A SNAPSHOT OF OLD AGE…

I wrote this last week but it took me awhile to process and edit.  It is long for a blog but I decided to leave it in one piece.

A DAY OF WAITING

I’m writing this on Tuesday evening after Ron’s prostate surgery (7/13/10).  I am weary.  I don’t mean I’m tired, I mean I am weary to the bone.   Pretty amazing since I have been sitting and waiting most of the day!  This is the culmination of our summer.  In a way, the planning of our year!  We learned that Ron would need this surgery in December.  We knew there wasn’t a rush, but his bladder was starting to show the strain of being partially blocked and this work needed to be done.  My feeling was “Let’s do it as soon as possible and get it over with.”  His was, “Let’s delay it as long as possible and maybe it will go away.”  That is a typical tension in our marriage.  It has always made for an interesting marriage and keeps us both on our toes.  He calms me down…when I listen to him (which is most of the time!).  I keep him moving forward with a challenge here and there that he chooses to implement or not in his own way.  We complement each other.

OUT OF SYNC?

Unfortunately, we have been out of sync in some ways the last couple of years.  There have been a lot of factors.  A huge factor has been my full-time 3-11 job.  In addition would be a major move that we still haven’t settled in from, a “career change” for him (now retired) and  of course our innate desire to serve ourselves and our personal agendas.  We had not anticipated the ways in which my job would interfere with our relationship.  I need a system and routine to function and get things done.  Since we have been back in Tyler, I have not been able to get into one.  Every time I get close, some major change comes along to ruin the opportunity. (Structure takes work for me.) It seems that our evenings were the times we did a lot of our encouraging and talking and positive helping of one another.  With more evenings together now (I’m part-time), we are doing better, but we developed some bad habits during that nearly 1 1/2 yrs. and have struggled since we have been back “home”…forcing us to lean on Christ in ways we haven’t before.

LIFE JUST SEEMS TO GET MORE COMPLICATED!

Anyway, shortly after we found out that surgery needed to be done, I had a seizure (after a six-year pause).  That always means six months without driving for me.  It also throws a huge monkey wrench into our organizational structure (such as it is).  No longer can I do certain errands and Ron do others.  We have to do errands together (if they are my errands) or Ron can do his separately.  It takes a gouge out of his schedule and cramps mine a LOT!  With the seizure came the decision to delay the surgery until I could drive again so we set the surgery for today’s date, July 13.  Once again, OUR plan was thwarted by my second seizure shortly before I was to drive again!

GOD IS FAITHFUL AND CAN BE TRUSTED

After years of walking with the Lord, raising children, seeing the faithfulness of God both in our family and up close in the lives and families of people in the churches we have served, you might think that we would just brightly and cheerfully smile and trust God with joy and excitement when the challenges of life come along.  I wish I could say that we do. It does happen sometimes, but when we feel trapped in a corner with walls on every side, we react in the much the same ways as many of you do.  We are afraid, question what is going on, go inside ourselves and often take our eyes off Christ.  At times it even spirals down to “Why me?” kinds of thinking.  It is a mess!  That is one way we are similar.  I get way more down than Ron, but we get very quiet when we are worried or processing our struggles.  We are much more likely to  at least partially process them before sharing them with each other because we don’t want to add to the other person’s load.  (I’m not advocating for this, I’m just telling you what happens.)  It makes for a quiet house at times, believe it or not!

It was such a relief when Ron’s surgery went smoothly and well.  We have had enough things go wrong that we know our prayers won’t always be answered with a “yes”.  We have learned that this is a loving and faithful God that we worship.  But just as a two-year old doesn’t always understand the “no’s” of a loving parent to be loving acts, we are often in that position with God.  Our perspective is very small.

THE BODY OF CHRIST GIVING GRACE

It is interesting how some seemingly small acts today were so touching!  When a friend, who picked me up and brought me home at the end of the day, made the arrangements for my pick-up tomorrow.  I could have done it, but when she called back with the arrangement made, it felt like a huge load off my back!    I also had the opportunity to encourage some friends who are in the hospital today with scripture that has encouraged us.  The Body of Christ was alive and active.  We were helped and encouraged and were able to help and encourage others.

It was a good day.  So tiring.  Such a relief.  Ron is okay.  The surgery went smoothly and he is doing well.  I can rest.  I have a ride tomorrow.  God is good.

Be encouraged by Psalm 145:13-21 (the whole Psalm is great!)

