Mercy

(Disclaimer: this took much longer than five minutes to write)

Mercy. Love. Kindness. Compassion. Grace.

All of these are part of God’s character. His very being is love. From His love comes mercy. When He looks at me, He sees all of the things that are the opposite of His character, but instead of turning away, He offers me mercy. Rather than anger and retaliation, God extends His compassion and love. He reaches out and touches my heart, my mind, my soul, and heals them. Instead of turmoil and fear, I am given peace and comfort.

Mercy from God is love in action. Oh, how thankful I am to receive His mercy. Without it, I would live in a state of depression, fear, turmoil, and isolation. Instead, I am given peace and comfort.

How do I thank God for these wonderful gifts? I give them to others. Every day I interact with people who do not live up to my expectations. People I love and people I interact with at work and at church disappoint me, hurt my feelings, and irritate me.

By nature, however, I am not a merciful person. My attitude is, “straighten up and fly right.” Pull yourself  together, stop whining, and get a life!

God, in His infinite wisdom and with great patience, has been working to change me. It has been a long, slow process. For many years, I ignored all His attempts to soften my heart and show mercy, love, compassion, and kindness to others.

He gave me a daughter who was so different from me that all I could do was surrender. For many years, I tried to make her who I wanted her to be: neat, organized, efficient, quiet, obedient. I didn’t manage to accomplish any of that.

But no matter what, I loved her. Unconditionally. Even though I didn’t always act like it.

When she was nine, she was diagnosed as a juvenile diabetic. Someone who needed constant care—special food, shots, monitoring. She fought tooth and nail about living in the confines of her disease.

Actually, she fought tooth and nail about everything: what to wear, keeping her room in an order where we could at least open the door, doing homework, doing chores, and on and on and on.

I gritted my teeth and stood determined to make her compliant. I was not successful

When she was twenty-two, and already married, her years of neglecting her own care took a huge toll. No doctor could figure out what to do because no doctor could figure out what was wrong. In desperation, her primary-care physician sent her to UCLA. No doctor—and she had a string of specialists so long I had to keep a list of what type of medicine they practiced and what they said could decide what was wrong or how to fix it. Finally, they sent a surgeon to take a biopsy. He realized a biopsy wasn’t going to be enough. An entire muscle was removed from her leg. Two more surgeries followed in quick succession to continue to remove dead muscle and tissue.

Her husband couldn’t be there. He had only worked for his company for eighteen months, not long enough to have much vacation time or sick leave. But I had the time. I left my classroom in the care of substitutes and I spent every week day from 6:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. in that room with Kimberly. I fetched and carried water, blankets, Jell-O, and whatever else she needed. I held her hand when her bandage was changed. I read to her. I got in the shower with her and held her steady. I brought her a bed pan.

And I didn’t think anything of it. It came from my heart, this mercy, to ease her suffering.

Because she was who she was, she didn’t change her lifestyle to accommodate the disease that was eating away at her. She smoked; she ate whatever she wanted; she went barefoot.

For ten years, Kim spent one to three weeks in the hospital at least once a year. And I could always be there. God, in His mercy, allowed me time with this girl I so loved. We developed a relationship we had never had when she was growing up, years I spent constantly trying to change her into who I wanted her to be.

Four years ago today, she passed away.

I miss her more than I thought it was possible to miss someone, especially someone who was a challenge, who was so needy and different from what I would have chosen.

God used those years I spent caring for Kim to teach me how to be more merciful. I learned compassion and patience and giving everything I had to someone else.

He used her death to open my eyes to the reality that I couldn’t change who she was, and that He had made her and she was wonderful just the way she was.

That led me to look at all people differently. I appreciate their uniqueness more. I am more patient because I see them differently—not as irritations, but as people with needs. People who need kindness, compassion, and assistance.

Mercy.

From me.

So they see God’s character, His mercy, kindness, compassion, and love and He gets the glory.

 

 

 

The Joy of Hope in the Midst of Sorrow

God provides hope in our every day lives in big and small ways. My grandson, Zachary, turns 15 today. He was born the day after 9/11. As I watch Zach grow into a man of God, I am filled with hope and joy. I first posted this three years ago, but it is still true today. 

Twelve years ago, when I got up to get ready for work, I could hear my daughter, Erin, up early. She was in labor with her first child, my first grandchild. I immediately called for a substitute teacher. I could hardly wait!

