The loss of a friend

I lost a friend last week. She passed on. I am sure I have told you about her because she was a one of a kind sweetheart. She was physically disabled but more alive than most people I know.

My friend couldn’t walk. She had some rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. She also had had Breast Cancer and Diabetes. She kept telling me that she was getting tired. I encouraged her to limit her activities.

My friend didn’t. It wasn’t her nature to say “No” to anybody. In fact, most times when I called her she would ask me if there was anything she could do to help me.

My friend and her husband took me to the rental care place  when I needed to rent a car for trips and out for dinner many times. They refused to ever let me pay because I had been a nurse to her husband at one time. I guess they felt as if they needed to pay for my meals. I tried to be sensitive to their financial stress and not become a burden to them.

My friend was my greatest cheerleader as far as my novel went. She is the only person in the entire world that has ever read any of my current manuscript and she raved over it.

My friend was at home when she died of a heart attack.

I can’t even begin to tell you how broken-hearted I am that my friend  is no longer here on earth. I keep missing her. I keep crying. I keep wanting her to be there for me but I know she is with God. I know she is happier with Him.

As I view my life I realize how much I learned from her. Even though she had to use a scooter to get places that rarely stopped her from going anywhere. Although she had been a type A person, when she became handicapped she accepted the curve ball that life had thrown her with amazing grace.

I stopped in to see her many times and I don’t remember her ever being discouraged or depressed. She loved others with her whole heart and I realize now that she is gone home how deeply I loved her.

There is to be a celebration of life memorial for her in a couple of weeks. She wanted to be cremated. I hope I can stop crying by then…

I know there will never be another Kathy Alexander Raney. She was one of a kind amazing. I miss her with my whole heart because she was one of the best friends I have ever known. I love you girl, to eternity and back with all of my heart and soul. You were the best!

WHY GOD?

Have there been times in your life when you don’t understand how a God who loves you could allow you to be so heartbroken and not step in to stop it?

I had a time like this several years ago.

It was when my two boys became convinced that they should go live with their Dad in Florida. I was so hurt by this that I refused to listen to their reasoning.

My lawyer had told me that they had said nothing bad about me behind closed doors but they missed their Dad and wanted to live in Florida.

Why Florida?

In addition to the beach and Disney world; Florida has an awesome system of education, not only for their high school students but also a program for college. I had taught all of my children the importance of education and they saw Florida as an open gateway to better education.

Their Dad had been very involved in their life, even though our divorce happened when they were young. When he was living close by me he took them every weekend. So it wasn’t like he was an absentee Dad who decided he wanted to step up to the plate of parenting when the children were almost grown. He had been a present “coach” in their lives all along.

Yet, I was heartbroken. My children were the essence of my life. Every decision I made in life took them into consideration. Why would God allow this to happen?

The answer came to me one night. It is interesting to me how God can flood my consciousness with His reasoning and it all makes sense in the flash of a second.

The reason my sons were allowed the privilege of living in Florida with their Dad and Stepmother, was because my daughter needed me .

She had moved away at about the same time the boys had. We hadn’t been close for several years. She had graduated early from high school and decided to pursue a career as a sales person. This job moved her to Kansas City, Baltimore, Kansas City and then back into my home.

She had always been a social butterfly while in Texas. Unfortunately, when she moved to the Midwest and Baltimore it was like she lost her wings. She called me, as if to seek the shelter of the cocoon which had nurtured her through her youth. We had some heart to heart talks and there were plenty of care packages sent her way.

Then she moved back into my home, for which I am grateful.

When my boys left to go live with their Dad it began the healing process for my daughter and I. If my sons had been home I may have not had the same level of compassion for her. God needed for me to be totally committed to loving her.

I am still healing my wounds from this time in my life but I know that God sees the future and He is a God of love. I know He loves me but even more than that… I am certain He is crazy in love with my daughter and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

FOUNDATION ISSUES

I must admit when I had my home built in 2007 I had no idea that ten years later I would have significant foundation issues. Yet with each passing day, cracks in my walls seem to propagate like flies on honey.

I have needled the construction company from the first year about the issues I was seeing with my foundation. They proceeded to have 3-4 different surveys of my home done by different Structural Engineering firms. Each time they said there was some movement in my foundation but not enough to warrant intervention by them.

I became very upset over this and tried again and again to get them to remedy the situation. As a woman who has been a single mother for 20 years, I really have difficulty with men who assume that ignoring me is an OK thing to do.

So I asked a friend of mine for an attorney. I was intending to sue the construction company.

Yet, as a Christian, the Bible says I should not sue, if at all possible. So I prayed about this and sought God.

The Holy Spirit told me it was a water, not foundation issue.

It took me awhile to get off of my soap box of emotion and indignation. My indignation did not lead me to call a lawyer.  However, I  did look into different foundation repair companies and was not impressed.

