Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mom’s Worth

It was yet another trip to the emergency room.

My mom had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for many years, so trips to the ER were not uncommon. A blocked carotid artery, a broken hip, and depression had sent her there on multiple occasions. I was very fortunate in that I had two sisters, Barb and Annette, to share the responsibilities of caring for her. But there was plenty of responsibility to go around.

My Dad had also been fighting lung cancer that metastasized to his brain. The surgery to remove the brain tumor along with the follow-up treatment had aged and weakened him dramatically. He could no longer drive. He who had been the strong one as Mom deteriorated now needed our help, too.

Doctor visits. Money management. Overseeing help in their home. We were now parenting our parents.

Because of that, my sisters and I had grown to dread that middle-of-the-night phone call that would alert us to a new crisis. This time Mom had developed an infection that caused disorientation and hallucinations.

Emergency_Room

After the doctor sedated Mom to give her relief, Barb and Annette went home. It was my turn to stay with her until she was moved to her room.

So I began to pray, and in my fatigue and my sorrow, these were my words: “Father, isn’t it time for Mom to come home to You? Why are You keeping her here? She’s sick. She’s scared. And she can’t do anything for herself!”

I cannot explain how I heard His response. It wasn’t audible. But it was very clear.

“How dare you!” His voice thundered in my heart.

“Your mom does not have worth because of anything she does or does not do. Her life has worth because she was made in My image, and I said so!”

Oh…of course. The tumult in my heart stilled. Because, as always, He was right. Realizing that truth, I called my attitude what it was--sin.

My life, your life, is not measured by what we accomplish, or what we don’t. It has worth because each of us is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and we have purpose and will remain on this earth until the Lord Himself calls us home.

As I thought about it more, I realized something else: Mom was actually doing a lot! Maybe not in and of herself, but because of her struggles my sisters and I had changed. Our hearts softened as we watched her decline. Loving her without expectations came a bit easier, and compassion deepened as she grew weaker. We rejoiced when we would see a spark of her old self, and grieve when her confusion caused her to think my Dad a stranger who had invaded their home. She taught us to rely on Jesus in new ways: we needed His strength, His wisdom, His perseverance, and His peace. Especially when we grew tired. Mom could not give us what she always had: support, encouragement, and affirmation. It was our turn to give it to her.

I look back now, and am so grateful for the extra time I had with my mom. My sisters and I are not the same because of it. She influenced us until the day she died, because she had great worth in Your eyes.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Further reflection:

  1. Describe a time you assigned worth based on what a person accomplishes.
  2. Have you ever felt that your own worth was defined by your accomplishments?
  3. How is your perspective on this different from God’s?

Father, You see things differently. You alone give us worth; thank You that it isn’t based on what we accomplish, but it is rooted in our image-bearing soul. Teach me to rest in Your unchanging perspective.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bell’s Palsy

“Look, Mommy, my mouth doesn’t work right!”

It was the 4th of July, and my family had gathered for a barbeque. Six-year-old Bethany had been playing outside with her cousins when she ran giggling into the house.

“Smile!” I demanded, curious as to what she meant.

She meant what she said. When she tried to smile only one side of her mouth curved up. The other side was frozen, unresponsive.

My mom panicked at the thought of a stroke, but I had a friend who had experience Bell’s Palsy. That’s where my mind went. We rushed Bethany to the emergency room, where she was indeed diagnosed with this strange malady.

Bell’s Palsy results when the facial nerve that runs through the side of the face swells. Usually caused by some kind of infection, the swelling causes weakness and paralysis on that side of the face.

In Bethany’s case, the Palsy was pretty severe: she had absolutely no control over the facial muscles on that side of her face. Her smile was lopsided, her taste buds were off, and she could not blink that eye. Because of that, we had to put eye drops in every hour to keep it from drying out and cracking. At night, we had to squeeze ointment in it and tape her eye shut. It was a bit of a pain, but extremely necessary.

visine

Did I love her less because of the handicap? Absolutely not! In fact, it drew my heart even closer to her. I’m her mom, and I willingly did whatever I could to help her get through it, and over it. My heart hurt for her even as I tried to encourage her.

It took several months before the swelling reduced enough for her to regain muscle control. She still has a bit of residual weakness in her eyelid: she cannot wink without an exaggerated effort. We can live with that!

In terms of our human nature, God see areas of weakness in each of us too. We all struggle with different character flaws as we go through life; pride, a biting tongue, selfish motives. Even if no one else sees it, God does. Yet He is our Father, and none of that makes Him love us less. He sees us as we are, yet also longs to see us strong and healthy. His love motivates Him to do what is necessary in our lives to see that happen.

He encourages us. He is patient with us in the process, but He is persistent. Ultimately, if we let Him, He heals us and grants us new strength.

Because He is our Father. He knows us, and loves us still.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14

Further reflection:

1. Where do you see God at work, strengthening your character?

2. What methods has He used to help you grow stronger?

3. Are you cooperating with Him to change, or fighting Him?

Father, You understand how very weak I am. I am grateful that it neither changes Your love for me, nor causes You to give up on me. Show me where You are working. I want to grow stronger—please help me to work with You to that end, and not to fight You.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Ride of Your LIfe

The picture captured the joy of the day.

