Thursday, August 8, 2013

What If Not?

Approximately 3:00 a.m. the smoke alarm begins beeping.  The battery is low in the alarm located in the living room. How I sometimes miss the days when you could simply remove the battery and it would quit beeping.  Stan tried replacing it while Chloe-Sofia shook like a leaf. The high pitched beeping was more than her little ears could handle.  After discovering our two spare batteries were both non functional Stan left for Walgreen's.  Something to be thankful for: a drugstore that is open 24 hours just miles from our home.  Stan returned, replaced the battery and things were once again quiet and I drifted off to sleep a little after 4:00 a.m.  It had been one of those nights where I had dealt with pain and hadn't even gone to sleep when the alarm began to beep.

Fast forward a few hours and Stan is kissing me goodbye, leaving for the church, and I am hoping to catch a few more winks before getting up for the day.  A bit before 7:00 a.m. I hear very loud pounding.  Another day of building has begun on the house being constructed next door to ours.  As I continue to try and block out the noise it only became louder. I eventually got up for a few minutes and then out of sheer exhaustion, or so it seemed I laid back down.  Finally, before 8:30 a.m. I fell asleep and then napped off and on until around 10:00 a.m.  My phone awakes me to "All For You" by Mikeschair with the first words I hear being "This time, this place to set apart.  I  stand amazed at who You are.  I'm overcome by what You've done.  Oh.  I'm here right now, I'm reaching out.  I lift Your name above the doubt.  This is my offering for You.  For You."  I convinced myself  that I would not feel as tired once I had my green tea and Greek yogurt.  Those two things were sure to perk me up and ready me for an afternoon at the Clinic for Rheumatic Diseases.  The morning goes normally; make the bed because if someone breaks in I want the bedroom to appear neat; do a little laundry; take a hot bath; put on my makeup and brush my hair.  Today I was too tired to do a lot of extra to the hair. 

I spent the afternoon at the clinic, talked with the nurse, my doctor and a lady in the lab. The lab work is routine, but as usual I ask just to be sure I know what she is checking for.  Liver and kidney functions.  This is normal in the life of anyone with an autoimmune disease.  We talk briefly about how my grandmother had lupus and that she died at 71.  Realizing I am a little over 25 years away from that makes me think as it did her too. She said to make each day count and I agreed.  I left with my smile and glad for another visit where I was able to walk out; often passing those using canes, in wheelchairs or other devices for mobility.  Things could always be worse.  As usual though I felt quite tired, which in the life of someone with lupus is normal at 4:40 p.m. in the day.  

As I drove onto the main boulevard going through town I was thinking of the things I needed to pick up.  I decided to make a quick dash into K-Mart. They may be a bit slower at times but are closer to our house from the direction I was driving and not near as crowded as Wal-Mart, which I avoid at all costs.  Another exhausting exercise for someone with lupus, or at least for me. While in K-Mart I gathered the few items I needed, then went to check out and discovered I left my wallet locked in the glove compartment of the car.  No wallet, less weight in the purse which is less tiring to carry.  I realized my license was in the wallet and the checkbook I had in my purse was of no help without the license.  A trip back to the car to retrieve the wallet still proved much less time consuming than Wal-Mart would have.  (I am not a Wal-Mart hater.  It's just an exhausting store for me.)  

Leaving K-Mart I decided to go through the drive-thru at Chick-Fil-A and buy an Icedream for Stan.  Oh, and maybe I would get one for myself too.  It was feeling a bit hot outdoors today. The line was out to the street and literally around the building. Deciding to go inside I drove into the parking lot and there was no where to park.  Knowing Stan wouldn't want me sitting in the line that long, even for Icedream I left thinking a Wendy's Frosty would suffice.

Pulling into the shopping area and seeing Wendy's I spot another line. The Dollar General is not far away and I decide to drive over and get some hand soap and stickers which I'd forgotten to pick up at K-Mart. Thinking that by the time I got those items the line would be shorter at Wendy's and besides, we really needed hand soap.  As I'm approaching the store and turn to park there is a woman and young boy standing underneath one of the small trees at the end of one of the parking lanes. The woman is holding a sign; the boy standing beside her. The only words I truly made out were "needing to feed" and "children" along with the number "5" printed on the cardboard.  It was written in English, otherwise I couldn't have read what I did. I also thought I saw the words "looking for."  They both smiled at me as I drove past them.  They each gave a small wave.

Basically, I didn't try to see all their sign said.  We see these signs often, right? When we lived in Little Rock I saw them each time I went to the hospital for doctor appointments. People were always stationed off of the freeways looking for help through a cardboard sign.  So many of these "people" always wanting money or needing something.  As I drove down the lane and looked into my mirror I saw them standing there. They didn't watch me. They were back to looking toward a larger street that runs through the parking lot.  As I parked the car quite a distance from them I looked their direction.  I could not see them. They hadn't followed me or as I've had some do call out for money. 

As I was about to approach the sidewalk in front of Dollar General I heard quiet words whispered into my spirit "What If Not?"  Then I silently responded "What if not what?"  Then it dawned on me that there had been no request for money on that sign.  I saw no dollar symbols or plea for money. I'm not sure what the entire sign read, but I do know it said "needing to feed" and "children" and the number "5." There is no doubt in my mind it was a 5 and not a $ sign.  Their faces were before me, their smiles and the little boy's wave.  What if not?  What if they weren't homeless?  What if they were?  What if, just what if not?  What if they were trying to obtain something from nothing?  What if they were wanting freebies, handouts; but what if not?  Another thing amazing to me was that they appeared clean and neat. Perhaps they were not homeless, but without work.  Maybe someone else would help them?  What if not?

