As I type I am not sure if my words will see the light of day. Sometimes I write just to help me sort out my feelings. I guess you might think of it like writing in a journal, except I have never kept a diary or journal. I usually just write things down to help me process my thoughts and then discard these private writings when I am done.

What I am about to talk about is the inner thoughts I have running through my head. Suffice it to say if you are reading these words I have decided that they needed to be heard.

I am currently sitting in the middle seat of a nine passenger van on my way to Mississippi for a mission trip. There are seven passengers who do not know each other all that well traveling nine hours together. I have actually never been on a full-blown mission trip and I have also never been to Mississippi. This should be interesting.

There are four women and three men with one of the men being my husband, John. We both brought books to read for the ride in case we found ourselves out of conversation, something I can hardly imagine, as we are prolific talkers. I also brought with me some paperwork I have been neglecting, which I am happy to say I have now completed. I only mention the paper work because as I worked on it everyone else took the opportunity to get to know one another. It was during this time that, like a bug on the wall, I learned a lot about my fellow mission trip travelers.

One universal theme that kept coming up was how God has worked in each of their lives. Since I write a column about life’s mysteries I wanted to be part of the conversation but the work in hand kept me too busy to talk but not busy enough that I could not listen. I am a mother after all, and learned the art of multi-tasking a long time ago.

As it turns out, it was a good thing that the only attention I could devote to the conversation was listening because I learned a lot. Each one had a story to share about the path that their lives took to get them to this very day. With each story I heard more and more of how they felt God worked in their lives. If I had not been someone who believes in the miracles and mysteries of life, I might not have believed some of what I was hearing.

One story was grander than the next. Everything from how God set in motion the meeting of strangers destine to marry, to how money literally came from nowhere to provide for a college education, and even a mysterious relocation to the United States from another country.

In fact, the stories I was hearing were quite spectacular. So much so that I was thinking that the miracles of my life, the very ones I built this column around, paled in comparison.

So now, as I sit in this middle seat, I am left to ponder my thoughts for the reminder of this long trip. My first thought was whether or not I am as faithful as they are. After all, their miracles do seem fairly grand. My next question then becomes: Does the biggest miracle go to the person with the strongest faith?

We arrived late that night and were greeted by a friendly young lady with a British accent. She helped get us settled into what would be our accommodations for the next four nights- the men in one cottage and the women in another.

The little row houses were picture perfect, each painted a different pastel color. If I didn’t know better I would have thought we were at a resort on the beach. Aside from not sharing sleeping accommodations with my husband, the housing arrangements were above expectations.

We awoke and all met outside in the common courtyard where we gathered to start our day. My husband and I were ready for a hammer and some nails as we thought for sure we would be doing some kind of construction work. Surprisingly, there was not going to be any kind of “work” involved on this day.

Prayer was the only thing on the agenda. Honestly, I am a fan of prayer and meditation, but I have never spent a whole day in active prayer. This should be interesting.

A prayer walk led us through the community and ultimately an abandoned building where we stopped to pray. Divine guidance was needed in decisions the ministry was making regarding the building. It was a beautiful sight to see 40 plus people laying hands on this run down structure while a pastor sat beside the building playing the guitar and singing in prayer.

More prayer followed as the day went on. Some people in the act of prayer stand some sit and yet some dance with arms wide open. Although, I am an outgoing and somewhat loud person in my regular life in my prayer life I am quite and pray in reverence. Seeing all the others praying, I asked myself why does my prayer style not look as joyous as others? Again I ask myself the gnawing question- Am I as faithful as they are?

What is it about this mission trip that has me questioning my strength of faith? I have always felt I was blessed with a strong personal faith, so why the questioning? Since I was feeling like a fish out of water and I was already praying, I thought I would pray for clarity for myself.

My answer came shortly after in a worship message delivered by the ministry leader.
1 Corinthians 12:12- “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”

Yes, we are all connected. We all function as one yet we all work independently. It takes many parts to make up our body. The foot works differently from the heart and the heart is different from the liver. The liver can not be the foot, and the foot can not be the heart. They are all unique, yet all needed.

