Have you ever had a transcendental experience? I have. The first one (which was quite extraordinary) happened after my mother died. It was a long time before I got up the nerve to even tell anyone about it. I still am not comfortable taking about it and I don’t ever see myself blogging about that particular experience. My fear in telling people was that they would think I was crazy. I was seeing a therapist at the time (who in fact saw me through both of my parents’ deaths). She was someone I liked, trusted and respected, and though I was a little hesitant to tell her, I was glad in the end that I did. She’s the one who introduced me to the phrase, “transcendental experience.” That wasn’t a phrase that was even in my vocabulary until then. After I confided in her, I told her I had feared she would call the men in white coats to drag me away. She laughed and said, “Who are these men in white coats?!” Then she told me she very much believed me and that “you just can’t make that stuff up!”
Something happened this past Christmas morning that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. I debated on whether I wanted to blog about it. It’s profoundly personal and it affected me deeply. Since transcendental experiences are supernatural experiences, I firmly believe there aren’t always words in our fleshy vocabularies to describe these experiences. Recently, I was reading a copy of a high school graduation speech that a dear friend of mine wrote. In her speech, she tells the graduates that in this life, great things will happen and terrible things will happen. One of the pieces of advice she gave to them was to take notes in the dark and in the hard and broken times, and share those notes with others, because you never know when another person is going through a dark time and would benefit from your notes. In other words, light a candle to help them through their darkness. So I guess I’m sharing the notes I took in the dark, last Christmas morning.
Christmas this past year, thanks to the pandemic, was going to be a quiet one. I have to admit, I wasn’t too upset about that. If you know me, you know that Christmas is not a favorite time for me like it is for many others. I despise the hustle and the bustle and the hurrying to get everything done – the shopping, the wrapping, the decorating, etc. I wish I enjoyed putting up a Christmas tree but I don’t. I despise how commercialized the whole Christmas season has become. I find the older I get, I long for quiet, calm and peace. Christmas was just going to be my husband and me and our oldest son who was here visiting for about 2 weeks. Our youngest son was spending Christmas with his wife’s family.
My plan was to sleep in on Christmas morning (a first!) and then I would get up and make Christmas breakfast – coffee, a breakfast casserole, sausage balls, hot cinnamon rolls, and spiced tea. And then after breakfast, we’d open our gifts.
That morning, I awoke and got out of bed. I walked in the room where my husband was and the first words out of his mouth were: “You’re not going to believe what has happened.” I casually asked, “What?” He said, “A bomb has gone off….. possibly a terrorist bomb.” I asked, “Where?” My mind was thinking this had happened somewhere far away. And my jaw almost hit the floor when his reply was, “Downtown Nashville!” I wrote a blog post (with pictures of the bombing) here. My brain couldn’t even comprehend this. Because bombs just don’t go off in my hometown – in downtown Nashville – and bombs certainly don’t go off on Christmas Day! I went into the den and started watching the nonstop coverage on the TV and my eyes couldn’t believe the chaos and devastation that I was seeing. The bomb went off on 2nd Avenue, a beautiful historic area and an area I had walked down many times and where I had dined in restaurants. I had driven down this road weeks before the bombing.
My anxiety and stress level had been at an all time high all year with the unexpected death of a dear next door neighbor and the same week, an unsettling break-in/burglary at the next door neighbor’s house on the other side of us, a tornado that destroyed entire neighborhoods and schools just a few miles from us, and of course the pandemic. Pandemics are scary things, but believe me when you have a husband who is an RN who works in a hospital, pandemics are even scarier. During the pandemic, my husband underwent two major orthopedic surgeries. A dear friend had surgical complications which left her blind. My oldest sister developed COVID and was hospitalized with bilateral pneumonia. My youngest son got COVID, then had a seizure, and had to go via ambulance to the ER. There was all the political unrest going on and the BLM protests, riots and looting. So yes, by Christmas, my nerves were frazzled and I was not in a good place mentally or emotionally.
