Stories: Reflecting on Things That Matter

 

Well … I was very excited to start a series of posts inspired by A.W. Tozer, but I’ve had to suspend the effort for now. No, not my continued reading or the inspiration his work instills … just the writing about it. With any good grace from the Almighty, the publishers will grant my request to leverage excerpts and quotes as necessary, keeping all to a minimum while properly citing those that I feel must be included. It will take four to six weeks for them to get back to me, likely with a “No,” but we will see. Now I wait.

Oddly, one of those publishers I made inquiry to pursued me as an author about ten years ago, asking that I write a book about emotional abandonment. I don’t know what prompted such a strange request, but before I could get into the work, my assigned acquisition editor was laid off and the project died.

What a relief, right?

Anyway, all of that is beside the point … except to offer a smiling nod to the Ricochet team, letting them know that I get, and will do all I can to abide by, all copyright requirements.

Today’s post contains two stories that are somehow connected to each another, and to things happening in the world. Reflections, really.

When I was young and trying to get on the right track for what I knew would be the long haul of life, my roommate began having an affair with a man at work. He was married. And then one of her friends started having an affair with one of the man’s friends, who was also married. And then a friend of the friend took up with yet another one of the married guys in the group. We were all on the same women’s softball team; and that was the extent of my common interests with them.

After several months of these shenanigans, my roommate began staying out until the wee hours of the next morning, leaving behind unquestionable evidence of her late-night excursions. Just by looking, it was easy to tell that she’d eaten everything while driving, tossing the wrappers backwards over her shoulder, each wad of dripping waxed paper or ketchup-soaked French fry container landing with a splat on the back seat as she sped off to the next food joint. The McDonalds, Jack in the Box, Jimboys, and A&W wrappers were strikingly visible through the back window of her Datsun B210, and the smell … well, it filled the garage. Making my way between our two cars, I would take a visual count of how many places she’d patronized the night before, get into my own car, sit there for a moment, and wonder what to do. I never asked her about it. I was 19 or 20 years old, which isn’t an excuse, but at that age, you don’t always recognize what’s really going on around you. Unless someone was having an affair, which I could detect at 50 yards.

At one point, she disappeared. She was there, but she stayed in her room upstairs. I didn’t see her for nearly two weeks … yet she … was … there. I was worried, but again … young and clueless. She finally came down the stairwell one evening and informed me she was moving into her grandmother’s house, and that I would need to find a new place to live. After that, I saw her here and there, but it wasn’t the same. She’d blocked me out, and I didn’t know why.

Several years later, out of the blue she called and asked if I’d like to meet for a beer at one of the local Irish pubs. I don’t remember much except that the bar was dark and there were hardly any other customers there.  Our table was in the center of the room, a small two-top as they say in the biz, me on one side and her on the other. I had known her pretty well, so I could see that she was hesitant, but there was an earnestness about her too. Then she looked up, said, “Okay …”, and told me. Not in details, but with a blunt force that stunned me into an uncomfortable silence as the memories of those strange few weeks came flooding back, now making sense. I said something, but I don’t remember what. I’m sure it was pretty stupid. I hadn’t given the concept of abortion any real thought; it was some distant idea covered in the news or rumored in the halls of my high school way back when. I had no idea how she felt, how it had affected her, or what to say. All I knew was that she wasn’t the same easy-smile person I’d met at the restaurant we both worked at in high school. I fumbled badly, trying to connect with her, support her, and understand. And then the beer mugs were empty and she had to go. I never saw her again.

A few years before the sharing of the beers, I had received Christ, and it was my roommate and her friend group that had been my social world the day before my conversion, and who were left behind the day after. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it just happened. I call this kind of experience a God-Tsunami; a set of circumstances that suddenly overwhelm your life; a situation where He picks you up and moves you with great speed and irresistible force.

Anyway, several months later she called and asked if she could bring her mother over to my apartment for prayer. Her mother was Catholic, and she had been raised in the Catholic church. When the two of them arrived, I pulled out my Bible … and her mother immediately put up her hands, turned to her daughter, and began asking questions. In Portuguese. The issue? Her mother had never read the Scripture; that was the job of the priest.

We had a good talk about that. And we prayed. And they left.

The next time I saw her was at the bar.

I’m wondering if I missed my cue at the bar. Was she asking for help? I don’t know, and I probably never will. It makes my heart hurt. There are a lot of those; situations where I could have helped, should have helped, didn’t read the signs properly, and lost the chance to … I don’t know. Something … I guess.

In 2005, a young mom with three kids living in Guatemala wanted to find work, and was smuggled into the states by a gang of Coyotes. It took three months to reach the Texas border. During the long journey she was raped multiple times by several different men. When she arrived in Northern California to join her mother and brother, they discovered she was pregnant. They took turns beating her. If she was pregnant, she couldn’t work as a housekeeper and they needed the money to pay the Coyotes. One of those beatings landed her in the hospital, yet the baby survived … again.

