Thursday, April 27, 2017

Great is His Faithfulness

This is the view that inspired my mom to say, "I love the big tree outside my window and the country scene in the background--it is beautiful in each season."  This provided me the title for the devotional I wrote for Mom, and is a good way to think about the stages of our lives; Beautiful in Each Season.  

In the wake of placing my mom into nursing home are back in August of 2016, I'm just now emerging from a time of exhaustion and grief that almost certainly has had an element of depression mixed in. I've learned that pain is not an anomaly, nor is grief something of which to be ashamed. Scripture speaks of suffering in a matter-of-fact way:  
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you...(1 Peter 4:12).
And Jesus spoke of what we can expect:   
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33 NIV).  
 Sometimes the enemy whispers that when we live our Christian beliefs, we paint a target on our foreheads for the devil. This is a lie of the most devious sort, because in the first place, everyone has trouble in this world, and in the second place, failure to live our Christian beliefs robs us of the sweetest solace imaginable: Christ with us.  God is sovereign over everything that happens to us, and He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45).  Good things happen to good and bad people. And bad things happen to good and bad people.  The very best we can do is to abide in the Lord so that we may have the sweetness of His presence, the blessing of His provision, and hope for the future, even in the midst of sorrow.  

This morning I snapped the photo above, brightened the photo, applied a filter, and sent it to my daughter with this message, "I love the view from Grandma's window, but I wonder if it will ever seem right without her here with us to enjoy that view?"  

While I waited for my daughter's reply I looked at the photo and thought, "I've made this look even better than in real life; maybe this is what it will look like when we get to Heaven."  

And at that very moment my daughter replied, "When she gets to Heaven her view will be SO much better than that...she won't be missing anything!"  

