GRATEFULLY SURPRISED

GRATEFULLY SURPRISED

Has it really been two years since I moved my seventy-eight-year-old baby sister out of the house, where she had lived for forty-three years, and into an adult, assisted living facility?  Seems impossible!  June suffers from Alzheimer’s.

For many heartbreaking weeks, I cleaned out, threw away, gave away, sold, and packed up my sister’s whole life, with the exception of a few choice items, saved to furnish and decorate her room at the new residence.  Those were stormy, tearful, exhaustingly sad days for both of us.

In the beginning, being extremely paranoid, June was certain that her caregivers were stealing her jewelry and clothing.  She would wad up her favorite things and hide them in drawers or in the corner behind the bureau.  She was combative to the degree that caregivers were hesitant to enter her room.  I tried to be there to smooth the path for everyone.  That’s hard, but that’s who I am.  Over the months, with the adjustment of medication, things improved.

I had committed to spending two afternoons a week with my sister.  As a court appointed guardian and conservator, I am required to see her only once a month.  But, she is my sister!  So, I went faithfully on Tuesday and Friday afternoon.  Did I want to go?  Not always!  Sometimes we fussed because I had little enough sense to try to reason with her.  When I finally learned to agree with my sister, or just keep silent, the yelling stopped and things were much calmer.

When I was angry with her, as I often was, I tried to remember special times we had shared.  I thought of the chubby toddler with big blue eyes and a mass of curly hair.  I remembered the sweet kindergartener I pushed high in the swings at recess time, the summers we sat in the living room floor playing “Sorry” all day long.  Could I ever forget picking cotton beside her on Saturdays, in the summer heat, and the fun of singing together at church, and her poetry?  Of course, I remember the joy of singing at her wedding, and the sorrow at seeing the tears slide down her cheeks, as we stood beside the grave of her infant, stillborn son.  O, so many memories! Precious memories!

I have been sick this week, so I didn’t see June until yesterday.  Length of time evades her now.  If I say, “I’ll be back in three days,” that could be thirty days or tomorrow, so she is always pleased and surprised when I show up.  When I enter her room, like a child, with twinkling eyes, she asks, “Did you bring me something?”  I always take her a bit of chocolate.  I break it into small pieces and put it in her mouth.  She can no longer grip with her hands.

Our two hours together are spent watching “The Waltons,” and “Little House.”  She cannot manipulate the remote, so the TV stays on the same channel.  Actually, June talks continually always trying to tell me something that has happened or something she wants me to remember.  When she loses her words, she says, “I know what I want to say, but I can’t say it.”  If I try to help her by contributing a word or a name, she declares that I am worse off than she is.  Sometimes, out of frustration, she is angered, but many times she just laughs and I laugh with her.

Yesterday we talked about her husband.  When I called her attention to his handsome photo on the bureau, she said.  “I was wondering where he is.”

“Oh, sweetie, you remember,” I said.  “He is in heaven waiting for you.”

Her eyes widened, and with a smile, she said, “Oh, yes, in heaven!”

Then she said, “You look very pretty today.”

Looking at my watch I realized it was time to go.  “Is it all right if I leave?” I asked.

“Yes, but please be careful out there,” she replied.  “You know, you’re the only one I’ve got.”

I was surprised, gratefully surprised, at the pleasant time we had together.  Driving home, I realized that when I finally quit trying to fix her, trying to make her remember things she could not remember, when I decided to accept her as she is, our relationship improved immediately.  I pray for us every morning, but, honestly, I pray for myself more than for June.  I pray that God will give me wisdom, and understanding, a gentle spirit, and an abundance of love.

Now I look forward to our visits.  It is no longer a chore to be dispatched, but a time to be enjoyed.

Let me encourage you today.  Accept your loved ones for who they are.  You cannot fix them, but you can love them, pray for them, and serve them.  God will do the rest.

Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.”  These words speak for themselves.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

AND THERE WAS LIGHT

 

Although Thomas Edison was not the inventor of the electric light bulb, twenty others came before his, he did produce the first commercially viable one – the first practical one, and literally changed the way we live after dark.

Prior to the light bulb, folks burned lamp oils or used natural gas (rather dangerous) for illumination.  I still have my mother’s old kerosene lamp, from nearly a century ago, when there was no access to electricity in rural areas.  Mama’s lamp is made of clear glass.  It consists of a bowl on a pedestal.  The bowl serves as a reservoir for the kerosene.  The lamp is equipped with a wick protected by a glass chimney.  The cotton wick dipping down absorbs the fuel, and produces a light when ignited.

I love the lamp because it was Mama’s and there’s something romantic about it, but never would I trade it for the light switch on my wall and the bulb it illumines with one touch.

Truth is we cannot live without light.  Oh, there are some parasitic plants that can live in complete darkness for a time, but no plant can live forever without sunlight, and there are some pale, furtive, multi-legged, eyeless animals that live in the dark of caves.  However, aside from a few exceptions, life demands light.

