Needy Chicks

 

When my husband was a young boy, he lived down the road from his grandfather’s farm.  One morning Grandpa called and asked him to come as soon as possible.  He needed help because the chicken coop had burned the night before.  The fire department had been called.  They put out the fire but there was a mess to be cleaned up.

What my husband saw is still imprinted on his heart.  The yard was a mess.  The carefully constructed coop was destroyed.  But worst of all, the beautiful Rhode Island Red roosters and  hens with their colorful, fluffy feathers – those hens which had provided eggs for the family were dead.  All of them.

But it was when Grandpa scraped his heavy shoe to move the carcass of a dead hen that a picture of God’s sweet provision broke through.

Nestled under the wings of that charred hen were six little yellow chicks.  Scared, but alive. Their mother had died in the fire, but they were hidden under her downy wings and did not suffocate or burn.  When Grandpa’s shoe freed them, they scurried across the yard looking for something to eat.

That story always reminds me of the Scripture in Matthew where Jesus says, “…how often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

Jesus gives us this comforting, nurturing chick statement as he is agonizing.  Agonizing over those in spiritual leadership who dictate what it means to love God from their own personal biases.   This beautiful picture of love and compassion is given right after he has spared no words to let hypocritics know what he thinks of their arrogant attitudes.  Jesus tells the crowd to obey them as far as the law is concerned because they have authority.  But he quickly adds, “Do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

I expect Jesus to agonize over the needy.  His words and actions confirm that throughout the gospels.  But here I see Jesus agonizing over those who feel they have no need.  He longs to gather under his wings those who have an incessant need to be unneedy.  And he sees this un-neediness as destructive to the human spirit as the fire in the chicken coop. He desires to gather them to himself.  But they were not willing.  Too busy.  Too important.  Too pre-occupied.  Too distracted.  Too perfect.

I guess there is a place for all of us in these few sentences.  We all need compassion, whether we know we have a need or have no idea we have a need.  And at some point, perhaps we all long to be gathered as chicks beneath the wings of the one who loves us and protects us from all which would destroy us. 

Love, Ruth

Ruth Vander Zee
Author of WOMAN MEETS JESUS
Journey of Faith

 

Joy Comes in the Mourning

Grief often enters our lives in painful ways.  And it seems that during the holidays, although touted as being the “most, wonderful time of the year,” although all images suggest that glitter and joy abound, the reality is that sadness often lives close to our hearts and dims the joy we feel.  The sadness sometime gets drowned out by LED lights and jingly music, but  it is still there.

I participated in a conference which was led by Jako Hamman, PhD*  from Western Theological Seminary who spoke on the subject of grief. Eloquently.  Sensitively.

He spoke, not only on the grief of the death of a loved one, but of other griefs we all share – sometimes on a daily basis – griefs which affect us on our journey in small and gargantuan ways.

Sometimes it’s the loss of things – either money, investments, a trinket to which we have some emotional attachment, down-sizing, a wedding ring, a favorite chair which gets tossed in the remodeling…whatever. 

Sometimes it’s the loss of a significant relationship  -  a misunderstanding, a thoughtless comment, a hurtful act which changes everything between two people - break-ups in business, families, marriages, friendships.

Sometimes it’s the loss of a dream – perhaps one you’ve had since childhood – that either never materialized or has been dashed to small bits.

Losses can be gut-wrenching when we realize we’re not quite as healthy as we once were.   We just can’t do what we once could.  Or we’re not as relevant as we’ve been in the past.  The phone doesn’t ring anymore with someone asking for our input.  Someone new is at the hub of all the activity and we are relegated to the sidelines – marginalized.

Losses hurt.  We grieve. And we grieve again. And we grieve some more.

Grief is a normal response to loss and change.

But somehow, it seems that our natural inclination is to not move toward our grief.  Who wants to go to the place our heart hurts the worst. The idea of running to grief is counter-intuitive.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather avoid grief.  Because grief just plain hurts!

