Mary Ann's Shoes
                                                               by Beth Davis





(Any one who has ever been through the valley of the shadow and felt God's hand
please read!!)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for
you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4)

Among my full time jobs as wife and mother, I?m also a grammar school music
teacher. It was a Friday afternoon about 1 o'clock. I was called to the principal?s
office to see a visitor.  I told the student teacher I would be back shortly, and
welcomed the chance to leave class for a moment.

My mood was always cheerful on Friday afternoons. Like most teachers I was excited
about the coming weekend. When I arrived, my supervisor motioned in the direction
of a solemn looking woman with a rolled-up document in her hand. My heart
slumped. I realized that she was a process server and the document she handed me
was anything but good news.

As I was walking back to my classroom, the excitement over the weekend was
replaced by an ominous sense of foreboding. The psalmist said,
"I call on the LORD
in my distress, and he answers me."
(Psalm 120:1) So, I started to pray before
looking at it. "Lord, whatever this is, I know You are in control." Had I known what
the papers contained I would have gone to the teacher's lounge to read them. But
there in the hallway, next to the water fountain, I read the first few lines of the
document. I then nearly lost my ability to breath. The papers said that Lauren, my
cherished daughter who was taken from me four years earlier in an ugly custody
battle, had cancer! She was in Memphis in St. Jude's hospital battling a life-threatening
tumor!

However, Jesus knew what was in that court document before I did. He knew at that
very moment that I was going to need Him. Jesus was standing there ready to catch
me, and letting me know that I was not alone. My Strong Tower was there for me.
Once again it was time for me to run to Him and find safety.

I stared in disbelief at the page, filled with legal meandering, and could read no further.
My eyes blurred and began to overflow with tears. Shock and sorrow rushed in
overwhelming me. I lost all since of propriety and, ignoring all those around me, I
began to wail. Shards of grief pierced my heart and I felt I would succumb to it. I
sobbed unabatedly-a mother grieving for her child.

But God was still there.

He sent Laura, a dear friend, to see what the commotion was. When see saw that I
was overcome with grief, she gently guided me to the lounge and sat down with me. I
told her about Lauren. She put an arm around me and spoke softly, "I know, Beth.
You will be fine," she assured me. "Yes, Lauren has a brain tumor but she is getting
the best of care." She then opened the document further and read the rest of the text.
She came to the part that I had not yet read.

"Beth, this is a restraining order against you, honey! You cannot go to Memphis. You
cannot see her. You're allowed no contact at all with her, Beth. It?s your ex-husband.
He has called for the restraining order. He will not allow you to see her. "With that she
took my hands and held them tenderly. "I am so very sorry!"

My sorrow turned to absolute shock. Why?! How could he be so cruel to keep me
from my sick daughter?  Why am I being punished and kept from seeing my child at a
time that she needs her mother most?!

God intervened at the water cooler that day and sent Laura to comfort me. He used
her to help me focus, not on this dreadful news, but on His grace. God assured me,
through her, that His grace is enough to get me through what ever I face-no matter
how painful. In fact, He sent many friends to help me get through my personal valley
of the shadow and some even walked it with me.

Shortly after that I called my mother and sister. I needed my family to help me reason
with my ex-husband. I hoped that they could persuade him to change his mind and let
me see her. My husband, Rod, stayed with Sarah, our 9 year old daughter, and I went
to Nashville.

I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and
drench my couch with tears.
(Psalm 6:6)

I pleaded with my mother and sister to pray with me. I needed serious intercession.  I
felt so numb. I could barely think or sleep. All I could do was weep. God promises to
keep a record of our tears. (Psalm 56:8) Well, He had a lot to keep up with that day.
Have you ever been so broken that you could only cry to Him? I have been there and
I assure you, I knew God was right there with me. His tender presence was with me,
so faithful and so sure.

My mother is a precious Christian, but all she could do was pray the Lord's Prayer.
That was her best and I appreciate her, but I needed something more. You see,
sometimes even our closest family members can't get us through the valley. That
place is reserved for
The Shepherd to lead and guide. He alone can sense our deepest
pain and meet us at that place of our greatest need. Jesus suffered for us, so that in
our weakness He can be strong. Indeed, The Gentle Shepherd was strong for me that
day.

