Friday, March 31, 2006

Weekly Word for March 31 - April 7, 2006

“Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.”
(John 14: 1)

The results of the tests had come in, and the news wasn’t very good. As she told him the news, he listened quietly. But as she hung up the phone, he let his true feelings show. “Why Lord?” he asked. “She has had so many other troubles throughout her life - why one more . . .”

Why Lord? It is a question that most of us have asked many times throughout lives. During the difficult times - as well as the good times - we wonder why. And just like everyone else - - - I’ve wondered - all through my life . . .

“In the world - you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16: 33b)

I had only known Norma for a little bit, and I really didn’t know what to think of her. She seemed so full of knowledge and confidence, and I knew that I didn’t have either of those. We were both supposed to work together, running a crisis center for women. But we were both so different from each other. She had her degree, and she knew how she wanted things to be run. I had been trained by other volunteers, and so my way of doing things always seemed opposite of her way. At every turn, it seemed we butted heads. I questioned every choice and every decision she made. And when I did, I really thought I was doing the right thing. (It wasn’t until much later - that I learned how much I had hurt her at the time) And so the relationship wasn’t really a friendship that very first year. She seemed so cold and distant, and I really thought she was all wrong for the job!

Then one night, I got very sick. The next day, I called up Norma to tell her I couldn’t work that day. I told her I had been up all night with the stomach bug. As we talked, she asked me if I needed anything. I did - but I didn’t tell her that. I didn’t think she should come anywhere near me. I didn’t want her to get sick as well. So as we talked, I told her I would get along fine. But she didn‘t believe me. She just laughed , and told me she would be right over!

As we sat in my living room, I remember asking her “why” she wasn’t afraid to be there. She just laughed again, and told me that she never got sick! I remember wondering about that - but then we started talking about other things. It was just a simple visit - but it changed our relationship. I started to see her differently - and a friendship started to grow.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16: 33)

Over the next few years, our goals and beliefs for the ministry became central to our lives. We would talk about all the things that we hoped for - for the families and girls we saw every day. There were moments of pure joy, when a young mom would come back with her baby - and the two lives seemed to be better because of the ministry. There were also moments of great sadness, as we wondered if we could have done more to help - when a girl just seemed to be so “lost”.

Over those same years, we also started sharing our personal lives with each other as well. Norma heard all about my troubles with my husband, as well as my children. I listened when she told me about her own life as well. Over coffee, we would talk about anything and everything - trusting each other with our hurts and secrets. It was to Norma that I found myself asking my questions - about faith, and about why I had lived through some tough times. She seemed to have this quiet strength - that made you feel like everything would be alright - as long as you kept trusting in God. It was to her that I turned to, when my life seemed to spiral - out of control . . .

Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses.
(Psalm 25: 16 & 17)

Norma was with me through it all. Through facing the reality of my past - the reality of being abused as a child. She helped me believe that I could make it - that I could get healthy and strong - even when I felt like I was going to die. I remember taking a walk with her one day. As we walked, I turned to her and asked: “Why?” “Why did he do this to me?” “Why did God let it happen?” The tears were streaming down my face, and my chest felt as if it was about to cave in - it was so hard to breath at that moment. I turned to my friend, and she didn’t turn away from me. I had collapsed on to the ground - and she sat down right next to me. Then, she slowly started to speak. She didn’t offer an excuse for “why” - but she did offer me hope. She told me she didn’t know why people do the things that they do. But she did know that God was in the process of healing me. And she also knew - that my life was very important to not only her - but to the Lord. As she told me all this, I didn’t know what to think. I could still feel the pain - but I wondered what she meant by saying I was “important”. When I asked her what she meant, this is what she said: “When you get healthy and strong, your life - will bring hope to others . . .”

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
(John 14: 27)

“Why?” There have been so many times in my life, when I didn’t know the answer to that question. I was in therapy for 4 years. During that time, Norma was always right there, when I would call her. She listened, and she encouraged me. And then one day, she called me. She had been sick, on and off, for a few weeks, but on this day she seemed to feel much worse. As we talked, I asked her if she needed anything. She told me she didn’t think so, but I told her I would be over in a few minutes anyways.

