Friday, July 24, 2015

Me, My Mother and the Mission

I have received a huge blessing from Heavenly Father.  My mother lived to see me come home from my mission and I was able to care for her before she died.  I felt the Lords hand blessing me intimately and personally during the 21 days I took care of her.  Each moment, each bit of service I felt was so sacred and such a gift.  It was exactly what I had prayed for.  It wasn’t easy, but I knew every day was a gift God was personally giving me as evidence of His knowledge of me and my mother.  I missed out on being here to help her in the last year of her life after she was diagnosed with lung cancer, when she really needed me.  But I felt the Lord prolonged her life and granted my desire to be able to care for her, at least a little while before she died.  That was exactly what I prayed for and exactly what was granted.  I want to write about me, my mother and the mission and bear testimony of the reality of our Heavenly Fathers hand that grants blessings.

Around March of last year my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  If she did all the chemotherapy they wanted her to have she would have 1 to 2 years to live.  After just 4 treatments she decided she would rather die with good quality of life than continue on with those sickening treatments.  She went on Hospice in June of last year with the expectation of 6 months to live.  Being on a mission and only having seen her once in the two previous years, this was particularly devastating for me.

I started praying continuously for the blessing of my mother living until I got home and that I would have some time to care for her before she died.  She prayed for herself to live until I got home also, (I don’t think she ever thought of me or anyone else caring for her though, she would not want anyone to have to care for her!)  She faced her cancer head on with a positive strength that it would not beat her until she was ready to go.  She would always say she was good when asked, and keep working and moving as if nothing were wrong.  She cared for my ailing father for nine more months, made large amounts of food to feed the neighborhood, kept running her own errands and driving everywhere as if nothing was going to get her down.  She wouldn’t even entertain thoughts that she wasn’t going to make it until I got home.  She told her hospice nurse she really didn’t believe that she had cancer, she just felt too good.

In Nov of last year she told the hospice people she was going to live until July when I would be home.  The hospice people said, “Sure Lucy, whatever you say,” while inside they were thinking no way is that going to happen.

A month before we were to leave our mission my mother started to decline to the point of not being able to care for herself.  She went to live with my sister, Teresa who promptly fell and fractured her pelvis in four places.  Then my good brother-in-law, John, who was trying to care for both Teresa and mom, injured his knee and had to have surgery on it.  Eventually I decided I needed to go home 11 days early from the mission and care for my mom and give my desperate family a break.  When I got there I met Janine, her hospice nurse, she said, “It gives me goose-bumps Melonie that you’re actually standing here and your mom is still alive.  It’s a miracle.  She kept telling us it was going to happen, but we never believed it.  Her prayers have been answered.”  I cared for my mom for 4 days and then went back to finish our last week of our three year service in the WA Spokane Mission.

Don and I finished our last week in the mission and came home together three weeks ago.  Leaving a mission is not easy, but we felt as the last week approached that we were done.  A feeling settled over us that we were finished and it was time for us to go.   I knew my mother was declining rapidly and I felt anxious to get home as we finished up that week and readied the mission for the Dymocks to take over.

Within hours of arriving home we moved into my mother’s condo and took over full-time care of her.  She was so grateful to be able to come home. She was so positive and grateful for anything that was done for her.  The last thing my mom ever wanted was to be a burden.  She would say, “I am so sorry you have to take care of me.”  But what I felt and expressed to her was that I had prayed for this.  This was a blessing.  Every day, every moment of care for her, for me, was a sacred blessing from God.  God was showing His hand to me every day of the 3 weeks I cared for her.  I can’t explain it very well, but I felt the time was sacred, a partnership between me, God and her. It was hard, but it was a prayer that was being granted by a loving Heavenly Father.  God knew me, and I felt every day he was telling me He knew me.

What I have learned through this last year is that there are many things we pray for that can’t be granted.  When I pray for things that involve someone else’s free agency God can’t grant those prayers.  He can send people to influence or angels to minister, but he protects others free agency with the utmost respect. He wants to bless us and will at every opportunity though. He is eager to do so.  God does not begrudgingly grant tender mercies, he is not hesitant or indecisive in his willingness to be merciful.  His anger is slow and hard to be released, and his mercy functions on a hair trigger.  “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6)

As I watched my mother’s body fail her I felt I was offering a consecrated service to care for her at such a vulnerable time.  As I watched her spirit try to disconnect from her body I gained a new perspective on how death is the last work we do in this life.  It was a labor she was performing; work and labor was what kept coming to my mind as she struggled to die. But just like birth, when there is a beautiful baby at the end of labor, I know there is also a beautiful gift at the end of the labor of death, which is amazing peace and rest from the cares of this life.  I know when she walked through that door she was free, her work was finished.  She had performed her work here on the earth and returned home.  It was such a blessing.

I saw my mother filled with gratitude, love and kindness as she faced death.  She was extremely graceful as she looked at cancer and her passing.  I didn’t receive every blessing I wanted on my mission. But I received so many that my heart is full.  I can see.  I know.  His love and life are a reality.  I love my Heavenly Father, my Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and all that they offer us, just to help us.  They are not here to be a burden, but to lift, love, bless and give, if we will but receive what they offer. 

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., testified: “You know, I believe that the Lord will help us. I believe if we go to him, he will give us wisdom, if we are living righteously. I believe he will answer our prayers. I believe that our Heavenly Father wants to save every one of his children. I do not think he intends to shut any of us off because of some slight transgression, some slight failure to observe some rule or regulation. There are the great elementals that we must observe, but he is not going to be captious about the lesser things.  I believe that his juridical concept of his dealings with his children could be expressed in this way: I believe that in his justice and mercy, he will give us the maximum reward for our acts, give us all that he can give, and in the reverse, I believe that he will impose upon us the minimum penalty which it is possible for him to impose.” 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My last day, my last sharing, and my last testimony as a missionary.

