A Dad and His Daughter

In 2012 I wrote about my Dad and I. I’d like to post it here. It is still as true today as it was 5 years ago.While on a two month home visit, we flew to Oklahoma City to spend a week with my dad, step-mom, and extended family. On the weekend we had a family reunion. We gathered at two log cabins near a beautiful lake. It was a four hour drive for the closest ones, and flights from as far away as Arizona and Virginia for others. Family gatherings are sometimes bittersweet, like a chocolate bar. For all the sweetness, there’s always a few nuts; in all the sweetness just a tinge of the bitter as well.

Actually no reunion was planned for this year. But after my Dad had a small heart attack (if any heart attack can be called small) in August, plans were quickly made for this reunion.

Although Dad was dealing with dizzy spells, he thoroughly enjoyed seeing his children, grand-children and great-grand-children together. The almost constant smile on his face was worth all the work, travel, and expense involved.

Two days after the reunion, while I was sitting at the table talking to Dad and my step-mom, Judy, my Dad suddenly slumped forward. His color went gray, and he was not breathing. I helped him straighten up and shouted, “Breathe, Dad, breathe!” My husband called 911 and my step-mom prayed. He became alert enough to ask for his nitroglycerin. The EMTs arrived , stabilized him and transported him, siren blaring and lights flashing, to the hospital.

By the time we arrived at the ER, Dad was sitting up on the gurney with oxygen, IV, and numerous sensors taped to his body. But the most notable thing was his smile. My dear Dad was smiling! After multiple tests they decided to keep him overnight for observation. He was discharged the next evening.

The doctor had told us his heart was quite compromised and there really was not anything to do but learn to live with it. He gave him medicine for a bladder infection, promised physical therapy at home to help him regain strength, and made an appointment for follow-up with his cardiologist.

That night, as I said goodnight to Dad, we hugged and kissed. I told him I had been really frightened when he was not breathing and thought he might be on his way to heaven. I said I was not shouting to him to breathe because I had anything I needed to say to him or needed to hear from him. I just didn’t want to lose him. Wonderfully, I could look him in the eyes and see only love. I told him I felt no shame or remorse for anything that ever happened between us. Only love.

He answered that he loves me and knows I love him. He doesn’t have any unfinished business with me either. We just enjoyed a lingering hug and thankful hearts for God’s grace and mercy.

My Dad has such a big, generous heart. He was weakened by the earlier heart attack, is getting hard of hearing, has returning cataracts, and painful feet, but he never complains. He unselfishly helps my step-mom who deals with the effects of Parkinson’s. He only finds good and kind things to say. He never fails to give God the credit for everything. He trusts God and gently points everyone around him to his best Friend. What a treasure God has put in that clay jar.

The next day we had to fly back to Virginia. Almost the whole trip home, silent tears rolled down my cheeks. I thought that would be the last time I would see my dad alive in this life.

None of us know when will be the last time we see our loved ones. We pray for our unsaved loved ones, and truly pray that each time we see them won’t be our last. But for those who love Jesus, like my Dad, we do not have to grieve as those who have no hope. We will cry when our loved ones go home, but we don’t have to have hearts heavy with things unsaid.

I wonder if there is anyone in your family – a dad or mom, a son or daughter, anyone- who you might want to contact right now, wherever you are. Perhaps it has been too long. Perhaps there is something that needs a loving resolution. As a man said in one of my husband’s seminars, tell them you love them and appreciate them while you have them with you. The day will come when you wish you had, and they will be gone.

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English Conversation

Q&A in English

I had a golden opportunity to spend a morning with Electrical Engineering students who wanted to practice conversational English.

We’ve talked to Mr. S and his wife several times when we eat breakfast at the same local coffee shop. Just after New Years, Mr. S told us he was going to a nearby university to help some students improve their spoken English. All of these students can read and write English, but they don’t have any one to practice with to hone their speaking. When he heard that I had taught ESL, he asked if I would go with him one morning and talk with his class. I was delighted to have this chance.

For four hours we talked. Before class, I talked briefly with each student and got to hear their names and what they are studying and why. It gave me a chance to assess their level of ability and for them to get used to my accent.

