I read another one of Debbie Macomber’s books when I was on vacation the week before last. The book was God’s Guest List: Welcoming Those Who Influence Our Lives. The other two books of Macomber’s that I’ve read recently are One Perfect Word (about the idea of having one special word for the year rather than New Year’s Resolutions) and One Simple Act: Discovering the Power of Generosity.
I expected God’s Guest List to be about hospitality. It’s not. It’s about the people God has invited into my life for a reason – to help me become the kind of person I am meant to be. Macomber opens the book by telling an old story about a woman who enters the gates of heaven. St. Peter takes her on a welcome tour to familiarize her with heaven. They walk by a large building with a huge door that’s locked. She asks St. Peter about it, and he says she really wouldn’t want to see that building, but she insists, so St. Peter unlocks the door. The building is filled with millions of beautifully wrapped presents. She asks if this is where presents are stored for everyone in heaven. St. Peter says, “No. These gifts aren’t for heaven. They were meant for earth.” The woman sees a stack of presents with her name on them and asks if she can have them now. St. Peter responds, “No. You don’t need them now. You needed them on earth, but you sent them back unopened. That’s what all these presents are – unopened returns from earth.”
Macomber then goes on to say,
Unfortunately, in real life God’s presents don’t always come gaily gift-wrapped, and they are not always easily recognized. Some even initially come looking like challenges. And often these gifts are people shaped.
The next 14 chapters include true stories and reflections about people who come into our lives – people whose presence is a wonderful gift from God. Macomber encourages us to make lists of people who have come into our lives – family members, friends, strangers, chance encounters, and so on – people who are on God’s Guest List for us. She also prompts us to reflect on some of God’s Guest Lists for other people that we might be on.
God’s Guest List: Welcoming Those Who Influence Our Lives is a very readable book that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.
One of the many people on God’s Guest List for me, and I think I might have been on her list, too, is Glee Ellickson. I met her 11 years ago. One of our early residents at Country Comforts Assisted Living was “Marla.” She had fairly advanced dementia. She had been living at home with her daughter, and Glee had taken care of her when her daughter was at work. As “Marla’s” dementia progressed, her daughter felt that Marla needed more care than she and Glee could provide, so she moved her into Country Comforts. That’s when we met Glee, and we hired her to work for us a few hours a week to help us care for “Marla” as well as our other residents.
Glee and her husband Earl had farmed in rural Cambridge throughout their working years. Upon retirement, they moved to a house in Cambridge, and kept busy helping their kids and grandkids, and caring for “Marla” and our other residents. Glee was one of the kindest, most caring people I’ve met. All our residents have loved her, and over the years she became a very good friend of ours.
On July 22nd of this year, Earl died. He had been in declining health for several years, so the death wasn’t a big surprise, but it was still hard for their whole family. They are a very close, loving family.
A few weeks later, Glee finally went to a specialist about her sore throat and raspy voice. The news wasn’t good. She had advanced cancer of the thyroid. Glee stopped in to tell us her news, and Mim gave her a printout of my blog about our “Awful August.” A few days later we received a card from Glee with this message,
Hi Mim & Marian,
I want to tell you how much I appreciated getting a copy of Marian’s “August Blog.”
I’ve read it many times – every evening and also morning. The song [“God Will Take Care of You”] was a long ago favorite that I had forgotten about. It has helped me. Thank you.
I was to University Hospital yesterday. Surgery is for Sept. 9th. Will not know the time till the 8th. I will be there a few days. Pray for me. I will be glad when it is over.
Very thankful for a wonderful family. Hope Sept. is a better month for you folks and also for me.
Thanks to both of you for being my friends.
Over the next couple of weeks Mim had a few short visits with Glee. The last one was Thursday just after we came home from Christmas Mountain. Glee told Mim, “I’ve made my peace with this.” Three days later on September 21st , two months after Earl went to heaven, Glee joined him.
I’m so thankful that God had all of us on each other’s Guest Lists. The presence of Glee in our lives for the past 11 years has been a real blessing in many, many ways – from her cheerfully helping us care for our residents – to baking the best sugar cookies ever for us and giving us the recipe. I will certainly miss Glee’s smiling face, cheerful disposition, and kind actions. Glee’s presence in our lives has been one of the best gifts on God’s Guest List for my life.