Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Faith and Mom's Alzheimer's



My mother's Alzheimer's has stretched over 15 years of time, and as her only child, my life has been heavily impacted.  I was her primary caregiver for 12 years, and since her nursing home placement, I have been her patient advocate and continue to carry responsibility for her finances. These are roles that have been more taxing than I anticipated.  I thought things would be easier, at least emotionally, once she was in nursing home care, but I haven't found it so.  The physical burden of providing her care has lightened, but these past three years have brought new challenges.

I'm within a dozen or so years of the age my mother was when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and I have risk factors that she did not.  And so I have been struggling with fear of the future.

Yesterday morning my Scripture reading included Hebrews 11:1:  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  KJV

Here's that same verse from the Contemporary English Version:  Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.  CEV

Proof.  So often when I'm up at 3 a.m. grappling with anxiety over what the future may bring, I would like proof.  But as I pondered Hebrews 11:1 today, I had a new-to-me thought: faith is the proof, the present reality, a symbol and evidence of unseen truth:  “This is the victory that overcometh the world; even our faith...”  (1 John 5:4).

It seemed a huge revelation to me today that faith brings victory... (all the angels and witnesses around me are doing a collective forehead slap right now). Faith isn’t just a component of victory, it is the victory.  It doesn’t just spur us to actions that win the battles waged against us, faith itself wins the battle.

My faith in the risen Christ is the current reality that douses the fires of my fears for the future; I can  be encouraged by the fact of my own faith.  Do I love Jesus?  I do!  Am I grateful for what He has done for me at the Cross, forging a path for me into eternity with Him?  I am!  Can I praise His Holy Name even when my own circumstances seem bleak?  I can, I really can, because I trust that He has a plan, and that it is a good plan, and that He loves and provides for me.

I am not talking about emotion.  I don't ask myself how I feel.  Faith has more to do with knowledge than feelings. What have I learned of the Lord?  Have I decided to believe what He says?  Have I made the choice to trust in Him?  Yes, I have.  I have made a confession of faith.  I believe.

Even when our faith is small, it is powerful.  Even when we must pray, "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief,"  He is quick to comfort and strengthen (Mark 9:24).

