Roberta Messner's devotions have touched hearts around the world, and in a very true sense, they saved her own life. Here are some reader favorites...
- Posted on May 15, 2015
In a story she wrote for Myserious Ways magazine, Roberta Messner recalls a time in her life when health issues had driven her to such despair that she was planning to take her own life. Something inspired her to put off taking that action for a day, though, and in the interim, she encountered two loyal readers who had travelled a long distance to tell her how much her devotional writings meant to them.
Needless to say, Roberta is still with us today, for which we are all grateful, and she continues to inspire readers with her insightful and moving prose.
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Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them.”
—Ecclesiastes 12:1 (NKJV)
I was making rounds at the veterans hospital where I work, when an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair pointed his cane to a sign on a bulletin board. “Look, hon,” he said to his wife, “they’re having an old-fashioned Easter egg hunt on Saturday. It says here that the kids can compete in a bunny-hop sack race for prizes.” He barely came up for air. “Remember when we used to have those Easter egg hunts on our farm? The kids would color eggs at our kitchen table and get dye all over everything.”
Just then, his wife noticed the smell of popcorn in the air. Volunteers sell it for a bargain price—fifty cents a sack. The veteran didn’t miss a beat. “Remember when we used to have movie night and you would pop corn? We’ve got to start doing that again, hon. I love popcorn. Movies too.”
As I took in this amazingly joyful man, I thought of things I used to be able to do before neurofibromatosis took over my body. It was nothing to run a couple of miles; I walked everywhere.
Instead of rejoicing in the past, I too often complain about my restrictions. Rather than marvel how I always used to walk downtown, shopping, I complain about having to use a handicap placard on my car so I can park close to the mall, which I complain about as well.
But today, with all my heart, I want to be like that veteran and remember my yesterdays with joy.
Help me, dear Lord, to recall the past with pleasure.
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“For man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
—1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV)
I’d been dreading Valentine’s Day for weeks. On my way to work, I braced myself for the floral bouquets and candy that would surely be delivered to everyone but me.
“Help me to just get through this, Lord,” I prayed on my drive to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where I’m a nurse. My ex-husband’s new girlfriend worked at the hospital, and I got queasy at the thought of running into her. But God’s answer was quick, unmistakable, and very personal: If you’ll just pay attention, Roberta, love will touch you in the most unlikely of places.
So that’s what I did as I made my rounds. On 4 South, I watched transfixed as an eighty-something wife of a veteran who had recently suffered a stroke zipped her beloved into his jacket. The two were headed home to begin their long journey of rehabilitation. It would be challenging but not impossible, for this team had weathered many storms in their sixty-four years of marriage.
In Primary Care, I took note of another veteran’s wife who helped her husband complete a tedious form. The gentleman, who had served in Korea, had broken his arm and was having trouble writing.
Next, in Mental Health, the young boyfriend of a woman who had recently returned from Afghanistan offered comfort as she cried tears related to her head trauma.
Valentines, all—and not a single posy or chocolate in the bunch. Such is the nature of Valentine’s Day in a place where US heroes are served.
Is there any more loving place than a VA hospital? I’m looking, Lord.
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For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.
—Psalm 91:11 (NKJV)
Barbara is my earth angel. She is the first person I call when something has gone awry or if I need prayerful support and the hand of a friend. But today her words stopped me short when I called her for prayer for an upcoming inspection at work.
“I don’t know what good I can be,” she said. “I feel like an angel with only one wing.” She gave a little laugh, but I could tell her comment did not come from a funny place. Barbara had recently retired from her job as a secretary in the chaplain’s office of our veterans hospital. “I don’t feel like I help anyone anymore.”
The odd thing was I felt the same way. Life had gotten to be too much; my heart felt tattered by life.
When I discovered a pair of carved wooden angel wings at a gift shop, I knew exactly what I would do with them. I’d give one to Barbara and I’d keep one, with the words of Luciano de Crescenzo close in thought: “We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”
Thank You, Lord, for friends with only one wing. Help me always to embrace them.
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“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
—Luke 12:34 (NKJV)
It had been one of those weeks at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center where I work; I’d had trouble remembering the Lord’s blessings. Amid all the confusion, my boss reminded me that I was to work at the ambassador’s desk, our welcoming place where patients and family members stop to ask for information or directions.
I hadn’t been at my post long when a young girl came up to me, pushing a wheelchair. An elderly gentleman with a crop of snowy-white hair was seated in it. He wore cotton periwinkle-blue pajamas that still held creases like they might have been in a gift box. “Would you mind watching Grandpa while I get the car?” Then she added, “I need to let you know. He doesn’t talk or anything and has Alzheimer’s disease.”
As the girl left, I wrapped an arm around the veteran’s shoulders. “You’re with me for a little while,” I said into glassy green eyes and gave his shoulders a squeeze.
Then the most unbelievable thing happened. The gentleman gazed into my eyes and marveled, “We’ve got a treasure here, don’t we?”
“You’re the treasure,” I answered.
“World War II, army,” he continued. Then utter silence ensued until his granddaughter returned.
As the periwinkle pajamas disappeared through the exit, I thought of how I needed that reminder in the worst way.
Yes, Lord, these dear veterans, this job of mine, it’s all a treasure. I forgot for a little while. Thank You.
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“Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
—Luke 6:36 (NKJV)
The antique Pinwheel quilt was tattered on the edges and stained. Still, I fell in love with it. After I babied it and got the stains out of the sage-green background, I mailed it to Steve, who lives in Elkton, Kentucky, and rebinds old quilts by hand.
But when I received the quilt back from Steve, it was in a smaller box and felt lighter. His puppy had gotten ahold of it and chewed the sides and top. In an effort to salvage it, Steve had cut down the quilt and rebound it. He offered to repay me for my vintage quilt.
A friend advised, “That quilt was one of a kind and you loved it. Take the money.”
My mind told me every reason why I shouldn’t wipe Steve’s slate clean, but my heart had other plans. I recalled beloved puppies of mine like Thunder, the one who gnawed the leg on a neighbor’s table. I tried to reimburse her, but she said, “I wouldn’t think of it, honey. We’ve all had puppies.”
The situation with Steve called for mercy. I could hear the relief across the miles when I telephoned him. And that quilt that used to fit a double bed? It makes the most darling little table topper.
Thank You, God, for those who point us to the path of mercy. Amen.
Read Roberta's account of how her life was saved by a pair of appreciative fans!