Our Self Portrait

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The attitudes worn by people fascinate me. I use the word worn because I believe attitude is as much a part of how we look to others as the clothes we wear. When teaching healthcare staff, I always tried to stress that “everything we say and do paints a portrait of who we are.” I’ve long since forgotten where I read that definition, but it sure speaks attitude to me. 

Dr. David Jeremiah tells the story of a CEO who, when he began his company, recognized productivity as essential for growth. So at first, he tolerated bad attitudes if his employees were highly productive. However, as he grew in personal understanding of what it meant to stay successful, he changed the company’s policy to zero tolerance for employees with poor attitudes. Now that’s my kind of CEO!

There is a store near me where every employee seems mad all the time — no smiles, no offers to help. They will do their best to avoid helping even if you ask politely. I suspect if I asked ten friends which store I was describing, all ten would get it right. It’s amazing that they continue to succeed! But how sad to be known as the store where every person wears a bad attitude.

One morning after having been to the “sour pickle” store for something I couldn’t find elsewhere, I drove over to my bank to cash a check. Their attitude wasn’t exactly bad, but the service was indifferent – not at all what I had ever experienced there before.  Maybe it was just the one employee who was off track. My morning wasn’t going all that well until I stopped for lunch.   

What a pleasure to find every employee in the restaurant pleasant, wearing smiles, and enjoying being attentive. When I paid my bill, I mentioned how my morning had gone and how nice it was to have lunch in a place where employees seemed happy. The cashier responded, “It’s easy to be nice when your boss treats you nicely.” It does make a difference. We often reflect the style of the person in charge.

I want to go back to our self portrait. It’s important to stay around positive people. We can pick up what they do to paint a beautiful picture of who they are.  However, we can’t forget that we are responsible for what we show others about ourselves.  We may be influenced by the negative ways of others, but it’s what’s in our hearts that will dress us.

Dr. Jeremiah reminded readers that, for believers, it is the Holy Spirit who is to govern us. That means we are to dress in colors of kindness, calm demeanor, gracious service, pleasant words, and efficient, respectful service.  

As children of God called to witness in this world, we have tremendous opportunity to reflect the One whom we say governs us. We all experience off-days. So when we stumble with our own poor attitude, we can ask God to forgive us and guide us to better reflect Him.  We can remember each day to be conscious of painting our own self-portrait that says “God lives in me.”

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For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 KJV

Blessed to Learn from Adversity

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After a very interesting conversation with my dear friend Bonny Napolitano Bonny 2012 picabout the Coronavirus, I asked if she would be a guest blogger on Prayer Pondering and speak from her heart about our pandemic. I have valued her advice for many years and turned to her often to pray with me about matters of deep concern. Here’s what Bon has to say about our current situation.

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“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

As a former Air Force nurse who specialized in public health and disaster response, I’ve been impressed and reassured by our government’s guidance during the coronavirus pandemic.  You may have noticed that Dr Anthony Fauci (who authored my public health textbook) and the Coronavirus Task Force speak every day about what they’re learning, and how they’re acting on this new knowledge.

However, for those of us without a preventive health background, we may struggle with feelings of uncertainty, isolation and even fear. But, as believers in Jesus Christ, we can learn to take action to feel calm and confident.

Amidst the noise of newscasts and social media, sometimes I forget that we are made in the image and likeness of God.  What does that really mean?  It means that, like Our Heavenly Father, we are naturally creative, decisive and loving.

God-given creativity:

 I feel blessed by having so many ways to stay in touch with friends and family through electronic media. I’m trying to connect with people I haven’t seen or talked to for a while. It makes me feel both energized and thankful for renewed friendships. Pat and I have known one another for close to 30 years, but have seen one another only about 5-6 times.  In spite of living hundreds of miles apart, we feel like sisters. So use your creativity to keep in touch with friends and relatives in nursing facilities, in other states or even other countries!

