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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Little Miracles

       It was the post-post-post Katrina relief work my family did with a Christian relief agency over a year after the hurricane that drew me to the Red Cross.  I had caught the relief work bug and teased I didn’t mind being the tenth responder but really wanted to get there right away.  My husband and I had both taken leaves of absence from our jobs to do Katrina relief.  Before we left, several predicted we’d never return.  It was tempting to stay or find a similar project, but we knew it was right to come home.  Among other reasons, my dad's health had hit a moment of crisis.  He was in “Middle Alzheimer's,” the hardest stage.  Those in the early stage are confused, frustrated and need their loved ones to help keep them on track, but they can still enjoy a genuine quality of life.  Those in the late stage, as my dad is now, are too absent to grasp the depth of their suffering.  But those in the middle stage are deeply disturbed that they are “not in the right place” (all meanings intended).  Even though we lived 800 miles from my parents, I could still come when needed.
                My dad's perseverance in this life has astonished us all.  He's had several “this is it” moments when we thought he was facing his last few weeks.  Remarkably, he's pulled through them all.  Still, I know he understands enough to be aching for his true Home.  Much of my reading this year has been of those who have experienced near death experiences (NDEs) or other out-of-body visions of the next place of light.  The books have also described that thin veil between this life and the next, in which those near to death are already glimpsing the glory of what comes next.  I've been yearning and praying for this place for him.
                My family planned a trip to visit him and my mom and I was praying I could pray him into this heavenly realm, even as his body remains here.  Since it hasn't been safe for quite a few years for Mom to care for him, he's been in a special home a little over an hour from where she lives.  We arrived at Mom's and had made arrangements to visit Dad the next day, including with a private time and place for me with him. 


One of the first photographs I saw on my Facebook news page and the one I reposted,
taken about 10-15 miles from my home
After sharing a special evening with Mom, I logged onto Facebook and saw the news and pictures from my local friends. My hometown was on fire.
I checked my cell phone and, sure enough, there was an urgent message from my Red Cross director for my assistance.  I contacted her and other Red Cross friends and they all said they were handling it, that I needed to stay, and they’d have plenty for me to do upon my return.  I then checked other media outlets and saw us in the national news.  That was a tough night.  My heart was aching for my dad, worried about my community, and angry with God for double-booking my calendar!
                Since I couldn't sleep anyway, I got up with the sun and took an extended prayer walk.  I prayed for Dad and my hometown, but also released my confused anger as to why I was away when my own community was suffering in the very way I had been training to help.  The Lord took my anger well and calmed me down.  I also prayed I could be all there with Dad and that my time with him could carry him into the places of light.
                God answered that prayer in a big way.  I prayed Dad into the places of light, describing the images I had read about by those who've had NDEs.  I saw his face relaxing, his eyes seeing it, his eyes welling up, and his whole body soaking it in.  After my prayer, I kissed him, which is usually a one-way kiss of me to him, as he barely moves.  Not this time.  He leaned over and planted a big, full kiss on my cheek.  I knew Dad had just seen heaven.  I also knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Watching Dad glimpsing heaven was the first little miracle of these intense weeks.  I've since been praying that he is spending more conscious time there than here. We spent our fully planned time with my family.  Upon my return, the fire was still raging, much help was needed, and I was given plenty to do.  Meeting with clients in the fire zone, seeing my own beautiful community charred in black for miles upon miles, and breathing in its smoke felt heavy and surrealistic.  But I resonated with what one of my Red Cross friends noticed: “In the midst of all this destruction are all these little miracles.”
Some of the “little miracles” were small, like the heavy envelop filled with change a volunteer firefighter brought to the Red Cross filled with “widow’s mites” of grateful locals of little means, or the provision of yard tools to a couple who managed properties for multiple tenants of lost and destroyed homes. While I was helping to close a shelter, we were deciding where to bring the many donations that had poured in and we had places for most of them, but not for the rakes, shovels, and other yard equipment.  Three hours before closing, the couple managing properties came in, needing these yard tools in the quantities we had, and they gratefully took away most of the materials we had no space for.
Some of the “little miracles” were not so little, like the lives and the home of the couple living deep in the fire zone and a far distance from town.  The couple had tried to evacuate, but never made it out of the fire zone, as the fire was surrounding them.  They waited in their truck for a couple of hours, seeking an opening, but as the fire was coming toward them, they saw that it was also retreating from where they lived.  They decided to return, hoping to save their own lives, but expecting to find their home destroyed.  With blackness all around them, and all around their property from 10-30 yards, their home was in tact. The couple had used basic fire repellent from a local hardware store; it was hardly professional grade and certainly not meant to ward off a raging wildfire.  But, along with divine grace, it worked.  It seemed to me as if God had looked down and said, “I see you’re doing what you can and I’ll take it the rest of the way by My Grace.”
Other “little miracles” touched me personally, like the assistance I was able to give to one particular client.  A local organization had put up a communications website for the fire so that those who had need could connect with those who wished to help and vice versa. The cry for help by one woman whose home had been destroyed moved me into special prayer for her.  I had not remembered her name, but knew God did, and kept praying the Lord would provide for her.  That evening, I was working through a list I had been given of clients to call to arrange meetings with us.   I spoke with one woman who was staying with some friends, but needed some privacy and felt the friends did too.  I arranged to have her come to one of our shelters and I met her there the next day.  My partner and I also provided her with some basic necessities and small funds for more. Two days later, I checked the website again and looked for an update on the woman who I had been praying for.  She was the same one I had had the chance to help.
                In those two weeks, I saw suffering but I also saw little miracles.  It seems when we step outside of normal, everyday living, we put on new eyes and we see what the Father is doing at all times. For years, I’ve posted the following as my “favorite quotation” and it fits perfectly.  It comes from “The Lost Years of Jesus,” when Jesus, as he so often was, was being tested by religious authorities to produce a “miracle.”  Too bad the canonical texts missed his response on this particular occasion: “Miracles happen every day and et every moment.  He who sees them not is deprived of one of the fairest gifts of life.”

