“What am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to move? Tell me. Give me a sign.” I’d lost track of the number of times this had been my prayer. I waited impatiently, wondering how and when God would answer. In less than six months, the government agency I worked for would close our office. If I wanted to keep working for this agency, which I did as I needed the income, I’d have to move. I was a small town girl, but agency jobs similar to mine were only available in large metropolitan areas. Nightly I asked God, should I move to Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois or Louisiana?
I was at my wit’s end. I wondered if I would even recognize His answer. Weeks later I thought I must have missed his message. Then I begin to think God had abandoned me.
My pastor had recently received a call to a church in another state, which he had declined. I wondered how he had made his decision, so I sought his advice.
“Why did you decide to stay here rather than move?” I asked him. “How did you discover God’s will for you and your family?”
“First I talked to my wife and children,” he said. “Then I told God about the new opportunity. I prayed often, asking God for guidance.”
“I’ve done that,” I said. “But I never get a response.”
“Keep praying and be patient,” he said. “After praying for a few days, I realized I’d be content to do God’s work here or in a new location. When I ceased worrying about the decision, I felt the peace of God. It was then that I could make my decision.”
I thanked him and left, still discouraged. Be patient! How could I find the peace of God when God never spoke to me? I gave up praying and talked to friends. They told me I should be excited about moving to a big city. I was not convinced. I had no spouse to help me. My parents were dead. My children were in college, busy with their own lives. This decision was mine and mine alone.
I worried about the actual move, adjusting to a different job, new coworkers, leaving friends, moving to an unfamiliar location, finding a church home, locating a place to live, and most of all I worried that if I made the wrong decision, I would ruin my life. My mind whirled with information, choices, and advice which resulted in headaches and more worry.
As I walked to my apartment building one evening, I met Big Earl, our apartment manager. “I’ve put angels in the apartment above you,” he said.
“Angels?” I said.
“Yes. Two sisters. Retired nuns. They will look after you.”
I smiled. “Thanks. It will be nice to have quiet people above me.” Big Earl knew I had endured a year of bass-thumping music and barbells dropping on the ceiling without complaint. I was happy he had not rented the apartment above me to young men again.
Later that week I introduced myself to Sister Theresa and Sister Angela when we met in the laundry room. Throughout the coming weeks, we often met in the courtyard with glasses of iced tea and talked about life, politics, and the weather. Despite being of different faiths, they Roman Catholic and me Lutheran, our conversations were often about our Christian faith. I told them of my desire to hear God’s will hoping they might have a direct line to God. They told me the Lord works in mysterious ways. That was not the answer I wanted.
Saturday was my only morning to sleep late. I treasured the extra two hours of sleep. Today, thunder and lightning woke me at 6 a.m. Rain pounded against my bedroom window. The wind whipped trees branches against the building. In the height of the storm, despite booming thunder, pounding rain, and whistling wind, I heard a small bird chirping.
That’s odd, I said to myself. Birds usually hunker down when there is a storm. What kind of crazy bird is singing so joyfully in the midst of the storm? Throughout the hour-long storm the bird continued to sing. When the storm abated, the bird was silent.
Later that day I met the nuns as they lugged sacks of groceries into our building. I offered my help. Sister Theresa thanked me and said, “That was some storm we had this morning. Blew over the tomato plants we were growing on our balcony. I don’t know if they will recover.”
“My flowers look beat up too, but I think they’ll be fine,” I said. “Did you hear that bird singing this morning?”
“Who could hear a bird with all that thunder?” Sister Angela said.
“I did. It was really weird. I was lying in bed awake during the most violent part of the storm, and I heard a bird singing happily like it didn’t have a care in the world. The bird was so loud, the storm became a dull background noise.”
“Ah,” said Sister Theresa, “There’s your answer.”
“My answer to what?” I asked.
“How you will know when God speaks to you,” Sister Theresa said. “Despite the noise in this world from people, machines, cell phones, and TVs, when God speaks, His voice will be as clear as that bird’s was in the storm. You will recognize God’s voice despite the tumult of this world.”
As I mulled over what Sister Theresa had said, Sister Angela said, “Remember, God speaks to us in many ways. He uses Christian friends and family members or her speaks to our heart and mind when we are at peace with Him.”
Later while contemplating their profound understanding of the bird singing during the storm, a sense of calm surrounded me.
I heard many voices in the next few weeks as I struggled with my decision, but one stood out from the rest: I will be with you wherever you go. Take the job you like best.
And that is what I did. This small town girl moved to the big city and met great coworkers, made new friends, and found a welcoming church home.
Rebecca Willman Gernon co-authored Amy Signs, A Mother, Her Deaf Daughter, and Their Stories (Gallaudet University Press 2012) with her daughter. Gernon has been published in Bylines Magazine, Lutheran Digest, Fiction 365, Over My Dead Body, Delectable, The Weeder’s Digest, and in several anthologies including: The Best Mom in the World, (Howard books 2007); All My Good Habits I Learned from Grandma (Thomas Nelson 2008); Love is a Verb (Bethany Press 2009); and Expecting Miracles (Guidepost 2010.) Gernon’s humorous plays have won awards in Missouri, Louisiana, and Virginia. For the past seventeen years she has lived in the New Orleans.