Monday, November 14, 2011

Acknowledging Wanda

              “For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.”
                                                                I Corinthians 16:18 (KJV)

The other day, I got a package in the mail.  It meant so much to me.  I was feeling down.  Wanda always seems to know when I need a boost.  This isn’t the first time she has refreshed my spirit with an unexpected blessing in the mail.  As I thought about my package, my mind went back to a February day in 1987.  It seems like a lifetime ago. 

I stepped into the women’s dormitorynervous and lonely.  I didn’t know a soul—not a single soul.  I found my room and began to settle in and try to find some familiarity by unpacking some of my personal belongings.  I felt so homesick, I cried, and somehow, it comforted me to take out my things and place them in their new “home.”

I don’t recall how it happened, or where we were when we first spoke, but I remember stepping into the unfamiliar hallway and, at some point, seeing a friendly, smiling face. What a welcome, refreshing relief!  We introduced ourselves, and somehow, instantly, I knew we had kindred spirits.  It felt like I had known her all my life.  She said her name was Wanda, and she was from Virginia. 

We began to talk, and I found that she had been at Bible College for a while and knew almost everyone in each of the four halls of the dorm.  She introduced me to others and invited me to her room.  She made me feel welcome and took the edge off of the acclimation to my new surroundings. We talked non-stop and found that we had many things in common.  We both had spent the bulk of our growing up years as the only child at home.  Sadly, she had lost her only two brothers in tragic deaths, and I was born much later than my four siblings. 

Looking back on that uncertain day so many years ago, I know it was God who placed Wanda in my life.  It wasn’t coincidence or happenstance that she is one of the very first people I met on campus.  God knew how desperately I needed not just an acquaintance, but a friend. Someone to refresh my spirit.  Someone who would stand by me through all that was up ahead and still love me no matter what happened in life.  I wish everyone in the world could have a friend like Wanda.  We’ve been there for each other through our 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and now into our 50's, and I thank the Lord so much for her.  From the moment we met, a bond of friendship developed that time, many life changes, cross-country moves, hardships, and miles between has never been able to diminish.

One thing amazes me—it doesn’t matter how long we go between phone conversations or emails or how long in between our visits, we simply pick up right where we left off.  Like we’ve never been apart.  There is never a need for an explanation as to why we haven’t talked in so long.  We don’t surmise and think it is strange or rude if we can’t talk or communicate constantly.  There is an unspoken understanding between us that no matter what happens or how long it takes, we will be there for each other.  Wanda has proven to be a precious and true friend to me.  She continues to refresh my spirit, and she will always be a very valuable and important part of my life. 

The Apostle Paul faced loneliness, feeling displaced, and times of depression.  Many times, he was far from home, and he must have missed being in familiar territory.  God faithfully, time after time, sent people to encourage him in his distress.  Three men named Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus had come to visit him in today’s passage of Scripture.  His acknowledgement of them and their kindness to him became a permanent part of our New Testament.  He admonished the readers of his letter to also “acknowledge” those that refresh their spirits. 

Sometimes people do things for us and mean something to us, and we never recognize it.  We never let them know how much they mean to us and encourage us.  Have you ever done something to refresh someone and they never acknowledged it at all?  I remember one particular instance that was especially hurtful to me.  I had ordered a special picture frame for someone, put a lot of effort into getting just the right picture for it, and then went out of my way to make sure they got it on their birthday.  They never acknowledged it—not a word, even though I spoke with them and saw them many times afterwards.  Sometimes we come to take people and their kindnesses for granted.  We think they will always be there and that their feelings aren’t that important.

We have all been on the receiving end of this kind of ingratitude and thoughtlessness, and we have all felt the lack of response from someone we’ve tried to bless.  Knowing how it feels to not be appreciated should teach us to never inflict that upon someone else.  Everyone needs to feel necessary and wanted and valued, and the kindness they show needs and deserves to be acknowledged.

Has someone refreshed your spirit?  Is there someone in your life who needs to be acknowledged?  Have you been careless in showing your gratitude?  There will never be a better time than now to give them a call, send them a hand-written thank you note in the mail, or even an email to let them know you appreciate them.  Who knows?  They may especially long for a boost today, and you might be the very one God wants to use to refresh their spirit and give them the encouragement they need.  Don’t toss away the opportunity or put it off any longer.  People won’t always be there.  For various reasons, you may not have the chance to do it tomorrow.  Why not acknowledge them now? 

Thank you, dear Wanda, for being my precious, lifetime, faithful friend.
I love you more than I could ever say!

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