Tag Archives: faithfulness

A Mother’s Legacy

My mother passed on to her eternal home in 1994. She’s been gone twenty three years now and in many ways I’m happy for her. A strange thing to say? Maybe? But most of what I remember about my mother was the difficulties she endured.Mom

Shortly after I was born, she had a complete and devastating nervous breakdown and was committed to Willard State Psychiatric Hospital in upstate New York for several years. Over my lifetime, I’ve heard bits and pieces of family speculation and attempted to piece ambiguous information together, but I still don’t really know why. These things were not discussed openly by previous generations as they are now.

My older brother went into foster care and I was shuffled around between grandparents and a few aunts and uncles before finally landing with a family down the street who had five kids of their own. They took me in and it was because of them and out of desperation to see his family reunited, that my Dad had his come to Jesus experience. Though our family life was imperfect, and at times dysfunctional, I was raised with a foundation of Bible, church and a solid belief in God that later became an anchor for my own life storms.

When Mom finally came home from Willard, she wasn’t the same, at least that’s what I was told. I don’t remember her to be anything other. She was just Mom. She was somewhat timid, emotionally fragile and often fearful, yet I knew she loved me, though I have no memory of her ever saying so.

She was a cigarette addict (wasn’t everyone in the 50’s?), married to a hard-working, sometimes overbearing and exacting man, she never learned to drive and developed rheumatoid arthritis sometime in her thirties. I would come home from school to find her sobbing on the sofa, a knee or wrist so painfully red and swollen she couldn’t function. Mom never went to a doctor and never took anything for the pain but aspirin, which does nothing to alleviate any of RA’s symptoms, as I would later discover for myself.

I remember her walking me to kindergarten and later, on days I walked home from elementary school for lunch, there was usually a grilled cheese sandwich and hot Campbells soup waiting on the small table in the corner of the kitchen. On days she felt better, she’d be in the kitchen cooking meals or doing endless loads of wash and hanging heavy, wet clothes on the rope stretched between the shed and the sour cherry tree in our backyard.

Because she didn’t drive, I’d sometimes ride my pink, banana-seat bike two miles to the corner store, with a note giving me permission to purchase a pack of cigarettes. An extra nickel or dime would buy me some penny candy, then I’d happily pedal back home. On hot summer days, she’d occasionally hand me a dime, and I’d dash to the curb for a cherry snow cone from Mr. Frosty’s truck.

Somewhere toward the close of her fiftieth decade, RA got the best of her. She couldn’t walk anymore. With the cushioning cartilage and synovial fluid in her knees gone, the joints fused and locked in place. She finally had wheels of her own – a wheelchair – and Dad became her caregiver. Several years passed before he couldn’t lift her anymore. At age sixty she went to live in a nursing home and at sixty-two she died of cancer. Unfortunate for us, but fortunately for Mom, only in that her wheelchair, pain and emotional suffering stayed behind when she left this earth.

What I remember most about my mom? She was always there for her family and rarely complained. She didn’t whine, claim entitlement or victim-hood. With no social media on which to unveil every detail of her life and in the oblivion of my youth, I gave little thought to the difficulties she faced. It wasn’t until I developed rheumatoid arthritis in my mid-twenties and had a family of my own that I came to appreciate my mother’s perseverance.

I wonder what dreams she had as a young girl and if she ever felt slighted because her life didn’t go as planned. Like so many mothers, she did the best she could under difficult circumstances and well into my adult years, I realized a simple truth; parents are human too and perfected people are non-existent. A sure mark of maturity is realizing this and forgiving ours for being flawed and possibly less than we hoped for.

Maybe ingrained deep within my DNA, is a measure of my mother’s endurance; an assistant in carrying me through life, as it did her. Someday I will tell her how grateful I am for the legacy she left me.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

 

The God Who Sees

tile-floorsI was on my hands and knees scrubbing the tile floor around the toilet for the fourth time in a week. Those of you who live with boys know they sometimes miss. Jon is not a boy. He’s a man. And he still misses, way too often for my liking.

As I applied bleach to the grout again, I sighed and breathed out loud, “I hope I can still get down here and do this when I’m 80,” and felt a sudden hopelessness roll over me.

Then I heard a still small voice in the depths of my soul.

“I see you.”

My Bible reading that morning had brought me to the story of Hagar. Hagar was the slave of Sarai, Abram’s wife, obtained in one of their detour trips to Egypt. Hagar came from a culture that worshiped multiple gods. The Egyptians had a god for everything, so Abraham’s god, on her list of imaginative deities, was probably added only to appease the old folks.

Hagar had no rights. She was a nobody. Her duty in life was to fulfill the wishes of another, and when barren Sarai grew tired of waiting for the son God had promised Abram, she did what was a common practice of their culture. Sarai sent Abram to sleep with her slave to claim a son through Hagar. Hagar was forced to become a surrogate mom.

Genesis 16:1-3 “Sarai, Abram’s wife, had no children, but she had a slave girl from Egypt named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, “Look, the Lord has not allowed me to have children, so have sexual relations with my slave girl. If she has a child, maybe I can have my own family through her.” Abram did what Sarai said.”

