Psalm 23 – Because

(Because) He is MY shepherd

I lack nothing as His divine power provides everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him

Because He is MY shepherd

In the midst of worldly turmoil, He lifts off my stress and provides peace-filled rest

Because He is MY shepherd

My soul is restored

Because He is MY shepherd

He goes before me, clearing my path and guiding me to do what is right for His name’s sake

Because He is MY shepherd

I don’t fear the evil in the shadows and valleys because I do not walk alone -He is with me

Because He is MY shepherd

I am comforted knowing His rod will defend and protect me and I am confident His staff will rescue me back onto the right path when I slip

Because He is MY shepherd

I rejoice -even in the presence of enemies, because He prepares a luxurious spread before me that satisfies like no earthly treat ever has, and I rejoice as He places a holy calling on me to tell others about Him.

Because He is my shepherd my cup is not half full or half empty – it is overflowing!

Because He is MY shepherd

He who is goodness and lovingkindness will pursue me ALL the days of my life in this world and the next where I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever

Is the Lord Jesus YOUR shepherd?

He wants to be.

Christmas – A Gift of Sacrifice

  • An excerpt of a 2015 post (after the loss of a child) that feels even more relevant today

Christmas is really about celebrating Christ – the gift that came to conquer the grave for us. A gift of sacrifice.

We don’t often think of Christmas that way do we – as a celebration of a gift of sacrifice!

And now we are faced with a new thing. A Christmas focused on the future. My emotions tempt me to say no to Christmas because it will not be the same.  It. I pause to think of that little word, so important. But what is the “it”?  The message – the true sacrifice of Christmas has not changed. The IT that is changed is expectations based on the past.

Many of you have also lost a loved one. A child, a grandchild, a parent, a friend. And now a part of us is physically absent.  Our David’s determined faith and our Laurie’s joy and positivity will be remembered and honored. That is what they would have done for me.

The first time we chose to give sacrificially was a gift to us as well as it restored Christmas for us, and taught the children the real meaning of Christmas – a selfless gift – for others.

I encourage you all to remember the sacrificial gift of Christmas by joining me to give two sacrificial gifts – in honor of Christ and in honor of a loved one. It could be a gift of finances or a gift of time.  It could be grocery shopping for someone, rounding up all the carts in a store lot, making extra soup and sharing a bowl with someone who lives alone, or spending an hour listening to stories you’ve been told a dozen times before or a gift card.

It could be getting eye-ball to eye-ball with a toddler, and entertaining them to give their mom or dad a break, or it could be the privilege to help a single parent low on funds to find a gift for their child, or a book to help them through a lonely Christmas. It can even be anonymous.

I am sure you can think of many other ways you can honor the memory of your loved one and bless someone else’s Christmas by remembering the true meaning of Christmas – that Christ came to give us a sacrificial gift – a gift of hope and a future.

A Basket of Hope

I’d hidden the car a few blocks away. With finger-over-lips silently motioning, our three kids, ages 4, 6 and 7, climbed out of the station wagon, heading toward a softly-lit small weathered house set back from the highway. I felt like a cat burglar, with family-in-training, skulking along the bushes that separated the street and snow-filled ditch.

I paused to belatedly reassure myself that we hadn’t forgotten anything. Yep — the girls and I each had our assigned bags, and our little guy alternately carried and dragged a brightly painted red empty bushel basket.

Another car whizzed by and our little tow-headed son was amazingly solemn when I gently placed my flattened hand on his hat –our silent signal to scrunch down out of sight from the headlight glare. The girls also quietly ducked until the white light rode over us, the yard, and then finally slid over the snowbank by the road.

It was their idea after all. Laurie’s memorization of Luke 2: 8-14 for the Christmas play and multiple practices of its story of the babe with no place to lay his head had profoundly affected her and her siblings. Cheri in particular always wanted to help anyone in need, so one Sunday our eyes met in understanding when she’d climbed into the car without her mittens, then shrugged her shoulders in response to her daddy’s inquiry, pointing to a red-mittened little girl plowing across the snow-covered field with her mom to the same weather-beaten house that now stood before us.

