The snow was falling steadily and the temperature had dropped drastically. Winter was upon us. I pulled carefully into the steep drive to park at the newly opened diner. I was too tired to cook and I needed some comfort food in the worst way. It had been one of those days, one of those years really. I could not wait for 2016 to conclude and 2017 to usher in a fresh start.
I had learned so much throughout the year, but not all of the lessons had been wanted. I had grown along the way, but I was a weary from the journey. I wanted nothing more than to know I was on the right path and that joy would unfold.
Deep in thought, I hadn’t even spoken to my companion. I just stared at the menu. Then an unfamiliar voice jolted me to awareness. “Be present, Sarah” my mind prompted in response.
“Hey! You taught choir, right? You did!” His smile was broad. His words not a question, but a clear, satisfied declaration. “You were my choir teacher and you took us to perform at the amphitheater one Christmas.”
I was stunned. I mentally calculated that it must have been my last year at the school before transferring. And he must have been no more than eight years old at the time–nearly 15 years ago!
“That’s one of my best memories,” he continued. “You were so proud of us and you got us all hot chocolate afterward.” He seemed to sigh and look off into the distance as if visualizing that cold winter’s night during “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
“Man, I think about that all the time.”
“Oh, yeah. And Christmas songs are still my favorite. Look at me! I’m running my own business and I’ve got Christmas music playing. Obviously I’m not doing drugs or in a gang. You made a difference. You have to know that.”
“But you were only in third grade,” I laughed. “You might be giving me more credit than I deserve. Clearly, you’re a pretty amazing person and that’s all you’re choosing.”
“Ha! I forgot how you talked like that,” he chuckled. So did my dinner date. I do get a bit didactic.
“Just know that you touched our lives. What you do matters.” He went on and my heart warmed. It was one of those surreal moments, those gifts from the universe.
I’ve had a lot of those lately, even during this challenging season in my life. Well, especially during this challenging season of my life.
I’ve been taught to watch for signs that my guardian angels are near. And these signs have always warmed my heart and lightened my step. I do not know what form my angels take. I do not know what I have done to deserve them. But I cannot shake the feeling that I am guided, prompted, loved, and uplifted throughout my days.
I know some might think such beliefs are just fanciful, magical thinking, the kind that can be dangerous and delusional. Sometimes I even wish I could agree and set aside the promptings and guidance, suppress the feelings that I am part of something greater than a mere biological existence. How easy it would be think my impact on others is only temporary or that I have so much control that I can force my life and others’ to fit into my egocentric vision for each day. I’m great at being in control, after all. I’ve made a career of it. But I’ve also made a career of listening. And the more I listen, truly listen, the more promptings and support I receive.
Whether through energy patterns or ethereal presence I know–yes, that’s a pretty definitive declaration–that something far beyond my comprehension is at work and it unites each of us and, if we let go of our feeble illusions of complete control, this unifying force will lead us to a divine state of grace and guide us to a place where we can be the best version of ourselves.
The phone was ringing as I walked in, the office still dark. I was too late to pick up, so I tried calling her right back. I left a message and hung up. A few minutes later a familiar chime let me know I had new voicemail. I put it on speaker phone as I continued to get situated for another busy day.
“Sarah, I just wanted to let you know that you’re loved. I know how much Heavenly Father loves you and he told me again last night.” I stopped in my tracks. This was not a typical Friday morning message on my office line.
“I had a dream about you last night and you were sitting by me, softly touching my hand with a sad smile in your eyes and you told me that you loved everyone and this world so much…. ” she paused, her breath thick with emotion. “But you said you were sad and wondered if anyone really loved you.” I dropped to my chair, stunned, and immediately tearful.
“So I need you to know, Sarah, what I told you in my dream. You are loved. You are just beautiful and God has a special place for you in his loving arms.” By this time tears were flowing. Where was this coming from, I wondered. What was I putting out into the universe. Do I seem sad? Ungrateful? Lonely? What did this sweet woman know that I wasn’t acknowledging about my own life?
“Sarah, I’m so sorry that I haven’t told you this before. I want you to know we all love you and think of you. You deserve so much love. I just needed you to know that before the weekend, okay?” There was another pause. “You need to know that. I hope you think about that this weekend. And remember that no matter what, God loves you.”
Completely out of character, I cried for a good ten minutes. Tears of sadness, tears of joy, and tears of love. I said a prayer of thanks for the unsolicited and beautiful reminder of all the love in my life, and I felt a weight lifted that I’d not known was there. I had been given another gift that morning.
I knew I was loved. My thankful-fors in my prayers are extensive. But I had been struggling with how to be my best self and how to fully give and accept love as relationships and roles changed at home and work. And the pure light of love had just let me know through my dear, sweet colleague, that I was doing just fine and that I only needed to ask for and accept all the love available. How simple and wonderful and unexpected.
“Hey, Roberts, I’m graduating.” He didn’t beam or exude his usual charm. But he was proud, no doubt about it. His eyelids grew heavy and his chocolatey eyes glistened briefly as he put his head down, almost embarrassed.
I threw my arms around him and squeezed his broad shoulders. He’d grown so much over the last four years. And he was graduating!!
He’d been one of those students I struggled to connect with. I fought to find ways to motivate him and how to keep him out of trouble. I’d tried separating him from certain influences. I’d chased him through the neighborhood to drag him back to school. I’d cried with his mom when he wouldn’t stay clean.
But this resilient young man just kept coming back to school. That, in and of itself, was reason to hope. It took him an extra six months, but he’d done it.
“I want you to come, hear my speech.” He looked up now, eyes almost hopeful, but far too cool to completely emote any nerves.
“I will be there, no matter what.”
And as he spoke, behind the podium, he began with a story of my “eagle eyes” and how I’d chased after him all of sophomore year, and how he’d needed that. He spoke of teachers who never gave up. He spoke of the examples of strength and dedication that uplifted him. And he cried. We all did.
There are times in our lives when we want to give up. I’d thought about it with this student. Would he make it? Could he? What could I really do?
And, in the moment that he shared his story, I knew why we could never give up–on anyone. It’s not for us to decide the future, only to decide to act, with love.
I’m so thankful for reminders like these. They’re all around for each of us. And when we stop to take stock, to compile our list of thankful-fors, we realize they are all around.
There’s the student from my first class as a teacher in public ed who’s shown up at every shift in my life, seemingly at random, at the supermarket, the car dealer, the hockey game, to just hug and love me and give me her supermodel smile. There’s the good friend who sends a text that just says “I thought you might need a hug today.” There’s the friend who just helps you laugh, no matter what. The dinner invite when you’re down, the little note left on your desk saying thank you, the inspirational message left on your Facebook timeline, the healing energy of smiles and hugs every day.
So I believe in angels. They don’t all have visible wings. But they are sent by a higher power I still can’t comprehend. And they make the world a better place, they guide us and keep us safe. They remind us that love is all around, and it’s available to each of us.
My heart is full. I’m so thankful.
Now, as the sun slowly rises above the snow-capped peaks before me, I say a silent prayer. I pray with gratitude. I pray with hope that you too might see the angels among us this season and always.