Love

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A friend of mine asked at lunch last week why I haven’t written anything on my blog for many months.  I told her I had felt the nudge to write a couple of times, but just didn’t feel up to it.  Well, today I do.  And so I’m writing this blog for my friend, who like me, is beyond her twenties, but still appreciates and is practicing love.

I’ve discovered a song that is becoming one of my new favorites.  It’s by Ed Sheeran and it’s called Thinking Out Loud.  It’s a beautiful love story between two young people (in their early twenties).  The man in love is telling his wife or girlfriend that their love will endure forever–all the way into their 70s.  Now for those of us close to or already in our seventies, that makes us smile!

He goes on, though her legs may fail and he loses his hair and their memories fade, their love will still prevail.  And then, what I really love about the song is this lyric–your soul can never grow old, it’s ever green.

I see this love in the facility where my 93-year-old mother resides.  I see it in a friend in her 80s who has fallen in love again years after her husband has passed away.  I see this love on Facebook when my friends post anniversary photos and messages of powerful affection to their long-time spouses.  Love of any kind makes us glow!

So here’s the song:

Love is real and love is powerful.

So today and every day, love a spouse, love a friend, love a neighbor–

and may your soul remain ever green!

 

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Helgi

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Helgi loved bright colors.

 

My 91-year-old mother lives in a supervised independent living facility just down the road a bit from where I live. It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people—both those who live there and those who work there. One side of the facility is assisted living–for those who need extra support and help.

I feel great joy when I visit with my mother and the many residents who reside there. There’s Joyce, who sits near the front entrance in the beautiful lobby, who takes my hand each time I come into the building, with a ready smile. There are hugs from Roy and his wife Pat, Susie, Art (a gem of a person), just to name a few. And Helgi.

Helgi was born in Czechoslovakia. Her grandparents perished in a concentration camp during the German Occupation. But Helgi and her mother were fortunate. They escaped to London, where they survived the bombings of that city during WWII. She and her mother eventually reconnected with her father, who had immigrated to America several years earlier. Helgi eventually married, was a nurse, and outlived all of her family. She was a beautiful lady.

I say was—because three days ago Helgi left this world.

I knew she wasn’t feeling well and I had planned on stopping to see her. Helgi was a woman of Faith. And I felt a deep desire to sit and pray with her. Except, I didn’t. I got busy with other things. Unfortunately, we all do that—even those of us who are His Followers.

It was two days ago that I finally stopped by Helgi’s apartment—and it was empty. Someone said she had moved to the assisted living side of the facility. So I walked the halls looking for her name outside each assisted living apartment. Finally, when I couldn’t find her, I went to the front desk.

They know me there. I come to see my mother almost every day. When I asked about Helgi, they said, “She died yesterday afternoon.”

I couldn’t help myself. I got emotional, choking out these words, “But I had hoped to sit down and pray with her. The Lord was nudging me, and I didn’t listen. I should have. I’m so sorry.” The receptionist looked at me with kind and tearful eyes, “I know,” she said.

It’s only been a few days and I’m still feeling the loss of a friend. The missed opportunity to spend time with someone transitioning from this world to the next saddens me still. And I am reminded of the blessings we receive when we listen to the nudges of the Lord.

I hope to be a better listener the next time.

The Lady Across the Hall

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I just got home a couple of days ago from a 4-day stay in the hospital—a surprise attack of diverticulitis. I didn’t see it coming—and I had no idea, until now, how serious diverticulitis disease can be. I’m grateful we caught it early and that serious dosages of antibiotics are resolving the issue.

I must admit there were times during the 4 days in the hospital that I was worried—anxious even. And I failed to do the one thing I do routinely several times each day—turn to the Lord in prayer. I’d start a prayer, but just couldn’t finish or follow through.

One night, the lady across the hall from me was having a very difficult time. She had come into the hospital that day from a nursing home—alone, afraid, confused, and needing a lot of attention.

The nursing staff did their best to address her issues, but honestly, with all the running to and from her room throughout the night, they began to grow weary.

It was difficult for me to sleep with all the ruckus and it would have been easy to become frustrated or annoyed by the disruptions, but I felt for the woman. I thought about my own 91-year-old mother. What if she were in trouble, alone, confused, and frightened—and in a hospital.

And I began to pray in a way I wasn’t able to for the past two days. I prayed for this woman who needed comfort and help.

Routinely, in the morning, when the staff’s shift is over, the evening nurse comes by to introduce the next nurse who will be taking his or her place for the day.

Well, the next morning, there were two nurses instead of one assigned to our unit—with one nurse dedicated to the woman across the hall. I could hear this kind, experienced nurse talking to the elderly woman. She had obviously been trained to work with the elderly and/or difficult patients. Her presence, concern, kindness and patience had a calming effect on the distraught older woman.

