Monday, April 7, 2014

Let's build some ramps.

The room was lined with people. There were doctors and nurses everywhere just taking care of me. Then lining the wall beside me were more doctors and nurses waiting to take care of the dear little babies about to be delivered. My mother was outside the operating room and said the staff was going up and down the hall notifying everyone that, "The triplets are coming. The triplets are coming."

Honestly, the faces are a blur in my memory. I was scared to death. So very scared.

The days following their delivery are in much better focus. I remember the sights and even the smells of visiting my babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit the day after their birth. I was overwhelmed by the constant beeping of the machines, the myriad of wires coming out of these teeny tiny babies, and the fact that the bustling busy nurses seemed way more confident in taking care of my three then I thought I would ever be.

And I remember the sweet voice of the nurse taking care of Claire. She called me Mom, identifying my rightful place beside the bed of this tiny beautiful little girl. She explained what the machines were doing. And then she asked if I wanted to hold my daughter.

"Is it ok?" I asked, so worried, and yet so eager to have this baby in my arms.

"Of course. She needs you to," precious nurse explained.

And with the gentlest of handling, she pulled my little pink bundle out of the isolette and handed her to me, arranging the wires and tubes so that I could have as "normal" a moment holding my daughter as possible.

If I had never seen Nurse Laura again, I would have still been grateful to her for the rest of my life. If I had never seen her again, my memories of her gentle care of Claire -- and often of Benjamin and Mason and always of Mommy -- would have stayed with me for ever. If I had never seen her again, I would still thank God for her life and the work she does.

But God is so gracious, and though once-upon-a-time our contact was only through Christmas cards, we stayed in touch. I would eagerly rip into her card every year, eager to see her growing family, eager to see the eyes of this dear lady who brought so much comfort to me in the hardest days of my mommyhood. Then the blessing of Facebook happened and has allowed us to be closely connected for the last six or seven years!

Laura and her family came to visit us a couple of years ago. And last week, when we visited a colleges in the Midwest, they met us for dinner one night and invited us to their home for dinner the second night.

I kind of get weepy thinking about it. See, inviting us over for dinner can not be off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-moment. You have to think it through, consider how you will get us into your home -- any stairs are a challenge -- and if Benjamin can get around in your house. We know it is a challenge. We have friends in town who we have never seen the inside of their homes. It just doesn't work to invite us in.

But Laura and her husband, Jay, did. They invited us over. To their house.

And Jay and his son built a ramp. A big, complicated, amazing ramp. They built a ramp so that we could come to dinner for the ONE night we were traveling through.

They rearranged furniture and moved throw rugs. They welcomed us with their arms, their actions and their hearts. When we circled their beautiful table and broke bread with them, we experienced true fellowship. It was a balm.

One of our discussions centered around the fruits of the spirit, the evidence that Christ is alive and active in you:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

And I love the Message translation here:

"But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard -- things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely."

Even as I sat in the midst of this discussion, I was struck by the raisins in my own life -- fruit that once grew but now lies drying in the sun, pruny and useless. The basic holiness that permeated Laura and Jay's home convicted me that while I have been working to rip down walls, I have neglected so much.

But no more. I want to be a fruit-bearer. Fellowship requires more than just tearing down walls to allow others access to your heart. Oh dear ones, sometimes, sometimes you have to build a ramp. Sometimes, we meet those who just can't access the fellowship. Perhaps their needs are not physical, maybe there are emotional barriers, or spiritual barriers.

How often does our need to share our opinions on every single subject hinder someone's growth rather than help it? How often?

How often do our personal struggles put obstacles of accessibility all around us? All the way around us? How often do we fail to see the pain in our neighbor's eyes because we have made ourselves so out of reach to everyone near?

I want to be a ramp-builder. It is not enough to give lip-service to the fruits of the spirit -- to say I want to be compassionate, patient and kind. No, I want to actively build bridges to serve others, to help others, to encourage others to grow.

Thank you, Jay and Laura. You and your beautiful family have been teaching us for years -- your ramp-building was simply another wonderful lesson on how Christ wants us to love. I pray I am just like you when I grow up!