Friday, December 31, 2010

River Crossed!

Mom, surrounded by her children....
Newly arrived in the celestial city. 
Safe in the arms of Jesus. 
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.
They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10: 9-10
But now, this is what the LORD says -- he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; 
I have summoned you by name;
you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you...."
Isaiah 43

To all who have loved this woman along with us -
our sincere gratitude 
for your faithful friendship and loving care.  
God is very very good.  
(p.s. He was so gentle too!)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Journey

Yay!  Tonight it is MY turn to sleepover in Mom's room.  We trade spots from bed to recliner.  She sleeps most of the time now - an upgrade in morphine appears to keep her comfortable.  When her eyes are open, they rarely focus on us - in fact, she seems to be looking past us.  We sincerely hope she will soon see Jesus over our shoulder, reaching out to her.   

This is a beautiful 12X12 giant card designed and crafted by grand-daughter Meghan for grandma - presented to her on Christmas Day.  34 love notes were attached inside; a favourite memory or thought expressed by each of her grand-peeps... 
This is a painting commissioned as a 60th birthday present to Mom (a few years ago now!).
I remember the artist sitting down with us girls for a chat about Mom.  She needed to get a sense of her personhood for inspiration before beginning.  We think the end result was mighty bang-on.
At the time - I tried my hand at writing a story about the picture and now it hangs in an envelope behind the picture.  I meant to scan the story and post it so you could read it for yourself, but being next door with Mom for most of every day now,  I am forced to type it all out long-hand....this camera image didn't help much either.  
The Journey
The woman placed her devotional on the table and settled back into the pillows of the settee.
She surveys the garden with contentment, her gaze finally resting on the wheelbarrow by the garden wall.  Yes!  Today she is definitely going to finish the planting of those bulbs.  She pushes the comforter aside and pulls herself up to pick out the curled leaves in the topiary.
The garden is a source of never ending work but she remembers with a smile the feelings of pleasure & satisfaction it brings.  She reaches up to feel the ruffle on the apron... almost dry.
"Time to change" she decides, "and get on with this day."
I hear the screen door close behind the woman as she enters the house.  I look around me at this place so lovingly tended.  I think of the hands that never rest....always a project on the go!
Past the garden wall, out in the horizon beyond, the clouds are rolling back a new day....
Do I see the shape of angels in the clouds?  So subtly God is bringing to mind:  it is His mercies that are new every morning.  The wind blows a refreshing breeze that scatters the clouds; soon the sun will warm my place on the garden path.  My eyes are drawn to the movement of pant legs flapping on the wash line.   The trousers are worn-looking and so oddly out of place in the woman's wardrobe.
They beckon me closer.  I step up onto the porch and see close-up that the knees have been mended often.  Obviously, the woman has had to wear these for a long time.  The apron strings blow up past my face.  My fingers catch the hem.  It too says something about the woman.
The stories of service it could tell!  They would be many, the sound of them so familiar.
My hand comes to rest on the antique shepherd's crook.  
How this woman loves the theme of sheep and shepherd!  I see it suddenly in more places:
the pillow tapestry, the flower pot...
Ancient words play over again in my memory, 
"The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not be in want....Your rod and your staff, they comfort me."  Yes, that must be it!  That is the source of the woman's secret strength.
I have an irresistible urge to tell this remarkable woman how much she is admired and loved.
I hasten through the door and call from the foyer, 

The clock shows 2:22am.  I must try and sleep with one eye on my beautiful Mom.  
Thank-you Father.  Please be gentle when you come to get her.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Phenomenal Mercy and Grace

Christmas Day was incredible.
All of us together in one place.
Ten great-grandchildren....
Thirty-four grandchildren....even Nicole from Florida!
Numbering fifty-five with significant others... 
(only engaged/marrieds were included here)  
Mom donned her prettiest housecoat - funky headwear and padded over to the couch for a half hour visit with us.  We sang, played our instruments, received words and gifts from Grandma.
Much Joy and many tears all jumbled up together.  
Absolutely wonderful.
Thank You Heavenly Father - that was a very precious provision.

Mom wants to impress the words of Psalm 103 on her family:
.....But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love 
is with those who fear him, 
and his righteousness with their children's children -- 
with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Cross at Christmas

My Mom.  
Still so young.  But still dying.  
No more chemo.  Relentless tumours.  Way more pain.  No appetite.
We're trying to find a pain medication that agrees with her body chemistry.
We were stretched out on her bed -- she spends increasing amounts of time in her bed -- 
this morning,  devo's was a rendering of Psalm 103... 
O my soul, bless God, don't forget a single blessing!  
He forgives your sins - every one.  
He heals your diseases - every one.  
(we smile at each other when I read this)
He redeems you from hell - saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy - a paradise crown.
(she's wearing it)
He wraps you in goodness - beauty eternal.
(she's beautiful alright)
He renews your youth - you're always young in his presence.
God makes everything come out right;
We have been very busy getting the proverbial 'house in order' - thankful for the time and ability to see this through and cope with the myriad emotions that wash over us.
We are praying to be able to enjoy each others company yet on Christmas Day 
when the whole shebang will be present.  
You have been praying haven't you?  
We are very thankful for this and ask that you continue to do so.
The final scene in John Bunyan's classic The Pilgrim's Progress shows Christian crossing the river to the celestial city.  Strong and mighty arms pull him up from his watery grave and embrace him with vigour, welcoming him into a splendour beyond description.  
To help someone prepare for such a crossing is....frightening, yes.  But less so now.
It's more like privilege.
And a very profound one at that.  
Almost a year in the making - our community project Great Hymns of Faith & Other Favourites is finally available.  It continues to be a great balm for a weary soul.
We missed the kafuffle over the moon.  
The way I see it?....we've had our fair share of amazing 'God displays' in different ways.
Imagine what a lunar eclipse would look like from His vantage point? 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Slow to change

