Today I Saw God

The Nesting Tree

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You would have loved my mom.She was diligent and dutiful, industrious and ingenious,fashionable and fastidious,a loyal friend and devoted spouse.WendyMom_Blog

If there were room moms back then, she would've been a great one.If there were sports Mom awards given, she would have been well decorated.She cooked a mean pot roast, prepared an awesome peach pie and baked chocolate chip cookies like nobody's business.

Nowadays, there are only a few folks who remember Mom because she left us in 1982. That was eight years before I became a mom, which may help explain how completely delighted buttotally unprepared I was to be a mom. Diapers? Never done 'em.Naptime? Oh, they take 'em? Cribs? Bibs? Baths? High chairs? Pacifiers or thumbs? Nursing or bottles? Baby talk or big kid words? So many questions! It was a brave new world out there for me.

Books, of courseI read them, but Dr. Spock along with"What to Expect When You're Expecting"can only do so much. Nothing really prepares you for the unexpected, and those bundles of joy are the complete un-package.They foil you at every turn, then delight you at every opportunity. They have you totally wracking your brain (after you realize something is nowhere in any of the books) and completely surprise you when they solve it their own way. Somehow, they survive babyhood and so do you. This is nothing short of miraculous, really, given a mom's resources and the magnitude of the task.

So, as we come upon Mother's Day and I give thanks for my mom, I am particularly aware of so manyother "moms" in my life who have lent their wisdom and kindness and a heaping dose of patience. I am thankful

  • For a stepmom, ever at the ready, who was devoted to my dad and my kids
  • For an aunt who called, cared, listened and even read chapters of my novel
  • For a neighboring mom who invited me to the first church that got under my skin
  • For my mom's dearest friend, to whom my mom is still an ever-present companion
  • For my friends who beautifully model what motherhood looks like and should be

In this last category falls Mary Anne, a special friend, the wife of a pastor and mother to three boys, who now has a gaggle of grandchildren. Recently she was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. When she messaged me the news I was struck with complete disbelief. This vital woman, so engaged with her family, so alive in the church and so full of lifehow could she havereceivedthis devastating news?

From a thousand miles away, there was nothing I could do or say, so I did what I do: I rode my bike as fast and as far as I could. All along the way I asked,"Why, God? Why this woman? Why now? When she has given her whole life to her family, her friends, her husband, her church? Why this mom?"

That's whenGod drew my attention to the tree in the distance. It stood all alone, branches bare of leaves, with limbs reaching proudly upward and outward. Without foliage, it reminded me of the future I saw for my friend, when she would lose her hair thanks to chemotherapy and much of her body weight under the stress of illness.

Iclimbed off my bike, stood and stared. Looking at this tree, I God-imagined a nest in every branch. Each one securingits babies, some peeking out and cheeping to be fed, others wobbling to the edge to risk taking flight.How many young had this woman fledged? Not only her sons with their wives and young children but also dear friends she had walked beside: Bible study companions, congregation members, nearby neighbors and all of their children. I was certain that this woman had been mom to a vast arrayof children, including me and including my children.She was the nesting tree. No illness would ever take that away.

This Mother's Day, while I give thanks to God for my mom, I am especially grateful for the moms I know who labor in the nests of their lives with vigor, fortitude and creative aplomb. I smile to think of the moms my girls may someday be, praising God for the gift of Mary Anne and the many others who have taken me under wing.

It's what a mother does. It's what we're meant to do.

This post originally appeared on "The Kinesthetic Christian."

The post The Nesting Tree appeared first on Today I Saw God.

Learning My Faith From My Mother

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A few days ago, I popped in an old familiar CD and out rang the words, "Blessed to be a blessing," and at once, I was taken back to my earliest childhood memories. A devotion at the kitchen table with our well-worn book, "Little Visits with God." The family marching up to bed singing, "Now the light has gone away, Father listen while I pray" And my parents waiting patiently as I knelt beside the bed and said my prayers. These moments will stay with me all my life.

