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Allowing the Lord to Say No to Your Children

It was the summer before my son’s freshman year in high school, and he had one request of me:  “Mom, can I join the football team?”

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How the Time Flies

I remember the moment so clearly.  I was a mom of three small boys ages 4, 3, and 1.  It was a beautiful spring day so the boys and I packed up the stroller to walk down to our park.  As the older boys ran and jumped and played, I pushed my giggling little guy on the baby swings.  Not meaning to eavesdrop, but being too close to avoid hearing, I listened in on a conversation between two moms.

While the one mom pushed her daughter in a nearby swing, her friend, frocked in a baby carrier that held a baby 3-4 months of age, lamented about being a mom.  I listened as the two conversed about the challenges and sacrifices of being a mom.  The inconvenience.  The trouble.  The bother.

It’s been 14 years since I was privy to that conversation, and while I fail to recall all of its details, I remember, verbatim, the final sentence the two shared as they walked away: “I can’t wait.  I only have 6 more weeks until I get this kid into daycare and get my life back.”

I remember feeling such a sense of sadness for that young woman.  I suppose the long days and sleepless nights had taken their toll.   Less time at the gym, pulled back ponytails, heels pushed to the back of the closet, and showerless days likely left her longing for the life before.  I remember seeing her little baby and wanting so badly to tell her, “You’re not an inconvenience.”

Lord willing, that woman’s little baby is now around 14 years old.  I am thinking of them this Mother’s Day weekend.  I’m wondering if that mom ever embraced being mom and wondering if that child feels like an inconvenience today.  I hope not.  I pray that parenthood has changed that young mom.

Oh, how I wish that the older me could have been at the park that day.  How I wish the older me, now with years of parenting under my belt and an 18 year old stepping into adulthood, could have been there to look that mom in the face and say, “Enjoy these moments.  Embrace parenthood.  Love the time with your children for it will fly by quicker than you realize.”

And how true the old cliche is: “Time flies.”

It’s a big year for my oldest and a big year for me as a mom.  My son turned 18 just a few weeks ago; he’ll graduate high school in a few short weeks, and then will begin his college studies.  It’s all kind of surreal for me.  As he transitions, so must I.

The other day I was flipping through my oldest son’s scrapbook collecting photos for a graduation slide show.  Everyone was out and there I sat, on his bed, crying as I flipped each page.  They were tears of joy mingled with a bit of sadness.  Tears of awe.  Tears of thankfulness.  Tears of gratitude to the Lord for the life he has given me, for the children He has gifted me with, for the time He has permitted.   The time has gone by so fast.  And now I am left trying to adjust my vision, adjusting it to see men, not boys.

Maybe you are that mom today, the one who is overwhelmed, tired, and feeling a bit of a loss of self.  Your days of Cheerios, dirty diapers, and sleep deprivation are difficult.  You wonder if this thing called motherhood is worth is.  Today let me be that somewhat older woman who tells you, yes, it is so worth it!    Let me be the one to tell you that this season in life is full of challenges but it is such an important time.  Let me say that parenting is hard but the calling is great.  Let me remind you that the time will be a blur and in a few years, like me, you will be wondering where it went.  Embrace the time.

 

 

 

 

 

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When Waiting on the Lord is Hard

Waiting patiently has never been one of my best attributes.  My trouble started early on.  As a child, I always knew where my mother kept our Christmas gifts hidden, and I made it a point, with great regularity, to spy and peek at the stash.  I simply could not wait until Christmas.

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Following The Lord’s Will

For the past several days I have been contemplating the time that Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane praying.   I’ve been struck by the words that scripture uses to tell us about the emotions of that evening.  I’ve combed through various Bible translations noting these words.

I’ve read through the same account found in Matthew 26:36-46 (below), Luke 22:39-46, and Mark 14:32-52.  These passages are filled with words and phrases like these:

  • distressed
  • grieved to the point of death
  • fell on His face
  • sorrowful
  • troubled
  • overwhelmed with sorrow
  • very heavy
  • deeply distressed
  • being in anguish
  • His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground

As Christ petitioned His Heavenly Father for this cup, the cross with its weight of sin, to pass from Him, His response in all three portions of scripture is the same:

  • Yet not what I will, but what you will
  • Yet not my will, but yours be done
  • Yet not as I will, but as you will
  • My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.

