Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mom, Amy Grant and Mercy

They say when a person has dementia, it’s a slow series of losses, of the mind and the body.  Many may say the person affected loses who they were completely.  That may be true for some but I thank God that Mom did not entirely lose who she really was. Because of what she had instilled within her heart and soul for her entire life, what really matters in life was not completely lost, and in that fact, I find the great Mercy and Grace of God present.  In her newest album, singer/songwriter Amy Grant addresses this issue in the song, “How Mercy Looks from Here.” 
So come with me and see; this is how mercy looks from here.
Written during a time of loss, having both parents with dementia, a series of deaths in the family and the extreme flooding in her town that spring, Amy’s words sum up what the human response might be.  “Some would have given up, Drowning in their tears, But on her wrinkled face, A smile appears”.  It reminds me of how often Mom kept a smile on her face despite the difficulties of life.  In fact, after she passed away, the overwhelming majority of workers at Durgin Pines, in expressing their condolences, all commented on what a beautiful smile Gwen had.  I had often tried to encourage mom in her moments of sorrow, and yes, she cried many tears, to be a light and a blessing to those around her.  Apparently, she was. 

So come and see; this is how mercy looks from here.
I look back at the time of my dad’s disablement and the beginnings of my mom’s dementia.  Some might say, How could God do this to people who did nothing but serve Him all their lives.  That is an age old question and one I don’t have a pat answer to.  But I do know, my mom cherished those days, months, years together.  For one thing, it finally got my dad to slow down.  I remember calling them on the phone one morning about 10:30a.m.  I asked what they were doing.  Mom said, Oh we’re just lying in bed reminiscing about the good ol’ days.  What a treasure, to just be with the one you love, uninterrupted and talking about what a great life it had been.  And how they loved sitting on their deck, watching the momma robin take care of her babies in the nest under the eaves of their deck roof, visiting with the Meals on Wheels volunteers, enjoying the blessings God had given them after a life well-lived.
So come, see; this is how mercy looks from here.
When Mom entered Durgin Pines, it was the hardest thing she had ever had to face, I think.  Giving up the home she loved so much, and I think, realizing deep down, that her mind was beginning to go, but not wanting to accept it.  There were some bad moments, very bad moments, but this is where Mercy and Grace took over.  Amy Grant’s song continues, “When you face your greatest fear, Losing all that you hold near, Open up your eyes my dear, my dear. That’s When Boundless grace appears, Unseen angels hover near, Saints are singing loud and clear, Oh how Mercy looks from here.”   I witnessed this so many times.  Within weeks of her entering the facility, I noticed one special CNA, who loved on my mom as a daughter would.  Her name is Bonnie and although she couldn’t be here today, she was the angel that God sent to make mom’s days much brighter.  Best of all, Bonnie is a follower of Jesus Christ.  Bonnie could relate to my mom in spirit because they were united in spirit through Christ.  Bonnie kept a journal for 2 years following my dad’s death and gave it to me when she left D.P. It is a precious gift.  Recorded moments of laughter and tears.  At times, I wondered where my mom’s faith had gone, when she seemed so “out of it”.  But this journal let me know, mom’s faith was intact and Bonnie helped her maintain it.  There were many other Christians in her life at D.P. Such a huge blessing.

Come, see; how mercy looks from here. 
I have to tell you about one other event that truly shows how God cares about us in the detail and minutia of our lives.  The first Christmas at D.P., I was able to bring her to the ladies Christmas tea at church.  There was a Yankee Swap gift exchange and mom ended up with a flashlight from Caroley Matthews.  The first words out of her mouth, “I’ve been wanting one for my bedside for the middle of the night”. Mom had never expressed this to me and afterwards I remembered how she always kept one within hand’s reach when she was at home and alone.  God knew and provided. 

See; how Mercy looks  from here.
Gwen had spent many years, cultivating the life within.  One of my childhood memories is of her sitting in her chair reading and studying her Bible.  She loved helping others learn the truths of God’s word, whether you were 6 or 60.  Probably many here had Mom as a teacher in some compacity.  She longed for everyone to know God as she daily grew in her experience of God.  Another line from Amy Grant’s song states, “I would have given up, Drowning in my tears, If it wasn’t for your voice, all these years.”  Mom knew the voice of God speaking to her and I believe, sustaining her in her final years.  Just weeks before she died, when intelligible speech was next to nothing, she looked at me intently, the clearness of her eyes and soul more real than they had been in months, and said out of the blue, “I Love the Lord”.  My heart rejoiced to hear those words.  “I do too, mom,” I replied.  We smiled at each other.  God’s mercy and boundless grace flowing freely. 

