Genetics, Goose Feathers, and God

While she was in grad school, we loved talking to our daughter about many of the things she was learning about science…..about genetics, in particular.  The “hidden to our eyes” world of genetics was opening up to her, and somewhat to us, as she learned more and more about the complex codes that make us….us.  We were especially happy to hear her say, more than once, that what she was learning about our DNA pointed her to God and to scripture.  Truly we are “fearfully and wonderfully made!”  (Psalm 139:14)

Made.  Not evolved, but made.  Made by our Creator.  Each of us designed, uniquely designed, by His very creative hand. 

Now working as a geneticist, Andrea designed and now supervises a lab in Texas.  Did you know that each of us processes medicines based on our DNA?  How my body responds to an aspirin is different from how your body responds to an aspirin.  Our response is all tied into that unique strand of DNA that we each possess.  So a geneticist can take your sample sent from a doctor and from that sample can determine how your body will respond to various medicines.

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It’s called Pharmacogenetics.  The definition is:  the branch of pharmacology concerned with the effect of genetic factors on reactions to drugs.

It’s pretty amazing.  Because of this testing, a geneticist can help a doctor determine the best drug for you…..special you…..to take for certain conditions.  And it’s all because God made you….you.  How exciting that He is letting us have a peak, through DNA and genetics, into just how very special YOU are!

This is the testing that Andrea does in her lab.  They are also doing Cancer Pharmacogenomics, meaning that chemo can be personalized for each patient based on their DNA.  Knowing that your body will process certain chemo drugs better than other drugs is a huge step in better cancer treatments and cures. 

Amazing stuff!  Complex stuff!

“Fearfully and wonderfully made!” 

Said another way, we are awesomely and wonderfully made!

None of this was on my mind as I walked out into our back yard one recent evening.  There, out on the lawn, a gaggle of geese was parading past.  They were fun to watch, and funnier to listen to as they squawked when they realized my presence.  Finally one of them took to the air, and the others nervously followed. 

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The next day, while on pooper scooper duty before Gary mowed the yard, I saw there in the grass a long goose feather.  I picked it up so I could look at it more closely, and to also show it to Aaron.

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When I examined it later, I was amazed at how tight each little feather strand was.  Nothing could easily break through that strong feather…..and a goose has hundreds upon hundreds of similar feathers, every one made specifically for each part of his body.   

The fact I loved the most, though, was to see what happened when I put water on this feather.  I loved showing this to Aaron!  The feather was waterproof, which is no surprise, but it was so fascinating to watch.  The water just formed into little balls and rolled right off the feather, no matter how much water was poured onto it. 

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It was fun pointing out to Aaron that God made this goose feather to be just right for a goose.  Our Great Dane doesn’t need goose feathers.  But a goose sure needs goose feathers!  A goose puts his feathers to very good use as insulation against water, and also for protection from the cold. 

A goose is also “fearfully and wonderfully made!”

I randomly laid our goose feather on the server near our kitchen.  I saw it this morning, laying there beside this picture that Andrea gave me one year for Christmas. 

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We have Cow Patty jokes galore in our family.  This picture is the sequencing of the Mitochondrial DNA of a North American Bovine. 

HaHa!  A cow’s DNA! 

But WOW!!  How complex it is!

So my simple, though really complex, goose feather…..and the DNA sequencing of a cow……and my very own individualized DNA…..are all reminders of what a very capable God we have.

And also they are reminders that each of us is created by God.  Every skin color, every hair texture, every eye shape…..all are designed by the God of the universe. 

If anyone hates a person that God has created, then that person hates God Himself.  That person also doesn’t know God.  Period.

Let’s focus on knowing and following this great and good God.  And loving each other as the very special people that He designed us to be.

From genetics to goose feathers, it all points us back to God. 

 

Fast Forward

Sometimes one thing leads to another, and that one leads to another, and then another leads to another, and it can just be amazing to go back and look at the picture created.  This is what I’m seeing today.  I hope I can connect all the “things and anothers” as I try to show you the beautiful picture created by God.

