“I trusted in, relied on, and was confident in You, O Lord; I said, You are my God. My times are in your hands.” Psalm 31:14-15
I sat at a red light and tried to not bawl my eyes out. This was my official first day back to work as a mom. I was trying to ignore the emotions of guilt of leaving my baby by telling myself SO many women do this all of the time. I shouldn’t be feeling this way especially because my mom would be taking care of Sophia. Thank God. If she didn’t agree to it, I would have never returned to work. I couldn’t imagine leaving my beautiful little girl with a stranger.
My mom wouldn’t do it either. When she had us kids, she started a home preschool program. She had (and still has) a gift with kids; always providing the safest, most fun and loving day care on the planet. She did that for 25 years before she blew out the discs in her back. Lifting all of those rambunctious toddlers had taken a toll on her. The year before she had a spinal fusion and had a cage put in between her vertebrae to help maintain the space. The pain from the herniated discs had resulted in her having pain induced seizures and she couldn’t drive a car. I had no idea what pain could do to a person.
She had recovered like a champ from spinal surgery and was back to her old self.
The light turned green and I tried to swallow the knot in my throat. I was about two blocks from work and I told myself that I could do this. I would only be working for four hours today and it also marked the day for new beginnings.
It was my first day of my self-employment. Just before I went onto maternity leave, I had finished school. During the last trimester of my pregnancy I worked from 6:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. and went to school from 6-10 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday and Thursday were a bit easier, working from 1-7 pm. I used the mornings to study and complete any other wifely duties I had.
My boss, Al, was a saint. He was flexible with my hours, allowed me to start earlier so I could leave earlier and get to school on time. I still worked my 40 hours to ensure I maintained health insurance. One afternoon, just before I was about to start maternity leave, he called me into his office. This always made me nervous. It reminded me of that time in eleventh grade when I was called into the principal’s office for ditching.
“This situation of you doing the soft tissue work for the physical therapists isn’t going to work out.”
My heart sank. My whole plan was to get licensed and certified. A new position would be created and I’d carry on, business as usual. It took me months to convince Al to have a massage therapist on board. He was hesitant, because he was running a ‘sports clinic’ and didn’t want his office to have a spa stigma attached to it. I understood why he felt that way. He had worked for years to create this successful business and massage therapy was never part of his business plan.
More and more patients requested me as their therapist and Al finally caved. He said we’ll ‘try’ it and then see what happens. When he finally gave me the thumbs up, I went back to school. I was so stoked.
“Oh, no! Why?”
What I really wanted to say was, ‘Dude! I’m eight months pregnant, getting ready to graduate from school, had this awesome plan that would allow me to go from 40 hours a week to 20 hours a week and now you’re telling me that’s not going to happen?’
“Once again, Medicare is changing their guidelines and only a physical therapist will be allowed to be hands on with patients.”
“Well, that sucks.” Was the only thing I could think to say, refraining my hormonal self from dropping an F bomb.
“I have a suggestion. When you come back from maternity leave, you can come back as an independent contractor.” He says, with question in his voice.
“You mean, like, I wouldn’t be on your payroll any more?”
That terrified me. I knew absolutely nothing about starting or running a business. I would have to be responsible for marketing myself and finding patients. That scared me! I liked the security of getting a paycheck every two weeks better.
“That’s exactly what I mean. I’ll let you use a room. You need to figure out the legalities and fix your schedule so that you aren’t occupying the room during our busiest times.” He said quickly, raising his eyebrows. I wondered if he had lost his mind.
“Do you think I can accumulate enough patients, all by myself, to make a living?” emphasis on the all by myself part, “because, what I’m making now is floating us through and couldn’t take a loss in pay.” I was about to cry. I hoped he couldn’t tell I was freaking out inside my brain.
“Darla, I think you’re going to be so busy that you’ll have to turn people away. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”
Crap. He really meant this. He said we’d work out the details later when I got closer to returning to work.
“I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Here I was, returning to work, sitting at another red light, alternating between tears and thoughts about the last conversation I had with Al. I hoped that his confidence rubbed off on me, because I was skeptical. The light turned green and I slowly accelerated. I took a deep breath and decided that today would be okay.
Walking through the familiar clinic doors and seeing my welcoming coworker’s faces put me at ease a little bit. I was received with tons of hugs, congratulations and adorable baby gifts. I picked up my schedule, still choking back tears but managing a smile. I dare not let my coworkers see me cry or they’d never let me live it down.
I scanned the patient’s names to see if I recognized any. It was nice to see some familiar people on the schedule. I had missed these people more than I realized.
Phill Bulvihill. It was the first name listed on my schedule. Where in the world did I know that name from? I pulled his chart and quickly scanned the diagnosis and treatment information. Nothing rang a bell. I went to the patient history form. Nothing seemed familiar yet, except the name. He was about 60 years old. Why did it seem so familiar? I saw the emergency contact he had listed: May Bulvihill.
Oh, my gosh! Could it be?
In an instant, my heart rate sped up and my hands began to shake. All of my thoughts of leaving Sophia had vanished and my heart thrust so ferociously in my chest that you could’ve found my pulse in my pinky toe.
No way. It couldn’t possibly be.