It's never wrong to bring our fears to the Lord who loves us.  Fear itself is not a sin; it is a weakness.  We have a choice of whether we will take our eyes from our fears and place them upon the Lord who loves us, or not.  Choosing faith over fear brings peace, because faith brings us closer to what is true both now and for the world to come.

~~~


Many websites offer instruction for receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Remember that belief in Christ as the risen Savior is the victory itself; after your confession of faith, any list of "things to do" should be considered guidelines, not rules. Here's a reliable source: Find Peace With God (billygraham.org) 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Perspective

I've had a summer cold for nine...count them, NINE days.  I ran a fever.  I was miserable.  I huddled in bed too sick to read or watch TV and just prayed to feel better soon...and I do.  I really do.  It is a blessing to have a sickness that is of short duration.  Due to my journey with my mother through her Alzheimer's,  I know enough about chronic diseases to recognize that I am blessed.

I walked around the yard this morning and snapped the images below with my old iPhone 5.  Nothing like a brief illness to help one see the world with fresh eyes.

Perspective is important.  In the middle of even a brief illness, it seems as though we'll never feel better again.  We have to remind ourselves "This too shall pass."  My mom used to say that all the time.

It's good to feel better.


This photo is taken in a direct line with those below--I just walked straight ahead to get the closeups (no, I didn't trip over those pots of flowers). 



All details of the same scene--left,: light filtering through the red leaf plum formed rainbow rays; middle: plum leaf detail; right:  closeup of a spider web; this is one of those photos that can be viewed two ways; the strands can look either concave or convex.


Friday, June 28, 2019

When We Are Stressed...


Stress is a fact of a caregiver's life. 

The Fourth of July was my parents' holiday.  Dad always barbequed chicken and Mom would make the rest of the meal, consisting of summertime favorites; homemade potato salad, watermelon, baked beans, and some sort of berry or fruit pie with homemade ice cream for dessert.  I miss my parents during Fourth of July festivities more than any other time of the year.  To make matters more uncomfortable, responsibilities to other family members will keep me from visiting my mom this weekend as our little community celebrates the holiday a few days early. 

The Lord is with Mom, and the Lord is with me.  I remind myself that He is sufficient for our needs, that warm memories from the past do not preclude new memories being made, and the Lord is all we need in every present moment.  He is with us. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Martha Versus Mary Again



I do not think of myself as being addicted to service.  

I learned a long time ago that my physical strength doesn't hold if I fill my days with volunteerism and scheduled activities.  In fact, my lack of active service in support of our small community contributes to my ongoing battle against a sense of inadequacy.

However, I am very committed to service to my loved ones; I am determined to give them my first and best strength.  My assigned role as caregiver for my mother has been an ongoing fact of my life for the past 15 years.  Furthermore, I am grandmother of four, and in part because of fear that my children or grandchildren may have to someday provide care to me as I have to my own mother, I feel self-assigned pressure to support them now in any way that I am able. 


During my devotion time this morning I felt a call to a fast from service.  My response was a classic, "Huh?"  This just didn't compute for me. 


The explanation seems to be that this sort of fast is needed because my sense of commitment and duty to human beings has taken priority over my focus upon and expression of love for God.  


When will I ever learn that sitting at Jesus' feet is the better portion?  
Mary has chosen the better portion, and it will not be taken from her...(Luke 10:42).  


I took a deep breath.  I felt drawn to step outside, and I wandered around my yard.  Birdsong soothed, cottonwood fluff drifted past my face, but before I had entered fully into the peace of God's presence, my mind wandered to my "things to do" list. I began to feel lonely for human companionship, and decided to invite my grandsons to come to my house for the noon meal.  In response to this thought, I heard the Lord say, "Share with them the love you’ve found, but do not make them the source of your need for love."  


I realized that much of my self-appointed service comes from my failure to spend focused time in what my mother used to call "soak" before the Lord.  I haven't spent enough time with  Him to receive the needed reassurance of His love and unfailing presence.  This realignment to the truth of God's great love for us is a necessary daily discipline.  It's the old adage that we can't fill others unless we are filled ourselves


So I'm fasting today from visiting my mother at the nursing home or preparing
 superfluous meals for my grandkids (their mom already had their lunch prepared).  I'm sitting at Jesus' feet.  It's a sweet place to be; blessed be His Name. 



Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Why Does God Allow Alzheimer's?


Back in 2011 I wrote a post entitled Where is God in Alzheimer's, and it remains a frequently visited selection all these years later.  We are blindsided by grief when something as devastating as an Alzheimer's diagnosis rocks our lives.

My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's fifteen years ago, and is still living. The comfort and encouragement I have to offer to those who are facing a new diagnosis of Alzheimer's for themselves or for a loved one is that God will make you a way through. Look for His path of comfort, provision, and encouragement, because it is there.  In any devastating event, He is present with us, and He makes us a way.

Today I've added a postscript to that 2011 post that I will also share here:  
The Lord is not the author of evil, and, in my comprehension, Alzheimer's disease is a great evil.  But I know without a doubt that in every challenge we face, even during the most difficult time, God  has made a path through it, and He is with us in it. With my limited and flawed understanding, I think that when God created the music of time and creation, He knew the melody must be allowed to play during this short segment during which human beings are allowed the choice of whether to come to Him as His children--or not.  We are not automatons and Satan exists, and so for this age, evil is present.  But God makes us a way through; He always makes us a way through, and from our Lord’s perspective, these present sorrows represent a very temporary situation.  He truly will bring everything together under the banner of His love; the process is underway now as all things are being drawn into His perfect will. Meantime, we are alright because we have confidence that someday He will make things all right, and He strengthens and sustains us in our here and now.  The Bible is full of promises that every tear will be wiped away and all things will, at the end of this age, come under the dominion of our God. 
I don’t think that Alzheimer's (or any other horrible thing) is caused exclusively by human free will and sin.  Evil is the culprit, evil is in the world, and, as Scripture says, God is allowing the wheat and the weeds to grow up together during this season.  Evil is a fact for now (and Alzheimer's is, in my book, a great evil) but at the end of all things God's perfect plan will be completed on earth as it is in Heaven, and all things will be brought together under one head; Christ (Ephesians 1:10).  And while we wait for that blessed day, we have the promise of His presence and provision in our here and now.  He will always make a way. 
~~~

...I will make a pathway through the wilderness... 
--from Isaiah 43:13, NLT--

Sunday, May 5, 2019

It Will Be Worth it All


I had a difficult visit to my mother at the nursing home today.  She's had an upper respiratory infection and has become withdrawn, irritable, and unresponsive to my attempts to soothe and encourage.  For some reason, watching her receive a breathing treatment upset me greatly; the mask over her face, her uncombed hair, and the lines of suffering on her face were nearly unbearable to see.  I was suffused with impatience, anger, resentment, grief; you name it, I felt it. It is not the intensity of these recent, relatively minor trials that caused me such distress today; we have certainly experienced worse.  It is the duration of this journey through my mother's Alzheimer's: fifteen years and counting.

I have no grounds for complaint.  I am sincere in my assertion that the Lord has provided for us every step of the way.  There can be no "but" to the astounding truth that God is with us, God has gone ahead of us, and God is behind us; His dynamic, creative, virtuosity allows Him to sculpt our past, present, and future in ways we can't comprehend.  Past hurtful memories are softened and backlit by grace, we are strengthened for present challenges, and even as the future hurtles toward us He sculpts it and prepares us so that every hard thing comes equipped with a path that has been prepared in advance for our weary feet to follow.  He sees us through.  As Matthew Henry says, "The Lord shall prevent the evil thou fearest, and sanctify, remove, or lighten the evil thou feelest." 

I have found it so.  We tend to ignore God's provision and complain loudly when our life's paths take us through unpleasant places.  But as I left the nursing home today it came to me that although I would not have chosen this long season of service to my mother, I have been strengthened and blessed through it.  

                                                                               ~~~
The Lord shall prevent the evil thou fearest, and sanctify, remove, or lighten the evil thou feelest. He will preserve the soul, that it be not defiled by sin, and disturbed by affliction; he will preserve it from perishing eternally. He will keep thee in life and death; going out to thy labor in the morning of thy days, and coming home to thy rest when the evening of old age calls thee in. It is a protection for life.
[i]Matthew Henry




[i] Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Psalm 121, public domain