I was wrecked. Hot tears flowed from my eyes and lava oozed up from the cracks in my soul. I should have let the call go to voicemail. Gulping for a breath between sobs, I answered the phone anyway. Probably not a good idea; people are not used to seeing me like this. Normally, I am the cheerleader giving a pep talk. It’s not like my mind to wander to such dark places. But after all I have been through, I simply cannot imagine going backward.
Think you have problems?
You’re not the only one
Sitting on the exam table in a flimsy gown, she looked at the floor and swung her feet. The floral print gown opened in the front as well as the back. She pulled the gap tightly closed in her clenched fist. Nevertheless, I could see red splotches spreading across her chest before she finally mustered up the courage, “This is really embarrassing, but….”
My heart ached as she stammered out her concern. My heart ached even more because she thought she was the only one dealing with such an issue.
In reality, it was the fourth time I had heard the same concern. Let me clear, it was the fourth time THAT DAY I had heard the same issue. Let me be even clearer, it was only 11 o’clock in the morning.We stuff our stuff because we think our issues are unique #beReal #community #rtp Click To Tweet
We all walk around stuffing our stuff because we think our issues are unique to our hearts and minds and lives. But when we are bold enough to share we find a hundred other people who feel the same way. Then, and only then, God uses our troubles for His glory.
2 Corinthians 1:4, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” NLT
ASK ME HOW I KNOW
Because I have talked to you; yes you. I’ve talked to countless women about their deepest fears and greatest concerns when I was a gynecologist. Don’t worry, I am still bound by privacy laws. Now that I am a writer, I talk to people everywhere. And guess what? You really aren’t that different. The struggles you deal with inside your home and your head are universal. You’re in good company. It’s been a long time since anyone told me anything that shocked or surprised me. I’ve heard it all.
Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” NIV
Secrecy is Satan’s tool. Isolation keeps us from getting the help we need by taunting us with shame. The fact is until we admit we have a problem, we can never fully deal with it. Denial keeps us from Jesus who completely understands every struggle we face.
Hebrews 4:15-16, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all-all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” MSG
I know you are insecure, lonely, scared of the future, jealous and broken. Trust me, I understand; from the inside out. We are all dying on the inside trying to pretend our life is half as wonderful as everyone else’s Fakebook life (no that’s not a typo). Let’s stop and be real. Not only will it rescue you, it will save others.
John 8:32, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ESV
I sincerely want to thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. It empowers me to share my own emotions. It’s no longer a gamble that maybe you feel the same way I do sometimes. I know you do, because I talked to you.
2 Corinthians 2:16, “This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on?” MSG
THIS IS DANGEROUS
Still, I find writing is dangerous. My thoughts assembled by various combinations of twenty-six characters are on display for you. Vulnerability is scary, but it’s also a gift from God. So I allow the words to spill freely, often with tears, and offer them to you. Maybe, just maybe, someone knows exactly what I am talking about.
2 Corinthians 4:1-2, “Therefore, since we have this ministry because we were shown mercy, we do not give up. Instead, we have renounced shameful secret things, not walking in deceit or distorting God’s message, but commending ourselves to every person’s conscience in God’s sight by an open display of the truth.” HCSB
Surely I’m not the only one, am I?
Choose to look at the bright side
You can choose to look at the dark
Practice praise, it ushers you into the presence of God
Choose to look at the bright side… She repeatedly looked over her shoulder expecting to be flattened at any moment. Despite her angst, I couldn’t suppress the corners of my mouth as they spread upward.
The growing stubble on my Aussie’s hind quarter nearly hides the scar where her hip was pinned. To promote healing, she is supposed to walk every day and she seems to know it. With her nose to the door she whines. I think she is getting restless, trust me, I understand.
Psalm 23:2, “He maketh me to lie down…” KJV
I ALMOST FORGOT
There was a sliver of light on the horizon when it dawned me, if I didn’t get the trash can to the street before morning it would be too late. It was also recycle day. Since my dog still has to be on a leash and I don’t have three arms, I tied her leash to my belt loop. Just so you have the whole picture, I wore a ball cap, glasses, no make-up, house shoes and a dog tethered to my jeans while I balanced two large green canisters on wheels.
Ecclesiastes 3:4, “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” HCSB
TIME TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH
Normally my fur baby walks beside me on her short leash, but the rumble of plastic wheels on pavement coupled with the image of green giants bearing down caused more than a little concern. What a sight for the neighbors to see! At least I wasn’t dancing in a linen ephod, but if I had one don’t put it past me.
