Sister to Sister: Topic Needed Was Topic Assigned.

So today…

  1. My dad was a sleepy-head because he coughed all night long.
  2. He was nauseated because of the antibiotic he took for the coughing.
  3. He was also dehydrated because of the nausea, which was because of the antibiotic, which was because of the cough.
  4. I got all mixed up about the starting time of my ladies’ day and I got there an hour early on a morning when I really could have used a little sleep. 
  5. I stopped on the way home to take a very short nap in the car and my husband phoned to “check on me” just as soon as I drifted off. Time all up!
  6. When I got back to my dad’s house, he had once again lost his breakfast and had despairingly gone back to bed. 
  7. I tried to get him up to watch the Bama game with me, although what I really wanted to do was go to a hibernation hole somewhere. But just as I was hoisting him up, the doorbell rang and a stranger delivered the news that Dad’s little dog had been hit by a car. 
  8. I told my dad to lie back down and do not get up. I got in the SUV with a big blanket to go down the meadow and find Tommy, bleeding and addled. 
  9. It took about eight calls before I could find an open veterinary office. 
  10. The veterinarian projected that the minimum cost for the surgery likely needed is two thousand dollars.
  11. I made the sad decision to have the puppy euthanized. 
  12. I had the sad duty to tell my father about the puppy.

So today, I am thankful for:

  1. The steroid and antibiotic that gives me hope for a better night’s sleep tonight.
  2. Supper that has “stayed down” for almost three hours now. 
  3. Mixups that make me early, rather than late.
  4. A chance to talk to women from Philippians 4 about how it’s not what’s happening on a particular day that determines my contentment. It’s about the promised peace that passes understanding. Do you think God provides what we need as His children?!… that His Word throughly furnishes us?!  I needed to do that particular expository of the great chapter about rejoicing. 
  5. A husband who checks on me.
  6. A sweet cousin who helps me with dad when I have to be gone for a couple of hours, even on days when he is sick.
  7. A great Bama victory to keep my dad preoccupied during the sad afternoon’s business. 
  8. Neighbors who were kind enough to take care of Tommy and come and notify me.
  9. Understanding my father’s limited income and his sadness, a clinic that donated the euthanizing shot and the cremation.
  10. A husband who always helps with difficult decisions, and does it with logic and a level head.
  11. My dad who, even though he forgets a lot of things (like I do), has not forgotten the difference between human beings and his dog. He simply said. “Well, we did what we could.” 
  12. A pillow on that bed in the back room and a monitor so I can hear my father if he calls. And the Word I can read as I fall asleep on that pillow…so I can hear my Father as He calls.

Some days you just think about Philippians 4 and the wonderful things Paul said about contentment from a dank and dark prison cell. And then the things about which you’re anxious seem small—negligible. And the peace that passes all understanding guards your heart and mind. It’s been a good day….And tomorrow? It’s the day when we go and get all that encouragement from the family of God. I hope my dad is well enough to go and get that…and worship the God of peace.

Sister to Sister: Who Hit Whom?

Maybe I shouldn’t have taken that random man on the side of the road to the hospital to see his son who, he languished, “was lying there on his death bed.” Yes, that same man who had just crashed into the back of my husband’s car—the car I was driving—from behind—while I was sitting dead still at a red light. 

That paragraph is pretty mixed up. Mixed up and disoriented is something of how I felt, too,  yesterday, after that red car just plowed into the car I was driving.  I was just sitting there at a red light in Attalla, Alabama, when the screeching of tires directed my glance over to the side rearview mirror just as my body lunged forward and then quickly back again…with force! I got out of that car and realized I had a huge metal hair clip in the back of my head that had been abruptly sandwiched behind my cranium. It was a headache of mammoth proportions. 

I couldn’t see the man in the other car. His airbag was inflated and covering his face. But I soon heard him yell “Someone please take me to the hospital. My son is dying. I have to get to the hospital, now. He’s lying on his deathbed.” He nervously pulled out his cigarettes and paced back and forth up and down the sidewalk, making one call after the other and intermittently begging for a ride to the hospital. But the police had arrived and they informed him that, as the driver of the vehicle, he could, under no circumstances, leave the scene. “Please let me go. My son is dying. Won’t someone please give me a ride?” 

