Friday, December 18, 2020

Peace in the Midst of Pain

 


One morning during the time my mother was nearing the end of her journey through Alzheimer's, I awoke with this verse in my mind:  

Joy in the midst of sorrow,

Peace in the midst of pain, 

Faith in the truth of God's promise

There will be sunshine after the rain.   

Earlier this week we received news of the sudden and unexpected death of a member of my husband's extended family.  In our prayers for these dear people we remember that many are suffering grief of loss especially now, during the Covid pandemic, and we lift those who are suffering grief to the Lord.  How blessed to know His presence goes with us through every season of life, and that even when we are blinded by pain we can trust that His comforting, providing, loving presence is with us.  Lord be near those who are in grief today.  Bring them through safely, in Jesus' Name we pray.  

Friday, December 11, 2020

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sharing


Some time ago, I remember feeling taken aback when a Christian Facebook page featured a post from a lady who had done a beautiful meme of Isaiah 41:10.  "This is my life verse," she said.  

I felt somehow usurped because Isaiah 41:10 is my life verse.  Of course I quickly subdued the childish idea that anything in the Bible is exclusively mine and mine alone, but...isn't it?  

The Bible often speaks directly and uniquely to some specific need we have brought to the Lord. Verses jump out at us, find a responsive chord in our hearts, and we know the Lord has spoken to us. We feel uniquely loved when this happens because we know the Lord has seen our need and has responded. How amazing to be covered by His love in this way!   

In her sermon this morning, our pastor stated that Isaiah 40 is one of her favorites. It is also one of mine!  I've come a bit further down the God-lit path of understanding than the day I felt an initial unwillingness to share my life verse with a fellow sister in Christ, and today I was able to recognize that Isaiah 40:1-2 does not belong exclusively to any one Christian, but is a statement of the comfort available to all God’s people. It is like one big comforter, or blanket, and we all can partake of its shelter.  

Under this covering of grace, there is no sharing involved in the way we tend to think. From childhood, we've learned that "You need to share" means that we aren't going to get as much as we would like to have because we have to allow others a portion of the whole.  But in God’s Kingdom, the whole blanket belongs to all who avail themselves of its shelter. That others also are sheltered by the same grace given us does not diminish each of our personal claims to its warmth; that others are warmed by God's covering does not cause any one of us to be less warm.  

There is a wonderful unity shared by those who are sheltered beneath the same blanket of grace. No matter our differences, we are under the same covering of His love.  Lord, help us find our unity with one another through You as we share the grace You have provided us through Jesus Christ.  Amen!   

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Sunrise the Day After the Election

 


I smiled to see a red, white, and blue sunrise yesterday morning, the day after our country's presidential election.  I felt the Lord's reassurance that He has not withdrawn His protective love from the United States of America, that by His grace, He will continue to hear our prayers.  I am so grateful to the Lord for His love, grace, and mercy.  Let's pray together for healing of the divisions among us, thanking God for His continued guidance and love.  

A friend recently sent me an encouraging letter that ended with a message that blessed my heart.  I record those words here because I want to save them, but also because they resonate today; God has not abandoned us:  

"Be blessed my friend. You’ve been used by God, are still being used by Him, and God is still on the throne."

The Lord has not removed His presence from us. God is with us.   

Monday, September 28, 2020

He Is the Way

 


This morning I noticed an interesting play of light in the wooded area east of our house, and took the photo above. I had been out of sorts, to put it mildly, and had been tromping around the yard flinging childish accusations and hurts toward the Lord. As I headed back to the house, the phrase "You know the way to where I am" came to mind.

I came inside and looked up the Scripture the Lord had brought to mind: "You know the way to the place where I am going....I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:4, 6).

