Thanksgiving 2017

Thanksgiving, ​This day in November of the year 1621, when the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians gathered at Plymouth to give thanks to the Almighty for their survival and a bountiful harvest.

This Thanksgiving I too give thanks for my survival, the culmination of a decade of hardship, loss, sickness and death. I Watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles for the first time in years, a long tradition abandoned after Tricia’s passing. To be honest I wasn’t sure I would ever want to celebrate the holiday again and I am stunned at the developments of this year. 

The year began with an injury severe enough to prevent me from my usual duties unloading trucks at Walmart, another winter of wretched survival and the terrible isolation of life in a 1971 camper trailer.

This Thanksgiving finds me in a new home in a new town with a new career, surrounded by friends and family and a turkey baking in the oven. I know none of this would be possible without a miracle crafted in Heaven by the Almighty Himself and there are no words to describe how grateful I am.

I am well aware however, that there are many still living in quiet desperation who will not be celebrating in comfort this year and it is my fervent prayer that the Lord will sustain them through the hard times as he did me.

 “I will give you beauty for ashes and turn your morning into dancing.”

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Measuring God’s Will

In every situation that arises I try to make sure I am in God’s will… that I am doing what God would have me to do. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell, many times I don’t want to do what God wants because it is contrary to what I want, it is contrary to what makes sense. Sometimes it’s even contrary to what appears to be good for me. In those cases I always have the hope that God will bless me for what I have done and make my obedience worth the trouble.

Many times I find however that He does not. Sometimes it appears that my only reward for doing His will is hardship. So yesterday on a particularly bad day that I was having, I was filled with doubt about my course of action over the last couple or three years. Pain and hardship appear to have been my reward for what I believe was following God’s will.

So maybe it wasn’t God’s will? Perhaps God is angry and punishing me for my choices… perhaps they were the wrong choices, maybe I should have spent more time taking care of myself? Maybe my time and money has been wasted. Surely if I had been doing God’s will He would have blessed me by now so that I would know I was on the right path?

But maybe that isn’t the way to measure God’s will. Hosea 6:6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. Of course we don’t sacrifice burnt offerings anymore, but what exactly does the verse mean? Sacrifice in the time of Hosea was a mindless ritual. A ritual performed with little cost to the giver, a meaningless trinket thrown to God out of habit. A few dollars in the offering plate, a bake sale to raise funds for the church, an afternoon with the church kids at the park? All good things of course, but nothing too costly, risky or difficult.

What of the other side of that verse, “I desire mercy”. Maybe God’s will can be measured another way… maybe it can be measured in suffering eased in another person’s life. Maybe it can be measured by the results in another persons life? Maybe rather than looking back trying to measure God’s blessing on my own life for what I have done, I can look back and wonder what would have happened if I wasn’t there, what turns would someone’s life have taken without my hand, my experience, my strength and my skills? How would things be different if I had not chosen to be merciful?

When I look at things that way, it becomes obvious that I have taken the proper course, that everything I have learned and experienced has worked together to prepare me for the next moment, a moment that could be critical in the life of someone else. And maybe our reward will only be the satisfaction of seeing suffering and hardship averted in another life.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography.

Therapeutic

Today is a cold dreary rainy snowy day and sitting at home was just too depressing so I thought the coffee shop in downtown Woodland Park would be nice. There is a table there that I consider mine, the one right by the south window where I can sit and look at Pikes Peak. Today my table was available and as I sat there looking out at the snow I was reminded of the very first time I went there. We were still moving to the mountains and there was one day when the weather was bad and we decided to just take a break from moving and stop in there for breakfast.

I also remembered a time when I had stopped in there when Tricia had gone to Kansas to visit her family and we were kind of thinking it was going to be to say goodbye. I didn’t actually expect her to come back. I remember sitting there talking to God and trying to come up with some sort of plan for my life without her. As I sat there today I realized I couldn’t remember what year that was, or what came before it or after it. My memory of the course of events has already begun to fade and it was bugging me because I’m not ready to let it go yet.

So I resolved to come home and write down the chronology of our years together so that I would not lose it. As I wrote, I remembered the fuzzy time period around then as well as many other important times from our 26 years together. Turns out that I had forgotten that we had signed a second year lease on our first place in Woodland Park that I forgot about and it made me feel like I was missing a year. I was also starting to forget some names of people that have played an important part in our lives over the years. Now it is all on paper, so to speak, and I find that I have suddenly been able to quit thinking about it. It’s like it can be sealed and put away. I know it won’t be forgotten because if I want to I can get it out and look at it to refresh my mind. But for now it is behind me and that is a good thing.

Memories

Haunted by memories, that’s what I’m noticing these days. At first I didn’t notice it too much because I was already feeling bad anyway and I was busy with my nose to the grindstone moving out of the old place and into the new. Now the pressure for the move is off and I am finding time to do some other things that I enjoy. However, I am also finding that all the places I enjoy and all the things I like to do are reminding me of the partner I no longer have.

The Colorado Springs area was always our special place. We lived in a subdivision south of Parker and it was only a quick 45 minute drive down highway 83 to the Springs and many of our favorite things to do. We loved coming down here to avoid the Denver traffic and do our shopping. We had some favorite restaurants and enjoyed going to the health food stores for our groceries. We especially liked Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City where we would walk the downtown and enjoy a coffee somewhere. Then of course we finally moved down here and settled in Woodland Park. We didn’t have too many good memories of this town though, pretty much just hardship and suffering since the day we arrived. It is also a small town, so it didn’t take to long to find and do pretty much everything fun to do here.