As I entered the store I went and found the hand soap, along with some stickers for the Tuesday night book/Bible study I've been doing at home with a small group of friends. As I looked at those stickers I could not erase their faces from my mind. Continually whispered was "What If Not?"  What if not?  WHAT IF NOT?  What if they were not just trying to play a sympathy card. What if they were truly needing food? What if not?  I overheard the cashier coldly stating that she saw them there yesterday and it was odd to her that they would be in the same spot again.  

I thought what if not?  What if they were back there because they had gotten enough food to make it through the night and day?  What if not?  I tried looking at the kiddie candy to buy one or two of my favorites.  Once again the little boy and his mother were before me. What if not? No amount of "diddling" around was going to get them out of my mind.  They had taken over temporary residence in my mind and weren't leaving. That was clear.  The words I had heard early this morning came into my mind.  "This time, this place to set apart.  I  stand amazed at who You are.  I'm overcome by what You've done.  Oh.  I'm here right now, I'm reaching out." Was I reaching out? Was I going to reach out?  What if not? What if I did not?  Then who? We never know for sure do we?  There aren't many things in life we can be certain of any more, but I know for this moment in my day I had been set apart. God was calling me with his still, small voice. He simply said "What if not?"  I then began to pray and ask God to show me what I needed to buy for them?  Protein.  Peanut butter, crackers, peanuts, little pouches of fruit, Pop Tarts for fun. Apple juice boxes; real juice, no fake. This little boy needed some nourishment. Everything I chose could withstand heat and being outdoors.  

"I'm not this kind of person so why am I doing this?"  I asked God this question. Yes, I give to our church, charities and I've on occasion thrown out a box of granola bars to a homeless person, ministered at a halfway house, bought and given clothes away or purchased school supplies for needy kids. These people were different, or at least to me they were.  Once again I heard the cashier saying she doesn't buy that they are in need. And I again hear "What if not?"  Until I bought this food and handed it to them I wouldn't have peace. That I was certain of. Stan was at home waiting for me with dinner ready and there I was struggling with the "people" outdoors in the parking lot. Never had I given like this before. Given, yes, but not thinking this way, or in circumstances such as these.  As I checked out I asked the cashier if I could please have an extra bag and she told me I could.  My items would need to be double bagged. They weren't about to go rolling down the street.  Once more I prayed, asking God to let me know I had made the right call in doing what I was doing. I asked him to simply have the people there to receive my bag of food when I drove around to where they had been standing. If they were gone then I would know it wasn't what I had thought.  Yet, I would know I had done what God placed on my heart. God's Holy Spirit had spoken to me.

As I walked to the car I had peace, yet anticipation.  Upon entering the car it was warm and the young boy with sweat across his forehead crossed my mind, just as his mother did.  Quickly I double bagged all of their food items and then decided the boy, being around 10 needed most of my kiddie candy more than I.  As I cranked the car and began driving I felt anticipation and excitement. In my heart I knew they were there waiting.  That moment, in what had begun as a crazy day had been set apart for me by God.  I was overcome by what all God has done for me and this was only a small portion of something I could give back to Him. As I turned the corner there they stood. She was still holding the sign and he sat on the curb. There was one very small yellow bag beside them.  Someone else in the Dollar General had also been led to give them something.  As I slowed and pushed the button for the window to lower I reached for the bag. She stood, still holding the cardboard and smiled. The boy did too. Hesitating in her actions I held it out and told her "For you."  She smiled that beautiful smile as did her son and then said "Gracious!  Thank you very much." I told her the bag was from Jesus.  She then said a few words to me in Spanish, none of which I knew, for she spoke them softly yet with feeling.  The boy sitting on the curb looked up to me and smiled. Then with his right hand pressed his pointer and middle fingers to his lips, kissed them, and pressed them against his cheek and then reached them up toward me.  Then she said "God bless you."   I left her a note with the bag with these words written "Jesus Loves You!"  Below that I wrote "John 3:16."  At the bottom of my note page was this verse "The LORD is my whom I take refuge. -Psalm 18:2"  My heart was so touched and my eyes welled up with tears.  Pure joy!  Most of the drive home I cried and thanked God for allowing me to bypass the Icedream and make a random stop at Dollar General.  We never know just where our next turn will take us!

Driving away, this time towards home I heard these words being sung on the Hillsong CD playing "I believe You're my Healer.  I believe You are all I need.  I believe You're my Portion. I believe You're more than enough for me. Jesus, You're all I need...Nothing is impossible for You...You hold my world in Your hands."  

He is my portion, when my strength isn't enough.  When I am weak He is strong.   When I feel as though life is so different than before I had autoimmune diseases I'm reminded He can and will use me.  He is more than enough for me. What if not?  The Holy Spirit can speak through three simple words.  Often those words are "I love you."  One day they might be "What if not?" Jesus, nothing is impossible for You, nothing is impossible for me through You.  When I shared with Stan he told me those people were probably there as much for me as I was for them, and I know they were!