Before she left the hospital, she tightly wrapped herself with an ACE bandage to hide her condition. When it eventually became impossible to hide her secret, she took a very dangerous step and asked someone she worked with for help in finding a safe place, leading her to a woman who ran a crisis pregnancy ministry. She was just over 8 months pregnant, still binding herself, and continued to bind herself despite the ministry director’s pleas that she stop. She had to make one more trip back to her mother’s apartment to get her things and then take her new “job” as an in-home care provider for a recently widowed woman (a story made up to camouflage the truth).

Once secure in her new living situation, she was quickly matched with an adoptive couple and, at 8 ½ months pregnant, all of them went together to her first ultrasound appointment.

The skull appeared to be void, a black space where the brain matter should have been. The doctor and technician told her the baby would be stillborn and that her only option was to terminate the pregnancy. She refused. She was moved to a clinic. The hospital staff chided her, telling her the baby would either be stillborn or have a life not worth living. She held her ground.

And she gave birth to a baby who scored in the normal ranges of APGAR scores, a baby breathing room air only, and a baby who appeared to have full range of motion on both sides of her body. The same baby whose MRI showed a black void on the left side of her skull. 70% of her left hemisphere was missing, and there was no carotid artery on her left side.

The adoptive couple hadn’t expected the baby to be born so … alive. They had wanted to support the birthmother through the birth, believing that the doctor was right that the baby did not have a chance. Sadly, feeling ill-prepared to care for a special needs child, they backed out.

And we got a phone call.

The birthmother fled to a place somewhere in the Midwest, but only after I’d had a chance to talk with her (through an interpreter) learning as much as I could about her, and what she’d been through. We offered our financial support, but she refused, saying that the money would attract attention, and if “they” found out, she would be hurt or even killed. All she wanted was for someone to love her baby.

That was seventeen years ago.

Seventeen years ago, God sent an angel from heaven to rescue me (and so many others too). The moment I laid eyes on her I knew we were meant to be. Her extraordinary spirit has touched hundreds of people, bringing emotional healing to those who are hurting, cheering those who are sad, and leaving many laughing with her great sense of humor. I am blessed to have her with me the rest of my life. After learning in 2000 that I could not have children, I was pretty devastated. But God had a plan.

After hearing the birthmother’s story, I did some research about what immigrants like her are forced to deal with. First, there is the terrible and dangerous journey fraught with cartels demanding payments to pass; dangerous rides on top of trains where it is not uncommon for people to fall to their death; being stuffed into vans and semi-trucks like sardines without adequate ventilation, water, or food for days at a time; and enduring violent attacks and repeated rapes. Second, the pressures of living under the radar in the states so as to avoid deportation; being over-charged by store-front “quick cash” businesses for wiring money home; and dealing with the frightening demands of the Coyotes for payment of their smuggler’s fees. I’m sure there’s much more.

I can only guess that it must be worse now, especially with the exponential increase in drugs coming over the border and the significantly greater power being wielded by the cartels. I’ve sometimes said that we need to do something about the immigration system, but I only get “the look.” People are so quick to jump to conclusions, and just as quick to shut down the conversation. I don’t know all of the reasons my daughter’s birthmother wanted to come here. But I do know that she loved the sons she’d left behind in Guatemala and wanted them to have a better life; and she held on to her faith as a devout Catholic despite all that she’d suffered throughout her 29 years.

There was a lot of love involved in the circumstances, despite all the horrors. She loved the baby inside her womb, and the baby inside loved her back, giving her the extraordinary strength to stand firm and bring new life into the world. I see her strength in my daughter, and if you knew what my daughter has been through since her first surgery on Day 4 of her life, you would see it too.

There are more stories about things that matter, but this is a long post already. Maybe while I’m waiting to hear from the publishers about copyright permissions, I’ll write more stories about missed opportunities, God-Tsunamis, and divine interventions.

P.S. The reminder to focus on “things that matter” came to me this morning from a chapter in Tozer’s book, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith. Tozer can be pretty clever, and in this case he uses sports to demonstrate how men have left the important questions behind in trade for perseverating about who is going to win the national pennant. The question of who will win the pennant is not an important one; the game of baseball is based upon a set of whimsical rules and cultivated skills that have (presumably) been developed at the expense of time to reflect upon God.

God has given us the capacity to ask questions, to reflect, to wonder in awe. We ought to use that capacity to consider everything against the backdrop of eternity; to think about something eternal. To think about something that matters … to give time to something that matters.

Caveat: Okay … I’m not saying that baseball doesn’t matter; Tozer said that. In my view, God is present within every context of our lives, even baseball. He can work as powerfully in a stadium as He can in the quiet of our sacred space in the garden. Rather, it’s a question of what or Who we are directing our energy toward. For example, in 1998 I read The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard while at a Giants game in San Francisco. Best game I ever didn’t see. That game was part of a five-day reading experience that changed my life forever … against a backdrop of eternity. The game was nice too … good hot dogs.

