WE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO

Yesterday, when I opened the mail, I found another bill from my attorney—the attorney I never planned on, and the attorney I never wanted.  I feel like I am caught in a sticky spider’s web with no way to extricate myself.  To say that I am upset puts it mildly.  In fact, I am at my wit’s end.

Last winter, when I finally made the heart-rending decision to request legal guardianship and conservatorship for my younger sister, I had no idea what I was getting into.  I had agonized for months over what to do, while my sister’s illness became progressively and noticeably worse.

She absolutely refused to surrender power of attorney to anyone.  The stack of legal forms glared at me from my desk every time I entered the room.  Finally, I gave up.  I had prayed diligently about the situation until it seemed that the court was the only solution to our dilemma.  So I filed the papers and this weary process began.

The court appointed an attorney for my sister.  Her interests must be protected.  I understood that.  However, I didn’t hire an attorney.  I didn’t need one.  She’s my sister.  I just wanted to take care of her.  Her doctor had attested to her illness, and it would be obvious to any investigator.  Wouldn’t it?

I received a letter from my sister’s attorney stating that his fee was $375.00 per hour.  What?  I foolishly thought that had to do with working hours.  I didn’t know it included every second in the car, waiting for red lights and stopping for gas, every moment on the phone, every e-mail written and read, every stamp licked, and waiting for tardy judges.

Then he called me.  Being the nitwit that I am, laughing, I asked if I could fire him.  He immediately took offense.  We were enemies from the get-go.

“No,” he said.  “I am Mary’s attorney. I am here to protect her.” HA!

Armed with the investigator’s report and the doctor’s letter attesting to my sister’s illness, I went confidently to court assured that my request would be granted.  How naïve!

The attorney told the judge that I wanted to fire him because I didn’t want to spend any money on the case.  My sister told the judge that she did not want me to be her guardian.  The judge continued the case for another month and appointed a Guardian ad Litem.  He only charges $325.00 per hour.  The legal fees began to mount.

I was in over my head.  I had to hire myself an attorney.  Through my church, I found a good and kind man.  He only charges $350.00 per hour, and his paralegal $160.00.  I think I’m in the wrong business.

Mary’s attorney insisted that her house be put in reserve.  I couldn’t sell it without court approval.  One more complication!  More hours to bill!

My attorney was a likable man, easy to talk to.  When we met together, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t there to chitchat.  The clock was ticking and the fee was mounting.

The court was so overscheduled that it was never on time.  If our fifteen-minute session was set for 9:30, we waited at least an hour or more.  I was paying for that wasted time.

On March 10, I finally became my sister’s legal guardian, but this thing was far from over.  Though I had a good cash offer on the house, everything had to be approved by the attorneys.  One final, fifteen minute, court hearing, the end of August, brought the judge’s approval.  I paid my attorney over $900.00 for that hearing.  The judge was late again.

Yesterday, I received, what I hope is, the final bill from my lawyer.  In the last nine months, my sister and I have paid in excess of $25,000.00 in legal fees.  I have decided that judges and lawyers are not really interested in the welfare of their clients as much as they are interested in red tape and a fat wallet.  When I first met my attorney, he warned me that probate lawyers are known to put their clients in the poor house, before they are finished.  I believe him.

This afternoon I e-mailed my paralegal, and said, “Please don’t do anymore work for me unless or until I ask you.

During this process, I have discovered that hundreds of thousands of families face this same heartbreaking situation.

You cannot believe T.V. commercials that portray all Alzheimer’s or Dementia victims as sweet, docile, vague little people.  I have read hundreds of stories on the internet from families who are struggling with the same problems I have faced this year.  That loved one is uncooperative and at times combative.

“We don’t know what to do,” is the common refrain.

Let me tell you, “As much as I have hated it—as hard and as expensive as it has been, I believe I did the best and only thing I could do.”  As reluctant as you may be, going to court may be your only alternative.   For the good of your loved one, prop up your courage and make the move.  It won’t be easy, but it will insure his safety and well being.

