Friday, June 24, 2022

Take Hold of Him Who Holds You


"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me" (Philippians 3:12).  

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Consider the Needs of Others...


As a "sandwich generation" fifty-something woman,  I often felt claustrophobic near-panic when my grandchildren's or my aging mom's needs trumped my own. This sensation that my own needs might go unmet often expressed itself as paralyzing fear. Over the years I've found that if I will push through this kind of fear in prayer, I am often provided strength to serve the needs of others even when I feel weak. It usually takes the loving intercession of a praying friend  to get me over the fear barrier.  

It is instinctive, but not Scriptural, to take our own oxygen first, as the world's wisdom advises, but grabbing what we need to make space for ourselves robs the Lord of the opportunity to show us His miraculous generosity.  This is not to say that God won't sometimes instruct us to say "No," and He often gives the command to come apart and rest awhile. But we need not to make decisions out of our own sense of weakness before we inquire of the Lord.  Oftentimes strength for the journey is given along the way.  


Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Luke 6:37-39 NIV

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4 NIV

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Die to Self


When I retired at age 57 in order to provide full time care to my mom, who had Alzheimer's, I really thought there would be something in it for me.  

Oh don't get me wrong, I had compassion for my mother, who was not yet ready for nursing home care. I had zeal to obey the Lord. And, while I grieved the loss of the teaching ministry that had allowed me to help a good number of struggling readers, I knew my physical strength was no longer up to full-time teaching.  So I did have a measure of understanding of how God was helping Mom but also was helping me through provision of a fruitful ministry of service away from the rigors of teaching school.  

However, I thought--and it is embarrassing to admit this--that there would be more.  I thought "my" writing would be prospered. I pictured book signings and yes, increased income from my labors to make up for what I had given up in terms of a stable job with benefits.  

Instead, the motif of helping people by ones and twos has continued. I tutored one child, and then one more, and then taught my grandsons to read; five children in all over the past eleven years.  I took care of one elderly lady, my mother, until her death. My books sell at the rate of about 15 copies a that approximately a dozen Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers are helped by my ministry over a given 12 months of time.  Meanwhile, on the home front, I became babysitter to my grandchildren and cook for family meals in between bouts of increasingly distressing physical ailments.   

Things have not worked out like I thought they would.

Shortly after my retirement, I purchased a sparkly dress (that no longer fits) with the thought that if we took a cruise, I would need evening wear.  I pursued author opportunities that have steadily decreased over the years with the death of small publishing companies beneath the shadow of internet commerce.  I suffered disappointment after disappointment in tandem with grief over loss of my mother and new diagnoses of auto-immune conditions that have further compromised my physical strength.  

But, "...when plans of our own making wither and die, we can be encouraged to remember that death is not the end for those who have believed in Jesus...We can't keep anything for ourselves, not even our own physical bodies, which are destined to die. But when we release all to Him, His power is unleashed so that the mystery of resurrection--life from what has been crucified--brings new life and new hope."*

Things haven't worked out as I thought they would, but I can rest assured my circumstances have unfolded as God knew they would. When I am able to experience the peace of saying "Thy will be done," my eyes are opened to the blessings of following a Savior who would have died for just one lost sinner, even me.  Each saved life is precious, each person helped in His name is worth my labor.   I had delusions of grandeur, but the Lord had plans to bless me through labor and rest of His own timing and choosing.  

And I have been blessed indeed.  


*From 100 Days to Freedom: Release From the Self-condemnation of Overweight, Day 85.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Apathy in Alzheimer's Patients

I wrote the following article some years ago and have just admonished my daughter to reread it if I ever begin to exhibit signs of dementia!  No matter how well-versed we are in the do's and don'ts of caregiving, we nevertheless tend to respond to aging parents according to the dictates of past relationship roles...


On Easter morning, 2004, I slid into my customary pew at church with several minutes to spare before services were scheduled to begin.  I noticed that my mother’s space at the end of the row was empty, and felt a glimmer of worry. She was a stickler for punctuality and never missed church.  She taught me always to arrive early, especially for holiday services.

I excused myself and called Mom.  “Oh, I just decided to stay home today,” she said. When I reacted with shock, she complied with my wishes and came to church, arriving twenty minutes late.  This incident was one of many that let me know something was wrong with my mom.  

Apathy is a common side effect of dementia, and is sometimes the first symptom noted.  Dementia patients may display indifference regarding schedules in combination with an apparent lack of emotion toward concerned loved ones who object to their behaviors.  Symptoms of apathy probably cause more conflict between caregivers and patients than any other early warning sign of dementia. A caregiver may have an intellectual understanding that the care recipient should not be held accountable for disease related responses, but it is difficult to transfer that “in the head” understanding to the heart.  The tendency is to react to the loved one based on the relationship that existed before dementia occurred rather than to respond from a caregiver’s perspective.

Apathy may be a result of the physical damage that occurs as the characteristic plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s disease wreak havoc in the brain, but there is a psychological and emotional basis as well.  Forgetfulness and confusion cause dementia patients to lose confidence in the ability to successfully perform everyday tasks.  Repeated failures can result in a reluctance to make the effort to try.  People who suffer dementia often ask others to carry out tasks they are still physically able to complete, a behavior that in the general population might be labeled lazy or self-centered.  However, for the dementia patient, requesting help is actually a viable coping mechanism that helps to compensate for failing memory.  

When I respond to my mother’s requests with irritation, I take from her the dignity of retaining a measure of control over her environment.   She has learned a new way to get what she needs—she asks!  

It is only in recent years that Alzheimer’s disease has been widely recognized and diagnosed.  There are doubtless a number of readers who remember a parent or grandparent becoming stubborn or demanding, and only in retrospect have understood that Grandpa’s “hardening of the arteries” and Grandma’s stubborn streak were dementia related.   It is my hope that our current, more accurate understanding of the physical basis for the behavioral changes of dementia will ease the sad memories some of us have of the puzzling or hurtful behaviors a loved one exhibited toward the end of life. When my own mother goes home to be with the Lord, I pray to remember her as the vital and loving person she was before dementia robbed her of the ability to think clearly and respond appropriately.   


This article first appeared in the November, 2010 issue of The Lebo Light, which was a much-loved local newsletter that was the brainchild of Lennis McCreary, its editor.  Lennis has gone home to be with the Lord now, and I know that The Light is one of many stars in her crown.