Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sometimes We Fall

Anyone who knows me knows Spring is my favorite season of all. I'm revelling in all the colors and sounds and smells of it and being able to wear my flip-flops again, being able to take walks around the neighborhood with my family. Spring gives me renewed energy and hope.

But while I enter my most favorite season of the year, my dear, sweet mom is entering yet another new season. When I saw her on the night of our Seder, she was weak and quiet, but clear--reading her portions of Scripture distinctly. When I saw her two days later, she was confused and troubled. She couldn't gather her thoughts, and she didn't make a lot of sense when she was talking. I asked her to clarify something, and she looked like she was going to cry and said, "I don't know. I'm not sure anymore. I get so confused."

After Easter, while she was at home, she got out some books about heaven people had given her in order to bring her comfort. She got so confounded by the text that she somehow thought heaven isn't real; it's all just an illusion.

She got so upset that the hospice nurses and doctor came to examine her--first they thought she merely wasn't getting enough oxygen, but now they believe that cancer has spread to her brain. She wears oxygen now most of the time, and she's on increased morphine and painkillers.

I've increased my visits to her to multiple times a week for much shorter periods. My heart has been so heavy and frustrated, and honestly, sort of mad that of all the things that should be taken from my mom it is her hope of heaven. Why that? Why?

I drove to her house yesterday with all sorts of things on my mind, things to say to her to reassure her that heaven is real and that she is definitely going there, things to help her marshal her arguments and shore up her faith.

When I got there, my dad left us alone for awhile and she began to talk. Any of what she says now is extremely rambling and difficult to follow. Sometimes her speech gets garbled up, and her mind skips from topic to topic.

It's like within the space of a few days, someone reached down and removed the essence of "Mom" and left this poor, little, bewildered stranger in her place.

Some of what she said to me was, "I can't talk to anyone about this. I can't tell anyone about all my fears, about all my doubts. Everyone wants me to be happy. They say I'm spoiling my last time here on Earth with the Lord. The people they know who have died were just so happy to go to heaven. I can't tell them about this. I have this thing," she plucked at her oxygen tube fretfully, "and they've got me on all this medicine; I'm so confused now. I don't understand what's happening to me." And her eyes filled with tears.

When she said that, it was like a holy eraser came down on my mind and removed all my carefully wrought arguments about heaven that I had brought for her, and what came out instead was this--"Oh, Mommy," I told her, "you know how earlier in your life when you'd have the stomach flu? And you aren't having your best devotions or singing and praying then; all you can do is just lie down on the bathroom floor and pray to die, it feels so awful. Well, that's how it is now, except worse, for you. You don't need to be having some glorious time with the Lord. He remembers that we're just dust. He has so much pity on us."

"He does, doesn't He," she breathed, as a look of relief washed over her face. "Praise Him. Praise God."

"And you don't have to have heaven all figured out either," I added. "The Bible tells us that our human minds can't even imagine what it's going to be like. So it's OK to be confused about it."

"Tell me that again," she pleaded.

"The Bible says, 'Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him,'" I repeated for her. "You don't have to understand it. It's OK to be confused. You can't help it."

"I can just rest in Jesus, can't I?" she asked. "He'll figure it out for me, won't He?"

I reassured her that He would. "Jesus stands in our place and pleads for us, Mom; you don't need to worry."

"That's the one thing I've never wavered on," she went on, leaning her head back and closing her eyes. "Jesus. Jesus. Jesus." she whispered. "I surrender all. All to Thee, my blessed Savior..."

In a few minutes she tried to tell me the entire plotline of Oliver Twist, which is confusing enough on its own without being fueled by morphine. I finally convinced her to rest and that I needed to go. As I hugged her goodbye and told her I loved her, she searched my eyes and begged, "Don't feel bad, Baby. Please don't feel bad."

"I don't feel bad, Mom," I lied.

I drove home, worn out, feeling bad, yet strangely peaceful. Today I've been listening to one of my favorite hymns of all time, over and over. The second verse says, "Hitherto Thy love has blessed me, Thou has brought me to this place / And I know Thy Hand will lead me safely home, by Thy good grace / Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God / He to rescue me from danger, bought me with His precious blood."

I learned something completely new through this. Christians talk about "dying well," about running the race to win...about entering Glory victoriously, breaking the tape with arms outspread. But it might not happen that way. We don't all get to go out in a chariot of fire. Some of us stumble and fall on our way there. Sometimes we get cancer that eats up our bodies and our minds while our families look on, helpless. It's ugly and it's sad, and it doesn't end with us glorying in the hope of heaven. It's just darkness and drugs and confusion and pain.

But at the end of the day, it's not about all our efforts. It's all about Him. At best, in our weakness, our Almighty, merciful Father finds us falling before His throne, begging and pleading for the Son of David to have mercy on us.

Then Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, goes out to find that one poor lamb that wandered away--so confused and lost--picks it up in His scarred hands, and carries it gently Home by His good grace.

Praise His name, I'm fixed upon it. Praise Him.


Alysa said...