In Christ we have strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.*  He is faithful.  

~~~

*From the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness.  You can listen to Chris Rice sing it here.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Peace in the Midst of Pain...

Once in a great while, an inspired thought comes to me in the middle of the night. I'll awaken with some phrase or thought in my head that I know is of the Lord.

When Mom had to go into nursing home care, I was heartbroken and I struggle still.  But one morning at the beginning of her time at "the manor," I awoke with this phrase in my mind:  Joy in the midst of sorrow.  

So I dictated those words into the notes app on my phone and went back to sleep.

The next night, the same thing happened again.  I'd forgotten the first phrase, but when I opened the notes app at 2 a.m., there it was.  I added this night's phrase, peace in the midst of pain, and went back to sleep.

The next night yet another phrase came plus a closing thought:

Joy in the midst of sorrow, 
Peace in the midst of pain, 
Faith in the truth of God's promise; 
There will be sunshine after the rain.  

When we have confidence in the Lord's presence with
us, we are able to appreciate the beauty He provides
along the way even when we can't see how or when the
journey will end.  
I think the Lord brought these lines to me on successive nights to emphasize the importance of the truth behind them; otherwise, I would probably have forgotten them. I have notebooks full of random thoughts and often find slips of paper in drawers with a line or two of verse or inspiration jotted down from I know not when. And I don't even want to think about the hundreds of Microsoft Word documents I have stashed in folders on two computers.  

The Lord wanted me to take note of the thought that He is like the eye of any storm we face; present with us, sustaining, protecting, providing. Also, we always need to recognize that any storm we are enduring is temporary.  

Toward the beginning of my mother's Alzheimer's journey, our attorney looked me in the eye and said, "There will be life for you after your mother's Alzheimer's."  It doesn't seem so.  As Mom very slowly fades from view I feel that the end of her will be the end of me.  But God has promised strength for the present challenges, and ... sunshine after the rain.   

"I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content..."  (Philippians 4:1).


Monday, April 17, 2017

Wind Sentinel


When we placed my mom, who has Alzheimer's, into nursing home care in August of 2016, I grieved. To make matters worse, Mom's new home is in the middle of a wind farm, and this was difficult for me because since childhood I have had a fear of large, manmade objects. From base to the tip of an outstretched wing, these turbines stretch 500 feet into the sky. 

I was praying about this one day as I drove to the nursing home, and a thought came into my mind:  "Think of them as sentinels."  Just this one idea changed the way I felt about those huge machines. The turbines no longer seemed threatening, but benevolent; like guardian angels keeping watch over my mother. My acceptance of the wind turbines was mirrored in a gradually increasing ability to see God's wisdom and provision at work as He helped me release my mom into the care of others.  

On my drives to visit Mom, a story idea began to form in my mind about an angel who inhabits the tower of a wind turbine, keeping watch over the people below. I began taking back roads on my daily trips to the nursing home in order to drive closer to the turbines, eventually gaining courage to stop my car and stand behind the gate to an access road only about two hundred feet from one of the huge machines. Over a period of months, I took the photos at the beginning of this post, and many more. 

In early March, as I finished writing the novella length ebook, Wind Sentinel, the horrific wildfires had begun burning through Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas. A story about a wildfire became interwoven into Wind Sentinel, and when I completed the story I knew I wanted to use it to donate to farmers and ranchers who suffered such heartbreaking loss in Clark County near Ashland, Kansas.

100% of my first days’ proceeds (including preorders) from Wind Sentinel will go to the Ashland Community Wildfire Relief Fund.  Order your copy now for just $3.99, and share this information with anyone who enjoys reading with the Kindle app. The book will be delivered to your Kindle device April 21.    

The Lord can bring beauty from ashes. I’ve seen this during my 13 year and counting Alzheimer’s journey with my mom. Whenever life delivers blows we might not think we can survive, we can look for the Lord’s provision. He always comes through for us.  Blessed be His Name! 

*********

To make individual contributions:
Go to Ashlandcf.com or
Bring checks to Stockgrowers State Bank or
Mail to: Ashland Community Foundation/Wildfire Relief Fund
P.O. Box 276
Ashland, KS 67831
Please note: Wildfire Relief Fund in the memo line

A touching video that describes the losses endured from the wildfires of 2017 along with accounts of heartwarming relief efforts can be found here:

If you would like to donate to help others who faced devastating losses from the 2017 fires, go to http://www.beefusa.org/ and follow the fire relief resources link.

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Blessed and Grateful


Caregiving doesn't get easier when your loved one goes to a nursing home.

Well.  That's not exactly true. The physical labor portion of the job absolutely does lighten.  Of course it does. My mom now has a work crew of approximately 40 people in three daily shifts available to support her as she has need.  Before there was only me.

But the emotional toll doesn't necessarily ease, in fact, for a time it may increase. There is grief and there's guilt and...more grief.  I miss my mom.  For all the things we'd lost, I still had the knowledge she was just next door. There was some sort of security left over from childhood just in the fact of her presence.

And, seeing her struggling to adapt to new circumstances is just awful, more for me than for her.  My mother, because of her faith, has adapted well.  She has never cried, not once.  She gets cranky sometimes, but for the most part she is philosophical about where she is in life. This is entirely due to her relationship with the Lord.  She talks to Him constantly.

