Everybody’s Got Something

I thought it was Gilda Radner who said, “Everybody’s got something,” but after a quick look at Google, I discovered that this saying is the title of Robin Roberts’s latest memoir.

“Regardless of how much money you have, your race, where you live, what religion you follow, you are going through something. Or you already have or you will. As momma always said, “Everybody’s got something.” ~Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts’s momma, Lucimarian Roberts, was right, and she was a wise woman. None of us is immune to the trials of being human.

If your life is going swimmingly and you feel on top of the world, rest assured, that will change eventually. You may have to deal with the loss of someone dear to you, depression, financial struggles, job insecurities, substance abuse, after-effects of trauma, a shattered relationship…the list is endless. But the converse is also true: if you are going through a really awful period in your life right now, tie a knot and hang on tight: things will eventually change.

I am taking time to reflect on some experiences I’ve gone through in the past couple of years. When I look back at my private journals, I see evidence of God’s fingerprints all over my life. I have journaled about prayer concerns. Many of them have been resolved, some in ways I would not have chosen, but they have turned out okay. I keep a card in my daily devotional magazine that I received from the alumni director at my dad’s college when I wrote her to inform her of his death. It says,

“God is our REFUGE and strength,

an ever-present

help in trouble.”

~Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

I have found that to be true.

I am also reminded of some verses I read in the Gospel of Mark (chapter 9) just this morning, in a passage where a man brings his son to Jesus.  He says, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid.” (Sounds like symptoms of epilepsy to me.) I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

To which Jesus replies, with a hint of exasperation in his voice, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

Scripture records that “they” brought the boy to Jesus. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at he mouth.

Jesus, I sense speaking with compassion, asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

The father replies, “Since childhood. It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. but if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“IF I can?” Jesus responds. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

The father instantly exclaims, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:17-24)

I will leave it to you to read the rest of this story. Yesterday in a Skype session with an author who is writing a book for us, the author pointed to this scripture passage as one that spoke to him deeply as a teenager. Maybe that’s a prayer we all need to pray:
“Lord, I believe. Help the parts of me that don’t believe.”

Here are some situations I’ve been praying about in the past 3 months. God has answered some of my prayers; other situations remain the same. As I’ve heard it said, waiting is the hardest part. But it’s also encouraging to see how many prayers were answered.

January 13

Friend of a friend–Cousin’s child was having seizures and was life-flighted to Vanderbilt. (Update 2/15: Friend reported the child had recovered.)

Same friend’s mom and dad–Both are having serious health problems. The mom was diagnosed with several new health conditions, including diabetes, and the doctor said there was basically nothing he/she could do for her. The dad had much pain in his spine and arthritis in his lower back. Pain management and epidural shots weren’t working. A bad knee was preventing him from driving. As of the first week of March, he has improved and is more mobile. The mom’s situation is not good and probably won’t ever be.

Prayers for my friend as she provides care for her mom and dad. She has had to quit her job, and she has three children. Also dealing with a relative with a brain injury who is undergoing occupational therapy for life skills. I pray for strength for this friend. She gets overwhelmed at times but keeps her faith. Once a week she is able to get out and go to a Bible study.

Prayers for my husband as he awaits surgery on Jan. 20 (and as the doctor’s office ran into snags trying to get his surgery approved by insurance). Update: The surgery was approved, and John came through it well.

February 15

God, help John to continue to heal from his surgery. Thanks for the progress he’s made so far.

Lord, help my high school friend who has a rare form of skin cancer. She’s miserable. Give her some relief and reassurance of your presence.

Prayers for safe travels and comfort as my yoga teacher and her boyfriend travel to Indiana for her boyfriend’s cousins funeral.

Prayers for safe travels for us and all family members going to Weber City, VA, for my uncle’s 95th birthday celebration. Thanks for his long life and how he has touched others!

Special comfort for a dear friend who has just lost her mother…be present with her during visitation with family and friends and as her mother is buried tomorrow. Prayers for her comfort and a sense of your love and peace surrounding her.

February 22

Lord, be with our next-door neighbors. He was just diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, and doctor said he has about 5 years to live. She has a 99-year-old mom who is still in good health and lives alone, but that situation weighs on her. She also has a tough relationship with her brother and is caring for two grandkids. God, please sustain this woman and give her encouragement. Show us how we can help.

