Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Four little "mercy-drops" right here: my grandchildren. They are such a joy!  
When I visit my mother at the nursing home, I spend most of my time singing familiar hymns to her. To her credit, she has never once winced or held her ears.  I always think the Lord must filter my not-so-great singing voice for her, because she often exclaims, "Beautiful!"

One of my most vivid memories of childhood is hurrying home to sing a new song that I'd learned at school for my mother.  I don't believe her exclamations of praise were artifice; she was genuinely delighted by her little girl's a cappella performance of I'm a Little Teapot and other childhood classics. The thread of continuity between her approval of my attempts to entertain her back then to similar attempts so many years later affirms that Alzheimer's has not stolen the lifelong, love-based and sustained-by-grace relationship my mother and I share.

One of our favorite hymns is Showers of Blessing (lyrics by Daniel W. Whittle, 1883). I always feel the warmth-stirring nudge of the Holy Spirit's promise as we sing this hymn together:

There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.
  • Refrain:
    Showers of blessing,
    Showers of blessing we need:
    Mercy-drops round us are falling,
    But for the showers we plead.

As Christians we have so many wonderful promises from the Lord. We search His word and believe by faith that He will come back for us and that we will share eternity with Him, enjoying a caliber of joy and fulfillment that our minds and hearts can't yet comprehend. Meantime we have those mercy-drops falling around us: pleasures and joys that we sometimes take for granted. Singing with Mama is one of those mercy-given blessings for me.

The constant sorrow of my mother's Alzheimer's has been a weight on my heart for 14 years now.  The Lord has sustained me in my grief and has even blessed me through it, and I am grateful. I've received many personal promises from the Lord during this time: I believe a more settled time of peace and joy lies ahead; I do believe that I will yet see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.* Meantime there are present signs of future fulfillment all around us, even as He sustains and blesses us along the sometimes rocky paths that bring us home.

*Psalm 27:13

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Memories of Grandma

Grandma and me, picking wildflowers in the road ditch outside our house.  I was 3 going on 4-years-old, and the curly hair I inherited from Grandma had escaped my bandanna in front.  
I'm feeling grateful today for my mother's mom, my Grandma Opal, who always welcomed us to her home whenever we wanted to come. She cooked and cleaned without complaint when all of her produce had to be picked and canned from the garden, and laundry was done outdoors in a hand-cranked wringer washer.  She offered us feather beds with line-dried, starched and ironed sheets topped with colorful quilts she had made herself. I don’t know how she did it all and still had energy to hurry to greet us on the sidewalk outside her house with arms spread wide for a hug.  And when we left she always cried, and stood waving a dishtowel from her open kitchen door so that when we turned onto the road that ran adjacent to her house, from a half mile away we could still see that towel waving furiously.  Going to Grandma’s house was the greatest joy of my childhood, and I understand now what I did not know then, that her sacrifice of love was sheer, hard labor that kept us fed and comfortable when my cousins, aunts, uncles, parents and I crowded her little house with our noisy and messy presence.  She made it obvious to us by her smiles, hugs, and attentiveness that we made her very happy. 

Late in her life, Grandma succumbed to dementia. She became demanding, and ended her life on a tumultuous note as her suffering caused her to cry out in anger and pain.  In those days before drugs that would have helped rather than sedated, she was not an easy patient. But that final season of her life was relatively brief, and it does not taint my memories of her as a woman who gave selflessly and joyfully to her family despite the hardships she faced.  I remember her with love and gratitude today, on the 114th anniversary of her birth.