Only later, as I clicked through my phone photos, did I see that there appears to be a cross smack dab in the middle of the photo I had taken.
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. We can always find a clear path to Him through praise, prayer, and Scripture. Praise His Name!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Pray Adequately But Don't Worry Needlessly

 


My prayers were focused on my children and grandchildren this morning, but this meme can just as easily be a caregiver's prayer. When we are emotionally involved with the hearts and minds of those for whom we pray, it is hard not to give way to worry!
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" Philippians 4:6-7.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Never Alone


This morning I opened my front door to the light, then placed my hand against the glass of the upper portion of the storm door. The barrier seemed symbolic as I felt the familiar loneliness of division from parents, Heaven, and home. But then the thought came that the Lord is on this side of the door with me. I remembered that Jesus has destroyed the dividing wall, and has conquered death. We are never separated from Him. He is with us.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Resting in the Hollow of His Hand

 This morning I read the lyrics to Frances R. Havergal's "Like a River Glorious," penned in 1867. I was sitting outdoors as I read, and looked up at the canopy of tree limbs overhead. I couldn't see the sky, but I was protected from the heat, and the thought came that sometimes the protection God places around us blocks our view of what is going to happen next. Praying today for grace to rest in the hollow of God's loving and capable hand, trusting the future to Him.

You can find the lyrics and hymn story here: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/l/i/k/likriver.htm

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

When Pre-planning Becomes Pre-dreading




Most people have a junk drawer, and I certainly do have one--ok, two or three--of those. But I also have a junk room.  I call it "the storage room" because that sounds more acceptable, but this repository for items I can't bear to discard consists more of trash than treasure.  

Our waste management service makes its weekly stop on Wednesdays, and I've taken to going into the "storage room" each Wednesday morning, carting an empty trash sack and determined to decrease the clutter. Today I fed the bag two dilapidated Easter baskets that I will never use again but have been keeping "just in case." I then tripped over the Good Will box, which is a collection of odds and ends that I no longer want but are too nice (in my perception at least) to throw away.  I plan to donate these items... at some point, probably within the next four or five years or so...  

I peered into the box and saw the plastic garment bag that contains the brand new dress I purchased for my mom at the time I made plans for her funeral.  

One of the most difficult days I endured as a new caregiver found me writing my mother's obituary at the request of our funeral director. This was a part of the requirements for Mom's prepaid burial plan.  Our doctor had predicted just 3 to 5 years of life remaining for Mom, and our attorney recommended we make arrangements in advance. I had to pick out a casket and make plans for Mom's service, and the kind gentleman who led me through this process suggested we plan something for her to wear.  "It will save stress at the time of her death," he said. And so I perused catalogs and selected a beautifully embroidered dress in Mom's size, and hung it in the back of her closet. 

All this happened nearly 16 years before Mom passed away. 

For all those years, that black shrouded hanger caused my stomach an unpleasant lurch each time I encountered it.  The irony is that toward the end of Mom's life she lost so much weight that, less than a week before she passed, I realized the outfit I'd planned so carefully for her would no longer fit.  I selected a new and what turned out to be a prettier dress, and had it overnighted so that it arrived in time for the funeral.  

There are all kinds of lessons to be learned here. I wish I'd trusted the Lord for Mom's end-of-life needs and not given them so much thought until necessary.  I wish I were better at inhabiting the only point on my time line that is actually mine to influence--the present--and I pray to grow in trust to the point that I'm better able to leave the future in His hands.    

It is probably true that my OCD-tinged advance planning saved time and trouble, but I have walked with the Lord long enough to know that even when we make no wise plans at all, He helps us through. At the very least, I wish I'd left Mom's funeral attire up to the Lord.  I could've spared myself the avoidance I developed of delving too deeply into her closet.  

This morning I bade that black garment bag goodbye.  I stuffed it into my Wednesday garbage bag, and it will haunt me no longer.  And, if somewhere there is a lady who shops Good Will and could've used a nearly 17 year old embroidered suit, my apologies to her.  


<><

"Don't worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today." 
--Matthew 6:34 CEV--

“Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it." 
--Francis de Sales--

Monday, August 3, 2020

Waiting



During the pandemic, I've felt strongly that my assignment is to stay out of the fray, but my goodness, isn't it difficult to stick to a resolution to shelter at home?  

