Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lunch with a friend

8:49 p.m. Today's project was to meet a friend for lunch. We are friends by a move of God, because we probably wouldn't have met in the course of life. Maria only lives several blocks away from me, but there are thousands of homes in our neighborhood. She went to the Mary Kay website looking for a beauty consultant, because the aunt who had provided her products passed away. As a result of her plugging in our zip code, up popped my name, address, and phone number.

We made an appointment in June for Maria to come over for a facial. She's a teacher here in the Riverside school district, so summer suited her best. Her daughter Arielle, 21, and my 30 year-old son Kriss both completed the International Baccalaureate program at North High School. We're  teachers, as is my daughter Heidi. And she remembers the Kruckenberg name from my school board days. We hit it off immediately. God had brought me a new friend! Job 37:5b says of God,

He does things which we cannot comprehend.

Upon seeing Steve with his caregiver that afternoon as they walked by the living room out to the front yard to do some work, she asked very politely, but straightforwardly about his condition. That's what I enjoy about her. She's very direct in her comments, energetic, somewhat hyper, and a great talker as most teachers are, but an empathetic listener at the same time. I described Steve's quickly degenerating dementia at length, which engrossed her. But Maria has a shocking tragedy of her own: she's been struggling mightily, mostly achieving victory hour by hour, over Multiple Sclerosis.

We took our time getting her facial started, because I had to know every detail of her disease's onset, symptoms, treatments and coping strategies. How was her family affected? Her daughter was only 8 when her mom became debilitated while seeking the best treatment (treatment that included two spinal taps for finding and plugging the source of excruciating pain from leaking spinal fluid). My interest was piqued because I had just heard that a young homeschooling mom I'm close friends with, had been diagnosed.

On the first day of noticeable symptoms, September 10, 2001, Maria was in her classroom when she began to feel a burning, tingling sensation coupled with numbness in her feet. It spread upward to her lower chest over the next few days until she went on October break from her year-round schedule. That's when diagnosis was confirmed and she began a regimen of the powerful drug Neurontin, among others. After each paralyzing attack, she never gets back to 100% of strength or normalcy even when that attack subsides. Now she is 92% returned to normal functioning.  Neuropathy--the dying of tissues--sets in eventually. What a horror! Today as she shared again at lunch, a small tear was rolling down from one eye.

There are no really sensible or reassuring words to offer my friend, whom I am not sure has accepted the Lord,  except to tell her that I'm praying for every situation that affects her life.She's from a Catholic background, but I don't think she attends. She very much respects my faith, because of  her instant apologies to me after letting fly a word here or there that might not have been the best choice!

We shared, on a lighter note, about Arielle's pre-med program. Maria insisted on hearing the life of
each of my five children. We "talked shop" for a while, too, including the severe stress she's under, having been given 36 hours' notice to change from a 2/3 combination class to a 1/2. Even though I'm retired, it's fun to discuss teaching strategies with Maria, just like I do with Heidi and my younger daughter Heather's mother-in-law Kathleen. Guess that you can take the teacher out of the school, but you can't "take the school out of the teacher!"

Be the conversations ever so caring and empathetic, and my sales steady, these are not God's reasons for Maria's and my friendship to take root and blossom, any more than He has me trekking to Redlands strictly for tutoring a gifted student in Spanish for the AP exam. [see previous post]. He wants me to pray and prepare to share Christ with them at the time the Spirit says, "Now!" I am confident that he will guide me each step of the way as I love and contribute value to each of these friends' lives. Psalm 5:12 assures me:

For You, O LORD, will bless the
With favor You will surround him
   as with a shield.

God has given me abundant favor with these who need him so badly--may I not squander it by prayerlessness or carelessness!

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