Sunday, September 16, 2012


Faith is believing without seeing.  Think of the challenge this poses for the Lord! He wants to provide His children the blessings of faith; but how does He gift His people with a virtue that must be acquired through the promise of rewards that can’t yet be seen? 

I remember a scene in the Disney version of the Aladdin story.  Aladdin extends his hand to Jasmine and says, “Do you trust me?”  They are perched on the edge of a roof and he is asking her to jump.  He knows, but she does not, that the awnings to the shops below will break their fall.  There isn’t time to explain. Jasmine, of course, agrees. They jump, and all turns out well. 

When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s eight years ago, I had no reason to believe all would turn out well. The option of cutting my work schedule to half time in order to care for Mom was presented to me and I was terrified. Money was tight already. How would we survive if my salary was cut in half?  But I heard the Lord saying, “Do you trust Me?” 

After I’d accepted a half time position and not before, we found that my mother could legally (and ethically) pay me to care for her.  With an attorney who was an elder law expert, we set up what is called an “in-advance contract.”  Duties I would perform for Mom were specifically outlined, and for these she agreed to pay me a small monthly salary.  While the amount Mom pays me is substantially less than the halftime salary I gave up, we never noticed the difference.  And there were so many blessings besides, not the least of which was my decreased stress level.

A few years later came the biggest leap of faith I’ve made thus far.  Budget cuts took my half time job.  I was reassigned to new, less satisfying teaching duties. My husband needed my help on the farm, Mom was in need of increasing levels of care, and I heard the Lord whisper, “Now is the time. Early retirement!”

Do you trust Me? 

The Lord’s nudge was unmistakable, and with fear and trembling I turned in my resignation. I was terrified we wouldn’t be able to find or afford health insurance coverage.  After I resigned I learned I would be able to continue coverage through the school’s policy because of my years of service, but the premiums would be a staggeringly huge amount.  I had no idea how we would pay them. 

Do. You. Trust. ME?

Trembling, shaking, staggering forward I replied, “Yes, Lord, I trust You…”

I didn’t know that my retirement check plus a health care tax savings would come to almost exactly the amount of our monthly insurance premium.  At this point, despite our farm income having been decreased by two drought years in a row, we have not been under financial strain as a result of my early retirement. 

Lately I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night to worry.  Mom’s condition is deteriorating and I am afraid of the grief of finally losing her.  Her absence will leave a multi-faceted void in my life; the final loss of my mother, my patient, and my last remaining tie to childhood. How will I cope with yet another role change? I was a teacher, now I am a caregiver; what comes next for me?  Even more frightening, how will I survive the circumstances of my mother’s departure?  Alzheimer’s is not known for taking its victims peacefully. 

Do you trust Me? 

I do trust the Lord. He has taught me to trust Him through a series of life experiences that have allowed me the opportunity to take numerous leaps of faith. 

I am so grateful that I was able to scrape together courage to take His hand when He invited me to trust Him.  The lesson to be absorbed is that He does not often reveal the provision He will make until after the step requiring trust is taken.  This is how He grants us the opportunity to take possession of the eternal virtue of faith.  “…trust were not trust if thou could see the ending of the way…” *

Yes, I trust Him.  I may be shaking a bit but I will step forward with confidence.  He has never dropped me.  Not once.  

Illustration of Aladdin and Jasmine was found here

*Quote from the poem by Freda Hanbury Allen found here: Click on "My Plans for Thee"

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Best Insurance Against Alzheimer's

Nurturing a daily relationship with God is the best insurance we can provide ourselves against the devastation caused by Alzheimer's disease.  (I thought I'd just say this right up front so you won't have to read more than the first sentence if you've arrived at this site hoping for a recommendation of a new preventative supplement, diet, or brain exercise!)

Lately I've become increasingly aware that my mother's successful navigation of early Alzheimer's has less to do with quality care (!) and more to do with her relationship with the Lord. To show you how I know faith is a key to my mother's success, here is an excerpt from her journal (recorded  just after she had endured my negative response when she called me for the fourth time in a 30 minute period):

I am well cared for!  Do not call Linda!! My senior mind convinces me what I'm doing (when I call) is right and sensible!  Not so!

Lord, I pray--guide me to write, read, pray, and occupy myself--because all I need is cared for. My senior mind has a hard time accepting I'm not thinking logically. For years I was responsible and accomplished much.  Now--let go--and let God. This pen and notebook will occupy my heart and mind--allow that to be Anna Ruth! When your senior mind causes problems try to grasp what caretakers are telling you. Lord Jesus, guide me to let go and let others with a kind and compassionate spirit--I pray for this, Lord Jesus! 

My mother is 88 years old and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's when she was 79.  She's done amazingly well for reasons we can't fully analyze, but we are assured much credit goes to her strong faith and the daily (hourly, moment-by-moment) conversations she carries on with the Lord.

Now that doesn't mean all is sweetness and light here.  My mother always forgets her resolutions not to call me for trivialities, and while I've been writing this post she's called three times.  But we both have an ongoing assurance that the Lord is with us.  Even if we forget Him, He will not forget us. 

And that assurance gives peace. 

Scripture: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." (Isaiah 43:2-3).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

More Blessed to Give...and Easier, Too!

              Every month I skim the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Caregiving Newsletter along with several other informative publications about dementia. A term I’m seeing with increasing frequency is “care recipient.”  Care recipients are the ones who are on the receiving end of services rendered by caregivers.

This week an incident occurred that made me realize that while it may be more blessed to give care than to receive it, giving has the advantage of being an easier assignment. Here’s how I learned this truth:
I, like my mother before me, have long been an easy mark for letters from charitable organizations requesting money. Mom used to always send at least $3 to every worthy cause; I’ve upped the ante and send $5. One day my husband came in from the mailbox bearing a sheaf of envelopes so thick that the postman had rubber banded them together.
My spouse said, “Hon, you’ve got to quit sending donations to every single place that asks. It just puts you on their mailing lists forever. And they communicate with each other—the requests for money increase exponentially.”  
“Exponential” is a math term, so my brain automatically shut down. In response to my blank look he explained, “The first organization sells your address to another, and they sell your address to another, and so on. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16…”
I did understand that our mailbox was being stuffed with increasing numbers of requests for money, and so I humbly agreed to stop sending my tiny donations to every single organization that asked for contributions.
The next morning I crunched through the dull brown grass in our front yard and reached the mailbox just as several dried cornhusks settled on the ground in front of me. The drought fueled wind has been lifting the nearly weightless remains of our hopes for a corn crop high into the air, and then hours later they float down to earth like debris after a tornado. I sighed, opened the mailbox, and pulled out an envelope that had the words ‘Desperate Need” printed in large red letters across the front.
“Just one more little contribution,” I thought. “I can’t turn down anyone in desperate need.”
Right there at the mailbox I ripped open the envelope and pulled out the letter inside. Squinting my eyes against the scorching sun’s reflection on the white page, I read, “Drought in Midwest! Farmers are in desperate need! Send your contribution now!”
I stared at the letter for a few moments while the realization dawned that as farmers in the Midwest, my husband and I fit nicely into the category of “care recipients” according to the terms outlined in this particular request for cash. 
Now, I don’t feel desperately needy, but there it was in black and white; other people are feeling sorry for us. In the eyes of this charitable organization—or so they say—we are the ones in need of care. I do not like that thought one bit!
I think of my mother, who patiently accepts my ministrations with gratitude and humility, and realize that being the weaker partner in the caregiver/care-recipient relationship requires special grace.
Now I’m just wondering when will we poor, drought -stricken farmers receive our checks from that organization??