The idea began then, but I love to read a different Christmas story each night of the entire month of December and the reading of The Gift of the Magi where both husband and wife gave their precious possessions to purchase a gift for the other had cemented it. All three insisted they could give up one or more of their gifts for someone who probably would not get anything otherwise, and thus the plan was born. What parent could refuse such a selfless act?

Pajamas, cocoa and gloves for everyone, a doll for the little girl and a truck for her brother, the makings of a simple Christmas meal wer gathered and here we were, whispering and darting from one bush to the other. Quietly the children circled the trees that flanked the sloping porch, Kevin placing the basket. I added plastic bags of food and raced with him behind the biggest bush at the edge of the yard while the girls quietly topped the basket with the wrapped gifts, knocked hard twice and raced back to join us collectively holding our breath as the door opened. It was the dad — he stood on crutches, looking around to the left — to the right — then called his wife. She stepped out and also scanned the yard, then bent to pick up the basket. Two little faces appeared stair-stepped in the lighted doorway and excited squeals sounded as eager hands helped to lift and carry the packages in. Then the door closed off their wondering chatter. That was our signal and we ran like the wind, our mitten-clasped hands joining reverently this time for a dash across the field to the waiting, and by now, cold car. There was none of the usual clamoring for front seat, and no murmuring about the car’s chill as we each privately recalled the faces outlined in the doorway’s glow.

That Christmas was especially meaningful; but a few months later following an announcement at church that the father’s leg had healed, and he’d gotten a new job out of town, our hearts were unexpectedly touched again.

As Cheri and I were about to exit behind our family, the mom stepped up behind me and slipped a plastic bag into my hand, which I could feel contained a frame. Don’t open it until you get home,” she admonished, “and,” she paused and whispered, “Merry Christmas.” I looked up in shocked dismay, wondering if she’d discovered our secret, but she shyly smiled and touching Cheri’s hair explained, “I’ve been working on this since your little one gave Edna the red mittens last December, so now it still seems kind of Christmassy. Hope you don’t mind, but those mittens were the start of our Christmas hope.”

Touched, I tearfully assured her we’d surely love whatever it was, and after last farewell hugs we rushed to the rest of the waiting family in the car. For once dinner could wait, and the moment we were in the door everyone hovered around the package as I drew out a simple cross-stitched picture of Mary and a contented baby Jesus, their hearts close.

It seemed to remind us that there was the place of Hope — close to the heart of Jesus. That picture still speaks the Christmas message in our home year-round and I wondered too if Cheri was treasuring the memory years later when she told me what she’d named her first little girl — Kristin Hope.

I Quit!

I quit.

I’ve heard that multiple times this week.

A widow whose appliances and home construction is failing day by day and she has no idea how to get them fixed or replaced.

An empty nester mom trying to make it on a smaller income and several of her children lost their jobs during 2020 and came home until they could find a new job/apartment/life.  They are trying to help out as they can, doing laundry, cooking, etc. but no one is handy and no one seems to understand her concern of escalating utility bills.

A young woman, who, due to job loss, (another 2020 casualty) had to declare bankruptcy and is having trouble getting an apartment application approved.

A woman with a mother beginning dementia and resistant to needed caregiving.

A senior whose assisted living complex has been placed under quarantine – again.  Lonely and tired of watching television, she is losing her purpose.

I repeat to them what God has told me over and over.  The multitude of times I felt like giving up. It is no sin to feel overwhelmed and wanting to quit. But it is an opportunity to trust. A dear friend calls such situations her patience builders.

Prov. 19:27 If you quit listening, dear child, and strike off on your own,

                  you’ll soon be out of your depth.

(Admit I’ve been trying to solve this by myself and I “feel” overwhelmed and want to quit)

1Pet. 4:12  Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job.

 (Listen to the voice of God’s Word first)

Psa. 145:14  GOD gives a hand to those down on their luck,

                  gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.

(Give thanks for many things God has already done for me)

Psa. 37:27 Turn your back on evil,   work for the good and don’t quit.

(Make the choice as Jesus did in the garden – I’d rather not go through this but believing you can and will bring glory to it, I submit to your will)

Feel like quitting?  Don’t.  Instead, ask God for help and ask us, and others around you for prayer. Next make the decision to do the next right thing, and watch God work.

