More Than Coincidence–Part 2

Twelve days ago when I was driving around in the community, I felt a sharp pain in my back and I had no idea what was causing it. When it didn’t go away I wondered if I had pulled my back in some way that I didn’t immediately remember. The pain seemed to shoot from that area of my back straight through to my chest area. I contemplated buying a heating pad to use on it and eventually did buy one four days later.

On that same day when I bought the heating pad, I was showering in the morning and I noticed a bright red rash on the left side of my upper breast area that looked like a bug had bitten me, and I noticed I was feeling tired and losing my energy. The next day the rash had expanded and by the third day blisters were beginning to form on the rash, so I went to an Urgent Care Clinic and discovered what was wrong. . . .

I had a case of shingles. Shingles!!!

I don’t even remember having chickenpox when I was a child but there was no getting over the fact that I had a case of shingles [note: the chickenpox virus never leaves one’s system and lies dormant and can cause a shingles breakout decades later in life], and it wrapped around the upper part and side of my left breast, under my left armpit and on the upper side of my left arm, and around the left side of my back where the pain had originated several days earlier.

The shingles are incredibly painful, and it totally zapped my energy. In the beginning I felt tired and I had a headache off and on, my stomach was upset, and diarrhea followed. The doctor gave me an Rx for an antiviral medication for seven days, and a pain medication for several days, too, although it doesn’t stop the pain but sometimes it knocks me out so I can sleep.

To say the least, it totally ruined my dedication to my 40-minute exercise routine that I do several times a week and have been doing for the past several years. I went five days without doing it until I finally summoned up enough energy to do it again two days ago.

It’s been one week since I first noticed the rash forming in the shower, and five days since I saw the doctor and got the Rx. The shingles are following its normal sequence . . . the blisters are beginning to turn into scabs and eventually in two to four or maybe five weeks the whole episode will be over according to the information I’ve found on the internet. I’m at the beginning of Week 2 and the pain is still pretty sharp in certain places but that total lack of energy is beginning to subside a bit as well as the other symptoms. I forced myself to do my exercises again two days ago and again yesterday. That makes a big difference.

I’ve been getting restless to write a blog post during this time but I didn’t have the energy to sit behind my laptop for the amount of time it takes to write a blog post; however, I decided to give it a try today. My last blog post, More Than Coincidence,” was written right after the pain in my back started twelve days ago.

I thought I’d write a sequel to More Than Coincidence”–sort of like a “Part Two” to the story. As I did in that previous blog post, I’ll start with a story of my own and then include a story from the book titled, More Than Coincidence (2015), by the Editors of Guideposts, that I quoted from in my last post.

I’ll start with the shingles story since some of it has already been written above. I need to give a little background information leading up to when I got the shingles. I spent over two years looking for low-income housing in the city and state I left last summer to come to this city and state where I have currently been living since late July 2016. I was living in a hotel in the previous city/state for longer than I care to think about, and I’ve now been living in a hotel here for what will soon be longer than I care to think about, too; however, at least at this hotel I have a small kitchenette area with a full sized refrigerator, a two-burner stovetop, a large microwave, a kitchen sink and counter area, and a few kitchen cabinets. This was a big improvement over the hotel I was staying at in the other city/state which only provided a small dorm like frig and small microwave. And not only that, this hotel saves me $50/week over what I had been paying at that other hotel with no kitchenette in the other state. That has made a big difference. And this city where I have been for almost a year now is huge, and I like it a lot, too.

I do believe that God is always in control. Always, always, always . . . but that is not to say that in being human there haven’t been times I have passed the point of wondering just what is going on as no matter what I try to do nothing changes in the low-income housing search. And as the one year mark approaches to my being here in this city/state, I started feeling a sense of restlessness as not even one door has opened up for me in the way of affordable housing, and right before I got the shingles I was ready to pack up my car and leave, even though I didn’t want to leave because I do like this city. I was just very tired of nothing opening up, and I’ve now spent a total of over three years of looking for low income housing with nothing opening up. Add to it the several years I spent in a massive job hunt that went nowhere, too, and all of this started back when I lost that job in Houston eight years ago. That is the starting point for all of it.

