Saturday, October 3, 2015

Keeping My Word

Sam and I have had quite a week of it. Unbearably hard. Unutterably sweet. That's Sam in the picture above. I don't have a picture of Jamie. No one does. She doesn't allow pictures of herself. Sam just says, "Well, Jamie is Jamie. All the time."

If you're joining us today for the first time in this "series" (the series I wish I weren't writing), you need to know that Sam and Jamie have lived on my farm for most of the last sixty years. Jamie is Sam's wife, and they are both in the mid-eighties. Jamie collapsed at their home, a tiny cottage at the entrance to my farm, more than a week ago. She was hospitalized until yesterday, when she was moved to Sanctuary Hospice House. 

It's been hard.

I've blogged about the journey this week and will add links at the bottom for the previous posts, if you want to get caught up. (They open in a separate window.)

Today, I want to tell you how I got to this place in the Wiley's story.

I bought the farm in 1989. The woman who owned the farm before me had the property on the market for two years. She had turned down all buyers because she didn't think they were the "right" ones. By the time my real estate agent and I pulled into her driveway, she had given up, and was working out the details with a buyer.

When I stepped out of the car, I wasn't particularly impressed by the two-story concrete block house, but we walked around to the back, alongside a pasture where cows grazed contentedly, toward a small manmade lake in the back. 

I started to cry. It was the exact picture that had been in my head since I was a child. 

I was home. At last.

Shirley looked at the real estate agent, who turned out to be her agent, too, and said, "I'm about to sell to the wrong person." In a series of events that could have only been the hand of God, I bought this lovely little farm with the unusual concrete house. 

The thing that mattered most to Shirley was that Sam, the man who had worked for her and her husband since 1960 (29 years), have "a place". She asked that I keep Sam on at his same salary and give him a place to live for the rest of his life. I agreed to do it.

I gave my word.

I was young. I didn't know about the perils and challenges of growing older. I didn't know about the financial responsibility that agreement would bring. I didn't know what giving my word would mean to me, what it would cost me. I didn't know the joy that becoming a woman of my word would bring.

Sam always says, "All you really have is your word. If your word ain't worth nothing, you ain't either." 

Years ago, I determined to keep my promise to Sam, and I have, but it's been hard. 

There were times when I couldn't see how I would stretch my money to take care of my needs and Sam's. When he was no longer able to do the farm work, it would have been easier to hire someone else and let Sam and Jamie go to a nursing home or government housing. I learned to do the work myself, as best I could, and kept my promise to that fine man and his wife. God has provided for all of us.

People have said, "You can't keep doing this." My response has been, "I gave my word." 

I didn't understand what giving my word meant at the time, but I've learned over the years. This past week, one of her doctors asked me about why I've been by their side when I'm not related to them. "I gave my word in 1989 to provide for them, and I'm sticking to it." His response made me cry. "That's just like it was in the old days. People never do that anymore." Don't get me wrong here. He didn't recommend breaking your word. He was just astonished to see it in action.

I haven't done anything special at all. I'm not a saint. I'm not perfect at keeping my word. I haven't always liked this promise of mine. Fulfilling my word has been hard, and I don't pretend it hasn't been. I've wept a river of tears over the years about the price I've paid to provide for people who once were strangers. In the process, though, the strangers have become family and I've learned about love, and responsibility, and faithfulness. 

Being a man or woman of our word is rare in this "me" society of entitlement in which we live, but it is still the right thing to do. It will still change your life. It brings more blessings than you can imagine. 

It is worth it. 

I've simply done what I would want someone to do for me. 

You see, I serve a God who has been faithful. Who will always be faithful to me. When He said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," He meant it, and He still does. He's a God of His word and, if I am to be like Him, I'm to be a woman of my word, too. Even when it costs me more than I want to pay. Even when it's hard. Even when it's rare.

Jamie's doctor surprised me. "God will bless you for this," he assured me. I smiled and told him what I finally learned along the way. "He already has." 

Here's the links to the other stories in this series: The eternal destination, The Vigil, and A Little Help from My Friends

#faithful #keptmypromise #goldenrule #dountoothers

Friday, October 2, 2015

A a little Help From My Friends

The old Beatles song, "I get by with a little help from my friends" has been playing in my head the last few days. 

