A Difference a Year Makes!

As we prepare for our family trip to Alabama that we have made as a family for going on 36 years, I am reminded that so many things happened this past year.  Looking back it is sobering to realize how fast life passes by and how quickly things can change.

Photo on 12-31-17 at 11.01 AM #2At this time last year, we were headed back to Miami from Alabama after being with family, celebrating the season with laughter, games, food, bonfires, 4 wheeling and multiple trips to Fairhope….just because we love it there so much! While there, my Mom and Dad both were battling the “crud”.  I went to the dr. with my Mom and Dad and they both were injected with an antibiotic. My Dad showed improvement as fast as the ride home from Fairhope to Bay Minette…..however my Mom continued to decline.

In spite of her obvious suffering from fever, coughing and just feeling overall terrible, she insisted on being in the midst of all that was happening with the family around her.  She would come out to the living room every day and sit in her chair quietly watching her grandchildren and great grandchildren move about around her. One evening we had our annual bon fire in the back of their property and she insisted on going out and sitting in her lawn chair watching everyone else enjoy roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.  She even had a hot dog herself! It was blatantly evident to all, however, that she was fading.

We left, traveling back to Miami and received notice that she had been admitted into the hospital.  I flew back to Alabama a few days later where she laid unresponsive for several more days with her family by her side.  My Dad stayed by her side, spending the night in the hospital room, as well as me and my siblings.

On that day, the day she took that last labored breath to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we were all with her.  I can’t say that she knew we were there for sure, but it doesn’t even matter. Her peace came from knowing that when she did leave her earthly body, that she would most assuredly be present with the Lord.

I opened up my iPad to worship songs and laid it gently on her pillow close to her ear.  I’m not sure if she was aware or could hear, but all of us in the room could.  We worshiped as she labored. We sang as she waited patiently for God to take her.

At the moment she stepped into Glory, the labored, bloodshot veins in her neck and face turned to a beautiful ivory.  What I feared so much was seeing my mother die, but instead I was instantly comforted by the peace and beauty radiating from this woman of faith….the woman who had loved and cared for me all of my life, even into adulthood.  She was always just a phone call away for advise on a family recipe, or knowing how to get a stain out of a white shirt.

My fear turned into a blessed hope that this earth is not our end…….it is only our beginning.  Her legacy of being a wonderful mother, faithful friend, loyal wife…..etc. was just a short glimpse of the eternity that awaited her. She finished well here on earth and I’m certain that God greeted her with open arms saying….”Well done thy good and faithful servant!”

62830_455506424048_5266309_nI miss my Mom terribly and there are days that for just a second, I forget that she’s even gone.  Her presence was large in this life, and her absence is palpable.  But I know that in time, I will see her again.  I still talk to her…….but just not with my cell phone and sadly not in person.  When I crochet or cook one of her dishes, I smile and inwardly thank her for passing on valuable lessons and skills.  I thank her for gently reminding me to forgive and to be thankful for my blessings. I thank her for the 83 years she poured into our lives so that we would be with her for eternity.

What a difference a year makes!

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These days….

These days, I call my dad at least twice a day to check in on him and hear his voice. I’m worried about him being lonely. I worry about him in the evening, when things are quiet and he’s alone sitting in my mother’s recliner. I worry about him spending hours upon hours combing over pictures from the past….65 years of memories documented in slides and photo albums.

I worry.

My heart aches.

My heart aches for his loss, as I feel it as well….just in a different way. I miss my mother so very much, but I wasn’t with her every day like my dad. You see, for the past 7 years, my dad selflessly honored his marriage vows to almost perfection! My mother was not bed bound, however, she needed constant care. She could no longer cook, clean, drive or even take a shower by herself. She was just too unstable and the fear of her falling and breaking a hip or worse was too much of a gamble. She walked with a walker, and was pretty good at it, but my dad did all of the rest. He even helped her get dressed in the morning and put her gown on at night. In addition, he set the alarm clock for every hour…every night to check on my mom’s medical needs that needed attention…..for 7 years!

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My dad is almost 85 years old. Yet God gave him the strength to lovingly take care of his bride in their old age in ways we never dreamed. It was tough at times, and I’m sure there were days he complained and was weary. But he remained faithful, even to the minute she passed with him by her side stroking her hair, telling her how beautiful she was. His heartache was palpable and almost unbearable as we spent time by her bedside, in the hospital, after she died. The reality of his great loss, and ours, consumed him. We were, for the moment, devastated, not because we were shocked…..she was 83 and had been in poor health for several years….just the minute you go from death to life in Christ is a stunning thing to witness.

