Glad You’re Here (I Guess)
[Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by Heather Ream. I really resonated with this devotional because my mother also had to care for my grandmother before she was put in a nursing home. It is hard work. Thanks for sharing your story, Heather!]
I’m big on boundaries. Growing up in poverty with a single parent in a dysfunctional household demanded it. My home is neat to the point of severity. I have a highly edited contacts list – few people reside there. I follow a strict diet to maintain my weight and health. My social calendar is sparsely populated so that I may rest after work, and it is scheduled months in advance. And nothing – nothing – makes me stamp my (somewhat) dainty Southern foot harder than an uninvited guest. Unless, of course, it’s an uninvited guest I fear will never leave.
Sweet sisters, I’m sure it’s obvious that my routine rigidity is borne from the lack of control I felt as a child. It haunts me to this day, and I continually struggle with trying to out-equip the Lord. It’s not that I don’t trust the Lord – I do! (Well, some of the time. I just want to make sure that in case He forgets about me, I’m prepared.)
I am painfully aware that one of our most cherished duties as Christians is to show love, patience, and largesse in our homes, even when it’s inconvenient or comes at a difficult time. After all, Peter exhorts us to
“offer hospitality without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9, NIV).”
Without. Grumbling. Impossible for me!
However, all things are possible with God, even the things we wish weren’t possible.
Recently, my mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia following a series of mini-strokes. We knew something was wrong, yet it was still a shock to hear this from her doctors. She has rapidly declined, and my husband and I began the long process of enrolling her in a program that would help pay for a nursing home.
She was unable to continue living independently, and we could not afford 24-hour home care for her, so that left only one choice – she had to move in with us while we awaited approval, a process that could take months.
She had to move into our small house filled with delicate figurines and hospital corners, every item carefully chosen and crafted to be efficient and lovely. Mom has never been one who radiates the delicate side of femininity, so I dreaded the inevitable destruction of my home and the complete upheaval of my household, further compounded by her illness.
I am not a gardener. I find no pleasure in it. The family who lived in our home previously must have been master horticulturists, however. Despite my deliberate attempts to remove the bounty they planted, once the warm Tennessee spring begins, a bumper crop of sunny daffodils and vibrant gladioli appear. A stubborn magenta rose vine grows up the latticework no matter how many times I lop off the plant. Each time I do, I’m fascinated (and irritated) by the healthy green stalk that re-appears.
I am reminded that I have been treating my spiritual life the same way – ignoring the beauty and growth that exists in a situation that our Lord gives to me, and instead choosing to recklessly shear in a manner that I think is best for me. It would be so much easier (and much more obedient!) to learn to co-exist in a new way. Isn’t that the heart of hospitality?
Becoming Mom’s caretaker has indeed cut me to my proverbial quick, and my house now stays messy and cluttered. The paperwork, doctors’ appointments, bathroom emergencies, constant reassurances, and food management seem never-ending. However, I am still standing – both physically on my feet and spiritually on His Word. I pray our Lord will use this time with my mom to prune my impatience and self-isolation, so that I can focus on the joy of serving Him through serving others in my home. I must remember that the process of sanctification is not easy, but He is the cultivator, and I am the seedling. It’s true that I will never be a prize-winning specimen, but perhaps I will not become choked with weeds.
Precious Lord, may I snip my brightest buds to send away with others, as a parting gift.