The Original 1997 Lost and Found

 

Lost and Found

Rose. M. Jackson ©1997

 

When I was nine, one of my favorite books was The Borrowers by Mary Norton. It’s about a family of tiny people who live under the kitchen floor in the house of an elderly lady. They’re called Borrowers because that’s their chief occupation: borrowing things from the larger folk in the house. If I didn’t know better, I’d think we must have Borrowers in our own house, because the oddest things keep getting lost, and no one has the slightest idea where they could have gone. I’m sure the fact that we are “savers” and have, admittedly, too much stuff under all the beds has nothing to do with our misplacing things.

Last year in early spring, though, I lost three things within three weeks. That’s a record even for me, and the unusual ways it happened lead me to believe those events carried a message for me. At least I’ve found a message in them – a message about losing things – that had a profound impact on my perception of loss.

The first incident occurred when I went to an allergist’s office for a scratch test on my back. Thinking I should take off my jewelry, I put in my shirt pocket the gold cross-within-a-fish necklace my mother-in-law had given me a few years earlier. I treasured it because of its unique design and because a jeweler friend of hers had made it specifically for me. After the test I put my shirt on, left the office, and ran an errand. When I returned home I realized I didn’t have my necklace. Horrified, I immediately called the doctor’s office and the store I’d stopped in on my way home. No one had turned in the necklace. My heart sank. How could I have been so careless?

In tears, I called my husband to admit my mistake. Instead of the anger I expected, he spoke with kindness, assuring me that he knew it was an accident. A week later he came home one evening carrying a red velvet box. Puzzled, I opened it and gasped. Inside was an exact replica of the necklace I’d lost! My husband had stopped at a jeweler’s on his way home from work the day I lost the cross. He’d drawn a picture of the necklace and had the jeweler recreate it for me. Tears streaming down my face, I wrapped my arms around my husband’s neck and sobbed for the beauty of his forgiving love. That necklace holds double meaning for me now, and I quickly tell the story any time someone asks where I got it.

The very next week I lost another item I treasured. I was feverishly working to finish a project by a rapidly-looming deadline, and as I shifted my gaze from the computer screen to the printer, I noticed a dark hole where the diamond should have been in my engagement ring. A hole. No diamond. Panic momentarily paralyzed me, and then my mind began to race. Where had I lost it? More to the point, when had I lost it? I had no clear idea of the last time I could say for certain that I knew the stone was in the ring.

That would mean the stone could be anywhere.

Just as quickly as the panic had come, though, a sense of certainty replaced it. Somehow I knew that this had happened for a purpose. I didn’t hear angelic voices, but I knew God had a reason behind this calamity, and I felt certain I would find the diamond.

I began to mentally check off all the things I’d done that morning which might have dislodged a loose stone. I’d put lotion on my hands, so I checked the bathroom sink, floor, and drawers: no stone. I reasoned that the stone might have come out when I changed my clothes, so I searched through the bed I’d just made and played bloodhound on the bedroom rug: lots of dust, but no diamond.

Now what? The immensity of the task of going through my actions of the previous day loomed on the edge of my consciousness, when I realized that I had re-potted a plant just an hour or so earlier. I had given up on an ailing ivy that I’d moved into the bathroom to recover, deciding to re-pot it in the large planter on the front porch to either pull through or die in the fresh air. Its root went much deeper in the pot than I suspected, and I’d had to dig at it a bit to loosen the ivy from its pot.

That was it. I was sure that’s what dislodged the diamond. But when exactly had it happened? I’d also moved a petunia to a different spot in the planter. Like Hercule Poirot, I set my little gray cells to computation. Did the stone fall out in (1) the pot from which I’d taken the ivy, (2) the hole in the planter where I placed the ivy, (3) the dirt I removed from that spot to make the hole, (4) the spot where I transplanted the petunia, or (5) the other planter where I’d tossed some of the extra potting soil from the original ivy pot?

Heartened by the confidence that I’d find the stone, I began what could possibly be a long search. Here is a good spot to interject that the stone I was looking for was not large. It was just 20 points, not even a quarter carat, but it had cost my husband just about every penny he had saved at the time he gave it to me. I could vividly remember choosing that stone from a tiny jumble of brilliance on a black velvet pouch nearly twenty-five years earlier. This was not going to be easy to find.

