Last Sunday Pastor was talking about the passage where Paul is shipwrecked, and everyone ends up safely on the island of Malta and the people living there showed them “unusual kindness” (I think that is NLT). He asked us if we had known (or shown) unusual kindness, and it took me right back to Russia in 2002.
I was on a missions trip, visiting orphanages and old folks homes. Our group split into two for the weekend, and I went with the group who made the long trip north of where we were staying to the twin cities of Gubaha and Berizniki. When we got there we went to a handicapped orphanage in Gubaha. This was a huge orphanage – I think it was 5 stories high and had probably 1,000 kids there. The place where everyone gathered to hear us was crowded, and I finally persuaded a child to sit on my lap. He shuffled over to me, barely able to walk and stay upright, and I hoisted him onto my lap and we enjoyed the program.
As soon as he sat down it was obvious he had soiled his pants. It was all soaking into the jeans I was wearing, but I didn’t care. He was so happy! He kept smiling and leaning back and putting his hand on my cheek. He didn’t understand me, but I prayed for him and told him what a precious child of God he was. We knew we would be staying overnight in Berizniki so we had packed for it – I had brought a change of socks and underwear and a shirt. But I only had the one pair of pants.
Afterwards we went through each floor, hugging, playing, and interacting with the kids. In the infant floor we picked up babies who were stiff and unresponsive because no one had the time to hold them and they didn’t know how to react. Many of them wore urine soaked clothing and my shirt got soaked with it.
By the time we made our way back to where we were staying — I didn’t smell very good. I knew that I would have to rinse out my pants. I was already ripe — there was no way I could go another 24+ hours wearing those jeans without cleaning them. I explained to our translator. She told me that the apartment where we were staying, home to Victor and Luba, did not have a washing machine or dryer. I assured her it was ok, I understood, but I needed to be shown how to use the bathtub and where some soap was. I would hang up my jeans and wear them wet the next day if I had to.
She explained to Luba. Her husband Victor was the pastor of the church in Berizniki, a large church. He was away on a seminar, but Luba had already shown us her wonderful hostess skills. Silently, she listened to what the translator said, and then she looked at me and held out her hands. Now, by this time it was after 11:00 at night. We were all tired, and Luba had had hostessing duties on top of everything else that day. I did NOT want her to wash my jeans.
I insisted I could do it, I didn’t mind, I just needed to be shown where things were. Without a word she kept her hands held out, gazing at me steadily. I knew I had to give over my jeans. I had to let her wash them.
When we got up in the morning, here came Luba in our room, smiling, holding her arms out with my jeans folded neatly on her hands. I thanked her profusely (I could at least say that in Russian). You have probably worn jeans that were not dry all the way. Maybe you were in a hurry and didn’t let them dry all the way, or just didn’t notice they were not all the way dry. The seams, where they are thick, and especially the crotch where the seams come together, hold the moisture more than the other parts. They are uncomfortable to wear when they are wet. I had fully expected to be wearing wet jeans all day.
Not only were the jeans dry and smelled terrific — there was not a speck of wet on them. I could not feel any moisture in any seam anywhere. They felt brand new!
I have no doubt that not only did Luba carefully clean them, but she also ironed them dry. Have you ever done that? Do you know how long it takes? How long do you think it would take you if you didn’t have an electric iron? I don’t know for sure if she had an electric iron, but chances are high she did not. Chances are high she had one of those manual irons, where you put the bottom iron part in the oven to get it hot, then grabbed it with the tongs or top grippers and ironed until it cooled, where you then had to put it back in the oven to get hot again. It must have taken hours.
It was an unusual kindness shown to me when I really, really needed it. It was a huge blessing, and I have never forgotten it. What kind of unusual kindness can you show to someone?
My husband and I had been together 3 ½ years before we got married. I thought I knew him very well. We had experienced a lot together in those years – good and bad. Our relationship had gone through all kinds of changes, and weathered storms. I knew that I knew that I knew I wanted to marry this man and be his wife the rest of our lives. I was certain I knew him well.
And yet – after we were married I found out some things I had not known about him.
I had no idea he would make that particular sound when a heavy piece of glass got accidentally dropped on his foot.
I had no idea he was good at putting together things like a 4-shelf stand from Ikea. Make that anything from Ikea. He has way more patience than I in doing that stuff – and he follows the directions!
I didn’t know he got distracted so easily while unpacking. He does not work, so he is home most of the day every day, and when I come home I am invariably faced with pieces of projects in the dining room, living room, and library. Sometimes also down the hall.
I didn’t know he wouldn’t mind (heck – he asked me!) me rearranging his whole dresser. Refolding clothes, reorganizing, sorting.
