Friday, May 21, 2010


I've had trouble sharing my thoughts of late because I've hesitated to belabor the point that I'm in an uncomfortable place right now. I've been waiting for some humorous incident that would elicit a lighthearted anecdote. I wanted to bring smiles to my readers' faces.

This morning it occurred to me that the people for whom I write--caregivers--are well aware that the caregiving journey includes times of struggle and tears.

All my life decisions now are contingent upon my mother's presence in our home and my continuing responsibility to her. After a time of uncertainty during which the special reading program I've run for 11 years was cut from our school's budget, I grappled first with the possibility of being released from duty after 30 years as a teacher; and then with the realities of a change in my job description when I was finally offered a contract for another year. During that time of uncertainty I struggled before the Lord, contending with fear. If I gave up my job in order to provide care for my mother, her social security check and the small salary she pays me for taking care of her would become my only contribution to our family's financial well-being. Mom's condition will continue to deteriorate, and I did not want to be financially dependent upon a source of income that will evaporate overnight if and when she needs rest home care.

I know that when at all possible, caregivers should not choose to become financially dependent on their care recipients. If this occurred due to circumstances outside my control, then, God knows best and would provide. However, as I worked my way through uncertainty and grief, it seemed clear to me that giving up my employment is not an action I should initiate.

On the other hand, I suspected myself of depending on some other source than the Lord for my sustenance, and I suffered guilt. For a time I considered resigning my job as a sort of leap of faith, to prove to the Lord I trusted Him where I could not see. This path also offered the attraction of escaping the possibility of being pink-slipped. I would resign before having to suffer the humiliation of being told I was no longer of value professionally.

This morning, having decided to sign that contract, I prayed, "I doubt myself, oh I doubt myself Lord. Maybe I refused the incarnation You were placing before me. Maybe I got to the threshold and turned back." I thought perhaps He was desiring me to launch out in faith, to give up my fear of being bound to serve my mother's needs past my physical or emotional capacity to survive the burdens intensive caregiving would bring. I prayed, "Lord, my release to You of my job and my income was not a conditional release. I was and am willing to go through the fear and grief of whatever loss You might allow me…key word, “through.” I trust You to bring me through."

But I felt concern that I'd failed some kind of a test, that the motivations behind the course of action I'd chosen were not pure. Fear of financial lack and of being stressed beyond my ability to bear by caregiving duties didn't seem to be Godly motivations. I prayed, "Please don’t let me have failed You."

In response I received this comforting word from the Lord:

I will not fail you. Trust Me. I am Sovereign over your circumstances; over your going out and your coming in. I am with you if you go and I am with you if you stay. My presence will not leave you, I will not forsake you for all the days you walk upon the earth, and afterward I will bring you safely home to Glory. Your fear is that you will lose the light of My presence. Do not be afraid, I Am with you. This is my promise to you.

Regardless of our circumstances as caregivers, we can trust the Lord to gather all our tears, to heal all hurts, to right all wrongs; to bring complete victory in a way that makes all that has been bitter, sweet.

Scripture: "This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation" (Isaiah 25:9).

"But I said, "I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand, and my reward is with my God" (Isaiah 49:4).

"But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands" (Psalm 31:14-15).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Devotions for Alzheimer's Patients

July, 2014 update: In response to requests for devotions for dementia patients, I've just published Beautiful in Each Season, simple devotions that provide spiritual nourishment for those who struggle with a diminished capacity to comprehend multiple layers of meaning.   

Music can be a powerful way to communicate God's love to dementia patients, and so each devotion includes a stanza or two of lyrics from favorite hymns.  The book is available in a large print, softcover edition for patients who are still able to read independently, and in eBook format for Kindle.  

You can read several sample devotions utilizing the "Look Inside This Book" feature at Amazon.  

Beautiful in Each Season

Back Cover Copy: 
“People with Alzheimer’s aren’t dumb, they just have trouble remembering!”
Anna Ruth Williamson, Alzheimer patient since 2004.

