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Monday, December 9, 2013

There are signs everywhere

The first scripture I ever highlighted in any bible was Hebrews 12:12-13. At the time, I was 15 or 16 years old and can only be described as incredibly self absorbed. Faith was far from me, I was working hard to be an atheist - the earth was too messed up to have a benevolent "god" running the show. I spent most of my time feeling sorry for myself and being grateful for nothing.
Oh, what a silly girl; I had never been homeless, gone hungry or been abused - and yet my gratitude did not abound.  As I sat crying on my bed overwhelmed by the world that day, somehow my Mother's Living Bible had found its way in to my hand, it fell open - and there it was before me:
Hebrews 12:12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

Sitting there reading, it was as if this was a message written explicitly for me, speaking directly to my heart. I'd love to say that as my eyes devoured the words on the page before me that I had a great revelation - that I became a better person instantly- faithful, giving, grateful, a strong leader - but that's not what happened. It would be almost a decade before I would consider setting my own self and desires aside for a greater good, before I would even begin to understand how much I had to be thankful for.

That day however, there was a shift in me, and the path I was on changed course. While I would continue to struggle with belief, faith, self pity and weakness, wanting to give up whenever any adversity presented itself in life, a new voice was now whispering in my ear. A voice proclaiming the knowledge that most importantly we must be strong not for ourselves, but for the others. Yes, God can seem far away and unknowable. Yes, life is hard. Yes, we are tired and weak. We have reason and must, however, walk on.

How easily we forget facts we've memorized, lessons we've learned, memories fade as life presses in. When it seemed I was under attack, when I just wanted to throw in the towel - I would most generally turn to Hebrews 12 to be reminded, it was not about me - but the others. When I neglected to turn to this scripture, wallowing in my own despair, somehow it would find me.

On a day most like any other, with the exception that on this one, I could not seem to get beyond the horror and sadness that my dear Grandmother was losing her battle with Alzheimer's. The long goodbye was more painful than it seemed I could bear, on this day, the scripture found me. First, it was shared on the radio in my kitchen - giving me a glimmer of hope for a moment - but the dark shadow cast across my heart was too big to be overcome with a mere reminder. Then I walked in to my living room, as I passed the television it happened to be tuned to the Crystal Cathedral program and as I went to change the channel, Dr. Robert Schuller proceeded to begin reading from the book of Hebrews, and not just any chapter - you guessed it, Chapter 12. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck, I knew I was not alone.

God gave me the strength to care for my Grandmother Mahota as Alzheimer's claimed her personality, mind, body and finally life. Spending days with her laughing at silly things like children, feeding her and clothing her as she had done for me. Near the very end, when she was confined to a hospital bed in the front room of her home, mostly unresponsive and not able to communicate, my dear friends "The Glory Girls" singing group stopped in to share some hymns. We sat around Mahota's bed, the words of "Amazing Grace" and "In the garden" bringing us all some peace. Then as we began "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", Mahota not only sat up - but lifted her hand into the air- keeping time with the music. An Okie, a lady of the Southwest at heart - I know the words of that hymn for my Grandmother were a sign from the Heavens -just as Hebrews 12 has been for me. Reaching her in her lost state, she knew she was not alone.

This fall I dropped my son off for his Freshman year at college, 17 years flew by and as we carried his things in to his dorm room I kept seeing him as a baby just learning to walk - a 4 year old just learning to read... the vision of the grown man before me seeming surreal. His is a private Catholic school nestled on a mountain side in New Hampshire, we were blessed to attend a beautiful mass before leaving him that Sunday in September. As the Priest opened the book, my broken mother's heart was looking for some sign that this was the place for my son - that he would be okay here, that I could let go... "our reading today", he said, "is from the book of Hebrews, Chapter 12."
None of us is alone.