Category Archive: Helping Each Other

Hairpins and Hope

The dual switchback gave us no visibility to what might be approaching on the one-lane road. What if a local driver comes barreling around that corner? We’re on the cliff side of the road! Much of the drive was enchanting. Every change in elevation exposed different flora and fauna.  Some areas were lush, some covered with red dirt. “Look at this plain,” I said at one point. After climbing mountains and traversing hairpins for miles, the flatland was a lovely surprise. We crossed narrow bridges and stretches where meeting an oncoming car required one of us to pull out or back up, depending on the amount of margin on the side of the constricted road.

Don pulled over at one cliff, where we looked down at the lava rocks below, and spoke at length with the artist recreating the pastel ocean scene. Near Annalise, spread over a rock and colored the same, was a wild pig skin. I didn’t realize it until I saw hooves and a tail … and smelled an odor that was ripe. Some “rite of passage,” according to Annalise.

We drove past a picturesque little broken-down church, heavy tile roof falling in on itself, that was once charming. It sat above cliffs that led down to roaring waves, tumbling waterfalls, and a little village. We’d seen a sign earlier for banana bread so we pulled over at Julia’s tiny green shack.

I stepped up onto the porch behind a young woman who asked about banana bread. “Last loaf,” was the reply.

“Oh no,” I spoke without thinking.

The woman turned to me. “Do you want to split it?” Her husband joined her. “We don’t need to eat the whole thing.”

“Really?” I asked. Really!

I thanked them, and we divided the bread and shared the cost. Waving goodbye, Don and I continued on our journey, enjoying the moist sweetness of the loaf, which almost melted in our mouths.

More hairpin turns. More one-lane passages. More  beauty—orange and yellow-leaved shrubs, magenta flowers atop trees, hot pink bougainvillea, and palm to pine trees. And lava rock, and some small rock slides, and cliffs that plunged into roiling waves below.

And I thought, kind of like life. There’s a great deal of beauty, enjoyment, ongoing blessing as we walk with Christ. At times we need to hear a brother or sister say “You want to share?” … or perhaps we need to offer the shared blessing to others. There is also challenge, and difficulty, and pain, and suffering. Sometimes the road we travel is smooth and lined with blessings of health and love and productive work and hope. At other times the road is dark, the switchbacks prevent us from seeing the next step, and we have to move forward in faith, our hand in the Father’s, knowing He has promised never to leave or forsake us.

Julia’s

I’ve had a few big switchbacks in my life, along with lesser ones. Threats of mutilation while ministering in the ghetto; pain following departure from a work I loved; some health challenges; the losses of a nephew, several dear friends, my father, my first husband. But I’ve also seen the beauty of being carried through those hairpins by a God who loves me and would not let me go; of loving and being loved well by two wonderful men, and by family; of the gift of travel; of the joy of ministering to and encouraging younger women in their faith walks.

And sometimes it’s the hairpin turns, the switchbacks where we can do nothing but pray and trust, that teach us most clearly that our Father is always there, loving, guiding, walking alongside as we navigate  day by day.

So, while there’s no way I want to suffer, I also don’t regret the times my road has been hard. Mixed with the joys, the difficulties remind me to trust and rely on God in both good and bad times. I can’t become an oak of righteousness, rooted and grounded in Him, without His love and pruning and deepening, the same One who promises to give beauty in place of ashes.

The prophet Isaiah recognized his anointing from the Lord …

” … to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:2b-3)

What’s encouraged you during some of the hairpin turns of your life?

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ACCEPTING HELP FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF YOUR SPOUSE, Part I

The comfort of a friend

The comfort of a friend

Following my first husband’s death, I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. I slept about eleven hours a night, and 3 or 4 during the day. The strain of caregiving and watching Jerry decline, along with the grief of losing him, took all my strength. Family, friends, and our community of faith were particularly significant during this time.

Jerry and I were in Florida, waiting for and then trying to recover from a transplant for eight and a half months before his death. After my return to California alone, friends and family cleaned my yard, laid new sprinkler lines, and helped reorganize the kitchen. I learned to say ‘yes’ to their requests to help. If you are too numb to respond, ask a good friend to help identify areas where people can provide support, and let the friend field questions for you.

My sister-in-law and niece prepared two dozen individual meals and placed them in my freezer the day I returned home. The handwritten scripture taped to each container encouraged me each time I ate one of their delicious, love-filled dinners.

Lee, a close friend of Jerry’s, replaced my house locks, fixed my garage door, and sold Jerry’s gun collection for me. During those first months Lee called daily, then every other day, then weekly, to check on me. He listened when I needed to talk, and didn’t try to fix me when I cried. I often laughed at his sense of humor, which reminded me of my husband’s quick wit.

While it’s sometimes hard to accept these gifts, don’t deprive others of the opportunity to help in your time of need–as you would do for them were the situation reversed.

i-feel-nothingYou may feel like isolating yourself. However, it is good to be with people who know and love you, especially on holidays. A girlfriend spent the first anniversary of Jerry’s death with me. Another called to ensure I wasn’t alone on Memorial Day. Rely on those friends who let you cry, express discouragement or loneliness, or just sit numbly through time together, all without judgment.

I understand the most intense pain of grief usually lasts between 12-18 months. Although you sometimes feel you can’t breathe for the pain, it will lessen over time. You may not want it to decrease. I remember thinking my grief for Jerry was my only remaining tie to him and I didn’t want to let it go. But a time will come when you begin to release a little at a time so that you can move forward into a new  and dramatically changed life.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18 NLT

 


 

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“Hey, Can you Help Me?”

homeless man

“Hey, can you buy me a cheap burger?”