I live in Arizona, in the “Valley of the Sun.”  This valley gets 211 days of full sunshine each year plus 85 days of partial sunshine.  Yet, my doctor tells me that I must take Vitamin D capsules, because I don’t get enough sun.  I must admit that I actively avoid it, particularly in July and August, but to be healthy, I must be exposed to light.

Also, to be safe I need light.  I have never used a night light.  I just didn’t think I needed one.  However, a few months ago, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and fell over my recumbent bike that sets in my bedroom floor.  The bike hadn’t moved, but somehow I had strayed off my beaten path and nearly broke my neck.  Now, with the bathroom light on, I leave the door open a crack.  That makes all the difference.  Fact is we must have light in order to be safe.

To dispel the darkness- to find our way we need light.  We use flashlights, headlights, lighthouses, spotlights, floodlights, strobe lights, and for some reason, I think of the torch lifted high by The Statue of Liberty, and the words of Emma Lazarus.

“Give me your tired, your poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

 

For well over one hundred years, that torch has been a symbol of light to immigrants from all over the world saying, “Welcome!  You have found your way home.”

Not only our physical and mental being demand light in order to survive, but that spiritual part of me must also be illumined.

Genesis 1:1-3, tells us, “… God created the heavens and the earth… and darkness was upon the face of the deep…Then God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”

Genesis 1:16, “Then God…made the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.  He made the stars also.”

Now, for all these years, since creation, people and animals and plants have grown and flourished in the light of the sun, moon, stars, and the God given ingenuity of men.  I can’t imagine living without that marvelous light.

Sadly, though, I must admit that we live in a darkened world today.  Oh, the sun, moon, and stars are still functioning, but our world is darkened by hatred and bigotry, by strife and politics and greed and dishonesty.  No lighthouse or floodlight, however powerful, can dispel this kind of darkness.

The only antidote to this darkness is Jesus Christ Himself, who said, in John 8:12, “…I am the light of the world.  He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

            Jesus, the Son of our Creator, Jesus, who was there with the Father, when light was born, declares Himself to be the “Light of the World.”  He is ready to come into your life, any willing life, and dispel the darkness that lurks there.

If you are a follower of Christ, you need not fear the darkness for you have the “Light of Life,” and according to Matthew 5:14 & 16, “You (also) are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  So—“Let your light shine before men…”

Can you imagine what a faithful, shining army of Christ followers could do to push back the darkness that rules our world?

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAKING RISKS

TAKING RISKS

Yesterday I heard that Americans will place $6,000,000,000.00 in bets on the Patriots or the Rams, and they will sit through the Super Bowl, on February 3, hoping for or dreading the outcome of the game.  Many of them will lose their money, but that is the risk they are taking.  SIX BILLION DOLLARS!!!  That’s a whopping risk!  Many, if not most of us, cannot conceive of that much money.

I must own up.  I am not a football fan, nor am I a gambler, so I don’t care who wins.  I guess it’s all right, at my age, to admit that.

As I said, I don’t like taking risks.  The stock market, for example, scares me.  I’ve worked too hard for what I have to risk it in a volatile market.  However a few years ago, about 2008, (wouldn’t you know) I was advised to invest a small portion of my savings in stocks.  I was thrilled when, at the end of the first quarter, I had earned 12% interest.  At the end of the second quarter, I lost the 12% and part of my capital.  During the third quarter, I withdrew that bit of money and spent it on things I had been longing for.  So much for the Stock Market!

Life is inherently risky.  If you leave the house, cross the road, play football, spend time in the hospital—in a very real sense—it is a risk.  Everything we do is a risk.  The only way to avoid risks is to do nothing.

I suppose the riskiest decision I ever made was to marry, for the first time, at the age of seventy-seven.   My family thought I was nuts.  Friends cautioned me.  One woman backed me into a corner and told me how miserable her mother was, after marrying a second time at an advanced age.

Risking the loss of my prized independence terrified me. I came and went as I chose.  I lived the way I wanted.  My schedule was mine to arrange.  If I wanted to work in the middle of the night, there was no one to object.  I was accountable first to God and then to my church leaders.  That was it!  At that late juncture, I wasn’t looking for a man.  I had done quite well on my own.

My emotions ran rampant.  I was excited…fearful…hopeful…pessimistic.  I was determined I couldn’t do this:  yet, like the proverbial moth, I was drawn helplessly, hypnotically toward the flame.

However, when I walked down the aisle, on that beautiful cool, clear, cloudless day, I never once entertained the thought of risk.  The future beckoned to a life of love and laughter, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Five months later my Cecil suffered and inoperable aortic hematoma and God took him home –away from me.  My pain was unbearable.  This made no sense.  Didn’t I know what a risk it was to marry at this late date?

Then I thought, “What if I had not married him, had not taken the risk?”   I would have missed the brief life and love we shared.  I would have missed his kisses, his warm embrace, and a hand holding mine.  That joy, however brief, far transcends the searing pain, the irretrievable loss and the ever present sorrow.

Yes, everything in life involves risks.  Life would be boring, dull, and tiresome, if we didn’t take risks.  Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

There are different kinds of risks.  For example, becoming a Christ Follower, a Christian, carries incredible risks.

