“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives” (Annie Dillard)
My husband and I have been in a peculiar time of helplessness for a few weeks. He has a new diagnosis of too much protein in his heart which causes the heart muscles to thicken and not do their job of delivering oxygen to the rest of the body. That plus Stage 4 COPD makes his breathing very difficult. I have added a mean-looking crop of shingles to my back, chest, and up and down one arm to my back pain and diabetes. We truly are quite a sight to behold as we try to navigate through life.
In the last week I have learned a deep lesson about the community that the Holy Spirit creates from Christ followers of disparate personalities with different interests, different personal traits, different abilities . . . but the same God.
M. offered me cleaning coupons given to her by her son when she had a hip replacement. When I finally accepted her offer, she told me she would meet the cleaning lady at my house – which seemed strange. When they arrived, she marched in behind the cleaning lady and announced that she was going to vacuum and dust and K. would clean the bathrooms and the tile floors – and wash the front windows, and clean the microwave and wipe off the top of the refrigerator. I argued a bit and then finally sat back and watched the Dutch heritage go to work.
B. called to say that she had an errand near me and asked if I needed anything. I sheepishly acknowledged that I hadn’t visited the lock box in the apartment complex to pick up our mail for several days. She came to the house, picked up the key, and then delivered the mail as well as a steaming box of potato wedges – something I always order when we are out for lunch (which she usually pays for). She also stayed to visit and we talked politics (passionately) for a while – a real treat for me.
S. (the same person who brought me the lamp described in an earlier post) came over and blessed me with the honor of asking my thoughts about some concerns in the church. She also shared her wonder at an exciting interpretation of a familiar scripture verse. I learned that my endless care-giving had not robbed me of the ability to think and share deeply with others.
Another B sent me a newsletter containing a story that she said reminded her of what I had taught her years ago: “God does not love us because of what we do but because of who we are.” She thanked me for what she had learned in my classes. She also included a bookmark with the words “Sending a Prayer” to remind us that she and her husband, whom she also serves as a caregiver, always include us in their prayers.
S. (my sister-in-law) heard some of the panic in my voice as I described Fred’s new diagnosis and the frightening struggle he has to breathe. I mentioned trying to find a nebulizer paid for by insurance. She volunteered to research the issue and called in a few hours with the names of two companies in Holland that provide that service and a description of how the whole process works.
My favorite verse in my favorite Psalm (23) teaches that “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of our lives and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” The traditional meaning of this verse is that God will be with us forever. I think that phrase also means that we will leave our own trail of goodness and mercy all the days of our lives. Surely these women have perfumed our home with goodness and mercy this week.
And in addition to the help these women provided my family, their simple service taught me the truth stated above by Annie Dillard: “how we spend our days” (giving to others) demonstrates “how we spend our lives” (in compassionate service).