God-given decisions:

Our Heavenly Father longs to guide us through His personalized inspiration. I’m finally learning I can pray to know what medical advice we need to follow, what meals I can prepare with limited ingredients, what activities I can try to bring us closer together.  Today in Texas, I smiled as I noticed bluebonnets blooming on the side of the road, oblivious to our drama. It’s a great visual reminder that deciding to “bloom” (and not gloom!) can normalize our daily life.

God-given ability to love:

As God’s children, we have been blessed with an unlimited capacity to love. I get to show love to strangers, friends, families, health care workers, first responders, ministers and missionaries. I can choose words of kindness and appreciation in my home and online. I can read my scriptures and share God’s word with others. I can thank God for His love for us. Like people in Italy who can no longer give hugs, we can sing to one another from our balconies!

As a nurse, I have always stressed that health happens in the home, not in the hospital. I need to remember our heavenly home, and use this time to learn how to live up to His loving expectations.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

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My sincere thanks to my sister/friend Bonny T. Napolitano, RN, BSN, MPH, USAF veteran serving as Environmental Health Officer. Civilian life: specializing in community health, Hispanic health, disaster preparedness, occupational health, patient rights, caregiver support, and healthcare strategic planning.

Our Pandemic and Personal Decisions

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There sure are lots of opinions on what not to do and where not to go with the coronavirus pandemic. It seems we have a war of words and wisdom.  I’ve been thinking a lot about our world situation and want to add some thoughts of my own.

I have some friends who say they intend to do just as they’ve been doing; they don’t intend to start living their lives afraid. They are Christians and will trust God to protect them. I am also a Christian and I trust God to protect me every day in many situations. One of the last things I do at night is thank God for the protection He has provided during that day; I begin mornings with a prayer for protection for the new day and whatever may come.

But along with my prayers of petition and thanksgiving, I trust that God has also given me common sense and the ability to hear His guiding me in where I should go and what I should do. I don’t go into any day “just trusting.” I ask for guidance and then I listen to hear what I believe He is saying is right for me. I know I don’t always get it right and sometimes it is deliberate rebellion, I ashamedly admit.  Maybe not consciously, but I think I’ve already got it figured out, so onward I go. But, why pray, if I don’t believe I will receive an answer with intention to follow? I also know that how He advises me may not be the same way He advises another.

Let me say right off I don’t think there is a wrong or right in many things, but rather a sense of how you are being personally led to act. For example, I rarely go out at night and not because I’m afraid, but because there is an inner guidance that it is better for me to be inside my home once the sun has gone to bed and the stars come out. That’s not the same sense everyone has and I certainly respect that. I have a dear friend who thinks nothing of traveling from one end of this large city to the other after dark and alone. She says she isn’t alone, God is always with her. I believe and I trust that for her she is doing the right thing. God is also very much with me; I never feel without God for a single minute. The difference is she’s following what the Holy Spirit is telling her and I’m following what I believe He is telling me. Why is it different? I can’t say. It’s certainly not a matter of faith for me (and some have suggested that – that I should have more faith). Why my friend and I sense we are to do things differently would be a question only the Lord could answer. I assume there might be dangers around me that aren’t around Katherine. Dangers I don’t know about, but the Lord does. I do not live in my house afraid, but I do live cautiously.

So it is with the matter of the coronavirus. I will be more attentive to whether I need to be in a particular place and more watchful with how things are being handled. (Have you ever noticed that people in the grocery deli wear gloves but they touch absolutely everything in those gloves? The meat they slice for you, the scales they weight it on, and even the cash register in some stores?) I will wash my hands more as I’m opening doors that may have just been opened by others who haven’t seen soap and water for a while. I’m a big hugger, but I’ll probably do a little less of that for a while.

I realize, like most things, there will be little agreement on how this is to be handled. None of us knows all the things that lead another in making decisions and it’s sometimes more than just what medical opinion they have been given.

