Memory Magic

Recently I attended a solo opera “Paul to the Church At Philippi” performed by Dr. Ed Steele.  It was actually my second time to see the performance (my first was a birthday present to myself!) since Dr. Steele came to perform the opera for our Origins network of house churches.  The music, written by Dr. Steele, is the perfect accompaniment.  He had no need of a lyricist, since the text is word for word the entire book of Philippians.

My tears started flowing as the first few verses were sung and recited.  When I heard the words “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” God reminded me that He was talking to me, and that He is far from finished with the good work He started in me personally.

I glanced around the room and noticed something else that moved me nearly beyond what I can express.  A few guests had joined us for the performance.  One was an older gentleman, a good friend of mine, a minister, and a leader in our state among other ministers and missionaries.  I happen to be aware (most others in the room were not) that this awesome man is struggling with memory problems.  In my career in assisted living, I deal daily with the effects of dementia and short term memory loss, and they are heartbreaking, frustrating, and debilitating to say the least.  I glanced over at my friend and saw that as the words of Philippians were recited and sung, his lips moved along, not missing a beat.  His grin was ear to ear, and he nodded in affirmation at words that held deep meaning for him.  The words flowed freely from his memory with absolutely no hesitation.

I was already in a puddle, but melted further still as I saw played out in the flesh the truth I already know:  God’s word stands forever.  Even this moment, the words come to mind that I memorized as a child:  “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand forever.” (Isa. 40:8) There’s something LIVING about the words of scripture.  They come back at the Holy Spirit’s bidding, they appear at just the right time, they apply centuries after they were written, and in every different situation.  I loved seeing and knowing that God’s Word and His Spirit are not limited by our minds or our ability to remember, think clearly, or express ourselves.  In my own times of deepest despair I know I’ve been able to cry to God, (not necessarily able to say anything intelligible) read and remember His Word.  He’s always been there, and always will be.

This, I love knowing.  I love knowing that my friend who struggles to remember some day-to-day things has God’s Word planted deep in the recesses of his brain.  I love knowing that if and when those words do fade from his memory, they will be no less true, and God’s Holy Spirit will remain, bringing comfort where there may be no words.  I love knowing that God is able to permeate every layer of our conscious and subconscious and is not subject to our limited abilities, not sickened by our illnesses, not destroyed by our mistakes. 

This comforts me beyond measure and inspires me to memorize even more, to stuff every possible word into my own gray matter so that it’s there for God’s use and at His disposal.  I’m reminded of more words from Deuteronomy that Jesus Himself used in his own battle with Satan: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Those words are alive.  They are real, and they are good.  Give them a try!

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Sometimes Poopoo Prevails

I’m a mother of three.  A strong woman, in body and mind and will, I can handle a whole lotta stuff.  But there are days… days when it’s clear I must give up and go home for a while.

This past Sunday was one such day.  Three of my good friends and I were at a local restaurant after Sunday services celebrating a birthday.  My little 16 month old, Caleb, was with us.  He kept us all entertained with his cute little smiles and funny attempts at using a spoon.  After a while, he got squirmy in the high chair and I let him get down and toddle around right by my chair.  In a few moments, he positioned himself behind my chair and got very still.  Any mother of a toddler can guess what he was doing.

At first I was simply thankful for a few moments of stillness to converse with my friends without simultaneously wrestling with a small boy.  Then I smelled it.  No time to dawdle on this, being in the middle of a restaurant and all, I snatched him right up, grabbing the diaper bag in one smooth motion and headed off to the restroom.  Upon my arrival in the ladies room, I discovered that Caleb’s poop had run down his leg and into his shoe.  (Yes, since I had picked him up, it was also on my dress.)  Guess how many wipes I had?  A grand total of two! 

Luckily, the baby changing station in this public restroom was located right next to the sink and paper towel dispenser.  So, I just gave Caleb the best kind of public-restroom-sink-bath I could.  I wrapped his clothes and shoes in one of those disposable plastic lined changing station pads that are usually always out of stock.  This restroom was well supplied, thank God.  I dressed him in clean clothes, cleaned my dress as much as a dress can be cleaned by a woman having only two hands and needing to keep a stinky toddler off of a public restroom floor, and returned to the table. 

During my difficult but successful cleaning process, I wondered…  “If the poop is in his shoe…  certainly it’s not on the floor also.  I mean, they’re sandals, but it was all contained in the shoe, right?  I don’t see how one little boy could have possibly made THAT much poop.”  Upon returning to the table, my fears were confirmed.  Just behind my chair there was a nice sized pile of liquid baby poop.  Oddly, it had gone unnoticed by my friends AND by the dad of the family sitting behind us (meaning the poop pile BEHIND my chair was directly BESIDE him.)

Mortified beyond imagination, I alerted restaurant staff of the poop problem.  They “messed” the situation up even more, in my opinion.  Instead of moving the affected parties, they simply brought a pile of napkins to place over the poopoo puddle and expected everyone to keep right on eating.  (Which the family behind us DID, completely and graciously ignoring the issue. That guy musta been REALLY hungry. My friends on the other hand did NOT continue eating due to their uncontrollable GUFFAWING at my little predicament.)

We sat for several more tortured minutes and my husband arrived, expecting to enjoy a drink and a visit with our friends.  By this time, however, Caleb was restless, and I couldn’t let him down since we were literally sitting in a pile of poop.  Misery set in for us all. It was time to give up.  Take my toys and go home.  Admit my defeat and let it go.  So I did.  I paid the bill and left the restaurant, wondering how much to tip a waitress who will undoubtedly be doing a little more work than she bargained for.  I left the poop behind and retreated to the safety of my home, where wipes are in abundance and bathtubs are full-size and readily available. 

Sometimes life has a way of pouring on the poop.  And sometimes I just don’t know when to quit.  I find myself sitting in the situation, completely in misery.  The poop situation with my son was just another day in the life of a mommy, but it reminded me of my own stubborn ways.  I don’t want to admit defeat, even when staying and fighting makes things worse.  One of my mentors gave me advice to live by.  He used to say simply:  “Avoid misery.” 

Sometimes I continue in situations where I clearly don’t belong and am ineffective, yet I don’t want to “lose.”  Sometimes, I require things of myself , unnecessary things, and in that process subject myself and my family to irritability, anxiety, and yes, misery.  I’ve decided not to forget this lesson:  Sometimes poop prevails.  And when the poop prevails, it’s time to go home.  Home to the place where you have what you need.  Clean up, recharge, and go out to fight another day.

Next time you’re in a stinky situation, don’t take it so hard.  There are times to stay and fight, but there are also times to retreat and regroup.  May you and I have the wisdom and insight needed to recognize such times, and may we have the grace to give ourselves permission to lose one battle in order to win an entire war.

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