I’m venturing out on a limb here, sharing a bit more of my personal stuff in this lengthy post. I make no apologies! 🙂
Once upon a time, almost two decades ago (What?!?!?), one of my life’s pleasures was marching band. No, I’m serious! This marching band was like none other. Comprised of students from a number of Lutheran high schools, the Lutheran Vanguard of Wisconsin was a summer marching band that shook you to the core. Sure, we learned how to memorize music, how to roll-step, how to form eschelons and straight lines and maneuver pass-throughs without being impaled by a trombone slide. But the very heart of this band lay in its common goal of faith and professing that faith through our performance on and off the parade route. Many of the friendships forged during those four summers are still with me today.
Vanguard became a family affair. My sister, only a year younger, marched with me, too (the other two followed suit later). The rest of our family followed along on weekends, visiting exotic places like Sun Prairie, Wisconsin and St. Cloud, Minnesota. I suppose Boston was a highlight, too. 🙂 My mom never played a band instrument, but she loved watching us in Vanguard.
So, is it a coincidence that her last month here on earth shares the same name as one of the things she loved to watch us do? When you march, you’re trained to look straight ahead, to focus on what’s ahead of you and not be distracted by anything to your right or left. And that’s how I saw Mom going through her final month.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is yourlife, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossian 3:1-4)
This past weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the last time I saw my mom this side of heaven. I saw her on the tail end of her “good” days; for the next three weeks my dad and sister saw the downhill slide in her health, though it probably felt more like an uphill climb for her. But through it all, there was always this unwavering faith. It was absolutely amazing!
One of my favorite Bible passages during my marching years was Galatians 3:25– “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” The passage right before that says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” If you saw Mom in her final days, you saw how flesh is destroyed. Cancer isn’t pretty! If anyone had a right to complain and to give up, it was Mom. Satan was throwing distractions at her left and right, trying to get her to turn her head and get her off course, but she kept marching through with the Spirit as her guide. She knew exactly where she was going.
These next few weeks are going to be tough as we remember the events of a year ago. And yet every day I can thank God that Mom isn’t suffering, that she’s enjoying the perfection of heaven! Every day I can find joy in knowing that Mom and I are both praising the same God from each side of heaven. Every day I can follow her example, marching through life and clinging to the faith in the Lord who suffered and died for me–for all people–that I may live for eternity.
And because I can’t write a post without a recipe, here’s one of Mom’s favorites, one that I’m hoping will be included on the menu at our heavenly banquet. 😀
Caramel Layer Choco-Squares
- 40-50 light caramels (1 package) or one bag Kraft Caramel Bits
- 2/3 cup evaporated milk, divided
- 1 package German chocolate cake mix
- ¾ cup butter or margarine, melted
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
In microwavable dish, combine caramels and 1/3 cup of milk. Microwave on high 1 minute. Stir. Microwave another minute. Stir. Mixture should be smooth and creamy. Set aside.
Grease and flour 9 x 13 pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine dry cake mix, butter, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, and walnuts. Stir by hand until dough holds together. Press ½ of dough into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 6 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips over baked crust. Spread caramel mixture over chocolate chips. Crumble (or spoon in dollops) remaining dough over caramel mixture. Return to oven and bake 15 minutes. Cool slightly. Refrigerate 30 minutes and cut. Best stored in refrigerator.