David Jeremiah wrote, "journalizing, memorializes the blessings of God" in his book, "When Your World Falls Apart, Seeing Past the Pain of the Present." My dear family and myself have recently experienced a terrible tragedy, resulting in the death of my precious daughter, Samantha. This is an unwanted journey, one of the most difficult walks that any parent can experience. It is riddled with extreme grief, profound disorientation, and beautiful graces from God. He holds me close. He has not forsaken me. Even though, my heart is shredded with sadness, I shed buckets of tears, I question my purpose now and I wander astray at times, I know I love God. He is real and present. I know what I know!!! And, I feel privileged to have the opportunity to share with you. I have learned that I am at my best when I walk with God, not against Him.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Sweet Small Voice

I knew I wanted to go back but, I didn't know if it was the "right" thing to do. Even after purchasing my return ticket, I struggled with why I was returning. I asked myself, Do I need proof?, Was it really there?, Did that really happen?  Why do I need to see it again, I saw it already? Will I be able to find it? I knew I saw "SAM", but doubted that "SAM" was there. Am I making this story into something bigger than it really is?  Repeatedly, day after day I was consumed with doubt and questions.  I am on the verge of insanity. I haven't heard from my new friends, traveling to New Orleans.  With the unwavering support of David, I purchase my return ticket, still questioning whether it is "right! "and did I "really" see it.  I consult with several of my close companions, people walking this spiritual journey with me. I get conflicting comments, one asks, "Why do you need to go back?, but do what you have to do!"(fearing I might possibly get hurt by not being able to see SAM again) Another warrior looks at me and says, "I hope you bought your ticket to go back!"You have to go back, it is a part of your faith journey." Yet another stammers," You don't have to prove anything!"

Two to one, returning in the losing corner, yet, "I" still must go. 

Knowing that I am returning, I record my first trip to Sedona writing in this online journal.  Wanting to remember all the details and record each emotion experienced.  The process took and entire day, I was exhausted.    Early the following morning, while checking David's email, I notice a devotional received via email from St. Timothy's.  We having been receiving this daily devotional for quite sometime, not always opening to read, but on this day I say to myself, " I can't pass up an opportunity to read God's word." Double-clicking to open, I was stunned at what I read, my insides shifted a bit.

Nonetheless, from the Book of Job.

When I read the these words, I knew "SAM" was there, not washed away by rain or wind.  Now, I just had to find it.  When David awoke I sat him down, showed him the devotional, he had the same reaction I did, kind of a quiver.  When you get to the "carved in the rock forever", it hits a high note. Back to my close companions, my spiritual support, I got similar reactions, jaw-drops, goose-bumps and eye-ball popping.  I printed the devotional, folded it and kept it with me. Expanding my consulting circle, the confirmation continued.  Reactions remained the same. My last stop, my pastor.  I ask him if it is wrong to return to Sedona, he assured me that returning was not a mistake. In fact, there is a special spot,  that he returns to often. Green light, I feel good about returning now. It has been approved. Then I show him the paper; he lowered his head and gently nods.   

As my departure date approaches, I notice myself retreating.  I don't have a desire to discuss whether I can, or if I will, find "SAM" again. I am learning, that my preference doesn't matter; the discussion won't change the outcome (but, I have that piece of paper tucked in my purse - I ask myself, is that really what that means?") I know it is but, I continue to doubt.  I think back on something my friend shared with me a while back, obviously in reference to yet another God-wink:

"I do believe....help my unbelief!"

As my plane lifts to the sky, I begin to pray, "God, if it is not your will that I climb that rock, stop me!"  I silently chuckle, thinking about how my travel companion will react if I have to inform her, I am not doing the hike after we traveled such a distance to get there. But, I was fully prepared to do so. I wondered if she would understand.  My prayer continued that I would have peace, with whatever the outcome (but, I had that piece of paper tucked into my purse.) It is a discipline to leave yourself wide-open, embarking on a trip with no preconceived outcomes.  It is definitely not something I've done often.  Maybe, I'm beginning to learn the art of living in just "this" moment. Rather than always thinking ahead, making a plan, filling in the blank spots. 