When I got there, Norma was sitting in her big, comfy chair. She looked so sick, and I wondered what to do. Norma had always been the one to pray for others, to encourage and bring hope. This time, it seemed I was to be the one to pray. I really did feel like so many others could have prayed better than I did - but I was the only one there. So taking her hands, I started to pray. I asked the Lord to help the doctors find out what was wrong. And then I asked Him to take care of my friend. That was the day - when the doctors found out that Norma had cancer . . .

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He leads me beside quiet waters . . .
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil; for Thou art with me;
(Psalm 23: 1,2, & 4)

“Why?” Norma never did ask that question. She never once asked why she had to fight this battle. The battle lasted 3 years. During that time, we talked almost every day. Near the end, when she was in the hospital, she would call me late at night - after her husband had left. We would talk about simple things, like her husband and her son. We would talk about difficult things - like when she asked me: “how will I know when it is time to go?” I have to admit - I didn’t always have the answers to her questions. But I always knew that God was right there with her - and that He would show her the way.

A few weeks before she died, she came home from the hospital. I went over to visit her almost every day. Some days, we just sat and watched the birds eating from her birdfeeder. Other days, we talked about simple things that mattered to each of us. And then one day I asked her a question. I asked her why she had forgiven me all those years ago. Why had she become my friend, even though I had hurt her? She looked over at me and smiled. “Because you were genuine” she said. “You were honest, and you believed in the things you were trying to do . . .”
Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
(Psalm 23: 5 & 6)

The other day, I went to “see” Norma. I know that sounds strange, but I was missing her - and so I went to visit her grave. There, I stood before the stone that told the day she was born, and the day that she had died. On one side of the stone - is a small vase with a hummingbird on it. Norma loved birds - but she especially loved hummingbirds. As I put the flowers that I had brought into the vase - I stood back and closed my eyes. When I did, so many memories came flooding back. Watching the birds, talking about our kids and our husbands, and talking about the Lord - they were all part of our friendship. Opening my eyes, I read the bible passage that was inscribed on the bottom of the stone. It is from Joshua 24:15 - and it reads: “choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: . . . As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

I don’t know if Norma ever knew how much her life touched others. She had a way of knowing just when someone needed a card or note to lift them up. She knew just what bible passage to put - to touch someone’s heart. As I stood there, the tears started to fall. I wanted to call her up and talk to her. I wanted to tell her all about Ted and the grandbabies - all about the things that she never got to see. As I stood there, I found myself praying. I thanked God for her life - and the friendship that we had. I thanked Him for all that I had learned from knowing her. And then I asked Him - why . . .

“Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.”
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
(John 14: 1 & 3)

I don’t know all the answers to the questions of “why” things happen the way they do. What I do know - is that I will see Norma again - someday. Norma had a faith that was part of her everyday life. She wasn’t a preacher, and she didn’t go around pushing her beliefs on other people. She just simply lived her life - knowing that God was a part of it. She taught me to trust - and she believed in me. Because of her, I had the strength to get healthy and strong. Because of Norma - my life - can bring hope to others . . .

“Let not your heart be troubled . . .”

Throughout my life, there have been some tough times. And through them all, somehow, the Lord has given me the strength - as well as good friends - to get through them. Ted never met Norma. But he has heard about her life, and knows a little bit about her - just because he loves me.

The other day, when Ted heard the news that my test didn’t come back as well as we had hoped - he was pretty upset. It meant that I was going to have to take more medicine, and face the fact that my body has another problem. Is it going to be difficult? Maybe. But I know I am not facing the future alone. I have a wonderful husband who loves me. Together - with the Lord - we can face anything . . .

All of us will face troubles during our lifetimes. There will be moments of heartbreak and sorrow. But there will also be wonderful times of joy and celebration. Through it all - God gives us a promise. He promises to be with us always - helping us to Live life - until we walk with Him - into forever. All He asks - - - is that we believe . . .
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11: 25 & 26)

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
(John 15: 11)

God bless you and keep you in this coming week ahead!

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers


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