Today, I let my mother climb a ladder

15 March 2013

Today, I let my mother climb a ladder. It was one of the greatest achievements of my day.

She had asked me yesterday if, the next time I watered the plants, I would mind adjusting a loose strand of leaves from a pathos ivy nestled in the hollow area above the kitchen cabinets. It was a gentle request, but it was also a way of subtly reminding me to water the plants. I made a mental note but it was more like a note you scribble on a brightly colored sticky sheet and then lose in the next moment. I completely forgot about it in light of the work deadlines I was facing.

Until I saw her on the ladder.

I took over plant-watering duty just over two years ago when I moved in to help with my mom’s care. She had just suffered a second stroke and the doctors did not give her much chance to live. My mother has been a lifelong fan of plants — and, fortunately for her, has the requisite green thumb to go with that passion. Our house has never lacked in the area of pathos ivys, palms, philodendrons, bromeliads and various other combinations of healthy, growing plants.

My mother’s method of plant care is quite different from my own. My attention is usually attracted to the plants when I see something abnormal, like a yellowing or browning leaf. I’ll think, “Wow, how long has it been since I watered those plants? Two weeks? Three?” Then I reluctantly drag the step stool from the closet and grab the oversized plastic measuring cup and step up on the counters to reach the plants high above the kitchen cupboards and on top of bookshelves and china cabinets.

The smell of wet earth and plant mold fills my nostrils as I watch the water slowly infiltrate the earth and rise again, sometimes dangerously high, in the saucer beneath the pot. I pluck off decaying leaves and sometimes am a little too hasty in trimming (what I think are) dead strands. When I finish with them, the luscious locks of the pathos ivies look like they’ve been sheered by a very bad hairdresser — a little like the trim I gave my younger sister back when we were both kids, much to my mother’s horror.

On the other hand, my mother “tends” to her plants. She names them, talks to them, nourishes and grooms them — treats them almost like pets. They thrive under her care.

Are the plants mad at me? I’ve wondered that so many times. Do they know I’m not her and I really don’t care about them and that’s why they always seem to be pouting at me?

So today I caught her balanced precariously on a ladder. Well, it was only a two-tiered stepping stool but it might as well have been a fireman’s ladder stretching to the sky. She was reaching high above the fridge trying to restore to its original home a cascading strand of glossy pathos ivy leaves.

My first instinct was to jump up and scold her: “Mother, how many times have I told you not to get up on stools?” Fear is always my first emotion when it comes to my mom. The “what ifs” race through my brain faster than thoroughbreds at the Kentucky Derby. I’m her caregiver, the one in charge of her wellbeing, her health, her life. The weight of responsibility nearly crushes me sometimes.

I take a deep breath. What’s the worst thing that could happer to her? She could fall and hit her head. But then a voice inside my head asks, Is that really the worst thing that could happen to her? No, not really. The worst thing would be to treat her like a helpless child, to deprive her of control over her own life, to take from her the need to feel needed.

And so I let my mother climb a ladder today.



Quote of the Day

27 April 2012

Many a Christian has cheated himself out of the blessing of the Holy Spirit’s inspired impulse to do something good or kind for someone else by not obeying that urge. Instead of bringing joy to someone else’s life by an act of kindness, the self-centered person stifles the impulse and sinks deeper and deeper in the slough of despondency and gloom. It is one thing to get good impulses; it is quite another to transmit them into acts of goodness.

– Tim LaHaye, Spirit-Controlled Temperament

Hymn of the Day

18 April 2012

God, Who Touchest Earth with Beauty

Mary S. Edgar


God, who touchest earth with beauty,

Make my heart anew;

With thy spirit recreate me,

Pure and strong and true.

Like thy springs and running waters

Make me crystal pure;

Like thy rocks of towering grandeur

Make me strong and sure.

Like thy dancing waves in sunlight

Make me glad and free;

Like the straightness of the pine trees

Let me upright be.

Like the arching of the heavens

Lift my thoughts above;

Turn my dreams to noble action,

Ministries of love.

God, who touchest earth with beauty,

Make my heart anew;

Keep me ever, by thy spirit,

Pure and strong and true. Amen.

