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.

PORTRAIT OF CHANGE I…

New Andy Woods Elementary School

Over the past year, a change has been taking place in our neighborhood.  The local elementary school that was built circa 1957 has been deemed unworthy to endure (as a building) into the twenty-first century.  The primary reason, as I understand it, is because it is not up to post 9/11 security standards.  For this reason, Tyler is rebuilding nearly all the schools over the next few years.  This school, Andy Woods Elementary, is in the second batch of schools being rebuilt.

In the spring of 2009, the former playground was turned into a construction site for the new building.  The once quiet street (Fry) the school would now face became home to large concrete trucks and other heavy machinery lumbering up and down with their supplies.  The street, now congested with the workers’ cars was more difficult for the residents to navigate.  Fortunately for us, we live about a block from the nearest part of the construction so we were not affected by all the disruption…at all!  The trucks came from the opposite end of the street to get to the site.  The noise was just out of earshot for us.  We could occasionally walk down and view the changes on the building and enjoy  watching the new school as it was built.  It really didn’t affect us on a day-to-day level.  Now that’s my kind of change!

This past week, the final demolition of the old school was completed.  They are finishing the grading of the land where it used to sit as they prepare it for playground and parking.  The new building with its landscaping is complete for the most part.  It is much more attractive architecturally, than the old one.  However, there are many who attended the school over the years who would disagree…because they loved the place and people there.  They wish the old school was still standing.  A lot to learn about change from what I have been watching this year!  (to be continued)

Old school partially demolished

ANOTHER CHANGE…

I’m adjusting to a new thing.  It is the hardest of the good things for me to adjust to…a new computer.   I know so little about what makes computers “tick”.  I hate things like that.  I like to be able to figure out things.   How they operate.  Then I can figure out shortcuts. With computers, I’ve had to memorize what I needed to learn at the time.  Now I have a new brand of computer to adjust to which makes it fun too…sort of.  Supposedly, I won’t have to deal with viruses with this brand.  Is my scepticism showing?  It seems tantamount to believing in the tooth fairy.

So far, this change seems to be less stressful than I anticipated.  I can get the keyboard taken over by my son-in-law if I get in trouble.  (So far that has meant forgetting too many passwords.  They are now all organized and written down accessibly.)  This next week I will be going to Dallas to get personal tutoring on my computer.  There is nothing like learning new things…unless it is having a peaceful, quiet life.  Well, I guess it is best to be learning new things.  It keeps the brain alert.  Ta-ta for today.

GOD’S GRACIOUS GIFTS…

I wrote this last week…before Seizure Sunday…10 days before I was to have my “independence”.  It was 10 days before I was supposed to have had the “gift” of driving again.”

I was thinking last night about God’s gifts to us.  No, I wasn’t thinking about THE GIFT: the gift of redemption…of salvation…of justification!  I assume that gift too often…I live my life with that as a given.  I don’t always mention that one because I’ve been the recipient of it for so long (almost 60 years!) that I often take it for granted.  It is a gift, not unlike the gift of life that one really can’t take for granted.  It is basic to all the other gifts.

I was thinking about the many gifts God has given me over my life that I take for granted and frequently feel entitled to.  Then, when God removes one of them, I am often like a child having a tantrum.  One gift I haven’t handled well when it was removed for short times, was the gift of good health.  I remember especially when I went through a period of nearly four years when I couldn’t think well nor could I drive.  The combination of difficulty thinking and independence removed was very difficult.  I had not realized how entitled I felt to having an alert mind, being independent and having good health.  All are gifts from God and in His good providence, can be removed at any time. As an American Christian, I so often assume those gifts should be mine.  I take them for granted when I have them and am most upset when I don’t.