It started yesterday evening when Aaron went with me to Dillon’s.  When we left the store and were getting into the van, the handle of my crossbody purse somehow knocked off my earring as I moved it over my head.  I found the back of the earring as it poked my skin.  Yep, it had gone down my shirt somehow.  But nowhere in sight was my earring.  I hurriedly searched for it, and so did Aaron, but we couldn’t find it.  I told him not to worry, because things like this can worry him, and off we drove to pick up some pizza for supper.

Still no earring appeared as we got out of the van at home, and I searched around some more for it.  “Oh well,” I told Aaron.  “It’ll show up when we least expect it…..or when I clean the van, sometime in the far off future.” 

We sat down to eat and Aaron asked the blessing.  His before-meal prayers, 99% of the time, contain two statements.  What he says varies depending on the day and the current events of our life, but very rarely does he say more than two things.  This prayer was no exception. 

“Dear Lord,” Aaron began.  “Thank you for the pizza.  And please help us find Mom’s earring.” 

I told Aaron it was wonderful to pray about the lost earring, and assured him that God loves to hear those requests.  And don’t you know that a short time later Gary went out to the van to conduct his own search, and he found my earring!  You should have seen Aaron’s face when I showed him that I was now wearing TWO earrings!  And then when I told him that God had answered his prayer!  Aaron’s face lit up like the sun.  It was priceless!

So the lost earring led to Aaron praying, which led to God answering in a sweet way, which led to……I trust……Aaron seeing how wonderful it is to pray about everything.

It was a good thing for Gary and I to see, as well. 

Then came today, which in comparison to what some others are enduring was really nothing.  But in the moment it was, for Aaron and for me, pretty awful.

I want to preserve Aaron’s dignity in this.  I needed to take him down to the air base to have a urine test repeated this morning.  I told him to use the bathroom when he got out of bed, and then by the time he drank his coffee and we got to the lab, he would need to go again.  I rehearsed the procedure with him as we drove to the base.  All was well.

That was short lived.  As Aaron got out of the van at the clinic, I saw that he was doing what I call “The Potty Walk.”  I was concerned, but he assured me that he could wait until he was in the lab bathroom, cup in hand. 

We walked up to the lab window, where the lone lab worker was a little harried.  I heard a door close and looked around to see that Aaron had already entered the bathroom…..NO cup in hand.  I told the harried lab worker to hold on as I scurried to the bathroom and opened the door…..to find Aaron preparing to go. 

“NO, Aaron,” I tried to whisper as I closed the door.  “Please, can you just wait until I get the cup??!!”

I rushed outside, went up to the window again, where the lone lab woman was realizing my dilemma and was trying her best to get Aaron’s info sticker onto his cup…..the cup he still wasn’t holding!  She slapped it on, and I quickly zoomed into the bathroom……to the most awful sight.

Let’s just say it appeared that the plumbing had sprung a huge leak, but the toilet and sink plumbing were fine.  Aaron’s, however, was not fine.

We got the sample somehow, but it’s probably not the best.  I wasn’t the best, either.  Such a mess!  I didn’t know what to do but to try to clean it up, mostly in an effort not to embarrass Aaron by having to tell the poor harried lab woman, in front of others, what had happened.  I had Aaron standing in the corner of the bathroom and kept telling him not to talk, because he talks so loudly that I knew everyone outside would hear.  Like they didn’t already guess what was going on in that bathroom!  “How many paper towels do they need in there?” everybody must have been wondering as they heard the automatic dispenser churn out towel after towel.

And poor Aaron.  His shorts were very obviously wet, and we had to walk out past people in the lab waiting room and in other areas as we left the clinic.  I waited for a few minutes after leaving the bathroom to see if the lab worker needed anything else from us, while Aaron hid behind the bathroom door.  Finally, we just left.  I felt like it was a walk of shame for dear Aaron.  And I was a mess of emotions…..very sorry for Aaron, and embarrassed, and just weak from all of it. 

The plan had been to take Aaron to Paradigm for his day, but instead we just drove home.  I really wanted to cry.  I stole glances at Aaron.  He was very serious, and very sorry, and very quiet.  That made me want to cry even more.

