Maybe Life is a Little Bit More

For some reason, I have lost my blogging mojo! I have not lost my enthusiasm about the blog; I love writing and I love my blog. It is as if I have lost my energy and concentration. It is at these junctures, I need to push myself into deeper water. In deeper water, I can either give up and drown or dig into that well of reserves and swim with more determination.  So, here I am swimming with determination, but in what direction? I am floundering with what to whittle out, though in reality the pickings are truly abundant. Hey, there’s a word — “abundant.” Seems like a great word for the Christmas season. Now, I am not talking about prosperity, I am talking about abundance. Prosperity, on the other hand, has more to do with material possessions and affluence. Scratch prosperity, that is not what I want to talk about, though I think the two get mingled together into one ideology never considering the distinctions.  

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the Prosperity Gospel or New Thought) peddles a controversial religious thinking filled with accusations of hypocrisy. This notion promotes the will of God as always being financial blessings and the alleviation of sickness and poverty. Faith, prayer, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. If humans have faith in God, He will deliver security and prosperity; after all, it is God’s will for His people to be blessed. One prominent proponent of these teachings is Joel Osteen. Osteen owns a $10.5 million, 17,000 square foot mansion with 6 bedrooms and bathrooms, 5 open wood fire places, 3 elevators, a guest house, an outdoor pool, and pool house in River Oaks, Texas (a ‘burb’ of Houston, Texas, paying over $260,000 in property taxes yearly.) *Picture below

Joel Osteen’s Mansion

His lifestyle includes fancy cars (for sure a Ferrari), private jets, yachts, tailored suits, a wife refined by lavish jewels, attired in top quality garments, etc. His estimated net worth is $50-60 million. A satirical joke by the Babylon Bee circulated during Hurricane Harvey saying, “Joel Osteen Sails Luxury Yacht Through Flooded Houston To Pass Out Copies Of ‘Your Best Life Now.’ ” (it is worth a little chuckle!) Now, I am going to just leave this right here because I am not a proponent of this doctrine. However, I will toss out a couple questions to ponder:

  1. Who is the primary beneficiary of the prosperity gospel? The leader?
  2. Wouldn’t Jesus have been the wealthiest man on earth?
  3. How do you explain the persistence of suffering, sickness, and disaster among Christians?
  4. Where are treasures laid up under this religiosity? – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…”

I really want to try to keep this simple. Abundant living is not material blessings as I interpret scripture. I believe abundant living is quite the opposite. Abundant living is:

  • Faith and hope in Jesus; eternal life –
  • A true personal relationship with Jesus – “…the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God…”
  • Pray, Pray, Pray about everything – “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”
  • Reading the Bible – learning and maturing in wisdom and knowledge of truth – ““Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”
  • Trusting in God’s power and presence in your life – “”I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”
  • Trusting that God is all knowing – ““I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning…”
  • Desiring God more than what the world offers like material possessions, status, achievement, recognition, popularity, approval, acceptance, attention, idolatry, fulfillment of the flesh
  • Practicing the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control
  • Confessing our sins regularly; asking forgiveness from God and others; apologizing; swallowing pride and humbling oneself to specifically say “I’m sorry for…”  – “The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in loving kindness.” The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth…”
  • Asking God for help and helping others – “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
  • Choosing gratitude, being thankful for EVERYTHING – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in ALL circumstances” (not some), “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you…”
  • Contentment in ALL circumstances – “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” “O, taste and see that the Lord is good…”
  • Choosing joy and peace amidst grief, difficult circumstances, and painful struggles (the list is not comprehensive, but here are many to contemplate choosing joy and peace amidst the pain) –

Death of a spouse
Divorce or Marital separation
Imprisonment
Death of a close family member
Personal injury or illness, major surgeries
Mental Illness
Abuse
Job termination or resignation
Retirement
Change in health of family member
Loss of Pregnancy or child
Sexual difficulties
Change in financial state
Death of a close friend
Change to different line of work
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan
Bankruptcy
Disability
Change in responsibilities at work
Child leaving home
Trouble with in-laws or family members
Spouse starts or stops employment
Change in living conditions
Revision of personal habits
Change in residence, moving
Change in church
Change in sleeping habits
Change in eating habits
Christmas & Holidays & Anniversaries
Home invasion, theft of property or threat of
Loss of Trust, Betrayal, Loss of Approval, Loss of Safety  

