Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Prophecy**

A few years ago, when I was attending Faith Fellowship in San Leandro, Pastor David Silvey* called me out with a prophecy.** He said that I would get the answers that I seek, that he could see the police coming to my door,  could see me falling to the floor. Years have passed, Pastor David and I have each gone through our individual wilderness times, but managed to find each other again. The other evening I was attending a Bible study he teaches at Lift Ministries, and he mentioned this prophecy. It is the first time since it was given that either of us has brought it up. It was, I believe, the first service in the new building which is to be the new home for the church. He was teaching in front of the group assembled, and he said to me, "I haven't forgotten the prophecy I gave, and it will come to pass. I see the two men coming to your house. I see you falling to the floor."

I have thought about this prophecy often throughout the years. I have tried to place it here or there, or to imagine this or that. The falling to the floor part has always thrown me. I am NOT a demonstrative person. When I sat at a table in the police department facing two detectives and they informed me that a bone has been found that was thought to be a child's bone, which was thought to possibly be Michaela's bone, I felt a wave of grief wash over me. I felt my throat close with what threatened to become tears. But I held myself. My unconscious mind was not about to allow me to show my grief. I was quiet for a moment, swallowing it down before I trusted myself to speak. Allowing myself such a display of emotion as falling on the floor just doesn't sound like me.

And honestly, as time passes, it gets harder and harder to even purposely get down on the floor! The joints are cranky, and collapsing just doesn't come naturally to me anymore! It would take an awful lot to make me fall on the floor, and it's been difficult to imagine what that might be. But I realized the other night, as I was hearing Pastor David speak those words again, that what I had always imagined in considering this scenario is that what the police would tell me would not surprise me. Somehow, deep inside, I would have been expecting their words for more than 25 years. It would not be a shock. I envisioned myself saying, "Okay. Thank you." Then I would close the door and turn away from them.

This is because as much as everybody pats me on the back and encourages me to have hope, I have not really had a lot of that. I have thought about Michaela being found alive, I have created elaborate fantasies around it, but I haven't really believed it was possible. The hope that I have had, well, it has been a different kind of hope, more of an eternal kind of hope and trust in God to know what he is doing. But in spite of the long-missing girls who have been found, in spite of the leads that say that Michaela is in this country or that country, in spite of the fact that I still write letters to her, I have not really and truly believed it is likely that Michaela is still alive. But how could I? If I really, really allowed myself to believe that, I would be setting myself up for the most crushing pain and disappointment the world can hold. Believe me, I had enough of a taste of that in 2009 when Jaycee Dugard was found and I was so sure Michaela would be found with her. But worse, if I really, really, really believed Michaela was still alive, I would have to live with the likelihood of all the terrible things she would have been enduring all these years, and still enduring. Neither of these outcomes is easy to embrace.

What I realized the other night is that there is only one thing that would cause me to fall down, and that is if the police came to my house and told me they had found Michaela and she is alive. Yes, that would be what would bring me to my knees.

My prayers changed slightly that night. I just simply asked God to remind Michaela of himself wherever she might be. If she is in a place where she is having difficulty escaping for any reason, God would be the one who could find the way. "Remind her of yourself, Lord. Give her strength, set her free, and lead her back to me." Michaela was actually a strong believer before she was kidnapped. If she is still alive, who knows what might have happened to her faith. It's been a fiery trial for my faith, and I have been safe at home with my family. But one thing I do know, and that is that once you are God's, you are God's, and though you may wander for a year or half a lifetime, he will call you back to himself, and that would be true for Michaela as well.

That's all. That's my prayer. That's my hope. If you pray for Michaela, I'd appreciate it if you would join me in this prayer. It is the first, most essential step to freedom.

And Michaela, if you are out there, just call on God. He will hear you, and he will respond. He will pick you up and spin you in circles, dance with you and laugh with you. I know, because he did this with me. He will teach you, strengthen you, show you the way. If you are interested, you can read some of my spiritual journey on my other blog, at www.just-sharon.com. Just have faith, ask for help, and know that just as God is still here, still loving you, so am I.