2 Samuel 6:14, “And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.” ESV
GOTTA LOVE THY NEIGHBOR
Thankfully I didn’t see anyone, nor did anyone hear me giggle as I watched my poor dog shake in her fur. As I thought about the whole scenario, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” NKJV
ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
You see a year ago, I was too weak to walk to the end of the driveway, much less manage two trash cans and one anxious canine. When I rode my bicycle 100 miles a week, I took walking for granted. My perspective is different now. What about you? Are you struggling to find reasons to be thankful? Open your eyes and look around. Today I am thankful I can walk and drive my car. Last year my boots were too heavy for me to walk through house and now I can wear them out in public and that’s really a blessing because I have some awesome boots. I am especially grateful my happiness does not depend on my circumstances. My joy comes from the Lord. I am thankful for my friends, church, family and neighbors who help me. My smile enlarged as I recalled my neighbor towing the green cans for me when I couldn’t. She wore some pretty cute wedges. Yeah, shoes are a big deal.
1 Timothy 6:6-8, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” NIV
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
Sometimes when I sat limp in a recliner, I felt like I was standing on edge of a dark cliff. To combat despair, I literally counted my blessings. I listed them in a notebook and spoke them out loud. Soon my attitude changed from one of self-pity to one of gratefulness. It helped me realize how truly blessed my life has been and it brought me into the presence of the Lord.Practice praise, it ushers you into the presence of God #gratitude #rtp Click To Tweet
Psalm 100:4, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.” NASB
There are certainly situations where it is hard to see the silver lining. Do it anyway. Sometimes it’s hard to even pray. Do it anyway. It helps me to personalize the Lord’s prayer.
- Acknowledge God
- Pray “Thy will be done“
- Ask for provision
- Ask for forgiveness
- Forgive others
- Ask for guidance and protection
- Praise Him!
Hebrews 13:15, “Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.” NLT
DOES THERE HAVE TO BE A BRIGHT SIDE?
No, that’s your choice. You can focus on the dark side if you want. But why? I guarantee, if you look for the silver lining, you will find it. So whatever you do, laugh and keep your dog on a short leash, especially if she’s broken.
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- Wayward child?
- Aging parent?
Trying to keep faith. Wanting to believe God is enough. Praying gut-wrenching prayers and claiming all the verses that promise results. It’s tiresome.
I don’t have a problem believing. The waiting, oh the waiting, is the hard part.
Romans 8:24-25, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. ” NIV
THE END OF THE ROPE
Really, it is the not the end of the rope, it is the end of self. How will I know God is enough unless He is all I have? Perhaps that is precisely why it’s necessary to lose our lives in order to save them. Because of my insufficiency, I see His sufficiency more clearly.
Often I pray, “Be with me God.” Everything else is loss. Knowing God and His presence makes everything else seem like garbage. Everything. His love really is better than life.
So it’s worth this hanging on.
Hanging on for dear life.
Hanging by a thread.
Philippians 3:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” ESV
A strand of three cords is not easily broken. So hold tight to your marriage, fight for your kid, cradle your parent’s hand gently, struggle for your sobriety with everything in you, push for your health and never give up hope, faith or life.
When you can’t hold on anymore, reach for the hand with a firm grip and let Him hold onto you.When you can't hang on to Jesus, let Him hold on to you. #faith #rtp Click To Tweet
Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held ~ Casting Crowns
Psalm 63: 8, “I hold on to you for dear life, and you hold me steady as a post.” MSG
CLINGING TO HOPE
The effort to hold what is dear is a paradox. Holding on with both hands doesn’t leave a free hand to hold onto Christ. So holding actually requires letting go. Be assured, He will hold on to you. His arm is strong and mighty.
Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ESV
HE OFFERS PEACE IN THE STORM
The boys in the furnace found it.
Daniel 3:17, “The God we serve is able to deliver us….But even if He doesn’t…” NIV
Job found it.
Job 13:15, “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him” HCSB
I found it.
2 Corinthians 12:7,9, “I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness” MSG
FOOL PROOF SECRET TO SUCCESS
There is a secret. A prayer that never fails.
Not the turmoil prayer. You know, the one that goes something like,
“Please God do such and such or please don’t let this or that happen.”
Admit it, we all pray them. It’s a tug-of-war: my way vs God’s way. Problem is, I don’t know the end of the story.