  • Deep, abiding peace that passes all understanding that does not come from deep breathing and counting to ten
  • Choosing to live a changed new life as a new creation through the power of Christ
  • Surrendering our will and desires over to God – one example is addictions, which includes failing, recovering, adjusting, enduring, overcoming, over and over until we have victory
  • Resting in God’s sovereignty and timing – “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” “I the Lord do not change.”
  • Loving and giving to others – “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  “…give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

You see, the abundant life is NOT an abundance of tangible “stuff” purchased at stores or online amassed in our homes or owning finer things keeping up appearances or keeping up with the Joneses, accumulating treasures here on earth. The abundant life is about the abundance of Jesus. I have often looked around our home and wondered what if I literally sold it all? A young man approached Jesus asking what good thing must he do to receive eternal life. Jesus replied, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Just think about that for a minute. What if we sold all our material prosperity and gave the money to the poor? What if?

Charlie Brown struggled with the meaning of Christmas and the trappings of consumerism until Linus tells him the true meaning of Christmas.

And, even the Grinch in all his grinchiness finally grasps:

“He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling. “How could it be so?

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!”

He puzzled and puzzled til his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

The abundant life is about eternity with Jesus – “setting our minds on things above” and “storing up treasures in heaven.”  The abundant life is a state of being from within and living it outwardly toward others. The abundant life is a continual, un-ending season of giving; it is living out our faith through good deeds and blessing others. The abundant life is following Jesus.

Love you, mean it!

In Celebration of Grandparents, Part Two

June 23, 1969 at 7:50 am, my grandma passes away at the hospital. I am five. It is my brother’s birthday. What a mingling of joy and sorrow!

When I envision the events, it appears as a macular vulnerability zone, the peripheral edges are cloudy, but I can focus in on a few snapshots. That morning, we are all at their house. I am sitting at the kitchen table as a flurry of activity swirls about. My aunt emerges from the bedroom somewhat hysterical repeatedly saying, “She’s throwing up black bile…”  My brother and I are removed from the house, taken to my other grandmother’s home. I am told that when my grandma passed away, my father sat on the edge of her hospital bed holding her, rocking back and forth, crying. I have a vague glimpse of the funeral home. I am standing alone beside a chair way back from the coffin, watching guests filter through. My brother and I are not allowed to go to the graveside and are taken to my other grandmother’s home. My parents pick us up late afternoon and take us home. We do not talk about ‘it.’ We do not cry. My mother tells me years later that our lives changed forever that day. About one week later, I startle awake in the middle of the night, begin walking around; I am incoherent making blood curdling screams. My mother is shaking me violently demanding to know what is wrong. I am five. I have no idea. I stop and go back to sleep. The next day I overhear my mother tell someone that she thinks it was a reaction to my grandmother dying.    

Even though I am only five, I love my grandma and I know she loves me! She hugs me, she sits really close to me, she spends time with me, she cares about my well-being and safety, and they are always happy to see me; I feel warmly welcomed into their home! I have a few cherished memories.

When I am six months old, they tell me I traveled all over out west on vacation with the entire family, visiting states such as Utah, Mexico, Oklahoma, Nevada, Colorado, California, etc. On that trip, my grandma buys me a little doll made of pink seashells. That doll sits in my bedroom for years and years. One day the glue holding the shells together begins to crumble from age. The shell doll joints are compromised and collapses into a pile of pink shells. I put those pink shells in a brown paper bag, pack them away in a chest, and every now and again get them out in remembrance. Many years ago, my husband and I are looking through a tote of memento. He picks up the brown paper bag, opens it, and pours the contents onto the bed. Not knowing what they are, he busts laughing asking me why I keep a pile of old pink seashells in a brown paper bag. We are bursting with hilarity. With my stomach aching from laughter and a mixture of joyful sentimental tears in my eyes, I explain the contents of my package to him. He knows it is much more than a year’s worn brown paper bag of old pink seashells. My grandma breezes by that day and I would like to believe she was laughing right along with us!

My mother drops me off once or twice a week at my grandparents for them to babysit. Grandma is always busying herself about the house doing something. And, I tag behind wanting to help her with whatever she is doing. Of course, it is not about what she was doing, it is about being with her. She always cooks a noon meal. My grandfather comes home at noon from doing his carpentry work to eat. I love being with them; it feels safe. After lunch, she does the dishes. When I am there, she places a kitchen chair right next to her at the sink, gives me a dishtowel, and I stand on that chair drying the dishes as she washes. Now remember, she is blind from the diabetes, but she continues to manage all the household chores. My mother tells me she would get down on her hands and knees with a 2 x 4 to scrub the floors, moving the 2 x 4 as she scrubbed, using the edge of that 2 x 4 as the indicator of where she was going. My mother also tells me that my grandmother continued to do laundry and iron despite the imperfections. I think my grandmother is amazing!

