Thursday, July 12, 2012

Perfect Timing

I went back home for a couple of days last week to celebrate the Fourth.  It was nice being with family and sitting on the field at Bradner's Stadium to watch the fireworks.  But the best part of the trip had nothing to do with the occasion,  it had more to do with meeting up with a friend.

I hadn't seen Debbie for several years, the last time was when her husband Gary was pastoring a church in Olean.  Her kids were still home then, teenagers I think.  Now they're adults with families of their own.  But a few months ago I happened to see a picture of her on a  friend's facebook page and felt a nudge to contact her.

I need to go back a few more years.  Karen is married to Gary's brother Will.  While visiting their son  in South Carolina,  they came to spend a day with us.  I was not having an easy time with my voice, my Spasmodic Dysphonia was making it especially difficult to speak during their visit.  Karen remembered, and when Debbie started having problems with her voice,  her sister-in-law mentioned that the symptoms were similar to mine.  I heard from her a few days after making contact.  Included in her message she wrote,  "I hear that you have experienced vocal loss in the past.  I was diagnosed with Spasmodic Dysphonia.  Have you heard of this?  I am struggling with vocal issues."

I don't know why I am always surprised and amazed that our lives somehow manage to intersect with others in ways that I know to be far beyond mere coincidence.  I never dreamed all those years ago  that the day would come when we would both be facing the same health challenge.  But I am the veteran, six years of working through the questions and frustrations.  This is still pretty new for her, and if her experience is anything like mine, quite overwhelming.   I am convinced that this was a divine directive, perfectly timed, designed to bring us together through a series of circumstances and individuals.  This was just the latest, that we would both be in the same town visiting family and friends for the Fourth. 

We were heading South a little over a year ago when I tuned into a Christian radio station a few hours into our trip.  I knew as soon as I heard the news announcer that there was something seriously wrong with his voice.  The words were forced as if in a tug-a-war with his vocal cords. I looked at Larry.  "Listen to him, I think he has what I have!"  I quickly wrote down the call letters and sent an email to the station after returning to New York.   I explained that I suspected one of their staff had a voice disorder that I could identify.  It wasn't long before I heard back from the station manager, appreciative at my concern and curious at what more I could tell him.   We exchanged a few messages and then I heard nothing more.  I still don't know the end of this story or if I ever will,  but I've no doubt that my tuning into that station during those few minutes of news broadcast was devised ahead of time.

Larry and I were married his senior year of seminary.  We had little money and didn't own a television set, so we would go over to the student center to watch The Waltons on Thursday nights.  One particular evening it was snowing hard as we drove back to our apartment, and we came upon a lone figure walking along the side of the road.  Larry pulled over and asked if he could give the man a ride somewhere.  His name was Bob Scott,  a pastor from New York taking a sabbatical from his church to work on his doctorate.  He would be separated from his family for several weeks, so I asked if he'd like to come for dinner some night. He accepted.

We sat around the table for a long time the night Bob came.  I guess he liked us, because before he left, he asked if Larry might consider letting him send a resume on up to his district superintendent in New York.  We looked at each other.  What could it hurt?   Not too many months later, we were in that very district, settling into our first parsonage in beautiful Bradford County where we would spend the next eight years. I can't watch an old episode of The Waltons without thinking of that night, over thirty-five years ago now,  and the man we just happened to pick up on the side of the road.  That simple act would determine not only where we would be in those early years of ministry, but would shape our future steps as well.  

So back to Debbie.  She's still trying to figure out what recourse to take with this voice stuff.  I opted awhile back to go with botox injections,  she's seriously thinking of trying voice therapy.  It was nice to reconnect and have someone to talk over these things, something that impacts both of us.  Come to think of it, the timing couldn't have been more perfect.  

Debbie Beers and me (she's on the right) on July 5, 2012 in Olean, New York
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