Then come back and tell us how it all worked out.  I can hardly wait to hear the rest of the story!

What Can an Individual Do? This.

I’ve been writing legislators and asking them with all that is going on pointing toward a rapid decline for America, etc. what an individual (without a lot of money) can do. I asked what can an individual do besides vote for the most righteous, constitutional, godly legislators we can find.  I got one personal response with an indirect answer of what he was doing on our behalf, and the rest sent canned form letters.

Meme thanks to Wendy Speake

I felt frustrated and sad. As I was writing this I got the above verse meme from a friend. Obviously she and others are feeling this sadness too. It was perfect timing because earlier today I was doing errands and pondering multiple crises. I dashed in a department store to do a quick return, and on the way out sitting in the entry foyer on a bench was an attractive senior lady.  Someone (from the store it appeared) was talking to her so I walked by them and out of the store. I felt a tug in my spirit to go back and talk to her, so I turned around and saw she was alone now. I opened the door near her and asked if she needed anything, or if there was anything I could do for her.  She said she was fine, just frustrated as everytime her friend ‘takes her shopping’ the friend has to look at every little thing and takes so long.  “And I’m the one from the assisted living home!” she laughed.

I  unzipped my purse to see if I had any of the little booklets I often stash to read or to share Yes! A bright blue one. I told her I keep little booklets in my purse for just such times, and showed her, asking if she would like something to read while she waits.   She was very touched and said some kind and complimentary things and as I left asked my first name and responded, Delores, I will read it.  I did not ask her name. The booklet was Fearless – Imagine Your Life Without Fear by Max Lucado.  

Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear

When I got outside the store, I felt God telling me – THIS. This is what you need to keep doing.  You don’t need to ask any more politicians  – you already have your answer. 

I thanked God for the opportunity and prayed for the lady – that she would find comfort – and Christ if she didn’t already know Him.

Do you also feel like the world is crumbling? Perhaps my reminder is for you also – that we would remember we are here for such a time as this.

Where will you bring Christ tomorrow? (As Christ-bearers, where we go, we bring Christ—we bring Him into the situation.)

Bring Hope

Bring Compassion

Bring Peace

Be On Guard for MYself

How is your pillow?

I have been looking for a better one for some time, and finally found one but it wrecked my emotions in one night.

How can a pillow do that?  Well, usually I sleep a few hours, toss and turn, flip the pillow over, or punch it back into shape.  I had a meeting this morning and purposely went to bed by midnight so I’d wake up early enough to get ready and drive to the 10:30 meeting out of town.  I did not leave a note by the alarm clock because I usually wake by 6 at the latest (unless I went to bed at 5 which I used to do).

Well, thanks to the new pillow I did not wake up once during the night… and overslept.  When I saw it was full daylight I ran to the clock.  10:10!  I’d missed the meeting. I’ve never slept that many hours at once, or slept that late

I sent texts and later had 2 calls filled with apology and rescheduling the part I could. Fortunately it was so unusual they were very understanding over the part that could not be redone, and graciously rescheduled the rest of the meeting.

Even though it was resolved early after I called, at least half the afternoon I was really bummed. More than bummed —I was so angry at myself.

It was past noon when the last call ended and I realized I’d missed 4 hours of my detox schedule. I’d have to start over tomorrow.  No big deal, right?  But I had another reason to be upset with myself. I was miserable and figured I deserved it but what about Ken?   I apologized to my hubby half a dozen times for my attitude, explaining that my emotions were off the charts. 

Then when we went to do one errand together, a driver coming the opposite direction did a really stupid thing and after it was over I told Ken what the emotional me had wanted to do, but reason won out because of Jeremiah 11: 20

         But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously,

         Who tries the feelings and the heart,

         Let me see Thy vengeance on them,

         For to Thee have I committed my cause

I could tell by the widening of his eyes I’d shocked Ken by what my emotions wanted to do and that he was trying to not speak and hold his laughter in (smart man).

When he said he was grateful for my making the right choice, the bell went on in my mind and heart.