Many afternoons, when the dishes are done, my grandma hauls out the crayons and coloring books. This is my favorite time! I sit really close nestled by her side at the kitchen table coloring pages together. She often remarks, “Mine sure doesn’t look very good. I’m sorry I cannot see to stay in the lines.” And, I say, “It’s OK grandma, yours looks pretty.” Truthfully, my coloring is rather pathetic! It was not really about coloring, it was about spending time with her. I never saw her as blind, I think because she lived life as though she could see, with a few amenities that I never noticed.

Sometimes my brother is there. My grandmother keeps two skateboards on the porch for us to ride up and down the front sidewalk. My brother heads out the front door with me in tow, my grandmother telling us to be careful and not let the metal wheels run over our little fingers. We never stand on the skateboards to ride; we sit on them, push off the pavement with our hands, then hold on to the base as we speed down the incline of the sidewalk. My brother is a daredevil, but if he is doing something, certainly I am, too! And, we never run over our little fingers with the wheels!

Once a week my mother washes and sets my grandmother’s hair. My grandmother always uses Prell Shampoo and Dippity Do! The smell of Prell Shampoo and Dippity Do are forever locked away in my olfactory glands. Several years ago, my husband and I are visiting some friends, and on their kitchen countertop sits a bottle of Prell Shampoo. I literally do a double take! I immediately pick it up, open the bottle, and inhale a huge whiff. My grandma breezes by just for a split second.

Their house actually has two separate front doors. One door leads out to the porch where my grandfather can be found in the late afternoon or evenings quietly watching time pass. I want to go out there to sit with him, but there is a scary barrier between me and the front porch – a little black polka-dotted ceramic pug dog! Sometimes I forget about the little black polka-dotted ceramic pug dog and head that way because I want to sit with my grandpa on the porch. But, every time I see it sitting in the corner by the door, that dog utterly terrifies me into an immobile phobia. Funniest thing, no one knows of my phobia over this non-living tangible object. Somehow, I have personified this little dog; I fear he will attack me. When I come to my senses, I scurry out of that room, go out the other door, and make my way to the front porch where my grandfather welcomes me. I wonder what happened to that dog.

Here is where I think the root of my phobia lies. My grandparents live next door to a younger couple who have a little boy named Todd. He is about one year younger than me. On rare occasion, we play together. Now my mother has built a relationship with the mom because of course she is toting her Avon wares. My mother learns about the mean, ferocious German shepherd named Bullet that resides in their back yard. Apparently, Mr. Bullet has severely attacked a number of people and the officials have a close watch, as his life will be exterminated if one more person is attacked. They keep him secluded in the back yard behind a solid six-foot wooden fence that no eye can see through. I am forbidden to step foot in the back yard, and further prohibited to get anywhere near the fence. For some reason, I think that applies to Todd as well.  Now I have never laid eyes on this beast. One day, Todd and I are playing on the front sidewalk. Todd’s dad is mowing the back yard. He comes out of the gate telling Todd that he wants him to come in the back yard and help him pick up lawn clippings. Todd enters the forbidden zone!  The gate remains open and I watch him walk across the back lawn. Nothing is happening. Perhaps I could help pick up grass clippings as well. There is no dog attacking Todd. There is no dog barking. Maybe Bullet does not really exist. I peek into the forbidden zone from the open gate. I see no dog anywhere. I begin to walk gently across the grass into the forbidden zone with keen vigilance. I get about ten steps in when out of this doghouse shoots a Bullet in pursuit of none other than me. I let out a blood-curdling piercing scream, turn, and take off running about the speed of light. I am inches from the open gate when Bullet chomps down twice on my right butt cheek! I am bitten and bleeding through my shorts. It is a miracle that savage brute did not eat me alive! Now I have zero memory until I recall laying on my stomach under the brilliant lights on a table in the ER, not crying a drop, getting my butt stitched up, and asking over and over again, “Where’s my dad?” For days, I am afraid to sit down, have a bowel movement, run, or do any activity that might rip my butt open. I have cynophobia for many years. Bullet was not exterminated due to my injuries, but months later, he got loose and literally tore the stomach out of a man walking down the street. Bullet’s life ended that day. My grandmother carried much guilt over this incident because she heard me scream, but was unable to get to me because of her vision. It is all good grandma; I did not follow the rules!

