Sunday, January 29, 2012

A first

1:50 p.m. Today's project was to get ready for church, which with the help of our caregiver Elias, went very smoothly. He and Steve even walked Jada on this beautiful sunny day with time to spare.

After their walk, while Steve was watching America's Funniest Videos to fill the minutes before our departure time, Elias and I began talking about our faith. He is from Ethiopia, a strong believer whose two sisters are also here, working as health care professionals. Elias came here legally, patiently awaiting his selection by the Ethiopian government's emigration lottery. His sisters attend Harvest Christian Fellowship. After reading one of Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley's bulletins, he plans to re-arrange his schedule next Sunday and come to our service.  We had a very good discussion of the lack of both culture and values he has observed here in the U.S., among various people. Elias has found this astounding, when he considers the opportunities available to all who want to work their hardest in honest, above-board endeavors. I told him how Steve began working while still in high school, and worked so diligently for the next 35 years until Alzheimer's cut him down. (Our children are all hard workers, too).

Steve's and my drive to church was delayed because traffic was directed off of the 60 freeway east to the flyover 215 south, but we made it to our seats just a few minutes late. I was very excited to place my tithe from a successful week of business in the cash envelope, feeling privileged to have a profit to tithe from.

Announcements were made, and I tried not to take much notice of the annual Married Couples' Dinner being held the Sunday before Valentine's Day, because we aren't attending. As I told Pastor Sammy a few weeks ago, we'll no longer take part because Steve cannot eat appropriately in public any more, and it wouldn't be fair for the other couples at our table who sacrificed to have a special date night dinner. Many years, whether through Harvest or our current church, the dinner event would be the only Valentine's dress-up date night Steve and I would have. With more prosperity came fancy restaurant dinners, but we still generally attended our Couples' dinner for an uplifting, Spirit-filled event. 

On the way out of the sanctuary, I think someone asked if we were going, and I smilingly said no with a brief comment about it being too difficult this year, and left it at that. It seemed more noticeable today how many people are going out of their way to greet Steve by name, and give me hugs, although ours is a very affectionate fellowship always. Maybe I just needed it more; God knows the needs of our hearts, doesn't He? God is a personal God, wanting to commune with my heart and give me reassurance.  I am not afraid to seek His scrutiny as David did in Psalm 26: 2-3a:

Examine me, O LORD, and prove
Try my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before 
  my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth.  

This not not the nitpicking scrutiny of a harsh drill instructor that is a precursor to punishment; but the searching of a loving, interested and powerful Father  "who knows what you have need of before you ask," as Jesus said in Matthew 6:8.

As I placed Steve in the Jeep and fastened his seat belt, it was as if the floodgate of sorrow began leaking, causing silent tears to drip. I kept up talking to Steve, who was obliviously staring out the front window as we drove down the freeway, and even ate some nuts. I dabbed away the evidence as we walked into Winco, fastening Steve's hand onto my cart, to get two loaves of  the cheapest bread. Why be extravagant? In order to give him a task, I asked him to put one loaf of bread into the opened bag, but he couldn't do it. That was quickly solved by me doing it. I looped his hand into the plastic bag's opening handles, and closed his fingers around it, again, so he could contribute to our effort. We walked to the cart return together, a job he could do with minimal direction three weeks ago. But I did thank the Lord for our handicapped parking spot, because that huge parking lot is always crowded. So Steve is making a very helpful contribution!

By this time next year (as I texted the kids asking for prayer), the Married Couples' Dinner will not even be a blip on the radar screen of our life concerns. It's just that it's a first, and a sad one, for a long Christ-and church-centered marriage. But God is sovereign, my soul and mind tell my heart! God knows what He is doing, and how and when He will do it. "He knows the way that I take, and when He has tried me," Job declared, "I shall come forth as gold" (23:10).

And the "4th quarter" is no time to give up or give out, in either football or marriage. It's time to gather up Holy Spirit strength and determination, to love and give more to my husband, without worrying about an event he wouldn't remember even if we did attend.

First things first.

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