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!

 

 

WITH THE FUTURE IN VIEW

In the summer of 1965, more than fifty years ago, I crossed the Atlantic for the first time.  I did it alone, and I did it in style.  Little did I know I was somehow preparing for the future.I was a young public school teacher, who had scarcely been out of her backyard, but once the idea began to foment, no one could talk me out of it.

I was a young public school teacher, who had scarcely been out of her backyard, but once the idea began to foment, no one could talk me out of it.

My older brother, Lincoln, won a Fulbright Scholarship to study Opera in Germany.  He had already lived there for several years and was under contract to a local opera company, so I decided it was time to leave the shores of my native land, and check things out on the other side.

I knew it would take too long to save the necessary funds, and I was getting older by the minute, so I borrowed $1,000.00 from my local bank.  I figured it would be easier to pay it back than to save it.

My ticket, on the S. S. United States, our largest ocean liner, at the time, cost $328.50. That was all inclusive of my cabin, three gourmet meals, daily, for a five-day crossing, tea served on deck morning and afternoon, room service, and entertainment, etc. etc.  I was rich!  I had $671.50 left for my tour of the continent.  Can you imagine?  How far could you go on a $1,000.00 today?

I was scared!  I had never been anywhere alone.  The ship sailed at noon on June 2, so I flew overnight from Phoenix to New York City.  Arriving early in the morning, I claimed my luggage, suffered a wild Taxi ride through the city, and somehow wound up at the right Pier and the right ship.  I remember walking up the gang plank, but I no longer have any idea how I handled the luggage or found my cabin.

In an elegant dining salon, lunch was served as we sailed out of New York Harbor.  I ordered curried chicken.  I had never eaten curried anything, but this was an adventure, so I had to be adventurous.

After lunch, weary from the overnight flight, I crawled into bed to rest.  The sea was quite rough, and the longer I lay there, the more upset my stomach became.  I blamed it on the curry, but actually, I was suffering from seasickness. That was a sad thing to discover on my first day out.  Crossing the North Atlantic in early June can be treacherous.  I knew if I nursed the problem, I would be miserable the whole trip, so I got up, went to a movie and forgot about it.

After navigating the boat train from Le Havre, France to Paris and finding a bus to Orly Airport, I finally arrived in Bielefeld, Germany, where my big brother swept me into his arms with a bear hug.  He was relieved that I had made it.  So was I.

The following weeks were a whirlwind of excitement.  I attended my brother’s opera performances, ate with the opera crowd in quaint little restaurants, tasted, for the first time, octopus, pickled herring, and split pea soup with great chunks of German sausage.  My sister-in-law and I traveled by train to Holland, where we walked the streets of Amsterdam, visiting the Riekes Museum and the home of Anne Frank.  Lincoln took me on a road trip through Germany and Switzerland to view some of the most gorgeous sights in the world.

Lincoln’s father-in-law was director of the “Opera on the Rhine.” It was amazing to sit on the river back and enjoy the music from ages past, as it was performed from a floating stage in the middle of the river.

We toured nine hundred (more or less) beautiful, old cathedrals, where a multitude of religious relics, from the past, were on display.  These bits of bone and earthenware, and even blood were hallowed by the crowds, but I missed the heartfelt, cheerful worship that I was used to.

It is no longer unusual for ordinary people to travel to Europe, so why am I regaling you with my experiences?  For this reason:  Though I didn’t know it at the time, I believe that trip was God ordained, a foretaste of what He had in-store for me.

I knew from childhood that God had a plan and purpose for my life.  So, He started preparing me long before the plan was put in force.  Toward that purpose, during that trip, He taught me some important things about myself.

I discovered that, with His help, I could overcome fear and accomplish my goal.  I found that I was resourceful and able to navigate difficult situations, and I learned that, even alone, I am strong and determined.  I don’t give up easily.  I also became aware of a need for God in Post Christian Europe.

Little did I know that, a decade later, God would send me back to that continent, as one of His ambassadors to the lost and needy.

I am convinced that “things” do not happen randomly in the life of a believer.  God has a purpose for everything.  Those seemingly random events, you are experiencing now, may be God’s way of preparing you for future service.

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Remember, He is always thinking of you using His ways to move you toward His ultimate purpose for your life.

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

I CAN’T DO THAT!

My friend and I arrived home from vacation on a sweet June afternoon.  I walked through the house opening shutters—surveying my worldly domain.  Opening the patio door blinds I was welcomed by a committee of one.  A snake slithered across the concrete, his head lifted high, his beady black eyes peering through the glass.  He was casing the joint, and I was beside myself.  I have never been on friendly terms with snakes.  I avoid them at the zoo.  I even refuse to look at a picture.  When my Cecil was ill, we watched a lot of Animal Planet.  Invariably, there were slithering, slimy snakes and various other reptiles.  I consider myself to have been very brave, though I watched most of it with my eyes closed.  However, I didn’t feel brave that June afternoon.

i cant (1)

I raced to the phone and dialed 911.  “What is your emergency,” asked the voice on the other end of the line.“There’s a snake looking in my house,” I cried.

