As I have gotten older, I seem to misplace things. I am not sure everyone does this, but I will put something away to keep it safe and then I cannot remember where I put it.
Several years ago, I misplaced my faith, my belief that God would always be with me, and no matter how hard I looked, I could not find it.
God has been a part of my life for a long time. In fact, I can tell you the exact date I knew the power of his love. It was February 22, 1942, a rainy day, the day a drunk drove his car into ours, and for many months, years actually, our lives would be torn apart.
I do not remember the crash, but vaguely remember strangers who had stopped to help, lifting me out of the wet street. My father told me later that I had flown out the window of the driver’s side of our car at impact and then was crushed between the two vehicles. I awoke again by the side of the road, and then yet again in the front seat of an ambulance, held in the arms of a strange man because although three ambulances came to the scene, there was no room for me in the back.
Then I awoke again in the emergency room. Everyone was shouting, and I could see a woman on the table. I needed to find my mommy and daddy, but I also fought to stay awake. I was in a giant wheelchair with a high back, and a seat made of cane. I needed to get out of this chair and find my mommy. To my young ears, it seemed chaos ruled. Then I heard a doctor near the table say, “There is nothing more we can do for this woman; she’s gone, she’s dead.”
As I again tried to get up, I felt a presence, a soft, calming voice that told me to stay in the chair, assuring me that my mother was alive. Although we were both badly hurt, she was alive.
I was four years old, dressed in a bright red coat my mother had made for me and, although I was so afraid, I stayed in the chair. Of course, I did not know at the time that it was God talking to me, that the Holy Spirit stood beside me and my fear, and stayed close until my father found me.
As my father screamed for me, the medical staff realized that a small child sat unattended in the corner. As I have said: chaos ruled. Nurses wheeled me into a treatment room where my injuries were finally addressed. And then both of us, my broken and bruised mother and me, went off to surgery. Every bone from my breast bone down was broken or crushed, but they fixed me up.
They spent most of that rainy day and well into the night putting this tiny little girl back together. They put me in a full body cast and hung me from the ceiling to mend. We were blessed; we got well. The woman and her son in the other car died that day.
In later years, I have undergone nine surgeries as a direct result of that auto accident, but I needed one more. I had put off doing what my doctor had advised me I would have to do eventually, which was an extensive surgery to try and correct my twisted and deteriorating spine. I did not want to think about the outcome. Oh, I had convinced myself I could handle death. It was only the thought of ending up paralyzed that chilled my heart and mind.
You see, I am a caregiver, but not one to accept help, and although I realize it is wrong to think like this, that is who I am. I also know that I am strong. I had survived the sudden death of my husband of 43 years, and the loss of my second son due to complications of his type one diabetes that caused renal failure, and finally his heart gave out. His passing stole the very breath from my soul.
I never shouted at God; I never asked why. Now, as I try to remember that time, I know now He would ask more of me. He would take my second husband and my oldest son, but all that came later.
As I struggled with the anguish of deciding what to do regarding this operation, I recall feeling so alone; my mind wandering, unable to find my way, and solutions were as elusive as a soft caress of an evening breeze.
I had also learned that answers are not always given to those who suffer, for that can be the way of our Lord. He asks for our patience, our faith; all in good time.
Although lost and afraid, I had to move forward. I had to be realistic. I had to have this new surgery.
My doctor and I set a date, but it was a month off. I wanted it yesterday. I did not want to have time to think about it and maybe change my mind. You see, for the first time since that rainy day so many years ago as a small child, I was afraid, and my fear consumed me. I prayed. I read the bible, I asked God to guide me, but nothing helped. I tried to hide my fear, to move through the days as if nothing was wrong, but this anguish found its way inside me and never left.
I told myself that I had to find a way to stay so busy that I could hide from this fear. Our church had started a program of knitting Prayer Shawls. I decided this would be good for me and I bought yarn and began to knit. I followed the directions that asked us to pray as we knitted. As I worked each day, I talked to this shawl. I made mistakes, some I ripped out, but others I just left, not able to get my heart into the job at hand.
As I knitted, I wondered about the person who might be given this shawl after I had finished it and taken it to the church to be blessed. I hoped whoever receive this garment might not see all the mistakes I had made. I just prayed that it would offer warmth and comfort to someone in need, even though it was not perfect, like our lives.
I had several chores to take care of before my surgery, an operation that would take over twelve hours. I tried not to think about how scared I was, knowing I had no other choice. I had never faced fear like this before in my life, so I tried to pretend it did not exist.
I delivered my shawls to the church, several more in addition to the first one, and soon I was ready to move forward. On Monday, the day before my surgery, my pastor called and wanted to come and pray for me.
When he walked in the front door, he carried a prayer shawl. He placed it on my lap and explained that the women of our church knitted these to give comfort and peace. I told him that I knew of the project, that I had made several shawls. In fact, I had made this one.
He did not know what to say, except that he would go back to the church and get another one for me. I said no, and clutched the soft yarn to my heart.
No, I said, I wanted this one. We talked a bit; we prayed together, and after he had left, I knew that everything was going to be fine no matter the outcome. I had searched for weeks for some sign that God had not left me and here it was.
I was not afraid anymore, and just as His words of love and comfort gave strength to that little girl dressed in a bright red coat so long ago, the return of this shawl opened my heart and soul, and I knew I have found what had never actually been lost, only misplaced.
I know that as Pastor Paul reached out among the many shawls to pick one for me, God guided his hand. I believe that God wrote our story and then gave us life, and along the way, He has asked us to travel many roads, some we might not have chosen ourselves. We have faced trials we did not want, carried burdens we did not want to carry. However, one day we realize that the road we did not want is the one that has brought us to the place we need to be.
At times, the way we walk seems filled with fear, but when we need a hand, one is always there. When we cry out for courage, we find it, and as we wander, feeling so lost when asked to deal with our unfortunate situation, He touches our soul and helps us to know that our burdens have a way of teaching us humility, and how to be peaceful.
I may have misplaced my faith, but God never left my side. I know that my story, written so long ago, still reads the same as it did from the beginning, and although we do not know what the ending will be, we should take joy in the journey because I know that I am where God wants me to be.
Life is a circle, and as we continually move about on this earth, not much is left to chance. God knew that when this shawl came back to me, I would remember my thoughts, how I’d hoped that it would not matter to someone in need that it was not perfect. I had prayed that this shawl would offer peace and courage to someone who was afraid, someone who felt lost and had not trusted Him to take care of them, and it did.
I am blessed and loved. I know that no matter how many times I stumble or lose my way, my Lord is beside me for it is His plan that I live, as He continues to guide me to where I need to be.
Trust your heart, dear friends, trust and believe. To understand the mysteries of life we cannot turn to the back of the book hoping to know the ending, we must be content to live each day, just one at a time.