The Perspective of Returning Home

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I recently looked back at some of my early blog posts, dating back a little over thirteen years ago. I was in the middle of preparing to go to the mission field and, as I read, I was reminded of the many ways that the Lord prepared the way for me. I was single, young, determined, adventurous, and possessed a heart full of faith to follow the Lord where He was calling me. Now, all these years later, I am married with two small children, not as young as I used to be, just as determined, more cautious than adventurous, but still with a heart ready to follow Jesus as He prompts me through His Spirit.

We are heading back “home” to Canada this coming August and I am unsure whether to call it home or not. My mom passed away last year and my dad twenty years before that. My sister and her family live two hours away from where we’ll plant ourselves, and many of my close friends now live scattered across Canada.

Someone asked me recently about what was waiting for us in Canada, assuming we had jobs lined up and a place to live. “Oh,” they replied when my response was negative towards both of those things, “so you’re just waiting on God to see where He’ll lead you?”

The unknowns in my present are just as intimidating as they were when I was anticipating moving to SE Asia. But the difference now is that I have almost thirteen years of experience of walking through unknowns, following the lamp that the Lord’s provided to show the path in front of me, and the regular discipline of reminding myself of what is true.

I know He is El-HaNe’-eman – “faithful God” (Deut. 7:9 ESV). He never changes and, despite circumstances around us being uncertain, He is unwavering in His character.

I know He is Eliezer – “my God is help” (Exodus 18:4 ESV) – and Ebenezer – “stone of help” (1 Samuel 7:12 ESV). I’ve experienced His provisions countless times and often in the most surprising ways. Like Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:12, I have set up various stones – some real, some in my journal, and some through a picture or other creative means – in my life as a way to honour the Lord and remember how He has moved to help me and others around me.

I know He is Immanuel – “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, and Matthew 1:23 ESV). This has been the biggest reason why I’ve been able to persevere in serving the Lord. I have never had to tackle any task, assignment, follow-up visit, language and culture lesson, visa trip, immigration question, sickness, home assignment, dangerous road, sermon or annual reunion conference by myself. He has always been with me and will always be with me. Despite Satan’s attempts to convince me otherwise, I was never alone in that village in the wooden house, never forgotten in that mountainous assignment, never left behind when my husband went off to work and I was home alone with our children. His presence has satisfied my soul, calmed my anxieties and empowered my heart.

So, I anticipate returning home with great expectations of the Lord to remain the same. I know He will lead us through new challenges and adventures, He will provide exactly what we need (and sometimes what we may think we want) and when we need it, and He will remind me that He is with us and will continue to be with us through it all.

Home has changed. And I’ve changed too. I don’t know what home even really means anymore except for it to be the place where God invites me to be, too.

If you’re returning home for the summer or for longer, which testimonies of God’s goodness is the Holy Spirit reminding you of so your soul may be strengthened?

Five Minute Friday: Include #FMF

Ever since my daughters were born, as a part of our day, we would often call my mom via Skype while we were eating breakfast.  I’m sure it wasn’t the most thrilling conversation for my mom but it was such a normal interaction and it made it feel like she was close even though she was half a world away.

When my husband and I would see notifications on Facebook letting us know that Mom had “liked” or “loved” our most recent posts and pictures, we knew my mom was up late, favouring her night owl tendencies.  She would be faithful to leave a comment of encouragement on whatever we had shared.  We used to joke about how she “liked” everything but deep down we truly were appreciative of her efforts to connect.

Now that my mom is gone, having passed away last September, it feels abnormal to go through a breakfast without calling her.  It feels empty to not see her comments and likes on Facebook.  It feels sad that we no longer receive cards in the mail from her.  It feels strange that she’s no longer just half a world away but actually in heaven.

But we’ve found ways to include Mom in our everyday.  We talk about our visits to her in Canada.  We sing songs that were the old reliables that my mom would sing to my daughters on Skype.  My daughters draw pictures to put in a journal for Grandma.  I tell my daughters that this book or that toy or this stuffy or that dress was from Grandma.  I include extra details throughout our day that help us connect to the memories of my mom.  It doesn’t give the allusion that she’s still alive but the memories give us the full picture that she was both my mom and my daughters’ grandmother but, ultimately, the Lord’s child.