Yesterday, I finally made it home for a few precious hours. My dear friend Debbie Hayden had cooked the roast, potatoes, carrots, and squash I spooned onto my plate. As I sat down to eat the second "real" meal I'd had in a week, I thanked God for the friends that have made this crazy and horribly difficult week possible. I wept that there are people who love me enough to care for me in such tangible ways. 

I, who am cloistered most days in a universe of my own fanciful design, writing about people who exist only in my imagination, have experienced the kindness of flesh and blood humans and am astounded. 

My Wonder Girls (two marvelously energetic Shih Tzu's) were having a terrible time because of my long hours away. They do not prefer puppy pads for their potty needs, but will use them if they just can't wait anymore. They've had entirely too much "just can't wait" this week. 

We were struggling, then Linda Buchanan text'd me. "I'm coming back from Oxford. Can I walk your dogs?" I blinked back tears. Yes! That one gift of generosity turned this difficult week around. Since then, Jan Musgrove and Yvonne (who lives in my rent house and works incredibly long hours) have also walked and loved those furry bright spots in my life. 

When I returned home yesterday, my precious balls of fur greeted me as if I hadn't neglected them at all. They loved me and forgave me. 

I should be as generous with the people I love.

What if every homecoming was greeted with the unconditional love of my wonder dogs? We might have more prodigals finding their way back home. If they knew that unconditional love and joy-filled acceptance awaited, they might not hesitate when they finally come to the end of themselves.   

When two ladies from Blue Springs offered to help, including stay with Jamie, I thanked them, but thought, who really wants to sit up at night in a hospital with a sick person? Maybe no one, but Shelby Pannell was more than willing. I waited until I was dropping in my tracks to accept her offer, but that night's rest has kept me going. 

Getting away from the hospital to run errands and wash clothes would not have been possible without the generosity of Shelby Pannell and Jane Witt, who stayed with our rowdy patient to give Sam and me a much needed break. 

I saw the sky, breathed in the crisp fall air, and longed for more.  More time outside. More of a break. More delivering my problems into capable hands and simply breathing for a while. 

How foolish I am! There's not one day that goes by without the option of problem-transfer. Our Lord stands ready and waiting to handle every problem I have, every problem you have. I know that. I've lived it. So why do I hang onto the little stuff, as if I might, by some miracle, be able to manage something on my own? I can't. It's all too big for me. It's all too big for you. 

Why not give it all to God? Every problem, big or small, every heartache, every sorrow. Let Him handle life so we can concentrate on breathing. Being. Loving. 

There's no way to mention all the hospital staff who have cared for Jamie with such love while pouring out love and concern on Sam and me. They have helped with everything from an extra blanket to thermostat adjustment to cups of steaming black coffee to an understanding ear when I'd run out of steam. 

I've been the listening ear, the caring physician, the gentle helper. I haven't often been the receiver. 

I am humbled by this experience, and left wondering whether my life might not have been a bit easier if I had been willing to accept a helping hand, invite a few people into my life, step out of my invented world into the real world. 

I have seen you, my fellow humans, and I am in awe of you. I have felt your love and I'm offering my love, meager as it is, in return. 

When God created humans, he looked at them with love, and joy, and just a bit of sorrow for the mess He knew we'd make of things. He looked at us and proclaimed, "it is very good."
I, too, have looked at mankind this week. We aren't perfect, my friends, but in all of us there's a bit of that first creation, a touch of the hands of God, and it is still very good. 

Live well, dear ones. Love with abandon. Give without measure. And, every once in a while, receive with gratitude.

Well done, my friends. You've done this just right, and I thank you. 
#gratitude moreblessedtogive #thanks

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Vigil

This journey of ours started a long week ago. For those of you who are joining for the first time, our current adventure began last Friday. 

When my phone rang, I almost didn't answer it. I was busy and hated to stop for a telemarketer. 

It wasn't a sales call. 

My elderly neighbor Sam had called to say his wife had "slid down in the floor" and he couldn't get her up. I'm glad I answered, but it was a call that changed our lives forever. 

Sam and his wife Jamie have lived in a cottage at the entrance to my farm since 1960, when Sam came to work on the farm I now own. In the early years, he and I spent most of my days off together. He taught me to set a trot line, sharpen a knife, skin a rabbit. We have had a glorious time together. 

