Eyes to see

homeless woman eyes

There she was.
Leaning on her cane, looking directly at me.
“Help me,” she seemed to be saying desperately.
I saw her. Her sunburned face.
Auburn hair in dire need of a shampoo and conditioner.
The traffic light changed. I had to move on.
Down deep in the recesses of my heart she knitted herself to me.
I wanted to reach out to her.
To give her a meal, some shampoo, a bus ticket to a shelter.

Eyes to see,
Leah said to me.
So many folks have no idea
that there are even people standing on the street
begging for a few dollars
so they can eat,
much less seeing some of these are women!

Five dollar gift cards to the local fast food;
New underwear from the Dollar Store;
Toiletries collected from a stay at the hotel
Or from the half-off bin at Target.
A Gideon New Testament.
Some baby wipes and chapstick.
Put them in the gallon zip lock bag.
Take them to the street where Dr. Mosely preaches
On Sunday afternoons.
After the service, we offer a meal and a bag of toiletries.

Prayers. Hugs. A look into their eyes to say,
“I care. I see you. You are real.
You are loved.”
“You have done what you could,” said Jesus,
And that’s enough.

Jesus saw individuals.
Not categories.
He saw the one woman with the issue of blood.
He saw the one Centurion who sought after Him.
He touched the one blind man.
Looking directly into his eyes
And had compassion on him.

Categories are safe.
But inhumane.
Categories keep one from seeing the people
That God wants you to see and touch
And tell them of Him.
Removing the categories requires faith
And risk.
Trust.
And great reward.

See.
See into their eyes.
Feel what they are feeling.
And then they will no longer be a
homeless person with no face or history.
They’ll be someone who needs your care and
Your word from Jesus. “I love you.”
“I died for you.”

Mark 14:1-9

The Good Story

Lucy could take me at 10:30, but some of the time I’d have to wait between other appointments. That’s fine, I said, smiling. I hung up. In less than 20 minutes I had put on makeup, made up the bed, grabbed a book upstairs and left the house. At the hair salon by 10:30 on the dot. Lucy was standing near the door showing her boss some pictures and looked up and smiled. There’s “Miss Dianne”!! We hugged. Such a cutie! I only had to ask her how her classes were going and then sat back and listened. What a smarty-pants! She had made a 100 on her final in anatomy! We laughed and talked all the time while she was “covering the gray.”

Her next appointment arrived. While I sat in the chair baking, so to speak, she moved to the next station and worked on the  high school young lady, highlighting her long hair. After about 20 minutes or so, Lucy asked an employee if she would shampoo and condition my hair. Of course! Come with me, she said.

Dressed in knee length brown boots over skinny jeans, this little lady led me to the back where she pointed to the first chair and asked me to take the seat. She was a short slender young lady with an uneven cut – long on one side of her face and short above the ears on the other. Highlighted blonde in front and the sides to a light brown in the back. So trendy. On her.

As I got as comfortable as one can get while leaning your head back against a porcelain sink, I introduced myself and learned her name was Amy. Greetings, Amy. Thank you for taking me. Oh! No problem! I’m an apprentice right now. In other words, I thought, right now you do as you’re told.

After a short silence, I asked her if she lived around here – one of my general “getting to know you without asking anything too personal” question. “I live outside of Tomball.”  It was that leading question that got Amy to tell me what would become “the good story.”

“You see, right now, my husband and 2 children and I are living in a garage apartment at my grandparents and it’s going well. I was living downtown and driving back up here to Tomball College. But we separated for awhile but we’re back together.”  “Oh, Amy!” I exclaimed, “I’m so encouraged by your story. That you and your husband reconciled and are back together! That’s such good news! Lately, I’ve been grieving over so many friends’ marriages falling apart and it’s so hard.” She told me that she had had a child by her high school sweetheart, they married and moved to the downtown area and she wanted to go to school in Tomball. But, she said, I went from living at home with my parents to living with my husband and I was quite clingy. We separated and I realized that I could make it on my own. I also learned that I needed to change some things about me before we could get back together.”

I told her that my husband had some issues with me and I decided that my marriage was more important than trying to fight his issues and I made some changes and am better for it. Much better.