At Christmas, when I am four, I get a tiny pretty wrapped box. Everyone is watching me open this gift. I remove the lid and see cotton squares. I confiscate the cotton from the box and squealed with delight, “Oooo, just what I wanted, cotton for my baby” being very thankful for my grandmother’s thoughtfulness. Everyone starts laughing, but I do not understand. My aunt takes the box and shows me that inside is a silver heart necklace with tiny different colored rhinestones around the edge. I have a picture of me wearing that necklace. And guess what? I still have the necklace 51 years later stored away in a little cedar box in my closet in mint condition along with her wristwatch. I take it out every now and again. My grandma breezes by for a split second.

A couple years ago, I am visiting with my aunt, asking her all kinds of questions about the family line. We talk about my grandma for just a bit. My aunt says to me, “You are just like her! You have her same spirit!” For me, it was a huge honor to consider that I carry a piece of my grandma forward in this world. Now I do not have diabetes and I am not blind, but these are matters of the heart. I think she breezed by that day and smiled. I walk out of my aunt’s house on a little cloud.

You see one day, the heavens will part and be rolled back as a scroll, and although Jesus will be waiting to welcome me home, I’d like to believe that grandma will be standing there waiting to welcome me into her new home. In eternity, when time shall be no more, I want to hug her, sit really close to her, hold her hands, and tell her how much I love her. On occasion, I think about her and wonder what my life could have been with her alive; maybe my life would not have changed forever that day.

Love you, mean it!

My Friend “PSB”

Today on my music playlist the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Susan Boyle randomly played. My friend PSB came to mind. PSB and I shared a love for Susan Boyle and Josh Groban. It is not as if we sat around listening to their music, but we were quick to share if a new CD released; we would play each other a certain song we loved. We laughed that we played one song that captured us over and over and over and over.  

I met PSB working in the HR department of a past employer. Sometimes I think God calls us to a place for just a little window of time because He wants us to meet someone; like that ancient Chinese proverb about the invisible red thread connecting those destine to meet. I only worked at this particular employer for a little over a year and a half. About a year in PSB was hired. She was having difficulty learning the job. I had not met PSB yet, but I sat back watching and listening for a couple weeks. I was irritated with their treatment of her – making fun of her, talking behind her back, and setting her up for failure – like big bullies in the work place! Now, I will fight the crusade for an underdog in certain circumstances and I certainly felt compelled in this injustice. One day in the break room, I saw her sitting at a table by herself crying. I felt her pain searing through me like the blade of a knife. I quietly walked over, introduced myself, and sat down. I explained to her that I knew there was a struggle and asked her if the supervisor would agree, if I could sit with her for the afternoon. She seemed thrilled. I made my way to the supervisor and requested that she allow me to sit with PSB and assess the situation. The supervisor thankfully agreed. Turns out her learning had nothing to do with her ability, but rather the inadequate, incompetent, careless failures of the trainers. What these morons could not understand is that training must be adapted to the learning style. We do not all have the same learning framework. In one month, I trained PSB. She became one of the best reps for the company and remained with them for about five years. God orchestrated that scenario to initiate a fourteen-year friendship that I treasured.

PSB and I also shared a love of designing and making jewelry. A couple years after I met PSB, she told me she was noticing the bracelets I was wearing. I told her I made them all. She was like, “What? Can you teach me how?” I taught her a few basics, but PSB was the type to dive to the farthest depths in her interests; she became completely immersed. She started taking classes at a little independent bead shop. I took a couple classes with her, but worked so much, that I did not have much time to invest. She ate, slept, and breathed jewelry design and began waking up in the middle of the night sketching out patterns from her mind. I was blown away at her all-consuming passion. In great haste, she far surpassed me. As work devoured my life, she decided that she would take the classes and to reinforce her skills, she would teach me the pattern when I could make time. It worked out great until I was too exhausted to comprehend a bead pattern. She then offered for me to buy the materials and in turn, she would make me pieces that she had learned. Fabulous! I still have several pieces and will cherish them forever!

