Have you ever had a nightmare; and when you woke up, you kept telling yourself, “It wasn’t real?” You kept saying, “Everything is ok!” But you could not seem to shake the awful feeling because in the nightmare it WAS so real, and you were terrified.
That is the emotion my parents lived through Wednesday evening when Berkeley disappeared – didn’t make it home from work. Only this was not a dream, and no one could locate him. Phone calls flew back and forth. The hour grew later, and the company responsible for his transportation did a city wide search of their vehicles. Berkeley wasn’t on any of the busses. He wasn’t at his job site. The transportation department called my parents once more. They asked for a description of the clothes he wore that day. “We need it for the missing person’s report,” they told my parents. At that moment, every worst case scenario ran through their heads.
Safeguards had been in place, but they had obviously failed. Helpless does not begin to describe the feeling.
Berkeley was eventually located – safe and unharmed. His bus had never come to pick him up – he saw a different bus – a shuttle bus that looked a lot like his bus. He got on it, but when it didn’t take him home, he got off of it and on to another. We don’t know how many times he changed shuttles. We just know he somehow made it from Issaquah to Redmond.
Most people cannot understand Berkeley when he speaks; so he had to just keep going on alone. Finally, a kind and observant woman realized something was wrong. Berkeley was struggling with his phone. He couldn’t remember how to make an outgoing call, and it had somehow been turned to silent so he couldn’t hear it ring. This woman called my parents and kept Berkeley safe while they rushed to pick him up. Berkeley hasn’t been able to stop hugging them ever since.
I’ve seen a lot of Facebook posts these last few days. They are posts of parents dropping their kids off at college – grieving because their babies have grown up much, much too fast. AND what a legitimate emotion that is, but it is not something some parents, my parents, ever got to do. On Wednesday, it slammed home in a way that is so very real. Berkeley will NEVER grow up, and he will ALWAYS need extra care.
As a family we have always seen Berkeley as a special gift from God. We wouldn’t trade him away for anything or anybody because he has made our lives better in so many ways. But this is what I am wanting to say, the parenting never ends. I am asking you to remember to pray for the moms and dads whose babies never really grow up.
Tiny, and I mean tiny snowflakes were drifting out of the sky and landing softly on my black shirt. I looked down, and on my shoulder was a perfect snowflake. Even without a magnifying glass, I could see the six perfect arms of that miniscule flake.
I was freezing cold, but all I could think was that I wished I did have a way to more closely examine this one tiny creation. I looked up and wondered how many millions of different formations were falling all around me. I marveled at my God who created them and right at that very moment was aware that I was thinking of Him and snowflakes. Then I imagined the snowflakes were the prayers that God was hearing – repetitive, pleading, sorrowful, thankful, and some full of agony – millions and millions of them every minute.
Just as God made each flake unique, He treats every single prayer with that same care.
If we had to listen to most of our prayers repeated back to us, we’d yawn and squirm in our chairs – so boring; but God, His power beyond our comprehension, does not complain. He patiently listens and answers and comforts.
We don’t need the remarkable snowflake to show us God’s greatness, but for me, it was just one more reminder of the awesomeness of God.
My God, who crafts the snowflakes and makes them fall from the sky, is so personal that He cares about every minute detail of what makes me into who I am.
While I hung our jackets in the hall closet, Berkeley was supposed to be settling into his room. Instead I heard him slump heavily onto the bed and give a little whimper of distress.
Poking my head into the guest room, I saw that his head had dropped forward on his chest.
“What’s wrong, Honey?” I asked him.
“Nutting,” he replied.
Guilt washed over me. I’d been so caught up in my own thoughts and worries that I’d mostly ignored his questions and chatter in the car ride to my house.
I sat on the bed beside him and took his hand in mine. “Are you worried about Daddy?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
I felt so tired. I was worried too.
“Do you want to pray for Daddy?”
So we closed our eyes, and Berkeley let go of my hand and prayed.
I wish you could experience prayer with Berkeley because it’s quite unlike anyone else’s prayers. Berkeley, my youngest brother who has Down Syndrome, does not speak in complete sentences, and he uses his hands while he prays. I’ve been his big sister for all of his 34 years; so I knew what he meant when he started his prayer by saying, “Laura and Berkeley” first pointing at me and then himself. He was telling God that Laura and Berkeley were right there in the room, and we wanted to tell Him something.
