A Time for Everything

Two-and-a-half weeks ago on May 23rd, our fourth grandchild, Emma Elyse, came into the world, exactly one week after my mother’s funeral.  I was blessed to be able to witness her birth and see the miracle of life.  It was the day God appointed Emma to be born, just as May 15th was the day He appointed my mother to die.  I know this because the Word says in Psalm 139:16 that all the days ordained for us are written in His book, before even one of them comes to be.

Watching my mother slowly slip away this last year with Alzheimer’s, which caused swallowing issues plus a variety of skin conditions, was not a pretty sight.  Mother was always neat and tidy, hair fixed and makeup on.  She was not able to take care of herself at all, not even able to brush her teeth or comb her hair.  She had cellulitis that wouldn’t heal on her legs, a horribly chafed backside because of her immobility, and rashes that made her scratch constantly.

Why did she have to suffer in that way?  Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season (purpose) for every activity under heaven.”  I believe it was for me.  I’ve written about it.  I would not trade the understanding I have now of how much I loved my mother and how much she loved me for anything, because it has set me free in an area where I didn’t fully realize I was bound.  Isn’t that just like God?

Here comes little Emma into the world, all six pounds, four ounces of her, perfect in every way.  Smooth, soft little baby skin, perfect features–and as my son-in-law said, everything working as it should, her pee-er, her pooper, and her lungs (she has a good set of pipes!). She has already stolen our hearts.  What will the Lord write on the pages of Emma’s life? He has a will for her, a perfect plan, but she will make her own choice on whether to cooperate with God to fulfill it.  Her parents have a huge responsibility to guide her, but I know they are up to the task.

The last year was very wearing on me as I watched my mother decline.  I felt I was becoming depressed, even imagining how long I might have left to live, or if I would end up with Alzheimer’s.  It’s hard to live in the present when you’re facing the death of someone you love.  But now with a new baby in the family, I feel the joy of life rising in me again.  I feel young and full of purpose.  I have an awesome  husband to come alongside as his helper, adult children and their spouses who are truly my friends, and grandchildren whose little lives I can impact with love.

Someday my time will come; my purpose here will be completed.  There is no reason to worry about it.  I know where I’m going and who will take me there.  Lord, you are a God of order and purpose.  Sometimes, as with my mother, you reveal your purpose to us now.  But some things we can’t understand while we’re still on this earth.  Some things are too painful to grasp.  But we can trust you.  When you say you have made everything beautiful in its time, and you have set eternity in our hearts (Eccl. 3:11) , we know that in eternity we will see as you do, and it will all make sense.

Our sweet little Emma!

Our sweet little Emma!

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He Has Made Everything Beautiful in Its Time: Eccl. 3:11

My mother looked beautiful lying in the casket. I have never seen a body look beautiful, but she did. She had beautiful skin that at age 82 had barely wrinkled. The undertaker had done a fantastic job on her hair and make-up, and she looked more like she used to look before multiple conditions had taken their toll on her. She was finally at peace.

I miss her. Not the suffering lady in the nursing home–well, maybe I do. She told me so often these last days how pretty I am. (Hanging out in a nursing home daily made a nana like me feel like a really young chick.) Mother had never been able to say “I love you” easily, but this last year she told me every visit that she loved me. She wanted to give and receive affection in a way she had never been able to pre-Alzheimer’s.

I had not lived in the same town with my mother since I graduated from high school, but this last year, it was necessary to move her to my town where she could get good nursing home care. She was five minutes from my house, and I could check on her daily. She didn’t always recognize me as her daughter, but she knew that I was her “person,” and she wanted me. After all the years of a long-distance relationship — with visits, of course — I was now caring for my mother on a daily basis. And I became very attached.

God, I want to be changed by this experience. This season that began May 15, 2013, the day of my mother’s death, is a blank slate that you and I will write on together. And I want it to be beautiful. I want to live well. Jesus, take my hand and lead me through each step. I’m glad I kept that bathrobe of hers. I donated everything else. It will be comforting now to have something that she wore.

A mother has the most powerful connection of all, I do believe, in earthly terms. The one who gives you life, who lays your foundation, for good or for bad, remains a constant influence your entire life. My mother hadn’t lived with her own mother since she was 17 years old. My grandmother has been dead for 46 years. But in her Alzheimer-ravaged brain, her mother was the one thing she could remember well. She wanted desperately to get to her, to help her, to be with her. She asked about her every day. Home to my mother was where her mother was.

I believe God commands us to honor our mother and father for two reasons. One is because our parents are his choice for us. His Word says in Psalms 139 that he knits us together in our mothers’ wombs. To not honor God’s choice is pride, saying that God erred in his creative work. The second reason is because of this deep connection we have to our parents. We need resolution with our parents to be free. Honoring God’s choice brings forgiveness and healing. I believe to not do so brings a curse on you. Oh, this is so important.

I understand that some parents are not “honorable.” All parents are flawed by sin. Some are mentally, emotionally, or physically abusive. I’m not saying the impact of that doesn’t matter. But what is honoring to them is that you trust a very good and faithful God to heal you and enable you to forgive them. What is honoring to them is that you pray for them and desire God to save them and heal them, and that you want God’s best for them.

Father, thank you for giving me time to honor my mother and not taking her before you showed me what I needed to know. In your great mercy, you wanted me to know how much I loved her and how much she loved me. You gave me a chance to truly honor her, and I can move forward with no regrets. Jesus, I praise and thank you.

Mother and me on her last birthday, February 1.

Mother and me on her last birthday, February 1.

God’s Original Design

Back in my early days of court reporting, some 25 years ago, there were no laser printers. The paper I printed on had two carbon copies attached. After the job was printed, I had to tear the pages apart and separate the copies. The original copy was crisp and legible, the next copy was fair, but the last copy would always be a little faint. I had to be careful not to smudge the copies with ink from the carbon paper as I separated the sheets.

This makes me think about our individual Christian lives. Psalm 139 says God formed us in our mothers’ wombs, that he wove our innermost parts in the secret place. That’s one life at a time. God doesn’t make copies; he only makes originals. But I have tried and tried and prayed and prayed for God to make me into someone that I think I should be, someone that is acceptable to him, to my husband, to my family, and others. It has taken a lot of effort, and it hasn’t worked. I am tired, so tired.

One week ago, my mother passed away. Losing your mother is a profound experience, a life passage, so to speak. It doesn’t matter that she had late-stage Alzheimer’s and was 82 years old. When I am still and quiet, I still see her taking her last breath. I’m afraid one day I will forget that, and I don’t ever want to forget it; it’s as though I will lose part of her if I lose that memory. It was a holy moment, a very humbling moment–holy because I know she was passing into the arms of Jesus; humbling because it was a reminder that I will be there too one day, and there is nothing I can do about it. Life on this earth really does come to an end, for God has appointed man once to die.

So now I am evaluating my life. What do I really want? I know I want to be me, the one God thought up before the creation of the world, the one he knit together in my mother’s womb, the one he knows so intimately. I’m so afraid life will take over too soon, and I’ll forget what this feels like, to have a choice. I do have a choice. I don’t want to be a smudged or faint copy of someone else, someone that I think I need to be. I want to be God’s original, and I know there is only one way to find out who the real “me” is.

Mark 12:30 says the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength. Father God, you say in your Word that we can only love because you first loved us. Help me to receive your love and to love you with all that I am. I want to sit at your feet and listen. It is only then that I can know who I am, for you are the only one who can tell me.