I wept. Because I was touched by what the hospital and the Lord had done for her.

I quickly turned in prayer to the Lord and thanked Him for sending someone to comfort this dear lady. And I was reminded once again of His Great Love and Boundless Compassion. Do I believe in the power of prayer?  Absolutely!  And it was my blessing to see His Hand at work.

The Beggar

 

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Inside the Forbidden City

In 2007, the year before the 2008 Olympics, I made my 12th business trip to China. I was blessed with the privilege of traveling to many wonderful countries in my work—Germany, China, India. I even went to Africa.

Beijing is one of my favorite cities and whenever I was there, I always visited the Forbidden City—where the emperors of China once lived many years ago.

There’s a small fee to get inside the walls of the ancient city—and it was there in line to buy my ticket that I had an experience that forever touched my heart.

While I was waiting in the long, long line to buy my pass, I saw a tiny, emaciated, one-legged beggar using a crooked tree branch as his crutch—standing right beside me.

He didn’t say a word, just stood there, eyes focused on the ground. And when I stepped forward as the line moved, so did he. I admit I felt a bit uncomfortable, and I ignored him.

When I finally reached the front of the line and made my purchase, I turned around and almost knocked him over. He whispered, “One dollar. Just one dollar. Please.”

I was surprised he could speak English. But I was even more surprised by his humble nature, his sad eyes, and the sincereness of his request.

I gave him what he asked for—just one dollar. To which he didn’t say a word—he just slowly limped away.

I entered the gates to the inner city and walked around as a tourist for about 3 hours. When it came time to leave, I walked out through the same gate that I had entered.

And there he stood. And when he saw me, he looked me in the eyes and simply bowed his head. A silent gesture of thanks.

His presence was unexpected. His humble gesture touched my heart. I looked back at him and nodded my head in return—and once again, he hobbled away.

Later that night as I sat alone in my hotel room, I thought, why didn’t I give him more?

Well, the next year, the year of the Olympics, I was in China once again—this time a few weeks after the event was over. I went back to the Forbidden City, hoping to see the beggar. He wasn’t there.

China, in an effort to “clean up” their streets for the Olympics, had removed/relocated all of the beggars.  I’m not really sure where they went. All I know is this: There were no beggars anywhere to be found.

I had so wanted to see him again. And the fact that I didn’t, honestly, troubles me still. He gave me so much more than I came close to giving him.

At the time, I wasn’t yet a follower of Jesus. But I am a follower now.

I sometimes wish I could return to that moment—and do more. Be kinder, more respectful, give him a hug—I’m not sure what.

But one thing is certain for me after all these years: I’m grateful that I’m here now with a heart that is eager to help and a Lord who nudges me to reach out.

It’s not always about giving money; sometimes it’s sharing a smile or a moment of one’s time—chatting with a lonely nursing home resident or thanking a check-out clerk at the grocery store who seems to be having a difficult day.

My hope is that every time God presents an opportunity to love a neighbor in the days to come, these words will continue to stir my heart:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25: 35-40

May God bless you with the opportunity to reach out and selflessly help someone in need.

 

Crossroads

The IntersectionA terrible tragedy occurred on Saturday morning in Stillwater, Oklahoma.   A car plunged into the Oklahoma State University Homecoming Parade crowd killing four people—including a 2-year-old boy—a child the age of my little granddaughter. Another 47 people were injured, several in critical condition.

It’s understandable that we are angry with the 25-year-old woman who has been identified as the one responsible. Many consider her to be a monster. I myself was angry at her, asking how she could do such a horrible thing, hurting so many innocent people.

But then God reached out and touched my heart—and I remembered. How could I, of all people, not feel compassion for this woman.

Most of my friends will be surprised to read what I’m about to tell you. Only my family and a handful of others are aware of this difficult chapter in my life story.

~~~

Six years ago this past September, I made a left turn at a green light at a busy intersection. I turned—and never saw the motorcycle that was heading toward me from the opposite direction. It all happened very quickly. I remember seeing him only at the very last minute.

That’s all that I remember. The next thing I know, I woke up inside a smoke-filled car with airbags deployed and shattered.

As a result of a split-second decision, my life has never been nor will it ever be the same again. The motorcyclist didn’t make it. I wasn’t drinking; I wasn’t texting; I wasn’t on drugs; I wasn’t speeding; I wasn’t on my cell phone. I simply made a left turn and didn’t see the motorcycle.

I’d like to say I can’t imagine what the driver in Oklahoma is thinking or going through at this moment—but unfortunately, I can. No matter what the rest of us might think of her, she is numb, in shock, feeling desperate, hopeless, full of fear and unbearable anxiety. And she’s just beginning her terrible journey—and I can tell you it gets worse before it ever might get better.

Please understand. I am in no way condoning or excusing this woman’s behavior—whether she was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or mentally unstable. We are after
all, all accountable for our actions. I’m just saying that we’ve been told not to judge or condemn, to love our neighbor, and to forgive others. God offers redemption to even those who seem most unlovable.

So I would ask each of you: Pray for the families of those who lost their loved ones. Pray for the families and the victims who are critically injured and recovering. Pray for all who were touched by this horrific incident.

But also pray for this woman who has to be, inside herself, hurting, too. I know I feel compelled to do so. I hope that you do, too.

