In going back to my 'Before Kit' years, the Lord did something eminently special for myself as well as for a friend of mine named Karen who had become disillusioned in her faith. Once altogether committed to giving her life to God and seeking His truths, she embarked on something that happened in her life that brought about deep despair, thus allowing doubt and fear to enter in . She then started questioning her faith hence, she began more and more to place her trust in what seemed logical as well as in the things that she could safely see or feel.
I have come to know in my walk of faith that the Lord usually touches more than just one person when He brings forth one of His colossal miracles. Whether large or small to us, they are all divine acts of His glory that show us there is so much more to life than the happenings in the natural realm. His marvelous acts also display the depth of His love for us, His kids. I believe that we all have an affluence of stories in our lives that exalt Jesus and all the wondrous acts He has done for us. Isn't it amazing when God quickens these miracles to us time after time as we grow older, especially in our times of needing a little boost in our faith?
This particular 'glory story' happened in a small amiable town in the charming and romantic state of South Carolina. I was new to the state and living with my parents at the time. My father had built my mom an awe-inspiring, stunning house in her hometown. It was his endearing promise to her that when they had finished raising their 7 children together, he would take her back to where they had first met in 1945 and create for her the home she dreamed of. It would be a place that she could recapture her childhood memories, reunite with all of her cousins and return to her southern heritage that she cherished.
I had arrived to the Carolinas from gorgeous sunny California. You might say I was on a type of sabbatical as I was considering going away to a Christian school in Hawaii, (Y.W.A.M.) for 6 months and wanted to visit with my parents for awhile before going. At 21 years of age, I had been on my own for almost 3 years and being back in my parents home was soothing as well as comforting. I had missed my mom's gourmet cooking, watching our mystery - suspense movies together in the evenings and conversing over Louisiana – chicory coffee, grits, eggs and biscuits in the early mornings. Just like my mom, I also adored the south with it's alluring ambiance, delicious southern cuisine, the undaunted old oak trees with their abundance of Spanish moss dangling upon a copiousness of gnarled prodigious branches, the eerie calls of the whippoorwills, crabbing in the creeks and of course, all my “kissin-cuzins,” as they say in the south. Needless to say, within a few short weeks of my stay, I was beginning to feel that I was going to be a “South Carolinian” for awhile and Hawaii would have to wait! The Lord confirmed it when I was offered a job at the YMCA to be the Assistant Director of summer day camp as well as the Director of the Y's after school program which would take place in the months of September through May.
I was quite taken aback as well as honored when I came on board at the Y. Because I was a 'California girl' and the Y was in a small southern town, they actually had the local newspaper come, take my photo and write an article about me. I had never experienced something so grand in California in all my years working with children. I was blessed in my new job in South Carolina with 4 exceptional camp counselors as well as several volunteers for our Summer program. We had approximately 75 kids enrolled with their ages varying from 5 yrs old to 13. It was one of the best summers of my life!
Suzanne, the woman who had interviewed and hired me, surprisingly left the Y shortly after I arrived. She was replaced with Karen, another lady who loved kids, was full of energy, fun and exceptionally creative. Before long we became friends as well as blossoming co-workers.
This YMCA facility was both classy and exclusive, equipped with an abundance of plush offices, a craft room, teen lobby, class rooms, a baronial indoor pool, a spectacular gym fitted with basketball courts, volleyball and weekly aerobic classes held by energetic and accomplished teachers. The Y also was graced with a free weights work out facility, locker rooms, a masseuse and racquetball courts.
During the summer I arrived each morning to the Y at 7:30 A.M and left most evenings at 6:15 P.M. Even though that seems like a long day, it was not as I adored my job, the kids and my co-workers. To be honest with you, each day I did not want my time at the Y to end! (That was a blessing within itself.) Every day around 2:00 P.M., the kids had the choice of three activities to choose from for their afternoons livelihood. Ghost stories in the teen lobby, ( This may sound strange but in the south the kids not only loved hearing spooky ghost stories but they adored making up their own, scaring their friends and co-campers.), swimming in the indoor pool or games in the gym, (their favorites being red rover, fish and freeze tag).
One sultry, muggy summer afternoon while sitting in the gym on the bleachers watching the kids play, I looked up and there he was! Okay ladies, have you ever had a “ Love at first sight” experience? Feeling like when you first lay your eyes upon him, that he is the man you have been dreaming of your whole life? He also bears a witness within your heart that he occupies at least 9 out of the 10 things you have written on your 'man list'? (Of course, this is all an extremely romantic and very unrealistic moment but we still have them none the less.) I was single, loved the Lord and my desire more than anything in the world was to meet a Christian man, fall in love, get married and have my cozy little cottage home, two children and live happily ever after. He embodied what I thought I wanted...He had just finished a game of racquetball and as he walked passed me, smiled and said hello, he had no idea of how fast my heart was pounding, (quadruple heartbeats for sure) but assuredly, he could see that my face turned 5 shades of red. This began happening on a daily basis as he always arrived to the gym around 2:00, played racquetball and finished his game while I was in the gym with the kids. I loved the two-o'clock hour and was disappointed on the days when he was not there!
