Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Memories of Grandma

Grandma and me, picking wildflowers in the road ditch outside our house.  I was 3 going on 4-years-old, and the curly hair I inherited from Grandma had escaped my bandanna in front.  
I'm feeling grateful today for my mother's mom, my Grandma Opal, who always welcomed us to her home whenever we wanted to come. She cooked and cleaned without complaint when all of her produce had to be picked and canned from the garden, and laundry was done outdoors in a hand-cranked wringer washer.  She offered us feather beds with line-dried, starched and ironed sheets topped with colorful quilts she had made herself. I don’t know how she did it all and still had energy to hurry to greet us on the sidewalk outside her house with arms spread wide for a hug.  And when we left she always cried, and stood waving a dishtowel from her open kitchen door so that when we turned onto the road that ran adjacent to her house, from a half mile away we could still see that towel waving furiously.  Going to Grandma’s house was the greatest joy of my childhood, and I understand now what I did not know then, that her sacrifice of love was sheer, hard labor that kept us fed and comfortable when my cousins, aunts, uncles, parents and I crowded her little house with our noisy and messy presence.  She made it obvious to us by her smiles, hugs, and attentiveness that we made her very happy. 

Late in her life, Grandma succumbed to dementia. She became demanding, and ended her life on a tumultuous note as her suffering caused her to cry out in anger and pain.  In those days before drugs that would have helped rather than sedated, she was not an easy patient. But that final season of her life was relatively brief, and it does not taint my memories of her as a woman who gave selflessly and joyfully to her family despite the hardships she faced.  I remember her with love and gratitude today, on the 114th anniversary of her birth.  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Feelings and Words

I was my Alzheimer's mom's primary caregiver for over 12 years, and during that stretch of time I also experienced several unpleasant episodes during which I became the patient.  I've always thought the Lord allowed me those relatively brief seasons of infirmity to teach me what life looks like from the other side of the caregiving coin.

From my own experiences and those shared with me by others, I've become aware of how difficult it can be for patients and caregivers to communicate with one another. Because of vastly different perspectives and motivations, we don't hear one another accurately, and to make matters more complicated, we often do not say what we really mean.


Patient:

Says:  I'm angry that you don't visit more often.
Means: I'm lonely and afraid.

Says: I don't need you to do anything for me.
Means: I don't want you to resent me (and I may actually welcome loving acts of service).

Says: You just make me want to scream.
Means: I don't realize I'm forgetting things and it seems to me as though you are the one who has changed.

Says: Our relationship isn't what I wish it was.
Means: I miss my little boy/girl and the love we used to share.  (Dementia patients remember the past most clearly).

Caregiver:

Says:  Mom (or Dad) has just given up.  She needs to try harder.
Means:  I am grieving the parent who was vitally interested in me and who supported me.

Says:   If Mom doesn't keep doing things she'll hasten her own demise.
Means:  I resent my parent for no longer providing for my needs.

Says: We don't want to spoil Mom by doing too much for her.
Means: I am avoiding the transition into the caregiving role.

To further complicate matters, we are most often unaware of the divide between what we are feeling and what is actually true.  We suppress our emotions of grief and fear but they influence us nonetheless, and we end up trying to find logical words to explain how we feel.  We need to accept that the conclusions we draw during the upheaval of changing relationship roles may be inaccurate. An awareness of the way our hearts and minds try to cope with fear and grief can help us to be more forgiving toward one another.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

From My Hospital Bed...

John delivers the flowers sent by our kids and grands.  
I would have hoped never to write a post with the title I've given this one.  

I must confess that during the last few years, and against all my best advice to others, I have let my own health go.  I really had planned to see my nurse practitioner for routine blood work and screening tests, but I thought I'd do that just as soon as I'd lost a few pounds and had spent some focused effort getting into better shape.  In the interim, grandbabies were born, Mom's needs increased, and we became increasingly busy with the stuff of life. 

The pain came in the middle of the night: all-encompassing and overwhelming.  I thought it was a reaction to an antibiotic I'd been prescribed, and so I "toughed it out." Once the pain was gone, I gave it no more thought.  A few months later the pain returned, but this time I thought it was my version of a virus my grandkids had suffered.  And so I waited two days, two days, before I went to the emergency room.  

