What manner of child shall this be?!

What is a mother to do? How is it that our gene pool can extend so far as to produce progeny so unlike us, so extraordinarily different, so wired as to cause us to shake our heads in wonder (and bewilderment)…

Not just once this has happened, but by the fifth time a mother should have her response figured out! Nevertheless, here is #5—defying my innate tendencies, pushing the edges of my cautious hesitance, chomping at the bit to do things that haven’t been done, to try things for which I haven’t paved the way, to go where no Skelton (or Weaver) has gone before…

What is a mother to do?

Some mothers are gifted with vision and drive and are go-getters themselves. They’re ready to champion any cause their child shows interest in, to knock on doors, to lead the way, or at least be outstanding cheerleaders! Others of us can relate more to the wallflower motif…the church mouse…the sheepish schoolgirl. My husband used to tease me about having grown up in a ‘sheltered environment’. I always protested. Now I live happily in his pumpkin; he was right. Fear and self-interest live here too, uninvited but quite at home. But then came Rachel.

She’s a dreamer of many dreams, of places she’ll live, occupations she’ll hold, ministries she’ll start, impacts she’ll make on her world. She is not the wallflower sort. Her motto is: “Stand out; don’t fit in!”. All she needs is a foothold up, an assist with the nitty gritty details, a place to start. “Mom, how do I…”   “Mom, what do you think…”  “Mom, aren’t you so excited!”… “Mom, when can we…”

For a mother whose favorite pastime is being at home in the predictability of her own routine these questions are all a stretch. Anticipation, excitement and pretty much all things untried and unknown (except maybe trails and ice cream flavors!) are routine killers. They put my mind in overload mode, useless for anything but worry and anxiety.

What happens as I field these questions is that I put myself in her shoes and imagine ME having to do what SHE is cut out for. Once upon a time I held a Candy-striper job at a big General Hospital in my county. I was young and inexperienced then. And yes, sheltered. People smoking was beyond my comfort zone even (which is what coworkers did on breaks in those days). I liked the idea of sorting the internal mail (mundane, orderly, methodical) but doing drop-offs and pick-ups throughout the hospital… using elevators with silent strangers… going up and down and who-knows-where?…I did not like. To this day I have scary dreams of elevators going not only up and down but side-ways in a disturbing random way, where one never really knows where they are going!

Volunteering and being useful was a nice idea, but finding my way alone to the sundry collection points all throughout the hospital in quest of urine and blood samples for the lab, I did not like… I was too inexperienced and too myself I guess, to recognize what I needed or to communicate it…I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t express my troubles. But one day I mustered enough courage to escape! I walked into the volunteer office and QUIT that bad experience and when my mom picked me up that day, I told her what I’d done and burst out crying, to her (and my) complete surprise. It was left in my mind an unresolved trauma. I still don’t fancy hospitals. And to this day, I don’t think my poor mom has any idea why I quit. For she herself is a go-getter.

And now our roles are reversed and I am the mother with the daughter beyond comprehension. But as I agonized this morning over my unfitness for this job it struck me that without her I would not have to face my fears or shun my self-centeredness. I would be left with myself in my pumpkin–unchallenged, undeveloped, and unchanged. Perhaps this is why God gives us children. Some show us who we are.  Others, who we are not.  But each one is God’s instrument to shape us into all He wants us to become.

I have a fresh appreciation for Mary and Elizabeth today…each given a child like no other, a child who would so outstrip her achievements as to be incomparable. A child for whom she could not pave the way, only watch and marvel and treasure all the wonder in her heart…Even the neighbors wondered what little John would become. Not only did he not take his father’s name, but he lived an eccentric life besides. It is recorded that people took notice of his birth saying: “What manner of child shall this be!” And the hand of the Lord was with him. (Lk.1:66)

That’s the key isn’t it… the Lord’s hand is at work in these unpredictable wonders that we call our children. He’s with them and for them and using them as His instruments of righteousness for His glory and our wonder!

And tucked in with the gift of each child comes the assurance: “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Lk.1:37) He’s in the details I can’t fathom, and I can rightfully follow Mary’s fearless example: “and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Lk.1:47)  So for today I will rejoice…and get on with that job resume Rachel’s needing help with! God’s mercies are new every morning, his grace enough to enable us to do the ‘impossible’!