In the meantime, someone WAS trying to give me a ride. It was an ambulance the size of a large fire truck. I’m not sure it wasn’t a fire truck! It was definitely paramedic overkill and I thanked them and signed all the papers refusing the ride to the hospital. All insurance info was put on the reports the officers collected. The wrecker came for the red car.  My sturdier car, though it was a pitiful mess, was still drivable. The incident was over. 

But the man who hit me was still begging for a ride. No one was coming to his aid. All the witnesses had left.  I looked at the police officer and said “You think I should give him a ride?” 

“Well,” she said, “I cannot really tell you what to do about that. Of course you’re free to do that if you want, but you do not have to.” 

“Well, but…” I began. “…you are an officer and you know this area. Do you think this is too risky to do? …I mean…well, If my son was in the hospital dying, I’d want to be there.”

“Well, I would not do it,” the officer replied. “I don’t know this man and your only contact with him is that he hit your car. But again, if your heart is telling you to…”

My heart was telling me to, I guess. But mostly “…whatsoever ye would that men should do to you…” was telling me to. So I said to the man…the big man… “Let me give you a ride to the hospital.”

It wasn’t long before I began to think a little more clearly and realized I might have made a mistake. As we got in the car, he began to speak with family members on speakerphone—loud speakerphone— about the wreck. Family members were using crude language and shouting about his wrecking the car belonging to “Justin, who was dying.” The conversations were unpleasant and I wanted to ask him to hang up, so I could call my husband and tell him about my morning and about my back muscles that were getting tauter and about my neck that was hurting when I turned it.

But then he said it…the sentence I thought I must surely be mishearing. But it was plain as day. He said it to his wife: “This woman who hit me is taking me to the hospital.” 

Seriously??!! I was the woman who “hit HIM”? I know I must have looked at him as if he had three heads, but …SERIOUSLY? 

Since I’d heard this man tell some pretty funny versions, at the site, about how the accident happened, I’d taken precautions to be sure the police knew I was stopped at the light, seatbelt on, and car sitting dead still, when the collision occurred. The police said they had witnesses and they were clear on that. “Whatever he is saying will not fly. We can see what happened here.” 

But still…seriously? He is going to sit right here in my car as I carry him to the hospital and tell his wife that I hit HIM?

To say the least,  it was a long ten miles to the hospital. I was informed about how that his son was in the hospital because he’d been poisoned…daily, for two years. When I asked how that happened, I learned that it was one teaspoon at the time. See, the government of Alabama had refused to allow its children to use the natural medicine, marijuana. They (the government) had supplied the children with bug spray mixed with oregano, instead. The Haitians were bringing it in as part of an ISIS mission and the local government was inviting them (the Haitians) in to work at the Goodyear plant, so they could annihilate the teen population. Emma Sansom and George Washington Carver were the good guys and they were under the ground because the respectable people get no honor in Alabama.  All of this man’s ancestors were decorated military intelligence officers and so was he…only he was now retired. He made me understand that I needed to do some research about the Jade Helm maneuvers and I’d be able to share the information with some other people. In fact, that’s why God had let him hit me today…so that I could learn this important information from him and share it and more people could escape from Alabama, understanding that even the police were welcoming ISIS. Four people on Sand Mountain had already died in the last two months from the poison and his son was probably next. It’s simply an ISIS induced community addiction. But his son would be okay, in the end, because his name had already been written in the family Bible. “I already wrote his name in the book and that’s all that matters.”

Of course, along about this time, I was agreeing with just about everything he said and praying I could put him safely out at the hospital. I’ve rarely been so excited to get to the door of an emergency room. Somehow I felt like this could be more of an emergency, by the time I got there, than my kidney stones had been last time I went the ER! (…And why couldn’t  just a regular, normal person plow into the back of my car?) Sometimes I’d like to be part of events that you could make up, if you were creative. But not this stuff.

I finally did get to call my husband who was in another state preaching yesterday. I got his voicemail and just asked him to call when he had a moment. A moment. That must have been exactly what he had when my phone rang. I could hear congregational singing in the background.