Mr. S asked me to start the class by giving them some of my background, work experience, and about our time in Malaysia. From that time on, they asked questions and I answered. I would ask them questions and they would answer.

How rich an experience!

It is not common for a foreigner, a Christian, and a woman old enough to be their grandma, to talk to Muslim, university students. It’s not that we wouldn’t like to, there just are very few opportunities.

They asked my opinions about Malaysia, its food, its culture, its progress as a nation. They wanted to know why I like Malaysia and what I don’t like. They wanted to know what I liked best about working as a NICU nurse. I was asked how would they know who to marry and what I thought was important to ensure a long lasting marriage. One girl asked what I do to stay healthy.

They told me about their families, what they want to do with the education they are receiving. They told me about their favorite music and movies.

There was such respect and interest on both sides of the discussion. I felt completely at ease and shared freely. I really stepped out of my box and out of my usual introvert personality. They took the chance to speak in English and realize a native English speaker could understand them and wanted to converse with them.

I will always treasure the memory of this day as one of my favorites in Malaysia.

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Some very special kids. . .

I had the privilege of spending a weekend with families who brought their one or two special needs kids (SNKs) for a retreat. My husband and I were there to speak to the parents a few times during the weekend. We wanted to encourage them and inspire them in their walk with God. But I think I got more from my time with them than they got from me.

One 6’2” young man, I’ll call him Asaph,  was especially thoughtful of us. He wanted to know why we were there. When we said, “To talk,” he then asked, “When?” We told him the time for the meeting  and how long before it would start. He drifted away for a few minutes and then returned to tell us we would talk at the time we had told him. We agreed and then he would go away for another few minutes. He repeated this every few minutes until the meeting.

Instead of getting frustrated with his constant questions and reminders, I found him so kind and thoughtful. He really wanted to hear what we had to say and he loved being able to remind us and make sure we knew where to go for the meetings.

Asaph is a real worshipper. Jesus said we must worship in spirit and in truth. This young man poured out his heart in worship every time we sang. He loved to sing at the top of his voice. Asaph could only remember the last word of each phrase, but he sang it with his whole being. How God must smile and love this young man’s fervor.

Many of the SNKs could not speak or had very limited vocabularies. When they had needs, someone must help them quickly so they wouldn’t get frustrated. Some of the children wandered away from their parents and then did not know how to find them again. Others would go toward something dangerous, totally oblivious to any threat. I saw all of the parents take responsibility for all of the children. This happened so much that I had difficulty pairing up the parents with their own SNKs.

I never heard any parent sound irritated or angry all weekend. I never once heard a comment like, “Why can’t they control that child?” There were no discouraging words spoken, only words of encouragement and blessing.

Not all the SNKs were likeable. One 15 year old girl had to be watched constantly. She began the weekend by reaching out for my husband’s hand as though to kiss it (in the Malay-style greeting) only to spit on his hand. She followed that with a slap. This all happened in about 5 seconds. Imagine having to care for her 24/7/365 for 15 years! Instead of judging her parents’ abilities to discipline, we had a great compassion for the burden they constantly carry to care for her.

During the second night there was a most terrific thunder and lightening storm. Everyone was roused at 2 am. No one could keep from gasping or crying out at the violence and brilliance of the storm. Some of the children cried the rest of the night from the fear. The rooms got quite hot as the electricity was knocked out, so no fans nor aircons could work.

The Sunday morning session needed to be a joint service with all the children and adults in an upper room chapel with benches. The SNKs were seated in the front rows and their parents behind. The battery-run P.A. popped, squealed, and either blared or didn’t work at all. The room was hot. Many had not slept most of the night. The conditions were ripe for total chaos.

To my amazement when I got up to speak, none of that bothered me. I had changed my message when I knew the children would be with us to something simpler and shorter. Some of the antics of a few of the children tickled my sense of humor and I found myself laughing. I did not have a drop of irritation or distraction. When I finished, I thought that no one could have heard what I said or would remember a word. But I was at peace. Whatever God wanted to teach through this, He would teach whether my words were right or heard or remembered.

