Saturday, March 1, 2014

When Opportunity Shouts

It's been a strange kind of day.  I had lunch earlier with a dear friend, who no longer lives in the same town as I do, so I cherish our get togethers all the more now.  While at lunch, we were discussing how neither of us really wanted to serve "inside" the church anymore, but wanted to go "outside" its' walls to reach the lost and hurting with the love of Christ.

Later in the evening, my husband and I were sitting in our living room eating dinner, while watching the evening news.  We heard someone shouting outside and at first we ignored it, thinking it was just a neighborhood kid playing around.  When the shouting got louder and more insistent, we went to the window to see what was going on.  We saw a woman standing outside our gate, yelling and waving a flashlight.  My husband went outside first and I followed behind.

The young woman was shouting hysterically that something had happened to her dog - that he was hurt and that no one was home and she needed help.  We recognized her as someone we had seen in the neighborhood and working around town, so my husband went down the road with her to check on her dog, and I stayed behind and prayed.

We live and operate a bed and breakfast off the beaten path on a long winding country road.  We are grateful that The Lord has given us the resources to turn our modest home into our dream home, as well as to build a lovely bed and breakfast cottage on our property, surrounded by beautiful gardens, to offer as a place of rest and refreshment to others.  There are other modest homes in the neighborhood and a sprinkling of mobile homes - some well maintained - some badly in need of repair.

When my husband returned home, the news was not good.  The young woman lived in very poor conditions inside one of the mobile homes. She owned several dogs whom she dearly loved, and the one she came frantically looking for help for, had been hit by a car.  She had recently lost her job and had just broken up with her boyfriend because he had been abusing her.  She now had a roomate, because she was afraid to stay by herself.  And tonight one of her "babies" that she had adopted from the humane society was badly injured.

She apologized for "bothering" us and for crying about her dog.  As I hugged her and assured her that as a dog lover myself with a "baby" of my own, I completely understood - it seemed so inadequate.

My husband's calm compassionate demeanor, as he followed this distressed young woman home, examined her little dog, and helped her determine the best course of action to help her precious pet - all seemed so inadequate as well.

I wanted to take away her pain - all of it.  The pain of possibly losing her precious "baby", the pain of poverty, the pain of suffering abuse at the hands of another.  But I couldn't.  My husband couldn't.  We couldn't.

I wanted to pack up my extra clothes, my extra dishes, my extra sheets and blankets and bring them down to share with her.  When my husband told me she had mentioned to him how beautiful she thought our bed and breakfast gardens were and how peaceful she felt when she walked by, I wanted to throw open our garden gate and tell her she could come sit in it anytime she wants.

But I can't go down the block, goods in hand and drop them off uninvited and unasked for.  Still, I believe she came "shouting" at our house for a reason.  Perhaps, it was just for tonight's need - comfort and help in her distress.  Perhaps more.  I honestly don't know how to help her, only that my heart wants to.

Later, as I pondered the obvious question out loud to my husband of "Why?" "Why did she come to our house for help?" - she doesn't know us, we aren't the nearest house - he gave me the obvious answer.  "Because she saw the light on." The other houses in the neighborhood were dark - ours was shining brightly.

Yes! I want to be the house with the light on.  I want to be the life with the light of Christ shining brightly.  I want to offer people in distress the same love and compassion that I as a child of God have been so blessed to receive from Him through Christ.

Perhaps, we did give the woman all she wanted and for that matter all she needed from us.  Perhaps it was just a start and there is more to give.  I will have to trust that the same God who brought her to our home in her time of need, will show us if there is more to do.  But for now, I will be thankful for the opportunity that came "shouting" tonight.

Questions for Thought:
What opportunities are "shouting" at you?
How might God be calling you to respond?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Emmanuel (God with Us)

"Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will give conceive and give birth to a son and call him Emmanuel." Isaiah 7:14

It has been a long and harrowing year and I have been silent and absent from my blog for far too long. I could tell you that I have been experiencing writer's block, or that I have been preoccupied with more pressing things - both of which are true - but the raw truth is that I have been derailed!

About this time a year ago, the train I had boarded was going at a pretty good clip.  Not speeding, mind you, just chugging along.  Our bed and breakfast business was booming and I was in the process of taking my coaching and writing business to the next level.   I had grand plans for it all and not only was I going places, but I was enjoying the journey as well.

And then it happened - without much warning, the train ran off its tracks.

It seemed to happen in an instant - the pain struck like a knife, then went away. A few seconds later, the pain stuck again this time more insistent and then stayed.

"Pelvic Pain of Unknown Etiology."  That was my preliminary diagnosis.  A series of tests ensued.  Exams, Ultrasounds, Blood Work, etc.

"Pelvic Pain of Unknown Etiology."  Two trips to the emergency room, doubled over in pain. my normal bodily functions compromised.  The hoped for diagnostic tests not run. Pain pills dispensed.