Soon after, Jesus’ betrayer comes on the scene.  Swords are drawn, but Jesus’ response in Matthew: 26:52-54  is this:

  • 52“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

It seems that as each Easter season comes and goes, the Lord allows me to look at the accounts of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection with new eyes, each time, He meets me where I am, addressing my issues, my struggles, and putting them into perspective.

This year Easter reminds me of my Savior’s ultimate desire for the Lord’s will to be accomplished regardless of the cost.  The cost was great.  Arrest, mockery, physical beating beyond our comprehension, crucifixion, betrayal, abandonment, and death.  Greatest of all was the separation from His Father due to the sin that was placed upon Christ.  He willfully submitted to all of this because the Father’s will was best.

As I contemplate my life and the decisions that I face, I am left today asking myself this one question:

Is there any part of God’s will that I would be hesitant to accept?

Would I be willing to go where He leads?  Would I be willing to stay where I am?  Would I be willing to change course, step out of my comfort zone, and allow His perfect will to unfold?  Am I willing to wait?  Am I willing to accept the Lord’s will for my life?

As I said, the Lord has a way of putting things into their proper perspective.  As I contemplate what my Savior endured, as I allow the pain of His experience to truly penetrate my heart, as I realize that His willingness to submit, to suffer, and to die was for me, I am left realizing that anything, simply anything that I must endure in this life is nothing compared to what Christ voluntarily endured for me.

This Easter I am humbled by my Savior’s submission to His Father’s will.  I am left in awe of His great love for me.  I am moved beyond words as I contemplate the cost involved in bearing the full burden of my sin.  Oh, what a great cost for such an undeserving, yet ever so grateful soul!   And though my words simply cannot suffice, I thank you Lord Jesus for following your Father’s will.

Matthew 26:36-46

The Garden of Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40 And He *came to the disciples and *found them sleeping, and *said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45 Then He *came to the disciples and *said to them, [a]Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Christmas is Hard: Cobwebs and Christmas Trees

Our family has always enjoyed having a real Christmas tree in our home.  There is just something about the fresh smell of pine that draws each of us in.  We typically frequent a local garden center to select our tree.  But one year we ventured out to a tree farm to cut down our own.  Unfortunately, I was unable to go because of a commitment at church, but my husband and boys joined my brother-in-law and his children on a tree-cutting adventure.

I remember the day well; it was very cold and snowy.  My husband and I rushed around to find warm clothes, gloves, and hats for the kids;  I was trying my hardest to get out of the house on time while looking somewhat pulled together.  We went our separate ways, which I must admit made me very sad.  I knew that I was going to miss out on some family fun.

Later that afternoon we all met up back at the house.  The boys were very proud to show me the tree that they had selected and cut down themselves.  It was covered in a blanket of powdery snow and tightly bound in netting.  We placed it into a bucket of water and left it out on the porch to dry for a few days.  In short time we prepared our living room and made room for our tree.  Each of us had waited with great anticipation for tree decorating day.

When we went to bring the tree inside we noticed a number of insects flying about on our porch.  Normally, there aren’t any bugs flying about on a cold December day in New Jersey.   We took a closer peek and found that our tree was housing quite a number of bugs.  After my husband broke the news to the boys that we were not going to decorate the tree that day, he asked me to meet him in the backyard.  He then told me that we needed to unwrap the tree and shake it really hard.  We did.  Then we began to bang the tree up and down on the stump.  Finally, for good measure, we tossed the tree around the yard a few times.  I can only imagine what our neighbors thought.  We live in a neighborhood where all of the homes are within close proximity of each other.  What a show we put on for them!  Regardless, we gave that tree a good shaking and hoped that we had evicted all of the insects.