This IS how Mercy looks from Here.
Written for mom's memorial service, June 2013.  A life well-lived.  I love and miss you, Gwenie!



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

An excerpt from "Harvest of Rubies" by Tessa Ashfar

We all have to face this decision in life at some point.

"Why Lord? I cried out in the privacy of my thoughts. ….Why?
God, it seemed, had no answers for me. I railed against Him to no avail. I pummeled Him with my demands for an explanation, an excuse, a justification. He only gave me His silence.
I thought of King David and the many disappointments he had suffered. He too had put God to the question. Eli, Eli, lamah azavtani? My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? I hurled David’s question at God hoping that He would honor His beloved king where He had chosen to ignore me. And then I went still.
I remembered that in the Hebrew Scriptures you sometimes asked a question not because you expected a literal answer, but because a question was another way to express your feelings. King David had asked God why, but he had never intended to take Him to task with that question. He was not asking the Lord to explain Himself. He was merely pouring his heart out to God. He was telling his Lord that he felt abandoned.
 I became mindful of how differently I had addressed the Lord. I had asked my whys of Him for years, expecting an explanation that would satisfy me. I had put Him on trial for what I perceived to be His insufficiency—His failure—and refused to surrender my heart to Him unless He would answer me. Unless He would give me a satisfactory explanation of His ways. How different was my heart from David’s.
It occurred to me that the Lord must have cherished David’s simple lamah. That was the cry of a child, who not understanding, still clung to his father. My why, on the other hand, was an indictment. It was a finger pointing at God. It held no trust.
In those moments of inward examination, with three other people and a sick dog in the same room with me, I felt myself completely alone before God. And I saw the state of my soul for the first time. I saw how arrogant I had been to judge Him. To reject Him.
I was faced in that moment with a decision. Surrounded with reminders of the disappointments of my life…, would I turn to God as a trusting child instead of a demanding judge? Would I lay down my accusations and exchange them for the intimacy of a weeping infant’s arms who clung about her Father’s neck? A child, who, not understanding why her Father took away her favorite prize, still turned to Him for comfort?
Would I exchange my why for David’s why?
It occurred to me that even if God wished to give me an accounting of Himself, His explanation would make as much sense to me as Bardia’s elucidation of pruning would make to the vine. I simply could not comprehend a God who was so far above me.
But, like David, I could have His comfort. I could have His love. I could have His peace. I could have all this without understanding.
This was the choice before me then: an unreasoning surrender that paved the way to love, or a stubborn distance from God until He justified Himself to me. Until He chose to run the world my way.
I was so tired of battling God. It had availed me nothing but bitterness. He had allowed me to wander far, to have my own way, to follow my own will. To taste the sour fruit of running my own life. I had had enough. I wanted David’s heart. I had started that night with sharp accusations against my Lord; I ended it with the desire to love Him. I chose to give my life back to God on His terms, not mine."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fixing My Eyes

So yesterday was my 48th birthday. I treated myself, at my husband's urging, to my first pair of reading glasses. I have succumbed to presbyopia. Yes, my arms just weren't long enough to read the finer print on labels or the reading lamp just wasn't bright enough anymore. So we picked out a snazzy red pair to help me in my advancing years. My eyes needed to be fixed. Funny this purchase came the same week I have been reminded of another fixing that my eyes needed. Four times I have been reminded to "fix my eyes on Jesus". First one came in a sermon. The pastor said that his primary goal when he came to our church was to help us fix our eyes on Jesus alone. Programs and people are not to be our focus. Only Jesus. My second reminder came in a note of encouragement from a friend. She wrote, "You have gone through alot...and yet I see your minds fixed on Jesus." I don't always succeed at this, but am thankful that she encourages me to continue on and stand firm. Third instance was in my birthday card. The person wrote, "taking a stand to keep our eyes on JESUS--HE IS FAITHFUL!!" Lastly, I hopped in the car and flipped on the radio and what do I hear? "In the trials and struggles of life, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus." These 4 messages all came within a week of each other. I guess I don't need any louder message than this. What happened to Peter when he took his eyes off of the Master? He noticed the stormy seas and began to sink. I have been struggling with anxiety and in my head I know where to turn. I rejoice that God used others to remind me that I need to use those new reading glasses and keep my eyes fixed on Jesus by READING HIS WORD. The nearness of His presence will keep me calm no matter how rough the waters.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Let Kids Be Kids