He turned on his music, of course.  It was the Zac Brown Band.  As we drove along the highway, song #4 and song #5 came on, Aaron checking the back of the CD box to confirm the title of each song as he always does.  Then came song #6, which is more of a rock song, and one I don’t like.  I was in NO mood for that today, so I used the button on the steering wheel to quickly go to song #7.  Aaron didn’t seem to notice, which was good.

Oh, but never underestimate Aaron.  It wasn’t long before he realized that song #5 had played, and now song #7 was playing.  What happened to song #6?

“Mom, did you go past song #6?” he asked.  I confessed.  He asked why, and I told him, and he was fine with that. 

As we kept heading toward home, I thought of how nice it would be if we could fast forward through parts of our life.  I would certainly have fast forwarded through this bad morning!

When we got home, Aaron showered and changed clothes.  Then he went with me to Aldi and to Dillon’s, even though I kind of wanted some time alone.  But once there, Aaron and I enjoyed the shopping, especially looking for what we needed for the lasagna he wanted for supper.  He helped bag the groceries and carry them.  He carried the heavy bag of dog food I got when we stopped at the vet, and he talked to Misha about Spiderman and about Star Trek, which always cheers Aaron up.  None of that would have happened if I hadn’t taken Aaron with me. 

Then at Dillon’s, Aaron saw one of the workers that we know as we checked out.  She stopped to talk to us before we left.  Her life is hard, always full of trouble, it seems……and today was certainly no exception as she shared some things with me.  As she talked, Aaron just stood there listening quietly to every word.  As we left, I told her that I would pray for her.

“Does she have a heartache?” Aaron asked me as we walked out the door. 

I was so surprised at his question, but more at his insight and the empathy he showed as we talked together about her. 

And then later, the best part.  We sat down to a lunch of leftover pizza, and again Aaron prayed as we held hands.

“Dear Lord, thank you for the pizza.  And help B have a good heart.”

Wow.  Just wow.

Aaron usually prays for Aaron, and on a good day he might pray about my earring.  But to pray for this friend that we really don’t deeply know……now that was touching and dear and so impacting.

That would never have happened if Aaron had not been with me…..and he would not have been with me if not for the awful lab experience earlier. 

If I had been allowed to fast forward through our terrible morning in order to preserve us from that bad time, then we would not have had this amazing and very good time.  This sweet time of Aaron genuinely listening to another person share her pain, and then genuinely caring enough to genuinely ask God to help her have a good heart.

So you see, one thing does lead to another which leads to another which leads to yet another.  Did Aaron’s answered prayer last night encourage him to pray for our friend today?  I think it did.  Then his bathroom accident allowed him to be with me to offer help today, and especially to be with me to listen to a hurting friend who needs his prayers. 

We all have those times in life when we want to skip song #6 and go right on to song #7……when we want to fast forward through the pain we’re facing and be done with it, moving on to other better things. 

But with God, His one thing that leads to another thing that leads to the other thing is what’s best for us.  It’s a good thing that He doesn’t allow us to fast forward, as hard and as terrible as some of the things are that we face.  He works all of it out for good if we let Him. 

Help all of us have a good heart, Lord. 

And help us not push the fast forward button.

 

 

Who Is Aaron Supposed to Be?

I love this picture I found on FB this morning. 

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Aaron certainly has opened our eyes to a whole unique and special way of viewing his world…..which becomes our world as Aaron pulls us in, willing or not.  It doesn’t matter to Aaron if I am busy or tired or embarrassed or if I’ve heard or seen the same thing a zillion times.  To him, each experience seems refreshingly new and fun and definitely shared.

Like yesterday at the grocery store.  I decided to run back to the produce section after I saw the pretty cantaloupes in a fellow shopper’s cart.  Aaron loves everything about the grocery store, except maybe for the aisle with toothpaste and body wash.  If you lived with him awhile, you would see that those items are not a priority or an interest of his.  Unfortunately.

Anyway, I was examining big round cantaloupes while Aaron was pointing out the cool, spritzing water that was spraying over the vegetables nearby.  You would think that this was the first time he had ever seen this gentle spray, but it isn’t.  It’s probably the 753rd time I’ve told him what it is, but he was as excited as if he was seeing it for the first time. 