At different points throughout my childhood, there were little things that would forever ground me to my faith and my belief that God is with me, wants me to interact with him and seems to be smiling most of the time. Some are obvious connections to faith and fun, and others are a real stretch unless you live in our family. With Mother's Day upon us, I realize that it was my Mother that made sure our most sacred religious holidays and practices were seeped in happy memories and fun traditions. One was being allowed to play with our single nativity set at Christmas versus just look at it from afar like so many of my friends. Another was letting us make little crosses at home like we did in Sunday School around Easter out of sugar cubes and Elmer's glue; two of a kid's favorite things used in a single craft! Or camping with my family during the summer at a Christian campground and going to worship in the woods while sitting on split logs on Sunday morning amongst the goats, sheep and chickens. Even Good Friday was an opportunity to bond me to my Savior, my family and my faith. We would have (and still do!) a once-a-year meal of egg noodles fried in butter with apricots and prunes, a salad and corn bread before heading off to the unusual dark and sad service; the one time when we didn't speak to anyone after church until we were off the church grounds.

While some of our traditions came from my Dad's side of the family, like saying a Christmas piece in front of the tree before the first gift could be opened, I know now that it was my mother that made sure every detail was followed in all of our traditions. For whatever reason, it seems that moms feel the greatest burden to keep old traditions alive and create new ones that match the spirit of your family. Most of the experiences and traditions I grew up with have continued in my own family, and while I no longer kneel at my kids' beds to pray each night, I still pray for them and know that they pray for each family member including, "Grandma and Grandpa Lenz, Grandma and Grandpa Morgan, all our aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, pastors, friends and relatives." Our family has a crazy tradition of making a unique gingerbread house just before Christmas, and waiting until Easter afternoon to shoot it to pieces with BB guns and bow and arrows. It may not make any sense to anyone else, but it ensures that the family will all be together at these two critical Christian holidays!

So when I meet people who tell me that they grew up Christian,but don't have a single experience of a nurtured faith, I am confused. I don't have a frame of reference for that, and I find myself feeling sad that they were not able to be blessed in this way. I've tried to carry on a blend of old and new traditions to nurture the relationship my kids have with God, and I know that they have established strong beliefs of their own. And for that, I am eternally grateful; grateful that I was blessed, so that I could be a blessing.

As my kids get older, I still look to my parents and in-laws as role models for how to continue to pass it on. Share ideas with young moms; encourage a new grandparent; tell a friend. Just be sure that if you are blessed, you make it a point to bless others. I believe that while we are all indeed born with original sin and fall short of the glory of God, we are also born with a moral compass that points northto our heavenly Father. It is our nature to be both sinful and in the image of God all at once. So take the hand of someone you care for, and nurture the Godly craving of their nature. Just like your mom would do for you.

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Thanks. For Everything. Love You Mom.

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Moms are such an incredible gift. I marvel at the amazing ways that my own mother has blessed my life. Sometimes it takes us until we are adults to understand what a great gift our own moms are. Whenever Mother's Day comes around, picking out a card is one of my favorite things to do. I'm always looking for just the right words, and I never find the perfect one. Simply put, I wish there was a card that said: "Thanks. For Everything. Love you, Mom." Mom has been one of the most supportive people in my life.

As I look back, I can think of multiple times where she sacrificed for us. She is a selfless servant. When we were really little, I remember a trip to Niagara Falls where my mom sat in the backseat because I got carsick and needed to sit in front of the air conditioner. I remember Mom working Christmas Eve morning so that she could help support our family when everyone else was off. I remember a summer when I wanted to go to Indonesia by myself. My mom was scared to let me go but knew that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I remember Mom working two jobs while I was in college so that I could graduate without any debt. I remember Mom taking weeks of vacation during both the birth of our son, Jackson, and the twins, Nathan and Sarah. Mom has lived a life of sacrifice for me.

My mom has shown me what it looks like to be Christ to others. She has shown me what a faith "lived out" looks like. Most of who I am is a result of the love of my parents. My mom has truly been a gift from God, and I cannot ever thank her enough.

I'm so grateful to my mom. If I could find a card that said all of that, I'd get it. Otherwise, I'll stick with, "Thanks. For Everything. Love you, Mom."

Happy Mother's Day.

