To respect my husband’s family tradition, we visited the cemetery on Memorial Day and brought new flags, in honor of his father’s service in the military. Although we know we don’t have to visit the cemetery to honor or remember his dad, although we know he had accepted Christ as his Savior and that his spirit is secured with the gift of eternal life, we place new flags on his headstone once a year.
On the way back to the car, I noticed the raised words on a sailor’s gravestone: World War I & II.
Weeds crawled over his name and dying year . . . 1975. No flowers. No decorations. Just weeds.
I glanced at the faded flags we’d taken out of my father-in-law’s marker a few moments earlier.
Every year, we drove to the cemetery to pay our respects to my husband’s dad. But there would come a time when no one would visit, when everyone who knew him would be gone.
The sailor’s headstone reminded me that there would come a day when all of us are forgotten on this side of eternity.
I’m sure we won’t be worrying about being remembered by other people when we’re praising God in eternity, but the thought of anyone being forgotten grieved me.
Kneeling before the sailor’s headstone, I twisted and pushed the wooden dowel until I’d secured the flag in the dry, cracking dirt. “Thank you, Sir,” I said.
Alan knelt beside me, without saying a word. He took the second flag from my hand and planted it deep into the ground.
I gazed across the yellowing grass dotted with grave markers and small waving flags and sighed. A group came every year to remember and honor veterans. We’d seen them before, placing new flags on the military headstones. The fresh flags waving in the slight breeze affirmed they’d finished their yearly task. Still, even they’d missed this lone sailor with the weeds covering half of the identifying words under his name.
I began plucking the overgrowth. “It’s sad,” I said, “the idea of being forgotten.”
My husband nodded. “We’ll bring extra flags next year.”
“I’d like that very much.”
And so began a tradition.
Even though there could be people who remembered these veterans without visiting the cemetery, and even though we believe our spirits live forever in eternity when we place our trust in Christ, we committed to bringing extra flags for those whose stories had long since stopped being shared with eager ears seeking to learn more about their families’ history.
We would be more intentional about thanking God for those who had given their lives to protect our freedom, those who had served sacrificially, those who had probably never imagined having weeds over their headstones, those who had never dreamed of the day they would be forgotten.
As the reality of my mortality sank in, God comforted me with the assurance that He knows each of us by name and loves each and every person He creates, even when we reject Him.
God knows us, cares for us, and will never forget us. He wants none to perish, and all to be restored in His love and grace (John 3:16-17; 2 Peter 3:3-9).
Gratitude filled my heart as I, once again, received His truth on a deep and personal level: God knows my name. He is always with me. He will never leave me, never forsake me, and never, ever forget me.
I never imagined there would come a day when I was concerned about being forgotten, until an injury and an extensive recovery time led me into a season of isolation.
These have been the most difficult days I’ve ever experienced.
When feelings of loneliness and sorrow threaten to destroy every bit of my joy, peace, hope, and faith, the Lord comforts and strengthens me with His constant presence and His infallible Word.
He’s increasing my compassion for the forgotten ones, the lonely ones, the hurting ones in the world.
He refreshes my hope by empowering me to live and love each and every day, in honor of our Savior Jesus Christ . . . because even when life is hard, this world is not where our lives end.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV)
We may not know what tomorrow brings, but we know there will come a day when all of the people who knew us will be gone. That’s no reason to lament.
Because of our new life in Christ, we can leave a legacy of faith that points others to His everlasting hope.
Lord, thank You for empowering us to make a lasting difference in this world by living and loving in the name of Jesus‒praying for others as we share Your Holy Word, and serving selflessly as we lead others to You‒the only One who can truly promise You will never leave us, never forsake us, and never, ever forget us. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children‒with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.
The LORD has His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” (Psalm 103:13-19, NIV)
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Thank You, Lord, for creating moms and showing us how to love moms through Scripture.
Please help us to remember moms are people who fall short, people who have been hurt and who have hurt others, people who do the best they can to love, people who need You.
Help us recognize one another’s brokenness and need for grace.
Thank You for those beautiful, loving relationships between mothers and children.
And thank You for those more complex relationships, like mine with my mom, that were made beautiful through the refining fires of conflict, through trials that led us down hard paths to Your healing grace made possible through our individual relationships with You, Lord.
Even if we don’t have a good relationship with our moms or if we’re moms who don’t have good relationships with our kids, for whatever reasons, please help us honor one another and pray blessings over each other.
Please help us experience Your love so intimately and completely that we will be forever changed.
Help us love You and receive the fullness of Your love for us, so that we can surrender and allow You to help us love like You love, forgive like You forgive.
And help us serve one another selflessly and generously, like You served Your disciples when You‒the King of Kings and Lord of Lords‒knelt to wash their feet.
