But God

Ten lords a-leaping?

But God hears our cries for help

Psalm 145:19-20 The Lord grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. The Lord protects all those who love him.

Matthew 28:20 [Jesus said] “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Luke 6:46-48 “Why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm.”

1 Peter 1:6 There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.

The image that comes to mind is comical. I picture a game of leapfrog, with the ten lords in all their finery becoming ever more disheveled and wet as they fall in the grass sodden and muddy from all the rain we’ve been having.

Shutterstock: Wallenrock

And that reminds me of my then three-year-old grandson slipping and falling in mud. When I heard his cries and went to rescue him, I slipped too, and we were both lying there covered in mud and with no apparent way to clean ourselves up enough to get in the car and go home from the park.

On this tenth day of Christmas, the last thing I feel I need is ten lords a-leaping. I need only one Lord who hears my cries for help and rescues me. For my heart is shattered with a loss I can’t describe to you. Maybe that’s OK, because your heartache is different from mine, and I want you to hear this word of comfort from Psalm 145 through the lens of your own grief or need.

Wait a minute! you may be thinking. I don’t see the Lord granting my desires or rescuing and protecting me. I feel like God has forgotten me, or maybe, with the world in such a mess, he doesn’t care about my concerns. I’m like that crying three-year-old lying cold in the mud.

I hear you. Sometimes nothing makes sense, even words of comfort like these words from Psalm 145. Sometimes the Lord rescues us in ways we don’t understand until much later.

I’ve gone through a lot of trouble and anguish in my life, and what I want to tell you, even in my own grieving today, is that the Lord does hear, and he does care. Sometimes I wish he didn’t so much respect our free will and would swoop in and prevent us feeling the effects of our own and others’ poor choices and wounded hearts and wrong thinking and acting. I wish I could go back to being like three-month-old Juliana whose every need my daughter attends to.

But God wants me to grow up, painful and messy as that process can be. And while this “vale of tears” can be very dark at times, light and hope come to us through the promise of final defeat of wrong and evil. This isn’t “pie in the sky by and by.” Our solid rock, the anchor for our souls, our unwavering confidence is that Jesus is with us now, today, walking through it all right beside us, caring for us in big ways and small.

Please open my eyes; let me see you with me, Lord.

Today.

Two turtledoves …

But God is close

Psalm 145:17-18 The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.

Hebrews 2:16-18 We know the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

It seems like every time I ask Youtube to play Christmas carols, sooner or later I’m treated to yet one more rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” And on NPR I learned that someone (sorry, I didn’t catch who) prices the cost of the “goods and services” in this song each year as a measure of inflation: giving your true love the gifts of all twelve days would cost you 10.5% more this year than last year. Especially turtledoves! Sorry, that’s about all I remember, but feel free to research it!

What is it that so fascinates us about this dated song that we keep on playing it and listening to it?

Hearing about this on NPR did prompt me to think about turtledoves, because they show up periodically in Scripture. They are cited in Song of Solomon as a sign of spring (no wonder they are expensive at the moment, huh). In Psalm 74:19, God’s beloved people are compared to turtledoves. In Leviticus a series of texts describes using them for sacrifices, for those too poor to purchase a lamb. In Luke we learn that Mary and Joseph fell into that category, because they took two turtledoves to the Temple to substitute legally for their firstborn Jesus’s dedication to the Lord when he was circumcised at eight days of age.

The Temple priests didn’t know Jesus was the Lamb, the One who would be sacrificed for each one of us. The One described by the old man Simeon in the Temple as “the consolation of Israel.”

Two turtledoves, the offering of the poor. For the Magi had not yet arrived to bring him their costly gifts.

On this second day of Christmas, I am filled with awe thinking about the mystery of God become a tiny, helpless baby.

My favorite carol again this Christmas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifCWN5pJGIE

How long, Lord?

How long, Lord?

But God opens his hand

Psalm 145:15 The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it. When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.

Psalm 130:5 I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word.

What a delight to care for my two-month-old granddaughter Juliana yesterday, satisfying her hunger with the milk my daughter had left for her.

I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for little JuJu’s health. I couldn’t help flashing back to Karis at that age, in the hospital and unable to swallow without bilious vomiting even one teaspoon slow drip over an hour.

And I started thinking about all the ways God fed Karis despite her dysfunctional intestines. Had she been born even a few years earlier, TPN (elemental nutrition administered directly into the veins) would not have been available for her. She was the first baby to survive infancy with her condition, thanks to TPN and to God’s dramatic intervention when the doctors asked us to remove life support and let her go, and instead her intestine inexplicably started functioning for the first time.

