Seizing the Moment | March 13th, 2020
A large package had just arrived on my doorstep. It was the week after Christmas, so I was excited to get to open one final holiday surprise. Dad had told me to be on the lookout for something he was sending me.
I had no idea this would turn out to be one of my most beloved treasures…
When my sister, Heidi, and I were just three and four years old, our mother began writing down the humorous and heartwarming thoughts we expressed over the next six years. She journaled these in a simple, spiral notebook. Although the book was nothing special to look at on the outside, I knew she wrote down very special things about me and Heidi on the inside, so I called it “My Precious Book.”
I hurriedly opened the package and gasped when I saw what was inside. It was a copy of My Precious Book! Dad had made one for me and one for Heidi to keep for our very own. It didn’t take long for me to get comfy on the living room couch and begin reading.
This book is filled with delightful, detailed childhood conversations that we had over the years with our sweet Mama. Although I always remembered how loved she made me feel, I did not remember our actual discussions. To have these in writing makes this book such a priceless treasure!
I laughed and cried as I slowly read through 120 pages of love our mother poured into my sister and me through her interactions with us.
What really stood out to me as I read page after page written during these most impressionable years of our childhood was that she was always seizing the moment. If there was a teachable opportunity, she took advantage of it without hesitation. She somehow kept herself from getting too caught up in the busyness of life, focusing instead on what was most important to her. Those years with her little girls were short, and she knew it, even noting it at times in the book as if to remind herself.
The godly truths our mother taught us have stuck with me all these years. I cannot imagine how my life would have turned out had she not taken the time to patiently teach them to me. And they were always taught with a heart full of so much love and kindness.
It has been eight years now since my Mama went to be with Jesus after losing her battle with breast cancer on March 13, 2012. Today, on the anniversary of taking her last breath here on earth, I couldn’t think of a better way to honor her than to share some of these conversations she recorded in My Precious Book and the truths she taught me, forever to be impressed upon my heart…
Truth #1: Memorizing God’s Word equips you for life.
Our mother always made it a priority to spend time with us memorizing God’s Word so it would be hidden in our hearts and minds whenever needed. It gave us godly wisdom and helped us understand God’s amazing character. Knowing He is infinitely wise, full of grace, and how much He truly loves us was just what we needed to prepare us for whatever we would face in the years ahead.
Memorizing Scripture began when we were three and four years old. Every so often, Heidi and I would wake up from having a nightmare. That’s when our mother seized the moment. To calm our fears, she helped us memorize and recite Psalm 56:3-4:
When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?
Knowing God was our Protector, our nightmares finally subsided and we were able to sleep soundly.
She noted in her book: They love to memorize Scripture and are so proud of themselves when they recite it correctly!
The Scripture verses we memorized had quite an impact on our everyday thoughts.
She wrote: As we walked along the sand at Seal Rock Beach, Kimberly (age 6) looked down and said, “God’s thoughts about me are more than all these grains of sand, aren’t they?”
Our mother had spent a lot of time encouraging us to memorize Psalm 139. We read it so many times that verses 17 and 18 instantly came to my mind at that moment on the beach.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
Heidi and I went on to memorize many more Bible verses throughout our childhood which continue to pop into my mind even now, as an adult, whenever I need them most. What a valuable investment of the time she spent with us!
Truth #2: You have incredible value.
“Mommy, was I in your tummy when you were a little girl?” Kimberly asked tonight as we ate popcorn together by the fire. “No, you weren’t,” I replied. “Well, where was I then when you were a little girl?” she asked. “You were in the loving thoughts and in the heart of God in heaven.”
