Monday, July 25, 2016

A Tale of Two Ladies and A Study in Contentment

My Apartment, 19x24, available for purchase
This is a pastel I did of the back stairs of my first apartment. I was 19 years old, just out of college, and working for one year before grad school. It was a tiny ramshackle place, but I loved it.  I still remember the heady feeling of making my own way financially for the first time.

I worked at a nursing home as a nurse's aid in preparation for my graduate degree in Occupational Therapy. I thought it would be wise to be sure I could work with people who had compromised health before I committed to the degree.

It was not an easy job. It was not a well-run nursing home, and many of the residents were in bad shape. There are two that come to mind immediately. One was a bitter and angry woman who had been a NY City Rockette in her youth. She had been stunning and talented in her younger days. She did not age well. I don't mean only her looks, but her heart as well. She was a nasty woman. There was nothing medically terribly wrong with her, but she was wretchedly miserable. Her family visited often, but she had only venom and dissatisfaction to spew. We used to draw straws to see which one of us would be stuck helping her. She had a picture of herself as a Rockette on her bedside which she showed us often...a gorgeous woman in her day. I think the loss of all that beauty, toned physique, and talent left in its wake emptiness of soul.

Another woman had a fifty pound goiter that hung from her belly. It was an enormous blob of tissue and she usually kept it girdled. Part of my job was showering her, and then it hung loose like a wrecking ball, swaying below her belly. I had a hard time looking at it. I imagine she had a worse time bearing it. However, she was the most cheerful, friendly, contented woman I had ever met. She talked incessantly of her sons, whom she loved unabashedly. Not once in the entire year I worked there did I ever see her sons visit her. She always greeted me with a smile, and told me she hoped and expected her boys would be dropping by so be sure to clean her up good!

That memory was sparked looking at the old painting I did of my first apartment. I didn't know God yet, but I was given a tremendous lesson in contentment or despair despite circumstances. I don't know if the second woman knew God. I wouldn't have picked up on the cues back then, but now, I would bet she did.

Now compare the picture at the top of this blog with a second drawing I made of the same scene. Notice, the post is crooked in the painting above, but in the painting below it is straight. I love the symbolism, whether intentional or not. It is all a matter of perspective in whether we are upright in our attitude, or crooked. Unlike the poor ramshackle porch I drew, we DO get to choose if we stand tall in the Lord and content, or dangerously askew and dissatisfied without Him.

My Apartment Made Whole, pastel, 19x24

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Philippians 4:11-12 

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

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