Learning Lessons From Mom on Finding God’s Will

Oh, the lessons my mama is still teaching me!

I went over the other day to help Mom with a bath.  She seemed happy to see me.  Then I asked her to please get up and take a little walk down the hall with me.  (We’ve learned not to use the bath word until we’re right next to the bath.)

Dad stood up to help inspire her.  “Come on, Nina!  Let’s go!” he cheerfully cajoled.

Mom promptly put her feet up on the footstool, crossed her ankles, and with a little smile said, “What if I don’t want to?”

Dad chuckled and mumbled, “Yea, what if you don’t want to…” But he managed to convince her to stand up and I was able to take her from there.

The bath was as challenging as usual. One stand out moment happened as I was leaning over and unfortunately had my ear a few inches from her mouth when she shouted at the top of her lungs.  She was angry about every step of the bath process and let me know with loud protests.

But anyway, we got through it all, and then Mom all fresh and clean went back to the living room and sat down. And then she said, “What am I supposed to be doing?  Tell me what to do.”

I thought it was interesting that when I was asking her to do specific things she protested and fought me through it all. But moments later she was asking for direction.

And it dawned on me how often I do the same thing with God.  I pray and ask Him for guidance.  I want Him to show me what job to have and what house to buy. I want Him to give me a ministry and a clear calling.  I say that I want to live in the center of His will and I think that if He would only clearly tell me His directions I would of course do them.

But then I realize how often I see instructions in the Bible, or hear quiet promptings of the Spirit, and if not consciously, at least sub-consciously, put my feet up and cross my ankles and have the attitude of, “what if I don’t want to?”

I’ve been commanded to forgive and to bear with others and to let the peace of God rule in my heart.

I’ve been told to turn the other cheek and go the second mile. I’ve been instructed to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and visit the sick and imprisoned.

I’ve been challenged to, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks…” (I Thess. 5:16-18) And that whatever I do, I should…“do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” (Col. 3:23)

And over and over again I am called to love. To love God and to love others. To treat others as I want to be treated. To offer hospitality without grumbling.  To be kind and patient and unselfish.

And I wonder how often, even as I’m asking God for direction in some areas of my life, I’m ignoring or neglecting directions that He has already clearly revealed.

God has made much of His will plain. I know on this earth I will continue to struggle and that my obedience to Him will never be perfect. But with His help, I want to be more sensitive and obedient to the commands He has already given me.

I don’t want to be found with my feet up, saying, “What if I don’t want to?” I don’t want to struggle and fight against what He’s already clearly called me to do.

I want to walk in the Spirit faithfully.  And as He brings to mind His Word I want to willingly obey.  I want to say to Him, “Tell me what to do now, please.”  And mean it. And do it. Moment by moment.  Not just seeking His direction for the “important” things, but striving to obey in all the big and small daily things of life that  His Word already speaks to. Please help me, Jesus.

And thank you, Mama, for another lesson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, I am rich with tender joys today!

After Mom’s bath (which wasn’t the joyful part) I sat on the love seat with Mom. She cuddled up close to me and smoothed her hand up and down my arm.  Then she said, with no prompting, “I love you.”

I was so touched. And then I dared to ask, “Do you know who I am?”

And she answered, “You’re Cheryl.”

I didn’t know if I’d ever hear those words again. But she said, “You’re Cheryl” with no hesitation or pause. And right after she’d said that she loved me! I felt like throwing a party!

Just a few minutes later though, Mom looked at me again and asked, “Who are you?”

“I’m Cheryl,” I answered, a bit disappointed that she’d already forgotten.

But then, her face lit up in a bright smile and she asked, “Cheryl Lynn?” And I was sitting in sunshine surrounded by flowers again!

When Dad came home from grocery shopping Mom looked at him and asked, “Who are you?”

“I’m Raymon,” he answered.  “Who are you?”

Mom started laughing and admitted, “I don’t know!”

Oh, what a strange world Alzheimer’s is. Today Mom doesn’t know her own name, but she knew mine for a few seconds. And she knew that Lynn followed Cheryl and that made her smile! And she told me she loved me within a few seconds of remembering my name!

I’m not sure if people who’ve never had a loved one with Alzheimer’s can totally grasp how precious these glimmers of being known and loved are. You just never know when it might be the last time Mom knows your name or recognize you at all. And any hint that she still does is a cherished mercy from God. A tender moment that you want to shout from the mountain top!!

