Category Archives: time away

My heart aches . . .

We are in Philadelphia for the day.  Youngest Daughter (Rachel) had begged us to visit, and since she is still on semester break from Bryn Mawr, it seems like a great Saturday to go.  Though she has been back at her internship for a week, at least there are no papers to write, no books to read and no tests for which to study.  It is the coldest Saturday for some time, and Certain Man and I are bundled up against the wind and cold.  Something about Philadelphia makes everything seem colder:  The big stone arches, huge concrete structures, stone statues and iron gates and cold, cold glass and steel.  Even the big, colorful LOVE statue in the center of town doesn’t help much on this cold day. (Maybe it is just that this is “the city.”)

But the people!  Wealthy people in big cars, various ethnic populations, ordinary people in heavy coats and scarves, all moving along the sidewalks with hurried steps.  They are stepping around and over and away from the various bumps of humanity sitting along the edges of the sidewalks, on the street corners, outside the doors of establishments, swaddled in various garments against the bitter cold.

It is impossible to help all the homeless, I know, but their desperate plights on this freezing cold day is almost more than I can bear.  A little black lady, sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk, rocking and talking to herself, with a cardboard sign that is illegible.  A man without legs in a wheelchair, cupping a steaming disposable cup of something in his hands, his eyes begging, his words unintelligible.  And the one that really gets me:  A person, I suspect female, but I cannot tell for sure, is sitting wrapped up in a quiet side street near a parking garage.  The sign reads something like this:  “I’m homeless.  I’m hungry.  No job, and I’m too ugly to prostitute.  Please help!

We are scurrying along the sidewalk, trying to get out of the stinging wind, trying to beat the parking meter, trying to find shelter ourselves.  Youngest Daughter is leading the way, and I hurry to stay in step with her long, confident strides and my husband’s naturally long steps.  It feels like my heart will break and I finally say to her, “How do you stand it?  How can you bear all these poor people?  Doesn’t it just feel like you have to do something???”

Our daughter, young, full of life, full of hope, and compassionate to her very core says, “It is really troubling, Mom, and it is especially bad in the winter.  During the summer, I give away anything in my lunch that I think will help — an apple, a granola bar, whatever.  But in the winter, when the biggest issue is the cold, there is so little anyone can do that is going to help.  The churches send out buses when it gets really cold, and will take anyone who will go to a warm place, but there is so much misery and sadness and hopelessness out here.”

It is late afternoon, and the temperature is dropping into the teens, we abandon our walking for a driving tour of historical Philadelphia, and then drop Rachel off back at her apartment and head for home.  The van is warm, dependable and quiet.  Both Certain Man and I are in our own thoughts, and eventually I sleep.  Then home again, safe and sound, I revel in the silence of the Delaware night and the little farm that we call Shady Acres.  Inside the house, Middle Daughter has everything under control and I am home in time to put Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda to bed, and collapse in my comfy chair.  The pellet stove is burning brightly.  The people near me are ones I not only trust, but love deeply.

But I think incessantly about a human being out in that freezing cold, so alone, so hopelessly caught in wretchedness and sorrow with no shred of self esteem . . . (“too ugly to prostitute???”) and wonder again what will be required of this handmaiden of the LORD.  What will my answer be some day when I am called to give an account of how I’ve used what has been entrusted to my care?

The truth is, being faithful where I’ve been called is important.  But there have been many times in my life where my efforts on behalf of all the need I saw were so scattered that I ended up doing more harm than good.  And I have a serious calling on my hands right now on my home front that I am committed to doing with all my heart.

But that doesn’t stop me from praying.  I do not know how God ministered to the needs in frigid Philly last night, but there were people there who were the object of a Delaware Grammy’s prayers and I believe in a God whose hands will reach where mine cannot, and whose ways are far above my understanding.  It doesn’t bring complacency.  It doesn’t keep my heart from hurting.  But it does bring renewed commitment to do what I can do in this time and in this place with what I’ve been given and to the ones I’ve been given. And to share in ways that will help those beyond my physical reach.

This verse, from my favorite translation, The New Century Version, rings loud in my head: (Jesus speaking!)

Luke 12:48b:  From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded. And from the one trusted with much, much more will be expected.

I have nothing that I haven’t (directly or indirectly) been given!

Do you know what?

Neither have you.

1 Comment

Filed under time away

. . . and the sand keeps sliding through the hour glass

We came home last night to the farmhouse at Shady Acres after being gone for about 33 hours.  We crammed a lot of living in those hours, and had a wonderful time tromping through Lancaster, taking in MOSES! at Sight and Sound, visiting some of our favorite shops, and just enjoying some time away.  The only money we spent for food was for tips, as we had gift cards for everything else.  Motel 6 was extremely clean and comfy and we couldn’t have found nicer accommodations for $67.00.  I had such a happy time with that man that I love most.  The colors were beautiful in Lancaster.  When we were traveling up on Monday, it was raining.  I told Daniel that if we had some sun Tuesday, we would see some pretty spectacular trees.  I was right!

