Practicing Patience

 

Spring is so near that I can feel it beneath my feet. The recent rains have softened the earth, and the mild temperatures are thawing the ground. Bulbs that my daughter planted in the fall are already beginning to emerge. A sudden freeze would damage these tender little plants, so I’m hoping the snowless winter continues. Yet I need to remind myself that it is only February.

So much of our lives are spent waiting, and learning to be patient in the interim. Sometimes we jot a date on the calendar that we can anticipate. Then we count the days, crossing each one off as it passes. But other times the date is unknown and every day drags by without an end in sight. Those are the most difficult days.

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Lessons from Lent

As we approach the season of Lent, I was thinking today about the 40 days ahead. During this time each year, we remember Jesus’ ministry on earth — his teaching, his healing, his selfless sacrifice, and ultimately his death on the cross.

Just imagine knowing that you would one day die for the sins of others. In your heart, you’ve known your purpose and mission since you were a child. Your life — and death — would be the fulfillment of prophecy, a promise you were sent to keep. You have no idea yet what day your death will occur, but assuredly it will. But in the meantime, you patiently live your life, fully embracing each new day and deeply loving mankind, while knowing the end is approaching.

I don’t know how Jesus had the patience to endure such a life and painful death, but I’m sure glad he did! Where would we be today without his steadfast love and guidance to teach us patience and perseverance?

What a joy it is, knowing that at the end of those 40 days of anticipation, Jesus defeats death, and walks out of the tomb!

“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”‭‭ – Romans‬ ‭15:4-6‬

Inevitable

When you watch a loved one suffer through a terminal illness, “inevitable” is a word you know too well.

But inevitable becomes eventual. And eventual becomes soon.

Yesterday my brother and I made plans to meet at Mom’s nursing home. Neither of us had seen her since Christmas Eve. He caught a bad cold shortly after Christmas that lingered for a while. It wasn’t something he wanted to carry into the nursing home. And I haven’t been able to get away from work or weekend errands to make the 45 minute drive for over two weeks. A visit was long overdue.

Also, we learned on Friday that Mom is having difficulty eating. She becomes distracted and doesn’t seem to know what to do with the food once it’s in her mouth. Mealtime is now a daily struggle. For someone with dementia, that can be a game-changer.

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When the Clouds Lift

Normally I enjoy the drive which takes me through the beautiful countryside of northern Virginia. But yesterday was different.

Although it was unseasonably warm for January, it was a dreary day. The mountains were shrouded in clouds and a heavy mist was falling as I crossed the Shenandoah River.  My mood was similar, and I was dreading the visit. As I came over the final hill though, the valley ahead was clear and the sun was breaking through the clouds. I took this as a hopeful sign.

When we arrived at the nursing home, my first plan was to get Mom out of the “day room”. This is where she, and the residents with dementia spend their days. It is a depressing room with worn furniture and two tables. The Hallmark Channel is on 24/7, but the patients are usually asleep in their wheelchairs or staring blankly into space. I always want to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Yesterday I learned a very important lesson.

It’s not about me.

Searching for Home

From the moment we took Mom out of the Day Room, until we wheeled her back, she was agitated. First we took her to the lobby where the windows provide more than a glimpse of daylight. But she was clearly frightened there, as the doors kept opening with people coming and going. So we wheeled her to the sofa in the hallway beside the fish tank. It is full of colorful tropical fish, and has always been an enjoyable place for her. But today, with her limited vocabulary, Mom said she just wanted to “go home”.

She knew she didn’t belong where I wanted her to be.

That’s when it hit me. Home, for Mom, is the Day Room. The dreary place that I dread is where she is most comfortable. As soon as we pushed her back through the doorway to one of the empty tables near the TV, she calmed down and began smiling again.

These are her people, I thought looking around the room. They are familiar to her world and they comfort her. This is where she belongs. This is where she needs to be, despite my personal comfort zone.

Still Learning

Our visit only lasted about 30 minutes, but in that short time, I learned that Mom is still teaching me about life, about myself, and about why the inevitable doesn’t really matter today.

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In the new year, I chose three different devotionals to read each morning. These were my Saturday readings, in no particular order:

“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” — 2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬a

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” — Psalms‬ ‭16:11‬

“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven . . .”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1‬

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” — 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬

“My times are in Your hand . . .” — Psalms‬ ‭31:15‬a

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I am always amazed at how God provides just the right words when we need them. I’ve read all of these scripture verses many times, yet when I looked back at yesterday’s readings, they were hand-selected for my day.

God meets us where we are every day.

His love, and my Mom’s future with Him, is inevitable.