Sometimes in life I have found myself mired in problems so bad that only a miracle will get me out. A miracle can be a physical one, a healing of the body, or it can be a financial one, but it can also be a miracle of the spirit, the heart. The last one may be the greatest miracle of them all. It may need to take place first before any other miracle can happen.
Teddy Bear, our Cocker Spaniel, has a vet warned about heart murmur. For some reason I can hear it, even when Teddy is across the room. Whoosh-whoop, Whoosh-whoop, the sound is always soft and at first I thought it was some kind of outside toad like noise that I heard loudest at night. One quiet morning, he hopped up on my lap to give me a nose kiss and I discovered the true source of the sound.
Teddy Bear sleeps on the foot of our bed. Sometimes at night, mulling over the problems of my world, and the problems of the world in general, will keep me awake. When this happens, I find that pulling the Bear to me with his head on my chest and listening to him breathe while praying for his heart, lowers my blood pressure and helps me relax. As I am praying and he is too (I think so anyway), the whoop-whoosh sound slowly fades away and then we both fall into a peaceful sleep.
Teddy Bear’s heart murmur is a problem but not a terrible one. As long as his heart allows a good flow of blood he will not suffer any ill effects other than tiring a bit especially during hot days. It is a defect by birth or caused by age, either way it is not his fault and there is nothing he can do to fix it.
I, on the the other hand, can sometimes suffer from another kind of heart problem. It is a condition of my heart that is self inflicted. I can do something about it.
Some of the symptoms are: suffering from quiet discontent while having a load of complaints with little or no desire to solve the problems themselves. Constantly blaming others for one’s “unhappy” circumstances. Grumbling, whining, murmur, murmur. Eventually ones blames God and may accuse Him of not caring enough to fix IT, whatever it may be.
Diane and I have a saying that started after our grand boys came along. We used it on them (and they would use it back if necessary) if one of them or me (Diane never whines about anything) mumbled and groused about something.
“Whining is not attractive”
Whining, murmuring, isn’t attractive. It isn’t attractive to those around you, and it isn’t attractive to God either.
Diane uses a phrase with me or on me when my grumbling gets too much for her:
“Why don’t you get over this before you have to take another lap around Mt Sinai?”
In other words, get out of the fog of complaining you have made for yourself and come back into the light of God’s love for you...trust Him to get you thru this whatever IT is….
A couple of years ago this month as a matter of fact, IT was trying to sell our house. I wrote about IT sort of. This was such a tough situation that I couldn’t bring myself to put all the details of the mess into words.
I can sum it up now. The buyers were not honest with the loan providers, with us, or our agent. They didn’t qualify for the loan to buy our house, they didn’t have the down payment and they tried to extort it from us. Their agent knew this and so did their bank loan officer. They were all next door neighbors. When we refused to co-operate with their scheme, they pulled all kinds of rotten stuff on us to get themselves out of the contract. This took place over the Christmas holidays. Diane and I were terminating our thirty years we had shared together in our house, and our Christmas was being ruined! In my mind we were being forced to turn our lives upside down for nothing and it was costing us thousands of dollars in the process.
I murmured and complained about it the whole time. I murmured and groused until I got angry and then I got loud, with the buyers, all the attorneys involved, our agent and I yelled at the dog and my wife. Finally I got mad at God. I yelled at Him too. Knowing better, forgetting all the things He had done for us in the past, I accused Him of not caring. Not caring enough anyway. I could not let go and put this in God’s hands. I felt like I had no control, which I didn’t. Not over the circumstances anyway, I could only control my attitude, try not to feel so desperate, try to trust the Lord and our attorneys. I had to choose to do just that.
It took three months of struggle but eventually I let go and let the lawyers do their job. The buyers went away (with some legal encouragement and the purchase by us of the bank appraisal). The house went back on the market and sold quickly thereafter.
Did I learn anything from my poor spiritual performance? I believe so. Have I been tested since then? Yes I have.