Other next-door neighbor: We’ve had a difficult relationship with her over the years. Help us to be sweet and kind to her when we see her. She must be lonely.

A young couple on our street who have a new baby.

One of my friend’s sister’s family…her sister had a baby in January who was born with retinal cancer. Praying for successful treatment for this tiny baby who is already on chemo. What a tough way to start out in life. God, surround her parents with peace, strength, and love.

Our children–help them make wise decisions about their love lives, finances, close friendships, and jobs.

John–Continued healing. Please help his pain. Give us discernment about what to do regarding retirement and building apartments on our house. Help me to be cooperative with him and refrain from criticism.

Our country. Show me how to respectfully resist when the current president seems bent on destroying US relationships with other countries, bans immigrants from particular countries, when some cabinet members and other agency heads seem to directly oppose the areas/agencies which they are responsible (education, environment, for example). And healthcare. Oy vey. We need divine intervention there. The current Affordable Healthcare Act has many problems, but what I hear about the replacement plan/repeal sounds even worse. God help President Trump. I could start by praying that you’d give him a heart. (Guess I’m being critical here. Help me to live with heart.)

February 27

Prayers for my friend Jim as he heals from a recent procedure that left him very weak. He is having a liver biopsy on Mon., March 13.

Prayer of the name: I lift up to you Donald J. Trump.

Prayers for my high school friend’s son, who has serious GI problems. Help them to find relief. He is only 21 and is unable to work or go to school because of this condition.

March 15

President Trump is coming to Nashville today. Prayers for our city. Prayers for safety for all involved in the Trump rally and for the protesters (my son included) who show up to peacefully demonstrate.

March 17

Prayers for my friends Kent & Penny

My friend Linda (3/16 birthday) and her daddy, who has cancer

Praise you, God, for Jim’s good report from his liver biopsy. Praise you for his 80th birthday and the celebration we are having tonight. Continue to sustain him & his family as they live with his wife’s dementia.

Healing prayers for my friend Marti’s partner, who broke her ankle recently and has broken her back and compressed vertebrae several times. They are going on vacation next week. May this be a time of rest and healing for all involved…and give them patience with teenage twins!

Doug, that he will be happy with new job.

Doug and his partner Frank…and all the gay couples I know. Legislation is before the Tennessee assembly to ban same-sex marriage, or at least not recognize it as valid marriage. The legislation defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Lord, I don’t understand why we are revisiting this territory after the Supreme Court ruling a couple of years ago.

Prayers for those affected by the U.S. House Resolution on education, especially its implication for special education and the many areas where we will go backwards…I pray this bill will not pass. Show me how I can respond effectively. Jim Cooper, our representative from the 5th district, will vote against it.

Well, those are just a few of my prayer concerns from the past 3 months. I believe in the saying “Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.” I also believe in putting feet to my prayers, so I ask God to show me how he would have me respond to various situations. Still pondering a lot of this.

I am going on a silent retreat (overnight) next week. I hope to gain clarity and hear God’s voice about several situations in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Journey No One Wants to Take

The Journey No One Wants to Take

Since my dad died in October 2016, I have been reminded that I am on a journey. Grief is a journey that we don’t want to take, but everyone has to embark on it at one time or another, if he or she lives long enough.

Now that my second parent has died, I feel adrift, as if if my moorings have come loose. Sometimes my grief expresses itself in not being able to concentrate. At other times, I feel impatience and rage as I’ve never felt them before. For instance, I have recently gotten really angry at people who do stupid stuff in traffic—like the pedestrian who jaywalks in front of me at dusk and yells at me (to which my response was to roll down my window and yell back, “I couldn’t SEE you!”—also wanting to say, “You moron!). Or the driver who sees a traffic accident that just happened and stops his car in front of me rather than using his turn signal and pulling over to the side of the street (or at least turning on his hazard lights). I got uncharacteristically angry at such an incident earlier this week, and I thought about yelling at the STUPID person who DARED to stop his car without warning … and then I remembered, “Wait, he is wanting to help. But what an IDIOT! How does he expect me to read his mind? Not to mention that it’s dark, and the other two lanes of traffic were already blocked by the accident, and now he’s blocking my way home, and I am driving in my new (to me) car and could have hit him, and all these other cars are slowing down…and…

Something deeper is going on inside. I am raging because I miss my dad. And my mom. And the family we used to be. Sure, my mom died way back in 1991 when I was 32, but the death of my dad has stirred up that old grief that never completely healed.

