|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on May 18, 2013 at 9:40 AM||comments (0)|
Life presents us with a whole gamut of experiences. 2013 has certainly already imparted much thus far—both elating and distressing, personal and world-wide.
Just in the last few months the distressing has almost seemed over-powering. On a larger scale: the Boston bombing incident, the Bangladesh factory collapse, the news of the three Cleveland women held in captivity for ten years, the New Orleans Mother’s Day shootings, the killing of Tim Bosma, a young innocent, husband and father. There have been recent stories of political people who seemed to be reliable seriously violating that trust, costly actions taken at the expense of taxpayers only for political gain. In our personal lives, we’ve experienced the ups and downs of a cancer journey and physical ills. This line of thought could be further expanded with more incidents. One could think if there wasn’t bad news there would be no news at all. Life could get discouraging.
Then quietly, we become aware of the other end of the spectrum. Spring arrives, slowly, but surely. New growth appears. The buds on trees burst into leaves, bedecking the branches in a myriad colours of green. Shoots emerge through bare ground, unfurling into innumerable variety of plants and blossoming into countless varieties of flowers. Shrubs and flowering trees in succession explode into beauteous array and rapturous aroma. Our hope and belief in a living God are renewed.
We begin to take note of other hopeful things happening around us: new babies arrive with the smell of heaven and the aura of innocence; men and women finding each other and happily wed themselves to each other with the promise adventure and growth of love and fulfillment; people giving of themselves to help someone in need; those who didn’t think of their own safety, but raced to help those hurt in the bombings; people helping for days, to dig through the rubble to find those still living, the public honouring the need of privacy for the women who had been held in captivity; virtual strangers organizing a ride to raise funds for the grieving Bosma family; a young child writing a book to raise funds for a friend with a life-threatening disease and far exceeding his expectations and those of his parents; a politician going above and beyond the call of duty; a teacher applauding a child who has made great strides in his school year.
New babies arrive with the smell of heaven and the aura of innocence. Men and women find each other and happily wed with the promise of adventure and growth of love and fulfillment.
Yes, life presents both good and bad. We can become bogged down if we concentrate on the bad, if we only bemoan the chaos and sin in our world. But if we look, we can find ways to turn those very things into opportunities for growth, for compassion, for ingenuous ways of showing ours and God’s love and care. Yes, there will be scars left from many of those tragedies, there will be chasms of emptiness that seem too big to ever be filled, but one step, one act of kindness, one touch of understanding at a time and something new can rise from calamity. It’s up to you and to me.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on May 18, 2013 at 9:25 AM||comments (0)|
In our morning worship time we read from Psalm 84:
What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD,
who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
They will continue to grow stronger,
and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.
This past week has held what seems to be more than its share of valleys of weeping. Monday when the news of the bombing in Boston broke, I was deeply concerned, for one of my dear friends was running in that marathon and her husband had gone along to cheer her on. I feared for their safety and waited with bated breath and fervent prayer to hear from them. I prayed for those who were hurt, whether my friends were among them or not. I prayed for the families of the hurt and the dead. I prayed for the children who saw atrocities they never should have had to witness. And, yes, I also prayed for the perpetrators, that God would speak to their hearts and help them to realize the great wrong they had committed and please God, that they would have at least one moment that they could see and realize that God is a God of love. Even after I had heard that my friends were safe and well, my prayers continued, through the mayhem of the search, more deaths and the finding of the 19 year-old whose life also has changed forever. My prayers will continue still for the long-lasting effects on the many people and even a city, that the valley of weeping may become a place of refreshing springs—a place to grow stronger. I pray that many may become more aware of their need of God through this.
A day later, the catastrophic explosion in Texas, just a few miles from where my sister lives, brought similar empathy, emotions and more prayer for the families who in a moment lost loved ones and homes—whose lives will be changed forever, whose children will live with realities and horror that no children should not have to witness. This is yet another valley of weeping . And I pray that many may find springs in the desert and moments of realization that God loves them and will be their place of safety if they turn to him.
Next came the news of the earthquake in China—more families whose loved ones were buried. What panic they must feel as they search for them through the rubble. Surely, they need our prayers too, as they go through this valley of weeping, adjust, rebuild and learn to live without the things and people they lost. I pray they, too, will grow stronger and that God will appear to them and clothe them in blessing.
