…I hurriedly shop to stock the house with personalized treats for the boys (and one amazing girlfriend), little reminders of how much I love them and appreciate them helping make it possible for me to have time alone with Jesus. Unexpectedly, I come home to find a gift for our new Feed My Sheep Garden on our front porch, and again, a few more tears of gratitude and love leak out. 🙂 I pack-up the car with my essentials (clothing, Bible, books, snacks to hibernate with and a few electronics), stop to put air and fuel in the spaceship, send a few text messages and off I go!
Now, I must preface this with…when thinking about where I’d like to getaway too, I had a pretty tough time. I didn’t want to go to a chain hotel. I knew I’d spend a lot of time indoors and needed somewhere that encouraged my ability to see, feel and touch God. I didn’t want to stay at a bed & breakfast, Richard and I had just recently begun staying at these together (our wedding was at a bed and breakfast as well) and it was just too much with all the “romantic packages” offered in all the online descriptions. I wanted a peaceful place by water, not the ocean this time, but a river or lake. I wanted to be close enough to get home, without a speeding ticket or worse, if something needed my immediate attention. And I wanted somewhere I could “go out and do things” when I needed a break from my solitude. (If you don’t know me personally, I am a people-person, through and through, until bedtime. So total isolation would be toxic to my spirit.)
The small town of Smithfield, Virginia initially came to mind. A town I knew nothing about (besides they had great ham & bacon!), but had passed through a few times. I few Facebook friends suggested this town as well. After a few days of praying on where to go, I had decided yes, Smithfield would be great. Upon looking at prices for accommodations, I started getting cold feet…”I can’t spend money on this, this is nuts! There are things at home that need attention, the kids will need something, the dog needs to go to the groomer, groceries are expensive! What are you doing, Laura?”
Enter two great friends whom have been walking closely by my side since February 2013 in particular, with text messages saying “You’re worth it” and “Go, enjoy this time”. One more prayer asking God to tell me “it’s ok to do this”. Later that night, I call and make my reservation, speaking with a woman whose name I would remember.
Enter D. As I check-in and am handed two room keys, I return one saying, “If you don’t mind, would you just keep this other key? I don’t need two, it is only me staying right now, and I’d rather not have two keys.” Who knew where that one statement would lead.
I take that back, God knew where that one statement would lead, and only God.
D shares how her husband died less than two months ago. I gently ask how she is, tell her I’m so very sorry for her loss. We share how our husbands passed, the circumstances surrounding both of our families. She shares her heartache, her need for closure as she didn’t have the blessing I did of 3 1/2 months with her husband prior to his sudden passing. (I am continuously grateful for those three and a half months, there are no words that can express how thankful I am for each moment.) Her tears well-up a few times, eventually spilling over, followed by, “I’m sorry, I should be more professional.” To which I quickly reply with, “You are human, you are a wife who is grieving. You are not a robot. You are no less ‘professional’, and I am glad I can cry with you.” She smiles, and continues shares loving memories about her husband. I share (probably with an awestruck look on my face) how “I can’t believe I’m here. God is blowing me away, He led me exactly where I was supposed to go right now.”
D even shares, get this folks, how they had a beloved dog her husband adored, who died “way too young”, shortly before her husband had passed…which “made no sense”. I am literally, standing at the counter, leaning on it, tears streaming down my face as she tells the story of their dog, and how her husband said, after very difficult days grief-stricken about Buddy’s passing, ” …he is where he’s supposed to be.” And how she argued, saying he was too young, he was healthy, he wasn’t supposed to be there.
(For those of you who don’t know the story of our Jack, a quick note. Jack, our “too young” beloved dog, who had Richard wrapped around all four of his paws, unexpectedly became ill around the same time Richard did. In April, not two months before Richard would go Home, I held Jack in my arms, sobbing on the floor of our compassion-filled veterinarians’ office, telling Jack how much we loved him, and how I would “take care of Dad and the boys” and how I was “so very sorry I couldn’t make him better”. We had to let him go due to multiple masses in his liver diagnosed by a top-notch veterinary school of medicine, in the wee hours of the morning, not eight hours beforehand. You may recall from my background information, Richard’s pancreatic cancer had aggressively spread to numerous masses in his liver. Jack really was our man’s “best friend”.)
Her story was just too real, too…indescribably familiar. I encouraged D to take her time with things, give herself grace as she grieved. Don’t worry about grieving how anyone else does, don’t feel pressured. Don’t think she is “rude” just because she can’t write the Thank You notes yet without bawling. Don’t think she is “losing her mind” because she sat in her room, for hours and days, sorting through paperwork, documents, bills because her mind desperately needed something else to focus on. I told her I found all my comfort in my faith, and God surrounding me with our children, our family, our church family, and so many new faces I see Him in. That I was able to quiet this world’s “To Do List” and timetable by focusing on God. PRAYING CONTINUALLY. I knew, and know, He will run interference for me. He will help keep this world’s “wolves at bay” while I rest in His Arms. He will take care of us both. Her too, even as she “isn’t ready to go to church” (others are lovingly concerned about this, but she just needs to do it “on her own”). God knows what she needs, and He is with her, no matter where she is at any moment. I told her I am so glad He led me here. I am blown away by how much He loves me, how much He loves us. I am praying for her, in ways I never knew I would, and how I will never forget her and the role she’s played in the reason I came to this place, on this day, for His purpose.
As I brought my belongings upstairs, I called my parents, telling my Mom what had just happened. As I spoke through tears, I said, “Mom, I am just amazed”…and began singing with her…
“I stand amazed, in the Presence, of Jesus the Nazarene. And wonder how He could love me? A sinner, condemned, unclean. Singing How Marvelous, How Wonderful, in my soul shall ever be. How Marvelous, and How Wonderful, is my Savior’s Love for me. He took my sin and my sorrow, and made them His very own. And bore the burden to Calvary, and suffered and died alone. Singing How Marvelous, How Wonderful, in my soul shall ever be. How Marvelous, How Wonderful, is my Savior’s Love for me. And when then ransomed in glory, His Face I last shall see…will be my joy through the ages, to see of His love for me. Everybody singing, How Marvelous, How Wonderful, in my soul, shall ever be. How Marvelous, How Wonderful, is my Savior’s Love for me.”