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Monday, May 01, 2006

Still Trying to Get Caught Up

Hey everyone! It's me again (insert your sarcastic remarks here. Ha ha, very cute. Good one. Ha ha big fake ha.)

Okay, now that's out of the way, here's a funny story from a couple of weeks ago. We were in West Bromich doing a week with at an event called Revolution. Basically its a mission week for teens while they're off for Easter break. About 50 of them come from different youth groups and churches and we spend the week doing evandelism. Uh, I mean, evangelism. Hee hee, a fraudian slip from me. We all split into groups and then rotate from the different activities around the community. There was gardening, garbage picking, kid's activities in the park, prayer groups, and many other things. The whole goal of the week was to serve the community and show teens the benefits of serving. Being a servant is the first and foremost step in being any sort of minister for the Gospel - and it's the small things we do that can really make a big impact!

Friday was main event day. We were allowed into the biggest mall in the West Midlands to do a day's program of songs, dramas, balloon animals, puppet shows, and face painting. In fact, this year I was asked to be the official 'face painting' instructor, a covetted title. (Okay, no one else really wanted to do it, and I just love paintin beards on little kids.) Anyway, on Wednesday night the germsI had been battling won the war when it brought out the fever weapon. Danny drove me back to Walsall to recover for the rest of the week. I was so disappointed that I was missing all the fun! But I slept lots and did my best to recover for the main event on Friday.

Friday morning came and I shakily dragged myself out of bed, got dressed, and tried to make myself look not so much like I'd just escaped from the Betty Ford clinic. I whined and pouted to Danny to take me to the main event at the mall. There were so many little faces to paint and they would need all the help they could get! Finally, he agreed to take me but I was under strict orders to take it easy.

When we got to the mall no one was there except the other members of our group setting up and store workers. Our group was pretty much done: the tables were set up, balloons were filled and the puppet curtain was just being hung. There really wasn't much for me to do but sit in the face painting area and watch.

As I sat down my body reminded me of my current physical condition. I felt gross. My head was swimming and my stomach was sea sick. What was I doing here? Why had I come? I was totally useless! Was there going to be anything for me to do today? I should have stayed in bed...

Then, just as the stores were beginning to open, came our first customer! A lady and her three small children approached the face painting counter and politedly asked, "Excuse me, are you open yet?"

"We sure are," I replied excitedly. First victim of the day!

"How much is it to get your face painted?" she asked.

"Absolutely free," I was very proud to tell her.

"Oh, well that's great!" Turning to her three kids she asked them, "Would you all like your face painted?" And what kid doesn't? And they've hit the jackpot! We could paint Spidermen, princesses, butterflies, dinosaurs, you name it - we could do it!

But these kids didn't look very thrilled. They all huddled in closer to their mother and scanned us over very suspiciously.

The mother looked her children in the eyes. "It's alright. It doesn't hurt. It will be fun!" They didn't budge. "Look," she tried again, "see? It's fun! Here, how about I have my face painted first? Then if you like, you can have yours done to."

The woman's two little boys looked more nervous by this comprimize than comforted. Her little girl, only about two years old, clung tightly to her mother and began to sob, "I don't want it to go on your face!"

"It's fun! Trust me," and the she sat down in the chair. "I'd like a little butterfly on my cheek please." And with that, one of our face painters began to paint a very delicate, purple butterfly just below her eye. Her two boys barely blinked as they carefully watched over their mother and her little girl continued to sob. I tried to talk to them, to distract them, but they were very focussed on their mother's face.

"They're pretty shy," the woman said to me, "but I'm hoping that if I can show them that its alright, they'll get a bit braver."

"Well in that case, don't forget to go get a balloon animal after, too!" I said and we both had a little chuckle.

We continued to talk while she had her face painted. At first it was the usual stuff, 'Where are you from?', 'What are you doing here?', 'Do you like England?' I told her about our activities throughout the week, the litter picking and games and gardening. She was particularly interested in the last one.

"I've just moved into a new place last October and I'm trying to start a garden. It's hard to find the time to do it though. I'm a single mother." She explained.

"It certainly does look like you already have your hands full," I joked as her arms were still trying to comfort her toddler.

She laughed and then paused for a moment. It was one of those pauses that come when a person is debating on what to say next. Not only what to say, but if they should say it.

Something made this woman decide to say it.

"Actually, my husband passed away a year and a half ago," she said quietly, as if still trying to protect her young children.

"I'm so sorry," I replied. What else could I say?

Another moment of silence as she made her next decision.

"He passed away from a brain tumor."

At that very moment I knew exactly why I was there. I didn't say anything at first, I couldn't. After all, this woman was telling these things to a complete stranger! She didn't say much, but she didn't have to.

Her butterfly was finished and she said thank you to the artist as she looked her cheek in the mirror. Her kids were still anti-face paint, so she stood up to leave.

"I don't mean to sound weird," I carefully started, "but would you mind if I walked with you?"

The woman smiled graciously and invited me along.

"I'm a strong believer in Divine Appointments," I said, "and for me, this is one of those appointments! I really related to what you were saying. You may not believe this but, I had a brain tumor."

The conversation went from there for another 30-40 minutes (it's hard to tell, you know how it is when women start talking.) We talked about the depression, the disappointment, the loneliness, the questions and all of the stuff that comes with losing a loved one (as I had also lost my mother to cancer). She asked me about how I felt while I was going through my own diagnosis and what I felt watching my family worry for me. She shared her own pain that she had gone through watching her husband suffer, and the new pain now as she lived a different life without him. She told me about how hard it had been on her children. They were so scared of losing her too they rarely let her out of their sight. We talked about the good things though as well, the things we've learned, the prayers we've had answered and God. Although I never found out what her own faith was exactly. We just talked.

Our visit ended with the two of us wiping our tears outside of a Carlton Card shop. We exchanged email addresses before she had to go so we could continue to stay in touch.

As I walked back to the face painting counter I was so excited and encouraged, no germs could survive! Why was I here today? As far as I was concerned, it was for that 40 minutes with that mother and her three kids. In fact, why was she there today? Maybe for me, too! That's just the way that Divine Appointments seem to work!

So as you go into this new week, my prayer is that your days will be filled with Divine Appointments!

God bless you and take care!

~Alycia DeLong

P.S.- When you think of it, please say a prayer for Jo and her three kids. Thanks.

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