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Last week, I attended a writer’s conference in Kentucky. I went there to learn how to write from my heart as I am a scientist and am used to writing in terms of facts, not feelings. I absolutely LOVED this retreat, and I learned more in one week than in all the years I have been a writer. The retreat was led my author Paula D’Arcy. She has written many books, and I highly recommend them.
While there, I wrote a little poem about nature and dancing. I have since added on to this poem and wanted to share it with you. This is my first attempt at poetry. Hope you enjoy it!
Through the open, time-worn window,
I watch as a lush willow tree sways in the gentle wind
Like the delicate movements of a ballerina
As she moves gracefully across the open stage.
Two squirrels dance the pas de deux
As they swiftly chase each other across the dense emerald grass
Performing an allégro of frappés, chassés, and assemblés.
A cat performs an energetic pas de chat
While trying to catch its elusive prey.
As the angelic sounds of songbirds fill the air,
Small moss-green leaves drop to the ground in mini-pirouettes.
A red bird catches my eye.
He performs a demi-plié before launching into an elegant flight
Gliding gloriously through the air in a grand adagio
Against a backdrop of breath-taking azure.
The dance of nature.
In perfect harmony.
©Maria Yeager, 2017
“Angel” – that is the name of my beautiful kitty cat. But I should have named her “Ornery”.
She is chock full of personality, and sometimes I call her “Miss Personality”. It is hard for me to hold her and love on her because she always wants to get down and play. When I talk to her, she rolls onto her back over and over again, and she loves to talk back. In fact, she is the most talkative cat that I have ever owned. One of the funniest things that she does is when she smells something, she will open her mouth and just look at me. It is one of the funniest things I have ever seen!
When I throw a toy in the air, she jumps up so high to get it – sometimes three to four feet! I am always shocked when she jumps that high. While I write in my living room, she goes down to the first level of my townhouse and looks out the window at the birds and those who walk their dogs. She absolutely loves to do this, but every 15 minutes or so, she comes back up to “check” on me. She lets me pet her head and she rubs up against me, and then she returns to the lower level to look out the window. It is so incredibly cute!
To understand this story, I have to share my morning routine. Angel sleeps on the bed with me. When I wake up, I turn on the TV and listen to the news for about ten minutes or so, and Angel knows this, so she patiently waits for me. But if it takes any more than ten minutes, she will start to meow. Then she will jump on the nightstand and start pushing things off onto the floor. I know at that point that I need to get up and get moving.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day. When I woke up, I immediately picked up the phone and called my mom. This was different from the normal routine, so I guess it bothered Angel. While talking to my mom, she went over to the blinds and started patting them as hard as she could with her paws which made quite a bit of noise. I snapped my fingers to get her to be quiet at which point she stopped and looked at me. I continued to talk to my mom, and she went back to batting at the blinds. I gave up, got out of bed and went downstairs with her while I talked to my mom. We both laughed at Angel’s behavior – cats certainly know how to get us to do what they want!
This morning, when I woke up, Angel started to bat the blinds again with her paws. She didn’t even wait the usual ten minutes or so. I think she may have learned from yesterday that if she messes with the blinds, I will get up immediately. And that is exactly what I did! She certainly has me figured out!
Well, there is a picture of Jesus on the wall that I see every day when I go downstairs. This picture of Jesus is the same one from the book “Heaven is for Real”, and it is my favorite picture of Him. This morning, I was caught off guard as I glanced at this picture. For a split second, it looked as if Jesus was smiling….kind of as if he was about to laugh. I quickly looked back at the picture, and He looked just like He had always looked, but I knew what I saw in that split second. I smiled and then chuckled.
“Yeah, you are the one that gave her to me!” I said quietly as I walked down the steps, laughing. I then picked up Angel and loved on her, knowing that she was a gift from Jesus. I always knew that, but this morning I was reminded of how lucky I am to have this wonderful cat in my life.
Since the beginning of the year, it seems like I have been bombarded with quotes and pictures about red cardinals.
