Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Crabgrass or Blessings?!

I am perfectly capable of looking past the very great blessings in this photo while focusing on the crabgrass.  Praise changes my mind and heart. 

I am ashamed of my reluctance to give the Lord the praise that is due His name.  I hate to admit that my self-talk probably runs like this:  I'm so sad about Mom, and weighed down by worries about the future, and I don't feel well, and things haven't worked out the way I thought they would,  And thus I avoid the sweetest portion of focused time with the Lord, because nothing but praise brings us more expediently into His presence. Our worship of God has nothing to do with who we are, or our circumstances; it has to do with who He is: perfect, beautiful, unchanging, faithful, and praiseworthy in all seasons of our lives.

Yesterday morning I drug my tired self over to stand in front of the picture window in Mom's apartment, the now silent space she inhabited for 12 years following her Alzheimer's diagnosis.  There is a sweet peace in those rooms, and it is a good place to read my Bible and pray. On this morning I determined I would lift my hands in praise and, thinking the green beauty of an early June morning would fuel my worship, I reached forward and pulled the window shade open.

Branches from the elm tree had blown down in the night.  The container I'd used as a water play area for my grandsons had been flipped over and lay at a haphazard angle in the unmown, patchy crabgrass.  The weeds in the ditch had become untidy and overgrown due to recent rains. As I stared at all of this a vulture flew overhead, his shadow casting a dark, foreboding path across the scene.

I burst into laughter. I'm sure this is not the response the devil might have anticipated; I laughed so hard that I had to sit down to recover. It was so awful it was funny...overkill, Satan!   And when I stood back up I burst into an enthusiastic song of praise to our Lord.

Sometimes, our circumstances don't appear praiseworthy, but this has nothing to do with whether we ought to praise God as He has asked us to do. Our God is beautiful, perfect, and always worthy of our praises. The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to praise the Name of the Lord, not only because it is good, right, and pleasing to Him, but also because it is very good for us.  Yesterday praise changed my perspective from how irritating it is to have the yard in such a mess to how grateful I am for rain and, most especially, for my precious grandsons.

Praise the Lord!


Sunday, June 3, 2018

God Is With Us in Every Present Moment


Although  I rarely attempt to make my phone photos look better than life, I do sometimes edit them in an attempt to more accurately reflect the beauty I saw in the moment I captured the scene.

Even a professional photographer would have struggled to accurately record the photo above, because scents and sounds were a part of its beauty. The vastness of the sky overhead, the waning sun's rays permeating every leaf and blade of grass, the haze that formed beams of light through my phone camera's lens: oh my it was lovely.  The photo also could not accurately show the true color of the old-fashioned roses, and I hadn't even noticed that pipe from our waterline intruding in the foreground.  And so I cropped, adjusted exposure, and applied filters, and although the edited photo still isn't nearly as beautiful as the real-life scene, it is a closer approximation.

As I was editing this photo, it came to me that it is important to allow the Lord to edit my memories of upsetting events in my past.  I've been struggling with memories of an emergency surgery I endured a few months ago.  I hate anesthesia, and the drugs I was given for pain caused hallucinations.  I do remember  I wasn't afraid during that long dark night immediately following the surgery, even though each time I closed my eyes, weird hallucinations began like a film resuming play.  I felt immobilized by the drugs and was unable to tell anyone what was going on. 

As I was praying about all this, it came to me that it isn't that the events surrounding my surgery weren’t as bad as I remember, but that I was more helped, more sustained through the ordeals, more loved than I remember.  Our memories can't be trusted because we remember facts, but the beauty of God's comforting and sustaining presence, although very real in the moment we are in, is more difficult to recall later on. This is probably because our physical senses have trouble recalling spiritual realities. Just as my phone camera doesn't pick up the full depth of beauty of the real-life scene, our memories have trouble "seeing" the very real comfort God provides through every ordeal.

As Micah Taylor's song, Never Been a Moment says, "...there's never been a moment I was not held inside Your arms, never been a moment You were not who You say You are..."

