Gise J. Van Baren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hudsonville, Michigan.

It was in August of 1981 that additional help was obtained for Alice. Though each family member had a day of the week to assist, that no longer was sufficient. The demands on John’s family were becoming too great again. So a nurse was obtained who could come two days a week. The nurse was Barb—one could not have asked for a better—and Alice enjoyed her help and presence (though at first she refused to concede a need for a nurse). Often it was Barb who would read the notes of Alice’s “friend,” and would read with her the passage of Scripture listed on the bottom of the note. Thus, together these would be encouraged for whatever would arise in that day.

Good Morning Alice:

It’s Saturday morning again—where do the weeks go? This morning there’s a slight drizzle outside. I hope it’s not slippery and freezing over; I have some driving to do!

You know, Alice, after that text we talked about yesterday, we really need a Psalm like this one. When I truly examine myself and realize my great sin, I know that without Christ I am in the depths; and when I know that God would hold those sins against me, I know I could never stand.

God graciously guided David to write this knowledge in Psalm 130 and then to go on and explain God’s forgiveness in verse 4 and then the result of that forgiveness—David’s yearning for God in verse 5 and 6. So often when I read the Psalms, I think: how could David know just how I feel? Here he says so plainly that when I see my sin, I long for God’s forgiveness and yearn for His nearness. It’s at those times that I feel very near to God and that I “wait” for Him and it is my desire to “‘see” God.

The beautiful thing about the Psalm is that David doesn’t stop at his own needs and his own salvation, but desires that salvation for all Israel. Do I yearn for the salvation of all God’s elect?

I’ve found in a new way just today that when I do that, the petty little things I have against a person seem to slip way into the background.

Again, thanks for being you, Alice. I’m afraid more and more you are turning into a listening post for my spiritual needs rather than my encouraging you! Don’t use my little devotion as yours, because you probably need something entirely different than I do, and not knowing you, I can’t fill that need.

Do spend time alone searching God’s word and you will find so much comfort!

With love, Your friend

Please read Heb. 4:15.

Any sort of speaking was now almost impossible for Alice. For one who loved to talk, this was a real problem and extremely frustrating. Alice had to repeat herself again and again to be understood—but at times it was even then, impossible to know what she was trying to say. Two nephews managed to program a small computer so that, with the bump of a button, a letter of the alphabet could be selected. Or she could select certain phrases (“I’m thirsty”; or “How are you?” etc.) with the same button. Alice did use this for entertainment a few times, but she refused to use it regularly. Either it was perceived as too complicated or it required too much effort. Perhaps if it had been simplified even more for her, this could have proved useful.

Good Morning Alice:

I’m sorry I got this mail mixed up—now you’ll get two notes in one day!

It’s later again this morning, and beautifully sunny. Do you ever just sit and really look outside? That’s one way I’m afraid I do waste a little time! This morning, the sun is shining on the new snow and it looks like diamonds sparkling. How could a little six-pointed fleck of white sparkle like a diamond? And when you stop to think that the two feet of snow and three-foot drifts are all made up of only those six-pointed flecks, and every one individually different, you can’t help but see how great our God is.

Although I’ve never experienced a great trial, the verse for today always makes me feel “comfortable.” Our high priest is touched with every infirmity that we have ever had. He knows how I feel. He knows my temptations because He was tempted Himself He knows my sorrow—He sorrowed over Lazarus. There is nothing that I experience that I may say no one else has had to suffer this! He bore all our suffering and we may come to Him at any time with any need and He understands. Nothing is too little to bring to Him if we come in sincere need—and when we come, we will find grace to help.

In His love, Your friend

Please read Zephaniah 3:17.

Moving Alice from her bed was also becoming an increasingly great problem. John had had his own back problems. Yet he bore the greatest share of the task of moving Alice from her bed to the wheelchair. He did know how to do this best of us all. But Alice was becoming simply a dead weight. For some time, a Hoyer Lift had been available. But as with the other innovations, Alice at first refused to have it used: Perhaps she considered it one more concession that she was losing strength. But the day came when the lift had to be used. The first time it was in fun. We managed to place the canvas support under Alice and made a big production of hooking this up to the chains of the lift. Slowly, slowly, it was raised—until Alice was swinging freely above the bed. Then she was raised higher and moved about the room. Now the younger children must be called! Alice could “show off” to them in her new “swing.” After that, Alice was willing to have the lift used regularly.