After I married and had my son, Ryan joined us in our rural adventure. Sam taught Ryan to make repairs, use a hammer, calm a frightened animal, tighten a cinch, and catch a fish with nothing more than a hook and a piece of bread. 

Jamie did factory work, took care of Sam, and made the best biscuits in the world. Her door was always open and, if you stopped by at mealtime, she fed you, whether you intended to be fed or not. 

She loved Sam and she loved my son. 

On that day that seems so long ago, I found Jamie sitting on the floor, leaned up against the bedroom door. Sam and I lifted her up and into a chair, but it was clear she was in big trouble. I called 911. 

From the ambulance crew to Minnie, the sweet lady who cleans the room, people have been nice to us. They have bathed us in kindness and cushioned this awful journey in gentleness and a sweetness that is both unexpected and difficult to comprehend. 

This morning, I went to the cafeteria to grab a quick breakfast and hurry back to the room. At the checkout, I reached into my wallet for my money, and heard a young woman behind me say, "I've got both of these." I handed my $10 to the cashier and she smiled. "She already got yours." The "both" the young woman had claimed was her breakfast and mine. 

I wept. 

Tears trickled down my face as I stammered words of thanks to a woman I did not know and will never forget. Whoever you are, thank you. 

I learned something momentous in that moment. 

Last night, one of the nurses talked with me. "We've watched how you've loved your neighbors. I've never seen a doctor love someone like this, treat someone like you've treated Miss Jamie and Mr. Sam. It's rare these days for anyone to do this. I want you to know it's changed me. If you need anything, all you have to do is tell us. I promise you, I'm going to pay it forward. I want to do what I've seen you do." 

I smiled and thanked her, but I didn't understand. Until this morning. The lady at breakfast opened my eyes. 

In our society, we've become so consumed with ourselves and our busyness that we've stopped caring for those around us. I've substituted texts for visits and phone calls for presence far too often. 

This week has been hard, but it's been worth it. I hope I do better next time. I've failed so many of my friends over the years that I've spent this week repenting it. I hope I do better in the future. 

Loving our neighbor is spoken of far more than done. Loving our neighbor as ourselves is rare, and loving our neighbor when it costs us dearly is even more rare. I haven't done anything special at all. I've tried to act like Jesus in a difficult situation and done a poor job of it. I could have loved more. I should have loved more. 

I can do better at loving. We all can do better at loving each other, and we must. 

As Sam and I have sat beside the bed of his dying wife, he's talked about their marriage of sixty years. His life is changing and the future is frightening. "What am I going to do?" he asked me. "They same thing we've always done," I told him. "You'll take care of me and I'll take care of you. After all these years, why stop now?" 

Hours later, Sam smiled. "You know, today I feel like I'm gonna make it through." 

Jamie's condition continues to decline. She is not expected to make it. No. That's not right. She is expected to make it, but she won't be staying here. She is preparing for her journey from this world to the next. Her time here is almost over, but her new life is only beginning. 

For now, we wait, standing vigil at the bedside of a woman Sam has loved more than he loves himself. It looks like Jesus at this bedside. When I see love like Sam's, who else could it be?

Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Matt. 22:39

Here's the link to yesterday's post on this topic:

#loveyourneighbor #payitforward #vigil #disciple

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The eternal destination

My "life  verse", the one I count on every day, is Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope."

Today, as on all the most difficult days of my life, I am clinging to this verse. God knows the plan, and it is good. There is a good future in store for us, but it's not necessarily in this world. 

There is a better life to come.

 After five difficult days, my neighbor teeters on the edge of life and death. The family has been called in and I will leave shortly to help escort her into eternity, if that be God's will.  

She is one breath from eternity, as are we all.

For those who have entrusted their lives and their future to the One who created us and holds time and eternity in His loving hands, we don't have to fear. 

Good awaits

Sam Wiley said something yesterday that I hope I never forget. "This just shows we serve a loving God." In the midst of one of the most difficult times of his life, Sam knows the One in whom he has anchored his hope is faithful.

Indeed, we do serve a faithful God.

As you begin your day, remember Sam and his family as they wait to see what God has in store for this one they have loved so long. Take time, too, to consider your own life. Have you anchored your life, and your eternal destination, in the God who holds time in His loving hands? 

