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STORIES STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART

With permission, these are the stories that have been collected and are generously shared by the tellers. This website, turtleboxstories.com, has become the protective container for these stories. Please be gentle and loving with them.

 
My Story 
 
Your Story
 
Stories “Straight
from the Heart”

 
The Box
A loving connection
The spirit of true silence and God in the day-to-day
God speaks through beauty, books and her backyard
Presence, prayer without words and deep openings
The present — the only moment which exists
A father’s gift unites heaven and earth
Angel voices, images of action and feelings of unworthiness
Feeling spoken to, carried and given leadings
Spirit comes in scripture, vocal ministry and inner wisdom
Wifely wisdom, kids, quiet and music soothe his soul
Ritual communion becomes real
Dreams and the space between bring Divine understanding
Stillness, universal knowing and body prayer
God is somewhere pretty
Peaceful magic
God is everything


Janet's story
A loving connection

One experience stands out above the rest. I now realize it came out of lectio divina. I didn’t then.

I’d been at Bible study and came home and kept reading. Because of Bible study, I was so primed to be connected. I never read Revelations and I read a section and something happened for half an hour. I was in an altered state and felt so warm. It was just amazing. I felt totally accepted ... a loving feeling that lasted awhile. I was aware it was very different from experiences I had had before or since. Then I got a little afraid of it — on some level. I was home alone. I remember the next day or so it started to come back and I was afraid of how I would function. It went away and did not come back. Now I recognize it in a much milder form in gatherings and as a loving connection with people.

I [also] had a tiny inkling experience the summer after my mother died. I was staying in a cottage with a fellow artist and I was having a difficult time grieving because I hadn’t before and I was away from my regular routine. Then one night, my friend and her husband went out and I was emotional and worried about them and I was praying for them to find peace. Then I had a quick sense of my mother being there, maybe 30 seconds. It felt like my mother saying I was going in the right direction. In some ways, we had a difficult relationship in life. This was her way of acknowledging me to keep searching for peace. She was such a private person and I always wanted to have talks with her about deep things. Maybe I invented this. It was her presence or God’s presence. I was so grateful. It was distinct and there was no time in it; it was so quick.

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Mary Kay’s story
The spirit of true silence and God in the day-to-day

Generally, my experiences of God are quite subtle and I’m not sure if it’s really God or not. Well, I usually am sure, but it’s because of faith and not because of any clear and unequivocal sense of God that is different from the ordinary experiences of life. I usually experience God in the day-to-day, and usually it’s when I’m looking — sometimes looking hard — for it. Sometimes, though, something rises above the clutter to my notice and I can see that of God in it.

A non-typical experience for me happened once a long, long time ago at meeting for worship. I sank into the grounding of the worship and experienced the silence as Silence, a living, organic presence of the Spirit. Even as people shared vocal ministry, somehow the silence truly was not broken. Instead, the ministry was absorbed into the silence and somehow became a part of it. It was quite powerful.

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Marybeth’s story
God speaks through beauty, books and her backyard

[God communicates with me] through the natural world — beauty, animals, interesting weather, a sense of “presence” in the outdoors. Also, through my reading. I read sacred literature, both scripture and that of other traditions each day and often; something strikes me as clearly that of God.

I will be reading and, as I said above, I’ll feel overwhelmed by the resonance of a passage. It truly speaks to my condition. Sometimes, I’ll be walking or have come upon a very beautiful place, but most often, it happens as I watch the birds in my backyard, attracted by my bird feeder.

The first time I recognized the presence of God in my life was after I had spent time in a service project with 15 others. On the last night, I stayed up most of the night to discuss a book with another person. Our conversation became deeper than I could ever imagine and I had a strong sense of the presence of God, revealing him/herself to me for the first time. The vehicle was the book and the communication between the two of us.

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Penelope’s story
Presence, prayer without words and deep openings

I have had one experience that just stands out.

My background is as a nurse practitioner and early on, when I was working with women who were HIV+ and pregnant and before the tremendously positive effect of taking AZT or the possibility of the combination drugs now on the market, there was a woman with an unintended pregnancy. She did a whole lot of work on deciding about carrying or terminating the pregnancy. I did a lot of listening. Ultimately, she chose termination.

The heartbreaker was they did it in labor and delivery and the attitude of the nurses was very anti-abortion. I had said “If you need me, ask the nurses to call.” I told the nurses the same. They gleefully called me. She asked did I think she was doing the right thing. I told her, “I can’t tell you, I’m not living your life.” Without words, we took hands and God was there. I have never had a more profound experience of the Divine. It took me a long time to understand this.

I don’t know where she is [now], but she was doing it out of what the life of her child would be. It was so deep and powerful. We didn’t say any words about praying. I was not aware that she was aware of what happened. It took me awhile to realize. A thunderbolt experience.

I have lots of little things show up ... every day. [But] that’s the thunderbolt.