Love you forever, forever my baby girl.
mom

*Pastor David Silvey teaches Thursday night Bible study at The Lift Ministries in Hayward at 22580 Grand Street, right off A Street. The building is green and currently not marked as a church because it was recently purchased and is in the process of being renovated. Also, Pastor David has his own blog, which can be found at http://davidsilvey.wordpress.com/

**It occurred to me as I was thinking about this blog that there may be people out there who are not familiar with the notion of prophecies, or who think it is something confined to Daniel, Isaiah, Revelation and the like. Actually, it is just one of the gifts that is given to Christians. Jesus told his followers that it was better for them if he left them, because while he was here he was with them, but after he died he would be in them, in the Holy Spirit.

It was never difficult for me to get this. When I began exploring Christianity, the first book I read in the Bible was the Book of Acts. This was in the 1970's, when the Charismatic movement was sweeping through the Catholic Church, and it was a priest who told me to start there. It was quite an eye opener, completely challenged my idea of what Christianity was all about. What I wanted to know was why I'd never heard any of this before.

If you are interested in knowing more about this, I suggest you read the book of Acts in the Bible. Everything in the Bible after the book of Acts teaches about the gifts of the spirit in one way or another, but for a quick reference, 1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 14 is a good place to start.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The home movie

Recently, Michaela, I received a copy of a home movie I had no idea existed. There hadn't been a lot in the way of movies, and the one I knew of had been destroyed when it was loaned to a television station. Receiving this, I was surprised, and delighted, and scared to death to watch it. It was your voice that came to me then. Your face is before me all the time. Everywhere I have photographs of you. But all I had to do was think of a movie and the sound of your voice came back to me, and I was both anxious and afraid to watch it. Robbie said he'd watch it with me, but I told him no, I needed to watch it by myself, at least the first time.

It was not the scary experience I thought it would be. In fact, I found myself smiling all through it. Not only were you in it, but Nana also, who died almost ten years ago, and Grandfather. The video was taken at Thanksgiving and Christmas the year before he died, and you could already see how sick he was. His voice shocked me actually. I don't know if that is the way it always sounded, or if it was an effect of the lung cancer and emphysema, but he sounded nothing like what I remembered.

The video made me really, really sad though. Libby was a baby at the time, and she was sitting there in her walker, and in the first video we adults were spending a ridiculous amount of time trying to get her to blow a raspberry. Meanwhile, there was my beautiful Michaela. You hovered in the background, and then you came and sat on my lap and I held you while still trying to make Libby blow a raspberry, and I was glad to see me holding you until suddenly I reached right over the top of you to do something to Libby. And I just felt so sad. I wanted to say to myself, "Stop! Get the camera off the baby who isn't doing anything at all, and interview that beautiful little girl who you will have for only a short time after this!

And I felt sad for you, Michaela. You know I never loved anybody more than I loved you, don't you? If it makes you feel any better, Libby had to go through the same thing. Even at the age of 20, Johnna, the baby of the family, is without a doubt spoiled, a fact that is acknowledged by all, including the spoiler and the spoiled. There are some extenuating circumstances, but nevertheless the other kids seem to take it all in stride, and I honestly don't get the impression that they feel any less loved than Johnna. And they are not.

There is only one child in the family that Libby ever voiced any jealousy of, Michaela, and that is you. One day when she was maybe seven years old, she asked me what I would do if she was kidnapped. I thought she might be scared, so I told her not to worry, that she is not going to get kidnapped, but she kept insisting on an answer. Finally I got it, and I asked her, "Libby, are you jealous of Michaela?" She answered that yes, she was. "You always talk about Michaela," she said, "and you cry about her." Honestly there was close to a year of my life that I kind of recall spending way more time than was healthy laying on the couch with my eyes squeezed shut, while Alex and Libby and Robbie played with each other. For many years I must confess I was good for little.

I seem to have had not enough awareness in life of the value of each of the moments entrusted to us, and not enough awareness of myself and what I was doing in those moments. Still I suffer from this, with entire days melting into weeks into months into years without accomplishing what is before me to accomplish. But the most important thing is the love in the moments. It really hurts to see me missing out on that chance to fully engage with you in that movie, Michaela, and not only because our time together was going to be so short. It is because it hurts to see that ever a moment passed in each other's presence when I did not make you feel my love by my ever word and action. I really don't think you doubted it, but even if so ... well, how I long now for the opportunity to old you in my arms and just say those words, "I love you, Michaela," to tell you how beautiful you are, how intelligent, how kind, how bright is the light that you shine out into the world.

