Collected Tears

 

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Journal: Saturday, October 20, 2018

Today was a day of crying and praying and missing my Mom. Of all the people in the world that I can talk to and tell anything, she was always the one I could be the freest with. The one I could count on to comfort me and pray for me; to love me and forgive me when needed. So today was just a day that I really wish I could talk to her. Some days I miss her so much. I need her love, wisdom, thoughtfulness, and care. I know there will always be days like today and it won’t be easy but I know God can be my comfort. I can go to him.  I can take him my heart; I can ask for strength.  He is faithful.  He loves me even more than my mother.

I miss my Ladybug and our late night talks; our inside jokes and laughter; our trips to the Dairy Queen when we’d sneak off without telling the guys; The drives we took in the country when we were restless. I miss all of it. I love her so much. 

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.                                                               Psalm 56:8 NLT

One of the things I miss the most is talking to my Mom.  Before the Alzheimer’s took so much away from her we would talk constantly. I’d call her or she’d call me and we’d talk about everything and nothing in particular.

Even after the Alzheimer’s I’d call home, Dad would answer the phone but I’d always ask to talk to Mom.  Sometimes she’d talk a while, other times she’d have trouble with the phone. Eventually, she pretty much gave up talking on the phone.

I missed our talks even while she was still living.  There were times I’d tell her things knowing that she didn’t fully comprehend, or remember later, but at the moment she’d try to let me know all would be well.

A few months before she died we had a wonderful conversation about forgiveness.  I’d recently been short with her.  I told her that I was wrong and hadn’t treated her as kindly as I should have.  We talked about forgiveness in general and what it means and I asked her if she would forgive me.  She ever so sweetly said yes she would.  Even though she probably didn’t remember the incident in question and probably didn’t remember our conversation later, at that moment she understood my need to ask forgiveness and she sincerely, without question granted it. Much like she had several years earlier when I had needed to ask for forgiveness. (you can read about that time here)

Growing up, forgiveness always flowed freely. If Mom and I had had a particularly trying day as can sometimes happen, she always made sure before bed that all was well between us.  We would talk things out and I always knew she was there for me.  Even as a small child I remember kneeling beside her to pray about whatever was troubling me. Being the melancholy child that I was it seemed I was always needing to pray or talk about something.

That did not change as a teenager.  We had lots of adventures together.  I remember one summer or two that she spent a lot of time driving me around the countryside chasing a dream of a piano player (not Rocky, that came later) that I thought I was in love with. I also remember having many late night conversations about boys, dreams, life.  It was nothing to stay up until the crack of dawn talking. Even after I had married and moved away from home, we always had at least one all-night talk session when I’d come for visits.  Rocky and Dad would come downstairs of a morning and there we’d be still sitting on the couch.

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One of our adventures at a camp meeting in the mountains of Eastern KY during one of those summers chasing a piano player. The photo bomber also had a daughter, probably chasing the same piano player.

Later, when Rocky came on the scene I wrote her a letter telling her that I was in love and I knew he was the one.  I was in college and cell phones and Facebook didn’t exist, so you either made a long distance call or wrote a letter.  I found that letter last year when going through some of her things. She had kept it all these years. I know my Mama’s level of sentimentality and I know she hung onto that letter to mark a significant time in my life that she rejoiced in with me.

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Rocky and me the early years. Mom always said she couldn’t love him more if he was her son. The minute he came on the scene, he was family and she never let me forget that. She was always on his side. Sigh. I’m glad she loved him that fiercely.

I’ve always shared my everyday life with her.  Each new adventure, each crisis, everyday moments. It was all chronicled with her. And she never failed to cheer me on or commiserate when necessary.  Every new move she was there helping and planning with me even when it took me too far from home.  She never tried to hold me back, but always rejoiced at each new opportunity.