I chose to turn over the offense of what that person did from me and my emotions to God because I knew I was not in a good place to resolve it or any way near to bring glory to God.

I may not often have control over what I “feel” but I still had and have the choice of the action instead of letting the feelings make the choice.

That realization enabled me to (finally) commit my ‘me’ concern over to the Lord as well, and then to learn from it instead of grumping about it.

It is so much easier to give God my concerns or complaints about others, than it is to give my grievances about myself to him.  I know because I have learned deeply that every offense is a choice to accept or not.  A test, you might say.  It is part of what that shield of faith does – deflects the enemy’s arrows.

I would never, never, never want to help the enemy get his arrows into a beloved sister in the Lord.  Why oh why did I move the shield and expose my own self as a target?

I sure don’t want a repeat of those miserable hours so I’ve committed my emotions to the Lord and aim to engrave on the shield of my heart this

Verse :

Acts 20:28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

A Painful Gift

I have a painful “gift” – perhaps you have it too.

I was at a writers’ conference, visiting the publishers with a friend.  One publisher was sharing about their goals to share the gospel and as an example he shared the story of a missionary who had written for them and whose family was challenged by terrorists to recant their faith or be murdered.  The story was that the husband was told first to recant or his wife would be shot immediately.  Their eyes met and she reportedly told him determinedly don’t even let the thought cross your mind.  The husband refused to deny Christ and the wife challenged, also refusing to deny her Lord, and then their child was challenged and also refused to recant. All were shot, and the husband only survived.  I burst into tears.  Apparently not used to that reaction, the publisher and my friend looked at each other in shocked surprise and I excused myself.

I joined an authors tour group in Israel and when we were taken to the Holocaust memorial I got through about half when I began crying and could not stop.  Our guide suggested I wait outside the last area where she was speaking. I could not bear to hear or read the personal stories. My heart hurt over the suffering and loss of my brothers and sisters in the faith, and felt the loss as close as I would my own actual relatives.

I can hardly bear to watch the news anymore. Tragedies abound from all kinds of abuse, disease, acts of hatred and natural disasters. It is overwhelmingly oppressive. I am sure part of my response is my own experience with abuse, and the ‘gift’ of empathy. I couldn’t bear it—if God hadn’t shown me just that – I cannot bear such weight on my own.

So what am I to do with all these emotions, feelings, concerns, and cares?

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

 Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Though the word empathy I use is not in scriptures, examples of it are:

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Heb. 13:3)

Galatians 6:2  Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

And the apostle Paul said – I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. (1 Cor. 9:22… meaning that he willingly identified with them, which is a compassionate form of empathy.

One dictionary defines empathy as “perspective taking” – our ability to identify with and understand other people’s emotions.

Empathy is much more involved than sympathy – feeling sadness or compassion.  There is said to be three parts or kinds of empathy:

Cognitive Empathy – a knowing or understanding of another person’s experience and/or listening until I understand.  The only way I believe I could have the knowing or understanding is if the Holy Spirit gives me the understanding, or if I have experienced it.  I think of 2 Corinthians 1:4 – who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God

Emotional Empathy– to feel physically along with the other person as though their emotions were contagious.  Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Compassionate Empathy– when we understand the person’s predicament, feel along with them, and are moved to help them.

My kids call me a fixer.  Are all moms fixers?  I am not sure, but it is both a strength and a failing for me.

I know I am merely human, and I cannot ‘fix’ all the tragedies and challenges of life but I can take action that will help each one – and it has nothing to do with what I can ‘afford’ materially to do for someone.

Far more important is prayer.  Not even, I’ve done all I can and now all that is left is prayer.  No – it is prayer first.

Who, besides You, Lord really knows and has the supplies for all their needs – spiritually, physically, emotionally?

Beyond prayer is there may or may not be something that God has led me to DO for them or to share with others who can care for them.

I hope this has not turned out to feel like a lesson. I’m just really reminding myself how I need to evaluate the personal, public, national and international situations and needs that could overwhelm me and render me useless before God and man.  I am still in training camp, learning to acknowledge it is not in my power to ‘fix’ anything or anyone and to wait and respond after getting directions from God, rather than reacting.

