Thursday, October 17, 2019

Hope for the Future


As my mother's only child, my life has been profoundly impacted by the turmoil and stresses of her Alzheimer's disease. 

A promise I received and have clung to regarding my mother's illness was given through an attorney who helped us find our way through our initial, panic-tinged decisions on Mom's behalf. This kind woman looked me in the eye and said, "Linda, there will be life for you after your mother's Alzheimer's disease."  

I received these words as truth, but during these later stages of my mother's disease I'm increasingly aware that if I'm to survive this 15-year-and-counting journey with enough strength to face a future of promised renewal, then I have some forgiving and releasing to do.  

Our Lord speaks of new wine for new wineskins, but also states that the old wine tastes sweeter (see Luke 5:36-39).  If the old wine is the memory of God's goodness to us in the past, our challenge is to find and focus upon the sweetness that has been provided us even in the midst of our trials. Apart from this change of focus from all the ways we've suffered to all the ways we've been blessed, we find ourselves unable to fit any new status quo into the old perspective of belief that we have been irreparably damaged by life events that have caused us pain.   

If my perspective is tainted by unforgiveness toward my mother or, worse, toward the Lord for the trials He has allowed, every memory of these past 15 years will be tinged with bitterness. The new wineskin is a willingness to release the past into God's hands and to receive the hope of blessings to come.

The strong memory of the sweetness of the Lord's abiding presence through all that we've faced is the old wine that is sweeter even than the new. This is the perspective that will allow us to move forward with gratitude of heart over all the ways God has richly blessed us in the past, and with hope for the future.  

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You tried to harm me, but God made it turn out for the best, so that he could save all these people, as he is now doing (Genesis 50:20 CEV).  

The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything (Deuteronomy 2:7 NIV).  

Friday, September 27, 2019

Favorite Matthew Henry Quote




"The Lord shall prevent the evil thou fearest, and sanctify, remove, or lighten the evil thou feelest. He will preserve thy 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." Matthew Henry

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Forgive

As caregivers we will receive heart blows from our loved ones whose perceptions are compromised because of dementia. Forgiveness becomes important for the sake of both caregiver and care recipient.  

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Standing Firm


My mom's Alzheimer's diagnosis came in April of 2004, and for the past three years she has been in nursing home care. Sometimes Mom is sweet and loving, just as I remember her from pre-Alzheimer's days.  But at other times, the enemy uses the vehicle of her disease to gain inroads to her heart and mind so that, when she becomes locked into delusions that have their source at a place I can't reach, she believes me to be her enemy.  Worse, during these times, she seems at the mercy of emotions that have their source in evil; she has on occasion called down curses, expressed hatred, and wished me harm.  Trying to describe these events in words is difficult; there is a frightening aspect to them because of the strength of venom that flows.  During these times, I have rarely been successful in pulling my precious mom away from the darkness of the powers that hold her focus in a relentless grip. 

Our faith tells us that we have victory in Jesus.  Ephesians 1:19 speaks of the incomparably great power that is ours by right, because we believe.  Luke 10:19 tells us that we have been given authority over the power of the enemy, and in Isaiah 52:1-2, we are exhorted to rise up and walk in the power God has given us.

But what about the times when our efforts to face down the enemy's strategies against us fail?

The devil preys upon the weak.  When our loved ones become compromised, spiritual forces of evil are likely to come against us through them.  This is a terrible shock at first, and I have many times been unable to face down the forces that have used my mother's voice and words to deliver hatred and threats.

Here is what I have learned from these repeated defeats:

  • My mom is locked in the prison cell of her disease, and my prayers and care ease her burden.  I may need to leave the room, but I always need to come back. If I can't be in her line of sight without raising her ire, I can still go over her medications list, brainstorm strategies to help, conference with her caregivers, and pray.  I can always pray.  
  • Sometimes, maybe most times, it is best not to go head to head with the evil.  Dementia patients cannot generally be talked out of a crooked perspective.  
  • But...don't give up too easily.  If the Lord says to stand firm, stand firm.  I continually have to remind myself to toughen up a bit.  
  • Prayer is powerful, especially powerful when I let my own puny human love for my mom lead me to pray in God's love for her.  
  • Corporate prayer (lots of people praying at once) is REALLY powerful.  

During my mom's last dark spell I could make no headway at all in helping her away from her anger and gave up pretty quickly, perhaps too quickly. It is scary to come up against virulent hatred where you know the person expressing the negative emotions is not in her right mind.  I went home, posted a prayer request on Facebook, and when I returned to her the next day, my mother was herself once more.  I hugged her and said, "I sure love you, Mom"

And she said, "You're the best."

Now that's my mama.

It is frightening and depressing to see a loved one held in the captivity of disease.  It is soul-withering to try and fail to help them during dark times.  I continue to pray for courage to keep on trying and not to turn tail and run too easily.  But when I do go creeping off in defeat as I did this last time Mom was struggling, the Lord still makes a way. About 40 people came together to pray for my mom this time around, and their precious willingness to help to bear our burdens lifted the darkness from her heart and mind.

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Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).  

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Sunday, August 18, 2019

When Things Are Awful


My mom has suffered another compression fracture in her back from osteoporosis, and she now has pain when she moves or coughs, and sometimes for no reason at all.  The pain isn't constant, and for that I'm grateful.  She is able to rest, but she is often uncomfortable.  She is 95, has been in nursing home care for 3 years, and is in her 15th year as an Alzheimer patient. 

I've struggled this afternoon with grief and tears for Mom and for myself. When I asked the Lord how I could trust when things are so uncomfortable for us now and have been for a good long time, the answer came that I can be at peace because I know Him. I pause, I remember He is present with me, I feel His smile, I know He does not ever leave me. 

When I focus upon how God loves us, I remember Jesus, that He has withheld nothing from us, not even His own life. I remember that He suffered so that we can join Him in eternity. In the face of His love, we can rest in the knowledge that He sends us no place that He has not been ahead of us, preparing the way.   

There isn’t a way to soften the truth of suffering in this world.  When people try to do that, they come up with platitudes that at best, do not help, and at worse, deepen despair. But there is Christ with us, our hope, our peace, our comfort and help.  

Things may be awful right now, but He is with us in the awful things; He is right there in the middle of them with us.  God loves us.  We are not alone. Jesus has made a way out of the hard things we face, and He is there with us in the middle of our trials.  

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)