After that, for a while, she was able to nurse. When her intestines shut down again, she had a combination of TPN and pregestimil, administered half-strength slow drip through a kangaroo pump. (At other times in her life she actually drank that horrible stuff.) There were long periods when the only foods she tolerated were yogurt and boiled chicken breast. She had her own special “yogurt spoon.”

There were periods when she could eat a variety of foods, but that could morph in a matter of minutes into painful, life-threatening bowel obstructions and dehydration. We tried all kinds of combinations and concoctions. When she lost too much weight, the docs would put her back on TPN, which led to its own complications and scary line infections.

One day in Brazil when Karis was in high school, struggling to live a version of “normal life,” I carried my Bible into her bedroom open to Psalm 145 and told her God had spoken to me very directly through one verse; could she guess which it was?

She glanced at the page to see which psalm I was showing her and said, “Verse 15, right, Mom? Don’t I keep telling you to stop worrying about me? But Mom, what about all the children who starve, not because they can’t eat, like me, but because they simply don’t have food to eat? How does this verse apply to them?”

Her eyes filled with tears. “Mom, I wish I could use the money our insurance is spending to keep me alive to feed the children who don’t have food. Why can’t I, Mom? The world is totally out of whack, with so many resources invested in me and so few in them. It’s not right. What can I do? How can God bear it? How can we make the world a more equitable place?”

By now Karis was sobbing, and I with her. I still don’t know the answers to her questions. We have so much. Others have so little.

Remembering all this today, I think of God’s promise that the time will come when there is no more hunger and thirst. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes (Revelation 7:16-17). How long, Lord? How long?

As this season focuses our attention on the Source of our hope, God himself become a helpless, hungry infant, savor this beautiful reflection by Luci Shaw, “Mary’s Song” (thanks, Shari!):

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast

keep warm this small hot naked star

fallen to my arms. (Rest . . .

you who have had so far

to come.) Now nearness satisfies

the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies

whose vigor hurled

a universe. He sleeps

whose eyelids have not closed before.

His breath (so slight it seems

no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps

to sprout a world.

Charmed by doves’ voices, the whisper of straw,

he dreams,

hearing no music from other spheres.

Breath, mouth, ears, eyes

he is curtailed

who overflowed all skies,

all years.

Older than eternity, now he

is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed

to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,

blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,

brought to this birth

for me to be new-born,

and for him to see me mended

I must see him torn.

Waiting for Baby Jesus … beautiful creche fashioned from cardboard boxes, tape, and paint by our friend Lineth.

Peace

But God keeps his promises  December 19, 2022

Psalm 145:13-14 The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does. The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.

Psalm 119:140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested; that is why I love them so much.

Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Last night Dave and I watched a movie reminiscent of “The Notebook,” called “Still Mine.” 89-year-old Craig (James Cromwell) tells his memory-challenged wife, Irene (Geneviève Bujold), “I have never broken a promise to you.” Amid the insecurities she experiences, Craig wants Irene (her name means “peace”) to know she can trust him to care for her.

Psalm 145 also links confidence in God’s promises to relief from the burdens we carry. We can trust him to help us bear the weights of our lives. As we trust him, our burdens ease. Isn’t it true that when we worry about whether we can trust someone, our concerns in relation to them are heavier?

It occurs to me that Jesus’s invitation can include sharing with him our doubts and concerns, even about God’s trustworthiness. We can tell him how it feels to want something very badly and not see God doing anything about it. We can tell him we don’t always understand why he doesn’t apparently act on our behalf. We can weep in his lap about the disappointments and betrayals we feel so keenly.

Doing so in itself is an act of trust. I love Psalm 116:10-11, I believed in you, SO I said, “I am deeply troubled, Lord.” In my anxiety I cried out to you.

We’ve reached the fourth week of Advent, the last week before we celebrate one part of what we’ve been waiting for: the Incarnation, the birth of our Savior. In one system of naming the Advent candles (there are many!), the fourth candle represents Peace. Peace is the direct result of trust, so easily seen in the comfort of a child relaxed in his or her mother’s lap.

Or in the case of Irene, resting in Craig’s embrace, his tears reveal his heart touched by her trust in him.

My granddaughter Talita with her daddy

Don’t be afraid

But God’s kingdom is glorious

Psalm 145:10-13 All of your works will thank you, Lord, and your faithful followers will praise you. They will speak of the glory of your kingdom; they will give examples of your power. They will tell about the majesty and glory of your reign.