Then I went back to God and prayed some more remembering that it was a water, not foundation issue.  When I looked at the diagrams and the measurements of my home I noted that my garage was sinking. My garage is in the front of  my house and doesn’t get much water. The backyard is almost always a bit of a swamp because I am on the bottom of a gentle slope. So I definitely needed drainage in the backyard but I didn’t want to take any water away from the garage area. So I was going to have to design my drainage system and see if a drainage company could understand what I was trying to do.

I got three bids on the job and only one of them fit within my budget. I liked the guy who was inexpensive a lot better than the other men. I told him I wanted a french drain through half of my back yard and then a regular drain (pipe) on the side of my house and then another french drain turned on its side so that the water could seep out, not in, coming next to my garage.

I had to explain it to him a couple of times but he finally understood the design. I do intend to drop in and out on both days that they are doing the work to make sure the installation is what I want but I don’t think there will be a problem.

This has been a ten-year journey for me and at times I have been very indignant. I have decided to turn away from wrath because as it says in James 1:20 “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness which God so desires.”

I am kind of patting myself on the back just a little because not only did I turn away from wrath but I, with the Holy Spirit, also custom designed a drainage system for my yard. Who would have thunk I could every do something like that?

 

DISAPPOINTING THE HOMELESS

I had to go that way anyhow. I might as well call my homeless friend and ask her if she needed some food.

She did. She said she was starving. So I started to prepare a lunch for her.

Then my phone rang. My son needed some information to apply for financial aid.

He said he needed it immediately. So I scurried to my bedroom, got the information, packaged it quickly and took it to my nearby post office.

I called my friend and told her I was sorry but I was gonna be late with lunch. I apologized profusely to her because I thought this poor lady has probably not eaten much all day long.

She said, “It is ok.”

I said, “I am so sorry, I don’t want to disappoint you.”

She said, “You could NEVER disappoint me. I love you.”

That statement dropped like a bomb into my consciousness.

Here is a woman who lives out of a tent in the woods. She has such a dynamic personality that people are drawn to her. She uses her vivacious personality to minister to others and her church building is the neighborhood Starbucks.

She has absolutely nothing but yet she has absolutely everything.  She has to live every moment relying on the kindness of others and having faith that God will sustain her and those who minister to her.

Every time I provide something for her she prays over me, and each time she prays for my prosperity.

I have never mentioned to her that I was having difficulty financially. She sensed that from God. Yet my financial difficulty is a joke compared to where this woman is at. She is at the bare necessity level and I am at a level which is nowhere near that. Yet she is full of God and can not be disappointed when my chaotic life delays her lunch.

After having this conversation with this awesome woman of God I realized how many times I have thought I disappointed God. But how could I? I have accepted Jesus into my heart as my savior. When God looks upon me he doesn’t see my sin but instead the perfection of His love through the transforming power of his Son, Jesus Christ. That is a pretty awesome lesson to learn from a daughter of God who is currently without a home.

So thankful for her.

My mother’s gift of gardening

My mother has spent countless hours in her garden. She used to have our house littered with house plants. Many times she would not go on trips because she did not want to leave her plants. I frankly thought she was a little nuts in the gardening department.

She encouraged me to start gardening when I moved down to Texas. I told her “Absolutely not! I was not going to get my fingers that dirty. After all, I was a nurse and hygiene is important to a nurse.”

Then I got a divorce.

After my divorce I redecorated my son’s bedroom. I used to change the decor in my house for every season. It was such a fun house to decorate but it needed more. I needed to do something in the back yard…. So I started planting flowers. A patient of mine had given me a beautiful plum-tree and my husband had planted a live oak in the back yard, so I had to learn how to work with shade loving plants and work it I did.

My backyard was amazing at my old house. I didn’t garden just for the aesthetic effect though. One of the main reasons why I gardened was to have a common connection with my mother. Something which she could take credit for and be proud of me for doing.

I have texted her numerous pictures of my beautiful flowers and have spent long, hot, sweaty days baking in the sun tending the “connection to my mother”.

As I have gardened I have gained knowledge. There have been plenty of plants that have died from my lack of knowledge so I try my hardest to learn about a plant before I take the step of putting it into soil. Many times I throw out my nuggets of wisdom to other unsuspecting gardeners at Lowe’s or Calloway’s. The other gardeners are always thankful for the knowledge that I have gained.

There has been an unsuspecting benefit of my work to find a common thread with my mother. I now have learned that the same thread that binds me to my mother, can also bind me to other women who love to garden. All of my close confidants love to garden. We are not yet at the point where we are sharing roots but I can feel that is coming soon in some of my friendships.

