Sadly, many of my blogs have been inspired by death and grief. Today our church, The King’s Chapel, mourns the loss of another dear saint as Nora Phelps gave up her long battle with MS and went to be with her Lord and Savior. We rejoice with Nora that she is no longer imprisoned by her failing body, but naturally, her friends and family---especially her husband who devotedly cared for her---will miss her terribly. She is one of those unique individuals who could maintain her sense of humor in the midst of crushing physical disability. Most remarkably, Nora did not complain. I have known her for over two decades and watched as the MS slowly took away all her mobility, but I never once heard her whine, grumble, or bemoan her situation. She always remained cheerful, kind, and concerned for others.
I once asked Nora how she could stay so positive, and she explained she had decided from the outset of her disease that although she couldn't control her physical body, she could control her attitude. She had a choice whether or not to live her time out as a bitter, complaining woman. But she knew that if she chose bitterness, no one would want to be around her and she would lose all her friends and family. She would become a lonely, bitter, complaining woman. Nora chose wisely to be happy and to make those around her happy. Nora chose joy and lived her difficult days in a no-whine zone. Needless to say, everyone loved Nora and enjoyed her company.
Nora’s life and example have challenged me to do better. I confess that I can easily fall into whining and complaining. My husband and I tease each other: “Do you want some cheese with your whine?” Recently, I experienced God’s grace despite my whining. Someone ran into the back of my little car and totaled it (my husband was driving and thankfully was uninjured). As a pastor’s family, we don’t have fancy cars but rather drive very old, used, but faithful Hondas. From a previous and similar experience when someone t-boned and totaled my parked car, I knew that the insurance company would only give us the Blue-book value of the car and not what we had paid for it or what we would need to buy a new one. Plus my husband was suddenly saddled with the hassle of having to spend time he didn't have taking our car to the shop, getting estimates, and looking for a new car with all that entails. I was very upset with the unfairness of the entire situation and couldn't stop whining about it (even to my home group fellowship). My husband would try to remind me that God could bring something good out of this mess, but I didn't have the eyes of faith to see how.
However, God did have a plan. Our mechanic told us that he thought he could fix the car for less than the money we had been given to replace it. Meanwhile, a very generous man in our church had a car his son was trading in, and he graciously gave it to us. Turns out this car is a fully-loaded 2008 Toyota, ten years newer than my little Honda! Having that new car meant that our college-aged son, whose car had died in the fall, could have our “totaled” Honda once it had been fixed. Even though we had suffered an accident, God was gracious enough to work it for good and help us come out ahead. I am humbled that, despite my whining and complaining, God still bestowed His grace, His truly unmerited favor, on me.
I have been planning to tell my car story for some weeks now, but because of Nora’s passing and her example, I felt compelled to sit down and write it today. With God’s grace and with Nora’s inspiration, I will endeavor to stop my whining and complaining and make my home a “No-Whine Zone.” Then perhaps, like Nora, I can shine like a star and bring others the message of a joyful life.
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may be innocent and pure as God's perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, 16 as you offer them the message of life.
Philippians 2:14-16 (Good News Translation)