Category Archive: Hope

From Death to Life

Once again grief roars into our family.

I keep wanting to pick up the phone and call her. Then I remember. She left us Saturday. Transitioned from death to Life. My precious 98-year old mother has longed for the day when she would see Jesus face to face. She’s eagerly awaited that great reunion with my father, who preceded her by eighteen years. Saturday evening her prayer was answered.

Mom and Dad’s Wedding. Her beautiful sister Mary is the bridesmaid on the left; Dad’s brother Jake is his best man. Mom’s brother, Irvin, is the ring bearer.

Mom lived independently until about a year ago when she moved into an Assisted Living Center. Over the past year her hearing has declined significantly so that conversations were often difficult, both in person and more so, on the phone. I treasured those moments when I saw her personality shine through her twinkling eyes, young again because of a shared memory, a laugh, a thought.

Mom could laugh – at herself or others – but never unkindly

Mom’s mobility also decreased significantly. Her legs were weak and she first needed a walker. Then she got an electric scooter which was wonderful in helping her get around the Manor and to meals in the dining room. More recently, Mom was usually in a wheelchair when she left her room.

A month ago Mom fell and broke her ankle. She’s been in a cast since, which limited her mobility even more.

I have so many precious memories with Mom.

She was a wonderful cook and homemaker. My brothers and I thought we were so clever when we came up with our own riddle:

Q: “What does Mom always look for and never hope to find?”

A: “Dirt!”

When I was quite little I spilled a glass of milk from my high chair. I expected a scolding. Instead, Mom picked up a towel, said “Oh well, that can be fixed,” and began wiping up the spilled milk.

I received Christ as my Savior at the tender age of eight years. But as a mid-teen I faced doubts–had I said the right words and was I really now a part of God’s family? When I finally confessed my fears to Mom, she helped me understand that God knew my heart. I didn’t need a specific word set if I acknowledged my need for forgiveness of sins and a Savior. She showed me John 6:37 where Jesus promised “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” And my soul was at peace, knowing I was accepted in the beloved.

Mom modeled love for Jesus Christ and for others. She was hospitable, gracious and kind. She was gifted with a beautiful, classically trained soprano voice and taught vocal lessons for many years. Whenever I couldn’t be home on an Easter Sunday I knew Mom would be singing “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah in church.

She modeled the disciplines of a walk with God–she loved reading her Bible, doing her Bible study and praying.

When my father died eighteen years ago, Mom refused to wallow in her grief. Deep as it was, she continued to meet with their friends, to enjoy their Sunday school class and church, and to invite others for a meal or conversation. One day not long after Dad’s death, I took Mom to a shopping center–I can’t recall why. As we walked and talked I told her I wished I could take her pain.

Gracious as always, she turned to me. “Carol, you have your own pain.” Despite her grief, she could look beyond herself to see my need in the loss of my beloved Dad.

Later, when both Mom and I were widowed, we took several overnight trips together. Our conversations during those times were deep, fun, meaningful. We talked about whether she had any desire to remarry (she didn’t, although she had a valued male friend for several years). We talked about my hopes and desires for my future. We explored other geographical areas.

We enjoyed seeing movies together.

Going to lunch together.

For many years Mom, my brother Arnold and I enjoyed singing trios together, until both her voice and mine waned. For a time we sang in the same church choir and I loved how her voice next to me challenged and improved mine.

Mom with her sister Mary, their brother Irvin, and me

When I was a child our family enjoyed family nights every Friday. Mom was our resident Chinese Checkers expert and winner. When my youngest brother, Bob, was five we taught him to make the popcorn and that was his job from then on. Since we didn’t have a television ’til I was in high school, Dad bought a movie projector. He and Melvyn often went to the city library and selected 16mm films we could enjoy as a family. Mel and Arn enjoyed playing with the movies–and watching downhill ski segments reversed so skiiers flew uphill backwards gave us big laughs!

Mom still enjoyed playing games until the last week of her life. She was part of a Wednesday night Rummikub group at the Manor. She loved it when she could win one or two games, and enjoyed the mental challenge and competition.

She loved her husband, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with all her heart and prayed for us faithfully. Her deepest desire was for her family members to know, love and serve the God she taught us about from our birth.