“Hello dear, you ok? I just have a second before I have to get back up to preach.” (Not even a moment…just a second is all I get?)

“Yes. I’m fine. But it’s your car. I got rear-ended.”

“Oh no! But you’re ok? You’re sure?”

“Yes. I’m sore, but ok.”

“And the other driver?”

“He’s okay, too.” 

“I’m so sorry. I love you. Gotta go. Bye!”

Apparently that was the “song-before-the-lesson” that I was hearing. 

Sometimes reality is hard to believe. I do not know if this man’s son was actually inside that ER or not. I do not know, if he was there, whether or not the substance being abused was really bug spray and oregano. I have a pretty good idea that ISIS, although having a presence in our country today, does not have one through Haitians at Goodyear in Attalla, Alabama who are part of Jade Helm maneuvers. I’m pretty sure the part about being a retired military criminal investigator wasn’t spot-on either. And I’m positive the part about the security-of-salvation- because-the-name-is-in-the-Bible isn’t. 

But it got me thinking about the way we view the ones who are our helpers. There I was providing the much-needed transportation for that man who had given me the biggest hit I’d ever taken. I was taking him where he needed to go. I was being quiet so that he could talk to his family. I was praying for him. I was trying to make a way for him to go on with his day rather than standing there alone on that busy street corner. My back was bruised and hurting because of the hit while I was listening to him argue with his family.  And then he said, “This woman, who hit me….” That, at least for a few secconds, made my blood boil. It did not feel good. At all.

Later on in the day, I was talking to someone with whom I’ve been trying to work through some problems that she’s been facing; problems she’s encountered largely because she walked away from God. She was disappointed in how one of her requests was answered. She said this: “OK. God has let me down…again.” She, at least momentarily, forgot. She forgot God was the One Who had picked her up. She forgot He was the One who had been quiet on the cross, so she could walk and talk and live in Him. She forgot that He was the One who was transporting her to heaven for eternity. She forgot he was bruised for her iniquities. She just forgot that she had been found in a place with no hope and that He had given her a chance to go on with her life, rejoicing here and through eternity. She forgot that while she was yet a sinner, Christ died for her (Heb. 5:8). 

Now, in no real or substantial way would I ever compare that little incident in Attalla with the mercy of God and our plight without Him. When she said that, I simply answered. “God did not do this. People are the ones who mess up.” I did, though, think about how I felt when that man said that I had hit him and I wondered how God must feel when we blame Him when things go wrong. We say “He hit me.” The One who brought us from hopelessness, submitting himself to unbelievable suffering and bruising for our iniquities (Is. 53:5). Why, we must seem to God as spiritually crazy and distorted as that poor man in the car with me, when/if we ever begin to blame Him when things go wrong. He’s taking us where we need to go in a far bigger sense than we can even perceive, and all of that, after we bruised Him in a bigger way than we can fathom! And He, unlike me in the imperfect analogy, chose to take the eternal hit!

May we remember the very real and eternal wreck and ruin from which we are able to walk away—from which we are transported— when we may ever think of assigning the blame for pain and sorrow to God. How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation (Heb. 2:3)?!

Merry Memories Countdown: #3

Hectic Holidays?

Are you experiencing hectic holidays? Are you a little (or a lot) behind on the shopping or the wrapping or the baking? Or is it the budget that’s the problem? Are you finding less time for Bible Study? Are you worried about being around difficult relatives or maybe getting around to all of the kids’ activities? If these are your holiday stresses, can I just tell you that you are very blessed? In the last week, I’ve been in conversation with a friend who just discovered the adultery of a mate, another who just found out that she’s been placed on an urgent heart transplant list, and yet another who is daily making trips to a nursing home to “visit” with a spouse who is rarely awake and never cognizant. A part of coping is the realization that, as we look around, we always see someone for whom we can offer comfort–someone who has a tougher path than do we at the moment.

