Happy Mother’s Day?

My mother has had Parkinson’s Disease since she was 42. For the most part, the last three-plus decades were fairly benign to her, but this year finds her in a nursing home and wheelchair-bound. In photos from her high-school days in the late 1950s, she sits demurely, legs crossed at the ankles; today, that lifelong habit means she trips on trying to stand up, or walks unsteadily instead of with a firm base.

Each year for the past few, our Mother’s Day tradition has been to go out–I’ll take her clothes shopping for a new summer wardrobe, then we’ll get lunch or dinner out. And each year, it’s gotten progressively more challenging to accomplish: first adjusting to using the wheelchair, then, as her voice has gotten softer and her words less distinct, trying to listen for what she wants among the racks of clothes at Kohl’s.

This year’s wrinkle was that she hasn’t been as hungry, and so she didn’t want to get a meal after shopping. And while we never did anything extravagant–maybe just going to a diner, or out for a burger–it was still something I missed being able to do this year, and one more piece of evidence of how her long, slow fade continues.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

With each passing year, my mother becomes more a reflection of her former self. It’s painful to her, and to me, to know she is fading. And yet I can take heart, that while outwardly she is wasting, one day, Jesus promises, he will make all things new, and all the brokenness will be stripped away, and she will be like that teenaged girl once again.

Until then, we wait, we help her in and out of the car, we struggle to maneuver, and while we are sad at what changes each Mother’s Day brings, we can at least take some joy in being able to share one more holiday with her.

Hearing From God

As Christians we are called to be in a relationship with God. And any successful relationship I’ve ever been in means both sides get to talk.

It’s true, isn’t it, that for the most part our prayer life is a monologue? And a needy one at that: we pray for this, for that. But how often are we able to actually shut up and listen for the other half of the conversation?

I confess I’m as fallible as the next man in that I still need to develop that listening skill more. My bride will tell you that too. But sometimes, if we allow ourselves, we can hear God’s word for us. Sometimes it’s in music, even.

Case in point: lately I’ve been kinda preoccupied with the health of both my mother and my daughter, and the effect each is having on their place of residence and schooling, respectively. Yesterday was a very tense day, with one path seeming to close for where Mom might be able to move next, and frustrations with my daughter’s progress mounting in me as well.

This morning, however, I kept hearing two songs alternating in my head: Jason Gray’s “Sparrow“:

You can’t add a single day by worrying
You’ll worry your life away
Oh don’t worry your life away
You can’t change a single thing by freaking out
It’s just gonna close you in
Oh don’t let the trouble win

You may feel alone
But you’re not on your own

If He can hold the world He can hold this moment
Not a field or flower escapes His notice
Oh even the sparrow
Knows He holds tomorrow.

And Ryan Stevenson’s “Eye of the Storm“:

In the eye of the storm
You remain in control
And in the middle of the war
You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor
When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm.

And when I stop to recognize what it is that’s going on in my head, I recognize it as God’s voice, telling me to let him be that anchor, and that I’m not alone in this–that he’s got my back, and will see me through. That’s powerful! It was so reassuring to know that even this sparrow isn’t outside God’s notice, and that he will guard my soul with all that’s coming against me right now. In those little moments, sometimes, we hear his voice. And we are in awe at how much we’re loved, even, or especially, in the eye of the storm.

The (Long! Slow!) Fade

Last time I alluded to some challenges I’m facing in my family. Over the last month to six weeks, my mother’s health has taken a turn. She’s only in her seventies, and has had Parkinson’s Disease for nearly half her life. For the most part it was a minor annoyance for most of that time, but about eight years ago it began to jump up and reduce her ability to care for herself. That led me to move her into an assisted living home about six years ago.

Lately, she’s been getting weaker, and falling more often, leading her assisted living home to be alarmed that she’s beginning to exceed their ability to care for her. So now I find myself in the situation of once again searching for a care facility for her. This at the same time that several other significant events are happening in other parts of the family and work, all clamoring for scarce time.

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength,” Paul wrote to the church at Philippi (4:13). There’s two ways to read that, depending which half of the verse you emphasize. First is the idea that I can do everything, as long as Christ is with me. There’s a lot of truth in that. And emphasis on the second half reminds me that it’s Christ who gives me strength. I can’t handle everything that Mom’s declining health, my job, my family are all throwing at me all at once. At least not alone. We hear often that “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle,” but that’s wrong. What Paul’s verse reminds us is that the truth instead is that God won’t give me anything I can’t handle with him through Christ. I have to surrender to Christ and God’s will in my life for me to be able to see something like this through.

I certainly pray that this latest twist in my mother’s health isn’t a harbinger of more to come, and that her descent into whatever it is that PD will have in store for her is a long, slow fade instead of a sudden decline like my dad’s. I also pray that Christ be with me throughout this ordeal. It’s a mad, mad, mad time to be me. At least I’ve learned the lesson that I don’t have to think it’s all on me: I have help beyond compare when I truly place myself in Christ’s hands.