We land in Phoenix, drive to Sedona and park at Cathedral Trail.  Kim and I speak to a group of hikers at the bottom of the trail.  We exchange stories, I explain to them the reason for such a late afternoon hike and the importance of completing it before dusk.  They understand my urgency, one lady in particular steps forward, with tears in her eyes and hugs me.  She confesses that her husband has just recently gone to heaven, and this day was his birthday.  I note to myself, there are handfuls of hikers on Cathedral Trail that have lost loved ones?  We start our ascent.  This time the mission is more manageable.  Nearing the top, I slow the pace down, yearning to just look (while hiking all I can do is look at my feet!) and needing to get my bearings.  I glance over my right shoulder, noticing an alcove. Stepping in that direction, I raise my hand to indicate the similarity of what I see, to what I remembered.  We move closer, Kim ahead of me, we tip our heads up and see SAM!!! We rejoice, hug, cry and "take pictures!" A fellow hiker notices our jubilation, with interest he comments, "You must be having a Sedona moment?" I beckon him and tell him, "Yes, come here, I will tell you!" I tell him everything, he tears up. Together we continue to the top, all the while talking.  We learn his name, it is Paul.  He asks me mine, I say "Elizabeth." He (Paul) tell us, that his sister was named Elizabeth; she passed away 9 years ago from a grand mal seizure and that she loved children.(Yet, another that has lost a loved one.) He shares the same birthday as David. Paul shared with us a beautiful metaphor, stating that some lives are meant to be like stars, shining bright and lasting years, other lives are meant to be comets, shorter life but blazing across the sky. Samantha's life was short and she blazed!!!! Paul hikes/runs this particular trail 2x daily, 4x a week.  When he reaches the summit he, "Thanks the Lord for the strength of my father in the rocks, the gentle caress of my mother in the breeze and the warmth of my sister in the sun."   Paul was balding and had blue eyes. With the help of Paul, I was courageous enough to go between the gaps and go to the ledge. Crazy coincidences!  Really? I'm resting in sweet assuredness. It was "right" to return to Sedona. 

Having the "picture" in my possession, I was so peaceful.  

As I look backwards, I see once again, it was not my handy work that I visited Sedona, only that of God's.  Initially, David booked flights into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport with the notion I would visit Scottsdale, after the flights were booked, I discovered Sedona and was led there and because of an unrelenting gentle voice,  led to return again.  The old Elizabeth, the practical one, the all earthly one would never have returned, for reasons like expense, practicality (travel twice in three weeks - with nothing guaranteed) and my to-do list.  Not anymore, I'm learning the beauty of an uncluttered life, (partly my doing, partly because like it or not the demands on my life have lessened), a simplier life, one which allows time for me to be still and listen to what is inside of me, find and follow that sweet, small voice.  I know what that small voice is and I know the Bible talks about that voice, so I searched and found:

Today I will hear His voice ..... and harden not my heart. 
Psalms 95:7,8  

 Because I listen to and obey God's voice, He will be my God and I will be one of His people.
Jeremiah 7:23

I hear my Father's voice and the voice of a stranger I will not follow.
John 10:5

I am one of God's sheep and His sheep hear His voice.
John 10:27

Listening and following that voice led me high atop those red rocks, two times.  The reward, a special place, holy ground.  A place, I can be near to God and to Sam; a place where nothing physical stands between us.  A place of solitude and strength, peace and possibility, warmth and wonder, rest and reassurance. A place where His words for me and mine, are engraved in the rock forever!

1 comment:

Robin Mc said...

And your voice is heard too, bringing wonder from this loss. Knowing that Sam is with you in the ways that she can be.