The devotions in Beautiful in Each Season were written with respect for the intellect and spirits of those with dementia. The readings are straightforward but not childish in content, and are appropriate for independent or caregiver supported use. Because music transcends language and speaks directly to the heart, a few lines from familiar hymns are included with each devotion. 
Many of the conflicts that arise between people with dementia and their caregivers occur because two completely different perspectives must come together in order for harmony to exist. When the patient is a loved one, the caregiver faces not only an increased workload, but also new financial worries and the loss of emotional support as the relationship of the past is redefined. On the patient’s part, dementia has narrowed perceptions to the degree that there is little awareness or empathy for the struggles of the caregiver. The confusion and disorientation of cognitive dysfunction may result in suspicion and fear-based anger. When both patient and caregiver know and love the Lord, reminders of His steadfast love provide a common ground through which empathy and love can flow.
This book can be used either alone or in tandem with the caregivers’ devotional, My Mom Has Alzheimer’s: Inspiration and Help for Caregivers (Bridge-Logos Foundation, 2009).  

“As caregivers we must not allow our loved ones to forget God’s love”
Linda Born

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lilac Blossoms and Movie Quotes

One evening in mid-April, we had a rainstorm, the kind my husband calls a "thunder-boomer". Overnight nearly four inches of rain fell, and the next morning I was disappointed to find that the deluge had washed away a good portion of the sweet scent from the blossoms on our big lilac bush. Just a few days later the delicate blooms fell to the ground, leaving behind brown seed pods and green leaves. I stood at Mom's big bay window looking out at the lilac bush, and a disturbing analogy occurred to me; perhaps the sorrows I've borne the past few years have ushered in a fallow time. What if, although I still have seeds of potential, for now there are no blooms, and no fragrance? Perhaps I need a season of rest; a strengthening time, a rebuilding time.

Everywhere I turn of late, I find reminders of the deep weariness I feel in combination with the fear that I may no longer have opportunities to be fruitful in my work as a teacher. For example, while watching "The Fellowship of the Ring" the other night, I heard Bilbo say, "I feel stretched thin, like butter spread over too much bread." I'm right there with you, Bilbo Baggins!

And then a day or two later I was letting "You've Got Mail" play in the background as I worked in the kitchen, and suddenly I heard Jean Stapleton's character say, "You are being very brave. You are daring to imagine that you could have some other life."

Oh my, I think maybe I need a dose of courage.

The thought that the Lord may ask me to give up my job as a teacher led to a terrible feeling of desolation until I recognized my error. I have allowed my sense of identity to become grounded in some other persona than Christ and Christ crucified. I am a wife, mother, caregiver, teacher, friend, and author; but none of these roles defines me. I belong to the Lord. There is no job I can lose that will touch the heart of my true identity as a child of God.

I'm not certain what the Lord is planning for me, nor do I know His timetable. Today I'm praying for grace to release when He says "Let go," and for trust in Him to hold on tight to me!

Scripture: "We know that we are children of God..." (1 John 5:19).

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

If God is for Us...

Sometimes, life is beyond unfair.

Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations over which we have no control.

The realities of suffering behind adjectives such as "pain" or "oppression" or "grief" defy attempts to explain. These experiences must be felt in order to be understood, and no one can truly experience pain that belongs to someone else. A cry of suffering can be misinterpreted. Sometimes we are judged to be whiners and complainers when in truth, we are experiencing pain that could justifiably be labeled "excruciating."

It is difficult to admit helplessness. When a situation defies rational argument, there remains a terrible need to avoid defeat. Even though there is no point in beating one's head against a wall of stone in hopes of causing it to fall, how often I have done myself harm out of unwillingness admit that my circumstances are as immovable as rock.

This morning as I prayed over some of the stone walls in my life, I received a clear word from the Lord: "Do not initiate a sortie on ground you are not willing to defend." This was not the word I'd expected. Given my "fed up" state of mind, I had thought I would be reprimanded for not trusting God, or that I would be moved to review the many ways God has blessed me through circumstances I could not possibly have engineered for myself. Instead, I received simple instructions such as those a commander would issue to a soldier. Fall back! Trust God! Now is not the time to fight.

I have gained access to the forgiveness that is mine in Jesus Christ by accepting what He has freely given. Because of this, He is on my side when I cry out to Him. I may be disciplined, redirected, or told to give up when I would prefer to fight my way free. But God is on my side.

Many times in my life I have seen how powerfully He protects me and provides for me. I may not like my circumstances, but I trust my Lord.

Scripture: ...If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32)