My daughter and son-in-law, Megan and James, were visiting California on vacation. One of the few things they really wanted to do was go to Disneyland. Who could blame them? Disneyland is called the happiest place of earth, and on that day it certainly was for us. Thunder Mountain, Star Tours, Space Mountain, and Pirates of the Caribbean, we whooped our way through them all. But our favorite? Splash Mountain! There’s nothing like a good soaking on a hot day.

As you can see, each of us enjoyed the ride, but not exactly in the same way.

 splash mountain

 

Life is a lot like Splash Mountain; everyone reacts to it differently.

Some people go through life cautiously, a bit fearful of what is coming. Others enjoy the ride, but still need to hold on to something secure. Then there are the daring few who go through life with arms raised, wind whipping their hair, fully giving themselves to the adventure.

We get to choose how we respond to every situation, every challenge. Enjoying life might look different for everyone, and while there is no inherent right or wrong to it, it all boils down to motive. Do we respond to life’s challenges with fear, or with faith?

Bottom line: it’s okay to hold on, as long as you are holding on to what is true and not to your fears. It’s also okay to release control, as long as you are giving control to the One who is trustworthy.

Because the happiest place on earth really isn’t Disneyland. It’s wherever we, in faith, allow Jesus to lead us.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.        Isaiah 41:10

Further reflection:

  1. Which way do you respond to life: cautiously, comfortably, or with wild abandon?
  2. Do you think it is based on fear or faith?

Father, life is such an adventure! When I need to hold on to something secure, may I hold on to You, the only real security there is. When I give up control, may it only be to You, since You are trustworthy. And when I abandon myself fully to life, may it be only when and where You direct me to do so.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Olympic Gold

I, like many in America, have been glued to the television this week and avidly watching the Olympics. So many stories are told; of joy, of heartbreak, of dreams fulfilled or of dreams dashed, of defeat and of redemption. All of the athletes had one thing in common: they dreamt of Olympic gold.

One story epitomized them all; Jordyn Wieber.

As a gymnast, Jordyn had spent thousands of hours, countless days, and many years of training in preparation to be in the Olympics. Complete focus and dedication to the sport ruled her life, and it was perhaps her life’s greatest passion. She had given up a lot in order to attain her goal. To date it had paid off; she was the reigning world all-around champion, making her the favorite to win here in London.

She failed. Nothing catastrophic happened, she was very good. But there were small errors that added up, and two of her teammates edged her out. Failing to qualify for the individual all-around competition had not been a serious consideration, and the devastation on her face told the story.

jordan wieber crying for olympic gold

But it wasn’t the end of the story.

Jordyn went on to participate for the USA in the team all-around competition. Tension was thick as everyone wondered if she could overcome her disappointment, and go on to excel. She who had been the team cheerleader was now encouraged by her teammates.

When she beautifully executed each of her events, her coach greeted her with hugs and encouraging words of affirmation. Her teammates rejoiced with her. At the end of the competition, her face communicated a different story; one of elation, victory, and redemption. Together, they had won the gold medal! Perhaps that success was all the sweeter for the earlier defeat.

 wieber with gold

She could not have done it without training and discipline, without the support of her family and her teammates, or without her coach.

What is true in gymnastics is true in life, especially in the life of one who follows Jesus.

No matter how much we discipline ourselves to follow Jesus, we will fail. No matter how hard we try, we are imperfect, sinful creatures who will fall short . Sometimes miserably. Sometimes very publicly. And we grieve, because we do love Jesus. We have trained ourselves to do right, and never wanted to disappoint Him.

But, like Jordyn, that is not the end of the story. We have a God of second chances. And third. And fourth. He not only forgives us our failures, but gives us other opportunities to get it right.

We have teammates—others who love Jesus—who encourage us. They remind us that failure is not final, and cheer us on to keep on eyes on the goal; to honor Jesus by giving Him our best. Because no matter the failure, with Jesus there can be redemption. He is the coach who roots us on. As we follow Him, He can bring good out of the worst failure. His grace. Our weakness. That’s how it works.

At the end of this life, I yearn to hear “well done”, from my Savior. Gold medals are a noble goal. But those words from Jesus? Now that’s a prize worth striving for!

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:13

Further reflection:

  1. Have you ever, in spite of your best efforts, failed when you did not expect to?
  2. If so, what was your predominant emotion?
  3. Were you given the chance to redeem that failure, and succeed?
  4. What can you, as a follower of Jesus, do to move past failure towards a new victory?

Father, I am beyond grateful that because I belong to You, my inevitable failures do not define me. Nor do they limit what You can do in my life in the future. Thank You that my weakness is not greater than Your strength, and You only ask that I press on. Help me to do so with all that is in me, so that when I see You face-to-face, I might hear those words that I long to hear: “Well done.”