"Pelvic Pain of Unknown Etiology."  Finally in desperation, my husband drove me two hours to Ochsner Hospital's Emergency Room to get a battery of tests run.  We waited over three hours in a room filled with flu patients, and the tests took another three. Finding out there were many issues inside my pelvis, I was given some prescriptions, stronger pain medicine and a referral to a GYN pain specialist - which was not until two weeks later because of the Christmas Season.

We arrived home early the next morning, I slept for a couple of hours, but was soon up again because of the pain.   Later that evening, I took a pain pill, went to bed and slept. At some point during the night, I got up to go to the bathroom and began to feel quite woozy.  I headed back towards our bedroom and barely made it into the room, before losing consciousness, falling and hitting my head on the foot-board of our king-sized sleigh bed, then bouncing off and hitting my head a second time.

Either the hit on the bed or the scream that came from somewhere inside me, woke my husband and my youngest son and they ran to help me up. But I was too weak to even be helped up and I insisted they let me lay there until I felt stable enough to be picked up and put back in bed. At that moment I felt so utterly helpless, and truth be told, hopeless.  I didn't know how I would make it another day, much less another two weeks until I saw the specialist.

Christmas came and went. All around me, people were celebrating the birth of Christ - Emmanuel (God with Us) and for the first time in my life, I missed the joy of celebrating His birth and did not feel my the usual joy of His presence.  My family cooked and cleaned, lovingly cared for me, attended church and exchanged gifts.  I lay in bed weak and in pain, simultaneously grateful for their presence, yet wishing at times to be left alone.

"Hysterectomy."  Finally, the long awaited appointment arrived.  After consultation with the doctor, it was determined that I needed a complete hysterectomy and my surgery was scheduled for the first available date - February 5.  I was originally told that I would have a six week recovery period and then I would feel like "a new woman."  But after surgery, the doctor informed me that it was a "mess it there" and he had to do extensive work and that my recovery period would now probably take 6 months to a year.  But he assured both my husband and I that the surgery had indeed proved absolutely necessary as I was just one stage away from cancer!  MY Emmanuel (God with ME) had cleared the path before me, long before the train derailed, and prepared a way to save me from a worse fate, in spite of the fact that I did not "feel" Him with me.

"Pelvic Floor Dysfunction."  The recovery period has been long and arduous, and I developed complications from the surgery.  Several months into the recovery period, I was diagnosed with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction - a disorder of the pelvic muscles which causes chronic pain.  I have been referred to physical therapy and am blessed to have a team of PT's who are very invested in helping me overcome my pain.

It is now a year later and we have just celebrated Christ's Birth again.  I had hoped that all of my issues would have been resolved by now, and while some are getting better, I have developed new and puzzling symptoms and once again find myself undergoing tests and waiting.

"Possible MS." The spoken words in the doctor's office at first startled me, now terrify me. Waiting is not something I ever do well and in this circumstance, it is even harder.
But as I look back over the past year, I am in awe of the many ways God was with me.

I am so grateful for my loving husband who has been with me each and every day - whose love and strength enabled me to keep going, when at times, I wanted to give up.
I am so grateful for my children and grandchildren whose phone calls and visits brought laughter back once again.
I am so grateful for the care and concern of my friends and their prayers which sustained me.
I am so grateful for the knowledge and compassion of the doctors and nurses who cared for me and who are caring for me still.
I am so grateful for my sweet doggie who  made it his personal mission to stay close to me and keep a watchful eye on me and even licked my tears, which fell too often from my face.

I am so grateful for the winter that gave way to spring, for the beautiful gardens we are blessed with, which provide  the perfect place for prayer, rest and recovery; for the melodious songbirds sitting in our trees each morning who serenade I look forward to each morning and evening; the scampering squirrels who daily fight over the hickory nuts that have fallen to the ground and try to find new ways to get into the bird feeders; and even the occasional surprise bunny whose presence makes it into our garden, brings instant joy to my heart.

 I am grateful to be reminded that it is not always in the extraordinary that we meet with God, but most often it is in the ordinary. I am grateful that I have been forced to slow down and have been given the opportunity to drink in the beauty of God's creation, but even more grateful that I have been given the opportunity to drink more deeply of Him.

"EMMANUEL." God with us, God with you, God with me. Emmanuel - Born of a virgin, laid in a manger; fully God and fully man, yet without sin; who lived and dwelt among us and became sin for us; who died our death on the cross; who rose from the dead and is and has been eternally our Emmanuel (God with us).

"EMMANUEL." I don't know what the future holds, but I do know WHO holds the future.
And that gives me courage to face the future - whatever it holds. His strength enables me in my weakness to continue to serve Him with the gifts and calling He has given me. His grace enables me to take one day at a time.

It won't always be easy, nor will I always like the detours that the Lord in his faithfulness and love for me determines are necessary, nor will I always understand or know the answer to "Why?"

But, I think that now, at long last, I am ready to surrender my hand to His, as He helps me up the steps and back onto the train, because I know in a deeper way now than I ever did before, that there is an unseen person, sitting next to me and His name is:

 "EMMANUEL." God with us, God with you, God with me; Then and Now.