Luke 12:30-32 Your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 God called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.

In August of 2004 I had already lived quite a long time. For fifty years I had seen God provide for me. I had seen God touch my daughter Karis and restore her many times when doctors told us there was no hope for survival from the current crisis.

Yet the evening of August 23, after watching a video of a person who died on the operating table, I was terrified. For most of the night I could not sleep, agonizing over what Karis had agreed to do: undergo a highly risky transplant. The “good, bad, and ugly” of intestinal transplant had been drilled into us, complete with examples of patients who had died. The chances of her surviving were small. Why then had we signed up for this? Should I try to persuade Karis to change her mind?

Toward morning, I fell asleep, briefly. But shortly before 7:00 a.m. I woke up, startled, as if someone had shaken me awake. I heard a voice say, “Get up, get dressed, and go to church.” I tried to ignore it, snuggling back into my pillow, but the voice spoke again: “Get up, get dressed, and go to church.” What … ??!!

Karis was still sound asleep. I got up, got dressed, and went to church. I walked into the early morning service to hear the pastor concluding the sermon by saying the words from Luke’s Gospel quoted above. Don’t be afraid.

God had told me to get out of bed and go to church just to hear those words?

Later that morning, while visiting a friend, an immigrant from the Arab world, Karis received a transplant call and said yes.

Don’t be afraid.

Hour by hour through the fourteen-hour surgery, Don’t be afraid.

Seeing her in the transplant ICU afterward, tubes and wires sprouting from her body like the quills of a porcupine, multiple machines humming, Don’t be afraid.

Skipping ahead days, weeks, months, to Karis finally emerging from coma, irreversible rejection, one lethal infection after another, total debilitation … “Mama, why were you afraid? It’s not time for me to die yet. God still has plans for me here.”

January 2005: off the vent!!!

Why was I afraid? Because I’m human and I loved my daughter. Because I’m weak, not strong. Because being back in the ICU for 75 days straight wa an eternity.

Your Father already knows your needs …

Reliving those days, weeks, and months to write the Karis book, God showed me where he had been through that eternity of time: with me in the ICU. Calling people to give me support and care. Providing basics: Food. Occasional nights or days of sleep. His word, Psalm 118:5, with the mystery of feeling the walls of the ICU recede—larger inside than outside—when I became claustrophobic. The mystery and wonder of Karis still living, one more hour, one more day.

Your Father already knows your needs. Don’t be afraid. It gives him great joy to give you the Kingdom.

The mystery of the Kingdom: The King is your Father, who loves you …

Can you receive these words today?

Close your eyes and listen.

Healing wounds and trauma, by Alexandra Hudson

But God is compassionate

Psalm 145:8-9 The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.

Psalm 103:8, 13 The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. … The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.

Ephesians 5:1 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.

Compassion: to suffer together; to recognize the suffering of others and wish or take action to help them. It’s the desire to take action to help that separates compassion from empathy.

Our ability to have compassion toward others is nurtured by the compassion we extend to ourselves, just as Jesus calls us to love others as we love ourselves. For those of us who have experienced trauma, this can be difficult. This week Alexandra Hudson (https://www.civic-renaissance.com/?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email) wrote about a book called The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk. I’m quoting an excerpt, with her permission. Another resource that I’ve found helpful is Try Softer by Aundi Kolber.

Here’s Alexandra:

Our trauma and wounds

We all have wounds that inform how we interact with others today.

Trauma is a specific kind of wound that can chronically inhibit our relationships with others and ourselves. Trauma is an upsetting experience that brings us to the point of being overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness, rage, confusion, and an inability to escape or function in the face of threat. Trauma isn’t about the event itself per se—it’s about how we respond to it, how we’re comforted after it, and how it continues to affect us.

If a child is in a horrible car accident but has a support system around him as he heals both physically and emotionally, the chances of him having long-term trauma are low.

By contrast, if a child endures sustained emotional or physical neglect or abuse growing up—and they have nowhere to turn, no one with whom they can feel safe and process their experience—the chances of long-term trauma are high.

When we encounter stress, it ends when the situation ends.

Trauma stays with us. It continues to be relived and played out in our minds and by our bodies.

Trauma begins as something that happens TO us, but then our brain begins to change: instead of smelling smoke just when there is fire, we begin to smell smoke everywhere. Everyone we meet is a possible threat to our safety and well-being.

