Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sufficient Courage

"I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage,
so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death..."
~ Philippians 1:20

It is amazing to me that some verses can be so familiar, and yet become so fresh, personal, and alive at different times. I just love that about the Word of God!

Since my time in the hospital, I've been trying to recover strength that I lost, and it's slow going. Not that I was very muscular and mighty before the hospital, but you tend to realize what you are capable of when you no longer are. Feeding myself has been an arduous task that I'm still figuring out - the grip on the spoon, the up-and-down of spoon from plate to mouth to plate, the manipulation of spoon into mouth without dropping food, and even being very careful about swallowing. My friends are gracious enough to let me try and struggle, and also gracious enough to lend a hand when I give up and throw that stupid spoon down. There are other things... little things, like typing, holding my phone to my ear, applying mascara, taking pictures, and picking up my tea cup, that make me so upset and discouraged about my body, my weakness, my disability.

So it was really wonderful when some friends and mentors sat in my Little Burma living room this morning and lovingly reminded me of Philippians 1:18-26. I've been reading it over and over since then, and one thing that I've learned is that Paul didn't ask God for sufficient strength, but sufficient courage.  A very wise person told me that there are many things we want to do, but there are a few things we were made to do: we were made to glorify the Lord and draw others to him. And I realize that these things do not require any physical strength... they could be accomplished even if I was lying flat in a bed, unable to speak or move. What they do require is courage - courage to live each day with joy and hope; courage to trust in God and remember his promises; courage to love those who seem unlovable; courage to invite people to drink from the Living Water; courage to bless the name of the Lord for no other reason than for who He is.

I am encouraged by the stories of people throughout history who were weak, young, small, and flawed, and how Christ was exalted in their bodies... I don't know how he does it, but I pray he would do that through me, too.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


She looked so beautiful, in that "complex character of a brilliantly written novel" sort of way. I observed the woman standing on my front porch, leaning on the brick wall, looking out at the traffic flying by on our busy city street... but I got the feeling she wasn't seeing the cars and trucks. Her face was solemn - graceful and kind and sweet, but strong and steady and a little sad. What was she remembering? She wore intricate brown sandals, long, loose flowing white pants, a white tunic garnished with light brown embroidery, and a sheer white headscarf, neatly and carefully tucked to cover her neck and hair. She reminded me of something, but I couldn't place what it was... something lovely and fragile in appearance but really quite resilient and powerful...
I'm really not sure how much English she knows because she is very quiet in class. But I want to ask her what she has seen, what she has been through, what kind of loss she has known. She came here from a war-torn, unstable, violent country, and I sense that she fights hard every day to not let the effects of it become etched into her face. I wonder if she will be able to make Fort Wayne her home... if she can be planted here and grow and thrive here.

I wonder what goes through her mind when I tell stories about things lost and found - a coin, a sheep, a son... she has a small smile on her lips, makes eye contact and nods as though she is receiving what I claim to be "very good news!" And it is... but does she receive the truth and hope these stories offer? How deep does her hurt burn? Is she the lost sheep waiting for the shepherd, or the woman frantically searching for her lost coin?

Apparently, gardenias are hard to grow in Indiana. Another beautiful woman brought me two today in a cup of water. As she smoothed back the raven curls from her face, she explained that she has tried for years to do so, but late frosts have killed many. In Mexico, she said, she had gardenias, and she missed them because they always brought her joy before, so she keeps trying. There is hope this year - these are the first two blossoms she has harvested. They are foreign to this land and its unpredictable snaps of cold, but with a little care and attention and patience - a little extra love - there is hope.

I breathed in the glorious fragrance of those flowers and stroked a petal gently. Thick petals and waxy leaves... stronger than the silky, frilly lace appears... and such a small white bloom has such an unsuspecting powerful and beautiful aroma. And I think of that beautiful woman in white on my front porch, gazing at something mysterious and unseen in her past.

I pray for this dear Gardenia and the burdens she carries, and that whatever the lost things are in her life, that they will be found... I ask Jesus if he will help me to become her friend, and I ask him to help her to become his friend, too.