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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All About The Love (for Rocky)

Love is

It seems to be the season of Love. Christmas was barely over before stores started peddling their wares. Reminding us that we need to shower the one we love with goodies that show them just how much they are loved.

Maybe it’s just me, but I want to be showered with love every day. And by showered I don’t mean Candy, flowers and cards. Although, those are nice and I’m not going to refuse a gift on any day of the year if my love wants to shower me with treats.

I’m all for that of course, but love is so much more than a date on a calendar that reminds us to tell people we love them. Love should be an everyday occurrence. It should be told in all the ways we interact with the one’s we love.

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I feel so blessed to have that kind of Love.  A love that is constant day in and day out.  A love that is not fickle or conditional.  A love that was given to me over thirty years ago with a promise that it was forever.  My love has fulfilled that promise beyond what I could have dreamed.

I am blessed to be living a daily love, so in honor of my husband, who has loved me so faithfully, I wanted to share these words with you.  I wanted to publicly declare that I am so thankful to be loved so well.

Happy Valentines Day, Babe!

In case you need more convincing of just how great this man is and how much I love him, I have posted some links below to other posts in which I’ve written about how wonderful he is.

Prompted By Worship,      This Man,      Love Speaks In Everyday Moments,     A Sweet Curious Moment

Thanks for indulging my mushy side for a few moments.  It is, after all, Valentines Day weekend.

Loving in Grace,

Teresa

Love Bears All

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“How much do I owe you?” she said.  She kept repeating it several times.  Each time I assured her that she didn’t owe me anything.  I assured her that I had helped her because I loved her, not because I wanted anything.  I think she knew she didn’t owe me, as we have always joked in our family about “sending the bill”, but still a small part of her seemed to feel the need to offer.  I think it was because she was grateful.

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Grateful that I helped her bathe.  I don’t do it to be noble or garner praise.  I do it because somebody has too.  It’s not my natural inclination to bathe others, or help them to the bathroom or with whatever personal needs they need met.  I mistakenly entered a nursing program when I was 18.  How naive of me.  I lasted until mid-October.  When our instructor told us that the next semester we’d be giving shots that was the last straw for me.  That was my aha moment that I was not meant to be a caregiver.  I mean, the bed baths and the perverted old man had been a clue, but the shots just pushed me over the edge.  So, I’m a nursing school drop-out.

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She made me pay for that.  Not to be mean, but to teach me a lesson.  Uniforms, shoes, stethoscopes etc are expensive and I had entered into a noble profession lightly, without much thought, other than the memory of the cute lab techs I’d witnessed when my grandfather was in the hospital a few months earlier.  I mean decisions have probably been made for worse reasons, but really.  As I said, I was very naive at 18.  And such a romantic.  So, I worked at babysitting and paid back some of the money to my mom who had worked hard as a school lunch lady to help me.  Thankfully, she was able to use the uniforms and shoes as this was in the days when school lunch ladies wore white uniforms.

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This sense of making things right and being responsible still lurks around the fringes of her current state of dementia.  She needed to tell me that what I’d done was worth something to her.  She compliments me whenever I do something to help her and tells me that others would be glad to have someone do the same for them. She tells me I could probably get other’s to pay for my services.  I patiently explain to her that  I am not certified to do these things for pay.  Nor, would I want to.

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She is always grateful and even though there is a vulnerability in letting me help her, she does so because she trusts me and because she knows she needs my help.  It is hard for her to give up her independence, she who has always been the caregiver, always the one to meet the need.  It is hard for me to see her lose that independence, to realize that she doesn’t remember to bathe, or lotion her skin, or brush her teeth, all those little things that we take for granted and do habitually.  She is still particular and loves to be clean, she just doesn’t realize when she isn’t.  So, I remind her as gently as I can that it’s shampoo time.  I help her in as practical a way as I can because I know she wants to be as normal as possible. It is a humbling experience to be given that kind of trust.  Especially, from one who has always been so independent.