The traumatic event is over, but we continue to react to the things around us as if we’re in survival mode. We are in a perpetual state of fight, flight, freeze, fawn, or mental collapse, which is taxing on the mind and body—“metabolically costly” as van der Kolk’s book says.

The brain and body are so preoccupied with survival—with interpreting everything around us as a life threat—that we are left with little energy to think, learn, be creative, perceive nuance, experience pleasure and joy.

We are emotionally, psychosocially and physically handicapped from bringing our best selves, and living our best lives, and bringing the fullness of ourselves to relationship with others.

The cost is not just exhaustion, but a variety of physiological issues that have no perceptible cause. The author of The Body Keeps the Score mentions chronic pain, auto-immune diseases, and headaches as just a few examples that he’s encountered in his practice.

We are not disembodied minds. We are mind, body and spirit. Too often, though, our treatments of malaise are segmented: treatments of psychological issues focus on the mind, while treatments of physiological issues focus on the body.

But seeing human beings in their fullness—as mind, body, spirit, all—and addressing the needs of each in turn and in relation to the other is the path toward fullness of life and healing.

Human beings are infinitely complex. There is so much that goes on within the human mind, body and spirit beneath the surface—beyond what people can see or understand.

Because we are uncomfortable with gaps in our knowledge—for example, “Why was my boss unnecessarily brusque to me this morning?”—we fill in those knowledge gaps with stories to help us explain things we don’t understand, even if the accounts are inaccurate or incomplete.

What would it mean to have a little more humility in our interactions with others—not presuming to know the entirety of their character and life story, reducing them to our experience with them in a single exchange—and be open to the stories that lie beneath the surface? Stories of tragedy, abuse, loss and grief that may help us better understand why people are the way they are and give us greater grace and empathy in interacting with them.

A story in three parts

But God gives joy

Psalm 145:7 Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness.

Psalm 90:14-16 Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, O Lord, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory.

A couple of weeks ago, at the beginning of a small group meeting, the leader asked us each to share in one word what we were feeling. I surprised myself by saying “joy.”

Why is that worth telling you about? Isn’t that a fairly common experience?

Well, not for me, not at this time of the year.

Since 2014, the cold, dark, gray days have put a dragging sense of foreboding in the pit of my stomach. I know what’s coming. The constant struggle to keep Karis warm as she bounces in and out of the hospital. The quickly approaching end of November date the nephrologist gave us when Karis’s kidneys would stop functioning. Her increasing lack of strength and energy. Her most-of-the-night pre-Christmas conversation with Hildete, when she and Pastor Vandeir visited us from Brazil, about her death and how it would impact her family and all she had wanted to accomplish and her sense that the Promise and the Prophecy given to her at age 16 had not been fulfilled. The aborted trip to Florida when she developed a line infection the day before we were to fly. The wrenching I felt leaving her behind in the ICU. Her middle-of-the-night call, her hoarse voice barely audible: “Mama, please come.” The diagnosis of H1N1, swine flu. And all the events leading to her death in the wee hours of Feb. 5th, the roads so icy we couldn’t make it to the hospital for several more hours.

Every other year before this one, at this time of the year, I haven’t been able to shake the waves of grief associated with the holiday season. So, yes: for me, to realize I was feeling joy and anticipation instead of grief and dread was an amazing experience, this ninth year since it all happened.

My three-part story today is one of gratitude. The first part was the thirty years of life with Karis. The second part was the long grieving of living without her. The third part is the discovery that joy can take the place of grief. It’s such a hopeful feeling. I want to say to everyone grieving a huge loss, “Don’t despair! It may take a long time. Each person’s experience is different. But I know now it’s possible to reach the third part of the story, when tears flow out of deep joy and thankfulness instead of the deep pain of mourning.” I’m tasting the joy Karis herself feels now!

A story in two parts

But God’s greatness is not always evident

Psalm 145:4-6 Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts, [Lord]; let them proclaim your power. I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles. Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness.

Psalm 89: 33-35, 38-40, 46 [God said] But I will never stop loving David nor fail to keep my promise to him. No, I will not break my covenant; I will not take back a single word I said. I have sworn an oath to David, and in my holiness I cannot lie. [Ethan replied] But now you have rejected David and cast him off. You are angry with your anointed king. You have renounced your covenant with him; you have thrown his crown in the dust. … O Lord, how long will this go on? Will you hide yourself forever?

In the first 37 verses of Psalm 89, the psalm appointed for today, the poet Ethan fits right into Psalm 145, praising God for his power, his unfailing love, his faithfulness, righteousness, and justice.