A Fruitful Garden

14 April 2012

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. — John 15:4

When my dad planted his “orchard” in our backyard, I thought it was a bit quixotic of him. Every spring since then we’ve eagerly watched for any sign of fruit — in vain. But lo and behold, third year’s a charm and now we have beautiful little fruit babies growing on our trees.

Double-click on any of the pictures below to see a larger version. I especially like the peach ones because you can see the fuzzy texture. (Click on the back arrow to get back to the blog.)


Our Orchard

Here are some pictures of our peaches.

Can you guess what these are?*

Our nectarines (below)

Can’t wait for these strawberries to ripen!


* Plums!

All Good News

4 April 2012

In my post March 6 post Good News, Bad News, I mentioned my flashdrive that had died and taken my PrayerWalk London manuscript with it to its electronic grave. It was a sad day when that happened and a sad day, too, when out found out it would be at least $350 to recover the files. I was on the verge of giving up on the flashdrive and starting the manuscript from scratch when the computer company that had my flashdrive called me with some good news.

During a slow day at the office, one of their personnel had decided to take a crack at recovering the documents (bless him). Some were corrupted but others were retrievable! In the end they charged me under a third of the original estimate for sending it off and having it looked at by specialists using expensive technology. I just checked the new flashdrive and it looks like most of my more important documents are there.

Praise the Lord! (And yes, I know, back it up … back it up … back it up!)

Also, we are back from the hospital and my mom is over the pneumonia. We’ll have the results from her colon biopsies next week. We are all catching up on sleep and recovering from the drama of last week’s events. And feeling extremely grateful to be home. 🙂

Living Life’s Dramatic Pauses

2 April 2012

I was awakened by a knock on my door at 3:30 am last Thursday. My dad softly told me that my mom was in severe abdominal pain and that he was about to call 911. One minute I’m fast asleep dreaming about mundane things and the next I’m throwing hospital-friendly clothing into an overnight bag.

In 2011, I moved in with my parents to help take care of my mom who had not been given long to live. Miraculously, she beat the odds and gained strength each day until she was healthy enough to go about her life in an almost normal way. But we lived under the cloud of knowing that an emergency could arise at any moment.

On Thursday, that moment came.

We spent nine hours in the ER and then she was transferred to an isolation room in the hospital. It’s now Sunday. While she came in with abdominal pain, she ended up contracting pneumonia. Fortunately, they were able to control that since it was caught in the beginning stages. Every day has brought new hopes on the heels of new fears.

Sometimes preachers preach to the choir. Sometimes preachers preach to themselves. It’s the same thing with writers. As I read over last Sunday’s post, Life’s Dramatic Pauses, I realize how much I need to be reminded that God is in control, even in those heart-stopping pauses when the rug is swept out from under us.

P.S. We are hoping to go home tomorrow!!

Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”


Life’s Dramatic Pauses

25 March 2012

Sometimes the greatest chapters in life are preceded by dramatic pauses. Times when God is silent. Times when the world around us seems meaningless, empty, void. Times when we find ourselves waiting and waiting and waiting. Waiting for what? We don’t really know, but we can’t deny the feeling of being in a holding pattern.

“Waiting. Waiting for a train to go, waiting around for a yes or a no.” These lines, from one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books Oh, the Places You’ll Go allude to those precarious, maddening times in life when we have no control.

Sometimes waiting leads to good things. Waiting through engagement for marriage; waiting through nine months of pregnancy for a precious bundle of joy; waiting for our birthday to come — at least before age 25! — and for Christmas Day; waiting, only to find out we got the promotion at work.

But there are also waiting periods filled with pain and fear. Waiting only to find out we lost out on the adoption. Waiting for a diagnosis in the doctor’s office, or holding a loved one’s hand as they lie in a hospital bed, life slowly ebbing away.

God knows that we cannot handle lives of constant action and that we often need waiting times to slow us and help us refocus.

The greatest symphonies incorporate breaks and pauses. Sometimes the pauses are necessary for musicians to catch their breath; sometimes the pauses are dramatic and cause the audience members’ hearts to pound as they anticipate the next movement. Where would storytellers and comedians be without the necessary pause before a well-delivered punch line?

