Our Unique Gifts Are Enough
From early childhood, I disliked hospitals. Waiting rooms were torture. The hushed conversations and tears that took place after my parents visited my grandmother didn’t help my feelings to be any more positive toward the situation either. Fast forward to my teen years when my older sister got a job at a local nursing home. She had always wanted to be a nurse and was headed in that direction. But, when she came home from work those last couple years of high school, she stunk! Yes, she literally stunk. Not with anything nasty – no bodily fluids or other things that might get on your clothing when working in that environment. No, I was merely reacting to the odors of the antiseptics, medical tape and other cleaning solutions used in the late 1970’s. (Yes, I’m aging myself, huh!)
Entering into my adult years, I had only stepped foot into a hospital or nursing home a time or two since the passing of my grandmother when I was 9 years old. And, then what do I do? I go and marry a pastor. Not just any pastor. One that loves to visit people – even those who are in the hospital! Well, thankfully, he was patient with me and didn’t make a big deal of me accompanying him on those visits. But, there were inevitably times when I did want to visit a special friend or church member in the hospital. So, I took on the challenge in baby steps. Brand new mothers were a safe place to start, but just entering the hospital was very intimidating to me. Thankfully the smells that I remembered from childhood were nearly non-existent in hospitals several decades later. Whew!
Over the years, I have been so thankful to watch the examples of others as they have taken care of those who were in the hospital or long-term care. It just didn't come naturally to me to nurture those who were ill. I had no desire to cook a meal. I didn't know what to say. I wasn't even very emotional in processing the realities of life, disease and sometimes death. Others were better equipped to help in the 'typical way' one thinks of loving on others during these stressful times. It just wasn’t my thing.
However, while walking through cancer, dementia and death with my mother, God showed me that He had given me the all the abilities that I needed to minister to her - along with the help of others. I was enough. He then stretched me and taught me how to love my mother in the 'not so typical' ways many think of when they care for a friend or loved one. How? He used my gifts of organization and administration to walk through all the paperwork of medical, financial and legal needs as well as end-of-life realities.
Advocating for her needs also came naturally to me. One area in which I supported her was in helping to make sure she was eating properly. When she could no longer cook independently, I helped stock up her freezer with simple microwave meals. Later, we added the local outreach of 'Meals on Wheels' to her weekly menu. Eventually, I learned to feed her at her bedside. Me – the non-nurturing one. This was truly a God-thing!
For years, I had watched my husband hold someone’s hand at the bedside. It was also not uncommon to see him feed the one who needed a bit of assistance. He does both of these things so naturally, and it was so valuable for me to have witnessed this act of love and care over and over. So, when it was my turn, my sense of loyalty gave me the strength to feed my mother at the bedside. After all, it was the right thing to do even though it didn't come naturally to me - at all! Anyway, I was not 'good' at it - and it was only through the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer that I was able to be somewhat successful in the process.
My mother was patient with me and even on one of her last days on earth, when the dementia was very progressed, she had a lucid moment. As I spilled some Ensure-type pudding on my mother's chin, I absently said, "I'm not very good at this." (Never thinking she'd hear me.) But, to my surprise she put three words together and said, "You're doing good." Such a gracious woman she was. I have no doubt that in that moment, and in prior ones, she saw my struggle to cope, but knew that I was doing the best I was able to do at that point in my life. She saw my effort - and my love.
By God’s grace, and lots of practice, I now have no fear of entering a hospital or nursing home. It took a lifetime of experiences with my husband and church family to prepare me to walk with my mother through her final years. Now, I’m not ready to sign up to do visitation weekly, but there is no internal torment when I have a loved one or friend that could use a visit. I'm so thankful that God has grown me in that area - and that I now have a comfort level (even though I'm still very wobbly) to love on those who are facing not-so-hopeful prognoses or the process of death.
So, all that to say...you are enough. God made you unique. He has given you amazing talents and abilities to serve Him, but it may not look anything like what others around you are doing. And, that’s ok. God is working amazingly behind the scenes in each of our lives. He stretches us, He stretches our friends and our loved ones. If we are willing, He will grow us into true advocates and priceless friends to those we care for and reach out to with love and devotion. God's ways are so much higher than our ways and in that reality we can rest in His plans for our days!
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:6, 8-9