But in verse 38 there’s a jarring shift. Ethan suddenly reveals his broken heart, his doubt, his agonizing questions about what has befallen his beloved king, David. Ethan a musician appointed by David to sing in his choir, was known for his wisdom (see 1 Kings 4:31), but at this moment all he can see is God’s apparent betrayal evident through the disloyalty of some of David’s beloved sons and most trusted friends. You can read the stories in 2 Samuel 7 and on.

Psalm 89 doesn’t resolve the situation. It ends in lament. And this is the only psalm identified in our canon as written by Ethan. What happened next? Did Ethan sound the bronze symbols (1 Chronicles 15:19) during David’s song of praise in 2 Samuel 22? Was he present to hear David’s last words in 1 Chronicles 29, able to praise God along with his beloved sovereign?

We don’t know. Sometimes situations can’t be neatly tied up with a bow. You’ve seen that in your own life, right? I have. These tough things challenge us to dig deeper and sit longer before the Lord, saying with Ethan, “How long, O Lord? Where is your unfailing love?” (verse 49).

Perhaps we won’t receive answers until we reach Heaven. With Ethan then we have two choices: to turn away from God, reject him because we don’t understand, and allow bitterness to grow in our hearts. Or to continue believing there are answers, even though we don’t understand them, and trust God enough to share our deep grief with him, allowing him to comfort us even when we’re not capable of seeing things from his point of view. Like a two-year-old who can’t possibly understand the painful medical interventions he must undergo in order to treat the cancer the adults have detected in his body, yet clings to his mother for comfort.

The ability to lament, to bare our souls before the Lord, is a gift. Imagine yourself as that two-year-old, climbing into his mother’s lap, weeping his distress within the secure circle of her embrace.

Shutterstock: DimaBerlin

The Lord is merciful and compassionate … The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads … The Lord is close to all who call on him (Psalm 145:8, 14, 18).

Advent’s two stories

But God performs mighty acts

Psalm 145:1-4 I will exalt you, my God and King and praise your name forever and ever… No one can measure the Lord’s greatness. Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.

Advent is a time for storytelling. Not just any story, but two stories filled with complex and vulnerable characters who grow and change, amazing adventures, and awesome rescues by the greatest, most powerful, most admirable actor of all time.

One story is about what happened on planet Earth two thousand years ago: the birth of a poor baby who was actually a Prince, sent by his father, the King, to rescue the world from the clutches of an evil tyrant.

The second story foretells the Prince’s return to Earth to set everything right. It’s the happy ending which will begin a new story, a wonderful sequel.

What story am I telling my children and grandchildren?

This Advent, I want to challenge you to think as well about your own story. In Psalm 145, David repeatedly calls us to share with others our own stories of God’s power and greatness, beginning with our children and grandchildren and others of the next generations.

I want to leave you with three questions today:

  1. Does your story matter? Why should you invest in remembering, understanding, and sharing your story?
  2. Where do you see God in your story? What mighty acts has he performed for you?
  3. What impact can your response to question #2 have on your children and grandchildren and/or others of the next generations? What has your life experience shown or taught you that you would like to pass on to them?

I hope these questions will help you begin to see and value your story differently.

As I think about the legacy my husband Dave and I received from our parents and grandparents, I’m both sad and encouraged. Some parts of their stories were never resolved or healed, and we were bruised from the impact of their pain. In other ways, their stories challenge and strengthen us to move forward, to offer our descendants hope as we embrace and share God’s grace and mighty acts in our lives.

I hope you will join me in storytelling this Advent! Of both Great Stories, and the ways your experiences weave their unique part of the fabric the Great Stories continue creating.

Enough, by a friend

Psalm 32:8 The Lord says, “I will make you wise and show you where to go. I will guide you and watch over you.”

But God saved me

Shutterstock: Lukas Gojda

The sun was beaming across the Laurel Mountains of Western Pennsylvania as I cruised the Turnpike on my way to gather with a group of friends I had come to know intimately over the last two years only on Zoom. We all share a common disease and meet five mornings a week just as millions of others meet in a wide variety of other places and ways and who fight the same disease together. I had my ear buds in listening to someone share his story. I was in the far-left lane doing the speed limit of 70mph when suddenly I realized my car was veering to the right. I saw the rear corner of a trailer being towed by a pickup truck in the lane to my right coming at my car much too fast.  I knew I needed to brake, yet my foot seemed stuck to the accelerator. I slammed into the trailer full force. My car caromed off the trailer and spun around. I braked, landed on the berm of the road, drove off to the center, and came to a stop all in a matter of nanoseconds.  I unhooked my seat belt and got out of my car completely uninjured.  I stood on the side of the highway holding my cell phone in a total daze. What just happened? I thought I was going to an event at the Jersey Shore. It turns out God had other plans.