In retrospect I can't believe my stupidity.  It could have been a heart attack.  As it was I waited nearly too long for an emergency cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal).  Much longer, the surgeon said, and it would have ruptured, or caused other complications such as pancreatitis.  "It was a bad one," he said.  

Everyone together now, "DUH, LINDA!" 

This is a cautionary tale for my fellow caregivers: do not neglect your own health.  Get those routine screenings.  Fear of medical procedures and personnel is a malady that often strikes caregivers in the wake of a white-coated professional's delivery of a terrifying diagnosis for a loved one, but you must not let this fear keep you from taking care of your own well-being.  I'm here to write this post only because we live just 20 minutes from the nearest hospital, and I was met with knowledgable experts who knew what to do to ease my pain, save my life, and then send me on my way a mere 3 days later.  

This is also a word of warning to the families of caregivers: when the person who makes all of the health decisions for your family falls ill, don't expect the store of wisdom and knowledge upon which you've come to depend to extend to any kind of common sense regarding the caregiver's own condition.  

My husband finally said, "Let's go to the E.R."  

He was probably surprised when I said, "OK."  

At the hospital I was dimly aware of the efficiency and knowledge of the people who provided my care, but it was the occasional word or gesture of kindness that meant the most. People who are afraid and in pain will trust kindness when they do not trust (or are frightened by) medical procedures.  I learned that fear can be medicated (would you like a sedative?) but it can't be alleviated apart from genuine caring.  The takeaway for this caregiver turned patient is that our loved ones don't care so much about our skill as they do about our love; kindness reassures where expertise might be ignored or misinterpreted.

This is day nine following my surgery, and I'm feeling better.  Friends and family stepped to the plate and took over visiting Mom so that she has not noticed my absence.  Two friends delivered meals that have nourished us body and soul.  And today I mapped out a health plan with my doctor that includes those overdue screening tests that I just hadn't got around to doing.  

God has extended His grace to me through the kindness and skills of human healers and caregivers, and I am humbled and grateful.  

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Letter to A New Caregiver


Dear New Caregiver,

I'm writing to you because I've heard you are at the beginning of an Alzheimer's journey with a loved one. I want to tell you it is going to be ok; you will find help when you don't expect it, respite when you sense you ought not to need it, and heart-healing even if you don't realize your heart has broken.

I want you to know that although God may seem silent and far off, that He hasn't abandoned you.

I remember the days following my mother's diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease.  For weeks and even months, I observed an extended wake of grieving over the loss of my mother.  But...she didn't fade from view,  and she certainly didn't die.  She was contrary and irritating, vulnerable and sweet by turns, but she remained very present.  Gradually I relaxed; my mother obviously wasn't going anywhere for a long time yet.  There are many blessings that unfold gently during a long goodbye, and one of these is time to adapt to change.

God has been so kind to us. I suffered no sudden shock of parting, no terrible, tragic blow.  My mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis merely provided a visible sign of her mortality; I could no longer hide from the fact that most of us outlive our parents. And so, at age 50,  I began the too-long-delayed process of becoming a mature adult, finally able to function without the support of my mother.

Change is difficult, growing up is painful, and there have been challenges along the way. But most of these challenges have fallen more in the category of aggravations rather than tragedies. And now--thirteen years following Mom's diagnosis-- when I make the drive to the nursing home, I am still able to glean encouragement from my mother's smile, comfort from her hug, and to bask in her sincere gratitude for all I do for her.

There have been many changes over the course of Mom's Alzheimer's, but surprisingly, most of them have, in the end, been positive.  The struggles we've faced have been temporary, and have taken us to a new status quo where we almost always have had time to gather our wits and adapt before the next challenge has arisen.  We are at one of those resting places right now; Mom, at age 93, is doing fine, and I've adapted to visiting her only 2 or 3 times a week.  I understand now that these gradual changes will greatly ease my grieving process when Mom finally goes home to the Lord.

This post comes with a prayer that it finds its way to the heart of someone who will find it encouraging today.  God bless.

With love and prayers,

Linda

Friday, September 15, 2017

Questions You Might Not Think to Ask...

My mom has been in nursing home care for a little over a year, and we are doing well.  The adjustment period was rocky, though, for Mom as she coped with confusion and anger, for the nursing home staff as they learned to know Mom and her unique set of needs, and for me as I attempted to release old responsibilities and accept new ones.

I admit I had thought that once Mom was released into the care of others, that, other than visiting her as often as I could manage, my responsibilities toward her would be over.

