Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Golden Autumn—and a scarred leaf

I want to introduce my precious Chinese Christian friend, Pauline. She is the founder and president of a ministry of help to single parents (the widowed and divorced) which reaches not only the hurting in the U.S. but with an overseas arm of compassion to Taiwan. Until recently she flew there frequently to give lectures with the physical assistance of a companion who had been a nurse and missionary herself. The mother of an adult daughter, Pauline has excruciating hurts of her own. I’ll let her tell you about that:

“In early 2007, I found myself unable to walk properly as my right foot seemed to have lost its strength. After ten months of different tests, I was diagnosed with ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). The past two years have witnessed me advancing into an array of support equipment simply to help me move around: first an ankle brace on my right foot, then a cane, a walker and an electric wheelchair. Now my arms are becoming weak, and I’m experiencing difficulty speaking or swallowing. The illness has developed so fast! What do I have left in life? Thankfully, I still have a lot to be thankful for despite my present condition.”

Pauline describes an emotional moment. Her testimony will speak for itself:

“It was early November and it had been raining for several days, but now the sun was shining. A friend suggested that we go for an outing, knowing that I would enjoy seeing the change of colors in the fall. We took my little white car and he drove us toward the mountains.

"Tall trees lined up alongside the road. The sun gently shone on the leaves enhancing the different shades of red, yellow and green. Some leaves had fallen; others still flew about in the wind, while some desperately clung to the tree branches.

“Mesmerized by the brilliant colors, I took out my camera in an attempt to capture the beauty of the golden fall. But my hands started to shake. For a moment I had forgotten that my ALS affected not only my legs, but also my upper body including my arms and hands. Watching me struggle to steady the camera with an extended lens, my friend graciously offered to hold the camera while I took pictures. For the rest of the drive, whenever I saw a picturesque scene and wanted to capture it, he would stop the car. By the time I struggled to sit upright in the car and find the right angle to take pictures, he was already out of his driver’s seat standing outside the passenger door, ready to hold my camera while I focused and took the shot.

“So it went, frame after frame, as I recorded the beauty God created. I was so amazed by what I was witnessing in nature that I couldn’t help thinking to myself: Why didn’t I come out more often when I had my health? Why did I wait till I am confined to the car before I thought of hiking? …Why? …WHY? I forced myself to stop engaging in these negative thoughts.

“Why should I waste time dwelling on the regrettable past while letting the precious present slip away? What is important is that right now, in the present moment, I am still able to come out to enjoy nature although strapped in my wheelchair. Isn’t that enough to be grateful for?

“As our car climbed slowly upward on the winding mountain road, my thoughts refocused on all the blessings I have received since I fell ill:

I am grateful that my daughter and son-in-law have been so caring and loving.
I am grateful that I have the best medical team to take care of me.
I am grateful that two churches have organized families to bring me meals.
I am grateful God provided a new one-story house making living easier and safer.
I am grateful that dozens of people helped me pack and move into my new house.
I am grateful that God gives me continuing opportunities to teach and preach.
I am grateful that my ministry, BY STREAMS OF WATER, Inc., has been able to operate as usual, organizing growth conferences for single parents, holding workshops, giving lectures on special topics both here in the States and in Taiwan;
I am grateful that I have been able to give lectures to students both in Taiwan and here in the States through the technology of Skype despite my increasing immobility.
I am grateful that I am still blessed with a good appetite and sweet sleep.
I am grateful that God gives me a positive attitude to cope with daily challenges.
I am grateful that I have so many caring and loving friends who pray for me each and every day and are there for me whenever needed.

“When I reflected on my many blessings from God, I felt incredibly rich and content! The moment of despair gone, I felt my spirits soaring high and my heart dancing along with the golden leaves. I stopped searching for the perfect leaf to record in my camera. Instead, I saw the true beauty even in the leaf whose center had been gnawed by insects, the leaf whose sides had been scarred by the whipping wind and relentless raindrops. To me, the scars tell the world a story of a life struggling for its existence; the imperfection adds that much more character to that scarred leaf as if it were claiming its own rightful place in nature, as if it were saying to me who is suffering from a deadly illness, “I am not defeated and I am not giving up. I am presenting the true beauty of life under the sun.”

“I looked up to the blue sky through the trees of golden brown, deep red and dark green; I saw life and living everywhere. I took a deep breath (while I still can) and responded in my heart, “Yes. Thank you, God. Being alive is beautiful!”

P. S. If you are interested in viewing the pictures I took on that autumn day, please go to and click on Fall Leaves and check Start slideshow. The accompanying music is also titled “Autumn Leaves.” Enjoy!
Leona Choy’s comment: Please pray for Pauline as you view and listen.


No comments: