Teraji: Uncovering (and recovering) lost faith

 

As a lay ministry graduate this year, I recently had an exciting
time preaching at the United Methodist Church of Hollister when I
filled in for the Rev. Ardyss Golden while she was away. A
parishioner told a surprising story during prayer time.
As a lay ministry graduate this year, I recently had an exciting time preaching at the United Methodist Church of Hollister when I filled in for the Rev. Ardyss Golden while she was away. A parishioner told a surprising story during prayer time.

Lisa Alva has been going through a challenging time this year. Her husband Michael was told that his job would come to an end in July because the company he works for was sold to an East Coast company and they have no desire to retain a West Coast division. For more than six months, he has been searching for a new job as Lisa cares for their grandchild.

“I told my daughter that I too would have to find my way back to work soon and that she’d have to find someone to care for the baby,” Lisa Alva said. “This breaks my heart because he is my little bundle of joy, my little buddy, but it’s time.”

Michael and Lisa just bought their first home of their own in April. It’s a nice little fixer upper in a neighborhood known as Sunnyslope and they absolutely love it. They worked through most of their savings before they even moved in.

“What is left to do to make the home perfectly ours will cost a lot of time, hard work and love, but someday we’ll get there,” Lisa said with a hopeful smile.

To say that it has been a highly stressful time would be an understatement.

Getting more nervous by the day, Lisa has tried her best for Michael’s sake to remain upbeat and optimistic. But he always knows when she’s stressing, even when she doesn’t tell him.

“During times like that he tells me he has enough faith to carry us both through,” she described. “Inside I silently answer, ‘I hope so, because I’m not sure how much I have left to give.'”

A few weeks ago, the couple were landscaping in the front yard. It’s become quite a family project. They were tearing out gnarly roses bushes and removing rock and tanbark. Their son-in-law, Matt, raked an area clear of tanbark and their daughter noticed part of a buried rock sticking out of the ground that looked as if it had writing on it.

She had mentioned it in passing, but was busy figuring out what to do about a dilapidated window shelf, so no one paid much attention. Lisa remembered telling her daughter how stressed she’s been and how she oftentimes sings “God will provide.”

“I say this over and over when I am really scared, but I’m not sure that I can really believe it,” Lisa recounted with great emotion.

Mom and daughter Sarah were in the backyard watching the baby play, while the men worked on the house, when Sarah spoke up again.

“There’s writing on this rock. I really want to know what it says, don’t you?”

Her husband grabbed the shovel and began to dig. As everyone watched in fascination to see what it would be, the rock began to emerge.

When it broke free from the ground, Matt handed it to Sarah.

“Wow, I think it’s for you mom.”

“I took a hold of this palm-sized stone,” Lisa said, “And I could see these words written on it in red paint in a very beautiful calligraphy-style script … ‘God Loves You.’

“I don’t know how long that rock was buried down there, or who put it there or why, but I still don’t have words to describe how I felt at that moment, and what that means to me. I’m still stressing, but I feel touched and blessed, and loved. And I am going to share this story with others. I think I am supposed to.”

One of the first decorations that Lisa purchased for their new home was a plaque that reads, ‘Home is where your story begins.’ She placed it above a shelf that holds the family pictures that are very dear to her heart.

Now the treasure of the rock rests there too.

“It is sometimes difficult for me to open up and get to know new people,” Lisa described. “But with God’s guidance, the Rev. Ardyss, the United Methodist Church of Hollister, and all of the wonderful folks I have met there, I am quickly learning that it only takes a smile and a handshake to make a new friend.”

Lisa’s story brought tears to my eyes with its beautiful example of how God answered her prayers in such a tangible way – with a message on a rock – just as she was in danger of losing her faith.

What a joy to get to meet and know more of our neighbors in Hollister.

I am invited back to preach again on Aug. 14, and I really look forward to hearing more stories.

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