Diane was very ill for two months this summer. Life, although not problem free, had been pretty good up until her illness. The worst thing that happened was we were both sick last winter, February I think, with some kind of flu that lasted a long time...we just couldn’t shake it for weeks, but the stuff in our heads didn’t seem to hurt our dispositions any. We still had a good winter, visited a lot of Florida, including Disney World. We stopped in Charleston and had a wonderful visit there on our way back to Virginia. We were enjoying a sometimes wet but not too bad spring here in Galax when in mid June, Diane was bitten by a tick. That nasty little creature gave her Lyme’s disease. Some gift.
She had a high fever, chills, muscle aches. The worst thing was the Lyme’s disease lowered her immunity system which set off a really bad case of Shingles. A double whammy. Diane was one sick lady. This all started around the same time she decided to enter and compete in the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention Mountain Dulcimer contest. She made up her mind (with lots of encouragement from me) after attending the Ferrum College Crooked Road Dulcimer Festival. This terrific event took place over Memorial Day weekend at Ferrum College of course. She had a great time. She played her lap dulcimer in a seventy piece dulcimer orchestra, learned a number of new techniques, and new songs as well. It was one of those songs that she decided to play in the competition.
Diane came home from the festival with so much enthusiasm for her instrument. She practiced a lot by herself and with Ed, one of our Deer Creek neighbors who happens to be a good guitar player. Ed without hesitation agreed to accompany her in the Old Fiddlers Convention competition.
Just weeks before the day to compete she came down with the double whammy. She could barely move or eat or sleep because if she didn’t have a fever she had terrific nerve pain. We made two trips to the Urgent care. One for diagnosis and treatment for Lyme's disease, and one for strong pain killers to help (not cure!) the pain caused by Shingles.
What was I doing during this time? Trying not to worry or murmur at our “bad luck”. I didn’t do either. I did do a lot of praying, offered encouragement and made trips to the drug store. I took care of as many things around the coach as I could. I did my best to be a supportive loving husband. I knew murmuring was not going to help. I may have slipped every now and then but overall I kept my faith up and my spiritual attitude where it should have been. I didn’t whine.
I didn’t whine when two days before Diane’s competition we got the word that Ed had gotten very sick and was in the hospital. His brother Dave, also a guitar player, agreed to take Ed’s place, so the next day he and Diane got together and practiced.
The next evening was her competition. We went early, so we could arrange our seats in front of the stage and I could set up my camera and tripod. I had to record the event. Driving there, buying bar-b-que sandwichs for us from one of the vendors, setting up my gear, the whole time I was praying quietly to myself. Diane was feeling pretty good, medication was helping, but I felt she might be a bit nervous about her performance. I know I was, maybe more than her.
She did fine. She looked great on stage, and played wonderfully well.
I could not have been more proud of her.
Diane had a great night, but the next few days were not so good.
We made it back to the convention on the last night of competition. The best bluegrass bands perform the last night followed by the the awards presentations. It was cold, rainy and crowded. Diane and I both loved it.
Late that night they called out the top ten in Diane's event to to come to the stage. Diane's name was the last called. I will admit we were both getting a bit stressed as the names were announced. Once all ten were on stage they gave out the names of the winners in reverse order. Diane was number six.
Diane had hoped to make the top ten, and she did it!
She thinks that under the circumstances her win was a miracle.
Diane’s playing and Dave’s guitar was what won sixth place for her. Diane's attitude and faith and the fact she was able to get on stage was the second miracle.
The first miracle, one of the heart, my heart, took place earlier, when, I am not exactly sure, but thank God it did.
Ed got well and came home from the hospital.
Diane has recovered from her illnesses. She has some physical scars and some residual effects from the Shingles. She also has a big green ribbon hanging on the coach wall with her Dulcimer. That ribbon is a reminder that God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform even in matters of the heart.