All four of our children, from our littlest to our biggest, sang in the Praise and Worship team yesterday at our church. We were very excited, especially our youngest one. This was going to be Elijah's first time to sing on Family Sunday. He was very eager to do it, and it made him feel so much like a big boy to be part of the service.
On the way to church, this small, deep voice from the second seat said, "But Grandma won't be there to see me sing for the first time up in front. She always came to see us at church." That's true. My mom, who seemed very uncomfortable with regular church attendance, would be the first one to arrive whenever Ted or one of our little children would be singing. In fact, our senior minister once chuckled and said that he knew Ted must be singing because he has just seen his grandma!
The thought that Elijah wouldn't have his grandma there, the one who had been a regular advocate for him when she thought we were too strict or not fair (which by her estimation was often!) brought tears to our eyes and a heaviness to our hearts as we drove on. We decided to pray at that moment that somehow when our children were up on the altar singing praises to the One who made us, He would open up Heaven a little for their grandma, who was newly in Heaven, to take a peek and rejoice!
We arrived at church, got settled, and the service began. It was such a tender thing to my heart to watch my children (all four already home, that is) being a part of the service. It made me a little teary, and I remembered the prayer we had whispered on the way that morning. I wondered if it was possible my mom could see them. Before I knew it, the service was almost over, and we were singing the last song. But boy what a choice of song it was! "Amazing Grace", the Chris Tomlin version, suddenly came up on our screen. I've got to tell you, my heart leapt with joy, and the tears really flowed.
You see, that song has such an amazing significance to me. First of all, Ted recorded the original version of "Amazing Grace" onto a tape long ago for his grandma. She would pull it out regularly for visitors and family alike to play, much to the embarrassment of Ted! She loved to hear him sing that song. To say Mom was resistant to attending church would be putting it mildly. When Mom and Dad were first married, they had had some kind of toxic church experience, and from that time on, she felt judged when going to any type of church. The only time she truly felt comfortable was when Ted would sing or on special holidays like Christmas and Easter.
Mom also was very reluctant to talk about her faith in God. When I first accepted Christ way back in college, it just made her nervous. We laughed about it later, but when I was baptized in our present church, she was so nervous that she wore two different types of earrings! After Dad passed away, she frequently would express her fear of never seeing him again. We shared often that she would indeed see Dad again as long as she had accepted Jesus. That's all she had to do. It did make us fearful, knowing that since Dad was a believer, Mom would say often she wasn't ever going to see him again. So we doubted at times that Mom truly knew what it was to be saved. We weren't judging, just very fearful for someone we loved dearly.
Within the last year, Mom would become angry at us, but at others times she would talk and ask questions about Christ and what God said in his word. She had a small ray of belief but somehow felt she wasn't good enough or worthy enough for God to spend time answering her prayers. That broke our hearts. My brother and I talked frequently with her about faith in the months preceding her death. Sometimes she would just say, "Stop preaching to me." That would effectively end our faith conversation. We just weren't sure where Mom stood on her faith. As Mom became increasingly more ill and in pain the last few months of her life though, she began to let me pray out loud over her as we went to yet another doctor's appointment. She even began to let us talk more freely about faith in Christ. We felt she was beginning to open up about accepting Christ, and that gave us hope.
The two weeks that Mom lay in hospice dying were excruciating for her, even though she was kept as comfortable as she could be in the dying process, and for us. However, there was a silver lining in that cloud of grief. My aunts, brother, husband, and I did have a captive audience in Mom during that time. She lay mostly unresponsive, so we could pray and read the Bible aloud as much as we wanted, and we prayed she was taking it in and pondering it in her heart. We could even sing to her as much as we liked, and the one song that I sang over and over and over to her was Chris Tomlin's version of "Amazing Grace". Ted sang it a few times to her as well. Whenever I got to the part that said, "My chains are gone. I've been set free. My God, my Savior has ransomed me," it would thrill my heart to think that if Mom let Christ in, she could be set free from fear, pain, feelings of unworthiness, and free to go to Heaven forever.
She died peacefully one night while we slept at her bedside. We felt she was probably free and in Heaven joyfully being in the presence of God (and Dad), but honestly, we didn't know since Mom would alternately reject or embrace Christ in her living.
So yesterday morning, after praying that God would let her take a peek as her grandchildren were singing praises to Him, imagine my utter joy when I heard "her" song! Not only did I feel she was getting to rejoice with our children in praise, but I also felt deep in my soul that she truly was in Heaven. She made it! Oh, she made it!
The funny thing about that song was when I mentioned it to Amanda, our children's worship leader, she shared that she hadn't even had a communion song chosen that morning, so Ted suggested "Amazing Grace" (the Chris Tomlin version)! They chose that song after we prayed in the van. Ted and Amanda had no way of knowing about our prayer. To a Christian who loves our God so dearly, that is no coincidence! God showed up big yesterday. Mom is home!