At another time in my life, I felt entitled to a child of my own.  Seemed so simple…  such a small thing really.  It is a good desire to want a child to raise for God’s glory.  But nothing seemed to work out right.  First we had a miscarriage, then our nearly full term pregnancy ended up in a stillbirth.  Once I stopped crying, I was angrier than I ever remember being!  God owed us. (I would never have verbalized it that way, but looking back, that was my attitude.) We were getting ready to go overseas as missionaries! We were already in full-time ministry in a local church where more than one teen couple had HAD to get married. (Those were the days before legalized abortion….when the appearance of legitimacy was a more important value in our society.)  Why did He take our child?  She would have been born into a Christian home?  Forty years later I don’t have all the answers on that one.  But God in His good purposes did!  I do know He needed to make some changes in my heart.  I also know that He doesn’t have any magic formulae.  However, a year later, our first living daughter was born.  For some, a child never comes.  Life on earth is not easy.  We live in a fallen world.  The one true thing is that God is by nature good…and true…and loves us.  That doesn’t look the same as our love…for certain!

Over my lifetime, God has had to teach me, often through difficult circumstances, that I am not entitled to anything.  All I have is His; All I am is His.  He knows what is best for me…always.  I don’t say that lightly.  I say that with some temerity.  Every gift He has ever given me could be gone tomorrow.  There is no question that if that happened it would be painful, very painful!  But the most important thing is still Christ!

GRACE…FOR A LIFETIME…Part II

As we talked about our areas of spiritual gifts, I learned that discernment and encouragement are hers, among others.  My gifts lie for sure, in those two areas as well.  We attended a small Christian school in Ft. Lauderdale, FL back when Christian schools were not popular.  (My dad was principal.)  We memorized lots of scripture and I know it contributed to developing discernment…possibly some wisdom over the years.

As I reflected more on our conversation, I realized that over time, God had overruled our personal idols, to protect us from many dangers!  Since that statement sounds so bizarre, I’ll probably need to give an illustration.  Each of us could have had one, but I’ll use one from my life.  (I didn’t get to discuss my use of hers with HER.)  My idol to please others whether family members or others in authority, often caused me to make the “right” decision but for wrong reasons.  It was not because I wanted to please God or out of love for Him and appreciation for His work of grace in my life but because I wanted to please people. I knew what decision would make them happy so that was what I did!

Of course, at some point I developed huge amounts of resentment against those people and sometimes became depressed from all the anger, resentment and feelings of powerlessness I was carrying around.  But they didn’t make me make those decisions.  I made the decisions.  At some point, I had to learn to take personal responsibility for the decisions I made.  God used my idol to protect me from terrible consequences, but later in life, He dealt with the idol itself.  It was a lot like the difference between pulling out a weed at ground level and pulling out the weed with the root!

We have traveled a long way from two little girls spending nights with each other and talking trivia to two grown women in their 60’s who are now grandmothers, looking back over our lives.  What is the point?  That God has been graciously guiding us all through our lives.  At the time, we thought our Christian life, or the living of it, was all up to us.  We grew up in a legalistic church setting that looked way more at the outside wrapping than at the gift itself.  At this point in our lives, we can look back and see how a gracious and loving God has guided us through a variety of life circumstances.  We have raised only daughters; have buried our parents; dealt with many aspects of resentment from childhood and are now grandparenting.  We discussed a number of people we went to school with…all of whom have died from cancer it turns out!  (That was weird and a little spooky…we’re way too young for that…I say with a wry smile.)  All the time, God has graciously been orchestrating our sanctification and changing us.  Now He is changing our children through circumstances that are at times difficult for us to watch.  But He is changing them and making them into His image as well.

20Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.  (Hebrews 13:19-21)

GRACE…OVER A LIFETIME…PART I…

Last weekend I spent some time with an old friend…from WAY back.  We knew each other in late elementary school and Junior High.  Because my family moved overseas, we weren’t in close contact after that, but my grandparents were in the same town and church, so I still saw her over the years during school breaks.  She was one of my bridesmaids!  We have kept up a bit but neither of us are great at letter writing.  It was interesting to discuss those years.  Because of the stresses in her life in those years, she has practically NO memory of most of her childhood.  She wanted me to fill in some of her memory gaps.   For those of you who know me now, that probably sounds rather funny!  But my memory of that period is actually pretty good.

