On the Road

12/21/2010

Driving out to cut a friend's hair recently, I was enjoying the fall leaves in all their splendid colors—more than a few were drifting to the ground. But seeing them, it took my mind once again to that November night nine years ago as Summer slipped into Fall, and our son slipped from life on earth into life in Heaven. I began thinking of his last night, November 14th, as the men from the mortuary came to our home and went alone into Phil's room, placing him onto a gurney for his last journey out of our home in the wee morning hours... We waited in the livingroom as they did what must be done…and then they appeared, with Phil on the gurney, sheet pulled up to his chin, face still in view....and I strangely thought to myself, "Shouldn't the sheet be over his face? Isn't that how it is done when someone has died?" But it wasn't this time, and I walked over to him, and I kissed him on the forehead one last time before they did cover his face and wheel him out our front door... I remember following behind them out onto the porch and standing there watching as the white van that carried our precious son pulled away from our home through the cold, foggy night... The month of November, as well as our whole life, would never be the same again.

And then as suddenly as these thoughts began, they ended, and my attention was quickly drawn back to the music that was playing through the iPod in my car—and the first words I heard were:

Thinking about my home, and the last woman to kiss me, kiss me…

I could scarcely believe it!! What was that?....and I had to go back and listen to it again! And there it was:

So on and on I go, the seconds tick the time out
There's so much left to know, and I'm on the road to find out
Then I found myself alone, hopin' someone would miss me
Thinking about my home, and the last woman to kiss me, kiss me…
                "On the Road to Find Out," by Cat Stevens

Of all the songs, of all the words, of all the timing of those words, these were miraculous in that moment! "The last woman to kiss me..." I was blown away by God’s timing!

I hadn’t been looking for this kind of music when I left home that morning. I was looking for a little Bon Jovi! It seemed “I” changed my mind and decided Cat Stevens would be good for the drive, but perhaps it was the Holy Spirit directing me to this song. I didn't know I would be thinking those thoughts, right at that moment in that song, but the Lord did. He is so close; He knows our every thought before we even think it. He cares so much! His orchestration and detail in our lives can leave us speechless and amazed!

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
Psalm 139:2 (NIV)

I don't know if Phil was thinking about that last kiss from me at that same moment in Heaven as I was on earth, but I do know that there is so much more to this life than what we see...there is a spiritual world far, far, beyond our imagination.

There's so much left to know, and I'm on the road to find out…

“As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me…”
Genesis 24:27

The verse above was the one shared on November 14th, in “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers. I have read this daily devotional for about eight years now, and still, Chambers’ writing teaches me and astounds me. For the 14th he writes:

“’…the Lord led me…’ and on looking back we see the presence of an amazing design. If we are born of God we will see His guiding hand and give Him the credit…Never believe that the so-called random events of life are anything less than God’s appointed order. Be ready to discover His divine designs anywhere and everywhere.”

On looking back, I know that I wasn’t the one who picked the music to listen to that morning, just as I wasn’t the one who designed the day Jim and I just spent together on the 14th of November, 2010. God’s divine design was everywhere as we remembered our son’s last day on earth.

Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us. None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.
Psalm 40:5 (NIV)

“Too many to declare,” for sure…but as a writer, I’d like to share just a few…

We had no plans for November 14th, just that Jim and I both had the day off from work, and we would spend it together. But God had some things planned, and watching them unfold was a joy. I attended my cousin’s surprise 50th birthday party the night before, and in talking with my parents, I found out they were going to a restaurant the next day that I hadn’t been to since I was about three years old. I asked about joining them there for lunch, and they were thrilled with the idea. So on Sunday, the 14th, we set out on the road to Occidental, California, for some good Italian food.

Photo of Millie, Vince, Diane and Jim

After lunch, we headed over to the coast with full stomachs, looking forward to a leisurely drive and possibly just some ice cream later in the day. We drove through many small towns along the way, enjoying the scenery, and I wasn’t paying much attention to where we were. But when we came to a stop at a light later in the day, I glanced out the window to the right, and saw a short street. I didn’t notice much about the street, but just as we started to go through the light, I told Jim we should turn right, so he did. After almost 35 years of marriage, I guess he knows best! About a half a block down, we came to a bend in the road. We noticed there was an ice cream stand, and many people were lined up at the window. We didn’t know what the draw was about this particular ice cream, but we decided it was time for a snack, so we stopped to give it a try. As we stood in the long line, I noticed many people appearing from a path off to the right, and it seemed they were coming from a beach. Well, I’m all about going to the beach, so after each getting a luscious soft-serve cone, we walked over towards the path, and followed it to a beautiful place by the ocean that we had never been to before. It was Stinson Beach, just north of San Francisco. We found a small mound of sand to sit on and enjoy our ice cream, while watching the people and the sun as it began to set.

