My week off work starts with lunch with a friend. Suzy Q and I live a stone’s throw from each other geographically. We met at church. She is everything I am not. She has a husband and children. She says she attempted to do things the way God intended. I surely did not. But I am so thankful that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. God has taken all the “before Christ” misery of my life and has used all of it to accomplish what He has now created in me.
Suzy just buried her mother last week. Her mother lived in the town where I work and thankfully I was miraculously able to steal away from work for a few moments to pay my respects and support her in this time of reflection.
But for the grace of God, I could be YOU
Our lunch date was two hours of tears at Bob Evans where we covered a lot of ground. We share a similar upbringing. Reflecting on how our lives turned out as we face our 60’s and the loss of loved ones, she said “but for the Grace of God, I could be you.” This was not at all a disparaging remark. She has been married her entire life. Me too, just not to the same person! She has a husband who is the leader of the family and she has children who turned out exceptionally well. She is so very thankful she is not alone fending for herself without a husband and children and being the sole support of her household.
Is it so bad to be me?
But how did I turn out after 50 years of doing things my way? And is it really so bad to be me?
The start of a new year brings reflection of the year before. I usually spend New Year’s Eve pondering the year just completed and then I write about it. This year is a bit different. This year I turned 60 in November. Facebook is a wonderful reminder of what you were doing the year before and in my case, it showed I was on a road trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains five years before for a life-changing stay in a cabin in the woods to commemorate my 55th birthday. Such a stark contrast of age 55 and 60 in terms of everything.
Looking back five years
Reflecting back five years to age 55, it was the saddest and most hopeless of times. I carried the burden of failure and fear for my future. I had to admit the ultimate defeat and ask my mom if I could return to Indiana and live with her for a while. A head injury from a car accident took away my profession. I had lost the bulk of my retirement savings in an entrepreneurial venture gone wrong. Creating the helicopter field trip for children was my crowning achievement in an effort to make my own job, but it was not meant to be. I had reached the end of the relationship with the man who would have been my third husband had I married him. Every door closed in Florida and I returned to my hometown of Indianapolis with my tail between my legs ready to dig a hole and climb in. This is when my friend Suzy Q met me and she heard the worst but now sees the transformation.
Fast forward to transformation
Fast forward five years. A revolutionary transformation has occurred. I have deep contentment while embracing life to make the most of every opportunity. I feel immensely loved by family and friends and have been showered with every tangible expression of good will and remembrance. Earlier this year I resigned from my job and was overwhelmed with the well-wishes from clients and co-workers and even my nemesis offered to take me back if things “went south” in the new job opportunity (and believe me they have time and time again.) I have a bit of a fan club of people who don’t want to miss a week of updates about my crazy adventuresome life. I have made many new friends and feedback says they see something different about me.
What the heck happened?
What happened in these five years? First and foremost, I finally let God lead my life. I was a late bloomer in terms of understanding the need for Jesus Christ and trusting in Him for my salvation after death and for leading my daily life here on Earth. I surrounded myself with a small but very mighty church family. I changed my thought processes and learned … what I thought was what I became. I limited negative input in my life in terms of people, news and association with things that were not wholesome. I studied how Jesus showed love to others. He asks that we live like Him. He asks us to love first and then share the hope of Christ with others.
I have finally learned that all the things Jesus says for us to do and all the things He says for us to stay away from are truly for our best. I have learned this the hard way. For all the people I have introduced to Christ, very few are interested. They do not want to give up any worldly pleasures. They don’t want someone else to tell them what to do. They don’t want to follow any “rules.” But I am the first person they call when life falls apart.
It is not about the rules
It is not about following a set of “rules.” The transformation comes with the day-to-day relationship with Christ. I talk to God all day. I pray. He gives abundant love, encouragement, direction and blessings. Even in trials I have found the greatest blessings from being willing to endure and allow Christ to fight my battles. Every time I trust Him for a solution and I patiently wait, I am always cared for and the solution gets worked out. Having a circle of believers to turn to in all aspects of life also gives love, encouragement and direction as well as immeasurable blessings. I have been the recipient of blessings from the power of group prayer (and believe me I keep those praying ladies very busy.) I have had the pure pleasure of praying for others and seeing miracles happen as a result of trust and obedience.