As I started back home I discovered that the restraining order was still in effect. I was
prevented from seeing any medical reports on my daughter. I had absolutely no news
or information about Lauren. During this time of her greatest need I was completely
shut out from her life. I had to totally rely on God?s abundant words of hope. Keep in
mind that during those first two days I was still feeling numb. I had difficulty praying.
I couldn't eat or sleep. I would suddenly break into uncontrolled sobbing.

As I was driving back from my mother's, I began to call out to God. "Father, I need
an intercessor, a sister, a  prayer warrior!" I felt my heart breaking into. "Pull over at
the next exit!" a voice said in my mind. It was God, the Gentle Shepherd, speaking to
me.

I remembered that there was a furniture store run by a Christian family at an exit
nearby. I had bought a couch there before. I ended up at a wonderful tent revival near
by. Isn't it amazing how God guides us?  I parked my car and burst into the store. I
had Lauren's picture in my hand. I fully expected to find a friend there, a sister who
would pray with me. A lady working there patiently listened to my story and then said,
"I know why you came here. Come with me." Across the street was a old dilapidated
homeless shelter. "You need to see Mary Ann," she said.

Mary Ann was my answer from God. She took my picture, led me to the altar and
anointed my head. "Peace, in Jesus' name," she prayed. "Peace! Father, give my sister
Your peace."

Mary Ann had been prom queen in her high school senior class, was well liked and
had a rosy future ahead of her. However, she had also fallen into drugs and alcohol
abuse. Then a tragic auto accident almost ended her life. She was in intensive care on
life-support. Her parents were told by the doctor to let her die peacefully. Mary Ann
was in a coma but could still hear everything and think coherently. The doctor
disconnected her breathing tubes, pulled the sheet over her, turned off the lights and
left her laying there in the dark. In that darkened room she could hear her mother
gently sobbing.

But God had a different plan for Mary Ann. Later that night He visited her and
offered her a bargain. God promised to spare her life if she would testify to His
goodness. God anointed her with the gift of healing. For many years since that night,
Mary Ann traveled many miles, praying for the sick, and watching God miraculously
heal them. Now, she and her husband ran a homeless mission and church.

Mary Ann took Lauren's picture from my hand. She anointed it and then laid it on the
altar. She then lay prostrate on the picture. She began to go to the throne of grace.
She prayer for grace and mercy for my time of need. Mary Ann stood in my place
and prayed when I could not. I clearly remember Mary Ann's scarred but kind face as
she pleaded for my child's life. That face, broken from the accident, reflected the
Glory of God as she prayed.

Finally, we both knew it was finished. God's glory had descended. His presence had
invaded that little church. We felt His comfort, His assurance, and His peace settle on
us. I was whole again-thanks to Jesus, and to Mary Ann.

I asked her to tell me some way that I could show my gratitude. "What can I do to
bless you?" I said. "Well, I do need some new shoes," she laughed. "Guess these are a
bit worn. I do a lot of walking around this altar." I immediately took mine off and gave
them to her. Not surprisingly, we wore the same size!  Just as God had it planned!

Soon, God began to move things in my favor. Before long, I was able to have limited
email contact with Lauren. And the biggest miracle of all was that her cancer went into
remission!

The next time I drove to see my mother, I bought some cute white sandals on the
way. I took them to Mary Ann's mission. She wasn't there, so I left the shoes on the
table with a letter of appreciation. Oh how I wanted to rejoice with her that day. The
following Saturday, a man called me. "Is this Beth Davis?" he asked.  I answered,
"Yes. I am." He went on to say, "I am Mary Ann's husband. She died last week from
a heart attack. I just wanted to tell you that we buried her in those white sandals you
left for her. We also read the letter you wrote to her. It was so comforting to those
who loved Mary Ann to remember how she helped so many."

I was stunned. Mary Ann was in Heaven now. Could God have kept her here for me?
Did He allowed her enough time to help a desperate, sobbing mom get though to the
Creator? Did He allow her one finally mission-me? We all have appointment in life set
by God. Mary Ann had hers. Once again she obeyed God's call and kept an
appointment. One last time she fulfilled her life's mission.

In my mind's eye I can see Mary Ann stepping into the LORD's presence and hearing,
"Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord."
All scripture references are from the
New International Version of the Bible