May 19, 2006

Dust

Thanks so much for the many prayers on behalf of Erik and Kelly -- and for me for that matter. If you have been following the web updates on the Steffens' website, you know that the news has been grim. It's also been hard to interpret -- on Monday the doctors and nurses said Erik may have just a couple of days to live. Yesterday, they again used the word "weeks."

With the reality of death looking me in the eye every day, I have struggled to hold the various aspects of my own life together. I want to be with Kelly and Erik and have made arrangements to spend as much time as possible at the hospice center. In the meantime, my laundry is being neglected; I'm not returning phone calls; exercise for me and my dog is limited; when I do sleep, it's often interrupted by nightmares and waves of anxiety and grief. If these were the last days of my life, would I want to see them pass this way?

And then I realize that the reality of Erik's death is no more certain than the reality of my own. We all are living under a death sentence--physically, that is. Most of us get by without thinking too much about it. For years we are full of health. But as we ignore the truth, we begin to live differently, growing too fond of silly things and too complacent about what really matters.

Suffering -- even the suffering that doesn't threaten to end our lives -- reminds us that we are made of dust, full of human limitations. But suffering also reminds us that we all will return to dust. This fact ought to matter in how we live each day, not just the last ones. It matters to the Lord: "For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." Psalm 103:14

For some, this physical reality can breed fatalistism; if we're going to die anyway, why bother. But for those of us in Christ, it leaves us hopeful. We know that physical death is not our ultimate end, just as we understand in faith that our outward fading produces inward renewal in truly miraculous ways. Renewal that is preparing us for the rest of this life and the next one.

While I work hard to be a faithful friend during this deep suffering, I also am wrestling with how to live the rest of my life with a little more of the intensity and intentionality that the thought of death brings--trusting in Jesus through all my sufferings, and longing for the greater life he brings on both sides of the grave.

Charity Singleton

May 10, 2006

When One Suffers

The past few weeks have produced pain in my soul like no other. My friend Erik (faithful husband of my dear friend Kelly) has been suffering with brain cancer for the past year and a half, and in the last few weeks, the doctors have given him a grim prognosis. He has been in hospice for the past two weeks, and as a help and encouragement to Kelly and their families, several of us have been organized into shifts so there are always at least two people with them. At a time like this, they shouldn't be alone.

What's so interesting to me, though, is that at a time like this, none of us wants to be alone.

When I get up early or stay up late to go to the hospice center, I think it's as much for me as for them. Of course I really do want to be an encouragement and source of strength to Erik and Kelly and their families. But I need to be there with them; I need to run errands and get drinks and read scripture. If I couldn't be there holding Erik's hand or praying with Kelly, I don't think I could make it through this time.

Being in community with people means the trials the Lord brings us through aren't ours alone -- no one is sanctified in isolation. As I've sat with many people over the last few days just waiting for a chance to help, I've seen how the Lord is using Erik and Kelly's suffering in all of our lives. We're wrestling with faith and prayer, believing God could miraculously heal Erik and hoping our faith will endure if he doesn't. The Lord is fine-tuning our priorities and reminding us that Jesus suffered in a physical body. He's bringing unity among people who've never met and teaching us to love by serving. Mostly, as our corporate presence has become unending, God is impressing on our hearts that Jesus is always with us. His presence a constant reminder of his faithfulness.

The Lord certainly is using Erik and Kelly's suffering for something greater than the personal growth of their friends. But His purposes are not less than that. And Erik and Kelly wouldn't want it any other way.

"If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing." -- 1 Corinthians 12:26, The Message

Charity Singleton

May 2, 2006

A Room of One's Own

After puttering around with this blog and my website for about a month, I finally got enough nerve to actually tell a few people these places exist and that they're mine -- kind of like a housewarming party, except I realize that just because it's called a "home" page doesn't actually mean I live there.

So after praying to Jesus about the "whys" and seeking God's wisdom on the "whos" and the "hows" I sent out the invitations, and within minutes the party started! And the gifts you have all given me -- wow! Just the thing for a writer: lots of great words!

Having a website and a blog is a little bit like Virginia Woolf's 500 pounds a year and a room of one's own. According to Woolf in her novel/memoir A Room of One's Own, these two things were all that it would take for a woman in Victorian England to be a writer. That, and a desire to write, I suppose. Now, a website and a blog will do the trick.

I want my writing to go beyond these two little virtual havens, of course. That's why I don't actually blog every day or post new content on the site. I'm off writing in other ways, or maybe sleeping in when I should be writing. But though my writing may be more than a website and blog, it's certainly not less. If my words here are part of what makes me a writer, then you, my friend, are a reader -- one of my first.

Though writers can often seem like a proud bunch, always waxing eloquently about this or that with a grand assumption that people care, I can assure you that we also are a fragile lot. I personally have stopped writing for weeks at a time after a single rejection, or even a delayed response, from a publisher. So the encouragement so many of you gave me about the words you found on the website, blog, and links were much needed and much appreciated. Thank you!
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