The truth of that came home to me as I scooped out the first cupful of potting soil left in the ivy’s pot and spilled it onto a sheet of newspaper. Have you ever really examined potting soil? I never realized that much of potting soil is actually tiny pebbles of quartz – most of which were bigger than my diamond! Finding my diamond was going to be literally like looking for a needle in a haystack. All I had going for me was the fact that my diamond wasn’t shaped like a lump of quartz.

Cup by cup, on my hands and knees, I painstaking sifted through the soil. I was not willing to let even an ounce of that soil go unsearched. The irony of looking for one rock amid hundreds occurred to me after twenty minutes of unfruitful sifting. What was it, after all, that made this one rock so valuable to me? It wasn’t the DeBeers family controlling the world supply and setting the price of diamonds. It wasn’t money at all, for our homeowners’ insurance would cover this loss.

I didn’t want a diamond. I wanted that diamond, my diamond. What made it valuable to me was the love for me that bought it. As I realized that, I sat back on my heels. What had I really lost? I still had the love that bought that stone. In fact, I know my husband loves me more now than he did twenty-five years ago. All I’d lost was a rock. The love I still had was worth more than the most priceless diamond.

At the same instant I realized something else, too. What makes me valuable to God is not what the world thinks – or what I think – I’m worth; what makes me valuable to God is the love that bought me. That love bore the cost of degradation, anguish and agony of death by crucifixion to buy me. The price Jesus paid for me makes me priceless to God my Father.

I sifted through all the dirt left in the pot, but found nothing. I went out to the planter box where I’d sprinkled some potting soil, scooped up as much as I could recover, and went through that dirt – snail castings and decomposing leaves and all – cup by cup, but found nothing. I uprooted the ivy and searched the soil around the roots, but there was no diamond. That left just two more places to search. I’d been looking fruitlessly for over an hour, but somehow I still felt the assurance that I’d find the stone. I scooped some loose potting soil from around the hole left by the now uprooted ivy, spread it out on the newspaper, and there, amid the quartz and vermiculite, was my diamond. I felt ecstatic, of course, that I had found that tiny stone Chip gave me, but I also felt the warmth of knowing I’d found something more than the diamond.

If I was willing to look so hard and diligently for the sake of what love bought me, how much harder and more diligently, I thought, does God look for each one of us who is “lost?”   How relentless is his help in our searches when we’ve lost our hope or dreams? I knew beyond a doubt that God is good, and his goodness and love DO endure forever.

That knowledge was put to the test the next week in an equally remarkable incident. I frequently do my walking at a local mall early in the morning. Usually I remember to take my fanny pack instead of my purse, because it’s awkward to carry a purse and walk as fast as I like to. That day, though, I’d absent-mindedly taken my purse with me. Before I got out of my car, I put some tissues in my left pants pocket. I’d been carrying my watch in my purse, rather than wearing it, because of a rash on my left wrist. Now the thought came to me, quite distinctly and deliberately, “I’d better put my watch in my right-hand pocket so I don’t accidentally pull it out when I take out a tissue.” I put the watch in my right hand pocket, pocketed my car keys, did my usual two quick laps, returned to the car and went home to shower and write.

About two hours later I looked on the counter beside my purse for my watch, but it wasn’t there. I proceeded to scour the house for my watch, until it hit me: I had my keys in the same pocket as my watch, and I’d probably pulled the watch out of my pocket when I took the keys out on my way to the car. I sailed back to the same parking spot and re-traced my steps, but I couldn’t find my watch, nor had it been turned in to lost and found.

That watch had been a Christmas gift from my husband just a year earlier, and I felt sick when I realized I’d lost it. Then I felt angry. “What’s the deal here, God?” I cried. Why had that little voice told me to put the watch in the same pocket as my keys? At almost the same instant another question formed in my mind: “You can say God is good when you do find what you’d lost, but can you say God is good even when you don’t?”

God is still good, no matter what my circumstances are. I’d lost a watch, but the God who was with me and loved me when I found my diamond was the same God of love when I didn’t find my watch. In both losses it wasn’t what I’d lost, but what I had all along, that mattered. God’s character hadn’t changed; only my circumstances had.   I’m not saying that God engineered both situations, but I do believe that God brought me good through both situations.

And that lesson meant the world to me when I lost my Dad – something profoundly more precious than the watch or diamond or the necklace – just a few weeks later. My father was a good man who loved God dearly and lived it every day of his life. Even so, this man who prayed for healing for others had to endure five years of the slow death of Alzheimer’s.   We lost him little by little until he went home to be with his Savior. After his death, Dad’s attendants at the nursing home shared how much his kind and loving nature meant to them. How had they seen this in someone who hadn’t been able to speak for most of the two years he’d been there? It could only have been God’s Spirit in Dad, shining through in spite of his physical limitations. Though Dad’s strength faded and his brain cells diminished, his spirit stood strong and whole.

