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The Way I Know God

The Way I Know God

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Published by Sherry Heyl

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Published by: Sherry Heyl on Feb 13, 2011
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The Way I Know GodWritten by Sherry Heyl
As a little girl, I remember laying in bed as a storm rolled in. Since my father worked outside allday, he refused to have air conditioning. He didn't want to come in from the hot sun to a coldhouse and then back into the hot sun. So we always kept the windows in our house open. Welived in South Florida. The weather was always unpredictable. During hot summer nights,lightening would flash across the sky followed by a long, loud roar of thunder. Sometimes, itwould rain and sometimes it wouldn't. I was always able to predict the rain by the sweet, dampsmell in the air and the feel of the cool, soft humidity. It's always humid in South Florida, but thehumidity seems refreshing right before rainstorm. The morning after a good rainstorm, I couldhear the joyful songs of the Robins. Robins can't outrun a storm, they have to stay and face it inthe shelter of the trees. However, after a storm they feast on all the stunned grasshoppers.I can't remember ever being afraid of the storms. They made me feel alive. The vibrations of thethunder would reach inside of me and make a connection. My heart would race and my nerveswould tingle. The louder the storm the better. After each flash of lightening, I would count "one-mississippi, two-mississippi..." hoping the storm would move in closer. What most peopleconsidered a bad storm, I consider a competent presence of a larger force.I only remember going to church a few times with my family, but my parents explained all of life's mysteries using God. God created the earth, animals, and humans. When we die, we go livewith God. God gives us our blessings in life. However, the gifts under the tree were from SantaClaus, the Easter basket at the foot of my bed was from the Easter Bunny, and the dollar billsunder my pillow were from the Tooth Fairy.When I was eight, my oldest brother decided I was too old to believe in Santa Claus anymore. Heused to pick me up from school in our parent's old station wagon. One day, on the way home, Iwas telling him about an argument I had with my classmates about the existence of Santa Claus.I argued that I knew Santa existed because I saw him in my house ever Christmas Eve. Mybrother bluntly responded, "Santa Claus doesn't exist, dummy. Mom and dad buy the gifts andhas our neighbor Jim dress up like Santa and come to our house." I was crushed. But who canbelieve anything a big brother says anyway? I went straight to my mom. "Mommy, Danny saidSanta Claus doesn't exist." My mother looked almost as heartbroken as I felt. "It's true honey,there's no Santa Claus.""What about the Tooth Fairy?" She just shook her head."The Easter Bunny?" Her eyes connected with mine, "No Easter Bunny."I thought for a minute. "No God either." My mom was shocked. "There is a God, honey." I justnodded and walked away thinking, "yeah, for how long?"We had a Saint Bernard named Dynamite. She was a pure breed show dog who couldn't beneutered or else she would lose her value. However, when she was given to us, we were told if she ever got pregnant she would die. I was eight, I didn't know what complications she had. I just
 