It is a comfort to know that I have not been alone during this arduous journey.  I have taken King Solomon’s advice recorded in Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear…”  WHAT MARVELOUS ASSURANCE!

 

Remember the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

WHAT AUDACITY!

I thought I knew the meaning of the word, but just to be sure, I turned to the dictionary.  “AUDACIOUS” means to be daring, adventurous and bold—full of energy and verve.  It is just the opposite of “CIRCUMSPECTION OR PRUDENCE,” which means to be careful or cautious.

In the early days of my ministry, there were those who thought me “audacious,” because I just did what I needed to do—what I believed God wanted me to do.

On a cold, snowy, January day in the early 1980’s, I loaded my little Honda Coupe with dishes, pots and pans, kitchen linens, blankets, and grocery staples and headed south from Brussels toward the country of Spain.  I had been invited to teach the spring semester at our Bible College, in Guadalajara.  I would teach Christian Education and direct the choir.

If you take a look at the map, you will understand why my colleges thought me imprudent.  In fact, they just thought I was “NUTS!”  I must admit that it looked like a long arduous journey.

I poured over the map planning the route I would take.  I was fascinated by the possibility of driving through the tiny Principality of Andorra, a sovereign state in Southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees Mountains, nestled between France and Spain.

It was not necessary to take that route through high, snow-covered mountain passes.  I could have avoided it all together.  But when would I ever have another opportunity to visit the sixth smallest nation, in the world—181 square miles, population 85,000.

I’m glad I did it.   Never will I forget the sight of rugged mountains frosted with shimmering snow, infested with hundreds—thousands of skiers, like wingless angels, swooping down the never-ending slopes.  It was mesmerizing!

At the end of the day, I arrived in Andorra la Villa, the highest capital in Europe, found a hotel for the night, and settled in.  Well, not quite!  How could I go to bed, when there were things and places and people out there that I would never see again?  So, in the dark of early evening, I left my room and mingled with some of the 7,000,000 other tourists that visit Andorra each year.  I found a place to eat and shopped in the duty-free stores, and went to bed satisfied I had made the right decision.

On Saturday morning, I tucked Andorra into my memory trove and resumed my journey driving on to my final destination to begin another glorious adventure in places I had never seen with people I did not know, and events that were yet to be realized.

Now sitting at my computer, writing this blog, I think of all the memorable adventures I have experienced in my nearly fifty years of ministry, and I wonder.  Considering the fact that I was a single woman alone, was I too bold?  Was I careless?  Did I take needless risks?  I am sure there are those who would say “YES!”  However, my answer must be “NO,” for I was just doing what I needed to do, and I loved every minute of it.

Someone has said that the only alternative to risk is to “do nothing.”

Even as a youngster, I couldn’t abide the thought of a nine-five job chained to a desk or bent over a production line doing the same task day after day with only the prospect of a gold watch at the end of the journey.  I can’t imagine having played it safe all these years.

I would have missed the elephant ride at the Taj Mahal, the awesome Treasury building in Petra, a tour of infamous Auschwitz, sleeping in a castle in Toledo, Spain, observing the apes in Gibraltar, and visiting the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.  But those are just the side benefits, for I have shared the excitement of black-eyed children in Calcutta as they heard the story of Jesus.  I have counseled former Muslim women in Tajikistan and seen their joy in a new-found savior.  I have ministered to lively Dutch children and laughed with military kids in Germany.  I have preached to “Lifers” in prison.  I have worshiped with bush people in South Africa.  I have trained young people, in Belgium and Spain, for the ministry, and the list goes on.

Proverbs 26:13 (The Message) “Loafers say, “It’s dangerous out there!  Tigers are prowling the streets!  And then pull the covers back over their heads.”

Ecclesiastes 11:4, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”

I’m glad I didn’t wait for perfect conditions.  I’m glad I didn’t pull the covers back over my head.  I’m glad I did just what I did.  God has been my refuge.  When I decided to follow Him, He gave His angels charge over me to keep me in all my ways.