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So today, when she yet again asked what she owed me, I tried to make her see that she was the reason I was able to do these things for her.  Over the years I have watched her take care of others; it is her love language.  No job too dirty.  She has wiped many a dirty bottom and washed many a dirty feet.  She never sees the dirty part of the job. She just sees the need; her compassion and love for others compels her to act in loving service to them.  By watching her in action, I have seen that love bears all things.  Love takes care of the dirty. Even though it doesn’t come natural to me, I am able to act with compassion because her example taught me how.

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Love is a wonderful thing when we let it drive our actions.  It will take us out of our comfort zone into places we never thought we’d be capable of inhabiting.  When we remember the price love paid for us, it enables us to show that same kind of love to others. Especially to others.

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Loving Because of Grace,

Teresa

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This Man

 

rocky.waitingThirty years ago I became the wife of this man. I remember how the knowledge that we belonged would hit me at the most unexpected times in the most awe inspiring way. This was a gift from God to be treasured. Life has not always been perfect or easy. But it has been good, filled with adventures, love, forgiveness, sacrifice, support and encouragement. This man takes good care of me and nurtures me. He gets me. This man has shown me mercy and showered me with kindness. This man has loved me well. This man committed to a forever journey with me. This man has my heart. I wouldn’t change a thing because everything we have experienced together has shaped who we are and is our story. It is a grand story and one that I hope has many chapters left to be written. This man is my man and I love him. Today we celebrate thirty years of being one.

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Advent II – Love

I am linking up With All Manner of Inspiration for Sacro Speco (sacred space).

Today is the second Sunday of Advent.  Churches and Homes around the world will light the candle of Love.  This is the season of anticipation of the arrival of the Christ child.  Of course this is symbolic as we know he came long ago.  For believers this also represents the anticipation of his second coming.

Love takes us to Bethlehem where we find the Christ child in a manger.  Today, I share an advent devotional with you that I wrote for the Fern Creek Baptist Church Advent Devotional Booklet a few years ago.  It has been edited with some additions.

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Love Him, Love Others

There is a song that I remember singing in high school choir.

 Love Came Down at Christmas, Love all love divine,  Love came down at Christmas and I know, I know that love is mine.

It is a beautiful song, but it is more than just words.  It is truth.  Truth about unconditional love.  The love God gave us in the gift of his son.  He came to us via a manger.  He was new life that offered new life to us via the cross.  

He was fully God and fully man.  He knew no sin.  Yet, he lived among us, walked among us and showed us how to love.  His life started humbly encased by pieces of wood.  His life on earth ended in humiliation nailed to two pieces of wood.

The story doesn’t end with his death.  He rose again on the third day and now he is at the right hand of the father.  Part of the celebration of Advent is anticipating his return to redeem his children. It will be victorious and he will be crowned the King of Kings! We will reign with him forever and ever.

How can we respond to the gift of the Christ child?  The answer is found in the gospel of John Chapter 13.  Jesus says, as I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Sounds simple and easy. On a good day.  The reality is not always that simple.  Think about it.  He died on a cross for us; He gave the ultimate sacrifice – His life.  If we’re honest, that’s not really how we want to love others; not with our life.

We want love to be flowers and candy and nicely written sentiments; we want to give hugs and have good times, but we don’t want to be bothered to stretch beyond the niceties.   Deep abiding love is so much more.  It is unconditional, self-sacrificing, forgiving.  It puts others first.  It means loving with our life.  Maybe not literally with our life, like Jesus did, but sacrificially, with our time and resources.

How do we live a life that honors God by loving others?  We can’t on our own. The first step in loving others as he has commanded is to love Him. We love Him because He first loved us.  He pursued us and lavished his love on us in the gift of the blood of Christ shed for our salvation.  When we accept His love and cherish it we are so full that love spills over into the lives of others.  We are not capable of unconditional, sacrificial love on our own.  But with Christ all things are possible.  

As you are Celebrating the Christ of the manger, during this Christmas Season, remember the love on the cross. Ask Jesus to help you show his love to others.  The best gift you can give someone, is to love them unconditionally, to love them with your life. As Christ has loved you.

Loving because of grace,

Teresa