The first quote I saw was in January on my Facebook page. This quote, by Victoria McGovern, gave me great comfort:
“May you come to find comfort in and remember cardinals appear when angels are near. So go now, sit outside and drink your tea. Keep a look out for the little red bird – it is there, your loved one will be.”
This quote was accompanied by a picture of a beautiful male red cardinal in the snow. I immediately thought of my dad since he passed away in 2014, but I doubted that I would see any red cardinal since it was the middle of winter. At my home, I usually see finches or sparrows, but only in the spring/summer. It was a nice, fleeting thought, but I didn’t think much more about it.
About a week later, a friend of mine who is also an excellent writer and photographer posted a picture that he had taken that day. It was snowing, and two red cardinals, one male and one female, sat in the branches of a tree outside his window. I was stunned! I knew that this was a sign that angels were near. Again, I thought about my dad, and I told my mom what had happened which gave her great comfort.
A few weeks later, another post came across my Facebook page. Again, it was a picture of a male red cardinal. The quote read as follows:
“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, loves leaves a memory no one can steal.”
Once again, I thought about my dad and how no one can take away the memories I have of him. I remembered how he sat me on his lap and let me act like I was driving the car. I remembered how me held on to the back of my bicycle as I learned to ride while promising to not let go of the bike (even though he eventually did). I remembered how he taught me to calculate complex math problems for my school homework. I remembered how he wrestled with me and my brother and sister on the living room floor and had us laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe. I thought about how none of these memories could ever be taken from me. I smiled.
A few days later, as I worked in my office, I looked up at my bookcase as I took a small break. My eyes immediately were drawn to a book that I had read last year – “The Gift of the Red Bird” by Paula D’Arcy. I thought about the red cardinal once again, and joy filled my heart.
Just about three weeks ago, I saw yet another post on my Facebook page. Again, it was a male red cardinal in the snow, and the quote was as follows:
“When a red cardinal appears in your yard, it’s a visitor from heaven.”
Well, I don’t have a “yard” since I live in a townhouse. But, my mom has a nice big yard, and she loves to watch the birds in her backyard. She has a bird feeder that she keeps filled all the time, and the birds come often…that is if the squirrels don’t get to the feeder first. I called her and told her what I had just seen on Facebook and told her to keep an eye out for red cardinals in her yard.
A couple of days later, I again was surprised when I saw that another one of my good friends posted a picture that she had taken of a red cardinal in some tree branches. I didn’t have a yard, but that red cardinal somehow still managed to show up. Again, I smiled and thought of my dad.
That same day, I called my mom, and her first words were “You aren’t going to believe this!” As she sat on her deck that morning, she thought to herself, “I wonder if I will see a red cardinal today.” Not long after that, a female cardinal showed up in some bushes followed by a beautiful male red cardinal. She just couldn’t believe it, but she was so comforted. I was just shocked!
About two weeks ago, I went to visit my mom, and I stayed overnight. While we ate breakfast, we talked and looked outside through the bay window in her kitchen. Suddenly, a male and female red cardinal appeared near her bird feeder. It was probably the same pair that she saw just days earlier. The first thing that I noticed is that the male was such a bright red color and was absolutely gorgeous – probably the brightest red cardinal I had ever seen. We were both quite sure they were visitors from heaven – angels that had come to tell us that we were loved.
My mom’s birthday was March 1. On that morning, as she prepared her breakfast, she looked out the window only to see that gorgeous male red cardinal. But this time, he was sitting in the crape myrtle tree next to the house. This was my dad’s favorite tree. The cardinal looked directly at her and didn’t fly away. He just sat in the branches of my dad’s favorite tree and stared at her. It was a moment that she will never forget and is one of the best birthday gifts she has ever received. This was most certainly my dad sending his love from heaven.
Always be on the lookout for these “angels” from heaven. Love is being sent our way all the time, sometimes through the most simple and innocent of ways – we just have to slow down and look for it!
Several months ago, my aunt recommended that I read three books by the author Paula D’Arcy that had really impacted her. The Gift of the Red Bird: Story of a Divine Encounter really spoke to me as I recently had what I believed was a divine encounter with some finches (see my previous blog). She described how she was able to feel closer to God by being alone in nature, and this made me think. How could I feel closer to God while living in the city? Where could I go?