Dear Lord,  we release our memories of those hard things we've endured to You.  Help us remember with the eyes of our hearts Your love, Your sustenance, and Your strength that have seen us through every moment of our lives. 





Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Care for the Dying


I rarely link to other sites or articles. This is because, having written 5 books, I'm hypersensitive to broach of copyright issues.  My books have been pirated and offered "for free" from numerous websites, and this is upsetting.  I don't know whether someone who clicks on these sites actually receives one of my books, but I'm certain a virus or malware comes with the download.  That my books would be used as bait for people who could cause my readers harm is just...so upsetting.  The takeaway from this is that if something sounds too good to be true, don't be drawn in.

But this isn't like that.

I found a little article at caring.com today that addresses an issue so important that I want to bookmark it for myself and share it with others.

It is a brief, easy-to-remember summary of the main wishes of someone who is dying (although it omits the #1 need of all who are at death's door, which I address in the next paragraph).  It's something for me to keep in mind for when my mother's time comes, and I'll share the link with you here:  The Four Main Wishes of the Dying, by Paula Spencer Scott.  

(Our very most important need as we are dying is that we are unafraid of what happens after death.  My referring you to this article assumes that your loved one has peace in the knowledge that death takes us to be at home with Christ. For those uncertain whether their loved ones have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I refer you to this post: What if My Loved One is Not Saved. 

I'm praying right now for those of you who are providing care for someone diagnosed with a terminal disease.  It's a difficult journey, but I am continually reminded of the Lord's steadfast, enabling presence. "The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything" (Deuteronomy 2:7).

God remembers our labors on behalf of our loved ones, provides for our needs, and sees us through even the most difficult of times.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Hope

In the Little House books, Pa Ingalls always says, "There is no great loss without some small gain." Through a loved one's Alzheimer's disease our gain can be an increased awareness of God's compassion, provision, and grace as He guides us safely through.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Always Present With Us

This morning I listened to two songs from an automatic shuffle of the music I have (somehow) downloaded onto my phone (anyone else have that sense of "not quite sure how it happened" regarding technology?).  The first was Beethoven's Five Secrets by The Piano Guys.  As soon as the music began the chords reverberated in my heart and as tears began to flow, I remembered why I've been on a fast from music.  It brings emotions right up to the surface, and if I am repressing grief I find myself unable to keep it contained.  Never mind that it is healthy to let those emotions surface, especially so if it is done in prayer, as a part of casting my cares on the Lord.  I'd been practicing repression of my grief over having had to put my beloved mom in a nursing home, and only now has it felt safe to let the grief surface even in prayer.

But I let the grief hitch a ride to my conscious awareness on the wings of that beautiful music,  tears poured down my face, and I felt better after the song was done.

Another song played:  You Are God Alone, by Phillips, Craig and Dean.  The lyrics touched my heart--our God is present, unchanging, and eternal--equally present in every life circumstance, good and bad.

Now.  Goose bump alert! I was singing in the Spirit along with You Are God Alone, harmonizing as I'm not able to do apart from when I'm praising God, and I got to the chorus...and recognized the same chord sequence that runs through a portion of Beethoven's Five Secrets!

The Lord used this coincidence to speak a truth to me that just blessed my heart; His song is unchanging through every circumstance of my life. He is always present, His purpose is always unfolding according to His perfect wisdom and understanding, and I can trust Him.

I've included links to the Youtube selections of the two songs that touched my heart today, and then I've also included a rough recording of my own of the little sequence that works through both melodies, hammered out on my ancient piano in my not-a-singer voice.

God is always present and is unchanging.  Lord help us to trust that the unchanging melody of Your steadfast presence is interwoven through every circumstance of our lives, even when we can't perceive it.


The Piano Guys Beethoven's Five Secrets




Phillips, Craig, and Dean You Are God Alone:



And here is the similar sequence I heard in both these selections that blessed my heart with the message that the Lord's unchanging song is with us all the days he allots for us here! 

Short Google drive audio of my recording of the similarities between both songs (you will need to click the link and then put your pointer on the play button on the screen and click to begin the recording):  Or you can click right HERE! 