But when I turned on the TV to check the weather, I was shocked. A plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York.

Erin went to the hospital, and I went to school to drop off my lesson plans, where I heard even more devastating news: the first tower had imploded and a second tower had been rammed with another plane.

I spent the day, eyes glued to the TV, grieving and angry that my country had been attacked by terrorists. Over and over. The news was more and more grim. It was unbelievable.

And there wasn’t one single thing I could do.

While I watched in shock, disbelief, and dismay, I washed and folded tiny baby clothes for my grandson. And waited . . . and waited . . . and waited . . . for the phone to ring announcing my grandson’s  arrival.

Zachary wasn’t born until the next day, September 12, 2001.

But in the midst of all of the horror of the 9/11 and its aftermath, I held and helped care for this precious bundle of joy created by God.

And Zachary’s birth reminded me of the goodness of God. He has a plan. I don’t always understand it, but I know how the story ends: no more pain, suffering, terror, death. There is hope.

God took care of that through His own Son, Jesus Christ. I have joy in the hope of this promise from Jesus.

John 10: 7-9 (Amplified)

So Jesus said again, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that I Myself am the Door for the sheep. All others who came [as such] before Me are thieves and robbers; but the [true] sheep did not listen and obey them. I am the Door. Anyone who enters in through Me will be saved—he will live; he will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture.

Four years ago, on September 13, 2009, my daughter, Kimberly passed away unexpectedly. She had suffered for over ten years with rare complications from juvenile diabetes. Ten days before she died, the last three toes on her left foot were amputated. The doctor waited until the infection was completely eradicated before he did this amputation, hoping that without the toes that dragged on the ground, Kim would be sick less often.

However, the infection wasn’t really gone. My phone rang at 3:30 a.m. with the news that Kim had stopped breathing and was being taken to the hospital by ambulance. A few minutes later, a second call came telling me she had passed away.

As we sat in the hospital for the last time, my son-in-love told what had happened: After a midnight jaunt to the hospital to have a picc-line inserted to deliver antibiotics directly into her blood stream, Kim fell into a restless sleep. Then she said, “NO!” And shortly thereafter, she smiled, relaxed, and stopped breathing.

Knowing Kim, when Jesus came to call her home, she argued with Him. But then, His peace and joy filled her, and He took her by the hand to her true home where she would never know pain or suffering again.

Kim heard the Shepherd’s voice. She walked through the Door and into the pasture. She was no longer here, on earth, but she was living with the Shepherd in a perfect place.

And again, Zachary helped through a time of deep pain and grief. His eighth birthday party was scheduled for that Sunday afternoon at my house. Erin didn’t know what to do. She was in shock and grief too. Her sister was gone.

But Zachary, an eight year old, didn’t really know what that meant. Erin and I filled water balloons and talked and laughed and cried over stories of Kim. We listened to the joy and laughter only young children have when they are engrossed in fun and living abundantly.

As I watched Zachary and his friends, I was reminded of God’s goodness. Of Jesus telling His followers to live abundantly.

John 10: 10 (Amplified)

The thief comes only in order that he may steal and may kill and may destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance—to the full, till it overflows.

Zach and his friends were enjoying life. I couldn’t help but smile with joy at this boy I loved so much. A gift from God.

A promise of His constant Presence, even in times of suffering. The joy of hope.

God never changes. His goodness, His gifts to me are abundant. Over and over, He gives joy and hope even in the midst of days that are horrible.

I am able to enjoy life and have it in abundance—to the full, till it overflows. I have a living, breathing, delightful grandson who reminds me of that every day.

The joy of hope. Hope in Christ. 

Help for the Grieving

Yesterday, a UCLA Bruin football player, Nick Pasquale, a red-shirt freshman who was twenty years old, was struck by a car and killed. My heart aches for his parents, his siblings, his grandparents, and all who loved and cared for him. Their lives will never be the same; there will always be a hole, a wound that will never completely heal.

I know.

The four year anniversary of my daughter, Kimberly’s, passing away is Friday. She was thirty-two. When she passed away, someone else who had lost a child told me two important things: 1) when you have a child and when you lose a child, your life is changed forever and 2) You will learn to walk again, but always with a limp. Those words helped me then, and they help me now.

