One of my favorite places when I was growing up was Beaver Creek, which ran behind our garden and back hill, under a high railroad embankment. Several times I asked my parents how deep the water ran under the bridge. Their usual answer was "Over your head," or "Maybe six feet." I had been impressed by the story that, long before, a boy and his sister sat on a lip of the bridge on far side of the New York Central tracks. He fell into the water and drowned before his sister could get help.
In winter I liked to ice skate on the smooth protected ice under that curved stone bridge. But I never ventured into the water under the bridge in warm weather. The picture below, I found at ArtToday, with a caption that it is in Pennsylvania. It looks very much like "our" bridge. I wonder if the railroad used the same construction all along the route which ran close to Lake Erie.
The far side of our bridge opens into "Ye Old Spring" in Amherst, Ohio. I'm sure Indians used our land, creek, and spring before we did. My grandfather used to find arrowheads in our garden. We carried water from that spring for our drinking supply for many years.
At the spring, the creek flowed under a second, matching bridge, which ran under Milan Avenue. I used to look through that bridge, and tried to imagine what was beyond. What I could see seemed very peaceful and inviting.
When you read my poem "Preparation" you will understand what I am about to tell you.
I believe that the strongest and most reliable guidance from God comes through knowledge of the Bible. The Holy Spirit instructs us as we read and obey God's Word.
We do gain insights through the advice of others. Sometimes impressions and dreams also get our attention, but all these things must be measured against the always-true and reliable scriptures. God's truth doesn't change.
There have been times in my life when I perceived that change was coming, even before I was aware of circumstances and difficulties that fomented change.
I remember a recurring dream about coming through, under the railroad bridge. I knew that I must, somehow, guide my children safely through the deep waters. I also anticipated peace and beauty on the other side of the second bridge, once we had made our way safely under the first. Each night when I went to bed, it seemed I was picking up the dream where it had stopped in the morning when I awoke...and went on again. I used to pray that if my subconscious mind were trying to tell me something important, that I would understand. I asked the Lord to bring to light whatever "message" was in the dream, if it were true and to be believed. All that was before I was fully aware of circumstances leading to divorce and the breakup of our home.
The Lord then led me graciously from the place which had been our home for almost thirty years, to an apartment in Parma, near my older sister, Muriel. That seemed a time and place of rest and peace for me. Her husband, Harry, who is a physician had gotten me the job with the hospital.
I have had a mild case of multiple sclerosis since I was in my early twenties. I'd given up my work as a visiting nurse before my children were born. Then, many years later, when I had to look for work, God provided jobs which demanded only a few hours at a time, a few days a week. I could manage working at a hospital clinic, then at a nursing home, and playing for weddings at a nearby church. Always, there has been enough income (barely) to pay the rent and to buy necessities.
When I was in fifth grade, I had told the Lord that I would be a missionary. I had gone to nursing school with this aim in view. But I let other things interfere and that promise wasn't realized until I went to Arkansas to Youth With A Mission (YWAM) when I was fifty-three years old. The three-and-a-half years I spent there were a blessing to me. It was there, in Discipleship Training School, that I met Jane and John. They are a bright, talented, couple, who have served the Lord for many years. (I was honored and delighted to play the organ for their wedding.)
Jane had read the poems I was writing for the children's book, I'd Like to Ask God. She felt strongly she was to do drawings for the book, in spite of the fact writers are warned not to send friends' illustrations with their manuscripts. That is a no-no, as publishers select their own artists. However, Harvest House did allow us to submit Jane's black and white drawings on speculation. I had told the editors that Jane was an artist with DaySpring Cards which was located near us.
When Jane's color drawings were sent later, one editor told me the staff laid out the vibrant, whimsical illustrations on the table and "oh-ed and ah-ed" over them. In God's provision, the book was published two years after it was submitted. Of 15,000 copies, only a few cases of books remain. (My web site book-drawing contest probably will be ended at the end of this year.)
Back in the 1980's, I'd definitely felt the Lord's leading when our family home was sold and I moved to Parma. Then, when that time and season was over, I came to the decision it was time to go on - to YWAM. This was with the approval and blessing of my local church leadership.
About the time I'd made up my mind to go to YWAM, I had a mental picture of my life as my moving from one bare, unpainted room lit by one unshielded, hanging lightbulb... into another, hitherto unseen room. The door was opened and closed quickly behind me with no looking back. My life passed from one era to another.
At Youth With A Mission, I never did get to go on mission outreach. Our class had studied and prepared for many months. The day before my class was to leave, I had a detached retina. It was God's mercy that I was close to a good surgeon, and not bumping along in an old school bus in Mexico, when that happened.
After more than three years, the YWAM era came to an end quickly, also. I knew it was time to move home. I'd gone to Elm Springs, Arkansas, content to stay the rest of my life, if need be. However, I was getting weaker, and was in more pain. YWAM leadership had been kind to me, allowing me to work and study as I could.
That was about the time my 93 year old father died. He left me enough money to buy a small condo in Berea, Ohio. That, too, was a place of quiet and peace.
A few years later I had a mishap while visiting in Pennsylvania, rupturing my right quadriceps. I was unable to get on the airplane to get home to a surgeon. My son, Lou, and a nephew, Tim, brought me back to Ohio, lying on a mattress, after they stuffed me into the back of a van. That was an eight hour drive without rest stops. It was an ingenious plan, and an answer to prayer.
As a precautionary measure, I'd donned my first (and only) pair of Depends, "just in case." Only after two weeks, when I questioned why an Intake and Output sheet was posted on my bathroom door at the nursing home, did I learn that seeing how I was dressed, the admissions person thought I was incontinent.
