With Grace There Is Hope

Serendipity. What a great word. It is fun to say, it is fun to hear and it is so descriptive when used appropriately.

I find it serendipitous that I can use serendipity here since I was also able to use it in my essay about my first mission trip with an Early Response Team to New Jersey. The serendipity evident in my first trip was about a chance meeting. On this trip the serendipity was found in my worksite location.

I travelled back to New Jersey last week with a friend I had made on the first trip. Along with one other traveling companion we rode the 8 hours with great anticipation for a fabulous workweek. When we arrived it was apparent that Judy had labored over her decision on which team to place me. I was assigned to Team 1 that was to go to work at a church in Union Beach. As it turns out I was assigned to work at the Grace UMC, which was the same church that was my first assignment as an ERT last November. At that time, their congregation was so frazzled and emotions were so raw that they were unable to make decisions and we were asked to leave without having accomplished any work. Over the course of the last six months the congregation had begun to heal and last week I was able to begin to rebuild this vital community church.

Through Gods grace I saw hope in Union Beach last week.

Privileged to have been able to spend last week with the First UMC Warren Mission Team, I would like to express my gratitude:

To Gary and Skip – thank you for treating me like one of the guys – even if it was the “fall guy”. You were so quick to teach me and include me. Your humor, happiness and kindness were infinitely appreciated.

Anita, thank you for always getting us to the job site, for always laughing at my stupid jokes and for not throwing my GPS out the window. I look forward to once again being in your van in the seat behind you!

To the smallest woman with the strength of Xena, Warrior Princess – Mona I thank you for great conversation, for being my friend and for knowing whether to cry uncontrollably or laugh hysterically right along with me.

I am not easily intimidated, however Dave, you had me shaking. At first, whenever you were watching me, my screw would immediately leave the drill and fall to the floor; when you instructed me, you had to repeat it at least once; when you teased me I wasn’t quite sure if you meant it or not. But I quickly found out you really are quite the charming gentleman. Dave, I thank you for letting me see that.

Ah Menno, no matter how much you wanted to join in the teasing and haranguing, your huge heart and astounding humility had you quickly and quietly apologizing for your joke. Thank you for your kindness and earnestness that filled my heart every day.

Donna thank you for your quiet patience, your calm perseverance and warm smile. You softened the hard work of our days.

To Larry and Jim, thank you for nourishment and sustenance. Your culinary skills are only outshone by your charm. And Jim, thank you for occasionally taking the heat off of me in the ridiculing department.

For your tremendous spiritual guidance, I will be forever grateful to you Pastor Rick. I will always remember to take with me the focus that I learned on this trip while striving to give away my heart at every opportunity. I will always try to be sensitive to the Spirit of God and follow that spirit where it leads me. I will also be thankful for your dry wit and lunch suggestions.

Judy, I wholeheartedly thank you for including me on this team. Your leadership was resolute; your kindness toward me was heartwarming. You and your friends are amazing.

Greg, thank you for your honesty and your friendship.

And to all those on Team 2 that I didn’t get to know very well I thank you for not joining on the “It’s Kristina’s fault” chorus (even if the motive was simply to stay out of the blog). But more importantly thank you for the moments we did have together. I will treasure every one of them.

Through Gods grace this team was brought together, brought into my life and heart and brought hope to some people in New Jersey. Some people think that serendipity occurs by sheer chance, I believe it is the hand of God. Last week, serendipity was the hand of God bringing people into my life and giving me a second chance.

Rememberance

At this time of year (around Easter) I spend time reminiscing about the souls that have touched my life. This essay is a tribute to unconditional love and awe inspiring moments.

It was a beautiful January morning.  The kind we seem to get every January nowadays. The snow had melted; the sky was a cerulean blue.  That magical yellow orb, high in the sky, spread warmth across my kitchen windows like butter melting over toast.  Looking outside I saw nothing but clear skies and the promise of warmth.

However, in my heart I was hollow.  For this was the day that I would have to lay our beloved Rufus down.

I went through the motions of getting breakfast ready.  After pouring the coffee, I knew I couldn’t eat a thing and since Hannah had planned to come with me to the veterinarian’s office, I knew her appetite would be non-existent as well.  So I gathered my hot steaming cup of Joe and sat on the living room floor with our dog.

The cancer came on quickly and was taking him from us even faster.  He hadn’t been able to muster that “catch me if you can” glint in his eye from the edge of the driveway for weeks.  He looked at me with his deep, melancholy brown eyes, obviously asking me what was happening to him.  I didn’t know how to tell him that it was almost over.  That soon he would be running through fields of sunflowers, chasing deer, pulling cat tails and chewing a never ending supply of organic rawhide.

The drive to the doctors’ office was too short.  Rufus couldn’t muster the strength to poke his head the window.  The air was cold, not the warmth I perceived in the kitchen.  Tears wouldn’t stop.  They silently fell as Hannah and I tried not to look at each other.  I lifted Rufus out of the car and we made the slow, sad walk to the barren examination room.  Even the doctor cried with us.

Hannah wasn’t able to stay in the room during the injections, but the doctor was kind enough to give the three of us as much time as we needed for acceptance.  As Hannah and I sat on the floor of the cold barren room, we felt the soul of our beautiful canine pass its way from his lifeless body into our hearts and smelled the result of his body’s last emission assault our noses.  Yes, our beloved Rufus passed gas.  We accusingly looked at each other before we realized that it was from him.  Then we looked at each other for permission to giggle, and we did.  We knew then that it was OK to leave.

The day was still breathtakingly beautiful, so we drove to the Family Life Center and walked the labyrinth.  We silently completed our circuits and silently hugged each other at the center.

We drove home and tried to muster a hunger for lunch.  A quiet calm enveloped us as we sat at the table together.  We didn’t smile, but we did reminisce.  As we ate in our “goldfish bowl” of a dining room we were joined by miraculous menagerie: a flock of birds at the feeders; 4 deer staring at us through the front windows (remarkably not eating the roses); an unknown cat, stoically perched on the boulder just outside; two turkeys peering from the edge of the driveway; and a pack of squirrels unusually calm in their scurries up the walk.  Never before had so much wildlife appeared so magically and so needed.  We were enchanted.

God was with us all that day and is with us every day.  God warms us when we felt cold inside.  God cracks a joke when we are reaching despair. God gives us peace when we need quiet contemplation. And God gives us friends to lift us.