moving the freezer by hip-sliding it back and forth had effectively exhausted the jittery nerves.  I sighed and turned around, tripping on the blue laundry basket – my original reason for a basement trek.   Shaking my head at the mysteries of menopause, I popped the clothes into the washer and headed upstairs to bed totally unaware of what would hit us in the morning.

Late hours dragging a loaded freezer had taken its toll, and the alarm startled me. Shaking off the drugged feeling, I headed for the basement to move my work clothes to the dryer. Padding down the stairs, I admired the neat pantry shelves, then turned to the freezer’s new location and stared in horror at the puddle of water eddying out beneath the freezer.  What on earth?   Had the old freezer I’d bought from my dad ‘given up the ghost’ during the night?  Could I have broken something sliding it across the cement floor? I opened the door and stared in confusion. The light came on. I could hear the motor humming. Clumps of ice and frost I should have removed weeks ago were still frozen, but large drips of water were falling from shelf edges and pooling at the freezer’s base.  It must have just started thawing.   My screech “Ken, hellllllp!” brought my dear retired hubby tearing down the stairs, bleary, but wide-eyed and ready to rescue his woman.  I sheepishly reported that it was the freezer that needed rescuing.  It seemed to be thawing but was still running. 

Mystified, my fix-anything man seemed flummoxed and we agreed I should call in late to work and request a house call from a 24-hour appliance repairman.  He was already out on another call, so I left a message. While waiting for him to come, we decided to empty the freezer in case we had to repair or replace it.  Our neighbors, who also left for work early, loaned us several coolers for the freezer contents and delivered them minutes later. They turned to leave with a warning not to stand in any water if I was going to use a hair dryer to melt the ice.

I’d never tried that, so as soon as our mini assembly line transferred the freezer’s contents to the coolers and the floor was mopped up, Ken plugged the hair dryer in the socket above the freezer and I became Annie Oakley with an “ice-gun”.  Large chunks of  ice soon began to melt when whoosh!  Flames shot out from the hair dryer.  “Hot flash!” Ken yelled, pulling the plug, and teasing me because just yesterday I’d opened the freezer to cool down from a flash of my own.  Sleepy chuckles grew to laughter as he ducked into the workroom area of the basement blowing at the still smoking hairdryer like a cowboy with his six-shooter.  

“Coward,” I chuckled, returning to the freezer.  Figuring that Ken was retreating from my menopausal tidal wave, I developed a plan, setting a bucket behind me and to the right to catch chunks of ice as they loosened, then ran to the kitchen and put a few pans of water on to boil.   I didn’t know that Ken, intending to help me, had gone upstairs to put on jeans and slippers.

Back in the basement I slid the steaming pans on the shelves and was soon chipping at the loosened ice, so I did not hear Ken come up behind me and move the bucket to the left so he could take over for me.  I heard his yelp though because it was at that moment I grabbed the first huge fistfuls of dripping ice and tossed them over my shoulder to where I’d placed the bucket, hitting his bare chest instead.    “Where were you,” he gasped, “when the curling iron had a hot flash?” 

We burst into gales of laughter again and were laughing so hard we did not hear the doorbell ring.  The sound of chimes in the background finally registered and Ken ran up to answer the door, automatically flipping the light switch as he bounded up the stairs. “Hey!” I yelled, and he stopped and turned the light back on with a groan and a loud  “Oh, no” as his steps paused, then continued up to answer the door.  Curious about Ken’s moaning, I joined the men in the foyer, just in time to hear Ken explain to the youthful repairman that he’d figured out the problem on the way up from the basement. 

When he turned the light off, he’d remembered seeing a second plug in the outlet when we’d used the hair dryer.  He realized that I’d plugged the freezer into the outlet on the light socket.  When I turned the light off the night before as I went upstairs, I’d actually turned off the freezer too, and then turned it back on when I went down this morning.   We looked at each other and burst out laughing again. 

The repairman sheepishly watched us a moment, and, as though afraid of our reaction, slowly said, “I hate to tell you but you’ll still have to pay $40 for a house call.”  We chuckled again and told him it was still better than we’d hoped as we’d expected to have to replace the freezer.