Perhaps last week’s happenings helped us keep things in perspective when early this week we found out that the tumor in my husband’s spine has grown upward to the L-7 level. In our heads, we knew we could be weeping. However we have learned through this journey with cancer that the valleys of weeping indeed do hold refreshing springs and places to grow stronger. We don’t know what lies ahead, but we know who walks with us through the valleys and we have already experienced the marvels and miracles of his love—his clothing of blessing. So we are at peace and walk in the knowledge that there will be more of those ahead as we walk hand in hand with our Maker. There is no other way we’d rather walk.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on March 10, 2013 at 5:20 PM||comments (0)|
Perhaps there are some people who love to see themselves in pictures or in video, but I’m not one of them. I guess others are used to seeing me as I am, but I still harbor high hopes that I look different than I do. Seeing myself as I am on a big screen--how I look, how I talk, my facial expressions, breaks through those cherished delusions!
In a series of worship workshops I that I led, we came to Effective Scripture Reading. I suggested that the scripture passage be copied and printed from the internet in a size that is easy to read, then to make indentations in the lines so it’s easy to keep track of where you are after you look up at the audience for that important eye-contact.
After demonstrating how to mark the chosen scripture passage with underlines and bold print for emphasis, and then adding gentle reminders such as smile or speak tenderly, for expression, I invited each person to mark their own copies in readiness to read.
When I told the gathered group that we had the capability to video-tape each person as they read their prepared passage, there were a few groans, but my heart was warmed and I was encouraged that everyone there was brave enough to take part. They were willing to be vulnerable in order to learn.
That takes some vulnerability! In fact, the willing response encouraged me so much that after everyone else had done it, I said I would also take my turn. I’ve done a lot of worship leading and reading of scripture, but I had never done it in front of a video camera. That experiment revealed to each of us where we had done well and where we could improve.
• We could see what a difference it made when the reader looked up as often as possible.
• We also realized the benefit familiarity with the scripture would be in order to do that.
• We understood that each word needs to be plainly spoken--not just the ones being emphasized.
• Some readers vividly confirmed what a change it makes in the understanding and reception of the passage when the readers demonstrated the feeling behind the words—and we knew the reader had taken time to enter emotionally into the incident being portrayed. That too, takes vulnerability in order to learn and to help others learn.
Eugene Peterson says, that
"Printer’s ink" can become "embalming fluid" if it’s read flat off the page.
Anyone who has attended church over the years has, I’m sure, been exposed to a lot of embalming fluid. Scripture reading time is the place in the service that it’s easy to tune out, take a nap or read bulletins. You think you’ve heard this all before.
Years ago while attending a workshop on Scripture reading, our instructor sat on a chair, put his feet up on another, crossed his arms and with a terribly bored look on his face intoned in a “churchy” voice, “Fire…fire.” We all laughed, but no one left the room. He did this to emphasize that how we say something—our tone, our body language and expression, makes it believable or unbelievable.
Ever since, when asked to read scripture, I take it as a challenge to keep my listeners awake and hearing it as for the first time. That too, takes time, prayer and vulnerability, but is rewarding when you look up and see people almost leaning forward—you know the reading has full attention of the audience. When comments are later made about the scripture coming alive for people, the vulnerability is well worthwhile.
As writers, wouldn’t we be pleased to have people read our stories with the same emotion with which we wrote it? If God preserved the words of the Bible for all these years, for our benefit, I think we should do all we can to get his message across with the same love that he displayed in making such a big sacrifice just so we could walk with him in intimate communion.