Please give us wisdom and courage to say the kind and affirming words we’ll wish we would have said to our moms while we were able to see their smiles, on this side of eternity.
Even if the other person is not ready to receive our love, our forgiveness, or our grace, please help us to choose to love You by doing our part to make peace without feeling responsible for how the other person responds.
Please, Lord, love on those precious ones who have broken relationships or unresolved conflicts with their moms.
Please love on those who are grieving because they don’t have their moms with them today.
Please love on those who don’t know their moms but long for that relationship.
Please love on those who have been hurt by their moms, those who are trying to figure out how to love their moms in a healthy and holy way, those who aren’t ready to take that first step toward reconciliation or even that baby step toward making peace without reconciliation.
Please love on those moms who long for better relationships with their children, for those who want to forgive but are struggling, those who want to apologize but don’t know where to start.
Please love on those who are aching over the loss of children and those still waiting to be blessed with a child.
Please love on those whose mother and child relationships are even more complex than those we’ve placed before You today, Lord.
You know every detail and are able and willing to help us. So, we ask for Your help today, Lord.
We need You. We can’t love without You.
For those who are hurting this Mother’s Day, for whatever reason, please be our peace as You shower us with Your unconditional and life-transforming love.
Help us open our hearts to You and trust You are always with us, always loving, always listening, and always enough.
Please bless our families with Your healing and restoring grace, in Your perfect timing and in Your perfect way.
Help us trust You as we accept our mother and child relationships will not look like any other person’s mother and child relationship.
And through our intimacy with You‒Loving Savior and Redeemer‒we can relate to others in a way that honors You and brings us peace.
May You be glorified as Your power is magnified through our weaknesses, especially when we’re facing a Mother’s Day that isn’t as happy as the messages in the card aisles.
In Jesus’s name, Amen
In honor of my beautiful mama, Martha.
Mom, I thank God for allowing us to experience the heartaches that brought us to Him and eventually deepened our relationship with one another. I will always miss you and am grateful for the last four months God allowed me to serve as your caregiver, the last four months He allowed me to know you as a person, not just my mom.
To read more about my mom, check out “What I Wish I Would Have Said to My Mom.”
Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.
This year, I’ll be celebrating the third Mother’s Day since my sweet mama danced into the loving arms of Jesus. I’m thankful God blessed me with the privilege of serving as her live-in caregiver for the last four months of her stay at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance House.
Even though we would talk weekly before her diagnosis, I learned more about my mom during those four months than I had my entire life.
The Lord allowed me to get to know her as a woman, not just a mom.
We laughed. We cried, well mostly I cried. We shared stories, and even secrets.
God blessed me with the opportunity to tell my mom I thanked Him for our past, for the struggles and disagreements that strengthened our relationship.
I wrapped my arms around her and told her I was proud she was my mom, that I was proud to be her daughter.
I thanked her for the tough love I had resented before.
I thanked her for making time to chat with me whenever I called, for encouraging me to be creative and use my gift of writing to help others.
I thanked her for making me laugh, and even for the times she made me cry. Then I apologized for all the times I made her cry.
I thanked her for being the best mom she could be.
I affirmed I had no regrets, even though the great relationship we shared during our last decade together and through those last four months had been refined by the fires of conflict over the years.
I told my mom what I liked about her as a person, not just a parent.
As I watched her interacting with friends, with doctors and medical staff, and with fellow SCCA House neighbors, I complimented her until she blushed.
Oh, how I miss seeing her sweet cheeks blushing whenever she received a kind word. My mom was more comfortable speaking kind words to others.
During the most difficult time of my mom’s life, God blessed me with a glimpse of her heart.
When the cancer returned, time passed too quickly. There were too many people around. Our private times were gone. There was so much I wanted to say, but didn’t.
She knew I loved her.
By the grace of God, I served as her caregiver while still recovering from two shoulder surgeries, multiple injections in my upper thoracic back and neck, and a hip injury that occurred two months into our stay in Seattle.
As she watched me battle my own chronic pain, as she saw how much I missed my husband and son, my mom realized the depth of my love for her.
She knew I loved her so much that I wanted to serve her whatever the cost . . . the way she’d loved me and served me over the years.
She loved me enough to tell me she knew.
The Lord blessed me with the opportunity to thank my mom for choosing me as her caregiver. I thanked her for the priceless gift of allowing me to care for her.
We affirmed one another, encouraged one another, and prayed for one another.
Still, there were some things I never said to my mom, things she probably knew but I wish I would have spoken out loud.
I wish I would have told her I’d miss the sound of her laugh, the silkiness of her hand on mine, the way she ran her fingers through my hair when we snuggled.
I wish I would’ve told her I’d miss seeing her eyes fill with compassion and tears when she listened to hurting people.