With the news of that bomb, which WAS a suicide bomb set off intentionally on Christmas morning, something deep inside of me broke. I lost the little bit of hope I had been desperately trying to cling to for almost an entire year. I can honestly say, I’ve never felt so hopeless in all my life. I was hanging by a thread and the news of that bomb caused that thread to snap.
As I said in the post I wrote previously, I would watch the TV coverage of the bomb on the news and then I’d go to the bathroom and let the tears just flow. I cupped my hands over my face and I sobbed. I tried to do this away from my family as I was trying hard not to ruin their Christmas. At one point, I remember standing in the bathroom praying. Praying and crying. I cried out to God for help and I bared my soul to him. I told Him I couldn’t take this life anymore and I confessed to him that I had lost ALL hope. I told Him I didn’t see the point in life anymore. I told Him I felt like life was “just waiting for the next bad thing to happen” or “waiting for the next piece of bad or devastating news.” And this girl couldn’t take ANY more bad news. What WAS the point of all the bad things that had happened in the past year? Yes, the shards of that bomb completely shredded my last ounce of hope.
I don’t profess to hear much from God when I pray. I’ll admit that I envy others who do seem to hear from Him so often and so clearly. I remember a lady at my church once who told me one day that she prayed about choosing curtains for her kitchen, and heard clearly from God to go with a pair of yellow curtains. I have to admit, I was skeptical of her story. I remember thinking, “Really?” I drove home from church that day wondering if God really gets involved in what color curtains we should choose for our windows. I wondered also if we should even be praying about curtain colors. I wanted badly to believe this woman, for she was someone I loved dearly, she was bright, educated, honest, and had a very strong faith. But still, I was skeptical. I’m never sure I’ve completely understood the still small voice of God. Is it an actual audible voice? Is it a whisper? Is it just a knowing?
But that Christmas morning, when I was in the bathroom telling God that I had lost all hope, I heard a clear message. I can’t say it was an audible voice (and that’s the part that is so difficult to explain), but it was as if a voice was coming from within me. It said, “I AM YOUR HOPE” It was SO very clear that it almost startled me. I walked out of the bathroom and back in the den, almost in a daze, where the TV was still on. I tried to watch more coverage but I found it hard to concentrate. I got up to walk out of the room and I felt a strong pull when I exited our den and entered the hall. It was as if a strong magnetic force was pulling me towards our foyer and I felt a strong sense that I needed to be in that foyer. It was the strangest feeling. In my foyer is a marble-topped table and on that table was my nativity set. My eyes were drawn directly down to that nativity scene which seemed more vivid and brighter than ever before. And from somewhere deep inside of me, I heard as plain as the nose on my face, “THERE IS YOUR HOPE.” My hope was there in front of me, lying in a manger. Nothing was more clearer to me. I get cold chills even now as I type this.
Hope is God’s gift. Hope is what I so badly needed that Christmas morning, and God spoke peace and hope to my heart. He eased my fear during my darkest hour and came through for me in a way I never could have imagined!
The enemy had been telling me to give up. I know God hears my prayers and I know he’s working on my behalf. He changed my thoughts of discouragement of a most hopeless situation and I knew I needed to believe in Him and rely on Him. He let me know that He is working out every precious detail of my life.
I’ve spent the entire past year focusing on all my problems. I only needed help in looking to Him, the source of my hope. I am thankful I am not left to walk this journey alone. He has been right there by my side, carrying me through. I see that now.
God’s Word assures us that He understands our discouragement and He yearns to replace it with hope. His plans for us are good, although we can’t always see that. His glorious promise is that in Heaven, all our pain and suffering will be over and we will live an eternal future with Him.
He is the source of our hope.
I purchased my cheap little nativity set many years ago, before my children were born, from a school fundraiser catalog. I always intended one day to replace it with something nicer. But over the years, it has become very special to me, symbolizing the way Jesus really did arrive in our world – in a meager little manger surrounded by hay, animals and manure. A humble entry with no pageantry. I will never, EVER get rid of this nativity set now. I’ll never look at it with the same eyes again.