At the time I felt that sharp pain in my back twelve days ago I was headed out to look at a cute furnished apartment taking up the 2nd floor of a completely renovated house (built in the early 1900’s). It was way too expensive for my budget, but it was the only time I had ever received a serious response from an ad for a furnished apartment on Craigslist in over three years of answering ads on Craigslist (and placing ads, too). The deposit for the apartment was extremely high and the rent was $1000/mo. It would have been temporary at best but at least it wouldn’t have been a hotel room and the monthly rent is the same amount I’m paying for this hotel room, and the furnished apartment would have provided a lot more living space with an actual bedroom, living room, very big kitchen area, balcony, and it is adorable, too, from the pictures sent to me by the manager.

I couldn’t actually see the apartment as tenants were currently renting it (it is usually rented out on a short term basis) and I knew I couldn’t afford the deposit let alone adding in the first month’s rent all at one time–a total of $2300, but to have even considered it shows just how very tired I am of hotel living after living in hotels for almost three years now. The expense alone is a killer and it requires the financial help of my almost 94-year-old father just to live in the hotels as I sure can’t pay the rent on my Social Security income as my only source of income along with other living expenses.

At this point, I was beginning to get tired of waiting on God to move in my circumstances (not that I had a clue what to do other than what I was already doing). I just want a change for the better and not the same stuff I’ve lived through for these past eight years since I lost that job in Houston. However, I knew there was no way I could afford that furnished apartment, so I thought about packing up my stuff in my car and going home to where part of my family lives in the Midwest. After all, weekly rate hotels are everywhere, and nothing has opened up for me here after almost a year that I’ve been here. And, a family member and his wife were expecting their first baby any day, too (he arrived on June 21st).

And in the middle of trying to decide what to do, I was laid low with a case of shingles and couldn’t do anything. It reminded me of Job (in the Bible) and his boils. Now, mind you, my circumstances couldn’t be more opposite of Job’s so I’m not comparing my situation with his, but the reason behind Job’s boils reminded me that not everything bad that happens to us is our fault or caused by something we did. Sometimes it is the way God slows us down. And that’s what He did with my case of shingles.

We have so many phrases in Christianity that some have become almost cliche especially when said by folks who aren’t experiencing a hard time but repeat them to folks who are. “Wait on God” is one of those phrases that can fall off the lips of some folks who have rarely waited for anything if they had the money or the right connections and could get what they wanted through them. The phrase itself is anything but trite, and God has stated it over and over again throughout the Bible that we should wait on Him. In fact, in Psalm 37:7, David writes:

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
    or fret about their wicked schemes.

So for the next few days and maybe weeks, I have been stopped from moving on by a case of shingles. At the moment, I can’t end this story as I’m still waiting to see what comes next, but it is no coincidence that I got shingles, no matter how I managed to acquire them.

With that being said, I will now share a story from the book, More Than Coincidence (2015), by the Editors of Guideposts. This story is taken from a chapter titled, “God Delivers and Rescues,” and the story is titled, “The Survivors,” on pp. 71-73:

The Survivors

by John Senka

“Welcome, US Army 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry, 25th Division.” I stared at the sign outside the reception. For forty years I’d avoided these Vietnam vets’ reunions. I didn’t want to talk about the battle that haunted my nightmares, or how I’d survived.

The Battle of Mole City, December 22, 1968. We were a unit of five hundred American soldiers, stations in deep bunkers along one of the North Vietnamese Army’s (NVA’s) busiest supply routes. I was twenty. Fit, strong, tough. My three months in ‘Nam hadn’t been much different than working on our family farm. I spent most days in the hot sun, digging the trenches the base was named for.

There was a  holiday truce. After dinner, we opened packages from home with cards, cookies, and miniature trees. It almost felt like Christmas. At 10:00 p.m. we received our orders for the night: patrol, LP (the listening post), or perimeter. I was assigned to defend the perimeter.

All was quiet till midnight. The LP reported some NVA movement. The four of us in our bunker took our positions. Suddenly the night sky lit up. Flares. Mortar fire. A surprise attack!