I turned and headed for the registers after deciding against any cantaloupes.  I knew that Aaron was lagging behind.  I was already in the florist section when I turned to look for Aaron.  There he stood, large and loud Aaron, holding up an artichoke.  His face was just a huge smile as he held his prize up for me to see.  I had to smile, too, standing there among the sunflowers and daisies.  What is it about artichokes that always, always grabs Aaron’s attention?  We have examined them, cooked them, and researched them…..but still Aaron will find those artichokes and hold one up for me to see as if it’s the very first artichoke that we have EVER encountered. 

I smiled and then shook my head no as several surrounding people were turning their heads to see who Aaron was showing his artichoke to.  I could see them making the connection……wondering, I’m sure, about Aaron. 

Maybe if we all saw our world through Aaron eyes, we would smile more and laugh louder and keep our curiosity sharper, even as we age. 

So let me share with you a few snapshots of Aaron in his world.

Making a funny face while we played Skip-Bo, trying hard not to laugh:

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Putting a clothes pin on his earlobe, which is totally nothing new…..but you wouldn’t know that if you looked at how intense and serious he was on this night.

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Playing Skip-Bo, knowing that Mom is looking out with eagle eyes for his cheating attempts.

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Waiting for me to go through the Wal-Mart line, and smiling like this when I looked up and saw WHERE he decided to wait……the chair at the bank desk. 

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Noticing after he got his teeth cleaned that the digital clock on the counter was flashing.  “Your clock is destroyed!” he exclaimed as he pushed by his hygienist and tried to fix the clock.  Incorrect time is intolerable!

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Recovering from three strong night seizures.  We had to cancel his therapy appointment, which to Aaron meant cancelling our lunch plans.  I was nervous about taking him into a restaurant, fearing another seizure, so instead we went through the drive-through window at Little Caesar’s and got him pizza AND breadsticks.  He was happy.  I was happy.

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And finally, sunflowers.  Aaron has wanted sunflowers for such a long time, so this summer while I was in Houston to see Andrea, he and Gary planted sunflowers around our garden.  He has watched them grow and grow and grow, until now they are much taller than he is.  Now he can’t wait for them to bloom.  He was looking at the sunflowers one day when they were much smaller.  “When are they supposed to be the size they’re supposed to be?” he asked.

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I smile at the way he phrases things.  His unique way of expressing himself is a big reason I started this blog.  I can remember wondering, when Aaron was much younger, how he would turn out.  In a sense, I wondered when Aaron was supposed to be the Aaron he’s supposed to be – to borrow Aaron’s wording. 

Well, Gary and I pretty well know that Aaron is now the Aaron he is supposed to be.  Some days that can be discouraging, I’ll admit……on the seizure days or on the hard behavior days or on the days when we are tired and really don’t want to see another artichoke.  Yet Aaron is who he is supposed to be because he is who God created him to be. 

But God gives grace when we need it the most.  He really does.  I don’t think I even realize sometimes in just what forms His grace comes to me.  Yet I do know, often in retrospect, that making it through the frustrations……the fears……the failures…..is the hand and the grace of God upon us. 

And I am so thankful that God gives me pause more times that I can count……moments to pause and enjoy Aaron’s world through Aaron’s eyes.

So you see that the sunflower in the above picture is just too perfect.  Aaron is waiting for his sunflowers to be the size they’re supposed to be and to bloom.  Gary and I see that Aaron is who he is supposed to be, and that every day he blooms in our lives, teaching us to see the world through different eyes. 

I pretty well know, too, what Aaron would say if he looked at this sunflower picture.  “What?!” he would probably say.  “That sunflower is wearing shades!!”

Better to see you with, Aaron.  Better to see you with. 

 

 

 

 

A Gift on Atha’s Birthday

Today is my friend Atha’s birthday.  It should be a very happy day of celebrating for Atha, her family, and for me.  Atha and I should be going out to lunch one day this week to celebrate our birthdays that are close together, paying for each other’s lunch while we laugh and while we share some heart-to-heart time.  But none of this will be happening today, or this week, or ever again.  At least not happening with Atha present.  Atha is in heaven now, and has been for nearly three months.

Is that even possible?