When I was growing up, there was little I feared. In fact, my mother would get quite frustrated and occasionally angry with me for being afraid of nothing – she said. Now I find myself in that “over 70” age group. My immune system isn’t what it used to be, neither is my pain threshold (goodness, did I ever have a very high one of those!) I’ve had some unexpected health issues in this past few year and will live with one for the rest of my life. It has to be treated with careful attention and treatment so I won’t take unnecessary chances.

However we decide to address our reaction and behavior to this pandemic, I do hope we all make educated and prayerful decisions.  I also hope we don’t forget that God gave great wisdom to medical professionals to help us, not confuse or scare us. I keep remembering a young woman who was diagnosed with colon cancer. Surgery was advised. She refused it, saying she had full faith that God would heal her. Her family pleaded with her to have the surgery, but Lori wouldn’t budge. That young wife and mother died, leaving behind a 16 year old daughter. I know she loved the Lord with all her heart and trusted to the end that He would heal her, but perhaps the healing He had in mind was by the hands of a surgeon He had blessed with knowledge and skill. There is, after all, more than one kind of healing testimony. Do I believe we can be healed by the direct intervention of God? Yes, I do. I’ve experienced it personally more than once.

Whatever we decide, let’s not make others feel ours is the only right decision. Let’s not push them to question their faith nor cause them to be unjustly afraid. Let’s not argue our position, whatever that is, and here I speak to myself more than anyone else. I know I’m a strong personality with strong opinions, so I’m resolving right now to monitor more what I say to another and not be so free with advice.  I’ll continue to ask God to help us all get through this very tough time, and above all, to love and be kind to one another as we make the journey.

Dr. Emory House

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Every hospital has a code they use over the intercom when calling a CPR team to a patient or visitor who has stopped breathing or whose heart has stopped beating.  The Methodist Hospital code was (and I believe still is) ‘Dr. Emory House.’ On occasion, I sat with family members while a patient was being resuscitated, so I knew a little of what it was like for those who could do nothing but wait and pray. What I didn’t know was what went on in the minds and hearts of those who responded to the call for Dr. Emory House. So I asked. I thought you might find interesting what a nurse and physician told me. 

The Nurse’s Statement:

As I am on my way to the area given, I always wonder if it’s a patient or visitor. Once I’m there, I feel out the situation, look to see who is doing what and how fast everything is moving. I tend to get lost in the situation, removing myself from the person and concentrating on the disease. It is only at the time of outcome, that the individual becomes a person again.

If the patient dies, I review mentally all that was done. Did I make an impact on the outcome? I step it through, giving it an overall look.

If the patient survives, and my feelings were that the patient should not have been coded, I have trouble dealing with this personally and morally. I feel I prolonged death rather than extended life.

I always debrief with someone to get rid of the emotional impact it has on me. I think all nurses are careful about doing this. It’s important to talk it out.

After an Emory House, I need reaffirmation that I am still alive – a hug or just some touch. This is especially so if the patient is a young person. I need to feel all the feelings you experience when you are alive.

The good comes when crisis intervention has only positives. The patient makes it and is restored to quality life. I feel I’ve been put on this earth for a purpose and possibly this is one of the ways I fulfill that purpose.

The Doctor’s Statement:

Explaining my thoughts to the code goes back to when I was 13 and my father died. He was ‘re-sussed’ at home and didn’t make it.

As an intern, not yet skilled to participate, I felt a lot of emotion when I witnessed resuscitation. I was medically detached and emotionally attached. Then as a resident, that detachment reversed itself. The medical point is so intense, you much detach emotionally.

When you are coding a patient, you don’t look at the face; you just go by the book. My heart usually races as I think how important it is not to make a mistake. I’m aware eyes are on me to direct the resuscitation. You have to know when to stop, and that’s very hard.

As a private physician, you get pulled back in emotionally. When an Emory House is called on your patient, you think of all you know about that person. You wonder what happened in the last 24 hours. Did I fail to do something?

No one teaches doctors how to tell the family when the patient doesn’t make it. This is probably the most difficult part for me. I learned from watching an extremely compassionate doctor. He showed me the importance of touch and speaking softly.