Part of the movie is Christmas morning at Nana's, and you and Alex are opening presents. The film goes on and on, just recording everything. At one point my dad pipes up and tells your dad that he thinks this is going to end up being pretty boring for posterity, this movie that just goes on and on, and I want to tell him, "NO! This is something precious! In just a few months, you will be gone, and then Michaela, and then my mother. One day I will be sitting here watching this and it will be a gift beyond measure to see, to hear, to feel in my heart the presence of those I love and miss so much. Let the film go on, let it roll forever and ever. Let it not end with the opening of gifts, but let it record the playtime, the dinner, to the brushing of teeth and tucking into bed at night. Let it go on and on and record all the days of all our lives! Let it never, ever end."


But it did. It did end, far too soon.

I don't know if I will post it here on the blog. For one thing, I have to get some smart person to upload it onto the internet to do that, and for another, I don't know if I want to, because it does make me so sad. We will see. Meanwhile, last week was Libby's birthday, and she came down from Oregon and we all went to dinner. I figured I'd include a photo of me with Libby for you. For your next birthday, if it is possible, my wish is for a photo of me and you together, Michaela.

I love you forever baby girl. I will see you again.

mom


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Michaela, God still loves you....

Sometimes I realize things, and I am shocked at how really slow on the uptake I have been not to have realized those things before. I feel I need to apologize, Michaela, because I am not sure that in all these blogs I have ever told you this one thing: God still loves you. 

Before you were kidnapped, I had told you a lot of things. I had told you that I loved you and that I would always take care of you. I had told you that if ever you were sad or lonely and I wasn't there all you had to do was touch your heart, and you would find me there. I had told you that if ever you needed help that you should ask God, and that God would help you. The first of my promises, I was not able to keep, and I am so very sorry for that. I only hope that you won't decide nothing I said was true because of that, because the rest of it is. I am in your heart, as you are in mine. You might forget me, might forget what I look like, might forget my name, could even forget that I ever existed, but I am still in your heart and I am still loving you, wherever you are, anywhere in this world, or in the next. 
The third promise ... well, you would be in a better position than I am to say whether God helped you or not. He could have helped you in ways I couldn't possibly imagine. You could have a better relationship with him than I do, know him far more intimately. Should you ever come home, it could be that you will be the one to teach me. But one of the things that has always haunted me is a moment that might have come when you felt abandoned, by me, and by God, when you surrendered to whatever may have been your fate with the knowledge that help was not going to come, no one was going to save you. That is such a heart rending thought to me, that I have never carried it terribly far from there. Not until just this past week, anyway, when it suddenly occurred to me that you could be alive out there somewhere, and you could still feel abandoned, helpless and hopeless. If you are reading this blog, of course you know that I still love you, that I still long for you to come home. But I can't reach out my hand far enough to touch you, to help you, to take your hand and lead you away from wherever you are.

But God can. Wherever you are, you are not alone. This is what I know for an absolute fact. All you have to do is open your heart up just a little bit to God, and he will come in. He will call to you. He will sing to you. He will love you with a love that is so soft and gentle it feels as though it will blow away if you breathe on it. But it won't. Touch it and it will grow stronger, will fill you with joy and will make you want to dance. I know this. I guarantee it. It may happen over a period of time. Once I opened the door to God and then forgot I'd done it and walked away, but behind all the noise of my life he kept calling until I said, oh, huh, it's you, God. It may happen instantly or overnight, as has happened to me. I have walked away from God more times than I care to admit, but all it has taken is a word and he has picked me up and loved me like ... well, like a missing child who has been found. But once you are his, you are always his. And you, Michaela, are his, and if you are not in his presence now, all you have to do is call to him and he will be there for you. The picture above is one of my favorites. It is called Jesus Reached Down. But he is reaching underwater, to save someone who is drowning. When we run out of air, when we run out of hope, he will be there.

I have no idea what you have had to endure since the moment you were grabbed and stolen away. Nor can I tell you why things like that happen, how it could be that God could have allowed you to be kidnapped in the first place, or why he didn't answer my prayers, your prayers, the millions of prayers offered for you over the years, to bring you home safely. But I do believe as the Bible says, that "All things work together for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purposes." And this I believe, also, that you, Michaela, have a light. You were born with a light. Those who knew you could see it when you were here, and it shines just as brightly now, even though you yourself are hidden from us. You have been a gift to the world in your presence, and you have continued to be a gift to the world in your absence. So many hearts and lives you have touched, Michaela. If you were to come home, you would not ever have to worry about being ashamed about where you had been or what has happened to you. The world loves you, baby girl. I love you. God loves you. You have a very special destiny ... to touch the world in its heart, and create love.