 ~~~

In the end, my traumatic journey turned out to be a blessing. The Lord called me, said he loved me, forgave me for this and all my past and future sins, and asked me to follow him. And I said “yes.”

I wish this for everyone who has their own unique walk as they journey through their time on this planet. My family, my friends, all of those affected by these terrible events in Stillwater, Oklahoma—and yes, also for the woman who is responsible.

Arise!

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Ron and I were recently in Orlando where he had a doctor’s appointment (follow-up to a previous surgery), several fun meals out—and of course, at least one day trekking around Disney.

It may seem an unusual time to do some serious reading, but I brought along the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan—a book highly recommended by my college roommate.

I must say I was powerfully affected by its message. I was particularly touched by the chapter on the profile of a lukewarm believer. Followed by the chapter describing what it means to be in love—that is, in love with God.

Basically Chan is saying, loving God, following Jesus, is not a lukewarm, halfway proposition. You’re either in it all the way—or you’re not. Jesus asks for everything—but too often we try to get by with giving Him less.

I know my life is very different since I decided to follow Jesus. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m on this journey for the long run. I want to give Him my all—and my very best.

Well, the afternoon I finished the book, I closed my eyes and thought about Chan’s message. Later when I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was the butterfly picture posted with this blog—and the word “arise” immediately came to mind.

While I had a pretty good idea what the word “arise” meant, I googled it’s meaning just the same. And here’s what I found: to awaken, to move, to come into being. Exactly the words I would use to describe the feeling I had just experienced.

Now I had “seen” this same picture for 3 days above our hotel living-room sofa. But at this moment, I saw the image in a completely different manner. I felt my strength and resolve renewed; eager to move forward. I prayed that God would strengthen and use me to serve His purpose, however and whatever that might be, another theme of Chan’s insightful book.

I would highly recommend the book Crazy Love to anyone interested. As Francis Chan wrote in his foreword, “I hope reading this book will convince you of something: that by surrendering yourself totally to God’s purposes, He will bring you the most pleasure in this life and the next. I hope it affirms your desire for “more God” (in your life).”

God’s love and amazing grace is for everyone! No one who seeks Him will ever be turned away.

 

Be Strong and Courageous

My mother.

My mother at home in Florida.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid . . . for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”    Deuteronomy 31:6   New International Version (NIV)

 

It’s been four months since I’ve written anything on my WordPress blog. I last wrote as I was getting ready to head for Israel. I was consumed with all my plans and responsibilities—things I needed to get done before I traveled.

Of all the “things” I needed to do, the one that concerned me most was making sure my mother was not alone while her 92-year-old husband, Bob, traveled to New Zealand on vacation with his son—his trip scheduled at the same time I would be in Israel.

I “knew” in my heart it was critical that she be with family in Bob’s absence—and things weren’t working out.  My brother couldn’t get away and Ron graciously offered to bring my mother to Florida.  Still I “knew” that either Dan or I needed to be there also.

Well at the last minute things did all come together—Dan’s business suddenly had a lull and he could be in Florida after all.  And I could head to Israel.

Weeks later, my mother, my brother and I all agreed—it was God at work making sure my mother was not alone, but in Florida with my brother, when the news reached her that her husband, Bob, had passed away while in New Zealand.

When I returned from Israel, we flew back to Minneapolis to begin the work of going through belongings, cleaning out the house, searching through papers, preparing the home for sale, meeting with accountants and lawyers, working with social security—while at the same time always grieving. My mother and Bob had been married nearly 30 years.

The challenges were overwhelming—mold remediation and house foundation issues—all invisible to the eye until we began the process of moving built-in bookcases. At times the challenges were more than a normal 90-year-old could possibly bear.

Now, four months later, things are coming together. The house has been sold, all repairs completed, and my mother has moved to Florida into a wonderful caring community. Almost all of the issues surrounding her husband’s death have been resolved.

