by John C. Westervelt
You and I have two families. One, we were born into. The other one, our church family, we chose.
The year was 1972. With membership nearing 1700, Asbury was making plans to build a sanctuary. A fall Lay Witness Mission so stirred the hearts of the people that many accepted the invitation to form small groups for prayer and study.
Bob and Nancy Staab invited Nelda and me to attend a small group at their house. In time, the Staabs left our small group to begin another one.
For ten years, our small group met every Wednesday evening in each other’s homes. For me, the homemade desserts, fresh coffee, and fellowship were as nurturing as the study material.
Jan and her husband were a vital part of the small group. Jan eventually moved to a tree-filled area on Lake Keystone. She took a job in Mannford and joined a church there. Jan has a new family in her new church, but her old family at Asbury remains. In recent years, she became a widow.
As you would expect with a family, each one reaches out to the others in their time of need. An email was circulated among the core members of the small group in late March 2006, saying that Jan Cook-Rutledge had been diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. I emailed Jan hoping to encourage her.
I talked with my friend Ken Bays about Jan’s plight. Ken, a bladder cancer survivor, prays for each one of Asbury’s cancer victims. He added Jan to his prayer journal and suggested I get her in touch with Asbury’s Dolores Willits, an ovarian cancer survivor. In a later email, Jan said, “Dolores is my angel.”
I started out trying to encourage Jan. As our emails continued, I began to realize that Jan was encouraging me. Along the way in her spiritual journey, Jan had assimilated Jesus’ words of Matthew 6:25-27. “... Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life.” As you read Jan’s email of early May, you will be encouraged, too.
“John, it's so good to have you there, supporting me with your thoughts and prayers, as I walk through this very cloudy portion on this journey of my life.
“Today, I want to share a window of my 'Morning Time' with you..........
“As I sit by my patio door window, in my 'prayer chair', I enjoy the four large white planters overflowing with beautiful red geraniums, white begonias, bright green sweet potato vines, red million bells, and numerous other little flowering plants sitting on my back deck. Everything is so beautiful right now, and isn't it wonderful that I can enjoy these beautiful plants all day through my living room windows. I can't have any blooming plants inside my house right now, because of the cancer therapy. I guess the pollen from the blooms may cause allergies or such, and I have no white cells to fight anything right now. But, the good news is: after this chemo tomorrow, they are going to give me shots to bring my white count back up, so I will be ready for this surgery.
“Anyway--on with my morning. I also have a bird feeder on a pole beside the deck, right in front of my window. This morning, for the first time in the twenty years that I have lived here, a Painted Bunting came to the feeder for his breakfast! He was so beautiful...blue and red and yellow-green! What a treat it was for me to watch him eat awhile, then fly away, then come back. Then Mr Bluebird came and set on top of the feeder pole with a little worm in his mouth, ready to go feed his babies. I have a blue-bird box at the edge of the yard with a family of babies in it right now. I can see their little heads pop up in front of the hole, when I use the binoculars. Mr Bluebird kept coming and going this morning, feeding them. He always stopped on the feeder pole and looked around, before darting to the bird house with his worm. What a joy that was to watch! Then, of course, I always have Mr and Mrs Cardinal coming every morning for breakfast and lunch and dinner. I'm sure they have a nest somewhere near here, but they keep their address pretty secret, so I don't imagine I'll be seeing their babies. But that's okay. I surely enjoy their visit to my feeder.
“Guess you can see, I do enjoy my bird watching. The Lord gave me a very special morning today with the beauty of his handiwork coming right into my view! It was a very blessed morning for me, and I really needed it. Isn't it amazing how the Lord always knows just what you need at just the right time?!
“We do have an Awesome God!!
And thank you again, John, for all your prayers... I surely do need them! Love, Jan”
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