“His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation…” Lk.1:50

He Restores my Soul…

I guess I did not anticipate the upheaval this trip would bring to my soul—There was grace for the going, grace for the doing and the being there (though not without some fear and trembling).  There were ‘travelling mercies’–companions along the way to shorten the journey with conversation,  and empty seats when silence was preferable, smooth and timely flights (well, we won’t count the first turbulent leg, a lesson in NOT starting the day with a hearty breakfast before a flight!) But anyway, the trip was all it needed to be.  The many prayers offered upheld my comings and goings.  It was the return to ‘normal’ that caught me off guard.

I arrived home on the verge of Thanksgiving weekend (celebrated early here) feeling flat, fatigued and disjointed in spirit. I was eager to be home,  why then this discontent with everything?!  Why did the house not feel like home? Why did the weather have to be so wet?  Why is it getting dark so early—where did summer go?  And how on earth am I to parent these kids into adulthood?  And who’s this man I married anyway?!  I was home but not at home. Since when am I so sensitive to change? How did I morph into this monster under such a little bit of pressure and transition. Yikes!

Suddenly I was faced with exchanging ‘worlds’ again–my mind caught up in the one, but needing to be present in the other.  I did not anticipate the pre-occupation with Alzheimer’s and wondering if and when I’ll be next, the flashbacks to moments that still trigger an anxious unsettledness to rise, the continual nagging of unresolved situations that beg answers but defy solutions…the wondering how to be involved with this ongoing need, and still focus on my present world.

Snippets of journal reflect my waffling responses to this week of transition…”God of my Father, care for him today.  Give courage and faith to Mom to see beyond the present with hope, and to make critical decisions before there is a crisis—work in each of them what is pleasing in Your eyes—preparing them for glory—preparing us the same.”

’Be anxious for nothing’…could likely be I’m throwing my own strength (my area of weakness) at this situation rather than trusting that God will direct my thoughts and steps in His time…”

I looked again at Solomon’s request and God’s gift of a wise and discerning mind… heard again His promise to all who lack wisdom…

And I noted the “virtuous woman’s” response to winter’s coming: “She is not afraid of snow for her household—strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” (Prov.31:25) Ah, sweet confidence, the quiet confidence of wisdom.  Willing to rest in God’s provision even when the winter storms have not yet revealed their full fury, trusting there will be sufficient clothing…

I read David’s testimony: “In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain’!…The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see…” (Ps.11:1,4)

And as I appeal to my Ageless Father, reminding myself He is a ROCK– always strong, never changing, never moving away, leaving, or fading in vigor…I find my soul being restored day by day.  The process was begun in response to a poignant movie about aging love and loss (“Lovely,still”).  It was just what I needed to pry open the floodgates held so bravely closed these past couple weeks and let out the grief to a listening ear.  And day by day the restoration has come by returning to the unhurried rhythm of home-made days, by not retreating (as much as I’d like to!) from the regular round of fellowship—of prayer hike, of church, of Bible study.  By rest and by exercise too—deep corpse-like naps and vigorous pedaling in fall-fresh air and sunshine—my soul is being restored.

And the season of my soul brightens.  My house is home enough.  The weather fine enough.  Autumn has a bracing beauty of its own. And my family—they are mine and I am blessed in each of them.  There’s grace enough for everything when the Lord is my Shepherd…

He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me…

…you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Ps.23)


Thanks for your companionship on the journey—for His name’s sake.

Smiling in the Face of Fear

I’m enroute home in stages,  scheduled to fly out of Anchorage in a few hours, having spent the night here with kind friends.  My body made the mistake of waking up early and my mind of dashing into conjecture about unseen possibilities and missed planes…Bother!


