Angels Amongst Us

Angels are everywhere! I love it when it is obvious, they are following ME!

I shivered as a snow front began to blast the East closing schools and businesses. Reclining on my fluffy heated mattress pad and watching through my blinds, I hoped it would pass, yet I knew we were in its path. My head ducked under the covers. “Lord, it’s coming, I know. Please don’t let it be a wet, heavy snow, the kind that breaks power lines and causes outages.”

And it wasn’t. Almighty God heard me. Along with thousands of others who, no doubt, prayed the same thing. House

“Thank you, Lord.”

Skeptics and worse may believe this blanket of dry snow, which was predicted to be wet, is a coincidence, but I believe God is the Lord, our Provider. The Psalmist writes: “For He will give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all of your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” This verse is from my favorite Psalm, 91. Some Christians call it a “covering” prayer. I memorized it in a warmer time, early spring, 2014, around 300 words, reciting it almost daily. The passage made me more cognizant of angels . . . and demons, and the spiritual realm that I’m convinced interacts with us more than we can imagine.

On snow covered days like today, and often, I wonder: How is the spiritual world working in my life?

Just weeks after memorizing this Psalm, I got a lesson in Angelology 401.

It started on a road trip to Rugby, Tennessee, a lovely, restored Victorian community, settledIMG_1269 on the lush Cumberland Plateau. Rugby’s restoration was founded in 1966 by my husband’s brother Brian, now deceased, so we’re family when we’re in Rugby. Our friends Cat and Dan were along for the trip with Alan and me. We’d told them about Rugby, how the original settlers came in the 1800’s, how a fabulous little library of Victorian literature was housed within the community, knowing Cat, a writer, would particularly enjoy it.

It was May, one of my favorite times of the year, and certainly my favorite in Rugby. The community’s Spring Festival was underway. People milled about the colorful church and buildings that lined either side of old Route 52. English buildings with names like Kingston Lyle, The Board of Aid, Percy Cottage, and The Commissary.

Open air tents were perched on the front lawns of the buildings where artisans sold glassware, jewelry, woodwork, stained glass and other handmade crafts. The festival goers and the artisans were sparser than usual, but a lively group walked about the grounds, along the charming wooden sidewalk, and near the two-lane, which split the community.

Alan, Dan, Cat, and I had just left the library and were headed to the church on the other side of the road. We chatted as I led our foursome down a slope into the ditch that paralleled the road. Navigating the downward pitch on the ditch and back up, I obviously underestimated the thickness of the pavement. The toe of my shoe caught the lofty edge of the blacktop.

I saw it happening—that slow motion thing people talk about. With no time to pull up my hands or arms to break myself, I fell forward on the asphalt. Hard. Fast. Nose first. Blackness smashed my face like an unsuspecting two-punch. It was a split second that felt as fatalistic as anything I’d ever experienced.

Stunned, my mind raced as thoughts dashed this way, that way . . . I won’t be making the Jamaican trip we’re planning with Matthew. Our grandson. Will I need plastic surgery? Have I been here seconds or hours?

At some point I decided that my mind still worked, a good thing. Where was everyone? Did they notice I fell? The longer I laid there, it seemed I was loitering. (Yes, that’s the word that came to mind.) I imagined what my face looked like, no contender for the hard, rough surface. My glasses were probably smashed to smithereens, along with my nose, cheekbones, and who knew what else.

Alan had been behind me. Our friends Cat and Dan. Where was everyone?

Finally, Alan nudged me. “Karyn, honey . . .” His voice sounded unusually anxious. Later I learned he hated to turn me over, afraid of what he’d see. “Talk to me.”

Move. I have to turn and move. A car pulled up, stopping on the road. People spoke, but the words were mumbled. Alan rubbed my back. “Honey.”

He turned me over gently, looking at me a little too intently. “Are you okay?”

Still stunned, I couldn’t yet speak, but I was puzzled. Was I okay? I wasn’t sure. A woman came over, though I didn’t turn to see her. “I’m a first responder,” she said. “How do you feel?’