When you know someone who suffers a loss like that of a child, you may not know what to do. I didn’t. I always dutifully sent a sympathy card, but never knew if that made a difference.

Once I started to receive cards and emails, and even Facebook messages, I realized just how much these seeming tokens truly helped. They brought comfort. I kept those cards in a basket by my chair, and I read them over and over. Although eventually I put them away, with a few other sentimental things I kept from Kim’s short life, every once in a while, I get them out and read them again.

Some people apologized for sending cards two or three weeks after Kim passed away, but those cards were just as valuable to me. I didn’t stop grieving after two or three weeks.

In fact, a couple of people still send me a card telling me they’re thinking of me at this time of year, four years later. Those cards help me through this week of memories that are bitter-sweet. Not really bitter—that would imply I blamed God or resented Kim’s unexpected death. Grief, though, hit harder than I thought it would. Why? Because the sweetness is the joy I had that Kimberly was now in heaven with Jesus. I expected to feel more of the joy and less of the sadness.

I had to return to my regular life only a week after Kim died and the day after her memorial service.

It helped that my principal had talked to my class and they had cards and posters welcoming me back.

It helped that friends would drop by my classroom to hug me or pray with me. It helped when people touched my shoulder or back when I walked by, but didn’t ask constantly how I was doing.

One of the thoughtful things someone did was give me a wind chime. Her note said, “When you hear it, remember Kim and the good things.” Sometimes, I gently touch it, just to hear it ring when I’m thinking of her. I have given several wind chimes to others who have lost children, parents, spouses.

Other people became impatient. They had a time-frame of when I should be “over it.” Get on with life.

Just a note, I will never be over it. Losing Kim, even knowing she’s casting her crown at the feet of Jesus, singing hymns, rejoicing constantly, is not something that will heal and leave a little scar. It is an open wound that scabs over, seeps and oozes, and sometimes feels as though it’s brand-new, open, raw, and infected.

What can you do when someone loses a loved one? Be there. Send a card. After a couple of weeks, send another one. Take a meal and include snacks for all the people who drop by.

And give the grieving family, especially parents of a child, time. Lots and lots of time. More time than you think is normal or healthy or wise.

Be patient. Be kind. Be sympathetic. Pray.

Even if it takes years.

My heart aches for the Pasquale family. I pray they know the peace of Christ because He truly does bring peace and comfort.

For all of you who have lost someone precious to you, I pray you, too, know the peace and comfort of Christ. And you have someone who lets you remember, laugh, and cry. Whenever you need to. 

Red

Go

Red is my color. I never list it as my favorite color, that would have to be blue, but it is my go-to choice for clothes.

I started wearing red more and more because people always complimented my appearance when I wore it. And who doesn’t want a compliment? When I’m not wearing a red top or dress, I use red as an accent. Only if it matches, but I wear a lot of navy blue and black too, so a pair of red shoes, a red scarf, or a red sweater or jacket adds that splash of bold color into my conservative style.  And I figure if I wear a red bathing suit, people will notice the way it improves my look and not see the extra pounds.

Now that it’s no longer the fashion to match shoes and purse—something I lament even though it was a lot of trouble to constantly move stuff from one purse to another—I almost always carry a red purse. My wallet is red.

For years and years, I longed for a red leather chair for my living room. Several years ago, we were able to replace our worn-out furniture, and I got my red leather chair. It’s beautiful. In fact we accented the whole living room with red: red throw pillows on the sofa, red cushions on my treasured rocking chair—the one where I rocked my babies and grand babies, held them close to comfort them and whisper how much I loved them, sang “Jesus Loves Me” countless times. A red chair full of stories.

Last year, when my husband decided it was time to paint the inside of the house (soon after we’d had daughters and grandchildren living with us on and off for six years), we accented one wall the same beautiful, deep red of our leather chair. My daughter, Erin, picked it. It makes me smile every time I step into that room.

Red. My go-to, makes me feel good color.

Silly, because those who love me, those who matter most, don’t care what I look like. And God, the One who I want to glorify in my living, doesn’t get anything when I wear red.

In fact, He washed me white as snow with the red blood of His Son.

And that red is the red I am most thankful for; the sacrifice of Jesus. His blood given for me, to wash me clean. A red everyone needs.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. “John 3:16.

STOP