I wrote about my dear friend Atha after her memorial service.  Here’s the link in case you missed it and would like to know her better.  This Is My Friend  She was……she is……so worth knowing.  I can’t believe she’s not here now.

I still hear her voice clearly in my head, and her wonderful laughter.  I had lunch today with Atha’s daughter, Sarah, and I saw Atha in Sarah’s movements……the way Sarah held up her index finger as she talked……the way she opened her eyes so wide and moved her head…….her laughter.

I have so much I’d like to tell Atha.  I deeply miss our conversations, whether in person or more often, on the phone.  She was my best porch buddy, where I would sit as we chatted on the phone……my iced tea by my side……until the mosquitoes would drive me inside.

I still hear her words of advice, mixed with southern charm and sometimes a dash of sarcasm, depending on the subject.  I hear her words of comfort during the hard times, and her words mixed with the fire of resolve over injustices or wrong that either of us were enduring.

And I will always hear, and never forget, one of the most impacting things she…..or anyone……ever said to me.

“You are established in your purpose, Patty,” she said to me one day.  I wrote about that, too.   My Purpose

I will carry that with me always.

I’ve been missing her more the past few days, probably because of her birthday.  The special days are always hardest.  This past Saturday evening, for some reason, I just wanted so much to go sit out on my porch and talk to Atha.  I was so sad, and the tears came.  So I went up to my table that holds my Bible and I sat down, opening the pages, and reading here and reading there as I asked the Lord to give me a word that I needed.

I ended up in Isaiah 46.  God was speaking to Israel but principles are there for us as well.  Listen to verses 9-10:

Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other.  I am God and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’

I looked at that after reading it, and I said to myself, “Wait.  What did that just say?”

So I read it again.  Yes, there it was!  Atha’s words to me were spoken by God to me as well!!

Atha said, “You are established in your purpose.”

God said, “My purpose will be established.”

Isn’t that just awesome and amazing?!!

God has a purpose, and His purpose WILL be established.  He WILL accomplish all of His good pleasure.  He will accomplish His plan, according to His purpose that He has established……and in which He IS established.

And I wanted to say, “Well, Atha……looky there!!”…….to borrow an old childhood word.  Looky at that, would you?

Wasn’t God SO extra good and loving to show me those verses when I was so sad?

So I thanked God for reminding me of Who He is, and that He has a purpose even for the pain.  I don’t understand it……I may not even at this point really like it…..but His purpose will be established.   It will be accomplished, whether I see it or understand it this side of heaven or not.

Verses like this become memorial stones to me, so beside that verse I wrote, “Remembering Atha, June 2016.”

Atha would absolutely love this.  I wonder if God told her how He leaned down and spoke to me on Saturday evening, using her words that are His words.

It was just all wrapped up together like a beautiful package, perfect for this birthday week.

Happy Birthday, Atha.  I miss you, I love you, and I am so happy that you are…..and always will be…..my friend, Atha.

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Who Are These Special Moms?

As the mother of a son with special needs, I have often had people tell me that they think God gives special children to special moms.  While I realize that this sentiment is meant to be encouraging and kind, I also must say that I think it’s misguided.  A big reason I think this is because I know me.  I know me better than anyone else knows me, except God.  I know that I’m no more special than any other mom out there.  This isn’t fake humility, either.  It’s just the truth.

All moms need God’s grace for each day.  We who are His children need His grace for our own children in so many different ways.  How amazing is God’s grace, too!  He promises this undeserved favor to us over and over, greater grace for greater needs, along with His mercies that are new every morning.  He has all that I need.  He has all that any mom needs.  I asked God many times to give me grace for the challenges that I faced as a mom to all three of our children.

Having said all this, let me also say that I have a great respect for the moms that I know who are walking this life alongside their child or children with special needs.  My heart goes out to them, ones I know and ones I don’t know, as they face demands that they never dreamed they would encounter as a mother.

So as Mother’s Day approaches, and we see the beautiful cards…….heart tugging commercials…….perfect mother and children photos…….and all the lovely images of motherhood through the years – let me give a “special” shout-out to all the “special” moms of special children.

