Message from Pastor Liz

Thoughts for Our Nelson UMC
Friends and Community
 
I Have Thoughts . . .

In everything, give thanks.

Another story:

Not so long ago, there was a family whose finances had taken a turn for the worse as the father had gotten laid off and the grandmother had moved in so that her daughter, the mother of our story, could take care of her as her journey into Alzheimer’s progressed mercilessly.  At first, the children [two boys and a preschool girl] thought it was all sort of like a holiday – Grandma was there all the time and would tell them stories about when their mother was a little girl.  The boys enjoyed sleeping in their sleeping bags in the family room;  the TV was in there and on more than one occasion they surreptitiously watched cartoons when they were supposed to be asleep.  The preschooler had a wonderful time playing dress up with Grandma and having marvelous tea parties.

For the parents, however, it was a little less than festive.  Their savings had evaporated almost overnight and the bills were beginning to form little mountains as they collected on the desk where the father used to work.  The mother worried about her mother and her deteriorating health and the impact that the change and stress might have on her children.  She worried about her husband’s emotional equilibrium as he struggled to keep a positive attitude as countless employers turned him down for positions he was overqualified for to being with.  And then there was the money – or the scarcity of it.  Her job seemed to keep them afloat, but ever so barely above water.

The children learned to adjust to life without the extras and luxuries that they had been accustomed to;  an adjustment that was not always exactly gracious, but they did remarkably well under the circumstances.  The father surprised himself in finding a kind of satisfaction in being able to take care of his mother-in-law and in a new [if peculiar] affection between them.  And still the mother worried . . .

Spring finally came and the mother’s birthday was marked on the refrigerator calendar in red-crayoned handwriting.  The mother, being a practical woman by necessity as well as nature, firmly informed her little family that there was no need [nor money, she thought] for presents or a celebration.  Having her family together and well as all the gift she needed.  And the little family agreed, finally discouraged and beginning to doubt what their futures might hold.

The red-letter day arrived altogether without bows or ribbons or joy or hope.  The mother got up before the crack of dawn, fixed the boys’ school lunches, ran a couple of loads of dirty clothes, and shuffled the newest stack of bills like a deck of cards.  At the appointed hour, she got the boys up, dressed, fed, and off to the bus. As she headed out the door, her two-year daughter ran up to her with her arms in the universal toddler language of “pick me up!”, hugged her neck, and whispered a brave “Happy Birthday, Mommy!”  She managed to get into the car before the tears fell and she fell quite apart.

While she was at work, a wonderful thing happened at her house.  Grandma, who it turned out was the red-crayon writer, served notice to her son-in-law.  They counted how much money they had between them and how much was in the checking account.  Calculating like Nasdaq traders, they negotiated and plotted until they had a plan.  The lot of them: the two-year-old attired in full ballerina regalia, the father, and the slightly disheveled grandmother, loaded themselves into the car and made a beeline for the local Wally World.  There they conferenced over the display book of cakes at the bakery, finally agreeing on a simple yet elegant Barney cake with “Happy Birthday, Mom!!” emblazoned in purple script.  From the bakery they marched to Health and Beauty.  With a limit of $1, each located a soap or a lotion that was lilac-scented [not lavender!] as that was the mother’s favorite.  Next, they found a lilac-scented candle for $1.50 for the boys to give.  And to top it all off, they headed for the frozen food aisle – and ice cream!  And not those tiny little bricks of ice cream;  no, they bought a gigantic one gallon bucket of double fudge ripple swirl.  And when the cashier totaled them up, they even had sixteen cents left.

As soon as the boys got home from school, they all made cards decorated with stickers, art, and love.  And then they waited.

At a few minutes after six, the mother pulled in the driveway, grateful to be off her feet and glad to be home.  She sighed a little and started for the front door.

“SURPRISE!” they yelled as they bounded out the door.  “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” they chanted together.  The smiles on their faces were a dazzling reflection of pure delight and joy.

“What?  How?  I told you . . .” the mother started, still stunned as she was escorted into the house.  As she passed across the threshold, the surprises were just beginning.  The scent of lilac was extraordinary and precious, In a rush, the children showered her with homemade cards, gifts wrapped in homemade gift wrap [aluminum foil], and hugs – lots of hugs.  And then the grand finale – cake and ice cream!

“You shouldn’t have.  We can’t afford it.  The bills…” but she was shushed.

“Grandma said we’ll have bills and problems the rest of our lives.  But if you can’t celebrate, life’s not worth the time it takes,” the oldest boy recited.  The mother remembered hearing that sentiment from her mother as she was growing up.  How had she forgotten?

“Well, far be it from me to argue with Grandma,’ she said as she embraced her mother.  “Now, who wants cake?”

Extravagant love.  Knowing the value of those we love and those who love us.  We are loved beyond all reasons, all bounds.  Every morning, if we remember, we can celebrate that we are loved – even with our problems, our doubts, and our fears. 

Do you feel it?  Do you remember?  Can you taste the ‘cake and ice cream’ of grace and peace and hope?  In the midst of all our troubles and problems, do we still remember to celebrate the stuff that makes life the blessing God intends it to be?  Our Creator, who breathed the universe into being, who forms stars and galaxies and sunsets and the kudzu that I find so fascinating here in Virginia, gave us great gifts.  These gifts, grace and joy and hope and love and mercy and kindness, are in our cells our spiritual DNA.  They are our vocabulary of home as Children of God.  And we blessed to be loved and celebrated with the extravagance of no less than the God of the Universe.

And if you can’t celebrate that, well, baby, God loves you anyway.

Grace and soap – and ice cream!!

~Pastor Liz

Phone: 434.222.3394   Email: pastor@nelsonumc.com   Website: www.nelsonumc.com

 

*Hymn  “Where Joy And Sorrow Meet”

There’s a place of quiet stillness

‘tween the light and shadows reach;

Where the hurting and the hopeless seek everlasting peace,

Words of men and songs of angels whisper comfort bittersweet,

Mending grief and life eternal

Where joy and sorrow meet.

 

CHORUS

There is a place where hope remains

In crowns of thorns & crimson stains

And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet,

Where joy and sorrow meet.

 

There’s a place the lost surrender

And the weary will retreat,

Full of grace and mercy tender in times of unbelief;

For the wounded there is healing strength is given to the weak

Broken hearts find love redeeming

Where joy and sorrow meet.

 

CHORUS

There is a place where hope remains

In crowns of thorns & crimson stains

And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet,

Where joy and sorrow meet.

 

There’s a place of thirst and hunger

Where the roots of faith grow deep,

And there is rain and rolling thunder when the road is rough and steep;

There is hope in desperation, there is vict’ry in defeat

At the cross of restoration

Where joy and sorrow meet.

 

CHORUS

There is a place where hope remains

In crowns of thorns & crimson stains

And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet,

Where joy and sorrow meet.

“While we are worshipping differently, we all recognize that the church must still meet our financial obligations.  So, first – and let me be plain and clear – take care of yourselves first.  Full stop;  end of sentence.  This is true whether or not we find ourselves in our own version of ‘plague of locust’ or not.  After that, if you can continue to support the church budget in these times, prayerfully consider such support and know we will gratefully receive any tithes or offerings by mail at Nelson UMC, 5239 Thomas Nelson Hwy., Arrington, VA   22922.”
 
Thanks.  Liz