Sobbing through your pain. I love you, Alice. If you need me to come watch the girls I will be there in a heartbeat. Please let me know.

picturingme said...

Sobbing here, too. My phone line is open for you...whenever...especially if you are up late for some reason... xo

Danny said...

I was asked by a friend named Alice to do a small favor in the Holy Land during my recent visit.

The Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, is at the base of the Temple....the Temple where Christ is known to finesse God stuff with Pharisees. It is the one part of Jerusalem that there is no doubt, the Lord Jesus Christ passed that wall in his ministry. Indeed at a most powerful time of His ministry.

Alice told me that in Seder, she has accumulated knowledge of the Jews. When they visit the Wailing Wall, they pray and say "Next Year in Jerusalem", in the belief that the long awaited Messiah will come finally.

But Christians already know the Messiah. Jerusalem is the past.
A visit to the Wailing Wall finds Christians praying close to God With Us.....and saying:
"Nex Year in the NEW Jerusalem" or heaven!

There are a lot of cracks in the wall with a lot of compressed and folded prayers from around the globe. I wrote out the prayer of Alice, and attempted several times to insert it in a vertical crack. But there were so many pleas to the Living Lord, and the God of Abraham, that the paper continally fell back to my hands. Hundreds of thousands of prayers await God at that wall.

So I found a horizontal spot, also loaded with prayer on paper. I layered Alice's prayer between two tight sheets of prayer folded several times, and tucked it in.

God knows this need.
God need not open the paper, for He heard the prayers uttered on Alice's behalf, a small distance from where HIS Son pleaded with Him 2,000 years ago.

The answer to His Son took place by an olive tree in Gethsemane. I stood by a 2,000 year old olive tree and shook at the knowledge that it was a sapling, witness to drops of blood sweating from an innocent man.

"If there is any way to remove this cup...."

A pause took place, and Luke fills us in on what transpired in the pause...."angels ministered to Him". Other Gospels leave that out.

He returned to the tree for a final prayer, insulated in the wisdom of angels, sent by the Father to His Son.

"Since there is no other way"...was now uttered in acknowledgement and change.
There was no resistance from that point on in the Gospels. The angels had done their ministry well.
The Father's will would be done.

OUR Father...Alice's, Manga's, Darren's, mine, the girls,...OUR Father who art in Heaven Hallowed (holy) be they NAME.
Thy kingdom come;THY WILL BE DONE.

There it is! THY WILL BE DONE.

Why? Because each of us will walk throuigh the valley of the shadow of death one day.....none alone.

"No evil will I fear, for thou art with me".

The prayer was said in Jerusalem.

He sent all disciples out two-by-two, out of the 72. No one alone, and told to shake the dust from their shoes in towns without ears to hear.

But Manga listened, she heard, she believed. There will be no dust shaken from her shoes.

And He will walk her, hand in hand, through the valley of the shadow one day.

Heaven is described as 4 walls with three gates each. I have invited hundreds over a lifetime to meet just inside the Middle Eastern Gate of Heaven....for all the fun people will meet there.

My friend Alice could not have been created without this Manga.

You shall know them by their fruit, we are told. Well, Alice is quite the fruit to me.

And so, I wish to meet the woman chosen by our Creator, in order to create my friend Alice.

I will meet her just inside....
the Middle Eastern Gate of Heaven.

Last year, we dared utter "Next Year, the New Jerusalem".
This year, the phrase was uttered aloud and placed in print, where Christ stood and changed history for we who know Him.

You are deeply loved, deeply cherished, prayed for often, and in my Spirit, in great hope.

"Next Year in the New Jerusalem!"

Danny Lucas

Laura Brown said...

I'm so sorry, Alice. Your stomach-flu metaphor was very wise. I wouldn't have thought of that. I'm praying for you and your mom.

Melanie said...

Can't stop the tears here either. I'm sending you the biggest hug and praying for you and your mom. I'm here for you - anything you need at all.

Kacie said...

My dear friend from Papua, Linda, is with her family right now as her grandfather passed away yesterday and her mother arrived last night from Papua. She's also talking about times like this.

The mind is a strange thing - it's like talking to a child about heaven all over again. *shakes head*.

I pray for peace and comfort during this time.

Shannon said...

Oh, Alice... I was crying at "He has such pity on us", then laughing at "Oliver Twist", then crying again at "Don't feel bad, baby.."

Thanks so much for your honesty. He does have such pity, doesn't he? And his perspective of this shrouded moment is all that matters. Any day now, the clouds will roll back for your sweet Mom, and her faith will become sight. And she will be given such a strong, sharp mind, that she'll never need be confused again.

Jill said...

Prayers and hugs to you Alice....I will keep you and your mom in my prayers....

Katie said...

Alice, friend, I'm just now reading this. You are fighting the fight of faith with such beauty. I am really in awe of what you are gleaning through this pain. It has become so precious to me over the past few years to learn that there is not point in my walk with the Lord when he is asking me to be independent of him - never. It didn't start that way, it will not end that way and all the days in between will be full of dependence. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing from your heart. I hope to get to see her on Thurs. Much love, K