So it may not be such a big sacrifice to make ourselves vulnerable enough to learn. After all, it isn’t how we look that is important—it’s how well we present the message.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on January 9, 2013 at 8:45 PM||comments (1)|
“Oh, I’m sorry!” —a perfectly normal response to someone who just told you her father has died. It happened over and over when my 100 year-old dad died two days before Christmas—and still does. It is hard to know how to reply to these dear people. I usually say, “Oh no, don’t be sorry! This is what we’ve been praying for and we’re rejoicing!” Callous, you may think, but let me explain. He was a good father in many ways. Throughout his life, his central focus and burning passion was to follow Christ and live for him. He was an avid reader and enthusiastic learner all his life. He encouraged his children and young people in the churches he pastored to do the same and think for themselves. His children weren’t handed everything on a silver platter. Seldom did he buy small treats for his offspring, but if we asked for a book, he did his best to provide one. He had his flaws and limitations, too. Among them: I longed to hear him express his love, but he was unable to do so. That inability left a gaping hole in my own life. As we neared adulthood and began to act on his advice to think for ourselves, he sometimes found it difficult if we didn’t reach the same conclusions he did. He and I had some heated discussions that resulted in us hurting each other. Our visits became filled with tension and intense debates as we differed on how to live our lives in Christ. At one point, God revealed to me that I should begin expressing my love for him. At first it felt almost phony, but as I obediently continued, I recognized that his inability to express his love was an impediment in his life, stemming from his own experiences. My attitude shifted to empathy and then greater love. Each time we visited, I gave him a hug and told him, “I love you.” Each letter I wrote, I finished with a few happy memories of him or expressed thankfulness for one of his traits. For a long time, it seemed it had no effect on him, but subtlety it was changing me! He was already in his nineties when he began to ask when I was coming to visit. The next time I did, he exclaimed with great joy, “Ruth!” when I walked through the door. That time, my hug was returned and he assured me, “I love you too!” Those were words I had given up ever hearing from his lips. In the years since then, each time I visited, I spent a lot of time sitting, holding his hand, talking to him and singing some of his beloved hymns. What joy as his strong bass voice joined mine. What beautiful fellowship we enjoyed. We had both lost our mates and that, too provided a mutual understanding of the emotions such loss brings. When I found another dear man to be my husband, he rejoiced with me and expressed it often—“I’m so glad for you!” When his slowing heart and lack of oxygen reduced the ability of his mind, he still prayed and preached and planned for meetings where he could proclaim the gospel and bring other souls into the fold. He often voiced his longing to go to heaven. In the last months that wish became his hearts dearest desire. We longed for his release from his earthly fetters. The morning of my mother’s birthday, he quietly let go and his face relaxed in utmost peace, while his spirit returned to his Maker. So, yes! Don’t be sorry! We rejoice for that final triumph for the dear man who gave his life in God’s service and parented us well.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” —a perfectly normal response to someone who just told you her father has died. It happened over and over when my 100 year-old dad died two days before Christmas—and still does.
It is hard to know how to reply to these dear people. I usually say, “Oh no, don’t be sorry! This is what we’ve been praying for and we’re rejoicing!”
Callous, you may think, but let me explain. He was a good father in many ways. Throughout his life, his central focus and burning passion was to follow Christ and live for him. He was an avid reader and enthusiastic learner all his life. He encouraged his children and young people in the churches he pastored to do the same and think for themselves. His children weren’t handed everything on a silver platter. Seldom did he buy small treats for his offspring, but if we asked for a book, he did his best to provide one.
He had his flaws and limitations, too. Among them: I longed to hear him express his love, but he was unable to do so. That inability left a gaping hole in my own life.
As we neared adulthood and began to act on his advice to think for ourselves, he sometimes found it difficult if we didn’t reach the same conclusions he did. He and I had some heated discussions that resulted in us hurting each other. Our visits became filled with tension and intense debates as we differed on how to live our lives in Christ.
At one point, God revealed to me that I should begin expressing my love for him. At first it felt almost phony, but as I obediently continued, I recognized that his inability to express his love was an impediment in his life, stemming from his own experiences. My attitude shifted to empathy and then greater love.
Each time we visited, I gave him a hug and told him, “I love you.” Each letter I wrote, I finished with a few happy memories of him or expressed thankfulness for one of his traits. For a long time, it seemed it had no effect on him, but subtlety it was changing me!
He was already in his nineties when he began to ask when I was coming to visit. The next time I did, he exclaimed with great joy, “Ruth!” when I walked through the door. That time, my hug was returned and he assured me, “I love you too!” Those were words I had given up ever hearing from his lips.
