Friday, November 16, 2018

When We Lose Control

I was offended when, immediately following a surgery, I tried to explain to the nurse why I was weeping.  She said, "It's the loss of control."

She was probably right.  Drugged, in pain, wearing a hospital gown, my weight posted on a chart within direct line of my (and everyone else's) vision; yes, I had certainly lost control.

So many things about our lives force us to admit we are not in control. We can't control the course of a loved one's Alzheimer's, indeed, as Scripture says, we are so frail that we do not even know what will happen tomorrow!*

I'm currently awaiting results for a round of medical tests, and once more I've had to admit I'm not in control as I wait, and wait some more.  I've found a curious relief in this waiting place, the relief of a child who doesn't know what is going to happen but is unbothered, because she trusts her father's wisdom.  I trust the Lord.  I am grateful that He is with me in my waiting.  I do have moments of nervous fear but for the most part I am able to take a deep breath and rest in the knowledge of His love.

*James 4:14

Monday, October 29, 2018

Pray More, Worry Less

I have been a fearful person my entire life, afraid for myself for those I love. This not an honorable confession for a Christian to make.

Various sources disagree on the exact number of times Scripture tells us not to be afraid, ranging from 70 to 365 times, depending on translation and interpretation of the intent behind the words, but we can be confident that our Lord has repeatedly urged us not to be afraid.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary sheds light on reasons we need not harbor fear:
"God speaks with tenderness; Fear thou not, for I am with thee: not only within call, but present with thee. Art thou weak? I will strengthen thee. Art thou in want of friends? I will help thee in the time of need. Art thou ready to fall? I will uphold thee with that right hand which is full of righteousness..."* 
"Cast "all your care;" personal cares, family cares, cares for the present, and cares for the future, for yourselves, for others, for the church, on God. These are burdensome, and often very sinful, when they arise from unbelief and distrust, when they torture and distract the mind, unfit us for duties, and hinder our delight in the service of God. The remedy is, to cast our care upon God, and leave every event to his wise and gracious disposal."**
Since my mother entered nursing home care, I have struggled more with fear for her.  During most of the hours of every day, she is out of my range of sight or ability to help if she has need.  When Mom lived here at home she was dependent on me for help with every activity of daily living, and releasing her care into the hands of others who do not know her needs as well as I do has been difficult. 

I believe that prayer for Mom is my most effective labor on her behalf and I do attempt to pray more and worry less, I really do. As Mom says, "Jesus is right here with me (she pounds her chest and glares fiercely at me, full of conviction and wanting to be sure I understand).  What more do I need?"

*Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Isaiah 41, public domain 
**Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on  1 Peter 5, public domain 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Flowing With God's Will in Prayer

A few nights ago, I was lying in bed nearly asleep, when a precious insight straight from the Lord came into my mind.  For a few moments I could see clearly how trust in the Lord's perfect love for my loved ones could allow me to pray for them, but simultaneously to have peace in regard to them; "acquiescence" is the word that came to mind.  Acquiescence to the flow of the Holy Spirit's power, the Father's love, and the Savior's sacrifice on behalf of those I love brings peace.

Our hearts can move the heart of God, and so we should not hold back from pouring out our hearts to the Lord on behalf of others.  This is in no way a recommendation to detach from those we love just because their burdens are uncomfortable for us to share.  But I am learning that underlying my outcries to the Lord and shared heartaches with loved ones, there can flow a deep river of peace.  As I allow my prayers to flow according to God's will (and not in fear of it), my prayers become more powerful.  

We who have been cleansed by the Blood of Christ have no need to fear His good, pleasing, and perfect will.  In any crisis we have only to find the path of His provision, and although heartaches may come, we can have peace because our Lord loves us eternally, has planned for us perfectly, and once we have accepted Him as Lord, He does not let us go.


A reminder of who we are in Christ is the best way to dispel fear, both for ourselves and for our loved ones...

