Back-Packing #1

dsc_9691My son and son-in-law are planning a trip to Havasupai Falls in Arizona.  They hope to fly into Phoenix, drive to the head of the trail, and hike the 12 miles required to reach their destination, which by all appearances on Instagram and videos shot by Go-Pros, resembles a small heaven on earth. For those determined enough to take the challenge, the reward of seeing crystal-clear waterfalls and jewel-toned lakes in the heart of the canyon will be well worth the obstacles in their path.

Currently, they are choosing packs and researching what things they need to bring.  How does one prepare for medical emergencies and unforeseen dangers along the way?  As a mom,  I try not to fret or nag, and I only ask a few questions such as: “Will the rattlers be still hibernating in April?”

Watching them carefully choose the  items needed makes me think a lot about what is in my back-pack for traveling through this life.  Due to no merit of my own, I have been given not only an accurate trail-map and great supplies,  but also wise people  who either walk beside me,  or have gone on before me and know a lot of the things that only “the locals,” or ones who have made the hike would know.

My pack is loaded.

In my enthusiasm, I could dump all the contents out into your lap: the whole kit and caboodle (what is a caboodle anyway?) and write a very long blog, but I will curb that tendency and just pull out one item at a time,  and tell you  how each one has helped me survive the rattlers and hazards along the way.  The items are connected, which means you will need to look at all three, in order for them to all make sense.  (One blog/item.)

Item #1:  My mom’s life story.

It is an engaging tour guide, written by one who has almost completed her journey here on earth.  I keep it handy.  I like to read it, and think of everything in reverse…sort of an “It’s a Wonderful Life” scenario.  It could be called, “What If.”   In her story, she tells over and over of different situations she found herself, and something in her heart told her, “Don’t stay there,”  or “Watch out!  Come this way….” Even before she had made the decision to follow Jesus, He was speaking to her and she was listening.  Her heart was tender and we, her family and future generations are, and will be benefiting from her choices for many years to come.

What if she had stayed in the apartment with older “worldly” girls who made it a habit to bring soldiers home to spend time in the evenings? What if she had married a man with different values than her own?  (Even her parents thought he would make a good husband!)   My mother was a very pretty young woman and the traps and pitfalls along her way look like a regular mine-field to me (now a mother of 3 women),  but it was a dangerous field she  not only carefully navigated, but one she survived,  intact.

What if she had succumbed to depression and taken her own life instead of raising we 6 children alone, after my father died?  What if she had become a bitter woman when her daughter, my sister,  died in a tragic accident,  leaving a stricken husband and young family of five?

The story of my mom’s life could have read as a  heart wrenching, horrible tale if she had not listened to her God-given conscience throughout her life.  Instead, it makes a great trail-side read when my path gets rough, and I need to take a break for some wisdom and refreshment.

Fortunately, she wrote the guide while she was still able, because now she has no short-term memory.  What a blessing in disguise,  for now,  (because of her choices along the way) she only has warm memories of the  distant past, with all of its difficulties, trials,  amazing opportunities and  blessings.  She  is a joy-filled person in this last chapter of her life story.

I am so thankful to be able to pull  her biography  from  my back-pack, and share it with  my children.   It is better than any movie, because we can all see,  first hand,  that the righteous really do walk by faith.  She is a living testament to the verse found in Psalms 121:3.

He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.

Sacrifice

dsc_9617As a young, graduate nurse, I worked in a small  hospital, which meant I was required to work in many different areas of nursing, one of which was called “Medical-Surgical.”  Occasionally, we would have patients there long-term, until they either died, or could be moved to a nursing home.  We were also kind of  a “temporary resting place” for some who just needed a longer rehab period.

Caring for one man stands out in my mind, probably because I spent so much time with him.  He was a big guy who barely fit into the hospital bed.  I often wondered how tall he used to be, before the debilitating disease ravaged his once strong muscles.  If I remember correctly, he had been a Marine and fought in Vietnam, where he had been sprayed with agent orange.

When I was a carefree little girl growing up in small town America, blissfully ignorant of the war that was going on across the sea, this man was giving his all, and later in life, when our paths crossed,  I tended him as he finally gave his very “last full measure.”

I worked a lot of night shifts and I remember talking with him after taking care of his bodily needs.  He could no longer walk, and had lost his bathroom privileges.  I mean literally, he lost the ability, (which is quite a privilege,) and his condition  required we nurses to change his disposable underwear and catheterize him. Along with turning him, washing him, changing his hospital gown,  and scratching his back when ever the need arose, we spent a lot of time in his room.

You get to know someone when you come into such close contact.  Providing care for a giant of a man in such a forced dependent state, was humbling not only for him, but also for me, and I was honored to have cared for one who had so faithfully served our country.

I don’t recall hearing him ever complain, and bitterness never set in as far as I could see or hear.  He was always gracious, appreciative, and a pleasure to talk with in the wee hours of the night.  I’m sure he must have waged battles in his own mind, fighting off the human tendency for depression,  but I can only remember him as being sincerely cheerful, which must have required Super Natural Strength.

There were so many life lessons for a young nurse to learn  at the bedside of such a sacrificial individual.

My children never had the privilege of meeting my friend, the non complaining soldier, but I tell them about the strong man who is one of the thousands spoken of in this poem found in their third grade Abeka Spelling book:

You may call it an old piece of bunting,

You may call it an old tattered rag,

But thousands have died for its honor,

And shed their best blood for the flag.

You may call it an old piece of bunting,

You may call it an old tattered rag,

But Freedom has made it majestic,

And Time has enobled Our Flag.

Stabilization

dsc_9593When my heart trembles, I need to be reminded of the  fact that God is in control and of the fact that He loves me.

I say He is an “ever-present help in times of trouble,” (Psalm 46:1) but do I believe it?  Just when I am tempted to let my mind wander and become filled with doubt, basing my hopes on things other than Him, the Firm Foundation, He finds me, and He never fails to whisper the words needed at precisely the right moment.  He proves to me over and over and over, that He is in deed, in fact, and in word, my Ever Present Help.

Angry words have been flying around our country, and their repercussions are felt world-wide.  I attempted to read a newspaper yesterday, and felt as if the headlines and stories were meant to create frenzy and panic, and they did just that.  I dropped the pages on my table and I felt shaky sick to think we could crumble from within,  which is what can seem to be happening.

The earth quaking

My world shaking.

I felt  the trembles and needed a stabilizing word from God.

I have never heard God’s voice, but He is always speaking to my heart.  Sometimes I listen.  Usually, it is when I am so weak or frightened that I lose my voice, and stop talking long enough to hear His still, small voice.

These are the words He whispered to me this morning.

“We are conscious of our own weakness

and of the strength of evil;

but not of the third force,

stronger than either ourselves,

or the power of evil,

which is at our disposal

if we will draw upon it.

What is needed is a whole-hearted realization

that we are in Christ,

and Christ is in us

by His Spirit…”

(Gore, Charles, January 25)*

Enough said for now.

My quaking heart, stabilizes when I cling to the Rock, and listen for His words of truth and reassurance spoken at precisely the right moment.

They remind me once again;

He really does love me.

*Tileston, Mary, ed.  Joy and Strength.  New York:  Grosset and Dunlap, 1929.  Print.