I have been reading a book this week, called Unspoken by Dee Henderson. It is about a woman (Charlotte) who had been kidnapped for four years, between the ages of 16 and 20. And what Charlotte says is that she could never believe in a God who would have forgiven the men who had hurt her. That thought kind of startled me, not that she couldn't believe in God because of what had happened to her, but because God would have been willing to forgive and love the men who had hurt her. This is true, though. Many years ago I wrote about God's love for Nancy Garrido. I want to write now about God's love for whoever is responsible for Michaela's kidnapping. I have always know this, God's love for you, and God's sorrow for you, from the moment I first laid eyes on the composite. So I say to you, too ... God is there. He is real. Open the door of your heart just a crack and he will come in, and change your life and change your heart, whether you are the person who kidnapped her, or anyone else who was involved in any way with Michaela's kidnapping, or anything else for that matter. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" is what Jesus said. All you have to do is open the door.

Michaela, of course I have to say again, if you are still alive please come home. You can do it. With God's help, you can do it. But most of all, what I want is for you to be at peace, for you to be happy.

Until we meet again, and we will, just know that I love you forever baby girl.

mom

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Michaela dream

I had a dream last night that the case was on the verge of being solved, that there were several very strong possibilities. And in the middle of it, three women came to my house. Two of them were islanders of some sort, and one was a blonde woman, and they said she was Michaela.  I wasn't sure whether to believe them or not. I said, well, you are beautiful enough to be Michaela. She was upset because I didn't believe her. I asked her why she thought she was Michaela, and she said because I remember, you are my mother. I looked at her closely and could see a faint trace of a "stork bite" birth mark she'd had as a baby (she no longer has that by the way), and I thought yes, this is Michaela. I held her for a moment, and we talked for a little while, and then she left.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Too much pain....

When you have enough pain, you stop feeling. That in itself is a problem, however. It's like that disease, where you can't feel physical pain. You can be seriously ill or injured, and you won't even know until it's too late.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Second Day in Heaven

It has been just a day since my Auntie Joy died. I had to actually stop and think about that, because it seems like it has been such an eternity since I heard the news. But she feels so close. It's almost as though I can close my eyes and see her.

Yesterday, I could almost hear the party going on in heaven. She was 94 this month, pretty much the very last of her generation (and independent, living in her own home until the end may I add). She and my mother had been very close, and of course my uncle, her husband, my grandmother, her own parents, her cousins, her friends of a lifetime. They had waited a long time for her to arrive, and there was great joy in heaven.

Today, also, I have had a picture floating in my mind, of that second day in heaven, of the settling in. What I was feeling made sense as I remembered the occasions when my grandmother would visit from England. There was the arrival, when we all went to the airport, and there was so much excitement. Then came the second day. I can see my grandmother sitting in an armchair in her housecoat the next morning, dressed in her housecoat, drinking a cup of tea. Excitement had passed, and peace had set in. She was no longer a new visitor; she was making herself at home.

That is what I am feeling for my auntie's second day in heaven. Then maybe some sight seeing later, getting acquainted, learning where everything is.

It's one of the advantages of outliving most of your generation, having such a party waiting for you, going to a place that is more full of people you love than the place you are leaving. Yet another reason why it is not fair for those who die young. If Michaela died in 1988, she would have had a few relatives waiting for her. She even wrote a note about it, which we just found a couple of years ago. Her Grandma Madge, her Grandfather, even her guinea pigs. Others also that she didn't know. My grandmother, my uncle, relatives even I don't know. But she would have left the ones who loved her most behind.

One of my friends, Chris, lost her daughter to a car accident when she was 17. Chris now works with other mothers who have lost their children. Angel mom, they are called. She was talking this morning about how many of them have developed cancer, including a few who are in their final days. Why is this happening, she wanted to know. Not one to state the obvious, I suggested that maybe they long so much for their lost children, they want to go to them. But they don't want to die, she said. No, of course not, because probably they have children here still, people who need them. Who knows? Perhaps the children who have gone are longing for their mothers.

