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It's a God Thing
WHEN MIRACLES HAPPEN TO EVERYDAY PEOPLE
By DON JACOBSON, K-LOVE
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Donald C. Jacobson
All rights reserved.
It is easy to love London. All that history, those theaters, the shops, and those winding lanes that weave their way back through time—it just seems magical. So when my son, Blair, graduated from high school and signed up for a term of study in England, I knew I wanted to accompany him on the trip over. Like any mother, I was going to miss him, and I wanted to be able to picture him more clearly in the months he was away. And what better place than London to create some lasting memories with him?
We wandered around Oxford and stood and stared at Stonehenge. We were amazed in the British Museum and goofed off outside Buckingham Palace. And then, on one of those rare but perfect English fall days, Blair got to do what he wanted to do most of all: find a secluded spot in a park and get lost in a great book.
That is how we ended up in Hyde Park.
"Are you sure you're okay?" I asked Blair.
"Mom, I'm fine," he said. "You're about to leave me in England for a whole semester. I think I can handle a couple of hours by myself."
"Just as long as you're sure. I'll meet you back here then, okay?"
"Okay. Bye, Mom."
I watched Blair walk away, book under his arm, so full of confidence. How did he grow up so fast? Where did my baby boy go? And how was I going to handle saying good-bye in a few days when I left him at school?
It was such a beautiful day that there seemed no point in feeling sad, so I decided to take a tip from Blair and find a secluded spot of my own, complete with gently rustling bushes and a peaceful bench, where I lay down, praying for him and soaking up the sun as well.
Only a few minutes had passed when a completely unrelated thought forced its way to the front of my mind: Open your eyes. I did exactly that, and as I blinked away the sunshine, I immediately noticed a man walking across the hill, directly toward me. He was tall and slender, dressed in muted colors that made him blend into the surroundings. He was about seventy-five feet away, and even though he was looking down, I had the sense that he was really troubled by something. His demeanor was a stark contrast to the serenity of the location, but that was not what bothered me. It was the three-foot length of bright-red rope that he was holding—each end was wound around his hands.
What possible use could he have for the rope? As quickly as this question entered my mind, I knew the answer; I looked to my side and noticed the bushes again. This time they did not look peaceful and inviting. If I was forced in there, nobody would be able to see or hear me. Whatever he was planning on doing, it wasn't good.
The man moved closer, now about fifty feet away, and another thought came to me: Get up and walk quickly down the hill. I did not feel any anxiety or panic or have sweaty palms or rapid breathing—nothing to indicate fear. I was simply calm as I obeyed these mental prompts. As I stepped away from the bench, I glanced over my shoulder. My movement startled the man, and he looked up. For just a moment, my eyes met his. They were chilling. Still, I felt no urge to panic, no impulse to run. I was just determined that I was not getting caught by him. I was going to get away.
I walked quickly for a minute and then looked back to see if he was following me. I couldn't see him anywhere, but what did that mean? Had he given up and gone away, or was he hiding somewhere else, waiting for a better time and place to grab me? I kept walking—projecting confidence just as those safety films tell you to—and made my way to the place where Blair and I had agreed to meet. I arrived and checked my watch. Not much time had passed since we said goodbye, and Blair would not arrive for another hour and a half. I really did not feel safe alone, so I headed straight back to the hotel. I was finished being an explorer for the day!
Our final days of the trip passed without incident, and I dropped Blair off at Capernwray. I flew home to Oregon, feeling the grief that visits every mother who leaves her child halfway around the world, completely beyond her protection. I found it easy to put the incident at the park out of my mind, but it came flooding back the moment I received a phone call from my friend Sheri Rose just a day or so after arriving home. She got straight to the point.
"Brenda, what happened to you while you were in England?"
"What do you mean?" I said, thinking of all the possible ways there were of answering her question.
"Last Wednesday the Lord woke me up to pray for you because you were about to be murdered."
I was stunned. We talked a little more and did the time calculations between the West Coast and England. It quickly became perfectly clear: God had awaken Sheri Rose at the exact moment I was alone in Hyde Park, lying on a secluded bench, while a man with a rope in his hands walked toward me. Could it be any clearer that God was protecting me?
Although all this happened a few years ago, I often think back to it. What I remember is not so much the man or the rope or the fear of what might have happened. What I remember is how God protected me. I now know that those words I heard were his voice, carried to me through the prayers of a friend.
A Provision of Friends
I believe that God knew my daughter would be taken from me so early on in her life. I believe he knew, and that is why the time we had together was so special. I believe he knew that from the moment I named her Micah, she would be more than just my daughter; she would be my friend.
