Essays on Faith: A dream fulfilled, until the phone rang

The annoying ring of the phone woke me this morning — harshly, cruelly, too soon — from a beautiful dream. I was in a place I’ve always loved, even before I ever saw it: Paris, France.

I learned from my early teachings that “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this, the judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27) and yet, my heart has often said to me, “If you have ever lived a former life, it was surely in Paris, France.”

In my earliest memory, I loved the French language, the music and anything else pertaining to France. I read everything I could about its culture and, in looking at some genealogical studies, I uncovered ancestors in Tosny, France. So, apparently, there really is a connection, however slight. I dreamed of going there someday, although I suspected I might be dreaming in vain.

However, I had no way of knowing what plans God had for my life and the opportunity arose to visit Paris when I was 36 years old.

My 18-year-old son and I were both taking classes at West Virginia State University. When we heard that credits would be given to those who took the Paris trip with the French teacher and her students, we jumped at the chance.

My lifelong dream was about to be fulfilled.

From start to finish, it was a wonderful trip and one of the highlights of my life.

We visited the Louvre, where we saw famous art such as the Mona Lisa, Whistler’s Mother and Venus de Milo; ate lunch at a restaurant on the beautiful Eiffel Tower; took a tour of Montmartre, where I had my portrait drawn in charcoal by a handsome young artist; and enjoyed a train ride to Versailles. We spent the afternoon touring the chateau and the spectacular grounds, took a cruise on the Seine, and though I became overtired and missed it, the others enjoyed a dinner show at the Moulin Rouge.

There is so much to see and do in Paris that it would take much more time than we had to cover it, so we left wishing we’d been able to see more and vowing to go back one day.

I’m sure I will never return, but it will always be one of my favorite memories — one that makes me smile every time I think of it.

But, thankfully, I can visit in my dreams, which is exactly what I was doing this morning when my phone rang.

... I was in Paris, France, on a beautiful March day — on my own for the afternoon, as the group I was with had chosen to do something that didn’t interest me. So, off I went strolling down the Champs-Élysées, browsing the shops, people-watching, and soaking up local color.

After a while, I decided to stop for tea at a sidewalk café. Sitting there alone, sipping my tea in the bright sunshine and cool breeze, I felt awestruck. The Tuileries Garden was not far away, also the Louvre, the Place de la Concorde, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, The Opera House and many other historical places that I’d read about, but only dreamed of seeing.

My heart was full to the brim.

Draining my cup of the last drop of golden liquid, I readied myself to leave, join my friends at the hotel and get ready for dinner. As I began walking, I spoke to God, thanking Him for this lovely afternoon here in this foreign land and yet, not foreign at all, but a part of my very soul.

“Thank You, God, for blessing me so completely and continually. In this moment, I am filled with gratitude that I cannot and do not wish to contain. In every way, Your love sustains, fulfills, and provides for me and the caring people who enrich my life.

Thank You, God, for the ability to grow and to transform myself through times of both opportunity and challenge. With Your love as the guiding energy of my soul, I can rise above any setback and move forward in a new direction.

Thank You, God, for Your love that is, in many ways, still a glorious mystery to me. With a grateful heart, I honor my commitment to welcome each revelation of Your love and to express my gratitude in the way I think, speak, act and pray.”

Life is short. Although it’s human nature to grumble and complain about everyday happenings, we should practice being grateful for everything — from the basic necessities to our grandest dreams.

Gratitude is a state of mind. It enriches our lives and focuses our attention on the good. We should look for and acknowledge every blessing we receive.

Gratitude is happiness. Make it your way of life.

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro.

Essays on Faith may be submitted to gazette@wvgazettemail.com.

Find more Essays on Faith at www.wvgazettemail.com/life/religion.

Funerals for Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Dotson, Jeffery - 7 p.m., Good Shepherd Mortuary, South Charleston.

Kees, Nancy - 11 a.m., Salem Road Freewill Baptist Church, Oak Hill.

Payne, Arless - 5 p.m., Taylor-Vandale Funeral Home, Spencer.

Taylor, Connie - 11 a.m., Memory Gardens, Low Gap.

Taylor, Joseph - 11 a.m., Gauley Bridge Baptist Church.

Williams, Nellie - 1 p.m., Pineview Cemetery, Orgas.

Yates, Ruth - 11:30 a.m., Sunset Memorial Park Mausoleum, South Charleston.