77: Nancy’s Note

77: Nancy’s Note

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

Nancy’s Note

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.

~Luciano de Crescenzo

It is my great privilege to be asked to speak at women’s retreats. I love the opportunity to share encouragement with ladies all over the world. With my counseling background, I am often called on at these events to offer insight and help to women individually. Nancy was one of those women.

The minute she walked through the door, it was clear something was going on. Her chin and knuckles seemed to drag the ground. When the other ladies were laughing she only stared straight ahead. When they engaged in activity, she sat alone. The leader of the event noticed that Nancy seemed to be fighting back tears.

After our first session, the event coordinator, Susan, pulled me aside and asked if I could spend some one-on-one time with Nancy.

“Nancy’s best friend worked so hard to sponsor her and pay her way to the retreat,” Susan confided. “We both want to make sure she gets the most from this awesome opportunity.”

As the women were being ushered toward a snack table, I tapped Nancy on the shoulder. “Got a minute?” I asked, beckoning her to follow me. As we walked toward a quiet spot on campus, I said, “How’s it going? Are you enjoying the retreat?”

“Is it that obvious?” Nancy responded. “I told my friend I really didn’t want to be here, but she has counted on my attending this weekend for eight months. She paid my entire way and she couldn’t get her money back. If I didn’t think it would crush her, I’d walk away right now. I’m not in the mood to listen to any inspirational speaker. No offense,” she added casting a glance at me. “This has been the toughest week of my life.”

“What happened?” I asked, patting the chair beside me. That’s all it took. With a flood of tears, Nancy described events that would have wrecked a weaker woman.

“My husband Kal and I run a foster home for four at-risk adolescent boys. Last weekend he attended the men’s version of this retreat, so I had all four boys by myself. They’re a handful. I was looking forward to Monday so I could catch my breath. But on Sunday afternoon, my sister called and told me that her thirty-eight-year-old husband had committed suicide.

“My sister Karen is an emotional wreck,” Nancy continued. “They have two boys, twelve and fourteen. So the minute Kal walked in the door, I drove four hours north. Karen could barely keep it together, so I had to handle the funeral arrangements and manage the boys. One minute they were crying inconsolably and the next they were acting out.”

I nodded. Those grief reactions could be expected from kids that age. “You must be exhausted,” I said.

“I am. The funeral was Thursday. Karen wanted it done quickly to get closure for herself and her boys. I got home just in time to come here.”

“You were there for your sister. Who was there for you?” I asked.

“Kal would have been, but he had to care for our boys. So it’s just been God and me dealing with this. I don’t know about Him, but I’m drained.” She laughed and cried at the same time.

“I’m glad you haven’t lost your sense of humor. I probably would have by now. Nancy, I think the events of this weekend could be just what you need. I have a prayer exercise to suggest. I think it will help you dump some of your grief and stress, so you’ll be ready to receive all the hope and help this weekend has to offer.”

I placed my hand on Nancy’s shoulder and prayed a lengthy prayer to help her off-load her stress and sob out her immediate grief and pain. When I was done, a look of relief came over her. Then she asked if we could pray for her sister as well. She and I took turns praying for her sister and the boys. Time seemed to stand still as we lingered in God’s presence in prayer.

Over an hour later, we returned to the group, and Nancy was ready to join in. She listened, laughed, and learned with the other women. Later that day, she thanked me for taking the time to pray with her.

“It was my pleasure,” I said, hugging her.

The week after the retreat, I sent Nancy a card to let her know I was still praying for her. It had a picture of a lamb resting serenely in the arms of Jesus. Inside, I wrote this verse of encouragement from Jeremiah 29:11: “ ’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ ” I signed it, “Praying for you — Linda.”

Two years passed. I was living in a twenty-foot travel trailer with my husband and three teenagers, two dogs, and a cat. We were building a new home on six acres at the end of the world. In order to save money, we had moved to the property with no phone and no power except a generator that I had to pull-start every day in the pouring rain of an El Niño winter. As if that weren’t enough, my twelve-year-old daughter, Ashley, needed to have emergency heart surgery. We literally would have to live in UCLAs cardiac unit for a couple of weeks. I was trying hard not to fall apart.

As I stopped at the post office to pick up our mail before heading to LA for this fearful ordeal, I noticed an envelope with Nancy’s return address. Nancy and I had not talked for two years! We hadn’t shared as much as an e-mail since I sent her that card.

I opened the envelope and found the very card that I had sent her. She had crossed through her name and written my name instead. There was a note at the bottom saying, “I don’t know what’s going on in your life right now, but you have been heavy on my mind. I felt led to pray for you and send this card back to you.”

She could not have known all that I was experiencing. It was nothing short of a miracle that she was thinking of me and praying for me at a time when I needed it most. Nancy’s note let me know that I was not alone, that God had heard my prayers and was prompting folks miles away who I barely knew to keep me encouraged.

~Linda Newton

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