Was I ever wrong!

I feel I must call a warning to families preparing to place a loved one in nursing home care: your responsibilities toward your loved one will, for a season of time after placement, remain somewhat demanding.  If you missed it, please read this post: What I Didn't Know.  (Don't worry, I didn't include EVERYTHING I didn't know--it isn't an encyclopedic post...).

Today I've compiled a list of questions I ought to have asked before we chose my mom's nursing home and in the early months of care:

1. We would like to share a meal with our loved one occasionally.  What is the protocol for that?

Me, looking clueless. 
 We are so blessed at my mom's small nursing home--any time we show up around meal time, they are glad to accommodate us.  They pretty much treat us as though we were very special customers at a restaurant!  This is probably rare--some homes might need you to call ahead or even set a date a few days in advance.  Sharing an occasional meal together can be a wonderful way to help your loved one feel at home in a new setting.

2.  If we need a box of Kleenex, a hand towel, or other supplies during a visit to our loved one, do you want us to help ourselves from the supply closet or shall we ask an attendant to get what we need? I unwittingly offended the charge nurse when I opened the supply closet door to get a hand towel for my mother's bathroom.

3.  Clarify the kinds of caregiving checks you will perform for your loved one when you are onsite. Just be very matter of fact as in, "I will continue to check my mother periodically for pressure sores and to be sure she is changed and clean--may I have your assurance that no one will attempt to prevent me from doing this?"  If this causes defensiveness I would call this a red flag; find another facility.  When I encountered defensiveness or irritation, I was polite. I told them that as my mother's patient advocate that I not only had the right to check her for cleanliness and freedom from rashes, but that it was my responsibility to do so.  And so it was.  While they were learning my mother's needs she suffered redness and inflammation, overflowing adult diapers, and a suspected urinary tract infection.  It took a few months to remedy these caregiving challenges.  I wasn't critical, but when I found a problem as I often did during the early months of time, I drew it to their attention.  This provided accountability for them and was a safety net for my mother.  You mustn't back down too easily when your loved one's welfare is at stake.

4.  What is the procedure to report a caregiving problem...how can we communicate efficiently when a change needs to happen?  I should've asked this question even before Mom was placed, but did not. About four months into her care I learned there was an official needs form that could be filled out and handed to the head of nursing.  I've used the form just once, but it was an effective method to communicate a problem quickly to all staff.  I wish I'd known about this sooner.

I don't know that a period of "overwhelm" can be avoided when a loved one is placed into nursing home care, but asking the right questions can help to prevent that clueless sensation I endured!


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Releasing Negative Emotions

This morning I was pondering whether I still have encouragement to provide people who are still in the trenches of providing intensive caregiving for loved ones.  My mother has entered nursing home care, and, after a year-long adjustment through emotions ranging from anger on Mom's part to grief on mine, we are at a better place.  I've moved past that time of nearly constant challenges related to taking care of Mom.

I remembered the Youtube video series I completed in 2014.  This was something I felt the Lord wanted me to do, although it was beyond my ability level not only technologically, but because I've never been able to do a talk without reading from notes. I worked for a long time trying to use a teleprompter app with no success.  Finally, one day, I set everything up and prayed, "Lord, if you want me to do this, provide the words."  And He did.  I still can't believe that I was able to do these presentations with no notes, relatively few stumbles, and scarcely any editing skills.

One of my favorite talks addresses the issues of reconciling past and present hurtful behaviors in one's care recipient.  If you are struggling with negative feelings toward your loved one, this ten minute presentation of material from God, Mom, Alzheimer's and Me may provide encouragement.

With love and prayers for those of you still immersed in the challenges of caregiving, here is my talk entitled, "Releasing the Bad Stuff."  You can watch it at Youtube by clicking the icon in the lower right corner, or just watch it here at the blog:



Sunday, August 27, 2017

Trust His Love

Here is a post that first appeared over at One Hundred Days to Freedom.  With minor edits, it holds comfort for those facing caregiving responsibilities as we are reminded of the Lord's sovereign power over everything that comes to us.

~~~

The Lord shall prevent the evil thou fearest, and sanctify, remove, or lighten the evil thou feelest.
Matthew Henry*

~~~

The idea that God might hurt us in order to help us is flawed logic. 

We risk attributing the devil’s work to the Lord.

Jesus was without sin, 

but He bore the results of our sin. 

