The Next Chapter Has Begun

My mother in love was an avid reader of Amish love stories. Every year for Christmas, Mothers Day, Birthday, etc. She would text me a list of two or three books from a new series she had started by obtaining book one. If she loved the book, she wanted the whole set so she could finish up the whole story line. My father in love built her a beautiful book shelf that was probably around six feet tall. She filled that shelf full of her collection of treasured books. Often when I would visit her she would mention her books and ask me if I wanted to borrow some of them.

I, on the other hand, am not much of a fiction reader. I love books on theology, Bible studies, and “self help” books. Currently I have four books I am reading or working on (Bible Studies). I tried to get into her Amish books and just couldn’t. But I have found an author that catches my attention for my occasional venture into the Fiction realm, Francine Rivers. I have read several of her books and honestly I wouldn’t mind rereading them. The last one I read , The Masterpiece, has become another favorite book of mine. When it was finished, I was left wishing for more. I had fell in love with the characters and I just wanted to know what the next volume of their life would hold. It is on rare occasion that I put down a finished book and think to myself, “Seriously!?!? is this how this book is going to end?” and wishing the next chapter would start. But it happened the moment I read the last words of that book.

Yesterday was the day my brother in law and my husband had to go and sign papers to complete the sell of my mother in love’s house. Since her death in August our family has been hard at work tying up all the lose ends. A house that has been a part of my memories and life for 28 years is no longer owned by family any more. Earlier this week my husband and I went out to her house to pick up the last few items we needed to get from my mother in love’s possessions. I walked through the house room by room partly reminiscing, partly checking to make sure everything was out. There is the kitchen I learned how to make the Nelson family Tacos dish. There is where her piano sat and I played songs the last time we all gathered there to sing and pray together. There is the bathroom vanity where all her makeup, hair brushes, and perfumes sat. As we walked around outside, I looked out remembering being “very” pregnant with my first born walking around in the back yard during my Father in Love’s birthday party. Then there’s the bedroom window I climbed through, because my toddler had locked me out of their house accidently the few months we had to live with them. I could go on and on. There is a part of me that thinks, “Seriously!?!? is this how this is all going to end a few signatures on some papers, keys turned over, and walking away from the office the transaction all went down?”

This morning bright and early marks the first day of Deer Rifle Season in our neck of the woods. This will be my 27th opening day since I officially became a “Nelson”. My memories of my first rifle season center around my Mother In Love’s house all those years ago. My side of the family never was much for hunting deer. We’re a little more of the boating and fishing type. I did not realize the level of excitement my husband of 11 months would have upon arriving home at his parents house for the weekend of hunting. He was smiling ear to ear, laughing with his three older brothers, telling hunting stories of earlier years. In fact, it kind of disturbed my image of what I wanted my husband to be. “Redneck” wasn’t exactly what I thought I was looking for ha ha. Through the years I have learned to accept the love for deer hunting. I have had my cold hard heart warmed and softened to the whole season that comes each November, laughing right along with the rest of them and admiring the deer they bring up from the woods.

Today’s hunt is the first in three or four years that my oldest son was able to come and hunt on our land with his younger brother and his dad. So I set my alarm for 5 am. I wanted to make sure my men had their stomachs full before they hit the woods. The laughter and joking had a small remembrance of those 27 years ago in my Father and Mother in loves home. Before they walked out the door I took a picture, because that is what you do in times like these. Make a memory. Right before they headed out to the woods I peaked out our window at them standing on the porch. There they stood heads bowed praying for God’s blessing on their hunt and their day, a tradition started many years ago by my Father in love, Gene. He would stand with his sons and pray right before they embarked to their woods thankful for the time, the deer, and the family that was right there that moment. It occurred to me as I watched my sons and their dad standing on our porch that the sequel has begun. The book of our lives may have had the last chapter close of our Mom and Dad Nelson yesterday, but the next book has already begun to be written. My question I asked “Really, is this how this all ends?” can be answered, “Actually this is how the next chapter has begun.”

In the Bible, the apostle Paul wrote to a young man Timothy about that same kind of sequel a couple of thousand years ago. “as I think of your strong faith that was passed down through your family line. It began with your grandmother Lois, who passed it on to your dear mother, Eunice. And it’s clear that you too are following in the footsteps of their godly example.” 2 Timothy 1:5. The chapters of our lives and the prequels and sequels that surround us are written not about the things we had or have, possessions. They are written and continued in the moments of faith passed down through the family line. Just like the one I witnessed in the dark of 5:30 am on my front porch. The strong faith of my son’s grandfather was passed down through our family line. It began even before their grandpa and was was passed on to him, to their dad. And I am thankful that it is clear that my sons too are following in the footsteps of their godly example. Their sequels of faith have only began to be written, the story will never end because God’s faithfulness to us will go on and on and on. Each day it only begins.