One area that we realized God blessed us despite our lack of wisdom at the time is the husbands He gave us.  They are both Godly men who are honest to the core…values we hold very dear.  As we talked, I realized how much alike we are.  I may have known it to some degree then, but during our visit it became quite clear.  Apart from the fact that she is one of the few people I know who has a similar conversation style to mine…that of starting about three trains of thought and often losing them with all the interruptions that come along the way in a long visit.  You know, telephone calls, questions for clarification, meal preparations, etc.?  We touched on many topics but didn’t get to complete all of them.  I came away wishing I could stop by more often for a chat.

We are both determined…on our good days.  On our bad days we are stubborn,  hard-headed and spit-fires.  (It totally depends on your perspective.)  Life is never dull around us!  We have daughters with some similarities in temperament to show for it.  (That can be a positive and a negative.) We are both artistic…but we are more than that as well.

My art is expressed on the piano and in quilting.  Hers has been expressed musically as a result of her vocal training and experience.  Many of the churches she has been in have benefited from that ability.  Now her artistic side is also seen in one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen in a private home.  She developed it from scratch.  It isn’t one of those perfect, manicured gardens.  It is more natural, designated as a natural preserve with lots of birdhouses, funky pieces of china in unexpected places, large colorful globes and mirrors here and there that catch the light, water features, trees of all sizes and seasonal flowers too.  Around the outside of the “garden” are woods and in the woods is a path that goes all around the property with an alcove or two for lawn chairs.  It also includes an area for prayer. It is the most amazing “art” I’ve seen since I was at Bouchard Gardens in Victoria, Canada a few years ago. It is her relaxation and opportunity for expression. It is also a place where her dyslexic students can walk around and relax between testing segments or during breaks in their tutoring. What a gift…both to be able to visualize it in the first place.  Then to develop it.

I realized what a gift her music and gardening ability are to others around her as well as her family.  I also saw the blend of her parents in her…that God has used for His glory.  Many times we live our lives and wonder if there is any growth happening.  Wondering if we will ever change.  It may be encouraging to talk to a friend that knew you as a child and see the distance you have come since then.  God has worked in your life…and continues to do so!  To God be the glory!

WRITING AGAIN AND SERVING…facebook alone doesn’t do it for me.

I’ve gotten the bug and decided I need to write more…partly for the sake of my brain and partly to organize my thoughts.  It is purely for me.  I never had a lot of readers so I’m certainly not doing it for my many readers.  I’ve enjoyed catching up with many friends from the past…way past…on facebook.  That kept me going for awhile…especially when i was working full-time 3-11, five days in a row.  I would come home, take my shower and wind down by reading facebook and catching up with frinds there.  It didn’t take a long time and I could talk to people at ridiculous times of night…because I wasn’t really talking to them.

Now that I am getting a bit more of a life along with work where I can actually think and feel again, I think I want to write a bit more now.  I definitely need to.  This past two months have been quite busy…in a good way.  We have done an amazing amount of painting…some of it in our house.  But we have been able to help some others out as well.  During Ron’s Spring Break, we took a few days to help Steve and Dawn with some painting projects that needed to be done to get their house ready to sell.  I wish we lived closer to our other children so we could help them out more regularly with projects like that.  It is so much fun!  We also were able to help with some painting projects with a group from church for a very good friend.  A whole mob of us descended on her house and did yard work, painting and other miscellaneous work.  We also had time to take breaks and visit with her and her husband as well.  It was a delightful tho’ tiring day.  (A good kind of tired.) 

Shortly after that, we helped our RUF (Reformed University Ministries) family move to their home (also included painting).  We weren’t able to help as much as we had wanted to, but it was so nice to be able to help and see the college students helping as well.  The provision of their larger home was a wonderful answer to prayer over at least two years as their family had outgrown their two bedroom home.   Because of the delay, so many more people had been involved in praying and they had learned so many more lessons that it seemed to make the provision that much more joyful.  It is amazing how God works out things that way!

Now we are at a pause before school ends for Ron (first week in June) and we go to North Carolina to babysit our youngest grandson for a week while his parents are in a required conference (Living in Grace) there.  I know,  it’s a tough job, but someone had to do it!  What can I say?  We’ll just have to endure the hard times:)

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