In the past few years I have worried about increasing violence and wars in the world. I have prayed often and asked the question of God and Our Lady if it was correct for me to share the visions I had experienced with other people. I want to share a message of hope but I also do not wish to sound foolish or spiritually arrogant. I did not receive an answer to my question until recently. Late this summer I received an answer. Just before bedtime I had a vision. This was not a vision of Our Lady but rather I began to see and hear the children, those living now and those still yet to be born. They were facing me, looking me directly in the eye, knowing the possibility of living in a world of peace. Their numbers grew from the hundreds to the thousands, more than I could see. They understood. I understood. It was for them that I should share this message, that it might open the possibility for this to become a reality.
In late 1990 I resigned from my job and felt that I was to do something else but I didn't know what it was yet going to be. Shortly thereafter I suffered a serious back injury and spent several weeks and months healing. This was a very humbling and contemplative time for me. I cried when I left the apartment after being home bound for several weeks. As I was beginning to recover a friend of mine who ran a local foundation for children and families affected by HIV/AIDS asked a friend and I to help at their annual rummage sale. I was able to attend and helped out at the desk. When it was over I began to think about the idea of opening a thrift store so that the foundation could have a source of funds for their ongoing work. I dismissed the idea when I realized I couldn't lift or carry anything and also had no capital to open up such an enterprise.
That evening, just before bed, I felt a presence in the room and a change of energy just overcame me. It brings tears to my eyes now thinking of it because it was so real, so loving, so soft and graceful, yet so strong and knowing. I saw an image of Our Lady, Mary, in my mind. She emanated a feeling of safety and peace. She told me I was to open this store for the children and that she would open the way. All I had to do was follow her guidance and it would be. It was not a command, but a choice for me. When I reflected on this I thought that this was what I was supposed to do.
Our Lady showed me where to go to look for a vacant store. I went there the next day and took down a phone number. I asked one of the other tenants if they thought the landlord might be open to renting the space at below market rent since we had no money for a thrift store to help children and families affected by HIV/AIDS. They told me he was a millionaire and a hard driving
businessman so they didn't think it was likely. I pondered that but Our Lady told me to just go ahead and contact him. I mustered up some courage, phoned him and set up a meeting. I told him what we were thinking of doing, he sat there and listened quietly, and then just said, absolutely yes. We could use the storefront, in a prime business location, for 1/3 the market rent, payable after we got the store running. We could use it for at least a year but after that if he found a tenant to pay full market rent, we would have to relocate. What a miracle!
I was stunned. It had happened just as Our Lady had shown me it would. This gave me confidence in my experience. I had experienced dreams and visions before but never anything that had manifested in the world so easily.
But now that we had been given a space I wondered what to do next. How do you open a thrift store with no money and nothing to put in it? Our Lady told me not to worry. I called my friend who ran the foundation and told her the news about the store. She said she would spread the word and see what she could come up with. I spoke with the neighboring tenant who ran a bookstore and told her the landlord had approved our using the space. Without asking for anything she said she would happy to give us shelving to use in the store. Another friend who had experience in retail said he would help run the store if we needed it. A local charity had an old van. They donated it to us to pick up donations. Someone else had a cash register they weren't using and gave it to us. Someone else had tables for displays. Pretty soon we had all the basics, but nothing to put in the store and it was due to open in less than a week. I just surrendered it to God. The foundation director phoned her network of friends. A woman donated an antique baby carriage that we placed in the window with a sign to announce the opening of the store and seeking donations of goods. The community just opened their hearts. We filled the store within 2 days with donations of art, clothing and household goods. A group of interior designers picked up our cause and gave us high quality wares to sell. I was in awe and so grateful for the outpouring of love. It was just as Our Lady had shown me and I felt the peace and presence of her as things came to fruition.
We were up and running. We had many volunteers from all walks of life willing to help us in the store. Drag queens, grunge kids, disabled people, housewives and househusbands all came together in this magical “happening” It was hard work but there was such grace, laughter and love. Before long the foundation had a monthly source of income and we were able to pay the bills to run the store. What a blessing! For me it was a peak experience of sorts, in that the store combined business, recycling, charity, human effort and love all touched by a humble grace and divine presence. Money from the store helped expand the foundation's programs and run a summer camp for the kids.
I'll never forget one boy at camp, Michael, who was 8 years old. All he wanted to do was be a normal kid and play baseball. He knew that he did not have long to live but faced his destiny with such courage, wisdom and peace. The look and strength in Michael's eyes has given me pause whenever I have faced difficulties in my own life. He was wiser and stronger than any adult I have ever met. He was able to play baseball that day at camp. He passed away just a few weeks later.
After a year of running the thrift store, living on a minimal but adequate income, working 6 days a week, I was nearing exhaustion. I began to question how I could continue. Our Lady came to me again and gave me the message "Seek Ye Refuge in the Garden, Restored". I didn't know what it meant at the time but it sounded good. There are many meanings really - rest in the beauty of nature, but later I also realized it meant to rest in the Heavenly Garden, restored to Grace. This was a profound message that touched me deeply.
I arranged to finally take a break from running the store and retreated to Orcas Island, near Seattle, for rest, contemplation and relaxation. I returned after a few days much more balanced and refreshed. I knew that I needed to take more time for meditation but I wasn't sure how to do that with all my responsibilities. Again I just carried on and surrendered it to God.
A few weeks later we received news from the landlord that he had found a tenant and we would have to move unless we were willing to pay full market rent. The thrift store's revenues were modest and we could not afford to pay the full rent and support the foundation. We looked for another location but nothing seemed suitable or affordable. I meditated and asked Our Lady "what should we do?” A few days later I felt her quiet presence come to me again. She said that it was done, our work was complete and we should just let it go. I was sad but I knew it was true. She said our store had been given life for a brief time, similar to the brief but beautiful life that a child with AIDS experienced at that time. She also said that there was another message she wished to tell me and she would visit me again.
In the final days before the store closed we were still attempting to find another location to carry on the work. I knew inwardly it was unlikely but there were many people involved and they did not receive the same message I did. It did not seem appropriate for me to share the message I had received, that it was best just to go through the experience. One evening, again just before bedtime, Our Lady filled the room and my being with her presence. I became still and filled with peace, tears welling in my eyes.
Her message was "Lay Down Your Weapons". I understood this to mean to just surrender and let the store close, do not make any further efforts to continue. Once I understood this she said there was more.
I was shown a vision of what "Lay Down Your Weapons" meant for the world. Our Lady appeared all around the world, in various forms, speaking in many languages, touching the souls of children of all cultures conveying the message that it was time to "Lay Down Your Weapons". Children knew that it was time to end war and they were drawn together through this miraculous appearance to make this happen. It was an incredible vision. With the power and grace of Our Lady I knew that is was possible. I asked her if this time was now and she said "not now" but I would know when if I listened to my soul. I also understood that to "lay down one's weapons" was more than just weapons of war, but all things human beings use as weapons to harm one another. But laying down the weapons of war was the first stage of human beings learning to lay down the other weapons used to harm each other such as money, food, water, resources, etc. It was a step to healing and uniting mankind to a next level of living.
This happened in 1992. Since then I have not experienced any further messages from Our Lady. At times I have felt her subtle presence and it has given me peace. I have lived an ordinary life since then, caring for my family and working in the world. But I have often wondered when or if her final vision would occur. I know that if it will happen it will occur in God's time, not mine.
The message is simple really. How do you stop war? Lay down your weapons. It is common sense. We are all brothers and sisters living on this planet provided by God. War is family abuse on a massive scale. The family can be healed. There is hope.