Where we sat was reminiscent of Cape Cod, where the grass grows up thru the sand in much the same way. After awhile, a seagull walked over to us, and just stood looking at us, and I began to tell it that if it only knew the bits of cone I had tossed behind me into the grass; it would be over there enjoying it! (I was trying to save on some calories!)

Our time on the beach was perfect, and as I write this, I think about the very last trip that Phil and I made together. It was to Boston to see my parents, who were traveling in their trailer at the time. We went to Cape Cod on that trip, as well as Martha’s Vineyard, and Phil and I flew back home on 9/9, just two days before The World Trade Centers were attacked. Phil watched those events on TV, and a week or so later, when yet another small plane had crashed into a New York neighborhood, Phil said to me, “Maybe it isn’t such a bad time to be leaving here.” Two months later, he did.

Driving home in the twilight with Jim, we were listening to some jazz music, and we stopped along the way to take more pictures of the beautiful sky God was painting. All I could think of on the road home was how perfect and peaceful this day had been, and how God can change and heal hearts that were once so broken.

Photo of Diane and Jim at Stinson Beach

God’s divine design for this day showed up loud and clear, not only because of the joy He had filled us with on what can be a most difficult date, but because His attention to detail in directing us on this day was amazing. He took us right to the ice cream, right to the beach, even to the bird that joined us while we sat there, and it all came together when we returned home and I received an e-card of encouragement from a precious friend. She had sent it that morning, but I had not gotten on my computer until evening. When I did open her e-card, I had to send it right back to her. Not because I didn’t like it, but because I wanted her to be able to see the picture on it as I told her about our day and the way that God had worked thru her to show us it was His design. There was no coincidence involved, no luck, or plans on our part that put it together and made it all that it was. It was God in the details of our lives!!

You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.
Acts 2:28 (NIV)

The card she sent? It was a picture of a bear, sitting on a beach, on a mound of sand with grass growing up thru it, with the sun beginning to set…and a bird, just a single bird, joining the bear in the picture. My friend didn’t know what we were doing on that day, but God surely did.

Being thankful to God is the essence of worship. To be specific and thoughtful about our gratitude is not only well-received by the Godhead, it is expected (Luke 17:17). We owe him nothing less than to catalog our blessings and prompt our own hearts to recite them in thanksgiving….It is not enough to passively feel thankful, we must actively direct our earnest expressions of thanks to the Giver of all good things (James 1:17).

Pastor Mike Fabarez
Focal Point

It makes me so thankful to see God concerned about the details of our lives. We hear about it, of course, and we read about it in His Word, but really….ice cream? A bird? A mound of sand in the grass reminiscent of our last trip together? When we left Stinson Beach, we realized it was the last place along the coast where we could have had ice cream before heading back inland towards home, and God knew it, and He led us there… We can’t plan a day any better than God can!! I began to wonder why we even try?

Living in a new area, I have been attending new churches, looking for a place of worship and fellowship. I love talking with my clients as I cut their hair, and every so often I share that time with a pastor, as I did recently. I asked him about his life, and his church, and I was excited to visit his church, even though I have been enjoying the same church here for quite a few months now. The only thing is, life got in the way, and it took a couple of months to even remember that I wanted to visit his church, until this last Sunday. As I came out of Sunday morning service, his church came to mind, and I drove over to find out what time they met on Sunday evening—and I attended that very night.

I’m not much into being demonstrative in church, or going forward for prayer, etc…mostly, I’m a quiet worshipper, focusing on God in my own private way. I used to be very shy, although most people I know now have a hard time believing that, but it is true. So, as the service ended, and there was a call for anyone who needed prayer to simply step out into the aisle and someone would come and pray for them…I knew I needed to, but I didn’t really want to. But, there have been some difficult things lately in my life, and the pastor’s sermon had touched me deeply as God used him to speak some Truth into my heart….I knew I should really ask for prayer, so I did. Thankfully, it is a small congregation, and I was already on the aisle, so I just moved over into the aisle, head bowed, and waited for someone to come and pray for me. It took a bit, and I wondered how long I would stand there, and then the pastor came up beside me, and began to pray. He didn’t pray in the way it seems we do a lot of the time, but instead, he hesitated. He was searching for the Holy Spirit to let him know what my need was. Slowly, he spoke, just a few words, and then he waited, and then he spoke again, and again. Not really speaking in full sentences, more touching on four important points that for me, needed no explanation. I knew what he was talking about, even if he didn’t, because he was exactly spot on in his prayers for me. I knew God was working through him to comfort and advise me through the difficulties I was facing.