The next day we set up the tree and enjoyed our decorating time together.  The tree was beautiful.  It was full, lush, and perfectly symmetrical.  It was just about the most perfect tree anyone could hope for.

Soon after our decorating day, I began to notice a few cobwebs beginning to form in various areas of tree.  I swiped them away as best I could.  I hoped that the lights and ornaments and all their sparkle would cover over the cobwebs so they wouldn’t be noticeable.  Christmas is supposed to be full of beauty and happiness and joy, right?  There’s no room for spiders and cobwebs.  However, every few days new cobwebs appeared.  I continued to brush them away.  I finally broke the news to the boys that the tree would need to go out to the curb the day after Christmas.  So, as promised, we undecorated our tree on December 26th.   Once all of the ornaments and lights were removed, we could clearly see the magnitude of the problem.  There were spider webs all throughout the tree, on every side, on the top, on the bottom, on the outside, on the inside.  Everywhere.   Our Christmas tree looked like a twisted scene from a scary horror movie.  We quickly sent the tree to the curb for pick up and promptly began cleaning the living room from top to bottom.

It’s was all rather funny…that is except for the small yellow spiders we found throughout the house for the next year.

Our cobweb filled tree serves as a good reminder to me that sometimes underneath all the glitter and lights of Christmas, something is hiding.   For many, sadness and loneliness are a regular guest at Christmas.  While most are busy laughing, smiling, and being merry, many people are left trying to swat away the cobwebs that keep reappearing.  Relational problems, financial stress, sickness, the absence of a loved one, and loneliness seem to be magnified during the holidays.  What should be a joyous season is often one of the hardest to endure for many.

This Christmas season I would encourage you to be on the lookout for ways to extend love to those who are struggling to swat away cobwebs.  We often know who they are, but in the awkwardness of the situation, we rarely reach out.  Take the time to embrace someone and acknowledge their sadness.  Share their burden.  Cry with them, encourage them, show them the love of Christ.  Open up your home to someone that you know will be spending the holiday alone.  Wrap a simple gift.  Make a homemade treat.  Invite someone to church to hear the good news of Christmas.  Remind someone that you will be praying for them.

I’m reminded that Christ came so that one day the sadness, loneliness, and hardships of this world would be no more.  He came as a babe to be victor over sin and to give us hope.  He came to bind up our wounds, dry our tears, and to save us from the depravity of our sin.  So while we share this life together where happiness and sadness mingle together, let’s be light, let’s offer hope, let’s extend love, let’s share Jesus to the people who need it most.

Surprised By So Much Sexual Sin?

Of late, the news has been dominated with story after story of accused sexual impropriety and misconduct.  It seems that with each passing day another politician, celebrity, or public figure falls from grace.  While the depravity of man in general does not take me by surprise, a naive populace does.  I find myself a bit dumbfounded as I hear of the outrage and shock that people have expressed at some of the recent revelations.  Please understand clearly:  I do not condone such behavior.  It is wrong and reprehensible.  But, my question is this: should this trend be surprising?

It shouldn’t.

How can a people who feast on a steady stream of salacious entertainment be anything but products of their feed?  We have become an impulse driven, desensitized people who know not the meaning of delayed gratification or restraint.  Our movies, music, and television shows are filled with gratuitous sex, casual and tawdry escapades, forced rape, and illicit encounters.  Our small screens have become private portals for pornography.  Somehow all of this has become entertainment, entertainment that reinforces the idea that the fulfillment of any and all of my desires is priority number one.

First and foremost, I believe in individual responsibility and accountability for our actions.  But having said that, our society has bred and nourished the depravity which we see.  It has become part of our culture.  We both condone and support it.  We are its financiers and followers; we are its audience.   We are its addicts whose insatiable appetites and lusts allow the beast to grow and flourish.  Were there no consumers of its offerings, no fixated eyes fueling its ratings, no exchange of money for such “goods”, the depravity would have no source; it would have no life.

