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Friday, February 19, 2010

A Bear Named Max

Those of you who follow this blog will remember my writing previously about my nephew Derek and the strong faith he had after his father's death. He was eight years old at the time and his commitment to his faith and trust in God during that time was an encouragement to our entire family. However, this was not the first time Derek became a source of strength to me.
Derek is my youngest nephew. When he was born he brought joy all of us. We loved him so much. We passed him around and cooed at him uncontrollably. We made such fools of ourselves over this baby. Adults who were somewhat prim and proper were down on the floor playing hot rods and wrestlers, tickling and crawling---and enjoying every minute. When Derek looked at us and smiled, we would move Heaven and earth itself to give him what he wanted. He was sheer joy.
When Derek was six years old, I went through a devastating event in my life. My heart was broken and I was so sad I could hardly make it through each day. I felt like I was dying inside. I yearned for something to comfort me---I needed Derek's bright spirit. I went to my brother's home just as Derek was getting ready for bed. When he heard my voice, he came running out of his room and jumped into my arms. He wrapped his little arms around my neck and kissed me on the cheek. He looked at me for a moment but didn't say anything. I set him down and watched him as he went to his room. In a minute he returned with a beautiful white teddy bear in his arms. He came and stood in front of me as I stooped down to hear what he had to say, "Aunt Ree, I know you have been very sad lately. But I have something that will help you. This is my favorite bear. His name in Maxamillian Snowflake, but I just call him Max. I want you to have him and whenever you feel really sad, just give him a hug and he will make you feel better." Little arms reached up and handed me a soft, white, cuddly bear. Big blue eyes looked at me expectantly as I hugged Max close to me. I could smell Derek's bubble bath in the bear's body but, more importantly, I could feel Derek's love reaching out to me. I knelt down and hugged him tightly, basking in the comfort he had just given me. He smiled at me, kissed me goodnight and went off to bed. My brother and his wife were wiping the tears from their eyes. I could not speak, I was so overcome with emotion.
That was fifteen years ago and Max has never left my side. He is pictured above in his place on my bed--and I still hug him almost everyday. Max has traveled with me wherever I go and is never far from my reach. I taught a seminar not long ago on "Spirituality in Nursing", emphasizing the fact that nurses (and everyone for that matter) need to find ways to nurture their emotional and spiritual selves. We give out so much of ourselves as women that we sometimes forget to give to ourselves. Max sat with me on the podium that day. I told my story about Derek and Max. I shared how Max has been a point of connection between my nephew and myself---how hugging Max brings the love of a six-year old to life and comforts me. Every person at the seminar came forward to hug Max before leaving. He gave comfort to a lot of people that day.
I relate this story to say that God meets our needs in mysterious ways. A teddy bear may not seem important to anyone else, but, to me, it became a lifeline. I am often amazed at how God uses children to touch our lives and enrich our spirits. Children make the world a wonderful place. Nothing can take the place of the love of a child. I have been so blessed by the children in my life. My children, my nephews, my grandchildren, the children of my friends, have all been such a joy and comfort to my life. I am so blessed.
Today Derek serves in the United States Army. He told my mother shortly before He left for training that he had prayed about it and this was what he felt God wanted him to do. I am so very proud of him. I am sure he doesn't think about Max very often---his life is full of other things. But, now, when I look at Max, I am reminded to pray for a young man whose faith has never failed him. A young man who has faced life's adversity with courage and trust in the God of his childhood. Each time I remember, I hug Max and pray for Derek. I remember how one child impacted my life---a six-year old and a teddy bear named Max.

In Grace,

Monday, February 8, 2010

Walking By Faith

Driving home from work a few mornings ago, I found myself driving in a very thick, dense fog. Although I could only see a few feet in front of me, the driving didn't bother me too much as I was on the interstate and could see the lights of the car in front of me. As I exited off the highway, though, and onto the road that would take me home, I discovered I was traveling alone---or at least I appeared to be. The stretch of country road was visible only a car length in front of me. I could see nothing ahead and nothing behind. The fog was dense, wet, and gray. It almost appeared ominous. Still, I was relatively unafraid. I drive this road several times a day---I know every turn, every bend, every crossroad. It was familiar territory.
I pulled into my parking space in front of my home and the thought hit me, "That is exactly what it's like to walk by faith and not by sight." As I drove home that morning, I had faith in my memory of the road ahead. I trusted my judgment and had faith in my knowledge of what to expect up ahead. It made the journey home one of trust and confidence in what I knew about the route I chose. Walking by faith, not by sight, is a bit more complicated. By nature, we want to be able to handle the road of life ourselves. We want to make good choices and capable decisions. We want to be able to rest in our own abilities and trust our own judgments. As children of God, it is not that simple.
God leads us, many times, into paths of the unknown. We face heartaches that are unexpected--we must make decisions for which we feel unqualified---we must let go of things/people that are dear to us---all of which lead us into the dense fog of God's will. The path is not always clear. We hold a divine hand that leads us gently forward and yet we cringe at the thought of what we may find. Our earthly vision exists only from an earthly point of view. God's vision rests on us from the heights of Heaven itself. I am reminded of a beautiful song, the chorus of which says it all:

"I'll soar like an eagle
Flying high on wings of grace,
Far into the Heavens,
I can almost see God's face.
Rising in His splendor
To heights I never knew.
What once looked like a mountain's just a hill
From Heaven's point of view."

Walking by faith necessitates a vision that is not earthly. Though we cannot see what lies ahead, we know we are held by the divine hand of God and that He leads us where we need to be to become what He needs us to become. Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-Driven Life", says, "God is not interested in your comfort. He is interested in your character." I cannot state it better than that.
Of all the times of sorrow and despair that have made their way into my life, I can truthfully say that I know God so much better now. I am aware of how He leads, how He guides, how He comforts, how He heals. I can see the path ahead no clearer now than I did years ago. I have no idea what lies in the thick fog of the future. But, I know that from Heaven's point of view, I am a survivor. I have walked by faith and pray to be able to do so until I see Him face to face.
You see, I would rather walk into the unknown future with a known God, than to see it all without Him by my side. So, I journey on---walking by faith.

In Grace,