We returned fire. There was a tremendous explosion. An anguished scream from the soldier next to me. I looked over. He was dead. I was struck, too, in my right leg. Another grunt dove out the back of the bunker. I crawled after him.

We squeezed into the next bunker filled with GIs. Something thudded into the mud. Another grenade! I threw myself as far from it as I could.

Boom! Blood ran from my ears. A third grenade rolled in. Shrapnel ripped into my belly. My rifle was clogged with mud. My injured leg was useless. We were overrun. Guys were falling, crying out for their mothers. One brave sergeant climbed out of the bunker, firing his M16. His silhouette crumpled; his body rolled down past me. All I could do was lie there and wait for death.

I wouldn’t have called myself religious, even though I wore a miraculous medal with my dog tags. Still, I shouted above the gunfire, “God, help me!”

Everything went silent. No explosions. No screams. Like I’d gone deaf. At the same time, I felt something hover over me. It fell softly upon my shoulders, warm, comforting, like I was a child being tucked into bed. Before I could figure out what it was, I blacked out.

When I came to, it was daylight. I moved to uncover myself, but nothing was there. Feet shuffled outside the bunker. Who had won? The NVA? Would I be taken prisoner? I pulled away a sandbag blocking my view. It thumped to the ground.

A helmeted head poked in. A US Army sergeant. “It’s okay, soldier,” he said.

I was the only one found alive in that bunker. The Army sent me home. The physical wounds healed. My other wounds didn’t. Counselors told me that the nightmares were my mind trying to piece together what happened in Mole City. Even after I learned that we’d been stormed by 1,500 NVA, outnumbered three to one, the survivor’s guilt remained. Why had I been wrapped in the cocoon of safety while others died?

For forty years that guilt kept me away from reunions. I wasn’t sure why I’d come now. But I took a deep breath and entered the reception hall. I put on my name tag and scanned the room.

A man came up and saw my name tag. “You’re the guy I’ve been looking for.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Who are you?”

“Bob Chavous.” He shook my hand. “I heard you were in the perimeter bunder near where I was supposed to be. I survived, the other guys didn’t. It’s not easy to talk about.”

I understood all too well. Bob said he’d been assigned to the LP that night, one of the men who called in the warning about the enemy soldiers.

“Before we could withdraw, the sky lit up with a hundred mortars. We were pinned down in a rice paddy,” Bob said. “I made my peace with God, and prayed He’d let my family know that I loved them.”

He paused for a moment, searching for the right words. “Then it was like . . . a blanket settled over me and put me to sleep until the fighting was over.”

A blanket of protection. I’d never know why it had covered me. But I hadn’t been the only one. How many others at this reunion had felt the same thing? Been touched by the same inexplicable warmth that we told ourselves couldn’t possibly be real?

I was ready to talk then. Ready to tell everything I’d held inside. I wasn’t alone. Bob needed to know he wasn’t either. (Quote source, “More Than Coincidence,” pp. 71-73.)

“A blanket of protection.” It not only saved him but others that same night that he didn’t even know about until forty years later. God, indeed, works in mysterious ways. states:

God’s methods often leave people totally bewildered. Why would God tell Joshua and the children of Israel to march around the city of Jericho for a week (Joshua 6:1–4)? What good could possibly come from Paul and Silas being arrested and beaten without cause (Acts 16:22–24)? Why would God allow Joni Eareckson, a talented, vivacious girl of seventeen, to break her neck in a diving accident and spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair?

The processes God uses, the interplay of human freedom and God’s sovereignty, and God’s ultimate summations are far beyond what the limited human mind can understand. The Bible and the testimonies of Christians down through the ages are brimming with true stories of how God turned situation after situation, problem after problem, life after life, completely upside down—and He often does it in the most unexpected, astonishing, and inexplicable ways. (Quote source and read more here.)

God does work in mysterious ways, and waiting is often a part of his working in our lives. Once again I’m reminded of what David wrote in Psalm 27:14 which states . . .

Wait for the Lord . . .

Be strong and take heart . . .

And wait for the Lord . . . .

YouTube Video (it’s the same video I posted on my last blog post):  “Coincidence? I Think NOT!” from the movie, The Incredibles (2012):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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