Our mother seized the moment, often reminding us how valuable we were to her and to God. Even before we were born, we were being formed in her womb by our Creator for His purposes. Together, we read the verses of this truth in Psalm 139:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14
We learned many of God’s truths from watching and listening to our Mama but she discovered that she could learn them from us as well. I love the beautiful analogy she wrote about through Heidi’s hobby of rock collecting…
For the past couple of years, both Kimberly and Heidi have been avid rock collectors – especially Heidi (age 7). Meticulously, Heidi pores over every rock in our driveway, scanning them for “gems.” Her collection is quite large, filling several deep containers which have long since overflowed her “treasure drawer.”
She delights in describing why she loves each rock for its unique beauty – “This one is so smooth on this side.” Or “See how this one looks like fire?” Or “This one musta been a piece of wood that petrified.” To the casual observer, most of her rocks are ugly gray humps fit only to be driven over by cars. But upon closer inspection, each does have its own special identity.
Heidi has taught me of God’s perspective – that He sees each of us as uniquely beautiful, no matter how plain or ugly others view the exterior to be. How He must love to point out our special features as evidence of His infinitely precise handiwork! We are indeed “branded” by His impression on our lives. Thank you, thank you, little precious Heidi, for showing your Mommy what a loving God we have. You are so like Him.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
Truth #3: God has a special plan for your life.
What do you think I’ll be when I grow up? Heidi (age 8) asked me tonight as I tucked her in bed. “I didn’t create you, your body or your mind,” I reminded her. “God did. He has a special plan for your life that He specially designed you for. He hasn’t told me what that is, so I can’t answer your question, Heidi. But the important thing is that you are in the center of His will and that you are obedient to Him each day. He will lead you day by day. Just be sure that each day you are doing what He wants you to do.”
Throughout my life, my mother always encouraged me to be open to new ways to use the gifts and talents that God gave me. She believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself and encouraged me continuously. She reminded me of my unique gifts when I didn’t think I had any. It seemed she could always look directly into my soul and knew just what I needed to hear right when I needed to hear it.
The chorus to one of my favorite country songs Mama Knows by Shenandoah describes her so well:
Mama knows, mama knows
Sometimes I think she's got a window to my soul
Mama knows, mama knows
Even when I think it doesn't show
She also encouraged me by reminding me that God is always with me and if it is a part of His plan for my life, He would provide everything I needed to succeed and prosper, regardless of how inadequate I felt!
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8
Our mother seized the moment whenever she could to remind us that God knows all of our gifts, talents, strengths, and even our weaknesses because He made us. Therefore, He knows the best way for us to use all He has given us to be able to live out His purposes and make an impact for His glory.
I learned from her that my life’s journey may be full of detours, sudden stops, dark tunnels, and sharp turns but if I follow Him closely and do my best to obey Him, then I will be right where I need to be – in the center of His will, living out His perfect, uniquely designed plan for my life.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Truth #4: God wants you to be thankful in all things.
Driving home from Albany Private School, I suddenly saw the “hot” indicator on the dash flash bright red. As we drove on, the smoke began to seep throughout the front of the hood and the smell of the fumes was becoming worse. I pulled the car into the nearest garage. The garage attendant opened the hood and water and steam rushed violently upward.
In the midst of this situation, Kimberly (age 7) leaned over and whispered into my ear, “Mommy, are you glad this happened? We should be thankful for everything.” Heidi echoed her comment and I immediately realized they were right – I should be giving thanks for this very thing! (Oh, Lord, may I be as quick to learn Your ways, as these small children are.)
Mama had seized the moment many times before to teach us this truth from God’s Word that He wants us to be thankful in ALL circumstances. So, being thankful began to come naturally for me.
It’s easy to give thanks when things are going great, but we are also to give thanks when things are not going so great. The grace of God is sufficient for us to be carried through them and delivered out of them.
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Our mother taught us a lot about having a thankful heart…
* It keeps us in a place of dependency on God as we recognize how much we need Him.
* It reminds us that God is the Giver of all good gifts. He is our Provider and all of our blessings come from Him. He loves to give good gifts to His children!
