Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, The last of life, for which the first was made: Our times are in His hand Who saith "A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!" - From "Rabbi Ben Ezra" by Robert Browning

Saturday, February 25, 2012

When God is Living in Us, and Blessings Overflow!

Kathy gets her pedicure!

It's Friday night, and my friend Kathy will be leaving tomorrow to return to Chicago. How I would love for her to stay longer! I will miss her terribly.

Kathy spent a few weeks, before she came here, praying for temperatures to be in the 80s. We didn't quite get there, but temperatures here lingered in the mid-70s for the most part. It was sometimes overcast, and there was some rain, but we also had some nice patches of warm sunshine, which Kathy soaked up sitting in a rocking chair on the back patio, or in a lawn chair out front. I didn't get any photos of this. I wish I had, but I felt it was more important to give Kathy privacy and peace while she was here.
Kathy gets her manicure!
Kathy, and her husband, Kalail, came into our lives in 2007, when we met Kathy at the little church we were attending. We didn't really get to know each other then, we just had that Sunday morning "church" kind of relationship that went on for a few months, until I realized one Sunday that Kathy was missing. The deep, comforting "Amen" that she would offer periodically from the pew behind us went unheard for a few weeks before I asked someone where she was.

Disturbing events had called Kathy back to her home state of Illinois. Several people in the church were discussing how to help, and I offered to do whatever I could. I was one of many who received Kathy's mailing address and phone number, but we would discover later, I was the only person who ever bothered to contact Kathy.

Kathy was in her 40s then, and her husband was several years older than her. Kalail had been left behind to take care of things in Georgia, and then head north. No one was taking care of him, including the pastor of our small church, and Kathy asked John and I to check on him and help him if we could. That was when we learned that Kalail had cancer. Stage four colon cancer.

We did what we could for Kalail. We committed ourselves to him and Kathy, whatever they needed. Mostly, he needed someone to talk to, to have that sense that there was a safety net there for him and Kathy. He worried more about her than himself, and, as true love goes, she was more worried for him than for herself. Well, when Kalail finally understood that we weren't making superficial promises, that we meant what we said, I think he took a long, deep breath, and relaxed a bit. We gave him a ride when he needed it, took him out to dinner, gave him a little money, and saw him on his way to Illinois. I wrote to Kathy regularly, and we stayed in touch by phone and email. Though my letter to her were meant as encouragement, I found her letters to me to be filled with faith and trust in God, bearing witness to God's great mercy, and His ability to meet every need in even the worse of circumstances. Kathy and Kalail were always thanking us, even long after the emergency had subsided; but for John and me, our reward was in knowing that they were back together and making it, together. No two people ever touched me so deeply and so significantly as Kathy and Kalail.

My mother was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in April of 2010. I was with her, caring for her when Kathy called me in May to tell me that Kalail had passed away. When he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, he was not given long to live, but it took 6 years for the cancer to finally take him. Kathy, and their love for each other held him here.

Not many of us get to experience a love that can be described as profound. Kathy and Kalail did though. I knew how much they loved each other, how much they had gone through to be together, how hard they fought the cancer and everything else that tried to come against them almost constantly. Through everything, Kathy's and Kalail's faith led them, strengthened them, encouraged them, and carried them with praise and thanksgiving to God flowing from their lips, with acute awareness of the blessings that God was continually pouring out on them, and with "exceeding great joy" in their hearts.

And even after Kalail was gone, Kathy still praised God, still saw His hand in everything, His purpose in her life, and His plan for her laying itself out before her. Such faith I have never known.

So, when Kathy and I were emailing each other over the holidays, and I saw this incredible woman growing exhausted from working three jobs, and the devil still chasing her with struggles (though her testimony is full of God's deliverance), I asked her to come visit us and let me pamper her for a while.

John and I struggle with finances, like everybody else. Money has to go a long way here to get and keep the farm in shape, and there is a lot of expensive work for us to do this year. But our priorities aren't always about money and the things we want when we see someone in need, whether that's a financial need, emotional need, or the need to be pampered.

We pinched our budget and bought Kathy a plane ticket. We scrambled to turn our storage room into a decent guest room. I filled a basket with creams and lotions and candles that I thought she might enjoy, and put fresh yellow tulips in her room to brighten it. Kathy slept on a new mattress (that she still thinks she can slip in her suitcase and take home), enjoyed plenty of good food and treats, got tons of rest, visited a gym to go swimming and sit in the sauna, and today, was treated to a massage, facial, manicure, and pedicure, followed by an ice cream sundae! She won't quit thanking us, and I keep teller her to shut up!

Kathy is flying home tomorrow. I don't want her to go, but I have to let her. I know she'll be back for (I hope) many more visits in the years to come. I don't know what it is about her that makes me love her so, but I do. Well, maybe it's God. Maybe it's God doing something that only He can do, that can only be fully understood by Him. But I know this. I know my home, and my life have been blessed by Kathy's visit this week. I am renewed in my faith by the witness of her faith.

Yes, as Kathy keeps saying, she has been very blessed this week. But somehow I think I have been blessed even more.

We'll miss you Kathy. Don't stay away too long!

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