Archive for July, 2011

Mornings

Tom and I lean against well-worn pillows on our four poster bed. My favorite time of the morning right when the sun comes up, brilliant light filters through leaves outside my bedroom window. Orange and then white colors project onto my sage green walls. It is our time.

We sip coffee. We talk. We check the weather and baseball scores. We read and pray.

This morning, our new puppy, Sam is on the bed with us. Now just five months old, he weighs about 35 pounds. He wrestles with our covers and bites our toes.

“Sam is five months and one day old today, Tom.” Sam cocks his head to one side as if trying to understand.

“Wow. I didn’t realize that we’ve had him five months already,” Tom says.

“That’s because he was three months old when we got him.”

“I guess that explains it.”

First we snicker. Then we roar with laughter. Tears spill down our faces. Our stomachs jiggle because we are old. We don’t care.

It feels good to enjoy the man that I married almost thirty years ago.

We sip more coffee. We talk. We read. We pray.

Caregiving, the Second Time

At first I thought she had the mumps. Even though I’ve never had them (are they plural) and I didn’t know what they were. All I knew is that my 90-year-old mama’s neck was swollen just behind her left ear.

It came on all of a sudden. Thursday night I noticed some swelling, Friday morning she looked like a linebacker. But just on one side. I called the doctor.

Our doctor of fifteen-plus-years scrutinized Mom.

“I’m not sure if it is an infection from her teeth or from her glands and there is no way to tell unless we do a CT scan of her neck.” He poked and prodded a little more, eyebrows knit together, mouth tight.

“I’m going to give her a strong antibiotic that she is to take four times a day. If she’s not better by Monday, I’ll do a direct admit.” He paused, watching Mom as she sat with eyes closed, warm hand on her face. “If you have any problem over the weekend, call me. I’m on duty and we can admit her then.”

I thanked the doctor, found my friend Miriam waiting in the lobby, and we left.

Miriam insisted on accompanying me since Mom was weak. Two umbrellas guarding Mom, we sloshed through puddles and arrived at the van through a downpour. Mom was dry. We were soaked.

Mom weakened on the trip home. It took both Miriam and me plus my strong husband to usher my mother into bed. And that’s where she stayed for a few days.

I’d forgotten what it was like to care for someone who was helpless. Dad lived with us for over five years, losing both legs to diabetes. Charles cared for him most of the time. But I took turns, too. But not with Mom. Her illness scared me.

It scared me because I realized that her life–my life, is fragile. It scared me because I might lose some freedom that I’d gained after Dad went to heaven.

She gained strength by Sunday. She walked to the bathroom unaided. She spoke in audible sentences. I thought she was on the road to recovery. We talked about it.

“Pauline, why don’t you go to church. I’ll be all right.”

“You’ll stay in bed, right Mom? It would be dangerous for you to try and walk around.” She agreed.

Near the end of church I noticed that she’d called. “Mom, what’s the matter?”

Inaudible noise. “Come home.”

When I arrived home, she was sitting in the family room, trying to call me again. I lost it.

“Mom. Why are you walking around! You told me you were going to stay in bed, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone to church!”

She looked pained. Then she told me about the horse that had a bad leg and all the chickens loose in the house, and the choir ladies who were waiting to rehearse. I knew from past experiences with both my parents that it wasn’t dementia, it was just the infection. Both of them hallucinate when they run a fever.

Guilt. How could I have left her? What must it feel like to see things that scare you with no one to help? Why did I yell?

Fear. Fear of change. Fear of loss.

She’s better. A few days ago, I had a hair appointment.

“Anything you need before I go, Mom? I might run a few errands after that.” She said she was fine. Then she added, “Come right home.”

“Why, Mom? You’re all settled. Is there something that you need?”

She didn’t answer. Then as I left the room, I heard her response. It was barely audible.

“When you’re here, I feel safe.”

I came right home.

I Stood

Light filtered through old oak trees, lighting my bedroom floor. I knelt. I prayed. The time I spend with God is precious. This morning I opened The Salvation Army Songbook that belonged to my father. Smiling, I noticed his handwriting smudged on the page. All caps—black marker—written with Daddy’s left hand.

Above the song he wrote, “ONE OF BILLY GRAHAM’S FAVORITE SONGS.” Written by Fanny Crosby. Blind, yet with 20/20 spiritual vision.

I read through the song. Before stanza two, Dad wrote, “WHAT A STANZA! PRAISE GOD! The verse read:

“O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood!
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.”

After that stanza he wrote, “NO OTHER STANZA CAN MATCH IT IN THE SONGBOOK.”

I couldn’t help it. I stood, palms raised upward and I sang,

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
And give him the glory; great things he hath done!

Dad edited the last verse. He replaced the third person pronouns with first person.

“Great things he hath taught me, great things he hath done.
And great my rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer and higher and greater will be,
My wonder, my rapture, when Jesus I see.

Under the stanza he wrote, “Sight!”

It was personal for Ray Wert. It has to be personal for us. We have a personal God. One who desires us. Loves us.

I pictured my father, seeing Jesus as I sang. Legs healed, body whole, soul complete.

When I finished singing, I thanked God for a godly heritage. Not a perfect one. But a man who had a heart for God. A man who realized his sinfulness and depended on grace.

Praise the Lord.

A Radical Life

Tom received the call as we sat down to Sunday lunch. Our friends from Wyoming heard from their son who was in our area. Because of a misunderstanding, he, along with his buddy were stranded. They needed a ride to Ocala, where they attended the state fire school. I figured I’d have my husband alone in the car for two full hours, with few distractions, so I offered to tag along.

After we dropped the young men off, we turned our van toward home. We try to discuss our goals and the direction of our marriage monthly, but often there are phone calls to make, lunches to fix, puppies to walk:) I jumped at the chance to share with Tom what the Lord was teaching me.

It had to do with David Platt’s book titled, “Radical.” It’s a book about how in America, we really don’t understand what it means to follow Jesus. It challenges the reader to take up the cross, to deny self, to leave father and mother to follow him. Just like Jesus said.

I’d read part of if and listened to another part on my iPhone. My heart ached to share it with Tom. We both listened as we travelled down I-75. It was if Platt knew both my inward yearnings for intimacy with God, along with my unbiblical, American ideology of this life.

Occasionally we paused the book and discussedt what the author meant. Sometimes, we asked each other questions. We talked. We prayed. I wept.

In big businesses, there are always staff meeting to evaluate where you’ve come and where you’re going. Rarely, do we do this in marriage. It’s important. What Tom and I said and what we prayed is too intimate for discussion outside of our family.

I’ll tell you this. We both want to make a difference in our world. We desire to be sold-out to Christ. But our flesh keeps getting in the way. Still, that is our desire. Those are our goals and Jesus will help us.

Jesus knows we are weak. John 15: 5 states, “Yes, I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who remain in Me and I in them will produce much fruit. For apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

We cannot do anything of eternal worth on our own. So we ask the God-Man who was radically different, who provided a radical salvation, for those of us who were radically lost.

Now that’s a radical idea.