My mind was reeling. I looked at the clock. His appointment was in 3 minutes. What in the world was I going to say to him? I was trying to recall all of the facts from my search for Chris and Dani. If my memory served me correctly, Phill Bulvihill was married to May Bulvihill, who was my dad’s ex-wife’s sister. Got it? That would make Phill, Chris and Dani’s Uncle. Holy crapola! Was it possible that this man just walked straight into the office, on my first day back, my first patient of the day, and he held all of the answers I’ve been searching for all these years?
|“Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great…” 1Timothy 3:16 NIV|
Yes, it was possible! Now, more than ever, I’m realizing that the more time I spend with God, the more the impossible seems possible.
“Hi, Phill, my name is Darla, I’ll be you therapist this morning.” I had butterflies in my stomach. Phill was a tall man, with salt and pepper hair and a face covered with about three days growth of pricklies.
“Hi, Darla, I’m Phill. It’s nice to meet you.”
I led him over to a treatment table in the center of the gym. I asked him all the pertinent info; same, better or worse? How were after your last treatment? And then set him up on a hot pack. I went back to the aide’s station and stood behind the pillar to read more in his chart. It said he lived here, in Huntington Beach, still married, and had bad knees. My gut told me that he had the information I needed. I knew it. God was definitely answering my prayers.
My trembling hands removed his hot pack and I lifted his leg up onto a bolster. My brain was trying to figure out a way to strike up a conversation about his family without seeming like a psycho. I was scared to come straight out and say “I think you’re my brother and sisters uncle!” I didn’t want to ruin any chance I had at finding out where Chris and Dani could be.
“So, how were your holidays?” The question seemed reasonable enough. It was January, after all.
“They were nice but quiet. My wife and I don’t have much family here in California. My daughter lives here, but most of my family is out-of-state.”
“Oh, really, where about do they live?” My hands still trembled as I worked the swelling out of his knee.
“I have a nephew living in Minnesota with his wife and a niece that lives in Missouri. She has a son and takes care of her mom. Her mom has been in poor health for a while.”
“I have family living in the St. Louis area of Missouri. Where in Missouri does your family live?”
I could not believe that he was about to reveal to me where I was going to find my long-lost sister and brother. My heart leapt.
“My niece lives not too far away from St. Louis.”
“Do you get to see or talk to her much?”
“Around the holidays we do. I just spoke with my nephew in Minnesota. He lives near St. Paul. He was excited about a project he was doing for the aquarium company he works for.”
Phill went on to tell me the basic stats of his niece and nephew. He had no idea who I was.
For the first time ever, I got a glimpse into the lives of my brother and sister. During this conversation, Phill revealed to me that my brother had a wife, a love for the outdoors and a talent for aquarium designs. Dani was a mother, a nurturer, a survivor. She was raising her son all by herself, working several jobs at one time, and was a caretaker to her mother who was in declining health. I wanted, now more than ever, to know my brother and sister.
The four hours couldn’t have ended quickly enough. As much as I enjoyed my first day back, I wanted to hold and kiss my baby and share the news I had learned at work today.
I arrived at my mom and dads. My dad was out of the country working in Samoa. He was scheduled to return in a couple of weeks. My mom sat on the couch, cradling Sophia. Before I could even say a word my mom asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong. You will never believe what happened at work.” She was looking at me with her big doe eyes opened wide, bracing herself.
“Does the name Phill Bulvihill sound familiar?” I questioned her in a similar way a prosecutor would question the defendant.
Her expression changed. All signs pointed to yes.
“Wasn’t that May’s husband?” She knew exactly where this was leading. I told her my crazy story. For one of the first times in her life, she was speechless.
“Are you sure?” I can’t blame her for questioning me. She’s followed me on this conquest to find Chris and Dani. I’ve led her down paths of dead ends and disappointments. I understood her hesitation on to whether or not to believe that this was the ‘real’ Phill Bulvihill that she remembered. But I wasn’t wrong this time. This was the real deal.
I sat on my parent’s living room floor and called 4-1-1. I gave the operator all of the name combinations I could think of until I got a match.
“Chris Hill, St. Paul, Minnesota…” Hill is my maiden name.
“Please hold…” and then, just like that, I had my brother’s phone number. I scribbled it onto the back of an envelope leftover from junk mail. Ten little numbers separated me from my brother and sister. It scared the living crap out of me. I looked at the number again and thought how invaluable this junk envelope was just minutes before and now it was priceless. I needed to gather enough courage to call.
What if I called and he hung up on me? What if he never wanted to hear from us and wished us nothing but ill will? All this time I spent scavenging the face of the earth would have been in vain. That would’ve been my worst nightmare. I’d spent so much time looking and if he completely rejected us, I’d be devastated.
I can’t think these things. If he didn’t want anything to do with us, at least we’d know that he was alive and well. The ball would be in his court. It was difficult for me to believe that he would say or do these things. After all of the hours searching, God had brought Phill to me. Not the other way around. I found it hard to believe that God would direct his steps into my work only for us to be rejected. God loves to see relationships restored. All I could is shake my head in amazement. God is absolutely supernatural and a miracle was underway.
During the 6 mile drive home, I was mustering enough courage to at least place the call. All negative thoughts had to be squished out of my mind. I prayed out loud for the right words, “Please, Lord, let this be. Only if this is Your will, for dad and our family, give me the right words and strength. Only You know how badly I want this to happen. Please, Lord, let it be….” Beads of sweat dotted my forehead. I was nervous.
“What do you think about God’s timing? Have you ever experienced perfection in His timing? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below 🙂