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  1. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

     I had received Christ, and it was my roommate and her friend group that had been my social world the day before my conversion, and who were left behind the day after. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it just happened. I call this kind of experience a God-Tsunami; a set of circumstances that suddenly overwhelm your life; a situation where He picks you up and moves you with great speed and irresistible force.

    I love this description. In fact, I feel that I am going through one right now. Not a first, but a renewal, with eyes that have been significantly opened to who I have been and who I want to be.

    • #1
  2. God-LovingWoman Coolidge
    God-LovingWoman
    @GodLovingWoman

    Columbo (View Comment):

    I had received Christ, and it was my roommate and her friend group that had been my social world the day before my conversion, and who were left behind the day after. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it just happened. I call this kind of experience a God-Tsunami; a set of circumstances that suddenly overwhelm your life; a situation where He picks you up and moves you with great speed and irresistible force.

    I love this description. In fact, I feel that I am going through one right now. Not a first, but a renewal, with eyes that have been significantly opened to who I have been and who I want to be.

    Oh my. May He carry you through it with tenderness and grace, and may you know a whole new joy! 

    • #2
  3. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    God-LovingWoman (View Comment):

    Columbo (View Comment):

    I had received Christ, and it was my roommate and her friend group that had been my social world the day before my conversion, and who were left behind the day after. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it just happened. I call this kind of experience a God-Tsunami; a set of circumstances that suddenly overwhelm your life; a situation where He picks you up and moves you with great speed and irresistible force.

    I love this description. In fact, I feel that I am going through one right now. Not a first, but a renewal, with eyes that have been significantly opened to who I have been and who I want to be.

    Oh my. May He carry you through it with tenderness and grace, and may you know a whole new joy!

    Thank GLW.  I also must comment on your great stories. Here you share just two and I know that you have so many more (some also already shared in other posts). I don’t have a single story in my life that stacks up to one of yours. A Chinese proverb says that it is a blessing to live in interesting times and your life and stories seems to be a prayer answered. You have the gift of writing about the stories and the heart to make them impactful to others. Thank you for sharing. Keep it up!

    • #3
  4. God-LovingWoman Coolidge
    God-LovingWoman
    @GodLovingWoman

    Columbo (View Comment):

    God-LovingWoman (View Comment):

    Columbo (View Comment):

    I had received Christ, and it was my roommate and her friend group that had been my social world the day before my conversion, and who were left behind the day after. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it just happened. I call this kind of experience a God-Tsunami; a set of circumstances that suddenly overwhelm your life; a situation where He picks you up and moves you with great speed and irresistible force.

    I love this description. In fact, I feel that I am going through one right now. Not a first, but a renewal, with eyes that have been significantly opened to who I have been and who I want to be.

    Oh my. May He carry you through it with tenderness and grace, and may you know a whole new joy!

    Thank GLW. I also must comment on your great stories. Here you share just two and I know that you have so many more (some also already shared in other posts). I don’t have a single story in my life that stacks up to one of yours. A Chinese proverb says that it is a blessing to live in interesting times and your life and stories seems to be a prayer answered. You have the gift of writing about the stories and the heart to make them impactful to others. Thank you for sharing. Keep it up!

    You are such a Barnabas! Thank you for your powerful words. I appreciate you.  And I don’t believe for a second that you have no stories. There are stories that combined tell a tale of God’s plan for Columbo. 

    • #4
  5. Steven Galanis Coolidge
    Steven Galanis
    @Steven Galanis

    I’ve listened to many sermons, and I’ve read a few books, but nothing has ever impacted my thinking on matters of faith more effectively than hardships, some real and quite a lot probably perceived.

    I tend to get a little stuck on the hardships of men, so much so, that I came close to shedding a tear for Harry Blackmun the other day (Hey, when things don’t go my way, especially with the women, I don’t think too straight)! 

    Thanks for sharing these stories and the depth to which you go to bring truth to light.

    • #5
  6. God-LovingWoman Coolidge
    God-LovingWoman
    @GodLovingWoman

    Steven Galanis (View Comment):

    I’ve listened to many sermons, and I’ve read a few books, but nothing has ever impacted my thinking on matters of faith more effectively than hardships, some real and quite a lot probably perceived.

    I tend to get a little stuck on the hardships of men, so much so, that I came close to shedding a tear for Harry Blackmun the other day (Hey, when things don’t go my way, especially with the women, I don’t think too straight)!

    Thanks for sharing these stories and the depth to which you go to bring truth to light.

    Ahh. You bless me. 

    • #6
  7. God-LovingWoman Coolidge
    God-LovingWoman
    @GodLovingWoman

    I just heard back from one of the publishers regarding permissions and it looks like I’ll be able to move forward with a series inspired by Tozer. Yay! 

    • #7
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