Finding Lost Treasure

finding-lost-treasure

Recently I gave a presentation at the Theology of the Body Virtual Conference. During my talk I shared a brief story of a bicycle my parents gave me when I was a little girl. The story resonated with many viewers.

Today I want to share with you the full story of how the Lord has spoken to me through a blue bike and a desiring heart. The circumstances of my bike that have occurred since giving my presentation can be nothing more than a miracle from God.

I pray my story helps you to never give up on the desires of your heart. Here’s my story, Finding Lost Treasure.

—–

When I was 10 years old my parents gave me a bicycle for my birthday. I can still picture it to this day. The bike had a sky blue frame and fenders. One third of the back fender was painted white and had a red reflector on it.

The handlebar grips and bike seat were black plastic and not very comfortable. I replaced them with foam grips and a cushioned seat with springs. I even remember riding my bike all the way to city hall to purchase my very first bike licence! I felt like a grown up!

I rode my bike everywhere! To a friend’s house who lived across the street. To school every day. To the corner store, and throughout the neighborhood! I loved how the wind travelled through my hair and how my cheeks glowed red.

Going uphill was a struggle but I knew the ride back down would be a thrill! I had a customary route I’d take and knew every speed bump, crack in the road, rocky path to avoid, and smooth pavement where I could let go of the handlebars, raise my arms in the air and pretend I was soaring to heaven.

I loved my bike! When I rode my bike I found a new sense of freedom, movement, and air. I was alive! Oh how glorious this memory has been for me over the years!

As I entered my teenage years I started to struggle with self-image. I was often made fun of at school and kept to myself most of the time. I’d look for secluded corners and empty stairwells where I could hide from all the other students.

During this time, I experienced sexual abuse. Slimy comments from an old man and sexual touching from a teenage boy made me want to crawl into a hole.

All this led me to a compulsive behavior that dramatically impacted me. Food. My comfort and satisfaction. Unfortunately weight gain took its toll on my body. Sitting in front of the TV became much more pleasurable then the physical energy it took to ride my bike.

In some sense I entered a season of death. Death to all the glorious sensations and lived experiences connected with riding my bike.

I lost track of where my bike ended up.

I thought it might have been stolen or sent to the dump. In any event, now that I was a young adult I convinced myself that all those childhood experiences that gave me life were just childish folly that needed to be left behind. Life carried on.

—–

About 30 years later I went to visit my sister Denise at her art studio. Denise’s artwork is profound. Her talent is God-given and is a channel to express her heart’s movements. I’m in awe of the beauty she creates with canvas, paint, and strokes of a brush.

When I arrived I toured her studio to see her latest artwork. As I turned a corner I was dumbstruck to see a vibrant masterpiece. I stopped in my tracks and caught my breath. My eyes gazed at a stunning painting that captivated me with its vivid colors, symmetry, attention to detail, and a most meaningful subject that was happily situated against weathered wood, among maturing foliage.

I said, “That’s my bike.”

Denise replied, “No, that’s Mareva’s bike” (her husband’s niece).

I repeated with subtle insistence, “No. That is my bike.” Denise recalled, “I remember that bike belonged to Mareva.” I responded, “Maybe Mareva got the bike from me? But I KNOW that’s my bike!”

I continued to explain great details of the bike that were undeniably pictured in her painting. The blue color, white fender and red reflector, handle bar grips, bike seat, and the city bike licence affixed to my bike exactly where I placed it way back when.

Curious, I asked Denise, “Where did this image come from”. “Down at Finn Slough.” She said. “I went there last year to take some photos that I thought I could paint from. I saw this bike up against an old shed. It was stunning and I knew I was to paint it.”

Finn Slough is a tiny old Finnish fishing community established in the 1880’s. It’s about 25 miles from where I grew up. About 30 residents lived in wooden houses, both floating and built on pilings, along the marshy riverbank.

Sadly, while some buildings have been restored the majority of buildings have severely deteriorated. It was in this fishing village that my sister’s brother-in-law and daughters lived and where Mareva would ride the bike up and down its gravel paths.

Thinking it had only been a year since Denise took those pictures, I decided to drive to Finn Slough to see if I could find my bike. I walked up and down the dusty paths but couldn’t find it.

Feeling fearful of running into strange people and big water rats I decided to leave. Settled that my bike couldn’t be found, I decided the next best thing would be to purchase Denise’s painting. The painting hangs proudly on my front room wall.