IMG_0190

When we came home, it seemed like things had fared pretty well while we were gone.  Laundry was caught up, the kitchen was straightened, my ladies were fed and contented.  But then it was mentioned that our trusty Miele dishwasher was not working, and that the dryer had taken three hours to dry the last towel load.  H-m-m-m-m-m. I need to see about finding myself a repair man, I guess. Oh, and my experienced eyes warned me that Blind Linda didn’t seem to be doing so well.

The illness and the coming Homegoing of my sister in law, Frieda, seem to be ever with me.  Sometimes it almost seems wrong to have happy days and laugh.  But then I remember that she doesn’t want us to be gloomy and it doesn’t help her any for us to mope about.  So I shed my tears and I grieve and pray, but I’ve also had to laugh, had to eagerly anticipate upcoming events, and have kept these hands mostly busy.

The seats we had for the Moses! presentation were up in the upper level.  By the time I had climbed the several flights of stairs, I was wishing that I had taken the elevator.  When we found our seats, there was a rather portly couple on the end by the aisle.  For some reason, they thought it best to stay were they were and just compact themselves together as best they could to let us pass.  This left a narrow ledge for me to manuever my rather portly body past them to my seat.   There was no hand rail, the backs of the next row of seats was somewhere down close to my ankles.

I’m more than a little bit afraid of heights.  I can have a sturdy wall that is up to my waist between me and the Royal Gorge and still have to stand back a few feet to be comfortable.  No leaning on the guard rails for me!  I get this strange sensation in the back of my legs and it feels like the abyss is pulling me to itself with hungry tentacles.  For years I wouldn’t fly because of how terrified I was about getting my feet off the ground, but there came a day when I realized that my fear of flying was affecting my relationship with my husband and I decided that I would fly with him, even if it killed me.  (Which I was pretty certain it would!)  There was much prayer, much shutting of the eyes and just not looking, much faking of enthusiasm when a Certain Man who was in the window seat (always in the window seat!) would exclaim, “Look, Hon!  See how clear it is!  You can see clear down to the ground!  Right there is the Mississippi River, and if you look close, you can see the big gateway arch in St. Lewie.”  Oh, how my stomach would lurch as I dutifully leaned over him and tried to see.  But I’ve done it often enough now that the terror has been replaced by a general dislike, and is at least manageable.  But I digress.  I only went on that rabbit trail to explain how terrified I am of heights, and believe me, the upper deck of the Sight and Sound Auditorium is definitely “heights.”

So, I looked at those seats, five in, and breathed a quick prayer, scrunched myself together and scooted past the couple who were exclaiming things like, “Do you have enough room???  Can you make it???”  while occupying their space, but pulling their ample stomachs in and leaning back.  I wanted to say, “No, I don’t have enough space, but if I could just hang on to your shirt/blouse while I pass by, I could maybe walk across Niagara Falls on this three inch board!”  But I desisted.   Once past them, I could reach my hand out to the backs of the empty seats and steady myself and, more importantly, lean in the direction of not cascading down the interminable mountain of seats in front of me.

Whew!  Settled at last.  With 20 minutes to spare.  I wondered what I was ever going to do if I needed to use the restroom during the presentation.  Age and Lasix and four babies that averaged close to ten pounds apiece make this a consideration of import.  So I prayed that I could safely sit until intermission and immersed myself into the production.  And all was well.  At intermission the couple stood up and stepped out and there was no danger.  They repeated the favor at the end of the intermission and I gratefully returned to my seat.  The production of Moses! was well done end engaging,  and Certain Man and I enjoyed a wonderful time together.

We came home through the deepening Autumn afternoon, noted the clouds that were spotting across the western sky and wondered at the coming storm.  We came into light and home and warmth and family and a beloved Love Bug at the top of the ramp to welcome us.  This morning, the storm has still not broken, and I put on the CD of “Songs my Father Taught Me” by the West Coast Mennonite Chamber Choir.  The  kitchen window was cracked open a few inches and I played the song, “No more fear of Dying” twice as I thought about Frieda and her unchanged, eager anticipation of Heaven. She sleeps, talks with her family, sleeps some more.  My heart faltered as I considered the sadness of these waiting days.  Then I heard a wren, outside the window, singing her heart out along with the music that was swirling out into the morning mist.  I thought about Frieda, like a wren, living the praise in the face of dying, yes, but also in the light of Eternity.  The wren’s cheerful song  lifted my heart and made me think about things other than the broken dishwasher, delinquent dryer and even the fever that Blind Linda developed in the morning hours.

Heaven. It’s on my mind.  And thanks to the events of this last week, it isn’t a “heavy” even though parting is a sorrow.  Listen here and be blessed.  My heart gives grateful praise.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcQXZOMCNF8

Lyrics:

Jesus has arisen, joy and hope are given
Those who call upon His Name.
He shall be exalted through the endless ages;
Name above all other Names.

No more fear of dying – no more need to doubt.
Every one shall answer, every knee shall bow.

Jesus has ascended,
Not like He descended – in a low and humble way.
He has been victorious, lifted up and glorious
Now He holds His rightful place.

Jesus is returning, joy and hope are burning
In the true believers heart.
King of all creation, come with celebration,
May we never more depart!

No more fear of dying – no more need to doubt.
Every one shall answer, every knee shall bow.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dealing with Grief, home living, music, time away