The shock quickly turned to peace. Instead of extreme exertion for each and every breath, there was silence. Her struggling turned to surrender. Her pain turned to healing. Her face became as peaceful as I have ever seen it. We knew, that although she was not with us in that room, she was instantly in another place, a much better place.

I had a moment to spend time with her alone before we left the hospital. I talked to her, kissed her, touched her and cried. But it was for selfish reasons. I wanted to memorize her face, her hands and her hair. I knew that this side of heaven, I would never hear her voice again. I wrestled with the thought and fear of forgetting her features. I don’t want to forget. I want to remember every memory I have of my mom. I’ve been telling my kids story after story of my childhood that involve my mother…just to refresh my memory.

In all of our loss and grief, there remains peace. Peace knowing that my mom loved God. She lived out her faith day after day. Her good works were evident, but not necessary for her relationship with Christ. But she chose to live out loud. She wanted others to know Him. Every day my Mom and Dad started with reading of scripture together and praying. I was always on that list….she told me. My children were on that list…she told me. I would often tell her of prayer concerns here in Miami, and she would add those to her list. She was praying for Jackie, Greg, Tony and Rick..just to name a few. A life lived like hers leaves a void. She was present. For this, we will miss her in this world. Our loss is most definitely Heaven’s gain.

My dad is doing fine. You see, he knows where she is as well. He’ll be there before too long and there will be a wonderful reunion.

I called my dad this morning…he whispered…”hey sweetie”…..and I knew instantly that he was in the woods hunting……enjoying God’s creation…and most likely talking to Mom.

 

 

Refuge

As I was reading through Proverbs today, I read this:

Proverbs 14:26

“Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
    and for their children it will be a refuge.”

I don’t ever remember reading this before, but it spoke to me.  I needed to hear this.  Have you ever mulled over the past, contemplating if you had made a difference? Have you ever questioned if you had put enough time into your kids, teaching them, preparing them for life, showing them the love of Christ?

Well, I’ve wondered. The “more mature you become” (older), the more you reflect on the past.  At least I have! There’s no turning back. You can’t change the past.  It’s important that you get it as right as possible the first time.  But in reality, it’s a done deal….you can’t go back and rewrite your life and the “what ifs”….

In Philippians 3:13-14 it reminds me that we need to forget what is behind and look forward….because we CAN make a difference going forward, no matter how flawed our past may appear.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Because of God’s grace, I know that He is faithful, even when we lack faithfulness.  He is patient, when we are not. He is complete, when we are lacking. He is strong when we are weak.

So…going forward…I pray that our children will always find our home, their childhood home, their family, and more importantly…our faith… to be a fortress, …not because we were a perfect family (not even close)…but because we serve a mighty God….

Ephesians 3:20

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”

Family

For the past few weeks, we have anticipated and longed for the arrival of our newest grandchild, Lila Pepin. She came, in her own good time, in the early morning hour of August 15th! She came quickly and safely into this world and was instantly loved and cared for by her parents, and of course her grandparents! Babies seem so perfect in every way! Their skin is so soft and delicate and the small and intricate details of their fingers, toes, eye lashes, eye brows, lips….well you get it….are mesmerizing.  We can’t stop looking at her and marveling at the miracle of birth and life and dreaming of what she will be like next month, and the next…and the next!

The blessing of family is so important. I’m so thankful that God instituted the family as a union to represent the love that he has for us.  Through our children, we experience love…a love we would die for!  I’m so thankful that through my love for my husband, our love for each other, we had a family…three beautiful children of our own.  And now…through those beautiful blessings..more blessings are coming.

My husband has mentioned that it was remarkable how our love tent is spread when we have more children (or grandchildren).  We love them all the same and all the more deeply.  I believe that God wired us that way, to show us that his love for us is likewise immense. Our capacity to love comes directly from God. isaaclila

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Stuff Happens!

Stuff does happen….when you think that things are looking up and going relatively smoothly in your life…bam…you get hit with another discouraging bit of news or a disturbing word…I’m sure I’m not alone in this and we all have our burdens to bear and our thorn in the flesh…but after listening to our pastor last night…I’m vividly reminded that God is sooooo much bigger than our biggest problem here on this earth…
Rick Blackwood/Christ Fellowship Miami, Florida..

A.Jesus is present in the fun!

B.Jesus is present when stuff goes wrong!

II.Focus on His presence not the problem.

A.Don’t pull the problem so close.

B.Remember: His presence is here and I am not alone.

Oh God as I face my problems this week, empower me to remember: I am not alone. Your presence is in me. Help me to keep my problems pushed back so I can see your presence and your power. God you are greater and God you are stronger than any other.

I certainly needed this reminder!!