My mom left me an unbeatable group of women to be my Team. Made up of Aunts and some of my mom’s great friends, they are always at the ready when I call on them. After my mom passed away, they made the mistake of telling me I could call them any of them anytime, day or night. They get calls from me that run the gamut of topics: How to remove burned macaroni from the bottom of a sauce pan (I’m 25 and still haven’t mastered some kitchen basics…), pursuing God in tough times or even wordless conversations where we just cry. We joke that it takes a team to stand in for my mom. (Although, individually, they are all remarkable women as well.) I’m honored that they take their position seriously, in the best-most-fun, honest kind of way.
One night I was talking to a member of the Team, one of my Aunts. I was preparing to take the GRE, the only outstanding piece of my graduate school applications. I felt like I had studied as diligently as I could but still had a knot in my stomach just thinking about it. Geometry? Algebra? Probability? The proper elements of a nightmare, that’s for sure. My aunt told me she had recently read an article that said peppermint has been proven to help test takers concentrate during exams. Seeing as I was willing to give almost anything a try in the final days leading up to the test (other than actually studying, of course), I chuckled with her but quickly found a notepad and scribbled “GET PEPPERMINTS.” Worth a try.
We finished chatting and I saw that a package had arrived for me earlier that day. Not sure of the contents, I opened the package with a little more fervor than usual — unexpected packages and mail (that aren’t bills, gross) are the best — to find a fist-sized, clay plaque with a Winnie the Pooh quote: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Sent from another Team member. They totally rock.
But even more unexpected, as I tugged at the bubble wrap, you’ll never guess! A peppermint fell out of the box. WHAT? I know this seems insignificant but hear me out: 1. What clay potter sends a mint with a plaque? Care instructions? Makes sense. A peppermint? Not as much; 2. When was the last time you talked about a peppermint and it magically appeared just minutes later? Imagine my roommates confusion as they quietly asked, “What’s in the box, Em?” and I hollered, “A PEPPERMINT!” Any gift can be meaningful if the recipient deems it so.
Around 10:20 later that night, I got a call from an unfamiliar phone number in South Carolina. I knew my dad was driving from North Carolina to South Carolina so I answered. “Em, hey, it’s Dad. So glad you picked up! Long story short, my phone isn’t working and I’m calling from a payphone at a truck stop. I have about 3 minutes and 45 seconds to talk. I’m about 2 hours from my destination.” We chatted for our remaining 3 minutes and 40 seconds and then I had to let my dad get back on the road. My dad, brother and I usually check in most nights at 10:30 and my dad knew I would worry if he didn’t answer at our usual time. And right he was. I realized after I talked to my dad that part of the reason I like talking to my guys each night is then I know everyone is okay and in for the night. Let me assure you, I know my role is not caretaker, responsible for all. But if I’m being totally honest, I sleep easier knowing they are accounted for. Minutes after I got off the phone with my dad, I received a text from a close friend who I’ve felt distant from recently, saying, “Love you. Praying for a restful, deep sleep tonight.” I read and re-read the message, taking a long pause. What timing. What precise, impeccable timing with a message that was so perfectly appropriate.
So often I hear, there are no coincidences with God. It’s been hard to remain trusting in the Lord over these last three months but for some reason, the peppermint and prayer gave me comfort, maybe a sign that He was still there, still caring uniquely for me.
Both occurrences, are arguably insignificant. But to the receiver, the importance was measurable and that’s all that matters. Maybe God really is a god that knows how to get my attention, in a way that is specific to me. “He knows the hairs on your head” says Luke 12:7. If he knows me then that means he knows us all. He deeply knows us.
Our whistles might be revealed to us only after reflection. At first, something like a text or peppermint can seem like unholy means. It would be much cooler (and easier) if a chorus of angels sang us messages from God –amiright? It was not until I experienced both the peppermint and prayer from a friend that I even considered something larger was at play. I think that’s okay. When things are hard, I’m learning that time to wrestle and struggle is more than alright — it gives us time to really work to understand what we are thinking and feeling. It’s during that time that seeking whistles becomes so crucial because everything can feel hard. And while it certainly doesn’t seem like it, whistling and darkness can co-exist.
Whistle: A great Team and unexpected comfort from acknowledging that the Lord might still be with me (and all of us).