Somewhere along the journey, through the grace of God, someone may come along and help us walk straight into our grief.  Someone may listen and assist us in lamenting our loss.  Someone may help us mourn. Really mourn.  Because mourning – acknowledging the loss – admitting to the despair – accepting that the way it was will never be again – can lead to a glimmer of hope. Someone may say just the right word.  Someone may share a Scripture that speaks directly to us.  Someone may say nothing, just be there.  And little by little, a light can break in at the end of a very long tunnel with, as we take one small step after another, a new, albeit different, possibility.

And maybe, just maybe, joy may come in the mourning.

Love, Ruth

Ruth Vander Zee
Author of WOMAN MEETS JESUS
Journey of Faith

*author of When Steeples Cry

 

 

 

FTD is Not a Bouquet of Flowers

FTD is Not a Bouquet of Flowers

If I get a delivery at my door with Mercury Man on the logo of the box, I am thrilled.  That means someone thought of me and ordered flowers from Florists’ Transworld Delivery which is more affectionately known as FTD.

But for my friends who had dinner at my home last night FTD means something grim.  For them it is a 24/7, day after day, month after month, and year after year watching someone they love slowly slip away.  FTD (FrontoTemporal Dementia) has knocked on their door and is not going away.  And, believe me, it did not leave a bouquet of flowers.

FTD first expresses itself in the person you love in apathy which is often mistaken for depression.  Later the person with FTD becomes increasingly self-centered, withdrawn, unaware of the emotions of others, and they become disinterested in hobbies and interests which previously occupied their time.

As if that is not bad enough, as the disease progresses, inhibitions disappear and the person you love becomes impulsive, hugging and kissing strangers, overeating-especially anything sweet, expressing frustration with frequent inappropriate outbursts.    The person with FTD lives an unfiltered life without boundaries of propriety or pattern.

My friend who now has this terrible disease has loved her husband, raised her children, worked tirelessly in the church, used the gifts of music God gave her.  She cooked for her family, baked countless strips of banket ( a flakey crusted – at least hers was flakey – pastry filled with almond paste and sugar), and did countless deeds of kindness for those around her.

And now she is like a small child, always outwitting the adults around her with irrational acts.

But this is what I saw in my home on Sunday night.  I saw a woman who with all her childlike behavior was indescribably cared for by her husband, her sister and her brother-in-law.  They keep her looking pretty even though that is no longer important to her.  They distracted her when she became anxious about what was going on and when for the tenth time she asked if she could brush her teeth,  included her in the conversation, gave answers to her many questions, led her away from things which could harm her, and validated her.

I saw the grace of Jesus pervading every inch of my home through the sweet gratitude of the child-woman and the unashamed kindness of her care-givers.  Their tears are private. Their patience is tried but still true.  Their sense of is humor intact.  Their unwavering faith is strong.  But their journey is long and tiring.  And they don’t see light at the end of the tunnel as far as any “getting better” is concerned.  She will only get worse.  There is no cure for her FTD.

But they know the Jesus who heals the heart even when there is “no human cure.”  They have heard him say, “You can go in peace into the uncharted territory of the FTD afflicting the one you love.  Your faith has healed you.”

I think I’ll send them some flowers from FTD.

Love, Ruth

PS.  The family’s only regret is that they did not understand what was going on early in the disease.  They hope that if there is someone in your life who, at a rather young age, has unexplained behaviors, you will go to the following sites for information. www.ftd-picks.org, info@ftd-picks.org

Love, Ruth

Ruth Vander Zee
Author of WOMAN MEETS JESUS
Journey of Faith

We All Get By With A Little Help From our Friends

Writing a book brings to the surface almost every personal insecurity I knew lived in the nooks and crannies of my heart and a few I never even knew I had.  I wondered who in the world would take the time to brew some coffee, sit in a chair in the middle of the hecticness of life, and read what I wrote.  It felt like sheer arrogance to think that I had anything to say that would bless someone.