One Saturday afternoon we were all three driving around to a few stores. PSB mentioned she saw on Dr. Oz something about ear candles. We were like, “What?” She insisted we drive around to the health stores and find ear candles. The approximate 10-inch candles, which are hollow fabric cones soaked in wax or paraffin cost about $2 each. Finally, at 8:30 pm we found the ear candles at a small GNC in a secluded strip mall area. We bought six.

We returned to our home. She was giddy with excitement. She decided Bryon would be the Guinee pig. We got a bowl of water to extinguish the flaming cone when done. We cut a hole in a paper plate and stuck the candle into the paper plate, which was to make a barrier between the ear and the flame to make sure candle wax and ash did not fall on his face. We had Bryon lie down on the bed on his side. We placed the candle in his ear canal and lit the other end of the cone on fire. The flame took off like a blaze of glory nearly catching Bryon and the bed on fire. We squealed, Bryon jumped up, we quickly tossed the flaming cone into the bowl of water, PSB and I were rolling with laughter while my husband said, “That’s it, I’m not doing this.” I did not think we would stop laughing. Finally, when everything settled, we actually burned ear candles in all of our ears. PSB wanted to see what was inside the cone after we were done. We set out cutting open those cones and looked in disgust at what appeared to be wax suctioned right out of the ear canal. Later we found out that the debris inside burned ear candles is supposed to be the impurities removed from your ear, but in reality, the debris shows up in the candles even if they have not been near an ear canal. We later learned that the contents were a blend of burned candle wax and fabric. We often reminisced and laughed over our experiment. She was always coming up with silly experiments for us to try. One time she arrived toting Bioré blackhead removing and pore cleansing strips. My husband refused to engage so we went into the bedroom and giggled ourselves silly playing with those strips. She continued to watch and share Dr. Oz and Dr Phil religiously. She told me she wished Dr Phil had been her father; she adored his strength of character and wisdom.

PSB would keep a small notebook beside her at all times. She kept lists of everything – to do, appointments, errands, scripts, and one list was everything she wanted to tell me or talk to me about next time we were together. I loved it! She called me “Sissy” and I her. Now PSB had her stuff and I had mounds of my own, but we never pushed and prodded for information. We enjoyed each other’s company and could chat for hours. PSB was not a Christian, but she knew I was a believer. Because my vehicle had a fish decal on the back, she called my car the “Jesusmobile” yet she was always ready to get in and take off on some adventure. I never pushed my beliefs onto her, but rather lived them out before her and I felt she respected my spirituality.

PSB was a girlie girl and I was not. One time she convinced me to get a pedicure and a manicure with her. I was so out of my element and nearly popped out of the chair when some Vietnamese woman began massaging my legs. Never did that again, but we laughed ourselves silly! Sometimes she would be putting on her make up when I or we arrived. When done, she would look at herself in the mirror, blow a kiss at herself, and say, “What a pretty girl!” Just comical! Sometimes she would act as if she was kissing her arms up and down, say, “Such a pretty girl”, and just giggle at herself. PSB had a dramatic flair. When telling me something, her antics were off the charts and made me laugh so hard. She had a confident strength that I lacked, which gave me a little more self-assurance when we were together. She refused to go to thrift stores. We would intentionally kid with her and say we are going thrifting today; she would get a high-pitched voice and say, “Bugs, Bugs!”

My husband, PSB, and I went to The Haunted Forest one Halloween. On the dark roads driving there, PSB kept saying, “My stomach is queasy. I think I’m gonna throw up.” My husband kept instigating the situation by pointing out how dark the country roads were. In pure fear, I like to never made it out of the forest alive. We laughed ourselves silly. Each fall we would take a color drive enjoying the crisp air and beautiful colors. One year we stopped at an orchard and took silly pictures with our heads in wooden holes – she was the scarecrow and I was the corn stalk. Late spring into summer, we would take a drive along the lakeshore. She would tell us happy memories about raising her daughter and taking her on picnics at the lake. She adored our two Maine Coon cats. She came over to visit shortly after having her knee replacement and our large male Maine Coon jumped up to get his dose of loving, but landed directly on her knee. She winced in pain, but loved on that gentle giant cat that we all adored.  PSB had some health issues that came on after her knee replacement and revision, which slowly began to diminish her life. Her visiting me/us slowly faded away, but myself or my husband and myself would regularly visit at her place. She liked a fountain Diet Coke, so anytime my husband and I went to visit, he would get her a large fountain Diet Coke. She loved it! Each and every time, her first drink of the Diet Coke, she would say, “Ahhhh, burns all the way down” with a smile on her face. Sometimes my husband and I say that to each other to this day. PSB did not care for men whatsoever at first, but slowly my husband was able to break that barrier and gain her trust. She nicknamed him “Sparky.” They shared a mutual banter. Anytime he would swat at a bug flying by, she would wave at him and say, “Hi Hi!” It was something between the two of them. One Friday evening she announced that she wanted to go out to eat somewhere so she could get pancakes. We all headed to Mr. Burger. Unbeknownst to us, PSB brought sugar free syrup in her purse. When we got to the table, my husband asked her if she wanted him to get her some syrup. She loudly proclaimed, “Are you trying to kill me? I’m a diabetic!” In shock and humor, we died laughing!