We include memories of my mom in the everyday so we don’t forget.

Unassuming Rebels

 

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Photo credit: @fotografie_thomaswilken

In my mom’s backyard garden, there was always a persistent patch of Forget-Me-Nots.  Those tiny blue buds were a happy sight each spring, bursting forth with jubilation and triumph over their successfully large plot in a non-garden area in the yard.  They were planted, with good intentions, in the middle of a grassy spot and they did their thing – they spread.

 Every spring after my dad died, my mom would dig up a fistful of Forget-Me-Nots, roots and all, and would take them to the cemetery where my dad’s ashes had been placed in a columbarium.  There was a small, orderly garden plot directly across from the plaque behind which my dad’s urn sat and my Mom would faithfully replant those Forget-Me-Nots in new soil.

The cemetery had strict guidelines for items placed at graves, in front of columbariums and in the garden plots scattered around the grounds.  They were firm that you were not allowed to plant anything yourself but you could pay the cemetery to plant trees in memory of your loved one.  We did that one year with a black walnut tree – much like the ones in the yard where my dad grew up on his farm, outside of Wallaceburg – and they stationed a small plaque at its base identifying that it was my dad’s tree.

While the tree and the plaque were nice, there was something to be gained that was satisfying for the soul through the act of replanting these flowers. My Mom would defiantly plant those Forget-Me-Nots each year, without fail.

Yesterday, was the anniversary of my dad’s death.  Twenty-one years have passed and my mom, after her own Cancer diagnosis, joined him in heaven last September.

I may not be in Canada this spring, but when I’m there in the future, I hope to continue not only the small rebellion of planting Forget-Me-Nots, but also little acts of love that will help me remember and honour my parents.  They were quiet protesters in their own right, advocating for the voiceless, the poor, the sick and the oppressed.  Their names may never enter history books, but they left a legacy of kindness and love and of sacrificial giving of themselves.

Those tiny blue blossoms.  No matter how hard the winter, they are resilient, persistent, and multiply joy.  May we weather storms of life in an equal manner.

Five Minute Friday: Stuck

I half awoke during an afternoon nap, where my two-year-old was asleep on a mat on the floor and my almost five-year-old was beside me, clicking a plastic container with pretend grapes inside.  All that I can remember now is that in that half asleep state, I had solved the problem that was gnawing on me when I originally drifting off.

The gnaw was a hurt that I had forgotten about; so why had it resurfaced?  I had remembered something that had happened before the hurt because of a number of familiar people I saw today.

I remembered that a season had ended with no opportunity to say goodbye to my teammates or to hear goodbye from them.  This ending was complicated but not, and my choice… but not.  And as I remembered this hurt that ate away at me, I felt simply stuck.  Like a broken record.  Like a toy train going around the same track. Like a lie that Satan had tried to convince me of.

Now that I’m writing these memories down, I also remember that my solution in my half asleep state was to reprogram the narrative.  Huh.  That’s actually a good start.

Day 27: Overcome #write31days

There were two weekends during Mom’s last summer when she declined so poorly that the doctors told us that she likely wouldn’t make it another day.  Twice she defied their words.  Twice she bounced back from death’s door.  Twice we said goodbye (let’s be honest, we did that countless times, each and every time we saw each other or spoke on the phone) for what we thought was the last time.  Twice she rallied on.

A month before she died, she had one of these weekends where it seemed very evident that she was dying.  Her doctor prepared us and explained to us what to expect, as did her nurses.  But Mom improved and surprised us all by living another three to four weeks.

It was painful to hear her say in those last weeks, “I’m trying to get better” because she couldn’t “get better.”  She had terminal Cancer and as much as I prayed for a miracle and believed God COULD do it, I didn’t know if He WOULD do it.

Mom’s efforts in small things like brushing her teeth on her own, or eating a full meal became the everyday miracles.  Pushing her around the gardens outside and sharing a blueberry muffin with her were miracles to me, to us.  Every day became a gift when we knew our days with her were finite.  Every day we conquered mountains.