I remembered a special place that my friend Sharon had taken me several years ago…a Benedictine monastery. It was so peaceful there, and it seemed like the perfect place to go for meditation and prayer in this busy area. At this particular monastery, there was a labyrinth. Sharon told me a little bit about the background of a labyrinth as I knew nothing about it. Basically, it is a place to go to spend some quiet time with God away from all the hustle and bustle of the day and to get clarity for any problems through prayer and meditation.
A labyrinth is a type of maze that only has a single track, so you can’t get lost in it. It has been around for thousands of years and is present in many churches around the world. The belief is that if you walk the labyrinth, you will go through three stages:
1. Purgation – you are released from all the worries of the world while walking through the winding paths
2. Illumination – a divine revelation as a result of meditation and prayer. This occurs at the center
3. Union – reflection on what you have learned as you make your way out of the labyrinth.
Well, I thought about the labyrinth while reading Paula’s book, but I didn’t go immediately as life got in the way. I was so busy writing and working on my house that I just couldn’t find the time. Then, one night, I started to read the next book by Paula D’Arcy – Seeking With All My Heart: Encountering God’s Presence Today. Amazingly, early in the book she had an entire chapter on the labyrinth! I knew at that moment that I had to make the time to visit the Benedictine Monastery.
Several days ago, I finally went and spent quite a bit of time by myself in that quiet place. No one else was around. There were many things on my mind at the time, but mostly I thought about how my life had changed since my divorce. Five years ago, I had this life of lab work, dance, and a twenty-year marriage. Now, all of that had been taken from me. Why did that happen? I had been plagued by that thought over the years.
As I started to walk the labyrinth, the first thing that I noticed was that my mind quieted. I felt God telling me to be quiet and just listen. Just listen to the birds and crickets. Just feel the slight breeze blowing on my face. Just be still and listen.
As I walked, I began to think about how the labyrinth mirrors life. We walk straight ahead in one direction, and then suddenly we are forced to turn in the opposite direction, just like what happened to me five years ago. Do the curves in the labyrinth represent our difficult/challenging times? Was this God telling me that sometimes the path we walked previously is no longer to our benefit? Is there something on that path that could hurt us, so He is taking us in a different direction?
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
As I continued to walk, I noticed that some of the bends in the labyrinth were hard to maneuver without falling a little off the path. I noticed that my momentum brought me one direction while the path directed me another way. This made me think about easy it is to lose our way in difficult times. It is easy to get discouraged, depressed, or fall into a sinful life when challenges arise. I was intrigued.
The next thing I noticed is that the stones around the curves are very small in relation to the stones in the straight areas. This made me think about how, in difficult times, we have to take “baby steps” to get through it. For example, during the divorce, my strength was sapped and I just couldn’t do as much as I did when I was married. We talked at length about this exact thing in my divorce support group. We were told that some days, we would find it hard to even get out of bed. For me, these small stones so accurately depicted what happens to us, physically and mentally, during difficult times. We have to be patient with ourselves and take “baby steps” until we eventually get back to our normal lives (the larger stones).
Other ideas came to me as I continued on the journey. Some areas of the labyrinth have longer areas without bends while other areas are shorter. This also mirrors life as some times we will have longer periods of peace and stability while at other times, it comes in short spurts. Also, some of the bends are a complete 180 degrees (lots of change) while other bends are 90 degrees (some small change). Finally, I realized that some of the bends could actually represent good times that are also stressful (marriage, a move, etc).
But the biggest lesson I learned that day is when I walked into the center of the labyrinth. I realized that no matter what we go through, if we stay on the path to God, it will lead us to salvation. The little bends in that labyrinth cannot even be compared to the beauty of walking into the center of the labyrinth. I realized that if I stay on that path, even through the difficult times, it will ultimately lead me to God. Straying off the path into a sinful life is not an option. I just have to trust in Him, keep my eyes on Him, and walk through that narrow door.
