The next day, I prayed again. I went early to a triathlon race where I ran into a man who had acted as a father figure to me for several years in my mid twenties. I had not seen this man in quite some time but ten years ago he taught me to swim and trained me for my first marathon. He always encouraged me like a dad would.
As I got into the pool I realized my goggles were not adjusted right as my kids use them often. I tried to fix them, but every time I swam a stroke, water entered into my eyes. I made several attempts but I could not get them right. I began to swim backstroke instead because I cannot stand water in my eyes.
As I swam, I thought about how I must live this way. I must live looking up at all times or I am going to be completely blind. God was teaching me.
When I began the bike portion of the race, I saw a church marquee that read, “Faith for your decisions, Part 2.” I literally laughed out loud because I knew what God was saying. I have not made my decisions in faith in the past. Part 1 was not faithful. But he is opening a new chapter for me concerning how to follow him in true and saving faith.
I biked for several miles and just as I entered a hollow of shade trees, I thought of my dad. Every time I go through a hollow on a country road, I think of him because when he got sick (when I was 11) we always took 857 to Morgantown to visit him. I knew when we went though the hollow we were close to seeing daddy – whom I missed terribly. I knew God would show up. Just as I entered the hollow and thought of daddy, my friend who had taught me to swim and distance run appeared from around the bend coming the other way. “Good job, Lori,” he said. Those are words I never really got to hear from my dad. What are the chances that he would enter that hollow coming from the other way at that very moment? It was not a coincidence. God, my Father whom I have missed so much was meeting me.
As I was running, I was coming onto the track toward the finish and a song I associate with the excommunication came on. Next, a song I associate with a severed relationship from the dark period came on. The two darkest realities I faced over two years ago were both associated with a song and both songs played at the finish of this race. God was speaking. He was in that and he is in this – healing. He showed me that it is finished.
After I finished my father-like friend gave me a hug and said, “I’m proud of you.” That’s what daddy would have said if he were there.
The doctor told me the reason God wants to heal me is for freedom. So I will be free from anxiety and worry and discouragement and sin. The race was put on by an organization known as “Faith in action” – a Christian hospice and home care agency. Their sign at the end of the race had their motto which read, “A neighbor’s independence depends on you.”
Freedom . Independence. Mine and yours. That is why I am sharing this awesome, bizarre, crazy story with you. God wants to give us freedom from fear, discouragement, depression, and anxiety. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt he does.
As I drove home I noticed a cloud in the sky that was shaped like a heart and – I kid you not – inside that cloud was a brighter white cloud in the form of a “u.” Love u. It was God. No doubt. Not a moment later a huge billboard read, “Who is Jesus” in all caps and another said, “A father is who picks you up after you fall.” Then I entered back into Pennsylvania from West Virginia and the sign said, “Welcome to Pennsylvania, state of independence.” Did you know that was our motto?? I didn’t. I thought we were the keystone state or something. God was lavishing his love upon me, assuring me as my father, giving me freedom, and bringing me back home. That is what he is doing. I have no doubt no matter how unreal this all sounds to other people.
I was so smitten and overwhelmed by God’s love by this point that I literally missed my exit and did not realize it for many miles. When I finally realized that I was lost, I got on the toll road and came home a completely different, longer way. As I came past a church the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to me and said, “Go to that church and pray for the person who is there.”
I second guessed several times but knew the command was clear. I am not one to do this kind of thing – ever. I have, but it has probably been fifteen years since – back in those early days when I trusted God like a child. So, I reluctantly turned around telling myself surely no one will be there at noon on a beautiful Saturday. No one in sight, so I pulled behind the church to turn around and a man sat on a lawn mower right in front of me.
I stalled a few moments wondering if I should just leave or pretend I needed directions but God said, “Pray for that man!” So I got out and told him I was reformed but God made me. He was the pastor and said the man who cuts grass was ill that day. God wanted to encourage that man through me.
Later that night we went out to dinner for a friend’s birthday and to hear a band. About halfway through the night, back behind the band I noticed a picture hanging on the wall at a table set back by itself. As I got closer I realized the picture was of a red bird in the woods. When I run I always look for red birds because they remind me of my dad. I used to specifically ask the Lord to show me a red bird when I was thinking of my dad and he often would.
I have no doubt that these seeming coincidences are really and truly God moving in my life to restore, heal, and use me for his glory.