So how about you, if you haven’t given up, and followed my lengthy confession…  Do you also have the sometimes-painful gift of empathy?  If so, how do you deal with it?  

A Caregiving Journey

I was honored to be interviewed by Heart for the radio.

Caregiving – every woman will be affected somehow. You either have been a caregiver, will be a caregiver or will be the recipient of caregiving. It is a startling thought. Caregiving impacts the entire family and this interview is my story of how God called me to be caregiver for a mostly uncaring mother.

Listen here and then check out my tips below. I’ve been encouraged to write a book on my experience. I’d appreciate prayers as I attempt to complete it this year.

https://clsimmons.com/how-to-care-for-a-difficult-family-member/

Have prayer backup

Honoring someone who seems to be dishonorable

Let God turn the “job” into a mission

Ask God to be my defender

Look for helpers

Pray the scriptures for the situation

Set boundaries

Find something good to celebrate

Keep a sense of humor

Don’t expect immediate changes (though there may be some)

Treating the person as God created them to be

Don’t expect rational responses

Choose to be unoffendable / don’t take the battle personally

Schedule prayer and downtime after each visit

Book Giveaway: My 3 Favorite Reads so Far This Year

A lot of new books come out every year, and my to-be-read pile grows consistently. Books by certain authors always go to the top of the stack, and two of the three fall into that category. A new-to-me author makes up the third top read so far this year.

Read on, and make a comment. That will enter you to win one of these read once like new books.

Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti

Cynthia Ruchti seems to read my heart, soul and circumstances and her books always fit some situation or circumstance from my life. Facing the Dawn was, as author Debbie Macomber is quoted, “An emotional roller coaster of loss, faith, hope, and redemption.”

Synopsis: While her humanitarian husband Liam has been digging wells in Africa, Mara Jacobs has been struggling. She knows she’s supposed to feel a warm glow that her husband is eight time zones away, caring for widows and orphans. But she is exhausted, working a demanding yet unrewarding job, trying to manage their three detention-prone and needy kids, failing at her repair list, and fading like a garment left too long in the sun.

Then Liam’s three-year absence turns into something more, changing everything and plunging her into a sunless grief. As Mara struggles to find her footing she discovers that even when hope is tenuous, faith is fragile, and the future is unknown, we can be sure we are not forgotten… or unloved.

It was no coincidence to me that this story arrived near Easter – the holiest of Christian holidays and a reminder of redemption and restoration as is Facing the Dawn. This story is a carrier of hope that deeply touched my spirit.

Finding Wings by Deborah Raney

Warmth, wonder, memorable characters and stories that brighten my outlook and influence my behavior are frequently from Deb Raney. Finding Wings is a hug from above wrapped in a sparkling romance.

Synopsis: Being the youngest of three sisters isn’t always easy for Britt Chandler, especially when her older sisters have successful lives and hers is still on hold. She put everything aside to care for their dying mother, but now their mother is gone. Just as Britt’s life finally has a chance to blossom, her sister is ordered on bed rest during a difficult pregnancy and it looks like God is again calling Britt to be a family caregiver —and nothing more.

Rafe Stuart is unable to forgive himself for a childhood mistake with grave repercussions. No matter how many lives he saves as a first responder, he can’t ever seem to do enough penance to free his soul from that decades-old tragedy. There definitely isn’t room in his wounded heart for love; it’s much too dangerous.

When these two struggling souls encounter each other, sparks fly. But they’re both scared the fire that might result could destroy them—and those around them. How can they begin to trust that God has the best for them and real purpose for their lives beyond what they’ve dreamed . . .or feared?

Author Elizabeth Musser says “It’s a captivating romance that also explores the themes of sisterly love and what it means to sacrifice for family. This book sparkles with faith, hope, and love.”

Captivating characters and a surprise little mystery woven inside kept me turning the pages all hours of the night.

The Way it Should Be by Christina Suzann Nelson

Christina Nelson is a new-to-me author with a stellar reputation. Her Amazon Author page says she “writes stories featuring women who survive circumstances to live lives closer to God’s calling. She focuses on changing legacies from dysfunction to hope.”