If the heart were to see what the liver does, the heart might feel inadequate, and visa versa, but we know that both are needed and important.

Albert Einstein wrote, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Or in my case, unworthy.

Illustration of a fish in an underwater tree playing guitar by artist Luba Sharapan
Illustration by Luba Sharapan

All this and it is only day one. Who knows what lesson will I learn tomorrow? Life is mysterious.

My story starts with me mopping the kitchen floor and as I mopped I thought to myself, ‘I have never been more happy than I am right now.’ Mopping the floor is usually a chore I dread. In fact, I dislike doing any kind of housework, but, right there in that moment, I was almost in a state of euphoria. You see, a week ago I became a Grandmother. It is amazing how 7 pounds 3 ounces can change your life so much and all the blessings that can be revealed in one little bundle.

The official due date for the baby’s birth given to us by the doctor was November 14th. The months passed as we all watched my daughter-in-law Jess’s belly grow bigger and bigger and as she grew, the more uncomfortable she became. Truth be told, Jess had a rough pregnancy and even developed gestational diabetes. She had to alter everything she ate, which I should explain is a very big deal because Jess is an extremely picky eater. So, out went the mashed potatoes and the fried chicken, and gone was her favorite food- pizza. She wasn’t left with much food she liked, yet, she did whatever it took to ensure her and the baby would be fine. Jess was amazing and took it like a trooper, but, I am sure those nine months of pregnancy seemed like an eternity.

Then, on one of her visits to the doctor, he told her that because of the diabetes he did not want her to go past her due date, so he made them pick a day to induce. I asked that, if given the choice, they not pick November 9th because I had a big event to attend. Taking that information into consideration, they chose November 10th as their big day.

My event went well and my husband and I got home around midnight. We laid down to sleep about 2 am only to be woken an hour later. “Jess has gone into labor and we are on our way to the hospital!” exclaimed our son Tony. Although the doctor was going to induce labor in a few hours, our grandson had his own plans on when and how he would be born.

This reminded me of Tony when choosing what branch of the military to join. I asked him, and in fact begged him, not to join the Marines. Tony, however, had his own plans on what branch he would join. So, just like his Daddy, our grandson was entering his life on his terms.

But wait! There is more. Our grandson not only beat the doctor to the punch, he chose to be born on the Marine Corps Birthday. My son, who chose the Marine Corps, had a son who chose to be born on the Marine Corps birthday. I don’t know what the odds of that happening are, but, it has to be slim. So, how is that for a life is mysterious?

This, however, is not where the story or the mysteries end. My daughter-in-law ended up having a C-section and, just like everything else, she handled it like a champ. She even put up with dozens of Marines and family members parading in and out of her room to celebrate the birth of their son.
Finally given a clean bill of health the new parents were sent home where they would enjoy peace and quiet and get used to the routine of being a family. A couple of days passed, and my son asked me if I wanted to visit and if I could make them dinner, an offer I gladly accepted.

This brings me back to the beginning of my story and mopping. Spaghetti and meatballs on the stove top for my son and pizza in the oven for my daughter-in-law, I went about helping around the house.

Jess sat feeding the baby and my son sat by her as they watched the Hallmark Channel’s holiday movie of the week. It was a warm and comforting sight. One that reminded me of my own mother helping me after the birth of my children. Missing my parents, I thought of all they did for me. I remembered feeling bad for my mom having to clean my house after my C-section, but, what I didn’t know is how good she must have felt helping me.

Mop in hand and tears in my eyes, I looked at the new family and thought this is the best it gets. I am the happiest I have ever been. Right then, while mopping their floor, I realized this is what life is all about. I have never felt more blessed and thankful than knowing that life has come full circle.

Blessings to everyone this Thanksgiving and remember, life is beautiful and messy and, if you are very fortunate, you will be handed a mop to help clean it up. After all, life is mysterious.

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