Tap my shoulder…PLEASE!

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Just when I think I’m maintaining a pretty good pace on this marathon called The Christian Walk, life happens. Ugly, heartbreaking, tragic life happens.  And I pray…and I wait…and wait…for the Holy Spirit to tap me on the shoulder to tell me that He’s right there, and everything is going to be okay.  And I wait…and wait….and the sound of crickets is overwhelming.  And then I remember that I’m not alone in feeling like this.  Many other believers feel like this and have felt like this.  David wrote his raw feelings in the Psalms:

Psalms 10:1 “Why, Lord, do you stand far off?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

Psalms 13: 1 & 2a “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”

Psalm 22:2 “ My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.”

It’s been around 6 years since I’ve felt this loneliness this deeply, this silence so deafening, this sense of pain so deeply.  And once again, I have to go back to what I know about God and not what I feel.  And while I wait for the Holy Spirit to tap me on the shoulder again, I feel the taps on my shoulder from those whom God has placed in my life:

  • my friend Robin (our pastor’s wife) who stands out in her front lawn and prays with me
  • our church family who text, email or message me to let me know that they are praying for me
  • a dear friend who slips me a piece of paper during church to let me know that God wants me to bring my burdens to Him (Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”)
  • family members who encourage;
  • a co-worker who send you a verse to remind you that our prayers don’t have to be just the right words, we just need to rest in the fact that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. (Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.)
  • a sweet sister in church who slides over by me during the service to just be by me because she knows I’m having a tough morning.
  • elders in our church who pray for me and other members of our congregation; men who have the spiritual gifts of encouragement, mercy, compassion, discernment, and wisdom.

And so as I wait and as I continue on this marathon called The Christian Walk at maybe a slower pace than normal, I’ll continue to remember these truths: 1) God has promised to never leave me; 2) I don’t need to understand everything that happens; 3) I don’t have to have the right words to pray effectively.  The Holy Spirit takes my cries and interprets them on my behalf. 4) I’m not responsible for other’s responses to life situations. 5) I don’t save people, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

So for tonight, I’ll remember what the Psalmist wrote in Psalms 4:8:

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord,   make me dwell in safety.”

 

If I’m still moving, I’m not stuck!

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Well, it happened again today. “It” comes over you at the most random times. It’s not always a convenient time, it’s not always in the privacy of your home and it’s not always explainable. What is “it”? Grief. That moment when you really feel that hole in your life that has been created by losing that special person. And this afternoon, “it” happened at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine.

On our way home this afternoon, Mark and I stopped to visit a very dear lady who has played such a huge role in my life. She was in the same section of the hospital as my mom was when she was recovering from heart surgery. Back in 2008, Naomi, Sarah and I were waiting for my mom to come out of bypass surgery. While we waited in the family waiting room, Naomi found a small booklet that explained the history of the hospital. My sister loved doing dramatic readings for our entertainment purposes. On that day, 9 years ago, she had Sarah and I crying from laughing. Apparently, Naomi thought the history of the hospital was a wee bit too dry so she added a little drama to the story so it soon resembled a Harlequin Romance novel. (We were actually laughing and crying so hard that the volunteer at the desk called for a chaplain to come check on us to make sure we weren’t having a nervous breakdown from the stress of waiting for news of our mom’s surgery!) Only Naomi could turn a stressful situation into a time of laughing and just enjoying each other’s company.

Today, when I stepped off the elevator into that same waiting area that the three of us spent so much time in nine years ago, I was taken right back to that day. I told Mark that it was almost as if I had opened the door and saw Naomi, Sarah and myself sitting right there in that sunny waiting room, laughing and begging Naomi to stop because Sarah and my stomach hurt from laughing. And then “it” happened. I stopped, looked at the chairs where we were sitting just a few years ago and started to cry. And poor Mark had no idea what was going on. It took me a moment to gather myself and tell him what I was feeling.

Now the reason that I write this is not to get sympathy. I write so others understand and have compassion and patience for those who have lost a very important person in their lives. So many of our friends and loved ones are just starting their Journey of Grief. There are so many things I want to tell them as they take their first baby steps in this lifelong voyage.

  • You are not going crazy! The week after my sister’s passing, I stood in the bathroom with the plug of my hair dryer, staring at the light switch wondering how I was supposed to get this plug to fit into the light switch! Please be patient with yourself. Give yourself permission to realize that your brain has suffered a shock and you are adjusting. You are going to do really strange and random things. You will feel as though you have forgotten almost everything you have learned. Be gentle on yourself. You are not going crazy!
  • Give yourself permission to feel your emotions! For those who grieve, the grocery store is notorious for bringing on waves of emotions. I used to tease Naomi that her beef stew was really just cans of Alpo (dog food) dumped into a crockpot. From experience, I know that you will get strange looks when you cry at the sight of Alpo dog food in the grocery store. Friends have told me that the cereal aisle brings them to tears. Don’t be embarrassed to show those emotions.
  • Talk about your loved one! We talk about those whom we love. I feel as though it is my responsibility to the Farrar Five (my nieces and nephew) to talk about their mother with them. Who will share the memories that her and I shared? Who will tell them about the time she colored my Siamese cat blue while I was at school? Who will tell them that she was one of the bravest people I know; she was always the first one to jump off the 8 foot tower on our raft each summer?! Who will tell them about the spy club that Naomi, Angela Moro Barkhouse and I had?
    I am so grateful for our friends and family who do not feel uncomfortable when I talk about my sister. She was a huge part of my life even if it was for 41 short years. And as long as I live, I will continue to talk about her, especially for those five very special “kids” that she left us to care for.

