Holding Hands, Holding On…

warner and sandy holding hands 2I see Warner weakening. I feel him slipping away. Sometimes I cannot understand the words he whispers to me, barely making a sound. This makes his brows furrow with frustration. My heart sighs with the same.

Then he looks me straight in the eyes. He clumsily reaches for my hand and he holds it. We sit as he wanders in and out of sleepy consciousness. He kinda’ smiles. I thank God for the moment.

God knows that I need those moments. He is faithful to fill me when I am drained, empty, dry. I could not count the moments when the Spirit alone has carried me through my minutes, my hours, my days. This time at home in hospice care and out of the mainstream medical system is my most challenging to date.

Sometimes feel such a weight of responsibility. Even though I take just one step at a time, completely in the present,  I get weary and overwhelmed. Warner is totally dependent on me for every sip of water, every dose of medication. And here I am, sleep deprived, emotionally drained and physically sore from trying to keep him positioned comfortably and help him sit and stand. (Warner has a catheter, but for some reason he thinks he still must stand to pee, especially late at night and in the early hours of the morning). I am a mess. I ask God what was He thinking when He favored me with this circumstance. Couldn’t He have waited until I was more mature, more sanctified, more prepared?

Grigory comes and comforts me. He urges me to go outside while he watches his dad. We reminisce and talk and cry together. A friend texts me with a scripture that speaks to my soul.  Another calls me with a kind word of encouragement. Others bring delicious meals. Some come by just to give me a hug or to pray for me, with me. Some send amazing cards, flowers, gifts. I know we are covered by the body of Christ. I feel the tender warmth of their love. I am not alone. They strengthen me. They lift me above the circumstance. They lead me to my Father’s arms. I may be a mess but I am also a daughter of the Most High God.  I am full.

Warner is obviously in some degree pain that the medicines cannot totally eliminate. How could he not be? He has been in his hospital bed in the dining room since mid-April. He has tumors on his upper lip, his chin, poking out from his chest, all over his frail body. Although he may look peaceful sleeping in his bed, this isn’t a walk in the park for him. It is hard. He is brave.

When I come to him and tell him I love him, he says “love you big” or just “big.”   He says it clearly so that I can understand. He kisses me back when I kiss him. When he wants water, he says “please.” He thanks me when he is through. He is not angry with the situation. He is kind. I marvel at his character. He is indeed a good man. He is finishing well, with dignity and a peaceful grace. He is ready, eager to lean into his Father’s arms for the rest of his eternity. What an honor to share in this most intimate moment. I am most blessed.  I love him more each day. At the same time that he is slipping away, we are drawing closer together, to that place where joy and sorrow meet.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18


Warm Rain

Dwater_drop_on_grass_203309uring this season of suffering, so many of you have poured your love into me just like a warm spring rain.  Cleansing.  Refreshing.  Comforting.  Life-giving.  You keep me from spiraling down in the dark abyss of isolation. You breathe life into me.

Sometimes it is through a cry, a hug, a quiet sigh, a good word. Sometimes it is a laugh, a funny story, silliness, some good natured teasing.  It may be a story to distract, a moment to reminisce, a task to accomplish. A phone call, a text, a visit, an email, a card – all coming at the precise moment I need them most.  This could be nothing less than the heart and mind of God, working through His people, working through you to bring comfort in time of need.

I have yet to answer many of your expressions of love.  Yet none are forgotten.  All are treasured.  My life has been forever changed by the way you have wrapped your arms around Warner and me, walking together with us during this time.

There are days when I feel like I’m in Rephidim when the Amaleks came and fought with Israel (Exodus 17).  It is as if I am standing on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.  God uses that staff to win great battles.  This time the battle is not against Israel’s enemies but against mine, namely fear, anxiety and self pity.  When I grow tired and so very combat weary, it is not Aaron and Hur who give me a place to sit and hold up my hands.  It is you.  You keep me steady and victorious against the voices that speak death inside my head.

Other days I feel like Mephibosheth, the son of King David’s best friend Jonathan and the grandson of his worst enemy Saul.  I am crippled and lame from a fall that was no fault of my own.  I am not standing on the top of a hill.  There is no staff in my hand.  Yet even so, you lift me up to the table.  You show me God’s kindness and compassion.  Along with Mephibosheth I ask, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” (2 Samuel 9)

Then there are days when I am the paralytic that you tirelessly carry to Jesus.  You remove all the obstacles keeping me from Him.  You bring me to Jesus, face to face.  It is your faith in Him that takes the necessary steps to bring me to Jesus on those days when I cannot move.  (Matthew 9, Mark 2)

I see how very weak and fragile I am.  I am poor in spirit.  I am desperate for more of God.  There are moments when I hold my breath and then literally freeze up.  The pain is sharp and deep.  I have neither the strength nor the courage to exhale.   But miraculously somehow I do.  It is not from my effort.  It is the Lord’s.  Oftentimes, it is through the strength that God has given you that you in turn choose to share with me.  This is the church at work in perfect harmony. It is not a building.  It is people, in tune with their Lord.

Thank you.  I know those words sound trite and common, especially in light of your extraordinary and rare gift to us.  But they are all I have to give right now.  They are sincere from my heart.

Perhaps you don’t realize the impact your words and actions may have.  Perhaps you think you do nothing, or very little or that it has gone unnoticed.  But the power of reaching out beyond oneself in the Spirit is immeasurable, no matter if it is one millimeter or one mile.

 Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth…. Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.  Hosea 6:3, 10:12

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God…. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.  1 Corinthians 1:3-7, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17