Youngest son with this mornings deer. The legacy goes on!

We’ll Meet You There!

When you closed your eyes

And drew your last breath,

What looked to us as the end of your life

Was really not death.

You stepped from this world

Into glories unknown

You ran into the arms of Jesus 

Forever at home.

There in that Place of eternal delight

You were surrounded by others

Who have went on before us

What a glorious sight!

There they all stood:

Our Grandmas and Grandpas,

Countless others,

There smiling, was Dad!

You wait patiently for us.

Watching us from above

Cheering us on in that great cloud of witnesses

With the ones gone before us, the ones that we love.

We’ll soon be together

Eternally grateful Jesus’ words are true

One by one we will gather

We’ll be there together again with you!

(We love you Mom Nelson!  We’ll run our race faithfully for Jesus, and We’ll see you again soon!

We’ll meet you there!)

“The Blessing”

“…And this is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each one with his own special farewell blessing. Then he instructed them: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave which is in the field of Ephron the Hittite… Jacob finished instructing his sons, pulled his feet into bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭49:27-33‬ MSG

What a whirlwind this day has been! It started with a phone call from my mother in love regarding a need she had at the nursing home she is at. I quickly got around and headed there. Then it was a day of fielding calls, talking to hospice, nurses, and trying to alter her nightgowns to be more suitable for her needs. With my limited seamstress skills that was a feat. After lunch I sat at my table with my head in my hands and tears began to flow. Then it occurred to me. A trip to Hobby Lobby would help me feel better. It soothes the soul. So off I went, and I was right.

The facts of the matter is my mother in love is down to a few days. Knowing this has prompted family to come. Sisters, children, grandchildren, nieces, etc. They have come to spend some time with a woman who is very much loved. When I told her about people coming to see her, she told me weakly she was tired, and I told her I knew she was, but it’s tough being as popular as you are. The company did perk her up today. It was a good day for her.

Grandma Praying for each Grandkid individually

COVID 19 has made it hard for a family, and in this case a very large family, to spend their time with the one they love. Two by two they were allowed into her isolation room, with health screening , temperature check, escort to and from the room, and face mask the entire visit. She enjoyed her time with family in between naps and moments of being quiet. Although the restrictions have been hard on us all, I saw the most beautiful thing tonight that will mark my heart for the rest of my life, Grandma’s Blessing.

Two of my kids receiving “The Blessing”

One of the nursing home’s generous accommodations during this time of quarantine was to allow visitors to stand outside her window and talk to her through a screen. Some of her grandkids arrived for a visit there, and that is where “The Blessing” began. One by one they stuck their head in the cranked open crack and told their Grandma they loved her and bowed their head as she held a hand toward them and prayed. Grandkids ages 15-25 coming for their blessing from a woman who had sown seeds of God’s love into them from the day they were born. It was beautiful. It felt like I was watching the scene of Jacob blessing his sons, but with a southern Missouri woman’s style. Then the time came for her kids. As I stuck my head through the small crack to receive my blessing too, I thought of how blessed I have already been. Some 28 years ago our lives as mother and daughter in love began. I can only hope to be half the mother in love that this woman was to me for my son’s wives in the future. But may I, in my time raise my hand to my grandkids and proclaim, “May His favor be upon you to a thousand generations. To your children, and their children, and their children…” -(“The Blessing” Elevation worship). And may I leave an impact on my children and grandchildren, like she has on them that they would be willing to stand outside a window on a hot summer night, in order to receive “The Blessing” from the hand that held them close when they were babies many years before.

Grandma Evie with hand raised in prayer for the Generations to follow her. “The Blessing”

““ ‘ “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ’”
‭‭Numbers‬ ‭6:24-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭20:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Things I Need to Say

It’s been a long four year battle with multiple myeloma cancer for my Mother in Love. She’s faced many difficult decisions bravely and has fought with ever ounce of courage she could muster throughout all the difficult treatments: stem cell transplant, radiation, chemo etc. A position she couldn’t have ever conceived being in before she got sick. I’d say she’s one of the toughest women I’ve ever seen.

Road trip to Ashes to Beauty Women’s Encounter

Today I opened my Facebook. One of my memories from six years ago was a picture of us. As I looked at the photo, memories of the years we’ve known each other flooded my mind. Twenty- eight years ago we were introduced in the living room of her home. I’m not sure what she thought of a 21 year old college girl dating her 19 year old son. She has often retold our first encounter of me doing the “Kitty Rap” and her and my Father in love getting up out of bed to go and meet Richard’s girl friend. As she puts it, I am the one she had prayed with Rich about, when he asked her to pray one late night. He wanted for God to show him which girl he should pursue at the Christian Campus House I lived in. Eight months later we were married. So I’m glad God heard her prayers.