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True Beauty

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I was recently asked who the most influential person in my life has been. I didn't even have to think about it; my mom has, hands down, been the most influential person in my life. All of my life, my mom has been the picture of grace under pressure and gentle strength.

At the age of four, I had an awareness of what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and that this relationship was something I desired. My mom set a lifelong example as she chose what was right over what was easy, as she chose what was good over what was popular and as she consistently sought opportunities to teach my brother and me what it meant to honor God with our lives. That of course doesn't mean that he and I always chose to live a God-honoring life, but we knew what one looked like.

Prayer was a major part of our household. My mom believed that you should pray in, through and for all things. That's just what we did. My mom taught us to have a morning prayer before we went to work or school each day, and we always shared in mealtime prayers every night. She taught us to pray about everythingto bring all needs, joys and concerns before God. During the times when her children chose their own way over God's way, she would pray for us without ceasing. But above all else, it was the bedtime prayers that were extra special. Not only did this practice teach me as I got older to end each day in communication with God, but it also showed me, through my mom's faithfulness and diligence, how much she loved me. No matter what had happened that day, regardless of how I had disobeyed, what stressors came at her or how tired she was, she would stop and pray over me each night.

Throughout her life my mom has faced adversity. She has experienced more loss than anyone I've ever known, and yet, her faith has never been shaken. On what I can imagine to have been her darkest days, she maintained strength and hope because of her rock-solid faith, because she believed that God was with her and would never leave her. She has shown me what scripture tells us in Romans 8:26: "The spirit helps us in our weakness." Similarly, she has lived 2 Corinthians 12:9 boldly:

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

I have learned the power of prayer and the strength available to us with Christ's help because of my mom's faithfulness. I have learned to strive for excellence, never doubting that I was capable of such, because of her example. Proverbs 31:30 tells us, "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." My mom, while outwardly beautiful, has shown me what true beauty looks like. For, "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1Samuel 16:7). I hope to become as beautiful as my mom someday.

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Remembering Mom

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Should I buy a card? Should I send flowers? I ask myself this each year. As my Mother's Alzheimer's has continued to take over the person I once knew as my Mom, do I keep the rituals alive? After all she won't know Sunday is any different than any other day. She will be 92 at the end of this month. Frail, thin, teeth pretty much gone, she still has beautiful blue eyes and isn't all gray.

Growing up I remember many stories from my Dad regarding miracles and the existence of God. He was a neurosurgeon and told me more than once of his proof of God's work through him and around him. It was powerful to hear such things. He always said grace at the Sunday table, funny we still use his closing "Bless this food to our use and us to thy service Dig in". But the spiritual heart of our home was my Mom.

We were a church going family. My Mom was the head of every committee you could think of in our church. Chairing everything from decorating to fundraising, she had it going on. Despite the fact we all would start the "I'm sick" routine 2 hours before the 11 service, we went. We were the family that arrived 10 minutes late, a gang of disgruntled children following her like ducklings as we went to the balcony. Oh she was proud that her will prevailed despite our attempts of disruption from discreet spit wads flying into the congregation, to my brothers' pressing the bass pedal of the spare organ in the balcony, adding a nice underlying hum intermittently throughout the service. Somehow through all that she instilled a love of God and Christ in us.

She really lived what she said. My Mom was not a hypocrite. She loved and revered God as the driving force in her life. Once early in her disease when she would lapse into a world we don't understand, she looked at me and said "the only thing that matters in this world is God. He's beautiful." When I reflect on that I think, that is what is at her core. That is the message that comes out when her mind is going? Are you kidding me? That woman had a real relationship with the living God like I've not seen so intimately in any other. Never complaining she set the example of a faithful servant who does for those who cannot. She is absolutely the reason I have the relationship I do today.

Sunday is the day that we remember our Moms. I have been remembering her for quite some time now. The form I see is just a shell of what was. Ativan makes her comfortable and smiling but the essence of my Mother's spirit isn't easily detectable, if at all anymore. I'm heavy hearted about her condition and this undignified way of life at the end. Then I remind myself that "He is beautiful" and I know she's experiencing love and grace somewhere in God's Kingdom. So, this year I'll send a card and I'll sign it as I always do Happy Mother's Day! I really miss you Mom, Love Always.

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