Sunday, October 6, 2013
Casting Bread upon the Waters...
He mentioned a verse out of Ecclesiastes - a book we never discuss - and that was enough to trigger an almost forgotten memory of answered prayer in May of 2002. That May one of our Arkansas friends lost a close relative unexpectedly. The funeral was to be held in Minnesota. At the last minute, I felt I should go but for me the finances - not to mention the logistics - of such a trip were overwhelming. I'm not a traveler by any means.
I remember how it all came about. It was a Wed. towards the end of the school year - a time when everything has to be done yesterday, very rushed with end of the year tasks. I wasn't well, had a persistent cough, and really felt crummy that whole day. When David and I got in the car after school, he asked me if we could go to the store and I told him it was out of the question because I was doing well just to drive home.
Halfway home, about the time we hit Bryant, I can only say I felt the presence of God there in our car. Totally unexpected. At that time I had a habit of going to a nearby retreat once or twice a week to walk the grounds and pray. When I suddenly felt warmth flooding my heart, I thought, "Maybe God wants me to go to the Oasis to pray for some reason." To my surprise, I realized that I felt energized, well in fact, and could actually do it. My coughing quit and I was no longer tired.
I actually debated for a minute whether to take DAvid to the store, take him home and then go to the Oasis, or just go home. I opted to go home, not wanting to push my luck, still knowing God was tangibly near but not knowing why. I remember silently asking Him if there was someone I should be praying for, something I should do, etc.
When I got home, it dawned on me for the first time that I could call my girlfriend who was staying with her future in-laws in Minnesota, waiting for the funeral . At that time I knew next to nothing about cell phones and hadn't considered the possibility of calling across state lines on their cell. On impulse, I decided to try her fiance's number, which I had; got my friend on the phone; and could tell she was naturally very stressed. As I listened, I felt God impressing on my heart to go to Minnesota to be with her but, as I've indicated that was about like Him telling me to go to the moon. I had only flown twice before (and hated it both times), knew it would be expensive (we didn't have any extra money set aside for such things), and it was the end of the school year (how would a sub prepare my kids for the last big test of the year???).
The feeling persisted however, although I said nothing to my friend about it.
Instead I called another friend and, as I recall, I started off the conversation by saying something like, "This is crazy but..." She didn't think it was crazy at all and told me her husband was actually on the internet at that moment hunting for a plane ticket to Minnesota. She asked me if I wanted him to price a ticket for me as well. I knew her husband was going but felt sure he'd already gotten a ticket, never dreamed he was still pricing them. At that time, I didn't even know you could get them over the internet.
I gave a tentative "yes" and then hung up the phone. I knew that Phil didn't like for me to miss work and, as I've said, felt the money alone would be prohibitive. I broached the subject in a negative fashion, telling him I really didn't think it was feasible but I was just going to run it past him.
He totally surprised me by not blinking an eyelash and saying first crack out of the box, "I think you should go. Don't worry about the money; just put it on the credit card and we'll pay it off. " That's soooo not Phil.
The upshot of all this is that over the next hour or so I learned our plane would be leaving out of Memphis about 4:30 in the morning - that was the cheapest ticket available. So my friend who would be flying with me said he would pick me up at 1 a.m. and drive us to Memphis
That blew me away because I am a person who has to have 8 hours of sleep to function. I had stayed up all night once before in my teens and by 5 a.m. I was literally incoherent. I was stringing words together but they weren't making any sense. When I got home from that weekend trip, I slept for about 12 hours straight and vowed I would never stay up all night ever again.
As I was mentally grappling with all this, I called for a sub and then asked a dear friend/fellow teacher to take down lesson plans for the next two days. As it happened, I had run off some extra handouts that day, thinking at the time that it was probably a waste and I'd never get to them by year's end. I also ran off a work sheet for a WWII video I showed each year - a documentary that I really loved and really enjoyed teaching. That video held a lot of information for their last chapter test and also for their nine weeks exam, which were coming up back-to-back. I hadn't planned to show the video until Monday but rapidly decided to switch gears, thinking the sub could show the film and then I'd just have to lose a day in order to re-teach the material. (Normally I stopped the film periodically and explained things to the kids as we went along, made sure they got the correct answers written down, etc.).
Of all things, as I was packing and fretting over the trip, the money, and school, a neighbor called us to say that he was in a bind. His wife was struggling with mental illness at that time and he worked the night shift so he had hired someone to stay with their four kids at night. But that very evening, the kids, who were pretty rambunctious, had run the sitter off and he couldn't find another one before he had to go to work. So he asked us if we could keep all four kids for a couple of nights, get them to school in the morning (they all went to different schools), etc. Because the kids were a bit wild, we'd had a rule that only one or two at a time could stay overnight with us and we'd never broken that rule. But their dad was pretty desperate so I asked Phil and he said to tell the dad to bring them on over. At the time, I could hardly take in everything that was happening.