The same Holy dynamic is at work in the truth that 

God works all things together for our good**; 

God does not author sorrowful events, 

but He takes responsibility for the devastation they cause

 It is our Heavenly Father’s love

Christ’s sacrifice, 

and the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit

 that has won victory over all that is evil.

 The resurrection theme Jesus has woven into each of our lives 

allows us to anticipate His provision and blessing 

both in this world and in the next. 

We serve a God who has promised us good and not harm, 

a future and a hope.*** 

We can rest in the certainty of His love. 





*Matthew Henry’s concise commentary on Psalm 121, public domain
** Romans 8:28 
***Jeremiah 29:11

--from day 63

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tracks on my Heart

That's Mom's addition on the right in this photo. We escorted her down that ramp for a walk nearly every day for 12 years.  
When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the spring of 2004, we spent the following summer building an addition on our house so we could bring Mom to live with us.  The apartment included top-of-the-line laminate flooring, a handicapped accessible shower, a kitchenette, and a big bay window; Mom had everything she needed. For the next twelve years my husband and I provided her care.

During these years I made a poor choice of a floor-care product for Mom's apartment. It was a hardwood floor cleaner, that, unbeknownst to me, left a residue behind. Each week we would spread another layer of this glossy stuff on Mom's floor, and the smudges and scuffs would be temporarily polished away. After Mom moved out last fall, I decided to deep clean, and so I used an ammonia solution to remove the old polish.  To my dismay, layer upon layer of the polish had accumulated. Even now, after multiple cleanings, the track marks from Mom's walker resurface a few days after I've scrubbed.  I don't know how long it will take for the marks to disappear for good.

This morning I was reading my Bible and praying when an illustration came to mind.  Daily realignment with the Lord through Scripture and prayer is like a thorough scrubbing that removes the pain of the scars our hearts bear.  If we fail to seek the Lord regularly, we carry the burden of the tracks our sorrows have made upon our hearts. The resultant emotional pain impacts our treatment of others so that we are unable to channel God's love in a way that helps and heals.  Apart from the Lord, we are misguided to wrong goals, and we become relief-seekers rather than needs-meeters.