And yes, there are days when I feel as though I’ve taken baby steps in this grief journey but as long as I’m still moving forward, somedays it’s at the pace of a turtle but… I’m not stuck!

2 Corinthians 1:3-4   “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

I Can Be Your Eyes

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When Mark and I first started dating, he revealed to me that he had an eye disease called RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa). There is no cure and it is a progressive eye disease which eventually leads to blindness. Being married to someone with a progressive eye disease brings a whole new dynamic to a marriage. Part of my wedding vow to Mark should have read “I promise to watch out for you and not let you walk into those yellow ‘Wet Floor’ signs. I promise to steer you clear of lolly-columns and telephone poles. And when we are climbing around the rocks near the ocean, I promise to save you from stepping off the ledges into the water.” Being Mark’s “Seeing Eye Wife” (and I told him that I refuse to wear the harness that you see service dogs wearing!!), I sometimes feel as though I’ve stepped out of the role of being his wife and stepped into the role of being his mother or caregiver. We’ve had many conversations about his continued loss of vision and what our future will look like. I’ve told him that I want him to be totally honest with me when he feels as though I am hovering over him too much or keeping him back from doing something he wants to do. Recently, while we were visiting one of our favorite falls in Maine, I asked him if I was being too cautious. Mark told me that if I see he’s headed for danger, he most definitely wants me to warn him (well, duh!) and that he trusts me to keep him safe. He relies on me to see for him, to be his eyes in dark restaurants or other places, to warn him when he’s headed for something that will cause him harm.
While I was thinking about my role as his additional set of eyes, the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Isn’t that kind of what I do for you?” God sees what’s ahead for us and does what He can to protect us from pain and heartache. Instead of a cane or seeing eye dog, God gives us His word to direct us and keep us on a safe path.

Psalm 119:105 says:

thy word

And sometimes, I get distracted by something shiny and forget that Mark is relying on me to make sure his path is clear of any obstacles. Only when he bumps his shin or runs into something am I brought back to what I was supposed to be focusing on: his safety and what’s ahead of him! Isn’t that the same thing that happens to us believers when we take our eyes off what we should be focusing on? And then when something in life comes our way because of our lack of focus, we realize that if we had just been listening to that still small voice or had been using the “lamp/light” (His Word) that has been given to us, we may have avoided this pain or obstacle.

What a comfort knowing that God sees further down the road than we do. What a comfort that our loving Father sees that the pain and heartache that we are experiencing now and knows that there is greater purpose that will one day be revealed to us. And what a comfort to know that God never gets distracted and forgets to be our “eyes”! What a comfort to know that one day, when Mark arrives in Heaven, his eyesight will be perfect!

And now I need to go because goodness knows what type of mischief Mark has gotten into because I haven’t been keeping an eye on him.

What’s in your closet?

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Have you ever just opened your closet and thought “Why on earth am I still holding on to this hideous shirt/skirt/dress, etc.?!”   The last few days I’ve been thinking about what outfits I’ve been wearing and I wish someone had told me how disheveled and unattractive I was.  Oh and I’m not talking about my physical appearance.  I’m talking about my spiritual appearance.  Today, I took a personal day off from work to do some Fall Cleaning in my Spiritual Closet, just a day to spend some quiet time with my Dad and take inventory of the pieces that I want to hold on to and pieces that need to be tossed, not passed on to anyone else because some pieces don’t look good on anyone!!  So, why don’t you sit on the edge of my bed as I pull some pieces of clothing out of my spiritual closet and you let me know if it’s a “keep” or a “toss”.

First piece:  oooohhh, what is this lovely piece?  Oh, right, lately I’ve been wearing this one waaaay too many times!  Remember the shoulder pads of the ’80’s?  Remember how they basically needed their own zip code?  This shirt that I’m holding up now is my “Chip On My Shoulder” shirt!  Talk about huge shoulder pads!  Why do I get so easily annoyed or offended by what people say to me or about me?  This is an easy decision: toss! It’s been worn so many times by me that it’s looking a little raggy.

Next piece: ooooh, the Pants of Pessimism!  Oh and what’s this stain on the front?  Oh, right..this stain is when I spilled my cup of half empty drink on myself.  Looks like I’ve spilled a few half empty cups on these pants.  When did I change from my Pants of Optimism to these hideous things?  Yuck! Toss!!

