A chair, a raspberry scone, and words remembered

words hurt or helpA southern brunch in the deep south–aahh, there’s nothing like it. Shrimp, sausage and grits with gravy, hot biscuits stuffed with country ham, egg casseroles with melted cheese on top, a fruit compote with whipped cream, homemade scones dripping with butter.

my.oh.my. bring.it.on.

I can smell the aroma and taste the goodness right now. The very best part of any southern brunch gathering is being with family and friends that I don’t get to see often enough.

Yes, the food is great, but family is greater. Yes, I can still taste the food, but I savor the relationships. 

I bridge the miles between Arizona and Georgia with cherished memories that I bring back with me to tuck away in my heart. One particular memory involved a chair and a raspberry scone.

We all heaped our plates with food and sat in the dining room, kitchen area, or outside on the deck. Ten of us gathered around the dining room table as we talked non-stop to catch up with one another. My niece’s six-year-old little boy sat next to her so she could watch him closely, and carefully help him with the food on his plate. Then, in an instant, what every mom dreads happened. The raspberry scone crumbled from hand to mouth, fell in his lap, and then nestled on the beige fabric dining room chair. I could see the panic on her face as she smiled and quickly tried to brush the crumbs in a napkin, only to find the raspberries left their lovely red color imprinted on the chair.

We’ve all been in similar situations when we are in someone else’s home and we break a glass, spill coffee or red wine, or food somehow slips off our plates and hits the white sofa. Accidents happen to adults and children.

After we finished eating and everyone left the dining room, she quietly tried several different stain-removal methods – none of which seemed to work. My heart hurt for her, knowing how bad she felt about the stain on the chair. She looked up at me and said, “I’m so sorry Aunt Susan, I’ll tell Ann that I will pay to have the chair repaired.”

At that moment I realized what a serious issue this was in her mind and how it could quickly ruin her day. How I responded could either defuse the situation and put it in perspective, or lead her to remember the incident more than the wonderful time we were all having together.

Without hesitation I said, “Hey girl, flaws build character in a chair, and messes like this make memories!” She looked up at me, smiled, and said, “Yes, I guess it does.” Her spirit seemed lifted and we spent the rest of the day not mentioning the chair or the raspberries.

I quickly forgot about the raspberries and the chair after I came back home, and settled in to my crazy, but wonderful ministry life.  I received a text last week from my niece with some family pictures taken during our day together. It was what she said in her text that brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of the impact we have on others by the words we choose to say. “Thank you for the kind and supportive words you shared over the raspberry stain. I have repeated those words to myself every day since Sunday. It is such a wonderful reminder that it is the flaws that really make us and the messes make the memories.”

Oh, how many times I’ve blown a situation and hurt someone I love by choosing to react in a harsh voice, rather than respond in a loving manner. Our words can hurt or heal, encourage or discourage, build up or tear down, and can make or break someone’s day–or heart.

O Lord, may this be a reminder to me, and perhaps to you also, to be sensitive, kind, and caring in a sticky situation. May we never forget that the words we choose to say can make an impact on someone’s life and be long remembered.

…Say only what is good and helpful to those you are talking to, and what will give them a blessing. Ephesians 4:29 TLB

Susan MillerFrom My Heart to Yours,

 

Susan Miller

The Woman with the Red Purse and How My Life Changed

bad news in the hospitalIt was a visual  picture that will be forever imprinted in my mind. She was an attractive, petite woman in her mid-forties, with shoulder-length black hair, white blouse, and a dark colored pencil-thin skirt. My eyes were drawn to  her large red purse as she walked down the long corridor. It seemed almost too big in proportion to her small size. I guess I needed to focus on something other than my thoughts. As she walked closer, I could tell she was coming towards us, especially since my daughter and I were the only two people sitting in the waiting area.

There wasn’t a smile on her face when she introduced herself. It was obvious the news she was going to tell us was not good. “I’m so sorry”, she said. “There’s nothing we can do. The cancer has spread….”

I wouldn’t let the reality of her words penetrate my mind, not now. I went into a mama’s protection mode as I pushed back my own feelings to be strong for my daughter.  “We’ll get through this, we’ll get through this”, I kept saying.  Even though I didn’t believe my own words, I said them anyway. After all,  this was her daddy the surgeon was talking about. My husband of 45 years, but her daddy that she adored.  What I really wanted to do was run down the long corridor screaming “no, no, no…”

This seemingly empty section of the hospital and surgical waiting room suddenly seemed very cold, and I began to shake as I often do when I am chilled to the bone. I began to feel the chill of the surgeon’s words pierce my heart. “A  rare, aggressive  form of colon cancer that has spread to the liver and beyond….” 

I knew this was something I couldn’t fix with words, a hug, or a kiss. I knew I needed to lean into Jesus–no, fall into Jesus, like I’d never done before.

I felt numb as I pushed away the reality of losing Bill.  I knew the only way I could physically take another step, or emotionally face the time we had left, was by breathing in Jesus and His word with every breath I took. In the days ahead when I felt weak, His strength became my strength. When my sorrow was uncontrollable, His comfort sustained me. When I was overwhelmed, His peace filled me.  He wiped away my nightly  tears of grief with a smile to face each day.  

Jesus still does that today, seven years later.  

Bill lived four agonizing months after his diagnosis on a Good Friday and emergency surgery on an Easter Sunday.  I never left his side. Our love for each other seemed to permeate our hospital wing and hospice.  Bill radiated Jesus with every word he spoke to the doctors and nurses. When anyone asked him what he did, he would always say, “I am a Christ-follower.”  His love and concern for me, and my love and care for him became a testimony of our devotion to each other.

I recently saw the surgeon who carried the red purse and stopped to introduce myself, knowing she couldn’t possibly remember all her patients.  “Oh yes”, she said, “I remember you, your husband, and your two children. You were quite an unforgettable family and your husband was a remarkable man.  He had such peace, even as he faced death.  He always managed to smile, even when he was in pain, and  there was an inner strength in him as his body weakened.”

As I sat in church every Easter for the last seven years, I would vividly remember that Sunday as the beginning of a life change and loss that rocked my world – and our children’s world –  to the core. But, I also remember that it is because of our risen Savior, that I will see my Bill again, face to face, in Heaven.  There will be no disease, no suffering and no pain – only the joy of being reunited together again.

Then, with tears and a smile, I sing deep from within my soul, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow….”  

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller

“I am not skilled to understand what God has willed, what God has planned. I only know at His right hand is one who is my Savior.”

(Words from an old hymn given to me by a beloved friend on August 9, 2009, the day Bill went home to be with Jesus.)