8 comments:

  1. Not a small miracle, but a big one:

    ...But when we reach the end of our lives, one of the greatest miracle can take place. The late Creath Davis in his book, "Lord, If I Ever Needed You, It's Now" put it this way, "The awesome truth is that at some point God's healing mercies for our bodies cease and His grace for dying begins."

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  2. Amen. Beautiful quote and so fitting. May Dad be experiencing this miracle of God's grace. Thank you.

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  3. Now to archive the comments to this post at ChristianMystics.com;

    Steve Schrader says:
    September 4, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Hi Karina,

    I’m really glad you had these opportunities, and that you shared them with us. It sounds like you did some wonderful work with your Dad and your community. It also sounds like you and Dad were able to get some closure after the life you have had together…that’s a rare thing for many. You have a very compassionate heart, because all of these things were acts of compassion.

    As for the “little miracles”, it takes a special kind of awareness to spot them. But, after a while we begin to realize that it’s all miracles and always has been.

    God’s Peace.
    Steve

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    1. Karina says:
      September 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      Thank you, Steve.

      Yes, I cherish the moment I shared with my dad and agree with you that it was a special blessing. I think you’re right that only a “special kind of awareness” spots these “little miracles,” though I’m saddened by that. But hearing this phrase from my friend reminded me that such awareness is readily accessible to us all, perhaps especially during “extreme” moments like the recent wildfire. There may, then, be a blessing in such challenges, as they help us begin seeing them everywhere. May it be. =)

      Shalom,
      Karina

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  4. Fred says:
    September 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    I see miracles everywhere : ) ha, I keep using Chuck’s little quip at “I see trinities everywhere” from the paraphrase of the Sixth Sense (I see dead people, everywhere).

    I can equate. Back in 1997 we lost everything in a house fire started by someone else on base housing in Fitzsimmons Army Base, Denver. It took only 20 minutes to watch everything go up in smoke and flames. The aftermath affected 12 families. The response was phenomenal and providential.

    Recently we experienced, along with all of Colorado Springs, a terrible wildfire and yes, the smoke and flame was like visions out of a Armageddon movie. The community is still recoiling from the losses, but is also providing great support.