Next:  Ugh! This thing is horrible!  Yes, my Gown of Gloom!  At what point in my life did I think this was a good purchase?  Wait, what is this bag of party hats doing hanging from the hanger?  Oh, yes, now I remember:  the bag of party items are pulled out when I put my Gown of Gloom on because, really, how can you have a pity party without party hats. This gown looks like it’s been worn waaaay too many times, usually while the song “Nobody Knows the Troubles I’ve Seen” is playing in the background. Toss!

As I pull out these different, horrible, ugly pieces, I feel the Holy Spirit tap me on the shoulder and ask me to go on a little “Spiritual Clothing buying spree” with Him, and the best part:  He’s footing the bill!

What pieces is He asking me to purchase?  I find His clothing shopping list in the book of Colossians, chapter 3 to be exact! Verses 12 and 14 list what all the well dressed Christians are wearing…or should be wearing.

vs 12b: ..”clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  Well, I think way back in my closet I may have had some of these items but they look a wee bit dusty from not being worn in a while. Oh, look, the Gentleness and Patience pieces still have their tags on them!  Ooops!  Guess I don’t need to buy any more of these, I just need to start wearing the pieces I already owned.

vs 14: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Love…such a small word, a word that gets thrown around so easily like “I love pizza!” or “I love my books!”  I need to stop throwing this word around so carelessly and start really thinking about what I set my affections on, or how I treat those that I love.

I was recently talking with a friend and told her that lately I’ve been feeling easily angered and easily annoyed about little things.  It didn’t take me long to figure out why I was feeling this way.  My daily bible reading had become pretty sporadic.  Our spiritual lives are a lot like our physical lives.  We can’t expect to look all buff and in shape if we aren’t working out and exercising (that subject is a whole other issue with me, but we won’t go there today!) I can’t expect to be spiritual fit or donning the spiritual garments available to me if I’m not exercising or reaching into my spiritual closet.  So, I’ve set this afternoon aside to spend some real quality time with my Heavenly Dad and ask for His forgiveness and help in becoming spiritually fashionable again.

And for those of you who are more into the Middle Ages look, check out Ephesians 6:10-17.  There’s a whole Armor of God look that’s pretty popular in the Christian Fashion circle.

Oh, and does anyone know if the Attleboro Area Yard Sale facebook page will let me post these horrendous pieces that I’m getting rid of?! Yeah, you’re right, I should just take them out to the fire pit and burn them.  Does anyone really look good wearing the Gown of Gloom or the Pants of Pessimism? I didn’t think so either.

What is that smell?!

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Fun fact for you:  Did you know that the sense of smell triggers the most vivid memories?  There are so many times that I get a whiff of wooden slats and I’m instantly taken back to my Grammy Brown’s house and I can smell the green wooden blinds on her front porch.  Or the smell of lilacs reminds me of our wedding day and I remember my mom and I placing bouquets of my favorite flower around the sanctuary of the United Baptist Church in Peru, Maine.  Walking into my mother-in-law’s house when she is preparing homemade spaghetti sauce and I’m reminded of the time when we lived with them and how comforting it was knowing that supper was going to be so yummy and so worth the wait!

The other day I bought some bars of Ivory Soap and as the scent of the soap hit my nose,  I was mentally transported back to a little Sunday School room where Esther Russell was our teacher.  One Mother’s Day, Mrs. Russell taught us how to wrap Ivory Soap with cloth to make them look like little Bibles.  We were all so excited to give these gifts to our moms.  After all these years, that’s what stays with me. I wish I could say that Mrs. Russell’s lessons stuck in my brain or that I remember all the verses she taught us.  But no, it’s the smell of Ivory Soap.  Sorry, Mrs. Russell!

While I was inhaling the clean scent of Ivory Soap, I got thinking “What scent do I give off?  What stays with people long after I’ve walked away?”

In the book of  The Song of Solomon in the Bible, Jesus is referred to as “The Lily of The Valley” and “The Rose of Sharon”.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to be referred to as a Lily of the Valley?  One of the sweetest smelling flowers ever.  I read online that the lily is one of the tallest flowers but hangs it’s head low.  So much like our Jesus.  He humbled Himself and came to earth as a helpless baby.   Am I content to humble myself when I feel like I deserve recognition for a job that I feel was done well?  Do I consider others above myself?  Do I leave a sweet scent after I have left a room, or a conversation, or an interaction with someone?  Do people know that I’m a follower of Christ?  Do people remember me as one who spoke words of love and kindness?  Or do I leave them with the scent of a less than desirable fragrance?  A scent of bitterness, anger, or discontent?

Ephesians 5:1 & 2 basically sums up what I’m trying to say:  Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children  and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

I fail miserably at times but I’m thankful for grace and second chances.  So I’m trying to be less like a Trillium (Stinking Benjamin) and more like a Lily.