knew I loved her and didn't want her to die. My family and I went camping one week. We neverthought of keeping Dynamite in the house while we were gone, or bringing her to someone else'shouse. We just had a neighbor come over and give her food and water. We were forced to returnfrom our vacation early because a hurricane was heading toward the Florida coast. However, thestorm took a last minute turn and missed our house, but hit where we were camping. Thefollowing days we noticed that Dynamite was sleeping a lot more than usual. She wasn't eatingwell and she kept going to the shed. My parents figured out that Dynamite had gotten pregnantby a stray German Shepherd. I was going to lose my dog.An eight year old is virtually powerless in a family. I was not able to suggest going to the bestvet in the world. I couldn't make her pregnancy go away. All I could do was pray and hope thatthere was a God. I still remember every detail of that prayer. I sat in my father's brown leatherrecliner with my legs tucked underneath me, my eyes shut as tight as I could get them. "God, I'msorry if you're mad at me for doubting you. But PLEASE, PLEASE don't let Dynamite die fromher pregnancy, and let her puppies be OK too. If you do this, I'll believe in you forever. "Dynamite had thirteen healthy puppies, and she was healthy.A month later Dynamite was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. She was going to die. I thoughtabout my prayer. <em>Don't let Dynamite die from her pregnancy.</em> My only question was,"Did it have anything to do with the puppies?" The vet said, "No, miraculously giving birth didn'thurt her like we believed." Dynamite's death was inevitable, like the hurricane that brought ushome. But to answer my prayer and perhaps restore my faith, God made a last minute turn.Anytime I am faced with the possibility that God doesn't exist, I think of Dynamite, and my faithis unshaken.I was very young, around two, when my parents first divorced. My memories of that time flickerthrough my mind as though a few seconds of a number of scenes in my life were recorded andflashing on a screen. From those few memories and rumors I've heard about our family at thattime, I've put most most of the story together. But to me it's just a story, not my memory. Mymemory of my family becomes clear about the time my parent's remarried three years later. I wasthe flower girl. When I was about nine, my parents separated again.One night, my mom came into tuck me into bed, something she had stopped doing a few yearsearlier. She sat on the edge of the bed looking down at her hand holding mine. "Honey, mommyis moving out this weekend. Daddy and I can't get along so I think I should leave. This hasnothing to do with you, OK." I just nodded my head and laid down to go to sleep. I never feltthat my parent's problems had anything to do with me, I just wish they didn't have problems. Itrained that night, the gentle, sad rain drops gave me comfort and sympathy.After my mom moved out, my dad came home more often. He had three kids to care for. He wasusually quiet and always seemed tired. My parents had a waterbed and their room was the onlyroom with air conditioning, so my brothers and I would fight over who would sleep in there. Mydad didn't mind if all three of us piled in, it was better than sleeping alone. One night, my fatherhad a few friends over. During the party he disappeared. I found him outside sitting on hismotorcycle crying. I remember asking him if he missed mommy. I don't remember his reply.After he went back inside, I looked up at the stars and prayed to God to help my parents get back
 
together. I also wished on the stars, and pulled out some eyelashes and made a wish as I blewthem away. Something had to work. That night, I won the battle to sleep in the waterbed. While Iwas asleep, I kicked what I thought was my father. "I'm sorry," I said sleepily. There was noresponse. I opened my eyes and found myself on the couch. I was furious. One of my idiot, bullybrothers must have moved me. I went stomping into the bedroom to reclaim my territory. I putmy hand on what I believed to be my brother. It was my mom.The happy reunion was brief. The screaming, slamming doors, and crying could be heard by ourneighbors across the street. They were Jehovah's Witnesses, and would attempt to minister to mymom for comfort. Eventually, my mom began going to their Bible studies and church, orKingdom Hall. She decided I should join her. I was open to religion, but felt a solid connectionto God without claim to any specific religious belief.The message that our neighbors stressed was that one day the world will be peaceful. With theturmoil in my mom's life, she was happy to accept this belief.But I had questions."If the world will be so perfect, with no pain, how will we know when we are hurt?"I was told people wouldn't get hurt anymore."Then how will we learn?"They said people would already know what they needed to know to live, and there would be nodanger. That world sounded really boring to me. I envisioned a world full of androids, alreadyknowing everything, no mix of emotions, no proud feelings of overcoming obstacles. I stoppedgoing to the studies because I could not believe in their message. My mom never became aJehovah's Witness. Instead, she divorced my dad again.I was the first in my family to receive a college degree. It was only an Associate's degree fromthe local community college, but it was still a college degree. I took a couple of years off fromschool to try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Since the next two years of collegewas supposed to prepare me for my future, I wanted to know what I was dedicating my life to. Iasked my manager at the hotel I worked at assuming he would know what my skills were. Hesuggested marketing. I didn't see myself in Business School. I didn't have the background. Myparent's were blue-collar workers. My dad worked for the phone company and my mom didpaper pushing jobs. The business world was completely foreign to my family and me.At the time my fiancee, Matt, was in a band that had an expanding number of groupies. Peoplewere always asking when and where the band was playing again. The band played from one gigto another, never knowing where the next one was. I got bored sitting around a club by myself while Matt was on stage. So I made fliers and started a mailing list. As the list grew larger, itbecame apparent how much people loved this band. Matt and I designed a band logo and printedthem on t-shirts. We sold at least five a night for fifteen dollars each. The fun I had and thesuccess I saw convinced me that my manager may have been right.

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