Micah was such a special girl. Every parent says that, I know, but so much of what she did while she was alive still lives on in our hearts today. Her poetry and her journals are with us, and I never grew tired of hearing her pretty voice. Micah was a unique person, beautifully simple. When a boyfriend would come over, it was normal for her to show up at the door wearing sweatpants and a hoodie, her hair tossed up on her head as if she had just climbed out of bed. That was Micah—down-to-earth though sometimes opinionated, compassionate, and deeply caring about people. We all loved her greatly—me; her dad; her older brother, Jeremy; her family; and her friends.
The story around Micah's death is one that I always want to be remembered. It is a story that shows God's amazing love even in the most heartbreaking circumstances of life. It is a story about loss, but it is also a story about hope.
My husband and I were on the cruise of a lifetime to Alaska. On the third of July we departed from Seattle and met our eight tablemates at dinner that evening. Before the main course was served, one of them, a friendly guy named Mike, asked everyone to hold hands and say a prayer. As far as we could tell, we were the only other Christian couple at the table.
We did not get to talk at length to Mike and his wife, Elsie, until the next night. They told us about their prison ministry in New Mexico, and as our conversation flowed, the evening drew to a close and we were the only ones left in the dining room. We told them about our lives, about my husband searching for a new purpose in his work life. We told them about our two children, that Jeremy was twenty-one and Micah was eighteen. We asked them to especially keep our daughter in their prayers because she had just graduated early from high school and had moved to a small town in Nebraska where my husband's family lives. We told them that Micah now had her own apartment and was trying to figure out what to do next with her life.
I guess that was the point at which we realized that God had put us at the same table as Mike and Elsie for a reason. Mike told us that they were originally scheduled to go on a Christian cruise, but they felt the Lord leading them to our ship, the Oosterdam. They decided to follow what they were feeling and just asked God to put them at a table with people who needed them.
"I think you're the reason God put us here on this cruise," said Mike.
I was surprised by what he said, but I figured that we had the rest of the week to learn the deeper reason. Maybe they would be instrumental in helping my husband decide what to do with his life. Maybe their prayers for our daughter would really help.
The night ended, and we went to our staterooms. I fell asleep but woke again at 1:00 a.m. as the phone rang. It was my husband's brother from Nebraska. Micah had been in a car accident, and they were flying her to the medical center in Scottsbluff. Her heart had already stopped once.
We ran down to the main office and began the process of getting off the ship. We had just left Juneau and were on our way to the next port, and there was a six-hour period when our cell phones were useless. Almost immediately after we received the phone call, my husband asked the staff to please find Mike and Elsie. We knew nothing about them other than their first names and dinner table number. The staff found them, and when Elsie got to us, she was crying.
"Now I know why the Lord wanted us to be on this ship," she said. We had to agree, and we were so grateful that they both stayed with us and prayed while we waited for 9:00 a.m. to come around and the fishing boat to come alongside the ship. It paused just long enough for us to climb down a rope ladder and get on board, and then it took us to Yakutat, Alaska. From there we got on an Alaska Airlines jet to Anchorage, and while we were on the plane, we were given a snack tray. Neither of us felt like eating, but we could not help but notice that on the tray was a little card from the airlines with a picture of a sunset and the verse "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever" (Ps. 107:1 NIV). I just looked at my husband, knowing God was speaking to us.
Thirty-three agonizing hours after that first phone call, we finally made it to Micah's bedside. They kept her on life support until we got there, so we were able to kiss her and hold her and tell her how much we loved her. And then she left us and joined her Savior in heaven.
The hospital asked us to consider donating her organs, which we did. Later, at her wake, a friend from high school told us that during a unit in health class on organ donation, Micah had said she would definitely want to donate if she was ever in that situation. Hearing something like that helped us so much, as did knowing who Micah was a donor for: a sixty-three-year-old male, a fifty-two-year-old male, and a fifty-seven-year-old female. I have written to them all. We were able to meet the fifty-two-year-old, Micah's liver recipient, and he is doing well. Micah's left kidney recipient wrote back to tell us how he had become ill exactly one year before Micah died. He had been on a cruise when it happened, in Alaska, on a ship called the Oosterdam. He had required an emergency evacuation, just like us. We do not believe in coincidences. I am amazed at how God used him as one of the recipients, especially as he and his wife had also lost a child twenty years earlier in an accident. They knew how we felt.
Micah was such a huge part of our lives, and our hearts are still broken. But our faith remains strong. We believe in a God who loved us so much that he sent Mike and Elsie to us so we would not be alone when we first learned of Micah's accident. And we know that God's hand was mightily at work when, as the cruise carried on after we left, Mike and Elsie helped other couples at our table accept Jesus as their Savior. And we know God was at work in the lives of the two Muslim ship workers who helped us off the ship and who also came to faith as a result.