“There’s a snake looking in my house,” I cried.

“That’s not an emergency, “she replied.

“It may not be an emergency for you,” I said disparately, “but it is for me and I don’t know what to do.”

I had no confidence in my ability to take care of the matter.

Laughing, she gave me the number of the local Serpentarium.   I didn’t know that such a thing existed, and I’m still not sure.  I can’t find it in my dictionary.

A few moments later, I opened the door to a grinning young man.  “Did you order apples,” he asked, and then, “where is the snake?”

“He’s in the back,” I said.  “I’m sure he’s a rattler.

I opened the patio door just a sliver, so this snake handler could squeeze through.  The snake was no longer on the porch, but in a matter of minutes, the man was back with the creature scrunched up, clutched in his hand.  I hesitantly let him walk through my living room and out the front door.  I’m sure he laughed all the way back to that weird place.

Sunday morning, my pastor preached about Moses and his unwillingness to answer God’s call to deliver Israel.  He had all kinds of reasons why he couldn’t do it.

“I’m no one,” he said.

“I don’t know what to do—I don’t know what to say.”

“No one will listen to me”

“Send someone else,” he cried.

Moses had a shepherd’s staff in his hand.  When he threw it down at God’s command, the staff became a snake, and Moses ran from it.

i cant (2)

God said, “Don’t run from it. Pick it up by its tail.”

Moses picked up the snake and it became a staff again.  Hats off to Moses!  I don’t think I could have done it.

Hats off to Moses!  I don’t think I could have done it.

In Exodus 3:12 and 18, God said to Moses, “I will certainly be with you…Then they will heed (listen to) your voice.”

The God of the universe—the God who is the creator of all things—the God who has all power—the God who existed before time, promised Moses that he certainly, no doubt about it, would be with him.

Most of us are tempted to run from the difficult things—from the hard assignments.  When, as a single young woman, God began to speak to me about becoming involved in full-time ministry, I balked.  I had always wanted to be in ministry, but I imagined that I would marry a preacher, iron his shirts, sing occasionally, and shake hands.  However, that was not God’s plan.

“I CAN’T DO IT,” I declared.

Oh, I was smart enough, well educated, even talented, but there were two big obstacles.

First of all, I was overweight—obese is a better term.  I was always well groomed and well dressed, but I was self-conscious and insecure.  People wouldn’t accept me.  I was sure of it.

“I CAN’T DO IT, LORD!”

Then there was the problem of being alone.  I didn’t want to be a single woman preacher.  People didn’t like women preachers.  I didn’t like women preachers.  I had seen and heard a few.  To me, they seemed too aggressive and unattractive.

If I wanted anything in life, I wanted everyone to like me—love me.  I didn’t want to be weird.

Ministry, in the 60’s, was an uphill climb for women, particularly single women, but in the confines of my stubborn, frightened little heart, God whispered, “I will certainly be with you.  I will enable you, and people will accept you.”

i cant (3)

No words can explain the joy I have had in almost fifty years of ministry.  A gentleman, whom I have not seen or heard from in several years, called yesterday just to remind me that I was instrumental in his salvation—a wonderful encouragement on a difficult day.

God’s great promise to us is found in Isaiah 41:10.  “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes I will help you.  I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

DON’T RUN FROM THE SNAKE.  PICK IT UP BY THE TAIL AND SEE WHAT GOD WILL DO.

 THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

DON’T PANIC!

Pan, the noisy, goat-footed Greek god of the woods, was the source of mysterious sounds and loud music, inciting contagious, groundless fear in people and in animals, hence the word “Panic.”

By the mid 1950’s, the figurative term “Panic Button,” had become a familiar part of the English vocabulary.  Now, it is not unusual to see advertisements for real panic buttons made available to the elderly or physically impaired for use in emergency.

I have always considered myself to be a cool customer.  I am either that calm, optimistic gal, that I claim to be, or like the proverbial ostrich, my head is buried in the sand.  Fact is I am not easily ruffled.  However, I do recall a time—the time when I burned up a whole field.

In my opinion, there is not really much good to say about summertime in “THE VALLEY OF THE SUN,” in Arizona, where I live.  “Miserable” is the word that comes to mind.  Someone has said that there is only a screen door between here and hell.  When it’s 118 degrees, I’m almost tempted to believe it.  No one, in his right mind, could enjoy a picnic, here, on the Fourth of July.

firecracker-801902_1920

Yet, the Fourth of July was an exciting day.  There was watermelon, fried chicken, and homemade ice cream enjoyed in the cool, damp comfort of our old evaporative cooler, and don’t forget the fireworks.  I loved the fireworks.  After supper, on the fourth, My Mama, little sister and I walked across town to Rendezvous Park and sat on the grass to watch the magical display.  Even in the heat of the night, the fireworks, against the darkened sky, were mesmerizing.

