The Nickel

Hot cup of coffee by Markus Spiske is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

As I retrieved my Cappuccino and turned to walk to my table, I caught a glimpse of a man wiping down tables with paper napkins.  He was an older gentleman dressed in shabby black trousers and an equally shabby coat zipped up to his neck.  It appeared that he had at least two shirts on under the coat – he was dressed for the cold weather.  The clothes were threadbare and looked as if they might have been worn for several days.  

I had stopped into my favorite coffee shop/bookstore for a warm beverage and quality “me” time.  As I sipped my coffee I looked up at him again as he continued around to all of the unoccupied tables wiping them off.  At first, I wondered if he was an employee but he certainly didn’t look like the other young millennial employees busy taking orders and pressing the steam button while making fancy coffee at the espresso machine.  He looked much more like someone you would see on the street; maybe even homeless.  I went back to my coffee and magazine and after a few minutes, I saw him again.  As he walked by a table he stopped briefly and placed something on the table.  He walked down each row doing the same thing to all of the occupied tables. As he passed he silently placed something on my table.  I looked up and saw that it was a shiny nickel.  Before I could figure out what had happened and raise my head to say thank you he was gone.  He didn’t linger at any table or make eye contact.  He was not looking for someone to talk to or seeking gratification for what he was doing.  I watched him walk by the last three tables and then he went on his way.  I continued to look around for him but he was gone and I never saw him again.

As I picked up the nickel, the words “random acts of kindness” entered my brain and my heart.  I looked around and the young girl at the next table looked at me with the same kind of quizzical look in her eyes.  I just smiled and began to notice how other recipients were responding to this simple, yet amazing gesture. I observed one couple sitting at a corner table while they laughed and rolled their eyes and seemed to make fun of the simple act.  Some ignored it while others seemed to have the same reaction that I did – that of wonder and amazement at how special a simple act of kindness – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant – could be. This man, who had little, gave what he could in action and money?

I was reminded of the woman in the Bible that was observed by Jesus. She was a widow who, at that time, held a very low position with no source of income and little hope. Jesus sat watching people go by and insert their offering in the receptacle, which was probably a large pottery jar. He saw rich people insert great sums of money and then the widow insert two coins. These copper coins were about 1/128th of a denarius which was a day’s wage for a laborer. Jesus was amazed at this and told his disciples that “this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box, for they all contributed out of their abundance but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44) Throughout scripture, God’s people are instructed to take care of orphans and widows. They were the marginalized of the culture with no family and no means of support. I think this simple story of just 4 verses is disproportionally profound in meaning and scope. Ann Voskamp reflects on this passage saying that

“When we give, we too often give only what ensures that we don’t lose comfort or control. But when the widow gave her mites, she gave not only her money but her marrow. She gave away not only her comfort but her control. She gave till she had to trust God.”

This truth not only applies to the giving of our income but also to the giving of our time, our gifts, and our love.  As a society, we are so obsessed with comfort and control that we protect them vehemently.  Just look at our beds for example.  We spend a great deal on just the right mattress, sheets, and pillows.  Some mattresses promise a good night’s sleep and lack of pain and even protect against your spouse by offering different levels of firmness to help with snoring.  Walk down the pillow aisles (yes usually more than one) of a home store to see the offerings of firmness, stuffing material, and shape.  I won’t even mention the sheets in their varying thread count. Now don’t get me wrong I have strong opinions about what gives me the greatest comfort and therefore the best night’s sleep but I just mention this to point out that we like to be comfortable. From our housing, furnishings, cars, and vacations much of our time and money is spent in the pursuit of comfort.  This isn’t wrong as long as we see it in perspective. Giving our money to our church, mission organization, or charitable organization may impact our comfort.  Moreover, the time that we give in service may impact what we are used to in free time or the comforts of home if we pursue mission trips. Using our gifts for God’s glory may also require the loss of comfort and especially control.  I believe that God gave me the ability to write but many times I do not share what I write because I worry about what others will think — my grammar is not perfect, my wording is not as well crafted as other writers that I admire, someone may not agree with my opinions and beliefs —- sharing my writing means sharing my soul (wow that sounded melodramatic) and to do so I have to trust that God will use and direct my writing and use it to encourage others. I’m sure you can identify with me in some way.  I struggle with this because I struggle with trusting God but I find that He continues to remind me of this fact and pulls me out of my comfort zone.  

I finished up my coffee and magazine and started to leave – I noticed on the table next to me – where the young girl who I had made eye contact with after seeing our coins had been sitting.  In the middle of her table, she had placed a clean napkin with her nickel placed in the middle of the napkin. I held mine in my hand wondering if I should do the same but decided to keep it as a reminder to extend kindness to others even if it meant a loss of comfort or control.

