Memories of a Helping Hand

I recently perused Karen Lawson’s blog and read a 2015 entry titled “He Leaves The Light On” at https://simplymeandjeans.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/he-leaves-the-light-on/. It made me wonder what my earliest memory was and what that said about me. Actually, I have very few memories from before age eight (trauma does that to you, apparently). A month after my 8th birthday, we moved to a new house and my half-brother (same birthday, 11 years older than me) wasn’t around after that.

When we were assigned our bedrooms in the new house, mine was at the far end of the hall. Both my sisters’ rooms shared a wall with my parent’s room. I remember thinking my parents didn’t love me as much as they did my sisters, and that’s why I was the farthest away. My mother assured me, when I told her about that a few years before she died, that my older sister got the biggest room next to them because she was the oldest (a perk of being the oldest child, I guess) and my younger sister, being only five, got the other room next to them because she wouldn’t care the room was so small. She said they just figured I’d want the bigger of the two leftover rooms. Funny how a kid’s mind thinks and what a lasting impression something so simple can make, especially when there wasn’t any such thought behind it.

One fairly clear memory is from when I was five and in the hospital after having my tonsils removed.

I awoke in the middle of the night needing to go to the bathroom. I wanted my Mum but I vaguely remembered, in my drowsy state earlier in the evening, crying and holding on to her hand. The nurses, all dressed in white with their hats on, were telling her she had to leave because visiting hours were now over and assuring both of us I’d be fine.

Despite my fears, the urgency of the matter forced me to drop from my hospital bed in the unfamiliar room and head toward the door outlined by the light seeping in from the hallway. Shiny linoleum stretched forever in both directions. Everything was quiet and still. There was no one else around. Closed doors lined the walls, but they all looked like the one I had just come through. I stood there for several long minutes, figuring I was probably going to get in trouble for being out of bed, but my need to go the bathroom pinned my feet to the floor anyway.

Not knowing where to go, I slid down the wall and laid my head on my knees, the flimsy gown pulled tight across them as I hugged them to my chest. Goosebumps stood up on my arms and chilblains were setting in, causing my toes to turn splotchy white and purple. Sobbing made my throat ache even more and tears soaked the thin material.

I’m not sure how long I was there before a hand scooped under one arm and pulled me up.

I don’t remember what happened after that, if I really did get in trouble for being out of bed, or if there was compassion in the touch. My guess is the nightmare was over for me when someone reached down to help me and that’s why what happened after that hasn’t stuck in my brain like that scene did.

All I remember is how lost, afraid, and alone I felt. Those feelings have been regular companions over the years.

Lost and alone, definitely in a crowd but sometimes even among friends. Feeling out of place, like I don’t belong or fit in. Feeling unable to contribute in a meaningful way, like I don’t have any words worth saying, and sometimes wondering why we’re even talking about such a trivial topic (as you can tell, I’m not one for much small talk). I’ve often wondered what’s wrong with me and why I wasn’t like other people, but comparing myself to other people is more detrimental than good and I’ve had to learn to like who, and how, God made me and make the most of what He’s given me. It’s amazing how blessed I feel when viewing things more from His perspective than my own limited and biased perspective.

Fear because there have been way too many times throughout my life when I’ve allowed fear to plague me and limit me. If it weren’t for a fear of failure, a fear of ridicule, or a fear of disapproval (or all three), I might have accomplished more by this time in my life. My main regret is that I’ve let fear stop me from writing very much until now. Fear that people would find out I can’t write. Fear that people won’t like what I’m writing about. Fear that I’ll fail at achieving my dream of writing a book. My thought process was that if I didn’t start, then I couldn’t fail. But there’s no surer way to fail than to never start. If I don’t write, then I’ll definitely never write a book. If I keep writing, at least I have a chance at success. And with the Lord guiding me, I’ve got way more than just a chance.

People have remarked how brave I was, at twenty, to travel on my own, halfway across the globe, to an unfamiliar country where I knew no one. But there’s also those who’d say there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity. In this case, though, neither bravery nor stupidity caused me to set out on my own.

I see clearly now how the hand of God reached down and guided me out of my meaningless, lost existence in New Zealand. He smoothed out what could have been a very convoluted path for me, giving me the incentive to take the first step, and provided a connection in small town Texas that was just the place I needed to be to get introduced to Him. And I’m so thankful He did!

That helping hand has been there for me at other times, too, even in NZ before I knew it was God looking out for me. At 16, when I was upset with my drunk boyfriend for cutting the sleeves off his new denim jacket, I huffed out of the party and decided to walk home (at one in the morning). He and his drunk friends, the gang, decided to keep pace with me in the car for a couple of miles, trying to convince me to get in. When I refused (one of the times being stubborn paid off) and was less than 50 metres from my house, they screeched the tires in a two-wheeled U-turn and sped off. I had a bad feeling as soon as they did.

