Monthly Archives: October 2012
A few weeks ago, I sort of got into it with a friend-of-a-friend on Facebook. I’m still not sure it was wise; I mostly got involved as a defense to my friend; it bothered me to see his Christianity under attack. I learned long ago, that one cannot debate anyone into the Kingdom of God.
My encouragement to him was that if he wanted to see God, to know God, to have some understanding of God, to ask Him. He’s always willing to show Himself to those who seek Him.
Yesterday, my pastor was teaching from I Corinthians chapter 1. As he spoke, I perused the verses above where he was camped, drawn to this:
And here’s why I was so attracted by these verses: The friend-of-a-friend was searching for proof — undeniable, scientific, irrefutable, tangible proof — of God’s existence, and stated that he could not trust anything less reliable that that.
Strangely enough, I was thinking about this exchange while my mother was dying.
As she drew closer to death, the kindness, sweetness, and presence of God increased on her, and in her room. It was remarked upon, countless times, by hospital staff and visitors. It was not “scientific, irrefutable, tangible proof,” but to me, it was truly evidence of God being in her life, working through her, expressing Himself through the weakest, most vulnerable person imaginable.
It just seems to me that this is God’s way.
27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.
It’s His way to express Himself through the powerless.
It’s also His way, I believe, having experienced it, to make lovely the very things that would seem to be the most tragic.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
And this is incommunicable to those who require book-proof of God.
Another beautiful intangible I experienced during my mother’s last hours was this:
One of my favorite aspects of natural birth is the “community” aspect of it: During the most difficult hours of labor, everyone present is ultra-attentive to the birthing mother in a minute-by-minute way, in almost a prescience — alert to the point of foreknowledge to what the mother might need. The attention of everyone is fixed on her. Birth becomes an effort of not just the mother, but of those who love her; everyone does whatever they can to help the birth come about. Her preferences, her loves, her comfort becomes the shared goal of all present.
It was that exact same way with my mother.
We sang songs she had sung to us as children, as well as her favorite choruses from church. We reminisced. We took turns snuggling with her in her bed. She smiled contentedly, head tipped back, eyes closed, soaking it in…
And, as things became more difficult — labored — my mother wanted to sit up, with her legs over the side of her bed. Nevermind that this was virtually impossible, and nevermind that it wasn’t rational. Just like a natural birth, when a mother just feels like she needs to be in a certain position, all who assist her swing into action to accommodate. So it was with my mother, near the end of her life: One behind her, supporting her back. One on her side, arm surrounding her waist or shoulders, keeping her upright. At times, someone else in front of her, keeping her from slumping too far forward.
I had the thought, multiple times, “We’re birthing her into the Kingdom of God.”
My mom had been in the hospital for three weeks. At one point, several days earlier, I unexpectedly ran into an acquaintance in the halls, and glanced at his wrist., seeing a familiar, handwritten band. “Are you a new father??” I asked. He affirmed that he was, only an hour or so into the mind-bending experience.
I internally marveled at the circle of life, come to bear, right in front of me.
Perhaps that sounds cliche: “circle of life.” But at that moment, it was profound.
The day of my mother’s death, I was talking with a friend… She is a hospice volunteer, and mentioned how — on countless occasions — on one evening, she would spend time with the dying, and the next day, she would hear news of a brand-new birth. She has been struck, too, by the same notion of life coming full circle, and how right it seems.
And then, with some excitement, I shared with her — this friend who is not a mother — that sense I had had, comparing a natural birth to a spiritual birth, and how, though it was in many ways difficult, how full of God it was, how much it felt like that was His plan.
She completely understood.
I can’t express how important her understanding was to me. Just by her being completely on the same page, tracking right along with my thoughts and feelings, I felt like God was providing His love and comfort directly to my heart.
Yesterday, at church, she gave to me what might be the most unusual — yet apt — condolence card, ever. It was a wedding card, embellished and lovely. Inside, she had pasted her own sentiment: “Remembering our conversation… She’s with the Prince of Peace in her white gown; beautiful Jean. He sings a song only for her. She is free of pain and sings with Him her savior.”