When Mercedes, the cat, walked in, Berkeley didn’t worry about God thinking he was being irreverent. He just interrupted his prayer to say, “Hello, Kitty” and to stroke her back. Then he started again, “Laura, Berkeley, and Mercedes,” and then his voice got so serious. He held his hand over his heart and told God that “Dad, heart, broken.” Then he prayed, “Dad, hospital, doctor fix heart. Amen.”
Such a simple, simple prayer but every single word meant.
Then I prayed. I prayed God would guide the surgeon’s hands while he performed the double bypass and heart valve replacement, I prayed Dad would heal well, and that there would be no complications. My prayer was a lot longer, and I meant all of my prayer too. However, I did not interrupt my prayer to say hello to the cat.
When we were done, Berkeley kissed my hand and then busied himself putting his things away.
Over the next few days, my prayers became more like Berkeley’s. As fatigue began to take over from the anxious waiting and waiting, my brain had trouble completing sentences. My prayers were less formal and often interrupted, but they were not less meaningful. I was comforted to know that God knew what was in my heart even though my mind was having a hard time focusing on the specifics. As the anxiety subsided, and I could thank God for a successful outcome, I also began to thank Him for the wonderful gift He has given us in prayer.
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26
When we don’t know how to pray, God understands what we cannot even say.
PS In case you’re wondering, my dad is one week post, open heart surgery. He’s home from the hospital, and thanks to the prayers of so many people to our powerful God and the wonderful care he received at Overlake Hospital, he is healing well.
Amazing to me was that no one had the salad made the way they really wanted it. Equally mystifying was why they bothered to choose any particular salad since they proceeded to have every item that would have made it appetizing or satisfying withheld.
“Excellent,” responded the waitress.
“I’m on a diet though; so please hold the bacon and cheese.” At this point, my colleague cast a timid glance in the direction of the principal dieter in time to see a frown and slight shake of the head. With a sigh of resignation she said, “Hold the egg as well, and I’ll have the vinaigrette on the side.”
The server took surprisingly few notes.
In bewilderment, I watched four ladies order four different salads – each without seeds, nuts, cheese, or meat of any kind and all with vinaigrette on the side. “See,” the lead dieter said with pride. “You can ask for your salad exactly as you want it.”
The waitress was waiting on me, her pencil poised.
“I’ll have the Cajun chicken salad, blue cheese on the side.”
I snapped my menu shut, and she looked at me with one eyebrow slightly raised. “Is that it?”
“Yes, thank you.” I felt the corners of my mouth stretch into a grin. At the same time, her right eye dipped slightly, and I was sure she was winking at me. She thought it was as ridiculous as I did.
How well I remember that silly lunch. The four ladies yummed and commented repeatedly on how their salads were exactly as they had ordered them. It would have been difficult to mess them up. All four were exactly the same – a bowl of plain greens with a diet dressing on the side.
Envious looks landed on my delicious salad, and I knew they were secretly wishing they hadn’t spent $12 on a bowl of lettuce.
Except for the very most special occasions, I stuck to my grilled chicken salads with a dressing I loved on the side. I had chosen a diet I could keep.
When I was 11 years old, my pastor encouraged a group of us youngsters to have personal devotions.
“Every day,” he said, “you need to read your Bible and pray.” Then he gave me some revolutionary advice. Everyone else told me I should read my Bible for 30 minutes and pray for at least 15. I knew I couldn’t do it. I knew it would be great if I did, but at 11 years old, I could barely sit still for 45 minutes let alone study and pray that long.
“Commit to reading at least five verses and praying for five minutes every single day. Hopefully your time will increase, but commit to that much no matter what.”
I felt so much freedom when he gave us that instruction. I knew I could do it. With his wise advice to guide me, I’ve almost never missed a day since then.
Yes my Bible time did grow, but it was because I didn’t dread a regimen I couldn’t stick to.
My dieting friends had the best of intentions, but they had failed before they’d begun. Many people want to be faithful to their personal time with God, but they honestly can’t fathom clearing a big chunk of time and staying focused on God. Guilt takes over, and that isn’t a pleasant feeling either; so they never even start.
If you’re not spending time with God on a daily basis, I challenge you to begin today. Start in Psalms or Proverbs and read five verses a day, or pick an interesting book like Job, Judges, or Ruth and read a chapter a day. Then pray and don’t let yourself go to bed until you’ve done at least that much. Before you know it, you’ll have established a routine. Soon you won’t be satisfied with five verses; your time with God will expand.