A first responder. I’d never needed one of those before. “I . . . I don’t know,” I heard myself say.

“You don’t look bad,” said Alan. “It’s not as bad as you think.”

How did he know what I was thinking? But he was right. Do I look like a Freddy Kruger victim? I wondered. Am I blood splattered? Yet no one turned in horror and Alan’s expression revealed nothing diabolical.

“She has to get some ice on that,” said the woman. “I’ve got something.” She turned to leave.

“My glasses?” I asked, realizing they weren’t on my face.

“They’re on top of your head.”

“I can use a new pair anyway.”

“They appear fine,” Alan said.

“Really?” I was wearing them when I fell. How did they get atop my head? He was mistaken. They had to be smashed.

Voices and someone exiting the car caused me to turn. Cat was talking to Thelma, (not her real name) an old family friend who’d cleaned my stepson’s weekend home, where we’d stayed. It was her car on the road.

I placed my hand to my nose. “I really don’t look awful?”

“No. I swear. I can’t believe it. The bridge and the tip of your nose are red and scrapped, but not bloody. That’s it.”

That’s not possible. I turned toward the car. Thelma was looking over at me. “Good job on the house, Thelma.” I sort of waved. If I wasn’t bloodied or half dead, it was time to move. Thelma walked toward us as Alan helped me up. I felt dizzy and completely unstable.

“You okay, honey?” she asked.

I stood for a moment, amazed that I could. “I think so.”

Nobody appeared to have called an ambulance. That and the fact that I could move were good signs. I hugged Thelma.

“I hope I did a good job on the house,” she said.

“You did. Thanks for cleaning it.” I must look okay or she wouldn’t be talking about the house.

Alan got on one side of me and Cat on the other. I was wobbly, but I didn’t feel hospital ready. We baby-stepped to the wooden rungs of Rugby’s gingerbread-like Episcopal Church. The first responder brought an ice cold bottled papaya drink in a towel since her ice had melted. Alan held it to my face. “I can do that,” I said, taking it from him.

A few people stopped to ask how I was. No one could believe my face didn’t look like it had been smashed by the front end of a dump truck. I knew the ferocity of the fall. I felt it. How did my nose, glasses, and cheekbones survive a forward, full-throttle assault? It wasn’t humanly possible.

Yet it was spiritually possible.

We went back to the house and I went to bed, my perfectly unscathed glasses on the IMG_1263nightstand. Alan tucked me in. “How long did it take for you to get to me after I fell?” I asked. “

About two seconds.” He looked at me lovingly, and like he was seeing a miracle.

Seconds.

When he left, I thanked God for the marvelous angel who’d softened my descent. My eyelids fluttered. It was midday, but all I wanted was to sleep, and dream. “For He will give His angels charge over you.” Had Psalm 91 made the difference? Had this “covering” prayer covered me, keeping me safe? The fall had shocked me, my body needing to rest and recover, but come evening, makeup dabbled around and over the bridge of my nose masked my redness. In less than a week, I was normal.

The incident humbled me, especially after seeing pictures of two Facebook friends who had similar falls. Looking at their battered, purple, and swollen photos, I knew this should have been me. Both required ambulances, hospital care, and a fairly lengthy recuperation. Before I fell, I’d never heard a story of someone falling like this.

However, another baffling episode lay ahead. It would leave me equally befuddled and amazed.

It was just over a month later, late one evening. I was making a cup of magnesium tea, topping the cup of magnesium powder with boiling water. Except on this night, distracted by my cat, I poured the roiling liquid over my hand. I shrieked and Alan came running.

“Put your hand under cold water!” He flipped on the tap and my hand was immediately soothed. Five, eight, ten minutes . . . every time I pulled it out, my skin felt like it was on fire.
Since it was near bedtime, I began to concoct standing sleep scenarios and prayed a simple prayer, “Lord, help this to heal. I really need you to do it now. Thank you, Lord.” Something like that.