Yet, pornography thrives.  Sex sells.  Freedom reigns.  Soft porn fills the sides of buses, lights up the city street, dances across our screens, and draws our eye in at the grocery check out.  It spills out into our classrooms and textbooks.  It reverberates through our ears in the music of the day.  It has become the norm.  It has become expected.  It has become the culture even for many Christians.

Do we actually expect that we will be immune to the effects of this steady stream of garbage?  Do we falsely believe that what we see and hear will have no ill effect upon us, our children, and our society as a whole?  I have long told my children this simple phrase:  “Garbage in means garbage out.”  If you fill your mind with garbage, you can fully expect garbage to come out.  It is that simple.

We live in a time where the ideas of purity, chastity, and abstinence are mocked and jeered at.  Its outspoken proponents are scoffed at and made to look as puritan fools.

So I ask the question again:  how is it that we are so shocked and taken aback at what we see and hear in the headlines?  How are we dumbfounded as to its roots?  How are we the least bit surprised that so many casually violate others?

As a parent I feel like I am at war.  I am constantly fighting against this depraved influence.  This depravity seeks to suck the very soul of our children away.  I can see many of my fellow moms and dads shaking their heads in agreement.  As our children grow and become more and more responsible for their own actions, I pray that they will make the right decisions to turn away.  That they will seek out God’s plan for their lives .  That they will take all that they have been taught and choose not to get sucked into the culture.  That they will draw on the strength of the Lord to turn away from filth.  Sometimes they will choose correctly and sometimes they won’t.  This should cause us to pray with great fervency for them.

Experiencing Peace In Times of Uncertainty

Life is uncertain.  Changes and challenges often rattle us to the core with little or no forewarning.  Sickness.  Brokenness.  Rebellion.   They’ve all stepped over the welcome mat and entered into our lives as uninvited guests.  They provoke us to fear and anger, bring disappointment and doubt, and cause us to fret and worry.  Can there truly be a sense of peace and calmness amidst the storms and trials of this life?

A few weeks ago I felt prompted to make an appointment with a cardiologist.  With such a long-standing bout of Lyme Disease and the full knowledge of its potential effects on one’s heart, I felt the need to get a baseline reading on my heart health.  It’s funny, sickness and testing are not foreign to me.  I’ve never experienced true stress and anxiety at the doctor’s office or during testing.  However, this all changed the very moment that I opened the door to the cardiologist’s office.  I was overcome with such a sense of panic, like none I had ever experienced before.  And, if you didn’t realize, there is absolutely no way to mask or hide anxiety at the cardiologist.  After my initial visit, the doctor arranged for a whole host of tests to be completed over the course of the next several weeks.  One by one I completed the tests, all coming back as normal.  The last of the tests was scheduled to be completed at the doctor’s office.  This last test did not produce such stellar results.  The doctor speculated as to the cause and requested further testing.

This normally strong woman simply fell apart as she left the office.   I emerged back home a blubbering mess.  For the remainder of the day I felt such a cloud of darkness hovering over me as the tears flowed.  I didn’t pray.  I didn’t open God’s Word.  I didn’t recall the many verses I knew.  I didn’t remember God’s goodness.  Instead I chose to question, doubt, and allow the seeds of anger to spring to life.

The next day the doctor’s office called asking me to come in again for additional testing in a few days.  Once again fear enveloped me and held on with an intense grip.  Realizing my weakness, I reached out to a few friends asking them to pray for me.

With a few days to wait for my testing, the Lord laid these thoughts on my heart.  I’ll call them  “The Six R’s of Resting in God When Life is Uncertain,” and they have served as a good reminder to me.