“Jesus led me all the way, led me step by step each day.

I will tell the saints and angels as I lay my burdens down.

Jesus led me all the way.”

 

I am still here, hale and hearty, with incredible memories that punctuate every day of my life, and I can’t wait to make more memories.

 

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

SOUL TERMITES

On March 10, 2017, I became my sister’s court appointed guardian and conservator.  With that appointment came the privilege of finding her a suitable place to live, cleaning out her house, disposing of her lifelong possessions, and selling her home of forty-four years.

There was nothing happy about this physically taxing and emotionally devastating responsibility.  I just closed my eyes, refused to be sentimental about anything, and got on with it.  I even learned to navigate Craig’s List succeeding in selling my sister’s appliances.  You don’t know what an accomplishment that was for this old gal.  But I was sad, because, essentially, this was the end of any life as my sister had known it.

Selling the house was the most difficult.  I would sell it “as is,” for I did not have the stamina required for a renovation project.  Almost immediately, I had a cash offer from a lovely neighbor around the corner.  That was great, but I couldn’t sell without court approval.  I warn you, never, never get involved with the court.  Someone will be looking over your shoulder until you draw your last breath.

After five months, much red tape, and staggering legal fees, the sale was approved.  My buyer had seven days to inspect things, before closing.  Her seven days expired on Wednesday.  On Thursday I received “THE CALL!” The buyer had been back in the house for some reason, and, wouldn’t you know it, she had found evidence of termites—one day too late.

Those little white buggers, one of the most successful groups of insects on earth, and a close kin to the nasty cockroach had infested the main beam across the living room ceiling.

In spite of the fact that they are a dietary delicacy in some human cultures and are used in traditional medications, these detestable little creatures can cause serious and costly damage to wooden structures.

Now, one day before closing, my buyer wants me to take care of the termites.  Would I, at least, be willing to pay one-half the cost for extermination?

What to do!  I had been holding my breath waiting for the moment the sale would be final and the money deposited.  At last, six months of unending stress would be over, and I could breathe easily, and maybe even get a good night’s sleep.

I reminded her that she had bought the house “as is,” and that her time for inspection had expired.  However, she is a lovely, kind and patient woman.  She had stuck with me all those months never threatening to pull out of the deal.  I was upset, but I couldn’t refuse her.

“I will pay half,” I said, “But, I don’t think I owe it.”

I knew my attitude was wrong, and that I was upset beyond reason, but I just couldn’t lay it aside.  Every time I thought the end was in sight something else cropped up.  I slept hardly a wink that night.  There was something inside me just gnawing away.

“It wasn’t fair.”  “She signed a contract.” “She was too late.”  “She was getting the house for a steal.”

The next morning, knowing that my attitude needed adjusting, I asked God’s forgiveness and emailed an apology for the way I had behaved.  You know what?  Suddenly, it was no longer an issue, and the stress drained away.

Honestly, I am prone to this kind of thing.  I am not too great in stressful situations.  I let little things eat at me upsetting my equilibrium, and blocking out the sunshine.

Thinking about termites in my sister’s house, I realize that one tiny bug can do very little harm, but a colony can devour a whole house, and they do it from the inside out.  They can consume a 2X4 from the inside, leaving only the outer shell, before they are discovered.

So these “little” things that eat at me—you know what they are—take your pick—rob me of my peace.  They steal my joy.  They sap my energy.  They make me useless and unlovely.  They do to my soul what termites do to a 2X4. I have given these worrisome things a new name.  They are “SOUL TERMITES,” and they must be exterminated.

The Apostle Paul gave the Phillipians the formula for the extermination of “Soul Termites.”

Phillipians 4:6-8, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers.  If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  His peace will keep your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus…Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right.  Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others.  Think of all you can praise God for and be glad about.”  (Living Bible.)

