February 17, 2010
Out of the Mud Puddle
"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name…who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion…"
Psalm 103:1, 4 (NIV)
One weekday my employer, the best boss in the world, held our quarterly meeting in a local salon. As the hard calluses were rubbed off my feet, my heart softened, too, and the news about our company became secondary to the news about the life of one woman. I was seated next to Brenda, a co-worker to whom I'm always drawn. We talked and laughed as we soaked our worn hands and rough feet. The atmosphere was relaxed and our conversation turned toward Brenda's mother, Lillian.
Brenda recounted one remarkable story after another of Lillian's last days as she lay in a nursing home bed dying of cancer. Her mother was a bastion of encouragement and regaled everyone with delightful stories of her past and of God's goodness despite her dwindling energy and the stupor usually brought on by pain medication. As I listened to Brenda describe this brave saint, I became overwhelmed with emotion, and decided I wanted to be just like Lillian when I grow up!
People were still drawn to her even as she struggled with declining health, removal from her home and loss of freedom. Brenda proudly told of her mother's positive attitude and how she refused to complain even on days that were painful and difficult. "She taught me everything about living," Brenda said with emotion, "and now she's teaching me how to die."
At the end of our conversation, I asked Brenda if her mother would be willing to talk to me. I wanted to know the secret of this outstanding woman's life. Brenda asked her mother if I could visit, and Lillian agreed. I arrived one afternoon to find her reclining with oxygen tubes running into her nose. She was diminutive in her large hospital-style bed and her voice was soft, but Lillian's eyes sparkled at the opportunity to tell some of her life's stories.
Like most women of her age, Lillian's life had held both joy and sorrow. She had grown up with scant financial means and struggled monetarily through many years in early marriage. She had married at 17 and had three children in three years. Her fourth child was to arrive 14 years later. Even though she described these years as difficult, she spoke on and on of her love for her husband, their happy marriage and their mutual joy in their children.
Her big heartbreaks came later in life when her beloved mother was raped at age 80 in her own yard. Later in a nursing home, Lillian's mother was abused physically by a staff member despite the fact that her children visited every day. Many years passed, and tragedy struck again. Lillian lost her granddaughter and a great-grandson in a terrible car accident one icy night.
Through all these difficult times, Lillian clung to Jesus and served those around her. She ended our conversation by telling me, "In all that we've been through, we knew that our strength comes from the Lord. Whenever we fell in a mud puddle, we just jumped right out into His arms." In a conversation rich with memories and wisdom, Lillian described an up-close, intimacy with God that both sustained and matured her through a lifetime of trials and triumphs. Jumping out of a mud puddle and into His arms is the kind of childlike exuberance and trust that can bring a woman to the end of her life with a still-growing, vibrant relationship with Jesus Himself.
Lillian died soon after our conversation, but her legacy lives on. She was a woman of tremendous faith and resiliency who set an example for her children, her friends, the staff of a nursing home and me. She'll forever be one of my heroes.
Dear Lord, I desire to leave a legacy like Lillian's. Help me live a life that is completely dependent on You. I raise my arms to You and jump knowing that You will catch me, clean the mud off of me and hold me tight. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Visit Amy's blog-Ponderings from the Pathway
Finding a Mentor, Being a Mentor by Donna Otto
Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst
Seek out and listen to the stories of faith from an older saint. It will be a blessing to both of you!
What is my response when I've "fallen in a mud puddle"?
Who can I encourage with stories of God's goodness and sufficiency?
Psalm 116:7, "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you." (NIV)
Psalm 116:13, "I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord." (NIV)
© 2010 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
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Matthews, NC 28105