—–

About eight years later I reached a milestone birthday and was struggling with my life. My son was grown and my husband, Rudy, didn’t really need me. Rudy, was and still is a rock star husband who contributed to most of the domestic tasks that I assumed were mine to do as a wife. He cooked, cleaned, did the shopping, and did laundry. I was grateful for his help but I also felt lost and not needed.

During that time I decided to see a Catholic Counsellor for help. I’d never sought counselling before and was very nervous. The first time we met he asked if I would be open to praying before we started.

He led us in prayer and I simply welcomed his leading. At the end of the prayer he said, “A word came to me during our prayer time. I don’t know if this means anything to you and if it doesn’t that’s okay.” He continued, “What is it about you and a bike?”

“WHAT!” I said, shocked. “Are you kidding me?” I then proceeded to tell him the story of my bike. Upon reflection I realized that the Lord gave my counsellor this word as a sign that the journey I was about to embark upon was going to be healing and life-giving! Praise and glory to God!

After this counselling session the desires of my heart to find my bike were whispering to me. Having already resigned that my bike was lost I dismissed the movements of my heart and rationalized that it had been at least 40 years since I had my bike and there was no way it would be found.

The whispers of my heart continued. Finally, after a month of hearing this voice in my heart, I decided to go back to Finn Slough and try again to look for my bike. Maybe, just maybe, this time around I’d be able to find the bike that was a life-line for me.

During this second time of searching I spoke to a couple of people asking if they recalled the family that had lived there. They could not. After walking around for a little bit the voice of resignation spoke forcefully again. “It’s not here”, it suggested. “Don’t be stupid.” and “It’s just a bike.”

I left Finn Slough feeling disheartened.

—–

This last May I was invited to give a presentation at the Theology of the Body Virtual Conference. I was humbled and grateful for the invitation to share a little bit of how John Paul ll’s Theology of the Body impacted my life. As a woman of a ‘certain age’ I knew that if the Lord could speak deeply to me about His love for me then it was possible for every other woman who had given up believing their hearts’ desires could be fulfilled. I knew my bike story and the painting had to be a part of my message for this Virtual Conference.

After the video presentation was released I received comments from viewers who told me how my brief bike story spoke to their hearts. One woman explained that when I invited the audience to reflect on a childhood memory from their life, she too, went back to her own bicycle memory when she was a girl. And that was before I shared my bike story! Wow!

About a month after the conference a friend sent me an email telling me how much he enjoyed my presentation. He pointed out that my bike was a ‘sacrament’ of my heart. With a lowercase ‘S’, sacrament here means an earthly sign that points to heavenly reality. Oh, yes! What truth! The Lord has used this bike to help direct my sights towards Him, both when I was a little girl and, when I sought the help of a Catholic Counsellor.

The voice of my child-like heart was reawakened and the desire to reclaim my beautiful bike inspired me to try again. This time I decided to first do some research about Finn Slough before I went out there. I explored various stories about this historic fishing village and scrutinized multiple images I found online.

After an hour of researching I came across a photo that had been taken a few years back. Right there in the photo was a picture of a house and on the roof of the house was a bike.

A blue bike.

A bike that had the same characteristics as my bike. I was stunned!

With a little more online research I was able to locate exactly where this home and bike were. I couldn’t believe it!

The following Saturday I asked my husband if he would come with me to Finn Slough. He agreed but on one condition. That I approach the home to talk to the person inside while he waited in the truck. I agreed.

As we drove out to Finn Slough my mind raced with wild thoughts. Who lives at this place? What would I say? Was this really my bike or was it an empty wish?

I couldn’t believe what was happening. After almost 50 years was I really going to find the bike from my childhood?

We arrived at the home and my husband pulled over to the side of the road. We looked over and saw that the bike was still up on the roof. Oh how much this bike looked like the one I had. I got out and looked around the little yard with all its unusual objects surrounding it.

My heart was racing as I approached the house. I found the door knocker and struck it three times. I called out with a cautious ‘Hello. Anyone home?” I stepped back and looked to the side of the house.

I couldn’t find anyone. I went back to the door and knocked again. A woman came out and asked if she could help me. “Yes”, I said, “I was wondering if I could speak with you about the bike that’s on your roof.” She replied, “That bike has been here as long as I have. I’ve been here for 12 years.”

I responded, “Oh wow! I came today because I think the bike on your roof is the one I had when I was a little girl”.  “Really?” she said. I showed her a picture of the painting my sister did, and I shared with her the story of how my bike gave me life, freedom, movement, and joy. I explained I’d been to Finn Slough twice before but couldn’t find it.