In many ways, I found how different life can be in such an environment. After bathing me, one perky young nursing assistant summoned her aide-friends to see me, "Come look! She isn't wrinkled at all!"
The accident provided for me in an unexpected way. I researched injury claims on the internet to determine how to frame the settlement request I submitted to the insurance company. It was accepted, and investigated.
After a year, the claim I filed was settled and I received much more than I had thought possible before doing research. When my accountant figured my income tax he asked what month I'd gotten my settlement check. It turned out that I received it one month before the government changed tax rules. I didn't have to pay any income tax on the amount. It would have been a different story thirty days later. That "income" served to sustain me when it was really needed.
When I'd arrived at the nursing home, where I stayed for six weeks, a very gracious, intelligent, Christian young man who made his home at the end of our hall in my condo, happened to be the night nurse. I was awakened late in the evening by a light kiss on my cheek. I was surprised to see Vincent standing by my bed. He even brought my mail from home each night. Now that's good service!
I didn't know how I would manage in my condo alone, with one leg disabled for several weeks after surgery and rehab. I should have known not to worry. My way was planned for before I got there
My first day home, there was a knock on my door. Jinlan, who used to live across the hall from me, and who happened to have been a nurse in China, had talked with Vincent. She came to ask if she could come stay with me for several weeks. She offered to cook, and care for me evenings when she got home from her restaurant job. Talk about provision! She makes really good stir-fry and didn't mind shopping for the ingredients.
I recovered well after a time. I'd sold my car to a former YWAM friend Debbie, who also visited often and was an encouragement and help. She needed a car, and I had given up driving. Increasing weakness and pain from chronic illness was making me more dependent. I didn't like to continue imposing upon willing friends and neighbors. So, I moved again.
This time I went to Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, to live with my daughter Lauren, son-in-law Mike, and their three children. This was a good time of learning to know my grandchildren, Rachel, Avery, and little Seth who rode around on the arm of my wheelchair. They soon learned to ask Grandma when they needed glue, batteries or Scotch Tape. We had daily tickets for them to take turns using my computer. They each got half-an-hour. I was learning HTML and setting up my web site, so I needed a turn too. The kids also had a "Chocolate Time" each day.
I did not get out much while in Blue Bell, partly because I didn't go to church with Lauren and family because it was a long distance away. But I did "Have a Friend in Pennsylvania," Peg. We met through her offer of giving me a ride to a writers' conference. From then on, we usually went to lunch each week, dropped books and posters at the post office, and did doctor appointments and shopping. We also went to a closer church some Sunday evenings.
We both have a warped sense of humor and throughly enjoyed laughing during our rides in Peg's "Mercy Wagon." She said she knew I was okay on an early jaunt when we passed a chicken dressing plant. I asked if the large tanks out front were for gassing the chickens. For some reason that cracked us up. I won't go into detail about the time she ran over some Canadian geese on the road. She suffered from intense guilt until we got a different perspective on that.
But all that, too, was for a time and season. After more than three years, it seemed time to move back to Ohio. My Amherst sister, Joyce, and husband Larry, now own our family home near Beaver Creek. Joyce found an assisted living facility nearby which had been built through the auspices of the denomination I belong to. I now have been here at The Inn at Chappel Creek, near Beulah Beach on Lake Erie, for more than two years.
I am happy to be back near more family, and former church and school friends. It is good that I came here before moving would become too hard for me physically.
This month, July, has been the first time that I haven't had a poem and graphic ready to post at my website at the beginning of the month. I've had increasing pain and weakness for many months, along with several puzzling, stubborn things my physicians are working on. I've been to church and Bible study only a couple times in the past three months. I've dropped out of the community chorus which I enjoyed.
I told my kids today that I'm just kind of blotto. Two of my maladies also can wreak havoc on memory. I find that discomfiting and disorienting.
Several hours ago Robert, a writing friend from Pennsylvania who also took me to a writers' conference, promised online to pray as I try to get everything together for the web site for July. I need to get files to Bev, who took over the web design and maintenance a few years ago. She is another blessing in my life.
A dear friend, Virginia, a missionary who had worked in Cambodia, stopped by last evening and prayed specifically for my needs. Virginia, and her husband, Bliss, take me to church each week when I am able to go. This lady just had a partial knee replacement and is walking fine. She and her husband both are in their eighties. They took me along last year when they drove to Pennsylvania for a visit. (We learned that their son and my daughter attend the same church there.) Bliss and Virginia always are hospitable, concerned, and helpful - and prayerful.
I appreciate the prayers of many other friends and family, including my son, Will, a landscape designer in Chicago, and of my nearby son, Lou, and his wife, Amy.
A nursing school friend, Babs, has invited me to share in her church's women's Monday morning Bible study. Her denomination is different from mine, but our fellowship in the Lord is solid and familiar.
My sisters and I often have remarked that everywhere I go, the Lord puts good people near me, who become good friends and great helpers.
God has led me through situations where I could see no sure answers that my needs would be met. Every time He has provided abundantly above and beyond all that I might think or ask. (To borrow words from St. Paul.)
I thank God for His faithfulness in leading and providing. He prepares my receptiveness, and gently nudges me in the right direction.
I may be able to stay here in assisted living for another year or two. Beyond that, I don't know what will happen. I am grateful that Lou, who has a local tractor restoration business and his wife, Amy, who is a nurse, have said that I can live with them, in the home they are building, if that is what seems best. It would be a good time to make friends with their children little Clayton and Hannah Paige.
I'm praying for guidance and will be reading, watching, and listening for indications of God's will. I'd appreciate your prayers. We serve a gracious God who hears, and answers, when we pray.