Though we both never shared the depths of our ugly pasts, we quietly knew they existed. Little things would trickle out from each of us that we discussed in small ways, but I knew she carried a heartache that engulfed her and suffocated her at times. And, on four occasions, our ugly parts collided, fracturing the friendship into shards for lengthy seasons of silence – the first time an entire year passed, the second and third times a few months passed, but the fourth time two years passed. These seasons were very sad and difficult for me. Somehow, we always found our way back and forged onward without a word of what happened as if sweeping it under the carpet kept it hidden with the rest of our secrets.

As her mental and physical health issues continued to limit her, she lost her driver’s license, she lost her stamina to walk, she slept two thirds of the day, and I began an unexpected role of faithful caregiver — cleaning, doing dishes, picking up groceries, driving her to do errands when she could manage it, and taking her to doctor appointments. One day when I was visiting, she said, “Deeon, would you speak to me about spiritual matters.” In that moment, I knew that through the years God had been softening her heart so that she could hear His calling. For years, I steadily lived out and offered her the love of Christ whenever and wherever possible. I would tell her about sermons we heard at church and she would listen attentively. She knew a few old hymns she remembered from going to a little neighborhood church when she was child. We would sing those select few hymns together; she held harmony like an angel. I shared Jesus with her that night.

One Saturday evening she called me and asked if we could come over. She said she was not able to breathe very well and just did not feel good. We rushed over. She was unable to walk from the living to the kitchen. I convinced her to let us take her to the ER. She begged me not to leave her there alone. I promised. After numerous tests, imaging, and blood work, they sent her home suggesting she had a respiratory infection. We picked up her scripts, got her settled at home, and crawled into our bed at five am. I checked on her regularly. The following Wednesday she called and asked if I would take her to a specialist appointment stating the hospital had called to tell her that her CT scan imaging showed shadows on her liver. I tried to encourage her in my ignorance. I told her that whatever this was, we were going through it together. A deep, dark fog of sadness fell over us when the doctor announced that she had stage IV liver cancer and had one to two months to live. A piercing silence echoed so loud, we lost our senses, like a demon screeching in the face of salvation. For me, it became all business and helping her manage her affairs. That diagnosis and prognosis rejuvenated an inner strength in her that I had not seen in a couple years. Together, we got her life in order, visited the mortician, she signed over her finances to me, and told me what she wanted done with each and everything she owned.

Two Saturdays later, I tried to call her around 10 am, no answer. I thought she was sleeping. I tried to call her around 12 pm, no answer. I thought she was still sleeping. I tried to call her around 5 pm, no answer. I left a message each time, but did not hear back. Around 7 pm, my husband and I decided we had better go over and check on her. She had a security entrance; we like to never got into the place. Finally, we got to her apartment, knocked, she answered, and I felt such relief, as driving over I certainly was expecting the worse. But, immediately I knew something was not right. PSB had a blank affect. She asked what we were doing. We explained that we had been trying to get a hold of her all day. She sat down on the couch and said, “I’m fine.” I immediately knew we were in crisis. Her phone was blaring the off the hook signal and the phone itself was in pieces as if she had thrown it against the wall in frustration. I asked her for her doctor’s phone number and her daughter’s phone number. She kept thumbing through her address book over and over, but could not comprehend or remember what she was doing. I asked her if she wanted to go to the ER. She adamantly said, “No!” I asked her why. She insisted she was fine. Finally, I convinced her to allow me to call her Oncologist on my cell phone and if he suggested she should go to the ER, would she? She agreed. I called their emergency number; they told me to get her to the ER immediately. 