When Hagar became pregnant she realized she now had an advantage over Sarai. Hagar got herself an attitude and who could blame her, really? What’s Sarai going to do to her now that she’s carrying Abram’s child? Someone who’s had no control over her own destiny finally had an edge. Eventually the relationship between the two women became so intolerable, Hagar ran away.

Genesis 6:7-12 finds Hagar beside a spring of water in the desert having a conversation with an angel of God. She was told to go back home and continue to serve Sarai. But God promised Hagar her son, would become a great nation also. He gave her hope.

Not one of Egypt’s gods had ever spoken to her. Not one of them cared enough to show up and reassure a despairing slave girl. But Abram’s God did. And she was amazed.

This God knew who she was. Where she was. And what she needed. This God had eyes to see her and ears to hear her. This God cared!

Then, “the slave girl gave a name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are ‘God who sees me,’” because she said to herself, “Have I really seen God who sees me?” Genesis 6:13

I realized that day on the floor that God sees me. He said as much.  And every time I get on the floor to scrub again, I am reassured He is pleased. What we determine to be small, insignificant, unseen and even annoying, matters greatly to God.

God sees you driving to work again, that counter you wiped, the laundry washed and folded, the dishwasher you load, the toilet scrubbed, another diaper changed, the gas tank you just filled and each time you help lift that person in and out of his wheelchair.

He sees the smile you brought to someone, the hug you gave, the ride you offered, the meal you cooked.

He sees how tired, desperate and broken you are.

It matters to Him. The unseen is important to Him. That thing done when no one watches. The mundane. The exhausting. The unappreciated. The irritating.

He sees it all and He knows.

Because my God is the God Who Sees!

And He’s your God too.

 

 

The Reward of Staying

I know someone who never stayed – for anything – marriages, children, jobs, family, friends.

Offended? Leave. Conflict? Forget it. Difficulty? Run.

Everytime.

As soon as the next bump in the road arose (small, medium, large, mountains, molehills, anthills) it was time to run again.

And again. And again. Burning every bridge until nothing was left.

Then the Golden Years arrived. A time to reap the benefits of staying: Children. Grandchildren. Retirement. Relationships. Friendships. Money saved. Home owned. Travel. Wisdom. Influence. Respect.

But there was nothing. Absolutely nothing but sad alone-ness, with barely enough to sustain an existence. Life’s garden had become a barren weed patch with no harvest in sight.barren

Though it’s never too late to start over, the rewards of staying aren’t instant. They build slowly and mundanely over time, growing with consistency, routine, responsibility, trust, effort, plodding, endurance, work, sacrifice, discipline, selflessness.

Days turn into seasons. Seasons into years. Years into decades. Decades into a lifetime.

Of course, there are certain circumstances where staying isn’t wise and it’s beneficial to move on, but staying can never be based on feelings. It’s a choice and often an act of love, paying great dividends, offering stability and bringing reward. Eventually.

Jesus, on the night of His arrest, told His friend Peter, “I could call on my Father to send more than twelve legions of angels to help me now. But how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say this must happen?” (Matthew 26:53-54)

He stayed all the way to brutal death on a cross, all the way to, “It is finished.”

He chose to endure the cross “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). What was that joy? I believe it was restoring relationship with Me and You! He stayed for Us!

In the short term, cut and run may look easier, but as a habit, it perpetuates an accumulation of poor decisions. The decisions of today become tomorrow’s reality.

Before quitting, be honest about the possible long term consequences. Take time to think and pray about the influence of this decision on tomorrow and all the tomorrows after.

Never underestimate the power of staying.

Plod on.

Don’t give in.

Don’t give up.

Stick it out.

Keep the faith.

Stay the course.

Sow the harvest.

Enjoy the journey.

And EVENTUALLY..

..reap the rewards.

 

 

“Success is measured, not by how we start, but by how we finish.” ~ Mike Connis

“Let us not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom.” Luke 9:62

“I press on toward the goal..” Philippians 3:14

“The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until the full light of day.” Proverbs 4:18

“Matthew 7:24-25 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”

Worthwhile Investment

I left the library after picking up a book I had reserved. As I walked to my car I was suddenly transported back in memory to a time when my young boys and I visited the library every week.

We’d go home with stacks of books and I read to them regularly. Dr Suess. Chronicles of Narnia. Little House On The Prairie. Silly books. Fun books. Historical books. Bible stories. Informational books. Series books.

I wanted them to love books and words as much as I do (you can read about that here). I wanted to instill in them a love for reading.

love music books 1280x1024 wallpaper_www.wallpaperno.com_40

Because I also enjoy music, our boys were exposed to it as well. We were in church a lot, so of course, hymns and contemporary choruses and worship music, but also other genres.

We traveled to local concerts. Bill Gaither and the harmonies of the Gaither Vocal Band. Free symphony orchestra concerts in the park on summer nights. The New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra with invites by a friend who played violin there. Veggie Tales. The Donut Man. Ron Kenoly. The Blue Man Group. The Annie Moses Band and more.