I was attracted to her book by praises from other stellar authors such as Lisa Wingate (#1 New York Times bestselling author) and Lauren Denton (USA today bestselling author) who says: “In the Way It Should Be, Christina Suzann Nelson doesn’t shy away from the horrors of addiction nor the heartache of the foster system and family brokenness. But in the midst of the hurt, Nelson offers pictures of grace, glimpses of beauty, and the hope of redemption.”

Synopsis: After years of estrangement, the lives of Zara Mahoney and her twin sister, Eve, are suddenly intertwined again. When Eve”s troubled lifestyle causes the state to contact Zara about taking custody of Eve’s two children, Zara feels wholly unprepared. Besides never knowing she was an aunt, her new house, new husband, and plans for the future were meant to give her a fresh start.

Meanwhile, Eve may have a real chance at a new beginning with the help of Tiff Bradley, who, after facing a heartbreaking tragedy in her own family, is dedicated to helping women everyone else has given up on.

Over the course of one summer, all three women’s hearts and lives hang in the balance as Eve desperately works toward a new life. Can they redefine their expectations of how life should be to find the hope they—and those they love—so desperately need?

I found ideas for God’s love in action, hope for a very needy foster system, and compelling characters who kept me awake (and lure me to read the other books in the series) 🙂

Leave your comment and your email so I can contact the three winners (one for each book) where it should be mailed. ———- When approving comments, I’ll edit out your email if you wish.

Happy reading! – I will select the winners on April 22.

Delores

Going Home Again

You can never go home – or so the saying goes because many expect to recapture feelings, or regain their sense of youth from a particular moment in time. Standing on a particular piece of land, or in a building or a room may stir memories, but it cannot recapture what no longer exists.  And that is not all bad.

You see, I never was one of those wanting to return home.  Far from it.  I found it difficult to believe stories of repressed memories from someone’s childhood because I wished I could forget mine.   I couldn’t wait to leave home and swore I’d never go back. But I did.  And it was the best decision I ever made.

After years of avoidance, fear, and refusal to go “home,” even purchasing life insurance before making trips anywhere near the old town where we grew up, I had now banded with my younger sister for our first journey back in time. To pave the way for our ultimate goal of attempting some sort of reconciliation with a childhood abuser – our mother – we did a psychological and emotional geo-caching from the surrounding area. Visits with a dear aunt and cousins were surprisingly fulfilling, providing clues to happy memories that had been deeply covered with years of  negative mental writing, like a never washed blackboard. The bad memories of physical and mental abuse had been so poignant that for years it was too painful to discuss or call into remembrance our childhood at all. Now we’d finally opened a door that didn’t reveal pain. Our healing continued at the two-story white elementary school we’d attended long ago in the form of middle-aged sisters sliding down the once-forbidden fire-escape tunnel slide and sharing the scenes that gave us nightmares. 

A different vignette awaited at the home where we’d spent our teen years. A sign advertising an upcoming estate sale allowed us unencumbered entrance to the big yard on the hill sloping to the railroad tracks, and a pleasant lady welcomed our perusing the sprawling blue home where we’d grown up.  Marvel tested the lock of an upstairs bathroom that I’d forgotten existed, noting it still worked, and shared about the hours she’d spent hiding out in there crying in fear or anguish. Together we examined my refuge – the roof outside my bedroom window where I read poetry and dreamed of a normal life, and then we stood shell-shocked at the surprisingly tiny size of the “big bedroom” we had both coveted.  Walking the outside perimeter after touring the house, I recalled part of a poem by T.S. Elliot, that said all our exploring for peace with our past would eventually bring us back to where we started, and we would see that place in a new perspective, as though for the first time.  It was true. It wasn’t just that we’d grown physically and the rooms now appeared smaller, but the specters of our past had also shrunk and no longer wielded power over us.  We knew it was because of the spiritual changes that had taken place in us, I in ’62 and Marvel a few years later (after stealing my Bible!) when we’d taken the first step of giving God not just our present and our future, but believing God could redeem our past as well.