Any of you who know me, know that public speaking is not my forte. I would not speak in groups for many years. Then when I would, it was only to small groups and with everything I was going to say written down on paper. In recent years I have spoken on Sunday morning in churches occasionally and in smaller meetings more frequently. But to change my message and to have so many distractions, was way, way beyond my comfort zone. But I came out of it feeling like God had helped me take a huge step into more freedom and usefulness. I don’t take any credit for what happened. It was all God’s grace.

I was given a painting John made when all the SNKs painted on Saturday. John offered to give his to me. We framed it this week and it is atop my file cabinet as a vivid reminder of all I learned and experienced among these special people!

There is not one thing in the world that I could have done last weekend I would have enjoyed as much as this retreat!

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A Widow’s Story

Irene is a lovely, friendly, thoughtful woman. She is always willing to lend a hand and is a faithful intercessor for those who ask for prayer. We’ve talked occasionally over the last few years, but I never knew her story until recently.

When Irene and her husband married, they were church attenders, but had no real faith. From early in their marriage her husband was abusive, but she had been raised that when you chose to marry, you stayed married- ‘you made your bed, you sleep in it.’ He was an alcoholic and she was beaten, but Irene never considered leaving her husband.

She and her husband continued to attend church on Sundays. A friend invited her to attend another church with her, so she went with her friend on Sunday evenings. This friend not only took her to church, but shared books with her. Over time she began to seek a personal relationship with Jesus. One day, all by herself, she prayed and gave her life to Jesus and asked Him to be her Savior.

Irene went to some special meetings by a woman evangelist. This woman talked about her own marriage to an unbelieving husband. She said she treated him as though he were a believer. She quoted Romans 5:5 and the phrase, ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’ stuck in Irene’s heart.

She began to see that if God poured His love into her heart, she should do the same to her husband. She made the decision to love him and she told him that she loved him and began to try to show her love through her actions.

Ephesians 5:33 in the Amplified Bible told her how to love her husband. It says, “…and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband—that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.”

And Ephesians 4:31 and 32, in the Amplified Bible showed her what changes God wanted for her. “Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will or baseness of any kind). And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another  [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.”

That was a tall order for her, but she made the decision to live this way with her husband. Instead of praying for God to change her husband, she was praying that God would help her become the kind of person she was supposed to be.

As these changes happened in Irene, her husband noticed the difference and began to treat her better too.

She continued to go to church with her friend and was baptized in the Holy Spirit. One time after that her husband raised his hand to hit her and she merely looked directly at him and said, “Don’t you dare.” He lowered his hand and never again hit her.

She prayed for her husband to be saved and bought him a Bible with his name inscribed on it. It was many years later that he watched a TV show and told her when she came home that he had ‘prayed the prayer.’ She went and got the Bible she had been saving for him.

His life also changed after salvation, but he never was able to overcome his alcoholism.  But he died a believer in Jesus.

Knowing Irene now, I never would have dreamed that she had been abused or that it took the grace and work of God in her life to turn her from such bitterness and anger. She humbly shared her story, not to be patted on the back for being a good wife in a bad marriage. But she shared her story so that other women in similarly bad marriages could know what God can do in them and through them in their families.

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War Vet

After service at a small country church, Bill, an 82 year old man, greeted us. We had never met before. When we told him we spend more time overseas than in the US, he said he had seen the world. He served during the Korean War for eight years, and then was out for about the same length of time. Later he served in the Army Reserves. Though we think of the reserves as a home assignment, the Army chose to make Bill an almost permanent traveler.

We told him my dad had served in WWII and told us very little about his time in the army. We didn’t know until a few years ago that Dad  was a decorated veteran with three bronze stars and a silver star to his credit. We had never heard how he earned them, and Dad never displayed them. It was as though those incidents were too poignant for words.Dad's Awards

This gentleman said, “There are things in the past you would gladly do again, but there others you would never care to repeat.” ‘

He went on to tell us the one thing he regrets the most from his many years in service. While in Guatemala they were told to only carry the money they were going to spend when they went off base. After being out with his buddies he saw a very sick looking boy. He asked the interpreter what was wrong with this child. He was told that the boy’s mother had taken him to a doctor but didn’t have enough money for his medicine. Bill reached in his pocket and all that  was left was 25 cents. His eyes glistened even as he told this story.