[The LORD is faithful in all his words

and kind in all his works.]
14The LORD upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
18The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

21My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

A SIMPLE T-SHIRT? OR SOMETHING MORE?…

The older I get, the more I need helpful reminders.  But the truth is that I needed them when I was young too!  The reasons were just different.  When I was young, I was crazy busy with children, often a job too.  It seemed like the demands on my time and energy were constant and never-ending.  I needed concrete items to remind me to do the important things.

This is a photo of a recent T-shirt I got at a great sale! I’ll have to start calling it my prayer shirt.  It was made in India. That is where a few of our new friends (from the Living in Grace conference) will be going in the next few years.  Some will be going as soon as August.  Others are a few years away from leaving.  When I wear this shirt, I think of Debbie, and the G’s and I’s and others who are in various stages of preparing to go.  They need prayer for the stages they are in.  Some will soon be in language school and adjusting to a brand new culture.  Others want to be there but are in the process of preparing and raising the prayer and financial support that is needed.  That takes a lot of patience.  Right now, churches don’t always want to talk to them.  Many don’t have extra money and they seem to be uncomfortable with the fact that they don’t have it.  They forget about the fact that their people DO need to be praying for missionaries…and other needs. It changes the PEOPLE!

It is also helpful for teaching your children to be more aware of others.  Help them get to know the missionary families that come through to visit your church.  Make an effort to get to know them through email or Facebook.  Do your kids ever struggle with feeling left out or having  a hard time making friends?  Imagine what it would be like if you don’t speak the language.  One family we met had early teen children and they were praying for friends for their children…even if they were long distance. Sometimes a long distance friend is less scary for some children but no less rewarding over years.

So get a shirt from India, or a dish from Mexico…or have a taco!  Whatever it takes to remember to pray for your missionaries.  The important thing is–pray for them.  While you’re at it, pray for your local church, the needs of your community…and oh yes, that the gospel will penetrate your own soul in a new and living way.

LIVING IN GRACE…

This is the name of a conference we are attending this week…or rather, our daughter and husband are attending.  We are along to babysit.  Since our grandson is not weaned yet he, along with a number of other babies, was allowed to be here at the conference…provided his parents brought their own childcare.  That’s how we ended up here in the beautiful North Carolina mountains (near Brevard) for the week. 

Who is attending this conference?   Future missionaries with Mission to the World-the world mission arm of the Presbyterian Church in America.  There are about 40 attendees at the conference (required for every short-term or career missionary) + babysitters for the babies + small group leaders so I’m guessing there must be about 60 people here.  For the most part, everyone looks young…but that’s the way it is for me these days.  I’m still guessing that most are younger than 40 (not counting the leaders).  So far, we’ve met some going to Peru, quite a few going to South Asia (a broad name for some restricted countries), Ukraine, border ministries/Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Cambodia and more.  Because of the variety of ministries, these people represent a variety of profession: computer specialist, nurses, doctors, campus ministries, seminary trained to train pastors and counselors and a number of housewives in addition.  Some don’t even know how they will function after they arrive and complete their language requirements because of their weird visa situations. They just know that is where God wants them for now.  Small group leaders include former missionaries to Japan, Australia/Puerto Rico, France and Mexico.  

We’ve met people we have known before as well as new people along with some who have connections to people we have known in the past.  All in all, it looks like an enjoyable week.  Occasionally, when we have to take our grandson to a meeting for our daughter to feed, we get to sit in a portion of a session.  That is fun… and encouraging too.  To be reminded of God’s grace to us and the out working of it in so many ways.  That is always encouraging!

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  II Corinthians 9:8-9

MISS SEVEN…

There is nothing like the memory of your first grandchild.  Who can forget the day they were born?  The day our first grandchild was born became an even more memorable day than we expected.  It was a very bittersweet day.  That was the day my husband retired from a church he served for sixteen+ years.  We knew he was going to announce his retirement that day.  You don’t worship with a group of people for sixteen years and change and grow during that time, right along with them!  It’s true, there was much about the day that was bittersweet. 

During the night, we got the call that our daughter was in labor and around six-something in the morning, the call came from the delivery room with Caroline Blake crying in the background.  She had arrived and all was well.  What a happy time!  We were grandparents for the first time.

Later that Sunday morning, my husband announced his coming retirement (not effective for  months).  We had entered a new stage of our lives.  We went on to an interim pastorate in IL that developed into a pastorate. Instead of being away for one year, we were gone for four.  It was a wonderful period in many ways.  Ron experienced a church community and presbytery that truly loved him and appreciated his strengths.  It was a good time.  But soon we knew his time to retire had truly come.