With the corona virus outbreak it’s been very hard not to be able to visit Mom in person. Bob and Sheila, Don and I have talked to her through her room window. But no touch, no hugs. Last Monday and Tuesday Mom told me she just didn’t “feel right” and was extra fatigued. Tuesday night an ambulance took her to Kaiser. Bob and Sheila and I waited in the parking lot, unable to enter the ER. Every 20-30 minutes one of us would check at the door for updates. Finally Mom was admitted and, because her x-rays showed spots on her lungs, she was isolated for two days awaiting results from a COVID-19 test. Mom did, however, have pneumonia and a serious case of sepsis (blood infection).

When the COVID-19 tests came back negative, Mom was admitted to end-of-life care and was allowed one visitor at a time. Over the next three days Don, Bob and Sheila, Mel and I spent time loving her, holding her hand, telling her it was all right to go Home. Arnold, unable to travel from Kansas, was with her on FaceTime.

I had the privilege of spending Friday afternoon, night and Saturday morning with her. I read Psalm 23 aloud and croakily sang several hymns, often breaking down in tears. I held her hand and kissed her and told her how much I love and appreciate her and that she would soon be with Jesus and Dad.

Saturday afternoon Bob spelled me and sent me home to rest. He loved on her too; and at 6:19 that evening she took her last breath on this side of eternity.

To use my nephew’s phrase, I am heartbrokenly grateful. Grateful for my mother’s long and loving life; for having her in my life for so many years; for her freedom from pain and suffering, limitations and loneliness. Grateful for God’s promise that because Jesus lives, I will be reunited with Mom when He calls me Home. And heartbroken because I want to pick up the phone and hear Mom’s voice, to hold her and hug her one more time.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:21

I love you Mom. Give Dad a big hug for me, and I’ll see you both soon.

Prayer for a Pandemic

My emotions have run the gamut this week … fear, joy (at how people are serving each other), anxiety, hope, depression, and on and on …

How about yours?

Psalm 91 encouraged me this week, and I will copy it here in full.

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

3 Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

***

A dear friend sent me this wonderful prayer from the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. It reminds me that even in my concerns for my own family and friends, I need to remember the many others in very great need during this time.

Prayer for a Pandemic, Cameron Bellm

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.

May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips remember those that have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country, let us choose love.

During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.

Amen.

https://www.ccvichapel.org/post/prayer-for-a-pandemic-cameron-bellm

God be with you, bless you, meet all your needs by His mighty power.

Toilet Paper

In an interview with YAHOO MONEY, Kit Yarrow, consumer psychologist and professor emerita at Golden Gate University said “The antidote to anxiety really is control, and what people can control right now is buying things.”

We feel we’ve lost control, and so we turn to those things we can control … and toilet paper appears to be the ‘poster child’ for panic buying. And yet, no matter how hard we try, there are things over which we have no control.

  • The car that runs a red light and hits and kills the cautious driver.
  • The school and children’s care center closures which require parents to find alternative ways to care for their children.
  • Illness, like the coronavirus, which can be hosted in someone’s system for five days before the person knows he is sick.

But can we also find benefits in this time? I can think of three.

Slowing Down:

In last week’s sermon, Rene Schlaepfer told us that in 1870 people slept an average of 11 hours a night. Today the average is less than seven hours. People work on average four weeks more in 2020 than they did in 1979.

We can re-focus during this time on those things that are most important. Don and I cancelled all non-essential appointments this week (that was all of them) and are enjoying a slower pace, more time at home and with each other. We’re listening to messages online, enjoying some quality TV shows (like the “Man from Snowy River” series on Hallmark Movies Now). We’re emailing and phoning and texting and writing notes, finding different ways of communicating with those we love.

Solitude:

We’ve experienced Church and our small group meeting online, which may continue for awhile. In this time of social distancing, Don and I enjoyed seeing the faces of some with whom we regularly worship on a video feed service. Although we miss being face to face, we are thankful for the blessing of technology that allows us some visibility to each other. Many in countries hostile to the Christian faith, or lacking the access to technology which we enjoy, cannot experience this benefit.

Jesus went out alone to pray. We can walk in nature and talk to God and each other.

Silence:

Our over-55 community is usually quiet. However, it’s more still than usual. Few cars are on the streets. People are walking and talking to each other, but from a distance. The quiet is lovely, renewing, especially if I sit, relaxed and quiet, focusing on God and allowing Him to renew my spirit.

