Praying for our First Thanksgiving Without Mom

Abba Father,

My heart is heavy. Something about holidays this first year since Mama went home to You is heartbreaking. I’m not sure why, because the last few years of her life she wasn’t participating with us anyway. And she hadn’t really known me for long before that.

But even though that was hard, I could still bring Mama a Thanksgiving meal. I could feed her mashed potatoes and gravy. I could hold her soft hand. I could hope for a sweet word from her. Sometimes she’d say something that made me laugh. Sometimes she’d thrill me by saying my name.

And I could know that when I left, Mama had Daddy and Daddy had Mama. And Dad would tell Mom over and over how much he loved her. And Mom would flutter tap his back for hours as they snuggled in bed together.

Oh Abba Father, I know Mama is with you now. I know she will have the best Thanksgiving ever. And I’m so grateful for that and for You and for eternity. But I don’t know how to prepare for Thanksgiving on earth, when all I want to do is cry. I have so many blessings to be thankful for. SO MANY! And I am grateful, Lord, I truly am.

And yet the emotions and the tears keep coming. How can I honor You through this, Abba? What do You want me to do?

Help me Lord, please, to:

  • keep my focus on You and Your faithfulness and presence
  • continually give thanks
  • love and enjoy the people and moments you bless me with today
  • be faithful in the responsibilities You’ve given me right now 
  • let go of stress, worry, and perfection and trust that Thanksgiving, with all its details, is in Your hands
  • appreciate my family and not drive them crazy prepping for the day

Thank You, Abba Father, that You are merciful and good and so faithful! Thank You that Your mercies surround us, Your compassions are new every morning, and that Your love never fails.

Tuck me closely under Your wings when the tears need to fall. And then lift me up on wings like eagles when I need to get the work done. Thank You for your tenderness and gentleness with me, Lord.

And Jesus, would You please give Mama a big hug for me? Tell her I miss her and love her so much. And tell her I’ll try to make Thanksgiving as sweet and warm and fun and delicious as she did for us, for so many years.

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Beauty for Ashes–Learning to Trust my Grief to Jesus

I’m getting those feelings again. I call it “feeling emotional”. I think it’s because of the season. This time last year I was debating even celebrating Thanksgiving, because Mama was doing so poorly. She passed on just a couple weeks later, on December 12th.

I was reading in Isaiah today, and I noticed in chapter 61, a description that fits these feelings well…”the spirit of heaviness.” It is a heaviness on my heart, a closeness to tears, a mourning.

It’s a time of missing Mom. Of realizing that last year was the last Thanksgiving we had together, after a lifetime of sharing the sweet joys of it. And this Christmas will be the second Christmas without her. But last year, the holiday came so quickly after her passing that there was still some numbness and shock as I wrapped gifts and prepared.

I wonder what this year will be like.

And I read this sixty first chapter of Isaiah over again. Especially the verses I have underlined. And they say that Jesus came to comfort and console all who mourn… to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…that He may be glorified.

I know that Jesus came to save us from our sins. He took the punishment for all that stands between us and God, so that all who believe in Him and trust in Him can be forgiven and live with Him forever. And I’m so grateful! Especially because I know I will see Mama again and spend eternity with her!

But He also came to comfort and console all those who mourn! He knows that mourning is heartbreaking. He knows us! And He cares and He loves us!

Maybe the comfort and joy is just knowing that this is not the end. That those who trust Him will have an eternity with Him. That believers who pass are instantly in His presence. And these are priceless comforts for sure!

But these verses say even more to me. They give me a picture of Jesus with His arms open wide. I see Him hugging me close with compassion. I sense Him whispering, I will be with you in this time of mourning. Trust Me. Run to Me. Weep on My shoulders. I will bring beauty out of these ashes. I will turn the weight of these emotions into praise. 

I remember how hard it was walking through Alzheimer’s with Mom. And how often I would tell myself, This is hard. But God will give me grace. And He did, even through the tears and pain.

And now Jesus is walking me through this season of mourning. I picture Him lifting my chin gently and looking into my eyes. I sense Him saying, I know this is hard. I understand. But I am with you. I will give you grace. I will never leave you.

And I believe Him.

It was just about this time last year, that Mama had a very bad night. We thought she was dying. We were crying and praying and calling hospice. And then she came out of it and seemed normal for her again. And we sighed and smiled with relief.

The next morning my daughter was taking care of her, when Mama said, “God is here.”

“Yes, Grandma. God is here.”

And Mom added, “He is bigger.”

Mom was barely talking at all at that point. And though she had a solid faith when her mind was strong, she was never one to speak often about God. So it especially stood out to us that she said this.

And we wondered if she’d seen an angel, or God even. Or if just the nearness of death had made His presence more real to her.

I’m not sure what she saw, if anything. But I know that it’s true. God is here. He is with us. And He is bigger.

He is bigger than Alzheimer’s. He is bigger than death. He is bigger than mourning and grief and the missing. He is bigger than emotions and heaviness and broken hearts.

I can give it all to Him. I can trust Him to somehow bring beauty out of the ashes and pain and grief of it all.

He’s not telling me to stop crying or to stop feeling what I’m feeling. He’s reminding me to trust Him with it all. To remember that He is near. To know that He is the God of all comfort and the Shepherd that restores my soul. He is with me through this valley of shadows.

And I recall the last hymn that Mama remembered how to sing. She sang it often, and a little “warbly” and out of tune…

...What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear…what a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer…

Thank you for leaving me with that hymn, Mama. And thank You, Jesus, for being that Friend.

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