Sometimes God sends love notes in sweet and unexpected ways. Here's how I got one this afternoon. Hang on for the ride...I'm going to be really honest about what a difficult time I was having.
So I was feeling physically and emotionally exhausted (it's been a hard few weeks of cancer treatment) and also sad and alone, and I decided to go into my tiny new study which is still piled high with boxes of books and files from the move. The study hasn't been a priority because kitchen, bathrooms, and other mutual living spaces have felt a lot more important to organize first.
Tired as I was, I decided to give myself fifteen minutes to do some unpacking, but got caught up in the piles. I found myself smiling over some old books and papers because they represent so many things I have spent years loving and doing: writing, teaching, missions, ministry, homeschooling, theology, church history, poetry, fiction. At the same time, some of the piles made me sad...projects long finished, or projects never finished, all accompanied by a deep melancholy wondering over whether or not I have spent my time wisely and whether I will ever have enough energy or time again to devote to any of these things the way I would like to.
An hour or more into what should have been fifteen minutes, I found myself wanting a piece of chocolate (time to ward off dementors!) but tried not to give in because a) I'd already had a tiny one earlier, b) chocolate has phosphorous, and I am supposed to be keeping my phosphorous as low as possible right now, and c) I've lost my sense of taste almost completely again, so I knew that it wouldn't really taste like chocolate, except in my imagination.
The only break I took came in the middle when my fourteen year old came in, feeling super stressed over an algebra lesson and a lack of time management, and instead of gently helping her in a peaceful way, I let her stress trigger mine that was already bubbling toward the surface, and I lost my patience. I had told her not to do a second lesson, but she hadn't listened. And she was doing a second lesson to avoid something else she needed to do. All of which made sense, except....losing my patience with her simply made me lose it more with myself, and I felt terrible inside over the fact that I was letting cancer and discomfort and stress take over instead of keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus.
I had been piling one set of files onto a rather precarious perch, and in my stress, I didn't realize how high the pile had gotten, and the whole mountain of stuff went crashing to the floor. My daughter, back on the other side of her door, called out, "Mom, are you okay?" and I called back an automatic "yes," and then just stood there for a minute. For some reason, it felt like the last straw. I looked down at that mess of papers, some of them worth keeping, some of them not, and I didn't think I could find the energy to pick them up, much less sort through them. Tears threatened, and my hands hovered near my face as I tried to calm my breathing. I told myself they were just papers, most of them destined for recycling, and all I needed to do for now was find the energy to bend over on my achey legs and pick them all up.
So I calmed down and bent over and started shuffling them together, and then I saw that a little square piece of paper had disengaged from the rest and fluttered off. I picked it up and saw that it was written in my husband's hand-writing. I recognized it right away because in the first years of our marriage, he would write or draw me a small-sized note like this every single work day and tuck it inside my lunch bag. This was during our first five married years, before we moved here to go to seminary.
I have no idea precisely when he wrote this particular one or why he chose the words when he chose them over twenty years ago, but they found me again today, floating down from the piles of files inside an old box.
And this is what they said:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters
I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not
When you walk through fire
you shall not be burned,
And the flame shall not
because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you.
I felt a little bit like the woman in the Disney short film "Paperman" when the paper airplane with the kiss on it finds her on the street and leads her on a merry, wind-swept chase to the one who sent it in the first place. I looked at that love-note, and then I took it into the bedroom and tucked it into the corner of my dresser mirror. I love my husband, and I love the Lord who gave him the life-giving words I needed then and needed even more now.
What are the chances that this is the note that would float free today and find its way to me? These things happen in God's beautiful way, in his kingdom-kindness.