I have been trying to write a blog entry for awhile now, but it has been really hard. These are some crazy times we live in. Not just crazy, actually. They are downright unbelievable. I sometimes do something else, watch a TV series or whatever, and get caught up in it, and then I come back to myself and remember what’s happening in the world, and it is so hard to believe. How could something like this happen?
And what does it mean? It seems impossible that the world would not be permanently changed by something like this. It’s not just a virus. It’s not just people getting sick and dying. It is a shattering of economies worldwide. It is a complete change to the way we live and the way we are governed. Individual liberties have had to give way to the good of the whole. Oh, giving up those liberties vastly benefits the individual of course, but a lot of people have not seen it that way, particularly here in the United States. But how might entire systems change?
For me, I couldn’t help but see God’s hand in my life over the last few months. As you may know, I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to a tiny city in rural Iowa at the end of January. When we were getting ready to leave the Bay Area, I kept having a feeling that something was going to happen to confirm that it was the right thing to do. Of course, I’d assumed it would be an earthquake. But now I think it is this. Covid-19. I’d been giving God kind of cursory attention for awhile there. But there has been one constant prayer I had prayed always, and that was just, “Show me the way to go. Shine a light on the path so I can follow it.” When I was involved in sales awhile back, I was urged to find my “brand,” and that is when I came up with the name Seeker’s Road, because that is my essence. All my life I have been seeking the truth, the way, the road, the meaning, the purpose. I have been down a lot of roads on this journey, and there have been times when I have been tempted to believe that my search was in vain, that there was no meaning, there was no purpose. It was all random.
But then I woke up one day, here in Iowa, and said, “Wow! Look at this!” My mind uttered a mangled version of the verse from Esther: It was for such a time as this that I was brought here. If I had been in the Bay Area, I’d have been terrified. I am generally in the high risk category for Covid, so I wouldn’t want to tangle with it, but I’m pretty sure I would have. There are people our family was associated with who I am pretty sure came down with it just as the country was really changing, just days before the shelter in place and stay at home orders started coming down, when you could still go to shows, visit the cities. I might still have felt a little neurotic or paranoid at that time to avoid people who were part of our everyday life. In fact, I still do. It is only the fact that so many people I know who are not neurotic or paranoid are doing it that reassured me that I’m not being crazy.
But there are many other benefits as well to being where I am. I feel so at peace here, more than I have in many years. I love my 90-year old house, and I love the neighborhood and the big bowl of a shared yard I see out my window. It is a veritable playground for squirrels, and watching squirrels play is so joyful! There are an incredible variety of birds here. I watch them, but mostly I hear them. There songs are so beautiful and varied, I can sit on my deck in the morning, and it seriously sounds like I am at the zoo. And financially! We were living paycheck to paycheck in the Bay Area, and coming up short. We made enough from selling our house in the Bay Area to pay cash for our house here. How wonderful it is to know that I have a home that no one can threaten to take from me if something happens.
I look back on all the steps that brought me here. I though things had been random, or that I was responsible for them. But now I feel God standing behind me, over my shoulder, watching and guiding me. My husband had been working at the railroad for a very long time. We had felt secure in his employment, and he had been way up in seniority. But the company started cutting and cutting and cutting, until the knife came to us and my husband lost his job. When he told me, instead of falling into despair, the words came to me: “Let’s move to Iowa.” We’d had friends who had moved here in the previous year, who had sold their houses in California and bought houses here for an unbelievably low amount. So we jumped in. I called a friend who was a realtor, and we sat there and signed papers, and had people come and look at the house, and signed more papers, and we pored over the internet listings for houses for sale. Our friends who were already here were so graciously helpful, looking at the houses we were interested in and sending us videos of their walk throughs. It would have been impossible otherwise to buy long distance, because you cannot see what you are getting from an online listing. “What is that a photo of?”
Selling, buying, packing and moving. Again, I thought we were doing it all ourselves, but now I can see a hand behind it, always watching over my shoulder, arranging things. I’m sure I missed some guidance and made some mistakes along the way, but nevertheless, I found myself here. It’s funny, because I was thinking, “Oh, God, you did this for me. It must mean you actually still love me, in spite of my wandering ways, that you still have something for me to do.” Meanwhile, my husband said, “I think I have a guardian angel. Someone must be watching out for me, because I am blessed.” I looked at him for a moment and said, “Wait, I thought it was me who was blessed.”
I have wanted to write this, because I have wanted to share my blessings, and yet I have been reluctant too, because how about all those very many people who have been anything but blessed? I am not better than any of them. I am not more deserving than any of them. In fact, I am far less deserving than many of them. The only thing I can offer is that I have paid my dues in unanswered prayers. Having my daughter kidnapped and never found … well, there is perhaps no greater test of faith. And it is true that so often over the years I have prayed and thought it futile, that if God could not or would not save my daughter, why should I trust him to do anything else for anyone else?