Now, the sermon was perfect, of course, and God does that so many times for so many of us…we think it has been prepared just for us that day. But, I would have missed out on so much had I just left without asking for prayer, because in that time I was overwhelmingly convinced that God had brought me there, and that He had these words for me in my trial. When the service was over, I found the pastor to thank him, and to let him know that even though he didn’t know why he was praying those things (he had voiced that during the prayer), God was truly working through him, using him in his ministry. I told he and his wife, who he introduced me to, that I would be back. It was so good to be close to my Father in a House of God where the Holy Spirit is touching lives, letting us know we are never alone in our struggles, but that we are truly loved in every detail of it.

Having just returned home from the “Happiest Place on Earth,” Disneyland of course, I wonder about this “happy place”? Not to be cynical, but really? Where is the happiest place on earth? Is it in a theme park? Is it sitting by the ocean eating an ice cream? Is it visiting a restaurant from the past and enjoying a good meal? Is it presents under the Christmas tree? No, none of this really even compares to the happiness that can be found in the heart of a believer closely connected with our Father in Heaven. That is what brings us true joy, true peace, and true contentment. Days like “November 14th” aren’t happy places without God! And even Disneyland is not a happy place when separated from those we love, mainly our “father”…as evidenced by our grandson Jackson, age four, who got lost for 15-20 minutes in Disneyland. He was very upset in a vast sea of people, in the Happiest Place on Earth, because he was alone. When he was returned to his Momma and his Pappa, there were tears, not only from him, but from those of us who had been looking for him. I gave him a long hug when I saw him again, and he said, “Oma, I was away from you.” Not a good feeling, not for him, and not for us. We were thankful to have him returned safely!

The happiest place on earth had turned not so happy for a few brief moments, because happiness can be fleeting depending on our circumstances. Being with God, knowing where our peace is found, knowing that we are protected and loved by God and that He understands our every struggle is what makes us truly happy. When I was prayed for in church and felt the Lord caring for me in that way, none of my circumstances had changed, I simply knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was loved to the minutest detail of my life, and the joy of the Lord flooded my soul.

If we go looking for our happiness at Disneyland, we will find lights, and merriment, and rides, and music, and fantasy, but we can’t take that with us through our every day. When we are lost from our Father in Heaven, the merriment is fleeting, and the fantasy land disappears as quickly as pixie dust when we walk out those gates. As a child, Jackson didn’t care about Disneyland when he got lost, all he wanted was his family—and once he was returned into the family’s loving embrace, his joy returned.

When we are separated from our Father God because we have never gotten to know Him, or because we have known His love but have veered off track for a bit, perhaps even turning our back on His love and walking away for a season in our lives, we will experience a missing, and an emptiness that is overwhelmingly sad. As human beings we were designed to feel known, loved, accepted, forgiven, and redeemed. God gave us those emotional needs for a reason, so that we would seek God and find Him, and realize that He is our Protector, our Comforter, and our Wise Counselor.

Sometimes we may find Jesus by wandering down a particular road like Saul did, being blinded by the Lord’s amazing light that shines through our particular darkness. Sometimes we may find God by wandering into the arms of a “park employee” who is on the lookout for “lost” children, ie: Another believer who helps us along the way. Sometimes we may find God when we get away by ourselves, and cry out to Him as never before. However we find our way into the Father’s embrace, we know deep in our hearts that it is where we need to be when we get there….and it is good, and warm, and welcoming.

The pastor prayed for me, “You are where you need to be.” I am realizing just now, in this moment of writing, what he meant… I was exactly where I needed to be, in that church service, in the loving embrace of my Father that was extended to me by others who know Him and love Him with all their hearts. God met me on a difficult road, and encouraged me along the way.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do,
but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his
return is drawing near.
Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)

Disneyland is loads of fun, and it holds lots of attractions and distractions, but we can’t live there. We have to return home, as we did, in all the traffic after a holiday weekend. A six-hour trip turned into an eleven-hour trip, with numerous bathroom stops, and carsickness to boot! Real life invades quickly once outside the “happy place.” How do we deal with our every day in the outside world where life is scary and we can feel very lost? By sticking close to our Father, holding His hand, letting Him lead the way. Even though Jackson was found by a very kind Disneyland employee, that was not enough to satisfy his needs. He needed his parents; he needed his dad to hold him tight.

One of my friends recently said, “There are a lot of roads to Damascus.” So true, we each have our own, designed by the Master Creator. Hopefully, somewhere along that road, we are blinded by a great light, and we all find Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

God knows our thoughts before we think them, He knows our days before we live them, and we can trust Him every step of the way.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Psalm 37:23

Until we meet again,

Diane