When my boyfriend called me the next morning, I found out what had happened. They had attempted a roundabout at too high of a speed, clipped the curb, and rolled the car a couple of times, finally coming to rest upside down in the grass on the side of the road. I hate to say it, but being relaxed from drinking so much probably helped save their lives. One of them broke his arm because it was hanging out the window, and one got a concussion from slapping his head on the passenger side window a couple of times, but in their intoxicated state, they were more worried about getting caught than anything. The four guys managed to rock the car onto its wheels and drive off. That was, undoubtedly, some divine protection at work, for them and for me.

On my trip over to the States, and since I’ve been here, I’m sure there’s been many a time He’s protected me from harm as a single woman traveling alone, probably several of which I wasn’t even aware.

One weekend, while nannying for the family in small town Texas, the husband flew the five of us (himself, his wife, me, and the two kids) to Oklahoma in their 6-seater plane to visit his parents. He didn’t refuel before we left Oklahoma for the return trip. He realized his mistake as we were still a little ways out from our destination and the fuel gauge registered dangerously low. We were all quite scared and I remember him mentioning to pray that we’d make it. It was already dark and about 15 minutes later, as we approached the runway, we ran out of fuel. He was able to coast us in to a safe landing — thank God!

I know God has protected me and others, too, when I stupidly went out drinking and then would drive home. I look back on those times with so much regret and embarrassment, but also so thankful that no only did He not let me get caught, but He prevented me from wrecking the car and maiming or killing myself or anyone else on the road. That could so easily have happened and yet, in His great mercy, he spared me all that heartache.

Another illustration of his protection I remember clearly was when I was a single mother in my early 30’s, working long hours and extra shifts to help pay the bills. I had only been Christian a few months and my income fell short of my outgoing expenditures. He performed a miracle with that too, which will be the subject of another blog one day.

This night, though, I had just got off a 16 hour shift — one of several that week. It was a Saturday night, a little before midnight, and I was due back at work again at 6:30 in the morning. At the time, I was renting a 50-year-old wood-framed house with uneven floors and a gas stove. I put a couple of eggs on to boil in a small aluminum saucepan to take for my lunch the next day and went to get ready for bed while they cooked. I was so exhausted that by the time I changed, washed my face, and brushed my teeth, I just flopped in the bed, oblivious to fact I had left the eggs boiling. When I woke up in the morning and caught a whiff of the burnt smell, I rushed to the kitchen. The flame was still flickering and the pan was a scorched mess where the eggs had exploded open, dried, and stuck-on until they were barely recognizable. Small bits of shell and egg had splattered outside the pot.

I know, without a doubt, the Lord’s angel burned his hands watching over me that night.

Around that same time in my life, I was experiencing some lower abdominal pain. It wasn’t that unusual for me since I had endometriosis and irritable bowel syndrome, but something seemed a little different this time. One evening, I asked the Lord if this pain was something I needed to go see the doctor about or if it was just the usual and it would pass. I had barely got the words out of my mouth when the pain became excruciating, causing me to double over and clutch my belly in agony. I knew, without a doubt, God was answering my question.

“Alright, alright. I get it, Lord. I need to go see a doctor about this pain. Can you please make it stop now?” He immediately did just that. It went back to the little niggle I’d been having. I called to make an appointment with the doctor as soon as their office opened the next morning.

At the doctor’s office, I almost flew off the table during the examination. They did a sonogram there in the office, but when it didn’t show anything he concluded it was probably just endometriosis pain, an infection, or the irritable bowel syndrome acting up. I insisted there was something wrong (after all, I knew without a doubt after God told me so plainly!) and that something else needed to be done to figure out what it was. I told him how I knew and he looked at me skeptically (he was from Thailand and I don’t know what religion he was), but he said we could do an exploratory laparoscopy if I wanted. I had been through several exploratory laps and D&C’s over the years because of the endometriosis and although having another surgery didn’t thrill me, I knew that’s what I needed to do.

Surgery was scheduled for a couple of weeks out, during which time the pain got a little worse each day and I started to feel a pulling sensation in my abdomen whenever I walked. The doctor found adhesions in my abdomen, which is like scar tissue but in fibrous bands. In my case, the adhesions stretched from my uterus and fallopian tube to my bowel and hip bone.

Part of the reason we face certain challenges and troubles is so we can help others going through the same things.  I pray that by sharing some of my life experiences, the things I’ve gone through and have felt, that there is someone out there who is going through something similar, or feeling the same way, who can be comforted by my words.

God’s Word says in 2 Corinthians 1:4 “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give the same comfort God has given us.”

God does care and He loves us, even before we love Him. Sometimes, you just have to look for those times where He has reached out and touched your life. You will find them if you’re looking. “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” Matthew 5:45b (NLT)

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One thought on “Memories of a Helping Hand

  1. Pingback: Hearing Voices | Called to be a Writer

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