Sunday, April 15, 2018

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Giving and Receiving in Relationships With Adult Children


There are truths I wish would be overtly taught during those famous premarital counseling classes that are a rite of passage when Christian couples marry:
  In marriage a new entity is formed as the two become one in God's sight. Your individual heartaches and joys now belong to one another. Your prior commitments are now shared. Your ongoing commitment to honor your parents is not displaced by your marriage, and your spouse does not replace your parents.  Ideally you will not feel jealous of your spouse's strong love and commitment to his/her parents, because you will share it and form with them a relationship of your own.  
Parents, too, need instruction. We should be taught that gaining a son or daughter-in-law is akin to adoption.  We have the template put forth by our God, who has adopted us as His own children through Christ. We are to love as we have been loved, forgive as we have been forgiven.  This template is needed on both sides during the sometimes tumultuous stresses of a wedding and the ensuing struggles of adapting to  a new status quo in our relationships.  We need to be steadfast and faithful for one another, forgiving, loving, and keeping the doors of our hearts open.

When our adult children marry and form new family units of their own, parents sometimes hold fast to a conviction that they must not cause additional burdens for their children during their difficult years of raising a family. Parents are often the ones who have a hard time receiving and are only comfortable when they are seen as the generous providers, and thus we set up a one way street of giving that becomes the accepted status quo on both sides. We pray for our kids, help them any way we can, and try our best not to add one iota of additional stress to their already stressful lives. 

Ephesians 6:2-3 refers to the commandment to honor our fathers and mothers as the first command with a blessing attached-- "that it may go well with you, and you may live long in the land." It was an enlightening thought for me that I may rob my children of blessing when I fail to allow them to honor me through their offers of needed support or even, heaven forbid, ask for help if I need it. My tendency has been to power through my challenges  without mentioning my needs to my kids simply because my motherly heart worries for them and, truthfully, because I don't want to be seen as needy or weak. But I am off-base if  I encourage my children to turn a blind eye to my suffering simply because it is mine and not someone else's. 

I am not advocating the use of one's children as emotional supports; as parents we ought to be spiritually mature enough to find our hearts' needs met in our Lord and Savior.  I'm speaking of a habitual "not wanting to cause trouble" mindset that, if they accept this status quo, could hinder the development of maturity in our children; robbing them of opportunities for growth that would enable them to someday transition into a caregiving role for an elderly parent without quite so much trauma for all concerned.

The Lord makes no allowance for how much work we have already done when he asks us to do something more; He requests our obedience, and that request is God's to make because He provides enabling strength for the tasks he assigns. God may judge us--and our children--more strictly than we judge ourselves; and he might not make allowances for the difficulties we've faced. Disobedience to the Lord's nudge to reach out, even with the validating excuse that the one who needs our aid doesn't appear to want our ministrations, is sin akin to laziness. We give up too easily because we have already done so much, but we mustn't dismiss or excuse sin because of all we have been through. We have experienced nothing that God has not allowed, and the solace and strength we have enjoyed have arrived through the Lord's faithful provision.  

I need to recognize that God grants my kids enabling strength for the life-challenges they face.  Parents of adult children who establish the status quo that they must always be the ones who are generous while simultaneously refusing any reciprocity may hinder God's work in their children's  lives.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Be the Way Sunlit or Dark...


I'm blessed to live in rural Kansas. You read that right! I love the ever-changing sky, the shape of the land, and the changing seasons (as the joke goes, we sometimes experience all four seasons in the course of one day). My drive home from town includes a stretch I call "the straightaway," and over the years I've used this one-mile section of road as a place to decompress, pray, inhale deeply, and relax just a bit from the stresses of caregiving.

On my drive home early yesterday afternoon, I was fascinated by changing light patterns caused by gaps in the clouds above. The wind created swiftly moving sunlit patches, always just ahead of me. I wanted badly to drive right into one of those bright places, but I couldn't catch up.