In the fall I had been made aware of several friends whose marriages were struggling and indeed had died. What’s going on with Christians and their marriages? What’s happening to couples who’ve been married for over 30 years and are now divorced? What happened to the commitment? To the vow? I’ve prayed and cried out to God to restore these couples back together. To forgive. To date again. To love again. I know there are some restored relationships that happened after heartache, work, forgiveness, time. I am praying my friends’ marriages are restorable. But it will take a work of the Lord in both people; a restorative work.

When I heard that this nearly 30 year old who had lived some years beyond her time share that though she and her husband were young when they married, with a child; though they had some issues to work out and separated over it, still. They saw the love they had for one another, the vow they had made. The child they had made together and they forgave. Why is that so hard for others?

I left her a tip for washing and conditioning my hair. I thanked her for sharing some good news. Some encouraging news. There are some marriages that are working at it. Giving. Forgiving. Thriving.tatooed married hands

morsels of grace

girls leaving schoolShe didn’t know how low I was; how I was owning just one class – just three or four kids were totally stealing my joy for the rest of the day. Can’t believe I gave them that much control.

But she didn’t know all that as she brushed past me and then turned around slightly and said, “you’re the best music teacher ever!” and kept walking out the cafeteria doors to the awaiting bus.

I heard her. And I decided to let that morsel of grace that came straight from my benevolent Father wash all over me. And a slight smile crept across my face. Sigh. It’s okay. Thank you, Father, for your Grace.arms outstretched

Oh, how he laughed and loved!

“I miss them, too, Dear,” I heard my Beloved say out of the blue this morning. He was busy getting shoes out of his closet in the bathroom.  I was checking emails. “Who do you miss, Love?” I asked. “My Grandma, my mother, Dad. I miss them all a lot.”  Yeah. Sometimes it just hits us unannounced.

That’s what happened yesterday as I was driving to the doctor to get the bandage off my knee from surgery two days prior.  What made me suddenly tear up and think of Dad?  Then it came to me. I had been missing him lately. No, it’s not anywhere close to his birthday or the anniversary of when he passed away. So I decided to think about what I remembered about him.  Dad was a relational being. He was certainly not interested in things. Dad loved people.  A country boy from East Texas, he was  happy coming home to a decent homemade meal, pulling on a simple brown jumpsuit and reading a book.   Whenever he went out, he would engage the waitress, the checker, the yard man, any and everyone in a brief conversation, complete with a smile and a warm handshake. In that brief encounter, Dad would have learned where the person was from, whether he liked his job or not, and quite possibly if the person did attend or was a church member somewhere. “Where do you worship?” Dad would ask, with a broad smile and genuine interest. “Well, then, could I interest you in reading the book of John in the Bible? You got a Bible, by the way? It’s the perfect book for getting started in your relationship with the Lord.”

2004-0612-037NUsually, folks have someone in their family they have a gripe about. Dad never had an unkind word for anyone in his large extended family,  or even in his wife’s family! Not one. Truth be told, he made it his choice to get along  with whomever he came in contact . It didn’t matter, he once told me, whether the person liked him or not. What mattered, he said, was that that person was treated with the utmost respect. Life is too short to be ugly with one another, he was known to say. Besides, I may need them to be nice back to me some time in the future, he said with his ever-widening  grin.

Years ago, Dad and I had an occasion to travel on a trip together. He began to relate the story of how the Lord brought him into a right relationship with Him. He was in the Air Force in WWII, stationed over in England, and he wasn’t walking close with his Lord.  That all changed after his close encounter with death, in which his plane was seriously shot up and he had to make a decision as to whether to keep flying or command all of his crew and he to bail out. Unsure at that very moment as to what to do, he saw in the front windshield of the cockpit of his plane in large letters the word “JUMP”. He commanded his crew to jump out and he and all of his crew’s lives were spared. Following that harrowing experience, he decided to get into reading the Bible more diligently. He began reading the Proverbs and over the course of his early years, he decided to live as best as he knew how from the teachings of the Proverbs.  I believe he did. For instance, he never bought anything except a house on credit. He never borrowed from someone he could not pay back as soon as possible. He paid cash for every vehicle he purchased in his life.

