Out-of-season blooming of flowers and people.
Bringing my out-of-season blooming columbine into the house in October blessed me. I love this columbine’s pluckiness, determination, and ability to continue to bring joy when its time should be long past. It also reminds me of my parents. In their times of increasingly difficult dementia, they somehow managed to bless those who cared for them. They loved the Lord deeply, and it showed in their love for each other and in their love of those around them. Even in the nursing home they had fought going into.
Giving patience a chance to bloom.
In most of his life my dad was not a very patient person. He wanted broken systems to be fixed and to be fixed now–so not a process person. He was very goal-oriented and expected those around him to be goal-oriented as well. Like me, he needed to learn patience through difficult things. Amazingly, however, we saw his patience continue to grow in the final years of his life.
He needed daily care and grieved the fact that he couldn’t go out and minister to people as he had done most of his life. Yet his prayer each time I prayed with him included, “Lord, we wait on you. We wait on you to show us what work you have for us today.” He did not understand that his work at the time was simply showing God’s love to those around him and expressing gratitude. But he did it through God’s spirit in him, and people noticed.
Giving trust and peace a chance to bloom.
My mother’s most evident spiritual struggle was with anxiety and worry. The family joke was that no road trip was truly underway until Mom had figured out what she had forgotten. Seriously. She had some sort of almost superstitious sense that once she figured out something minor she had forgotten, it would mean she hadn’t forgotten anything important. We all needed to be quiet till she figured it out.
Her worry found almost endless topics. What a joy to see that as her mind deteriorated, her spirit found more and more peace in her Savior. In her final years she was able to relax and laugh more. She even accepted my husband’s joke about all the “servants” she had helping her with her daily tasks. My daughters saw in her a peaceful, joyful Nana they had never been able to fully see before.
Out-of-season blooming of my parents where they were planted
Sanctification continuing even in dementia.
As I shared with my students the prayers my parents were praying for them at the time, they expressed amazement. We rejoiced together in seeing that God’s work in us does not stop when our minds stop functioning well. I used to tell my parents that they sweetened with age like fine wine. (I know that true wine connoisseurs would disagree with me about sweet wine.) But I felt joy and encouragement as I saw my parents’ relationship with the Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives grow stronger–even during their final downward spirals. I pray that someday God will also allow me times of out-of-season blooming.
Meanest Mom Ever
That night my mom was the meanest, most unreasonable mom a girl ever had to put up with. She had usually been fun to talk to about boys I had crushes on or who had crushes on me. But that night she morphed into an ice monster. A generation gap threatened us.
A very cool and very cute guy had just asked me to our high-school winter dance. Not quite fourteen, I knew my parents had said I wasn’t allowed to date till sixteen. But this called for an exception. An all-school dance!
I begged and pleaded.
She only explained the rules again.
I cried. She shook her head and tried to hug me. The nerve!
I explained how special this guy was. She reminded me how young I was and said I would have more opportunities later.
I called her out as a hypocrite.
Reminding her that she herself had started dating at thirteen, I showed her how unfair she was being by denying me the fun she had experienced.
Her story was that she and her young boyfriends has been too young to even enjoy themselves properly and had even needed to be driven places by parents. Lame.
But my guy friend was 17 and had a car, so I knew we wouldn’t have those issues.
Besides, I knew I was very mature for my age and would be just fine.
After far too long, I finally admitted defeat.
Crying longer in my bedroom, I decided to write in my journal. Two long pages. How mean my mom was. That I was going to be much more understanding when I had a daughter someday. I just could not understand how a perfectly normal mom could become so unreasonable all of a sudden.
The generation gap threatened to win.
After hours of crying, I had a tough time sleeping. Waking up to hugely swollen red eyes did NOT improve my mood.
I wore my big, floppy, purple hat to school, so at least from a distance people would not be able to see what a wreck I was. But that didn’t help with talking to my guy friend. He could still see how ugly I looked.