The next several hours passed quickly and included State Police, talking with the pickup driver, seeing the damage to his trailer, riding in the tow truck that would haul my car to a nearby garage, and, most of all, getting in touch with all those people I was so anxious to see face-to-face after two years of wondering…. How tall is Sammy? Is Charlotte left-handed? What does Sylvia really look like all dressed up?  Would I ever know? Over the next several hours, I sat in the garage waiting room, and I began to hear from all those Zoom connections. Word travels fast in that group. Harry, Vera, Betty, Bob, Carol, Henry, Alisa, James, Lucy, Murray, the list goes on (the names are changed to protect their anonymity). Some texted. Others made real phone calls. Some sent emails reminding me they loved me and were praying for me. Not even one said anything about my being foolish to try to drive alone the 5 ½ hours to the Jersey Shore. Never did anyone say I “should” have done anything any different. That’s not what happens with people like that. There is unconditional love and acceptance. There is complete trust in God. There is a knowledge that God has a plan for each of us and our job is to stay open to God’s plan however it comes and to trust whatever form it takes. Faith and trust in God always come first. The idea that my car was totaled, and I was left unhurt was part of a plan God has in mind for some reason. Now it remains my job to accept my circumstances, pay attention, stay willing to see what that might be. And these close “Zoom” friends where with me in spirit – unconditionally. I knew that right away. I wasn’t frightened.

I called my insurance company. As they walked me through the questions, it felt harmless and even blameless to a degree even though it was my car that went wrong, and I was at the wheel. No one else to lay any blame on. Arrangements for having the car towed from that small town an hour outside my city were made. I took a taxi back home. It cost $200.00.

The next day a friend drove me to a local hospital ER so I could get checked out. I was given lots of appropriate tests for internal bleeding, bruising, a CT scan with and w/o contrast. All testing came back negative. I was very fortunate. God has a plan, I know.  However, I also know God does not necessarily reveal His plan on my time. God’s time and my time are inevitably quite different. Coming home from the hospital ER, I began to realize that none of it felt “real” to me. I couldn’t believe I didn’t have a car. My insurance had arranged for me to get a rental car, but when Enterprise called to make those arrangements, I told them I wasn’t ready. There was a part of me that didn’t want to drive. Not yet.

The shock or trauma was slow to wear off, but eventually I got the rental car. I didn’t drive much at first and our local weather patterns presented us with unseasonal snowfall that also kept me indoors. I used that time to contemplate what God’s plan might be for me. I have one big project that is ending, and I am looking forward to what I want to do next. I like to be busy and productive. I like to be connected to others and feel useful. I know that God knows that about me. One thing for certain is that I no longer refer to what happened as a car “Accident.” I feel it was a “God Experience” that happened to involve my car. In the couple of weeks following that day, I have gone through my small apartment and removed items that are no longer necessary to my life as it is today. I am making room for whatever God has in store for me. I rearranged some furniture, got rid of two pieces and lots of books and clothing that no longer fits. I found breathing room and wall space.

Isaiah 30:21 “If you go the wrong way – to the right or to the left – you will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the right way. You should go this way.”

I spend early morning time for about an hour and a half in prayer and meditation so I can stay close to God and available when He calls or opens a door, I’m ready. When Covid came and took over our lives in one way or another, it changed the way I lived in many ways including my decisions about being in groups or socializing at all. I find it difficult to return to any former patterns or make new ones. Hence, each new encounter is an opportunity to meet God in new ways and experience Gods gifts and His presence. I got a call yesterday from the insurance people telling me the amount of settlement for my car that was totaled. It is certainly a fair amount, and I could start to look for another car. I am not certain I want to do that right now.  Maybe I’ll wait.  Maybe I’ll wait and see what God has in mind for me next. I’m content that God’s plan for me doesn’t need flashing lights or a headline. I will stay Open and Willing.  I sat in a meeting the other day – an in-person meeting – and raised my hand to say I would need a ride next week because I would no longer have a car. Afterward a woman came over and introduced herself to me and said she would love to offer to drive me. She is new to the area but lives near where I do. God’s plan can be walking down the street with New Life and Love in my Heart. Maybe that is Enough. Thank you, God.

2 Corinthians 3:18 “We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Anonymous