In this monstrous task of moving I am trying not to look or sort and just pack, pack, pack. But the temptation has proved to be too much for me. So has the experience of swallowing momentos of my life in one giant gulp! I am very sentimental, thus the stuff: children’s birthday cards (yet to be scrapbooked, or scrapped), all their precious school papers and artwork (to do the same), old church bulletins marking special occasions, wedding announcements from…ha-hem…before, paperwork from former business enterprises (dump), notes of encouragement I have received, I also have ministry props/lessons/paperwork (will I use them again? could someone else?), hospital records from my multitude of surgeries, more writings from forever-ago. I even found a wiggly eyeball, plastic fangs, and a homemade slingshot (boys will be boys and I raised two of them).
Yet, among these keepsakes were memories of the people whose paths I crossed. The lives that intersected with mine. Divine appointments, I believe. The lives that blessed mine and so many others and to whom I hope that I was a blessing.
My heart startled when I pulled out the newspaper clippings from the Christmas Eve 1994 house fire in North Attleboro, Massachusetts that killed seven people, including five children. My friend Nora, her husband Ken, four of her children and one of her children’s friend who was spending the night. I made Nora’s silk wedding flowers and decorations and was one of the few at their intimate wedding only two years before, in that very house. Seven year old Abigail perished that night. She had a crush on my son, Justin, and wanted to marry him when they grew up. I remembered that tucked away with Justin’s birthday cards was one signed by Abigail that included a tracing of her hand. As all of this family’s keepsakes went up in flames, I was happy to have saved mine and shared it with her aunt and uncle. Nora was a lovely Christian woman and dedicated mother who attended the Mom’s Bible studies I taught. By God’s grace she faced many difficult situations, including raising her autistic twins who are in heaven now. Her oldest daughter survived, as she was not home that night. I have been praying for her ever since.
Then I pulled out a letter. It was from a teenage girl who had been my neighbor. She wrote to me telling me of her recent baptism. While I was separated from my husband I needed a couple of extra helping hands so I bartered services with her and her brother who were homeschooled. She babysat and her brother did odd jobs while I taught them homeschool courses. I enjoyed her sweet and cheerful spirit. Something troubled me though. As I got to know her and her older sister who visited with me at times I sensed something wasn’t quite right. The family did home church and invited me. Though there is nothing wrong with home church per se, I detected a spirit of legalism, shame, dissention, and isolation, as well as some unusual disciplinary ideas. These few things that I caught a glimpse of did not seem blatently abusive as far as I could see at the time), but probably would be spiritually damaging.
I could have never imagined how the discernment that God gave me would end up protecting me and my children from getting drawn in to such an environment and also allowed me to try to reach out to these teens. You see, only a few years later it was revealed that this large family belonged to a “Christian” cult called “The Body”. Two of the babies in this family were discovered dead, the victims of spiritual abuse. One of the baby’s mothers was given a “prophecy” to stop feeding her baby and if she didn’t comply God would take him from her. She obeyed. This young mother was the sister who had started opening up to me, only to be discouraged from doing so by her parents. I will never know if any seeds of truth were planted in my time spent with them. I can only hope and pray that the Son would set them free and they would come to know the real Jesus Christ not the one they were taught.
I also found a porcelin trinket box, shaped like a cross. I had purchased this one for me and four others as gifts. In each I placed a little quartz gemstone shaped like a teardrop. I gave these to each of the girls in a family whose mother had lost her battle with Cancer. I taught her children in my children’s discipleship ministry. Although their mom was a fairly new friend, the Lord saw fit to allow me to be there and pray with her in her last days. During this time she had to endure not only her health issues and face death, but also deal with some very tragic circumstances that had infiltrated her home, affecting her children. For this she had to leave this world and entrust her children totally to God’s care for their well being and a journey they would face without her. The little teardrop and cross shaped box were to remind the girls that Jesus holds our tears and they are precious to him, as were they. I loved praying for their healing and wholeness. These special princesses in God’s kingdom.
Perhaps I may not know why God allowed me to be a presence in the lives of these people and many others, if only for a short time. Some at pivotal times. But even in the midst of my stuff, the chaos of my life, I have found purpose and the divine directing of my path. I had prayed to be a gap person. Someone who the Lord would use in the seasons of others lives to help them, I only hope I had in some way. These are the treasures that are stored for us in heaven and I will trust that God is the true keeper of my life, my memories, my experiences, and those divine appointments.