Tuesday 11 February 2020

Promptings and Valentine's Day Gift for You

A few years ago I was sitting in my beautiful new home next to a private pond in a small forest area in central Missouri where turtles the size of dinner plates walked fearlessly up to my front door and bull frogs sang to each other in the pond. White-tailed rabbits played tag in the grass and deer grazed just beyond the tree line. I had nearly worked myself to death the fourteen previous months clearing debris, planting grass, hauling rocks for flowerbeds and planting rosebushes and other flowers that bloomed profusely in the moderate, humid climate. 

I had also survived three brown recluse spider bites that the doctor treated with the same medication given to anthrax victims, along with falling victim to poison ivy twice since no one had cleared the woods before I tackled them, and I didn’t know what it looked like. But despite a few minor drawbacks, it was a perfect oasis after a teaching career that ended with two years of being the lead witness in a lawsuit the mother of a son with Ashbergers had filed against the school district. I sat through dozens of meetings as the faculty representative and had to testify in federal court. 

While the district won the case, it wasn’t without great sacrifices to my mental and physical health. I needed time to regroup and learn to live with a lot of changes since I had decided to take an early retirement. I knew I would never survive another year in the classroom if I had to deal with another deranged and vindictive parent. So I left all I had ever known, moved halfway across the country and built a home on the acre and a quarter lot next to my sister. It was absolutely perfect. We spent a portion of each day together, and I came to know her husband much better than I had in the past.

But eighteen months after moving there, I began having the feeling that I needed to return to the mountains so I would be closer to my son and his family. His wife had been diagnosed with stage 4 Melanoma Lymphoma nine months after I retired, and I wondered why I hadn’t been prompted to move there in the first place. I missed my children and grandchildren and wanted to be where I could help out more, but I loved where I was living and the calmness around me after so many storms in trying to rebuild my life after a divorce, added schooling, buying and selling three homes, and working for three districts in different parts of my home state. I kept fighting my feelings until my son called one day to say that having me so far away just wasn't working for him any longer. While he respected my right to live where I wanted to be, he needed me where I could be more of a support and help to him and his family while they continued this very difficult journey.

I'm not sure he meant it as a quilt-trip some of our kids are so good at getting us to take, but it did add some much-needed clarity. For the first time in my life, I was being truly selfish. I had a portion of what I had always wanted: my dream house, someone I trusted to talk to each day, enough money to survive on, and an inner peace I didn't want to jeopardize. But I had also promised to be there for my children, and that pledge didn't end just because they were grown with families of their own. So after a great many tears and days spent in soul-searching, I began praying for guidance I wasn't sure I could follow. After much contemplation, and a trip to a place that held great spiritual significance to me, nine words flashed into my mind that made the floodgates open for a very different reason than self-pity. “Eve left the Garden of Eden for her posterity.” 

As a student of the scriptures, I knew Eve had made a difficult decision that many people in the Christian community call a sin. But to me, it was always more of a divine choice because, without it, the rest of God's children would never have had the opportunity to come to earth, receive bodies, learn right from wrong, feel joy and sorrow, be recipients of Christ's Atonement and have the opportunity to live with God again. I love Mother Eve, and in a very simplistic way, I felt I was being asked to make a sacrifice similar to the one she had made so many years ago. I was indeed living in my personal Garden of Eden. I had my dream home in the country near the water in perfectly peaceful and awe-inspiring surroundings. And while I wanted to do what was right, I didn’t want to leave my paradise to go back to the city where people lived nearly on top of each other and life moved so fast it was like a perpetual rollercoaster.

But I had asked God what I needed to do, and he had given me an answer. Now, I had to decide if I was strong enough to live by the faith I always professed to have. Before I had a chance to back out, I put my beautiful, custom-designed home on the market thinking I would have several months to make the transition. But as always happens when least expected, I had an offer the next day. That left me one month before closing to pack everything and make the arrangements necessary for the return trip. Since there wasn't time to return to Utah to look for a home, my son and daughter-in-law said they would find one for me.

They lived in a densely populated area where far too many transplants from California had driven the housing market to a point where I would be lucky to find something even half as spacious and nice for the amount of money I could invest. I tried to be brave as they sent me a dozen or more listings, but it was hard to make a decision because I had always gone by the feeling I got when I walked into a home before deciding to buy it. Walking by faith isn't easy, and it was a struggle to keep the tears from falling when I walked into the house they felt would be perfect me. 

The first thing I noticed was the lack of sunlight, followed by half-a-dozen or more houses seen from every window, hundreds of nail holes in the walls, rough slate floors in the kitchen and dining room, no jetted tub and olive green walls with dark gray trim throughout the entire basement. The only thing that made me smile was the castle that had been built into the playroom. But within two weeks I had all the walls re-painted and had met many of my neighbors. I can't say the move was easy or that I don't miss what I left behind, but I am learning that when we follow righteous promoting the blessings will follow. I've been able to share holidays and special occasions with my son and daughter-in-law - who has now fully recovered. I've spend countless weekends with my granddaughter, published 11 books, and have been able to counsel with my son more often. I've made new friends, been given the opportunity to serve others in ways I never dreamed possible, and have been able to visit my sister at least once each year. 

Is life easy? Not exactly! I still get lonely, discouraged and wonder if I will ever like the house I've been in for over four years now. But I chose to do something incredibly hard for me, and I'm learning to look for the blessings that decision has brought. I suppose that's what all of us must do if we want to find personal peace. God never promised that our lives would be easy. He only promised that they would be worth it. That's why I get up each morning armed with a list of things I want to accomplish. Most of the time, I barely make it through the first few items, but I try to live with purpose because I want to be happy and see the good in every situation.

I know I will never have what I think I want, but what I have is adequate for my needs. Maybe that's the lesson I was supposed to learn all along. I gave up something tangible that I really desired for opportunities to grow and develop in ways I never would had I stayed in my personal Garden of Eden. At least it's something to think about during the quiet moments. If nothing more, I've saved myself countless hours of feeling guilty because I let personal desires override the needs of people I dearly love. For them, no sacrifice will ever be  too great. 

As my Valentine's Day gift to all of you, February 11, 12 and 13, you can download two of my books LOST and RESILIENCE for free at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv . Feel the love and commitment of family, friends, children, husband and significant others in two heart-warming and adventure-filled stories.

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