I wish I would’ve told her I’d miss the softness of her voice when she asked me to pray for someone.
I’d miss her storytelling.
I’d miss the cards she sent me, the stick figures she drew of us in those cards.
I’d miss our phone chats.
I’d miss the early mornings I called to say, “I love you and just want to say have a nice day,” before she headed to work.
I’d miss hearing her tell me she was praying for me and every member of our family.
I’d miss her saying she just wanted to tell me she loved me.
I wish I would’ve told my mom I like when people say I look like her, but it’s more important when they say I love like her.
I wish I would’ve told her the way she chose kindness and grace made a difference in my life.
I wish I would’ve told her I was glad God created her and thankful He decided to bless me with her as my mom.
The list could go on and on.
Even if I was the greatest wordsmith in the world, I wouldn’t be able to express the beauty my mother added to my life, the priceless impact she made in my world.
She exemplified the fruit of the Spirit every day:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV)
During her standing-room-only Celebration of Life service, countless people shared stories of how my mom expressed kindness through her words and her actions:
“A kindhearted woman gains respect.” (Proverbs 11:16, NIV)
My mom wasn’t perfect. I’m not perfect. But she was the perfect mom for me.
She loved God. She loved our family. She loved people. She loved me. She loved well.
She loved like people are supposed to love: selflessly, fearlessly, willingly, cheerfully, and generously.
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35, NIV)
I wish I would have told my mom how much she meant to me every single day.
I wish I wouldn’t have wasted moments, days, years being angry, bitter, unforgiving, and stubborn.
God blessed me with the chance to tell my mom I was sorry for every conflict we had, and at the same time grateful because He’d used each trial to help us appreciate and understand one another more.
Still, I wish I could tell her I love her, just one more time.
I know she knows.
And though we’ll be together in Eternity with Jesus, our Lord and Savior, I wish I would’ve looked my mom in the eyes and said everything I wish I could say now that she is gone.
Lord, my relationship with my mom reveals how complicated mother and child relationships can get. Thanks for blessing us with the opportunity to make things right after wasting years hurting one another. Thanks for bringing both of us into a saving relationship with You and making it possible for us to have a good relationship with one another.
There are some of us who are grieving the loss of our mothers or struggling with the dynamics of mother and child relationships. Please comfort us and guide us during those difficult moments when this day brings up mixed emotions. Please bring freedom and peace through love, forgiveness, and grace, whatever that looks like for our individual circumstances.
I’ve experienced how hard Mother’s Day can feel when there are unresolved conflicts in this special relationship or when the sting of grief feels as fresh as the day we said goodbye. These moments cause me to be grateful for my relationship with You, Lord.
Please bring each of us closer to You and make it possible for us to be closer to one another. May Your will be done, Your name glorified, and Your power magnified, as You empower us to love as You love us.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.
In loving memory of my mom, Martha.
Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.
On Thursday morning, I woke up praising God for blessing me with minimal instead of high-level pain. I thanked Him with grateful tears for over twenty-four headache-free hours. My body ached after a week of constant muscle spasms and nerve pain that caused debilitating headaches.
Though the painful days are an expected part of the recovery process after my recent nerve ablation in my neck and injection in my upper thoracic back, the journey often wears me out physically and emotionally.
By mid-afternoon, I praised the Lord for allowing me to enjoy a wonderful time of reading His Word and writing for His glory.
Then, I received bad news over the phone.
After sobbing prayers, God comforted me with His promise to be with me every step of the way, even if I wasn’t sure what my next step would be.
The Lord assured me He had already planned ahead for my needs and made a way for me to follow Him, if only I would be willing to place my confidence in His unchanging character and integrity.
I called my husband to let him know about what had happened and together we made a decision in the matter. As we trust the Lord to provide in ways we can’t even begin to figure out, we remain certain He’ll care for us. He always has and always will.
A few minutes after hanging up with my husband, I checked the mail and smiled when I saw a card from a friend.
Her timely, encouraging note felt like a hug from God.
I spent some extra time reading my Bible and shed a few more tears when the Holy Spirit drew me to this familiar verse:
“But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You.” (Psalm 5:11, NIV)
Soon after, I received another call. This time, the news was great.
After a roller-coaster-day of emotions, I praised the Lord with yet another sobbing prayer.
Those tears expressed an unexplainable joy.
My pain hadn’t gone away or improved, but it hadn’t gotten worse. My bad news hadn’t changed, but God had revealed His care once again.
Even as I type this blog post, my focus isn’t on the ever-changing good or bad circumstances in my life, the uncertainty of the future, or the complex emotions the inevitable changes evoke.
When we take refuge in God, we can rest in the knowledge of who He is and who He always will be.