A co-worker of mine Jonathon, knew this man personally and said he would tell him I thought he was handsome and that I would like to meet him. Jonathon told me his name was Evan and that he was a really nice guy. At first I said no but then I figured , what could it hurt. I was very shy and was certainly not going to pursue him but I felt a peace that my friend would say it in a nice way and at least we could be introduced. After Jonathon talked to Evan and shared what I was feeling regarding him, Evan sent me a note saying hello and told Jonathon the attraction was mutual. I was flooded with an abundance of emotions. The strongest being, elation, anxiety, fear, and unbelief. I felt this gorgeous man was way out of my league and was surprised at his response. I learned that Evan was was 9 years older than I, single, a professional racquetball player with many championship wins behind his name and lived close by the Y in a quaint neighboring town. We were now formally introduced . The days and weeks passed by quickly and we spoke occasionally, (always in the gym in that special 2-o'clock hour). Even the kids caught on to what was happening as they would often run up to me excitedly and say;
“Hurry up Susan so we can get to the gym to see Evan before he leaves.”
I was on cloud nine. My mom, who knew me better than anyone in the world said to me one night in her sweet southern accent;
“Susan, you must be falling in love with this young man as you have hardly touched a bite of your dinner each night.” (My mom was a wonderful southern cook and I loved her cooking, but she was right...I was so captivated by Evan, my appetite had definitely decreased.)
Then, the night that would change everything happened. The Lord is always right on time as well as amply detailed when He wants us to hear Him.
I will never forget this evening for as long as I live. A usual summer evening in the Carolinas, the air was thick, humid and warm. The dark brooding clouds had been forming all afternoon, the wind was damp and the air smelled of fresh rain. The sky was growing darker with each moment, the gale winds picked up and were blowing preposterously strong. Suddenly, there were sharp, animated flashes of lambent lightning. Everyone in the house was startled as the vehement thunder followed with a loud crashing sound shaking all of the windows, giving off the sensation of a Los Angeles, California 3.0 earth quake. Then repeatedly the intense lightning, following with a the booming thunder. We began counting the seconds to see how close the storm was. There was no doubt that the storm was now hovering over our quaint little town and was not going away any time soon. In a way , it was an enchanted evening as it was dinner time and we lit candles and delighted ourselves in a scrumptious dinner consisting of home made fried chicken, potato salad, biscuits, Cole slaw and fresh berry pie, heated and topped with French vanilla ice cream. In the background we enjoyed a symphony of the sounds of raindrops, tempest winds and roaring thunder. My mom's brother and wife were visiting from California and were a little frightened by the fireworks outside but at the same time, thoroughly enjoying the excitement that the cloudburst brought. The storm seemed to let up a little as we all topped off our evening with the last bites of our pie and freshly brewed coffee. After the dishes were done, I was getting my Pajamas out of my dresser drawer when I heard the voice of the Lord speak to my heart;
“Susan, regarding Evan, do you want what I WANT or do you want what YOU want?”
Now this was a question I could not avoid though I truly wanted to. Here I was, infatuated with someone that I thought was Mr. 'Right' and he had an interest in me as well. If I told the Lord that I wanted His will, perhaps He would not let me continue with this 'crush and fascination' I was so happily enjoying. I procrastinated answering for awhile. Meanwhile the storm got even worse. We all were beginning to feel a bit alarmed and concerned for our safety as the thunder and lightning was now acutely tempestuous. Again, we got a small reprieve but knew it was only momentary. I could not stop thinking about the Lords question to me, going back and forth over my fears of loosing something I really did not even have. The sound of our phone ringing interrupted all of my bothersome and anxious thoughts. It was a dear Christian friend of our families who was calling in despair. It had not even been a full year since she had married a man against everyones better judgment, knowing that this man was not God's highest for her. She had wanted to be married so badly that she went ahead with the wedding, hoping for a miracle that he would change and be the person she had prayed for. He was now asking her for a divorce and her heart was broken. She knew now that he was not the man she had believed God for and that she had a long road ahead of her to be healed and restored from the pain and loss she was suffering . Now, was God talking to me or what? A fierce storm, a call from our fiend whose heart was broken as she did not wait for the Lord's highest for her? Can you believe I was still struggling with my decision? (Emotions can sure do that to you.) Still pondering over my many feelings, desires, hopes and dreams, I joined with the others as a loud, unbounded crash drew all of our attention.. As we all gathered by the windows, we saw that lightning had struck our admirable birch tree in the back yard. Talk about frighting and something that creates a desire within you to make sure that you are “living right?” It took forever for me to go to sleep that night as my mind was continuously pondering so many anxiety ridden questions. Will lightning strike again? The house? Another tree? Is this storm going to get worse? Lord, I want to answer your question but if I say yes to your will, will you say no to Evan? I felt like Jacob in the Bible at that moment when he wrestled with God, knowing all the time that no matter how long this struggle lasted, God would win. Finally ( through God's precious grace ), I said; “Yes Lord!. I want your will above my own. Peace came abundantly. I slept and knew I had surrendered Evan to the heart of the Lord.
