I so relished the decade of my fifties. I seemed to “fit in my skin” and enjoyed being able to serve God, especially as a volunteer teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) and working with refugees.
But the year I turned 56, I came down with Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Even though I argued with the doctor that I was too young, I even developed shingles along my right rib. (As I watched the horror of the 9/11 attacks, I kept a heating pad over my rib pain–as hot as I could stand it.)
Year after year, I suffered. Part of the time I couldn’t even read and retain what I’d read. I needed pain pills to even get out of bed. Wearing normal clothes hurt. I slept 12 hour nights and still needed naps.
I’d prayed for God to heal me, reminding Him that I’d be more useful if He would. That I enjoyed serving these new immigrants, and was good at it.
So I wouldn’t feel useless.
The mother of two neighbors died suddenly. She’d been a vibrant member of her family. I asked God why he took her and not me. I’d become a burden to my family. I felt worthless.
During this time, my Bosnian “practice grandchildren” were discovering Facebook, which was fairly new. I knew that girls of a certain age had been pretty vicious at school, so I joined Facebook as a way to keep track of the “friends” on Dzenaela’s page, ask questions, and caution her.
Then my high school classmates began to make plans on Facebook for our 50th year reunion. Facebook turned out to be a handy way for me to stay in touch with people I could no longer have lunch or coffee with. And a way to share old family photos and stories.
Then I learned about Operation Christmas Child. I started out small, not many boxes in 2003, as shopping was almost impossible. But I began to collect items, just a few at a time, all year long, so that I could assemble the “shoebox gifts” to be shipped in November to needy children around the world.
I’m still doing Christmas shoeboxes, still shopping for them little by little all year long. This is the week they are collected in Iowa, then trucked north to the Twin Cities where their overseas destinations will be decided. I got special labels so I can learn where these are headed, and I can pray for the children there who will received them.
What a blessing to be able to serve in this small way.