The picture in the blog header....
It was time to change seasons again.
Heave heavy sigh.  
....but I'm still wearing my sandals out there.
And I don't care what you think about it either.
But seriously now, about seasons of change?  
I've been doing some personal reflection on the idea.
I've determined that I'm not much for it.  
Which of course, is a ridiculous deduction to make.
No change?  No growth.  
Change is the antonym of static or stagnate.

Here's another discovery:  
Change that really counts for something (radical OR gradual) costs you considerably. 
In many ways, the process will include pain.
It's like being that hunk of crude ore in the Silversmith story...
He holds it in the fire just long enough to separate the silver from the dross 
and doesn't consider the 'job' finished till he sees his reflection staring back at him.

So maybe it isn't change but it's season that wearies me?
I think I just need to go to bed. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Forgiveness - What it is and What it is not

First of all, let me say this:  Mom is slightly improved.  Please know that your prayers for 'peace' are both much apparent and appreciated.
Secondly, as to the title of this blog post - let me say unequivocably, I offer these thoughts not as an authority on the subject but as an ardent (albeit reluctant) student of same.  My observations are simply the result of serious but necessary soul searching and reflection of certain events in my pilgrimage.  Only by God's grace can I rightfully claim any richer understanding of the concept of forgiveness.
And no doubt - I have far to go.

We watched a very gut-wrenching movie together - Momsie and her three daughters. 
Amish Grace is an exploration of two vital tenets of Christianity: grace & forgiveness and is based on the true story of the 2006 schoolhouse murders of five Pennsylvanian Amish girls.  It was strangely fortifying to sit through this bawling our eyes out together; the vigorous discussion that followed the film was such that only Mom's signal for rest and her bed brought us to a truce - a revisit is likely to happen soon.  :)

It was an extremely well-acted, respectful rendering of a horrible human tragedy and this is the line (defended by the Amish 'clergy') that sparked such a fierce debate:  Forgiveness is unconditional.
Collectively, we had just sat under a series of sermons and read a few books on precisely that topic:  Repentance/Forgiveness Restoration/Healing.
Unconditional forgiveness?  Does the Bible teach that?
Have you ever challenged yourself to ponder the precept?  Want a discussion to grow by?  Stick three or more people in the kitchen, pour some beverage of choice and lay your cards on the table.
I think you'll be surprised.  Maybe even a bit rattled.  Not to worry.  Spiritual stretching never killed anyone.  On the contrary.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Prayer Warriors Unite!

You've been asking for a while now, I know.
I've been waiting for inspiration - giving Mom some space in this journey - watching her - wishing to be of better use in this coming to terms with 'stuff'.
The facts of the matter:
Momsie was diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer last May.... two short years after her first foray into the chaotic world of chemo, radiation and radical surgery to purge herself from the cancer.
Her prognosis was a year to a year and a half with treatment.  'Treatment' means several rounds of poisonous chemo which the odd recipient at the Juravinski Cancer Centre doesn't comport well.
Like our mom.  She ended up taking most of her monthly cycles of chemo at half potency which she also rightly assumed would be far less effective.   Last weeks CT scan confirmed her suspicions; of her numerous tumours, that worrisome beast on her liver is twice the size.
Her pain is more constant now.  She is fiercely independent and trying to weather herself through it without
too much medication.  She doesn't like the effect that codeine in Tylenol 3 has on her system.
Carrying that pain around though, makes her weak and weaker still.
I mean shockingly so.
Now she's started a pain reliever called Endocet:  it contains a narcotic (oxycodone) and a non-narcotic element (acetaminophen).
I suspect that Mom's reluctance to incorporate this stuff in her daily regiment is a fear of developing a dependency on pain relief too early.  She saw what a zombie it made of her daughter Yvonne many years ago when Mom was her attentive nurse-maid.
It's a bit of a vicious circle.  She has no energy to speak of and yet hanging around like a limp dishrag has a negative effect on both the body and the spirit.  Is this resignation I see?  Is this a necessary and natural part of the journey?
She also has until December 21 (or 23rd?) to consider taking more chemo in pill form.  *sigh*
The conclusion of the matter:
We need to engage in prayer with you.  All of you.
1.  For the strength to pass this over to the LORD and to rest in Him.
2.  For courage to face the coming days with confidence and (dare I say it?) with joy.
3.  For relief from pain and a drug that she's comfortable (and may I add consistent) with.
4.  For clear direction regarding the decision for more chemo versus palliative care.
Thank you for loving Mom with us.  The Family of God is a great place to be.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Things that make my heart sing....

Sleeping in and finding this waiting for me in the kitchen...
The reliable return of the Pileated Woodpecker in our forest....
Raspberry fingers....
Tinkerbell fairies in crocks...
Unabashed bed-head way past lunch-time!
Wild and unruly shaped trees....
....with monkeys in them!