“Lost my Dad ” isn’t really the right phrase, for by the time Dad died I knew that it was what I still had – the love I’d known all those years, the godly heritage, example, and all the wonderful memories my father bequeathed to me – that mattered. If I filled my hands with anger over what had not been because of his illness, I couldn’t have held the precious treasure that was still mine. You can’t take hold of anything with a clenched fist. To hang on to our loss is to always feel lacking. To embrace what we have is to feel wealthy beyond words.

What I gained from watching Dad’s illness progress is the certainty that God’s Spirit never leaves our spirits. That certainty has given me freedom from fear. Even though my brother, sister, and I know that, thanks to heredity, we have a 50/50 chance of going the same route as Dad, in one wonderful way I’m not afraid of Alzheimer’s anymore. I know now that even if that’s what life has in store for me, even if my mind leaves me, my God won’t.

What I found and embraced that Easter season was the undying love of the living Jesus who paid the price for me and my Dad. His tireless love diligently searches for and finds us, even if we feel lost or valueless or no different from the dirt around us. He sees the jewel in us; this is the treasure that is securely ours. Jesus upholds us in his power and holds us safely to his heart when our strength fades and fails. He will not allow us to be lost. His unceasing, relentless love can transform even our deepest losses into immeasurable gain.

Advertisements

Revisiting Lost and Found

 

Lost – and Found

Rose Jackson ©7/24/2009

You may have noticed my posts are distinctly lacking in the “God is in the flowers and rainbows” flavor. In fact, more of my posts are about trials I face or disappointments in myself. This no doubt comes from the fact that, while I am every bit female, I‘ve never been a “frou-frou” girl. I look like death warmed over in pink, I simply look silly in ruffles, and though I love jewelry, the beautiful blingy cocktail rings my sweet friend Patty has given me look like a contradiction on my thin, veiny hands. An frankly, my life has been so challenge-filled since 1995 that I find little comfort in stress-busting articles that advise me to take a bubble bath or have my nails done. God IS in the flowers and rainbows, and probably in bubbles, too, but I need a God who is there to be found IN my pain, loss, anxiety, disappointments, grief, and frustrations. If He isn’t to be encountered and experienced there, then what hope do any of us have?

After I take the bubble bath and have my nails done, what has changed? Have those admittedly fun exercises changed my circumstances? If they haven’t changed my situation, have they changed me? No. And while I love bubble baths, I need something more substantial in my life. A stress-buster to me means seeing God’s hand moving to transform me in the middle of the messes my life seems to step into again and again like the ubiquitous gum in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

I long to dance in the rain – not because I’m a pessimist, but because I know rain will come. I need a God who isn’t afraid to get wet, who can transcend, transfigure, translate and transform, as the lyrics in John Mark McMillan’s moving, anointed song, “How He Loves” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Chx6s3qXKt4&feature=related powerfully declare: “When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great your affections are for me.” I need a God of grit and guts and glory. That’s who I’m encountering in this deepest trial of my life – a God of incredible, deep compassion and love – and that’s who I pray you find within these thoughts and discoveries of mine.

This post is about my father, but Susan Miller and everyone who’s lost a loved one, this one is for you, too.

“Uuuuhhhh . . . uuuhh . . . .” Dad’s mouth opened as he tried to speak. His eyes still held that “deer in the headlights” look of incomprehension so typical of Alzheimer’s patients, but I caught a spark of – what – hope? Thanks? Love? Mom, Bonnie and I were gathered around him holding his hand, once so strong and steady as he guided wood through the saw blade, but now so forceless and weak, and touching his now thin shoulders. We’d come to say good-bye.

Two days earlier Dad had developed pneumonia. This Monday morning, the day before Dad’s 75th birthday, a nurse in the Alzheimer’s unit of the nursing home had called my Mom to tell her to come quickly, as this might be Dad’s last day. I’d thrown the car into gear and flown to Mom’s house to pick her up and quickly dash up to the home. “Oh, Rosie!” was all she could get out through her sobbing. The past five years of grieving as we watched Dad steadily decline still hadn’t prepared our hearts for this day.