She did tell me, as she grew older, that she missed her daughters and wished they could both move back home. She once offered to give my sister her house if she’d move back home. And my mom really loved her house. She is now buried on the hill facing her house. When Rocky and I moved to Louisville in 2007 she was glad we were closer. She and Dad would come to visit and we would go see them when we could.

In 2010 when we went in with Dad to purchase the house next door to them she was excited for us to fix up the house and be there on breaks, but before we could spend much time there the Alzheimer’s was fast approaching. When we moved there in the summer of 2012 between the seminary and whatever was to come next, it was clear that Alzheimer’s had set in and we were needed.  I know it was a God thing that we had decided to buy the house two years prior when it didn’t really make sense to do so. We had no long-term plans of settling back home once schooling was finished, but home was exactly where we needed to be.

Living there was as it should be.  Mom was restless a lot and had lots of questions about everything in the early days.  She would come to my house for reassurance or sometimes just to chat a moment.  The door was always open for her and sometimes she’d be back and forth several times a day.  We’d have the same conversations, mostly with her trying to make sense of the muddle in her mind.  Memoires were hiding and bits and pieces would show up and she’d need me to help her make sense of it all.  She trusted me and I did all I could to honor that trust.

Even in the difficulty of living with Alzheimer’s, we had some good times and lots of laughter.  I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.  But sometimes I’d miss our old conversations.  The last couple of months before she passed away there were several times I’d think I need to call Mom only to immediately remember that things were different.  I went through a spell in the summer of nesting and tweaking my living room, buying lamps and finally hanging pictures.  All the things I would have discussed with Mom.  So, I called my Dad and shared with him.  I suppose I could have told mom, but I knew it wouldn’t be the same and I also knew that she might not even engage at all on the phone.  I wish I’d tried anyway.

Since her passing, I have had several times where I wish I could talk to her or something will happen and my first thought is to call Mom.  I’ve needed so much to hear her words of wisdom, comfort, and encouragement. I’ve needed to laugh with her. There are times that you just need your mother because no one understands you like she does. In those times I remind myself that God can comfort me and that he truly understands.

I cling to all the hope, dry my eyes, and do my best to live life without my Ladybug.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. ~~ Washington Irving

Another song for you to listen to, For Those Tears I Died

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

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My mom, the cheerleader (8th grade, Mt. Carmel) standing by the fence in front of their church turned house where they lived in Beechburg, KY.
This home is now a garage and
my best friend recently purchased the property.
My Mom has always been my biggest cheerleader.

Come back tomorrow for more of the journey?  Just a reminder that I usually post later in the day. Clicking on the ladybug graphic will take you to the first page in this series with links to the daily posts. Thanks for reading!

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A Firm Hand And Tender Mercies

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A few years ago I wrote a list of things I had learned from several influential women in my life and shared it here.  For each of these women, I chose a list of ten things that they had taught me.  One of those women, was, of course, my mother.  Needless to say, she taught me much more than just those ten things.  I was fortunate to have a mother who instilled Christian values in me as well as giving me a great love of daydreaming and using my imagination.  She loved me with a firm hand and tender mercies.

Our relationship was riddled with the usual upsets and imperfections and occasional sass, but I always knew she was a safe place to rest my weary head and unpack my troubled soul.  I remember her praying with me on many occasions. One such occasion was when I accepted Jesus at age ten.  She and my father knelt with me by my bedside.  I remember pouring my heart out in tears as they prayed with me.

I also remember many a late night talk fest where she nurtured my dreams and plans or listened to me wax eloquent about the latest love of my life.  I had quite a few crushes and she always listened with sincerity when I thought I was in love.She was even on board with helping me chase a certain family gospel group around because at 16  I was sure I was gonna marry their son. When I was 17 he married another young girl and broke my heart for about five minutes.  We no longer had to travel all over the countryside to chase a guy, but that didn’t stop our late night talks about anything and everything. She was my biggest cheerleader.