It's liberating to remember we aren't in charge of healing ourselves, or even of figuring out what is wrong so that we can focus on doing better.  Our only responsibilities are to seek God first, and then to trust Him to take care of the rest.

~~~

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
--Matthew 6:33


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Before and After

I've always felt a sense of responsibility to the caregivers who read this blog. When readership was at its height, I knew that a number of my fellow caregivers depended on the strength I found in the Lord as a source of encouragement.  I've felt badly these past months not to post more regularly, but I came to the end of myself.  After we placed Mom into nursing home care one year ago, I fell into a grief of mind and spirit that has been one of the darkest times I've known.

I don't know how to explain how I survived this time without sounding trite. I will not slap a platitude upon grief-induced depression just because it is more of the mind and heart than of the physical body. During this time, even the effort required to open my Bible was difficult, and the words on the page would run together meaninglessly.  I subsisted on a verse or two of Scripture a day and spent a lot of time crying out to the Lord with my sorrows. But through all my misery there was a slender thread of assurance that the Lord was with me in it. Maybe this quote from my mother will shed some light: "There have been times in my life when I let go of Him, but He never let go of me."

I suffered a series of physical ailments that forced me to the solitude and security of home. I wanted badly to escape into the distraction of church and community activities, but even as I suffered one minor illness after another I understood the Lord was showing me that running from my misery would only lengthen its duration. It was as though he gently ushered me to a quiet place apart, and kept me there.  I spent my days doing housekeeping tasks that could not be avoided. I visited my mother most days, and did the necessary bill paying and paper filing, but it was like wading through deep water. It was somewhat like being isolated by a cloying, dark mist so that all my senses were dulled. It was as though Lord provided just enough strength for the necessary activities and then withdrew His enabling power.  When I inquired of him (time and again with tears and shouting and journal pages filled with my sorrows) I received one word: rest.  Over and over again.  Rest!

My sorrow had its roots in physical and emotional exhaustion from a rocky final year as my mother's primary caregiver. It has taken me a full year to assimilate what has happened to me, regain my emotional balance, and process the grief of all that my mother's Alzheimer's has taken from us.

One morning last week, a year from the day that I had escorted my mom out the door from the home she'd had with us for 12 years, one year from the date that I entrusted her into the care of others, the burden of depression lifted. It was as though scales fell from my eyes and I could see in color once more.  I walked into my living room, stared with distaste at the 1980's fireplace brick, and rummaged around in my basement looking for supplies to rejuvenate it.  I spent all day with spray paint, chalk paint, and 3 boxes of plain white chalk.  When I stepped back and surveyed my work, I felt unreasonably happy: dancing and singing happy!  I can still do things.  I can have new life following this season of caregiving!  The Lord has been good to me.

Healing is a process, and I've experienced minor setbacks. A wave of sorrow here, a day of exhaustion there. But I am better.  I am getting better.

The point of this post is to encourage anyone who is in the midst of a what I call caregiving recovery period (the time of transition away from the role of primary caregiver) to give yourself time and space to heal. Don't jump into a new phase of life until you have had time to regain your physical, mental, and emotional balance.  Pray for a space apart and cry out to the Lord.

Even if you let go of Him, He won't let go of you.

Friday, August 4, 2017

I Am Weak, He Is Strong

Today's post at my 100 Days to Freedom blog is encouraging for caregivers--click the image below to hop on over and receive a blessing!  If you don't like to click links, you can also copy and paste this link in your browser's address bar: onehundreddaystofreedom.blogspot.com

https://onehundreddaystofreedom.blogspot.com/2017/08/i-am-weak-he-is-strong.html




Friday, July 21, 2017

Forgetting...



We all have remembered pain. Sorrows from the humiliation of past sin, a painful physical ordeal, or loss of a loved one all provide fodder for the enemy’s strategies against us. He wants us bound by the grief of the past and fearful of what might happen in the future. If he can keep our eyes on memories and fears (neither of which actually exists in the present moment), he might distract us from the nail pierced hands and feet of the Savior who bore these sufferings for us. 

Memories of painful experiences from the past can continue to wield power over current behaviors. Here is deception-busting truth: Jesus, by taking our sins and sorrows upon Himself, severed bonds to the past that otherwise would have crippling power to influence us for the remainder of our lives. This is what it means to have our sins removed as far as the east is from the west.*


    Jesus has walked with us through every dark night and pain-filled moment. He never left us even during times of sin or seasons of suffering. When he didn’t remove the pain, He bore it with us, shortened its duration; and loved us through it. We may not understand the whys of difficult days but we need not be bound by past memories or fears for the future. We can choose to trust in our Savior’s love. We can cast our cares on Him. 



*Psalm 103:12

Today's post is from One Hundred Days to Freedom, day 14


Friday, July 7, 2017

Our Shortcomings...



My sweet and beautiful daughter, Melinda, is a busy homeschooling mom to three busy little boys. No one I know does more or works harder, but she runs in a near-constant state of overwhelm, and the enemy likes to bring whispers of "not good enough" against her.

Yesterday I prayed that the Lord would provide encouraging words, and then wrote an email to my daughter. When I reread what I'd written, I realized He had answered my prayer, as it was quite definitely not of me, but of the the Lord.

Here is that message to Melinda with a prayer that it will encourage weary caregivers as well:

Just walk the path before you.  It is the striving and reaching that increases one’s strength.  Don’t give way to discouragement, and don’t listen to the enemy’s tiresome “you’re no good” litany. Praise and thanksgiving sensitize the heart to those golden moments that are touches of Heaven on earth, and simultaneously silence the enemy’s nonsense.   
The Lord is with you. Your shortcomings, inadequacies, and failures in no way impact God's power, provision, and perfection. He is not only your God, He is your partner in your prayers, work, desires of your heart, and most of all in your love for your children. You are not enough, but God is.   
His power is made perfect in weakness.  Fall back into His arms not in that you stop trying, but in the sense that resting on His strength will imbue your strivings with Holy Spirit power.  Specifically, this looks more like trusting rather than additional Bible reading or study; it is an attitude of the heart. But do read/study/absorb God's Word. It is your strength-giving power for this season of your life. 

~~~ 

  

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Beyond Our Ability to Endure


When we are nearly paralyzed by grief or pain, when all our strivings and struggles have ground to a halt beneath the weight of simply surviving the challenges of each new day, we can be encouraged by Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 8-11:

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.

This account tells us that even the Apostle Paul struggled under the weight of suffering so severe that he thought he might die of it!  The encouragement comes when we recognize that the God who delivered Paul is the same God who loves and will deliver us; we can share Paul's faith when he says "He has delivered us...and He will deliver us again."  

