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Savor the Sweet

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Recently I spent a week with my parents. As I’ve written before, my mom has Alzheimer’s and my dad has terminal cancer. Spending time with them is sad as I watch them suffer and decline, knowing all I can do is love them but can’t make them better.

For over a week prior to leaving, I had an irregular heartbeat. That heartbeat comes from extreme stress or emotions. I was so reluctant to face the emotions once again that it caused enough adrenaline to spike that heartbeat again.

My dad’s cancer has returned for the seventh time. He has had 60 doses of chemo, a new procedure with radiation, and was heading back to the hospital for a more radical chemotherapy. He is 85 years old, as is my mom. I admire my dad’s will to live and fight this cancer that should have ended his life years ago. He fights to stay for my mom who desperately depends on him now that her world has changed so much with her Alzheimer’s.

I learned something very precious during this week with my parents that helped me calm down enough for my irregular heartbeat to stabilize. I learned to SAVOR THE SWEET.

While my dad was in the hospital, I stayed with Mom and slept with her. She gets anxious at night and sometimes wanders because of it. We knew someone would need to be with her constantly. The first night, I didn’t sleep much worrying that I would miss her getting up and leaving their apartment to find my dad. The second night, neither of us slept much. Mom was worried about dad. I was worried about Mom.

During that long night though, my first “savor the sweet” moments happened. My mom reached over and covered me up during the night. Awwww. Mom is still taking care of me. Later, she put her arm around me. I know she needed comfort and was blessed that she felt I could give her the comfort she needed. Earlier she had woken up very agitated and shaking as she sometimes does. I was able to hold her hand in both of mine and speak love to her and calm her down. I laid in bed savoring those sweet moments.

I took Mom to see Dad at the hospital. When we got there, he was reclining in his chair next to his bed and a couch. There was no room to push Mom’s wheelchair up to him. Mom insisted she had to be right beside him. So she stood up on her shaky legs, walked over cords while we helped her, and gave Dad a kiss. Sweet moment. When my dad walked into the apartment a few days later, after leaving the hospital, the first thing he did on his weak and shaky legs was to walk over and kiss my mom.

Mom had worried that she wouldn’t be able to take care of Dad when he got home. I reassured her she didn’t have to take care of him, that we would. She asked what she had to do. I replied, just encourage and love him because he won’t be feeling good.

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The day after he got home, Dad was sitting in a chair at the table with his back to my Mom. Mom reached up and started stroking his back. Just stroking and stroking. I have never seen her do that before. So sweet. Then my dad looked over his shoulder and said, “Hi Sweetheart.” Wow, savoring for sure.

I had worried that I wouldn’t know what to do if Mom had one of her hallucinations. And she had a couple of episodes while I was helping her. I went along with them as best I could, keeping her safe. She will often make comments that are so off the wall, we shake our heads because we don’t know where they are coming from. One of her many symptoms. Sometimes, though those comments are hilarious because they are so unexpected.

She made a comment like that the night my dad came home when my sister asked if she was glad she would be able to sleep with Dad again. My sister laughed so hard at her response that her face turned red and she had tears. I laughed watching her. Then Mom said something else that had us laughing. As we laughed, Mom turned to me and winked. I’m sure my eyes got really wide. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen her do that either. I was so surprised though because that wink told me she had known what she was going to say would make my sister laugh. And my sister, who carries the heaviest burden in their care, needed that laugh. What a sweet moment.

I had to take my dad to get blood tests twice while I was there. That was time where it was just him and I. We had some sweet talks on those drives.

Overall, a week I dreaded was a week I was blessed to have. Laughter, affection, support, love, camaraderie, and sweetness were all there overshadowing the pain of watching my dad go through yet another chemo treatment, this one the worst by far.

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I learned this past week how important it is in the hard times to look for the sweet and just savor it, hold it close, think about it, let it give joy. My parents are in the process of dying from terrible diseases. That’s hard. Those sweet moments make it bearable. Bringing out the memories of those sweet moments, that’s going to give us strength and I think some courage to continue this journey with them. Those savored sweet moments will be the joy we bring out to feel again when the sorrow feels overwhelming. The key will be look for them now, savor them now, so we can bring them out later.