That’s it. Works every time. Perfect peace trusting His perfect heart and His perfect plan. It’s fool proof. Thy will be done. Wait, do not misunderstand. This is the hardest prayer you will ever pray. You will come away bruised and bloody. When Jacob wrestled with God, he limped away with a dislocated hip.
He will wound you…
Hosea 6:1, “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, and He will heal us; He has wounded us, and He will bind up our wounds.” HCSB
But you don’t know the end of the story…
You never know who is hanging on by a thread. I’d love for you to share this.
I wasn’t nervous until it had me surrounded. The C word confronted me first in the parking deck. The arrow pointed this way to the cancer center. I felt a pit in my stomach. I shouldn’t be here. The word showed up again when I walked through the front door. I was tempted to feel pity for the others who were there until I saw joy in many of their eyes. Yet, I didn’t feel I belonged, like a petite woman shopping in the plus-size department. I passed by the infusion center where do-rags were the fashion. Okay, now I was starting to get nervous.
2 Corinthians 4:13, “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.'” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak.”NIV
Breathe in God is good
Breathe out Thy will be done
I went alone, which was my choice. Sometimes it gets old being the UMCA (Universal Medical Center of Attention). I didn’t tell my family because I didn’t want them to worry if it ended up being nothing. Sorry. I had plenty of company in the room; two doctors and a nurse. The young doctor was still training and had her first baby eight weeks ago so we talked about new life while she held pressure on the biopsy site for ten solid minutes. The other doctor is a friend, she patted my hand and promised to personally call as soon as results were available. Emotionally I never felt more alone. I really should have told my mother.
Philippians 4:9, “Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” HCSB
Breathe in God is good
Breathe out Thy will be done
I’ve dodged this same bullet once before. After three agonizing weeks and literally memorizing and reciting Psalm 91 to get through the nights, the pathology report was benign. Now back in the same spot, I was awake, afraid and alone. The surgical light directly over my face was turned off so the suspicious black and white image on the screen was more visible. Lying on the table being prepped for the biopsy, I noticed a Phillips screw in the center of the light, but on the periphery the screws were flat head. I noted the hexagonal pattern in the plexiglass covering. Anything to occupy my mind.
Psalm 91:2, “I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'” ESV
Breathe in God is good
Breathe out Thy will be done
I NEED AIR
When the phone rang, the dog barked and for a moment I couldn’t breathe. I regret the secrecy. I need my family. I need my friends. There is much value in the support of the community of believers. Suddenly I realized the prayer coverage I had forfeited. I need my Christian brothers and sisters. I need you.
Ephesians 1:15-16, “That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you-every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks.” MSG
Breathe in God is good
Breathe out Thy will be done
C IS FOR…
C is for Christmas because we all need HOPE.
Despite their diagnosis, I’m sure saw it in the faces of the cancer patients.
C is for community because we need EACH OTHER.
Whatever you are facing, don’t do it alone.
C is for cancer sometimes because we live in a FALLEN WORLD.
Lord, be with all those affected by this disease.
C is for all CLEAR this time.
Praise the Lord!
And now B is for breathe…
Breathe in God is good
Breathe out Thy will be done
God often forces me to follow my own advice. I found Prescriptions for Anxiety helpful during this stressful time. If you enter your email address under the prescription pad, I will send it to you as well as occasional newsletters. By the way, this won’t send blog posts to your inbox, you have to join me on the porch for those.
Keep breathing my friends.
God is good indeed.
Strength is measured in how you handle weakness.
I’m trying to find the sweet spot; the balance between love and hate. I hate it but I need it. Since I apparently can’t function without it, I’m learning to live with it. Strength is measured in how you handle weakness.
Although I haven’t been on a roller coaster since I developed myasthenia gravis, I love the feel of wind in my hair and adrenaline in my veins. The beating of wings in my stomach just before the car reaches the peak and plummets down the big drop gives me a rush. Except I am stuck there. Welcome to the world of steroids. Stuck at the top, anticipating the thrill but the thrill never becomes reality and the feeling never goes away. It robs my sleep, it robs my bones and to be honest, it makes me a little nutty at times. I suppose there is a reason it’s called an emotional roller coaster. I love roller coasters, but not emotional ones and I hate prednisone.
