Monday, February 24, 2014

Beautiful Hands

The day my mother went home to be with Jesus was a day I will never forget.  Still etched upon my mind as her body lay in the bed for us all to visit one last time, I noticed her hands.  “Look how beautiful her hands are,” I remember telling my sister.  I remember my gaze being fixed on them.  It was as if they were speaking to me kindness, gentleness, and goodness and love.

These were not the hands I remember my mother having as we were growing up.  Her hands were cracked from hard work.  Her nails never polished.  I don’t think she ever had a manicure in her life.  Often they were stained from some project she had us doing to keep us busy like making Ukrainian Eggs.  I remember my mom most with her hands covered in dirt for she loved to garden.   She was either planting seeds or tending the plants that were growing up.  The seeds she planted were not just in the soil of the earth, but also in the soil of her children, which were 7, plus all the other children who she did seed planting in with Girl Scouts, CCD and Junior Garden Club (just to name a few). Her hands were dried and cracked from the long hours spent washing dishes and watering the seeds she had planted in our hearts.  I can still see her nails with dirt under them from the constant weeding she did in her flower gardens and in our hearts. Her rough hands nourished our bodies with good food to eat and took care of us when we were sick. 
As she knelt by our beds when we were young, her folded hands taught ours to pray to a loving God.

But now her hands were at rest just as her soul was.  She had used her hands for good.  Martha seemed the perfect name for my mother who always was busy serving someone.

Another pair of hands that were just as beautiful were those I saw during my recovery from surgery.  They were the hands of His body.  The body of Christ in action, the way God designed it to be. Carrying one another’s burden-lifting each other up in prayer - serving selflessly.  These I saw as the body of Christ expressed its heart of love for my family and me.

Hands of little girls who drew me get well pictures
Hands that penned sweet words of encouragement
Hands that folded and lifted us up in prayer
Hands that prepare and carried nourishing meals to our family
Hands that brought gifts to cheer
Hands that took on dirt to weed my gardens
Hands that wrote checks to help with the medical bills
Hands that took on grime to clean my house and do my laundry
Hands that took care of my physical needs
Hands that were laid on me with healing prayers
Hands that held mine and walked with me every step of the way

And of course the most beautiful hands of all.

Hands that catch me when I fall
Hands that pick me up again and dust me off
Hands that point the right direction when I don’t know which way to go
Hands that nudge me forward when I am afraid to take the first step
Hands reaching out touching me with healing, comforting my soul
Hands that hold up the whole world and everything in it
Hands that wrote the truth
Hands that fed the multitudes
Hands that cleansed the leapers
Hands that broke bread and washed feet
Hands that took up a gnarled cross and carried it to Calvary
Hands that took the nails for me
Hands that reach out still to each of us

Lord, give us your heart of love and let our hands become your hands to minister to those in need.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Blessing in Disguise

Only a week had passed since I had been released from the hospital, but here I was sitting in that cold examination room hearing the doctor tell me that in 4 days I was to go back to the hospital and get a port put in so that I could begin the chemo treatments.

Start the chemo? How can I possibly do that- my body is so weak I can barely even walk? The doctor examined the incision I had received two weeks earlier to get to the cancer that was slowing eating away at my body.  “The incision looks good,” he said. It did. I was amazed at how quickly that had healed up, but what about all the incisions inside of me?  They still felt raw and hurting, even the slightest move hurt. He continued the exam and I showed him a few red spots that had appeared a day earlier on the top of my leg.  “Hmmm looks like it may be shingles,” he said.  Then without missing a beat, he left me with instruction to call the hospital to set up my appointment for Friday to get the port.

I couldn’t take it in.  Get chemo already, in this condition!  It was like asking a mortally wounded soldier to go back up to the front line.  I wasn’t ready for my body to get knocked down again. What was the doctor thinking, and what on earth are shingles?

The rash got progressively worse so I went back to see the doctor.  “Yes, it’s shingles.” He said “ Unfortunately we will need to wait until it clears up to get the port.”

If you’ve had shingles, you know the agony. You also know there’s not a lot you can do to get rid of them. Just try to endure until they’ve run their course.

At first I didn’t see it- what God was up to.
Was I cursed?  Cancer, and now shingles!
Wasn’t one hard blow enough- did I really two?

“Maybe this is a blessing in disguise,” my friend Linda who had similar surgery said as she made plans to bring us several meals.  The pain, the burning, a blessing?  Really?  As I lay in my bed thinking, it took awhile, but I realized she was right.  I was much too weak and broken to start chemo.  I’m sure that God could of used other things to delay the start of chemo. But if there weren’t some compelling reason, the doctor would have gone along with his plans to get the port in and begin no matter how bad I felt. 

 The port wouldn’t go in for another two weeks, and the chemo wouldn’t start for 11 days after that.  By that time my shuffle had turned into a slow walk.  I was able to sit for more than a half hour at a time and I could turn in bed from one side to another without assistance.  I was far from being back to normal, but compared to a month earlier I was doing fine. The shingles were no fun, but they allowed me time to rest and recover.

A bloody broken body hung in the public square.
At first they didn’t see it- what God was up to.
Was He cursed?
After 40 lashes – did they need to crucify Him too?
 It took awhile, but a few days later they would understand.  
This was a blessing in disguise.

 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:13-15 (ESV)

What did I learn?  To be thankful in all things, even shingles. That our times our in His hands.
He is watching over every part of our lives (the very hairs on our heads are numbered).

Unexpected, unwanted things may not be the curse that they first seem to be. 
Look closer, and wait- they may just be a blessing in disguise!