What are you going through? Hard times? Challenging times? What are the sweet moments you can savor? Life can feel so overwhelming at times and have such heaviness that it feels impossible to rise above it. If we look hard enough, I believe there will always be sweet moments to savor given to us by a great God who loves us enough to give us hope in the seemingly hopeless times. Savor the sounds of a baby’s laughter, the sight of deer in the field, a beautiful sunset, the green of the summer leaves, love of a family, the smile on the face of your loved one. There is always something sweet to savor. Keep your eyes and heart open and savor the sweet.

 

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Families

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Can you imagine growing up with over 50 first cousins? Just on your dad’s side? (I had about 13 more on my mom’s side.) I love being part of a large family. My dad had twelve sisters, one died before I was born, and one moved across the country but otherwise, they all lived nearby. (In the picture above, my dad is the little boy in the very front leaning over to get something. These are my grandparents and their children, spouses and grandchildren at the time. One aunt has not yet been born.) When I was 11 years old, my dad bought the family home where he had grown up. Years prior, he had made an apartment of the upstairs for my grandma (my grandpa had already passed away). For about 10 years or so, Grandma continued to live in the upstairs apartment while we lived downstairs.

Almost every weekend, at least one of the daughters would bring their family to visit Grandma. And their kids would come down to visit us and the ones around our age would play with us most of the afternoon. The cousins who were older than us were our guides to how young adults lived, through their many stories we raptly listened to. For me, as a young girl, they were who I wanted to be when I was grown up. They had exciting marriages, beautiful babies, happy lives. My memory today has a constant stream of family at our house growing up.

We had our share of dysfunction. Alcoholism. Abuse. Divorce. Arguments. But we were family and in our house, nothing was more important. When I think of the time we spent with cousins and aunts and uncles, it feels like a lifesize warm blanket surrounding me. I had many good friends among my cousins and I loved every single one of them but even better, I liked them all. We even had what we called kissin’ cousins. Those really cute boys we girls would have wanted to date if they weren’t our cousins. I remember chasing one around the yard trying to get that kiss when I was really young. Then I got the bad news that you couldn’t date or marry a cousin. Sad, sad day for me because Danny was so cute.

Today, all those aunts and uncles are gone. Only my mom and dad remain. And we have lost several of those many cousins. Even though we are getting older and most of us are now senior citizens or nearing that age, when we get together, we are still those cousins who played together as children. Like good friends who rarely see each other but can talk for hours when they do, we cousins never have to renew our friendships or get to know each other again. We are just family all the time.

My aunts, uncles, and cousins are my genetic family, one bonded with memories and love. But I have a second family. That would be my husband, children and grandchildren. I love bringing all the kids and their 12 kids together so the cousins can play and form bonds. I know, compared to the number I grew up with, 12 isn’t very many but bring them all together in our little house, and it’s a lot. And so much fun. As my siblings and I were life for my dad and mom, these kids and grandkids are life for me and my husband.

These are the families I get to treasure here on earth. But there is a third family that I get to treasure for eternity; the family of God. The Bible says over and over that those who are followers of Jesus Christ are brothers (and sisters). When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are adopted into the family of God, joint heirs with Jesus, worshiping the same Father. 1 John 3:1 says, See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. Titus 3:7 teaches that by being justified by His grace we become heirs with the hope of eternal life.

Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote a song called Family of God. The Chorus is one I love.

I’m so glad I’m a part 

Of the family of God-

I’ve been washed in the fountain,

Cleansed by His blood!

Joint heirs with Jesus

As we travel this sod,

For I’m part of the family,

The family of God.

I have families bound by genetics and love. This family is bound by Love alone. The love given to us by the Triune God and the love we give back. Then the love we give each other.

When my husband and I are traveling or camping, we will attend church wherever we are. We have attended church in a hotel room in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a Pentecostal church in the State of Washington, in a Lutheran church in Mesa, Arizona, in a renovated small restaurant in Duluth, Minnesota, in campgrounds sitting on logs, at a children’s camp near our home, Free Churches in Washburn and Wausau, Wisconsin and other places.

