Tuesday, June 26, 2018

By The Grace of God, Who Gets This?

I thought I’d easily find a home for our spare bed. But God had another plan. 

Nobody in my family needed a double bed. The neighborhood gatekeepers declined. The local furniture bank didn't return my calls. The Vietnam Vets truck only accepts small furniture...no beds.

Finally, reluctantly, I posted a Facebook Marketplace ad. Good condition. $50. 

Then I waited.

Someone messaged me. Before sharing my contact information, I visited her Facebook page...and found off-color jokes and condemning statements. My gut said to pass.

Someone else sent four abrupt messages, "Is this still available?" "Send me the address" "I coming" "Hello" (Guess I didn't respond quick enough in the 60 seconds it took to send the first three bullets.) Her Facebook page?  Well...let's not go there.

Then Dina* contacted me: "Mi interesa este articula."  "Is full?"

"Yes," I responded. "Si." 

Dina's Facebook page revealed a smiling mom with two young children. Although everything was in Spanish, I was able to translate some posts, which were kind and inspiring. 

Between her broken English and my limited Spanish, we agreed she'd come the following day.  I provided my cellphone number, asking her to text first.  I waited to share my address.

I spoke with my husband. "Let’s give the bed away free to the right person," I said. "I think Dina is the right person." He agreed.

The next day when I didn't hear from Dina, I felt discouraged.

I should have admitted I'd reduce the price, I should have emphasized it was in great condition.  

I prayed.  God, please send the right person our way. Someone who needs your help.

Later, Dina texted me. That afternoon, I met her, her mother and her two young children. I greeted them with hugs. We were like old friends right from the start.

I learned they are refugees from Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico last fall. Immediately Dina got a job here teaching Spanish.  Since the electricity was recently restored in Puerto Rico, Dina’s mom is returning to join her husband in salvaging their home. Dina will stay here and work.

Dina’s mom cringed, knowing parting would be difficult. “I’m thankful for my daughter’s opportunity though,” she said.  The things I take for granted...

They wanted the mattress. "I have linens for it," I said. "They’re in excellent condition."

"Gracias," Dina’s mom said. "I think maybe we can’t afford that...how much is the bed? Fifty dollars, right?"

I raised my hands. "We'll give it to you free," I said.

Her jaw dropped. What?

"Yes," I nodded. "I mean...if you want it...it's yours."

"Oh," she said, tears forming. "We want it. We need it. I don't know what to say." 

She turned to Dina, jabbering in Spanish. As she listened, Dina’s face lit up. She looked at me, extended her arms, delivered a big hug, and said, “Thank you!”

"Don't thank me," I said, pointing skyward. "Thank God."

They could hardly contain their joy. Me neither.

Because that, my friend, is just how God works. 

Whatever your situation, never fear. God is in the details. He's always in the details.

Click here for Casting Crowns' "Until the Whole World Hears'   Thanks for reading!   

* not her real name

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ding! Ding! This round of cancer treatments ended...but Keep the Boxing Gloves On!

Last week's oncology appointment delivered good news!  My numbers are better than ever! 

And I felt pretty good that day!   

Sure, along with the recent rounds of treatments there have been bouts of agonizing symptoms...sure, good days are totally unpredictable...but...

I high-fived my PA..."Wait until next time you see me," I said. "I'll be a new person...someone you've never seen before!"

We laughed.

Admittedly, the ongoing treatments present challenges. 

"It's like having a wild animal living in your system," I told the oncologist. "Sometimes it attacks with force. Sometimes it's in the corner, growling.  Sometimes it's just there...in the room...making a presence..."

I described the agonizing flu-like symptoms. 

"It’s like someone took my skeleton, poured gasoline on it, and lit it on fire..." 

Dr. D. nodded. "That's what the drug is supposed to do," he said. "That's normal." 

Since ongoing treatment targets cancer cells and destroys them, it causes the flu-like response. Although they can't get this cancer into remission, we're fortunate that the drugs, despite their side effects, are keeping it at bay.

So...hooray...it's working! I was elated!

But the very next day, I awoke in agony...the familiar screaming bone pain, nausea, muscle aches, headaches...it all returned...full steam...

That evening, I felt discouraged. My day, spent wrapped in blankets, felt so useless. What's the point of this existence? Is this worth the fight?  

I saw my prayer book on the counter, untouched all day. 

But I left it there. I didn't whisper a prayer. I didn't turn my thoughts to God. I just didn't.

Instead, I whined. I complained. I felt grouchy.  

I knew I was making a poor choice, but I allowed it. I knew better.

Today I awoke, still racked with pain. I recognized the voice of frustration rising within...No way, I thought.  I remembered my prayer book on the counter...Today has to be different. 

I got the book. I can't say I was enthusiastic. I can't say I was invested. I just chose not to repeat yesterday's frustration, so I started reading. I'm not even sure I’d call it praying. I just started reading.

Here's some of what I read:

Dear Lord, make haste to help me. 

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to make music to your name, O Most High,
to proclaim your love in the morning
and your truth in the watches of the night.  (Psalm 92) 

Let us listen to the voice of God, let us enter into his rest.

As I read, something beautiful began to happen. 

That conflicted spirit within me seemed to rise above the tortured body. I kept reading:
Extol the greatness of our God.  (Psalm 145:1)

My spirit seemed to soar, to free itself from this suffering body, to free itself to surrender to the will of God, and, finally, to rest with the One who holds my life lovingly in His hands. 

Outwardly, today resembles yesterday. I've been laying around. I don't feel well. I haven't accomplished anything.

But today's different. I don't feel useless. I don’t consider it a waste. I'm not grouchy.

I gave this day to the Lord, allowing him to take over and place value on it.

And all is well.

When I'm out of strength, music is another beautiful way for me to pray. Click here to listen to Shout to the Lord by Hillsong, and thanks for being here!

From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that he had to go to Jerusalem , and he told them what would happen to him there. He ...