In the years since then, each time I visited, I spent a lot of time sitting, holding his hand, talking to him and singing some of his beloved hymns. What joy as his strong bass voice joined mine. What beautiful fellowship we enjoyed. We had both lost our mates and that, too provided a mutual understanding of the emotions such loss brings. When I found another dear man to be my husband, he rejoiced with me and expressed it often—“I’m so glad for you!”
When his slowing heart and lack of oxygen reduced the ability of his mind, he still prayed and preached and planned for meetings where he could proclaim the gospel and bring other souls into the fold. He often voiced his longing to go to heaven. In the last months that wish became his hearts dearest desire. We longed for his release from his earthly fetters. The morning of my mother’s birthday, he quietly let go and his face relaxed in utmost peace, while his spirit returned to his Maker.
So, yes! Don’t be sorry! We rejoice for that final triumph for the dear man who gave his life in God’s service and parented us well.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on November 15, 2012 at 8:05 PM||comments (0)|
Many people dread November with its dreary, damp, bone-chilling weather. In fact I just recently read a blog by my very dear friend decrying those very things and expressing her dislike of the month. She had the grace to apologize to those whose birthdays fall in this month. I happen to be one of those, so perhaps because of that I try to find the good that must also be there.
To me, the world seems to wait in hushed and contemplative ambience during November—almost like a lady stripped of her clothes, standing in front of her closet, envisaging herself in the gown she wants to wear for the upcoming gala. Of course I’m one of those odd-balls who love winter too, so even in November, I like that lady, anticipate the beauty of snow-laden branches, silvery tree branches surrounded by pristine whiteness highlighted by either sunlight and blue skies or a full moon, and I look forward to the beauty and more relaxed winter months.
Somehow, November reveals to us the “bare bones” of our world—what is underneath, holds up or provides the basis for all the growing things of summer and beauty of fall—the source that provides the bountiful harvest and the beauty we enjoy in the warmer months. It’s a good exercise to take a look at those basics now and then—in our world and in our lives.
While thinking about November, I saw that our esteemed co-founder of The Word Guild mentioned on facebook that she, in her haste to get going on her novel-writing month of November, realized she was madly writing—without a plot! I smiled.
Immediately I imagined a bunch of leaves without a trunk and branches to hold them up in some semblance of order to make a tree—I realized it can’t be done—neither can seeds, trees or shrubs be planted without rich soil in which to send their roots deep for nourishment. We need those basics from which we can sustain ourselves and our world and from which we can cultivate and develop life and beauty. We also need the “bare bones” of our faith on which we can rely in cold and bone-chilling times, and on which can grow leaves and blossoms of beauty. And in our writing we need the “bare bones” of a plot and a reason to tell our story.
Recently I heard a minister deliver his sermon the same way Nancy was writing her novel—without a plot or even a sense of direction. (Although Nancy probably had more sense of direction) It was a jumble of thoughts and ideas, some of them very good, but nothing fit together or flowed from one to the other. At the end it left the listener wondering, “Now just what was he trying to tell us? Did even he know, or was he just trying to fill his allotted time?”
So as in all of life, all of us, including writers and speakers need basic plots and reasons for our writing, speaking and indeed our living. It is only then that our readers and listeners and fellow sojourners can grasp how to use what they learn to dress up or enhance the basic structures in their own lives.
Yes, we need to sit up and pay attention to the Novembers in our lives.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on November 15, 2012 at 7:50 PM||comments (1)|
In 1992, my tree-loving husband planted a nut grove of quite a variety of edible nuts. He thought it conceived it as a retirement project. He enjoyed trimming and caring for trees and experimenting with the best ways to help them grow. The first fruits came in 1999 when the hazelnuts bore quite a crop in the month before he died in October. We put baskets of the nuts along with pictures and other memorabilia at the visitation, inviting others to take a few and plant them in his memory.
In subsequent years, we kept the grass mowed in the plantation so that the gathering in the fall would be easier. Year after year, we watched carefully, but the harvest was sparse. One of the first years after my second marriage, my new husband and I worked at trimming and thinning out the trees, but with two knee replacements then dealing with cancer, my deteriorating eyesight, and perhaps our age, it became more difficult. The trees continued to grow, but a few Manitoba maples also sprouted and grew, fast as Manitoba maples do. There were even some hard maples—good in their place, but not in accord with the purpose of the nut grove. It became more difficult to mow close to the trees so grasses and weeds grew rampant and the whole grove began to look messy and uncared for.