Today I am rich!  Thank you for rejoicing with me!

 

 

 

 

 

Glimmers of Joy

The Beautiful Mosaic Out of Brokenness

I’m learning lessons in brokenness….

Yesterday I had a mostly nice visit with Mom. It started out with a need to change her, which is never fun, and brings out some ugly words that she never used to say.  But after that we sat cozy on the love seat and I asked her specific questions about what she liked.

It was reassuring to hear her respond, as I would have expected her to, so much of the time. She knew that she didn’t like picking cotton, or biking or swimming.  She knew that she did like holding babies and sewing dresses and typing.

Her confident answers made me happy.  There is a comfort in knowing that even though she doesn’t do these things anymore she still knows her preferences. And I smiled because she made her “yesses” and “no’s” loudly and with feeling.

And the whole time we were talking Mom was cuddled up next to me.  Sometimes she leaned her head against me.  Sometimes she patted my arm.  Most of the time she kept licking her pointer finger and using it to try to “clean” freckles and spots off my arm.

She didn’t know who I was, but she seemed comfortable with me. (And she cared enough to want my arm “clean”.)  We sang songs together and laughed and talked.

Much of her language now is fragmented and often doesn’t make sense. It makes me think of bits of different colored broken glass.  An individual piece can seem strange and maybe ugly.  But when the bits are arranged into a mosaic it can make a picture.

My times with Mom now are somewhat broken.  And parts of each visit are often ugly. But the fragmented language and bits of memories and sweet, quirky ways still give me a picture of my precious mama. The picture isn’t what it used to be and it keeps changing—but mom is still there. And she is still beautiful and dear.

So I will trust God with the changing picture of mama. I will ask Him to give me eyes to see through the ugly stuff and capture the sweet. And I will have faith that when I only see broken bits, He sees the whole picture.  And I will rejoice that one day He will restore Mama, and give her a heavenly body and mind, more perfect than I can imagine.

 

The Fast God Has Chosen

Sometimes I hear true stories that make my heart hurt. I’m a pastor’s wife and we hear all kinds of things…

I heard a story awhile back about a middle-aged man who told his sister she should visit their widowed, elderly mom more often. This sister told him that he couldn’t tell her what to do, and continued her habit of visiting their lonely mother, who lived within a reasonable driving distance, about once a year.

I heard another story from an elderly woman whose son dutifully visited every day to hand her the medications she needed. But the woman said with dismay, “He never takes his hand off the doorknob.”

And just this week, an elderly man told me, “I haven’t talked to my son since Christmas. Maybe I didn’t even talk to him then—there were so many relatives here that day, I can’t remember.” He looked sad and hurt and my heart went out to him.

Why does this happen? Why are the elderly virtually abandoned by so many? By even their own children?

Are we really so busy that we don’t have time for Grandma?

I was reading a devotional today that referenced Isaiah 58 starting with verse 6, which speaks on the type of fast that God has chosen. In verse 7 it says, “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out….And not hide yourself from your own flesh?” 

Many people are abstaining from some food, pleasure or comfort right now in this season of Lent. And this can be a very good and right thing.

But reading this verse makes me wonder if sometimes it would please God even more if we brought a meal to Dad or Grandpa and shared it with him.

And isn’t it interesting that way back in Isaiah’s time people were hiding themselves from their own flesh? Apparently it has always been a temptation to ignore family members who need us.

We’re all busy, and we all have our own things that we need to do and want to do. But please, please, please let’s take time to sit with our elderly loved ones.

Let’s visit regularly and as often as distance allows. If Mom, or Dad, lives too far away, let’s call and have long phone chats. When we do visit let’s take our hands off the doorknob and not keep glancing at the clock.

Let’s show our dear elders, with our time, that they are precious and valuable. Let’s ask them about their childhood and their life and learn their testimonies and wisdom. Let’s see what we can do to help and then do it. Let’s hug them close while they’re still here.

There are tender moments to treasure. There are stories to hear. There are wrinkled hands to be held and sparkling eyes and smiles to cherish. There are sweet memories to be made and held dear.

None of us knows when a visit will be the last one this side of heaven. Please don’t let that last visit be the one you never got around to having.

My Mama, The Marauder

Dad has a new name for Mom…

Mama found a magic marker somehow. Of course it was a permanent one and black. And of course she was wearing her newest, prettiest red dress that her sister had recently sewn and mailed to us. Why she wanted to draw on her dress I can’t tell you.

