"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matthew 22:37-39 (NASB)
Over the past three years, I have looked time and again at a small picture of my mother and grandmother together before they were estranged. I dreamed of having my mother and grandmother sitting with me and talking over a cup of coffee while I worked on a novel about the complexities of mother-daughter relationships. Both women were strong Christians who served in their churches. Each of them had a heart for others. And yet, conflicting loyalties dug a chasm between them in their later years.
What caused the estrangement? Quite simply, Dad wanted to retire to Oregon where he and Mom would have a better and more affordable retirement. This meant selling their California property, and the cottage in which Grandma lived. Mom had promised Grandma she could always live with them, and Mom and Dad planned to build the house and then move Grandma up north to join them. In the meantime, Grandma would live in Merced with my aunt. Upon completion of the house, my parents extended the invitation to Grandma to move in with them. They had built the house for possible elder disability: wider halls and doorways, and lower kitchen counters to make it accessible if any of the three of them ended up in a wheelchair.
Grandma refused to come.
Though my parents made numerous trips south to visit her, Grandma never changed her mind. Nor did she ever travel north, not even to visit or see the beautiful home my parents had built. A few years later, Grandma had a stroke. Mom and Dad rushed to be at her side, but Grandma died before they could arrive. Mom grieved deeply. In tears, she said to me, "I think she willed herself to die just so we'd never be able to talk things out." Those words haunt me.
After my mother's death, my brother sorted through the family papers and boxes of pictures. We talked about Mom and Grandma's relationship. I told him how I wished they had worked things out and could have loved one another the way they did in the picture he had sent. My brother believed the picture indicated they had. My aunt, on the other hand, felt certain Grandma never forgave Mom.
I look at their faces now as I write this. I see how they leaned into one another. Their lips are relaxed and curved, their eyes shining. And I pray whatever grievances Grandma held so tightly, she relinquished in the end. God can work right up to our last breath. Of this I am certain: Grandma believed in Jesus. So did Mom. I hold to Jesus' promise that He would not lose a single one who belonged to Him.
Yet, having seen their earthly pain, I do not want to make the same mistakes with my daughter. I want to share my life with her, offer my experience and hope – and, above all, my faith in the God who will watch over and guide her, and fulfill the plan He has for her life. In order to encourage, I will say often, "I love you." "You are God's gift to me." "You are a daughter of the King of kings."
Dear Lord, I thank You for the mother and grandmother You gave me. I thank You for the lessons they taught me. You have a plan for each of us, Lord, and it is a plan to build up our faith and not tear us down. I love You, Father. I trust You. I rest in You. In the name of Your precious Son, Jesus, I pray, Amen.
Related Resources:Redeeming Love
by Francine Rivers
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For more encouragement, visit our free resource Family Connection RitualsApplication Steps:
Have you shared your past experiences with your children?
What holds you back?Reflections:
Do I need to make amends with anyone?
If making amends might in any way harm the person I have hurt, how else might I make amends?
John 15:12, "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." (NASB)
Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." (NASB)
1 Peter 4:8, "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another because love covers a multitude of sins." (NASB)
© 2010 by Francine Rivers. All rights reserved.