    From your quote: “The Lord took my anger well and calmed me down.” LOL! I love that. I had a fit of yelling at God one day when I had crashed my car into the side of a curb during a snow/ice storm. I was only going 25 around a corner but couldn’t stop and the result was $1,000 damage. That really put a dent in my paycheck and as I was racing down the highway after the repair to get to work so I could earn money so I could pay the bill – blah, blah, blah – I was fuming, but God calmed me down after my temper tantrum. Kind of funny yelling in a car going 75 mph until I got to the point of “what am I doing?” Ha. Thank God, He has a lot of patience and is long-suffering.

    About NDEs. Yes, I’ve read quite a few of these reports and recently found Dr. Moody’s book on SNDE (Shared Near Death Experiences) in which many people have seen “the light” and angels, etc. during a time when they were in the same room with their loved one.
    This is very encouraging, thank you for sharing. I’m glad you stayed the course and was able to spend time with your father.

    Maranatha
    Fred

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  5. Chuck Dunning says:
    September 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Beautiful, Karina. Thank you so much for sharing these snapshots of grace from your recent journeys.

    Your story about your dad reminded me of my paternal grandmother’s passing. She was terribly ill and in the hospital, her body fighting to survive, and her consciousness passing in and out of this world. There came a time when the doctor told us we were at a crucial point, and if she and we wanted to continue the fight, then we could do so in a number of ways, or she and we could choose to let nature take its course and keep her as comfortable as possible in the meantime. We were very torn because we weren’t sure what she wanted, in part because her body had already persevered beyond all expectations.

    Almost as if on cue, she woke up and we quickly told her the situation. We asked her if she wanted further treatment. Her answer was a very powerful “No!” that I will never forget. It was full of longing to be free. I asked her if she would like us to pray for her, and she sighed “Yes.” We said the Lord’s Prayer as best we could through our tears, and she relaxed and fell asleep. Her body still didn’t give up for several days, but from that moment on I knew her spirit and soul were already in sight of a different “place.”

    I’m so thankful that I was there to share that moment with her, and others we shared in her final days. She and I had never been close, but I had always sensed a deep spiritual presence in her that resonated with me. Once, during her last days, she was fading in and out of consciousness while I was massaging the cramps in her legs. In one moment of consciousness, she said, “I love you, Chuck.” It’s the only time I remember her saying those words to me, and it brings tears to my eyes in this very moment to remember it. What touches me about this “little miracle” is not only that I got to hear those words for me, but that she said them in the realization that I was there expressing my love for her. She too was welcoming the gift of love, which had too rarely been openly offered to her by others in her challenging life. In that moment, giving and receiving was all the same thing – the one love – as it always is, though we too often fail to see it.

    Anyway, thank you again, my friend, for showing your heart.

    Agape,
    Chuck

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    1. Karina says:
      September 11, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      Fred and Chuck, thank you both for your thoughtful responses and stories of your own.

      Right on, Fred: “Thank God, He has a lot of patience and is long-suffering.” Yep! I think God appreciates it when we’re honest with Him, fully angry and all; He can handle it! David expressed this so beautifully just last night in the “getting off the train” forum when he said, “If we are spriritual beings having human experiences, then we should embrace the full continuum of human emotion. A human experience without pain, disappointment, anger, frustration isn’t much of a human experience.” So well put, David. (The full post & thread can be found here:http://christianmystics.com/groups/christianmystics/forum/topic/getting-off-the-train-a-reflection-on-the-unitive-state/?topic_page=1&num=15)

      Your story, Chuck, is so poignant. What a beautiful moment you shared with your grandmother. And so is what you recognized from it: “In that moment, giving and receiving was all the same thing – the one love – as it always is, though we too often fail to see it.” Mmmm . . . amen.

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  6. Chandra says:
    September 13, 2012 at 2:04 am

    Karina,

    Thanks for your beautiful story.

    My mom once had a near death experience. She had an allergic reaction to medicine and only had enough time to dial 911, crawl to unlock the door, and pass out. She didn’t see any angels or lights, but felt a strong sense of safety and peace.

    God bless you.
    Chandra

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