Thursday, June 23, 2011

Touched By An Angel - At Walmart

Thank you to everyone who has been praying and sending me words of encouragement and showing me kindnesses, little and big. I'm sorry I haven't posted an update. El Paso was wonderful beyond my expectations. Laura's extended family and group of friends welcomed me as one of their own, and I took delight in hearing their recollections, though sometimes all I could understand was the laughter (and tears). [I'm determined to learn Spanish along with Ethan this year when he starts high school.]

Best of all was that I think I made a "heart friend" in Laura's cousin Mariana, who welcomed me into her home and reminisced for hours with me. 

We Released 100 Balloons on the Count of Eleven

When I came back home, though, my sorrow and weariness overtook me. I've had a rough couple of days. I can't even put into words what I've been feeling, but my friend Gentle has done a good job of expressing it.

Gentle and I in the Shirts She Designed for our Three-Day Walk

Here's a link to a story she posted today that really lifted my spirits...

Touched By an Angel - At Walmart

Please keep praying for everyone who loves Laura.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Off to El Paso

Just wanted to let you know I am headed to El Paso today to attend Laura's Celebration of Life tomorrow. I'm driving down with her family (10 hours!) and flying back Sunday. I'm excited about spending more time with them but also a little nervous since I don't know them that well yet.

Thank you to everyone for your prayers and comforting words over the last week. I'm doing okay, up and down. I get so thrilled over how God shows me signs of his loving kindness, but then I suddenly feel... flattened. The last two days I did a lot of crying, and I think that is a good thing. The numbness is wearing off.

I'll probably do lots more crying this weekend, but hopefully some smiling and laughing too as I listen to her loved ones reminiscing over her life. Please pray for safe travel and for God to comfort us all.

I love you guys.

Sarah Louise

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Home on the 11th

It grieves me to tell you this. My sweet friend Laura passed away yesterday morning at 6:40 A.M. It didn't come as a shock to me after watching her rapid decline, but that doesn't make it hurt any less. I'm not even sure how much it is going to hurt because I haven't really allowed myself to grieve yet. I've scarcely cried, except at inopportune moments like waiting in the bank line and watching Ethan's slide show the day after he returned from his school trip to Washington, D.C.

It just doesn't seem real. I can't fathom that I will never go for another walk with her, or eat lunch with her, or give her a hug. And I will never get to have my picture made with her. Wish we'd gotten around to that. I don't even want to think about how her son Samuel, who turns five in a couple weeks, will make sense of this. I know that she was suffering terribly, and I know she's in a better place, but my heart aches for her family.

One thing that has brought comfort to her husband is the fact that she died on the 11th, 6/11/11 to be exact. (You may recall she felt a special connection to the number 11.) We met on the 11th (4/11/10). I saw a rainbow over her house at 8:11. And just a few days before her death, our friend Gentle found an 11th verse when she was praying over my upcoming visit with Laura:

Psalm 91:11 - For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
I had planned to whisper that verse in her ear yesterday afternoon, but those angels came and carried her home before I could get there.

And that's all I have to say for now. I think it's time to go have that cry now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An Angel Named Matthew

I'm sorry I've been so quiet. It's been a busy, busy couple of weeks. I have many stories to tell, and hopefully I will get to the best ones, but here's the one that's been burning in my heart for over a week now....

A week to the day after God hung a rainbow over my friend Laura's house, I had another opportunity to see her, this time five hours away in Houston. I was visiting my cousin Chris in a different hospital just three blocks from Laura.

After I'd programmed in the main address and set my navigator to walking mode, my sister Amy and I set off in the cool of the evening. As we walked, I thought about the comfort that came with the rainbow, the way God filled me up so I could share His love with Laura. Are you going to give me another sign this time? I asked. I looked up at the clear blue sky: no chance of a rainbow here. I could sure use a sign tonight, I thought.

After only a block, we saw a hospital bearing the name we were looking for, but the navigator said we had a quarter mile to go still, so we kept walking. After another block, we saw yet another hospital with the same name, but this one seemed to be on the wrong street. And the navigator said we needed to go one more block down and then turn right.

We stood paralyzed on a corner, looking back and forth between the two buildings and the navigator. We didn't have time for a wrong turn because we'd be meeting our family in under an hour.

Suddenly, I noticed a young man on my left. "What are you ladies looking for?" he asked.

I studied him for just a moment before answering. He was a short, blonde man who appeared to be in his early to mid twenties, and he wore a name badge on a lanyard around his neck. He carried a fast food bag under one arm and a large soda in each hand. Deciding he looked harmless enough, I told him the name of the hospital and showed him the address I'd scribbled on a scrap of paper.

"What room is she in?" he asked.

"G1249," I answered.