One of these days I will arrive at a sunlit place that is free of the darkness of my mom's Alzheimer's disease. She will be released, and I will be in grief because of the loss of her living presence in my life.  Even now, after these many years of living under the cloud of this wretched disease, I have trouble with the thought of that final release.  But, as Mom has said, "It is sad that we humans so often view death with sadness and dread—the actuality is that it is a blessed doorway into God’s continual presence."  

I'm grateful today for the Lord's abiding presence through every portion of my road home.  

Friday, March 16, 2018

Look to the Lord First


As caregivers, we need to release our loved ones from the responsibility for our emotional welfare. We can't provide support to others if we are needy toward them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Encouragement


This morning I wrote the date at the top of my journal page, and felt shock to realize that it has been nearly 14 years since my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

  Alzheimer's disease brings difficult challenges, and caregiving can be like a marathon that stretches over years of time.  Apart from the Lord, we would be overwhelmed by the dual grief of losing the support of someone we love while simultaneously facing the necessity of becoming a support to that person. Blessedly, we don't have to live our lives apart from the Lord.

  When I got past my amazement over that fast-approaching anniversary of my anointing as a caregiver, I felt relief as I was reminded--again--that I haven't been alone on this journey.

  Our lives will include times of sorrow whether or not we accept the assignments God provides.  It is better to go in obedience with Him into rough terrain than to choose an easier-looking road apart from His sustenance and strength.  I don't regret my decision to become my mother's caregiver.  

  God heals the wounds He allows us to receive, encourages us with His presence, and sustains us through trials that would otherwise destroy us.  He is the Lord, and His presence brings light to darkness, peace to turmoil, and the promise of better days ahead.

~-~
"...I am the Lord, your healer" (Exodus 15:26 ESV).   
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6). 
"Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me" (Psalm 54:4).  


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Trusting...

"...once we entrust into God's hands the sorrows of what cannot be undone and our fears about what is yet to be done, we are left with the only point of time that is actually ours: the present."*




*From One Hundred Days to Freedom: Release From the Condemnation of Overweight, day 88.  The meme quote is from day 49.  

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Fearing What Others Think



Sometimes we quench the Holy Spirit’s flow in an attempt to keep control of how we are perceived by other human beings.  Whether we fret about the opinions others have of our appearance, housekeeping, or caregiving, we can have peace if we give up the effort to please other people and take on the challenge of living lives that are pleasing to Christ.  

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Seasons


My daughter is the homeschooling mom of three little boys, and I am the caregiving daughter of a 93-year-old mom who has Alzheimer's. Both my daughter and I are weary, and the winter storm blanketing the midwest with freezing rain is not helping.

This morning I attempted to write an encouraging email for my daughter:

"I think we both need to wait on the Lord just awhile longer. We know He is at work on your behalf and mine. This is an in-between place where we are, by our faith in His faithfulness, enabled to abide in Him and trust Him.  When we hound Him for quick solutions to the situations that cause us discontent, we block our ability to partake of His comfort and encouragement right now, right where we are, in the midst of all that is causing us the discomfort of stress. This time of each of our lives is temporary.  If we can deal with the challenges of this season with grace, we can positively impact the timbre of seasons to come. Lord we pray for strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow!"*

These thoughts came with understanding that the Holy Spirit-fueled virtues we are able to walk in today will bear positive fruit for seasons to come.  It is worth the effort it takes to energetically exhibit kindness, patience, and love even as we walk the tightrope of disciplining, advocating, and exhorting according to the Holy Spirit's lead.  And, we need to maintain the disciplines and joys of praise and thanksgiving, because these practices form the groundwork of our ability to exhibit the fruits of the Holy Spirit. 

Well, as my mama says, "It ain't easy, Breezy!"

No, it isn't easy, and there will be days when patience wears thin, tempers become frayed, and our hearts can't muster a single word of gratitude to our Lord. Another quote from my mom comes to mind: "There have been times when I let go of Him, but He never let go of me."