1 Peter 4:12-13, “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.”MSG
A couple of months ago I was riding my bicycle short distances and I hiked to Hawksbill Crag, then I got cocky. Six days late on my IVIG infusion and and determined to wean off prednisone, my optimism convinced me remission was around the corner. When I thought I was strong, I got weaker, not just physically. Now I know, the evil steroids are necessary and I must stay tethered to the pump on a pole for seven hours every three weeks. Period.
James 1:2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” ESV
The key to finding joy in trials is to stay tethered to the One who knows your pain, knows your limitations and suffered innocently so we wouldn’t be separated eternally. As soon as I get stronger I tend to drift. I think I can forgo the remedy. It’s the nature of the beast-the disease and my spiritual walk. So I get out my Bible, my index cards and my prayer journal and attach myself to Jesus Christ. Some days I just need a little more tape. My heart is prone to wander and must be tightly bound.
1 Peter 4:1, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve-because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin.” HCSB
FIX MY EYES
My moon face is gone though I still cringe when I see photos of myself. Sorry, I’ll work on the sin of vanity another day. By the way, is that camera lying or did someone take me apart like Mrs. Potato Head and put my eyes back on all wonky? Goodness, I think I’ll throw the mirror away. I admit I am dependent. I resolve to look up and focus on the joy.
Hebrews 12:2, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”NASB
At 5 milligrams of prednisone the diabetes melted away and the fatigue was conquered, but I couldn’t do anything. I know I look normal, you can’t tell when I am struggling to chew meatloaf. When I had to rest after applying makeup it was time to make friends with my enemy, so I increased the dose. I want to live a little. Actually, I’m greedy. I want to be strong and firm and steadfast-physically and spiritually. Oddly, It requires complete dependence.
1 Peter 4:10, “And the god of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” NIV
We all have weaknesses. We all need to be tethered to Christ. He is strong and able to hold us together. Storms are inevitable and some are hurricanes. Make sure you are tightly bound to the Rock. Anchor yourself to Him and you will survive. So will I.Strength is measured in how you handle your weaknesses Click To Tweet
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It’s not beginning to look like Christmas at my house.
Truthfully, it looks more like Wednesday.
My Australian shepherd missed her weekly grooming appointment so clumps of fur collect near the baseboards.The dishwasher is full and I forgot to buy Cascade despite six trips to the grocery store in the last week. It doesn’t look like Christmas at all; it looks like Wednesday, the day after Pepe Le Pew was evicted for the odiferous commotion he created under my house. So yeah, it doesn’t smell like Christmas either.
Usually I haul large, exquisitely-painted Mary and Joseph out of my walk-in attic when Thanksgiving is over. I have the desire to arrange wise men and camels on the coffee table, but I do not have the ability. Christmas is plentiful up there in the attic, thirteen stairs away. Until two years ago I relished the thought of making seventy-five solo trips up and down the beige carpeted stairs, but now I am down here where it’s Wednesday and Christmas is up there in the attic.
And I can’t get there.
MY HEART’S A WRECK TOO
This year my Christmas spirit is jealousy. Oh I’ve seen your posts displaying lavish tables, overflowing mantles and stylish trees wrapped in mesh. That’s nice. Really, I’m glad for you. Maybe the wave of nausea was caused by my medications, anyway, my own inability continues to frustrate me. Traveling delayed my infusion which flared the weakness from myasthenia gravis. Now I feel helpless and useless and selfish. I want to focus on Christ this Christmas but I can’t get the focus off myself.
Romans 7:18, “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.” HCSB
The Latin word is Adventus, which means coming. Unless you count opening foil-wrapped chocolates popped out of a December Hallmark calendar, last year was the first time I intentionally observed Advent. The Greatest Gift (Ann Voskamp) added meaning to the season, so I’m making it a personal tradition.
Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” ESV
This season I come with need. I need hope and joy; I need Jesus and I need strength. My desire is to come like Mary, who was full of new life, like Joseph who came obediently, like shepherds who came expecting, like wise men who came worshiping.
So I am bringing my need and my flesh and asking Jesus to come. Come and make me:
full of new life
Come. Come Lord Jesus. Come into my messy heart.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Yes. Come Emmanuel-God with us.
Matthew 1:23, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” KJVCome into my mess Lord Jesus #advent Click To Tweet
You won’t get an invitation to come to my house this week because it looks like Wednesday instead of Christmas. The lights are tangled in cardboard boxes and wreaths are still draped over wire clothes hangers suspended on a rod. Someone will have to carry my tree down the stairs and I am not sure who I will entrust with the nativity. It’s a mess, inside and out. But I want to focus more on making it look like Christmas in my heart, where it counts.
