Cardinal Moments

Is there something special in your life that seems to keep reappearing in times of need? A “sign” as it were, that reminds you God is with you, loves you and will take care of you?

After a recent speaking engagement that focused on specific tactics for moving through unwanted and unplanned change, a woman shared with me the challenges of change she is facing in the midst of a devastating financial crisis. Because my name is Penny, she thought I would be interested in hearing how pennies have been a source of encouragement to her.

When she feels overwhelmed with problems and at the end of her rope, a shiny penny, heads-up, will appear in the most unexpected places at just the right time: in the cupboard where she keeps her coffee cup; in the tire well of her car trunk; the pocket of a jacket which she only wears in her garden; or on the ground in front of an ATM when there were “insufficient funds” for her withdrawal. A shiny penny, heads up with the words “In God We Trust” appears when things are looking bleak as a reminder that God is in control of every aspect of her life, including her finances… right down to the penny!

A friend in Hawaii says rainbows are Post-it notes from God. They appear in times when she has the greatest need to be reminded that God loves her – He always has – and He always will.

I asked my husband if there were something special he felt God placed in his life as a reminder of His love. He looked at me, smiled and, with an impish twinkle in his clear green eyes replied, “Yes. Trout.” “Trout?” I echoed. “Trout remind you that God loves you? “Yes,” he answered, “especially when they’re a two pounder!” I punched him and wondered if this was more a girl-God thing than a guy-God thing. Then, in all seriousness, he went to explain how it is often in those times of quiet solitude while fly fishing, surrounded by the beauty of nature, that he feels and is reassured of God’s love for him.

When my father succumbed to his battle with lung cancer during an epic flood in Houston, Texas, his passing was complicated by the inability of our Hospice Team to reach my mother and me. My sister pleaded with officials to allow her to come to our aid but all her requests and protests were ignored. Instead, a rescue team was sent to remove Dad’s body and take Mom and me to safety. As we waited for the arrival of the rescue team, I somehow had the presence of mind to tell Mom to pack a suitcase, reminding her to include something for the funeral. After Mom had gone to pack, I stepped away from Dad’s bedside to check on the water inching closer to the house. Fear began to crawl into my heart as strobe lightening flashed nonstop and thunder roared. I stretched and leaned into the bay window, hoping to see signs of the rescue team, when a flash of movement caught my eye. I turned my gaze in the direction of the movement and, to my utter amazement, saw a bright red, male cardinal sitting at my parent’s bird feeder.

I watched the cardinal pick a sunflower from among the saturated seeds floating in the feeder, and as I did a deep sense of peace and wellbeing wrapped itself around me. Words of scripture came to mind and it was as if the Lord Himself were standing at the widow with me saying, “Don’t be afraid. See how I care for the birds in the midst of the storm? You are far more precious to me than any number of birds. Just as I know their needs I know yours. I will take care of you. I am here with you and will not leave you. Nothing, not death, this storm or anything else will ever be able to separate you from My love. Trust Me and allow Me to be your Prince of Peace.”

The cardinal stayed a while longer and then flew from the feeder as the rescue team arrived. Mom, Dad and I were taken by air boat across the high and rising water to a waiting ambulance and then on to the hospital where we were greeted by the warm embrace of my waiting sister and the chaplain from our hospice team.

This past week has once again been devoted to ER rooms, hospital stays and doctor’s visits due to the sudden onset of a large blood clot in my husband’s left leg. It has been an uncertain time and, on one night as I drove home alone in the dark, the possibility of losing Bill to either a stroke or death had the icy fingers of fear once again crawling into my heart.

As I pulled into our driveway, I noticed something oddly glowing in the distance. Curious about what it might be, I cautiously walked toward it and uttered a low cry as I recognized what it was. My sister had recently sent us a gift and, unbeknownst to me, Bill had put it together and placed it in the garden. There, in the dark of night, hanging from a wrought iron pole was a solar lantern, its panels aglow with bright red cardinals!

God’s reassurances come in many ways. Sometimes they come through His word or through the lyrics of a hymn. Sometimes they come wrapped in the majesty of His creation or in the encouragement, support and extraordinary efforts of others. For me, in moments of fear and anxiety, His reassurance has come, even in the dark of night, on the bright red wings of a cardinal to remind me of all He has already seen me through along with His promise to never leave me or forsake me.

This week, keep your eyes open for a special sign reminding YOU that God loves you – He always has – and He always will.

 

 

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