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Trust His Love

I found the poem, My Plans for Thee by Freda Hanbury Allen in a daily devotional I was reading 38 years ago, while I was suffering through a difficult pregnancy and struggling to hold to the hope of Jeremiah 29:11. I copied the poem onto a piece of notebook paper, taped it to our refrigerator, and read it every day until the words were mine by memory and our healthy baby girl was ushered safely into the world.  

God often asks us to trust when we can't see the path ahead. It seems a difficult assignment until we lift our eyes to His and remember how very much He loves us. The Creator of the universe, perfect in faithfulness, power, and love, cares for us!  It is safe to believe what He says and to entrust the future into His hands.  

Here is the poem in its entirety:  

My Plans for Thee

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

        The love of God a perfect plan
        Is planning now for thee;
        It holds "a future and a hope,"
        Which yet thou canst not see.

        Though for a season, in the dark,
        He asks thy perfect trust,
        E'en that thou in surrender "lay
        Thy treasure in the dust,"

        Yet He is planning all the while;
        Unerringly He guides
        The life of him who holds His will
        More dear than all besides.

        Trust were not trust if thou could'st see
        The ending of the way;
        Nor could'st thou learn His songs by night,
        Were life one radiant day.

        Amid the shadows here He works
        The plan designed above:
        "A future and, a hope" for thee,
        In His exceeding love.

        "A future" - of abiding fruit,
        With loving kindness crowned;
        "A hope" - which shall thine own transcend,
        As Heaven the earth around.

        Though veiled as yet, one day thine eyes
        Shall see His plan unfold,
        And clouds that darkened once the path
        Shall shine with Heaven's gold.

        Enriched to all eternity
        The steadfast soul shall stand,
        That, "unoffended," trusted Him
        Who all life's pathway planned.

- Freda Hanbury Allen.

Friday, September 28, 2018

We Are Not Finished--Yet!

 I have finally gone through the remainder of the boxes we stacked in the back of a closet when, following her Alzheimer's diagnosis, my mother moved in with us in the spring of 2004. I found several oil paintings that Mom had completed, and heartbreakingly, the beautiful unfinished painting I used as the background of the meme at the head of this post.  Mom gave up painting when my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and she became his caregiver.  After his death, she did not pick up a paintbrush again.  

There is a pathos about this unfinished painting, but also a reminder that so long as we are bound by mortal bodies, we are going to have unfinished business. We can't reach perfection here, but we can walk the perfection path blazed for us by our Savior, confident that God finishes what He starts:  "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

Christ is the One who has finished His task ahead of us,  that we may walk in His footsteps to a successful completion of our own race. Until then, we press on in Jesus' Name.  


I love this rendition of Press On by Selah.  I found this lyric video at Youtube. There is a spelling error, but hey, we aren't perfect... yet!  :-)   Blessed be the Name of Him who goes before us and makes perfection possible for us at the day of Christ Jesus.  

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Overcoming Brain Freeze

I had trouble thinking of a word this morning and fear of Alzheimer's attacked.  I then opened my devotional to find this 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."  
Isn't that lovely?  It is from Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, Psalm 121.

In prayer, I think the Lord provided me encouragement on how to handle those "brain freezes" that seem to happen more frequently for most of us as we age.  For me the first step is to remain calm, avoid the adrenalin surge of fear to which I'm prone, and if I'm writing and not speaking to come in the back door (I think when speaking it's best just to laugh and proceed with another workable term if possible, and please, do it quickly).

Now if you are interested in a kind of brain exercise that I believe is helpful in forming new pathways when age (or Lord help me, disease) has destroyed a connection, here is how I managed this morning.