For a moment, imagine you were talking to the good Samaritan that Jesus told about, like we talked to Bill today. Don’t you think he would be glad he crossed the road that day? Don’t you think he would be glad he was able to help the injured man? Don’t you think he would be so glad he had the resources to help him? There are things in life we cannot do and we regret, and there are other things we can do and the memory brings us joy the rest of our life.

May your life be filled with joy with very few regrets.

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Gangsta?

We arrived at the Social Security Office 20 minutes early hoping to avoid a long line.  Only two young, African-American men were in line ahead of us. These two young men talked quietly with each other.

The first of the young men was quite over-weight, dressed in jeans, and a tee shirt. It was the other fellow who really caught my attention. He was tall, well-built and tattooed. He sported a sideways baseball cap and seemed unconcerned that his jeans  looked in imminent  danger of dropping off! He seemed restless and took a walk to the edge of the property to smoke.

When he returned, in a strong  voice he said, “Obama, who is he? Chicago, where’s that? Now Bush, he was good. He had the nerve (my word replacing his) to fight those who hurt us!”

I tried not to act as surprised as I was by his comments. Judging by his clothes, his manner, and my assumptions these were the most amazing comments this young man could have made.

More people joined our line, the door opened, and we all filed in.

We had to stop at a computer and push buttons to say why were were there, type in our social security number and answer some other questions.

The first fellow typed in his information, got his ticket, and went to sit down to wait. The second young man surprised me again when he stood before the machine, squinted, leaned down close, and said loudly, “Oh no, I forgot my glasses.”

My husband offered him his glasses which he accepted readily and said they helped some. When it got to the other questions, he answered, “Yes,” when asked if he was blind.

The last of the surprises was when he was told that he now owed the Social Security money since he has earned money that he had not reported, he was quiet and respectful with the agent.

This young man who looked the ‘gangsta’ type, turned out to be a polite, visually challenged, political conservative. I went away reminded to not judge by outward appearance and to pray that many more young, African-Americans become informed and willing to speak their minds and surprise a lot of other people.

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Mr. Jones

A soft-spoken man stopped by our booth in McDonalds to offer us the newspaper he had finished reading. We looked up to see a casually dressed man who reminded us of Herman Cain. We thanked him and he walked on. A few minutes later he returned and we struck up a conversation.

Almost two hours later we said good bye to this intensely interesting man.

We learned that he is a professor at the local community college teaching Western Civilization. He told us that many of his students are not ready for college. They didn’t learn to study in high school and were not motivated to learn. Many are the younger siblings of high achieving brothers or sisters. Their grasp of basic history and their reading skills are poor. He uses a thick textbook with many beautifully colored pictures, not like the textbooks we had in our college. Using movies and lots of graphics seems to be the only way to keep their attention. Straight lecturing will not work any more.

The students want good grades yet don’t want to do the work for them. He fears how they will ever succeed in life. Some of their parents still maintain dreams of these students becoming doctors and lawyers or another Steve Jobs. Even the college administrators pressure the profs to pass as many students as possible. We could see his disappointment, yet he strives to find a way to pass on his passion to the next generation.

Our conversation meandered from the current debt ceiling crisis to Greco-Roman government and from his Baptist church in a nearby suburb to missions in villages in Nigeria. The Reformation and modern Islam were part of the discussion. He knew so many interesting details about historical figures and had taught the grandchildren and nieces and nephews of famous people.

I never thought of myself as a good history student. I have always felt that area of my education was lacking. Yet while he named people who changed the course of civilization and different periods of history and the flow of development and types of governments, I had hooks to hang new information on. I did not feel left out of the conversation, but rather enticed to learn more. I would love to hear him teach.

Two hours flew by and our lives were enriched by the encounter.

Thank you, Mr. Jones

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