  • Remember
    • Remember the many promises of God.  Call to mind the portions of scripture that you have hidden in your heart for moments such as this.  Rehearse them.  Recite them.  Reflect on them.  Repeat again and again.   Our God is a promise keeper.  He is unable to do anything less than keep the promises  that fill His Word.  Here are but a few:
  • Reach 
    • Reach out to the Lord immediately without delay.  He knows our troubles before we ourselves do.  He is concerned for us.  He is near to us.  We need only to call out to Him.  Push aside all the other voices of fear, doubt, and anxiety and come before the throne of the Lord.
      • The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18
    • Reach for His Word.  Read the familiar promises in His Word, but delve further into the scriptures to uncover new truths and promises that may have previously gone unnoticed.  Pray that the Lord would open up His Word to you in new and exciting and comforting ways.
    • Reach for trusted friends.  Be honest.  Take down the facade of strength and ask for faithful friends to uphold you in prayer.  Tell them in what ways you are struggling.  Share specific requests.  Set aside pride and ask for prayer.
      • For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. ” I Peter 3:12
  • Release
    • We are all human with God-given emotions.  Our initial response to hardship is not to celebrate.  If you are anything like me, I need to let out one really good and hefty cry.   God understands our frame; He knows our weakness.  Cry out to Him not in anger or frustration but as a child coming to their parent for comfort.  I literally envision the arms of the Lord wrapped around me.
      • For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”  Hebrews 4:15
  • Reflect
    • Think back and remember all that the Lord has already done for you.  Look back to past valleys and see how the Lord has walked with you through those times.  Remember His faithfulness.  Remember His strength.  Remember His goodness.  Let memories flood your mind.  I often marvel at how the Israelites second guessed God and His power.  They had gazed upon miracles with their own eyes, yet they doubted God.  In my own moments of weakness, I’ve realized how easy it is to forget what God has done.  His work at times can become a distant memory.  Bring them to the forefront of your mind.  Remember and reflect on all that He has done.  He has been faithful and will continue to be.
  • Resist
    • The evil one would like nothing more than to fill your heart with doubt, depression, and despair.  We leave these doors wide open when we turn away from our Lord during challenging times.   The moment we divert our eyes from our Father, the devil will be quick to catch our gaze and to fill our hearts and minds with blatant lies.  We will question the goodness of God, doubt His love, and question His sovereignty.
      • Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  James 4:7
  • Rest
    • Find rest and peace in the Lord.  He alone is in control.  He alone is sovereign.  He alone cares for His children as no other could.  Hand this over to Him.
      • You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”  Isaiah 26:3 
      •  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 
      • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

So, can there indeed be peace in the midst of the storms and trials of life?  Without God, peace will be elusive.  But with God, all things are possible.

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Spaghetti squash is one of my very favorite vegetables.  It is incredibly versatile and a great way to enjoy a spaghetti-like meal without the carb overload.   So last year I tucked a few seeds away and planned to plant them in the garden this summer.  My son and I did just that, and we’ve enjoyed watching that plant grow and grow and GROW!  It has spilled over the garden bed and fence and onto the driveway.  It has literally taken over the side of my house, as squash plants tend to do.  It’s beautiful, lush, and full of blossoms.

The other day my neighbor commented on the abundance and beauty of those yellow blossoms.  “You must have so many squash growing in that patch,” she said.

“Not one,” I lamented.

As beautiful and lush and full of blossoms as that patch is to the casual observer, there is something that has gone terribly wrong, for not one squash has emerged.   After doing a bit of detective work and research, I discovered that there is likely a problem with pollination.  It seems that the local bees are not doing their job.  Hmph!  So the likelihood of our family enjoying spaghetti squash from our own garden is slim to none.

Of late I’ve been tempted to yank the entire plant out of the garden.  It is simply taking up too much space and serves little use other than giving the false impression that my garden is flourishing and thriving.  It bears no fruit and has little benefit aside from its outer beauty.

Then there are my green bean plants.  I’ve lost count as to how many bowls full of beans we have picked and eaten.  The eight or so plants that I have continue to produce a healthy, useful harvest every week.  If you were to take a closer look at these plants, you would see plants that are far from lush and beautiful, and to the casual observer, one might assume that these plants are not producing fruit.  There are small weeds scattered about, yellowing leaves, dry brown parts, thinness, and evidence of damage from insects.   Beauty is certainly lacking.