Nevertheless, when the man who walked across America was asked what’s the most difficult thing about the journey, he replied, “It’s the sand that gets in my shoes.” Sometimes it’s the little material concerns that can take the merry out of the yule. I, personally, rarely scream out in fear, but that dead mouse I uncovered on the pillow in the cabin the other day, as I was cleaning, did make me shriek and flee. There was a perfectly good mousetrap with perfectly yummy peanut butter just a few feet from him, but, oh no, he was too good to die in a trap. He preferred the stately layout on the guest bed, which, of course required the washing of about three loads of linens, comforters, etc…and some pretty stout sterilization–all that, after I enlisted Glenn’s help to dispatch the corpse. (This was a disgustingly hairy mouse, too–maybe Persian or Birman…I don’t know.) Then I got in a hurry and crammed way too many things in the dryer and ruined a pillow that didn’t have room to “tumble” and got scorched as it became lodged against the heating element. I really loathed that mouse.

Then the following day was the much-awaited counter top installation. New soapstone counter tops from the husband for Christmas is an exciting present. I told the installers when they came to measure, though, that I would be perfectly happy to wait until January to have them installed, since I had invited three-hundred-fifty people to my house on the eleventh of December for a big holiday snack party. To me, the probability of something being totally unfinished or not fitting or broken in the process seemed pretty big. I needed that kitchen to be done, with all of it’s ramifications, at least a couple of days before the party. But the workmen were positive. They would come on Thursday (the eighth of December) and, since everything would be precut, they would be all done in three hours and leave with no clean-up necessary. I kept wanting an absolute guarantee and they kept reiterating that this was a three hour deal.

I kid you not….I looked up from my computer in my bedroom which adjoins the kitchen and they were cutting soapstone with gargantuan saws in my kitchen! Texas-sized dust clouds were rising and gusting into pantries filled with cans, and dishes and utensils and cake decor supplies and on top of cabinets lined with cookie jars and on curtains and into all the other rooms of the house. I was remembering that painful needle test that I had done and all those pricks all over my back that revealed I was just so highly allergic to dust and I was thinking, too, about the host of people who had been invited over as I walked through my kitchen leaving footprints in the dust. All these people were coming to the dust bowl in three days and I had to travel to two different out of town destinations between Thursday and Sunday. (One of them was out of state.) I’m not proud to say it, but I cried. I left the house and went to run some errands that had to be done before Sunday and I think I cried all the way to the store. When I wasn’t crying, I was coughing. By the way, my idea of enjoying the tree is not at three in the morning when I am coughing up a lung and sleep, if it’s to be had at all, requires vertical positioning rather than horizontal.

And then, that night, Glenn and I made one of those out-of-town trips to talk with some people who are some of the dearest on earth to us. The struggle in their lives at this holiday season is unbearably painful. When someone chooses to walk away from God, knowing full well that it will destroy family ties on this earth, and that souls will ultimately suffer forever in hell because of selfish sin, the pain for the faithful who love the sinner is extreme. It saps the joy from all the other events that should bring pleasure. It, in short, torments. It is the foretaste of hell in the same way that Christian fellowship is the precursor to heaven. There is very little that we or anyone can do to comfort. Of all the stresses humans experience, the pain that sin brings is the most sorrowful trial we will ever face. When we lose the hope of heaven for one that we love, the loss cannot be reclaimed and it is incalculable.

…And a few hours and a cup of coffee later, at two a.m. on Friday morning, I arrived at Hannah’s house. If you’re a new reader you need to know that Hannah is my just-married daughter and she was hosting her congregation’s Christmas party on Friday night. I had promised her my Friday to help clean and decorate and I had promised to bring some lights and a door swag and some Santas and snowmen. I had pretty much jam-packed my husband’s little Miata with the decking for the halls. (He needed my SUV for doing a book haul, so it was a tight squeeze for me and all those snowmen.) I got out of the car in that wee small hour of the morning and promptly and most immediately locked my keys and all my clothes, my purse, and all the tinsel town I had brought in the car. I’ve heard that, when one door closes, another opens, I was really wishing it could be one of those car doors, but al least they had left the house door unlocked and the light on for me. There was only one thing to do, at that point, and I did it. I went to bed. I had never spent the night in that place before, but I found the guest room and crawled in that bed–clothes, make-up, and all. Like Scarlet O’Hara, I just decided I would “worry about that tomorrow.”