My heart was eased on Mom's behalf yesterday, when I called her on the nursing home's cordless phone, and talked with her for maybe five minutes.  She wasn't in a very good mood but was polite to me...and then wanted to hang up. Instead of disconnecting though, she placed the phone in her lap. Without breaking the connection with her, I used my landline and called the nursing home to tell them our conversation was over and that Mom had asked for a diet coke. But they forgot to come to her room, and I didn't break the connection with Mom.  I was thus privy to her spoken thoughts and prayers for the next hour.

Here is a partial transcription of her words:
"I'm someplace between 88 and 91 I'd guess (she's 92), and I'm blessed (wracking cough).  My worse problem is that I'm old and I need help--but I'm blessed because I have that help. If You have anything You need me to do, Lord Jesus, please guide me...(prolonged coughing).  I do thank you for my comfort. I'm dressed in comfortable slacks and long-sleeved top. I hear pleasant music--male sings, pleasant volume. Lord, if You have guidance for me...but I'm not complaining because I'm cared for in reasonable comfort.  I have no pain; my main aggravation is sinus drainage (wracking cough) but to top it all off, I have the Lord's presence with me, and Lord Jesus I bow down, guide me to be what You want me to be....I am grateful to feel as well as I do at this age...
Over an hour's time I sat and prayed for Mom and recorded her words.  In my 4 pages of notes she used the word "blessed" 5 times and the word "grateful" 6 times.  She prayed for those who provide her care, and for "my daughter, Linda."

Today when I visited the nursing home, there was a resident with dementia who was hitting, biting, and scratching. "She has bad memories," one of the aides told me.  This sweet young lady also talked with me about a research study she'd read that proposed a specific drug to quiet fears in a patient's mind.

I know something that works better than drugs to silence fears and uncertainty.  And so does my mom.

She is nearly 93 years old, has lost much of her eyesight, and can't stand without help. She can no longer read,  watch TV, or write in her journal.  She prefers her recliner to being in groups, and so sometimes she is alone too much, but her confidence in her Lord's abiding presence keeps her from suffering unduly from loneliness.

We are blessed, and I am grateful.  😃

Monday, March 13, 2017

Joys in the Midst of Sorrow

Sweet consolations: Middle, l to r: freshly baked apple pie,our 1-year-old granddaughter with her doll and new cowgirl hat, and the sunset backlighting some silk apple blossom stems.  
We're experiencing a cold snap here in Kansas, all the more insulting because it follows one of the warmest Februarys on record for us. We have basked in balmy temperatures in the mid-seventies for too many weeks to feel content with this morning's windchill, which was in the low twenties.  I hope my lilac bush doesn't give up on the early bloom it was obviously planning before today's frigid dawn.

I am rereading Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter.  I've often thought that in the hands of any other writer, an account of a family nearly starving to death would  have resulted in a story not fit for children. But Laura's focus on love and courage allows us to partake of the comforts to which her family clung when hope of relief grew dim. Her description of a meal of hot tea and coarse brown bread is remarkable not so much because she makes us believe they liked such fare, but because we are thoroughly convinced they were grateful for it.

I am reminded again of my new favorite Bible verse, Psalm 94:19. I can't decide which version I like best for this verse, so here it is in three of my favorites:
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.  (NIV)
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.  (ESV)
In the multitude of my anxieties within me,Your comforts delight my soul.(NKJV)
Whether we are enduring a long winter, or a long goodbye because of a loved one's Alzheimer's disease, there are so many things to be thankful for, even in the midst of our suffering.  I guess another way to convey this is in the old adage to count your blessings.  I only know that during this sorrow of seeing my mom fade day by day that the consolations the Lord provides are sweet to my soul.

The joys God provides in the midst of our sorrows remind us that He is present with us, and that we are loved.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Underneath Are the Everlasting Arms


My mother has been in nursing home care for 7 months now. I was Mom's primary caregiver for 12 years, providing her care here in our home. We never expected our Alzheimer journey with her to last so long. I prayed not to have to put her into a nursing home and I prayed not to have to apply for Medicaid. Both of these things have happened. I've tried not to waste time questioning the Lord; and I've caught glimpses of His great love behind these events. He is weaning me gently from a lifelong role of caring for my mother; as her only child I felt responsible for her emotional and physical well being long before her diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease.

God is good.

Hope you enjoy the meme above, created from a photo taken of a spectacular Kansas sunset just west of our farmhouse two nights ago.  God is present with us.  His love is behind everything that comes to us. Blessed be His Name!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Encouragement for Caregivers


Today's post at my devotional blog, One Hundred Days to Freedom, spoke to my heart on behalf of caregivers. We are so often isolated and made to feel that our preoccupation with the needs of just one loved one is somehow inferior to more visible forms of service. And yet we serve a God who speaks of Himself as a shepherd who will seek just one lost sheep.  If you are in charge of even just one of the Lord's lambs, be encouraged. You are precious in His sight.

Find that encouraging reading by clicking the photo above (or the following link), which will take you to a post entitled Strength for Today, Bright Hope for Tomorrow.  


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day to Caregivers

Here is a Valentine for caregivers, who give so much, come to the end of their own strength...and then give some more. The Lord sees your sorrows. He knows how difficult it is to watch your loved ones suffer, and He knows the toll that has been taken upon your heart and spirit. He is upholding you now and has made provision for you on the road ahead.  Be encouraged, dear hearts, the Lord is with you.