This morning I woke up and had a tremendous sense of gratitude fill my heart.  It would be the last day I would spend in the mission home.  I thought about how many times I have lain in this bed in the early morning hours and had spiritual insight given to me in dramatic ways: trainings clearly come into my mind that I would be giving that day, things to say to help missionaries, and insights into my own struggles that were amazing answers to prayer.
So many memories were flooding my mind this morning and every one of them I remember feeling the Lord was showing himself to me because He loves His missionaries, love me, and needed me to be able to do my job with his blessing. 
How many times have I rolled over in the morning and prayed in this room and felt light given, knowledge imparted and strength granted so I could get up and go.  How many times have I laid there and looked up at the ceiling and thought of all the things I’m so grateful for, or cried about something.  And how many times have I come to this room, exhausted and just been so glad to get into the bed and give it all to the Lord and rest.  As I thought about it all this morning I thought about all the Dymocks will go through in this room, and all the mission presidents past who have prayed, wept, and called down the powers of heaven to help them in this bedroom.  I felt kind of like all of those experiences were showing themselves to me and I felt so grateful.
I feel this is a sacred home.  I can just imagine 30 years of spiritual light being shed on the mission presidents in various ways.  The Lord truly has revealed himself to me in this house, especially in the living room.  So many testimonies have been born in the living room: departing missionaries full of strength and confidence as they have finished their service and felt the Lord’s gratitude, and incoming missionaries who have born humble testimonies who have been full of trepidation and exhaustion. It is such a sacred house.  I’m so grateful for all the spiritual experiences that have happened here for the last 30 years and for all that the Dymocks will experience in the future. And now we are leaving.  My heart is so full of love and gratitude for the Lord and all he does to help us when we try to serve him.
The last post I shared was what my last training was when we had, “Muffins with the Mullens”.  But we also gave the missionaries our, “last advice.” I thought about what I would leave them with.  I felt I had shared my heart and mind with them completely, so what could I possible say.  I decided to try to summarize what I have learned on my mission. This is knowledge that goes deep into my heart and I thought it would be the best thing to share.  Here it is:
First: You can’t see the way the Lord sees.  You just can’t.  You’re not as good as he is.  You don’t understand the way he thinks and you don’t have the perspective he possesses.  You aren’t capable of seeing, understanding and knowing all that God does.  Just accept that and trust him.  That is my first bit of advice, just trust in the Lord.  He knows, sees and understands better than you.  He is aware of you and He does have a plan.  Just decide you’ll trust him even though you don’t see the plan, and then you don’t have to worry about everything else.
Next is repent.  I don’t mean just repent for sin.  Repentance is for anything you need it to be that takes you away from the spirit.  It’s allowing the atonement to work in your life to change you.  Repent of needing to be the center of attention, to be seen of man, needing your own way, to be right, for fear, hardness, bitterness and even worry.  You can repent of all of it and give it to Christ. It means change every day from what the natural man pulls you too.
I don’t think of, “I do so much and Christ does the rest.”  I think of Christ and I as a team, joined at the hip.  He is the strong, best, part of us.  It’s not fair, but I hand him all of that pull of the natural man I go through during the day.  That pull to be: negative, critical, prideful, fearful, etc.  I give it to him, hand it to him, slide it over to him, and ask for his atoning blood to be applied in my life.  He is the strong, capable, good, part of us.  I just accept that I am the weak link, and let him have all that is trying to get at my heart that may defile me.
When I live with Christ like this; wanting to constantly change to be in line with God, then I become empty of myself.  God can’t do a lot with me if I am so full of myself. I have to get out of the way for him to be able to do anything with me.  That change; called repentance, empties us of ourselves so we can create a place for God.  When we are empty of our expectations, our fear, need to be valued, our judgments, our irritation, anger, and needing things our way, then we have made a space for him.
Then the third thing to do is wait.  Wait on the Lord.  He can’t give you everything at once.  Not because of him but because of you.  You learn line upon line.  He will give you layers of understanding as you stay soft and open creating a place for him, and then wait.  The first layer may just be the whispering of, “hold on, stay with me, I’ll get you there.”  The next spiritual whispering may be pray to see blessings.  Then what may come to you is another layer of something that you need to repent of to stay soft and open.  The next thing he may teach you is to be grateful and think and pray with gratitude in your heart.  After you’ve worked on that for a while you may receive the layer of stop seeing through the world’s eyes and valuing the things of the world.  Then you may come to accept the Lord’s will and just value what he has given and feel grateful for all He has done for you.  And then when your finally there, you’re at peace, he gives you the answer, the healing, the clam comfort.  And you know it’s going to be ok, it will all work out in the end, that’s when you’ve changed in a sacred way.  This kind of change is hard fought and it is absolutely sacred.  Sacred because of the price paid and the work the God head has done for you to receive it.
When your there, at peace, knowledge, and strength, then you’ve had the mysteries of God unfolded to you.  He has revealed himself to you and then you’ve bonded yourself to him.  You see more like He sees, you understand a little more like He understands, and you know more of what He knows.  You’ve allowed Him to reveal himself to you and you’re bonded to Him.  What a beautiful process He allows.  It takes spiritual work on our part and His. 

So Trust in the Lord, Repent, and Wait. Pay attention while he teaches you in layers and gets you where he wants you to go.  This is the gospel of Christ.  My testimony is God lives.  I don’t need to know everything I just need to Trust, Repent and Wait while He does his work in my life.  I am deeply grateful for all he has allowed to happen to me, to our missionaries, to our converts and to our members in the Washington Spokane Mission over the last 3 years.  Love to you all.