The formula in a nutshell:  Pray instead worrying.  Meditate on things that are true, and good, right, pure, and lovely.  Think of all the things you can praise God for and be glad about, and don’t forget to thank Him.  When you follow this formula, His peace will fill your heart and envelop your life, and strike a death blow to those distructive little termites.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

WHERE DID I COME FROM

I am intrigued by television ads that purport the ability to determine a person’s ethnicity.  For $99.00, they will send you a kit containing a cotton swab.  Place a bit of your saliva on it, send it back, and the company will reveal your origin.  You may be from the Hutu Tribe in Burundi, one of the ancient Celts from Europe or 1/32nd Cherokee as claimed by Elizabeth Warren.

I have a problem with all of this.  You can just say, “I am a skeptic.”  Admittedly, the furthest I have delved into science was the dissection of a frog in sophomore biology, but I do not believe that ethnicity can be derived from a single gene, or that DNA can determine your ancestry more than a few generations back.  DNA is not going to carve up groups at their culturally significant “ethnic joints.”  So, it is a fantasy to believe that an individual’s origin can be determined only on the basis of DNA information that is available today.  There are too many variables.

However, the idea of tracing one’s roots resonates with many people who live their whole life wanting to know who they are.

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My brother, Lincoln, spent a good amount of time tracing our ancestry.  A few years ago, he, and Paul, and I met in the little dusty town of Smithville, Tennessee.  My dad was born on an old “dry land” farm just three miles away at Holm’s Creek, in 1872.

We visited Mount Holly Cemetery and found great, great grandmother Mary Pack’s grave.  We leafed through ancient volumes at the Court house reading records of births, marriages, and deaths of the Clark and Pack families.  We drove to Keltenburg to see the little white frame church, “Old Bildad,” where my great, great, great grandfather was pastor in 1813.  At the library, we poured over micro-fiche reading the hand written minutes of church business meetings from the early 1800’s.  Being a romantic, that’s my deep, dark secret, I was enchanted by the experience.

I am Scotch and Irish, French and Native American, but I’m not claiming anything.   Where I came from in the distant, dusty past, doesn’t matter so much to me, but family matters.  It matters a lot.  My Mom and Dad both came from large families.  Daddy had nine siblings and Mama had eight.  Most of my aunts and uncles were gone by the time I came along, and the cousins, much older than I, had scattered to the four winds.  So I did not grow up with an extended family.  In fact, most of them I never met.

When my friends talk about giant family reunions, I am always envious, for I long to be part of such a group.  In July, my brother and I drove from Fort Worth to Tulsa to see his Daughter Deborah, and her daughter and granddaughters.  While we were there, we visited our ninety-four-year-old cousin, Jesse.  I had never seen him, but that didn’t matter.  We are family.  We sat at the kitchen table and looked at old pictures of people I didn’t know and talked of things I didn’t remember, but that didn’t matter, we are family.  There is that invisible, indescribable thing that binds us together.

Families were God’s idea.  He put that first little family together in the Garden of Eden, and later, after they left the garden, God gave sons to Adam and Eve.  He instilled into the life of the family something very special.  There is no other institution that produces the same gut wrenching feelings—the same overwhelming emotion, the same blanketing aura.

Before my Mother died, she said to me, “Now, I want you to keep in touch with your brothers and sisters.”

HA!  I do that.  I’m the only one who does it.  With e-mails, and phone calls, and the occasional letter, I keep them aware of what’s going on.  I remind them of birthdays and other important dates.  Somehow, I have become the “keeper” of my family.

It is true that I am not much worried about my origin—where I came from, but I am excited about where I am going.  That reminds me that I am part of another family.

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Romans 8:15-16, “…we should behave like God’s very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family, and calling to him, “Father, Father.”  For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts, and tells us that we really are God’s children.” (Living Bible)

We are told that every individual’s DNA is unique.  However, in the family of God, it is not my blood or saliva that determines my relationship with Him.  It is His blood, which He shed, and has applied to the heart of every repentant sinner, that makes me part of His family.  I believe every child of God possesses the same spiritual DNA.