Day 26: Change #write31days

I remember after my Dad passed away, twenty-one years ago, that I envisioned our family like a stool.  Initially, our family had four secure legs, but after my Dad died, and after some time to process the loss and grief, I could see our family as a three-legged stool.  It was different.  We had to reposition ourselves.  But after these adjustments (this makes it sound so easy), we would be able to stand.  My Mom, my older sister and me.

Now with my Mom gone, I don’t think that analogy works anymore.  Not because I feel like I can’t stand but because I can (although hurting and missing my Mom something fierce).  My sister and I both have our own families, but beyond blood relatives and married-into-the-family relatives, I feel that we have a stronger sense of the community that is also a part of our family.  If we were still a stool, we’d be one with more than a hundred legs.

We called my Mom’s support group, Team Becky – maybe that’s what we still are even though she’s now gone.

Day 24: Revise #write31days

If you could go back, what would you change?  If my Mom could go back and take care of herself more, would that have led to a different outcome?  If we had pressed for answers back in April when she was hospitalised twice within one week for pneumonia, would we have been able to do anything?  If I had returned to Canada sooner to live closer to my Mom, would we be aching in the same way from time that we never had but should’ve?

It’s easy to think of what ifs and assume that the outcome would’ve been different or perhaps better, but it’s too tiring to think about it all because the reality is here and my Mom is in a far better place, with no more pain or suffering.  Her faith was renewed.  The Lord graciously met our needs in ways that were… how they were meant to be met.  Of course, I would like to revise this last year, but at the same time, I trust that God is sovereign.  Am I really so presumptious to assume that I know better than my Creator?  Than my Mom’s Creator?

Day 23: Work #write31days

I’ve been tired and while there are many factors that could be, and probably are, contributing to my fatigue, I think the main culprit is grief.  I say this without any doubt: grief is work.

There was the grief we experienced when we knew my Mom’s days were limited, and when we thought she was going to pass that weekend, or that weekend and then when she finally did pass.  There’s the grief during the celebration of life service and the details that had to be arranged.  There’s the grief in the legalities.  Grief in the kind sentiments from relatives, neighbours, friends and sometimes almost strangers.  There’s the grief in the distance between when you last hugged her and were hugged back and now.  There’s the grief in the day to day tugs and pulls of little ones and your spouse and the life that you’ve gone back to that is supposed to be normal.

It’s tiring.  It’s work.  It’s hard.

[written Dec. 11, 2017 for #write31days in October]

Day 22: Light #write31days

There was minimal lighting in my Mom’s room in palliative care.  With the curtains open and the overhead light on, you would still need the light in the corner to satisfy Mom’s light quota for reading.  There was one more light in the other corner but it couldn’t be plugged in for the last month of my Mom’s life.  The electrical socket now was employed by the alarm for her bed if she fell off the bed or stood up without assistance.  It was a loud and stark reminder of Mom’s decline.  And the lack of light was both troublesome and sad every time Mom asked for more light.

Mom also had a headlight, for night time when the nurses turned out her lights and if she couldn’t sleep and wanted to read or colour (yes, she had some lovely, therapeutic colouring books).

The world seems more dim without Mom.

Day 21: Give #write31days

I felt like the longer my Mom’s Cancer progressed that there were fewer things that I could give her.  It felt like my offers to her were piddly but yet it turned out that those were the things that were most precious.

Gifts were of little value to her but she still appreciated drawings from her granddaughters and stories of cute things they’d said or done.

I started using essential oils in July and they became a conduit for us to connect.  On almost every visit after she was in the palliative ward at Parkwood, I would massage her hands and feet with essential oils.  Sometimes I’d let her choose, and sometimes I’d choose for her.  Up until the last several weeks of her life, hand and foot massages would relax her so much that she could go to sleep.  When she battled so much pain and confusion in her last month or so, I was relieved that I could offer her something that gave some peace and comfort.

The use of the EOs gave us a gift that was impossible to find elsewhere.