God works in ways we cannot even begin to comprehend. He has been so faithful, even in this heartbreaking time in our lives. We miss Micah so much and think of her constantly, but we also know that God is a great God. He gives eternal life to anyone who will confess he is a sinner and accepts salvation through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus. Our God, who placed the stars into space yet knows our names, calls his children home eventually. When it is our turn, we know that we will see Micah and never again have to say good-bye.
Jail Saved My Life and My Soul
We haven't met before, but you've seen me. You've quickened your pace while passing me on the sidewalk. You've tried to ignore me, but something about the sight of me hunched over in the doorway kept you from looking away. You've pulled your loved one close as our eyes met. Sometimes you smiled. Sometimes you didn't.
I might've been drunk, or I might've been high. I might've asked you for money, or I might've pretended you were not there at all. Like all homeless drug addicts, I lived for the moment—the moment when I no longer felt as though I was living. Being numb was the best I could hope for.
All that changed on April 20, 2011. Not that I knew it at the time. But as I stood, hands held behind my back, legs kicked apart, face forced down on the hood of the squad car, my life was about to change. My life was about to start all over again.
I don't know if I can remember the moment I became a drug addict—it's not as though you have an official enrollment date or anything—but I know I had been living on the streets since 2008, when my husband and I split up. By the time 2011 came around, I had to find a hundred dollars each day to keep me numb enough to get through the day. Mostly, I would get the money by stealing from anyone and everyone—stores included—but on April 20, I decided to go shoplifting somewhere new.
At that time my drug dealer wanted steaks. I don't know why, and I didn't question it. All I knew was that he wanted steaks and I wanted meth, so I found myself trying to secretly load about fifteen steaks into my bag in the grocery store. As I tried to walk out, the security guard caught me. And then things got ugly; with staff shouting at me and the security guard pushing me, I was only able to think about the meth I was missing out on.
For a drug addict the hardest part about going to jail is getting sober, and I hadn't been sober in more than ten years. My body was exhausted, and it was addicted, but that didn't make any difference to the police. I had been caught and was going to jail. My body would have to fix itself from behind bars.
And I was seven months pregnant at the time. I had taken so many drugs and abused my body so violently that the birth of my healthy baby boy two months later was another miracle all in itself. (He is thriving today, by the way.) But back in jail, I couldn't imagine ever getting out. Being pregnant meant being put in solitary confinement, locked down for twenty-three hours a day. I was allowed sixty minutes a day to shower and use the phones, but that was it. There were no outside privileges at all.
Not that any of that mattered to me at the start. For the first days I slept without eating, only getting up to use the bathroom. Every part of me ached, my stomach churned constantly, and as my body screamed at me for drugs, all I could do to numb the pain was dream about getting high. But even that was not enough. At times I would wake up—sometimes to darkness, sometimes to light—my body shivering with either hot or cold sweats. Like a child screaming for a toy it cannot have, my body went into a rage. There was nothing I could do but wait.
Sometime around the third day I woke up and, for a moment, felt better. The aches had subsided, and the sweats were gone. For the first time I was able to take a good look around me. The cell was super small and incredibly stinky. It had off-white walls, a cot with a gray blanket on it, and right next to it, a metal toilet and a Bible placed on the floor. No window; just some glass in the blue-colored metal door. By the time I finished looking around, panic had set in. I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to be there at all.
Now that I was sober and locked alone in my cell, one thing I had a lot of was time. I sat and reflected on what my life had become. The first real, undiluted thoughts that I had were about my two daughters. For the first time in years, drugs were not stopping me from missing them. For the first time in years, my heart ached because of what I had done to them. My sadness and shame were overwhelming. I had failed as a mother and as a human being. Looking at my life from the outside, I could reach only one conclusion: I hated what I saw.
Somehow, in the middle of all this, I had a moment of clarity. I could finally see my life for what it was. And what I saw was that it was totally out of control. I needed more help than simply getting sober to put it right.
It was the prison chaplain, Gary, who ended up helping me. He was younger than I expected and soft-spoken. He was real and down-to-earth, and I felt as if he would know whether a person was lying just by looking at her. I had lived as a drug addict for so long that lying was second nature to me; but as I started explaining my situation to him, I knew I needed to be nothing but honest. After I finished talking, he told me about Jesus, and I gave my life to the Lord. I returned to my tiny cell a changed woman. My heart was a million tons lighter. I was forgiven. I may have been locked up, but I was finally, gloriously, free.
Excerpted from It's a God Thing by DON JACOBSON, K-LOVE. Copyright © 2014 Donald C. Jacobson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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