Monday, June 20, 2011

He makes beautiful things out of us.

I recently got a job as a companion for an elderly woman who battles Alzheimer's among a couple other debilitating diseases. I get to spend a several hours with her five nights a week and it's taught me a lot already. This might be the hardest job I've had so far. It makes my heart hurt.

There are many nights my heart aches for the sweet lady I spend time with. She used to be a professor who taught English and History and she invested so much of her life in the students she taught. She's even had a dorm named after her at a local university. She married her high-school sweetheart and although she no longer knows how long she's been married, she's still crazy about him. You ask her about her husband and a squinty-eyed smile breaks across her face. She never had any children, but she loves her family and constantly asks where her sister Mary and her 3 younger brothers are.

She lives in an Alzheimer's unit in a nursing home now and spends a lot of time napping and walking laps around her hall. I help her eat dinner and then we find things to do before she heads to bed. Some of my nights with her are great, other nights are a real struggle, but most nights are a mix of both. I love hearing about her life yet it kills me to watch her really struggle to find the words she wants to say. She knows what she wants to say, yet most times jumbled fragments and made up words come out and she's left frustrated. There are other times when I'll ask her questions and she looks straight past me and doesn't respond, as if I'm not even there.

Alzheimer's is taking a firm hold on her ability to function. Sometimes it brings out the angry side of her and she'll snap at me and five seconds later she's fine and is apologizing to me. After the first couple evenings I spent with her, I grieved for her. I can't imagine what it must be like to suffer from Alzheimer's and to live in a constant state of confusion. I grieved because I looked at her and saw how profound an impact her life has had, and now she sits in a nursing home and sleeps much of her days away. I grieved because she's not allowed to visit her husband who also lives in the nursing home for various reasons.

One night after she had been laying in bed for a few minutes she started to doze off then reached out her hand to take what she thought was her husband's hand beside her and then she realized that no one was there. That night made me cry. As I drove home I prayed for her and starting asking God why things like this happen. It was during that talk with God that He started showing me the beauty of her life, even now. While she may not be teaching in a university, she is teaching me and the nurses things every day. She brings joy. Other times interactions with her are times to work on having patience and learning what it means to really listen. I'm humbled that God has given me the opportunity to serve this woman who spent so much of her life serving those around her.

She is beautiful and God is using her daily, even if she doesn't realize it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Journeying On

So I'm almost 3 weeks into summer vacation and nothing has changed job-wise since the last time I wrote on here. Honestly, I've been very discouraged. Deep in my heart I feel the urgency to "go" and want so much to just go live abroad, but that is not looking like a reality at this time in my life. I know that is a God-given desire and He will use it, but I also know that this time of waiting and journeying on here in the States is so valuable. Last semester I heard on several different occasions that life isn't so much about the destination, but the journey. I feel like this is proving to be so true.

Today I met with a mission organization and it became clear that financially there was no way that I could sign on and work there presently. All staff have to raise support even if it's just to work in the home office. While my heart hurts, I left encouraged and reminded of God's faithful provision and love. During my interview I got to connect with someone who spent 10+ yrs in a hiring position and even though he could not offer me a job today, He gave me encouragement and offered to help me as I continue to seek out God's plan. There was also a young woman who was in my interview and she asked me to stay in touch and she wants to do a book study of sorts together. Both of them told me they would make a point to continually pray for me. Wow. What a blessing. God is moving, providing, and continuing to refine and stretch me.

As reality is setting in that I may not find my dream job for months or for even a few years from now, I'm reminded not to run away from life. Remember that little kid's story of "Going on a bear hunt....?" In the story you hit tall grass, rivers, and other terrain and for every scenario it is decided you can't "go over or around it" but that you gotta go through it. Part of me wants to run from this hard time of waiting, but that's not the right answer. I gotta go through it and I'm not losing hope. The lesson I learned last semester of having a willing and whatever/wherever attitude has replayed in my mind a lot lately. Am I really willing to go or stay wherever God asks me to and to do whatever God asks of me? I'm praying for a surrendered spirit, that's for sure, and it will take daily surrender. Part of that prayer of surrender entails not asking God to join me in my plans and ideas, but that I can be a part of what He's already doing.

We have to remember Who holds us, Who goes before us, Who loves us unconditionally, and Who knows all things. Nothing is too big for Him. Not our debts, our weaknesses, nor our mistakes.

Praise God.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Actively Waiting

Actively waiting....not words that I often put together, but I should. I know I wrote in my last post that I'm not sure where I'll be after I graduate, and that still hasn't changed. It seems I need daily reminders to just wait on His timing.

Yesterday I went to the prayer chapel to just sit, pray, and listen. As I prayed I told God how much I desire to know the next step- I wanted to know where He is taking me. After sitting in silence for several minutes I have to admit that I started to grow frustrated and upset. Why wasn't He talking? Then a humbling realization hit me- who am I to put parameters on God and to tell Him that me needs to answer me right away? Who am I to tell God what to do and to tell Him the timeline in which He should do it?

As I continued to sit and pray for God to forgive me for my attitude, He did direct my attention back to a conversation I had with someone last week. The conversation was about actively waiting. While I may not know what life after May 1st will hold, I can actively and obediently wait. Actively waiting requires that I continue to serve, to love, to pray, to worship, to obey, and that I continue to seek to know God more.

He already knows all the answers and outcomes. He knows my heart- better than I could ever understand it myself. I have to trust that He is a good God and that HE KNOWS what's best. I need to stop being a control freak and let go of the reins.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Step Back and Take a Look

I'm almost a week into my last semester of college. Whoa. People ask if I'm excited...and in some respects yes, but in other ways it makes me want to panic, haha. I have no leads for after college yet and I'm trying to learn to be ok with that. I know I shouldn't just sit back and expect God to instantly drop something in my lap and that I need to take some initiative, trusting Him and listening for His voice. Easier said than done some days.

I got to talk to a missionary from Africa Inland Mission this week and what he had to say both encouraged and challenged me. As we talked he could sense that I'm struggling with being fully surrendered to God and trusting His plan instead of my own. He was completely right. God's been allowing me to be in those situations a lot lately- where I feel like a mirror is being held up and parts of me that need to be continually refined are brought to the surface. A lot of times it makes me want to cringe- it's not always fun to face those messy areas, but crazily enough, it's been exciting at the same time. I feel a sense of longing deep inside for change and for growth.

Part of that "looking into the mirror" happened a lot over break. It was a break filled with reunions and I loved it. Seeing friends from high school, my best friends growing up, youth group friends, family, and some of my friends from my semester in Uganda. All of these people have helped shape me and have played an important role in my life. Just to give an example, seeing my friends that I studied abroad with was so refreshing. It was awesome to talk back through our experiences, our lives since being home- sharing both the good and the hard things. There was just something special about being with them- it's like they helped breathe life into me. I left refreshed and reminded of many of the things God showed me during my time in Uganda.

Stepping back and "looking into the mirror" can expose parts of you you didn't realize were there. God can use it to show you areas He wants to mend, to refine, to change, to replace. It's also amazing when those moments reveal to you the ways in which others have touched your lift and how they have left their imprint.