Those dear Moms:

  • Who spend hours researching your child’s diagnosis rather than hours researching what sport for him to play.
  • Who pray for your child’s teacher to be understanding of meltdowns, bluntness, and a zillion other things that have nothing to do with her grasping of educational facts, and yet have everything to do with her ability to learn.
  • Who dread with a passion those IEP meetings.
  • Who dread having to once again explain your child in every new setting.
  • Who dread high school graduation because……then what?
  • Who try to ignore the stares from others in public places instead of basking in admiring glances.
  • Who are learning how to use your child’s feeding tube rather than planning his fun pizza party.
  • Who are searching for the best wheelchair rather than the best bicycle.
  • Who watch their child being marked for radiation rather than getting a cool tattoo.
  • Who are shopping with their daughter for a wig to cover her bald head due to chemo instead of shopping for the perfect new hair products.
  • Who are driving their older child everywhere because he can’t have a driver’s license due to seizures or other medical issues.
  • Who hurt because their child doesn’t have many, or any, friends.
  • Who are signing guardianship papers instead of college admittance papers.
  • Who are scouring the internet for the latest medical treatments instead of scouring for the best college scholarships.
  • Who know more drug names and side effects than they ever wanted to know.
  • Who spend far more time finding caregivers than finding cool vacation spots.
  • Who are adept at rearranging schedules due to unexpected medical issues.
  • Who lay in bed at night with the sound of your husband sleeping on one side, and your adult child breathing heavily in the baby monitor on the other side as you listen for seizures.
  • Who read your adult child the same book every single night of his life.
  • Who keep waterproof mattress pads on your child’s bed – your adult child.
  • Who have a hard time finishing a conversation with your husband without being interrupted over and over.
  • And who, for some, will find themselves looking at a gravestone on Mother’s Day instead of looking into the eyes of their child.

 

So to all of you amazing mothers of special needs children, I give you a huge high five!!  I hope you know that you are loved and that God does have special grace for you every day.

And may you, as my friend Atha would say, be established in your purpose……this God-given purpose……of raising one of His very special children.

 

 

 

Lessons From the New Roof

When we moved into this house, it had a shake roof. An old shake roof, weathered and beaten. At least it looked weathered and beaten, but it passed the house inspection. Gary kept a close eye on it for the following years, especially after every hail storm. He patched a place here and a spot there. The roof held, though, so we were thankful for that and went on with life under our shake roof.

One day, though, we saw an ugly spot on our bedroom ceiling. It was a water mark, without doubt, so we had no doubt that our shake roof finally had succumbed to the latest hail or wind storm and needed to be replaced. The insurance adjustor came out and looked everything over, including the water mark on our ceiling. However, he said that the roof generally looked fine so he would recommend that the insurance pay to repair some individual spots that needed new shake shingles. We were disappointed, but what could we do except leave the decision in the hands of our insurance company.

On a Saturday morning as Gary and I worked outside, the phone rang and so Gary stood in the garage talking. I could tell that it was our insurance company, and I could also tell that Gary was happy about whatever it was they were saying. He hung up and told me the good news. Our insurance company had decided to just replace our entire roof! And not only to replace it, but their policy was to give the owner the price it would cost to replace the roof with the same kind of roof. Now a shake roof is expensive. Gary and I had decided that we wanted, someday, a composite roof, for many reasons other than price. Gary told our insurance man that we weren’t getting a shake roof, but he said it didn’t matter. Policy was policy, so we were given more money than we needed for our new composite roof. Wow! The extra money went toward a much needed bathroom remodel. We were so thankful for this extra blessing! We got a new roof and a new bathroom to boot!

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I’ve been slowly reading through the book of Nehemiah. This morning as I started the last chapter of this wonderful book, a phrase just jumped out at me. The people of Israel were reading aloud to the assembly from the book of Moses. They were reminded of how the Ammonites and Moabites, many years ago when the Israelites were in the wilderness, had treated God’s people so badly. In fact, the king of Moab had paid their prophet Balaam to speak a curse against the Israelites. Perhaps the best known part of this story is about Balaam’s donkey, whom God spoke through to Balaam. It’s an interesting and funny story from Numbers 22. But what was so meaningful to me today was that little phrase in Nehemiah 13, at the end of verse 2, as the people were reminded of the story of Balaam.