Now in flight.  ( I didn’t miss it!)…

So began my day of travel home, distracting idle fears with composing a blog, banishing butterflies with busyness.  It’s been a stressful week and a half; I think I’ve collected a few more gray hairs and now I’m ready to unwind.  The surge of acceleration at take-off got me started with tears welling as I thought of what I’m leaving behind, not knowing when I’ll be back or what the situation will be…

I have faced fear this week and stumbled upon two simple strategies to disarm it.  (Thank you Lord!)  It has been disconcerting to me to find I can’t keep fear and anxiety from rising in my heart.  They happen. Especially in the face of the unknown, the unexpected, and the uncontrollable they rise to haunt me.  In a household shaped by Alzheimer’s disease this trio is inevitably present.  What will happen next?  What is he thinking as he walks toward me with that furrowed brow and unfriendly look?  When we’re out walking can I get him to turn around and head back home without calling for help or will he keep right on going into the bush unheedful of my warnings?  What does one do to manage such adult strength tied to a mind unable to reason and full of fears itself?  Every day is a potpourri of the unknown, the unexpected and the uncontrollable. 

But I found that though fear may rise in my heart I don’t have to give it a face or a voice.  I can still smile–a beaming broad smile with a friendly greeting attached.  And in this face that reads: “I like you”, his suspicions are felled and the fierce countenance softens…And I begin to think he likes me too ( :

I learned too the value of singing.  I may be quaking inside as I go about my business unsure of what’s going to happen next, but I can sing anyway—a hymn or chorus quietly…and in the process of voicing words of faith and confidence, my heart is ransomed from the grip of fear.

A smile and a song—simple but effective tools to banish butterflies. It is as though these tangible acts persuade my heart that it is safe and everything will be ok.  Not only my heart, but my dad’s is calmed and reassured.  Everything is going to be ok.  He may not understand the words, but a smile speaks and a song comforts.  This has been my experience.

Ha! I even tried smiling to myself in the night when I woke.  Have you ever tried smiling when worries are on your mind?  It’s counter-intuitive.  But it makes the  worries feel a little silly.  It seems to triggers happy thoughts, grateful reminders of good things… and where did those butterflies flit to anyway?!

So, though I haven’t attained to the fearless posture of the war horse—“he laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword”— (Job 39:22), I’m learning to take baby steps.  And when this toddler looks at her Shepherd and sees His smiling face, it’s not so hard to whistle in the dark and sing a happy song.

The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Num.6:25,26


Thanks to all who prayed for me on this journey.  I felt very much buoyed up and sustained, and I’m confident that God is making a way where we are still uncertain of the best path. My mom is a marvel, a testimony to God’s daily grace.  I could not walk in her shoes!  I tried only to smooth the path a little and walk a few steps with her.  There are good things to come; we see the glimmerings.  And His mercies very literally are new every morning!  For this I am grateful. 


The Worth of Words

I’m noticing in my reading this week the dramatic effect that words can have, depending on their source. The contrast is clear in two instances recorded in II Samuel 20.

First, “There happened to be there a worthless man… And he blew the trumpet and said…” People followed him, as people will, and soon a whole city was at risk of destruction for harboring him.

In contrast, was a wise woman who said: “Come here, that I may speak to you…Listen…” and by her wise advice destruction was averted; the whole city was saved. This woman impresses me. She saw what was coming and used words of wisdom directed to the right people to bring a halt to the impending plan of destruction. You can read the details of the account for yourself, but the principle catches my attention—the impact of words, wise or worthless.

Moses’ story continues to intrigue me. He was a model of meekness–at least once the Lord got through with him (Num.12:3). When he hesitated to say ‘yes’ to God’s assignment for him, God questioned him: Moses, who made your mouth? “Is it not I, the Lord?…now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak. And when Aaron had to be conscripted to help, God promised to be with both their mouths and teach them both what to do.

Moses’ words seemed to go unheeded and yet they were God’s assignment for him: “Let my people go” was his slogan, though ignored. God backed up his words with His own display of power and eventually broke through Pharaoh’s resistance and the deed was accomplished. The children of Israel were shooed on their way with plunder besides! But first there were the words, wise God-given words.

Those are the kind I need.

No use talking, arguing, trying to persuade or influence without my words being God-ordained. I like David’s last words; that ‘sweet psalmist of Israel’ , in II Sam.23, attributes to God his good words: “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue.” Isaiah did likewise: The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. (Is.50:4) This is what I want to be true of me!

