Friday, January 30, 2015

For the Love of Lefty

It happened as quickly as the briefest space between words. One minute I was chatting amiably with my coworker, John, as he walked me out to my car, and the next I was flat on my back on the parking lot, wondering how on earth I managed to slip on snow that yet barely covered the ground.

We'd been thinking about the weather all evening, my friend Tracy and I, both of us having landed late-night shifts that day. The storm was supposed to start just before we'd be clocking out, and we wondered what the roads would be like by the time we were ready to leave. Since neither of us are very good at bad-weather driving, we encouraged each other as best we could, pushing aside the negative vibes from customers who told us the snowflakes were already starting to fly. “We're going to be fine,” I told Tracy repeatedly, and she nodded her head in agreement each time.

Later we laughed at the fact that getting home hadn't been the problem at all; for me at least the issue was just getting to my car. After John had helped me up, brushed me off and safely deposited me and my grocery bags at my vehicle, a quick evaluation revealed that my right elbow was not functioning properly, yet somehow I drove one-handed through the increasing storm on snow-covered roads with no problem.

And so began an adventure into left-handedness, a journey I never imagined I'd take, but one that has surprised me with unexpected blessings. My left-handed husband was almost gleeful as he told me in the emergency room a few hours later that I was finally going to learn to see things from his point of view. The registration clerk smiled in agreement as she wrote notes on a pad, likewise with her left hand.

My own left extremity has gamely entered into the fray, accepting the challenge and excelling in its execution. It has conquered a variety of tasks, accepting help from other body parts as needed. From flip-top cans to tightly screwed-on lids to spreading butter on bread to cutting food into bite-sized pieces to safely depositing them into my mouth instead of on my by one it has accomplished them all. Finding itself responsible for personal hygiene tasks it once sat idly through, it can now squeeze toothpaste onto an unsteady toothbrush, then brush teeth, comb hair, and wash and dress the body like it had been doing so for years. The dogs are still fed, the cat's litter box is clean, sheets are changed, and floors are vacuumed, just as before. As we come to the end of the second week after my injury, I look at my left hand with new-found pride and appreciation.

Funny, I've been looking at my husband the same way. He, too, has stepped into roles he hasn't had to play in the extent of our 34-year marriage, but he has done so with willingness and grace, despite an already busy schedule and full plate. He has sat in emergency rooms, by hospital bedsides and in doctor's offices, despite a distaste for medical procedures of any kind. He canceled meetings, worked on his laptop from home and made up work hours on weekends that used to be spent on his to-do lists, rather than mine. In recent days he's become my chauffeur, personal chef, and fashion advisor, even digging through his own closet for old pajama tops and button-up shirts that could be altered to accommodate a bulky cast. The kicker came when he volunteered to help me curl my hair...not because my looks bothered him, but because the inability to do it myself bothered me. For two weeks straight he has barely given a thought to himself in his efforts to make sure I am safe and supplied with everything I need. Because he has had to step into roles he's never had to play, I've seen sides of him I hadn't ever seen before, and have simply found new things to love about my left-handed man as a result.

Perhaps that is the silver lining to all the difficulties we face; the change in perspective they offer us. We go through our lives on auto-pilot much of the time until something happens that suddenly changes life as we know it and forces us to re-examine that which we formerly took for granted. The blessing of unexpected difficulty is the opportunity it provides to see life in a new way and grow somehow as a result. I've heard it preached many times that if our first instinct is to ask God what we can learn from the situation when trouble strikes, what was a challenge becomes instead a chance to improve ourselves. Suddenly we are faced with a choice as to how we are going to look at the days to come. We can either just survive the situation and strive to get back to where we were, or we can instead use it as a stepping stone to a life of greater victory and happiness on down the road. Every need in our life simply gives us a new view of God as He responds to it and another reason to love Him more. The wisdom behind the Bible's admonition to give thanks in every situation lies in the fact that blessings surround every difficult happenstance if we just have eyes to see them and avail ourselves of the opportunities they present.

Initially I was going to wait till the fast-approaching Valentine holiday to tell my husband how much I love him and have appreciated his care and help in recent days. But that's yet a few weeks away. By then my right arm will be quickly taking on its old tasks and resuming its former dominance, and I don't want to forget the lessons I'm learning along the way. The proper response to any challenge is to first give thanks for its hidden blessings... today.

God loves to crown difficulty with blessing. He works everything out for good. Our part is to abide in the beauty and power of His love and remain firmly on purpose.”
- Graham Cooke

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Labeling Christmas Love

On the day after Christmas I arose at my pre-holiday wake-up time of six a.m. The family all gone, my seasonal duties done for another year, I was eager to get back into my regular writing routine, a pleasure I'd set aside out of necessity during the hurry and fuss of the holiday season. I signed onto my blog ready to finish the story I'd written and lived out during the holiday season but had been too busy to publish. Quickly I copied the text into the blank space waiting for the words, typed in a title, and selected the appropriate picture to go along with the post. Last on the list was the selection of a couple of labels, words that encapsulate what the message was all about so that others searching for stories by subject can easily find those that fit the bill. I limit the number of labels I use to three, both as an exercise in summarization and to reduce the length of the list of the same that scrolls along the right side of my blog. Done, I hit the button that would publish the work and then viewed my blog to see the finished result.

For some reason, the labels list caught my interest that morning. It takes some perseverance to find it, as it appears last on the blog screen, buried under the snippets from other blogs I follow. It's interesting that the labels are listed in a font size relative to the number of posts pertaining to that subject, making it easy to see at a glance what subjects are the passions of my heart. I laughed as I looked at the list; the words Christmas and love jumped out at me as having been the most popular themes in my writing.

Christmas and love. How fitting, I thought, that those two should appear together and be foremost in my thoughts regularly, but particularly on this morning just days after the holiday had ended. We make Christmas about so many other things. I reflected on what I had been busy with in the preceding thirty days, a list that included the words cookies, parties, presents, decorations, shopping, money, time, and traditions...entries that seemed empty and lifeless without the love that wound through them, binding them all into one glorious whole of treasured time spent with family and friends.

Days later we were giving a friend a ride to church after having not seen him in a couple of weeks. When asked how his Christmas was, his soft-spoken reply was at first difficult to understand. “It wasn't,” he said. Noting our confused silence, he said, “I don't have family to spend it with anymore. I have one son, but I'm not involved in his life in any way. So I just try to sleep through the holiday.” The short discussion seemed to emphasize the point that Christmas and love were inextricably linked. If he didn't have the latter, the former was meaningless to him as well.

But perhaps we're looking at it from the wrong perspective. Maybe the point is that if we truly understand the meaning of Christmas, we will always have love, whether we have friends and family around to celebrate with or not. Christmas is a celebration of the fact that God loved us so much that he refused to leave us to live apart from Him any longer and so sent His Son to pay for our sin in our place. Suddenly we have the incredible love of a heavenly Father to celebrate, and our joy overflows into words like cookies and parties and gifts, when earlier they were just the empty trappings of a hollow holiday without the birth of Christ to give them meaning and life.

It seems odd to still be writing about Christmas when we're now past New Year's and making a sizable dent into January. But somehow that, too, is fitting, because the birth of Christ in a heart and life isn't solely a December event. It can happen on any day of the year when some lost and lonely soul opens the door of their heart to the Love that is longing to come in. The “Christmas in July” (or May or September) slogan suddenly has a whole new meaning! Let the celebrations begin!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
(John 3:16 KJV)

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