A December God-story

December remains a tough month for me. There is that heightened awareness of loved ones missing from the festivities and then the date of my grandson’s cancer diagnosis (eight years ago today). For some reason, I really needed a God-story this month.  One like that December day in 2015, when a former junior high teacher, Robert King, delivered a special package to my workplace.

Mr KingI was experiencing a particularly dark time back then. Having my mother’s beautiful statue come to me forty-five years after she carved it just when I needed it was an answer to a prayer.  Michael the Archangel has been proudly displayed in my home office ever since, serving as a symbol of God’s protection.

St, Michael

Saint Michael came with me to work yesterday, in anticipation of today’s presentation, “Dark Night to Daybreak,” at Shalom Spirituality Center’s Winter Breakfast.  Of course I had to explain the presence of the wooden angel to my co-worker Neal. Shortly after I told him about my artist mother and the meaning of the statue in relation to my presentation, a woman appeared in the adjacent office doorway.

“Is there a Mary Potter Kenyon who works here?” she asked. Our office administrator, Susan, pointed her in my direction.

“You don’t happen to be related to an Irma Potter from Earlville, do you?” she asked, and when I told her Irma was my mother, her face brightened and she grabbed my hand to clasp it in hers.

“I loved your mother! She was in the Ruth Suckow Association with me. I used to give her rides to meetings and we’d have wonderful conversations in the car,” she gushed.  She gave me her name and suggested we go out for coffee sometime. After she left I looked over at Neal.

“Do you have any idea how extraordinary that is; that you would be talking about your mother and that woman would show up?” he asked.

Extraordinary indeed.

This morning I spoke of my mother, David and Jacob, as well as the hope and light I found in God’s grace during the winter of the soul that grief brought. I unveiled the statue at the appropriate moment, hearing gasps of awe. When an older woman approached me after the speech, I wondered at the tears in her eyes.

“Are you Irma Rose’s daughter?” she asked.

“Yes, my mother was Irma Rose Potter from Earlville.” For the second time in two days my hand was grasped…one soul recognizing another. “You knew my mother?”

“I was your mother’s best friend in school. Until Irma Rose Weis came to our school, I was the only girl in a classroom of 13 boys.”

What is your name?”

“Edna. Edna Ginder.”

Just one other girl in Mom’s class, and there she was, in the room, as I spoke about mom and miracles? It was my turn to gasp. We reached out to hug each other at the same time.

I’m not sure how many times we hugged as I recalled other things; how I was with Mom when the Hospice team visited her for the first time in October 2010; Amy and Rose. Amy was Mom’s artist name and Rose was her middle name. When Mom heard the name of the nurse assigned to her care, she’d grabbed my hand in excitement. “Edna? My best friend’s name was Edna!” Mom had felt as though God himself had orchestrated this team who would companion her through her final days. Which of course, he had.

“It brought her great comfort to discover her nurse’s name was Edna,” I told her childhood friend, whose tears now flowed freely. We promised to get together soon for coffee and to talk about the young Irma she’d known and loved.

“Two women in two days who knew your mother,” my co-worker remarked when I told him of meeting Edna. While you were working on a speech about your mother and had brought her statue to work. No one can tell me that is a coincidence. That’s God.”

Edna Ginder
Edna Ginder, my mother’s childhood friend, front row, far left

My God story.

 

 

Take My Hand

Just weeks before my husband David unexpectedly died in 2012, we’d shared a conversation that was uncharacteristic for us; regarding what we’d want the other one to do if we died first.

“I’d want you to get married again,” David had said. “Because I know how much you love hugging and holding hands.”

I miss his hugs, his hand in mine.

handsHad he lived, David and I would have celebrated our 39th anniversary earlier this month. I’ve been without him for more than six years. I’ve faced a lot of changes in my life since then, both good and bad, but even good changes can cause stress.

According to the Social Readjustment Rating Scale developed by Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, the stressful life events I’ve experienced just in the last six months put me at a solid 285 in regards to measured stress levels, too near the dangerous 300 level for comfort. Among those life events I’ve experienced; a virulent flu virus that lasted more than two weeks, an attack of Shingles, an unexpected loss of income, a subsequent need to change jobs, a daughter leaving home for a month-long stint at an organic farm in sunny California, and an “outstanding personal achievement.” While I wouldn’t go so far as to use the word outstanding, submitting my manuscript one day ahead of deadline was a personal achievement, nonetheless, one that left me feeling somewhat at odds with myself. You can’t have worked on something for so many months without missing the intensity of the writing.facebook
Lucky for me, I didn’t have time to feel that way long. Two days after submitting the manuscript, I began a new job, as program coordinator for a spirituality center. This is the view from my office. When the window is open, I can hear the peaceful sounds of the trickling fountain.

office window.jpg

While I no longer have David’s steadying hand to grasp, in the past six years I’ve discovered a stronger one yet. It is God’s hand that led me to a workplace that not only allows prayer, but encourages it. Which is why I was comfortable asking my new co-workers to pray for me on Friday when I was sidelined by a concern regarding the sale of my house. One of them went above and beyond, composing a beautiful prayer specific to my worry and e-mailing it to me; the message a reminder to trust God’s plan and providence. Taking a deep breath, I read and re-read the prayer, as if drawing sustenance from it. All the months of working on a book, searching for a new job, looking for a house, sorting through things to downsize and prepare for a garage sale, watching a daughter leave home, getting a house ready to sell…alone. Without David. I was so tired. Emotionally drained.

Please, God. Just show me that you’re with me in this. In all of it.

After work, I just wanted to go home. But I needed to be someplace else.

I headed to a nearby building, where my required TB test would be read by a company nurse. Lacking an internal GPS, the last time I’d attempted to follow directions to the nurse’s office, I’d ended up in the lunch room. So it was with some trepidation I approached the front desk. A tiny woman was hunched over a newspaper, only the top of her head visible. When she looked up, I asked if she could page the nurse. Her eyes darting around nervously, she suggested I just head there. It occurred to me, as a volunteer, she might not know how to operate the phone system.

“I got lost the last time I came,” I laughed as I explained, and her face brightened. She jumped from her chair with an energy that belied her obvious age.

“Then I’ll take you there,” she said as she approached from behind the desk. She held out her hand. Taken aback, I hesitated for a moment, but her friendly smile left me no choice. It would be rude to refuse.

Hand-in-hand, we started walking.

“Now, just pay attention, and watch where I take you, so you can find your way back,” she said in a voice so gentle, I unexpectedly felt a lump form in my throat. Her hand was warm, her clasp firm, as she guided me through a room, down a short hallway, and through a doorway. I recognized the winding hallway lined with potted plants.

“I know where I am now,” I said, pointing to the end of the hall. “I just go that way and around the corner.”

“I’ll show you a better way.” The delight in her voice was unmistakable. She seemed glad to make my trip easier. “Just go right through this door, and you’re there!”

She didn’t let go of my hand until we’d stepped through the doorway together.

“But you made this so easy,” I marveled. “Thank you.” She smiled before turning away to return to the desk.

A room, a hallway, two doorways… Previous routes had included steps, elevators, a trip through a closed courtyard. I felt foolish as I blinked back tears, pondering the encounter.

The welcoming gesture of an extended palm. The unexpected warmth in holding a stranger’s hand. The gentle voice guiding me as if I were a child. The sudden ease in finding my way. This had been no random meeting. There was a message in it.

“I’m here. In the prayer from a colleague. In the stranger at the front desk. The hand you miss so much is with me, but I will bring you other hands. I am with you and I will guide you. Trust me.” 

Isaiah 41:13: For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (NIV)