First, all of your comments and emails helped me in some way. Whether you wrote to encourage me to keep my focus on Christ, to tell me that you would pray, or to offer some advice, I appreciated them all and took them to heart. Thank you for taking the time to send me a message or to leave a comment.
I must confess that my biggest spiritual challenge came when, as I thought through my relationship with my mother, I realized I was feeling bitter. I have a very long mental list of grievances for which she has never apologized. Am I obligated to forgive her when she never indicates that she is remorseful over her actions?
My thinking about forgiveness is changing the more I think about it, but that’s a post for another day.
After much thinking and prayer, it seemed good to me to offer Mom an alternative (read this post if you need the backstory). Not only did I simply not want to visit Mom’s church, our kids enjoy our church’s Sunday night activities. They will be singing for the church next Sunday, so it wouldn’t be a good idea for them to miss a rehearsal.
I called Mom and explained that it would be best for us to attend our church on Sunday night. I didn’t take up the issues I have with her church that would keep us from attending. I offered a Saturday afternoon visit and she seemed satisfied with my suggestion.
Our visit was okay. It had its tense moments and its good moments. For example, she invited us in and I had to refuse because she is a smoker and two of my children are asthmatics. My children, sweet things, insisted on going inside because, “WE’VE NEVER BEEN INSIDE NANNY’S HOUSE!” That was a bit awkward. (My children have never visited my mother’s home; she has always come to our house).
It irked me quite a bit because, on the way to her house, I had explained to them that “Nanny” would probably want them to go inside her house, that she’s a smoker, and that I’d rather we all stay outside. So, when she asks, just don’t say anything and let me handle it.
See how they obey?
Mom insisted. I refused. Mom insisted. Kids begged. I refused. Mom insisted. “I have gifts for the kids,” she whined. I agreed to go inside to retrieve the gifts, but the kids had to stay outside.
Knowing we would have spend our visit outside, I planned an outdoor activity to keep the kids occupied. I brought along some bags and a nature scavenger hunt (Thanks, Alicia!). The kids had a great time searching for the items on the list, Mom had fun watching them, and I made my best efforts at jovial small talk.
As we were trying to leave, she remembered another reason for the kids to go inside. She explained that she had a bunch of stuffed animals and wanted the kids to choose one. Then, she wanted the girls to try on some clothes she had for them. We all went inside. Breathing was very difficult! My kids made the fastest stuffed animal decisions in the history of “Kids, Choose Your Favorite Stuffed Animal Out of 30” ever! We took the clothes and promised to try them on.
At this point, frustrated and a bit miffed that Mom ignored my desire to stay outside, I was thinking it may have been easier to just go to church with her.
The worst part came when Mom whispered to me that Hannah had made a comment to her about how her house smelled like fire and, in response, Mom told Hannah that it smelled that way because she accidentally started a small kitchen fire not too long ago. It was a blatant lie, and Mom wanted me to know her story so that her grandchildren wouldn’t judge her for smoking.
It just reminded me of so many secrets my brother and I were asked to keep when we were growing up. Mom repeatedly said to us, “What happens in our house, stays in our house,” or some variation of the sentiment.
It’s too late for that, though. My kids had already asked so many times before why “Nanny” smells the way she does. They know she smokes cigarettes. I just hope that Hannah saw Mom’s excuse for what it was and that she doesn’t doubt me.
Now for the best part. On one of the old trees in Mom’s yard grows a fern that looks dead and shriveled until it’s watered. When we arrived, Mom gave it a good watering with the hose. By the time our visit ended, the fern stood out from the tree trunk and turned a lush green color. It’s called a Resurrection Fern.
Mom had not shown it to me before, and the significance of her showing it to me on this visit was not lost. I wondered at it for a few moments, allowing God to minister to my heart and remind me of the gospel. Rather than leaving discouraged, I said goodbye to Mom with my heart full of peace regarding the decision to visit and my mind in awe of the goodness of God.