Thank You Lord, for Your abiding presence with us through every season of our lives.

~~~

*From the classic hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness


Friday, January 26, 2018

Remember...

When God interacted with the Israelites in a way that was important for them to remember forever, they sometimes were instructed to built an altar or erect a pile of stones. For example, when Joshua led the Israelites across the dry bed of the Jordan River, he erected 12 stones as a memorial. Thus when their children asked the meaning of the stones, parents would be reminded to relate the account of God's miraculous deliverance from years of wandering through the desert.

When the Lord teaches us a valuable life lesson, we have an obligation to our children to pass this knowledge on to them.  We share with our children the basics of our faith: praise God every day, even if you don't feel like it, because He is always worthy of praise. Thanksgiving opens our hearts and minds to receive the Lord's guidance and peace.  Read your Bible and pray, because Scripture is living and active and you will find custom-tailored, Holy Spirit infused guidance for your life as You seek God in this way.  Preach to the lost, but do not share camaraderie with them as one of them, or you will lose your own way.  

These are the truths I've preached to my children over the years, and I am now blessed to see them implementing these basics of faith in their own lives.

But what about the times that God shakes us to our core with a revealed truth that is so astounding that we want our children to know and remember?  I think we have an obligation to build some sort of a memorial.  Some people scrapbook Scriptural truths into an heirloom that can be passed from generation to generation.  Some embroider Scripture onto quilt blocks and create usable works of art that keep loved ones comforted physically and spiritually.  An online blogger friend combines images from her collection of heirloom greeting cards with Scripture and hymns, creating beautiful, lasting works of art.  I write books and blog posts.

When God speaks an important truth to your heart, don't keep it to yourself.  Buy a pretty Bible and inscribe the thought on the frontispiece, signed Love, Mom (or Dad).  Find an author that has expressed the truth and provide your children a copy of the book along with a personalized note from you.  Take up quilting or scrapbooking, or record your own thoughts in manuscript form and publish them for free at Createspace.  In this age, perhaps the easiest way to record the important things we want to pass along is through a blog, but keep in mind that we don't want to become too loquacious with the information we attempt to leave for progeny. With this in mind,  I have one blog entitled "Just the Boldfaced Print" in which I record guidance I've received from the Lord, unmuddied by my own cogitations.  Blogs can easily be made into books these days using a service such as BlogtoPrint.

Teaching our children the basics of the faith is probably enough of a challenge during their growing up years.  But for grandparents I think it becomes especially important to give thought to the legacy we will leave behind.  We have an obligation to our loved ones to share the comfort and instruction God has provided us.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Even to Your Old Age...


Mom at age 93 with her youngest great-grandson, Isaac, 2.   

  When a parent has Alzheimer's disease, it's nearly impossible to avoid a feeling of dread: what if I fall to this disease as well?  Despite near constant reassurances from the Lord (...do not be afraid, I am with you1, even to your old age and gray hairs I am he who comforts you2, there will be showers of blessing3...), I have never managed to fully release my dread of the future.

  A recent conversation with my mother has finally ushered me to a tremulous acceptance of God's promised grace in any situation we may face.  Mom is in her 14th year since her Alzheimer's diagnosis. She is losing her vision due to macular degeneration. She can't stand by herself and has to have assistance with every activity of daily living. And yet she said, "I am so blessed and comfortable. I am so grateful for the Lord's presence with me..."

   For emphasis she patted her chest and exclaimed, "He's right here!  With me!  In my heart!"

  And then she sought eye contact with me and leaned forward.  "I know Heaven must be more wonderful than this, but it is hard to imagine being any happier than I am now."

  I came away humbled.  God's grace has covered my mother as she sits in her recliner in the nursing home, no longer able to read, with only her music for company.4  I have seen with my own eyes how the Lord has provided for Mom, and I know He wants all of us who belong to Him to understand that He will provide just as abundantly (though perhaps differently) for us. 

1 Isaiah 41:10
2 Isaiah 46:4
3 Ezekiel 34:26
4 At this stage of her disease process, Mom much prefers the quiet and solitude of her room at the nursing home to group activities. She has frequent, one-on-one time with staff, friends, and family.