As long as my hand was under cold running water, it felt okay, but outside the water, the fieriness erupted. I kept thinking, “How will I sleep?” Finally, I dried my hand and slathered on one and then several oils and lotions, hoping to find something to help. I tried to settle in bed, blowing on it, shaking it. Nothing worked. Before I returned to the cold water, I prayed earnestly: “Lord, I need you to heal this now. I didn’t sleep last night and tonight will be terrible if you don’t intervene. I’d be eternally grateful if you’d have mercy on me.” I ended as I usually did—believing. “Thank you for healing me, Lord, and for always answering my prayers.” And almost that quick, the pain left.

Totally.

It didn’t burn, it didn’t hurt. Until a few minutes later, I laid back on the bed to consider, “Maybe that water didn’t boil as long as I thought.”

As quickly as the thought formed, the pain returned. (How stupid am I?) But, I repented and it left. No need to repent again, I’d learned my lesson. That night, like the afternoon of my fall, I slept peacefully, and my hand never again hurt.

What happened was clearly beyond the laws of physics. Once again, I felt thankful and humbled. God is no respecter of people, I knew. He won’t do something for me that He won’t do for you. Yet, all I could think was, why now and why me? On numerous occasions I’d asked to be healed of illnesses or pain and nothing happened. Perhaps, I pondered, angels only deal with wounds rather than sickness. But the “Why” word was stuck in my head.

I kept going back to Psalm 91. Was I now dwelling in the secret place of the Most High God like the Psalm suggests? All I knew for sure was that I’d been delivered on two occasions. Perhaps in my daily recitation of Psalm 91, I was dispatching angels and dispelling demons.

Just as I have never been able to determine which prayers God fully answers, I don’t understand the Why in these situations. But I speculate that angels were dispatched because my trust is in Jehovah Jireh, the Lord my provider, and Jehovah Rophe, the Lord my healer. And on one afternoon and one evening, He had taken me under His feathers. Today, in this very real blustering snowstorm, as I press up to a fire roaring up the chimney, comforted, warmed, and full, I’m reminded, He’s always with me.

No matter how bad the storm, how hard the fall, or how hot the water.

“Thank you, Lord.”  xxx

Psalm 91
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him will I trust.”
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
8 Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your habitation,
10 No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 They shall bear you up in their hands,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
God’s speaks
14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”

A Love that Never Died

Thanksgiving is about love—love of God, family, country, and for some, just love of food. I’m thankful for much, but especially for family, particularly my Aunt Jeanette, above with her grandson, Rod McCoy. By the grace of God, she is still with us, miraculously. Hope you enjoy this story I chose for Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! kcs

She had searched under her bed, through her closet, behind the dresser, and throughout her bathroom. Nothing. Maybe she was wrong; maybe she hadn’t smelled something burning after all. Things had started to change as she aged, her 84 year old brain worked fairly well, but maybe her sniffer wasn’t quite up to par. Still, my Aunt Jeanette checked the room several times that balmy June morning in 2010.

My brain doesn’t work as well as my Aunt Jeanette’s, and even if it did, I couldn’t remember back to when Jeanette met her future husband, Paul McCoy. Or even back to 1949, when diapers were my underwear of choice.

Back then, I was the first grandchild to debut. As such, my aunts, uncles, and parents often sat me in their midst where I mesmerized them with baby gibberish as I tried to eat my toes or yank on one of my fourteen hair strands. They would make faces and ridiculous goo-goo sounds as they coaxed me to their laps. Like other oft-told stories from my childhood, this one seems like a memory, but I was much too young to remember.

Paul McCoy wasn’t my blood uncle, but I didn’t understand what that meant until I was too old to care. By then, blood, coca cola, or whiskey couldn’t have kept me from my fun-loving uncle. He was a big man, tall, with brute strength, always teasing or pranking, scrubbing your head with his knuckles, and telling you the latest and best of the dozen or so jokes he’d just learned. He was always happy to see every person who walked through his front door.