As Rene said, “stop checking for coronavirus updates all the time … that makes you more vulnerable to getting the virus … don’t go for updates on the virus but check for upgrades on your intake.” What is my intake? Where is my focus?

The apostle Paul was imprisoned under a death sentence and Christians were being persecuted by Nero when Paul wrote these words to remind us to be intentional about how we direct our thoughts.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8 NIV

Instead of our ‘control’ being in how many rolls of toilet paper we can buy, let’s focus on the good things of God–our intake–and trust Him to hold the key to our days. Bless you, wash your hands, be well.

Fear Not

Toilet paper shelf – empty!

Pasta – two small packages remaining on the shelf.

Hand wipes and Purell – someone told me yesterday that the whole country is out, that there is no more at this time. Not sure of the source of that information, but I’m certainly not finding either on shelves.

Fear inducing headline

Fear-inducing headlines.

Kids’ Club, group events, travel, ministry trips, church services – canceled for the time being, until we learn more about the Coronavirus and its encroachment.

Safeway Friday

It’s hard to know how real, or how big, the threat is. Obviously, for those who are ill or have already lost loved ones, the threat is huge. Statistics say the flu kills a greater number of people than the percent dying of Coronavirus. Others say the coronavirus spreads exponentially and so, is potentially more dangerous.

Regardless, the fear is real. I read today that some people going to Costco were warned they need to wait 90-120 minutes just to enter the store.

So how do we respond with fear of this magnitude that is throwing our lives into all kinds of turmoil?

  • We pray. President Trump has designated Sunday a National Day of Prayer. Let’s pray for those impacted directly by this virus, for wisdom for those in leadership and in medicine, and for this virus to end its scourge.
  • Be wise in contacts, washing thoroughly, being in public places. When facing the Black Death, Martin Luther wrote words that are applicable today. Steve Clifford, Pastor of Westgate Church, posted these yesterday.

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Martin Luther, from his letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” to Rev. Dr. John Hess
  • Don’t panic. When we panic we can get selfish and buy up everything we might need, leaving little for others. At Safeway yesterday, I learned the truck was coming in last night at 10 bringing more supplies, including toilet paper! I thought of running there first thing this morning to amp up our stash, but we have three packages already. I stopped and thought “where is my trust? Is it in the God of the universe or in how much toilet paper, canned foods, etc. I have stored away?” I don’t take this threat lightly; at the same time, I want to trust my God rather than panic.
  • We listen for where we can encourage or support others. Here are some scripture references that deal with fear (this list is by no means exhaustive!):
    • Psalm 27:3
    • Psalm 46:2
    • Psalm 91
    • Jeremiah 17:8
    • I John 4:18

What are you doing to prepare yourself in this time of concern and caution?

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

Let’s be part of the solution, trusting God and remaining calm, rather than being part of the panic!

Moments

Undulating green hills rose and fell as far as we could see, a soft, lumpy carpet interspersed with jagged rocks thrusting up through the soil and grass at periodic intervals. Here were downed trees. There, moss-covered logs. Cattle and horses stood or laid in the fields. Boulders the size of a small house astounded. The Merced River rippled over rocks on its journey down the mountainside. Mountains that had been burned out now sported short bursts of new growth.

As we drove, granite glowed as sunlight shone on mountain peaks. Fluffy white clouds opened to reflect patches of blue peering through. And next to me was my husband, who loves me better than life.

The CD of a favorite male quartet filled our car and Don and I sang along. The view all around us was pastoral, peaceful. In that moment out on the road I was filled to overflowing with love and praise and worship. 

I looked at Don. “Stunning scenery, the two of us together, going to a place we love, singing along out of tune … it doesn’t get any better than this.

It was a moment.

Isn’t that life? We go along day by day, doing what’s needed, hanging with loved ones, laughing, crying, paying bills, doing dishes … just routine stuff. And suddenly there’s a moment, a precious, soul stirring moment that touches our spirits.

Those moments are priceless. Makes me wonder if some couples separate because they expect a life of continuous moments and don’t treasure the moments they do have. My brother Arnold made a comment in a different context that I think fits here … “Pray for the moments but don’t expect them regularly.”

So here’s to love and marriage, to appreciating the routine of the day to day and delighting in the moments.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I Corinthians 13:4-7