by Kay Stoltz
“Everything happens for a reason.” We console ourselves and explain life’s mysteries with this simple proclamation. As if there is some “Master Plan” that directs those things beyond our control. One doesn’t have to believe in a Master Intelligence However, most of us do need to believe there is some reason for the chaos happening. I have felt, at times in my life, a power or current running in the background that led me to accept a job, change direction; even move to Manzanita, for instance. Sometimes I thought it was God, other times I dismissed the thought as foolish. Nevertheless, once in awhile, amongst the ordinary, extraordinary happens. This is my story.
Kristina, wife of my son, Eric, gave me a book of daily devotions, Jesus Calling. The title sounds Evangelical. My thoughts about that are at best, “it isn’t for me” to awkward squeamishness. Rather than think, “Jesus Saves,” my thought has always been to talk to God, not Jesus.
After a couple of months, it is amazing how Jesus Calling speaks to me. The passages tell me to leave my daily life up to Him. Always listen, always talk to Him. Don’t plan, don’t worry, He has such great plans if only I be still. I stew and fret, but my philosophy that worrying about a future bad event prevents it from happening has never worked. Will this work?
I aim to let go, even though it is hard to give up a familiar crutch. I repeat; “I don’t have to be in charge. I don’t have to lie awake at night, thinking about the day ahead or the day behind.”
I still address my prayers to God, but that is immaterial. Let go and let God. Peace. Calm. Quiet. This sense of well-being doesn’t happen all the time or even most of the time, but it happens.
Jesus Calling references Bible passages that demonstrate the book’s daily lesson. A creamy satin ribbon serves as a placeholder for each day’s passage. It reminds me of the ribbon bookmarks in my Prayer Book and Bible. I received those at my confirmation, almost 70 years ago and haven’t opened them in a long time. I call the material baby ribbon, from the trim on my babies’ infant clothes. I loved those beautiful garments.
I think to make ribbon bookmarks for use in my new bible, “The New Revised Standard Version.” Written in modern language with history and explanations of the passages, it’s easier to understand than my old King James Bible with its Shakespearean English.
The ribbons for bookmarks are a “carrot” or “excuse” I will use to go shopping. Maybe on our upcoming road trip?
Our road trip starts with a drive north to Seattle, where we do some sight seeing, a bit of shopping. No ribbons, however. We head east to Wenatchee to visit with Eric and Kristina, whose gift started my spiritual journey. We had a great time, but no ribbons. On our trip to Spokane from Wenatchee, some unusual/extraordinary things happen.
Dave and I have choices to go from Wenatchee, all taking us through the farmlands of north central Washington. The freeway is the fastest, missing most of the small towns that dot this part of the state. The middle route goes through the city of Ephrata, and several others. The north route, Highway 2, also goes through towns along the way, but plateaus and basalt cliffs offer a different scene.
Dave doesn’t want to go on the freeway; I don’t want to go to Ephrata. Ephrata is the scene of memories of an unhappy first marriage; the guilt and criticism that followed, still painful. Highway 2 it is and, at my direction, we drive south through town from our hotel. As we cross the bridge over the river into East Wenatchee, I realize my mistake. We should have turned north from the hotel. We are not going Highway 2 as Dave wanted, we will pass through Ephrata. Nevertheless, Dave doesn’t want to back track, and since it’s my fault by directing him from the hotel, I settle back. It’s an uneventful drive, and after the hectic week of traveling, driving, visiting, it is restful to clear the mind and enjoy the pastoral scenery. I say a few words to God to thank Him for a wonderful, safe trip. I clear my mind to let Him direct me. I still struggle, but I am making progress.
I become quite mellow, so much so, I ask Dave to drive by Grandma’s house as we approach Ephrata. A gathering place for all holidays and reunions, Grandma’s house was a prominent place in my life. Strangely, I don’t feel the angst of the bad memories. As we struggle a bit to find her house (it had been many years since we had been there), we drive through neighborhoods of 50’s era houses, with the same broad streets, lawns perfectly green bisected by the front sidewalk I remembered. And there is Grandma’s house. The trim color has changed from red to a muddy purple, but the body of the house is the same white Grandma favored. Her garden is gone, grass replaces the forsythia shrub Grandpa pruned every year into a perfect round globe and the roses Grandma tended with such care. However, the yard with pruned trees, picket fence, and the same fireplace in the back looks well cared for and I think Grandma would have been pleased.
We drive on through the downtowns of small farming villages. The freeway south of our route carries the driver who wants only speed in his journey. Our route is slower, more tranquil. The houses on the main streets along our route show some wear. Yards are weedy and disheveled like an elderly lady not quite able to keep up. Looking back from the main street, though, I see newer, tidier homes, with lawns of green, spring flowers showing the yellow of daffodils, red of tulips.
Fields are rich brown, waiting for spring rains to bring them to life. Alfalfa, hay, corn and other vegetables come from those fields as I recall.
We arrive at Odessa, the home of Oktoberfest every fall. Here, the houses are in good repair, speaking of an economy that flourishes. Wide streets with diagonal parking say, “Here we value the life style of older generations. No need to pack every spare foot with commerce.”
I look at the shops we pass: bank, hardware store, tavern. What else?
“Stop, please,” I say, “let me check it out.”
The clerk inside is helping another customer. I apologize for interrupting and ask if they have what I call baby ribbon. “I don’t think so,” she replies, “but the owner may know of some. She’s on the phone now, but wait a minute.”
I get out of my “Big City” attitude and wait. Small towns don’t hurry, remember? The owner comes out, the phone still held to her ear. The clerk directs her attention to my request and asks, “Do we have any baby ribbon?”
The owner finishes her call, retreats to a back room, emerging with a plastic box.
“These ribbons were given to us, please look through them. If there is anything you can use, they’re free,” she directs the last to the clerk.
What? Free? My look must have alerted her to my astonishment.
“We got them free, so we won’t charge you. Take as much as you can use.”
The clerk gives me her full attention and smiles; lovely, open, tranquil. She is dressed in a cotton dress, her hair plaited around her head. The friendly interest in helping me and her calm, unhurried pace speak of yesterday’s values. Inside the box, I find just the ribbons I am looking for, 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide satin in lovely colors: green, yellow, red, blue, purple, navy, lavender. I gingerly pick out a couple of colors. I must have purple, I think, and maybe the red? It is hard to choose, they are perfect.
I look up at the clerk, “This is exactly what I want. What a find! Bless you and your owner. I have a new Bible, and I need bookmarks to keep my place.” Then, impulsively, completely out of character, “I am just newly back in the Church.”
She looks into my eyes, smiles warmly, and responds quietly, “Welcome back.” I am embarrassed; I let myself open up to her. I rarely ever expose my inner self. Especially in something as personal as this. To her, it is perfectly natural.
“I made bookmarks for my Bible by braiding silk thread,” she mentions in a chatty way. Then, as I hesitated over colors, she said, “Take everything you need; here, you don’t have this color.” She pulled more and more from the box.
“Are you sure I can’t pay you?”
“No, no. Come back and see us, now you know where we are. There is one item I think might bring you back,” and she picks up a bolt of fabric printed with Biblical messages.
“What a lovely design. Thank you again for everything.” Pleased and grateful, I say good-bye.
Some months ago, I would have said, “What a coincidence.” “Things happen for a reason.” Now I know, it was the Holy Spirit working.