Consider the Lilies

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Every New Year while growing up, my mother would give my siblings and me a word she thought might set the tone for how we should live the 365 days that followed. We’re all adults now, yet still look forward to that very insightful word to guide our attitudes and decisions. For example, once, my word was Focus. I always tried to keep Focus in the back of my mind because I was easily distracted from the goals I had set.

Last year, mummy deviated from giving me a single word to giving me a phrase: Await the calm. She first sent it in a card, then in text messages and almost in every phone conversation…Await the calm…It was especially well-suited for the kind of year Duwayne and I had, soothing our fears and reassuring us that brighter days would come.

Although I still expect a word (or phrase) from mummy this year, I have taken the initiative (“Finally”, she says) to come up with a  guiding principle for myself: Consider the lilies. The words resonated with me the moment I read them on the cover of the journal my sister gave me for Christmas.

Jesus, my carpenter friend, spoke those words to a gathering crowd and his disciples one day, centries ago and their simple truth still echo through hearts like mine and yours.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not worry…(Matthew 6: 28-31 NKJV)

Last year, Duwayne and I spent many days mulling over the impossibilites we faced. Each week brought a new issue to deal with; and even though we prayed, we continued to worry after each “Amen” instead of expecting God to provide for us.  To be honest, at times we said in our hearts, “That’s just not going to happen.” Still, to our amazement, God made a way for those needs to be met with almost no effort or contribution on our part. God in His goodness provided for every one of our needs, including the ones we dared not ask for.

In light of our experience of God’s providence in 2010, Duwayne and I have enthusiastically set many goals for 2011 – we wrote them down and committed them to God in prayer. Strangely, though, our inclination to worry after “Amen” has not completely faded; yet in these moments of weakness, Jesus’ words Consider the lilies stir our hearts and nudge us forward in faith. For all things that seem unattainable in this season of our life, we know these are His guiding words to us.

May The Sun Shine

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My prayer for you in 2011:

May the sun shine!
dark clouds break
clear vistas dawn
tended gardens bud
joyful tears fall
silence become song
hallelujah! resound in Heaven.

HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

I Stand

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Listen to the song below.

This video has carried me through this entire year. Besides the fact that Melinda Watt’s voice can’t help but lift your spirit, over and over the words of this song pointed me back to the core of my faith: my carpenter friend – Christ. The trials of the year two thousand and ten stripped me of many things and threatened to strip me of this single most important part of my life; but it didn’t. 

All the accessories (and forgive me for calling them accessories) are gone right now. The singing (worshipping) throughout the day; daily reading of the Bible for truth; longer, more earnest prayers; ministry and other things that engendered ‘intimacy’ with God and which defined my walk with Him have all but vanished, somehow. I thought my faith was being eroded as each of these practices waned under life’s pressure. With each blow, something else crumbled and eventually, I felt I was left with nothing to stand on.

But nothing was further from the truth because I still believed. It’s only as I’ve neared the last day of the year that I’ve realized that I do have something to stand on: the great love of the incarnate Christ, expressed in His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension – the core of my faith. Yes, the great treasure of my life is still mine, still mine...I can’t fully tell you how grieved I have been over this, how lost and guilt ridden. To know that His love still looms over my life without all the trappings I held so dear is amazing to me. Nothing and no-one can strip me of that.

So, as I face the year two thousand and eleven, I know I stand securely on Christ who is the foundation on which my life is built. Don’t worry though, I will work hard to rebuild some of the things I lost this year, but even without them, I stand.

{I DEDICATE THIS POST TO MY GRANDFATHER WHO I LOVE AND MISS. WISH YOU WERE STILL HERE…HAPPY BIRTHDAY}

Tested

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Our bodies loosely curled and facing each other, we talked with our faces inches away, our voices low and words few. We just turned off Larry King who was interviewing the cast of Conviction, a new movie, and other persons, like those from The Innocence Project, involved in the fight against convicting innocent people. There were also men, black men from Texas whose lives became the focus of a book called Tested. Some were imprisoned for decades for crimes like rape which they did not commit.

At that time Duwayne said to me, “Maybe I should look to them for inspiration.” Life wasn’t fair, but they held on to the hope of being set free one day; and they were. I can’t imagine what these men, and other people like them went through and are going through. As they explained, suicide is a very real option for persons wrongfully convicted: they have been stripped of things that give dignity to existence, like a good name and freedom. Why live?

I am the answer to that question for Duwayne. I am the reason he hasn’t driven off a cliff, he said. As we lay there, the silence was full with our helplessness and inaudible cries to God. I looked at Duwayne as he asked me to promise him to not be angry with God; not follow him to death in sorrow; not to stay alone – I should love again and have children and be happy. I had to allow him to express his pain, even though everything in me screamed, Shhhh! I didn’t want to hear it. I don’t want you to die…God you promised me…shhhh.

I didn’t answer, didn’t promise, only looked at him and tried to meet him in his despair; but I couldn’t. I will never be able to exchange his sorrow for anything good – I am not God. And I don’t think I will ever truly understand what he is going through unless my life is threatened at some point. So, I just looked and listened.

“I’m sad,” he said. I know, I thought and stroked his face.

I guess my eyes gave away the question I was asking in my mind because he answered by admitting that he was not having a deep foreboding of his death – like when the elderly give you hints that their time is near. He was just afraid.

I was afraid, too. A couple of days before, we went to a pre-operation appointment at Tampa General Hospital. The appointment was 2½ hours of signing papers, receiving instructions, ordering and administering tests, talking to nurses, residents, assistants; it was a very involved process. And I can understand the reason: my husband would be chopped liver in about a week – literally. He was being prepared for a liver resection; and I didn’t know how much the appointment affected me until we were sitting in the waiting room for the next appointment concerning his surgery.

Surprisingly, Duwayne slept, but I stared out the window and had ‘daymares’ about Duwayne dying on the operating table. It’s grief before grief; it’s grief, absent death; it’s grief in the apprehension of death. It’s a horrible feeling – and I’m not the one who’s sick with cancer. I can’t imagine how Duwayne feels when he thinks about being put to sleep and then being cut open. The thought of being unaware of people’s hands accessing your vital organs with knives can be frightening. While it may be run of the mill for the surgeon and his staff, it’s strenuous for the patient, especially considering the fear of something going wrong and never waking up again.

So, we were both afraid, but experiencing that fear from different vantage points. The place that we met, though, and always meet is in resolve. That night, after Larry King, after the request for promises and the not promising, we met at, “Don’t give up.” We resolved not to give up on being cancer free, not to give up on each other, on our future, or on my carpenter friend. Like those men in Tested, we would keep on believing and waiting, believing and waiting, believing and waiting to be free from all our troubles.