I am doing strange things.First is the absent-mindedness. I have misplaced several items, such as my prescription sunglasses (which went missing for nearly 2 weeks), my water bottle (I left it in a bathroom at church), and most recently my Starbucks gold card, which unfortunately tI just reloaded this week. It’s maddening to have to retrace my steps and figure out where I might have left something.

I’ve been reading booklets on grief, which I never thought I would do, but they make me feel better because they reassure me I am not going crazy. I haven’t dreamed about my dad since he died. That is different from the way I experienced grief over my mom’s death. I have been having dreams about being left somewhere by someone dear to me. Maybe that’s a sign I feel abandoned.

Sometimes in choir I will sing a line of a hymn or an anthem, and the words get to me. A wave of grief washes over me, and I think I will drown. Tears spring to my eyes.

Not long ago I found the obituary I’d written for my dad, and I rewrote it. Now what good is that going to do, more than 4 months after his death? I was so dissatisfied with the obituary I’d written. It reported just the facts and didn’t give a sense of the kind and loving person my dad was. Here is some information that I left out of the obituary: My dad was an avid gardener. My mother always called him “p-tic” (meaning particular), and he was indeed a stickler for details. He had trouble fixing things, and I think it frustrated him to no end.

He was careful, but  not miserly, with his money. He was generous with his love and attention, and he generously shared his time, talents, and love to help others. Daddy served as volunteer treasurer of the Clinch Valley Baptist Association  for more than 22 years. He was a member of the Canton (NC) Civitan Club and was  their treasurer for a few years after he moved there in 1994 at age 71.

He was a night owl. As a teenager, I loved sitting up with him at night at our kitchen table as I did my homework and he paid bills and balanced his checkbook (to the penny). Whenever I entered a room where he was (at home, at the hospital, or at his assisted living and later nursing home), he lit up and smiled at me as if I had just made his day by my mere presence with him.

A week or two ago, I started sleeping with a teddy bear that belonged to my daughter when she was young. Somehow having this small symbol of love at my back while I sleep helps me feel a little better. On nights that I have trouble sleeping, I just hug that little green bear and think about my dad.

My dad always had my back. Last week I listened to a voicemail he’d left on my phone in June 2016. Daddy had called to see how I was feeling because I’d missed work the day before. That is so characteristic of him.

Today I was reading a meditation on grief titled “Death Never Takes a Holiday.”* One of our Upper Room Books authors, Richard L. Morgan, mailed me the book when he found out about my dad. It’s been sitting on my desk for months, and I finally opened the book. “Grief is awkward and uncomfortable,” I read. Yep. “The word grief means ‘heavy.’ It may well be the heaviest weight a person must bear. Death is the unwelcome intruder that stole your loved one and robbed you of love and joy. Life will never be the same.” Yes, that’s certainly true.

The meditation ends with a prayer: “Lord Jesus, you were acquainted with grief. You wept aloud when your friend Lazarus died. We feel so bereft and alone without our loved one, but you have a part in this sorrow that tears our heart.”

In another booklet titled Experiencing Grief (this one a gift from my church), I found this wisdom: “In a sense, grieving is actually  a show of faith. We are trusting God to hold us in our most vulnerable time, when our feelings are raw, our life is in pieces, and our strength is gone. If that isn’t faith, I’m not sure what is.”**

Whew. It’s okay for me to feel this bereft, even though I know in my heart that my dad is with God. It is comforting to know that Jesus understands how I feel. Jesus knows what it means to feel bereft and alone. I can make it through this journey of grief if I lean on him.

 

*Richard L. Morgan, Meditations for the Grieving, Copyright 2005Wipf & Stock.

**Kenneth C. Haugk, Experiencing Grief, Book 2 in the Journeying Through Grief series. Copyright 2004 by Stephen Ministries.