Seeing your very best
When I meet someone, I look for their very best. (I volunteered to be a greeter at my church because it made me not stick out like a sore thumb as the only single person there and God used this to show me a new way to look at people.) I look for the best of what God created in the person. I give encouragement in all aspects. It is too easy to be critical, it is very easy to spread ill-will, but nothing is to be gained from it. Darkness is the absence of light. I chose to bring light everywhere I go. People still remember my first greeting to them. They felt loved and cared for. This was not natural for me then, but God did a work in me and now I don’t know any other way and these days I never meet a stranger.
Just show love
In my job, I am a caregiver for developmentally disabled adults. I filled in once in a home of three gentlemen. All three were non-verbal and one of them was blind as well. The blind guy was a parrot and repeated everything he heard. I listened as he said things like “I’ll cut your head off boy, knock that shit off, shame on you, do you want the paddle, stop that whinin’, I’ll beat your black ass.” I was so disturbed by the bleakness of the existence. I was only there for a few days and what impact could I make? I put them all in my car and drove them to their day program. Overwhelmed with the darkness, I prayed out loud in the car asking for God’s blessings on these men. I ended the prayer with “In Jesus’ Name Amen.” Then I heard my parrot say “in Jesus’ Name Amen.” Oh the impact of the word! You can absolutely make a difference anywhere, any time, no matter how bleak. Just show love.
Making my way home
So as I dropped Suzy Q off at her house after lunch, I was full of emotion driving home and on auto-pilot when I turned into the driveway, but it was not my driveway. It is the driveway to the “Mansion on Meridian” that was my dream home with my former husband. It is located half way between her house and mine. And good grief, I have not lived there for 20 years! Sheepishly, I backed out of the drive and went on home, pulling in to my neighbor’s who collects my mail during the week I work. Out of the blue she says, I have always meant to ask you where is the house that you told me you built that is within walking distance from here! I said “well I just came from there!” And with that, I knew God was assuring me all I left behind was some exceptional architecture and Indiana limestone. I was bursting with joy as I made my way home to my true home.
Not alone on this journey
So at 60, I have arrived! I am the happiest and most content I have ever been. I am the poorest in financial wealth but the richest in what matters most. I bring light to my circle of influence. I have a daily even hourly relationship with my Creator. Is life challenging, ask any of my prayer partners. I keep them very busy. Are there desires of my heart I continue to pray for? You bet. One thing I know, I am not alone on this journey.
God’s Transformation…not mine
Suzy sent a text thanking me for being “godly and level-headed.” Oh my goodness, could she really think of me with these attributes. The next day was lunch with another one of my prayer warriors. Sherri and her husband Bob had prayed for a word from the Lord about me. No one has ever done that before. God spoke to both of them and what they told me confirmed that this little life of mine of loving on people, getting the most out of life no matter how little I have and finding value in everyone was indeed my destiny. Whoa! To be affirmed by God that the choice to live deliberately and care for and value others is exactly His will is a gift so precious, I can scarcely take it in.
Sometimes God knows I don’t always get it the first time so He sent yet another message. A Facebook friend who I don’t really know contacted me because she felt safe telling me she is newly diagnosed with cancer and she wanted to be put on my prayer list. She said she was reaching out for faith and spiritual guidance. Me? Really??? We connected today, laughed, cried and prayed and it is all because I am following the path the Father has laid out for me. It is not the one I thought I wanted back when I was trying to run the universe. And I am not convinced that sleeping in the closet at my job is really my true destiny. But this life is the only place I want to be.
An extra ordinary life…lived extraordinarily
So in light of 50 years of ghastly mistakes, I am now showing the love of Christ through the common elements of an ordinary life. Touching people from varied backgrounds through hospitality, encouragement and joyful good humor. Exhibiting faith’s fullness in the ordinary circumstances of each unfolding day. Attempting to demonstrate the significance and power of giving MY utmost for God’s Glory.