Friday, October 17, 2008

Angel Duty

This has been one of those times in my life when I have wondered if God is paying attention to what's going on in my life. I know that God has many more important things to be paying attention to in this world. Yesterday, however, I had an experience I'll return to in the future whenever I wonder if God cares about the details in my life. I had an early morning doctor's appointment and fortunately was through in plenty of time to make it to the class I teach at the local university. As I walked up to my car in the clinic parking lot, I noticed someone striding purposefully towards me. While I was unlocking the car, this individual pulled her sweatshirt hood off her head, and I realized it was a young woman. She asked if I knew where the Texas Workforce Commission office was and if it was close. I started to describe where it was, pointing to the traffic light and telling her it was just down the hill past the light and left at the next street.

Her face fell, and I suddenly found myself asking if she wanted a ride. She said she would appreciate that, so I emptied the front seat, and we took off right about 9:30 a.m. She told me she had been walking from 25th street (a good 4 or 5 miles from where I encountered her) since the friend who was supposed to give her a ride had not shown up as promised. She also said she'd been praying the whole way that she would make it in time because they had told her if she was not there by 9:35 they would not allow her in for the appointment. I told her she could rest assured that God had answered her prayer as I'm was not in the habit of offering rides to people I didn't know. I also told her that I was sure that God had something waiting for her at the appointment.

When I pulled up to the employment office, it was 9:34. She thanked me, and I told her she had made my morning. She hurried into the building, and I said a prayer that this determined young woman would find a job. It all happened so fast, that it was only as I was driving away that I started calculating the odds of her walking up just as I was preparing to get into my car, of my being someone who knew where the employment office was located (it's in an obscure place, but close to where my office once was located), and of my being moved to offer her the ride, without which she would never have made it to the appointment on time. Only God could have coordinated such a string of split-second coincidences to both answer this young woman's prayer, and allow me the benefit of playing angel for a stranger. When I asked God about that, God just smiled and laughed, the way God often does at such moments.

Life has been sad and stressful for me of late, but now when I find myself wondering if God really cares about the details of my life, I'll remember the determined young woman, who prayed she would make her appointment at the employment office on time, and how God allowed me to be the angel who answered her prayer. And I'll rest assured that the God who knows the number of hairs on my head cares very much what's happening in my life and in the lives of all God's other children. Thanks be to God for that.

Grace and Peace,
Donna Sue

Saturday, October 11, 2008

First do no harm

It was Hippocrates, a wise physician from ancient times, who said in providing medical care, the physician is first to do no harm. I have thought about that this week as my sisters and I have wrestled with how best to care for my dad at the end of his life. We returned late last night from our visit with him many miles away. Because he can no longer swallow even water at this point without inhaling it into his lungs, the skilled nursing center where he is now living recommended a feeding tube in hopes he will be stronger if he can eat and drink and participate in therapy.

The catch of course is that he did not want a feeding tube to simply prolong his life. After much discussion, my sisters and I, with the advice of my physician husband, reluctantly agreed to allow the tube to be placed with the understanding that the feeding can be stopped in the future if it is truly at that point merely prolonging his suffering. I am still ambivalent about this decision as it's hard to foresee what the future holds, and I'm afraid we may have just begun to do that which he did not want done. My dad has said he is ready to die. He's blind and his body and his mind are failing him. He has also missed my mother more with each passing year in the 15 years since her death. It's not a pretty picture all around. I am praying for God to watch over him and to guide us as we discern what is best for him.

My husband does not think he will be around for much longer in any case. When we visited him in the hospital before leaving to return home, I held his hand and read to him from the Psalms. My husband and I prayed with him before we left, with a heavy heart on my part as I don't expect to see him again in this life. I'm glad to know he is in God's good hands whatever happens.

This past week also included a funeral for a friend from church, a graveside service for my husband's mother, and news that the wife of one of his cousins had died. We will not make that funeral tomorrow. I am weighed down with sorrow at the moment. I've learned that some times in life are simply more full of sadness than others. At such times I'm especially grateful for the love of family and friends and for God's presence when I with me. I would not be able to stand at all in such times without God's help. I have no doubt this time of sorrow, like the ones that have come before, will pass. For everything there is a season, and now is another season of sorrow. Even at such times, however, God's love sustains me. Thanks be to God!

Grace and peace,
Donna Sue