On this particular Wednesday morning, as I walk and recover from the latest ban of the storm, I begin to think of all the books that I have read in the past months. I have read many, many books. I honestly believe these books, these true personal stories of tragedy and triumph, of hope and encouragement, of profound loss and spiritual renewal, of glimpses into heaven and divine encounters have helped save my very soul! It is very difficult to relax, but give me a "true" book, I can "settle in." Often times, I know, I "need" a book, must "have" a book, on hand, especially the nights that David travels. These days, I can't read a book without a writing utensil. I underline, I comment, I highlight, I dog-ear, I even write back, on the pages of the books. (I bought one book on David's Nook - never again - I need the book in my hands, to read and to reread, to keep.) The people in these books have suffered, have hurt, have had loss, tragedy and challenges. I can relate, I know the walk they are walking! Gee, sometimes their printed words, I have experienced personally! I could have written them, myself. For instance, Stephen Curtis Chapman's book, Choosing to See, they recount the tragic event when their son, rolled over and killed their adopted daughter. This family was grief stricken!! They love their son, they love their daughter. Thankfully, they love and know God. The dedication to their son, in the front cover of this book strikes to the very center of my heart. This book taught me, that I can do "hard."
Kevin Malarkey's book, The Boy that Came Back From Heaven, was remarkable reading. An automobile accident, resulted in a severe spinal injury for this little guy. Immediately, his parents experienced God's presence and healing power. The encounter of the mother and the MediVac flight crewman left me stunned and smiling. As well, he saw the angels, 3 around his head/neck area and another working on his heart. Months later, a stranger sent them this same image in a drawing. I was in awe of God's presence as I read this story. I learned by reading, Mitch Albom's, Have a Little Faith, that it was time for me to put, my faith into action. It was time to "live it", not just proclaim, to "believe it." In the story, Mr. Albom spends countless hours with his childhood rabbi, gathering and recording his life experiences, in preparation to deliver his eulogy, at the proper time. Mitch learns that the rabbi spent his entire life teaching other people, helping them to grow their faith and their trust in God. After the loss of his 5 year old daughter to an illness, the rabbi, so wise and gentle, sweetly, with a slight touch of humor explains to Mr. Albom, "I guess it was time for me to drink a little of my own elixir." I "walked" with a really good friend of mine through a divorce, I think I steered her to embrace a loving spirit. When I think of that, it makes me feel a little like this, time for me to drink my own, "elixir." The Color of Rain by Michael and Gina Spehn, a beautiful story about two couples, each losing a loved spouse and the divine merging of their wounded families. I underlined so many lines, I decided to just dog-ear entire pages because so much was relevant. Mid-way through the book, a mother dies and there is a description of the "sounds of agony." I know what agony sounds like, I heard it from my brother. I think it describes how Brooke sounded when she broke the surface of the water and began to "count heads" realizing, they were one short. This scene has been verbalized to me, others have spoken about Brooke's reaction, labeling it as, "an out of body experience." I can only imagine. There is another section in this book underlined, with stars and exclamation points all around, it describes when the husband realizes that his wife has entered the gates of Heaven. He says, " There wasn't a theologian alive who could have taught me what I learned that day. It had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with faith. My God was real and he was alive in my life. I had looked for him in my entire life. I looked for Him in prayer and penance, in cathedrals and crashing surf, in baptisms and the Bible itself. Who would have thought that now, in my most grief-stricken moment, I would finally find him, right where he said he would always be. At my side." I have experienced Him at my side, at my most grief-stricken moment.
The Gift of the Red Bird by Paula D'Arcy was so inspiring. This women suffered the loss of a child and husband, while newly pregnant. If she can lose 2, survive and let her light shine, then I can lose 1, survive and try to let my light shine. Recently, I finished, As Good As She Imagined by Roxanna Green. This is the redeeming story of "The Angel of Tucson, Christina -Taylor Green", killed by a stray bullet, thought to be intended for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. How do you find peace among those circumstances? She did, her family did. The books are many: 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, (I read this two weeks before Sam's accident), One Call Away by Brenda Warner, Left to Tell by Immaculee Llibagiza, When Your World Falls Apart by David Jeremiah, Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson, Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis, A Message from God by Retha and Aldo McPherson, Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy, My Dream of Heaven by Rebecca Ruter Springer, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. Akaine, Her life, Her art, Her poetry caused such a stirring inside of me that I have purchased and given away 4 copies in a week. This child was born to atheist parents. She painted the picture that Todd Burpo in Heaven's For Real, identified as Jesus. Each book, in it's own way, has helped me to begin to pick up the pieces of my shattered heart.
A thought nags me, I think it would be a great idea to compile these stories into a "New" Old Testament. That isn't the right name for the book but, what I wish people knew, is that these are true stories, in current times, where God is present, real and at work. We need to learn about Job, Jonah and Jezebul but, I wish everyone knew about Akiane, Aldo, and Immaculee. These stories have brought validation to my suffering and hope for my healing.
"Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."