Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Unexpected Blessings

The last words my dad spoke to me from his hospital bed were, "Rob, take care of your mom." Those are words I have never forgotten. I have not only honored them for my dad, but for my mom. I too am commanded by my Father to honor my mother and father.

 "Honor your father and mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." Exodus 20:12

My mom gave her life in caring for me. On my first birthday, my very first Christmas, was spent in the ICU as I was very sick with pneumonia. A little later I would burn myself with spilled coffee. A few years later I would tumble down many stairs and once again spent time in the hospital. 

I remember all the times I was sick and could feel my mom's hand brush against my forehead as she checked for fever. All the times she must have stayed up all night as I was sick. 

When I was little she would pour me a bowl of Raisin Bran. I loved it. Only I didn't like the raisins. She would take the time to pick out each raisin leaving me with only the bran. Every time I was sick she would make me mashed potatoes. She took the time to do things special for me. 

We visited my grandmother in Arkansas. I was about eight. I was playing in the backyard and found myself smack in the middle of a cactus. Screaming, the words that escaped were, "MOM!!" She carried me in the house and laid me on the couch. She spent hours picking out prickles from my back, arms, and legs. 

Every skinned knee she kissed. Every warm blanket she gently laid over me. Every bowl of ice cream. All of those things add up to measure nothing short of unconditional love. 

Today my mom is not in good health. She has stage four COPD. She has been in and out of the hospital for many months now. It seems as each month passes she grows weaker and at times more confused. It is heartbreaking for me. I had to say goodbye to my dad when I was only nineteen. Watching my mom deteriorate at seventy-eight isn't any easier. 

In October of this year my husband was hit by a drunk driver. He has been slowly recovering at home. Still unable to return to work. This has completely turned our lives upside down. I don't think even raising five children I have ever known this kind of exhaustion. 

"For if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Timothy 5:8

When your young and raising a family you know exhaustion well. But raising children, working, buying a new car, a new home, and all the 'fun' side of things, isn't the same exhaustion as caring for your husband and elderly parent. This is mind, body, and soul exhaustion. This is new to me. Life unexpected you could say. 

My mother in law took a terrible fall a little over a week ago. There was a rush to the ER. My husband and I have been caring for his mother and father as well. His father has suffered many strokes and is unable to care for himself. I find myself praising Jesus for allowing my husband to be home and to help care for our parents. 

How much do you give? There is no end to giving. There isn't an end to helping. At this time in our lives I always thought our home would be filled with our grandchildren. Always planning days with them and enjoying the fun  of being a grandparent. But when our parents are so ill there isn't planning. There's keeping everything open just in case they need us. It's checking on them every morning and throughout the day. It's helping making meals and getting medicines. It's scheduling doctor visits and taking our parents there. It's grocery shopping and cleaning house. 

"Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God." 1 Peter 4:8-10

I praise God that we are near our parents and we are able to care for them. I cannot imagine not being there for my mom. I have never missed a birthday, never missed an opportunity to bless her on Mother's Day, and never has a Christmas passed without a gift. But there's more than just these holidays. It's just being there. It's answering her calls. It's asking how she is doing and is there anything she needs. 

I know the day will come where she is no longer on the other end of the phone. Where her apartment will be empty of her presence and someone new will move in. I will no longer to be able to call her and share good news or share with her a wound that has cut deep. But for now, no matter how tired I grow, I will forever take care of my mother as long as possible. I may need help from others in this journey, but for me, I must be willing to do all I can do for her. 

Sometimes it's easy to find myself frustrated. A migraine hits and lasts for days. My back decides to go out and pain resides with each step. But with the strength of God I carry on. I honor my Father and through obedience to Him all things seem to work out. 

"For you were called to be free, brother; only don't use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love." Galatians 5:13

I am sure there are many who do things much better than I can. I learn with each step forward. With each hospital visit I am there to pray over her. To talk to doctors. To learn her medications. Mostly I am there at her side to hopefully quiet her fears as her breath slowly becomes a whisper of air. 

"Honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and so that you may prosper in the land the Lord your God is giving you." Deuteronomy 5:16

I get scared. But in all things I have learned to trust Jesus. Without Him I make a mess of things. But focusing on Him, making sure I spend time with Him, He resets my course. He keeps me focused on what is important and at this venture in my life, it's taking care of parents. Sometimes that means cancelling plans and days out with my husband. It means leaving the weekend opened to care for things they are not able to do. 

We never want to see our parents age or think about them not being here with us. But as I turn fifty in a just a few short days that becomes a reality more and more. I see this now as a privilege, an honor. In loving my mother I am giving her all of myself as she has done her life for me. 

There are many blessings to be found in caring for our parents. It doesn't matter how old our parents are, we should honor them, and hold them in a special place. They spent so many hours watching over us. So many prayers spoken. Such love shared between moments we cannot even remember. But our parents remember. They remember those tiny fingers held to cross the street. Those little giggles we made as we seen their face and heard their voice. 

The list never ends at all that I find myself grateful. It wasn't until I began raising my own children that I began to discover all my mother must have endured with me. All those midnight's she waited up until I was safely home. We can find ourselves in our parents shoes, can't we? It's easy when we take our eyes off of ourselves. 

Let us bless our parents today. No matter if they are near us or far away. A call blesses the heart. A card gives assurance they are being thought of. A gift shows them we care. Most of all, all those little things we can do for them lets them know how much they are treasured. They leave behind in us a legacy. In me, my mother instilled love and mercy. It is today I am allowed to show her the same. 

I love you, mom. 

"Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land." Ephesians 6:1-3

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