Some things are a mystery.

I can’t tell you why she worked so hard to pull the under-cabinet light fixture apart either. Or what she did with Dad’s story cartridge from the Library for the Blind.

Dad has a new name for her. He’s calling her The Marauder. In case you’re not familiar with that word, as I’m not particularly, myself….Wiktionary says…
marauder (plural marauders). Someone who moves about in roving fashion looking for plunder. A band of marauders. A band of outlaws who raid and pillage.”

Well, I guess that is fairly accurate.

Dad has had my brother install locks up high on bedroom doors and cupboards. Thankfully, Mom’s about ten inches shorter than him and doesn’t seem to look up when a door doesn’t open. Though she couldn’t reach the locks even if she did notice them.

Poor Dad has to be careful about leaving anything out these days. But he seems to be taking it all in stride and with a sense of humor. Mom keeps him on his toes! My sweet Mama… The Marauder.

Lessons of Good-byes

I learned lessons of life and good-byes tonight. I sat on the sofa, with my parents, as Mom read the little stories of her life I had typed up for her about her childhood and young adulthood and then her courtship with Dad.

At one point she read out loud, “Ray and Nina got married.” She turned to Dad and asked in a strong, surprised tone, “Did you get married?”
Dad teased her back, “Did you get married?”
Mom laughed and half shouted, “I don’t remember!” Then she suddenly turned and looked at Dad and seriously asked, “Who are you?”
Dad, unfazed and accustomed to the question, calmly replied, “I’m your sweetheart.”
“Oh,” Mom said contemplatively. “You’re my sweetheart.”

Dad and I sat and visited, while I continued to comb Mom’s freshly washed hair with my fingers. I asked Dad some questions and he told me stories of his own dad’s history as a lumberjack and how they would ice the snow grooves so the horses could pull the sleds of lumber easily and other tidbits and treasures that I didn’t know before.

When I got up to leave, Dad walked me to the door. He stood on his little front porch with the storm door held open, as I backed my car out of the driveway for my short drive home. It reminded me of my childhood, when we would faithfully go visit my dad’s parents, who lived a couple hours from us.

Grandpa would always walk us out to the car, and stand at the end of the driveway and watch us drive away. This was the same grandpa, who left his own homeland of Sweden when he was 26, and never saw his parents on this earth again. I wonder if that made good-byes more important to him.

And it all makes me think of our Heavenly Father, because He loves those who don’t even know who He is. And He has so much wisdom to give us if we will just ask and seek and listen. And, like my Dad standing at the doorway, “The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” Psalm 121:8(NLT)

And He has made a way, for all who follow Him in faith, to be reunited someday in our true Homeland. And there I will see my Grandpa again and give him the biggest hug ever and ask him all about his lumberjack days and hear all his stories. And there my Mom will remember her marriage, and know who her faithful, loving husband is. And there we will never say good-bye.

 
 

Memories and Mama Lessons

 

Memories and five “mama lessons” from today…

As I was helping Mom get dressed after her bath, she was upset and shouted, “Shut-up!”  I didn’t say anything, but a few seconds later Mom quietly, with repentance in her voice, said, “I’m sorry.” This was unusual for her, but I found it comforting.

When we were sitting on the loveseat together Mom said, “Who are you?”

“I’m Cheryl.”

“Annabel?”

“No.  I’m Cheryl.  Who are you?”

“Cheryl,” Mom happily replied.

My youngest brother walked in the room.  “Who’s that?” Mom asked.

“That’s my brother.”

“Oh, your brother.”  Mom seemed very pleased with this and added, “We have a brother.”

I had to get up to get something from the kitchen.  As I settled back down, Dad (who has almost no vision) held up a wadded tissue.  “What’s this?” he asked.

“Looks like Mom’s Kleenex.”

“How did it get in my bowl [of food]?”

“Um…Mom must have thrown it,” I answered. (She does like to throw her tissues around. Apparently she has good aim.)

A little later I said, “I love you, Mom.”

“I know you do,” she confidently replied.

“Lessons” from mama today…

  • Remember to say you’re sorry when you say something hurtful. It really helps.
  •  If you’re not sure what your name is, just be the person you are with. (Just kidding.)
  • Be happy and thankful if you have brothers.  (And/or sisters.)
  • Watch what you eat. Especially around Mom.
  •  If you forget everything else, remember that you are loved. And if you think no one does love you, know for certain that God does.