Why ‘give back?’ Because, I’ve been ‘given!’

If I can write a story that inspires someone to hope again, then I have succeeded. I had no hope. I was suffering and despairing, I was low. The rug had been pulled out from under me, and my whole family of 13.

(And yes, they were all mine biologically, and no, we are not Catholic, or Jewish (!) (I would always be asked in NJ). “No we just love Jesus.” was our answer.

The thorns of this life had torn and ripped and brought great loss. Now we had bleeding hearts. And it seemed as if each of us was all alone, each with our own pain, because loss sometimes brings a void of words.

Even in the ‘trying’ to heal, I opened the Bible to page 1 and after reading the word “GOD”, all I could see was, “The earth was…an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face…”(Gen. 1:2). “Yes, that’s me…” is all I could feel.

I remember going for a long walk, all alone. I cried out to God! Yes, out loud with tears down my face – this was a desperate cry to God. Yes, I even yelled at Him! I yelled, “I will never get over this!” “I will never get over this.” And I believed my words. I believed my words!

But my words weren’t true. You see, two weeks later… (and I imagine you are thinking, “Oh, everything smoothed out and the pain and hurts were taken care of.”) Well, think again! Two weeks later it was discovered that I had a very large tumor on my right breast, 5cm x 7cm. I now had great loss AND breast cancer! Truly it seems as if God is mean and heart-less. That God is distant and just doesn’t care.

But something happened – something amazing and huge and transforming and good.

My family was injured so they were numb, but God had a plan. Do you know, (of course you don’t know. That’s why I’m telling my story, so that you WILL know…), that the neighboring community gathered together and extended rides for me to the infusion room – sometimes people I didn’t even know! Friends came and sat with me for hours while I received my poiso…I mean…chemo! People sacrificed their time…for me.

A dear sweet woman in her late 80’s who lived 5 states away sat down and wrote in  a beautiful card with flowers every Tuesday, week after week with the hand written words, “In God we trust” on the envelope and the words “I am praying for you and your family daily, Love Bea” . Every Thursday week after every ‘bald and sick’ week I received mail from  what seemed the very the hands of God saying, “I love you.” “I am with you.” “I will never leave you.” “I have not forsaken you.”

The  swim team of the Y(MCA) that we were members of rallied together and gathered gift cards of activities and eating places so the children could focus on life and health and hope! For a large family, this is a BIG deal! The Y provided a way for the kids to ‘kick out’ their anger’ that they couldn’t even understand at the time,  to ‘kick out’ their fear and uncertainty. The Y was a finger of the strong hand of God for each of my children, saying, “I’ve got a hold of you during this storm.”

Do you want to hear something HUGE? Well, women from the local  church were touched and being that I was sick through the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, they decided to go shopping for the 8 children I had living at home at the time! Yes, the woman went Christmas shopping for my family! The evening they came walking in like Santa with large contractor bags, (yes, 4 of them!), filled with goodies for my kids, I felt like George in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life!’ God walked through the door saying, “I love you!” “I am with you and your family!” Each of you are special to me. I know your names, I know your shoe size. I want to bless you.”

Wonderful, well thought out dinners with amazing desserts and cookies walked their way down our sidewalk through our door being carried by busy people who chose to give their time and substance and effort for me and my family for weeks and weeks! We saw God! We saw the very hand of God! (And somehow, the kids think that dessert comes after every meal now!)

The dinners didn’t always seem appetizing to me however,  because I was very sick on the chemo. So, for many weeks, one of my friends came and shared time and love and …you guessed it, her home-made chicken soup. I had hope because I could hear once again the amazing sound of God’s grace, “Toni, I know what you need. I am here for you.”

I was empty and in the face of darkness, but the “Spirit of God moved upon the …” hearts of His people. And I was healed.

I was healed of everything that hurt me. The cuts were still there from the thorns, but they healed. God’s hand reached down to touch us through the hearts, minds, hands, and feet of others.

God had a plan. He was working a work of compassion in my heart. But first, He had to allow the ‘rug to pulled out from under my feet’.

I had no hope, but now I hope to better spot the person that feels ’empty and void and filled with darkness.’ And now, I hope to ‘give back’ – be it a card, or a phone call, or prayer with someone, or a song…(you don’t have to ‘join an organization’ to do that!)

Those little things are as big as the hand of God! I know first-hand.

Why ‘give back?’ Because I’ve been ‘given!’

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Author: tonirypkema

Wife to 1, mother of 11, daughter of 1. "The most amazing woman in the world." -Jared (son)

2 thoughts on “Why ‘give back?’ Because, I’ve been ‘given!’”

  1. God has always provided for your family in amazing ways! There were parts of this story I hadn’t heard before. Great to hear them. We are inspired to help others when we have been helped, but I’m pretty sure you had already showed yourself to be a giver and helper to others.

  2. Reblogged this on See God's Hand and commented:

    Writing, homegrown. Thoughts – rich with thankfulness. Yes, I am thankful. I believe a thankful heart is the beginning and the end of healing. I love the Lord because He saved me from myself and loved me from all over the place! Yes, I can see the Lord in others, yesterday – and I will make the choice to see Him loving and working through others’ today.

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