From Day 31 in my devotional, One Hundred Days to Freedom:


God has saved us through our belief in what Christ has done, and He looks at our hearts ahead of our actions. It is belief that fuels our trust in God, and trust is the necessary foundation of obedience to Him. Through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, the God of all creation inhabits the past, present and future. It is safe to place our trust in Him. 

When we feel pressured beyond our ability to endure, it is time rely fully on the Lord.

~~~

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in Your hand...
--Psalm 31:14-15

Note:  This post also appears today at my devotion blog: 100 Days to Freedom  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Restore, Renew, Revive

I can't see the outcome of the changes that are happening in my mother's life
and my own, but the Lord is with us, and the results of this time of change are in His hands.

 I've feared that my mother and I are so connected through bonds not only of love but also of her powerful need of me, that her death might cause a life-threatening rending in my heart.  I've caught glimpses that the Lord has caused my mom to remain here so long in order to give me time to bring these ties that have bound me to her into His light.  Severing those connections is not a surgery I can do for myself.  

This is embarrassing. What if those tiresome, only-child jokes about apron strings and being Mommy's little girl turn out to hold truth? But of much greater concern to me at this point, what if the severing of those ties finishes me off?  I've had a mind picture of my mother and me in separate vehicles, traveling side-by-side.  I've escorted her on her journey to a boundary I can't cross, and it is time for me to make a U-turn and head back to finish my own journey.  How do I make that turn?  

A few mornings ago I awoke with the terms "restore, renew, revive," in my mind.  I think that the Lord is telling me that when Mom passes away that I can trust Him to restore what has been lost, renew my zest for life, and revive me, even physically.  But I can't see past that seemingly final blow of my mother's passing.  It's like that uneasy moment when one restarts a computer and the screen goes blank.  Will it spring to life once more?  

The one sure promise to which I cling is that the Lord is with us.  He's promised never to leave or forsake us. Whether healing and restoration occurs on this side of the Jordan or after our crossing, He is there.  This fact of His promised presence brings peace.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” 
--Julian of Norwich


I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.
--Psalm 27:13-14

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Resilience

From the hymn I've Found a Joy in Sorrow by Mrs. T.D. (Jane)
Crewdson, Manchester, England, 1809-1836
Some genetic scientists have begun a new way of researching inherited diseases. Instead of attempting to repair the devastation wrought by disease, they are focusing on people who have a genetic predisposition to illness, but somehow remain well.  The scientists call these people resilient.*

The world's wisdom bombards us with a host of terrifying "if/then" statements.  If you have high cholesterol or don't eat vegetables, or fail to exercise enough, or have some sort of a genetic predisposition, then you are more likely to die of a host awful diseases.  For example, I recently read that people whose mothers have Alzheimer's have a higher risk of suffering the disease than if the illness comes through the paternal line (if that doesn't just make me feel warm and fuzzy inside...).  However, if we stop at the point of a sad prognosis that is based solely on human wisdom, we haven't gone far enough, because the Lord bids us to hope and not fear. It isn't that the wonderful volume of knowledge we human beings have managed to accrue is inaccurate, it's that the Lord speaks a better word based upon His complete understanding of...everything. 

Those resilient people sought by the scientific study I mentioned above somehow escape illness. When we think about resilience from a spiritual perspective we might come up with something like this:  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).  

When we are broken physically or emotionally there is always a temptation to give way to despair. But lets remember those resilient folks who, based on their broken genetic health, ought to become sick but do not.  We serve a God whose trademark move is to bring life from death.  There is no greater, more unexpected outcome than that.

~~~

*The Resilience Project looks for hidden factors that cause people to be resistant to disease. Read more about it here--scroll to the bottom of their page to see links to news articles.  


Monday, May 15, 2017

You Haven't Lacked a Thing!

Over the past few months I've come to recognize more about the destructive powers of jealousy.  This is pertinent to those of us who are caregivers because we may feel that if others have avoided the heartbreaking ordeal of taking care of someone who has a terminal disease, then they are more blessed than we. When the disease is Alzheimer's, our caregiving journeys may have become expensive both in terms of our finances and our hearts.