There is a oneness of spirit that joins strangers into family; visitors into brothers and sisters. I don’t know if I have ever walked into a church as an adult where I felt alone. My spirit feels the presence of the same Father, same Savior no matter what church I have attended. That makes everyone else there family. Some treat me like a long-lost sister. Others just give a warm smile and go on their way. During praise and worship, I love to just stand in silence a moment and reflect that one day we will all be singing in the presence of God in His heaven. I listen to the voices that surround me and think of all those voices surrounding me in heaven. I think about the brothers and sisters I won’t meet until heaven who will come from all times and places. From Iran, Ethiopia, Australia, every place on earth will be represented in heaven.

I picture myself hugging those members of my genetic family I will get to spend eternity with and having the same joy I will have hugging a brother or sister who lived in 200 AD. My aunts and cousins genetically came from my grandparents and down. This heavenly family will come from Jesus Christ, from the Father, from the Holy Spirit.

Like my family, there is dysfunction in the family of God here on earth. We are broken vessels who need mending and so we go to the ONE who can best mend us. It was the brokenness of my divorce that brought this broken vessel to her knees before the God who would save her. It wasn’t until I was broken that I knew I needed a Savior.

But like members of all families, this family of God is not perfect here on earth. We make mistakes. We are hypocrites at times. We get ourselves lost. God didn’t promise perfection here. He promises grace. He promises everlasting love. I think that grace and love is what makes strangers feel like brothers and sisters.

God placed me in a large family when I was born. He gave me a taste of the family of God’s vastness. He gave me a taste of the love found in this family. He prepared my life and heart to be part of His forever family. He showed me how to be comfortable within family, all my families. Someday, only one family will remain and I hope it is filled with all the members from my other families. What a joy that day will be.

How about you? What’s your family like? Are you part of God’s forever family? If not, would you like to be? Leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

Uncategorized

Long Term Love

 

What does a long-term relationship with the risen Lord look like? I can’t tell you what yours looks like, but I can explain mine and maybe get you thinking about yours.

I remember so clearly the day I asked Jesus Christ to be Lord of my life. I was 5 months into a painful separation from my first husband, trying to figure out a life for myself and three small children. I didn’t have a job. I had no money. I was living on state money. I had been rejected. My life wasn’t supposed to be like that. Never. I was never going to get divorced. I was never going to live on welfare. All those “nevers” that I lived and breathed every day.

Despair. Depression. They were constant companions. Until I met Jesus one day in the office of a pastor I didn’t know. Then I experienced a high like I had never known from a love I didn’t know could ever exist for me. For someone suffering from depression, that high was almost incomprehensible. I would compare it to the high I felt when my second husband, my best friend, asked me to marry him. And the joy of those first months of marriage until life happens.

As in a marriage, the extreme joy you feel at the beginning settles down as you experience life together. As Jesus and I walked through some tough years together, our relationship grew and shrunk at times and at other times, felt like it didn’t even exist anymore. Then we would reconnect on a deeper level. A love beyond description where I knew I was held tightly in His mighty arms. That love was always there, but sometimes I lived away from it. I chose distractions. I chose to give in to my worries instead of giving up to His rest. Continue reading “Long Term Love”

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Receiving Joy

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Without the help of many, as a single mom, our Christmases would have been bare. When I was in college, we often ran almost completely out of food. I was Old Mother Hubbard with the bare cupboards more times than I want to remember. There were times we ate saltine crackers, peanut butter and raisins for meals because they were literally the only items in the cupboard.

You can imagine the challenge of this type of lifestyle when Christmas came around each year. My parents always made Christmas very special even though we grew up poor. They scrimped and saved all year to give us the very gifts we desired. I certainly wanted to do the same for my children but just couldn’t do it. My daughter asked for a Cabbage Patch doll for years and I couldn’t get her one. It broke my heart the year I had to give her a cheap imitation instead. I made her all kinds of doll clothes out of scraps to make up for it. (My parents eventually gave her a real Cabbage Patch doll.)

Because we were so poor while I was in school full-time, we were on the lists of local organizations that helped at Christmas. One year we were given an entire meal, including turkey, potatoes and all the trimmings. My kids were nearly jumping up and down as we went through that box.  It’s very telling of the circumstances we lived in that they were excited to get a box of food!

Every year I was in school, we received gifts from different organizations. They would be nearly the only gifts under the old fake tree we had. My kids didn’t care where the gifts came from, they were thrilled to get them. I remember the red and white sweater my daughter received and wore until she wore holes into it. She loved that sweater and would not have had it if not for the generosity of the giver.