The road to redemption is roughly paved, however, and we saw only the loose gravel underlayment that trip. Greeted with weapons, harsh words and denial of our birth, we shed more tears, and left praying like crazy that God would send someone . . . anyone . . . (except us) to “fix” our mother. That’s not exactly what happened.

Driving south the next day, we were well aware that our past was not done with us, but we determined to move on and live in the present until God saw fit for the next step. My sister tried to erase her memories by describing our mother as deceased when asked about her parents.  I copped out by saying I’d wait for Mother to change, never believing she would make a move toward reconnection. When she did, 20 years later, it was eerie.

After dinner out celebrating my birthday, I’d preceded Ken into the house while he parked the car, and I heard the answering machine chirping that we had a message.  Automatically I stepped into the dark room, pressed “play,” and then gasped when I heard the familiar but thready voice singing “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear daughter, Happy Birthday to you.” That was all.  The click and “end of messages” from the answering machine left me standing in numb shock.

Ken came in, and wrapped his arms around me.  “What is it?  Bad news?”

Mutely, I reached over and hit “play” letting the message repeat. As we listened, his whisper echoed my thoughts.  “Why now after all these years? . . .What does she want?”

I knew I had to go. Perhaps her call meant there was hope.  Ken’s prayer led me to the place of faith where I believed God would lead each step of the way. Whatever the outcome, I knew the commandment to “honor” my parents, and I was determined to be obedient, if reluctant.

Weeks later, my 18-year-old granddaughter and I drove past the familiar sign announcing my hometown. My chest hurt with the pain of remembrance and my face must have showed it as well. 

“I didn’t expect it to hit me like this,” I responded truthfully, answering Aimee’s questions about my past, and detailing what subjects might be taboo and potentially spur a volatile episode.  A nearby hotel provided rest for Aimee, but my mind – the fixer in me – was clamoring. I have a weakness. Like the Apostle Peter, I often spoke without thinking, filling quiet spaces with whatever words came to mind, and once again I grappled with what I should or shouldn’t do or say. Grabbing my Bible, I flopped onto the blue easy chair in the corner, and the book fell open to the marker left from a recent Bible study, the yellow highlighting on the page ironically announcing the little phrase without words.  I knew instantly that was my answer. I did not have to say anything; I just had to be there. I quietly chuckled at God’s sense of humor. Now that would be a miracle.  I was stunned at the simplicity, but filled with peace, because if God said it, He would enable it to happen.  Once the choice was made, I slept and morning came quickly.

A gentle touch and meaningful glance from my granddaughter as we approached Mom’s little house silently softened in sympathy as the door opened and Aimee’s glance moved from me to my mother standing in the doorway of her trash-filled house. Together we helped an unexpectedly subdued little woman shuffle behind her walker which we folded into the trunk of the car, and began our journey.

I’d purposely planned more than a day would hold, hoping there would be no empty opportunity for an “episode.”  We visited some new restaurants for meals between little drives across the countryside, ostensibly to show my granddaughter where I grew up and went to school.   It was treacherous emotional territory, but Aimee kept up innocuous chatter sprinkled with innocent questions comparing cars, clothing, and school days “back then” with Aimee’s recent experiences. There were no life-changing conversations, but there was a constant opportunity to show honor and God’s love as Mom’s memories carried both of us to some good places from her past.

How, I wondered throughout the day, would my unusually silent behavior be interpreted?  The day’s end told all.

 “Before you go,” she asked, “would you help me change to my slippers?  It’s hard to bend down anymore.”  As I folded one knee down before her and reached to slip off a shoe, she rested her hand on my head like a benediction, noting with surprise that her little girl had silver in her hair.   Kneeling there, barely restraining the tears, I swallowed and looked up. Our eyes met and held, and I could not speak for what I saw written there.

The tender look from her spoke volumes of response to words I hadn’t had to say. In that moment before they glazed over and wandered away again, her faded blue eyes looked directly into mine clearly displaying words she’d never said before:  “I’m sorry, and I love you.” My bitterness slid away, replaced by gratefulness to God for filling the silence and going where I could not. 

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Are you a caregiver? Have you been a caregiver? My caregiving story had some rough moments, but many more God was there moments. I’d love to encourage you if you are on a caregiving journey too.

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