Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Man I Choose to Love

My love for my husband has grown and evolved over time. It looks nothing like the chrysalis of early years from which it broke free, much like the beginnings of a butterfly. He has changed and so have I. Luckily we have matured and come to accept our own shortcomings and, as a result, the shortcomings of each other. Do we still at times disagree and perhaps drive each other crazy on occasion? Absolutely! We haven't reached personal perfection and won't on this side of Heaven. What I want to write about is my love for my husband.

First of all, I choose to love my husband as he is. Having said that, he makes that choice easy and I thank God that he loves me back. Let me tell you why, for the most part, he is easy to love. He is very thoughtful of those whose life circumstances are less fortunate than his have been. For example, one of his former dental assistants, a lovely Christian woman his same age, has had to endure some horrific experiences: paralysis from the waist down from an automobile accident, the loss of her oldest child at age twenty-seven from a dialysis procedure done improperly, and the unexpected death of her sister just three weeks after she came to live with this sister following the auto accident. There is much more I could add, but one gets the picture of misfortune that I am trying to describe without adding anything to this list. My wonderful husband decided to buy this lady a motorized wheelchair for which her medical insurance would not pay. Having this motorized wheelchair allows her to more easily get to church, to shop at stores located close to the care facility where she lives and any number of other things. Mike also travels to the San Pedro area where she lives every two to three months to take her and her friend to dinner. Happily, I get to tag along and share in the blessing.

Mike is very good to call people to check on their needs, and he is thoughtful about volunteering his time and energy to ways he can help them. Of course, our daughters are the first recipients of this generous giving of himself. Unlike many other men, Mike will gladly babysit his grandchildren even if I am not there to help. Diaper changing is no problem, and turning upside down in a flight simulator that leaves him sick at the end is okay to make a grandson happy. He will clean windows without anyone saying a word. In fact, in our thirty-six years of marriage, I could count on one hand the number of windows I have cleaned. He also throws in laundry if I'm not there to do it. There is only one area at which he balks and that is cooking. Since cooking is not my strong suit, I have often wondered how our daughters became such great cooks.

There is so much more that I could say, but I will stop at the spiritual. I have watched him mature as a Christian into the leader of our family that God intended for him to be. We rarely miss church and there is always a good reason when we do, such as being out of town. He participates in the usher ministry, attends Men's Bible study, and facilitates a small group held at our home. He encourages me in my walk and actually asks my opinion on some Bible questions that he has answered for his Men's Bible study. His answers are mostly very excellent and well reasoned from my humble perspective. I think he just likes to stroke my ego by asking for input. God has blessed me profusely and I am grateful for the man he chose for me to love.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Genuine Love Demonstrated

My elderly neighbor just died. She was two months shy of her eightieth birthday, but her health had been deteriorating for several years, ever since she started manifesting early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. She was actually doing well, even though she was, no doubt, in the last stages of her illness. However, she fell and broke her hip in October or November which required surgery, followed by a second surgery a week later. The broken hip was bad enough for someone of her age, irrespective of that person's health; however, the surgery seemed to exacerbate the dementia. She forgot how to swallow. She stopped speaking as well. While her husband was debating whether or not to place a feeding tube, she died. Luckily, she didn't die of starvation, so her husband need never feel he didn't do everything humanly possible for her survival. In fact, his love for his wife is the reason for my writing.

Karl and Meta were married for sixty-two years. Like most marriages, it no doubt had its ups and downs. Mike and I have been their neighbors for the last twenty-three years and not once during that time did we ever hear or see him upset with his wife. Privately, I am sure there were disagreements from time to time, but publicly, he always treated her with kindness and respect. Because we had experienced the same type of dementia with my stepmother and with Mike's dad, Karl began to share with us his concerns about Meta as she demonstrated forgetfulness beyond the "why did I come into this room?" everyone experiences from time to time.