As a writer it is at times difficult for me to spend days on end pulling weeds. I would rather write. I remember reading an interview about Nora Roberts and they asked her how she could write so many books. Her answer was,”Well, I don’t garden.” How funny!

So my solution to that predicament is to hire out some of the weeding. That way I can have both my writing and my gardening but more importantly I have a connection to other women. That connection brings me so much joy because it has paved the road for a friendship with my mother as well as other women.

What a gift my mother has given me…

THE LITTLE GIRL INSIDE OF ME

I saw her on a walk to begin with. She had the excitement that I used to contain as a little girl. She thought she had known me from before. I did not recognize her because I had said “goodbye” to my little girl years ago. I could see she was still in touch with her inner child and I became intrigued.

The next time we met was under the Mulberry tree in the meadows. We picked a few Mulberries and I warned her that another neighbor friend had told me that there was little bugs on the mulberries. She mentioned that would just be a bit of added protein and popped the mulberry right into her mouth. I immediately loved her when she said that because I knew her little girl had grown up in the country just as mine had.

The ability to choose between what was important and what was petty was a lesson I learned while growing up in the country. The beauty of growing up on a farm reinforced the belief that joy was found in simplicity, not perfection.

I used to wake up overflowing with joy. I walked around with a smile glued to my lips. This was not because I lived in a perfect home. This was just because that was the Spirit that God had given me as a child.

Where had that joy gone? I thought back to my life as a child and realized that I was super creative and quite the entrepreneur.  I had a play house out in the garage. The basement was transformed into a restaurant complete with a menu when my friends came over. My dolls all got taught about Jesus when I had church in the living room of my house. I was always up to something and many times it was things I did by myself because I was the youngest and no one had time, or wanted to play with me. So I would play with myself and I don’t remember regretting a minute of the time I spent playing.

I began to wonder where has the joy of my childhood gone to? Is it necessary to be so serious about this “adulting” thing we all have to do?

I eat food to feed my body. I read the Bible and go to Church to feed my Spirit but what am I doing to nurture the inner child which so bubbled over with joy?

In the Bible it says the Joy of the Lord is my strength. So how do I connect to that to draw from that fountain of life?

I think that my new friend and I may be trying to find the same source of joy. In other talks with her I have found that we are both trying to cipher through the pain of childhood to rescue that little girl who somehow got lost along the way.

It is like we both decided that the path we were walking on was causing blisters on our heart. I am excited about this journey of friendship.  It is going to be a magnificent adventure, I can feel it in my heart.

PROSPERITY

There are those preachers who preach that prosperity is our right as Christians to lay claim to. The “name it and claim it” bunch. They preach that the promotions are ours to grab. The big houses have our name on the mortgage  and the key to that Corvette should be in our pocket.

I am concerned about this form of gospel preaching. I have no problem with wealth but when it serves only yourself it has the potential to become an idol.

With a God in heaven who has told us to put our treasures where moths and rust do not destroy what good are material possessions?

They do provide comfort and security. I have purchased a home much larger than what I need but I have done so to provide a second home for my children or other family members who may be in need.

I have been so blessed to have my sweet daughter move back in with me. I have been blessed by God for four years to have had the privilege of being able to share my home with her.

The Lord has been so gracious as to heal many hurts in our relationship and I miss her when she is not home. Alas, though, she has found the love of her life and is getting married next summer.

I am going to miss her so much it is unreal and I am praying that she does not move to anywhere else than a house next door to me. Just kidding, but I really don’t want her more than a stone’s throw from my house.

Although I do not make much money in my chosen career I have had the opportunity to sew seeds of God into people’s lives. At times I have prayed with my patients. At other times I have asked them if I could pray for them on my own.

The other day a sweet patient of mine said that she had started praying more since I had become her nurse. She has become one of my dearest friends and to know that I, in some small way, helped her to connect to God was such a blessing to me.

I think that it may be more important to sew God’s word and pray for others than it is to have material possessions. Although, I think if you are doing both to provide nurturing and comfort to another it may be all good.

To God be the glory for all of the blessings he has bestowed on us.

MY MOTHER’S STORY

My mother had told me the story throughout my life. I had heard it again and again.

She went through a hard time when she was a young mother and had a nervous breakdown. According to my Aunt she had been so ravaged by the cruelty of others that she had spent a year in bed.

I don’t know what it was about this time that made a difference. This time though, I understood how that horrible time had imploded my mother’s dream of having a happy family.

This time there was an addition to the story, something I had never heard before. She said that my birth had been the one thing that had kept the family intact.

She had told me many times that she would not have survived if I hadn’t been such a loving child. I was full of joy and overflowing with love for my mother when I was a little girl.

As I grew up I became judgmental of her because she had struggled with forgiveness. I have been near a nervous breakdown a couple of times in my life but I have chosen to be merciful to the people who have been cruel.