Yet, when you stoop down and take the time to push aside the leaves and stems and weeds of these plants, when time is taken to look below the surface,  a treasure trove of beans awaits.  These plants, though outwardly not as attractive as my billowing spaghetti squash vine, have yielded much fruit.  Even though one would assume that a beautiful plant would yield a beautiful crop and a homely plant would yield sub par fruit, these plants have shown me otherwise.

Outward appearances can certainly be deceiving.

I suppose this applies to our world today.  How quick we can be to make determinations and judgements about people based solely upon what we see on the surface.  We often take little to no time to actually look past what we see. We assign good qualities to those with beauty and poor qualities to those with a humble or even rough appearance.  Superficiality is the name of the game in our society.

The Lord reminds us that the only way to truly know someone for who they are is by the fruit that they bear.   Appearances are of no value to Him, but the heart is.   In the busyness and craziness of life, we often leave little time to look at people at the heart level.

I’m thankful for the little reminders that the Lord sends to me through my little garden.

How Children View Race

My boys were so excited as they anticipated the end of the week.  Their good friend was coming over to hangout and sleep over.  There would be chess matches and football games, talk of sports, and a bit more football.  Their hands and fingers would intertwine as they greeted.  Their arms would embrace each other as they departed.  Friends.

As the events in Charlottesville unfolded that same weekend,  I would steal small glimpses of the images on the computer as the boys came in and out of the house.  When I knew that they would be occupied for a bit, I turned on the television to see with greater clarity the events that were transpiring.  I was saddened beyond words, and I struggled as I attempted to try and understand how some could hold so much hate within their soul.

As the sweaty brood of boys crashed through the front door, I quickly turned the television off.  They ran into the kitchen for water and snacks, then proceeded to collapse in the living room.  As  I listened in as they described their football game at the high school’s new field, I couldn’t help but study the faces of the boys ever so closely.  I took note of something that I always knew was there but never really thought about: the stark contrast of their skin.

We are white.  Their friend is African-American.  I can’t begin to tell you how it pains me to even type those words here, how it literally hurts for me to separate these boys, these friends, into categories for the purpose of this post.   Our family views race as an expression of beauty and uniqueness from our Most Awesome Creator.  The Lord draws no lines, there is no separation, no difference in value or equality among man in His sight.  Man looks at the outward, yet God, looks at the heart.   We have chosen to do the same.  I know that our attempts have failed at times.

As the weekend came to a close and the boys said their goodbyes, my curiosity was piqued.  Do the boys even regard each other’s skin color as a difference?  I decided to find out and asked my friend to do the same with her son (age 14).  So we set out to question the boys as to what similarities and differences the boys have.  As I sat down with each of my sons (ages 17, 15, and 12) in private, I took note of their answers.  I waited.  Would one of them even bring up race or color?  Would their friend?

No one did.

They noted differences in age, in where they lived, in the grade they were in, the sports they liked, the teams they supported, and the foods they enjoyed.  They identified similarities in faith, the fact that they were all homeschooled, and in their love of sports and competition.  Friends.  They are simply friends, and that’s all that matters to them.

Oh, if the world were more childlike.

So, the boys and I sat down and talked about the real purpose behind my questioning.  We discussed the events in Virginia.  Although it was likely lacking, I did my best to discuss racism.  Then one of my boys piped up,”But, mom, that stuff doesn’t happen today.” And yet again, I find myself in that terrible place as a mom where I take away a bit more of their innocence, where I wipe away their “rose-colored-glasses” view of the world.  But this is their world, and I will soon be releasing them into it as they make their own way.  They must know, they simply must, because if they don’t know the truth, how can they be the difference?

That afternoon the face of racism became a bit more personal to my boys.  I forced them to imagine how their friend would feel when encountered with such senseless hatred.  In all honesty, they grappled over why some would harbor such hatred based on skin color.  It’s just something they can’t understand.  As a mom, I am thankful that they can’t relate to that kind of hatred.  Yet, they must be sensitive to the fact that it is present and that it does affect people’s lives.  They must be willing to stand up against it, to say something without hesitation, lest their silence be taken for acceptance.