Meanwhile, seven years have passed.  Caroline is growing both physically and spiritually.  On two other important Sundays, her younger sisters arrived, completing a family of three girls similar to the one in which her mother grew up.   But today we celebrate Miss Caroline, our first and only grandchild for three years.  Now she is surrounded by her two sisters and three cousins (on our side of the family tree).  We all live far apart, but that makes the times we get together more special.  Happy Birthday dear Caroline!

RELAXING IN COMMUNITY…

Last night was delightful!  It started with a short visit to an art/photography show done by two talented young women we have known since they were children.  At the show, we saw a number of their friends and family along with some new babies.  We always enjoy seeing old friends. 

From there Ron went to another event and I went to an unofficial fellowship time for ladies from our church.  This was unlike most women’s “fellowship” events you have probably gone to I’m sure!  Most of us came with our bathing suits (for the hot tub), food and a few drinks as well.  There were probably 10-12 of us with 4-6 conversations going on much of the evening.  Before the evening was over, most of us were in the hot tub, by the jets!  As some needed to leave, they did.  We all left feeling like we had gotten to know someone a little better.  We were able to have lots of 2-3 person conversations…you know, the kind where you actually get beneath the surface of a person’s life and even get an opportunity to encourage them?  That always encourages me if I get that chance to encourage someone else.  I know it doesn’t make sense, but neither do a lot of things in God’s economy.  (ie. whoever loses his life will find it.)

Of course, most of all, we learned of many new ways to pray for each other.  I know we will think of more as we process our conversations.  Isn’t that what community is all about?  It includes the vulnerable conversations, opportunities to encourage and even the apparently “superficial” conversations as well…because they set the stage for our friendships and relieve the pressure when the setting becomes intense.  Put all those together and it spells COMMUNITY!

FEELINGS…AND TRUTH Can’t we have both?

I’ve been feeling quite a tension lately that affects discussions in our Sunday School class.  I think I overreact.  Of course it comes from my own past experiences…isn’t that the source of many of our overreactions?  I also react because of personal pain that I tried to desensitize myself to over the years.  I react too because of the pain I have seen many sisters…and brothers struggle with as well…to say nothing of good old basic sin “issues”.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It seems that in our churches, we rarely stay balanced when it comes to truth and feelings.   Yes, I could make my words alliterate better and go for the “fact/feelings” combo that we hear often but that seems a little to easy.  (i’ve usually been the one to go “the way less traveled”).  I just wonder why we (in our church anyway) seem to struggle so with the feeling side of our relationship with Christ.   Scripture deals a LOT with feelings and people as emotional beings.  Look at the Psalms…where we often have the raw feelings of David (a man after God’s heart) and others.  It is a book full of rejoicing, grief, hope, despair and in the middle of all these conflicting emotions, people of faith who ultimately trust in God.  These are not stoics who ignore how they feel.  they feel what they feel and honestly express those feelings…but do not give in to them.  They bring them to a God who is infinitely larger than theyor their problems are…no matter how overwhelming they might be at the time!  It is interesting how they acknowledge the depths of their feelings…evil and good, depressed and joyful, angry…even at God…and content, then they look at God and how huge and sufficient He is. He is sufficient for the worst problem, the most unfair injustice, the blackest of depressions and the darkest of evil intentions in my heart or actions that have hurt both God and man.  In the end, they worship Him.

I was visiting with a friend today and we were discussing this a bit.  She made the point that it is our relationship with Christ and the openness we have with Him (or lack thereof) that affects our relationship with people.  I think she is right.  We both read about it in Paul Miller’s book on prayer A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World.  We have also observed it to be true in our own lives and the lives of others around us.  I think that if we bring our honest feelings to God, repenting  of our real sin, we will experience the cleansing that only Christ our Redeemer has provided.  We will be more aware of the great High Priest who has completed the payment for our sin…and is now seated.  Our worship will look different because we will be more aware that He is sufficient for every need we have and we have are part of His family…we are accepted and are His beloved children!  That creates a delightful relationship…one based on the bedrock of truth but with the warmth, joy and security of a child who feels loved and accepted by a parent…or the peace and comfort of the one who knows their life is completely in control and taken care of by Someone who has the resources to meet whatever needs arise.  These and other needs are represented in the “feeling” area of who we are as image bearers.  Surely that is something for which we can be excited!