Saturday, October 20, 2012

it's not my story, it's His

the Lord is compelling me to share this story - one of His many stories - although a part of me doesn't really want to. Maybe it's the private side of me or the prideful part of me, as there is some shame on myself in the story. Either way, He wants it told, wants it read, so I will write it.

For several months now we've been visited each week, once and sometimes more, by an older man who lives near our house. A little north and a little west of our house, on a street that ends up on the local news sometimes and for not good reasons. The first time he came was when Jonathan still worked from home at our dining table. The man simply stood out on the sidewalk looking in the dining room window until he caught Jonathan's attention. He said he needed food or money or both. Neither of us had a bit of cash, a problem with debit cards I suppose, so Jonathan fixed him a meal. Before we knew it Miles came back from his room with a few dollars to give to the stranger.

Soon he came back and kept coming. He wanted to work for us in exchange for money. He wanted us to call him Shorty and after a while he told us he hoped he could depend on us for regular work. We don't know much about his life, how he got to this point. All we know is that he rents one side of a duplex from someone who seems to change the rules all the time and take advantage of his tenants. And we know that God sent him to our door. So the deal is this: he comes once a week to work outside and we pay him for that work with a bit of money and some groceries and a meal before he leaves with a "cold drink" which he'd rather not be water.

Shorty usually comes on a set day each week when Jonathan is here and can handle things with him. Sometimes he shows up unexpectedly when the kids and I are alone and although I try to fight it, it can still make me feel uncomfortable when he does, maybe more accurately I feel frustrated. Yes, that's it. Frustration. See the shame?

So now for the story the Lord wants you to read. That's right, all that you've read so far is just leading up to the real good part. Back in early September {yes, I've kept this story to myself that long - for several reasons}, Jonathan was in Nashville for his work for a few days. It was a rough week for me with trying to get the kids to school {on time would be nice} and homework and sibling struggles and dinner and Wednesday night church and my nursery work and one of my own throws up behind the nursery counter during check-in and I'm just a little tired and a lot overwhelmed by Thursday afternoon. I put Milla down for a nap, made sure Miles and Ella were occupied and I had Elijah bring his math homework to do next to me as I tried to rest on my bed for a while. After a little while I slept between questions on circumference and the rest was so nice for this weary mom. Then Ella ran in with, "Mom! Mr. Shorty's at the door!" And I was frustrated and tired and I did not want to deal with him right then, did not want to go to the door.

But I did go to the door, though not without a heavy sigh as I approached it. The kids heard the sigh. I opened the door and said, "You're supposed to be here tomorrow" and he says, "Oh, well what is today?" and I say "Thursday." He said he was confused about the day and I believed him because really, when you wake up each day "when the Lord wakes you," as he says, and you set out in search of work and food for that day, I imagine the days do sort of blend together. I explained that Jonathan would be home late that night and that he should come back tomorrow for work. He said ok and then asked, "You got anything good?" I did not have any cash but I told him I'd get him some dinner. And I closed the door and I sighed again because I was tired of the needs of the children in my house and I felt overwhelmed by the needs on my doorstep. Milla was still sleeping and there was hope for my nap to continue...

As I gathered food for him {four Sister Schubert sausage rolls, chips, two packages of cheese on club crackers, two granola bars and an oatmeal cream pie} along with a plastic cup of root beer on ice, I wondered about his t-shirt because I had not seen him wear it before. I became strangely curious about it as I took his dinner out to him, handed him the drink. I told him to come back the next day at the usual time {between 10 and 11:00}. As he walked off I saw that the back of his black shirt read SERVANT in a white box and above that it said It might as well have been the hand writing on the wall and I knew it was a message for me from my Father.

I shut the door and I texted my man of my shame and about the shirt. I got online at the website, because I needed to know what the front said. I found the shirt and it's words went right through me as the front read "I choose to serve.."

Keep in mind that Shorty can't read. At all. He had no clue what that shirt said, unless he had asked someone. He had no idea he was a messenger of the Lord for me with that shirt. I was quickly and keenly made aware that I am also to choose to serve. I am to serve because He tells me to and I am to serve when He tells me to and I am to serve who He tells me to. For now I am to serve my husband and children, I am to serve my congregation as co-director of the nursery {which is not a position I had in mind to go after, He compelled me to take it}, and He also handed me the lead role in the Moms In Touch prayer group at school {which was frightening to me, really}, and we are to serve our little, old-ish Shorty... even if he shows up when I'd rather he not and even though he never says thank you.

The Lord also impressed on my heart that day that as He uses us to bless Shorty, he also uses Shorty to be a blessing for us. My very busy, working-all-hours-to-build-a-business husband has not once this year had to take the time to mow the yard. The jasmine has been kept cut back, the sidewalk swept, the weeds kept out of the monkey grass and the whatever it is we have beside the cars, and the cars have been washed. I have come to find out that Shorty also has one other family that he works for regularly - an elderly couple. So his shirt was absolutely right, he is a servant. He told me recently, as he pointed heavenward, "I just do what He gives me to do." Yes.

It's interesting that since I accepted the nursery position God has been bringing words about service to me. He knew full well {of course} the encouragement I'd need to obey Him in this way. I've actually been told that it's not at act of service since it comes with a {small} paycheck. I'd challenge anyone to try it and see if they agree it's not done to serve others. He brought Romans 12:11 to me just as I accepted the role, "Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically." He brought 1 Corinthians 13:12 to my heart in a different way, "Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am known" because I am to trust that there is more going on than I can see, that what He gives me to do, however small it seems, makes a difference for Him.

On Tuesday mornings we are studying James by Beth Moore and on last week's video she said that we don't have to go out in search for something to do for Him, but that He will bring it to us and she cited John 15:16, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last..." and I have seen how true this is as He puts things on my heart and compells me to take on roles for Him and as He brings needs right to my doorstep. And so I will kept listening to Him alone to know how He desires that I serve Him, and I will do what Shorty does and "just do what He gives me to do," and I will remember the shirt that reminded me to serve...

the shirt I have not seen him wear again...

Thank You, my Father for speaking to me through Your Word and through Your Spirit in me and with a t-shirt on a man who cannot read what it says. You are amazing.


A sinner, saved by Grace through Jesus Christ! said...

Thank you for not keeping this one to yourself! Love your heart!

Erika Kaplan said...

I've been thinking a lot lately about serving and how I can do it more throughout my community. We have a few children in our neighborhood who seem to not have the most stable home life and while I often sigh in frustration at taking care of other peoples' children and the loudness, I've decided that maybe that's to be my ministry. I may still get frustrated but I'm trying to say yes more instead of no. It is hard sometime and exhausting though. I'll pray for you if you'll pray for me. :) Love you, my friend!

Rebecca said...

I tried to leave you a comment yesterday from my phone, but it wouldn't let me....but I read this yesterday morning, and it gave me such a different outlook on the day. I am so glad you shared your story!