You seem to have stirred things up with your questions for I’m remembering another experience. This one among Friends. We were considering a minute [a formal Quaker action]: “Our experience has been that spiritual gifts are not distributed with regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. Our experience has been that our Gatherings and Central Committee work have been immeasurably enriched over the years by the full participation and Spirit-guided leadership of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer Friends. We will never go back to silencing those voices or suppressing those gifts. Our experience confirms we are all equal before God, as God made us, and we feel blessed to be engaged in the work of FGC together.”

We took this into worship, friends spoke of hesitations about imagined consequences, yet there was a palpable Presence that swept away those doubts, was named among us and led us to approve this minute being recognized at the next Executive meeting ... I still have chills when I think about this experience.

I’d like to share something that happened last evening with my care and accountability committee. After the first session, I knew that I needed to have my husband on the committee. He claims to be an atheist/scientist, but what I know is that he is a spiritual person who doesn’t yet know it. I very much need him to understand to the best of his ability what I am experiencing at School of the Spirit ... I was enthusiastically describing your paper, sharing the questions and my delight in being able to respond. He asked, “Why would anyone want to share about their experiences with God?” Whoosh, the door opened and several were able to contribute that by doing so we drew closer in relationship to each other and God, we knew more deeply others’ experiences and hearing them informed our understanding of our own.

Mostly, I want to thank you for opening this very important opportunity for us; it is a key question ...

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Tom’s story
The present — the only moment which exists

My connection with the divine can only happen now, in the present moment. In my experience, it is this moment of connection which is the communication. The nature of the communication varies according to the moment, where I am, what I am doing, the state I myself am in. I may hear the rocks sing, or see the trees gather and blush green, in a sense of unity with divine spirit. I may also hear words, or (more frequently in my case) experience becoming a vehicle, a vessel for words which are expressed through my voice and my body but are not mine. All of this things are possible, have happened, can happen ...

Indeed, any of these moments of “communication,” of “communion” is extraordinary; is possible only now, only on those rare occasions when I am alive in the present moment, the only moment which exists. What happened yesterday is only a memory, which my ordinary analyzing, logicalizing thought process tries to categorize, often wrongly: “This one was true communication; that one was not; this one was ‘God,’ was an ‘angel,’ that one was a dream, a hallucination.” In this way, I come to logicalizing judgments about “communication” which as often as not are pure fantasy, losing track of the possibility of the connection now to something real, perhaps even rejecting the moment of reality because it does not fit my mental image.

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Valerie’s story
A father’s gift unites heaven and earth

After my father died and I returned from the funeral in NYC, I had a meeting with Dan [pastor at Cincinnati Friends Meeting] scheduled a few days after I got back. He was late for the appointment so I decided to stroll on the path behind the parking lot.

It was early October and some leaves were already down. As I strode past the first bench I happened to look down and where I would have put my foot down next was a beautiful, still, box turtle, yellow and black. I was astounded since I had not come upon a turtle in the woods since I was a young child when my parents rented a house in rural NJ for the summer. I remember that time as very formative — exploring the woods on my own and with friends, looking for turtles under every pile of leaves and looking for mushrooms with my father and grandfather. I've seen turtles at a distance on lakes and ponds but it had been 50 years since I last came upon one on a wooded path. The memories it gave me were a gift — my father had given me so much — and he was still looking out for me. I knew somehow the turtle was connecting me to my Dad. I was deeply moved but decided to move on. I quickly circled around the path in about 2 min. and decided to return to the spot and the turtle was gone. I could find no trace of him.

A few days later I met a friend I only see a few times a year. I mentioned the turtle. She said she would look up its significance — that seeing a wild animal on your path has meaning according to many traditions. She sent me a xerox which said that the turtle with its underside (earth) and its dome (heaven) “was an animal whose magic could help you unite heaven and earth within your own life.” This series of coincidences not only helped me progress through the stages of grief it also has continued to nourish me spiritually. You added another layer of meaning (the shield of motherhood) and I had to share this with you.

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Anita’s story
Angel voices, images of action and feelings of unworthiness

A typical [experience for me is] what I call the angel voices that tell me to do something. Non-typical [is] words or images directly of God; with power and profound joy. New are images of fabric or mini books or talks, such as my testimony against the death penalty. It happens anywhere. Yes, during times of personal or corporate worship, but also I’ve been woken up with a clamoring message; or during vacuuming.

The first full-blown “message” was being literally jostled during prayer in church at age 25. The jostling changed the prayer I was praying and afterwards when I looked to see who jostled me I discovered the entire pew empty.

I had an experience, all image, no words, of Jesus one time at the end of which Jesus laughed. Another woman reported a similar experience and her surprise at the laughter.

The joy fades after about 6 weeks and I am left with the memory. That’s widely held to be a typical pattern. I wish I’d known that rather than assumed I’d done something that sent it away. And, one time, I went into a deep depression — the day after because I felt so unworthy. I wish I’d known that was a misplaced response; of course I was unworthy, how could it be otherwise. The correct response, of course, is “Thank you.?”

