Just Don’t Close Your Eyes!

A funny thing happened on the way to writing stories, columns, and books…. I saw God winking.   Author Squire Rushnell explains, “A God Wink is described as a personal signal or message, directly from a higher power, usually, but not always, in the form of a coincidence.”

The trick to noticing God winking is to not close your eyes! I mean, how can you see a wink if you aren’t looking, right?

I have mentioned this God Wink briefly in a story long ago, but it bears repeating.

When my friend Ricki was about to turn a significant age, we surprised her with an all-girlfriends party at my home.  It was a rowdy crowd full of fun and playfulness celebrating a girl who is quite full of her own feistiness.  Ricki always believes in creating bucket lists.  If she has a goal, she writes it down, throws it in a bucket, and achieves it.

We played a game that evening where every guest was instructed to write down a personal goal but not sign their name.  Then when each was read aloud, the cheerful girls needed to guess who wrote it.  Some were funny, some were serious, and as I began to read each one, I realized I had not put my own bucket list item in the bucket! Yikes!

Oops!

I quickly got a notepad and started to write, “I would like to travel across the country once more.”  But suddenly, as if someone else took my hand, I wrote, “Write for newspapers and stay alive!”

I immediately thought as I read it to the group, “Why in the world did I pen such words?” 

That was July 13, 2015.  My first column was published three months later. 

I knew I would like to write one day many years ago but never thought it would be for newspapers, so God wrote it down for me.   Ricki saved the note, framed it, and gave it to me as a gift five years later.  

God winks at us all the time.  Often, I will write a column and wonder, “Now, what inspired that idea for a story?” Or, “Why am I writing about this or that?”  Then after it is published, a reader will send an email explaining how much the column helped them on the particular day it was publish.

He is always there

The older I become, the more I understand the presence of God is found in the small stuff and everyday places.  He looms large and is hovering over us as we walk through each day.  He is not just there in the middle of struggles, or devastation, or tragedy but will even attend a rowdy girl’s party if need be.

God stands in the middle of the fights over politics or parking spaces.  He is with us in our offices, at ballgames, and attends our backyard barbeques.  Sometimes we just need to stop the yelling, look away from the computer or the ballgame, and offer God a hamburger at the barbeque. He is waiting to be noticed, and if we do, we will be inspired to do what he asks of us.

We all have a problem with our attention span.  We are so distractable it is ridiculous.  How often did you tell your children to “Pay attention!” After raising three children, it became a motto at our house.  But the truth is, it does not just apply to our children, but to all God’s children. 

A walk on the beach

Years ago, a significant relationship ended, and before going to bed one evening, I cried crocodile tears over the loss of someone I hoped would be a life partner.  That evening I dreamed I was walking on a sandy beach with Jesus by my side.  The beach was crowded with couples and happy folks.  The Lord pointed to them as we strolled near the water’s edge. 

“Why are you showing me these happy people when I am so sad?” I asked.  He didn’t say a word but instead pointed to a gentleman walking toward us.  I couldn’t see the man’s face but noticed that he wore a beautiful wristwatch.  Just before the Lord disappeared across the ocean, he turned and spoke, “Lynn, look for the watch.”

I awoke, remembered the dream, but dismissed it as strange.  I had almost forgotten the vision when I met a man a few years later.  He and I began a conversation when suddenly, I noticed his wrist and said, “Your watch is beautiful.” “Thank you,” he responded, “I love watches!” I married him two years later.

God’s winks are even in dreams if we pay attention.  You see, God is there to help us through all things, big and small. The secret is…..  just don’t close your eyes.

Angels in Lab Coats

I despise COVID for many reasons.   It kills, maims, harms, and destroys, but we can radically alter its ability to do so if we collectively try.  So many other diseases do not come with such an option.

October is breast cancer awareness month. Typically, pink surrounds fall’s colors, reminding us of the disease that will claim an estimated 43,600 women and men this year.  Lung cancer will claim approximately 131,880 in 2021. Cancer, heart disease, and other catastrophic illnesses have no vaccine available to stop their killing tenacles. All we have is science, research, and medicines that ease and reduce the horror of them all. 

700,000 Americans have died from COVID in less than two years.  Science created a way to curb the sting of its death, but some folks listen only to what they want to hear concerning preventing loss and debilitating illness from COVID.   A percentage of people are afraid of the unknown, the uncertainty, or the science.

People may claim many reasons for not receiving the COVID vaccine, some of which are valid.  However, one is that the vaccine did not go through many years of research before it was approved.  Have they multiplied 4.8 million (worldwide) by all those years? Obviously, time was an issue.

An Angel

 Dennis Joseph Slamon, born in 1948, is the son of a coal miner from New Castle, Pennsylvania. Dennis was obviously a very bright young man who graduated from Washington and Jefferson College and pursued his dream to become a physician in the field of oncology. He later continued his education and received a Ph.D. in cell biology. Today, Dr. Dennis J. Slamon is a researcher, a scientist, a physician, and an angel. Sometimes God can select a person from the humblest beginnings and bless them with the ability to move a mountain, solve world problems, or save countless lives. 

In a short version of a long story, Dr. Slamon could not understand why 30% of women with the same type of breast cancer in the same stage died at an alarmingly faster rate than others.  Why were some breast cancers more aggressive? Accompanied by other research teams, he discovered a protein attached to a cancer cell they would later call “Her-2.”  Once they found that Her-2 caused breast cancer to become aggressive, Dr. Slamon, Genentech Research, and other scientists doggedly pursued a way to develop a medicine to save lives. 