I didn’t know he would be so protective of me enjoying at least part of the weekend. He actively seeks to get me to relax and not unpack or search for things or clean or organize or shop. He wants me to be able to enjoy the weekend, after working all week.
The lessons I’ve learned from these revelations are: You are never too old to learn something new. And – people can still surprise and even delight you even after you know them well.
I have something to share about God’s abundant blessing, but first I will share this. This week is moving week and I don’t have time for anything else.
Our two cats Belle (my cat) and Ko-Ko (my husband’s cat) have integrated very well since we got married. Thank God for that! On Sunday Belle was sitting just inside the partly closed bedroom door. She likes to do that since it gives her options on which way to go or run. Ko-Ko woke up and stretched as usual, then jumped off the bed on his way for his morning drink and snack. Belle was in the way. They had this conversation without words.
Ko-Ko: “Um, could I get by?”
Belle: “Shut up”
“I just need to get by”
“Are you still here?”
“Um…. ok…. let me go around you then….. oh. Huh.”
Belle ignores him.
“Can…. can I just…. would you let me….. I just want to go out the door.”
“Are you still talking?”
“If you could just move a little bit….”
Ko-K0 climbed back up on the bed. Silly cats! Here they are exploring the deck once I opened the door all the way so all could come and go as they pleased. Ko-Ko is the black and white kitty.
I’ve been pretty stressed lately. My new job is terrific and I love it, but it is much more stressful than my previous job. I have a long commute now, which I am finding puts stress time at the beginning and end of each day. My husband and I just got turned down for an apartment that would have — we thought — been perfect for us. And….. oh, I will spare you the long list.
All of that to say this: I have things to share and talk about, but I just have not had the time or energy (both at the same time) to sit down and write them. They will keep.
In the meantime, God is King and He is still on the throne, and these things, too, shall pass. Take care and God bless for now.
I made a promise to myself years ago and I want help in keeping it. After my divorce at 25 years old and all the many years since I have met and made friends with lots of single people. Almost all of them have gotten married. And the second they get married — and I really do mean it is immediately after — they stop being friends with me. I just drop off the face of the earth as far as they are concerned.
Now of course I realize that people’s lives and priorities change when they get married. I have never expected the same level of communication or activities with my friend once they got married. But to just DROP me? Not ever get another phone call or email from you? What is that??? Why did I deserve to be treated like that?
This has happened to me over and over and…. well, I’ve lost count. So I made a promise to myself. That I would never, ever do that to someone. I would never stop being friends with someone when I got married. That I would make an effort to still see them and talk with them.
I want to keep that promise. No one deserves to be dropped suddenly and without any good reason from a friendship. It is a terrible way to treat someone, and I never ever want to do it.
I love Christmas time. I like how it is colder and darker. I love the holiday lights, and shopping and wrapping. The songs and movies. The anticipation and preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Being single most of my adult life, I also hated the Christmas season. How I wished I had a special someone to buy gifts for! Who I could anticipate getting a special gift! It was lonely. It was dark and cold. Everyone else seemed happy and no one seemed to notice I was alone.
I know someone who had a truly horribly 2013, a pretty good 2014, and is really looking forward to 2015. I know someone who got hit by a car while biking, has already undergone two surgeries, and is struggling to find someone to take care of his dog while he is in the hospital for at least two more weeks. I know someone who had many struggles this year, but her faith in God has never wavered. I know someone who had a pretty darn good 2014, is in good health, and is looking forward to 2015 with anticipation and excitement. I know someone who is having her first Christmas with her husband, as they got married earlier this year.
So many people, so many different situations. So many emotions, so many different viewpoints and outlooks.
We can never know for sure what others are going through or what their internal life is. God knows. God hears, God sees, God cares. If nothing else, my prayer is that all of you would hold onto that. God loves you. God came to earth as a man for you, and he died for you. God is alive and waiting, oh waiting so patiently, for you to be by his side one day.
Peace and joy to you.
It is hard not to compare ourselves to others, isn’t it? I try to remember we are equal in God’s eyes. I try to remember things like treating others the same way I like to be treated; trust and obey; read the Bible every day; pray.
I’ve been a born-again Christian for over 30 years now, and sometimes I think I may be getting the hang of the Christian walk – even improving!
A reporter once asked Pablo Casals, who is arguably the best cellist ever, why he continued to practice the cello 6 hours every day. This was when Casals was in his 90’s and had been playing literally for decades. Casals replied, “Because I think I’m making progress.”
I may be making progress. But I keep on with my walk, despite internal and external criticisms and my own ignorance or laziness.
“… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”