We invited him into the kitchen and while Ken was writing out the check the repairman turned to me and said, “Well, as long as the freezer has been off during the night you might want to clean it out. “  Before I could tell him that we’d already started, he continued, advising,  “You could speed up the thaw with a hair dryer…” Ken’s twinkling eyes met mine and we couldn’t stop the giggles that welled up.  Our laughter grew and when we finally paused for air, Ken hiked up his shoulders in a manly survival pose “Already tried that he gasped, adding sometimes“you’ve just got to laugh.”

Ken of course offered shared the gospel when he handed over the payment for a non-service call. The bemused young man smiled, seemed to study us a moment longer, then shook his head and confirmed that he’d never met a couple quite like us. (Living examples of I Peter 2:9 – a peculiar people )

We were smart enough not to ask him what he meant.

Suicide – You’re Nobodies Friend

No Night Is Forever

Suicide, my friend, you’re calling me again.  So began a poem I wrote at 15.  The escape of abuse and what sounded like an ultimate revenge on my abusers, was often on my mind. I think subconsciously I knew those thoughts came from the enemy, because I was always trying to escape them.  The only safe place after school was the roof of the house, and I’d often slip through my second story window to sit out there and wonder if there was any other way. 

It wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to be accepted, loved, treated with the tender care I saw other teens receive when I visited their homes.  Daddy treated me with respect when we worked in the woods together, and when he was home – which was as little as possible.  I couldn’t blame him.  He was away again on a work trip when I finally tried it.  I took lots of pills and went up to the room I shared with my sister.  The middle of that memory is missing. I only recall getting sleepy, then screamed at, slapped, and pushed into a chair with my head held back. Warm butter poured down my throat and gagged me.  It was a very effective purgative, and an immediate neutralizer of thoughts to try that again – at least until the dereliction of some ‘friends’ made me wish the attempt had been successful.  I hated to go home to the mocking derision that I couldn’t even do that right. I felt like the darkness would last forever. Those words were a small thing, though, compared to the looks, whispers, and cold shoulder treatment of some of my classmates – that was the hardest part…Not being understood by most of my peers. 

I couldn’t tell anyone why I did crazy things like spend half the night on the roof, because I’d get beaten again.  Especially if Daddy was gone. Daddy only learned of the suicide attempt ten years later when he drove me to visit one of my sisters.  We hugged her and she and I immediately began sharing our thankfulness to be away from home, and remembering various abuses and escapes, totally forgetting Daddy’s presence.  He’d slipped into a chair in the corner, and not until hours later, when his chair scraped as he stood, did we remember that Daddy had drove me there. Turning in shocked acknowledgement, his tears told us what words had not.  He hadn’t known.

I’d never seen a man cry, and this was not just any man, this was our hero.  He wept and begged our forgiveness, and once again called us girls his “Honey Bunnies” like he had before sickness and violence had overtaken our lives. 

The tables had turned and we were now comforting him.  What had we done!  We’d only focused on the bad of our lives. Quickly we sat Daddy down and shared how our faith had grown through different people and circumstances, and amazingly, the same book – the allegory of Hinds Feet in High Places.  I’d received a copy from a church friend, and my sister, from someone at the hospital. Like the main character, Much-Afraid, we were encouraged on the way by the Chief Shepherd, who came to our rescue, surprisingly accompanied by the companions Sorrow and Suffering.

The ironic theme of Much Afraid’s journey was being saved from the treatment of relatives named “Fearing.” Like her, we assured him, though Sorrow and Suffering tried to lead us down instead of up, the Shepherd made a covenant that He would never leave us, and we only had to trust His word. 

Daddy knew we trusted his apologies that he had not meant we be harmed in any way and he joyfully listened to the story of Much Afraid. He nodded when we told how we feared that the Shepherd would make us go up to the high cliff alone, and smiled when we shared evidences that He never left us, and taught us to climb the heights.