We had very few decorations for our tree and a local organization called P.E.O. learned of this and their members gathered brand new ornaments for our tree. We had so much fun putting those ornaments out. We still have some of them decades later. (The year before we were given all these ornaments, we decided to really dress up our tree and make all the decorations out of construction paper. We had paper chains, stars, and ornaments. And we loved our tree. I’m not sure if the kids would agree but that tree remains my favorite ever because we did it as a family and had so much fun together.)

Every year as I buy gifts for my family, I remember these sparse times and the many people who helped to make our Christmases less sparse. I’m thankful for those willing to sacrifice to give blessings to those otherwise doing without. I need to do a better job of paying it forward for sure. I have several times over the years but certainly could do more.

Are there organizations you can support so they can make a poor family’s Christmas better this year? Do you know a poor family you could personally help? From someone who has been on the receiving end and the giving end, I can tell you that both receive joy. Merry Christmas to you all! May you “receive much joy” this Christmas season.

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Cars, Challenges, Provision

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God provides. I see that now. I have to tell you about two of my cars to give you an example of how.

When I was in college as a single mom, I drove an old Chevy Malibu. Ran great. However, rusty doesn’t begin to describe that old car. In fact, when my son was almost three, after seeing me do it a few days prior, he decided to wash the car without my knowledge. If you have ever been around a three-year-old, you know how fast they can act when out of your sight for a minute.

When he washed the car, the windows were all down. I had to take up all the carpet that was drenched and eventually stunk. We sat on towels for days. I discovered something pretty amazing, as far as my kids were concerned, when I ripped out that carpet. The floorboards were rusted completely through in the back seat. Holes about six inches in diameter were in both sides of the floor.

The kids loved it. They could watch the road fly by on our trips to Grandpa and Grandma’s. They could throw things out the floor as we drove along. I didn’t know that they were doing that right away but they thought it was fun until they got caught. The highlight was the time we went out to leave for school and there was a chipmunk in the car. Yup, climbed in through one of those holes. We had a heck of a time getting it back out. It was sure funny. We called that car our Flintstone car.

But sadly, that old green car met its end in an accident early in my last year of college. No one was hurt but you can imagine; a single mom with no money, no collision insurance because the car was so old it had no value, and hit by a car with an owner who blew through a stop sign, had no insurance and no money. Not a good day!

Enter the worst car buying decision of my life. I took my younger brother with me to help me choose a new used car. I chose a car lot that sold the type of car I could afford, cheap, really cheap.

I had $1,000 to spend from my student loan for that semester. It was my last semester before my student teaching. I would have to drive about 50 miles each way to the school I had been assigned to for student teaching. I needed a dependable car. My kids would be in daycare early and late and I had no family in that town to pick them up if my car broke down.

So, enter the Chevy Citation. It was the right size for me and my three kids. It looked good, no rust. It was the right price. Just $,1000. That salesman seemed to know exactly what I needed. One problem, it was a standard transmission (stick shift) and I didn’t know how to drive one. I knew I was smart enough to figure it out though. My brother could do the test drive.

The car was covered with ice and snow in the lot. Windows were scraped off enough to be legal and we drove away. Not bad. Drives OK. Went back to the dealer and bought the car and my brother drove it away. Then gave me a few driving lessons. And off I went back to my home. I can’t remember if it was a 4 speed or 5 speed but you get the picture.

Well, within a week I knew I had been taken. Here’s what I learned about that car. It had a crack the entire length of the front windshield. Ice had covered it up. It had no parking brakes, pretty important with a standard transmission. It had no catalytic converter, had in fact been bypassed by the prior owner. And two weeks later it had no second gear. The first three things were safety issues and the dealer had to fix them. The transmission though, that was my problem. Now, I don’t know that God chose that exact car with all those problems. I do know He used that car with all its problems to teach me some valuable lessons.

Learning to drive a stick shift is a challenge, learning to drive a stick shift with no second gear, well, I can’t think of any word bigger than challenge but it was bigger for sure.

I learned how to speed shift. I didn’t know I could be so cool! I didn’t know that was cool. I learned that if you took too long to get it into gear at a stop sign, you could get hit by the person behind you who thought you were long gone, twice! I learned it was really hard to speed shift from a dead stop on a hill. I learned you could roll all the way down that hill before you got it in the next gear. I also learned that the driver of the car behind you will be glad to back down the hill as well.