How like our lives when we don’t pay close attention to what is filling our time and taking our energy. For a few years, my focus was on my writing. Gradually, other things worked their way into my life until my writing was relegated to the few days I could fit in any given month. With my husband’s hospitalization and many medical appointments, it became hours instead of days. Oh the thoughts and ideas still held a large space in my mind and heart, but the actual writing was almost obscured by the undergrowth and the larger activities that grew around the focal interest in my life.
This spring, when we went to take another look at the nut grove, I was filled with remorse. I plead with my children and grandchildren for one day’s help. They responded positively and we had a wonderful day in the nut grove, led by the services of an arborist friend. We mowed the long grass and weeds, chopped down the trees that didn’t belong in a nut grove and trimmed up the nut trees to make maintenance easier. Now when I drive past the nut grove, and I’ve done so frequently, I feel a glowing sense of satisfaction, an awareness that it once more represents the intention of my first husband, and a warm glow as I remember the family working together to achieve the new look. It once more looks like a nut grove.
The nut grove has become an illustration of what I need to be constantly aware in my day to day living. Right now it may take a major time of sorting out and discarding, but if I do that, I will do more writing again. Some interruptions may be legitimate and necessary, but if I am more conscious of each demand on my time and discard the less necessary as soon as they appear, I will be able to maintain the integrity of the purpose of my life.
In this busy world, I probably am not the only one with this problem.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on September 27, 2012 at 8:20 PM||comments (0)|
Same old, same old… Same old?
Commuters often drive the same roads twice a day for the length of their careers. Bus drivers, truckers and delivery people do too. What do they see?
As a school bus driver with the same route for at least ten years, I often marveled at the things I saw along the way. Several years, a snowy owl hung out in a two-block area for the winters. It never ceased to fill me with awe. I watched a Great Blue Heron build its nest in a tree beside a small creek. I observed one woman faithfully taking her dogs for a walk around the perimeter of the farm. With interest I watched one house take years to become habitable, several homes receiving face lifts and many landscaping projects beautifying their owner’s habitation. I noticed changes, but sometimes too, noted things I had missed even though I drove the same route so often.
For the seven years I’ve been married to my Wise One, we have travelled the hour between our two homes, much of the time, weekly. Some wonder that we don’t get tired of it. That hour, though, most often, is a time of relaxation and enjoyment. We travel through farming country and several small towns and villages, through all kinds of weather and four seasons of the year.
The weather and seasons alone bring a never-ending progression of scenery that brings delight to the eye. The snow covered landscape, the frost on trees after a winter’s fog, the sparkle of the branches in the sun after they have been covered with a freezing rain. In the spring we follow the receding of the snow, the drying of the land and the new growth greening the landscape and dressing the trees.
Summer brings a plethora of flowers, both wild and domesticated, the harvesting of crops, the smell of freshly mown hay. Then comes fall with its blue, blue skies and purple lined clouds, the trees in their autumn splendor—my favorite season.
Sometimes I keep my camera handy to record some of those sights. Again, we have witnessed building projects, landscaping improvements, the tragedy of a house fire and the subsequent building of a new home. We see farmers and gardeners sharing the wealth of their gardens at roadside stands along the way. In one small town we enjoy the wood carving done on the trunk of a tree that had to be removed—artistry borne out of death.
As with the commuters, and my bus run, I am amazed at how often I still see something I hadn’t noticed before and I marvel at how often you can drive the same route and still miss a vital part of the scenery.
It made me think of my reading habits. As a youngster, I read books over and over again. Some of my favorites were probably read dozens of times. I couldn’t understand people who would read a book once then give it away. Now maybe part of the reason was that there wasn’t a lot of money around to buy books; there were only five eight-foot shelves of books in our school library and I didn’t have access to the town library for many years.
I had to read—to me it was as necessary as eating. So my only alternative was to read the same books again and again. I read my school readers many times and I even read the dictionary from cover to cover. Those books became old friends I still treasure. That is why I keep as many books as I do, although I have begun to donate them to the church library so others can benefit, and I still have access to them.