And, having made that resolution, do you find it difficult to avoid a sense of isolation, as though everyone else in the world is up to speed while we...aren't?  

The most difficult challenge for human beings of any age is to wait. Abram and Sarai ran out ahead of the Lord to try to make God's promise to them come true. Saul persecuted Christians with religious zeal ahead of the revelation of God’s plan. These Biblical characters were given new vision and new names, but in God’s timing and not their own.

Here is a prayer today for those called to shelter:  Lord, grant us grace to take the precautions you are calling us to take, and keep us both from being judged by others and from judging ourselves.  Thank you for being with us as we wait upon you.  Amen.  

 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Sheltered in Him

My role during the COVID-19 crisis has been to shelter at home. This photo made me smile because the lens effects show light shining on my front door!  I appreciate small affirmations that I'm making the right decision for me as I stick close to home.  

What a challenge to find and hold to the path God has for each of us during this time. Those called to shelter need to be patient in the midst of the discipline of forgoing life as they've been used to living it, and those called to be out and in the world need courage as they face the stresses of possible exposure. We all need patience and understanding as we respect one another's differing assignments.

 I think of and pray for those who are caring for a loved one at home, for those who have loved ones in nursing homes, for those of us called to stay sheltered, and those who must be out and about each day. Thank You Lord, for Your presence with us all.

Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Monday, June 22, 2020

He Is in Our Yesterdays and Tomorrows


My dear cousin is dealing with aging parent issues, and so I have been providing her daily emails with readings from my caregiving book that was published back in 2009.  My mother died this past January, following a 16 year battle with Alzheimer's, and to my surprise, these devotions I wrote as a new caregiver are helping me in my grieving process for Mom. 

The vulnerability of honesty about our struggles as caregiver and patient was a hallmark of how the Lord led me to write that caregiving book, and so I know when I say that I am amused by Mom, or feel compassion toward her, or love, that it was true at the time I wrote it.  Thus, rereading those words from the early years of my caregiving journey, reminds me that Mom's later, difficult behaviors were indeed dementia related.

It is incredible that with all my--albeit self-taught--knowledge about Alzheimer's disease, that  I struggle now to believe that Mom was not always as she ended up being. This, despite my oft-repeated counsel to others that Alzheimer's is no different than any other crippling disease, except that in dementia, it is the brain that is damaged, so that outward signs don't reveal that disease is at the root of the aberrant behaviors.  But when my own mother expressed vicious anger toward me, I struggled to separate the manifestations of disease from the person she was prior to her diagnosis. 

The process of rereading God's counsel to us given toward the beginning of Mom's disease process is helping me to remember. I am making the needed separation between who Mom was prior to Alzheimer's, and the vast changes in behavior that occurred as her disease progressed.  The lines blur because of sin, I guess: Mom's and my own.  Her later, disease-fueled behaviors echoed, if not who she was earlier in life, than my remembered emotions in response to her occasional, sinful behaviors. As the years went by, the lines blurred and I lost the ability to separate the dementia from who she was and is in the Lord, and I somehow forgot or dismissed the great blessings she brought to me earlier in life. 

God is with us, past, present, and future.  A part of the grieving process when we lose a loved to Alzheimer's lies in reconciling who that person was in the past with later, disease-influenced, behaviors.  We mustn't allow the evil of the disease our loved ones suffered to influence how we remember them.  I pray that the Lord, who is present in our past, present, and future, will help me remember and honor my Mom for the blessings she provided me pre-Alzheimer's. 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

A Prayer During the Pandemic


Dear Lord, we pray for freedom from fear of making "wrong" decisions for ourselves and our families during COVID-19, for freedom from the tendency we have to judge others whose guidance differs from our own, and for the Godly wisdom that will bring us peace as we place our trust in the Lord, who is with us. In Jesus' Name we pray, amen.  

