Some Things We Never See

 

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Roy and Delight April 8, 1939

When Mother’s Day approaches, card stores, flower shops, and gift boutiques abound with ideas of how to celebrate our mothers. Each of us looks at how we celebrate our mother, but it is not always as simple as the ads make it sound.

 

Some of us have been blessed with incredible mothers that we easily revere, but some of us have had mothers whose lives were impacted by illness, poverty, divorce, and a host of things that did not equip her to be the ideal mother we would have hoped for or she may have hoped to be.

 

Some of us never knew the mother who gave birth to us. Some of our mothers have already passed away. Some of us have mothers who are alive, but distant.

 

Mother’s Day brings our mothers to remembrance no matter which of these might fit for us as well as other situations I have not mentioned here. The day often brings a blend of emotions.

 

If we become mothers ourselves, we begin to use a new lens when we look at our own mothers. Into our own mothering we carry things we want to emulate in our mothering as well as things we want to avoid. In either case, it doesn’t take us long to often find a bit more grace for our mother as we start to recognize our own weaknesses and flaws as a mother.

 

It can be easier to understand our mother many times as well as forgive her for some of the ways she disappointed or hurt us. It can also cause us to seek more grace and guidance from the Lord as we muddle along as mothers hoping our good days outnumber our not-so-good days and our strengths outnumber our weaknesses.

 

It doesn’t mean we start to idealize our mother, but it does mean we might start looking at her more realistically rather than through the eyes of our childhood.

 

You see, there is much none of us ever really know about our mother despite all we DO know or THINK we know. Yes, she has told us stories about her life and childhood, but sometimes we don’t listen as well as we could. Sometimes we miss the key thing her story should be telling us and we also don’t recognize that no matter how much she has told us, there is far more that we have not seen or known and never will.

 

We did not see what our mother was like as a child, all the things that shaped who she was or would become. We know only a small portion of what she hoped and dreamed her adult life would be. We have a hard time seeing her as a person apart from being “our mom”. We know she was a person before that, but that person is largely unknown to us or we see only a sketchy glimpse of her if we are honest.

 

When I began to recognize that with my own mother, I could acknowledge her weaknesses and yet be less critical of her. I was aware of so many gaps in what I knew about her and realized I was looking at her through a filter of my own relationship with her. That filter was not always accurate.

 

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Delight and her two older sisters

My mother was born in the midst of World War l, the youngest of three girls. Her parents gave her the name, Delight. She grew up on a farm during a time farmer dads needed sons to help with the farming. Absent any brothers, she and her sisters worked in the fields doing hard work with their dad.

 

Long before she became my mother she had experienced much I had no frame of reference for. Both of her parents had experienced some levels of depression. Her home and all their belongings were destroyed in a house fire when she was a freshman in high school and the family all lived separately with other people for a year after that until a new home could be built.

 

One of her sisters became pregnant out of wedlock in early adulthood and was rejected by my mother’s parents. Sometimes her parents gave her sister no food and my mother would hide and sneak food for her sister until her sister moved out of the house.

 

A year and a half after my mother wed my father near the end of the Great Depression, she became pregnant and delivered a son who died 24 hours later. Three years later I was born healthy, but she was ill. Four years passed and another son was born prematurely. He had cerebral palsy and was developmentally delayed. No one knew much about that back then so there wasn’t the education or help available to aid him or her.

 

My younger brother’s life began to shape the life of our family, but especially my mother’s. She struggled with his moods, finding a school to educate him, and a host of other things. She experienced much depression during those years. As a child, I understood little of that or the added pressure she knew when he developed other areas of mental problems as an adult.

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Delight with her alto sax and older sister

Those are the big things that I knew and saw. Few knew about her teenage dreams to become a nurse and to travel to far away places. Some knew her love of music since she played an alto sax in high school, sang in a ladies’ barbershop quartet, played piano, and directed the children’s choir at church, but they didn’t know she hoped for more.

 

Through all of this, she came to know the Lord and grew in her relationship with Him. She was known as a prayer warrior throughout her adult life until her death at the age of 79.

 

She would think she had accomplished little if she was asked, but through all of this  both of her children came to know and love the Lord. Her two grandchildren, her pride and joy, went on to become believers active in ministry. From them, she would have six great-grandchildren, a rich legacy of faith already growing in each even though in this life she only met one.

 

As I remember her this Mother’s Day weekend, I see her strength in the midst of weakness. I see her courage in the face of her uncertainty and fear. I see her more clearly than ever before, but some things I will never see or know because she was first of all a girl and then a woman named Delight.

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Delight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Avoid A Tricky Snare

 

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One of the admonitions I often heard as I was growing up was how important it was to learn from my mistakes. I am not sure that I initially recognized how valuable the advice was.

 

We can all learn a lot from our mistakes that hopefully inform our choices in ways that mean we do not keep making the same mistake over and over again. Despite our best efforts, small mistakes often do get repeated while those major ones seem to leave a lasting impression and prevent us from falling prey to them a second time.

 

Looking back is supposed to help us move forward in better ways, but looking back has the potential to not only be helpful but also create a possible snare.

 

When I look back, I may not remember things exactly as they occurred so the information I use to help me in the present may start from a faulty base. I may see the context differently and the role I played might be a bit distorted.

 

It is important to remember that when I look back I do not see the past in HD video with surround sound.

 

Often my recollection is colored by my emotional state when the memory was put in place. Our memories are not always put down in a timeframe or sequence when we have an emotional overload going on. As a result, that will influence the colors used to paint them.

