I grew up Catholic - we actually grew up right next door to my town's Catholic church. I went to the elementary school affiliated with our church where I learned all of the necessary Catholic prayers and beliefs. My mom was a huge teacher in my faith growing up, and I have fond memories of going to church with her. Even when we went on vacation, she had to find the Catholic church in the area and we had to go. (I secretly love this now) :o)
My grandmother and I had a very special relationship. After her 7 children grew up and had babies of their own, she consumed herself in a very unique search for spirituality. I remember going to visit her and seeing her latest Buddist book, or theological book on the kitchen table. She truly immersed herself in finding her own beliefs without letting someone else dictate what she should or shouldn't believe. She went so far as to say that she didn't think that God is a man. So if you sat beside her in church, you could hear her clearly skipping the parts in the prayers where you say "God the Father" or "Our Father" or "He will..." In her precious Bible, you will find her handwriting on every single page. No, I'm not over-eggzagerating. Every place it has the word "he" or "father" she marked it out and substituted it with "Lord" or "God."
I know what you're thinking. First, GET TO THE POINT! and second, Your Grandma's crazy! :o)
I promise there IS a point, and yes, Grandma would be considered crazy by a few people.
However, the wonderful part about my relationship with my Grandma was that she didn't push her ideals onto other people. She simply shared what she felt, and she would listen to you unconditionally. She was on a quest for a complete spirituality. She inspired me to do the same, and although I go to church (not as much as I should), and I read books about faith and God, and I pray daily with my husband as well as by myself, I still felt like none of that was enough. I witnessed my Grandma at the very end of her life - her very last days. I swear you have never seen anyone so calm, so ready. Every time someone would say to me "I'm so sorry that your Grandma's sick" I replied very matter of factly "It's okay because I know she's ready." I will never forget sitting with her in her room, listening to her talk about how she felt like she was floating on a cloud. She wasn't scared one bit. Just at peace with her life, at peace with her faith, and now I can truly say that I know she is at peace. Her last request was that we "Be the peace in the world."
Okay, so now for the book: I read this book in one sitting. It took about 2 1/2 hours. I balled my eyes out after just 2 pages.
This is about a little boy, just 4 years old, who comes very close to death and actually goes to Heaven. His parents don't realize that this has happened until a few years later. His first clue was given when his family passed the hospital where he had the experience. He pointed and said "that's where the angels sang to me." That was all it took for me - I was crying - I was hooked - I had to read this book.
Now, I could go on and on about all of the different things that "hit" me while reading this book, but then I would take all the fun out of it for you! The one thing that the little boy kept saying throughout the book (and now throughout his life) was how much Jesus loves children. Being a kinder teacher this really spoke to me. Losing a kinder last year made reading this very special. Losing my baby brother made reading this close to my heart. I'm realizing how much impact I have on my kinders at school. I want to show them just how much they are loved by me, and through me, also loved by Jesus. Now slow down...hold on...I'm not saying I'm going to go break out my Bible in the middle of Morning Meeting, but there ARE things we as teachers can do to show our students that incredible, gotta have it, wonderful L-O-V-E love. We can "be thankful" and talk about those feelings. We can show them how to love and respect each other. The possibilities are endless...
Let me ask you, have you ever had an experience where you prayed really hard about something...maybe you needed an answer from Big Man, or someone you love was at a crossroad and you wanted advice on how to help them, or your finances were a mess and you desperately needed relief? And then out of no where the answer just hit you. My friend Rachel and I have the term to coin it! It's called a "God Smack."
After reading this book I got a HUGE "God Smack." I've had them before - loud and clear I figured out where to go to college, what to do when a relationship went sour, etc. My favorite story from the book is when the mother of the family went outside and saw the biggest and clearest rainbow she's ever seen. It was stretched out right there in front of the house. She quickly called her son outside because he loves rainbows (there was a reference about how he saw a beautiful rainbow in Heaven). He steps just outside the front door and says, "Yeah, I prayed for that last night." And then he walks back inside.
I read that and thought about how I don't really pray as often as I should. I've said prayers when people were sick or someone had passed away, and my handsome and I take turns saying grace every night at dinner, but that was about it. I don't talk to Big Man like I should. We were on vacation in the mountains, and the next day my handsome and I went fishing on the lake there. We picked the perfect spot and both started catching fish. I caught a pretty substantial bass, but the d@%# thing jumped off the hook at the last minute. Handsome caught a few bass too (they also jumped hook before we could get them into the boat) along with a small pickerel, but nothing life-altering. As our fishing trip winded down, I could tell that he was a little frustrated. He wanted "the big one." All of a sudden, completely out of no where I thought about the little boy and the rainbow. I don't know why I did it, but I found myself having a conversation in my mind. Handsome had just cast again, and as he reeled in the hook, I said in my head something like..."it would be so cool if he could catch just one more fish...especially if it was a little bigger than the one that I caught earlier. I'm not asking this so that he can boast about it or be too proud, but I know that it would make him really happy if he could catch a fish that was bigger than mine...." I wasn't even finished with my last thought before his line was taught and he was reeling in a fish! Holy cow! I couldn't believe what I was seeing! I've never prayed a prayer like that before. But, it was hilarious because when handsome reeled in the fish we found that it wasn't a bass it was a pickerel. Yes, it was much longer than the bass I caught before, but it wasn't a coveted bass. What I MEANT when I was saying that prayer was for him to catch a bigger BASS, but I didn't clarify that. :o)
Back to my point - my "God smack" happened when I realized that I have to pray specifically. I asked for a bigger fish, but God has a sense of humor, and he sent a pickerel - yes a bigger, longer fish - but not a bigger bass.
If you are still reading this, bless you. I know I am not the best story teller at all (I tell 5 stories in one and never end up a the original one to finish it), but I hope that there are others out there who share similar experiences. Maybe you feel inspired to read this book, maybe you want to stop being my follower because "that girl is crazy!" I'm just very grateful to have people in my life who help me along on my journey.
My favorite quotes:
"If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans."
"Good Morning! This is God. I will be handling all of your problems today. I do not need your help. So relax, and have a great day!"
"Be the peace in the world."
"And all will be well, and all will be very well."
"Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you - not because they are nice, but because you are."
...be at peace, and all will be well...