Out of the corner of my eye I saw an unkempt man walking toward my car. Oh no, I thought. I make it a practice not to give money to people on the street. Here I was in the drive-through lane at Burger King. From about 15 feet away the man asked, “Would you buy me the cheapest hamburger they have? I’m starving.”

From the safety of my car, I responded. “Sure, I can do that. Do you want fries?”

“Yeah. I really appreciate it.”

The disheveled man had become a person with a voice, a personality, a need.

“I’m happy to do it. God loves you!”

He smiled and pointed his index finger at me. “Jesus loves you. The Holy Spirit loves you.”

I grinned, suddenly feeling quite comfortable with this stranger, and told him I’d meet him at the end of the drive-through, then ordered for both of us. After paying and collecting our food, I handed the man his food and coke, along with a packet of protein bars, juice, wet wipes, etc. that I keep in my car for occasions like this. “Here’s a little something for later.”

“Really?”

“Really. What’s your name?”

“Thomas … I’m the doubter who put my finger in Jesus’ side.”

“Hi Thomas. I’m Carol. Is Jesus your Savior?”

“Yeah. I love him.”

“Me too. I hope you have a good day. God bless you.”

He raised his elbow to touch mine. “And you … peace up!” as his thumbs pointed upward.

It’s easy for me to judge someone who is homeless…to think they must not be trying hard enough, might be using the system. And while that may be true for some, Jesus didn’t tell me to check a person’s attempts at finding a job before giving. What if he required me to be ‘worthy’ before he would love me? I don’t know what caused Thomas to become homeless. I don’t know his story–his family, education, the experiences and relationships that have brought him to the circumstance in which I met him. But his request gave me an opportunity to serve–and his response about Jesus made us family. “There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors.” Deuteronomy 15:11, MSG.

What are some practical ways you’ve found to help those in need? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Compassion – a Great Gift

Compassion

Compassion

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10)

Business professionals, high-rise office buildings, hustle and bustle surrounded me as I walked toward my destination in downtown Los Angeles a few years back. A well-coifed woman walked a few yards ahead of me, dressed in a business suit and heels.  I watched as she passed a homeless man who sat on the sidewalk, asking for help.

“Good morning!” Her cheerful voice rang out as she looked straight at the man and smiled as she passed him.

I’ve never forgotten her response. While she didn’t give him what he asked for–money–she did acknowledge him rather than treating him as if he were invisible. Like others, I’ve often walked past someone asking for help, eyes averted, acting like the person was invisible.  When she addressed him in a respectful way rather than ignoring him, this woman treated the man with dignity.

Yet Jesus also tells us that if someone is in need and we tell them “be warm and filled” but do nothing practical to help, what good is that? “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” How often have we heard that phrase? How often have we acted on it?

Dr. Kenneth Brantly of Samaritan’s Purse ministered to patients in Liberia and contracted Ebola; Mother Teresa used up her life in service to “the poorest of the poor.” These are just two examples of individuals living out the Golden Rule.

Service often brings joy; sometimes it brings suffering. But it is Christ’s call.

Can you think of a time when you were treated in respectful, compassionate way?

The day after I learned my father was terminally ill, I sat in the waiting room while Mom and my oldest brother, a physician, told Dad his diagnosis. I sat there among strangers, sobbing…and I couldn’t stop. Another woman was on the phone. After she completed her call, she walked over and sat beside me.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“No, I’m not. My father is dying.”

We talked for a few minutes. But I will never forget her kindness and compassion in reaching out to listen and touch when I was hurting. May I follow Christ’s lead and treat others with the compassion He has extended to me.

Have you had, or missed, opportunities to treat someone else as you want to be treated? I’d love to hear your stories.

 

 

Raising the Walls

Once again our hearts are full. When we arrived at Rancho Santa Marta a week ago, (http://www.ranchosantamarta.org/), we saw a cement pad where “Victor’s Casa Nueva” (Victor’s new house) would be. When we left Saturday morning, the interior and exterior walls were framed, and the men had started building and putting up roof trusses. The day I saw the walls framed and lying on the cement pad was a thrill. With my camera, I recorded our guys working together, standing in a line to raise that wall. Wow! Great picture of the Body of Christ and how He desires that we encourage, support and help each other to reach a common goal.

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... Lift!

 

Team members stepped in as needed. No arguments about assignments, and lots of  help given as needed at any particular time, whether it was working with a nail gun, picking up more lumber, cooking a meal or doing KP afterward.

 

 

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Many hands lift a heavy wall …

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… And brace it.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. I Corinthians 10:31.

 

 

 

Some of the women (including me) also had fun working with resident children on crafts. They painted, glued and decorated popsicle stick frames, then we glued in their photos and added a ribbon as a hook. Coloring was also a focus; and one of the older “boys” (he’s about 30) spent a long time looking through pictures in a Spanish-English book, asking us to say the words in Spanish. I almost felt like I was the one in school!

Using creativity

Creativity in action

 

I’m so thankful for this wonderful ministry, the hearts and service of its leaders, and the children who are being loved and taught here. Pain is certainly present, with baggage from challenging backgrounds, and with occasional rebellion or departure from the ranch. But these kids live and grow in a family environment, learning about God’s great love for them, loving each other. And so there is hope. I can’t wait to return next year. Want to join us?

 

For more information about RSM’s ministry and needs, go to http://www.ranchosantamarta.org/.

 

May God guide us as we look for opportunities to serve Him this week, wherever we are.