Thursday, May 28, 2020

We Can Trust Him


In May of 1973, at age 19, I accepted a proposal of marriage from a 20 year old boy.  We were married not quite a year later.  His parents had planned to raze the old house that had stood empty on their property for over ten years, and thought perhaps to build an A-frame or bring in a trailer to be our first home.  But I walked around inside the old wreck of a house, and loved the high ceilings and upstairs gables.  My father examined it carefully and pronounced the foundation sound; the little house had what we would now call "good bones."  

I've been cleaning out closets the past couple of weeks and have gone through several boxes of photos.  I found the photo on the left and then, today I noticed a photo taken from nearly the same angle just a couple of weeks ago.  The comparison was astounding.  I put the two photos side by side and labeled them: “1974” on the one and “2020” on the other.  

The thought came, “The Lord’s vision is always 20/20.” 

When he sends us into situations that are challenging, he knows the end of the story.  He always has a plan that is formed according to His perfect love for us.  We can trust Him when our lives are difficult, because He’s in control.  God always has a plan, and it is a good plan, and we can trust in Him. 
~~~

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
-Jeremiah 29:11-

But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
 My times are in your hands...
-Psalm 31:14-15-

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Our Refuge, Strength, and Help


I woke up with Psalm 46 on my mind this morning. Here is Matthew Henry's commentary on the first five verses of this encouraging chapter: "This psalm encourages to hope and trust in God; in his power and providence, and his gracious presence with his church in the worst of times...If God be in our hearts, by his word dwelling richly in us, we shall be established, we shall be helped; let us trust and not be afraid."

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Get Some Rest!


So often our minds are set on output: "What can I give, how shall I reach out, what can I accomplish today?" This morning I realized if I am always thinking of what I need to achieve, I won't be able to receive! In order to enter into God's rest we must leave our burdens--even our good and admirable plans for giving and achieving--outside the door. "Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile" (Mark 6:31 NLT).

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Things Will Get Better


The pressures we face today can feel like a permanent situation. Our daily challenge as caregivers and believers living in the midst of a pandemic are to act toward one another in love and make wise decisions based on faith and not fear, but we also need to have hope for the future. There are better days ahead.

This song has been going around my head this morning, an encouraging melody based on Job 11:16 that was a part of my playlist a dozen years ago.  I found it on Youtube, Waters Gone By, Shawn Lewis, from the album Glory Revealed, 2007.  I love Scripture set to music, don't you?  Have a hopeful day.  


Love in our Lord, Linda




Thursday, April 23, 2020

A Landmark Post

In the Old Testament, there are frequent accounts of significant events being memorialized in some tangible way, often through making a pile of stones to mark the place the event occurred.  These memorials helped the people remember what God had done for them.

I have adopted a similar practice; whenever there is a significant event in my life, I tag my journal entry that describes the event with the designation of "landmark."  Landmark posts are rare.  When appropriate, I also document these significant events with a blog post, and then save a record of what has happened by making a book of the blog using a service such as Pastbook.

This post records landmark understandings the Lord has graciously provided me as I process grief over my mother's passing.  I pray other caregivers might be helped by this with the realization that a caregiving journey does not have to come to an end before freedom can be attained; we can walk in freedom through the trial.  During all the years of struggle and grief there was also joy and peace as I realigned myself with the Lord each day, His mercies are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23).  This is the final chapter of my caregiving journey.  I am and have been blessed, not only in spite of Mom's Alzheimer's, but in some ways even because of it.  That's the unmistakable stamp of our Savior; He truly is able to work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Our loved ones do not have to die in order for us to walk in freedom from the harm their sins and errors of judgment or perception have caused us.  Romans 6:4 tells us that when we are baptized into Christ, we are raised with Him to walk in newness of life.  Indeed, apart from the freedom I have in Christ, I could not have survived taking care of my mother throughout her nearly 16 year journey through Alzheimer's. But death draws a final curtain between any unresolved uncertainties and takes away opportunity for reconciliation; old sorrows may be felt more keenly.  The following account is more affirmation than new information, but it is indeed a landmark for me because I don't want to remain bound by old and erroneous judgments and memories of angry words spoken by my mother when she was in the throes of dementia.