The drug, Herceptin, was first given to breast cancer patients with the Her-2 protein in 1998.  Today approximately 3 million women have been treated with Herceptin.  Before developing this drug, these women who carried the deadly Her-2 protein had a life expectancy of no more than five years.   Three million women continue to be mothers, grandmothers, wives, sisters, and aunts because of scientists, a physician, and a drug. 

Don’t tell me to ignore science

Don’t tell me to ignore science.   I am offended when I receive a conspiracy-laced email encouraging me not to trust doctors, researchers, or medicine.  If Dr. Slamon had not sat in his UCLA lab determined to end as much death, pain, and heartache as he possibly could, then my child would not be here today.  

Yes, drugs can create problems and side effects, and no medicine is assured of a permanent fix without issues.  But when one is viewing death, one must take the chance.  When we face debilitating diseases, most of us will try anything to live on because perhaps we have more to do and continue to care for those we love.  

Without science and technology, many of us would not be here.  My grandfather would have lived longer if bypass surgery was an option.  My friend would not be crippled from polio if the Salk vaccine had been available to her earlier.   Typhoid, diphtheria, smallpox, measles, whooping cough claimed so many, but science and research proved that it could tame or eradicate the killing tentacles of many diseases. 

Miraculous cure

Today 700,000 Americans are in graves, and we still have some who don’t trust those sent to save our lives.  People are afraid of the reactions and risks. What drug doesn’t come with side effects? I don’t know of one.  I know that Herceptin, with its known long-term side effects, continues to give women a chance to raise their children, to live longer, to flourish without fear of death at any moment.

Yes, don’t tell me not to listen to science.

For so many, medicine is all they have available to live another day.  Sometimes angels are disguised in lab coats, and they often will look through a microscope and miraculously discover a cure.

I thank God every day for them.  And you should too. 

Our Last Harvest Moon

She sat in a rocking chair on an outdoor balcony gazing at the twinkling stars splashed across the sky. A bright, large October Harvest Moon cast a warm glow of light around her. The white caps of the ocean waves gently kissed the shore below as she watched them melt into the sand.  The sea’s calming sounds were all that gently interrupted the quiet, serene fall evening.

“Lynn, I have never seen such a beautiful moon.”  My mother said as she slowly rocked back and forth, never taking her eyes off the scene laid before her.   I nodded my head in agreement.  To this day, I, too, have never witnessed another evening quite as stunning and peaceful.

I knew as well as she did, it would be her last visit to the ocean.  She was approaching the time of life when one never knows entirely when the end will come. However, somewhere deep within both of us, we knew it wouldn’t be long. 

God’s beautiful art

I was surprised she agreed to go with our extended family on vacation to the white sands of the gulf that fall in 2007. But as I watched her relishing the extraordinary beauty, I was so thankful she was there. 

That evening was a gift.  I never return to the ocean without the memory of her rocking back and forth, viewing God painting a canvas just for her. 

In 2007 my granddaughter was a giggling toddler who, along with her elementary-age cousins, caused their great grandmother to laugh with glee.  Mom’s dark brown eyes twinkled as she saw them chase each other in the sand or tease one another at dinner. The matriarch of our family was surrounded by those she loved, and we enjoyed making her happy.   

Today, Mom is gone.  She left not long after that beach trip to travel to heaven’s shores.  The toddler is now a junior in high school, and today her cousins are grown men, carving their path after college.

Life’s many stages

Life is full of stages.  As time passes, I recognize, with clarity, how we go from one passage to another as the days fly by.  All of us are ever-changing, seeing things we didn’t notice before and understanding that each road we take in life has its blessings and sorrows.

We watch as people come and go.  We love, we lose, we fail, or we triumph.  Eadh of us never know what a new day will bring or what another day will take away.  Often life hurts and scars us, but we must not let it ever defeat us.  Our passages from one stage to another are never easy. But we must travel through them to recognize the artistry God lays before us.    

Often, near the end of my mother’s life, I noticed her speaking less and studying those around her more.  By 2007, Mom had lost her only son and her husband.   She was in her last stage of life.   There was nothing more to teach, nothing more to say, and no task left to do.  She had experienced all the passages and was thankful she had.

Our last harvest moon

Today, perhaps we all need to travel to the beach and watch the sun mystically fall, and the Harvest Moon rise.  Maybe we should settle ourselves down in a rocking chair and be quiet.  Because I believe it is in those times when we recognize that the stars, the ocean, and the moon will be here long after we finish our last trip and complete our final stage.

Most of us will one day speak less and listen more as we pray for others to have a safe and productive life journey.  In the end, our lives are summed up by what we left here in the hearts of those we watched go from one passage to another.  How’d we do?  Did we give all we had, teach all we could, and do so with a kind heart?  Were we unselfish, did we aid others? Did we help another to see the beauty of faith, and encourage those who struggled? 

On my last trip to the ocean, I hope to hear my children laughing in the background as I watch the sun fall into the water. And while I quietly rock and forth, I pray I will feel the peace my mother did, knowing she had given it all as God painted the perfect night in the glow of a beautiful Harvest Moon. 

“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.”  Proverbs 27:19