I started the diet 30 years ago, and I’m still sticking to it because I’ve found I simply can’t get along without it.
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
My day had started with what was supposed to be a very early flight out of the Seattle Tacoma Airport. The slight delay while a bad fuse was replaced didn’t bother me much; I had a sizeable layover and knew I’d make my connection. Then we arrived in Dallas and boarded at gate B-17.
I’d barely settled in and clipped my seat belt before the captain’s voice came over the loudspeaker. “Folks, we had a little problem with the landing gear. Thought it was fixed, but it’s still giving us some trouble. We want to do this right; so we’re going to move you to another plane.”
Everyone gathered their bags and pulled kindles and laptops out of the seat pockets in front of them. We stood in the waiting area until we were told to go to gate B-15.
“This is really a drill,” I said to the guys behind me. “They’re studying us to see how quickly we can learn to board.” Camaraderie was forming between the passengers, and we laughed and made jokes.
I hadn’t had time to buckle my seat belt before the captain’s voice again crackled overhead. “Really sorry folks, but safety is our first concern. We’ve had our back-up panel go out on us; and again, we have to put safety first. Our first priority is to get you safely to your destination.”
So we found ourselves milling around outside the gate until we heard we’d been moved to B-13. We boarded for the third time.
As I stashed my bag in the overhead bin, I asked the guy behind me, “Do you think there’s a camera on board and they’re just waiting for one of us to crack so they can have some good footage for that show, ‘What would you do?’”
“Maybe,” he responded, “or it’s some kind of a psychology test.”
The hiss and pop of the intercom being activated interrupted our conversation, and we listened to the captain’s voice. “We weren’t expecting to take this plane to Knoxville; so we need a few hundred more pounds of fuel. We’ll get the plane fueled up and then we’ll take off.”
Passengers made nervous clucking sounds in the backs of their throats, but everyone stayed seated and calm. We waited. We waited some more.
When the captain emerged from the cockpit, his head hung low. “I’m so sorry,” he apologized. “I just can’t believe this is happening to you all. We’ve discovered an oil leak, and we can’t take off. I’m so sorry. I’m just so, so sorry.”
Bets were taken on whether they’d move us to B-11 or back to B-17. “They should have had time to fix our first plane by now,” someone offered. At last we boarded for the fourth time, back at B-11, and successfully took off and, more importantly, we safely landed at our destination.
What impressed me about the entire ordeal was how pleasant the travelers stayed. I’ve been on flights where people have been crazy rude to the flight attendants for virtually no reason at all. Here we had over a hundred people all happy and joking even while they were being terribly inconvenienced for hours on end. Add the psychological strain of having one plane after another declared unfit, and you had a recipe for some real drama.
I wish I would always be like I was on Flight #2736 – saying the right thing and remaining pleasant, but sadly I’m not. The following verses remind me that the wise choose their words carefully and that God observes all we do no matter what is going on around us.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness. The eyes of the Lord are in every place keeping watch on the evil and the good.” Proverbs 15:1-3
Running fingers through my sweat dampened hair, I tried to smooth the locks before Eileen and I climbed the final hundred yards of the trail. At last we ascended out of the trees and found ourselves on the paraglider’s launching pad on Tiger Mountain’s Poo Poo Point. The two mile, 1,700 foot elevation gain left me a little breathless but so did the view.
A few minutes earlier we’d seen Mt. Rainier off to our right, and now the Issaquah Valley loomed in front of us. Buff guys strode around prepping for the 20 yard run that would give them enough air to lift them into the expanse of nothingness.
I’d watched the landings from below but never seen anyone actually run and jump off the edge. Fascinated, I watched the gliders’ chutes (they call them wings) fill with air and the pilots take a final step of no return and float away.
“Hey, there’s Mike.” I gestured toward our friend who drives the guys to the top of the mountain who don’t want to hike up with all of their equipment.
Mike spotted us and waved us over.
“Hey, Marc needs a passenger for his tandem harness,” Mike said. “He’ll take you down at half price, Laura.”
I do like my bargains, and the wheels in my head were already turning. Was this the adventure for me? I began the pros and cons list in my head.
Injury is a distinct possibility. On the other hand, I don’t have kids who will resent me for the rest of their lives if I do something foolish and get myself killed. I do hate pain though, and if we crash on takeoff or landing, there’s bound to be pain. But when am I ever going to just happen to be on top of a mountain with a friend in the business to negotiate a good deal for me. Besides, I’m young; I’m independent; I’m single; and I should do this!