My mom had been acting strangely for at least two years when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the spring of 2004.  It is with a sense of grief-tinged wonder that I realize our lives have been impacted by her Alzheimer's disease for 15 years.  It is too easy to begin to think in terms of what I've lost because of this enforced caregiving assignment when I ought to focus on the many ways our needs have been provided. Like the Israelites who wandered in the desert, I'm in danger of taking manna for granted.

When God is with us we have no business envying other people.  To complain at length about what I have lost is to ignore a balance sheet upon which truly amazing blessings have far outweighed any losses I've sustained.

When we forget that the body of Christ has different members with varying gifts and assignments, we become vulnerable to a sense that it is unfair that others have been given what we would very much like to have had. It is the enemy who whispers "They are better than you..." or, more damning for the unfortunate victims of our jealousy:  "They think they are better than you."  A sense of having been downtrodden then blinds us to our own unique blessings and creates a fertile ground for jealousy to take root.  We feel justified in ignoring suffering when it happens to someone the enemy has convinced us "deserves it."

The destructive and hurtful results of covetousness are a hard heart toward the suffering of others coupled with a sense of entitlement.  In its extreme form,  jealousy of what others have is at the root of many crimes. Sinful logic says that if you have what I have always wanted then it's only right for you to take a hard knock so I can feel better; you didn't deserve what you have, and I have never gotten what I deserve.

I have been praying to be protected from the envy of others and that my own heart stays clean of jealousy toward other people.  Since I've been thinking in this way it's as though my eyes have been opened to how behaviors ranging from petty to cruel have their roots in one person's envy of another.  Let's pray in this way:

Lord protect us from the hard-heartedness and lack of compassion of jealousy in our own hearts, and keep us from being harmed by the covetousness of others toward us. Keep us from being blind to the suffering of another person simply because we see that person as having been blessed in ways we are not, and make us aware of the many ways You have provided for us all along our life journeys.  In Jesus' Name we pray, amen.  

 You are not to plunder this nation because the Eternal your God, has blessed you in every way. He’s watched over you as you’ve journeyed through this vast wilderness. Throughout these 40 years, the Eternal your God has been with you, and you haven’t lacked a thing.
--Deuteronomy 2:7  The Voice--

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Just One...

I have been discouraged.  Christians aren't supposed to be discouraged, so I have added guilt to my discouragement load.  Thus I've found myself struggling against depression, because guilt makes me want to hide from the Lord.

Yes, I know, this is, in a word, dumb.

But here's the thing: I am not very successful as a wage earner, or a teacher, or an author in terms of numbers of people reached, and sometimes this is discouraging. My way of ministering to others has always been one lost sheep at a time.  When I was teaching school I nearly always adopted one special child into my heart, carrying that little one in prayer and spending an unusual amount of time creating activities and interventions that might help just that one.  I felt the Lord provided me these individual children who needed a special prayer and ministry intervention; sometimes it was almost like a spotlight illuminated one little guy or gal; this is your one!

And then I was provided Reading Recovery training; an amazing, life-changing, child-saving intervention for struggling readers.  Reading Recovery teachers meet with their students one-on-one, and I consider the eleven years during which I implemented this intervention to have been the most effective and satisfying of my career.

And then I started writing books.  Books reach a whole bunch of people, right?  Well, not in my case. Almost always the Lord provides me one reader who reaches out, and a spotlight shines around them, and the Lord says, "Here is your one."

It is human nature to think in terms of numbers.  "How many people did you have in your Sunday School class today?"  or "How many copies did your books sell last week?" seem viable measures of success as a teacher or an author.  How often I've had to answer such questions with this reply:  "Just one."

My mom's Alzheimer's disease has been the most challenging, grievous, heart-rending journey of my life.  I've worked to comfort others with the comfort God has given me.  Today my current "one," a precious, Godly young woman whose mom is undergoing the grueling screening process for Alzheimer's, sent me this message:
 "Thank you for allowing the crushing of your own heart and dreams yield a fragrance that draws others to Christ!  I know it does not make up for your pain but perhaps in some small way softens it to know God is truly active, alive and at work through your words and your story!  I know it comforts me that some day (very far from today) I may be able to do the same."
I'm humbled and blessed.  I've asked forgiveness for my discouragement.  How precious is it that our Good Shepherd loves us individually, each of us uniquely, each one of us precious in His sight!  The Shepherd who left the 99 to seek one that was lost does not devalue a ministry that reaches just one.

I am grateful and blessed.