My late mother-in-law was one of the sweetest people I knew, and I often referred to her as a little Irish angel. That’s not to say she was perfect, but then who is? As someone who values the Word of God, her flawed theology often had me shaking my head. For instance, if she lost something, she’d pray to St. Anthony and offer to send money to the St. Anthony Society when she found it. Crazy, huh? But what’s even crazier is that it often resulted in a miraculous recovery. And while I was making judgments in my head, she was mailing off a check.
A few years before she passed away, I lost something and made the mistake of telling her about it.
“Pray to St. Anthony,” she said. “He’ll find it for you.”
I had to stifle a snort. Seriously? “If it’s all the same to you, Mom, I’ll pray to Jesus instead.”
“Oh, don’t bother Him with petty things. He’s too busy.” Then she shuffled away humming an old 40’s song while I stood with my mouth hanging open.
I have to believe the Lord saw her childlike faith, which is why He showered her with so many blessings. It didn’t matter that praying to saints is a big no-no. Her heart was in the right place.
There was one instance in my past where I considered, for the time it took to give myself a mental head slap, taking a walk on her wild side. Although my husband is very practical when it comes to gift giving (bless his heart) there was one year he took me to our local jewelry store to pick out a pair of earrings for my birthday. For years I wore them all the time—until the day I realized one had fallen out. I scoured the house, the yard, the garden…nothing. If God in His infinite wisdom allowed it to stay lost, I wasn’t about to go behind His back and talk to Anthony. It would’ve been an Israelite-golden calf experience, and I wanted no part of it.
I know what you’re thinking. I prayed to Jesus to recover my earring, and all was right in my little, self-centered world. Wrong! Don’t feel silly, I expected the same thing would happen. I prayed to God over it even knowing it was a long shot. I tucked the single earring away believing that one day, the lost one would be found.
That was over five years ago. Since then, we’ve moved across the country, and that lone earring is still in my jewelry box. I can’t toss it away; it’s a symbol of my faith. God always answers prayers, even if the answer is, “No.” There’s a theological message buried in that small diamond-studded hoop, and when I figure out what it is, I’ll be sure to share it.
I’m really not much into jewelry, although every girl likes a little bling. I do, however, have a very nice wedding ring, which I take off every night before completing my bedtime rituals—if I even remembered to put it on. Maybe you can relate. My mind is often going in every direction and it’s all I can do to keep up, especially when I’m facing three deadlines and an upcoming speaking event for which I’ve not yet prepared.
It was just such a morning as Chris and I were rushing to get out of the house on time to meet his sister for a hike at Henry Horton Park. To be accurate (because I’m nothing if not factual), it was a walk. Just because it’s on a dirt trail doesn’t make it a hike. As far as I’m concerned, if we don’t climb or descend hills, it’s nothing more than a glorified walk. Still, it was a beautiful day, and I’d been chained to my desk and needed the break.
We met at the gravel parking lot, slapped on some sunscreen, and took off. About two miles in, I needed to make a pit stop, so I stepped off the trail and right into a slick mud pile. My feet slipped out from under me, and I landed hard on my backside. Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt, but my bum was covered in mud along with my hands and elbows. Once we’d established that no bones were broken, Chris and Diane snickered and pointed. “It looks like you pooped your pants.” You’d think two adults in their sixties would be a little more mature, wouldn’t you? It’s like we were back in middle school.
We completed the rest of the four-plus-mile walk without incident and I slipped into the bathroom to clean up. We planned on going out to lunch and then make a stop at the nursery to salivate over annuals, and I didn’t want anyone else snickering and pointing. It was while I was walking out of the bathroom that I realized my wedding ring wasn’t on my finger. My heart stopped.
“Did you leave it in the bathroom?” Chris asked. The horror I was feeling was written on his face.
“I couldn’t have, because I never took it off.” My face was hot, and it was hard to catch my breath. Think. Did I put it on that morning? I must not have. “It’s at home.”
“Are you sure?”
I waved his concern away. “Yes. It’s sitting in my jewelry box.” I hoped.
Four hours later, we were unloading all the plants I’d purchased at the nursery, when the pest control man showed up. While Chris and he were dealing with a wasp nest they discovered, I changed into clean clothes and threw the muddy ones into the washing machine. It was then I remembered about the ring. I took the stairs to our bedroom two at a time.
It wasn’t in my jewelry box.
Could I have lost it when I fell? I didn’t hit that hard. No, maybe I took it off when I put on sunscreen. I frantically checked the car. No ring. I paused the wash cycle and dug through the clothes. No ring. Then I did it all over twice more while Chris and Bug Guy discussed the best strategy to eliminate the nest 27 feet off the ground.
