Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nasty or Nice? by Carolyn

I learned a huge lesson the other day.  I volunteer at a nursing home.  I have been working there for nearly 8 years.  As you would expect, many of my patients have come and gone over the years, but several are still my "ladies."  One in particular is the subject of today's blog.

Kathleen and I have been friends for almost all of those eight years.  Recently, she became very ill.  Because of privacy concerns etc., I am not privy to what ails folks unless there are contagions involved, so I was only told that Kathleen had become very ill. 

When I went to visit I was shocked.  She had changed so much in a week.  She looked smaller, vulnerable and helpless.  Her demeanor seemed different too.  She was very quiet.  She wouldn't look at me.  Her brow was furrowed with deep lines.  I hardly knew what to say to this woman I hardly recognized.  She sat in her wheelchair unmoved and unmoving in a new room devoid of any of her personal things, or anything of a personal nature at all.  No pretty blankets, no pictures, no books, no personal effects.  There was a clean bed with plain white sheets, white pillows and a white blanket on it. 

I kneeled beside her so that I could look directly into her eyes, and took her hand in mine.  We had always had a very good relationship.  I knew all about her childhood and youth.  She grew up on a farm in Ohio with loving parents and grandparents.  She was the first in her family to attend college and she made the best of it.  For years she taught elementary school and her love for children was still so obvious.  She told me story after story about how hard she tried to help every one of them no matter what their race, background, abilities or attributes. She loved them.  She loved all of them.   She and her husband had no children of their own, but to her, each of these children was her "own." She had a "Teacher of Distinction and Excellence" plaque on her wall signed by the superintendent upon her retirement years ago.  She is very proud of that.

But now everything was different.  My heart went out to her.  I asked her how I could pray for her expecting her to say something about endurance, courage, patience, deliverance, all of which would have been perfectly understandable.  She looked me in the eye and whispered, "Pray that I won't lose my sense of humor.  Pray that I won't be nasty."

I was stunned.  For a moment, I was taken completely aback.  Then the tears welled up.  Here was a woman suddenly deprived of everything she knew, a little lady alone and in a lonely place in life.  92 years old, weak and vulnerable, but very, very wise.

"The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools."
                                                                                                                  Ecclesiastes 9:17 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sidewalk Signs (by Judy)

I had a most amazing experience this morning, so filled with blogging possibilities that I hardly know where to begin. It was a huge reminder that God is everywhere! All I have to do is pay attention. It started when I decided to exercise by taking a power walk around my neighborhood, rather than heading to the gym. I headed out the door, and a few houses down, my eyes were drawn to the sidewalk. Written with white chalk were two letters – GO!

 I chuckled and continued, giving the exhortation little thought. But the next word really rattled me, because it is a word I wrestle with often – “Thankful.” How easy it is for me to give thanks when my life is a joyful one. I am happily married, with two happily married children, and six beautiful grandchildren. My house is a warm yellow, reflecting my attitude toward life right now, as I head into retirement and the possibilities that await. I have health to take the morning walk, and senses to hear the birds and smell the sweet flowers. But what about when things are different. Will I be able to “Give thanks in all circumstances,” as my Bible calls me to do?

 As I continued my walk, my world became more and more surreal. Words popped up from the sidewalk in various neon colors – pink and blue, green and yellow – “Smart,” followed by “Happy,” “Trustworthy,” “Inspiring,” “Nice," Positive.” I was so entranced that I was afraid to take a turn, for fear I would lose my direction. But then I saw, “Keep it up.” Later, “Almost there,” and I was swept into the prison where Paul wrote, “I have fought the good flight, I have finished the race, I have remained faithful.” Would my unknown inspirer say the same about me? What an encourager was drawing me forward. Am I that kind of person to those who are flagging?

 The words continued – “Kind,” “Genuine,” and the cute “Huggy” and “Crazy.” Even those took me to my faith as I reflected about hugging my neighbor, especially the one hardest to hug, and wondering whether anyone would see in me the crazy love that Jesus shows to those who heed His words. Suddenly, the words stopped with the final command – “Meet at the door.” Where? What door? Meet whom? I do know one door, the one in the Book of Revelation: "Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” 

Now it is raining. I suspect the words are washed away. But I have preserved on my iPhone which I always carry as I walk. I have the reminder that each word offers, and above all, I have the reminder that God has promised those five words from the beginning of time – “I will be with you.” I am sure glad I didn’t go to the gym!n j