#eternityawaits #faithfulGod

Monday, September 28, 2015

Choosing Freedom

"And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, 'Woman, you are freed from your sickness.' And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God. But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, 'There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day." Luke 13: 10-14 NASB

Our current series began with Jesus Sees Us As We Are , then Freed by ObedienceBefore We Call, He Answers, and yesterday's God Always Keeps His Promises. (in case you want to get caught up, you can follow the links) 

The word study for today provides a shocking truth, and one we do well to understand and embrace. When Jesus spoke those beautiful words, "Woman, you are freed," the word He used was apoly┼Ź. This word indicates the liberty to depart from captivity has been given. Jesus told the woman she could be free if she wanted to be free. 

Freedom was hers for the taking.

This is a profound truth and one we need to embrace. We can be free if we choose to be free. Jesus offered her freedom, but she had the option not to accept freedom.

We, too, have the option for freedom as well as the freedom to decline our release from the captivity of sin.

It's all too easy to develop a kind of moral Stockholm Syndrome, whereby we become so enamored of our captor (Sin) that we choose to remain in bondage rather than accept the freedom only Christ can give. It's spiritual madness to choose our prison of sin, but we do it, don't we?

We do not have to remain in bondage to those sins that hold us. Jesus died and rose again to set us free from the penalty of sin we could never pay. If, then, we have been set free, why do we continue in such sin?

If we want to be free, our Lord will grant us liberty. 

Our freedom is a gift, but it is also a choice. Since Freedom in Christ has been bought and given, let us accept this free gift of God, embrace the dearly-bought liberty, and live as those who have been redeemed.

How can we live free? We must refuse to return to the sin that has held us, relying on the power of God to give us the will to overcome. He will help us. He will see us through. We can live free. If we will.

We have a choice. Do we want to continue in bondage to Sin? Do we want to live in the freedom from Sin Christ has purchased for us? 

May we choose freedom so that others can see the power and love of Christ in us.

Our Father, help us to choose the freedom only you can give. Help us to relinquish our desire for sin and choose righteousness. In Jesus' name, Amen.
#thechoice #freedfromsin #disciple #JesusChrist #Biblestudy 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

God Always Keeps His Promises

"And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, 'Woman, you are freed from your sickness.' And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God. But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, 'There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day." Luke 13: 10-14 NASB

We began a new series this week. It began with Jesus Sees Us As We Are , then Freed by Obedience, and yesterday's Before We Call, He Answers. (in case you want to get caught up, you can follow the links) 

This passage demonstrates a very beautiful truth that we need to understand. Jesus called to the woman, she moved in His direction, and He spoke those words she most wanted to hear but for which she least dared to hope. "Woman you are freed." From the moment those words were spoken by God's Son, the healing was underway and would not be stopped. 

When Jesus spoke, the healing was as good as done. 

There must have been a delay between the time He spoke and her actually standing erect, if only a few seconds, but the reality of healing, in the heavenlies, was done. 

This is an important truth because I have often prayed with diligence, felt I received an answer, a promise from God, and have not yet seen the reality of that promise. When God speaks a word, He speaks it with absolute truth, and we can receive it with absolute confidence. If God says something, it is true. 

If God promises, it will come to pass.

Isn't it comforting to realize that, when God says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," that's how it is? We can count on His presence, His persistence, His promise.

What delight we can take in His promise, "I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." (Jer. 29:11) When life seems uncertain and confusing, it is a great comfort to me to KNOW that God has a plan, and it's going to work out to give me a future and a hope. I don't have to understand. I don't have to know how my circumstances will look tomorrow. He is in charge.

It's so simple. God can handle this life we live. He speaks into our lives with certainty and truth. We can count on Him. We can depend on Him and on His word.

When we dangle in that moment between "Woman, you are freed" and "immediately she was made erect," we can be sure that the latter will follow the former. If He says it, He will do it.

There is no need for fear. We can trust the God we serve.

For what promise of God are you waiting? Take heart. If He promises, He will bring it to pass. 

"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6 NASB

Our Father, thank You that You are always with us, always helping us, always fulfilling Your promises. Help us to believe You, trust You, and wait for You. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Disciple, Biblestudy #believe #KeeperofPromises, #HesaysitHewilldoit,