There’s such a feeling of emptiness when it’s all over. I don’t usually react emotionally, but one night after an unsuccessful Emory House, I went home to watch television. There was a scene where someone was coded and he didn’t make it. I cried.

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These interviews took place thirty years ago, however I suspect little would differ if these same interviews happened today. I’m sure many of you have prayed for doctors and nurses when you or loved ones have been sick – for their knowledge and skills. But have you ever thought to pray for their protection and healing? They need those prayers, too.

 

A Man and His Dog

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I hope you will enjoy another story about heroes from my hospital days. As you read, keep in mind this happened in a 900-bed hospital. The bigger the hospital, the harder it can be to do the little things for patients. 

It was a volunteer that told me about a patient who came into our hospital suddenly and didn’t have time to make arrangements for his dog’s care. The dog had been without food and water for two days and our patient knew the dog would die if he wasn’t cared for soon. The patient lived within five minutes of the hospital.

I called his physician who was immediately supportive of our doing whatever we could to relieve his patient’s concern. He said he didn’t feel there would be any harm if the patient was unhooked from his IV long enough to see about his dog, provided someone from the hospital could drive him there. 

A call to Security found them willing to help; they would drive the patient to his house. The patient’s care nurse unhooked his IV and readied him for the short trip home. The security officer went to the floor where the nurse released the patient to him for a quick trip home. With the help of the officer, the patient attended to his dog’s food and water. In little more than 30 minutes, the patient was back in his bed, hooked up again to his IV, and sleeping as sound as a baby. 

When I visited him the next day, his eyes glowed like a child’s at Christmas. He just couldn’t believe his doctor and our hospital would do such a kind thing for him. His doctor said it only took his thinking what he would want done for him if he were the patient. As for Security, it was one of the few times they got to be a part of a happy occurrence, and it brought them, for a day at least, to the inner circle of patient care. The nursing staff? Our nurses were the best and always ready to make their patients happy. 

So there are several heroes in this story. The doctor is the first — for without his okay, it certainly could not, and would not, have happened. Our Security Department’s director and his transporting officer were heroes for not being afraid to take the risk. An unseen hero was our director of Risk Management who was notified of what we wanted to do and gave her complete support. It was all about a patient and his dog that day. 

 

Looking Back at a Memorable Patient

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There’s so much bad news today, I thought a little sharing of personal heroes might be in order. During the years I worked for Methodist Healthcare (1983-1998), my primary responsibilities were to patient concerns, patient rights, and medical ethics. I got to know some terrific individuals and wrote about many of them. I believed the sharing of patient perspectives helped us react more like a small community rather than a large hospital. Everyone does better when they understand another’s perspective. The stories were first shared internally and then with the medical community at large through my column, “Patient Perspective,” in the Memphis Healthcare News. I’ve pulled a few stories, in no particular order, to share with you. This one is very dated, but our need to understand and respect one another never changes. This couple taught us a lot about that. It was written in December of 1988. 

There are those particular patients whose stories we file away in our memory book. Then, from time to time, we draw on the lessons they taught through their demonstration of great courage, kindness, or even wit. There is one patient I remember who met all those qualifications.

I first became involved with him due to his extreme fear of contracting AIDS. He and his wife came to our hospital armed with their own can of disinfectant, and his wife cleaned the bathroom and telephone again – just to be sure.

The patient and his wife, both in their late 60’s, enjoyed one of those marriages that was a sheer delight to observe. As we got to know each other, his wife told me they had both had previous marriages that came apart in the early 1940’s. She said her first husband left to get a haircut one day and just never came back. So, for six years, the second husband made her go with him every time he got a haircut! Then she laughed that happy, throaty laugh of hers, and you could imagine the whole scene taking place.

There were a number of hospitalizations and other visits to our hospital. One day, the patient had been in to get blood and I met him and his wife as they were leaving the hospital. They stopped to speak and give me a quick hug, but then said they had to hurry along. “I’ve just been given the blood of an 18 year old, and I want to get my wife right home” said the patient.

