His presence in the doorway, caught me off guard. Normally, I observed him shuffling up and down the hallway with his walker. ” During my visits to my grandmother’s room in this assisted living facility, this elderly man and I routinely passed each other. Often, his facial expression spoke of anger and his sharp outbursts to others to “Move out of my way!” convinced me that avoidance might be best. In fact, he was known in my head as “cranky man.”
So on this particular day, I was startled when I spied him pausing in the doorway of my grandmother’s room. The door had been left open to the main hallway because my mother, sister, and I were cleaning out her room. A few hours earlier, we had laid her to rest. Her death brought an end to a deterioration of her health; culminating in a recent diagnosis of bone cancer. It was a day full of emotion, pondering and celebration. As we focused on going through the items during what was already a long day, “cranky man” wandered in to ask how things were going. I must admit that two thoughts came into my mind upon his greeting: 1) “It’s the cranky man who tells us to be quiet” 2) “I just want to finish”.
Ironically (and I’m convinced divinely appointed), my young son came running in the room which caused the conversation to turn to the energy of a 10 year old. Being polite, I asked our visitor where he grew up. To my surprise, he answered, “Chicago.” Well, of course, that drew me in. On top of that, he had been a pastor. Who knew that we shared two common elements in our stories? For the next hour, I was engaged in conversation with this man who I merely knew as my grandma’s neighbor.
I listened as Bob (no longer the “cranky man”) shared the most amazing story of his childhood. Placed in an orphanage as an infant, he was later adopted by a couple. His parents, both followers of Christ, added two more sons through adoption. As Bob told his story, his eyes conveyed the love he had for his father; a man whose life radiated Jesus.
Bob’s father was a physician and felt a tug to leave a potentially comfortable place in life to a small town in Illinois. The size of the town wasn’t an issue of adjustment. However, it didn’t believe in medicine! Despite the very real possibility of being ostracized from their new neighbors, moving plans proceeded. As a young boy, Bob wondered how the family would be treated. Would people befriend them?
Perhaps church would provide a place of welcome and refuge for this family of five. Boldly, they made their way to worship one Sunday. What would happen if anyone knew of his father’s occupation? Bob fearfully waited for reaction…..A man suddenly stood up; pointing at Bob’s father. News travels fast in small towns. The rumors of a physician coming to the town had been realized. The man; recognized. A demand to leave followed. Apparently, the perception of medicine was correlated to evil. Firmly, and bravely, this physician responded that his family was staying.
To three young boys, one had to wonder if they perceived that action as a blessing or a curse.
However, in telling me the story, his eyes lit up as he shared the courage his father showed in choosing to stay despite the church praying for him to leave. What would give his parents the courage to make such a choice? Where are they finding peace in this tension?
What Bob so powerfully witnessed was the hand of God moving beneath the scenes. This physician brought healing to wounds of the flesh but also restoration to wounds of the soul. The knees of three young boys ached from their nightly prayer routine. Patients names were added to other list. Sometimes, the prayers lasted an hour. Despite the admonition to keep the information confidential, the manifestation of the hand of God appeared before their eyes.
The transformation that took place in that town as a result of his father’s legacy continues to reap fruit. In fact, with tears in his eyes, Bob recounted the day his father died suddenly. The entire town shut down for the funeral.
The conversation morphed into lighter substance. We laughed about his rebellious antics which resulted in being kicked out of a prominent Christian college. We agreed that we would meet up again. How could I not? I longed to be blessed more from his gleanings!
In one hour, Bob let me into his soul.
How many other times have I tuned out such an encounter? What more of God’s character and works would I know if I learned to open my eyes and my ears to the nudges of the Holy Spirit? What blessings do we miss when we don’t tread in the places resided by the “least of these?”
I would have never imagined that the most profound moment of that day would come after my Grandma’s funeral. God is Good.
I am not pregnant! Let’s get that out of the way first. Having a child at 51 years old is not on my bucket list.
The title of my post comes from my mantra, “That (insert any unexpected child rearing moment of perplexity) wasn’t in the book!” The book of course is the popular, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Like many would- be parents, I bought the book. I even remember the moment. In April 1997, having just had my first pregnancy confirmed by the Dr., I excitedly ran to the big box bookstore nearby and purchased my copy. It was a pinnacle moment as I felt I had entered a long sought after season of life.
During the next nine months, the book became a constant companion of advice and knowledge concerning my changing body and, well, what to expect. Admittedly, there were parts of the book that touched on areas of pregnancy that no one wants to really encounter: the signs of a failing pregnancy/fetal distress. But, I didn’t focus on those parts because that vision didn’t fit with my expectations and the visuals portrayed in T.V shows and photographs. For me, I held a picture of giving birth to this God created human being on whom my husband and I would love. The three of us would adapt to life together. Giggles, snuggles, walks, celebrations of milestones would mark our new journey.
The picture I held of our life together remained similar to the information in the book. The sleepless nights were hard (I shudder to think how I functioned at work on a few hours of sleep), the feeding schedule (every two hours for six months), and the pumping were an awakening for me.
However, throughout the years, more and more situations surfaced that result in my re-evaluating just what was it that I was expecting?
Sickness (requiring a trip to the E.R or 24 hour drugstore for medicine)? Sibling arguments (that make the WWE look lame)? Didn’t see that coming. Pulling a cap covering the toilet screw from my 2 year old daughter’s mouth while getting ready to go to church and preach? Writing a sermon in bytes while alternately cleaning up after my son who had a stomach bug? The harsh reality that it is not uncommon to lose a pregnancy (I had two ectopics)?
Fast forward to the recent moments: realizing I ran out of bread in the morning and choosing between running to the store or counting change for hot lunch, getting a child who isn’t a morning person out the door without missing the bus, the diagnosis of disorders/medical maladies that I never knew existed, some I wish didn’t (mood disorders, epilepsy), some you would never believe either). What about the run of the mill fever, stomach bug or sore throat-those were NOT IN THE BOOK!
The realization, of course, is that if parents were given a complete vision of the future, a drastically reduced population would probably result. Truthfully, the response would be, “there’s no way I can do this!”
But, that is exactly what God, the Creator of our children, wants. For our sake and that of our children, the call to parenthood begins with a glimpse of what we can expect. Parenting involves humility; realizing that we don’t know all the answers. We need discernment, strength, and wisdom from the One who Created them (and us). We function as God’s image bearers and vessels as we walk alongside our brothers and sisters-sometimes staggering. laughing, crying, conversation, praying, supporting, advocating…..
In the midst, we experience God in a way that we never “expected”-it’s beyond our expectations.
God has always called His people to tasks that seemed overwhelming-Moses, Noah, Abraham, Mary, Joseph-just to name a few. Yet, they obeyed (some reluctantly) with just a little information given to them. They had no idea what was in store but trusted in the God that called them.
I will continue my mantra, “THAT WASN’T IN THE BOOK,” as it reminds me, often humorously, that I’m not in this parenting thing alone. Come to think of it, that goes for life in general.
I wonder what surprise awaits me tomorrow?