Heart racing, I called the park. No one had turned in a ring, and although the woman was sympathetic, there was nothing she could do besides take down my name and number. “I feel so bad,” she said. “I’m tempted to go look for it myself.” Southern hospitality at its finest.
I impatiently waited until Bug Guy left then confessed to Chris that I must have lost the ring on our hike.
“We have to go back to the park,” he said. “I’m guessing it happened when you fell.”
As we gathered up a few things, I thought about the pictures Chris took. “Let’s look at your phone first. Maybe we can see if I had my ring on before I fell.”
“What’re you thinking?” He pulled his phone out.
“I would have taken it off when we put sunscreen on. Maybe I dropped it in the parking lot.” He’d remembered just as I had that we stood outside talking to Diane while we put on the lotion.
Fortunately, Chris had been a dutiful photographer and taken a picture when we’d first hit the trail. I zoomed in on my left hand—no ring. That narrowed it down quite a bit.
The 30-minute drive seemed to take forever as I prayed we’d find it. The cost wasn’t nearly as important as the sentimental value. I thought about Mom praying to St. Anthony and how she’d recovered things in the most miraculous ways. Then I thought about that lone earring sitting in my jewelry box, a clear, “No,” answer.
Please, Lord, I know it’s only a material object, and You’ve been so good to us. If Your grace could extend to finding my wedding ring, I would be so incredibly grateful.
When we pulled into the gravel parking lot, it seemed an impossible feat. It was five o’clock and there were only two cars left, along with one rather large truck. In the six hours since we’d headed off to lunch, any number of vehicles could have come and gone. If the ring was there and hadn’t been run over, chances were someone would have seen it—and kept it.
“Do you remember where we parked?”
Chris scanned the lot as we walked toward the truck. “We were here.” He pointed to the left side of the truck. “And Diane was there.” He pointed to the right side. “Which means while we were putting on sunscreen, we stood right where the truck is.”
I looked at the gargantuan tires. What if my ring was underneath one of those?
“I’ll look from this side, you look from that side,” Chris said.
I kneeled in the gravel and bent over low enough to see beneath the truck. In less than five seconds, I spotted my ring and screamed, “I found it!”
Not a scratch on it.
I was giddy as a girl on her wedding day all over again.
If I had to choose between recovering that lone earring and my wedding ring, I’d pick the wedding ring every time. God is good. Just in case He wants to bless me with a huge miracle someday, I’m going to hang onto that single hoop. Nothing is impossible with Him.
You might chalk it all up to coincidence, but I don’t believe in them. I call them God-incidences. The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I see His hand in my life. Miracles abound everywhere if we’re only willing to look for them.
Susan K. Beatty
Forgiveness: A Release from The Trap
My latest novel, The Fragrance of Violets, released earlier this month but was written during that period most want to forget, the pandemic. But it wasn’t until recently I recognized how much the characters in the novel mirrored the angst in the world, although the story takes place before the epidemic.
Anxiety, worry, and depression are universal experiences regardless of era. Pain, abandonment, and betrayal have probably touched each of us to some degree. These problems, how they are dealt with, and how they relate to forgiveness, are themes interwoven throughout the novel.
In the book The Hiding Place, the biography of well-known Dutch survivor of WWII concentration camps, Corrie Ten Boom, we read about one of the greatest acts of forgiveness imaginable outside of Christ’s.
Corrie relates how after the war she went to Germany to preach God’s forgiveness and saving grace. At the end of one such visit, she comes fact to face with her cruelest guard. He tells her he has become a Christian, asks her forgiveness, and holds out his hand to her.
In the next few moments, Corrie struggles over whether she can forgive the man who not only forced her to parade naked before him as he sneered, but whom she holds responsible for her sister’s death. She didn’t want to forgive him. But in those split seconds, she recalled that forgiveness is a function of the will, not an emotion. She remembers, too, those survivors whom she now worked with could, if they had rid themselves of the bitterness, move forward. Those that clung to the bitterness were trapped.
As she prayed, telling the Lord she could, as an act of her will, mechanically thrust her hand forward to shake the former captor’s, but He would have to supply the emotion. When she obeyed and extended her hand, a miracle happened. She felt forgiveness and love for the man and, more importantly, for herself. In that moment, the grace of the Holy Spirit released her from the trap of bitterness of unforgiveness.
Such a powerful example of courage at the intersection of faith and grit.
Fiona and Nason’s stories are not as horrifying as Corrie Ten Boom’s, but nevertheless difficult. Our stories are probably not as difficult as Corrie’s either, but they are still heart-wrenching potential traps. We can remind ourselves, if Corrie could forgive her guard, if God forgives us, then surely we can forgive and be released from the trap that holds us back from moving forward into the future God has planned for us.
The Fragrance of Violets, book 2 in my Faces of Courage series, released in May and can be ordered on Amazon!