“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22
When I pray, I always ask God to speak to me through His Word. When I open the Bible, I assume that God has me open it to whatever I am supposed to read that day. I have always done this, and I usually read something that really speaks to me that day. This is just the way I do it, and it works for me.
Today as I prayed, I felt like God was asking me to be silent. To just sit in His presence and listen to His still small voice. I have read some books recently which taught me this concept, and today, I felt like I just needed to listen to Him. Well, something came to my mind almost immediately. This had been in the back of my mind for a long time, but today, I felt as if God wanted me to delve in and understand this event in my life on a deeper level.
In 2011, just months before I found out that my husband had been having an affair, I began to have dreams that I was divorced. If you have read any of my past blogs, you will know that I had occasions of premonitions through dreams. My dad had this happen to him too – he dreamed that his brother was killed in a car accident, and a week later, it actually happened.
The first time I dreamed I was divorced, I just blew it off. I woke up thinking how ridiculous the dream was as I had no intention of ever getting divorced. When the second dream happened, I was a little bothered and wondered why in the world I would dream about something so crazy. When it happened a third time, I woke up confused and worried. I told my husband about the dream, and I asked him point-blank if he was going to divorce me. Although he denied that he would ever divorce me, his response was anything but convincing.
If that isn’t strange enough, around that same time, another amazing thing happened (although I didn’t understand it at the time). On at least three occasions while falling asleep, I audibly heard a voice say “Maria!” I opened my eyes, sure someone was calling my name, but no one was there. My husband was asleep next to me, and he didn’t move at all so I thought I had dreamed it. When it happened again, I thought that maybe it was an angel or even God trying to say something to me. Each time, I heard “Maria!”, clear as day, and when I opened my eyes, no one was there. My husband never moved, so clearly, he never heard it.
As I thought about these events this morning, I wondered if this was some kind of warning about what was going to happen to me later in 2011 when I found out about the affair. Was that God’s voice speaking to me?
I opened my Bible to Isaiah 41:
“Listen to me in silence…” Isaiah 41:1
This was interesting enough. But it went on:
“Do not fear for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Yes, all who are incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced….For I, the Lord your God hold your right hand. It is I who say to you, “Do not fear. I will help you.” Isaiah 41: 10-13
When I look back on these events, I now know that God was right there. I believe He was telling me that He was watching everything, and he knew every detail of the affair even when I had no idea what was happening. I believe this was His way of telling me that He never left my side during that time, and that even though I was going to be divorced, He would bring me through it. Even though I was about to go through hell and be yanked out of the life I knew, He would ensure that I would get through it and would end up in a much better place.
Always know that God sees EVERYTHING. He sees everything that is done in secret. He knows every insult, every lie, every betrayal….everything. Nothing can be hidden from God. On the other hand, He feels every single pain of betrayal. He sees every teardrop, feels every hurt, and goes through all the suffering with us. Remember – God was betrayed by Judas. He knows full well the pain of betrayal of someone who He believed loved Him.
He will always be with you, even when you think He isn’t there. God never leaves our side…EVER! As it is written in Isaiah 41:13, “Do not fear. I will help you.”
You know, strength is not just physical. Someone can be physically strong but emotionally and mentally weak. I know people who fall in to this category. However, today I am going to talk about emotional and mental strength…something that is not recognized very often. Going through rough times make people beautiful by strengthening their resolve. You know you can rely on these individuals as nothing will bring them down. I have been through it myself, and I have persevered due to the love and help of God. I want you to know that you can persevere as well.
It’s been a while since I have written a blog, and there is good reason for that. I have been dealing with some medical issues again. After receiving some disturbing news yesterday regarding my health, I thought back on everything that I have been through in my life. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, so I decided to write this blog to let all those who are suffering know that there is always hope.
My health story begins in 1986 when I suddenly came down with an acute case of appendicitis. I was brought into emergency surgery in the middle of the night, and it turned out that my appendix had ruptured. I stayed in the hospital for six days and was told that I was lucky to be alive.
Around 1990, my whole ordeal with adenomyosis began. The severe pain and extremely heavy bleeding lasted for seventeen years before I was finally diagnosed at hysterectomy. You can read my other blogs for more details on my adenomyosis journey.
