Maralyn's Updates

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Exponential Love

I love math and one thing that captures my imagination is the concept of exponential growth…when something multiplies by itself again and again.

10 x 10=100
100 x 100=10,000
10,000 by 10,000=100,000,000
100,000,000 x 100,000,000=10,000,000,000,000,000!

In only four transactions 10 becomes 10 quadrillion.

When exponential growth kicks in, things can get pretty big pretty fast!

This week was filled with exponential love, and I’m beginning to understand that it’s through the love of family and friends that God gives us a sample of how much he loves us.

When we went to Springfield on July 1, I knew I was going to see my dad’s siblings and their mates, and I knew I’d see my brother Ron’s whole family, but I didn’t know there was a whole reunion in the works. I didn’t know that Dad and Kay were coming from Wyoming! I didn’t know about the bunch from Enid, nor Waxahachie, nor Neosho, nor Kansas City.

Of course, everybody else knew—even Jim—that 41 people would be coming to see us! The biggest bubble of people was on the 4th of July (U.S. Independence Day) but the flow of people started two days earlier and continued into the 6th. They just kept coming and it was SO fun!

My Aunt Ada spearheaded the whole thing as she called my parents, brothers, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and third cousins…!

At one point on the 4th my Uncle Tom took my hand and said, “How are you doing, Hon’?” I said I was doing great—and that it was fun seeing everybody. Then he said, “This whole thing is to honor you, you know.” Tears stung my eyes.

A couple of days later we were with our “Europe Family” of missionaries and once again the love overwhelmed me as they surrounded and prayed for us. I’ll never forget the faces of our regional directors, Greg and Sandie Mundis, as I shared about how awful yet wonderful this ALS process has been. As the tears rolled down their faces, I could sense their deep love for us as a couple.

That was the day that our book was unveiled—the one whose development we have facilitated this year. It’s a book of stories about God’s work through our Europe missionaries over these last ten years. The book turned out great. The editor/compiler of the stories was our friend Dean Merrill, who along with his wife Grace are some of our closest personal friends. It was fun that we could also spend the next day in Branson with them, kind of celebrating our wedding anniversaries.

The next evening we were at the Wisconsin district dinner, and once again there were those hugs, prayers, well-wishers, and concern, and we felt so loved.

At some point in the week, as I was expressing my thanks to God for all of the people who care, I had an unforgettable moment with Him:

He seemed to say,

"You know how much Jim loves you...

(I'm the luckiest girl on the planet to have a guy who loves me so much!)

...and you know how much your Aunt Ada loves you...

(We've always been SO close. Can you believe she's 80 years old? She's so beautiful inside and outside!)

...and your Uncle Paul...

(I was born on his 10th birthday and we've always had a special connection.)

...and your parents...

(My 83-year-old father says I'll always be "his girl"--and my stepmom Kay is just a really cool lady. And she loves me, too! Plus my biological mother thought I hung the moon.)

...and your brothers...

(Okay, these two brothers and my other one have always tormented--teased--and cherished me!

...and their wives...

(How many people do you know who LOVE all of their sisters-in-law?)

...and your nieces and nephews...

( they all love the Lord!)

...and their children...

(Cute...well-behaved...sweet...and mischevious. I love this little troup.)

...and Dean and Grace...

(True friends for 21 years!)

...and your kids and grandkids?

(I feel like the richest woman alive to have two such fine boys, and as I've told many of you, if I could have interviewed thousands of girls and chosen the two I liked most, I'd have picked these two! As for the five grandkids...don't get me started. :-)"

"Now," God seemed to be saying, " add up all of that love. No! Multiply the love of one by the other...exponentially...and see how huge it becomes. I love you MORE than that!”

I lost it…and couldn’t quit sobbing.

To make things even more intense, during the week I had been reading a novel that our former student Deirdre from Ireland had sent me. It’s called The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity, by William P. Young. If you’re doubting the goodness or love of God…read it!

Then my heart landed on this verse:
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Ephesians 3:17b-18

I feel like my mental construction of God’s love has been renovated—made wider, longer, higher, and deeper…to accommodate His massive love.

And you know what? All of this love isn’t just for me. It’s for you, too! I urge you to let God penetrate your preconceived notions…His love for you is exponential!


P.S. A cute addendum to the story is that a new baby girl was born in the early morning hours of July 4. She obviously didn't want to miss the party!

Her name is Bethany Joy McNaughton, and her daddy Judd is my nephew. I'm sure I could tell by her response to me that she loves me, too! (Smile!)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Pain's Potential

For some time now I’ve been noticing that the greater the pain, the more potential it has to be productive.


Potential is the key word. It doesn’t happen automatically. We have a choice.

I’ve seen it and you have, too. Someone is hurt by somebody, and they hang onto that pain forever. They get stuck.

I can see that God wants it otherwise. He wants us to use our pain to become better people and to help others who have similar pain.

I’ve seen it this year. Just after my ALS diagnosis I wasn’t sure if I would go “private” or “public” with my disease. It wouldn’t have been hard for me to get stuck in self pity. You know, “Why me? Poor me!” But God seemed to be nudging me toward being open with my process, and I’m glad he did because the feedback has confirmed that God is using my pain to help some of you. That’s so encouraging. And that bounces back and encourages me, too. Ping pong encouragement!

I can’t deny that my body is declining:

--My days of speaking on the telephone are almost over. People on the other end just can’t understand me anymore. In person it’s easier, because I can use facial expressions and/or hand gestures to get my point across. But I’m glad that I’ll be getting my speaking machine soon. I wonder if it will have a “phone feature.” I hope so! (Smile!)

--My walking is becoming shakier. When I’m barefoot I can see my toes gripping the floor, trying to keep me steady. I’m thankful for my trusty “shopping cart,” but I’m also thankful that my wheelchairs are now on order—one simple one for immediate use (I chose one with yellow trim!) and one fancy, electronic one for later. (That one will be “cosmic blue”!)

--My eating is becoming trickier. I have to eat slowly and remember not to converse. (That’s hard for a perpetual talker!) My speech therapist explained that the little flap that closes off the windpipe is getting lazy, so I have to be careful not to aspirate food. That means that if I remember to just take small bites, chew a lot, and not talk--I do fine.

On the other hand our blessings seem to be multiplying faster:

--We’ve had multiple houseguests and that has been terrifically energizing.

--We’ve had regular sweet times with our son David’s family and are greatly anticipating our upcoming trip to Pennsylvania to spend time with Paul’s.

--We’ve got many in our community who are blessing us by helping with a variety of tasks.

--Plus, many of you have sent us letters and gifts, and we feel like the richest people in the world!

So I rejoice in this:
“We know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him.” Romans 8:28a

Now imagine this! I had been thinking about these things, then on Friday I read the following piece in Max Lucado’s second Grace for the Moment devotional book:


“What do we do with disappointments?

We could do what Miss Haversham did. Remember her in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations? Jilted by her fiancé just prior to the wedding,…she closed all the blinds in the house, stopped every clock, left the wedding cake on the table to gather cobwebs, and wore her wedding dress until it hung in yellow decay around her shrunken form. Her wounded heart consumed her life.

We can follow the same course.

Or we can follow the example of the apostle Paul. His goal was to be a missionary in Spain…however, God sent him to prison. Sitting in a Roman jail, Paul could have made the same choice as Miss Haversham, but he didn’t. Instead he said, 'As long as I’m here, I might as well write a few letters.' Hence your Bible has the Epistles to Philemon, the Philippians, the Colossians, and the Ephesians.”