The other day I was out and about and needed to stop in and use some wifi to upload my pictures, so I stopped in at the coffee shop where she liked to go. At the end it was about the only place she could go, as there was a recliner chair there with a footrest attachment and huge south facing windows. The sun would shine in and she could sit in that chair and get warm. The cancer robbed so much of her energy that she was always cold, but at the coffee shop she could sit there and enjoy some warm time. So anyway as I sat there I could not help but notice the empty recliner and it was too much to bear. I finished my uploads and got out as fast as I could. The library is the same way. Before she got too sick, she loved going there and looking at magazines and picking out movies. Now I don’t like going there and I don’t even like watching movies anymore. My friends were our friends, the church was our church. Today I went to the Greek Grill in the Springs that we used to go back in the “good times”. Same thing, but I was hungry and needed something good, so it was worth the pain. The girls at the counter hadn’t heard and both cried when they asked about her and I could only shake my head.

I don’t know how to deal with this, except that I am getting rid of everything as fast as I can in case I just have to leave this place. I wonder how many other people have just had to leave somewhere and get a completely new start? I wonder if it would even work. I wonder if I stay here long enough if the bad feelings will pass. Sometimes I wonder why I’d even want to stay here. Time will tell.

Scrambled Brains

Woke up early this morning with my mind running hard. For some reason I was thinking it was the 17th already and that I had missed making mention of the training kickoff of the Patriots’ Festival bike race, which is the 16th. Then I felt the gut wrenching fear that I had forgotten to  do my taxes which is what finally woke me up completely. Of course today is only the 15th of March, it isn’t tax day yet and training for the bike race doesn’t open for another month. So today is Sunday, church day, and also the day young Rachel’s family is going to come and get Tricia’s power chair for her. I hope this small legacy of Tricia’s suffering can make her life a bit better.

So once I get some coffee down it looks like I have my work cut out for me this morning. I have turned this place upside down getting ready to move out and the front door is completely blocked with the stuff that is prematurely ready to go out. Now I am going to have to clear that all away, find the parts to the chair, remember how to drive it and get it out the front door, all before church. Pastor Robert is working out of town for the gas company and will only be in town today so I need to get with him to plan Tricia’s memorial. Then I have to get back home in time to meet Rachel’s family get  the chair.

I know Tricia will be smiling in heaven as a result of Rachel having the chair. Even in the depths of the valleys of her suffering she had so much love and compassion for Rachel, of course knowing how difficult life without legs can be. She also admired her greatly for continuing to love and praise Jesus in the middle of her storm, even when the Walls are Shaking. So today is going to be a busy day, but I think it is going to be a good day as well.

The Gift

As I have been going about the business of moving on I have also been stopping in at all the places Tricia liked to make sure everyone has been informed of the sad news. In doing so I have been continually astonished at the effect her life, her suffering and her passing have had on all those who came in contact with her.

Everyone who knew her was impressed by her faith, perseverance, hope and joy. Her Christian friends say that she taught them how to be a Christian, how to believe and hope when it looked as if there was no hope. Her non Christian friends remember her big smile and thumbs up trademark that were never dampened by her suffering and never subject to her circumstances. It is apparent from the looks on their faces and in their eyes that they know that her spirit was being carried by a force greater than anything this world could throw at her.

Her life and her death have changed people. Her friends see the world differently now. Many have commented that they now regard their own problems as small and I can quote many as saying “When I think of my problems I think of you and it makes my problems seem like nothing.”.

So the gift she left us is the gift of faith, an ability to look beyond the problems of the day and to something greater. A closer connection to the life beyond and a closer bond with everyone who participated, from the one who opened a door for the wheelchair to the one who came and sat with her in our home, to those who took timeout to call or email and pray and to those who were able to help out financially. And most of all to our church family who provided the solid rock to stand on when everything else was being shaken.

Suffering

I don’t do this often as I try to stick to uplifting subjects that fall within my outdoor recreation and adventure expertise, but every once in a while I am compelled to set the record straight on bible quotes. As the caregiver to a person battling cancer I frequently am subjected to alleged words of wisdom from the bible. Sometimes the verses are  taken out of context and sometimes they are simply mistranslated by misguided attempts at clarification by new versions.

The one I have been hearing a lot lately is actually a partial quote of a mistranslated verse and is as follows, “And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear”. This glib declaration sounds pretty good… God is in control and is careful to make sure we don’t suffer too much. But this of course is ridiculous as people all over the world are routinely forced to suffer more than they can bear. People suffer horrible diseases and were it not for modern pain killers they would often die screaming in agony. People in foreign countries are tortured and killed all the time and whether they bear it or not is decided only by the cruelty of their captors who through their own freedom of choice force them to. People lose limbs or are paralyzed in car accidents, injured in work related incidents and suffer unimaginable pain from accidents of all kinds. So the statement that God will not allow more than people can bear is simply not true.

The full and more accurate translation of the verse used to promote this misconception is provided by the King James Bible and does not relate to suffering at all, but to temptation and sin. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” God is simply telling us that all our excuses for sinning are weak and there is a way out if we are willing to walk away. It has nothing to do with the suffering of another, only the degree of our own character and action that we ourselves might take in a time of weakness.

So the next time you are tempted to tell someone that God will not allow more than they can bear, just remember God may be calling you at that moment to make the difference between the bearable and the unbearable in that person’s life.