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Lee’s story
Feeling spoken to, carried and given leadings

There have, however, been some very distinct experiences of the Divine (not the “bells and whistles,” as Pat McBee once described some mystical experiences). Once when I was a young person in church, I truly felt that God spoke to me. At other times, it was more of a very definable sense of being “carried” — of having a deep sense that all would be well. Two examples were when I was facing major surgery because of a large ovarian growth thought to be cancer (wasn’t) and when I was dealing with my father’s serious medical/health condition. In both of these instances, I was very distraught — and then felt to my amazement an incredible sense of peace (impossible to describe) which enabled me to deal with these situations.

I have also had some strong leadings. For example, a woman in our Meeting had MS and was clearly becoming increasingly debilitated. Although we did not have a close relationship, I felt “told” to start visiting her. This developed into a strong friendship that was also deeply spiritual. I was with her when she died. I have had a strong number of similar experiences like this.

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Janet’s story
Spirit comes in scripture, vocal ministry and inner wisdom

In Quaker meeting, Spirit can come in the movement of vocal ministry. I sense it swirling around like an eddy in water. As I ponder ideas or images or feelings, it’s like fishing. I’ll get a “hook” a resonating in my heart, fluttering feeling and know I have found the strand of the message. I follow it, knowing that as my heart beats faster, I am with the leading. The message often solidifies with some scrap of scripture (of which I know so little). I am often moved to tears when I speak.

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Paul’s story
Wifely wisdom, kids, quiet and music soothe his soul

I am not always receptive. I DO believe I get messages by listening to my wonderful wife, who is really much more connected to the universe than I. I also receive ideas, concepts, answers during the Silence at Meeting. Atypical would be words/actions from my very young grandchildren, who just can speak. Truly! Many other young children too. Remember Lily praying for me? Also much music in Meeting and some music outside Meeting is right from “heaven” to me.

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Patricia’s story
Ritual communion becomes real

... the experience I recall was of my first communion, which is, of course, taught to to Catholic boys and girls as the body of Christ coming into your body. After I had received the communion and returned to my place in the pew, I had what I would now describe as a little tiny kundalini experience, feeling tingly and really consecrated and that there was some kind of way to be in a continuing relationship or expectation for which this experience was the battery. I haven’t described it in quite these terms before, but there was some sense that I was being consecrated and it was only six or seven years ago that it occurred that was what happened. I don’t know what was happening to the other children in the class ... maybe nothing, maybe something even more dramatic than my experience. None of us ever talked about it. It’s seared in my memory.

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Marcelle’s story
Dreams and the space between bring Divine understanding

Simple understanding about an issue can come during prayer or a time of quiet. After a long time wrestling with something and trying to understand it, a sense of knowing can come and the matter becomes clear. Sometimes I have mystical experiences of light or I experience visions, not often while I’m wide awake, but in the space between dreams and waking. The word mystical has a whole range of definitions. The simplest is direct contact or experience of the Divine. Sometimes with that comes a sense of experiencing oneness.

For a long time, I recorded my dreams and paid attention for special meaning. Sometimes I have dreams about the future or ones that I know, in a lucid way, are explaining what's going on in my life ... like watching a movie in a clear way. These dreams seem more luminous than most and I know even when I’m dreaming, or just as I’m waking up, that they contain a special clarity or message for me. The tricky thing about dreams is that they're not always interpreted correctly or they have multiple levels of meaning and you come back, ten years later, with a different, deeper understanding.

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Cathy’s story
Stillness, universal knowing and body prayer

When I’m still or praying, I often get an image I can’t shake. Sometimes it’s a phrase, other times it can be a tingling energy all over my body. Sometimes I just feel invisibly held.

More rarely, I feel or see or “know” something universal.

Once I felt the vibrations of the universe under the park grass.

Once I went on a journey through the tree of life — all the way up the tallest, most miniscule branches to the edge of time. [I was] looking for my miscarried child [and was] led past all of the big, juicy peach babies near the trunk to the farthest reaches of the tree when something I had not expected was handed to me in a blanket. I didn’t recognize it at first. It was embryonic. Then I had a knowing this was the source of all life. I was flooded in an unknown, bursting love and, on another level, knew I’d been given a rare glimpse.

Once while doing yoga, my brain stopped and my body took over. It moved in graceful, gentle ways I had never seen or asked of it. I finished bowed down with much gratitude.

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Elena’s story
God is somewhere pretty

I think God is there when I’m somewhere pretty ... when I’m by the river going camping. Being there makes me feel happy. It’s quiet. I felt it this summer. I always feel God when I’m camping by the river — always the same place when we’re camping at the Thousand Islands. I have never told this before.

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Hannah’s story
Peaceful magic

I don’t know what God is, or what he is doing or why or where he is. I think there is God somewhere. I think he is part man and part fairy. I just imagine him with wings, doing a lot of magic just with his hands — peaceful magic.

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Autumn’s story
God is everything

I usually feel God when I am sad and I feel him and to me God is everything. He’s in everything. To me, it feels like he created the earth and he’s part of it. I feel it. When I’m sad, I feel like God is hugging me or just there or trying to cheer me up.

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