Yet, this time when she told me how hard it had been for her, I understood that I might not forgive what had been done to her if it had been done to me.

My mother is elderly and she is tormented with the hate she holds in her heart for those who were so cruel. Yet her love for God and her faith in Him is what has sustained her. She fears that she may not be allowed into heaven because she is bound by unforgiveness.

I have pleaded with God to set her free, crying out to Him with tears streaming down my cheeks. I have reminded Him that she continued to worship and serve him and take her children to church; the same church where those who had been so cruel went to every Sunday.

I have shared on this blog how my mother has hurt me with things she has said in the past. Somehow the words no longer hurt because when I chose to understand her, the door to forgiveness of her busted wide open.

As I was reflecting on  this I realized that this need for understanding is paramount to the reason why God sent His Son to earth. Jesus walked on this earth. He felt our pain. Throughout His life He consistently gave healing and love to others. He fed five thousand but did not concern himself with the need for a home.

In His darkest hour he was betrayed by those who said they would never, ever betray Him. His blood was shed to cover our sins and He pleads with God to have mercy on us because he understands just how difficult it is to be human.

Praise God on high for the most precious gift of His son, Jesus Christ, who is the foundation for my bridge of understanding before God.

*If anyone feels as if God is leading you to intercede for my mother I would be so grateful.  The roots of bitterness have strangled her heart for far too long.

HOMELESS

I met her at a Starbucks. It wasn’t the one I usually go to for my morning cup of pep. She came up to me after I got my coffee and spoke blessings on me.

She didn’t say that she was homeless but she said she was in a situation and that she lived in the woods. She didn’t ask for money or food but prayed over me.

So I started thinking…

Then I decided that I had enough Brisket that I bought on sale,I could share with her. So I started bringing her a packed lunch. I had also shared with my son, some friends and my boyfriend so that Brisket went a long ways.

The other day I had dropped off another gallon plastic sack with a brisket sandwich, some chips and some fruit. She, of course, blessed me.

Then I went and did a couple of appointments and went to Jason’s deli for lunch.

I passed by a man who was talking to a girl and I was smiling because I was thinking of this wonderful woman that I had been feeding. The man stopped me and said “You have a very kind face and a very kind smile.”

He said he heard from God and then he said I was very sweet.

I just thought it was kind of special how God spoke gratitiude through a complete stranger for a kind act I had done for another stranger.

Then today I read Proverbs 3:27-28 and it was the frosting on the cake. “Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person. Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now.”

 

BASKET OF HEARTACHE

It was there. In the corner of my bedroom. It had been there for 3-4 years. It did not belong. It was ugly, messy and unorganized.

It was my basket of heartache.

The basket contained an overflowing mess of binders. Several years ago I went through a heart wrenching ordeal in the family court system. I have five to six large binders full of all of the court filings. Just to glance through them brings tears to my eyes because the experience was so painful.

I do not think justice was served, but I do realize that humanity, not God, is in control of the current justice system.

I know that I have worked on the process of forgiveness. I am not sure at what point one can truly say they have forgiven another completely.

I know that my greatest spiritual gift is grace, so it should be much easier for me, than most, to forgive. Yet, when I glanced through some of the binders, I felt the injustice metamorphasize into bitterness.

I don’t want that. I have seen people whom I dearly love become consumed by bitterness. Bitterness is a ravenous wolf, which can transform a kind and gentle heart into one which is full of rage and vengeance.

So on Independence Day this year I decided to sort through the basket of heartache and move it to an area which I could not see. I sorted through all of the loose papers and organized them into different categories of my life.  (Some other items from my life had inadvertently landed in the basket.)

Then I pushed that basket of heartache down deep into the darkness of my hall closet. It felt good to get this out of my eyesight. The mess of it was a daily irritation to me.

Yet it was more than that. I now had an empty corner of my bedroom to transform into something worthwhile. I pondered the challenge for a moment and decided to make it an oasis for my cats. Soon my daughter’s cat, Clooney, was curled up in the cat bed I had placed there.

This process has in some small way helped me to understand the sacrifice of Jesus and the deep love of God.

When my daughter was first born I almost turned completely away from God. I loved her so dearly, I would have easily done anything for her.  I could not understand how God could sacrifice His one and only Son for the sins I have committed.

I have done some good things in my life, but I have done my share of sinning also. For God to have given His one and only Son for the good I have done is a bit easier to understand. But for the bad?

When God looks down on me He doesn’t see the sin which I have committed. My sin is like His basket of heartache. So often we think sin just affects us, but the consequences can be far reaching in the pain visited upon others.  When He gave Jesus to be my atonement, He swept my basket of heartache into the ocean, with the waves tossing it as far as the east is from the west.

Then He reached out His hand and beckoned me to become not just another heartache but His cherished daughter …

John 3:16 NIV

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.