Jeanette feigned exasperation at Paul’s jokes and stories, but exposed her affection by repeating them often. They were quite the pair; Paul was an early bird, Jeanette was a night owl. She’d often cajole her nocturnal kin to drive around our small town, looking for neither mischief nor mayhem in the early hours, just laughter and crazy fun. I’ve made that circuit with Jeanette, my mother, and Jeanette’s daughter, Cheryl, more times than I can say.

The years passed; Jeanette and Paul grew older and we children grew up. In 1997, Paul succumbed to diabetes and passed into heaven. Jeanette’s friskiness was understandably curtailed. Her heart and humor were forever intertwined with her husband, and his death, she often stated, was the worst thing that ever happened to her.

Make no mistake, the myriad surgeries and ailments she had suffered were major calamities in their own right—hip replacement, knee replacement, even breast cancer. All told, nine operations. And although she was grateful for the years she’d survived since Paul’s death, not having her best friend and soul mate to share it with still brought tears to her eyes.

And that morning in 2010, she was acutely aware that there was no one to confirm or deny the burning smell that may or may not have been. And, so, she went about her day, making the trek from her bedroom to the kitchen, and passing, as she always did, the photograph of the man she couldn’t remember not loving, which hung prominently on the living room wall.

In the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians, the eloquent St. Paul writes: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Jeanette knew the quote, but her husband was gone, and in her twilight years, when her senses weren’t what they once were, when her confidence waned, she needed him more than ever.

That evening in 2010, around eight o’clock, Jeanette did something uncommon; she fell asleep on the family room sofa. It was early for her, but it had been a long, busy Friday—cleaning day—and she’d worked harder than usual. Fatigue swept over her, driving her into a deep slumber.

How long did she sleep? She couldn’t quite say, but something in her subconscious was nudging her to awaken. A noise . . . buzzing. What? Finally, groggily, she realized the phone was ringing and reached to pick it up.

“Hello.”

“Grandma, I knocked and knocked and you didn’t answer,” said the voice on the other end. “I’m outside.”

Jeanette quickly arose and opened the door to her grandson, Rod.

“I have the keys to Chad’s truck,” he said, referring to his cousin, another of Jeanette’s grandsons, and laid the keys on the kitchen table next to her purse. It was an odd time for him to come by. Odd that he had Chad’s keys.

She shook off her sleepiness and walked outside to say goodbye, where they chatted, as they often did.

Just minutes had passed when Rod glanced up, startled. “Grandma, look!” he said, pointing to the left side of the house.

She turned to see an alarming gray haze rising like a storm cloud from the living room. They rushed inside to find every crevice of her one-story home filled with smoke.

“My purse!” Jeanette, near hysterics, covered her mouth. “I have to get my purse.”

Rod jockeyed to move from the hallway into the kitchen, but the dense fog blocked his vision and choked him. He retreated. “Can’t do it,” he said, and led his grandmother outside. It was not only an impossible feat, but surprising, given the short time they’d been outside.

When the fire truck arrived, a fireman retrieved her purse, but the house was a loss.

It seemed a blur, this finite period of time that had assaulted and then plundered her. That had brought her from a groggy awakening to now standing in the dark with flashing red lights and puddles of water and meandering hoses. Without a fresh set of clothes or a place to sleep. Without a safe harbor. Tears covered her cheeks. Except for Paul’s death, nothing had ever compared to this.

The next day she and her children made their way through the charred remains of a life well lived, now mounds of soot and ash. The furniture, pictures, clothing, books, shoes, linens, eye glasses, and vast array of Christmas ornaments—everything was ruined. Glass shards littered the sooty floor beneath the blackened lop-sided picture frame that had held Paul’s photograph, now missing from the frame. Once again, Jeanette couldn’t contain her tears.

