About three weeks ago, our teens had a bunch of friends come over for a bonfire and s’mores. As it was getting dark, they were all playing spike ball and just generally having fun in the backyard.

One of the boys was twirling a lanyard with his key chain on it. The key chain suddenly split and the centrifugal force sent those keys flying in every direction. By this time, it was 10 p.m. and completely dark outside. Miraculously, the teens were able to find several of the keys using flashlights to comb the yard. While one key was on our deck, others were in the completely opposite direction. They couldn’t find the two most important keys: his car key and house key.

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The next day, our family took turns walking back and forth across the yard, convinced we would find those keys. Later in the day, our friend came by with a metal detector. Up and down, across and back, he scanned the yard for the keys. We mowed the lawn, hoping it would at least make some kind of clanking noise before inevitably getting scraped and bent by the mower. It was maddening!

Finally, we all kind of agreed that those keys were going to have to find us. We were never going to find them. Even a complicated formula calculating the physics of direction and velocity wouldn’t be able to predict where those keys had landed.

“I bet one day, those keys are going to fall out of a tree and hit one of us,” I joked.

On Saturday, that’s pretty much what happened. My husband noticed that one of our second floor windows was slightly open. He went to close it, and guess what he found sitting in the window sill? There it was. The mysterious and evasive key to the Honda minivan.

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Tuesday morning, I saw that key lying on the kitchen counter, and I decided it was so funny I should share the story with the world through Facebook.

As I was posting, this thought went through my mind: “I think there’s more to this story.”

About 10 minutes after I had hit the “share” button, our 9-year-old came in the back door with news. “When [our friend] lost his keys, didn’t he also lose a house key?”

Yeeeeesssss.

“Did it look like this?” she asked, holding up a shiny, gold key. I texted his parents, and they confirmed that was the other missing key.

“Maybe you should play the lottery today,” they joked.

**

 

We have a very large deck, and the key was lying right in the middle of the farthest section of our deck. In the past three weeks since the keys were lost, we have had at least two dozen people on our deck at various times. In fact, one night we had all of our patio furniture, including about a dozen chairs stacked up on that part of the deck. We had 20 people grabbing chairs and rearranging them to sit down.

Multiple people would have walked back and forth over that key many times. And even though all of us had been searching all over the deck and yard, no one had seen it.

Once this second key popped up, I was really starting to get the feeling that someone was sending me a message. But what did the keys mean? I couldn’t think of anything significant in my life that had any connection to keys.

**

Later in the day, I was thinking about a series of events that had happened the previous few days.

On Monday, a friend had brought me a cup of coffee from a super cute coffee shop near us. As she stepped up to hand me the coffee, she said, “Do I see freedom in you?”

It was the strangest moment. If anything, I thought what my very perceptive friend would have noticed about me would be brokenness. As soon as she said the word “freedom,” I started crying.

I texted her later to ask her more about why she said she saw freedom in me. She said the words spilled out of her without thinking. It was like they weren’t her own words. I agreed that was exactly how I felt in that moment. Her face looked just as surprised that she had said those words as I was to hear them.

**

I’ve started wearing a necklace every day that has my word of the year on it: Brave. In fact, the friend who gave me the necklace is the same one who brought me the coffee.

I kept thinking that just as a joke, I should tell her she needed to get me a new necklace with a new word. This time, it should say, “free.” Throughout the day, I was running my hand back and forth around the strap of the necklace. I felt something hanging on my back that I hadn’t noticed before. I have been wearing this necklace almost every day for a couple of weeks, but I wasn’t aware of this strangely shaped piece of metal piece hanging from the back of it.

Finally, it was causing so much curiosity that I pulled my van over and took off the necklace. I couldn’t believe what it was.

Yep.

A key.

What’s significant about a key? Well, you need a key to unlock a door. And you have to open the door to gain freedom.

”Do I see freedom in you?” my friend had asked just one day earlier.

**

I remembered the verse that God gave me at the beginning of summer. It was the same verse that I shared with our church when I announced my resignation:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Freely.

Free.

Freedom.

**

The three keys are just the beginning of this story. I had not noticed until I found the third key that I have been experiencing increasingly larger doses of freedom all month.

Come back later to read the rest.

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