I don't know. I don't know why I am talking. Most people fear death, at least somewhat. I keep insisting that I don't. I will tell you that my only fear of death is of leaving those who need me ... my children, my family, my dogs even. I keep thinking that besides the grief of separation, death would be a great adventure. But I guess it takes standing on the doorstep to really know how you feel.

I keep being struck by the fact that I will never again be able to call my Auntie Joy and have a chat. I am really sad that I never got to visit her in these last few years. She invited me many times, but I just could never afford it, the combined expense of the trip plus missing the amount of work that would be necessary to have a real visit. I get a few days vacation a year on my job, but they are usually used up one at a time, to cover sick leave, to be able to see my daughter off to a prom, to attend events. I don't have blocks of weeks left to travel. I keep thinking, though, that I should have found a way. I should have made a way. Let me tell you, everybody, everywhere, to remember that tomorrow is not always promised. Don't put things off. Don't create regrets you will live with forever.

I think she is okay, though, my Auntie Joy. In fact, I think she is good, happier than she has been in awhile.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Another Goodbye

My Auntie Joy and me when I was a baby.
Early this morning I received a telephone call from England to let me know that my Auntie Joy had passed away this morning. Michaela, if you are alive out there, I know you'd want to know, and if you are not alive out there somewhere, I know you are right now part of the party of so many of our loved ones who are excitedly welcoming her.

As deaths go, this wasn't what you'd call a sad occasion. This month she would have been 94 years old. One by one through the years she had lost those who were close to her. She lived a good life, living in her own home until just last Friday when she entered the hospital for the last time. She hadn't been ill. She didn't have cancer, ephysema, heart disease, or any other horrible killer. It seems she had just worn out. "She'd become very frail." She didn't have dependents, not children or dogs or cats or birds. She was free, free to go on to the next world without a single thing to hold her to this one. She was free to be reunited with all those she'd loved, who had waited so long for her.

For me, well, we had lived a half a world apart for most of my life. She lived in England, and I lived all over the place, but in England for just brief periods of that time. It was an important time, however. I was born there, my mother's family was all there. It was where I felt my roots to be. I am an only child myself. I am the only child in my generation in my mother's side of the family, and that really and truly made me everybody's child. My aunt, although I so rarely saw her, was a part of my heart, my heritage, my home. She was like a distant mother or grandmother. In recent years since the advent of inexpensive international calling I spoke to her perhaps once a month. Since my mother's death almost ten years ago, she was my only living relative, the last person to tie me to my roots. She was the last living person who knew me as a child, who loved me as her own.

So although in practical terms her death really just means we won't have any more transatlantic phone conversations, in reality it felt like a stab to my heart. It never fails to surprise me, the emotional impact the death of someone you love has, however great or small a part they play in your life.

As you have gathered, my sorrow was moderated somewhat by what came to my mind, which was what a joyful homecoming she would experience after death. This was something that I just felt intuitively, as though the bonds I felt with my family transcended the line between this life and the next. I could literally feel the joy. I also noticed that there was one thing that didn't enter into my mind, and that was the question of what her relationship with Jesus was and whether she would have gone to heaven or hell.

Even before this happened, I had been thinking about my faith, had thought about how it stood up to that final question, that if I knew I was going to die, or if someone I loved died, what did I think, what did I feel deep in my heart, would happen after they died. And I knew there was no way I would be worrying about anybody going to hell. Nor did I have a particular vision of Jesus waiting on the other side. No, what I saw, what I felt, was just the love of those who are waiting for us. I am just not sure what this makes me. A really, really bad Christian? Certainly not gifted with evangelism anyway. I wrote a post on my other blog, www.just-sharon.com, about the Castro Valley Pride event that was coming up (which my daughter helped found a few years ago), and how I felt about gays. I love them. I think they are fine, just the way they are. I know there are other Christians who think this, and there are also other Christians who believe everybody will go to heaven. But I'm not sure where they are, and I'm not sure where that leaves me.

I am not going to quit on faith. I believe in God, and I keep telling him I just want to know the truth about him. If he is real and if he loves me even a teensy bit, it seems to me that he could not fail to answer that prayer, could he?

Michaela, there have been so many losses since you have been gone. If you are out there somewhere, please come home before there are any more. And if you are not, then just enjoy the company, my baby girl. Have a party.

Love you forever,
mom