Her daughter, Cheryl, noticed what must have looked like the tip of an angel wing peeking through the midst of the dismal gray floor residue. She bent down to investigate and pulled the whiteness up and out of the ashes like the Phoenix arising. After blowing the soot off, she gasped, “This is impossible!” Then she turned the photograph so her mother could see the familiar head shot of her husband Paul.

They were speechless. (The second miracle of that day!)

Though her home and her valuables had burned, Jeanette understood—the love that burned in her heart lived forever. Forever. And it had just been confirmed, miraculously, unbelievably. As she stared at the perfectly intact photograph, she knew it was a gift. Paul McCoy, by God’s Grace, had made an appearance on the second worst day of her life, an appearance she desperately needed. Love had reached out of heaven and shown its face, healing some of the heartbreak.

The Psalmist writes, “For He will give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” And so He had. From Rod waking her unexpectedly from what could have been, to Paul’s coveted picture escaping the blaze. Miracles existed in her world.

One day she’d be reunited with the man she loved, because love, as St. Paul promised, never fails. And Paul and Jeanette’s love surely never died. xxx

Below left is the recovered picture of Paul. Right, is a rare picture of them dancing. Today, Jeanette is 89. She has survived the odds, many of her friends, her seven siblings, and her husband. She still lives alone, cleans her own house, and goes to every home basketball game her high school alma mater plays.

Paul head shotIMAG0044 (2)

My Dark City Night

     I didn’t know about the drugs. But I saw the girls, beautiful and fawned over, who used to sit in the big roomy booths. Once they left, I never saw them again. 2nd story in a NY series.

New York, New York, what a wonderful town! Theatres, museums, skyscrapers, financial centers, night life. . . The city itself is a celebrity. The song says, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” And I wanted to make it. Everything in New York seemed bigger and brighter—skyscrapers lighting up the sky, soaring toward the gleam of heaven.

But night comes fast in a city of towers, and bright lights slowly flicker out. When darkness descends, the city’s nocturnal life can turn to shadows of foreboding.

Especially when you get blindsided.

The National Broadcasting Company, (NBC), New York’s premier television station in the 1960s, had been my employer for about a year and a half. It wasn’t my dream job, just a starting position with first-class appeal and location—30 Rockefeller Center. I had an easy bus ride to work, and from work, on to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts where I attended acting school. Celebrity sightings were common at NBC, and really, that’s the reason this country bumpkin originally chose to work there.

However, restlessness and a desire to advance had steered me toward a possible career as an assistant casting director at a talent agency. In case the acting thing didn’t work out. Surprisingly, I was hired, but with a three week hiatus between jobs.

To celebrate, a friend took me to New York’s hottest, most trendy new restaurant and club where his father knew the owner. Immediately, I wanted to work there. I’d waitressed the summer before, my junior year at Marshall University, with a group of sorority sisters in Wildwood, New Jersey. So I had experience. My intent was simple: make some quick cash between jobs.

Aquarius, I’ll call the club, had gotten a smashing review in the New York Times and as luck would have it, the owner came to our table. When I brazenly asked him about a three-week job, he hired me on the spot. Unknown to me, and I hope to my friend, the owner was a half-crazed cocaine addict.

Aquarius was a great place to work: fast paced and lively. New York’s socialites and a few celebrities came and went. I received special treatment from the beginning: free drinks and no weekend schedule. I never gave it a thought since I had a connection to the owner, the other girls wanted to work weekends, and I would soon be leaving. The friend who had taken me there and introduced me, however, had gone back to Georgia, to finish an MBA program.

One night I was the closing waitress and the only person there except for the owner addict. I will never forget his name. He called me to his basement office in the dazzling four-level club, and when I got there, he walked behind me, slamming and locking the door. Wide, frightened eyes gave away my emotions. “Don’t even think about screaming,” he said in his thick guttural accent. “No one will hear you down here.”