During the time of one hospitalization, the patient decided he would leave a little test for the housekeepers: he put one tiny piece of paper in each of the four corners of his bathroom. The housekeeper passed the test, but one of the patient’s daughters said the housekeeper should have left them where they were with one word written on each paper scrap: (1) I’ve (2) cleaned (3) this (4) bathroom.

The most memorable happening of all, though, came in his first hospitalization. This beautiful human being, full of love and wit, called in all of his grandchildren to talk to them. (As I recall, their ages ranged from about 12 to mid-20’s.) He told them he wanted to be serious just for a minute and then he explained his condition and that he knew his long years of smoking were to blame. He said “Granddaddy should be up playing with you now, and not lying in this bed. If I had taken care of my body, that’s what I would be doing. So I want you to promise me, while each one of you still has a healthy body, to respect it and take care of it. Don’t ever be foolish enough to put yourself where I am now.” With that, he dismissed the time for serious conversation, and became, once again, the life of the party.

Yes, there were times when the patient and his wife might have been seen as ‘difficult’ for staff as they struggled to hold on to the months of life he had left. But surely, there’s not a one of us that felt we could ever put a mark against such a courageous couple.

This was a man and woman who helped us laugh when their hearts were breaking; who held close to each other and taught us lessons about love and left us with memories that bless our days of reflection. The patient was one of those individuals who lives on in each and every person he ever touched, and if there were a hall of fame for patients, we would place his picture there.

 

Voices That Teach

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In the mid-1980s, I was drawn to the teachings of a Catholic priest, Henri J. Nouwen, and a Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. Merton’s book, No Man Is an Island, became my handbook of sorts. I read it over and over, highlighting, underlining, and making notes in the margins. He communicated in to-the-point statements on human relations. “Some people never reveal any of the good that is hidden in them until we give them some of the good that is in ourselves” was an excellent workshop opener.

Nouwen was another great teacher who spoke in pithy statements. He had a way of communicating that immediately drew people in. He taught at the University of Notre Dame and the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard and was in constant demand as a lecturer all over the world. Yet with all this respect for what he had to say, he struggled his lifetime with self-doubt and depression. He also felt a great sense of conflict with his many speaking engagements, nouwen books2saying “Many people ask me to speak, but nobody as yet has invited me for silence. Still, I realize that the more I speak, the more I will need silence to remain faithful to what I say. People expect too much from speaking, too little from silence. . . .” . Quite a few of his personal journals went on to be books and people read them often feeling he was telling their stories. Nouwen was ever seeking Jesus and once someone said to him after a lecture, “When I look at you it is as if I am in the presence of Christ.” Nouwen’s response was quick: “It is the Christ in you, who recognizes the Christ in me.”

Another strong voice for me through the years has been that of Oswald Chambers. He was a profound messenger of God. His devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, is perhaps the most highly acclaimed devotional book ever written. Some pastors say it is second only to the Bible in influencing their relationship with Christ. I have several books written about this man who died young (43) due to untreated appendicitis. He was serving as a chaplain on a battlefield and would not put himself in the way of others he felt needed physician attention more. His wife recorded his sermons in shorthand and after his death published the devotional book as well as other books and articles. I have a book with some of his prayers and I particularly like this one: “O Lord, breathe on me till I am one with Thee in the temper of my mind and heart and disposition, unto Thee do I turn. How completely I realize my lost-ness without Thee.”

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Richard and I were married by Maxie Dunnam in 1989.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to the voice of Dr. Maxie Dunnam, for it was he who directed me to the likes of the three I’ve mentioned. Dr. Maxie Dunnam was my pastor from 1983 to 1994. When he preached Sunday mornings at Christ United Methodist Church, he could be counted on to tell about those who influenced his life, and how. Most Sundays I left with a note in hand of someone he had mentioned or a book he had read that impacted his life. Maxie, like Nouwen, is not slow to share personal failings when he believes it will benefit others. He still write today and anything Maxie Dunnam says is worth hearing.