I started getting the hide-a-bed in the living room ready as well as the bed in the spare room. About 8 p.m. the dad brought them over and somehow we got all four of them settled down for the night: we put one in the living room, two in the spare room, one in David's room, and David in our room where he would sleep with Phil. Then I tiptoed around the hide-a-bed in the living room, trying to finish up packing, hoping I could get at least a couple of hours sleep before heading out.
Instead I just barely finished getting ready before my ride showed up at 1 and we headed to Memphis. From there, we caught our flight which would get us into Minnesota about 11 a.m. after a layover in O'Hare Int. Somewhere around 6 a.m., flying over who-knew-where, I came to the settled conclusion that I was totally and completely certifiable. By that time I was super tired and had no clue how I'd even function, let alone be any help in Minnesota. I couldn't sleep on the plane at all and now realized that the best thing I could have done was to simply pray, which I could have done for nothing back home in Arkansas. But, no, I had to put us in debt and shake up everything just to fly North where I would undoubtedly either sleep non-stop for hours and/or become a gibbering idiot.... leaving my poor husband with 5 kids to get to school (make that 5 different schools where he would have to do drop-offs - four in Little Rock and one in Benton) before he could go to work. Plus he would have to care for all those kids over the next two days by himself...
Insane didn't even begin to describe it.
When we got to Minnesota, we went to our rooms and I took a two hour nap, knowing full well it wouldn't be enough. But it was. I woke up feeling energized and made it fine on that nap and about 6 hours of sleep for the next two nights. God made the rest sufficient is all I can say.
My bronchitis basically went away as well. I coughed once in a while but nothing like the racking, unrelenting cough I'd had off and on all day at school on Wed. Plus, I didn't feel sick at all - the physical well-being that I inexplicably experienced on the drive home from Benton that Wed. afternoon stayed with me until I returned from Minnesota, at which time my bronchitis returned in full force and I ended up going to the doctor. That had to be God - I've had bronchitis a lot and it's never happened to me like that before or since where I had it, then I didn't, and then I did.
We were able to go to the funeral that weekend where my traveling companion gave an excellent funeral speech and then, afterwards, we were able to spend some time with the family. Finally, Saturday evening we were able to go out to eat with our close friends - a sweet young couple - and listen to them talk about the traumatic events of the past few days. As I listened, the girl told me that she had gotten up early Thursday morning and poured out her heart to God, telling Him that she couldn't make it without some help. At that point she clearly heard Him speak to her heart, telling her that help was on the way. She had no idea I was coming when she received that impression. I had no idea she was praying. When she told me about her early morning prayer I was astounded. When I think about it even now, I still am. Only God could have put that together.
But there was more. When I got to school on Monday, I started going over the WWII film study guide, expecting to have to dictate every answer, knowing they wouldn't have gotten much out of the complicated documentary, wondering how I would recoup the wasted time so near the end of term. To my surprise, they had every single answer written down and understood the film completely. For the first and only time that I can recall, I had had a sub who had a history major. (Not kidding). He had just graduated and was hoping to get a teaching job. So he took the video home Thursday night and answered all the questions on the study guide. And then he explained the background stuff to the kids the next day as they watched the film -things that I would have told them, things that weren't even in the film, things that only a history major would have known to have told them. Basically my kids were not behind at all and I was able to pick up and go on as if I had not missed. If you know anything about teaching, you know this just doesn't happen - especially on the high school level with a random sub. I can't ever remember another time like that in the 31 years that I taught.
On the flight to Minnesota, God had given me a verse from Ecclesiastes - Cast your bread upon the water and after many days it will come back to you. I can't remember getting hundreds of dollars from Heaven in the weeks and months after that trip. But neither can I ever remember us struggling to pay off our credit card. In fact, I .can say that a year later we were basically out of debt and had 3,000.00 in our savings whereas before we had had zilch. While neither of us could remember a big windfall of money, neither could either of us remember making a concerted effort to save money. Somehow, God did indeed bring the "crumbs" that we had flung out onto the water that May back to us in spades.
Many times we pray and pray and pray and nothing seems to happen. I've been there, done that.. a lot. As I get older, I realize how important it is to remember the times when God has answered in ways that we can readily see and lately I've felt that I needed to blog about those times. For what it's worth, this is the first of "answered prayer" entries.