In America and around the world the price of being a real Christian is rising.  I am appalled by the dishonesty, anger, hatred, and strife, which permeate our atmosphere today

2 Timothy 3:12 tells us, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”   These words make more and more sense every day.

In the early church, to become a Christian was to risk your life.  Every Christian knew that sooner or later he might have to defend his faith at the cost of his life.  Scripture is filled with risk takers.

Queen Esther said, “If I perish, I perish.”  Shadrach and his comrades refused to bow down, and the Apostle Paul said, “I do not count my life of any value…if only I may finish my course.”

No one better appreciated the risks of obeying God than Jesus Himself, who came, “…to give His life a ransom for many.”

            No one can say for certain what kind of risks you will face as a Christian.  Some have lost family, friends, and even their life, but I must tell you—THE FINAL RISK IS GONE!

Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”   

Romans 8:37 – 39, “…neither death nor life (or anything else) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 11:25, “Whoever believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.”

No matter what we risk today, this is our promise for eternity.

The question is:  Will I, accept the risks?  Is what Jesus offers worth the price?

THINK ABOUT IT!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME

 

It seems that Shakespeare is accredited with the question “What’s in a name.”  Romeo and Juliet are not allowed to marry, because they come from rival families.

Juliet cries, “’Tis but thy name that is my enemy…what’s Montague?  It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man, O, be some other name.  What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet…give up your name for it is no part of you.”

From birth my name has been Fayrene Clark, but seldom was Fayrene used.  I have always only been Faye, until I married at the age of seventy-seven.  Then, the one syllable Faye did not sound right with the name Reese, so I decided to use Fayrene, for to me, Fayrene Reese just rolled off the tongue more readily.

I spent four days in the hospital last week.  Never have I heard so many comments about my name.  What a beautiful name!  Your name is so unusual!  I’ve never heard that name!  Where did it come from?

When my mother was pregnant with me, she read the name in a newspaper.  Fayrene was a Hollywood starlet.  I assume she never became a star or this name would have been better known.  In any case, when Mama gave birth, in spite of the counsel of my six year old brother, who wanted to name me Patsy after his little black bull dog, she named me Fayrene.

Once in a while I meet someone named Faye, but never in my life have I met a Fayrene.  I must admit that I rather like having an unusual name.  Never having heard of it, even my computer redlines Fayrene.

At birth, my sister was given the name Mary Jane.  However, some clerk, in the registrar’s office, inadvertently changed it to Mary June on the birth certificate.  So, for the rest of her life, my sister is Mary June, or Junie, or June bug.  That was easier than going through some bureaucratic hassle.  I can’t imagine it any other way.  “Jane” just doesn’t fit.

The days for Mary and John, and the like, are, I fear, long past for the most part.  Now couples name their babies APPLE and RYDER and HARPER.

A mother brought her child into the doctor’s office where my niece worked.  Her baby’s name was ENAMEL.  She pronounced it EN’-A-MEL.  Asked where she got that name, she answered, “I saw it on a paint can.”

In the town where my brother lived, there was a family by the name of DUCK.  They were older, when they gave birth to a baby boy.  They weren’t excited about the child, so they refused to name him.  Left up to the doctor, he named the child DONALD.  DONALD DUCK!   The boy was always a little strange, and later committed suicide.

I don’t really know to what degree a child and his development are influenced by the name he is given at birth, but I do know that names are important, and perhaps we should give serious thought to a decision that will last a lifetime.

A name is like a “Life Label.”  It is more than letters strung together, traditional or made-up.  That name becomes a symbol for the person you are and the person you will become as life unwinds.  That name wraps itself around its owner, and the whole of his life including his character, his demeanor, his attitude, his integrity, his relationships, his honor, his kindness, or lack of it, are tied up in that name.

Henry was one of my fourth graders.  Wherever his name was mentioned on campus, everyone laughed or groaned, for they knew what an incorrigible child he was—always angry, defiant and unmanageable.  His name and reputation were one and the same.

When I married Cecil, he suggested I keep my name instead of taking his.  “Everyone knows who Faye Clark is,” he said, “but no one will know who Fayrene Reese is.”He was concerned for my ministry, for my name and my ministry were inextricably linked together.  We compromised, and I became Fayrene Clark-Reese.

MY NAME AND REPUTATION ARE ONE AND THE SAME!  I need to remember that, for Fayrene has another name.  I am called “CHRISTIAN” meaning that I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and as such I am expected, by Christ and those around me, to live a Christ like life.  Whether I like it or not, people are watching me.  They see the way I conduct myself.  They hear my words and are aware of my attitude.  They know whether or not I am a person of integrity, whether I am kind and gentle.

Not long ago I heard someone say, “You never have to wonder what Fayrene is thinking.”

I have decided that was not necessarily a compliment.  When my name is mentioned, people know, to some degree, the kind of person I am.  My name gives me away.

King Solomon wrote, in Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than riches.”

Mama gave me my name, but I am the one who must choose that it be a good name.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!