There was once a time when I was obsessively-concerned about the health of someone dear to me. I really couldn’t do anything about it, but I tried. When I wasn’t trying, I was worrying (and, we all know that’s a pretty useless activity). All this worrying had affected my happiness – and that upset me. I ruminated and fussed and set myself off into a downward negative spiral. Then I got stuck there.
I called my friend who is a masterful healer. After he listened carefully to my whining, he wisely set about to remind me that I cannot control anyone else’s experience. He assured me I cannot help anyone change if they don’t choose to, and, I was probably making a nuisance of myself by trying.
And then he asked an interesting question. “Do you pray?”
“Well, yes, of course” I responded, “I pray.”
Now there was the question I couldn’t really answer, since my praying often took the form of talking to God throughout the day, or before I went to sleep, or sometimes when I woke in the morning.
I looked at him with curiosity.
“When you’re troubled like this, especially about another person,” he said, “The only thing you can do is pray. You pray, because it’s out of your control and it’s in God’s hands. If you think it needs to be different, talk to God. Pray, pray, pray.”
“Okay. I’ll pray at the beach” I told him – “I’ll set aside specific time – and since that’s the place I feel closest to God – that’s where I’ll do a lot of my praying from now on.”
The next day, on a bright sparkling Sunday morning, I set out for a walk on the beach (before my usual Sunday yoga class) to talk to God.
I was allowing nothing else into my mind, but the prayers I was speaking. The day was magnificent and I could feel myself simultaneously appreciating everything about it. The sun was bright and warm, the air clear, and the temperature perfect.
Something caught my eye as I looked up into the brilliant blue sky. A random puffy cloud was over head, but seeming to grow out of the side of it was this “= J – A happy face”.
Puzzled at first, I remembered seeing words like this in the sky before. It must be the skywriter. There’s a local fellow here who gets into his plane and writes what he calls “God’s love letters” in the sky. I hadn’t seen him in so long. So, I’m thinking, isn’t it wonderful that I’m here talking to God and it almost seems as if God is talking back.
I stood in wonder and awe as new words appeared in the sky. “Trust in God.”
God was talking back to me, or so it seemed. My mood elevated even further. Mesmerized by the plane in the sky now writing “Jesus <3’s Me!” my phone alarm alerted me that it was time to turn back and head to my car to get to my class on time. Reality intruded in my mystical morning.
I took one last look, took a deep breath in gratitude, and, in astonishment, turned around to head back to my car. I took my gaze off the sky and as I began walking, I looked down to the sand.
About ten paces from where I turned, I stopped. Stunned.
There on the ground was a tiny piece of shell with the words “Trust in God” written on it. I picked it up and looked carefully at it. I had JUST seen these words in the sky. I turned around and looked up to see the wisps of the words still there as I held this tiny piece of shell in my hand. I turned it over and, on the back, it said “PHL 4:8-9”.
“Who” I wondered, “was Phil and how did this shell get here?” Even the best Sharpie can’t resist water in the ocean too long. Holding my precious shell, I start moving towards the car again; slightly shaken and more astonished.
Ten or so paces later, I stopped right in my tracks – again. There were more shells. Two had tiny hearts and the word “God” and another one replicated the words I had just seen in the sky “Jesus <3’s Me.” They all said the same on the back and that’s when I realized that there was no “Phil” and that the letters and numbers on the back of the shells were quoting Scripture.
I rushed back to the beach where I began and held my hand out to a friend, shaking, sweating, and flabbergasted as I tried to recount what had just happened. I didn’t know what to make of this find, but I was pretty sure that I’d just been given one heck of a BIG Affirmation from the God of the Universe.
Still shaking my head and wondering what had just happened, I got into my car and off I went to my class where the yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi that we practiced brought me back to the ground. I went on to enjoy my day in a heightened state of joy. My prayers had been heard, or so I figured.
Two days later, I was at my desk when the doorbell rang. It was UPS with a package from a CEO who had been in a meeting where I’d presented a program on Positive Leadership several weeks before.
There was a book inside called “The 4:8 Principle” by Tommy Newberry. What had I set in motion? A call to the man who sent me this gift revealed only that he had very much enjoyed my work and that he thought I would enjoy the book. I did. It reminds us that no area of our life is untouched by our thoughts. It teaches how to think more like God and to experience joy as our birthright.
The writing on the shells is fading now, but I can still read what they say. They sit next to family pictures and candles on the credenza. There is a part of me that would like to think that this is some crazy coincidence and that I just stepped into some recovery-themed Sunday outing (there are lots of recovery centers in the town where I live); but the better Angels of my nature pushed me to see the Truth. God winked at me and told me that He’d heard my prayers. I will be forever Grateful. I’d be Grateful if I’d only seen the skywriter, but add in the shells and then the book … maybe God wasn’t winking; maybe He was shouting!
We are all entitled to joy and we shouldn’t settle for anything less than real joy.
Since that day, I worry less and focus more on sending love to people who aren’t doing what I think that they should be doing with their lives. I practice being in understanding rather than in judgment. It’s taking a lot of practice.
These days I say more prayers and surrender the things I cannot change and ask for the wisdom to let go of the need to try.
The following is a picture of the shells from Heaven: