Nearly a decade ago when Archangel Raphael in the guise of a persistent muse suggested I write a book on spirituality, I sardonically teased, "You wanna narrow down the subject a bit?" A few years later, he commissioned that I write a book on angels. I scoffed at the idea and mumbled, "The world already thinks it knows all there is to know about angels. Why repeat information that's been handed down through the ages?"
I didn't give the muse a chance to respond. I simply rolled over in bed and went to sleep.
A year later, I found myself standing at a spiritual crossroads. My spiritual mentor had just passed away. She was the first person, other than my mother, to recognize my gift of connecting with the spirit realm and much like Mr. Miyagi and Daniel of the Karate Kid, she and I spent afternoons together at her teashop discussing spirituality and honing my skills. After she passed away of cancer—just a couple years after my mother passed away of cancer—I literally found myself standing alone in the night with no sense of direction in my life.
It was raining that evening and I was standing before a fifty-six-foot tall crucifix that loomed over the border between Detroit and the northern suburbs.
"If I've asked you once, Lord, I've asked you a hundred times. What do you want from me?" Naturally, the stone crucifix stood silent like a sentinel at the gates of Heaven. Thunder rolled overhead, but instead of it having its usual calming effects on me, I grew angrier. I was in this world completely alone now. Mom and Dad had both passed on and I was the only child between them.
I had no one.
"Answer me! I've done nothing but put you at the fore of my heart and this is where it's brought me." The downpour came—tears and rain.
"Excuse me," a feminine voice came out of the darkness. "Do you go to this church?"
I dried my tears and clutched my car keys, ready to defend myself from a mugging. I was, after all, alone in an empty churchyard at ten o'clock at night—on the outskirts of Detroit. I turned to see the source of the voice, and emerging from the shadows was a young girl, about sixteen or so. For safety, I moved to stand in one of the spotlights illuminating the crucifix, but I felt nothing but love radiating from this beautiful soul. She was dressed in a white tank top, jeans, and flip-flops. Her skin was a dusky olive and she had the most radiant brown eyes I'd ever seen. Dark brown, nearly black from the rain, curls framed her face and she smiled at me.
"Um, no. I just come here to visit Him from time to time." I thumbed over my shoulder at the crucifix.
"Did He say anything good?" she beamed as she gazed skyward. I couldn't help but notice a foreign lilt in her voice that I couldn't quite place.
"Not to me, at least. I think I'm getting the cold shoulder," I replied, half joking, half wounded.
"Do not say that. He always answers. The trick is in the listening." She tucked her hands in her back pockets and rocked heel to toe. "I go here to this church. I was just about to go inside to pray when I saw you standing up here. Well, I'll leave you to your thoughts." She handed me a pamphlet on the church and inclined her head respectfully. I looked down at the pamphlet, not seeing anything all that special about it—just visitor information.
"Thanks," I lifted my head. She was gone. Baffled, I turned around several times and then ran down the stairs to the parking lot. There was no sign of the young lady. I then went to try the chapel doors—I needed a moment of peace and candlelight anyhow—but they were locked. I stood on the dark sidewalk as traffic whizzed by in a blur, and I took one last look over my shoulder at the monument. Thunder rumbled again. A bit unnerved, I then thought it best to make a disappearing act of my own.
It wasn't until I got home that it dawned on me that God's answer was in the pamphlet all along. It reminded me of a promise I made to my spiritual mentor while she was on her death bed. She had asked me to help her business partner keep her teashop open. And like the loyal student I was, I promised to do just that. So, what about the pamphlet reminded me of that promise? It was about the patron saint of the church, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, who was quoted as saying on her deathbed that she would spend her time in Heaven "doing good on Earth," and that she would let fall from Heaven, "a shower of roses." The name of the teashop was The Velvet Rose. And it was there while keeping my promise and interacting with its customers that I would eventually learn more about the angels than I could ever imagine.
But long before I could find the courage to take up my station at the teahouse, my mundane life was choking my spiritual life like weeds infiltrating a rosebush. I sat at my home altar every night, sobbing because I felt I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I had quit my job of nearly a decade, and I had done it all on the words of my spiritual mentor from the teashop, my spirit guide—Jake—and a few "signs" given to me by Archangel Gabriel.
Desperate and at wit's end, I went into a long, involved meditation seeking guidance. It was there that the Archangel Gabriel and I made a deal—he'd help me get bills paid if I stopped fretting over unemployment. Needless to say, he kept his end of the deal.
I, however, didn't.
Within a week, I found myself waking up in a hospital bed at three in the morning. Monitors were beeping over my head, my mouth felt like it was full of cotton and every inch of my body was in excruciating pain.