****
April 21, 2020

I visited the cemetery today and took several photos of Mom and Dad’s stone.  I could see my reflection clearly in the stone and without thinking too much about it, I took a photo of the stone with my reflection showing. I then moved first to one side and then the other to take photos of just the stone itself and the engravings.  I noticed, and stood there pondering, the significance of the two engravings of trees on the stone, oak I think, one on Mom’s side, the other on Dad’s. 

When I got home, I sat down to scroll through the photos I’d taken.  First there was the one of me, my reflected image standing between my parents’ names.  And then I saw that in one of the photos taken from the side, a large tree was reflected in the center of the stone where my outline had shown in the earlier image.  And then, just before the photos I’d taken at the cemetery, was a photo I’d taken earlier in the day in our yard.  I’d noticed our oak tree was delineated with unusual clarity in the shadow cast by the rising sun that morning, and had captured the elongated, intricate web of branches in light and shadow. 
I sat there pondering all of this and a gentle awareness of a reassuring truth came to me.  My parents would be, are, happy with me, pleased with my service to them and to the Lord, and with who I am in Him. Children represent their parents’ greatest accomplishment and joy, a joy that can be tainted when the child’s sins and failures cause grief.  I am overweight, and because, in life, my father was judgmental of people who were overweight, I have assumed he would not be pleased with me now.  I was slender at the time of his death.  I am not slender now.  And, in Alzheimer’s, my mother was not happy with me.  The opposite was true.  In her demented view of reality, she felt great anger toward me even as I served her needs.  During the last three years of her life, her anger turned toward her caregivers at the nursing home and away from me, so that we were able to have a time of healing as I sang hymns to her and read Scripture during each visit.  I am grateful for that.  But the 12 years prior to Mom’s nursing home years had seen me catching every nuance of her resentment and anger over her crooked perception of her circumstances.  The confines of her disease became, in her compromised perception, confines I had placed upon her.   Her fight against dementia became a fight against her caregiver. 

All of this is gone now; Dad no longer condemns people for outward appearances, Mom no longer suffers from Alzheimer’s, and both my parents are safe at home in the Lord.  What is left is what is true.  I have given myself to ministries that have yielded eternal fruit, and my parents are pleased with me.  If they were here, they would say, “Well done;” I may hear them express such a sentiment when I reach home myself. Dad’s criticisms and Mom’s anger were “light and momentary troubles,” not eternal judgments.  I can be freed of their sting, even now.  They aren’t true now because they no longer exist, not because my parents have been silenced by death, but because they have been freed by passing through death.  The old has gone, the new has come. 

Lord let the new come for me even now.  Let me walk in freedom of newness of life.  I can be freed from the crooked version of truth I’ve lived with my entire life. As long as I was under the law of my parents’ judgment and anger I couldn’t be freed.  They have been freed from all that kept them from perfect communion with You. Lord free me now from what is no longer true, was never really true.  My Dad’s judgment and my mom’s anger toward me do not exist at all, are no longer sad facts of my life.  My chains are gone, Lord, don’t let me just stay paralyzed in place by bonds that have been cut.  I ask this in Jesus’ Name. 

My chains are gone, I’ve been set free, my Lord my God has ransomed me...unending love, amazing grace (this is from an updated version of Amazing Grace by Chris Tomlin).  In yet another seemingly unconnected episode that took place yesterday but now shines with significance, is that earlier in the day I had taken down the sign that reads “Amazing Grace,” that had been over the doorway of my mother’s apartment for all the years since we built the addition for her, and hung it up in a room I’ve just refurbished from ceiling to floor; Lord, likewise, please renew me.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Thursday, April 16, 2020

His Abiding Presence


Praying today for those who love someone who is in a nursing home, and for the sweet souls who are not allowed visitors during this time. It's good to remember that visitation restrictions don't impact the Lord's abiding presence with us.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Help Us Remember


My daughter and I read and reread the devotions from my book, 100 Days to Freedom: Release From the Self-Condemnation of Overweight. We reached day 99 today, and these hopeful words seemed spot on for our current world situation: "When easier days arrive, Lord, let us not forget you!"   

May we seek the Lord just as much when easier times come as we are now, when we are all feeling so challenged.

"Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away" Isaiah 51:11.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Prayer for Trust

