You’d think I’d learn. It’s happened more times than I care to remember.
I’ll be in the middle of some sort of crisis, trying with everything in me to figure out what I’m going to do and somewhere midway through, I’ll realize “OH…I should probably pray!” And then, inevitably, God shows up.
Imagine if prayer were my go-to rather than my last resort — in everything. How different would life be?
I learned this lesson yet again last evening during a simple, but heartbreaking dilemma.
We learned yesterday that our dog Aspen has a type of cancer that likely started a very short time ago and has spread like wildfire. She’s nearing the end of her life, and we are devastated.
We have two beautiful German Shepherds — Aspen is our female and though she’s five, very much still has that puppy spunk about her. Rocky, our male rescue, is the murderer of fun, bossy as all getout, but the biggest teddy bear you’ll ever meet. He didn’t begin his life in a very loving situation, but makes up for it every day since he became a part of our family. He tries to keep Aspen in line. She adores him, but ignores his grumpiness. The two are inseparable.
But I digress.
We were gathered around Aspen, showering her with all the love we can, and her breathing became very labored. The doctor warned that this may be a sign she’s in distress, and when this happens, we’ll know it’s probably time to say goodbye. So, we all melted into tears and began trying to decide if we needed to accelerate our plan. My husband picked up the phone to make the call, and I happened to remember that while I’ve been praying for Aspen all day, we hadn’t asked the Lord about this. So, I prayed silently, asking for a sign if now is not the time.
Seconds later, our not-so-little stinker who’d stumbled to her bed, struggling to breathe just minutes earlier, jumped up, tail wagging, and ran to get her ball.
Well, there was our answer. I told John about my prayer, he hung up the phone, and we just sat there. Stunned.
Isn’t God good?
We’re tempted to think He doesn’t care about the little things, but He’s told us He most certainly does. He’s even told us to worry about nothing — to give it to Him instead.
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6
So, why don’t we take God at His word and do that?
We’re human, but this is certainly a worthy goal.
I’ve learned that I have to be intentional every day so that prayer becomes not only an ongoing conversation with my Creator, but the immediate response to every situation and not a last resort.
I don’t remember the time or the day, but I do remember the date.
February 15, 2007 – the day after mom went to heaven.
I had this thing I needed to do. For mom, and honestly, for me.
I definitely needed to do it for me.
Before she died, mom kept fretting about her nails. And hair. And makeup.
She wasn’t the least bit vain, but she always tried so hard to look pretty for dad. She didn’t want Mr. Green, the funeral director, to be the one that did her hair, nails and makeup for the last time.
I didn’t either.
“He’ll make me look like a clown,” she laughed. “What man really knows how to do makeup?”
So, as she fretted over these silly things with a humor that only she could, I made a promise, and I intended to keep it.
I pulled into the empty parking lot, numb. I wanted to hold tight to every last memory.
How could it be that these would be the last moments I’d spend alone with my mother?
My friend Amy and Betty – mom’s hairdresser – met me there. I could do always do mom’s hair, but I could never get her bangs right. I’d do everything else and leave those for her to finish. So, Betty agreed to come help make sure they were right. One last time.
As a child, I never envisioned my mom not being a part of my life. Though, because of her illness, I feared losing her…I never really thought I would. We had our rough patches like most mothers and daughters – 99.9% of them completely my fault. But as I grew into adulthood, something changed: we became best friends.
I love that we had those years.
I walked into the funeral home in a fog. Mr Green met me there, and together, we walked into the room to where he’d placed mom’s body. He left me there, alone.
Very alone. I’m pretty sure I’ll never feel more alone than I did in that moment.
A million memories, a million what-if’s…I remember asking God why.
And in that moment…that whispered why moment…the Lord put the verse in 2 Corinthians on my heart. I couldn’t remember it just right, but I did remember that for the Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
She’s not here.
I can do this.
With the help of my sweet friends, I helped mom one final time.
We held her now cold, lifeless hands and painted her nails. I applied her makeup, careful not to make her look clownish. Together, the three of us did her hair. It was the one last thing we could do.
Leaving the funeral home that day was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I don’t remember lots of tears, I just remember wanting to hold on…just in case it was all a dream.
The lessons my mother taught me are endless. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t remember. Twelve years later, there are still days I pick up the phone to call her, usually for a recipe neither of us ever thought to write down.
Valentine’s Day is a special day.
In 2007, it’s the day my mom got to meet Jesus.
As much as I miss her…miss us…miss the laughter and the tears we shared, I wouldn’t wish her back. Not to this. Not to the pain she lived with for forty years.
I want to finish with this passage from John 14. During the last few days of her life, my mom quoted it numerous times. She wanted everyone who came within earshot to know this Jesus she spoke of.
And on this and every Valentine’s Day, celebrate those you love. Appreciate them. Cherish every moment you have.
Just in case.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?
Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.
These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.
Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.
But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.