Gabriel came out of the shadows of the hospital room and leaned on my bed rail.
"What happened?" I didn't know if I spoke it or thought it, but the cherub-faced angel gazed down at me with unsympathetic eyes.
"I did what I had to, Chantel."
"Am I dying?" I couldn't remember what day it was, how I got to the hospital or how long I'd been there.
"No. We'll talk soon." He gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze and disappeared.
The next day, the doctors informed me that I had suffered a stroke. I lay in shock and denial the entire day. Surely the doctors were mistaken. But as the reality of it seeped in, my anger with the angels and God grew to new heights.
"Gabriel!" I screamed out in the middle of the night, demanding his presence and not caring if the nurses or my roommate heard me.
"I told you, I did what I had to do." He appeared out of nowhere as he stood at the foot of my bed.
"Well, I'm young. I'll bounce back! I'll be out of here in a week!" I declared with fury and determination.
"I wouldn't count on it if I were you," he replied firmly. "You know, since you're going to be here on your back for a while, you can work on that book Raphael asked you about."
I was incensed. "I don't have anything to write about!" I wanted to call that angel so many foul names, I could barely stand it. Luckily, I still had some of my wits about me; else, I doubt I'd have lived to tell about it.
"Well, now that we have your undivided attention, maybe we can fix that." And the angel faded from my view just as a nurse came in to check why my blood pressure was suddenly spiking.
It's amazing the things you can learn when you sit still and shut up for a moment. Four years would pass, filled with loss, anger, and resentment. To my surprise, they were also filled with moments of peace, reflection, and spontaneous spiritual growth spurts. Instead of waiting for my final hours in this existence to flash my entire life before my eyes, the angels took four years to take me back to the moment of birth to replay moments in my life that ultimately revealed I'd been on my spiritual path all along, even as I had been consciously running from it since 1993 when my purpose was first revealed to me: to help connect those in need with their spirit teachers and guides. For four years, I fought the angels, wanting nothing to do with them or their agenda. For four years, they'd been guiding my every step even though I stubbornly refused their tutelage.
For four years, I would complain about my painful circumstances of poor health, poverty, and shattered dignity. And for four years, their response remained constant: "Write the book."
Finally, I had a life-changing epiphany: "Maybe I should do some more writing!" I know the angels wanted to say, "Ya think?"
I pulled out old files and snippets of chapters I'd written years ago and began to piece them together, but my heart really wasn't in it. It was much easier for me to sit and host my own pity party every day than to do something constructive. But then Archangel Michael came into the foreground and shed his light my way. Azrael Loves Chocolate and Michael's A Jock was inspired by the sunny angel and his ability to do what no one was able to do since my mother died seven years ago—make me laugh, smile, and find the joy in living and sharing with others.
I believe there is no greater feeling, no greater bliss than being embraced by the love of angels. I think it's as close to Heaven as we humans can get without dying, because connecting with the angels allows us to experience divinity here in the realm of the mundane. Spirit and divinity become real, tangible. Connecting helps us to get far beyond "faith" and over into "knowing." And when we know something, when we've seen it, touched it, even breathed it in, our courage grows exponentially; we're inspired; we're motivated; we feel whole. When we experience the Light of God through the angels—who were designated to teach and guide humanity—we attain completion. We realize we were never separate from our Creator and its arms are always lovingly wrapped around us.
The angels in both duty and folly can bring us to the full awareness of our Creator, of the Source of All That Is. I always thought that such an awareness would come through solemn interactions with these divine creatures, but instead it came through play and laughter. What better way to greet the Maker? Demure with our heads bowed down? Or with our arms wide open with bright, loving smiles?
Archangel Michael, the beautiful and bold Prince of Angels, was the first angel I interviewed for Azrael Loves Chocolate, and he and I spent many nights laughing, talking, and even joking about the inhabitants of the Heavenly realms. I had long ago discovered through my interactions with the Archangels that each angel had not only a distinct "energy signature," a vibration that I could feel through my gifts of clairsentience, but each one also had a distinct personality, too. Before my powwow with Michael, however, I had no idea how these personalities played out amongst the ranks in Heaven. Based on what I researched, I had come to believe that angels are always about business.
Boy, was I wrong.
Along with being the Conductors of the Cosmos, they are also the conduits through which mirth and happiness ceaselessly flow. They are the poster children of perfect harmony as they effortlessly balance divine work with divine play, and maybe one day we humans will achieve that same balance. But until then, I've hopes that while we take note of the angels' playful example, we can find healing in our souls through laughter. That's what Azrael Loves Chocolate has done for me, and I pray it does the same for its readers.