Monday, December 30, 2013

The Gift of Friendship

     As the end of 2013 approaches, I have been reminded of some precious friends that God sent to get me through challenging times in my life.  All 3 of them sent cards and told me that they have been reading my blogs, so I hope they will see this one.
      Today I went back to see the doctor who has been treating me for the recurrence of thyroid cancer.  It was all good news -- the blood test that had skyrocketed to 190 last summer has now dropped to 39. It needs to go down to 2, but that has been a huge drop-- my doctor said "Outstanding!" So I will go back in 3 months and expect the number to drop even lower. I am grateful
to God and all the prayer warriors who faithfully prayed for me. I have had the peace that passes understanding through the whole experience.
      Because I followed my soldier around the world, it has not always been easy to find friends --and keep them when life took me to a new location. I am grateful for the ones who were friends for a season -- we shared holiday celebrations and shopping trips and pizza nights and more.  But when we moved away, we gradually lost touch. Facebook has helped me reconnect with some-- I am especially glad to renew friendships from school days. There is something sweet about having a friend who remembers when...
        I first met my friend Sheila when I was her counselor at church camp. The next year she was a counselor, too, and our friendship grew.  She has advised and comforted and encouraged me for over 40 years.  She was there when I met my future husband, and my maid of honor when I married him.  We both moved far away from each other, but when we have those rare opportunities to get together again, the years apart don't seem to matter.  She was godmother to my daughter and started a savings account for her that made it possible for her to go on the senior trip when we could not afford to send her. Sheila had thyroid cancer before I did, and her prayers and encouragement helped me so much when it happened to me, too. My life has been so much richer because of her -- I could write a book about all the ways I have been blessed by this friendship.
        We were living at Fort Bragg in the early 90's when I met Linda.  Our children were going to the same Christian school, and we started going to the local spa together after we dropped the kids off at school. We even went camping together.  But then they got orders for Germany -- she insisted that I take their washer and dryer because I was still using the little portable one that didn't hold enough for our growing family. Then we got orders for Germany, and somewhere in the moving, I lost her address.  We spent 3 years overseas, then returned to Fort Bragg. I was in the commissary one day when I heard that wonderful Massachusetts accent -- it was Linda!!  Before long, our husbands were sent to Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm.  During that time, Linda called me often, and made dresses for my girls and became my life line while Sam was at war.  Then her husband left the Army and they moved back north, and Sam retired -- but this time we did not lose touch.  We have played phone tag for a while -- I love to hear her voice when she leaves a message.  We got to stop in for a brief visit a few years ago on our way back from Maine and it was wonderful to see her again. I look forward to her witty Christmas letters, and one of these days we will actually talk to each other again. I will always be grateful for the blessing of her friendship, especially during the war year.
         The adventure of living in Germany was made so much richer because of  Marjorie. We met at a church picnic soon after we arrived in the country.  We sat in lawn chairs and found that we had so much in common.  I was excited to meet another home-schooled family with children near the age of mine. They had lived in Germany for several years, so she knew all about everything.  She took the girls and me to see Switzerland for the first time and introduced us to some interesting people and invited us over for dinners and holiday celebrations. She had also been home-schooling for several years, and her wisdom and experience was such a help to me.  We settled in North Carolina, and they are several states away.  Our children are grown and we've only been able to get together once since we left Germany in the late 1980's, but we have not lost touch.
           I read a book called "Captivating" a few years ago.  The author said, "The gift of friendship among women is a treasure not to be taken lightly.  To have a woman friend is to relax into another soul and be welcomed in all you are.  It is here she can mother, nurture, encourage, and call forth life."
           I am grateful for all the friends who have touched my life.  I don't think it was just coincidence that we met.  Each was a treasure from God-- some for many years, and others for a short season-- Lynn, Dot, Sharon -- all helped me grow in my faith and I will not forget them. And if any of them happen to read this, I hope they can see how much their presence in my life has meant to me. Thank You, God, for these women!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lessons in Humility

    Ok, I admit it -- I love to sing -- and have been known to burst out into song at the drop of a hat. and I also admit that I love to sing on stage with my chorus or choir or praise team at church. I am not a soloist -- no illusions in my mind about having a great solo voice -- but if someone is singing the melody, I always sing the harmony part.  I sing tenor in the church choir, alto with the praise team, and bass with my barbershop chorus. Hand me a microphone at church and I am ready! I've been singing harmony since about fifth grade when a few girls from my church started a little quartet -- that's about 55 years. So I am quite comfortable on stage, and almost always say "yes" when I am asked to sing at church.  Singing fills my heart with joy, especially when I am singing to the Lord.
    "The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving."
Psalm 28:7 (NLT)

  However, to be honest, sometimes I need a little reminder that it is not all about ME.  And this is the season for some lessons in humility.
  First little jolt was when my chorus was singing at the Biltmore House for the Candlelight Christmas Tour. That is always a great honor, and an opportunity to sing about the birth of Christ in a public place.  I was proud to be there, and getting ready to sing, then I missed a step and fell down, right in front of everyone. Good news was that I didn't break anything, and I didn't tear a hole in the knee of my pants, but it was very embarrassing and humbling. 

My daughter and I stayed overnight in Asheville, then got up early the next morning so we could drive back in time to sing with the praise team at church. We made it in plenty of time and I thought I did a fine job singing my part -- until I found out that I had forgotten to turn on the microphone. Obviously my part wasn't as important as I thought. 

Then on Sunday night, our church choir presented the musical worship celebration that we had been practicing for months.  I was supposed to sing one song as part of a trio, and I was especially looking forward to it because my young friend had returned from his military service in Egypt in time to be a part of the trio.I knew it would be a beautiful song -- our close harmony sounded so good in rehearsal. But a few days before the service, I came down with laryngitis.  I kept hoping that my voice would be back by Sunday night, but by Sunday morning, it was evident that it was not going to happen.  So a replacement was found, and I just sat on the back row of the choir, croaking along the best I could.

And it occured to me -- it's not all about me -- it is about Him.  I was easily replaced and the worship and praise still happened. In fact, the laryngitis was almost a gift, because it made me slow down and take a  break from all the activities I had planned to do that week. I was able to write cards and wrap gifts and even read a little instead of rushing out every evening to sing someplace. 

I am back to my regular voice now, and again bursting out with songs.  But I hope I remember Who I sing for and take time to listen to the words I sing. 
"From Bethlehem to Calvary, 
Jesus paid the cost,
 for love went all the way 
               from the cradle to the cross"