Daddy had felt overwhelmed with grief as he heard us sharing through tears the struggles of our valleys, and the loss from carrying our loads of bitterness, but he was thrilled to learn how much the rest of our story matched the book, as we finished sharing the journey of Much-Afraid being transformed with a new name.

Years later Daddy had heart surgery, but in his pain and despair, remembered my story and called to tell me, that was what got him through.  A few years later, I got to share another story with Daddy that gave special meaning to the suicide attempt.  Because of my experience, I was able to recognize the signs in a new co-worker. It was with much fear and trembling that I called and told a stranger Daddy’s story, and mine. That friend recognized his symptoms and agreed to join a family vacation and then see a doctor when they got home.  When his daughter sent a note saying ‘we have our daddy back’ I felt like my nightmare life had purpose.

Suicide?  You’re nobodies’ friend.   I am free of your taunting whispers. I’ve forgiven my abusers and I do not answer to you any more. You see, my name is no longer Much-Afraid.  My sisters have a new name too, and others who joined us. The night is over.  Your lies have been exposed. No night is forever.

Revelation – It is NOT what you thought!

At least it is NOT what I thought it was about…

It’s the UNEXPECTED purpose for these words that hit me when I read it differently:

Rev. 1:3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

The purpose for us who READ the book of Revelation

and

The purpose for those who HEAR the words of prophecy in Revelation

And

The purpose for those who HEED the things which are written in Revelation is the same:

Not to frighten me into obedience

Not to keep me awake at night wondering when these things will take place

But to BLESS me!

I may sound greedy, but I want every blessing I can get.  Whoa – did this change my perspective.

I love doing word studies, and looking up cross references to get the whole picture of something in the scriptures, and soon found another reminder to hear the Word of God:

Luke 11:28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it.”

 I also found the end of Revelation giving a similar challenge as the beginning – Rev. 22:7 “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”

It’s like digging for gold!  The map says the gold is here!  So I look up the original language meaning of action words in these verses

Blessed (God’s action) – meaning happy, spoken well of-praised and bountifully esteemed or considered fortunate. (some call this favored)

God wants to favor us, make us bountifully fortunate and, thus, happy.

Who can get that blessing?  My action (actually Each one who will):

Readto know again (looking at detail), know certainly, recognize/comprehend

Hear – Listen attentively and understand –receive

Heed – To take thought of (ponder and pay attention to) to exercise the mind (observe), to comprehend, to heed or conform to a command or authority: — hearken, be obedient to, obey.

Likely because of my own lack in listening skills, I seldom feel that others are truly listening (but are like myself formulating an answer while the other party converses).

When I read with the new perspective, I see this book is not so much about what is going to happen, or how I react to what might happen, it is a revelation – an unveiling for me – of Jesus!

I am challenging myself and others to re-read Revelation looking for Jesus – Note passages that reveal who he is and what he is doing and will do for you.

Revelation is a book of revealing or unveiling Divine mysteries: If you feel you need help to see this new perspective, like I did – I recommend – How to Survive the End of the World by Bob Hostetler.

Eugene Peterson calls it “A book of great hope and joy and blessing.”

That is what Revelation was and is meant to be.  Will you read it again?

According to the Pattern

According to the Pattern

I was pregnant!  The bubbling joy I felt and the love already growing for the little unseen person in my womb was difficult to resolve with what I had been told about my own unwanted coming into the world. This child, I silently promised, was going to have a different life, to receive all I’d longed for – to know she was wanted – loved – and planned for.  But how could I teach, or show, something I hadn’t experienced or been taught?  What made me think I could be any different?

Too often my mind raced back to childhood feelings of inferiority. Like now, when I knew a visit home was near. I was married, for goodness sake, and for today I needed to forget the things that happened when Daddy was away at work. I had to find a way to celebrate.  I wanted to get on a hilltop and announce my pregnancy, to rent a billboard and to show that with God’s help I was creating a new someone.

