Don't Give Up on Anyone

My stepmom died on January 27th 2015.  I wrote her a tribute.  As I thought about her influence on my life, I recalled just how unlovable I made myself to her, to my family; me - the black sheep, the outcast, doing drugs, being irresponsible, no morality, no integrity - a parent’s ultimate nightmare teenager from age 15 to 21. I’m certainly not proud of that, but I am inspired by my stepmom’s tough commitment to care about me, even when I didn’t.

Today I’m thinking about those in my life that are difficult to love.  The ones who take carefully crafted plans to help and toss them aside like trash.  The ones who indirectly ooze their problems out of martyrs’ mouths yet find fault in any proposed solution. Those who spitefully use people. And those who simply suck the life right out of you and then ask for more. Yeah, those ones. The ones who don’t respond well to love, who misinterpret motives, who can’t comprehend truth.  The ones who make us feel uncomfortable. What do we do with those ones?

Jesus loves the unlovable. He waits for them. He’s patient, longsuffering and kind REGARDLESS. He keeps no record of wrong but rejoices in what is good.

“But He’s God.” you say,  “Of course He can do that.” 

Ok, then ask, “How much of God lives in me?”  Can I pray?  Can I listen?  Can I take a minute and smile? Can I forgive? Can I courageously ask the Lord to do or not do something through me to bring some small form of redemption, even when I might not see it appreciated?

Think about those estranged from you… Can the Lord trust you with His plan for them? It might take time, sacrifice, hard decisions like letting go… or embracing… but isn’t that what life is for?

However flawed our journey, it was certainly true of my stepmother’s life for me.

Tribute to My Mom
When I was young, I never thought I would really like you. I could not have been more wrong. 

It took a while, but then we didn’t see each other very often, usually just for a few hours on Sunday afternoons.  You were my dad’s new wife, and I’d watch you, test you, trying to see what you were made of… You didn’t flinch.

Instead you baked homemade birthday cakes with lollipops sticking out the sides. You helped Dad arrange summer drives for giant ice-cream cones at Measumers and winter fun like shooting down the icy toboggan run at Sheridan Park. We camped in Canada and played make-believe in the fields behind the house on Grand Island. You taught us to create candles, to build plastic signs and to make up when we siblings argued. Still, I didn’t exactly know what to think about you… “my Sunday mother.”

When I was a wayward teenager, Dad and you took me in. I continued the testing… Although we rarely saw things the same way, we enjoyed some pleasures like shopping for clothes and eating huge bowls of ice cream in the evenings while watching Vanna White turn the letters on Wheel of Fortune.

I finally pushed you and Dad away completely and set out to do life on my own.  Years went by and the only time I saw you was when I snuck in the back of the church at Grammy’s funeral. You hugged me, and I stayed behind in the end pew and cried for hours.

Then, I got sick. Very sick.

That’s when we connected. That’s when I knew I liked you for real, and I’d love you forever.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t wrap my brain around having a debilitating disease that constantly threatened to steal my life. I wanted out in the wrong way. Thankfully, you and Dad showed up in my life – again.

You spoke to me like everything mattered. You told me circumstances happened for reasons we sometimes don’t understand; but if I could find faith to believe, I’d see the answers, even if they were not the ones I wanted.  I hated those words, but I clung to them because I knew they sustained me. I knew it was my right way out.  In spite of myself, you always made sure I was encouraged when you left the hospital. You forced me to have hope.

After I stabilized, the pep talks continued, your assistance found me a place to live, your help got me started in college, you and Dad drove me to New England where I entered Bible school. On holidays, I’d travel down to Florida to stay with you and Dad. You mothered me – something I desperately needed.

I could go on about the special times at Tarpon Springs munching on gyros and Friday Flea Market where we’d hunt for treasures, and preparing for church teachings together, and eating lunch at Ryans (Dad always got his desserts before eating!) and afternoons lounging around the pool. You saved my life – literally – from drowning.

I shared with you my dreams of being a missionary, and you didn’t bat an eye, even when others thought about the impossibility of my weakened body.
“Do it.” you’d say, “Get prepared and go.”

I did, and that’s why I’m not there right now, sitting next to my sisters and brother at your memorial service. I’m here, in Kenya, in Africa, doing what you agreed I could do.  I’m here ministering to widowed mamas because you pushed me.  I’m here serving neglected, handicapped children because you didn’t give up on me.  I’m here adopting a child from a hard place because you loved me when I was unlovable.

Your influence helped create the life I now cherish.  Who knew – the little girl that put you through the wringer would someday value your presence in so, so many ways. Was it all perfect? Heck no, but then again, nothing is.  Thanks for believing in me when I couldn’t.  I love you forever. My mom you will always be.

One last hug till I see you again…
Your grateful daughter,