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

His Comforts Delight My Soul


Clockwise from upper left: Detail from an oil painting done by my mother; antique pitcher found in a box of my dad's rummage sale purchases; coffee with 2% milk rather than skim; the rosemary plant on my window sill with our bird feeders outside; and a heartwarming "sunshine post" from Little Birdie Blessings that, by coincidence, appeared just under a weather report for our area predicting sunshine for today.

We are enduring one of those seasons in life when grief threatens to overwhelm as sorrows and challenges attack from multiple directions.

This morning I turned my heart to praise.  I've earned that praising God as an "ought to" is not very edifying either for the Almighty or for me, and so I asked the Lord to remind me of Jesus, and to help me think about the beauty of His sacrifice for us and of the love of Father God, and to remember the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit within us.  That did it! Praise came bubbling forth, not as an "ought to" but as a response to the beauty of our Lord.

In times of grief the Lord provides comfort and sustenance if we only have the strength to lift our eyes to see, and if we will ask Him to do so, He'll even provide that needed strength!  I didn't do anything right or righteous, I only asked Him to help me to see Him more clearly.

The following Scripture has provided comfort during this time: In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul*.  When we are sad, we may think it is somehow inappropriate to enjoy the small comforts God has allowed.  In truth, these comforts are a part of the Lord's provision for us and we should not withhold our pleasure in them or our thanksgiving to God for allowing them.

At the top of this post, I've shared some photos of the small pleasures that comforted my soul this morning.  I offer these with my love to those of you who are suffering grief of loss today, along with a prayer that you are enabled to receive the blessings of the small comforts the Lord has provided you.

* Psalm 94:19 NKJV

Friday, February 3, 2017

Commit, Don't Dismiss

During my devotion time this morning I was apologizing to the Lord for feeling so depressed.  I assumed I was exaggerating my sorrows and that the pain I feel over seeing Mom sagging in her wheelchair at the nursing home, for example, is not as severe a trial for her to endure or for me to observe as I perceive it to be.  I tend to dismiss my tears or feel that I'm being silly if I give way to depression.  

As I prayed, these thoughts came: 

For the most part, we underestimate both the severity of the trials we face and their impact upon our minds and bodies. The one thing that needs attention is the weight of the burden we feel whenever we do catch a glimpse of how truly grievous our injuries have been.  It isn't that we should dismiss the pain, but that we should commit it into God's hands, because our suffering belongs to Him.  When we dismiss as inconsequential the grief we've endured, we risk inflicting further injury upon ourselves.  

To commit heartache into the Lord's hands is like sending something that belongs to us to a place where it can be taken care of so we don't have to think about it anymore. 

It isn't a simple transaction. My pain over my mother's suffering, among other things, feels as though it is my own, almost as though it is a possession that belongs tucked away in my heart. I must make a conscious choice to release my sorrows into the hands of the One who has offered to bear it on my behalf.  

1 Peter 2:25 calls Jesus "the overseer of our souls."  This is precious imagery that portrays Christ as being in charge of the welfare of our hearts.  We don't cause Him more pain by releasing our suffering to Him; when we  release our sorrows to Him we avail ourselves of His sacrifice already made at the Cross. In fact, a way we might increase our Savior's pain is to refuse to accept the payment He has given for us.  

May we have grace to commit our sorrows into His hands.  

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”  For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:24-25


Monday, January 30, 2017

God's Mercy


The current division between liberal and conservative perspectives in our country is heartbreaking. It is particularly devastating when churches are divided because of differing beliefs and perspectives. I've been praying this morning about such divisions and asking for the Lord's mercy over all of us. I pray we can recognize that much of the divisiveness in the air around us comes from the enemy, who fans the smallest of judgments and discords into flame.  Whenever brethren in Christ are distracted from our main purpose, which is to draw others to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus, the enemy has won a victory.

I found James 2:13 in The Voice Translation some months ago, when I was writing 100 Days to Freedom.  It struck me then, as now, with truth:  Love is the most powerful weapon we have because mercy triumphs over judgment.  When we judge others, we aren't loving others, whether we are casting them out for causes we believe are just or not.

Pray with me for our country, states, cities, small towns, communities, churches, and families:

 Father, please save us from the devastation of divisions among us through the love You have shown in Christ, and let this grace be expressed in our lives by our love for one another.  Let Your mercy triumph over any judgments we might bring upon one another, and may your peace reign among us, in Jesus' name we pray, amen.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Recommended Reading

It is a blessing to find a blog whose author reaches through the written word to speak compassion and encouragement to the struggles we face. And, it is helpful to find information written by an expert who includes links to additional, beneficial sites. But it is rare to find a blog written by someone who provides both compassion and expert knowledge.

I've found just such a blog, written by a family physician who says the purpose of his site is "...to educate and encourage those who are sick as well as their caregivers."  

You can find him at GoodPhysicianBlog.com.  He has written an excellent and informative post that I recommend:  10 Things We Should All Understand About Alzheimer's Disease.