When we place our hope in knowing God won’t change, we can feel secure even when the world around us feels totally out of control, which it totally is.
We can be glad because our good and loving God is constant, present, dependable, trustworthy, and faithful.
We can sing for joy because He is our Protector and Provider.
We can love His name, as revealed through Scripture, because His name affirms His unchanging character.
God is Jehovah, the Existing One, the Lord who wants to be known (Genesis 2:4).
He is Elohim, Creator (Genesis 1:1).
He is El Shaddai, The Almighty (Genesis 17:1).
He is Jehovah Jireh, Provider (Genesis 22:14).
He is Jehovah Rapha, Healer (Exodus 15:26).
He is Jehovah Shalom, “The Lord Our Peace” (Judges 6:24).
He is Jehovah Rohi, Johovah Raah, “The Lord Our Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).
He is El Roi, the God who sees (Genesis 16:13).
He is El Olam, The Eternal God, everlasting (Genesis 21:33; Psalm 90:31).
Because God is the Great I AM (Exodus 3:14), the Beginning and the End, we can call Him Adonai, our Lord and Master (Genesis 18:2).
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Lord, thank You for Your infallible truth through which You reveal Your unchanging character. Please penetrate the deepest corners of our hearts and minds with Your loving, God-breathed words.
Help us seek You and rely on You to transform our hearts and minds, as You strengthen our resolve and deepen our faith. You are our peace, our refuge, our quiet strength, even when we feel our weakest. You guide our steps and make a way where there is no way, as far as we can see.
You will never change. You will never grow weary. You will never abandon us. You will never forget us or ignore the cries of our hearts. Thank You, Lord. Thank You for loving us in ways we don’t even see.
In Jesus’s name, Amen
Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon
(At the time of this posting both of these websites were active and God-honoring. Though I am doubtful this would be the case, I would appreciate readers informing me if there is any questionable content on these sites in the future.)
(Suggested Reading: Psalm 145)
As I continue to grieve the loss of a beautiful sister in Christ, I’m missing her Facebook posts. I’d always enjoyed the way she praised God in all circumstances and prayed for others, her hope firmly anchored in unshakeable faith, even as she battled cancer.
I’ve noticed a common thread as I read posts and comments shared by others who are grieving her loss and celebrating her inspiring life. Suzanne loved God and saw His fingerprints in every aspect of her life, much like David−the writer of Psalm 145.
David begins his love song by committing to a lifetime of praising the Lord:
“I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:1-2, NIV)
David proclaims God’s greatness will be passed on to future generations, as His people share who He is and all He’s done (vv. 3-7).
The psalmist affirms the Lord’s goodness, graciousness, compassion, and loving patience (vv. 8-9). While pointing out God’s fingerprints in his life and in the lives of those around him, David gets caught up in praise and changes his focus.
Instead of merely telling others about the wonders of the Almighty, he immerses himself in worship.
The recording of his testimony becomes an intimate conversation with the King of Kings.
I often find God’s fingerprints more easily in situations when I’m writing about the things He’s done, the things He’s taught me, and the things He reveals about His character as I read His God-breathed words in Scripture.
By inviting Him into my writing process, I can get so caught up in what I’m sharing about the Lord that I become drawn into a time of intimate worship, praise, and prayer.
Like David, in Psalm 145, my focus switches from serving God by pointing readers to His Word to sitting at my Master’s feet and gazing into His face.
Whether we’re writing, singing, teaching, or chatting with a friend, something powerful happens when we join forces to help others find God’s fingerprints in the world around us:
“They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your might, so that all men may know of Your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom.” (Psalm 145:11-12, emphasis mine)
As we point to the Lord and proclaim His greatness, our own faith deepens and our testimonies become psalmist’s songs that we can’t keep to ourselves (v. 13).
We can burst out in joyful praise and say:
“The LORD is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” (v. 13b-14)
Like David, we can become so enthralled by God that we turn back to Him with grateful confidence in His provision (v. 15-16).
We can celebrate His loving righteousness toward His people (v. 17).
We can rejoice in His constant presence, His sovereign care, and His promise to listen to those who call on His name (v. 18-20).
The psalmists and my precious friend Suzanne recognized God’s fingerprints in their lives, in the lives of those around them, and in Scripture.
When we do this, the Lord can strengthen our resolve, comfort us, and empower us to tell everyone how wonderful He is and always will be, no matter how hard our current circumstances feel.
We, too, can sing:
“My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise His holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Thank You, Lord, for the allowing us to experience Your loving grace, encounter You intimately as we prayerfully study Your Word, and exalt You as we share Your truth and love. Please fill us with wisdom and courage we need to speak or write words that will glorify Your name and testify about who You are and all You’ve done. In Jesus’s name, Amen
Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon, using free photo from Pexels (April 30, 2017).