Suffering. That is my word of the day.
But in a good way!
You heard me. A good way.
Let me rewind to the beginning of my day. 6:59 a.m. My eyelids popped wide open. I had set my alarm for 7:00 a.m.
I hate my alarm. It is on my cell phone. And I purposely chose the most annoying sound. It motivates me to get to it before it goes off.
Alas, I usually hit the snooze several times.
But this morning, I reset the clock for 7:30 a.m. I got up, used my Flonase and drank a glass of water. I felt pretty good. So I just laid back down and played a few rounds of Words with Friends.
Then I got up and switched off the alarm, slid on my shoes and sweats and headed out for my morning run!
It was raining. It was chilly. But it felt good. I was moving. I was breathing. I was vertical!
I hit the pavement running. I did a combination of running and walking. Again for only 1 lap. My hamstrings were hurting and I didn't want to risk injury.
But I felt so good coming home. Yes, it was difficult. No, I do not really enjoy running. Frankly, it is painful. In many ways.
I enjoy the rewards that running brings me. First of all the gratification of suffering for a good reason. Secondly, pride in accomplishment. Third of all, fulfilling a commitment. And fourth, taking a step toward my goal of weight loss, physical fitness, and ultimately running a 5K!
I believe in good pain. I thought about pain and suffering a lot today.
This morning when I reset my alarm, I considered resetting it for 9:00. You see, the church I work at in the office is next door to the house I am living in. I could easily sleep in, and then walk two minutes to church on Sundays!
My pastor roommate said they would love for me to attend anytime I feel comfortable.
It takes me almost an hour walking and busing to the little church I have been attending for the past year or so.
But I am always glad I went. It is a place where I feel welcome. I am not working. People seem genuinely happy to see me. I feel fed intellectually, spiritually and socially.
This morning I felt quite balanced. Not too anxious or depressed. Peaceful, almost.
And some small voice inside was leading me.
So I packed my backpack with my bible, notebook, books to return to the library and my coffee mug, grabbed my umbrella and set out to walk the 3/4 mile to the gas station for my morning black coffee.
When I got to the gas station, I noticed a cigarette, still burning, in the barkdust. It was drizzling, I doubt that it would have started a fire. But my inner conscience, which has gotten really loud lately, told me to put it out!
So I walked over and stamped it out with the heel of my boot. I looked up and notice a kind of scruffy young gentleman leaning against the wall near the door of the gas station.
Before I could stop my thoughts, I heard my inner judgmental negative self say, "I bet it was his cigarette. He looks kind of irresponsible".
But then I told my inner critic not to judge. I walked to the door. The young man looked up at me with very sad eyes.
"M'am", he said, holding up a gas can. "Me and my mom, we run out of gas up the road a bit. Can you spare any money..."
And a small voice inside said, "Help him". I told him I didn't have much. But would see what I could do. I reached into my wallet and noticed I had two fives and two ones. I needed one five for the collection box at church and $1.09 for my coffee. Honestly, I didn't remember having two fives.
"Here", I handed him the five. "I hope this helps. Blessings to you.", I said kindly.
He looked embarrassed but said, "Thank you M'am. Happy Mother's Day!"
I suddenly felt lighter than air. I thought of Jesus saying "“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40)
As I was pouring my coffee in the gas station, I saw the young man stand in line and then hand the $5 bill to the cashier, showing him his gas can.
I felt a pang of guilt, thinking that perhaps he was running a gas can scam and wasn't actually going to use the money for gas.
Then my heart warmed again, knowing I helped someone truly in need.
Perhaps God really wanted me at that gas station today!
Yet another instance of suffering. I would much prefer cream and sugar. But it is not good for me. Black coffee, on the other hand has apparent health benefits and gives me a little lift in the morning.
As I sat at the bus stop, steaming hot coffee mug in hand, sipping thoughtfully, I began to enjoy it. I actually embraced the bitterness. It seemed to cut through my brain fog and my still slightly clogged sinuses.
Suffering again for a good outcome.
The bus arrived a few minutes later. I felt a moment of satisfaction for sticking to my schedule. I would have time to stop at the store for rice crackers and cheese for our coffee time half way through the service. I feel good about myself when I am able to contribute. Plus, this helps me avoid the gluten filled cookies.
I got on the bus, smiling. Found my seat. Then I heard a voice.
"I didn't know they let people like you on the bus", said a deep male voice.
I looked up from my coffee.
It was "B". A man I knew from my old hood. He is in his early 30's. I met him when he was a DJ at a karoake bar I used to frequent. He had messaged me recently on Facebook that he has cancer of the thyroid gland. He is having surgery next month. I have been praying for him.
When I was raising my kids alone back in the old hood, B would call and ask if I had any work for him. I usually did. I didn't have much money, but it was nice to have an extra hand around. Sometimes he just scooped up our dogs poop from the back yard. But a cheerful pooper scooper always was he!
We chatted for a bit on the bus. He was going to see his young son. He told me about his new girlfriend. And then I told him I was praying for him.
He thanked me. His eyes got a bit misty. He told me I looked good. He could tell in my face that I had lost weight.
I gave him a little hug and got off the bus.
I had plenty of time to pick up cheese and rice crackers. I made it to church with time to spare. I visited with some of the ladies, wishing everyone a Happy Mother's Day. I had been thinking about how I retreat into myself sometimes. And how this does not put my best self forward. On the bus this morning, I decided to try to smile and put other people first, spreading love as much as possible.
Even if I am in pain. Even if I am suffering. I do know what it is like to receive negativity from someone else who is suffering. No one knows what I am experiencing inside. But being kind - it benefits all of us.
I even spread some sunshine to the grocery clerk. We chatted a bit and then I told him I was glad they had removed the self service checkstands. "I much prefer visiting with a real person", I smiled.
He said, "Yes, and we get extra hours too!"
Another ray of human sunshine.
And while I was pondering all of this, I sat up straight with my pen poised in the air when the pastor of my church actually started to talk about suffering, and "trials of life". These are some of the scriptures he referred to. They pierced me straight to my soul.
"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope". (Romans 5:3-4 NIV)
"Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything". (James 1:4 NIV)
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God". (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 NKJV)
He went to detail about the how "trials and tribulation help us develop patience, endurance and character". And how this in turn can help us develop compassion for others and help us to encourage and comfort others who are suffering". And how persecution and affliction help us to grow spiritually". (Pastor Gary Glenney, Portland Bible Church, May 14, 2017)
Was he talking right to me and my situation or what?
I have much to ponder. But I feel I am on the right path.
This will be a Mother's Day to remember.
For the above valuable lessons, and a wonderful dinner with my family.
On the ride home with my pregnant daughter and son-in-law, we witnessed a beautiful sunset. It was lightly raining, the sky dark with rain clouds. But the sunset was a beautiful, radiant peach color. Then I heard my daughter gasp. She pointed out the window at the most, intensive, brilliant rainbow I had ever seen.
I tried to get a picture when I got home, but it had already begun to fade. Here is a remnant:
Through the rain, and cold weather that we have suffered through, there was beauty. And God's promise. A reminder that He is with us to the end. And that the suffering we endure in this life will lead to life everlasting.
On that note, I am calling it a night early. 9:45 p.m.
I am exhausted, but happy. I hope you are too.
Happy Sunday! Talk to you tomorrow!