Friday, March 21, 2008

Here I Am

I’ve always found the words, “Here I am,” springing to my lips as soon as I come to the Lord in prayer each day. When we say, “Here I am, send me,” God puts us to work in the fields of His choice. For years I longed to be of “real” use to the Lord, but I have learned that the true spiritual life of discipline and growth takes place in the valleys of everyday life.

My ministries over the years have been teaching, parenting, and most recently caregiving. Many times I longed for an adrenalin rush of excitement and risk, for the emotional highs of proclaiming the Gospel to the lost, for the soaring compassion toward the heart rending pathos of the needy, and for the sense of being used for noble purposes in the Kingdom. I thrilled to a few mountaintop experiences in the Lord and longed to stay on the mountaintop. I was like a gymnast who loves competition but doesn’t understand that the daily drudge of preparation is 99% of the event. Without the preparation time in the valley, there can be no mountaintop. And though the thrill of exciting moments in the Lord is sweet, it is also very rare. Our spiritual and physical lives here on Earth consist mainly of valleys and of faith in things unseen. Walking through the valley while holding to the vision of usefulness we received on the mountaintop seems difficult and even impossible until we look at our Savior’s face. His eyes hold amusement, His arms enfold us in wonderful love; He says, “This is the way, walk in it,” and “Come unto Me.”

Apart from a daily refocusing upon the goodness of our Savior’s grace, upon the Father’s love and the Spirit’s guidance, it becomes a constant challenge to trust that the Lord has the big picture and that His love intends us good and not harm. Days, weeks, months, and years are just a drop in the eternal bucket of God’s wisdom and knowledge.

Father, let the compass of my heart point to You and You alone; not on service, not on ideas of how I may be of use in the Kingdom but upon Christ and Christ alone.

Scripture: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Early Morning Adventure

Mom has had a good week, but for one incident that scared the living daylights out of me. And, as she explained to me, it wasn't pleasant for her either!

Last week's news stories were full of the trauma suffered by several rural people who live about sixty miles from us, near a small town. Although they were not physically harmed, intruders broke into their homes, tied them up, and ransacked their houses. I travel to that nearby town often because my Reading Recovery continuing education group meets there every 6 weeks, and so I know several people who live there. Last Tuesday night I'd gone to sleep thinking about those home invasions. On Wednesday morning I awakened very early as often happens to me, and I came downstairs to do my devotions. About 6:00 a.m. I decided to try to sleep awhile longer and went back upstairs. I'd just settled back into bed and was drifting off to sleep when I heard Mom screaming through the baby monitor. Her voice was terrified and she was calling on the name of the Lord. I immediately knew that she was either being attacked or thought she was being attacked. Either way I knew I didn't want to go plunging into her room alone. I levitated from bed yelling to John to come with me quickly because Mom was screaming. I ran full tilt to her door and turned to find that John was not behind me. I ran back up the stairs and John had just managed to sit up and was searching for his slippers! I yelled again for him to come and ran back downstairs, and this time could hear him coming along behind but not fast enough for me. I went ahead and ran into Mom's room. No intruders in sight, and she looked calm. I asked her if she was alright.

"Oh, yes, I just had a really terrible dream," she answered.

Like a mother whose child has frightened her, I sounded a little bit short as I replied, "Well, you sure scared me."

She drew herself up and replied huffily, "Well, Linda, the nightmare was not pleasant for ME!" Both she and the cat seemed affronted by my attitude.

I retreated back to our part of the house to find my husband slouched dozily in the overstuffed chair in our living room. I'm not sure that he'd ever really opened his eyes. "Everything alright?" he inquired. I was weak-kneed from the adrenalin rush and a little bit tight lipped over his refusal to get frightened along with me and kept my answer short.

"Just a bad dream," I said.

Back upstairs John began to snore almost immediately while I clutched the covers up under my chin and stared wide-eyed at the ceiling. And I swear I could hear Mother's gentle snores over the monitor.

They just don't understand why I make such a big deal of everything.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I'd Like Mine on Whole Wheat, Please...

When I turned fifty the American Association of Retired Persons knew. I don't know how they knew and I've pondered this. Did my name pop up on a Google search under the heading, "People who are turning 50 this year and are gullible?" Whatever method their marketing department used to locate me, they struck gold. The very day I received my special invitation to join AARP my check was forwarded to them by return mail, helped by the fact that the sample issue they sent had Robert Redford's photo on the front.

Lately I've noticed that a new buzzword has appeared in my AARP magazine. Every issue of late has included the term "sandwich generation," referring to people who are caring for children or grandchildren while at the same time filling the role of caregiver for elderly parents. I hadn't thought much about this in relation to myself until one day last week. On Friday morning I found myself clutching my slippery(and unhappy) baby grandson as I demonstrated for my daughter how to wash an infant's hair. And on Friday evening I found myself clutching my slippery (and unhappy) elderly mother as I demonstrated for her the necessity of an occasional all-over bath. Somewhere in the middle of my interactions with Mom I realized that my activities on that Friday served as a graphic illustration of what it means to be a member of the sandwich generation.

This morning my daughter needed a babysitter and as I was on my way out the door I paused and looked back into the open door of our downstairs bathroom. For a long time I've been meaning to paint the walls and to replace the peeling grout in the shower, but since Mom moved in with us I've not done my usual home upkeep projects. I was saved from feeling resentment over having no time for leisure activities (such as scraping grout) when I remembered a line from a poem that comforted me many times when my children were infants, "...quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep, I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep." There will always be home improvement projects, but there will not always be babies to hold. And I won't always have my mother with me.

I don't mind being a member of the sandwich generation. Sandwiched between two generations of people who love you is a pretty cozy place to be.