I’m looking for meaning. I need an explanation for what my life has been and I want road maps for the future so I pay attention to dreams and whatever messages come through other sources. I want it all wrapped up neatly, complete with instructions, no loose ends. I’m looking for signs from God, coincidences that have meaning, messages in tea leaves. Would someone please just tell me what to do? I need to know what to expect. Just give me some stock tips, lottery numbers, reliable career guidance. I can’t waste any more time.

I keep telling God that if He’s sending me a message, I’m not getting it. He’s going to need to kick me harder. But I wonder if I’m asking for really, really big trouble asking God to kick me harder. He packs quite a wallop.

Can I consider Uncle Billy’s experience as a direct message from God? Uncle Billy was in a coma a few weeks ago. When he regained consciousness he told my mother that he had either a dream or one of those near-death experiences that people talk about with Oprah. He was talking to God and God told Uncle Billy that I would soon meet the love of my life. Frankly, I was surprised that God would discuss my love life with Uncle Billy but who am I to question how the Lord works. God’s words keep ringing in my ears. What if Uncle Billy really was communicating with God, what does it mean, and if God was telling the truth, then where is the love of my life and when should I expect him? He did say soon, didn’t He?

I have long feared that there was one perfect man for me but that perfect man is a monk living in a monastery on the side of a cliff in Tibet. He, the monk, my true soul mate, has taken a vow of chastity and will never leave the monastery. If God is right, either the monk will leave the monastery soon, or it’s someone other than the monk. God wouldn’t lie, would He?

Maybe the message won’t come directly from God so I’m considering the possibility that He may work through other people. Last year I was walking through a marginal neighborhood in San Francisco when I saw a storefront sign:

Miss Donna, Reader and Advisor
Spiritual Reader and Advisor in All Problems
Love, Marriage, and Business
Special $10.00 for $35.00 Value

I was amused but kept walking. About a block away, I asked myself what could be the harm, so I turned and walked back to get my $10 worth of advice from Miss Donna. As I walked in, Miss Donna, a dark-haired woman with a thick Eastern European accent, entered from a back room. (I wondered if she was really from New Jersey and was faking the gypsy bit.) She asked to see my left palm. “You have good parents,” she said, “but I can see that you have been very, very unhappy for five years and you have had big troubles with men.”

Miss Donna had an incredible gift! How could she have known about the troubles with men? But then she said, “There is a woman in your life, a woman who will cause you great pain. Do you want to know who it is? Do you want to do something about it?” I was shocked. A woman!? Yes, of course I wanted to know. Miss Donna added, “If you are serious, if you really want to know who it is, you have to give me $197 and I can help you. Otherwise you will be in great pain for another five years.” I was crushed. Near tears, I explained to her that I was in San Francisco on business and that I didn’t have $197 to give her. It became clear to me that God was not working through Miss Donna that day in San Francisco.

“Then give me $57.” Miss Donna discounts quickly.

I told her I only could give her the $10 for the advertised special. I needed enough money to get back home. Miss Donna suggested I think about it and gave me her telephone number. If I was serious about wanting advice and did not want to be miserable for five years, I would find the money and come back to see her. I didn’t find the money to go back to Miss Donna. Does this mean I’m going to be in misery for another five years? And who is the woman who is out to get me?

My experience with Miss Donna should have made me completely lose faith in psychics but it didn’t. My sister was throwing herself a birthday party and she hired a psychic named Belinda to come to her party to do tarot card readings for the guests. My sister called two days before the party to cancel, explaining that the psychic had something unexpected come up and she wouldn’t be able to make it. What’s with that? Any decent psychic should have known that something would come up.

Fools that we are, we didn’t give up. The following week my sister and I went to see the Amazing Belinda. Amazing reads tarot cards and does numerology and other mystical things, including past life readings. She told me I was an “old soul” and that one of my past lives was as a Buddhist monk in Tibet. Keeping with the religious theme, apparently another past life was that of a nun. “Boy, that was one annoying lifetime,” she said. No doubt.

Belinda said she saw me moving west, but not too far; she saw rolling hills and beautiful vistas in the sunset, perhaps the Shenandoah Valley or the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, probably still in Virginia. Amazing—how did she know that has been a dream of mine? And she saw a man in my future—6’2”, 220 pounds, a strong man, Canadian/Italian with dark eyes. He looks like John Wayne and his name is Peter or Anthony, maybe Anthony Peters, or maybe Charlie, or maybe there are just three different men. Okay, she couldn’t quite get a handle on the name. Months later, I can report that I’m still living in the same place and no one named Anthony, or Peter, or Charlie has entered my life.

But before we dismiss Belinda’s insight, let’s look at what she told my sister. She didn’t waffle on the name of the man who would come into my sister’s life—she definitively said it was a man named Mark. My sister soon began dating a young widower and four months later she married him. His name is Mark. Amazing Belinda indeed!

This is the most perfect macaroni and cheese recipe ever. Although it came from my sister, I’m sure it really must have come directly from God. No wonder she got a husband—what man could resist this?

Three Cheeses and Macaroni

1 pound elbow macaroni
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
12 ounces grated Gruyere cheese (4 cups)
8 ounces grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
1 1/2 cup bread crumbs (use good quality white bread)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the macaroni according to package directions and drain in colander. Heat the milk to scalding in a small saucepan. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan and add the flour. Cook the flour in butter for about 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Whisk in the hot milk and cook until thick, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add Gruyere, cheddar, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the drained macaroni and sun-dried tomatoes and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and toss with breadcrumbs. Put crumb mixture on top of macaroni/cheese mixture and top with Parmesan cheese.

Bake in 375 degree heat for 30 to 35 minutes, until brown on top.

Serves 4.

Note: You can assemble this ahead (except for breadcrumb topping) and refrigerate. Add the breadcrumbs and Parmesan before placing in oven and bake for 45 minutes.