Over the course of time Dad grew to appreciate  the long term value of prayer. He and mom were in various prayer groups connected to their church through the years. Many years ago, about the time his family began having annual reunions, he made a list of family folks who asked Dad to pray for a child or other family member to trust in Jesus as their personal Savior, or who just needed some prayer. His list of family members grew as others learned of his dedication to praying for the family. Oh, how he loved his family. Every single one of them. Many of them received a phone call or letter at least once a month, as they lived all over the world. I believe some of our family are children of the Lord because of his continuous prayers.

I miss Dad’s jokes. I miss Dad’s glorious laugh and good – natured humor; his honesty; his counsel; our sharing of books and current events. I loved coming over and plopping on the couch and just visiting with my mom and dad. For hours. I loved their counsel and their advice. Their love for one another.  Once Dad  knew deep down that Mom was going to be fine at the retirement community they moved in to only a few months before his health took a nose dive, he  began to slip away into eternity. Though his last couple of years were quite hard for him and the rest of us, I don’t doubt for a moment that the Lord was using every ounce of the love Dad had for everyone who came by to see him for His Lord’s eternal glory. He just loved. People. I don’t always do so well with some folks. I get terribly impatient when corrected or when someone is late or hasn’t responded in a reasonable amount of time to my email or phone message. But lately, I’ve been remembering my dad and how patient he was with everyone and what a high value he put on his relationship with folks and I’ve grown a bit more patient and less critical, most of the time. Remembering Dad I want to treat others with as much love and respect as he did.  In honor of him. Love you, Dad. Always.

out of the silence……..

chldren dancing ten I have this friend who called me while I was on the way to the library to pick up yet another audio book. My friend whom I really don’t know as intimately as I would like called out of the blue. She said, “So I saw your email and it seems you’re in a bind. I want to help you.” Out of the silence. I had not heard from anyone else. I had emailed one or two others. I had sought the counsel of two. “Just run with it,” one of them said. “It’ll all work out,” said another. I wanted it to work out. My way. The way of all my friends coming over and my NOT having to attend the meeting. NOT having to even call in on a phone conference.

It got complicated. While on the phone to my friend my phone, on its own, with its own plan, calls the head of the board and he  says, “Would you please send out an email to all the board calling for a face to face meeting this weekend.” A face to face. At the same time as the gathering of friends in my home. My heart sags. Why all on the same night? Yes, I could say, and it would be quite true, I have a prior commitment. But this guy has stirred the waters this week. And so has God. Yep. God brought a whole family of children to Children’s Church this Sunday. And……they’ve been raised in a church from wherever they came from. One of the little girls, the one in fifth grade, knew “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” And kept going for a few more verses. She had heard of some of the books of the Bible. She knew some church songs. This was so encouraging since all of our kids haven’t been to a church unless they have been to our fledgling little Children’s Church that meets each week at 3:00 in the afternoon.IMG_0996

My friend texted me, after I lost her call to the Board member guy, that she was going out for dinner. Would I call later? Later came. “I insist on having the ladies come to my house that night,” she said. I caved. yes. Thank you. I really need to be at this Board meeting. Too much going on for me to hear later second hand. Thank you. How does one thank someone so gracious? Flowers? A card? Both? Nothing? I told her I cherished her friendship. And I do. And not because of this. But because this for her is the norm. Giving. Calling and asking how she can help. And meaning it. She’s Christ Jesus in the flesh. Her hands are open wide and her smile is broad.  You shine for your Lord, Precious Friend. Thank you!

Freeing

birds flying free  There’s a freedom I really haven’t experienced in so very long until about 2 months ago. That’s when I finally decided to stand up to those dark, long-held grudges and anger toward some relatives. Down on my knees at the foot of my red recliner I cried and asked the Lord to forgive me for holding on so long and not forgiving and moving on to love unconditionally. I asked Him to  take away all that junk in my dark soul and then almost immediately,  like years of wax built up in my ears, finally being pulled out I heard the sound! Oh the sound of relief!  Of music! Truly! Of freedom, as the flight of the birds winging gracefully over the highways. Far above and out of reach of the chaos.