Fear affects us all differently, and tempers are shorter now with the stress of the pandemic weighing on us all. Last night I prayed the following prayer, which seems a little harsh I suppose, in its use of the word "obstinance," but understand that by my use of that harsh word I mean human sin, human error, and our human tendency to cling our own status quos long past the time it is wise to do so:

Dear Lord, please cover us and keep us safe. Protect us from heartache due to the obstinance of others. Help us to trust You and to be kind; I see that I can't be kind unless I trust You. And yes, protect others from MY obstinance, fearfulness, and unhelpful advice. Have mercy on us Lord, and heal our land. In Jesus’ Name I pray.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Unprecedented Times


In the midst of precautions and fears against COVID-19 and reports of terrible suffering of those who are in places where medical supplies are in shortage, my husband and I have been able to shelter in place.  Daily we offer prayers for family members who must continue to be out and about.

I have felt strongly that the Lord's instruction to us is to stay under His canopy of protection.  This will mean something different for each individual; for us oldsters it means we need to stay out of the way, stay sheltered in place, and don't burden an already stressed medical system further because we couldn't do without creamer for our coffee or some such thing, so that we go out unnecessarily. There are good lessons to be learned during this time for people like me, who have never known rationing or want.

For others, like my son, son-in-law, and daughter-in-law, this means being much in prayer as they go out into the world to do jobs that must be done.  "The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go..."  (Joshua 1:9).

All of us need to be aware that the Lord is with us in this unprecedented time, and that He is drawing our attention to Himself through it.  In my daily Bible reading plan I just happened to come to Numbers 16 this morning, and read these words:  "The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered incense and made atonement for them.  He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. But 14,700 people died from the plague..." (Numbers 16:47).

I consulted Matthew Henry's concise commentary on these verses:
"There is an infection of sin in the world, which only the cross and intercession of Jesus Christ can stay and remove. He enters the defiled and dying camp. He stands between the dead and the living; between the eternal Judge and the souls under condemnation. We must have redemption through His blood, even the remission of sins. We admire the ready devotion of Aaron: shall we not bless and praise the unspeakable grace and love which filled the Saviour’s heart, when he placed himself in our stead, and bought us with his life? Greatly indeed hath God commended his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8" (Matthew Henry Concise, on Numbers 16).  
Each of us needs to turn to the Lord during this time, with hearts open to His correction and love, looking to Jesus, claiming the precious Blood,  pleading with Him to intercede for us, confessing as is needed, and praying earnestly for those who are suffering.  Lord let this time draw us closer to You.  We look to You.  Please shorten the duration of this pandemic, and turn our hearts to You.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Saturday, March 14, 2020

A Blessing for God's People


From Numbers, chapter 6, here is the blessing the priests were to pronounce over the Israelites.  We are God's people, and through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of Father God, this blessing holds for us. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Keep Trying


The photo above shows my grandson, Logan, age 7.  Logan is a determined little guy.  On the day this photo was taken, he had decided to leap the ten foot span between two big bales of hay. 

He didn't make it.  He tried several times, and utilized different methods, but crashed just short of his goal each time.  Winded, he circled the bale pile and then said, "I've figured out I can't do it with these mud boots on.  I can't get traction.  I'll come back when I have my sneakers." 

I admire Logan.  He kept trying, ascertained he wasn't going to make it on this particular day, and developed a plan for renewed efforts another time.  I have no doubt that he will achieve his goal; that's the kind of guy he is. 

No matter where we find ourselves in a caregiving journey, discouragement is a pitfall, and there were certainly times during my 16 year long assignment of caring for my Alzheimer's mom that I wanted to quit trying.  The struggles haven't stopped for me even though Mom has gone home to Jesus; depression threatens and motivation to take tentative steps in a new direction is lacking, but I am trying.  Every morning I pray, "Just show me the next thing to do, Lord."  And He does.  Sometimes I don't want to do what He asks, and sometimes I'd rather not try, and fail, and have to try again. 

Praise God that His mercies are new every morning. Maybe I just need a new pair of sneakers! 

Lord please renew and strengthen us as we move forward on the path You've provided.  Grant us the will and courage to keep on trying! 