“Half price, Laura! How can you not do it?” Eileen was practically levitating she was so excited. “I did it once, and you just have to do it.”
“All right, I’ll do it,” I said.
“Really, you will?” her voice had risen to a squeal. “Yay! This is so exciting.” As she began to jump up and down, a niggling of doubt found its way into my head.
A guy tried to launch off to my right, and at the last minute something went wrong. Now he was stuck in a bunch of bushes trying to untangle himself before he could hike back up the side of the mountain.
In the meantime I’d been handed a form with a couple of pages of disclaimers. “This is safe isn’t it?” I nervously asked. The instructor pulled out his smart phone and showed me a leg with the tibia sticking at least four inches out of the skin. A little wave of nausea swept over me, But accidents happen when you’re walking down the street, right? This really isn’t that dangerous, I told myself. I really wanted to jump.
I watched more takeoffs, and the instructor told me for the fifth time that when he said, run, I had to keep running no matter what. “You have to keep your eyes on the lake in the far distance. Do not look down, and keep running when I say ‘run.’”
Then I was in the harness, and the instructor was yelling in my ear, “When I say run, you run with all you have and do not stop running. If we are in the bushes, you keep running. Do you understand? Don’t look down, and you cannot stop running.”
Then he was counting down, “Three, two, one…RUN!”
I ran; I ran so hard. I kept my eyes on the lake in the far distance and pushed. Wind in the wing tried to drag us back, but the instructor yelled, “Long strides, NOW!”
I kept running. I felt the bushes hit my legs, and for an instant I thought I hadn’t run hard enough, but then we were weightless. Every care I’d ever had was gone as we floated high above the world. The instructor was telling me something, but I wasn’t listening anymore. I gazed at the lakes, the trees, the sky, and the clouds starting to change color with the sinking sun.
I breathed deeply – happy and carefree. After awhile, I started to pay attention to the instructor again, and he showed me how to turn the glider in a circle before he handed the controls to me. I pulled the right brake toward me and leaned my left knee over my right leg. Slowly we turned in a full circle. As I loosened my pull and let my arm go up with the wing, we surged and then balanced out.
All too soon, I gave the controls back to Marc; and he guided us to the ground. As we hit the landing pad, I ran four huge steps, and then we were done – except it really wasn’t over for me. I had a memory for the rest of my life.I looked down and wiped blood from my left leg wondering how I’d managed to scrape myself. Then I realized my blood had little seeds in it. I’d swept some berries in the bushes in that last millisecond before taking off. Later, I’d learn that at the same time, the poor guy who’d been stuck in the bushes had finally untangled himself and had almost hiked back to the top when suddenly a 5’ 8” girl almost kicked him in the head as she hurled over the top of him. He hit the ground for the second time that evening.
“You did great running,” Marc told me. “I’ve had men look down, freak out at the last second, and then go into the fetal position. It’s bad news when someone does that. We both go down and you can get hurt pretty bad.”
Seemed to me that two things were key to a successful jump: 1) follow through – keep running; and 2) keep your eyes on the lake – don’t look down. I started thinking about perseverance. So many people are disappointed in their lives these days. They’re constantly looking at what everyone else has and wishing for it instead of keeping their focus on God and pushing forward to claim their own lives, to be satisfied in what God has given them.
I wanted to jump and have that feeling of freedom, but I had to run first. Even though the drag of the shoot pulled back at me, I pushed forward. When the bushes hit my legs, I kept running, and I stayed focused on the lake. My reward was totally worth the short run!
“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2.
“Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”
So appropriate for the Fourth, I thought. So applicable to my life!
Curious about the context of the verse, I found it comes from Psalm 85 which is speaking about God’s dealing with the nation of Israel. (See I was right; a good reading for a day when we celebrate our nation’s independence.)
Of course the Bible is true and no parts are truer than others, but this phrase, “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other,” struck me. No one can have peace unless they also have righteousness. Peace may surround them, but internally peace cannot exist with wickedness.
On this day, when we remember the sacrifices of those who have gone before us to give us freedom, much could be said about the righteous founding of our nation and the peace we’ve enjoyed. Our wonderful country, however, does not continue to exist because of our forefathers. Each of us is responsible for the continuation of peace by living righteously. Whether serving in the military or simply living in this greatest nation, we all have a responsibility for how we live individually.
Happy Birthday, United States of America! I love you, my country.