* It takes the focus off of our problems and onto God’s goodness in our lives. You can’t be thankful and filled with ungratefulness at the same time.
* God delights in our thankfulness and pours His favor on those who give Him gratitude.
Even at age three, Heidi already had so much thankfulness to God in her heart. She remarked, “Mommy, I’m so glad God gave us this house. I love my home.”
Truth #5: God desires a relationship with you.
We prayed a lot together as a family growing up. If I was ever worried, distressed, fearful, angry, or sad, my mother always seized the moment by saying, “Well, let’s pray about it!” Because she prayed so much with me, I knew prayer was the answer to every troublesome situation I faced.
Today when I had burned myself trying to retrieve a hot pan from the oven with a holey potholder, I voiced my irritation and yelled, “I wish I knew what happened to my good potholder…and to your blue slip that’s lost,” I added in my frustration. “Well, I guess you’ll have to pray about it, Mama,” Kimberly (age 5) said matter-of-factly while polishing a silver candy dish up at the kitchen sink. So I did. Now isn’t it funny that I never thought to do that! Praise the Lord Kimberly is learning how natural it is to take our every concern and frustration to our great Problem Solver. P.S. Found the slip!
Heidi also knew the value of prayer and observed her Mama quite often on her knees, praying earnestly for us and with us.
One of the teachers at Albany Private School came to our home with his wife and new baby for our Bible Study. He related to us that in the staff’s devotional time one morning, Heidi’s former kindergarten teacher (Mrs. Simpson) had had an interesting conversation with Heidi (age 6) in the halls which she related to the other teachers. “What do you think your Mommy is doing right now?” Mrs. Simpson had asked Heidi. “Oh…she’s probably praying for me,” was our child’s response.
God delights in having a relationship with us and deeply desires for us to bring our every worry and anxious thought to Him. He wants to hear us ask Him for help, acknowledging our dependence on Him. And when we pray with a thankful heart, God takes away our worries and fills our hearts and minds with His perfect peace.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Truth #6: Your real Home is in heaven.
Every night after dinner, we spent time having devotions together as a family. Dad would open up the Bible and read a chapter to us. Then, we’d all take turns discussing what we learned from it. One of the subjects often talked about during devotions was heaven. Each of us had accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and knew that when we died, we would all be reunited again one day in a beautiful place in eternity with Jesus.
In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:2-3
Heidi and I would often express our excitement about getting to see Jesus someday and the incredible place of beauty that He was preparing for us.
As we were praying during devotions, I was thanking Jesus for the new house He had all picked out for us in our hoped-for move to Corvallis. At the conclusion of my prayer, Heidi’s little voice lovingly prayed, “Dear Jesus, thank you for our beautiful home in heaven that you are getting all ready for us.” (Now that’s proper perspective! “Set your affection on things above…”) She really helped me re-focus my priorities.
The verse she was thinking of when she wrote this entry was Colossians 3:2: Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
The numerous discussions we had about Jesus and heaven gave me an eternal focus beginning at a very young age.
Today Kimberly (age 6) asked me, “Is this our house, Mommy?” “Of course,” I answered. “No, Mommy, our real home is in heaven.”
For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Hebrews 13:14
As I spent the final week of my precious Mama’s life on earth with her, I asked her if God had been showing her anything during her journey with cancer. She answered confidently, “Yes! He has told me I have nothing to fear.” “He also said, “I have prepared a beautiful place for you to live. And you will soon be reunited with your family and be with them forever.” ”
She had seized the moment one last time as she comforted my heart that was now aching so heavily with grief, knowing it wouldn’t be long before I had to say goodbye to her. Through God’s words of comfort, she reassured me that because we belong to Jesus, our goodbye is only temporary.
Little did she know how much I would need the reminder of those words to get me through the darkest tunnel of my life’s journey. Or maybe she did. Mama knows.
Written in honor of my mother, Susan Nelson, who passed away eight years ago today on March 13, 2012.
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