Surprisingly, when Mom and I arrived, Dad actually looked pretty good. He was sitting up in a chair looking apparently healthy and pretty much like he usually did. Mom and I chatted to him while the nurses worked around us. “To him” was all we could do, because Dad hadn’t been able to speak for the past two years; in fact, he hadn’t even uttered so much as a syllable on the many Sundays when my husband, our ten-year-old son and I stopped in to see him after church. Ethan had never really known Grandpa when he was well, this man who made wagons and pedal fire trucks and doll houses and so many treasures for his grandchildren before dementia robbed him of his considerable talents.

But he was still Grandpa, still my Dad, and I thought back to treasured evenings in our back yard sitting on his telescope mount as he twirled me around the stars, or standing beside him in the garage redolent with the fragrance of newly sawn pine as he showed me how to drive a nail and drill a hole in a scrap of lumber. He was still the man I loved and respected, somewhere inside there. I dared to believe that, fought to hope it was true. Mom and I stepped aside to let the nurse take Dad’s vitals. The door opened and my sister Bonnie walked into the room. The nurse gave a slight gasp as my Dad’s vital signs shot up. Bonnie hadn’t seen Dad in two years, not since he moved from his home into this skilled nursing facility. She did live quite a distance away, but it was just too painful for her to see Dad in his continually deteriorating condition. I understood completely. Bonnie had always been there for Dad and Mom over the years, and she still helped Mom every way she could.

Dad hadn’t seen her in two years, yet something in him rose up in recognition of a face he loved, and rose up so powerfully that his heart rate and respiration increased immediately!

“Should we pray with him? Should we tell him . . .?” I honestly don’t remember now which one of us voiced what we all were thinking: should we give Dad permission to go home to Jesus? Should we give him our blessing and love? Wordlessly we all agreed, gathered around Dad, and began to pray. “Thank you so much, Father, for our father, for his love, for the faith he shared so freely . . . . “

Then we said it, every eye awash in tears that flowed to the nurses in the room, too. “Dad, if you’re ready to go, we give you our blessing to go home to Heaven.” That’s when it happened: Dad tried to speak! He looked directly into our faces and said, “Uuuhhh . . . uuuhhhhhh.” Those might have been babbled syllables to anyone else, but to the tree of us, they were the voice of a beloved husband and father, struck dumb by a disease advancing brain cell by brain cell for five years, but the man still alive and vital inside, somewhere, somehow!

One by one we bent down and kissed him, hugged him, squeezed his feeble hand, and left, fairly confident that his healthy appearance meant this might be a false alarm. Two days later he died, sweetly and quietly and I believe liberated to leave the prison of his disease and go meet his fellow carpenter, his Savior Jesus.

Some people might understandable dismiss this as coincidence to which we attributed too much significance. I might, too, had it not been for a comment from one of the nurses after Dad died, and the same scene repeated exactly four weeks later over the bed of Dad’s sister, my Aunt Cine. Francine developed Alzheimer’s two years before Dad exhibited signs of the disease. She had been bedridden, fallen away to 80 pounds, unable to walk or speak, at death’s door for over a year. Mom and I went to see her on her birthday. We took her some balloons.

“Should we tell her?” Mom asked, and I agreed. “Should we tell her that her brother died?”

“Yes,” I concurred without hesitation.

Cine was in much worse shape than Dad had been, but the day Dad died, one of the nurses on Dad’s floor at his nursing home had said to me, ‘Your father was such a sweet, wonderful man. We enjoyed him so much.” How had she known that? How can you know that about someone who can’t communicate . . . unless Dad’s spirit had been able to break out of his silence and communicate somehow, quite apart from words?

So my mother and I bent down on either side of Dad’s sister, took her hands, and I softly said, “Aunt Cine, we want you to know your brother has gone on ahead of you. He’s waiting for you with Jesus. If you’re ready to go, we give you our permission and blessing to go home.”

“Uuuhhh . . . . uuuhhhh.” Her face turned up to mine, her wild yet shallow eyes looking directly into mine, and I knew she was there. She saw me. We kissed her and went home. So did Cine, the very next day.

I never gave much credence to the notion that sometimes people need permission from their loved ones to leave. I always thought your body had the deciding voice in when you die. Now I’m certain that is not always the case.