HOWEVER, OUR GOD TURNED THE CURSE INTO A BLESSING.”

What a precious reminder these few words were to me today! So many times we have things happen to us that seem to be a curse, in a sense. Hard things……difficult to understand on many levels. Things out of our control, like the hail and the wind that beat on our old roof. And even when we might see some reason or make some sense of it, the answers still don’t fully come. We may get a small amount of partial relief here and there, but not really be able to escape the pain and the mess that we find ourselves confronting.

Paul reminded us that “all things work together for good,” though. He didn’t say that good things happen all the time. They don’t. But whatever does happen to us as believers is under the sovereign allowance of God, and we can be sure that it WILL all work together for good. We may not even see the good this side of heaven, or feel like any of it is working out for good at all. But God has His policies, so to speak……just like our insurance company. And His policies are clearly stated: He WILL turn a curse into a blessing!! He WILL work all the things in our lives out for GOOD!!

Someday, even if it’s not until heaven, we WILL be able to look at all the stuff that has happened in our lives and then voice that big “HOWEVER!”

HOWEVER, OUR GOD TURNED THE CURSE INTO A BLESSING!

Don’t lose hope! Don’t lose focus!

God comes through on our side, for our good, every single time!!

 

 

This Is My Friend

Years ago a visiting couple walked into a local church here in Wichita, sliding into a pew near the back. Having a long history of working with special needs, the husband was amused to see a young man sitting in front of them with his grandmother……a young man with special needs.

“They follow us everywhere,” Scott whispered to his wife, Atha. They chuckled, and after the service Atha struck up a conversation with this grandmother. Of course she did. That was classic Atha, friendly and warm. And this grandmother couldn’t wait to find me.

“Patty!” she said. “I met a couple who were visiting here for the first time. They have a background of ministry with special needs. I’ve got to introduce you!!”

So at the first opportunity, she did just that. Atha and I talked and talked the first Sunday that we met, making plans to get together soon for a coke and more conversation. We met at Spangles one afternoon soon after, and as they say……the rest is history. We clicked. We understood one another. We were on our way to a great friendship.

Over the next couple years, Atha achieved her life’s dream of being awarded her PhD. I was so proud of her, though I had gotten in on the action late in her life and late in her dream. It was only as the years went by that I learned more and more of the sacrifice and grit that went into Atha achieving this goal. She had put this part of her life on hold as she mothered their three children, but all along she was very active in the world of teaching special needs and writing Sunday School curriculum for special needs for the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board. She taught students; she taught teachers; and she taught me.

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Atha taught me lots about special needs as we worked together trying to establish that ministry in our church. She taught me lots about how to teach students with special needs. She taught me lots about my own son, Aaron, although she was always quick to point out that I was the expert when it came to Aaron.

But what Atha taught me the most was what it was like to have a friend who loved unconditionally…….who stuck with me through good and bad…….who was there for me no matter how busy and complicated her own life was.

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Her phone calls were regular and so welcomed, no matter what all she had on her to-do list. Our lunch dates were refreshing to me on so many levels. And every June we made sure that on our schedules we placed a very important lunch date……one at which we celebrated our birthdays. Atha’s birthday was June 15 and mine was June 18, so we would try to celebrate close to both of those dates. I would pay for Atha’s lunch, and Atha would pay for my lunch, and we would laugh and laugh.

 

Atha took my family as her own. Not only did she take Gary and our children into her heart, as did Scott, but she also grew to love our extended families. It didn’t matter that they were clear across the country in the mountains of West Virginia and North Carolina. She grew to know and love each one as if she had been a part of their lives forever.

Atha loved human beings and the stories that each person carried. She loved telling stories….she loved hearing my stories…..and she loved all the stories of the hundreds of people that she took the time to know and care for over the years.

A favorite quote from Atha tells so much about her: “Successful leadership begins with how you treat others. I challenge you to find time to be kind today.”

