Thanksgiving morning I woke up early to help Kristen get her harp to the church. Each year a devotional, with speakers and an orchestra of local musicians, takes place at our local church. The past two Thanksgivings Kristen has been a part of the orchestra. After dropping her off and heading to the gym I arrived at the church only to discover I would have to sit way in the back. I was surrounded by many empty chairs. Part way into the devotional a 92 year old man came in and sat next to me. He had one of those fabulous crinkly smiles that make wrinkles seem worthwhile. Throughout the program he kept chatting and joking with me. When it was time for the congregation to sing it was clear that he was a singer, as he knew every tenor part perfectly.
As the program came to a close he began to share stories of his life with me. He told me that he had been a music teacher and enjoyed composing his own songs. He said one year he found out he was going to be transferred to a new school and was very disappointed to discover the school he would be teaching at. The music room there was in disrepair and he didn't feel like he bonded well with the students, nor was he having the kind of impact he had hoped for. But he did his best and made sure he taught them not only the concepts of music, but his own compositions as well.
Decades later there was a knock on his door. One of his neighbors had an invitation for him. A group of people had been looking for his home. They knew the area in which he lived, but not which house. They went from door to door asking for him, when this particular neighbor said she knew him and would make sure he received the invitation. His former students from the aforementioned school decided to have a reunion. He had had such a powerful impact on each of them, they wanted to all get together with him and let him know how much he meant to them. He couldn't believe it. They spent the day together and he became teary eyed as he told me about all of them singing the Christmas song he had composed. Every winter they each sang that song and had taught it to their own little ones. What a powerful influence he was in the lives of his students.
He told me that he and his daughter had typed up the words to his song and a poem he had written about his testimony and had them nicely framed. He asked if I would come with him to his car, that he wanted to give me one of each. I followed him to his car to discover that he did not have any copies with him. He asked if I would follow him to his home so he could give them to me.
I told him I would. I had a few Thanksgiving preparations to make and needed to go to the store, but I felt like I should go with him. I called Kristen on my way there and asked her to bring my wallet by his house, figuring I could combine my errand with visiting his home.
His home was humble, and every inch of floor space was filled with framed artwork. His wife had been a talented artist. He began showing me through his home, proudly gushing over each piece of art. She was incredibly talented. "She had more creativity in her little finger than I have in my whole body!" He told me. She had passed away 11 years earlier and I could tell not a moment had passed without him missing her.
Soon Kristen arrived and joined in the fun of looking over each piece of art. He told us what a wonderful life he has had. He said, "I wish people noticed all of the miracles that happen everyday. When I look back at my life I see that it is full of miracles." After quite a bit of time had passed I told him I had to go. He gave me two custom framed pieces - one with the lyrics of his song, the other with his testimony. As I left his home I thought, "What is wrong with me? I should be feeling something more than what I am feeling. I know there is a reason that I have spent the last 90 minutes with this man."
But I felt almost nothing. I wasn't annoyed or irritated. It was clear to me that he wanted someone to talk with, and I was glad I could be that person...but I realized I felt rather numb. I brushed the feelings aside and went on with the day. You see, I had been carefully constructing a little wall around my heart. The idea was to just close off the area involved with finding someone to love who would love me in return. I had decided that I didn't need to have a significant other...a partner. I could find happiness just being on my own. My awkwardness in dating and social situations has been rather astounding, considering I'm normally an outgoing person and my chances of finding someone were not good! After all, people in their unfiltered, unsolicited, misguided way had spent a lot of time telling me why the odds of finding someone was nearly impossible. For some reason they must have thought I was unaware. Some would say that men my age are only looking for a trophy wife, and I didn't fit that bill. Some would tell me about the horror stories of second marriages and how I'm better off. Other people, about a dozen men and women over the past 4 years, knowing I was divorced, have come to me to share the unhappiness they are experiencing in their own marriages. It seemed as if all around me were examples of how cruel people could be to each other. And so, I decided to close off that empty spot in my heart.
The past several years have been extraordinarily stressful, from emotional challenges my children face because of the divorce and from the financial stress I seem to meet at every turn. I feel as though I am the appliance and home grim reaper. I come near something and it breaks down. One thing after another has needed replacing or repairing to the point that I work two jobs to simply stay in my home. A particular drain on resources has been the Loser Cruiser. Our not so loving moniker for the minivan Kristen drives.
A few weeks ago, the Loser Cruiser began hemorrhaging various life-sustaining fluids. We took it in to the shop and awaited the prognosis. Soon the call came....$750. How on earth was I going to afford $750?! I would have to figure it out. Kristen simply had to have a car to not only move the harp, but to get to work. I told them to go ahead and make the repairs. My credit card company loved our co-dependent relationship...I would just be doing my part to keep VISA in business. Later the next day I still hadn't heard back from the shop, and Kristen would be needing to move the harp for another performance. I was growing concerned. On our way to leave the house to run errands I had a small fight with the ottoman and broke my toe. Exhausted, and in pain, I left the house. Kristen and I decided to stop by the mechanics to find out what was happening with the van. I hobbled in and spoke with the mechanic. He told me that as they began working on the engine they discovered a myriad of other problems...which would add hundreds of dollars on to the bill. Much to the discomfort of the mechanic and my pride, I burst in to tears. I started mumbling and crying, "How am I going to do this? I just broke my toe? I just need a break!" and all sorts of other things that didn't make any sense to this cute man just trying to do his job. I pulled myself together, apologized and hobbled back to my car.
That night my Mom called. She could tell I was upset and I told her the whole scenario. She knows that the past year in particular has been full of stress. I told her I felt like I was losing my hope. She told me that I can't lose hope, I must always keep hoping! God has a plan for me and someday all of the struggles will be worthwhile. She said she and my Dad would love to help with the car, that everything would work out. I got off the phone feeling that my parents should not have to take care of their grown daughter. I was grateful, but feeling guilty that they had to share in my burden. In spite of those feeling a small crack was beginning to grow in that wall around my heart.
I realized I desperately had to find help to move Kristen's harp the next morning. I did something I don't usually do...I plastered a plea onto facebook asking for help. Within minutes friends were offering to help drive her or to even loan us their cars. I felt so blessed. Harp transportation was set.
The next day the shop called. The van was ready. I took a deep breath and asked for the final bill. The man told me it would be $370. He said the owner wanted to do what he could to help me out. The poor man had to hear me burst in to tears again. (Did I mention I was at the grocery store?) I couldn't believe how lucky I was. I hurried to get the groceries home and to go pick up the van. As I walked in to the house I saw the framed pictures the man had given me two weeks earlier and all of a sudden I understood that my life was full of miracles. Not just because of this moment, but all of the ways Heavenly Father has shown me his love through a wonderful family and loving friends. You can't build a wall around one section of your heart without cutting off the ability to see God's hand in your life.
The van has since broken down again, but the power of that weekend has not lessened. I am grateful each day that I can see the miracles and tender mercies with which the Lord continually blesses me.