Good Morning Alice:

I’ve spent some time looking over the verses we’ve shared together, and as I thought, many of them are from the Psalms. They are so comforting. But since I’ve been writing you, I’ve found so many verses all through Scripture that are just bursting with comfort and joy. Quite often they are right after admonishment or warning. If you read all of Zephaniah 3, you will see this. I especially like verse 17, but maybe another verse speaks more to you.

God is in the midst of us, Alice. He is here with us at all times. And not only that, but He rejoices over us with joy. Can you imagine? This is just beyond my understanding, sinner that I am, but nevertheless it is there. He rejoices over us with joy.

Oh, if we could only always keep that in mind, we would surely be closer to God, closer to each other, and know that there is nothing that we lack.

May you feel that joy of the Lord today, Alice.

In Him with you, Your friend

Please read Psalm 71:16.

We were becoming increasingly concerned about Alice’s eating difficulties. Frequently, she now would have a choking spell with even the smallest pieces of food. In early November she was still going out occasionally for lunch (she had even been taken out for supper by friends from Illinois), but she hardly dared to eat anything. She was afraid of triggering yet another episode of choking. But she could not surely live long on the little that she did manage to swallow.

Good Morning Alice:

I almost feel nothing can follow yesterday’s verse. If we could only keep that in front of our minds, we would be much more thankful, whatever comes our way. I guess the verse I chose for today is, for me, kind of a response to yesterday’s.

My God is here near me; He is mighty; He rejoices over me. That is not something that is just a known fact to me, but a living experience. Now what my response would be is described perfectly in Psalm 71:16.

Now I will go in the strength of the Lord. I will make mention of His righteousness. I will really strive to go into this day with that strength in my mind.

When I do that, I will not be impatient when my son wants help for the third time when I’m trying to write a letter. Then I will be patient and loving when my husband asks me to get something when I’m doing the dishes and I think he can much easier get it himself Then I will resist reading a book I know wouldn’t be right.

Then I will not be lazy in being strict with my children even though it’s the easy way out. Then I will not waste my time as I so easily tend to do, but will go in His strength, in joy, to do those things I know God commands me to do. Above all, in His strength, I will desire to come to Him more often in prayer to continue to receive that strength.

I know these things don’t fit your life, Alice, but when you put this note down, think for a while of the ways you can go in the strength of the Lord in this day. In the strength of the Lord, you can give every effort to help those helping you even when it seems to take too much effort. You can share a joyful smile even when it hurts.

You can learn. more of your heavenly Father by reading and reading His Word even when it’s so much easier to do other things. You can, in His strength, have patience with your loved ones even when they can’t understand your needs and desires.

Go with me today, Alice, in the strength of our Lord, remembering He is near and He is mighty.

With all my love, Your friend

Please read Psalm 119:71.

Even such a “little” thing as drinking was affected. Alice was not getting all the fluids she needed. She could no longer drink from a glass or cup. She had always so enjoyed her single daily cup of coffee. But now she was able to do this only with great difficulty through a straw. The cup had to be in exactly the correct position, the straw adjusted in a specific way, then she might eventually manage to suck up a little of the fluid. It was painfully evident that this was not adequate. There were times when, after a half-hour of effort, Alice had not obtained more than a swallow of liquid. One would watch the fluid rise in the straw—half-way, three quarters of the way, and finally, if all went well, some trickled into her mouth. But when surgery was mentioned to have a tube put into her stomach, Alice so dreaded the idea that she made an extra effort to take in a little more food and, liquid by mouth—yet it was not enough.

Good Afternoon Alice:

The kids are napping and I have a few quiet minutes to write you. There was just no time this morning because we all overslept a little and had to rush just to get necessary things done. Not a nice way to begin the day.

Have you thought about the verse I wrote you to read? Ps. 119:71.

At first when I read it, I thought it would make more sense if it would be that I learn Thy grace or mercy. But then I remembered the beautiful explanation Rev. J. Heys once gave of the law of liberty. I may share that with you later, but the thrust of it was that only in obeying the law are we free.

I think that fits this verse beautifully. It is good for me to be afflicted because it has taught me to turn to God more and more and abide in the blessed freedom of obedience to Him.

May you, in your affliction, experience that freedom today, Alice.

With love, Your friend

Please read Luke 10:42.