A funny thing happened as I waited for Rick to pick me up; everyone I ran into had a smile on their face and kind words.  Could they have received a nickel as well or had I just gotten out of myself to make eye contact and speak to people? So often we just go through our activities wrapped up in our little world that we forget how many people could benefit from a smile, a kind word, an intentional act, or even a random act of kindness.

There is no way I can know where this gentleman’s motivation came from but my guess is that he loved his Lord and wanted to please him. This desire was stronger than the embarrassment of being in a place where he was perceived as not belonging. It was stronger than the risk of sneers over his humble act of service and his small gifts. This kind of desire could come from the spirit of God and the hope of eternity living in his soul.

I think about myself sitting at the table enjoying my expensive cup of coffee and withdrawing into my shell of comfort while wanting to shut out those around me. I’m an introvert so this can be my happy place. I continue to remember this man, who just like the widow, gave a gift that transcended comfort and control and find encouragement to use my gifts, time, and money to encourage others, even if it means looking up from my coffee to offer a smile.

My prayer today is that my love would increase, with the power of God and the hope of my salvation, so that I might be worthy of the shiny nickel placed on my table.

A Light Unto My Path

I wanted to have a snappy introductory paragraph to grab my readers’ attention so I begin to do research on Christian symbols, namely the cross and the fish (Ichthys), in hopes of opening with a little history.  However, I realized that the research was leading me down the rabbit’s hole of debate and heated arguments over the history and cultural aspects of these symbols.  As I said in my first blog post, I am not here to debate, but to tell my stories. cross book There are pages and pages on the internet about the history and use of Christian symbols and while some do have merit and while I am aware of the controversies and debates over wearing a cross as jewelry or having the outline of a fish on your bumper, my story is about how God used these symbols, as well as others, in our journey of fighting my husband’s cancer.  Up to that point in my life, it was the most frightening and difficult time that I had faced.  I needed God’s strength and guidance more than ever before.

Rick and I both sat dazed on the hard plastic chairs in the empty medical clinic.  It was almost closing time and we had already had a day filled with gut-wrenching news that Rick did, in fact, have cancer.  We had no details about where it was or how far it had progressed.  Our family doctor had sent us to a free clinic because Rick’s current job as a car salesman did not provide health insurance.  Going to this free clinic was a formality in order to be sent to the local medical center which happened to be one of the best in the state.  As Rick sat with a blank look on his face, I was at the front desk receiving instructions about what we were to do next.  I was literally and physically shaking.

The lady looked up at me with kind eyes and said, “Sweetie, why are you trembling?”

I replied with the only words that would come out of my mouth, “I’m scared.” What an understatement!  As I looked at her for what seemed like the first time, I noticed her cross necklace as my eyes moved to meet her’s and she said,

“Give this to God; it’s too big for you.”

Within the next two days Rick was taken from one test to the next.  At first the doctors believed that the cancer was in his colon so we met with a specialist and to our surprise he offered to pray with us before we left.

After more tests and sleepless nights, Rick was finally diagnosed with stomach cancer.  It seemed as if we were just floating through time, in shock and disbelief.  Because of my diagnosis of Lupus and Fibromyalgia early in our marriage, Rick was always the strong one – the one who took care of me, and now I needed to find the strength and courage to be his caregiver and take care of all of our financial needs for the next several months.  We were told that he would need surgery and were stunned to find out that the surgeon would need to remove his whole stomach. So many questions formed in my mind, foremost how could anyone live without a stomach and how could I possibly live without my husband, friend, and love of my life. I kept asking the surgeon, with desperation,  for a timeline or a guarantee that Rick would survive, but he could offer neither. Although I had no promises from the doctors, I continued to see little signs here and there that God was my hope.

path 2

 

On the day of the surgery, I sat with Rick as we waited silently for it to begin.  Our pastor had already prayed over him and an Anesthesiologist came in and explained to us what he would be doing before and during the surgery.  As he wheeled Rick away I got a glimpse of his silver ring with the shape of a fish.  It was at that point that I realized that God was providing a road map, a path lit with strength and perseverance.  I felt that he was telling me that He was with us and that He would be with us every step of the way.  I walked into the waiting room and saw the familiar faces of family, friends, our pastors and other church leaders.  I held on to the signs that God had given me as we waited and prayed.   After what seemed like a lifetime, the nurse called a few of us back to talk to the surgeon.  Rick had made it through the surgery but we would have to wait a few days to find out if the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes.  From what I had read, if his lymph nodes were clear then we would be in good shape.  The biopsies came back and the cancer had spread to 60%  of his lymph nodes.  My heart sunk.  Again, I begged the surgeon to give me hope, but he could not.  I cried out to God to save him.