The next morning as Han crawled in the bed with me, I think she was a little surprised that I was already dressed! My husband was surprised, too, when I called to ask him if he’d like to drive an hour-and -a half and meet me for a cup of coffee. “And, oh yeah,” I added, “Could you bring your Miata key with you?”

Well, he’s just the sweetest man on the planet about keys locked in the car. He’s had so much practice at this particular rescue effort that he does it like a pro. Besides that, he speaks at marriage seminars all the time and tells husbands “You know, you are going to go and unlock the car for your wife. You just are. So why not get a few brownie points for doing it by refusing to complain and just go unlock her car and then buy her a cup of coffee and let her tell you what a blessing you are in her life? You ARE going to the locked car. But you do get to choose what you get when you unlock it. You can be unlocking some pain or you can be unlocking some joy in your world.” He’s got that lesson down.

So I borrowed a car and a phone and started out to meet my husband. I turned out of my daughter’s drive, went about a half-mile where I found myself looking at a flashing blue light and in a short line for a license check. A license, by the way, is one of the many things securely stored away in the Miata.

I’m going to stop there. (This is getting way too long.) You get the point. It was just one of those weeks. I’m writing in the aftermath. The mouse has found his way to a new spot in the circle of life. A couple of bottles of Pine Sol and some Murphy’s Soap and some aching muscles later, the parties both happened and they were fun. I learned you can wear the same clothes and make-up for forty-eight hours or so and you’re not really much the worse for it. I really learned or remembered a lot of things. Here are a few things to remember when you finally get to the end of your tinsel rope this holiday season:

  1. Not all surprises during the holidays will be good ones. In other words, the mouse may be hairy and he may not be in the trap. Not everything about your warm and wonderful holiday will be warm and wonderful. Lower your expectations and you will have a much better chance of meeting them.
  2. There are no guarantees when it comes to material things (James 4:13-15). So stop putting your confidence in them.
  3. Trying to cram too many things in a day is like trying to cram too many things in the dryer. Something ends up getting stuck, getting burned or having to be replaced. Often we just need to take a deep breath and be still and know that He is God (Psa 46:10). Every gift doesn’t have to be handmade, every cobweb doesn’t have to be swept down and every ornament doesn’t have to be hung every single year.
  4. Defiled things are not worth crying over. Defiled people are (Luke 19:41).
  5. Comfort is for all times of the year and is best given by those who know the comfort of the heavenly Father. There will come a time in the lives of all of us when we will desperately need the comfort of the Father to flow through fellow Christians. I have been there and, if you have lived very long, so have you (II Cor. 1:4). Remember, there are Good Samaritan moments all around us every day and those who really need us may not have their names on an angel tree anywhere. It might be some young mother who needs an hour or two of kids free shopping. It might be the grandmother who needs help cleaning or shopping before all her kids come or it might be the elderly man at the nursing home who has no one to come and take him home for a Christmas meal. It might be your children, who, in the midst of the holiday home-stretch, just need you to take time to sit down and watch “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” (in the short cartoon version) with them. It might help you learn a lesson or two while you’re at it.
  6. Sleep is underrated. It’s really important to get proper rest during the holidays. It’s not so efficient to drive to a different state to help someone, but be so sleepy when you get there that you lock the keys in the car. Rest was important for the Lord. The demands didn’t ever go away, but sometimes He did…just to rest (Mark 6:31). Lots of life’s issues find resolve in a good nap.
  7. Try to remember that other people may just need a good nap, too. Give the grumpy store clerk, the nasty people in the postal line or the workmen in the dust cloud a break. It’s hard, but it’s right (Romans 12:10-21).
  8. Whatever good thing it is–if you’re going to do it regardless–then don’t murmur about it (I Cor. 10:10).
  9. Thank God for good people who are on your team–and thank those people, too. If you have one person who comes to your rescue when needed, you are most blessed. If that person is your husband, treat him with respect and honor. Let that person know that you count him when you count your blessings. It’s truly wonderful to have someone nearby in the day of calamity (Proverbs 27:10).
  10. Wherever you can peg yourself on the holiday stress meter, be sure you are on the blessing trail. If you don’t know about the blessing trail, go back and read the blog post for August 5, 2011 and September 1, 2011.

Happy Holidays!