But I love to write and so I write.

And then Quentin Schultze at Edenridge Press said he loved the book and would publish it and Matt Plescher told me he was honored to spend hours designing it and creating a beautiful book jacket.  That was sooo encouraging.

Readers read and commented.  My Bible Study group went through the book with me and helped me see what needed changing and what communicated.  My husband encouraged me saying, “This is good stuff.”

And then Quentin asked Mary Darling and Caryn Rivadneira to write the forward and preface.  I have never met or spoken to Mary.  She co-authors books with Tony Campolo and teaches communications at Spring Arbor University.  Caryn is the daughter of my dear friend Cathy and is an author of some pretty amazing books. Check out Grumble Hallelujah: Learning to Love Your Life Even When It Lets You Down.

When I read what they wrote, I was blessed.  They encouraged me.  More than they’ll ever know.

And that’s the point.

In every insecurity, we need friends.  We need friends to come along beside us.  To encourage us along the way.  To help us put one foot in front of the other.

And our friends need us.  That’s one reason we are where we are. To come alongside those who plop into our lives in the convenient and inconvenient times.  To encourage.  To help them put one foot in front of the other.

Right after I sent out a facebook announcement on Woman Meets Jesus, a dear friend wrote to say that she and her husband are going through the most unexpected hurt, disappointment, and betrayal they NEVER expected.  She said she wanted to go throughmy book with a group of friends.  Friends she has already gathered because she knows she can’t go through what she’s going through alone.

So thank you to all my old friends, my new friends, and some friends I haven’t even met who are helping me get by.

Love, Ruth

Ruth Vander Zee
Author of WOMAN MEETS JESUS
Journey of Faith

Welcome to my blog!

This is a new experience for me. So you will have to help me along the way. I don’t do blogs!!!!  But you know what? It’s part of the journey. And here I am, writing a blog. My friend Pascale, who designed my beautiful web site told me I had to. Thank you, Pascale for the beauty you create at your computer every day.

Saturday, I read an article in the Miami Herald about Diana Nyad who attempted, at the age of 62 to swim from Key West to Cuba. She didn’t make this decision lightly. She had to get sponsors, obtain a visa to enter Cuba, form a team, practice for hours and hours, and keep believing that she could swim 100 miles. She went on national television before the event, talking about this being the dream of a life-time. No shark tanks for her. She wanted to swim unencumbered.

But after 29 hours in the water, she couldn’t go any further. An asthma attack and other unplanned experiences caused her to climb back into the boat and give up a dream.

I admire that kind of courage. I admire her ability to dream. I admire her audacity to attempt. I admire her physical stamina. And I admire her courage to get out of the water. What a journey. As Shoer Roth wrote, “To me, that’s her real victory, her gold medal -  not reaching the finish line.” I agree. Her journey began long ago when her parents signed her up for her first swim lessons.  And not only that, she’s still on her journey. It’s taken a few twists and turns but it’s not over. Who knows what surprises are in her future. And she blessed me – someone she has never heard of.

And that’s the power of the journeys of faith we are on. It’s all a journey - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. I hope you join me on the journey and let others know, how Jesus breaks into your life and blesses you at the unexpected times and in unexpected places through unexpected people. Because, without a doubt, that’s what Jesus does. When he offers his peace in the middle of the oceans of our lives, we discover whether or not it’s time to keep swimming or if it’s time to get into the boat. Either way, he loves us and calls us “Daughter.”

If you share your stories, we’ll all be a bit richer because we’re on the journey together.

Love, Ruth

Ruth Vander Zee
Author of WOMAN MEETS JESUS
Journey of Faith

 

Ruth Vander Zee

Ruth Vander Zee
On our journey, I believe Jesus desires us to be our authentic, child-of-God selves.

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Ruth Vander Zee
WOMAN meets JESUS
How Jesus encourages, empowers and equips women on their personal journey of faith.
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