"I know exactly where that is," he said. He started to give us directions, but he wasn't able to point due to the drinks. "I'll just take you there," he said.

Thank you, God! I thought. You sure sent the right person along.

"God sure knew who to send to guide you on your way, didn't he?" the young man asked.

I gasped. "I was just thinking exactly the same thing!"

As we followed him across the street to the second building we'd spotted (the one I thought was on the wrong street), he chatted with us as if we were friends. I was struck by his utter lack of self-consciousness, and by his simple manner, befitting a country boy.

"There are over 2 million square feet in these buildings, and I know pretty much all of them," he said. "I work in inventory."

He led us past security, where he had to flip over his badge for the guard. I noted then that his name was Matthew. From there, he took us to an elevator, and I was ashamed that I let him press the call button with his elbow. We rode halfway up before he realized this was the wrong elevator.

"I'm sorry," he said, pressing the button for the main floor. "It gets confusing."

"No problem!" we said. I asked him if he was sure he had time to show us around, and he assured me he had nothing better to do--though surely we must have been cutting into his lunch hour!

On the way back down, I said something about him being a blessing to us. "I'm Sarah, and this is my sister Amy," I said.

He turned to face Amy and announced, in a voice that was almost formal, "Amy means 'beloved of God.'"

"Yes, it does," Amy agreed. "That's why my mother chose that name."

"What does Matthew mean?" I asked.

"God's gift," he answered without hesitation.

I stared at this young man through the corner of my eye. Why would he know the meaning of my sister's name? Why would he take the time to lead two strangers to the 12th floor?

As we walked to another bank of elevators across the building, I couldn't resist voicing my thoughts. "I think you really are a messenger." Matthew smiled and punched the call button with the tip of his middle finger. Darn it! 

When we reached our floor, he led us down the hall and around the corner. "Just go to the end of this hall and the room will be to your left," he said.

"Thank you so much!" we said. "God bless you," I called after him. He disappeared around the corner, but the sense of calm I felt in his presence stayed with me.

When I saw Laura, I told her about my latest sign. "I think I just saw an angel," I joked. "His name was Matthew, and he was carrying fast food."

We stayed with her for about 30 minutes, mainly visiting with her father and her college friend Angelica, who was visiting from Lubbock. When Laura's mother Blanca arrived, she asked if we would like to pray. "Yes!" I said.

Laura's parents knelt on the floor and laid their hands on her knees. Amy and I stood on the other side of the bed and touched her arm and leg. Angelica stood across from us at her head. I took a deep breath and prayed for angels to surround Laura and minister to her, to wrap her in peace and love and give her rest. I prayed for healing, and I prayed my beloved Psalm 139 over her.

When I said amen, Amy took up where I'd left off. She prayed for Laura's son Samuel. Then, making the sign of the cross over Laura, Angelica prayed for the saints and angels to watch over her.

Blanca prayed last, all in Spanish. I caught very few words (like Lord and health), but I was very moved. It was as if my spirit could hear the Holy Spirit in her because the words didn't get in the way, sort of like a time when I heard Josh Groban singing in Latin and was moved to tears because his voice was an exquisite instrument.

My tears dropped onto Laura's blanket as I prayed in full agreement with her mother. When she said amen, we all stood in silence for a few moments, savoring God's presence. And then it was time to give Laura a hug and say goodbye.

When I hugged her parents, each told me the same thing: "You are an angel to Laura, and to our family."

I got to see Laura again the next morning, got to hold her hand and quote scriptures and tell her how God takes great delight in her, how He rejoices over her with singing and quiets her with his love. (Zephaniah 3:17)

It wasn't until I collapsed into bed that evening, after driving for hours, that I thought of Matthew again. On the edge of sleep, I felt a grin spreading over my face as I exulted in the way God had lavished his love upon me, giving me assurance that he was guiding us.  God, was he an angel? He really was. Wasn't he?

When I told the whole story to my friend Gentle the next morning, she gasped. "You know how Laura calls you her angel, and you always say you're not an angel?" she asked.


"Well, when I knew you were going to see her, I prayed that God would show you how you really can be an angel to her."

I heard the excitement in her voice and felt the wonder myself. "So that's why God sent Matthew!" I said. "Maybe he wasn't really an angel, but he was an angel to me. God answered your prayer, Gentle!"

Gentle and Laura on Our Girls' Night a Few Months Back

But I still can't shake the conviction that Matthew was a real angel. I talked it over with Amy this weekend. "Did you feel it too?"

"There was something in the way he told me the meaning of my name," she agreed. "It was almost like he was delivering a message. I do believe we each have angels."

"Maybe he was YOUR angel!" I said.

I guess we'll never know until we get to heaven.

Have you ever seen an angel, or suspected that you did? Do you know anyone who's seen an angel?


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