Atha definitely followed her own advice. No matter how busy she was as she worked to start her ADHD coaching business; taught college courses in multiple places; conducted seminars for teachers; and so many other activities……she still had time for those phone calls and visits. Time to keep in touch with me, to love me, and to be there for me no matter what. To teach me one of her most unforgettable lessons – to be established in my purpose.  https://hesaidwhatks.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/my-purpose-2/

Atha and I started going to different churches three years ago. We truly missed each other on Sundays. But I would often get a text from Atha on Sunday. “Are you worshipping?” she would ask. Or after church, she would ask what songs we sang. She and I would compare songs, and talk about what they had meant to us. Sometimes she would even text during her worship service to say, “We are singing Great is Thy Faithfulness!” That was our favorite song, one which encouraged each of us so much. We would talk about the sermons we had heard, and Atha would ask what I had learned. Ever the teacher. Ever concerned.

Atha began having some significant health issues last fall. On Dec. 26, I got a text from her son, Kyle, telling me that they were taking Atha to the ER. The day was very grey, cold, and icy…..just like my heart felt as I worried about her all that day. It was discovered that in addition to some other issues that had plagued Atha’s body, she had also recently suffered a stroke. I was shocked when I first saw her in the hospital. How sick and tired and old she looked!

On one of my visits to the hospital to see her, two CNAs came in the room to clean her. I sat behind the curtain as they worked. Soon, in typical Atha fashion, she looked at the young man and said, “Young man, what do you want to do with the rest of your life?” He stammered around for an answer, not expecting such a question from this little sick woman. I just smiled. He didn’t know my Atha. She then proceeded to instruct him on setting goals and achieving them. I bet he never forgets her.

Weeks went by, with Atha sometimes rebounding and giving hope that she would recover, only to be followed by a downward turn. She would fluctuate between rehab centers and the hospital. On some of my visits with her, she would talk in her special way….slowly and with difficulty, but still like her old self.

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“What do you know today, Patty?” she would ask. She didn’t want to talk about herself, but I felt guilty talking about me and my family and my issues, so small compared to hers. But that was Atha, always concerned for me above all of her own cares.

One day in the rehab center, she was very vacant. I was worried. I couldn’t get her to engage in conversation and she seemed far away. A therapist came over to her and asked Atha to tell her who I was. Atha looked up, brightened, and said, “This is my friend, Patty Moore.” Just like she always used to do.

On Monday, March 21, I sat by Atha’s bed at the hospital. She wasn’t doing well at all, but we still hoped for a full recovery. She kept her eyes closed, but she often did that. She didn’t talk. I opened my little Bible and held it up close as I read her some Psalms. Every little bit Atha would quietly say, “Amen.” That was all. Then she asked me to pray for Jesus to heal her, so I did. And before I left, I told her I loved her, my friend. And she said she loved me, too.

On Thursday, Sarah got the call about end of life issues and hospice. No one could believe it was happening. I spent part of that evening with them at the hospital. Before I left, I leaned down to my mostly unresponsive Atha. I said some things to her, and then I told her that she would always be my dear friend. Very softly, she spoke to me. One word.

“Friend,” she said.

Atha was moved to hospice late that night. I saw her on Friday and on Saturday, where a little twitch of her mouth was the only response she gave me. On Easter morning, a gloriously beautiful morning with a soft snow and bright sunlight, Atha went to heaven. How significant that her home going was on Easter! Atha always knew how to do things right.

This morning, a couple walked into a local church here in Wichita and slipped into a pew near the back. They were dreading this day. He put his arm around her as she fought the tears that were forming. Gary and I were here for Atha and for Scott, like they had always been present for us. But I just never dreamed it would be in this way. Never in a million years.

Many people were in that church this morning to honor Atha. As part of the service, people were given time to tell their stories of Atha…..of how they knew her…..of what she meant to them…..of how she had impacted their lives. She would have loved the stories, even though they were about her. She did love hearing and telling stories, after all. It was wonderful to hear just a small sample of how she had blessed and helped so many.

I’ll always treasure the many Atha stories I have tucked away in my memory and in my heart. Too many to tell here, that’s for sure. But suffice it to say that the best thing that Atha could ever have said to me is the last thing she ever said to me.

Friend.

And with that, I am beyond blessed.

This is my friend, Atha McNay.

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