The Important Thing!

By Jonni Sliver

We celebrated Mother’s Day last month. Lovely images came to mind – a precious little girl bringing flowers to her mom, a little boy proudly presenting burnt toast to mom for breakfast, the acrid but delightful love offering! But I am long past a precious little girl and it is five years since my mother received her reward; I’ve never had children of my own so I guess Mother’s Day doesn’t have much to do with me. Right? Wrong!

I received a gift that not everyone gets. As an adult I got to live with my mother. For five years mom and I lived in a two bedroom apartment and did just about everything together, from cooking to cleaning to putting together massive jigsaw puzzles (credit where it’s due, mom probably did 70% of them) and telling really silly stories (we were both pretty  good at that!). I got to know my mom as my friend and five years after her passing I still am blessed every day because of what I learned from my mom.

I learned about priorities. Mom didn’t answer the phone or the door for the first hour or so after she woke up (that was o.k., the people who knew her knew not to call then anyways). That was because she had her quiet time, right in her bed, before her feet touched the floor. She had her Daily Bread, her study Bible and a Bible encyclopedia all on the table by her bed. She would begin her devotional but it would quickly become a study as she looked up a city she didn’t know, or a practice she wasn’t familiar with in the encyclopedia. She would separate the verses that touched her heart and look up all of the cross references and then she would share them with me at dinner that night. And then she would pray. She prayed for her children and grandchildren, she prayed for her church family, she prayed for what she saw on the news last night. She had seen God move, she had seen His faithfulness, and she held on the promises of the Father!

But that first hour or so wasn’t “God’s time” in her day. Mom found moments all through her day to meet with the Father. She was the leader of our church prayer chain, most of the prayer request went out by e-mail, but there was a good size group of ladies who weren’t online. Mom would call them to share the prayer requests, and they would talk. All of the phone chain were a little older (like mom), many were widows, several had hard times getting out of the house. The calls mom made remind each woman that she was still part of the family, she still had a ministry and that she was loved. It only took mom five minutes to send the e-mail prayer requests, it took, sometimes, hours to do the phone chain, but for mom it was time well spent.

When I get so busy with the “important” things that I have to do that I am irritated by drop in visits, I can just about hear my mom reminding me about what really is important. There really isn’t an age limit to learn from your mother!

 

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Leota’s Garden

Editor’s Note:  The following is a book review in our “Check It Out” series about Leota’s Garden written by Francine Rivers and published by Tyndale House in 1999

by Barbara Moland

Leota’s garden is no longer a place of beauty.  At 84 years she is separated from her children by broken relationships.  At this lonely time in her life the garden that she had loved, cared for, prayed and worshipped in has gone into severe disrepair. Unable to work in the garden or keep up her home she struggles day after day to just make it.

Leota’s granddaughter Annie, always seeking God’s direction in her new post high school life, has been kept from knowing anything about Leota.  All the while seeking to honor and respect her mother, Annie decides to find her grandmother, in spite of the fear she has for what may come of finding her.

Very gradually over many months of carefully connecting with her grandmother, amid several intertwining relationships, Annie is able to turn Leota’s garden into a place of great beauty.  In fact her house and neighborhood becomes a changed place.  On her grandmother’s passing Annie is surprisingly awarded ownership of the home. Charting her course in life one step at a time, trusting God to lead her, she moves forward as Francine Rivers’ Christian fiction novel comes to a close.

Several topics involving relationships between/among people surface in Leota’s Garden:

  • parenting (parents goals for the child/child’s gifts, interests)
  • choosing a life partner
  • perils of  war and those suffering mental illness as a result
  • abortion
  • euthanasia
  • bitterness
  • misjudgments between generations, between countries/cultures, and between pastor and parishioner
  • neighborhood relationships
  • child care and nurturing…and much more. 
  • And surely again and again, the shining relationship between a believer and her Savior.

Francine Rivers, a prolific writer of Christian fiction, is very skilled in writing realistically about personal feelings and struggles. Faith thoughts which are italicized throughout the book, reveal angry feelings, yet confident freedom. For example:

“Oh, God, if Mother doesn’t come now, I’ll go and drag her by the hair to the hospital.”

Leota’s witty, somewhat tough personality was enjoyable.  It reminded me again and again of a loving, yet blunt personality of an 85 year old friend of mine.

At times in the novel’s assumptions spoke too loudly.  For example, the assumption that if Annie chose to persue art, this choice would negate the possibilities of a liberal arts education.  Also, I found the length of time and details portraying Nora’s  biases and personal hang-ups overly redundant.

Perhaps this season we who are gardeners can realize with Leota:

“… well, the garden was a refuge where I could work out my sorrows and frustrations and have joy poured back into me.”

Out of the Comfortable Familiar

It’s been over three years since I first moved to Beulah, and in all honesty, there are still some days that are really hard. Really . . . lonely. Don’t get me wrong, there are some wonderful people up here who have adopted us into their family; and I have a small handful of friends. But what my heart really desires, what my heart really needs, is a “bosom friend”. A friend whose relationship goes deeper, a friend who can put a smile on my face for days after spending time together, a friend who I can chat with for hours or simply just sip a cup of coffee with. A friend like Carmen.

What I love about my friend Carmen is that no matter how many weeks (or months!) goes by before we talk again, our friendship picks up right where it left off. When we do talk, my heart is full for days afterwards. Carmen always makes me laugh, and she’s always ready to listen. Just thinking about her makes me smile and I can’t help but praise the Lord for her friendship. The bummer part, though, is that Carmen lives in Texas. Not in Beulah with me.

Over the past couple of weeks, the Lord has been working on my heart. He’s been teaching me about the risk of relationships. I’ve been reminded that friendships like those I have with Carmen and a few others don’t just miraculously happen. They have to be cultivated. They have to be invested in. They take time. I’ve been challenged to be more inviting; to open my home more to those I know well and those I don’t know hardly at all. I’ve been reminded that to have a good friend is to be a good friend. I’ve humbly realized that the world around me isn’t necessarily going to say, “Wow! What a great girl. I want to be her friend.” I’ve come to understand that I need to initiate conversations, coffee dates and play dates. Just as Jesus invested in others and loved them – He desires us to do the same.

“‘For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even Gentiles do the same?'” – Matthew 5:46-47

It’s easy to stay with what we know; with what we’re comfortable with. But a lot of times, the Lord takes us out of those situations and places us far from the comfortable familiar. Far from our families. Far from our “bosom buddies”. It’s easy to simply exist and wait for someone to notice us, to begin investing in us. But I think that would be “loving those who love you”. We’re called to something higher; to something harder. I believe the Lord desires us to step out of our comfortable familiar and love not only our enemies – but those we don’t know.

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor . . . [practice] hospitality.” – Romans 12:9, 10, 13

“‘I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.'” — Acts 20:24