She asked, “Did you want to buy the bike?” I answered, “Yes! If you’re willing to sell it I’d love to buy it”. She explained the bike had been a part of the history of her home for a long time and that people would often stop by to look at the bike and her yard. She had affectionately called her home, “La Casa de Bicyclette” (The House of the Bike).

“I don’t think I can sell you the bike.” she said. My heart saddened.

She continued, “I don’t think I can sell you the bike because it’s your bike. You need to take it. It’s been such a big part of your life that you need to take it home.”

Oh my stars! I began to cry. I couldn’t believe the heart of this beautiful woman. How could she know just how much this bike meant to me!

finding the bike

After we settled on the bike and got it off the roof I felt compelled to hear more from this woman and her story. I opened the door by asking her name and where she was from. She told me that she came from Quebec and that she had four different names in her lifetime. She then said that two years ago she learned the name she was given when she was born. Her birth name was Virginie (French for Virginia).

Virginie began to open up and shared with me about growing up in a Catholic orphanage back in the 1950’s where she was ruled by cruel nuns who reminded her daily that she was a poor and pathetic sinner. She left the orphanage and ended up in foster care facing all sorts of tragedies that lead her to a life of drugs, alcohol, and homelessness. My heart felt deeply the struggles this woman faced during her lifetime.

She then shared with me about a male friend of hers that had been especially kind to her. He treated her with respect and dignity. She said, “No one ever treated me as well as this man did.” Her eyes lowered to the ground and said, “And now he is gone all because of me.”

I didn’t know what she meant by that. She continued.

“One evening I went to see my friend to bring him a meal and I could see something was wrong. I asked him what was happening and he said everything was alright. I said, ‘Did I do something to upset you’. He replied ‘No.’ I gave him the food I had brought, visited for a short time and then left. The next morning I received a call telling me that my friend had committed suicide. He died because of me. I did that to him.”

My heart was crushed for this woman. She had been carrying the burden of feeling responsible for another person’s actions that led to their death. She was overcome with emotion.

“Oh Lord, God”, I called out in my mind. “Help me here.”

“Virginie” I said, “Do you believe you’re responsible for this man taking his life?” She answered yes. “You are not responsible for this man’s decision to commit suicide. Every person is responsible for their own actions. He chose to do this to himself.” I explained.

“This is not your fault.” I reassured her, “It is not your fault … it is not your fault.”

Her heart settled and she acknowledged this truth. She added, “As much as I know this I keep getting tormented with thoughts that tell me otherwise.”

“Virginie, you are not to blame. It is not your fault” I repeated.

As time was getting on I asked Virginie if she would be open for me to come back and visit in a few months. She said yes. We exchanged phone numbers, embraced as though we were long lost soul sisters, and then parted ways.

My husband and I drove back home in silence. I was in awe of all that had taken place and pondered this in my heart. Thoughts flooded back to the number of times I had been out to Finn Slough to look for my bike to no avail. It was then I realized that the reason why I couldn’t find my bike on my previous visits was because the Lord wanted me to meet Virginie.

Finn Slough finally unearthed what I had been looking for. My beautiful childhood bike. But even more importantly, I found a greater lost treasure … a broken and hurting woman whose heart was desperate to know truth, love and goodness. Praise and glory to God for opening the door for us to meet.

God always has a plan and purpose for us even in the seemingly minor details. Our role is to be receptive and trust that He will lead us on our journey.

What treasures do you carry in your heart that are sacramental, things that draw you closer to God? How is the Lord asking you to witness to women in your life? How can you help others find the lost treasures of their heart? Will you be vulnerable before women so they will be vulnerable with you?

———————————————-

Please keep Virginie and me in your prayers. She is searching for that which will fulfill the desires of her heart. I pray through witnessing God’s incredible love for us that she will see the beauty of her authentic feminine heart.

Story and photos have been published with permission.

About Monique Van Berkel

Monique Van Berkel

She has a passion to spread a message of authentic love and life in relationships. She is an Accredited Theology of the Body Speaker through the TOB Institute. Through sharing of her own life experience and knowledge gained through her studies Monique leads people into a deeper appreciation of their humanity and sexuality.

Monique is the Founder and President of Catholic Woman CEO, a lay apostolate committed to helping women reclaim the truth of their feminine nature as God created them to be. She is available as a speaker for your event or organization. Find out more about her speaking topics here.