(This is a long one, but a long time coming! God has done some great work!)
First I think I need to describe my grandfather. Yes. This is a good idea.
He was average height and dark skinned. Polish. I remember him best seeing him growing his giant, tall tomato plants in the garden; always shirtless, his skin was tight but also wrinkly. When he spoke his polish accent shaped every word, it was a low grumbly voice. Inside the house, he would always offer us (the grandkids) gum. My favorite was finding really old Big Red in a drawer because it would snap when you bent it. My grandpa was a hard worker and spent time in a concentration camp as a POW during WWII, but he never talked about it because somethings in life “were best left in the past”. He coined the catchphrase in our family “you can do it like a lion or you can do it like a lamb, but you still gotta do it” and that was the mentality my mom passed on to us kids. My grandpa didn’t have a mother figure in his life, apparently she had died when he was five so his dad raised him and taught him to play chess. When my great grandfather taught my grandpa and his siblings to play, they learned to play without the queen: to teach them that the other players had very important roles and could win the game without her and then also to show them that as they depended on each other (the knights and rookies, pawns and bishops) they would work wonderfully together and if the queen came back into the game, the rest of the pieces knew how to function to their ability and could compliment the queen. This my grandpa passed down to my mother as well, as her mother was diagnosed with delusional schizophrenia and was placed into an institution so my mom too had to learn to play without the queen.
My mom was telling me this story tonight as we sat at a local pizza place (its much too classy to be called a ‘joint’) in my hometown. I want to share with you an amazing story that unfolds to show God redeeming love and power! Last Thanksgiving break I remember my mom telling me that I couldn’t understand disappointment because I had such an easy life; I remember responding with tears and shouting as I confessed to her that I had been suicidal and stuck in depression for most of my childhood. Before coming back she had blamed me for the riff in her relationship with my dad, words that stabbed far deeper than any knife could and I cried myself to sleep listening to Hold My Heart by Tenth Avenue North praying and waiting for the pain to stop. Coming back to school, surrounded by believers I sought to allow God to change my circumstances and to change my heart. Exodus 20:12 says “Honor your father and mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” and Ephesians 6:2-3 quotes Deuteronomy by saying “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 enjoy long life on the earth.” I went to a conference over Christmas break that year on the same topic. I knew regardless of how I felt about it or how much I thought she earned or deserved honor, I was going to honor because of the promise God made if I obeyed. It’s been a roller coaster of humbleness since.
Now that I’ve caught you up on the mess (and you can read plenty of previous posts on the matter) I’d like to tell you where we are now.
My mom and I sat at the restaurant for an hour talking about the magnificent work Jesus has done in our lives and the brokenness it has come through. Both of us. Mainly her. Oh Frabjous Day! Cahloo! Callay! How I chortled in my joy!Better yet, we wept beside one another in a church in my hometown yesterday when singing From The Inside Out by Hillsong. What is the cause for this change?
God is at the end of your rope. A couple times a week I pass a sign outside of a church on the west side of Ames and that’s what its said for the last week. God is at the end of your rope.
I mentioned in my post Lord the Healer and Redeemer that my mom’s boyfriend Jeff was diagnosed with cancer and only had a limited time (3-9 months) left to live. 3-9 months turned out to be three weeks. I received a call one night from my mom that Jeff wouldn’t make it through the night. God put it on my heart to share the gospel with him so I left everything and a beloved sister (my kindred spirit) drove 6 hours with me. In the span of 22 hours, we drove there, met his wife and kids, and paced and prayed for 7 hours (well, my friend slept somewhere). I had no idea what I was doing- but I knew that as the hour grew later (or earlier I should say) my time was coming as his time was ending. 6 am I asked to speak to him alone. His body was frail and almost non existent on the hospital bed. His eyes yellow. He reached out often to grab things that weren’t there, but when I called his attention he would look at me. As I shared I asked if he wanted to accept Jesus as his payment for his sins, but no answer. I left it in God’s hands. 5 hours later I gave him a hug and said goodbye, I whispered into his ear to watch for Jesus and lifted up the rest to God. I left and couldn’t hold in the tears. The sadness was too real. I hugged my mom tightly and we talked of Gods love. My friend and I drove back to Ames. 22 hours. The next morning was a friday and my mom had called to tell me he had passed. It’s been God’s healing work ever since.
I had been praying recently in the last month for my mom, that she would find a church to get plugged into and another believer to come a long side of her. Last week (or so) my mom called me on a Sunday to tell me about her time at church for the 3rd week in a row and how she wanted to make it her highest commitment. No excuses. She just ordered glasses and as soon as they came in she was going to start reading two pages of the Bible everyday. I’ve been sending her messages on CDs about topics I think will help bring healing to her heart and songs about God’s love to bring comfort. She’s been going to church with a woman named Judy, who I was able to lift my hands of praise next to at church. I couldn’t wipe away the tears fast enough.
Its like- in the depths of ALL of this brokenness that just thrives all around me, knitting my family together, God is working powerfully. Theres still more work to do. But if you are encouraged by anything out of this, let it be that God can and will change your life and your family’s life if you seek to obey His words. It may take a long time, but let it be worth it. It makes take hours of tears and heart wrenching pain, but get through it. Keep fighting the good fight of faith. Keep thanking God for the hard stuff even when nothing in you wants to. Look your self in the mirror and say “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins, and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfied your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5) And don’t let your self forget it.
This thanksgiving I’m thankful for everything above written. Even the messy stuff. It was worth it just to experience the glory of God within my family.
What are you thankful for?