He took off his belt and I thought . . . well, you know what I thought. But, then he said, “I’m going to beat you until no one recognizes you.” A mantra he kept repeating, like he wanted me to grasp the enormity of the words. “I’m going to beat you until . . .”

He held out his belt buckle, making sure my eyes met the heavy, reflective metal. “. . . no one will recognize you.” I had never been hit in my life. Dazed and terrified, a prayer went through my head fast. “Jesus! Please help!” Something like that.

Instantly, I was no longer horror-struck. Fearful perhaps, but strangely reassured. Sitting down, I patted the seat beside me. “Come sit by me,” I heard myself say.

Glassy eyes glared down on me. My knees felt as brittle as dead, fallen tree branches, but somehow I got up and took his face in my hands, running them down his arms. “Let’s get out of here,” I said, “This basement gives me the creeps.” He was totally stoned, his pupils scarily dilated.

I turned around fast—acting—the reason I’d come to New York in the first place. “Did you hear that?” Meanwhile, I would have welcomed Ali Baba and the forty thieves.

“I hear nothing,” he said.

“Please, I’m frightened,” I grabbed his arm tenderly. “Will you check it out?”

Several appeals later, he succumbed, “If you move while I’m gone, you’re dead.” He gave me an executioner’s look, unlocked the door, and walked out.

Don’t run. Don’t run!

The well-appointed room was small and softly lit compared to the bright, opulent surroundings outside the freedom door. I went back to the sofa and sat on my hands. They naturally trembled and they trembled now. Praying some more, I stared at the opened door, but stayed put.

No place to run.

When he returned, a lethal half-smile crossed his face, no doubt surprised I was there. “It was nothing, I told you.”

“Please, let’s go to my place or your place,” I said. “Anywhere but here.”

My ceaseless requests seemed not to register, until surprisingly, he agreed. It was late—at least 4 AM. He held my wrists tight, hurtful, as we made our way through the huge club. What I would do on an empty New York street, I couldn’t say, but that sense of calm streamed through me.

At the front of the building, he held only one of my arms while jerkily opening the wooden door with the keys in his right hand. But, the outside metal gate required both of his hands. Slit, moist eyes looked down on me, black and foreboding, as he released me to open the gate. I stood calmly. Waiting. When that metal clanked back, I shimmied through the opening and sprinted down that street like an Olympian! Even stoned he knew he had to lock the doors.

Unbelievably, at that early hour, at the end of the street, a cab was pulled to the curb. A beautiful black cabbie was cleaning ice cream out of the back seat. “Please, please, get out of here!” I screamed, jumping into the seat beside him, “Now!”

He looked at me as calm as the summer air, and with a lilting island accent, I swear he said something similar to this. “Lot of anxiety for this hour of the mornin’.” And he kept cleaning.

“Please! A man, he’s coming after me! Hurry!”

He put down his rag and got behind the wheel, his head shaking. Crazy woman. He didn’t need to say it.

As he pulled away, I heard my boss cursing, curbside.

Days later, and with little effort, a lawyer friend, David, found that my former employer was connected to a crime syndicate that enslaved girls. At the time, this naïve country girl thought that particular notion ridiculous. Today, I know human slavery is an all too real horror.

I did all the right things that night, too many to say it was luck. While I had strayed from my spiritual upbringing, my family always prayed. Today I see their dozens of answered prayers. I also see a guardian angel, not in the bedside chair of my youth, but next to my shoulder, telling me what to do and say.

And there was that child-like prayer, “Jesus, please help.” Simple words that produced supernatural composure and delivered me from a nightmare.

To be old and wise, the saying goes, you first must be young and foolish. And I was young and foolish. At the time, I didn’t see the signs or the depth of depravity that could have been. I did not make it in New York, but I made it out of New York. Because if we belong to Christ, while the world gets out of hand, we are always in the Master’s hand. In today’s insane world, it is the safest place, the only place to be.

IMAG0042

Visiting New York, circa 1981

Rockefeller_Center_(2006)

Winter at Rockefeller Center

NY 2