I’ve prayed that my writing may also merit multiple readings, so I was pleased when again last Sunday, a woman told me she just read my two novels again and enjoyed them as much as the first time.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on August 3, 2012 at 8:35 PM||comments (1)|
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Matthew 6:28,29, (NKJV)
Two years ago a friend gave me a small clump of what she called “Moonflowers.” They are a variety of Evening Primrose. Most flowers open in the sunlight. Some close up each evening and open again in the morning, but these are unique in their ways.
Many evenings after the sun has disappeared from the horizon but when there is still a little leftover light, I wait beside the flower bed, thrilled in anticipation. The tightly closed buds look as though they would be days from opening, but as I watch, the stem begins to quiver a bit. Very soon the sides of the buds begin to burst open to show little slits of yellow. Then, right before my eyes, the change happens—from a closed bud to a fully open flower in the matter of a few seconds. Sometimes the buds open one at a time, sometimes several simultaneously, but the delight never diminishes. Last night, as I watched this extraordinary miracle, my mind opened, like the flower before me and made a connection to my present experience.
My husband and I have been experiencing a time of darkness or deep shadows because of a rare kind of cancer he has acquired and our journey with it. Yet through all this time we have been so very conscious of the prayers of many people as well as the faithfulness of our God. We have felt an abiding peace and gladness in that knowledge.
It seems to me that our joy in the unfathomable reliability and dependability of God is much like the brightness of those yellow flowers blooming in the darkness. Both bring a burst of elation, a sense of awe and a sanctuary for our souls, knowing that God is working in delightful, different and unexpected ways in all the situations of our lives—even when the sunlight is hidden and the darkness envelopes us.
Another insight presented itself to me as well. In order to see the miracle of the opening flower, I need to go into the darkness, sit and wait. If I stay in the familiar comfort of my brightly-lit house, working at a myriad of tasks, ignoring the darkness, I miss that quiet blessing of the opening bloom and the inspiration it brings.
How good to know God is in charge. How delightful to discover that He brings blossoms in the night-times of our lives so that even there, we can be conscious of His presence and love.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on July 6, 2012 at 4:55 PM||comments (0)|
Does it sound unbelievable? Yes, it does. However my first memories are being in the cradle beside my parents’ bed, feeling new to this world, having come from the presence of God. Since I was only in that cradle for less than six months, it seems preposterous, yet never-the-less real to me. (Even my mother didn’t believe I could remember until I pointed out to her where my cradle stood, that my older sister’s crib was right at the head of my bed and some happenings that took place which she had never told me.)
Those memories and first consciousness enveloped my childhood and warmed me with a deep awareness of the reality of God’s presence. Our extended family often gathered on a Sunday evening to sing hymns. My Jesus I love thee and Saviour like a shepherd lead us even at age 3-5 always moved me to tears. Neither me nor my family could understand why I cried. It wasn’t until I was older that I recognized the pure love and adoration those words roused in me. That moved me to tears. I knew that the Good Shepherd held me in his arms.
Between the ages of 11 and 15, I became increasingly mindful that God was calling me to not only acknowledge and glory in his presence but to give my life to him. Because of prevalent circumstances, I put off that surrender until I could no longer do so and at fifteen I knelt beside my bed and gave my heart and life to Jesus. “Thou God seest me” had echoed through my head as the hound of heaven gently pursued me for a commitment. Now those same words came as a comforting reality that reminded me of the assurance of my younger years.
Just as God is triune, my experience of Him was three-fold. Those first years I seemed to relate to Him as God the Father. Then I began reading the scripture to meet Jesus, and God the Son became real to me—a friend that sticks closer than a brother. As I got to know Him more and more, I longed for an encounter with God, the Holy Spirit. Often times in my prayer and praise time, I felt so full of love and praise, words failed me. Then one evening, when I was at this stage, I experienced a tremendous out-pouring of His Loving Spirit. It washed over me and through me. There was and is a reality and constancy to His presence since then, that I had not experience before. My conversation and communion with Jesus Christ through His Spirit, became and continues to be my source of strength and my foundation.
As I grew in my life with him, I looked for ways to serve. I longed to share life in Christ with others, to be a "publisher of glad tidings.” Through prayer and searching of the scripture I sensed God naming me as an “encourager.”