I read a great article in the Sunday Parade (or whatever that weekly supplement was in the Portland Press Herald). The writer was relating that kids now have no summer to just do nothing. The scheduled camps, activities and "educational experiences" keep a kid running from dawn to dusk all summer long leaving no time to enjoy the creativity, imagination and fun of doing nothing. I agreed with the author, that we're not allowing kids to enjoy summertime without some kind of a purpose, be it learning or skill development. I think of my own childhood, biking with my friends with no objective (we used to alternate taking Right Turns and Left Turns at every intersection and try to "get lost"). We would play Cavalry and Indians (so politically incorrect now). We would cup jars over bees on clover and then knock it over with a stick and run (don't ask me who thought of that one). Sure, it's great to expand kids world's beyond their own house, but good grief, they have the rest of their lives (70 years+) to be scheduled and controlled by the responsibilities of life. My 11 year old and I went to a local nature preserve to participate in a bird-banding and data-gathering experience. That was our one big "educational" thing for July. He loved it. He was able to hold the birds when it was time to release them. I wonder if he would have been as excited if it was just another thing mom had him signed up for in the short span of days we call summer. I am thankful that I am able to allow my kids to have the experience to just do nothing all summer long. As I write, I hear the happy sounds of Lane talking with his buddy, as they run around the yard being knights, building creations from Legos and munching on popsicles. He may not learn anything about physics or become a talented athlete, but he will have great memories of his summers, just as I do of mine.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I will trust my Jehovah-jireh

Lately it has really been impressed upon me the reality of God will provide. How freeing this is! I don't have to worry and fear the future. If I am living in His plan, he will provide what I need to accomplish it. Our income the last few years has been not what it had been in prior years but I've come to realize, I still have a roof over my head and food to eat (many times too much). If the day comes when we cannot stay here, God will provide something else for us, a less expensive house or maybe a completely new situation/location. A friend recently moved into their first home ever (and at not that young of an age). They have the best attitude about it. She told me, "This is not our house, it's God's". And that should be true about all our "stuff". So if it is all HIS, then he can do with it what He wants. Who am I to go against His plan for His possessions? I just need to be listening to His leading and follow every step He takes. And if "my" stuff is the sacrifice in that Plan, then I must be willing to release my grip on it. Like Job of old, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, BLESSED be the name of the Lord!"
But I've also found that the Lord is my Provider for ALL of life--not just physical needs. Like the beautiful chorus from Chris Tomlin,
All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

This includes my emotional and spiritual needs. Lessons I learn now, will enable me to trust Him in anything that is to come. I need not fear the future; He provides what I need. My task in life is to eagerly step out on the path he puts before me. I will follow; I will trust my Jehovah-jireh!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Tale in Every Trunk

I was talking to my friend tonight and in the course of our conversation, we were talking about all the boxes of stuff in our houses. For her, it's stuff from her life, having moved a few times over the years. For me, I have stuff of my own as well as boxes from my mom's house. We were commiserating about having to "go through" them and clean out. But each item in each box tells a story; that's what makes it so hard to ditch. I was reminded of what treasures are in my parents boxes when I found letters written between my parents as my dad traveled on the road, often for weeks at a time. So many times he wrote lines to the effect of, "I don't have enough money to get to my next destination. I'll just have to trust God will provide." And sure enough, within hours often, someone in the church he was at would hand him $10 or $20 so he could get to the next series of meetings. I am often sad that I didn't take the time to talk to my parents more of their spiritual journeys through life. I am thankful that all the "junk" in the boxes lets me hear their story of God's love and faithfulness to them.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Great Read for 2011

Just finished reading "Pearl in the Sand" by Tessa Afshar. Wow, a really captivating book. It is the fictionalized story of Rahab who saved the Israelite spies in Jericho. Each page had me dwelling on some aspect of our relationship with God and others. I loved how the author portrays Rahab being drawn to the true and living God before she even understood anything about Him. God does draw us to Himself when we allow Him to speak to us. Each step of obedience to Him draws us deeper and deeper into the plan He has for us. I am convinced more each day, that all God requires of us is to choose His way over the way I would naturally want to react to events and people. Eventually, His way becomes the natural way to live. And what Peace and Joy follow.