~~~

For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared...
Ephesians 6:15 NLT




Saturday, February 29, 2020

God With Us


A few months ago I researched the Scripture passages that inspired the lyrics to the wonderful hymn How Firm a Foundation (Words: John Rippon, 1787; Music: Joseph funk, 1832; hymn information from The Cyberhymnal, hymntime.com).  Here are those verses and Scriptures again, for encouragement in every season of life:  

Scripture references for the hymn How Firm a Foundation: 

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Psalm 89:14
                                                                         
So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic. Isaiah 28:16

He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. Isaiah 33:6

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:11-13

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
 Isaiah 41:10

The bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze,
    and your strength will equal your days.
Deuteronomy 33:25

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

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.
Isaiah 43:2

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:7

This third I will put into the fire;
    I will refine them like silver
    and test them like gold.
They will call on my name
    and I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are my people,’
    and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”
Zechariah 13:9

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Isaiah 46:2

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.


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

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

... I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  Matthew 28:20



Sunday, February 9, 2020

Friday, February 7, 2020

Keep Silent and Pray


It has been nearly two weeks since my mother's funeral, and each day I've felt strongly that now is not the time to address issues regarding various things that are worrying or upsetting me. I am to keep silent and pray.

The experience of laying a loved one to rest triggers deep emotion that, unmonitored, can do harm to the tender hearts of others who may be navigating grief-paths of their own.  Grief can tilt one’s perceptions.  Until I am more certain of the accuracy of my responses (well, especially until then),  I need to keep quiet!  I've made a  list of do's and don'ts to review daily for this time:
  • The death of a loved one and the grieving that follows may bring seemingly unrelated emotions to the surface, and worse, can tilt our perceptions toward inaccurate conclusions as we attempt to reconcile the level of pain we are experiencing with our actual circumstances.  We may feel like blaming other people for the hurt.  If you have to field negative words or actions, turn the other cheek and table the issue until later.  Time and prayer are the solutions for any problem that arises; now is not the time to confront issues.  Keep silent and pray.  Entrust your loved ones into the Lord’s hands. 
  • Assume the best of one another.  Give each other the benefit of the doubt.  Encourage one another.  When someone acts or speaks in a way that is hurtful, look for the need behind the behavior. You may find a need to belong, to prove oneself, or a desire to be admired or accepted; bear with one another in love.  
  • When you are hurt, cry the pain out to Jesus, and not to another human being.  Human beings can’t help you or offer healing.  The Lord can do both.  
  • If you feel you are being shortchanged, overlooked, or treated unfairly, look for the Lord’s provision.  In His perfect love and virtuosity, the Lord is able to balance all of our needs and to bless each of us with the outcome. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

A Gentle Unfolding

The photo background of this meme is the lane that led to my mother's childhood home.  We always called a visit to this, my grandparents' farm, "Going down home."   

Walking the path of grief over my mother's death is a complicated process. There are many layers to traverse, not only grief, but also a struggle to assess the changes that have occurred in my life over the years I was Mom's primary caregiver, an assignment which lasted nearly a quarter of my life.

Yesterday I used my iPhone's "Find My Friends" feature to see whether my daughter had arrived home safely from a shopping trip.  I had a brief, humorous urge to look up my own name to see where I am.  There is a sense of needing to gain my bearings as I prepare to move forward to the next phase of my life.