I learned to never drive on busy streets, to go around them instead. I learned to avoid towns with hills. Oh, the adventures of that car.

I had that car towed to the shop more times than I think I have in all the years and cars since. I don’t remember how I paid for it all but somehow I did. Probably more of my student loan went into the car.

I had some laughs with that car and I had frustrations for sure. One memory stands out though. I had to have the car towed to the shop yet again. My kids were in school and I was supposed to be but the car wouldn’t start again. I sat at the mechanic’s while they worked on my car. I watched the receptionist leave the building, walk to her car, get in and drive away. And I cried. As the tears streamed down my face, I remember thinking, “She has no idea how lucky she is to have a car she can just get in and know it will start for her. She just takes it for granted.” At that time, I doubted I would ever be as lucky as she was. I had been months without a dependable car at this point.

I drove that car for about two years. Finished school, moved to where I still live today, started a new job, and as soon as I could replaced it. But in those two years, I had learned to drive that car up steep hills without backing down them and I could drive on busy streets too. I gained confidence in my ability to drive a stick shift. I survived all those times of having to have it towed. My kids and I were never in danger because it wouldn’t start, although I remember standing in the grocery store in below zero temps waiting for the tow truck. I learned I was tougher than I thought and I had a determination that amazes me today.

For my kids and me, those two cars bring back funny memories. Looking back at all the trouble I had with that Citation, all the tears, frustration, embarrassment and anger at the dealer who sold me that piece of junk, and the naïve fool I was to buy it, God still provided. He still made sure I had the transportation I needed to finish my degree, to move and to get a new job. He provided the funds I needed to keep it drivable.

I drove to my student teaching school every day in a crappy little car with no second gear. I drove it 100 miles to a new home. I drove it to and from work. Because that was God’s plan for me at that time. I didn’t see His provision and certainly didn’t rest in it. Looking back, I see how He did take care of us. If only I had seen it then. Instead of crying, maybe I would have just quietly sat at the mechanic’s doing homework, knowing the Lord had me covered. How much peace I could have had! With that peace probably would have come more laughter instead of tears.

Being able to see His provision back then helps me look for and see His provision today. He has a plan for each of us and within our plans, He always provides exactly what we need. We can rest in that. I can laugh knowing my junk car experience is a bump in the road, not the end of the road. Those bumps teach us to depend on God and trust that He cares enough to take care of us. I can look back and chuckle and say I hope to never again own a standard transmission vehicle and I can say it with a twinkle in my eyes and a smile. And I can know that if I ever have to drive one again, I CAN do it. God took a junk car experience and turned it into a learning and leaning opportunity with some humor added in.

So, what’s your junk car experience and how can you see God acting through and in it? Praise the Lord that He does.

Hope, Uncategorized

Boundaries?

Boundaries! Who wants or needs them? Do you think the person in the picture below is glad for his boundary? I should think so. He would have a long drop if he should misstep without that fence to catch him. The fence is his protection as well as his guideline. What a gorgeous view he has from within his limits.

photo of a man standing in the cliff
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I am a person who detests boundaries. I have always been a rebel at heart. Now if you had known me my entire life, your jaw is likely sitting on the floor because someone appearing less rebellious possibly could not be found. Nevertheless, rebellion is in my nature. Give me a boundary, I will escape it as fast as I can. Tell me I can’t do something and I’m likely to do it.

My dad told me recently that when he bought a used bike for my brother, he got a second one free. That old adult size bike weighed more than I did at the time, I was about 8 years old, and he told me I couldn’t ride it because it was too big for me. Well, I learned to ride that bike that same day, by myself. Rebel!

white sheep on grass
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Above is how I view a boundary. I’m on a short leash. I can only go so far but I want to explore. The best grass is beyond my boundary and I want it, right now. Rebellion. Why is this sheep tied to a tree? We can guess it’s to keep it from wondering off, protection, or it’s to keep it from eating grasses that will make it sick, protection once again. In my rebellion, it would feel like punishment to have to stay within the range of that rope.

