Okay! So my new Life Group just started up and I am so excited about this new group of ladies I get to grow with over the next 10 weeks. It’s amazing enough how I got linked up to this group but that’s fodder for another blog post. This is the thing. I found out on Sunday what the book was that we’d be reading in group and bought it immediately that morning after church service. The book is called All the Places to Go: How will you know? by John Ortberg. The book is about opportunities and how to know when to move on one and the metaphor for opportunity used throughout the book is a door…
Well, exhausted from a very full week and still beaming about my birthday that just passed on Tuesday (September 15th) I lay in bed, reading chapter 1. Here are the highlights directly from the book that lead me to the amazing thing that happened today.
- “…it is an open door, symbolic of ‘boundless opportunities. Of unlimited chances to do something worthwhile; of grand openings into new and unknown adventures of significant living; of heretofore unimagined chances to do good, to make our lives count for eternity.'”
- “And open door is the great adventure of life because it means the possibility of being useful to God.”
Okay. SO last night I fell asleep with the prayer on my heart that I would be able to recognize opportunities to bless others when they are presented to me. Salt and light. This morning, I woke up at 9:30 to an alarming Facebook post from one of my oldest friends, sharing that her mother, who is already battling cancer, suffered a stroke while still at the doctor’s office. She’d been rushed to a hospital in Santa Barbara by helicopter and was taken into surgery expeditiously in order to remove the blood clot that caused the stroke. By the time I read the message the thread had been adorned with comments of well wishes and promises to pray for my friend’s mom and that touched my heart. But I felt I could do more. I’ve tried to be intentional about posting a prayer in the comment thread whenever I read about a friend or loved one suffering through a trial because while I have every intention on praying for them as I say I will, life often gets riddled with busyness and, though I’m ashamed to admit it, I would sometimes forget to pray. So with that thought on my mind I typed out a prayer asking God to send His healing touch to my friend’s mom and comfort to my friend and the family. But I still didn’t feel like I’d done all I could. All of a sudden, I felt compelled to drive up to Santa Barbara and see about them. I didn’t know anything except the hospital where her mom was and I knew that my friend would be there because…well, where else would she be??
With that, I hopped out of bed, got dressed and rushed to Ralph’s to buy some food for her and her sister, whom I was hoping was there, too. Got out of Ralph’s and headed to the freeway with my GPS giving me a good report that I was “on the fastest route available” and that I would arrive at my destination in 1 hr and 17 minutes. But wouldn’t you know it — the moment I merged onto the freeway I saw smoke up ahead. NOOOO!!! A fire?? You’ve got to be kidding me! Oh, and traffic is completely stopped? Of course it is. The ONE day I actually have some place important to go and there is a stinking fire! And I can’t get off the freeway because I live off the last exit before the 118 grade into Simi Valley. So I had no choice but to sit there. And wait. Furious. Agitated. Claustrophic and trying not to have a panic attack. I tried to pray but even that didn’t come out right. All I could manage was , “Jesus, I really want to cuss right now!” I refrained. Barely. Had to make myself take deep breaths and calm down and accept the situation for what it was: A big fat thorn in the side of my day! I had been on the phone with my mom when I ran into the fire traffic and proceeded to start dragging her down the road of my misery so decided to drop her off before things got any worse. But another good friend of mine called soon after and took my mind off the four-lane parking lot.
(I’m almost to the good part. This all comes together, trust me!)
After what felt like a short eternity (oxymoron? I think, yes) I arrived in Santa Barbara and as I got close to the hospital I started to pray: “Lord, please let me be able to find her. Please let her be here.” So I pulled onto the street and drove slowly as I tried to spot where to park, and who do I see just ahead, walking with who I was pretty sure was her sister, whom I hadn’t seen since I was in about the 6th grade? It was my friend! I rolled down the window and called to her and she recognized me right away (I forgot to tell you that I had only seen her one time since maybe the 10th grade and that was two years ago, Christmas, for a 5-minute reunion in Target). I found parking, grabbed my grocery bag of food and rushed out to meet them. She gave me the best hug and we held each other for a long time. I could feel how grateful she was that I’d come and that really blessed me. And it was such a joy to see her sister after so many, many years, too. I told them that I just wanted to drive up and bring them some food and they said “Oh, wow, we were just on our way to go and get something to eat. We haven’t eaten anything all day”. And I said “Man, God is so good! Let me tell you what happened on my way here…” And we all agreed with how perfect that timing – God’s timing – was.
We stood out there talking and visiting for about 20 minutes before they got a call that they were needed in the hospital so I told them I would leave them to go and see about their mom. “But before I go,” I asked, “Can I pray for you?” They both said yes, so we huddled right there on the sidewalk and I prayed for them. It was an overwhelming moment and a beautiful one as well. And before I said goodbye I handed my friend what I like to call a Faith Stone (my superintendent at the Christian school where I worked for the past 8 years had them made for us to give to people as we felt led, just as a small token of encouragement). The stone had 1 Peter 5:7 printed on it, which says “Cast your cares upon the Lord, for He cares for you.” She thanked me and we said goodbye.
– Epilogue –
When I got ready to leave I couldn’t figure out where to pay for my parking so the attendant instructed me to go and get it validated at the hospital. While there I decided to find out what room her mom was in just in case I ended up going back tomorrow or Sunday and the lady said “We don’t have a patient in our system by that name” I was like, “What??” She asked if my friend’s mom might be under another name and I had no idea what to tell her. So what I realized then was that if I hadn’t gotten caught in that fire traffic and arrived when I did to see my friend and her sister walking down the sidewalk, I would have driven all the way there and not even been able to find her because I didn’t even have her cell phone number!
So, the moral(s) of the story: 1) When you feel compelled to act on behalf of another person, please do it. It’s not just for them; it’s for you, too. 2) If God can work tiny little details together like what happened today, He can heal my friend’s sweet mama. And He can meet you where you are, too! He cares about the things we care about and sometimes He has to do something EXTRA awesome in order to remind us of that. And 3) I’m so glad I walked through that door!
I hope this story encourages you today.