I didn't need to fear this time of grieving as I did.  The Lord's grace has seen me through the funeral and each day since.  And it is so precious that instead of my being bombarded with the full weight of all I have to face, each day another issue, lesson, or grief has been revealed.  In this way I have not been overwhelmed.  I've been allowed time and space to pray  through each "lesson of the day" and have received the Lord's comfort and instruction.

I am grateful for this gentle unfolding.

Today’s lesson is that Mom is at home.  It's wonderful how the Lord made this truth real to me as I looked at a sympathy card with a photo that reminded me so much of the lane that went "down home" to my grandparents' house.  The Lord's presence is more blessed, beautiful and perfect than any earthly home we've known; in Him we are perfectly at home.

The Lord is so good to us.  Blessed be His Name.

~~~

My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.  
Exodus 33:14

Friday, January 24, 2020

Dying Pain Placed Into Perspective: Joy Just Ahead


My mother has just passed away following a nearly 16 year journey through Alzheimer's disease.  I offer the following account of her passing in order to share the comfort I have received.

The day before Mom died, she was so comfortable and peaceful.  She kept saying “Peace, peace, it is so beautiful.”  She repeated this in various ways throughout our visit; “It is so beautiful!  So peaceful!” 

She was not looking at me, but through me, or upwards, toward the corner of her room where wall met ceiling.  At one point she exclaimed, “Look at that beautiful face!  Just perfect!  So beautiful!” 

I made a quick check of where she was gazing to see whether the veil might have lifted for me as well, but no.  I asked, “Is it Jesus?” 

She hesitated and then answered, “I think so.” 

That she answered a direct question at that point was kind of astounding as she had not been responding to me or seeing me.   

Mom was comfortable up until her last 24 hours.  If there had not been a delay in getting her started on the 15-minute interval doses of medicine that hospice gives for dying pain, I don’t think she’d have had that hour of extreme struggle. Well, it seemed extreme to me and it may not have lasted more than a few minutes; time telescoped into a form that what seemed like hours may only have been minutes.  It was distressing to see her labored breathing, so reminiscent of someone suffering labor pains to bring forth a child. 

That thought of the similarity to what Mom was enduring to the labor of childbirth was comforting to me.  I had positioned myself beside Mom on her narrow bed and wrapped my arms around her, praying for her, so that her suffering was my suffering.  At first I thought I couldn’t bear the intensity of her anguish, but then the thought of how we all embrace labor and childbirth for the sake of the joy that follows put her suffering into perspective for me; she was heading to the joy of Jesus’ presence. 

Some time later (5 minutes?  30 minutes?) two nurses appeared to reposition her and I was so cramped and nearly frozen into position that I had to do a kind of gymnastics move to get out of the bed—both nurses thought I was falling and moved toward me to catch me.  I landed awkwardly on my feet, straightened up, gave a sheepish smile.  They quickly and professionally returned to the task at hand. 

My husband, John, was visibly shaken and gave forth the information that my father had gone through the same thing that last day of his life (while I was at my job teaching children to read, this dear man had supported my mother in helping her to see my dad through his final days of life).  

I said, “You know it’s just like laboring in childbirth, so similar to having a baby.” 

John shook his head vigorously and said, “No, no, it isn’t.” 

And I said, “Honey, you never had a baby.” 

I was illuminated by the thought that Mom did not appear to be suffering the level of pain I felt myself to have survived in order to bring my children into the world.  It was a profound shift in understanding; I had gone willingly into a second pregnancy despite the fairly traumatic suffering of my first pregnancy and childbirth experience.  Why?  Because of the surpassing joy of holding that new baby in my arms. 

I think the difference in our perceptions between laboring in childbirth and laboring to achieve separation of body from spirit is that as observers, we don’t see with human eyes the great joy at the end of the dying labor.  But we can receive it on faith.    

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning,” (Psalm 30:5).

“ Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:20-22).