Two intelligent, resourceful, achieving, loving people, struck down by a disease so heinous and hideous that it strikes terror in the hearts of most people. Any way but that one! What could possible be the sliver lining in my father’s and my aunt’s deaths? Simply and profoundly this: no matter what disease does to our bodies or our brains, God’s Spirit never leaves our spirit. We remain, whole, intact, filled with all the life and love we’ve known and given away, whether the outside world can access it or not. And is that a meager comfort in the face of such deep loss and pain? No, even though my sister, brother and I know we live in the shadow of DNA that may spell the same end for us, especially now that our mother has vascular dementia from numerous small strokes. It is somehow a great comfort and source of hope.

Yes, I pray researchers will home in quickly on what causes and what can cure and prevent Alzheimer’s, but while I wait, I rest in the knowledge that who I truly am, who we truly are, endures above and beyond all else. Count that as an incredible, joyful, overcoming blessing!

Note as of May 5, 2010: My brother, age 67, has just been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Note January 27, 2018: Its wasn’t Alzheimer’s, but undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and  lung cancer took Dave in January 2013. Five years later, I’m remembering the amazing time I had with my brother just weeks before he went home to Jesus, and I thank God even more passionately for the certainty that this life isn’t all there is, and Heaven truly awaits all who know Jesus as Lord and Savior and the Lover of their soul.  Dave,  I can imagine the smiles on Mom’s and Dad’s faces as they ran to greet you!

GOD IS LOVE, and He still proves it to us.

 

Just a thankful amen!

Light for One Step

 

panoMingusLookoutSome things we learn theoretically when life is going smoothly are the things we’ll need to apply practically for getting through the “test” successfully when life throws ugly curves at us. I still clearly see in my mind the dark night we were walking back from the overlook  on Mingus Mountain to the youth camp. Because the ground was uneven, strewn with rocks and fallen trees, I had to shine my flashlight directly in front of me, not out ahead of me, to see what  I needed to step over or around. It occurred to me that all I needed was light for the next step. I shrugged off the knowledge that a skunk could be anxiously poised  two feet away from me, unseen in the dark, and planted each step in the patch of light I had for it.

Oh, Rose, remember! Believe!

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

Easier said than put into practice and lived, BUT, nevertheless, regardless, God has been that steady mini Maglite on my path the last eight years, even though I confess I’ve tried to shine it far ahead of me, scanning the future to see where God’s blessings might lie, and yes, missing two that were right under my feet. Did that mean God stopped loving me? Does that mean God stopped blessing me? NO!

If you’ve read this blog or look over posts of the past eight years, you read how God has been faithful to me even while the winds and waves thrashed around and towered over me. Just as He led the Israelites across the Red Sea on a miraculously dry path, God has led me into His blessings and goodness, even though I’ve wandered around as much as  they did, partly because I listened to well-meaning but unwise advice, and simply because God’s blessing didn’t look like I thought it would. Truly, “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’”… Lamentations 3: 22-25 NASB

Twice in the last five months GOD has brought HIS opportunities directly into my path. I didn’t  scan the horizon looking for them; God simply put them “right under my feet.” People came looking for me. Now it’s my job to use what God put into me, empowered by His Holy Spirit, to make the most and  best I can for God’s Kingdom purposes and victories from them.

As my friend Donna Partow wrote, “This Isn’t the Life I Signed Up For.” Hmm, well, maybe it is, and I just didn’t know it at the time I “enlisted.” What I DO know is that God IS good all the time (ironically and NOT coincidentally the title of a women’s devotional gift book I  was just asked to write for Christian Brands). O Lord, how You love me! I do call it irony, but lovingly – and firmly -You’re reminding me that 1) YOU are in charge, and 2) You love me, and 3) You see value in me, and 4) You WANT to accomplish Your purposes in me, and 5) You are good all the time and Your will for me is good, and 6) You aren’t done with me yet!

I lean into God’s Word every day because I NEED to! I NEED Jesus to be my loving Lord, Guide, Shepherd, Sword, Shield, Father, and Almighty King.

Oh you foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith…He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Galatians 3: 1-9, 14 NIV

Yesterday as soon as I awoke, three songs came into my thoughts in succession:

  • Holiness, Holiness Is What I Long For
  • The Strife Is  O’er, the Battle Won
  • Lead, Kindly Light

Holy Spirit of the Living God, speak to me (loudly, please, with mercy for my sometimes deaf ears) what You are saying in those songs, and help me to walk in the one foot of light You give me today. I pray you help my emotions, my over-active brain, and my spirit to rest and trust in the Light of the World, even twelve inches at a time.

Simply Amen! In Jesus’ name, God, get YOUR glory!