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