Through the years I’ve been able to do that in many ways—as a mother, a friend to my children’s peers, a kindergarten helper, a school bus driver, a program director for a seniors day program, in church and Sunday school and walking alongside those going through difficulties. When my husband faced cancer and death, I was able to walk him to the very gates of heaven.
Then my life took a turn. By God’s grace and nudging, I honed my writing skills and turned from newspaper columns and reports to novels based on true life stories. From that grew an inspirational speaking career. Each step, I was conscious of God’s work in my life.
Although the childhood dreams of being on the foreign mission field didn’t materialize, he made me aware of the mission right in my home and on my doorstep. He even orchestrated a meeting with a man I had known as a child and has given me a love for this time in my life such as I would never have imagined.
Now I am on another journey with cancer with this new husband and I try to encourage him. I know I am exactly where God wants me to be as I endeavor to continue to be the encourager he called me to be. And my Good Shepherd still holds me in his arms.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on June 27, 2012 at 8:00 AM||comments (2)|
Elsa was a storyteller supreme. When she started relating a tale from her childhood exploits, she riveted the attention of staff and fellow clients alike. Her nonchalant manner was negated by the twinkle in her eye. You knew something comical was coming, but she kept you in suspense until the last moment. Elsa (not her real name) lived with her son and his family in a few rooms built especially for her. When Elsa spoke about her family, she glowed with love and pride.
When she died after a short illness, I wanted to convey to her family the gratitude for being so supportive of their elder. When I spoke about the love and pride she had in them, they looked at me strangely.
“Are you sure you’re at the right visitation?” one of them asked.
“Why would you say that?” I questioned.
“We never experienced those sentiments from her. She always complained and we thought we weren’t able to please her no matter what we did.”
Too often we hear, at someone’s death, the wish that the living would have done or said more while the departed were still alive. It can work both ways. We need to express our deep-felt appreciation to people while they are still alive, but we also need to do our part while we still are here on this earth.
How sad if we feel it but don’t say it to the ones for whom we have tender sentiments or if we tell other people instead of the ones who would benefit the most from hearing it.
Last fall, I took advantage of my husband’s 75thbirthday to give opportunity for some of those word gifts to be made to him. At a dinner and open house I had slips of paper made up with “Characteristics of Paul that I enjoy” and “Memories”with space for people to fill in their personal responses. Those were to be their gift to him.
My dear wise one, like many, has been a giver most of his life, but hadn’t realized the influence and effect he had on others. He certainly didn’t have an over-inflated opinion of himself. We had a lovely day as we celebrated him. He was amazed at how many turned up for the occasion. Afterward as he read through the comments people had written, I sensed a change in his demeanor—a level of contentment, comfort and acceptance of self-worth more pronounced than before. That has been a lasting effect that I believe has helped sustain him through several difficult months of pain, surgery and recovery since. I am now putting those comments along with pictures of the day in a book that he can read and reread.
When I was growing up, whether it was just in my family or whether it was society in general, there seemed to be a reticence to affirm children for doing well or for their strengths, for fear of making them too proud. In my personal experience, that left me with two tendencies I’ve had to work hard to overcome. First, I am so apt to doubt myself, even when I’ve done my best—I always think I should or could have done better. Second, when I am affirmed now, for doing well, I find it hard to accept or know what to do with those expressed sentiments. It has been difficult to just say, "Thank-you!" It seems to me, that a child will be much better adjusted if given affirmation, from day one, when they genuinely deserve it.
How often do we appreciate something someone has done, or a gift they freely share, a strength they display, and just keep our feelings of appreciation inside? How often are we apt to mention it to a friend or spouse, but not to the person? Why not write a note to the one we admire or appreciate and tell them so? What do you think it would mean to them if we told them? What could the loss of that affirmation mean if we don’t?
Saying it is good, but for writers, putting it on paper is even better! For then those words can be read over and over. I dare say that some of those notes will be kept for years and treasured in the hearts for whom they were meant.
I don’t know about you, but I want my family to hear my love, pride and appreciation from my own lips and pen before I die. What about a note for each of my family members, for my diligent, committed co-worker, my faithful fellow-church members, my caring pastor, the friendly clerk at my usual grocery store