I was making a list of things to do, and was reluctantly giving way to the nudge I feel to reactivate my Instagram account.  But the word "Instagram" would not come to my mind.  Brain freeze!  Here are the steps I followed: 

1.  Don't give way to fear, the Lord is with me (take it in stride).
2.  If speaking, find another term or laugh and change the subject--keep moving.
3.  When writing, take the time to go through these steps:
a.  Brainstorm.  Beware of similar terms that are inaccurate; they provide roadblocks that stop me cold. Ignore them.  
b.  Come in the back door, another way, through another connection.  Allow seemingly random words or thoughts to come to the fore
c.   When I reach the searched-for word by one of those random connections, find a way to remember it, forming a new connection.  
Here's how this looked for me this morning.

1.  Prayed
2.  Brainstormed:  image, snapchat, share, iMax.  I recognized snapchat and iMax as roadblocks and ignored them.
3.  Random term I allowed to come to the fore was "Kardashian."  I didn't take time to question this I just let it pop up.
4.  The correct word then popped into my head, "Instagram."
5.  I analyzed the new connection that had formed in my brain: when I read entertainment news it has often occurred to me that the Kardashians would be better off if Instagram were not so instant.  This was the connection that allowed the word "Instagram" to come to the fore.

The above process took about 30 seconds, time well spent because forming new connections in our brains as we age is important.  Those new connections can allow us to continue to function more or less normally for a longer period of time when old connections have, for some reason, stopped working for us.

Note:  whether I ought to waste my time reading entertainment news might be the subject of a future blogpost.  It pops up on internet news sources such as CNN, Fox News, etc., and a discipline we all need to cultivate in this day and age is knowing when not to click on a story!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Celebrating Your Loved One's Legacy

One of my favorites of Mom's paintings. 

After I left home, my mother took a class in oil painting and discovered an unexpected gift for painting skies and trees, crooked fenceposts and country scenes.  Her work was popular at local craft shows for a time, and she enjoyed it greatly.  Six of her paintings hang in my home, and it is not sentiment that causes me to grant them their places of honor; they are beautiful and I would love them even if the artist were not my mother.  One of the signs of Mom's approaching dementia was that she gave up this beloved hobby. 

Alzheimer's disease is categorized as a terminal illness, and I wish this designation would be changed. Many Alzheimer's patients have years of time remaining to enjoy life, and that word "terminal" can hang over the heads of caregivers, especially, as the grieving process is drawn out interminably.  I was helped by the realization that we are all terminal!  During the early years of my mom's diagnosis, especially, we proceeded with life as usual...yes, our "usual" had changed, but life does not remain stagnant no matter what one's circumstances.  Change is the norm.

Now, fifteen years into my mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis, she is 94 years old and has lived in a nursing home for two years. As has been characteristic of her disease, change has happened very slowly for her, but I am moving forward in my journey to release her into the Lord's loving arms as she draws irreversibly nearer to home.

 I've had a more difficult time with grief since Mom's nursing home placement.  You would think 15 years would've given me time to accept and adapt, but the reality of caregiving is such that we are often too busy with current loads of care to be able to process the grief that is headed our way.  I also have my doubts about the veracity of preemptory grief; I'm not certain we can do "grief work" for a sorrow that has not yet arrived.

I read an article today at that gave ideas about celebrating the legacy of a loved one who is dying.  The activities outlined in the article seem helpful to me; memorializing our loved ones with a quilt, a scrapbook, or a box of memories gives us a sense of...oh, if not closure, then the feeling that we have preserved their legacy and honored who they were.  I especially liked the idea of taking a class to gain a skill our loved one possessed, and then using their materials to create a work of our own.  This would preserve a visible "passing of the torch" and provide a continuation of a legacy that brought joy.

I don't know whether I'll ever take a class in oil painting, but my mom's legacy will continue through me in my writing and teaching, and most especially through my faith in the Lord, which grew from seeds she planted in my heart by her words and example through all my growing up years.

You can find the article of ways to preserve a loved one's legacy here:  5 Creative Ways You Can Celebrate a Dying Loved One's Legacy.  

Details from paintings by my mom.