I know the freedom now  and what it means to just LET IT GO! I got on my bicycle and rode down the track – my get-a-way retreat. And my heart soared for love of my precious family who so long ago “meant well” when one sweet relative asked me if there was anything she could do for me when I came home from having given birth to our first-born. Came home with empty arms as he was so early. Well, I stammered, running through my muddled mind, “some diapers”? After all, I hadn’t thought to purchase diapers six weeks early. “Well, you can get those at the store,” was her not so warm reply. Well, then. Yes, I thought. So, what were you thinking to do for me, then? I mean, okay. I’ll go to the store. Thanks for your offer “to help.” And never again, did I ask her for help. But I had held on to the hurt……and other things from time to time. Those memories are now scattered in the air.

The proof. Thanksgiving Day at my brother and sister-in-law’s lovely home on the other side of town. The usual family. The usual spread of delicious home-made dishes atop the usual lovely table decor. Gone, though, was the usual grudge and inner resistance to totally love from the depths of my soul. The love for my family – all of them – this year was deeply genuine. I love them. Each of them and harbor absolutely no animosity, jealousy, ugly guilt. Nothing. Is this then, truly the love of Jesus from me to them? Oh, how light and joyous I felt all day and into the evening. Was it the letting go? It was. It was also the confessing and leaving that hurt right at my Savior’s feet. Sigh. Yes.flying birds

But there was still some deep down pain inside coming from something or someone else. My precious cousin and college girlfriend. There was that time when we were close. Weren’t we? I mean, I remember each of them on an occasion saying, “Best friends forever!” Being the Amelia Bedelia minded, I took that literally. Forever. Always. But, like mine, their lives are so busy in their far away towns with their own families.

Why have I held on to the expectation that they write???? That they call and just say hello? I don’t know!! Is it because it’s not a two-way street? And I’m tired of always initiating?  Do I particularly enjoy this feeling of gravel in the pit of my stomach? This “I’m owning this relationship and you’re not and I want you to and it’s painful and still why don’t you write. Was it something I said? I feel so INSECURE about our , well, is this still a relationship? Has it truly gone sour?”

I stood in the middle of my den and out loud proclaimed, “I let you go, sweet cousin. I let you go, sweet girlfriend from so long ago.” Go. Be free. And I will too. You who are so very far away from me and seem to choose to be. You who have so much on your plate. Always have. Always will. but no where on your plate is there room for me. It’s all okay now.  I let you go and I will clean out my belly of hurt, emptiness over a lost whatever this was and like you, move on. Oh, I’m still here. In the same house I’ve lived in for the past 18 years. Going nowhere soon. You have my address and phone. But you no longer have my heart. If you never bother to call it’s okay. If you don’t ever text or email, no problem. May the Lord continue to take good care of you and your family. Love you. Bye.

I do have some very precious friends right here in front of me and I know now that the enemy of my soul has been successful in making me feel less content, less fulfilled because two very precious folks are not in the forefront of my life right now.  Their presence in my life was rich and I am grateful for what we had. But now I choose to focus on the friends I have here. In my life right now. I choose to encourage them. Love on them. Treasure them as they are but having held too tightly before, I know now to always, always hold my friends loosely. With air to breathe. With freedom to come and go and be real and up close and far away and to know that from me, it’s okay.

bird in handRecently, in prayer group, some were discussing some long-ago friends who had been a part of the group (long before we came in) and had moved on. But there had been some small degree of dissension.  You know, one quipped, we can be Believers and not all agree on everything and it will be okay! Consider Paul and Barnabus; Paul and John Mark, I responded. Not even the early Christians got along with one another! We’re all human, she returned. And we’re going to have some strife and struggles along the way or, we’re going to move away from some friendships and that’s okay, too. We’ll all sit at the feet of our Savior one day! And then, it won’t matter anymore if we got along on the earth or not!

Holding tightly to anything will bring hurt and a stabbing pain. Open the hand and the joy will be everlasting! Because of the first Love. His love. Deep inside, wanting to be free and expressive. Loving this flight! I believe it’s time to take another ride down the track by the gully!

May you go out with JOY and be led forth in His PEACE!