I wrote this yesterday, after an informative but discouraging meeting with five of my mom’s doctors, two nurses, and a social worker. Also present were my stepdad and sister. The unanimous consensus from her caregivers is that she will continue to worsen, not improve, and that her condition is not operable, in great part because her “rehab potential” is zero. It’s complicated, but she has heart issues and has suffered at least two strokes in the last two weeks. Afterward, I went to Starbuck’s for a few alone minutes, to collect my thoughts, which I always do best in writing:
My mom’s health history and current status is complicated, and so are my feelings and thoughts. There are so many angles to consider — some of them disparate and competing — when contemplating the end of her life — contemplation from a practical perspective: How do we best care for her? And from a spiritual standpoint: God’s sovereignty is impossible to quantify. All I know is that He is the king of restoration, redemption, and love. But how that is demonstrated varies considerably. I want what He intends for her. But I don’t know what that is. Bot my sis and I feel that her time, her end, is near. Yet, neither of us want to give up. Plus, there is mother-daughter, sister, relationship care to consider. And how do I minister to my children? How much info is too much? I’m not ready to mourn for myself. I have wept. And I would probably weep more if I had less on my plate and could just give in to curling up and checking out. Feeling the love of God — both from His Spirit directly to mine and His love demonstrated by others — helps immensely. I don’t feel alone, and I don’t feel angry. I feel covered and loved, and that satisfies. But there are still many unanswered questions, and I am still sad.
- This is my kitchen, right now, as I type:
- We moved into this house in July with a plan to remodel about 40% of it as soon as possible. “ASAP” has come upon us, much to my satisfaction. People have been asking me, “Are you settled in?” and I have answered, “No, and I don’t want to be! I can’t wait until the remodel starts!!” I’m very pleased that I got to swing a sledge hammer and kick in drywall. 😀 Very cathartic. I’m also crazy-excited about the finished product, which won’t be completed for another three weeks or so.
- You might be thinking, “How is she making dinner?” The answer: Crockpot, grill, and pre-cooked chickens from Costco. I’m awfully impressed with myself that in 11 days of demolition and construction, we’ve eaten out exactly two meals. My family is less than impressed, especially my kids. They don’t see Costco roasted chicken and carrots with hummus (also both from Costco — the cilantro jalapeno hummus is all natural and VERY tasty!) as a real meal.
- To facilitate above-mentioned demo and construction, my father-in-law came to stay with us for six days, as he is a general contractor and pretty much overseeing the project. He is a wonderful man, very easy-going, doesn’t expect me to cook for him, is totally fine with sleeping on my 11yo’s lower, twin bunk bed (though we tried to give him the master bed, and at least my son’s bed has a new mattress). On a night when my husband was away at his Bible study, and the kids were all in bed, he looked at me and said, “I think we both deserve a Blizzard,” and off he went to Dairy Queen. 🙂 Hard not to love a man like that. Hahahaha!! However, even a house guest that is stellar company is still somewhat wearing, eventually, for a girl who tends to need some alone-time before bed each night, to maintain sanity. He went back to Prescott for the weekend+, and is due to arrive again tomorrow.
- My mother is in the hospital. She was admitted on the 27th of September, and is still there. Long-time readers might remember that my mom has long had health difficulty. Truly, I am SO VERY GLAD that she is still with us, in spite of a number of doctors’ very negative prognostications. But, she averages a trip to the hospital around once every six months. She is in ill health, indeed. Even before her admittance, my sister and I were stepping up our involvement in our mom’s daily life, as she was frequently “getting into trouble”, so to speak, during the five hours that my step-dad is away from home at his part-time job. It made me extra-glad that we moved close by my mom; that is one of the reasons we picked this house. She suffered a stroke, though it took a couple of days in the hospital for the doctors to come to a definitive diagnosis. It doesn’t appear that it was a severe stroke. However, we’re theorizing that this wasn’t the first one, as starting in February, after a surgery, she had difficulty recalling words. Her health has never quite recovered from that surgery, and it has continued to decline markedly; we’ve been in a search to find out what was causing it — her heart? Oxygen depletion? Early-onset dementia? Conflict with medication? Too many meds? Not enough? Is she just exhausted? It still could be any or all of those, but the fact that she has had at least one stroke, and likely more than one, is now apparent. The very good news is that she is already recovering mobility on her right side, and is no longer speaking gibberish, and is more aware of life and people. There is light back in her eyes. She is still in the hospital, but that is turning out to be a good thing, as the doctors are discovering things that are actually helping her… and her appetite, which has been gone for a couple of years, is returning.
- One of my dear friends just moved to the Pacific Northwest. Their two boys are also some of my three boys’ dearest friends, and the whole thing has been wearing on me, emotionally. I’m happy for them. Heck, I would gladly move to Portland!!! But, there is a hole of sadness in my heart, both for myself, and my boys. They were some of my few homeschooling friends, locally, and we went to the same church. I miss them.
- On Sunday night, two precious friends, who are also birders, went with me to a local birding hot spot. There were reports of a Roseate Spoonbill there. I had seen one, once, in 2004, on the Gulf of Mexico, in Texas. They’re not supposed to be in the Phoenix area; this one was clearly lost. However, I’m glad that this particular Roseate Spoonbill made friends with a bunch of egrets and decided to travel with them, because the little trip to view him was such a precious time to me. Spending time with friends who share a passion, just hanging out… Talking about deep things and not-so-deep things… Those two hours were a much-needed respite, and I thank God for good friends.