I’ve talked of the influence of two Catholics, a Holiness Movement evangelist, and a Methodist minister. I want to mention one other voice that stimulates my mind, that of Jewish rabbis. If you’ve never heard a rabbi speak as a guest lecturer at a seminar, you have missed gold! Their depth of knowledge and ability to bring you along with them to their final “aha” moment is something rich and beautiful.

Who are the spiritual giants in your life? Who do you credit with pouring into your journey? Who teaches you about purposeful living? I would love to hear. Maybe you will point me to a new favorite for 2019.

Peaceful Sleep

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For most of us, that time of turning in for the night is when our minds accelerate. We think of the decisions we made that day and whether they were wise, many times wishing we could do them over. We think about things that may happen in the near future, things that may be life changing, problems we face — both big and small. We think about our children and our concerns for them. One thing I think about every night is whether I did anything kind for anyone. It bothers me to think I’ve closed out a day without a single act of kindness.

For some who live alone, there are thoughts about safety. Was everything that needed to be turned off, turned off? Did I lock all the doors? Did I arm the security system? If I fall during the night, will someone know to check on me relatively soon the next day?

In the last year of my mother’s living alone, I prayed a lot about her safety.  I prayed against fire, against a predator realizing that she lived alone, that she wouldn’t fall or get sick or become frightened during the night.

Psalm 4:8 says “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (NIV).  I have a friend who prays this every night over family and friends who live alone, calling out each name and asking that they will know God’s protection. What a beautiful gift!

Proverbs 3:24 says “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet” (NIV). Psalm 127:3 reminds us that the one who watches over us never slumbers or sleeps.

I especially love this word from Psalm 3:3-6 (NLT):  “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain. I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side.” I love it because it begins with recognizing and praising God, saying to Him that we know He hears us when we call out to Him. Those words of David say that we know God in Heaven sees every threat that might come our way. It encourages us when it says we slept in trust and woke up without any trouble coming upon us through the night. The last sentence rightly gives God praise again, following the Lord’s instruction to begin and end our prayers with praising God. In that final praise, we affirm our confidence that we are protected on every side and from every danger.

Do you have trouble falling to sleep? Do you replay all the day’s woes? Do you angst over children or parents or other loved ones? Maybe one of these verses can help you to let go and sleep peacefully. Or, you can check your Bible’s concordance or “google” for other verses on peaceful sleep. I encourage you to choose a scripture and commit it to memory, then let it be your last thought of the day. And as Proverb 3:4 says, may your sleep be sweet.

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My Chloe sleeping peacefully. Not a single worry or care!

 

Resting in God’s Peace

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Ask what the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16 NIV))

There is a peace that only God can give. It is as Augustine said “God has made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” No matter the thing we deal with, small or mighty, when we learn to rest in God all things become manageable in a better way. They become subject to Him and we no longer feel we have to be in charge — in mind or in practice. We can have that peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Hear these stories:

Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic for 51 years, just learned she has cancer again. “When I received the unexpected news of cancer, I relaxed and smiled, knowing that my sovereign God loves me dearly and holds me tightly in His hands. What good is it if we only trust the Lord when we understand His ways? That only guarantees a life filled with doubts.” Joni has had a lifetime of resting all in the Lord.

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
    I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. (Psalm 9:1 NLT)

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Nick Vujicic who was born without limbs says “It is hard to find purpose or good in difficult circumstances, but that is the journey. Why does it have to be a journey? Because throughout the difficult times, you will learn more, grow more in faith, love God more, and love your neighbor more. It is the journey of faith that begins in love and ends in love.” Nick rested his difficulties in the Lord long ago. He has a wife and four children and speaks internationally about his faith in God. He proclaims with James:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4 NLT)

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Five weeks ago, a three-year-old child became very sick, suffered a seizure, and is just now coming out of a coma. She isn’t speaking yet and is unable to walk. She has a long rehabilitative journey ahead of her, yet this is what her mother says: “Even though this has been the toughest thing for us to go through, we are thankful that God chose our little girl to do such big things for Him. Most importantly, we are thankful for our God who can heal Hadley completely and for our faith which we could not handle this season without. I know that she is touching so many people and for that I will always be grateful.”

Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. (Philippians 3:1) I have learned the secret of living in every situation . . . for I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12, 13 NLT). 

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One December a friend who lives many states away came to visit. We took her to a party held in a beautiful and luxuriously decorated home. Our friend lived under great financial constraints; she enjoyed no luxuries, ever. I became concerned that the contrast of life style might sadden her. Yet all through the evening, she was clearly having fun. She said the party was a good reminder of earlier times, before her husband became a housebound invalid. She was grateful for the experience of being in the midst of laughing people.

Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. (Colossians 3:15 NLT)

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It isn’t that some people are born stronger than others, but that they have made the decision to let go of their circumstances and trust God — to rest in Him. We will all have storms in our lives, some far greater than others, but the secret to living above the storm is giving it to God. When we are fully submitted, no matter what happens, we take on the peace of God. It is His promise.

Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught.  (Colossians 2:7 NLT)

 

What the Heart Sees

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timmy in hatOn June 29, this young man celebrated his official Adoption Day and became Timothy William Evans, the son of Mike and Melanie Evans. As Melanie puts it, he was knit in his mother’s womb and yet placed in our hearts.

Eight-year-old Timothy was the third child to be adopted by the Evans and the second with special needs. They also have two biological children with special needs. God has fashioned some people with hearts that are extra deep with compassion and Mike and Melanie are two of those people.

In all, Mike and Melanie have eight children. Andrew is their oldest and the first adopted. Jeremy, their first biological child, came next. Savannah, Ethan, and Mariah are triplets. Due to cerebral palsy, Ethan needs a wheelchair for mobility. Mariah cannot talk or walk. Forever, adopted five years ago and destined to live out her life in an orphanage, has frequent and severe seizures that so far medical treatment has not helped. The youngest member of the Evans Eight is Christian, born last year.

Timmy has Down syndrome, autism, and is non-verbal most of the time. He is pretty good with sign language and will sometimes use his voice, but on rare occasions. What I see with Timmy is how his heart speaks, how it plays out through his expressions. (If you click on the pictures below, there will be captions of each situation.)

 

I have a personal connection with the Evans family that goes back about 10 years and I’ve loved watching how they nurture and seek the best for each of their children. Yes, they have people to assist them, but the bottom line is Melanie and Mike are responsible for their care and quality of life 24/7. I would love to tell you more about each of these children, but this is about Timmy, so let me get back to him.

Timmy and Mike

Mike holding Timothy on adoption day.

I am particularly drawn to this picture of Timmy being held in his white father’s arms. It is the same security I saw in the face of Forever, also African-American, when she was chosen by the Evans. It underscores what I learned from my years of working with mentally challenged people: they do not see color. They see deeper, into the very heart, I believe.

Sundays mean church for the Evans family and Timmy was there with his family two days after adoption. Melanie said Timothy reached one arm high and with palm outstretched wide, spontaneously started worshiping. He had not seen someone else doing it; in fact, it isn’t commonplace in their church. Doesn’t that show you the very real connection he has with his Creator? Do you see that he knows what has happened for him? He is a little boy with major disabilities, but his heart is sound and full of purpose. God has a plan for Timothy just like He does for each of us.

Melanie has this quote about adoption on her Facebook page and it sums up how she and Mike see it:  “Adoption is not the call to have the perfect rosy family. It is the call to give love, mercy, and patience.”

Timothy, I’m so grateful the Evans found and chose you. You hit the jackpot of families who see and love with the heart.  Happy life, Timmy!

 

 

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My blog, Meet “Maddie and Wilda,” October 2017, features Melanie’s mom, Wilda Lahmann. Both Mike and Melanie grew up in homes where fostering and unconditional love were modeled for them.