He eventually had her admitted to the dementia unit of the UCI Medical Center for evaluation and formal diagnosis. Her doctors strongly suggested he have her admitted to an Alzheimer's unit of a care facility because of the difficulty of providing care for someone with her stage of the disease at the time. Even his daughters thought he should do as the doctors suggested since they were concerned with the effect caring for her would have on him. Karl declined to do what they suggested because "she wanted to come home," and because when he married, it was "for better or for worse." This stage of care giving lasted for two or three years, with there being a slow, relentless decline in her condition. At the end, he was making the meals, feeding her, cleaning the house, bathing her, getting up with her at night so she wouldn't fall going to the restroom and chauffeuring around her eighty-nine year old brother who has been living with them for over a year and a half. All of this, plus more of which I am unaware, must have been very difficult for a man who soon turns eighty-four and has a bad back. However, he never complained, rather, he would just express concern for her.

Her funeral was held last Thursday on an unseasonably hot day for January. Mike was a pallbearer, along with her grandsons and sons-in-law. There were a large number of people in attendance, something that seemed a little unusual for the death of someone her age where time has brought about the deaths of peers, relatives, and friends. Then, I had the realization that most were there for Karl's sake or for the sake of his two daughters. I say this with no attempt to diminish who Meta was or what she deserved, but to emphasize the respect that Karl's family and friends had for someone who chose to "love until the end," under the most dire of circumstances. When I watched him at the grave site, I realized that he would have given anything to have her back, in any condition, for just one more day. His grief was palpable. At some time, I hope to tell him that he demonstrated for the rest of us how genuine love behaves. He lived out the Biblical admonition in Ephesians 5:25A, "Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Being Still

One of my favorite Bible verses is "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46: 10). It first resonated with me about twenty-five years ago during a B.S.F. lesson. I can't recall now exactly which of their seven studies I was doing, but I do recall that I was thinking how much I would like to "be still" and not be doing so much. I often felt overwhelmed with family responsibilities, work responsibilities, and even church responsibilities. Today I am as busy as ever, but in different ways. My children are grown with families of their own. Not only do I still "worry" about my grown children, but now I have three sons-in-law and seven grandchildren for whom to be concerned. For example, two of my sons-in-law experienced job losses during the last few months. Both have wives and children to support. Each is a hardworking, Godly man who lost his job because of the downturn in the economy. Each is trusting God to bring him a means of providing for his family. Am I as a Christian being just as trusting? This is where the relevance of this Bible verse is even more meaningful for me today than it was twenty-five years ago. If I am feeling anxious, I know that I need to "be still" at the feet of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. It works every time. The problem doesn't always get fixed immediately, but my heart attitude gets repaired.

I recall the words of Pastor Philip De Courcy during his sermon entitled, "It's Not as Bad as You Think." According to Pastor De Courcy, "Our darkest moments can be short corridors to sunlit rooms." In that same sermon he went on to remind us that "God exacts a purposeful control at all times." This should give us believers comfort during these difficult times and trials that we may be enduring. For instance in my life, there have been glimmers of hope for both of my sons-in-law to be involved in new career positions. One is actually working for a new company in his same field. At the moment, it means a cut in salary and a building up of a new client base, but God has already given my son-in-law clients in a field that isn't supposed to be flourishing. My other son-in-law is looking to return to police work after owning his own flower farm. In spite of some real challenges, like unexpected back surgery, things seem to be falling into place for him to become a policeman again. In the meantime, God has provided him with other non-career work.

As a believer, I know that I need not be anxious for anything as Philippians 4:6-7 reminds me. However, when I get too busy, especially for God, I get filled with anxiety. If I don't choose to slow down the pace of my life so that I take time for my Lord and my God, he will place me in circumstances that have me on my knees in no time at all. This is not a bad place to be. In fact, it feels comfortable and soothing. Being still and turning over all the "stuff" of life to my Holy God is the best thing I could ever do. May I always, "Be still and know that [he} is God."