So, why am I writing about boundaries? Because I have spent the last several days pondering them. I am participating in a weight loss Bible study with some close friends. The book we are using is great, finding the truth so the truth can set us free from our addiction to food. In the very first week of lessons, though, we are asked to start considering boundaries with food. And I’m thinking to myself, “No way, I detest boundaries, I can’t do boundaries, this is not going to work for me.”

In the past, when I have tried to create a boundary around food, I have always failed to keep it. Those failures have added up to a belief that it is beyond my capability to follow any type of boundary in any scope of my life. I’m committed to doing this study. I have friends who have committed to doing it with me. But boundaries, NO!

Well, as I read, as I prayed, as I pondered, I realized I am not boundaryless, if I can create that word. I do have several boundaries I successfully stay within. For example, when I was 18 years old, I discovered alcohol. And I drank a lot. I was drunk a lot. I went to work drunk. I passed out. I threw up. And then at 20, when I found out I was pregnant, stopped drinking. I wanted to drink but I wouldn’t risk harming my baby. That was my boundary. And after she was born, I didn’t want to raise her with an alcoholic mother so I didn’t go back to drinking even though I was sometimes drawn to it. For decades, I have not touched alcohol because I need that absolute boundary to keep me safe.

1 Corinthians 10:13 promises us we won’t be tempted beyond what we can bear and that the Lord will provide a way out. When I am tempted to drink, I pray and the Lord helps me move on from that temptation. Same thing when I drive by a casino. I went to a casino once. Not good. I spent every cent I had with me. I was a single mom so I only had $13.00 but I saw the potential. I have never been back. I keep a boundary from gambling because it’s dangerous for me. There are actually several boundaries I keep because they are unsafe for me in one way or another.

white and brown animals near fence
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I look at this picture and I see peace. Not rebellion but peace. I see safe sheep waiting for their master to lead them. I see them grazing without fear on the provisions found within their boundary. They aren’t questioning whether the grass is greener on the other side of their fence. They are just enjoying their side. Within their limits is where they grow strong.

I crave peace and calm like is shown in this picture. Can I find that peace within a boundary? I sure haven’t found it outside of it. For this study, I have to consider what boundary I need around food, a boundary that I will stay within for the rest of my life. Like maybe never having sweets again. Or maybe just having them once a month. I have to pray and figure out what boundary will keep me safe from the addiction I have to sugar. What boundary will be most likely to keep me in God’s will instead of my own.

If I’m living within my boundary, I have to consider what can pull me out to the unsafe world on the other side? That’s where Romans 12:2 comes in for me. I have to renew my mind in order to be transformed. Renewing my mind right now means I have to see the lies in my life and replace them with truth. It’s a lie that I can succeed and flourish in life without any boundaries. The truth is that I can only overcome my food addiction and flourish within the safety of boundaries. I don’t know what those boundaries look like yet. I know what the rebellion looks like and I feel the damage within my body and mind every single day I continue to rebel.

Some rebellion is good. Don’t get me wrong. We can’t live our entire life within safe boundaries. Sometimes, we have to push through our fences in order to grow. Going into the mission field would be the best example I can think of. Leaving the safe boundaries of the United States to go to a Muslim country to be a witness. You have to be a rebel to be willing to take that risk.

I also think of the difference between being in the world and being of the world. We are in the world, yes, that is our home right now. But we don’t have to be doing all the same things as the world is doing, especially when what the world is doing is pointing away from God. So, we rebel against parts of the world in order to live godly lives. Our boundaries have to be God’s boundaries, not man’s.

Back to my rebellion and my boundaries. My rebellion has gotten me into this trouble with food. I’m thinking finding those boundaries makes a lot more sense now. I’m going to have to pray and experiment to find the perfect fence to live within successfully. But as long as I stay within the truth, I will know rebellion will not heal me, but boundaries with food will help along with letting God protect and lead me.  I will find that peace I crave within God’s will for me.

How about you? Do you have the same struggle with rebellion and maybe need some safe and peaceful boundaries? Won’t you pray and open your heart up to hear God’s voice helping you to find the truth that will set you free? And God’s strength to keep you within those boundaries?  Seems like an oxymoron to find freedom in boundaries but I think that is the truth for us. May God give you wisdom on your journey as He is giving me wisdom on mine.