A hurried walk to a nearby department store sadly revealed that there were not patterns for 85# women who still wore pre-teen clothing, so I bought the only maternity outfit sale-priced – a size 18.  I lay the jacket and open-holed tie-in-front skirt on the dining room table to cut off the side and back seams. Next I trimmed and shaped each piece until the shoulders and hips matched those on a favorite pattern, and then I sewed it all back together. 

Ken, the hero I’d met the previous September, was wide-eyed when he returned home after third shift, to see his still awake wife parading in the remodeled maternity outfit, and excited to share every detail of it’s transformation.  By the time I’d talked him to sleep he’d also agreed that even though I wasn’t ‘showing’ I could share our good news by wearing the outfit that weekend as we headed to my childhood home for a wedding and a county fair. I could hardly wait to tell my Dad, but he was at work in the woods and it was Mom who trotted toward us, madder than a hornet, as we entered the fairgrounds.

What on earth are you wearing? She shouted, pulling out the front of the maternity top – How dare you. There’s nothing under there yet. Or is there . . . she insinuated. 

I’m pregnant, I acknowledged proudly, and stubbornly.  I’m due in January, I added, knowing she’d already calculated the 9th month from our wedding.

Red-faced, she dragged me from woman to woman, announcing, She’s so excited, she wore this before she even began to show.  I barely heard others kind words and quickly made an escape, the warning that I had better wear different clothes to the wedding or ruin my sister’s special day ringing in my ears. Suddenly I felt eleven again, reliving constant cruel accusations that drove me to attempt suicide, and being reminded for years after that I couldn’t even do that right.

It was dark and Ken was already asleep when Dad drove in from work and spotted me on the porch.  We wandered in the big yard while he gave me a chance to unload my frustration, and to admit that I was too quick to believe the worst, to react instead of respond, and to worry how I would raise my child.

Tell me about the outfit you made, he requested. Surprised, I gave a one-minute overview, while he looked up at the stars, his cigarette glowing in the darkness.  So you knew what it would be before you started, right? And then you took it all apart?

Well, yes, I just, you know, cut each piece down to fit me.

How’d you know to do that?

Well, I learned in Home Ec how to tear out and put things back together. And I learned how to make a pattern for something.

Yes, the pattern, he answered thoughtfully, and then gestured over his shoulder at the truck heaped with logs.

Do you remember when you were little – talking about the load of logs?

You mean when I wondered how you could get them so high?

Um hmm.  And why did that surprise you?
Well, because of all the knots and bumps on the logs…when I tried to stack them it seemed impossible.

Remembering the picture of Daddy on the top of the truck instructing my brothers with the pick to move or flip this or that log until they slid into place one atop the other, I gasped.

You remember? He’d asked, already knowing the answer.

Yes.  You said you saw a pattern and you knew which ones to move to make it come together.

Silently he continued to gaze up into the night sky, and then pointed. And do you think there was a pattern for those?

Startled, I looked up. 

I don’t know.  I’m not sure if God just said let it be and there it was.

And?

And…. I stammered, while connecting the dots in my mind. And… He saw a pattern before He made the stars?

Very good, and what about you? he pushed.

Me? What about me?

Who made your pattern?

My pattern?  Why, uh, God I guess.

I guess, he responded sardonically. So. Let’s see – the logs on the truck.  That pattern was…

Good, I supplied, seeing where he was going.

And the stars?

Good

And you?

Good, I whispered as a tear made its way down my face. 

Better than good, he said – dragging out the syllables like Andy of Mayberry – go-oo-d!

I smiled at the imitation. Then his cigarette arced as he tossed it to the dirt.  He wrapped me in his arms, kissed my hair and whispered, no matter what happens, no matter what anybody says, it may hurt, and it may take awhile, but know this, if it’s His pattern, it’s gonna be good.

Thanks, Daddy I whispered as we headed back into the house.

Looking over his shoulder, he opened the porch door for me. He seemed to be inhaling strength as he glanced upward again and then gave me a side-hug. Keep looking up, he whispered conspiratorially, it’s gonna be good.

Psalm 139 -Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;

you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!  You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body. You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,

how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you; the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

Daddy was right. Life is good. It’s especially good when you can finally see the pattern.

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