A lot of people have gravitated towards my mom over the years needing her to be their cheerleader.  She is a good listener and a natural born caregiver.  She genuinely loves people and prior to the Alzheimer’s was always taking someone under her wing. It was nothing for her to bring someone into our home and nurse them back to health, or if they weren’t going to get well to bring them comfort in their final days.

I’m sure my mom has never taken a spiritual gifts survey, but I’m also sure that one of her gifts is mercy.  She has always been at her best when helping others.  She used to tell me that when I was old she’d take care of me.  And were it not for the Alzheimer’s I know full well that she would be the first one by my side on the days that the MCTD wears me down. Even so, there are days she looks at me with such tender compassion when she realizes that I’m tired or not feeling well and she talks to me about Jesus.

It has only been over the past few years that I have truly begun to grasp the truth in number seven on her list: helping others is a way to help ourselves.  As I have become her caregiver, and especially, as I see each day how much help she needs with everything it has been a humbling experience.  Caregiving does not come naturally to me.  I’m pretty sure I don’t have the gift of mercy.  I love people; I have compassion for people; I do not want to take care of people. But, I take care of my mom because I love her and because she needs me.

I take care of my mom because she showed me how it’s done. She truly understands what it means to serve others. She understands that sometimes you sacrifice your plans to meet their needs.  And, while it’s still a learning curve I’m beginning to see clearly how helping her is helping me.  It’s helping me be a little less selfish as I put another’s needs ahead of my own; it’s helping me trust that God’s plans really are better than my plans as I reevaluate my dreams; it’s helping me learn to live in the present and savor simple moments as I embrace slow living; it’s helping me accept that there are things I cannot change as I trust God’s provision.  I’m learning to live God’s way, submitting to his firm hand and tender mercies.

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

What have you learned from your mother?  I invite you to share her wisdom in the comments!

Thankful for tender mercies and grace,

Teresa

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what mama said

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In The Waiting

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I read the Sarah Young devotional this morning and Isaiah 40:31 was one of the verses. The whole theme of waiting is hard for me.  In a contradictory kind of way.  If you know me at all, or are starting to get a glimpse of me through reading my blog, you may have noticed that I can sometimes reside on both sides of the coin.

So, even though I am bad at procrastination, I am still impatient about getting started once my mind is made up to do something. Once I come to a decision, I want the results now.  Once I get started on a project, I may work until midnight or later so I can finish. I have a hard time slowing down and enjoying the process.

You can imagine that I might go a little stir crazy waiting on answers to where God is leading.  Sometimes, I think maybe there is something that I’m not getting.  Maybe, the waiting is over and I just haven’t’ read the memo yet. There could be a lot of truth in those scenarios, but there could also be another reason.

Maybe, I haven’t yet learned what the waiting is teaching me.  Could it be that in the waiting is where we learn how to live?

Waiting teaches us to trust in even the most difficult of circumstances.  When you are living on savings and you know it won’t last forever you have to choose to worry about the future or trust that God has a plan for your provision.  I have been saying for two years that God has a plan.  I’m still not sure exactly what that plan is. But, I know he has one.

Almost two years ago we made a decision to move back to my hometown to be near my parents who were going through some health issues. My husband was finishing his dissertation preparing to graduate.  We knew it would be at least a year before we had any real income.  We naively thought that once he was finished (May 2013) that the job offers would be there. He has invested a lot of time in applying for positions and networking with others.  He has stayed busy with his music, but not in a solid income generating kind of way.  I have constantly told him that God has a plan.  Even when doubts knock loud on the door of my soul, I still believe God has a plan.

The waiting is hard because you feel like you may not be accomplishing anything of worth.  It is hard because you worry that others may be judging you for the decisions you have made. I still know the decision to move was the right one.  I have no regrets. And, for the most part I have learned not to worry about what others think. But, still, there are days you feel low in spirit because life seems to have stopped spinning in your corner of the world. You realize that your dreams and plans may have to change.  You may have to open your heart to new desires.