On the Fourth of July, when I was almost twelve years old, I had my own “FIREWORKS.” Really!  I did.  I had a handful of little red fire crackers about three inches long, and I was dying to set them off, but doing so within the city limits was against the law.  So, my girl friend and I walked to the end of the street, jumped across the dry irrigation ditch, and landed in a large vacant field overgrown with dried weeds.  We were no longer in town.  We were, now, in the country.

I had come prepared for this exciting adventure.  I retrieved a match from my pocket, struck it and lit the end of a firecracker, immediately tossing it away from me into the dried brush.  Instead of exploding, making that pop, pop, popping sound I had anticipated, a fire blazed up.

burning-grass-1165823_1920

“Help,” I yelled at my friend, as I began stomping at the flame.  “Hurry, help me put this out,” but she immediately went into panic mode falling on her belly on the ditch bank, wailing like a banshee.  The more I stomped the wider the fire spread until I gave up in terror.  She was no help, and there was no possibility that the fire engines would show up.  We were no longer in the city limits.

The fire, swift as lightning, gobbled up the dead brush until the whole field was ablaze.  Homes bordered the field on two sides, and suddenly, as if by magic, men appeared with wet burlap bags, “gunny sacks,” beating at the flames.  They worked diligently, in the hot July sun, until any semblance of fire was gone.

I stood on the far side of the field, watching the drama, knowing that it was my fault.  I had burned down the whole field all by myself.  There was no one else to blame.

What would they do to me?  Surely they would come shaking their fingers in my face telling me I had endangered their homes.  But no!  Without a word, they just went home and so did I.  I never breathed a detail of this escapade to my parents, but in the dark of night, I wondered when the police would show up, when they would cart me off to jail, how much the fine would be.  My life was over.  I was sure of it.

My fears, however, were groundless, and life went on as usual.  As far as I know, no one ever knew I had accidentally set that fire.   No one knew I was an ARSONIST!  The episode was soon forgotten.

We all fear certain things.  My sister panics at the thought of flying.  Others fear heights or closed spaces.  My nephew fears germs and will not touch another person.  These fears may be groundless, but they are no less real causing dysfunction and misery.

Isaiah 41:10 (The Message) says, “Don’t panic.  I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength.  I’ll help you.  I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

The next time life overwhelms you and you feel like pressing that “Panic Button,” remember, if you belong to God, He holds you close with a firm and tender grip.  Have no fear.  He will not let you go, and…

The sun will come out tomorrow

 

AN ALL SEEING EYE

“There’s an all seeing eye watching you. Every step that you take His great eye is awake. There’s an all seeing eye watching you.”

When I was a little kid, we used to sing that old song in church. Those fearful words petrified me. Lying in bed, in the middle of the night, I could see that giant eye, one eye only, an eye with 20/20 vision, moving slowly back and forth, carefully watching everything I did, noting every little piece of mischief, and every scrap of disobedience. There was no way to escape that terrible eye.

However, as an adult, my thoughts concerning this “ALL SEEING EYE,” have totally changed. For now, I understand, and that truth that caused me nightmares, as a child, now blesses the socks off of me. Think of it! I am never out of God’s view or out of His mind. At any given moment, He knows exactly where I am and what I am doing.

An All Seeing Eye (1)

Now, I grant you that fact is rather disconcerting to an unrighteous man, who doesn’t necessarily want God to look in on his life. But to the one who loves and serves God, and longs after Him, God’s awareness of every detail of life is, to him, like Linus’ security blanket.

What a wonderfully assuring thing it is to know that God has my life in view!

Psalm 139 has always been a marvelous encouragement to me. First, David tells us that God is “acquainted with all our ways.” He knows every word we speak before it is ever uttered, and David continues by saying, “He has laid His hand upon me.” Think about it! As unbelievable as it may seem, God’s divine hand has touched your life. He has touched my life.

Just writing about it brings such wonder to my spirit.

In verses 7 – 10, David says, I can’t get away from you, God. “Where can I flee from your

“If I ascend into heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” By this time, David must have been dancing a gig shouting “GLORY! HALLELUJAH! HE IS MY GOD!”

An All Seeing Eye (2)

In verse 16, we read that every day of our life was planned before one of them ever came to be, before we ever existed. I cried the night before I flew off to Poland declaring that I wouldn’t go a step. That was in the days before “THE WALL” between the east and the west came down.