My earthly family may be getting smaller, but God’s family multiplies daily.  One day, before long, I am going to be part of one of those great family reunions that I have longed for.  “That will be a glad reunion day.”

CHERISH YOUR FAMILY!

A note:  The entity, that will trace your ethnic background at the cost of $99.00, looks to earn 60 billion dollars in the next three to four years.  Think about it!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

BUT WE SHALL ALL BE CHANGED

Fifty- seven years ago this month, I loaded my yellow, fifty-seven Chevrolet Impala with my household goods and started to California, Mama riding shotgun.

Recently graduated from college, I had signed a contract to teach fourth grade for the Anaheim public school district.  For a gal, who had hardly been further than the backyard, a 400-mile drive was a big undertaking.  Though I would never admit it, I was a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing and glad to have My Mom along.

We stayed with family in Long Beach, while I looked for an apartment in Anaheim.  After finding a good, safe place, close to my school, I put Mom on a Grey Hound bus and sent her home.  For the first time in my life, I was completely on my own.

New state, new town, new residence, new job, new colleagues!  Wow!  Overnight everything had changed—my life had turned a square corner.  Nothing would ever be the same again.  And that was just the beginning.

Someone has said, “Nothing remains constant except change itself.”

Change is inevitable.  Life doesn’t stop for anybody.

Last week I went back to Anaheim.  Driving from John Wayne Airport to the hotel, I recognized nothing except the 405 sign on the freeway. What had been a small recognizable town, in 1960, had become part of an urban sprawl connecting municipalities up and down the coast.

I was in Anaheim to attend our denominational, biennial council.  One of the best things about council is the joy of reconnecting with old friends from across the nation and around the world.  I found a friend in a wheelchair.  That was a change.  I met up with a missionary friend, whom I had not seen for years and hardly recognized.  She used to be heavy.  Now she is thin.  That was a big change.  I saw whiter hair and deeper wrinkles, and I don’t know what friends saw, when they looked at me.

In a crowd of 20,000, it is almost impossible to find each other, but I finally found Ophelia and Max.  Ophelia was my best friend, when I lived in Anaheim all those years ago.

Choosing a new church home was difficult—one of the greatest changes of my life, but in Fullerton I found a church where I fit, and, Ophelia, the pastor’s daughter accepted me, and made me feel at home.  In fact, she adopted me into her family.

Now we are separated by a continent.  She and her husband became missionaries in a French speaking country, as did I.  Then they were pastors for many years on the east coast, while I ministered in California.

We have seldom seen each other over the years, and we really don’t keep in touch, but I knew her immediately.  Are there changes?  Of course!  She doesn’t walk as tall as she used to, and she has gained a little weight, but her fun filled eyes and sweet smile remain the same.

Ophelia and I have undergone many changes through the years.  We have both retired from long years in ministry.  She has four half grown grandchildren, and I have buried a husband.  She and God have battled cancer and came through victoriously.  I now walk with a cane, and, sometimes, when I can swallow my pride, I use a scooter.

Yes, there have been many, many changes for all of us—some big, some little—some good, some bad.

William Shakespeare said, “Come what may, time and hour runs through the roughest day,” and Harold Wilson is quoted as saying, “He who rejects change is the architect of decay.  The only human institution that rejects progress is the cemetery.”

Most people resist change to one degree or another.  It is said that the only people who like change are wet babies.  Yet, change is the law of life and when you are through changing, you are through.  If we cling to the past or present, we are likely to miss the future, and I don’t want to miss one moment of it.

Now, hang on to your seat, for there is one more big change coming!

I Corinthians 15:51-52, says, for those of us who love Jesus, “…we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…” and—

In I John 3:2, we read, “…we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

That will be the ultimate change for all of us.  Jesus will come and catch us away, and when I look upon His face, I shall finally be like Him.  That is my deepest desire.

Until that moment, things will keep changing, for there is only one constant in life.

According to Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

He never changes.  You can count on that, and you can count on Him no matter how tumultuous your life becomes.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!