I wish that could be the end of the story.  I wish that everyone would just replace hate with love.  But, there is sin and depravity and brokenness in the heart of man, and ultimately, the only solution is Christ.  On this side of heaven, the battle will rage on.  Unfortunately, it will always exist and there will likely be witnesses to and victims of more hate-filled behavior.  How do we stop it?  How do we change the course?

Well, we start at home.

We are honest at home.  We discuss the difficult matters.  We talk about how each of us can be that much needed difference.  We learn about the real story of history.  We think outside of our homogeneous neighborhood and town.  We expand our personal borders to include those who may be different than us.  We share a phone call, an embrace, a meal.  We make sure that through our front doors “sameness” is not the only guest.  We fill our yards with the beauty that is color.  We take a stand, a visible and audible one.  We talk about it with those who are affected instead of pretending there is no need for dialogue. We acknowledge when we fall short or when we succumb to hidden prejudices.

Imagine if we all did this?

We can.

 

 

When Dementia Steals Mother’s Day

It was Mother’s Day two years ago.  My mom had come to my home for dinner.  We exchanged flowers and cards with one another.  As I pulled my card from its envelope and read the inside, I paused.

“Love, Barbara”

That’s my mother’s name.  She had signed her card to me with her name, not mom.

It was that moment…the moment that I realized that my mother no longer knew who I was.

Since that time I have been going through the motions of mourning the loss of my mother.  Although she is still with us in body, she has passed away emotionally and cognitively long ago.  It has been a long, slow progression.  Through the years her forgetfulness and disorientation have eventually given way to panic and fear as everything and everyone around her have transformed into strangers.

Dementia has stolen my mother, has swept her away, has emptied her of everything but breath.   Its arms hold her, not in comfort, but in prison.   Dementia has snatched her sight and clouded her vision.  It replaces the faces of loved ones with the visages of foreigners who are aliens in her land.  Like a thief in the night, dementia comes and ransacks, raids, and pillages memories, names, faces.  It drains motivation, will, and life leaving only the comfort of a wing chair, a wall, and a world of silence.  Dementia has robbed the world of a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor.

Dementia has taken so much from my mother…from us… and left behind so little.  All that remains is a shell, a reminder of the life that once was.

As I was working on this post, the Lord laid on my heart a little object lesson of sorts.  It was a much needed reminder for me.

I’ve always loved the ocean.   There is a calmness in the sound of the waves, a serenity in the water lapping over your feet.  The refreshing ocean breeze seems to infuse one with peace.   My favorite moments at the beach are spent combing the sand for shells.  I’ve always admired the colors and shapes of each one.  They are little treasures that the ocean brings forth and the handiwork of the Lord.  I’m always sure to bring home shells from each beach excursion we have.  My prize find was a shell that I picked up on the Gulf Coast of Florida: a Lightning Whelk.  While not large in size (it only fits within the palm of my hand), this shell is completely intact with brilliant colors and stunning patterns.  I remember finding the shell tumbling in the tide.  I snatched it up and ran to my family like a little child; I was so excited to share my treasure.

As each of us was examining the shell, I explained to my then young boys how that shell had once held life within its curved walls.  That shell was a beautiful home for a creature of the sea.  But in the cycle of life, the creature either moved out in search of a larger shell, or most likely, was eaten or died.  What remained was an outer shell, beautiful and vibrant, yet fragile and lacking life.

That empty shell is much like my mom.   Even though the mom that I have known continues to fade away, even though living life has been replaced with mere existence, there is still beauty to be found in the shell that remains.   While my mom may no longer recognize my face or know me to be her daughter, I can choose to look past that and opt to remember the life that once was and try to honor the life that still is.

So this Mother’s Day I will choose to not allow dementia to steal the day.  I will allow it to remind me that all life is precious, that all life is important, that all life has purpose.  I will use it to  remind myself that my mom is a child of God and that He loves her dearly.  I will hold fast to the knowledge that dementia doesn’t take Him by surprise.