 

I was taking a bunch of religious materials for my teaching assignment. I had no idea what would happen, when the authorities searched my luggage. Perhaps I would be thrown into prison never to be seen again. I‘d heard stories like that.

When I entered the terminal in Warsaw, they already had my number. The loudspeaker was blaring, “Will the American woman from flight so and so please come to window number three?” I must admit, in that moment, this gal, who claimed never to be afraid of BUT GOD! God knew of this moment in my life before time began. He had already made all the arrangements. I haltingly answered the official’s questions, and he let me go without ever opening my luggage. God walked me through that terminal and sat with me and my belongings in an illegal taxi (What did this dumb girl know?) until I was safely at the domestic terminal ready to continue my journey.

Psalm 124:1 says, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,”

God was on my side that week in the city of Cieszyn, Poland, as I taught people who were eager to serve Him. When it was time to return to Brussels, all flights were cancelled because of a political uprising in Warsaw, and, yes, God already knew about that. So, with my translator, we suffered a wild taxi ride through a cold, snowy February afternoon to the railhead, where we boarded an overcrowded, no seats available train, for a five hour trip to Warsaw. Yes, God knew about that too.

On Monday evening, I flew back to Brussels with an overwhelming joy at the knowledge that God watched every step of the way.

Dear Reader, like it or not, “There’s an all seeing eye watching you.” He knows exactly what your day holds and the difficulties you will face. He has already provided for your victory.

Let the knowledge of his care draw you nearer to Him.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

THE BIG BAD WOLF…

When Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition first landed ashore on Roanoke Island, North Carolina in 1584, the white man’s 400 years war against wolves, in the new world, began. This 400 years battle nearly wiped out the wolf population. Now, after all these years, the wolves are being reintroduced into that area of the country. Why? Because, it was discovered that the wolf was not nearly the predator that he was thought to be. He is instead, a shy and secretive creature more apt to run away from man rather than to attack.

medicine

We often create real fear out of imagined circumstances. And fears always have catastrophic expectations attached to them. I have a friend who reads all the fine print on medication bottles. Every possible side effect, even if it has never been exhibited, is listed.

 

My friend has decided that she will surely be the one exception, so the medication is flushed down the toilet.

Fear is a terrible thing. It eats away at our innards and nibbles away at the edges of our soul. If gone unchecked, it can develop into paranoia bringing suspicion of everything and everybody, and total ruination to a life.

When I married Cecil, I became a passenger. Until then, I had always been the driver. Now I sat on the right hand-side of the car. To tell you the truth, Sweet Cecil’s driving sometimes scared the waddin’ out of me. He was a very observant man always exclaiming, “Oh, look over there,” or “Did you see that?” He had a penchant for driving toward whatever he was looking at, while I chewed my nails down to the knuckle.

dark woods (1)

I was the gal who had never been afraid of anything. I had traveled the world alone getting myself into this and out of that without a great deal of help from anyone, except God, of course.

I well remember my first trip to India.

 

I arrived in Calcutta at 5:00 a.m. with a connecting flight to Bangalore at 8:00 a.m. However that flight was delayed until 5:00 in the afternoon. What would I do? I was saddled with a great deal of paraphernalia, which I dared not take my eyes off of. It could disappear in a flash. It was finally arranged that I would rent a room upstairs, where I could rest a few hours.

Lying in that humble little cot feeling alone and a little bit sorry for myself, I whined, “God, nobody in the world knows where I am right now.”

God answered, “I do.” With that reassurance, I fell asleep and awoke refreshed ready for my continuing flight.

That’s the way I handled things. That’s the kind of gal I was.

Now, every time Cecil was three minutes late arriving home, I was sure that something catastrophic had happened to him. That kind of fear was new to me. I kept reminding myself that I was no longer alone. But then I had never been alone, had I?

“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf,” is a song written by Frank Churchhill in 1933 for the Disney film “The Three Little Pigs.”

dark woods

The wolf was the villain who terrorized The Three Little Pigs and blew down their houses. His big eyes and big teeth and treatment of grandmother also brought great fear to Little Red Riding Hood. Truth is there is a BIG BAD WOLF around every corner, if we are so inclined to entertain him.

Instead of expending our energies trying to defeat the wolf at our door, we are better served by leaning upon the infallible Word of God.

In Psalm 56:3, King David said, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?”

Again, in Psalm 27:1, he says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

The Word of God totally defeats the wolf. He has not one word to say in his own defense, but must turn tail and flee.

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy saying in chapter 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

If I understand this passage, it simply means that I have been given the ability to understand what fear really is, and I have been given the power of God to overcome it.

For according to 1 John 4:18, “…perfect love, (God’s love,which has been given to me,) casts out all fear…”

REMEMBER, tears, sorrow, fear may endure for the night, but JOY, SUNSHINE comes in the morning.