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Sunday, July 23, 2006
The God Who Sees Me
“And she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are the God who sees me’; for she said, have I also here seen Him who sees me?” Genesis 16:13

This is a "first" for me to live alone. I was born 5th in a family of 9 children. I lived at home and then later shared an apartment with other single teachers before I was married. So, it is quite an adjustment now to be alone. I’ve made it through one month! To mark the date, I took three of my grandchildren with me to the grave site. We stopped first and purchased bouquets of fresh flowers for each one of us to place on the grave. These are teaching moments for my grandchildren. I don’t want them to forget their wonderful grandpa.

At the grave, Charles said, “If Grandpa could see us, he would like these flowers wouldn’t he?” I assured the children that Grandpa would indeed love and appreciate our efforts to honor and respect his memory. In his childlike innocence, Charles had hit upon something, however. Many people like to imagine that their loved one can still “see” them after they are gone, but there is no biblical proof of that. It’s a hard finality to accept.

But what I do find in God’s Word is the assurance that I am not truly alone. In Genesis, there is the story of Hagar who suffered at the hands of her mistress, Sarah, and she ran from her presence. Feeling rejected and alone, Hagar was visited by the Angel of the Lord who spoke these words: “the Lord has heard your affliction.” What an unexpected revelation! She was moved by the realization that she was not alone and called the Lord “You are the God who sees me.”

When I struggle with the aloneness, I am reminded that “The God Who Sees Me” is watching over me too. He sees my pain, my struggles, my joys, my questions, my every need, and speaks comfort to my soul.

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.” Psalm 35:15

posted at 4:40 PM  

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Tomatoes and Memories
"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on...that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them." Revelation 14:13

There are four tomato plants in the backyard which Malcom planted in early spring. They are producing quite well and I have been eating fresh vine-ripened tomatoes every day. There is a story here, too. The last two times Malcom planted tomato plants in Taiwan, he never had the opportunity to enjoy eating the fruit of his labor because each time we made a trip back to the US just before they were ripe. Others enjoyed them “for” us and had fun teasing Malcom about planting tomatoes for them. This year when he planted the plants, he wondered if he would enjoy them this time, but it wasn’t to be so. On the morning of his funeral, I looked out the window and spied one small cherry tomato bright red and ready to pick. I buried it with him, so that he did indeed get the first tomato!

Now each time I eat one, I think fondly of Malcom’s love for gardening and planting. There are many fond memories of time spent together planting, pruning, watering, picking. It’s a legacy he has left me to enjoy now in the form of real tomatoes and later in memories.

But there is another legacy that I have from him that is even more precious. He was always faithful in spending time with the Lord, daily reading his Bible and praying for our children, church, and ministry. I came across one of his journals yesterday in which he recorded some of his prayers. Wow! What an awesome record to leave behind. I was touched to the core at the depth of his love for God, his love and concern for me, our children and grandchildren, his desire to serve the Lord faithfully and his compassion for the lost. His prayers reflect his humility and awe of God who loved an unworthy sinner. He has left me a legacy of true faithfulness that I can follow, even praying his prayers if I want to when overwhelmed by sorrow. It is a blessing and comfort.

posted at 3:39 PM  

Friday, July 14, 2006
No spin reality
“Today also my complaint is bitter, my hand is heavy on account of my groaning.” Job 23:2

This may come as a revelation to some: missionaries are not super human. I struggle with the same things that others struggle with. Just because I’m a missionary doesn’t mean I am immune to all human emotion when faced with overwhelming circumstances. No, in fact, I must admit that today I recognize what I feel is anger, pure and simple. I am not surprised by this emotion surfacing just 3 weeks after my husband’s death. I felt it many times over the course of Malcom’s battle with cancer. I am well aware it is one of the “stages” of grief even while hating the term as if losing one’s spouse so early in life were something I can just “get over” as the word “stage” implies.

The problem is, I have this huge store of heart-wrenching pain and I have nowhere to focus it. I can’t be angry at Malcom. He didn’t want to have cancer, he didn’t want to leave me! I can’t be mad at God. Sickness and death are the results of mankind’s depravity. So I will not blame God foolishly. In Job’s words, “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” (Job 23:12) I could focus my anger at Taiwan and refuse to return to the place that probably “gave” my husband cancer. But that would be disobedient to God's calling and play into Satan’s tactics to hinder the gospel. I could focus my anger on myself or others, but doing so would destroy whatever “good” is left of my miserable life.

It is one of those horrible emotions that has not outlet except to cry out to my Lord who created me and understands all my feelings. I am left, as Job, facing the fact that I am simply human and ache with a pain that cannot be soothed. It’s the reality of what one popular news figure calls a “no spin zone.” My husband is gone. My life as I knew it is changed. Even my role as missionary to Taiwan, although continuing, will be defined differently. I am a grandma without grandpa to help cuddle the grandkids. Every part of my “identity” is affected.

I can relate to Naomi in the book of Ruth. I feel her pain as she said, “Call me not Naomi (meaning pleasant), call me Mara (meaning bitter); for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.”

Both Job and Naomi’s stories ended with blessing. So there is a glimmer of hope that Carol, meaning joyful song, will one day find her joy and her song again.

posted at 3:43 PM  

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Brothers and Friends
"A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Proverbs 17:17

When I was a kid I thought this verse meant friends were to love and brothers were to fight with! Since I had 4 brothers, it seemed to fit! But of course that is not the meaning at all. Throughout my growing up years and into adulthood I realized more and more that true friends and brothers stick around when the going gets tough. At this time in my life I am especially thankful for loving children, faithful friends and "brothers" (and sisters!) whether they be blood relatives or blood-bought relatives. God is using you to strengthen and encourage me on a daily basis.

I look forward to the mail delivery every day because I know there will be a card or letter from someone who took time to write words of comfort for me. I eagerly open email and ecards because these things tell me "You're not alone!" A verse shared, an invitation to do lunch, a quick hello, a phone call or phone message are like showers of blessings coming my way.

Today my heart chooses not to focus on what I have lost, but lift my focus in thankfulness to the Lord who has blessed me with brothers and friends.

posted at 1:07 PM  

Sunday, July 09, 2006
From "we" to "me"
"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God." 2 Corinthians 3:5

The inscription inside mine and Malcom's wedding bands reads, "Now We Are One". That was our goal, to be so unified in heart and soul that we truly were one. Somehow over the course of more than 33 years of marriage that happened. His pain was my pain, his joys mine. I had grown accustomed to weighing in his thoughts on any decision I made. We respected one another's opinions, put the other's desires before our own. Now suddenly it is no longer "we" but "me". I feel like half of me is missing. The enormity of the loss is overwhelming at times as I realize every day just how much I depended upon him, how much he "completed" me.

I find now that I am fearful because my protector is gone. I'm lonely, even in a group of people, because my closest confidant is gone. As far as earthly relationships go, the light of my life has gone out and I struggle in the dark to discover how to live as just "me."

Today the Lord gently reminded me of a verse which I had learned in the first year of our marriage: 2 Corinthians 3:5 tells me that my sufficiency is of God. Whatever I lack, He is the one that can complete it. I can exchange my fear for His confidence. I can exchange my loneliness for His presence. He knew exactly what we needed then to become one, and He knows now exactly what I need to live as just "me".

posted at 12:53 AM