Rick spent 19 days in the hospital due to complications from the surgery.  When we finally got to go home, it was with the news that the surgery was only the first step; he would need chemotherapy as well as radiation to treat the remaining cancer cells.  It broke my heart as I watched him bravely endure the treatments as well as learning how to eat with no stomach.

Even with all of the fear and uncertainty, all along the journey we would continue to receive little signs that God was in control and that He was our strength.  For example, the first day in the chemo lab we were greeted by a sweet and funny nurse who would be with us for all of the treatments.  She always wore a pin that said “God is in control”.  Each time I sat with Rick during the treatments, that pin gave me hope.img_3923

During the first year when everything was so uncertain, Rick read and studied the book of Job.  God spoke to him in a huge way and his relationship grew to be stronger than it had ever been.  Although we were in the middle of a whirlwind of  doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, and trying to take care of our two teenage daughters, Rick had a quiet, still spirit.  A friend insisted that we attend a day retreat and although we couldn’t stay long, we won a door prize.  It was a large cross with the word “TRUST” written on it.  Every time a new problem would come up I would hear God’s voice saying to just trust Him.  He gave me my miracle; Rick has been cancer free for 12 years.

I have other stories from this season of our lives, stories of how a church came together to support us during our worst nightmare, stories of growth in not only Rick but also in my daughters, and the many prayer warriors who were devoted to Rick’s recovery.  I hope to continue to share my stories, in no order, just as God directs.

It’s not easy to completely put your faith in God’s plans and although we had a happy ending to this chapter, not all of my stories end in the way that I would want.  But my stories really aren’t about me – they are about Him and His glory.

If you are in a season of conflict or uncertainty, keep your eyes open and God will direct you, maybe not in the same way that he did for me, but He will show you that He is in control and He will give you the strength to walk through the worst times of your life.  It’s all a matter of hanging on, if by only a thread, to the promise that He loves us and knows what is best, not just for us, but for building his kingdom.

One of my passions is praying and encouraging others who are struggling with pain and uncertainty.  I would be honored to pray for you or someone you know.  You can leave a comment or send me an email.

“Cast your anxiety on the Lord because He cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

Words in My Head

Welcome to my blog and my first post. My name is Meschill. I’m 55 and it’s time to tell my stories and thoughts from the mass of mangled words floating around in my brain.

How to begin?

Write, just write. Be brave.

Move my pen and the words will come.

 

2016-06-15 13.02.15I’m starting this blog because I’ve had some struggles in my life, both minor and beyond major. I know I am not alone and that some Moms out there have faced and are currently facing more trials than I can possibly imagine. Through my own trials and over time, I have learned about how God uses every one of our struggles and most of all, I have experienced God’s perfect grace. I have shared some of my stories with family and a few friends.  I have also shared them with others who desperately needed encouragement to find God’s grace in the midst of the worst possible loss. I’ve known for a long time that God would ask me to share my tears, my doubts, my memories, my musings and my tiny moments of perfect clarity in the midst of my helplessness.

2012-06-02 09.31.21I am a new blogger so I can guarantee my blog will not be the prettiest , with perfect pictures. There may be a typo or two and a word used too many times, (where is that thesaurus anyway?), but I will promise that my writing will come from my heart. I don’t plan to debate theology, the role of women, or politics. I’m simply here to share and encourage.

Through my upcoming posts I will write about my triumphs and failures at being a mom to my  two beautiful daughters and wife to my amazing husband of 30+ years.  I will also share my lessons learned from working with children through college age in ministry, my thoughts from Bible study and a miracle or two. I might include posts about my love of scrapbooking, rubberstamping, shabby chicness (I just made up that word), entertaining and living in the mountains of North Carolina.2017-05-10 14.49.56-1

I will also share my worst moments, being diagnosed and living with chronic disease, my family’s struggle during times of financial difficulties, my husband’s journey through cancer, my fear of watching my mom fight dementia, and the loss of my beautiful, nineteen year old daughter.

My hope is that my stories and musings will reach those who are in need of encouragement and grace and that God would speak to them through my writing. I want to touch not only the lives of those Moms, who like me, have experienced the unbearable pain of losing a child, but also Mom’s of all ages who are striving to just live their lives in the shadow of the cross. I pray that God will give me the courage to write. I’m not sure where this journey will take us. I’m no one special, just someone who has seen God’s strength in my weaknesses.

Through my struggles, both big and small, I have come to realize that God’s grace really is all I need.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV