Joy. An Act of Defiance…

“I love you, and I want you to know that I think about you and I am so happy that you are my daughter.”

Words that would have been welcomed, but heard casually, just a few years ago are now words that strike a deep chord and make me pause. In the midst of the diminishing of my mother into dementia there are moments of clarity when I know she truly does know who I am and her statement of love is with knowledge. And there is joy in the midst of struggle as I hear in a way I could not hear before.

When she was always able to tell me she loved me I took it for granted and heard it without much thought. Now, when it comes so infrequently I hear it and I grasp and I listen for her voice and for the change that tells me she knows.

There are, honestly, not many moments of joy in walking through this decaying. Simply watching the graphic diminishing of a strong woman who could challenge you intellectually or cook up a masterpiece, who could play the piano or catch you with her wit…there is no joy in seeing her walk aimlessly, clinging to us for security with frightened eyes.

Joy in the midst of sorrow, in the midst of struggle, like this can only happen when there is hope. Without hope we will simply gird ourselves up for the struggle and wait for it to conclude. We will not allow ourselves vulnerability. When we have hope, we have the freedom to be vulnerable and in that vulnerability to find glimpses of joy.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.” Phil 3:20,21

The hope and the waiting for that Savior, for that transformation is so deepened in watching someone diminish before our eyes. Dementia is such a specific eroding and it steals the thing that makes us so ourselves…our memories. Our history. Our identity. The hope that our God is able to subject all things to Himself…even this loss…is what gives the foundation for joy.

Honestly, without the knowledge that God will do something through this and will restore all this brokenness…there would be no joy. With the knowledge though, we find ourselves laughing in the midst of sorrow and the laughter is all the sweeter. I find myself in discussions with my family that never could have occurred if Mom had not become who she is now. The struggle makes the moments of clarity she has and the intimacy we have as a family all the stronger and all the sweeter.

The joy is an act of defiance in the midst of the struggle. It sneaks up on us and strengthens us when things are bleak…because the joy is the seeping of the truth that we are held by One who has the power to subject all things to Himself. He sees and He knows and He hears and He will make even this new. 

Whatever the struggle we face, we have to have the courage to face it well. Without hope we will just get through it, endure. With hope, we have the freedom to experience the struggle and we will find joy.

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But Hope could rise from ashes even now…

 

lent-begins

Ash Wednesday. I have to admit that I’m not ready yet…it doesn’t feel like Lent should be upon us yet. Christmas seems too close, and the grey of winter is very prominent out my window at the moment.

I’m not really focused yet, I haven’t prayed and prepared in anticipation. I have an idea of what to give up for Lent…I’m giving up my games on FaceBook. That sounds trivial, and in the face of what Lent is about it truly is a bit trivial. I wrote last year about giving up Facebook, and I know that giving up games is a token activity.  It is, however, an act done in the desire of discipline and in the desire to focus.

The grey outside the window is appropriate for the moment. Ash Wednesday. I do not attend a church where we meet today and have crosses in ash placed on our foreheads, but I wish I did.  There is something that resonates with me in that physical, symbolic act. I need the physical, the visual, reminders of the markers of my faith.

Today should stand out a bit, there should be a sobriety to this entrance to the season of Lent. A time to pay attention and turn our focus toward the Cross. I know, we should always be mindful of the Cross and of the foundation of our faith…but this season is different.

 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51

Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, to go to the Cross. He knew the cost that was coming. I know it as a gift, and yet this season is also a gift: a time to reflect and to focus and to recognize the reality of a Savior come to earth to redeem us.

So, giving up silly games…but more than that, turning toward Jerusalem and watching as Jesus makes his way there. I need help to focus. I need the ashen cross to be marked on me to remind me of the cost and of the significance of this season. Sometimes I need the help of other’s words, so I’m hoping to find poems for the days of Lent. Starting today with this from Malcolm Guite…a reminder that the deep call of Lent is of hope. Things are marred and broken, and sometimes we ignore that. Lent is the call to pay attention and to embrace the hope that God will redeem and bring beauty from the ashes (you can find Malcolm’s comments on the poem, along with audio, at his website):

Ash Wednesday

 

Receive this cross of ash upon your brow,
Brought from the burning of Palm Sunday’s cross.
The forests of the world are burning now
And you make late repentance for the loss.
But all the trees of God would clap their hands
The very stones themselves would shout and sing
If you could covenant to love these lands
And recognise in Christ their Lord and king.

He sees the slow destruction of those trees,
He weeps to see the ancient places burn,
And still you make what purchases you please,
And still to dust and ashes you return.
But Hope could rise from ashes even now
Beginning with this sign upon your brow.

 

Happy Birthday, Dad

Every week I look and see what words people have used in searches that landed them on this little blog. I am always amazed by one search that comes up, every week and almost daily. Without fail.

 Birthday Tribute for A Dad

Those who typed in that search and landed on my blog found the article celebrating my Dad’s birthday last year. I am impressed by how many are searching for words or ideas to celebrate their fathers.  Fathers make a tremendous impact on who we are and on what our childhood looks like. It seems wee either find heroes in our fathers or monsters.

Mine falls firmly into the hero category, and today marks another year to celebrate him.

Men like my dad deserve some celebrating.

It is not that he has been perfect or that he is in dire ned of attention. He would actually probably prefer if we played it down a little instead of making a big deal of him. I have to warn him that next year we may have to ignore protests and make a big deal…he’ll be 80 next year.

momdad

That was Mom and Dad on their wedding day. That was the beginning.

Now…


grandkids

There is a legacy. Those are all the grandkids, together in Colorado last July 4th.

Familytable

Meals were shared and stories told and guns shot. There was lots of laughter and horsing around, but  in the midst of all  is this constant of Dad.

My family is for the most part pretty loud. We get wound up and talk over each other and tell stories. We sit around the table and talk for longer than most families I know. We tease each other and we encourage each other.  And yet…Dad is pretty quiet. He is there and he is very present, and often has a bit of a smirk as he hears the tales of the ‘accomplishments’ of the kids, but he mostly listens.

That is, until he starts to tell stories or to talk about life. Then things get quiet. Because we listen.  We’ve learned he has a lot of wisdom, and we’ve learned that he has experienced things we probably never will. He’s learned lessons and we would be wise to pay attention.

Grandpa Zach

I wish I lived closer so my kids could spend more time around my Dad, but I am thankful that they know him and that memories are being formed every time we head back west. I’m thankful for a Dad who warrants a celebration each year; a Dad who has listened to me over the years and has pushed me when I needed pushing and always encouraged me to be my best and to try for things I might think were beyond me. I’ve often been surprised I was able to do more than I thought.

I’m thankful for a Dad who continues to be a husband even when his wife isn’t sure who he is or where they are or what is happening. He continues to model for us faithfulness and patience and grace…and the occasional snarky comment or sarcasm on the days when things are just a little more than his patience can handle.

I’m thankful for February 4th each year because the date makes me pause and remember all the things that I have gained being Fred Mossman’s daughter. Love of animals and a way with dogs that I know I gained from him. Love of photography and a desire to learn more in that area. Love of history and understanding our past. An ability to shoot better than the boys who took me to the shooting range on dates to try to impress me. Love of the outdoors.

Love of and thankfulness for family, in all its flaws and characteristics and quirks and glories and joys.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.