I have no great testimonial to the effectiveness of my words this week. Mostly I’m at a loss to know what to say. What do you say to your mom when her best beloved of over 50 years is fast losing his mind and is unreceptive to her best efforts to take care of him?…when your efforts to take care of her are perceived as threats to the only way of life she can conceive of… what do you say? Is “I love you, I really do” enough?

Wise words don’t just materialize out of nowhere. James describes the kind of heart that births them—one that is meek and ‘easy to be entreated’, gentle and merciful…(3:17), one that asks with confidence for the wisdom needed and harbors no doubt or unbelief that God will give what’s needed (1:5-8). That’s the kind of heart I want. I don’t wish to come to the end of my days defensive and unreasonable, stubborn and unmanageable to my own detriment. Am I cultivating traits I want to have when my defenses are down and my mind a haze? What will bubble up then–the wise or the worthless?


Lord, teach me to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom. (Ps.90:12)

The God who is and was and is to come…

Sometimes you become the answer to your own prayers…It was this way for Moses I guess.  One fine afternoon on the backside of nowhere he gets a call, “Moses, Moses!”

“Here I am”, he says. And the next thing you know God is saying, actually what matters is that “I AM” here.
I’ve seen my people’s afflictions.
I’ve heard their cries.
I know how they’re suffering.
I’ve come down to deliver them…
Now you come, I’ll send you to do the job.


OK, so Moses has to get involved, tongue-tied and disabled though he perceive himself to be, HE’s the man for the job…

I’m feeling a little like that today.  The call came a couple days ago.  I’ve got the plane tickets.  The suitcases are standing at attention waiting for me to make up my mind about a multitude of details.  I woke up a little early this morning and my mind started whirring restlessly.  So I got up and sat here pouring over some names of God, looking for one to be just the one I need to hang onto for this journey.

My dad’s an increasingly unmanageable patient these days with a lone caregiver (my mom) who is increasingly frazzled and stretched beyond capacity…something has to be done.  The Lord has seen their affliction, heard their cries, and is well-acquainted with their suffering… I have prayed.  And now am being asked to step into the picture with my very own skin, to get involved in the answer to my prayers. Who am I for such a task?  How am I going to do any good?

To keep anxious thoughts and ad nauseum pending decisions at bay this morning, I filtered through the names of God looking for one that might grab me and hold me tight as I pack and as I go*…Which of God’s many names is custom-fitted for my situation?

What am I in need of?  El Shaddai (God Almighty) ought to cover it…or The Lord my Shepherd (Jehovah Ra-ah)…These are so familiar.  My heart felt kind of numbed with doubt though…so I kept on…  The Lord my Confidence (Yahweh Kesel) caught my eye. Yes! this confidence that gives strength to internal muscles, this confidence.  Yes, I need that: “for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” (Pr.3:26) That sounds good.

Jehovah Shalom (The Lord my peace).  Yes, I need that too.  “Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee”  would come to mind later in the day as I was out walking…
An unfamiliar name rang sweetly:  Jehovah Shamah.  This is the name given to the new Jerusalem as the book of Ezekiel closes out.  It means “The Lord is There”.  Yes, that’s all I really need, to know the Lord is there too, not only here with me on my cozy turf, but there also where I go, to face the unknown with confidence and grace.

But ya’ know, when God spoke through Moses to His people, the two names He chose were these: “I AM who I AM”,  and “Yahweh, the God of your fathers”.  This was His covenant name, the one He wanted them to remember ‘throughout all generations’ (Ex.3:15). He is my father’s God too, the one that has held his hand through all the years and the one that holds mine now, the great I AM.

Incidentally, I was looking yesterday at Jesus own I AM’s…the same words are translated “It is I”.  “It is I, be not afraid”– “I AM, be not afraid”(Mt.14:27).  Isn’t that it?  Because He is, I need not be afraid.  All that’s left is to believe on the One that God has sent, not merely to save me and take me to Heaven, but to be with me in the meantime.  This is the real work I’m called to, to believe, and keep believing in the God who is.  And I’m back at the burning bush hearing God’s response to Moses’ “Who am I that I should go…”.   and God saying, “but I will be with you…”


Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come… Rev.1:4


*I was gleaning some of these names from Knowing God by Name by Mary A. Kassian—a women’s Bible study book.