At times, the most extravagant beauty is found in simplicity. The brilliance radiated by a single firefly. The intricate, colorful design adorning one tropical fish. A single rose. “Simple” allows one to hone in and marvel at the craftsmanship.
My thoughts of simple beauty and nature naturally gravitate to memories of my husband’s grandfather Elmer. No middle name. Just Elmer. He was a quiet man with an unassuming presence. His favorite attire consisted of a t-shirt and jeans. Inside resided a large heart and a giant faith. He found blessing in his Creator, whose hand shaped his purposes as well as the bounty of fruitful things that dot our surrounding landscape. Gardening was his passion. Summers brought a harvest from a large garden and the surrounding rose bushes that framed it. Read more here: https://redbudwritersguild.com/simple-beauty-planted-a-lasting-legacy/
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.
How do those “compassions” manifest themselves to us? In my last post, I wrote about God providing an endless supply of compassions.
His compassion is never limited.
23 It is new every morning.
His faithfulness is great.”
God’s compassions extend to us in many forms
In May, Scott, Seth and I traveled to Mayo Clinic. This four day trip revealed not only medical answers but a reminder that God’s mercies are “new” every morning. I always read that verse as meaning that there is an unending supply of God’s mercies. While that is true, another truth emerges to me: God’s compassions are revealed in a multitude of forms. New forms. Forms that I didn’t expect.
In this case-mercy was granted to our family through the body of Christ. Prayers, meals, groceries, listening ears, financial support, and care for Lena and Eli during our week in Minnesota.The burden to seek out Mayo Clinic was simply a thought in October.
When answers seemed to elude us, taking him to Mayo surfaced in my mind. However, lurking in my mind were the practical questions: How would we afford it? Our medical debt was piling up by the week. Who would watch our other two kids? For a whole week? What about…….? Yet, as it turned out, the finances came together and a group of amazing friends-some who didn’t know each other- merged into a second family for Lena and Eli. I still marvel at how God’s compassions came to us in that week.
In April, Scott’s beloved grandmother passed away from a brief battle with cancer. She was 97 years old. Yet, we were stunned. I know that sounds surprising but……Granny lived independently, she drove, birthday and holiday meals were still made with love by her. And…..she still drove weekly to deliver Meals on Wheels to the elderly. In fact, she was nominated by Meals on Wheels as national volunteer of the year in 2012! Everyone who knew her, experienced a taste of Heaven. Providing meals, celebrating birthdays, sacrificing time, sharing her home with family and friends of family in need of refuge, and living in such a way as to provide financially for her family after her death- God’s compassions extended through her.
As I found out at her funeral, her desire to show God’s mercy to others came from the examples of her own parents. One story, in particular, struck me. As a child, growing up in Delaware, she lived next door to a small boy born with Downs Syndrome. As we all know, people have difficulty accepting those that are different. Combine that truth with a lesser knowledge of how to care for children born with anamolies and the result usually involved sending the child “away” from society.
However, Granny’s parents consciously communicated to her that all of us were created by God and share in His likeness. Therefore, it was expected that she would treat this boy with the same respect as any other human being. The same was expected in regards to race. For individuals considered outcasts in society, Granny’s kindness toward them was countercultural. God’s compassions were extended to others through her life.
In a poignant letter written by her son-in-law, he summed it up well: “she always greeted us with hugs and kisses, done with an enthusiasm which left no doubt we were home….and loved…. She made love real.” Her ability to extend God’s compassions to others overflowed out of the supply of compassions God had extended to her.
How do you make love real to others? How do the compassions of God physically work their way out of your supply and into the lives of those who you encounter?