In 2009, I woke up and was unable to stand as my right leg gave out from underneath me. It turns out that I had a herniated disc in my lower back and a broken vertebrae. This led to my first spinal fusion. Five months after surgery, I learned that two of the screws broke, and I needed a second surgery.
In 2010, I had my second spinal fusion. Sadly, this fusion also failed, and a third surgery was done in 2012.
In between my second and third back surgeries, just by chance, I learned that I had a brain aneurysm. I had no symptoms. The aneurysm was picked up when I had a head CT scan that was needed prior to a CT myelogram for my back. I was stunned! I had surgery, and the doctor placed a coil and stent to block flow to the aneurysm. Thankfully, the aneurysm is now stable.
While recovering from the coil and stent surgery, I found out that my husband was having an affair. I was an emotional wreck as we had been married for almost twenty years. One month before my third back surgery, we separated and he moved out. We are now divorced.
After my third spinal fusion, my left hip began to hurt. I was unable to sleep on my left side at night. This was the beginning of hip bursitis which plagues me to this day. I get occasional cortisone injections to help ease the discomfort.
Although the third surgery resulted in a fusion (yay!), I still live with chronic daily pain in my lower back. The pain still sometimes radiates down my right leg. Not a day goes by now that I’m not is some degree of pain.
In the last year, I began to have severe upper back pain. An MRI showed four bulging discs in my neck along with a couple of pinched nerves. I haven’t had surgery for this yet. I decided to go to a pain management doctor, and I have had many shots – epidural, facet joint, medial branch nerve blocks, etc. These have all given me minimal relief, so my doctor suggested I try radio-frequency. This procedure deadens the nerves that go from the spinal cord to the brain which block the pain signals. I had this procedure done, but it deadened the feeling in the middle of my back while the pain continued in my shoulders and upper neck. I actually am in more pain now than before the procedure. Sigh…
In the meantime, I have had knee, shoulder, and ankle pain, and at times, my knee and hip lock up and give out. Since so many of my joints were hurting, my family doctor suggested I see a rheumatologist. On my first visit with the rheumatologist, they took eight tubes of blood from my arm.
Several weeks later, I had my follow-up. I was shocked to learn that I had a positive ANA test. This test detects autoantibodies which means that there is an autoimmune process of some sort occurring in my body. I couldn’t believe it. So, the doctor ordered more tests, and I had eight more tubes of blood drawn.
Last week, I had yet another follow-up with the rheumatologist. This time, the blood work showed that I had high levels of cardiolipin and beta-2 glycoprotein. This means that I have a clotting disorder! She told me to start taking an aspirin a day for now, and I have to repeat the blood work in several months to see if the levels are still elevated. If they are, I will be diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome.
The most shocking thing about antiphospholipid syndrome/high levels of cardiolipin and beta-2 glycoprotein has to do with pregnancy complications. Apparently high levels are associated with a high incidence of miscarriage. While I was married, there were times when I was quite sure I miscarried. Until now, I thought it was a result of adenomyosis, but now I wonder if these high levels played a role also. By the way, I have no children. I wish I had this information thirty years ago! It doesn’t really apply to me now as I have had a hysterectomy. However, these levels put me at an increased risk of stroke or heart attack, so I definitely need to address it, and the rheumatologist needs to keep an eye on it.
My rheumatologist believes that my aches and pains may be due to fibromyalgia, and I have been put on Lyrica. So, for now, I live with chronic pain…pain in my lower back, pain in my upper back, pain in my shoulders, pain in my hip, and sporadic pain in my knees and ankles. I hope the Lyrica will help.
So…I know what it is like to hurt physically. I know what it is like to hurt emotionally. I know. I get it. I’ve been at that place where you think there is no way things are going to work out. I’ve been at that place where I ask God, “Why me?” But I’ve made it this far with God’s help, so I know I will make it in the future. No matter how bad things get, you will make it. Ask God for His hand, and He will guide you. With His help, you can move mountains. Nothing is impossible with God!