We brought a video home one day, “Yanni, Live At The Acropolis.” David watched, mesmerized by the incredible solo of the band’s drummer. He watched it over and over and decided he wanted to play drums. We bought a cheap set, put it in the corner of the basement and signed him up for weekly lessons. He was nine years old and took lessons for the next five years. Eventually he started playing at church and youth group.

The year of Florida’s hurricane summer, 2004, the power was off at our house consecutively for twelve days. Besides cutting and hauling the mountains of trees that had fallen on the two and a half acre jungle lot of our Kissimmee home, there was nothing else to do but sweat. David pulled his father’s old guitar out of the back of a closet and started playing. His love for creating music exploded from there.

Our son grew up to love God, books, music and of course his wife, Clara, who is also an avid reader and book lover. They serve in several capacities at their church and Dave will soon be a published author and writes his own music, both lyrics and arrangements. (You can see all that here.)

I like to think I had a little something to do with that. Though we never pushed becoming a writer or musician on our son, exposing him to these things gave him interests to explore and options to consider.

If your children are small right now and time consuming and exhausting and wonderful and amazing and annoying and the myriad of things kids can be at any given moment, remember these few years you have to invest in their lives are incredibly influential and fleeting.

You are not yet seeing the long term dividends of the repetition, the monotonous and the consistency of your faithful parenting, but know this, what is important to you will very likely be important to them and will definitely help shape who and what they become.

Remember on the days it seems futile, when it appears you’re child is not listening, when you wonder if they’ll ever turn into useful humans…

Don’t. Give. Up.

Don’t wring your hands in despair.

Pray much.

Train up your child in the way he/she should go.

Keep doing the next right thing.

Expose them to God, His love, His word and principles and the beautiful and amazing things that still exist in the world.

There will come a day when you’ll have a memory triggered, as I did leaving the library last night, and realize…

It was all worth it.

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

The Unapplauded Hero

super-hero-cape-flying-SupermomI met a Hero the other day.

She is twenty five years old.

She’s put aside her own hopes and dreams to care for a chronically ill family member.

She’s had to quit her job because the care needs are so time consuming.

At an age when she should be having fun, dating, building a future, career or a family of her own, she cares full time for someone in need.

She cries when no one is watching.

She wonders what the future holds.

She worries what will happen to her loved one.

She worries what will happen to herself if something happens to her loved one.

She feels guilt for wanting more.

She doubts God at times.

Her faith wavers even as she continues believing.

She is a full time caregiver. Someone desperately needs her. She is there.

She is learning at a young age the hardship and beauty of a laid down life.

If you are a single young man you might want to consider a woman like her.

She won’t have much time to date, but she certainly knows about loyalty, selflessness and love; all the qualities that make a great spouse.

She’s the unapplauded in the background. One who performs the mundane today, tomorrow and the next day.

But mundane is greatness when executed so selflessly.

Those who are faithful in little things will be rewarded with much (Matthew 25:23, Luke 16:10).

She will be honored for her faithfulness.

Man may overlook.

But God sees.

He sees it all.

He sees her.

She is brave.

She is strong.

She is incredible.

And He calls her Beautiful.

Suddenly

Rebecca was doing what she did everyday when her knight in shining armor showed up on a white horse to ride her off into the sunset. Well…actually, no… her knight’s family servant showed up on a camel to take her about six hundred miles across hot and dry terrain to a new husband she had not yet met. 

While reading Genesis twenty four, it struck me that the young woman was performing the usual- going to the well at evening to get water for her family. How many times had she faithfully carried out that menial chore with no fanfare, nothing but boring female gossip going on there; another day of walking with a heavy jar on her shoulder to fetch water, then carrying a heavier jar back home.

But in one day everything changed. Abraham’s servant showed up and Rebecca, being taught to go the extra mile in acts of kindness, watered his caravan of camels and in doing so became the answer to Abraham and Eliezer’s prayer for a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac, the son of promise.

So many people in the Bible were carrying out routine and unassuming tasks of life when their “suddenly” occurred. In a day, everything changed.

David was in a field watching sheep when Samuel called for him to be anointed king. Moses was tending his father-in-law’s herds when a fired up bush started talking to him about being a leader of the Hebrew nation. Gideon was threshing wheat when God told him he was to be general over an odd army that would send the oppressive Midianites on a run for their lives. Simon the old priest, was carrying out his usual temple duties when the Christ child came through the sanctuary doors to be dedicated and Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishing when Jesus walked by and turned their lives completely upside down.

So what about us? What are we doing day in and out that is ordinary, tedious or even boring and are we faithful in it? Jesus said in Luke 16:10, “One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much”.

Faithfulness is what He is looking for. The small thing we are called to do today could open the way for our “suddenly”.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving Christ. Colossians 3:23-24

Be faithful in the usual like Rebecca was. Tomorrow could be that new and different day. You never know!

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Matthew 25:21