Yesterday was a big day for my mother, and last night I Facebook private-messaged her:

“Sleep extraordinarily well tonight! You have had a very good day. God continues to bless you! If you feel up to it, tell him thanks tonight before you go to bed. Love you very very much.”

This was her answer:

“I have thanked him for the positive things and asked for strength to take the knocks. See you in the morning. I love you very much, too.”

Thank you, Father, for this and all your blessings.

On This Valentine’s Day, Remember Your First Love

Several of my friends and I are getting ready for our trip to Israel in a couple of weeks—and we’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the things we need to do. Make sure all of our bills are paid in advance, shop and pack, make arrangements for our pets, make sure our parents (most of us are in our sixties) are well-cared for in our absence. In the midst of all this angst, I found comfort this morning in a message from Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Today:

         “This world you inhabit is increasingly complex and confusing. You have more    information at your fingertips than you can process in a lifetime. There are so many demands on you—from the world, the church, other people, yourself. As a result, it’s easy to feel lost and perplexed. To find Peace in this chaotic clutter, you need to set priorities….

      It is crucial to make your relationship with Me the top priority….Other priorities fall into their proper place when I am first and foremost in your life.”

Thank you, Sarah, for reminding me that my first priority and my first love is my Savior and my God. When I know this, all of my other priorities fall into their proper place. Happy Valentine’s Day to all my friends and family, whom I love and cherish. May your day be clutter-free and filled with peace.

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

 Matthew 22:37-38

Pachelbel’s Canon

IMG_3787Three of my hospice patients passed away over the holidays. None were 11th Hour. Two of the passings, I anticipated. You can tell when a hospice patient is nearing the end, even if they aren’t 11th Hour. The third, a surprise, just happened today.

And it was this third that “hit” me the hardest. While I’m always touched by the loss of the brave and noble men and women that come to the end of their lives, I must admit that I was very fond of the woman who passed away this morning.

Her name was Ellen. Unlike most of the other patients, Ellen was usually up and about and in her wheel chair whenever I came to visit. As far as I knew, she didn’t have any family close by—there was nothing on her walls to indicate family or friends (no pictures, cards, etc.). Whenever I came into her room or found her in the hallway, she would beam with pleasure to see me.

Lately, each time we would meet, I would pull out my little Bluetooth wireless speaker and play piano music for Ellen from my cellphone. She loved the piano. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire was her favorite Christmas song. But her favorite song of all time was Pachelbel’s Canon. She would hug the little wireless speaker and tear up every time we played it.

I am going to miss my sweet friend Ellen. I know she’s in a better place, and for that I am grateful. She’s in Heaven now–with the Lord and a multitude of angels singing more beautifully than any of us can possibly imagine! I can see her in my mind—beautiful, full of youthful energy, glowing with happiness, beaming her precious smile of recognition right down at me (with a ‘wait til you get up here’ kind of look in her eye)!

Someday I will see Ellen again. Until then, for Ellen, one more time, here’s Pachelbel’s Canon:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlprozGcs80

Out of the Mouths of Babes—A Christmas Message

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My 3-year-old grandson and I had a conversation a couple of days ago.

He’s learning his family history. His mommy’s mommy and his mommy’s daddy, and his daddy’s mommy and his daddy’s daddy. We live in a complicated world—and his world is complicated with multiple blended families.

My grandson has Papa Ron and Nana (that’s me), Cuckoo (his other grandmother), Papop (his grandfather on his mommy’s side), his Grandpa Gavin (his grandfather on his daddy’s side) and Grandma Penny (Gavin’s wife).

Our conversation went like this:

My grandson said, “Cuckoo is Mommy’s mommy. Papop is my mommy’s daddy. Grandpa Gavin is my daddy’s daddy. And Grandma Penny is my daddy’s mommy.”

I said, “You did a really good job. But—who am I?”

“You’re my Nana,” he said.

“Yes, I’m Nana, but I’m also your daddy’s mommy.”

“No,” he said, “Grandma Penny is daddy’s mommy.” I asked, “Why do you think Grandma Penny is daddy’s mommy?”

“Because she loves daddy,” he said.

To which I replied, “But I love daddy, too.”

He looked at me with the saddest eyes and mournful voice and said, “But you said you love ME.”

“I DO love you,” I said, “but I love your daddy, too.”

“Oh,” he said with a smile, “then Daddy can have two mommies.” Then he gave me a big hug and the conversation was over.

This morning, as I was recalling our sweet discourse, I thought about the following:

We are all loved deeply and equally by Our Heavenly Father.   And as we celebrate Christmas, may we remember and rejoice in this:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

–John 3:16

He loves not just me, not just you…but all the world. And He sent His only son into this world to save us. This is why we celebrate Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all—and may God bless you this holiday season and throughout the new year!