Thursday, November 7, 2013

HUGS: Recognizing the Gifts

I have a friend who faithfully practices “Take it to the Lord in prayer.” Big things. Little things. Seemingly insignificant things.

 I, on the other hand, have struggled with this. I have found myself evaluating my needs and placing many in the ‘handle it, Big Girl’ column. I mean, God’s got the universe to run, right? And He has gifted us with brains and reasoning. We don’t need to bother Him with minutia. That used to be my mindset.

Once, my friend and I were working together, along with 10 other women, on a project, getting ready for a weekend retreat. Many trips back and forth to our cars, emergency runs to the store, and so forth. Each of us had our duties and many of us helped each other.

At one point, as I ran past my friend, she grabbed the arm of my sweater and pulled me back to her. Her eyes filled with panic. “I can’t find my keys,” she said. “I need to get into my car to get the posters and napkins and then I have to pick up my daughter and drive her to a friend’s house for the weekend. But I can’t find my keys!”

As I have many friends who multi-task and suffer from occasional brain hiccups, I own a practiced response. “Where were you last? When did you see them last? What were you doing just before you misplaced them?” This causes us to retrace our steps and focus the mind on a picture of the lost items where we last saw them.

Pulled from my own tasks, I wanted to calm her down and then get on with what I had to do. She did not give me a chance. “Pray with me, Lynne,” she said, as she slid her hand down my arm and clasped my hand.

My mouth gapped as she closed her eyes. “God,” she said, “I can’t find my keys. I need my keys. You know where they are. You can see them. Please help me find my keys.” She opened her eyes. The panic was gone.

Because I was already cocked with my memory platitudes, I drew a breath to begin. My eyes moved briefly to a podium nearby and there on the back shelf were some shiny keys. Her keys. So no quick memory jog.

Does God care when we misplace our keys? Well, sure. He cares about everything. Should we glut up the prayer network with trivialities? I used to think that we should not.

One lesson I have learned through Mike’s illness is that to my Father, nothing in my life is trivial. There are no big needs and little problems. Everything that makes up me is His concern. He wants me to trust Him to sort it out. He has not tasked me with cutting down His work load.

He longs for daily, hourly, moment-by-moment conversations with His child. He wants me to bring everything to Him in prayer. He has the biggest shoulders.

He also wants me to open my eyes to the blessings that He gives me, to the protection and love that flow from Him. If I don’t see it, it’s still there but it pleases Him when I ‘get it.’

Mike and I got knocked back on our heels with his diagnosis and prognosis. Whatever competencies we thought we possessed fell away as we faced a very different future than we had planned. And in that weakness, we fell into God’s loving arms, arms that wrapped us up tight and held us through our trial.

God demonstrated how much He cared for us, in so many ways. We came to recognize what we called HUGS from our Father. In our 4 plus years, as in any life, challenges came up, problems presented themselves. Perhaps it could go several ways. It always went the easiest way.

We came to hear God’s voice in this. Mike and I prepared, as much as we could, for Mike’s death. And God said to us, “You know what, Mike? I have one more thing for you to do before you come home. I’m going to pave the way by taking care of everything else. You concentrate on the task.”

And, as we walked through this hard thing, with God taking care of everything, we saw that He wants to handle everything.

So, we let Him. May I never forget this lesson. Life is sweeter when we cast it all on our Father.

What kind of HUGS? So Many.

Here’s just one.

When Mike was lying in the hospital, recuperating from the surgery that did not heal him, we talked a lot about how our lives had changed. We cried, we kissed, we cuddled, we talked.

I felt so helpless. I could do little to help my husband. At one point, he started listing all of the things he wished he had done in his life and this really cut into me. I had always tried to push him past those potential regrets….”Go ahead. DO IT,” was my chorus. So the motorcycles, boats, cars, guitars, etc. etc. And how foolish. Here, at what we thought was The End, he still had quite a list.

Many, but not all, were out of reach now. But one, for sure, was not.

“I wish I could get in a convertible and drive down Highway 1 to Key West.”

Wheels turning. THIS could happen, if we have the time. And as fall 2009 arrived, and he was still alive, I got busy with the plan. I secured airline tickets to Miami. I rented a convertible. I found a place for us to stay between Key West and Miami. We flew down, got the car, and started on our trek. Our first hint that this would not be ALL THAT was when we could not figure out how to lower the convertible top. It had been a while. We had to dig out the manual, locate the button AFTER we had raised the trunk….

Then, Miami was hot and crowded. We tooled through a lot of stop-and-go traffic. Once into the Keys, we remembered that the highway is single lane, two way. And, on this blistering day, road crews were busy so we sat some more in the heat.

I kept up a blithering chatter about how Mike was getting to do what he wanted. He tried to smile a lot but we were both falling out of love with this adventure.

Once we neared Key West, the sky opened up and rain poured down. Cold rain. Then, it slowed to a drizzle but by then, we were wet and shivering. So much for the convertible.

We realized that the idea of the drive was so much better than the reality. Thinking that I would be disappointed, Mike was slow to come to, “How about if we go back north?”

“Great idea. Where should we go?”

“We are flying out of Fort Lauderdale so let’s go there.”

It was a plan. But not much of one. We had no reservations and really no idea where we would land.

But God did. Who knew that with everything else on His agenda, our Father is in the concierge business?

We drove back north with a gorgeous full moon on the rise. It was getting late as we drove through Fort Lauderdale. A few miles north, the folks have incorporated the village of Lauderdale by the Sea. Small, quiet, and full up as it was.

EXCEPT, we saw a Vacancy sign flashing on a small two story building, surrounded by tall condos. As it was late, we pulled in.

The 6 space parking lot was deserted, the door was locked and there was a sign on the door:

Vacancy. Call ###-###-#### if you need a room.

We did. We did.

5 minutes later, a lady walked over with a key. She greeted us and said she was the manager. She let us in and, as we were the only guests, gave us her best room.

This little place, Courtyard Villa, used to be a private residence. It has 8 rooms and a large spa. The front door heads to the back door, locked now, which is 50 feet from the ocean. Our room….it became OUR room, has French doors that open to that ocean. We were so tired…we learned that we had keys for both doors and that the place would be open at 9 AM.

We entered the room, flung open the doors, and crashed into our bed, lulled by the swoosh of waves on sand.

It could not have been more perfect. We loved our time there and thanked God wistfully for giving us this gift of a final time at the beach.

Except it became 5 times. And we had a reservation for our anniversary.

Why did the Father direct us there? Why do we need an answer for that? It was a gift…no a hug….and one of many we received in the next four years.


1 comment:

  1. Beautiful story. I am always happier when I give up and allow God to lead.