 

It is also true that when I look back and see the colors, I may choose to add color to what I see to match what I prefer to see in the present.

 

Why look back at all?

 

Sometimes we look back because we are trying to make sense out of who we are now or how or why we respond as we do. Sometimes we look back because something back there haunts us in some way and we want to resolve the impact of what happened.

 

That process can often be very helpful and produce healing in the wounds in our lives that hinder our growth in the present. I have known that in my own life and also observed that in the lives of those I worked with as a clinical counselor.

 

Most of us need someone else to help us in that process because we need support and guidance to help us determine what is true and what is not accurate. We also need help because we can become ensnared in looking back to such a great degree that we cannot see where we are now or where we are going.

 

There are those little letters on the side mirrors of my car that remind me objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. Sometimes looking back can come crashing into the present on the way to healing, but if I keep looking back I will most certainly not reach my current destination and could easily end up in a heap along the side of the road.

 

When I am driving, I need to keep my eyes forward with only occasional glances in the side and rear view mirror. They help protect me by allowing me to see what is behind and beside me that my peripheral vision does not catch. They help me stay oriented and safer.

 

That is true in my life and spiritual growth as well.

 

What helps me in directing my life to stay oriented?

 

The greatest protections I have found for avoiding the snares of focusing too much on what is behind or beside me or never looking in those directions at all are: God’s Word and the companionship of another one or two believers.

 

God’s Word speaks truth into my life like nothing else. I also need companions to travel on the journey to hold me accountable and keep me more honest with the Lord and myself. I think both are necessary for positive growth and maturation.

 

We all deal with regrets. Paul provides a great example of one who could look back on his life before the road to Damascus and see much he would wish was different. He could not change his past and neither can we, but the Lord can bring grace and mercy into our lives and cover over those things in the past with His shed blood.

 

It is therefore of great comfort for me to adjust the direction of my gaze as he notes in Philippians 3:13-14:

 

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

 

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The Cost of Missed Moments

 

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I must confess that my husband and I are movie fans. Before my husband and I met, I had seen only a handful of movies in my life. He loved movies and began to introduce me to the media. What he loved about movies turned out to be what brought me pleasure as well.

 

Movies tell a story. Our life tells a story as well.

 

Some movies are rather poorly written and seem to have no story at all which actually tells me more about the writers, directors, and producers than it does about the content of the film.

 

Our favorite movies are those that tell a good story. We are far less interested in spectacular cinematic effects than whether there is a good story that captures our attention and gives us something to think about, remember, and reflect on later.

 

You see, we learn much from stories whether they are written in a book, told aloud, appear with or in music, or are produced on film. They transport us to places we have never been and many we have never visited and never will. They stir our imagination. They also show us something of ourselves in the process.

 

Recently, my husband and I were looking through our movie library and selected one we had not seen for some time. Neither of us could actually recall much about the movie. It was one we chose first as a result of the actors in it whom we respect. The movie? The title is one you may not have heard of, Remains of the Day.

 

We watched it 24 hours ago and the theme we identified has lingered in our minds and conversation.

 

In the movie, the two main characters, a butler and a housekeeper in the home of a lord set in the pre and post WW ll England, tell a story behind the dialogue. The real story is about what is never said between them more than any part of the script they act.

 

They leave unsaid their growing appreciation for each other despite the many differences between them. This appreciation slowly evolves into respect, affection, and love. There is no word spoken about this and the housekeeper ultimately leaves the household and marries another rather than to stay in the situation.

 

The cost to both the butler and the housekeeper is great. One more chance occurs near the end of the movie to express some regret or word when the butler travels to see the housekeeper some years later under the guise of perhaps regaining her employment.

 

As the final scenes unfold, what remains is the cost of words never spoken.

 

Yes, it was just a movie, but one which also mirrors far too many relationships in real life. Far too often “I love you” is never said. “I’m proud of you” stays silent on our lips. “Will you forgive me?” stays locked in our hearts.

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Some say words do not really matter, but the truth is that they do.

 

Words are a significant means of communication, the stuff of relationship. As such, they can wound or heal, can encourage or challenge, or they can give assurance or leave doubts.

 

So, what does that have to do with our spiritual lives?

 

The Gospel of John gives a glimpse:

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

                                                               John 1:1-2 ESV

 

 Jesus was and is the Word. He was with God when He spoke the world into existence, when He created the land and the sea, when He created every living creature. His words brought life, spoke life into existence. He woos us with His words. Our heart is stirred by them.

 

God has never been limited to words to communicate who He is, nor are we, but it seems evident that words are powerful. We are His sons and daughters and our words are powerful as well.

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Words have the capacity to speak life or death. They reflect something of our heart, our character.

 

Certainly not every word that comes into our heads needs to be spoken and many should not be, but if our primary command is to love (first God and then others) our words as well as actions should reflect that in both vertical and horizontal relationship.

 

Life is made up of moments that come and go at the seeming speed of light. It can be easy to miss opportunities in the busyness of our days to allow our hearts to be attuned to the Lord, to sense His leading to offer even a very few words that can buoy the heart or spirit of another person we intersect in those moments.

 

When Paul writes to the church at Philippi, he says something that impacts me,

 

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

                                                               Phil. 4:9 ESV

 

Paul was using himself as an example of a disciple following closely Jesus Christ, the ultimate model. He was reminding all who would read his letter to practice doing those things the Master did.

 

I believe that would include seeking to not miss moments and not to leave life-giving words unsaid.

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