We got PSB to the ER around 10 pm. The doctor began asking her a series of questions. Who is the current president – she said Reagan; what year is it – she said 1923; what is your name – she gave her maiden name; how old are you – she looked at me as if begging for help and the doctor went on. I turned my head and a tear escaped before I could catch it. The doctor left the room and she quickly asked me the answers to the questions. She kept repeating them in her feeble attempt to retain the answers in case she was asked again. She then began to projectile vomit. My husband immediately left the room. She looked at me in desperation and said, “Please, don’t leave me. Can you help me clean up?” I immediately jumped into action, grabbed latex gloves, collected up all the soiled sheets and her gown, cleaning her up and putting on a fresh gown, laying her back down on the gurney, and finished cleaning up the room by the time the doctor returned. The doctor informed us that PSB had hepatic encephalopathy; she was being admitted for further treatment. She begged me over and over to take her home. Finally, I convinced her it was best that she stayed because they could help her more than I could. I promised her I would be back each and every day for however long. Each afternoon and evening, I made my way up to the hospital. Each afternoon and evening, she begged me to take her home. Each evening, we would hold hands and watch Jeopardy together, and then I would tell her it was time for me to go home. And, each evening as I left her there, I would turn, look at her, tell her I loved her, and she would wave good-bye and say, “Over the Rainbow.” I knew it would not be long.

She recovered just a smidge, enough to get some coherency, but rather than allow her to go home, they transported her to a nursing home. It was a horrible nursing home! With much effort and demand, they finally placed her in a quiet, private room because Hospice knew the end was near. In the quiet of her room, she told what a good friend I had been to her, she said like no friend she had ever had. And, I told her how much her friendship meant to me. She said, “At this age, we don’t find good friends like this very often.” Our talk was minimal, but each night we continued to hold hands, watch Jeopardy, say our nightly good-byes, and she would say, “Over the Rainbow.” The last night I went to visit, I suspected she was passing away. I kept watching her intently, and it seemed to me that she was between two worlds. She would slightly open her eyes and slightly smile in acknowledgement that I was there, but no words were spoken. She would drift back away; a pleasant smile and peace would come across her face as I sat there watching. She lifted her hand in search of mine; we held hands; she smiled and drifted back to that place of peace. Finally, she remained in that place that I know not of and we quietly left. This time I quietly said, “See you over the rainbow my friend.”

June 12, 2014 at 2 am, my friend PSB quietly passed away by herself; I knew it was something she would do alone. I received a phone call the next morning around 10 am letting me know she was gone. Tears failed me as usual, but I sat in silence believing in my soul that the night before I had witnessed a passing between two worlds, from this earth into the presence of Jesus. I knew in my soul she was seeing and experiencing a love and peace she had never, ever known this side of heaven. I yearn for that sweet reunion someday!

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Philippians 2:1-5

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” 

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Love you, mean it!

Here’s to you my friend! I sure do miss you!

Love you, mean it!

Yet I Will Praise

In the mornings, I often ask Google to play my Christian favorites song playlist while I tend to morning chores. Some mornings a song comes on that profoundly captures my heart. I sit down in quietness, close my eyes, sometimes just listen, and sometimes quietly sing along. I am consumed with tears. The song washes over me with a pure reflective sense of God’s presence throughout my life. The words focus my spirit on a deep gratitude and yearning for heaven where I will forever be in His eternal presence – safe, healed, and loved like I have never felt. I play the song over and over in pure meditation.

I wanted to share this morning’s song with you — Yet I Will Praise by Nicole Sponberg. Sit down, close your eyes, and just listen. Reflect and meditate….

I will praise You Lord my God
Even in my brokenness
I will praise You Lord
I will praise You Lord my God
Even in my desperation
I will praise You Lord

And I can’t understand
All that You allow
I just can’t see the reason
But my life is in Your hands
And though I cannot see You
I choose to trust You

Even when my heart is torn
I will praise (trust) You Lord
Even when I feel deserted
I will praise (trust) You Lord
Even in my darkest valley
I will praise (trust) You Lord
And when my world is shattered
And it seems all hope is gone
Yet I will praise You Lord

I will trust You Lord my God
Even in my loneliness
I will trust You Lord
I will trust You Lord my God
Even when I cannot hear You
I will trust You Lord

And I will not forget
That You hung on a cross
Lord You bled and died for me
And if I have to suffer
I know that You’ve been there
And I know that You’re here now

Love you, mean it!