Do you feel like someone hit the pause button on your life? Do you feel at times like you’re the punch line in some great cosmic joke? Yet without pauses, when would we have time to reflect and anticipate, to remember the past, to consider the future or to be thankful for the present?

If we will let Him, God often grows close to us in those quiet times of waiting. He waits to reveal Himself in the quiet, still aloneness that follows disappointment, loss, fear and suffering. Learn to appreciate the dramatic pauses in your life: they are special gifts, though so often wrapped in trials.


God knows that we cannot handle lives of constant action and that we often need waiting times to slow us and help us refocus.

Saint & Centenarian

23 November 2011

“If you ever want to know how to describe my life … I think it’s because I followed the Lord. That was the main thing.”  — Gertrude Jeter, during an interview at 99

My 100-year-old Grandmother

My dear grandmother, Gertrude Elizabeth Jeter, achieved a milestone: she has just turned 100!!

This remarkable woman was raised on a farm in Kansas, working hard from morning til night. She recently related that it was the hard work on the farm that prepared her to face life’s circumstances without complaining. As a missionary’s wife in Cuba, Spain and Morocco, with 5 children including two mischievous twin boys (one of whom was/is my dad!) she certainly had her share of life adventures.

Now she spends her days under the loving watch-care of her oldest son and his family in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She still insists on washing the dishes, folding laundry, and helping out in any way she can around the house.

We thank God for the legacy of this wonderful, selfless woman that we are proud to call our own! Thank you, Lord, for granting her a long, full, and happy life.

Lay It Down!

9 November 2011

Michelle & our 99-yr-old Grandmother

My cousin Michelle is a talented writer and world-traveler who has a heart of gold. I read “Lay It Down!” on her blog earlier in the week and asked her to guest-blog here today. 


“Can I have a volunteer? I need the strongest person in this room to come up to the front.”

People craned their necks to see who would answer my challenge in this East Asian Fresh Start seminar. Finally a grinning young man in his early twenties strode forward. He told me his name was Chen. Handing him asmall water bottle, I asked, “Is this heavy?” Chen shook his head. “It’s very light,” he insisted, hefting the water bottle in his hand. “So do you think you could hold this bottle for a long time?” I prodded. “Sure! No problem,” he grinned confidently.

“O.K. Please hold this water bottle in your right hand and stretch your arm straight out to the side.” Chen followed my instructions, as everyone in the group watched with interest. “Now stand there and hold that bottle until I say you can stop.”

Then I began to tell my story of getting burnt-out as an English teacher in Asia a few years ago. Little irritations kept building as I attempted to push them down, not acknowledging how they were affecting me. After a few minutes I paused my story to check on Chen. “Are you still doing OK?” “Yes,” he assured me, but it was a bit more strained. “So you can keep going?” He forced a smile. “Of course!”

I continued my story, but stopped again after a couple of minutes, alerted by the audience that Chen’s arm was starting to lower. “Keep that arm straight!” I reminded him. He reluctantly complied.

A few minutes later I paused my story once more. I could tell by the expression on Chen’s face that it was getting more and more difficult to keep his arm up. “Is the water bottle getting any heavier?” “YES!” he replied quickly. “Do you want to continue holding it?” I asked. Chen shook his head. “Would you like to put it down now?” “Yes!” he said gratefully.

Relieved, Chen put the water bottle down and rubbed his aching arm and shoulder, to the cheers and applause of the audience. “So what do you think is the lesson of this exercise?” I asked him. “Something that doesn’t seem heavy at first can become heavier and heavier the longer we hold on to it!” Chen said with conviction.

Are you holding on to small hurts, little irritations or minor disappointments? Mild frustrations can lead to depression, burnout, or explosive rage if not dealt with! Don’t keep holding on to those things that steal your joy and your peace. Lay them down! Give them to Jesus! He wants to give you peace and rest in exchange. Begin to pour out your heart to Him today.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT) 

Quote of the Day

6 November 2011

“Just because it didn’t end the way you wanted it to end, doesn’t mean that it was any less My will.” — GOD

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