The next morning the incandescent radiance of the sun shined through all of the residue of our tumultuous storm the night before. It almost seemed as if the storm had never happened. After my morning cup of chicory coffee with fresh cream, I headed off on my 45 minute drive to the Y. What would the decision that I had made the night before mean when I saw Evan in the gym that day? I had a wondrous peace and I knew I had pleased the Lord. I just concentrated on going forth in my day, enjoying the kids and trusting God for His will concerning Evan.
I did not see Evan that day or for the days following. What began happening next was something I had never quite experienced before. The Lord had filled my heart with a spiritual love for Evan. He called me to fast and pray for one week for his salvation. He asked me to go on a liquid fast and it was so easy to sacrifice food for the passion God had placed in my heart for this man to come to know Jesus. (Now, being new to the 'fasting thing', I am sure I cheated, as every other night on my way home from the Y, as a treat for my long drive home, I stopped off at Arby's and got a small, (not large) Mocha Java milkshake.) Those shakes were delicious and hey, they were liquid....I don't think the Lord minded. As I was praying for Evan, the Lord gave me an abundance of things in the spirit to intercede for him as well as revealed to me how his heart had been so deeply wounded. He even showed me the pain within Evan's heart concerning his time oversees, fighting in the Viet Nam war. Wow! I felt the Lord's heart of love for Evan as I prayed. It was amazing and such an honor to intervene in the spirit for him. During this week I did see Evan one time. It was not in the gym at our 2-o'clock hour, but in the hallway. With many people all around us,we smiled, nodded and said hello. Since the last time I had seen Evan, I felt as if I was looking at him with 'new eyes,' this time, in the spirit.
My week of fasting and prayer came to an end. The fervor and zeal to pray continuously for Evan had lifted. I actually missed that special time God had given me while I interceded for him. One morning, the Lord called me to spend time with Him and began showing me that the work had been done in the Spirit. Evan's salvation was a 'done deal'. He called me to keep praying for him as He led me to, but the intense prayer and fasting was over. The Lord had replaced my infatuation and romantic feelings for Evan into a love from His own heart for him. We still saw each other on occasion in the gym and sometimes he would call me on the phone to talk but nothing happened between us at that time. I have to be honest, because I had never felt such a deep spiritual love for a man, I had hopes that maybe one day, Evan and I could get to know each other better and perhaps have a relationship. I gave that desire to the Lord.
Months passed, then one day the Lord spoke to me and said that He wanted me to write Evan a letter. He showed me I was to share everything with him from start to finish. How I had felt about him in the beginning, what God had spoken and asked me on that stormy night, and the call to intercede for him as well as the love of Jesus in my heart for him. It took me awhile to write the letter and as I finished the last sentence, my heart was so excited to send it. I wanted to mail it right away but I had a check in my spirit to wait. Days went by and still I had no peace to send the letter. I talked to my mom about it as well as our pastor. I began to feel that perhaps I was blocking my self to receive the peace from God to send it, as my emotions were so heightened. My pastor counseled me saying;
“ Susan, just mail the letter. The Lord put it on your heart to write it, so put it in the mail in faith.”
My mom encouraged me to do whatever I had peace to do. I had allowed so many doubts, fears and confusion to enter in. I didn't have peace to send it or peace to not send it. (Have you ever been in that place before?) It is maddening! Well, in all of my befuddlement and turmoil, I put Evan's letter in the mail! My tumult got even worse. I thought I would be relieved by mailing it, but instead I was an emotional mess.
At work that day, my boss and friend Karen and I decided to go for a run. ( I was only working half days now that school was back in session). I could not stop talking about the letter, Evan or my distress over the choice I had made. Did I send it at the wrong time? What if I messed everything up and it was not God's timing for Evan to get the letter now?