Memory from 6 years ago today.

The day of our wedding as I stood in the reception line, she gave me a hug and told me, “I’ve had him for 19 years. He’s yours now.” I kind of wondered what that meant. It was almost passing off the prized pet or something, but now I understand. She never interfered in our marriage. She just wanted to be my friend. In fact, from the beginning she made sure I knew I was another one of her kids.

That probably didn’t sink in to my head until my husband and I had been married for around 5 years, and we had to move back to his hometown for a job opportunity. He took a pay cut for a job that had insurance, permanence, and opportunities to grow. It also meant we would have to live with his parents for a few months. Something that I was less than thrilled about. I kind of liked my space… But it was in those three months, while my husband was off to work and it was me, my two year old son, and her around the house, that I realized that she was another mom to me, and just how blessed I was. Us Laying out together in her yard and getting sunburned while my toddler took a nap is one of the first memories just how crazy and fun loving she could be.

Biscuits and Gravy Christmas tradition

For years we did a lot together: Trips to the Mennonite and Amish communities to shop their bakeries and surplus stores, camping, shopping, going to the nursery to buy plants, vacations together, Christmas morning biscuits and gravy (she cooked) , etc. She even hopped in the “Tilt a Whirl” with me at the State fair one time about 10 years ago. She laughed and laughed as the ride jerked us around and she practically ended up in my lap. Then there’s the photo op with the Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile. We’ve had lots of fun times through the years.

Watching a Great Grand pet a deer at a deer farm with me

My Mother in Love has tried hard to be a good grandma, and she has been to my kids. When my husband worked 12 hour shifts 6 days a week she would watch them for me so I could go grocery shopping on my own. She kept them for overnights so my husband and I could get away on our anniversary every year. She thoroughly enjoyed my kids telling her that she could peel apples better than me and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches better than me too, not sure how that is accomplished but my 25 year old son would still attest to her PB&J making expertise. She’s got 18 grandkids total and I’m sure if polled they would attest to what a wonderful Grandma she has been.

Great Grandma with my Grandson

Our trips and experiences lately, haven’t been as fun although we’ve tried to make the best out of them we could. When she was diagnosed with Cancer, she could barely walk. I took her to appointments at the oncologist and others. It was hard on me. I’m not one for doctors, needles, and such. Sitting in the waiting rooms watching the people go by. Some looking like they had recently been diagnosed with fear in their eyes. Others looking like a miracle would be all that could help them as they had lost weight, strength, etc. My mother in love however did her appointments with grace visiting with everyone in the waiting room and smiling all the while. She’s a fighter and she fought back. She ended up walking into the clinic by herself after driving to the city from our small town for treatment by herself. (something she probably never thought she could do) And she did so for a few years, until recently when the treatment options have run out.

My Mother in Love is a woman of faith. Ten seconds with her and you would figure that out. So her fight has been with God fighting for her. She still stands believing that God is not done though the doctor says he (the doctor) is. She believes for a miracle and trusts God when many would be tempted to give up.

I tend to be an “I want to know the details” kind of person. Hoping to understand what’s going on so I can know what to expect and make good choices. Sometimes this has ran up against her desire for me to “just believe and trust God for healing”. Throughout this whole ordeal I have often prayed and asked God to give her what we all desire, her healing. I know He is able and He is good.

Wednesday the doctor did not say the things we had hoped he would say at her appointment. Her condition has come to a place where it has to be God for her to be whole. I told her a week ago that I knew no matter what she was in a win/ win situation. For her to live here on earth is Christ, being able to show all those around her God’s love and faithfulness she has experienced in her own life. But for her to die is gain. I can’t think of anything more wonderful than leaving all the pain, sickness, and sadness we experience to be with Jesus. That is truly a gain. She told me she knew that was true, but she felt like she wasn’t done. So many more prayers to pray. So many more people to point to Jesus with her light.

This morning when our photo of us in front of the Wiener Mobile popped up on my Facebook page memories like I’ve just shared flooded my mind. The words I’ve written above overflowed in my heart and I began to think of all the things I need to say/ write. Things like, Thank you for being a wonderful mom to my husband and me. Thank you for being the best Grandma you could be. Thank you for modeling how to love your husband. Thank you for being there for me the past 28 years. Know that I’m asking God for more years and I know He has you in His hand. I love you! Just wanted you to know. These are the things I need to say.