1 Samuel 16:7, “…For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” NKJV
This year I come empty. I come thirsty with my soul-barren self and know I am not where I need to be, but inviting Him anyway.
Come to the season needy. Is there any other way?
Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” NIV
If you’ve accepted my invitation to join me on the porch, thanks. Writing is more fun when you read. If you want my posts in your inbox, enter your email address and you will receive it on Saturdays. Older blogs show up on Facebook every Wednesday. I invite you to join me on the porch, but please don’t come inside the house until after Friday. Thankfully, help is on the way.
Most people have the date of their death etched onto their tombstone. My friend, Mike, writes his on a piece of cardboard with a Sharpie pen.
BEFORE AND AFTER
Unfortunately, my life is divided into before I was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis (MG) and after. I don’t want to be defined by my disease but nevertheless it characterizes every aspect of my life. In many ways, my illness is the axis on which I turn. When I go out in public I wonder if there is a neon sign on my forehead. Sunday I traded my neon sign for a cardboard one. Simple cardboard testimonies show complex life changes.
Because of MG
2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” ESV
I not only boasted about my weakness, I wrote it on a piece of cardboard and held it up for as long as my trembling arms would cooperate.
We stood shoulder to shoulder with squares raised, and proclaimed God’s faithfulness in our pain and suffering. One side of cardboard proclaimed the deaths of spouses, children and unborn babies. Cancer, autism and heart disease showed up too. Chronic pain, illness, infertility and abuse stood beside job loss, divorce and alcoholism. Many of us know each other well, others only know the stories. Some we didn’t know at all, but their personal struggles were written in Sharpie pen for everyone to see.
Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” HCSB
THE OTHER SIDE
As each of us flipped our cardboard signs, spontaneous applause echoed through the sanctuary. It reached a crescendo as the last one walked across the stage and we collectively raised our signs. Everyone stood to their feet and many wiped tears.
Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” KJV
The rejoicing was not in response to the first side, it was for the flip side; the side proclaiming God’s redemption in every difficult situation. Imagine if we held up the before and never turned it over. Who would applaud? Without God, who could rejoice in their pain, who would be restored from their addiction? Would there be any joy or hope?
Have you turned over your obstacle? Name your struggle, face your enemy and bring it into the open. I encourage you to literally write it down and confront it in ink. But please, don’t stop there. Flip it over and let God write the end of your story. He redeems all things.
Genesis 50:20, “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now – life for many people.” MSG
THERE IS ALWAYS A TEST IN TESTIMONY
It’s not the date you are born or the date you die that matters, but how the dash in between is lived. I guess Mike did pretty good with the first dash so he got a second one. My grandfather did that too. Mike’s flip side read,
John 16:33, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” MSG
TURN IT AROUND
If you are facing adversity, write it on a piece of cardboard. Then turn it around and let God write on the other side. He writes spectacular endings.
Joel 2:25, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…” NIV
It is easy to forget to be truly thankful.
I had to get out of my comfort zone to find it and if you want the truth, I planned to spend the day in the spa.
IT’S NOT SAFE WITH THE HOMELESS
A red carnation adorned the room service tray in my comfortable hotel room. As the image of a woman with a furrowed brow begging on the sordid streets last night invaded my mind, I wondered if a red carnation would brighten her day. I wrapped it in a Kleenex and put it in my bag, along with my computer and a few small bills and went looking for her. I know, skip the caution. I don’t want to hear it. Safety isn’t a place, it’s a person.Sometimes playing it safe is the riskiest thing we can do. Calloused hearts and blind eyes are… Click To Tweet
The cardboard sign and a cup were balanced between the arms of his wheelchair. His dark skin was smooth; his beard salt and pepper. I guessed he was about my age. Toothless, he smiled when I handed him the carnation. He asked for money and I fished out a dollar bill. We chatted a while after I learned his name, then a young man turned around and returned to put his dollar in the cup. Said he changed his mind. I like that. Nice to get another opportunity after you have walked away.
As I proceeded down the sweaty sidewalk I overheard two women talking about why they didn’t give money to panhandlers. “I feel guilty but it wouldn’t be fair to give to one and not help them all.” Huh? I hope she gets another opportunity to meet the challenge and be blessed.