Now, let me give you a little bit of background on Karen. At a young age in her life, it was her hearts desire to become a nun and she joined a convent. She never told me why she left the nunnery, but I knew her heart was hurt and she was disillusioned with God as well as the people in her life. Tragically during this time, she had lost her innocent, childlike faith . When I would share the Lord with her or tell stories about my faith walk and relationship with Jesus, she would at times, laugh or make light of it. I never pushed my beliefs on her as everyone has their own walk with God and we all go through different seasons as well as times of disenchantment. I did know however that the Lord had brought us together at the Y and gave us a bond of friendship, even if we did not have the same beliefs! (He does that often times you know?)
Getting back to the day of our run, as I had finished expressing my worries, Karen looked at me and said;
“Susan, God does not care when you send that letter. Why would He put it on your heart to write it and then not allow you to send it?”
Thankful that she was trying to help me , was not telling me to be quiet or stop talking about it, I replied; “ I believe that sometimes that is the case but why do you think that I have had not had any peace since I mailed the letter. I will be so disappointed if the Lord did have a timing for Evan to hear my heart and I blew it with my impatience.”
A little bit baffled, she answered back; “Susan what can you do about it now, it is already on its way.”
“Well,” I spoke trying to convince myself as well as sending up a prayer, “I am hoping that God will intervene and block that letter from getting to Evan if I made a mistake.”
Laughing at this point, Karen answered; “Oh, what is God going to do Susan? Blow the stamp off?”
We got back to the Y and entered the front lobby out of breath....I felt good from our run, yet a little unsettled with our conversation. I let it go and just left it all in the Lords hands. My worries were exhausting me. I prayed for God's grace.
The next morning after breakfast my mom and I were sitting at the dining room table sharing a cup of coffee together. My father had left to go pick up our mail at our PO Box at the Post office. My mom was trying so hard to console me. She reminded me that God knew my heart and would not allow something so important to be ruined by a mistake made with a pure heart. Her faith was like mine and she had prayed for me and believed God would move according to the purpose of His heart, how ever He chose. He could stop the letter or allow it to be received.
I told her what Karen said laughingly to me about the stamp...we both smiled.
After our second cup of coffee my father walked in from his morning jaunt and handed me a piece of mail. As I took it from his hand, not only did my eyes well up with tears, but my heart was elated...It was my letter to Evan. In the right hand corner there was no stamp, only an imprint of where it had been. Stamped across the front of the envelope were the words “Returned To Sender, Postage Due.”
Both my mom and I were in awe. We began thanking the Lord and praising Him for answering our prayers. Yes, there was a perfect timing for that letter to be sent. He gave me a second chance and He also gave me something special and extraordinary to share with Karen when I arrived to work that day. I took the letter with me to show her first hand. She was blown away. She still asked me the questions;
“Susan, do you think God blew the stamp off? Did he take it off with His hand? How did He do it?”
I smiled as it did not matter how God did it...He just did! Karen was not the same after that day as she knew God Himself had heard my prayer and acted according to His purposes. Karen was deeply touched.. I believe that a little of her disillusionment was healed.
The Letter? There was a time of waiting...a few months to be exact . Though this time I knew the very day I was suppose to send it as I heard the Lord's voice clearly. Evan received it and called me immediately. He told me that he had never experienced anything like my letter and the words I shared with him. He said it touched him a way He could not even express in words. He was astonished that God loved Him so much and would give me the love for him that He did. He was humbled by my prayers as well as all that God had done. He shared that he had such a peace within...our talk went on for quite some time. Can you guess who was having dinner at our home the night he called me? Karen! She also got to see first hand how much the letter changed Evan's life and that God cared so much that the letter would get to him in His perfect time.
Evan stayed in my life for 3 years longer. We only went out one time, talked on the phone occasionally, both knowing that anything more was not the will of God. The Lord did however give me a promise while I was still living in the Carolina's that He did indeed have a husband for me, but there would be a time of waiting. Other special male friends came and went, but within an 8 year span, the Lord's promise came true. He brought me Kit. He was not only my Mr. Right, my best friend, the man who made my heart race, my face turn red, my knight in shining armor, handsome, kind and loving, but He was Gods perfect choice for my life. He was WELL WORTH waiting for and is by far my greatest and most cherished gift on this earth, save the Lord Jesus.
PS, in my treasured box of 'miracles' I still have my returned letter that I had sent to Evan (the first time)... to remind me of that special day and God's awesome and loving answer to prayer!
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears ,
And delivers them out of all their troubles, Psalms 34 :12