My mother in-law recently watched and recommended the How Great Is Our God – Louie Giglio video she had seen via facebook. She said she had wept. If I had any question as to why she was so moved, I would find out immediately upon viewing it myself. In it Louie Giglio poetically and charismatically depicts the enormously mind bending size of the universe and illustrates how small the earth is in it’s context. He brings out Canis Majoris, the “big dog” star which is the largest known star to exist, and states that “If Earth were a golf ball, VY Canis Majoris would be the height of Mount Everest.” Consider that for a moment. And then try if it’s even humanly possible… to absorb the fact that the entire universe exists to delicately hang this tiny marble that harbors humanity… and is a home to YOU… called earth. If anything had been different in the massive expanse of space… we wouldn’t be where we are or who we are. Now consider time as it intersects with space. How in the millions and billions of lightyears, how monumental certain moments are in our lives. How miracles require time and space to come together to present the perfect circumstance. How many good and bad things sometimes equate to a beautiful outcome. It’s so miraculous that one can’t comprehend it. The bible says “the footsteps of the righteous are ordered by God”.
This weekend I attended the memorial service of Patty Brown, a friend and loyal follower of Christ and regular attendee of our local assembly of believers. I thought long and hard about the universe, time and space as I comprehended her and her life. Mostly because of a testimony she told one night at church that illustrates exactly how the God of this massive universe is interested in the tiny details of our life.
Patty was an astounding example of womanhood. At her memorial people spoke of her impeccable home-making and business skills. The 15 pies at the thanksgiving table. The fact that she believed and instituted a policy of “learning something new every day” which meant that she had learned and perfected dozens of skills in her personal and professional life. The fact that biggest error she’d even made in her check book ledger was 0.01 cent and how she spent 6 months unraveling it. The strong and unwavering faith which she carried through many difficult circumstances in her life never got weaker with age. She was literally the picture of Proverbs 31… adored and admired by her husband and children and looked up to by everyone around her… those who shared her belief system and those who didn’t. You would believe that someone like her didn’t have a doubt in her mind about her worth… her place in God’s mind… and whether she was validated in her life’s work.
But Patty did have questions. She said that the time came when her children were all married and her husband was occupied with the family business and coaching football… and she started to ask herself what exactly her role was. Where her heart and hands had always felt full… they now struggled with idle moments. She said she felt herself asking the questions “am I loved? am I valued?” far more often than she was comfortable with. She began to ask God to help her with this.
At the time, our church held a women’s breakfast once a month. Every month each participant pulled a name out of a hat and had to buy a card and small gift and give it anonymously to the person who they drew. At the next breakfast Patty recalled that someone had given her a card, and with it a “beautifully written letter” enclosed. In it, the secret friend spoke of the presence of God they felt when they would enter Patty’s house. How she was an example of friendship without gossip… that when she came around you felt uplifted, worthy and more special than the average person because of how she treated you. It talked of her food, her garden, her children, her business… it mentioned all the things that she was good at and admired for. She said her heart lifted as she read the words and she thought, “God, is this you talking to me?”.
Then she opened the gift that came with the letter.
A tiny magnet. 2×2 inches. On it said “Just wait until you see what’s possible when you shine your little light on the world”. She smiled as she looked at the girl in the skirt depicted on the magnet. She only wore skirts. But on the skirt? A map. She drew it up closer to see what was on the map. In that single moment Patty knew with certainty that God had truly used someone else’s hand to pen the letter of His words of encouragement to her that day. The map depicted a tiny town in Minnesota. So obscure that most certainly it could not be a coincidence. Gaylord,… population 2000. Far from Flagstaff, Arizona or any typically depicted town on designs such as this. You see this… was the town where Patty was born. She knew God was saying “yes Patty… I know your name… I know where you are and where you were born and yes… I meant all those those things about you”. She said it was one of the most significant moments of her life. She received immediate deliverance from the thoughts and feelings that had plagued her. She told everybody close to her about what God had done.
But this story gets better. You see… a month earlier I had pulled her name for the lady’s breakfast and had ventured into a small Flagstaff store to buy her a gift. I had bought her an apron but wanted a card to go with it. Next to the cards were a shelf of magnets. I picked up the one with the girl in the skirt because as a fellow “Skirt wearer” it caught my eye. When I got to the counter to pay and it rang up as $5 or $6… I decided I would pass… I already had something after all. A moment later however my 18 month old son knocked over the card and magnet rack before the cashier had completed my sale. As I apologetically tried to re-assemble the card display, my toddler picked up one of the overturned magnets and handed it back to me. I looked at it and it was the same one I had just returned to the shelf. I wondered if I was meant to buy it after all. I did. I never noticed the map, it’s location…. and even if I had I didn’t have a clue that Patty had ever set foot in Minnesota, much less been born there. You know the rest of the story.
When Patty told her testimony at church, she still didn’t know who had written the letter… and perhaps I should have remained anonymous… but I felt like the events at the store only further validated that it was truly God. She and I bonded over this miracle that I had been privileged to be touched by.
This weekend at her memorial I was asked to create a slideshow. I toiled over music. I originally place three slow, moving and inspirational songs. But something kept telling me to look for a black gospel choir song. When I thought about Patty I thought of her hands in the air over her head clapping to the fast songs at church. She LOVED to worship… and she loved the fast songs. I looked up “black gospel choir songs” and the immediate list displayed an Etta James rendition of “This Little Light of Mine”. When I placed it over the photos fading in and out I knew it was her song. My heart was jumping around like a 3 year old inside my chest. She was such a great light and the song matched her face perfectly.
After the memorial they had an open mic and a friend suggested I go up and tell this story. I did. I couldn’t remember the details of the magnet story as it had been 3.5 years and I asked the daughters publically what the magnet said. “Oh”, said Mary her youngest, “something like, go ahead and shine your little light”. Well… there you go. Another validation. God as my witness, I didn’t remember that that’s what that magnet said when I chose that song or ended the slideshow with “Thank you for sharing your beautiful light with us”. I only remembered the map part. But that’s how God is. The God of this massive enormous expanse of space and time is interested in small details… and He knows all of them.
I am tempted to wonder how someone like Patty who lived such an upright life could be left to suffer in so much sickness before passing away. Why she didn’t get to slip away peacefully without lingering in pain with little breath. And we’re only human… it’s normal to think about these things. BUT then I think back on this story. I look at the memorial service as it witnessed to dozens, hundreds of people who maybe needed something on Saturday that they wouldn’t have received in any other moment of time. I think about the fact that in birth, in life, in death… Patty was righteous. And Patty’s steps were ordered by God, even the steps that hurt. And I think as she peers over the banisters of heaven now she’d want all of us to know that ALL of it was worth it in the end. And we can bath in the light that Patty reflected… the light of Jesus. And how her moments affect our moments. And our moments will affect someone else. And how if you have faith… yours will come.
Einstein was famous for saying “either everything is a miracle, or nothing is a miracle”. I know you know which side of this equation I stand on. I would not be surprised if even YOU who sits reading this testimony needed a piece of what lays on this page today. I know God is that awesome. If we could just be simple enough to recognize Him when he speaks. I leave you with Patty’s slideshow. I feel like this picture of her smiles bigger at me every time I look at it.
(P.S. I found this magnet online, so if you’d like to purchase it to remember Patty… it’s here http://www.curlygirldesign.com/shop/home-office/magnets/shine-magnet/) Also I’m going to share her children’s eulogy which is one of the most touching tributes I’ve ever heard about anyone.