Psalm 37:4 says to “take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  I believe that means I am to open my heart to him freely and allow him to decide what those desires are.  I truly believe that if we are waiting on him, he will give us the desires that are best for us and if we are willing, he will allow us to pursue those in the best way possible.

His ways are always best. I have found myself lately asking him to give us his best, not what we think is best. We had plans, they may still line up with God’s plans.  They may not. He may totally change our plans into something even better. We have to be willing to wait on his timing and we have to be open to a change of heart that only he can perform.

Is it possible that until we learn the lessons in the waiting, we can’t move forward?  It has dawned upon me that only when I sink into the waiting and allow God to do his work in his time and accept his plan, will I be free to move forward. Moving forward may not look like what I had imagined, but if it’s God’s plan, it will be even better. The question I have to ask myself is, am I willing to learn and change in the waiting?

What are your thoughts?  I am not an expert, but I know the theme of waiting has been a big part of my life the past couple of years.  If God has us waiting, then there is a purpose and we need to discover that purpose.  We need to allow the waiting to prepare us for the next part of the journey.  With God, nothing is wasted, not even waiting.

Learning In The Waiting,

Teresa

 

 

Dwelling Places

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Psalm 84 begins with “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord God Almighty”.  For someone like me who loves beautiful homes and decorating, that phrase conjures up a myriad of images – it inspires dreams.  Just saying “dwelling places” resonates deep within me.  I can get excited about almost any home, no matter how humble or how palatial, simply because I have never seen a house that I couldn’t imagine beautiful.

When the Psalmist is talking about God’s dwelling place he is not talking about dwelling places in the sense of brick and mortar mansions or cottages, rather he is talking about being with God and looking ahead to eternity which is our permanent home.   In verse two he says “My Soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord;”  One version says that his soul languishes for the courts of the Lord.  In Victorian times, to languish usually meant to be almost consumed by your desire for someone or something.  In Illness, to languish puts you near death.

The psalmist so languishes after the Lord and dwelling with him that he is ready to turn his back on any hint of earthly roots.   He has realized that he is just a pilgrim traveling through life to get to his real destination.  To be on a pilgrimage is more than just traveling.  Pilgrimage has a purpose; you are traveling to a holy place.  Warren Wiersbe in his BE Worshipful commentary, says that “a pilgrim is heading home.”

Too many times we think the pilgrimage is finding the perfect dwelling place be it actual dwelling, or possibly the right location.  We then proceed to put down roots as if we are going to be established forever.  Instead, as Christians, we should be holding the things of this world loosely and looking to the final destination as our root source.  Corrie ten Boom says, “I’ve learned that we must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me.”

Giving up our earthly dreams does indeed hurt sometimes, but the hurt can be for our good if we allow God to teach us the greater truths about what it really means to dwell with him.  My “Tennessee Home” as I called it, was a dream I had to give up and I grieved over the loss.  For me, it was my dream home and it was the most peaceful place I had ever lived on this earth.  I called it my God house. It was our Grace House.  I truly do believe it was a gift from God and I believe it was ok to love my home.  When the time came to move on I was willing, or so I thought, to give up my house.  The delayed reaction, once the dust had settled on our new adventure, was that I went through actual grief at giving up my dream home.  God used this grief to teach me lessons and give me perspective.

What I have come to realize is that home is a place in the heart that you take with you wherever you go; home on earth is not a permanent destination, it is just part of the pilgrimage to where we’re going to dwell eternally. If we are willing to give up our dreams and plans, that leaves room for God to plant his desires in our heart.

I want the “cry of my heart” to be as the Psalmist says in verse 10 of this same chapter: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

So where are you on this pilgrimage? Are you languishing to dwell with God or are you busy holding on tightly to things that will have to be pried from your grip?

Prayer:  ” …O Lord Almighty, my king and my God.  Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.  Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.”  Psalm 84:3b-5 (NIV)

Go in Grace,

Teresa