And yet he has. I have had so many experiences of dramatically answered prayer. Dramatic, but not iron clad proof of anything. Could just be coincidence, right? So I pray for healing and wake up the next morning well, who’s to say I would not have woken up well anyway? I take nothing for granted. I believe God’s hand was in the healing of my mother from an accident on October 10, 2003; yet still she passed, on that same date one year later. There is no proof of anything. Just small gifts handed to me, touches of grace, from which springs fresh faith.
So what does it mean, then, if this has not been your story in this time? Well, I have been there too. I have lost my daughter. I have begged and prayed for her to be brought home to me. But those prayers have not been answered, and instead I have spent decades not knowing where she is or what happened to her, if she passed on to a better place, or if she spent the years suffering, being abused, terrified, crying herself to sleep. I know there are worse fates than what I have endured, including the fate my daughter endured. But it ranks up there. It brought things into question. Sometimes I questioned prayer, but it did not destroy my faith. I have been able to make peace with it. I remember that moment of greatest revelation that morning when I was having coffee with a new friend, and those words fell from my mouth: “I can just see Michaela and me sitting together in eternity, and one of us will speak of this life, and her kidnapping, and we will wave our hands and say, ‘Oh that? That was nothing.’ It will be just a tiny blip in eternity, and instead of seeing our suffering, we will see what impact it may have had in the world.” This is what I have learned: we suffer, that we may be able to give comfort to others who suffer. We will see that in eternity, the lives that may have been changed by what happened to Michaela, and to me. Out of that came the phrase that became my life philosophy: It’s not all about me. It’s not all about my daughter, however precious to me she may be. It’s not even all about you. We are part of a whole, and what happens to us affects the world, whether we can see it or not. That is the best I can offer. I know it is not very comforting to someone who is in the midst of the storm. But this is a brief moment in eternity. Through the moment itself, and through you, the entire universe will be changed, human hearts and souls will be touched, for better or worse.
This isn’t glib chatter. I have truly lived the suffering. Even in the last couple of years, I have fought cancer, and I have been overcome with depression. I have not been suicidal, but I have been very unattached to living. I have wished I could go back to change the universe so my parents never met. So if you are suffering, I hear you! I hear you clearly! And I can only tell you, things will change. Along the way, you may change lives, or you may only change yours. But you are not alone. You are a part of Us. If you need to lay in bed for days, weeks, months, if you cannot move and take care of business because your limbs are filled with wet cement, I have been there. I still go there sometimes. But for the most part, I have emerged, and even in this crazy world we are living in now, I am happy. I am concerned, of course. I am cautious, absolutely. But I am at peace. I believe this for you too. Pray for that light on your own path, and don’t be disappointed if you don’t see a strobe light in the sky. I think you can only really see that guidance once you have passed through the journey. The light shines where our feet have already stepped. We will see it when we are ready.
I have considered the global implications of this, considered apocalyptic possibilities. I have delved into Daniel and Revelation, but I’m not ever going to pretend I understand them. I have a feeling those are things we can only see in a mirror as they pass. I remind myself that the world has been shaken many times before. We in this country in this age are really spoiled. We have had it very good measured against time and tides. It has lulled us into thinking that the ground on which we stand is solid. But in the history of the world, it has not been. This pandemic is nothing compared to the Black Death. I don’t think it has surpassed the Spanish Flu of 1918, although I’m not concerned enough to look it up. There have been wars, world wars, and revolutions. But the world has moved on, and it has not changed significantly enough that we don’t continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. The earth itself has been undergoing a great healing during the brief time we have curtailed our activities, but I don’t have a great hope that it will be a permanent healing. We’ll see.
Kingdoms and powers, what will become of them? Some scary possibilities, but likely we will go on as we have, somehow.
Meanwhile, let’s take care of ourselves and each other as best we can, and look forward to the glorious future in front of us, because all of the ordinary things will be just that, GLORIOUS! Going to a restaurant, or a show, walking down the aisles of a store without cringing when someone approaches, being able to have gatherings with family and friends. HUGS! Won’t it be wonderful to be able to hug people again? What joy and gratitude will fill our hearts over those things we didn’t even think about before? Focus on that. Focus on those things. In the meantime, seek help if you need help. I don’t know this for a fact, but I think that if you dial 211 in the United States you will be connected to a source of community services.
I am praying right this moment for you all. May God be gracious to you and bless you. Remember, you are loved.