When I write, I often jot down thoughts to form the sentiment I want to express. This is what I wrote the morning before my venture into the Crescent City, before I met Ike.
I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.
I left Ike to eat lunch alone near the river and had the crazy thought I wanted to invite him. He smelled bad, he couldn’t walk and well, that is admittedly weird even for me. I tried to dismiss the notion until my own words stood to condemn me. You see, Ike had no legs.
Unable to resist, I returned but talked myself out of stopping when a waiter from a nearby restaurant stepped out to smoke. Now I was headed the wrong direction and needed to conserve my limited strength, so I turned around and passed a third time. Again, I didn’t stop. He made eye contact but did not ask for more money. The carnation was displayed in a nearby cup.
I HOPE NO ONE SAW THIS
There is a Walgreens on every corner in the French Quarter so I went in to buy him a package of crackers and toiletries. He didn’t need a toothbrush or a comb so I picked up a canister of hand wipes. When I changed my mind and set them down, the clerk eyed my like I was a little shady.
I walked to Cafe’ du monde for beignets but I changed my mind about that too. I figured the powdered sugar would make me sick. Or something.
HOMELESS PEOPLE ARE HUMAN
My legs were getting heavy so ordered gumbo and sat outside. I picked up red beans and rice to-go then went to find Ike. When I returned with the small, overpriced Styrofoam container of carry-out I called, “Ike, do you like red beans and rice?” He did. Turns out Ike was a chef. Said he had worked in several restaurants in the French quarter. Made an honest living until diabetes took his legs. He blamed the government and lambasted politicians. I suggested God’s children ought to step up and do what they are called to do. He agreed as he gobbled the red beans, saving the rice for later. Maybe the hand cleanser from Walgreens would have been a good idea but he didn’t seem to mind the scraps dribbling down his hand. I told him it broke my heart he lived under a bridge. He said not to feel sorry for him. He didn’t want sympathy, he only wanted help.Some can make a big difference, but all can make some difference #thankful #dosomething Click To Tweet
As we talked his passion and volume rose. He complained about panhandlers who scammed people for money and spent it on alcohol. Then he pointed to a woman passing by and said too loudly for my comfort, “Like her.” Her, the woman with the furrowed brow who I brought the red carnation for. Glad I didn’t save it.
I won’t feel sorry for Ike and I won’t feel sorry for me either. I have two feet. And they took me to a good place.
His dreadlocks bounced wildly as he danced with all his might. He asked for money as a broad grin across his face, then picked up the pace of his unskilled tapping. I asked his name as I fished out my less-than-generous donation.
“I’m just trying to earn an honest living,” he boasted. He had two feet and he was using them to make a racket.
“What about those shoes?” I asked.
He bent his leg to show me the taps then showed off his container of spare tacks.
“Do you dance all day?”
“No, just a couple a hours.”
Keep smiling Harlan.
He had a decent bicycle and he had two feet. One rested on the pedal, the other supported his weight. He called out to me, “Hello there.”
My instinct was to ignore him. Instead, I simply responded, “Hello,” you know, like he was a fellow human being.
He asked, “Are you from here?”
“No, are you?”
“Born and raised!”
Having a little difficulty hearing his low voice, I stepped closer.
“That sure is a pretty blouse you are wearing.”
“Thank you. What’s in the case?”
“A guitar, I play real good.”
I’m sure he does.
I asked his name and told him mine. He repeated it and complimented me again. Told me he liked my sunglasses. Oh, you mean the ones I wore so I could pretend not to see you? I walked on. He didn’t ask for anything except to be treated with courtesy. It cost me nothing, but gave me great satisfaction. He put his feet on the pedals and headed the opposite direction.
My feet were dragging a bit. The disease makes them heavier as I walk, but I was unusually grateful to have them. I was thankful for my shoes too. I was particularly glad I didn’t live under a bridge, but I was also thankful for the people I met who did and managed to still be people; not bitter people, not ungrateful people, not scary people, just people. I’m glad I visited them. And I’m glad I skipped the pedicure. Looks like I didn’t need it after all.
Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” NIV
It has been a hard week by anyone’s standards. Twenty-eight hours and over two-hundred miles separated the two funerals I attended. Yes, it has definitely been a hard week.
Myasthenia gravis and stress do not play nice together either. Physically, I have been markedly stronger, but if I thought getting on prednisone was hard; getting off is harder.
Lamentations 3:19-21, “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all-oh, how well I remember-the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope.” MSG