Tuesday, February 15, 2011

His Amazing Grace

Recently my MOPS group (http://www.mops.org/) leader asked me to speak on grace, which just happens to be the name of my MOPS table this year.  I received such a good response to my short talk I've decided to share it with you here:


I enjoy each of the table names our MOPS group has been using the last couple of years, but especially the name "grace."  That isn't just because it's the name of the table I mentor, but because I have a long history with the word "grace."

As a young pupil of piano and music, I learned early on about grace notes.  As I grew older, I began to learn grace could be a favor, consideration, reprieve, or even a pleasing effect in a dance movement or an artistic work.  Grace brings to mind fluid movement and gentleness.

My favorite definition of grace, however, is a theological one -- the gift of God's unmerited favor.  2 Cor. 12:9, as found in The Message, tells us:  "My grace is enough; it's all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness."  His grace is all I need, or you need, no matter the circumstances or situation.  David Reagan, pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Knoxville, TN, says he likes to call this "God's enoughness."  I like the sound of that too.

In my life, I have experienced God's enoughness.  As children, my two brothers and I experienced abuse, verbal and emotional, at the hands of our mother.  Upon reflection, I truly don't believe she knew exactly what she was doing and how wrong it was.  It took adulthood and specific circumstances for me to realize why she did what she did to each one of us.  Nothing really erases the memories of those painful and hurtful experiences, but I have been given in abundance a way to put my arms around it.

During the year I turned 54, my mom's health began to fail to the extent she eventually needed to live with one of my brothers, both of whom live in TN near where mom was residing.  The younger brother was in the middle of a divorce, so the older brother stepped in and moved mom into his home.  I knew from the beginning this would be volatile but I didn't count on what came next.

My husband and I returned from a Labor Day weekend trip to pick up a voicemail from my brother stating, "You'd probably like to know what I did with your mother."  The answer to my question when I called was that he signed her into a nursing home.  This had been done without power of attorney on his part (I had that) and by signing over her Social Security payments.  To keep my story short, I can tell you that I had to make a decision to move this woman whom I loved because she was my mother and whom I did not like as a person.  I had to extract her from an abusive situation and bring her home with me to Oregon.  At first, I couldn't understand why God would ask this of me, so I prayed for answers.

The answers came through discussions with my doctor, a Christian woman, who asked me about my mom's childhood.  It was easy to sum up -- highly dysfunctional.  Mom had been taken out of school at age 11 to care for two younger siblings.  Fear became the tool she most often used to control them.  What else is a child to do?  And then when she grew up and became a mother, her toolbox contained fear, sarcasm, temper, anger, rage.  All the things she'd grown up using. My heart suddenly expanded with a love I'd never experienced before.

This enormous expansion in my heart and the fact that in my care my mom was a different person, accepting less than perfect circumstances and accepting of my abilities to care for her, was purely a gift of grace from God.  Yes, a grace moment like a grace note in music can bridge a vast divide, and it did so for us.  Mom died 10 months after we moved her, and for the first time in my life I actually began to miss her.  I wanted more time with the woman who came to Oregon and the woman I had cared for.  How different life would have been, but I was blessed to know her as kind and loving for a short period of time.

"My grace is enough; it's all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness."
2 Cor. 12:9 (The Message)

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