God’s help for impossible choices
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Note: This blog post originally was scheduled to publish on 5/22, but was pushed back a week to publish a post on the American Idol finale. Mom has been steadily improving over these past few weeks, and we continue to be grateful for every day we have with her!

I had worked hard to get ahead and was looking forward to a wonderful week of rest and relaxation at the beach. Three days before we were scheduled to leave, the phone rang at 1:13 a.m. and everything changed. The nurses at my mom’s assisted living were on the other end of the line telling me that Mom needed to get to the hospital.

Thirty minutes later, Mom was in my car and we were headed to the E.R. Two hours later, the doctor was looking me in the eyes and said, “It’s bad.” I knew the doctor was telling me to be prepared for the worst news.

The doctors had found a mass on Mom’s pancreas and reported a serious blood infection. They began to ask me about a DNR, her end-of-life plans, and what treatments I wanted to choose for her. Mom has fairly advanced dementia and the choices needed to be mine, not hers. We talk often about the sanctity of life as it relates to abortion, but the conversation is so much larger than that one issue.

I was left with the prayer, “Lord, how do I sustain my mom’s life without prolonging her death?” The doctors wanted answers I just didn’t know how to give.

God’s great calm.

This blog is scheduled to arrive in people’s inboxes on Wednesday mornings. Even as people are reading these words today, I am speaking at an event where I have been asked to discuss my book, A Great Calm. I will share a little of the story and then probably say something like, “I can speak about God’s great calm, I can even write a book about it, but his calm wasn’t mine until I gave everything else away and asked to receive his gift of peace.”

I spent several days ready to hand my mom to Jesus, then as her health improved, I spent several days trying to figure out how to care for her in the days ahead. There were no clear or easy solutions. I had bad choices and worse choices, none of which felt right. 

How could I make good decisions when all I had was limited information? And my choices would likely become my mom’s life, or maybe my mom’s death! 

I was trying to sleep on the fold-out bed in the hospital room. I listened to her moan. I tried to help her understand where she was and why she was there, and when she went back to sleep, I tried to rest. But, one morning I finally gave up trying to understand medical facts and accepted the hard truth that I would never have the answers I needed most. The only solution I needed was God’s. The only solution I could trust was God’s. 

At the end of my efforts was God’s answer.

What is God’s great calm? Jesus was asleep in the boat, not caring about the storm that raged around him and his disciples. The waters from the Sea of Galilee were filling their boats and these men, many who were experienced fishermen, thought they were going to die. It was then that they woke Jesus and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38). Jesus woke up, spoke to the wind and the sea saying, “‘Peace, Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39).

Scripture says that the disciples were in awe of “this man” who could speak to a storm and calm the wind and the waves.

I was awake one morning at 3:30 a.m. and I sat in that hospital room asking Jesus for his answers, for his calm. When I asked, I received what I needed. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “You will never know Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have.” When I realized that the only answer I needed was from Jesus, I prayed to receive it. And I did!

It was never my choice.

The outcome of my mom’s life wasn’t up to me. Only Jesus has the perfect ability to make that choice. I just needed to make decisions for my mom’s life and allow Jesus to make the decisions about her death. It really was that simple.

I spent hours that morning learning what was necessary to qualify Mom for hospice/palliative care. She needed three factors, and she had all three. I knew the best place for Mom was back at her place, in her own bed, surrounded by familiar faces who wanted to take good care of her. But, I also knew she needed additional medical care that they couldn’t provide. Several phone calls later, she had the extra care she would need from a wonderful, Christian hospice group.

When the doctors showed up later that morning, I told them what I wanted to do. By 5:00 that afternoon, Mom was back in her home surrounded by familiar things. It was the first moments of calm that we had experienced since I had rushed her to the E.R. a week earlier.

With the help of loving, Christian health care, my mom is now in a position to live the rest of her life with as much joy and peace as she can experience. My mom’s journey to heaven is for Jesus to decide, and I trust him with that moment.

My last Mother’s Day with Mom?

My sister and I helped Mom get to the dining room for the big Mother’s Day luncheon they were doing. We sat and enjoyed that time with Mom knowing it might be our last holiday together. Or maybe, we will have several more.

I’m peacefully sad and joyfully ready for whatever Jesus wants to do. He is perfect and his plan for her will be perfect as well. Mom’s life has always been in his hands, and I will do my best to honor and obey his plans. I’m just glad to be part of his work.

Mother’s Day was a sweet day because I know she is back home and doing the best we can expect for her life. It was a sweet day because I know her best life is in her future. Every night I ask Jesus to grab my dad and bring him along, as they come get Mom. It’s probably not great theology, but it is my nightly prayer. I like the verse that says, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). As a Bible teacher I have to say, I wouldn’t teach that verse that way. As a daughter, I sure am praying the verse that way!

How do we receive God’s help for impossible choices?

We need to ask to receive what only God can give. We need to give up our own ideas before we are ready for his. We need to trust his perfection and have a healthy sense of doubt for other solutions.

The psalmist wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). The way to receive God’s help for impossible choices is not knowing that verse, it’s choosing to trust and live the truth it proclaims. Run to the shelter God provides. Receive the calm strength that only God can give. And trust his presence is all the help you need because it will be the only help you actually have.

As I type these words, I do so with the “great calm” that Jesus has provided. My only regret is the week it took for me to stop fighting through the storm myself, and realize I needed no other voice but his. I can honestly say, “it is well with my soul.” I’m blessed to know and love the God who makes “all things possible.”