I didn’t have to work to convince him how bad I felt at having to say no to him. He could see evidence of my tears.
What surprised me was that he told me he respected me for respecting my parents’ decision. He said he knew many girls would have just arranged a sleepover at a friend’s house.
He also told me he would come back when I was sixteen. I knew that was crazy, since he wouldn’t even be in high school then. But he did. We remained friends, and years later we went out a few times.
But the most amazing thing is how God worked through that event. Much later, when I was in college, he stopped at my parents’ house and told them how much he appreciated my leading him to Jesus. He wanted to thank them and me for what that meant to him.
My parents were surprised and called me to ask me why they had never heard. Because I had never known!
In church planting, my dad had always taught us not to share our faith across genders because of the danger of people experiencing the love of God as romantic love.
So I had certainly never set out to make a gospel presentation to him as such. But obviously God worked in that moment through my actively owning my faith and obeying my parents, even in my anger. My friend later attributed his new faith to me. Crazy.
The funny thing is that I had never even thought of trying to lie my way past my mom. Obviously, she and my dad had established a clear rationale for why we obey parents: as a means of reflecting the integrity of the God we serve.
My mom’s walking her faith with me crushed the generation gap.
And God used an event my young self temporarily thought of as one of the worst in my life to bring someone to faith in him. Amazing!
[Photo by romello-williams-385888-unsplash]
Weirdest engagement ever?
I know my parents did not have the weirdest engagement ever. But it seemed like that to me when I was growing up.
For one thing, my dad was exactly ten years older than my mom. We used to laugh at our parents that our dad could have babysat our mom.
But the weirdest part was how they met and decided to get married.
The story they told us is that one day my dad’s friend, the only other unmarried seminarian in his class, suggested my dad get a date for the upcoming wives and girlfriends tea at the seminary. My dad’s friend had a girlfriend he wanted to bring, and he wanted my dad to keep him company.
My dad gave the obvious objection: he wasn’t dating anyone at the moment.
His friend had an easy answer, “Ask Mary LaGrand. She’s great. She’ll be up for it.” My mom was a student in a college class he was teaching, and he thought she would be the perfect person for my dad to ask.
Dad was game. As it turned out, Mom was too.
She told us later, “They never let women inside the seminary. I had always wondered what it was like. So I jumped at the opportunity. It sounded fun. And I knew Frank and thought he was fun.”
For some reason we kids never found out, Frank and his girlfriend never showed up that afternoon.
And the event really wasn’t called “The Wives and Girlfriends Tea”–it was “The Seminary Wives Tea.”
As could have been predicted, the other seminarians and their wives saw my dad’s entrance with my mom as an announcement. They teased him about “holding out on us.” I met one retired pastor decades later who still refused to believe that was my parents’ first date.
That day as they were leaving the tea, my mom said to my dad, “You owe me. Big time.”
He laughingly agreed: “What do I owe you?”
That dinner with its four hours of conversation changed my parents’ lives.
My mom’s version of it: “He knew where he was going and what God was doing with his life. I wanted to go too.”
They evidently had quite a few more dates in the next two weeks before deciding to get married. But they chose to marry in six months, despite the fact that my mom had just finished her junior year of college and my dad was heading overseas to study at the Free University in Amsterdam.
Over the years I asked to hear that story many times, amazed that my rich-girl mom chose to marry my farmer-turned-student dad because of how impressed she was with the calling he was answering from God. She saw the reality of Jesus Christ in his life.
Her other suitors had sought to impress her with their own merits. My dad had pursued God. That had captivated Mom. This “weirdest engagement ever” led to a long-distance relationship and Mom’s following Dad across the ocean to marry him—far from friends and family.
Though they experienced some predictable difficulties of such a marriage choice, we children always saw our parents united in their desire to answer God’s call on their lives: during almost sixty years of marriage and ministry. Praise God!