 

 

 

 

 

Family, Hope, Uncategorized

A Beautiful Woman

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in my dad’s chair next to my mom. I looked over at this woman who I love so much and saw that she was watching me intently.  I didn’t know why and I couldn’t ask her. It was one of her bad days and she was struggling with her speech right then. My mom has dementia and is most affected by this disease in her ability to communicate especially when she has a UTI, which she had again that day.

I looked at her, wasn’t sure what I saw in her eyes beyond pain, and without thinking said, “Mom, you are such a beautiful woman.” And my mom smiled a small smile as she wiped a tear away. And I sat there pondering how truly beautiful she is.

Moms graduation picture

My mom had a tough childhood. Raised by an alcoholic stepfather who could also be abusive, life wasn’t easy. She spent summers at her mom’s parents, helping on their farm. Those summers were the best part of her childhood, according to my dad. She had uncles and aunts not much older than she was and they were her best friends along with cousins near her age.

She has told so many stories about the farm, about her Uncle Charlie and Aunt Dorothy, her cousin, Sonny.  She was able to ride horses, something she loved at the farm.  Her nickname with her family came from a treasured horse, Toots. She helped with all the chores, butchering, haying, whatever needed to be done. She was loved and protected by her grandparents.

She grew up in a loud and boisterous extended family that was also very reserved with affection. My mom didn’t get hugged as a child. No one told her they loved her.  It wasn’t that she wasn’t loved, she was. It was just their way not to express their love in this way. I believe this was part of her nationality.

As I grew up, I witnessed my mom loving her relatives, not through hugs and words, but through actions. She regularly took aunts to their medical appointments and shopping. She talked to them on the phone multiple times a day. She took her own mom to medical appointments. Raising six kids, she still made time to help family. And my dad worked two jobs most of the time I was growing up so that she could stay home and help us and others.

Mom loves flowers and had a beautiful flower garden for many years until it became too hard for her to maintain. Years later, many of those flowers still come up each year and bloom each summer. She also loved to go to thrift sales. She outfitted us throughout our childhood and into our young adult years with finds from these sales. She would search all over to find a particular item we wanted but couldn’t afford brand new.  I remember my excitement when she found me the tennis shoes I had been asking for that were so popular when I was in high school. She has so many talents, sewing, crocheting, decorating, collecting and more. She has crocheted afghans for all of us and made tie blankets for every child, spouse, grandchild, grandchild’s spouse, and great grandchild and even great great grandchildren.

She is a wonderful and caring grandma. To save she loves babies is an understatement. She adores them all. We have watched her love on our kids and our grandkids. When I graduated from college as a single mom, and found a job two hours away but couldn’t find housing right away, she took care of my three kids for several weeks until an apartment opened up for us. The bus dropped the kids off and she had treat bags ready for them to snack on every day. She was always looking for ways to make her grandchildren feel special.

mom and dad aug 2016

Mom and Dad have a special relationship. As kids, we saw them hug and kiss daily. We saw Dad pull her onto his lap quite regularly. They rarely fought in front of us. As kids, though, I think we wanted some of those hugs too. I know I did. Rarely were we hugged. Rarely did we hear we were loved. We were loved and Mom showed it in many ways every single day; just not with hugs or words. But I still wanted the words and the hugs. The first time I remember Mom telling me she loved me; I was seventeen years old, had just been in an accident in a city five hours away and was at the hospital. I marveled for days that she had said those three words to me, “I love you.”

As my siblings and I grew to adulthood, by silent agreement, we started working on Mom. She didn’t hug us and tell us she loved us because she didn’t learn that herself as a child. She repeated the pattern she was taught. We wanted more. We began hugging her even when she pushed us away. We joked and just hugged her more until she was comfortable being hugged. We told her we loved her. I never ended a phone conversation with her without telling her I loved her. Eventually, she said it back.

For decades now, Mom has been the one to reach out and hug us first. She is the one who will say the words, “I love you” first. We have always seen the love for us in her eyes. Now we feel the love in her arms and through her words. She has always been a beautiful woman and nothing will ever change that, not old age nor dementia. Her beauty is heart deep, not just skin deep and the love I have for her isn’t more because she now tells me she loves me and gives great hugs. I do treasure those moments of affection though and they are outstanding memories for me of the great Beauty that God has blessed my life with. I love you Mom.