Pieces

We’ve missed a lot of church in the last forever since all of this dementia madness started with our loved one. That’s what happens when you live hours away from family when they need you–and you need them. Texts and phone calls have to suffice during the work-week, but in times of difficulty we need to see and touch and be Jesus with skin on for each other as much as we can, so we’ve put in a good bit of road time lately.

I’ve tried to “make up” for missing church by listening to extra sermons and reading the Psalms as I cool down in the mornings after my walk. There’s something very soothing about talking to Jesus (and the occasional neighbor) while I walk and then letting the Psalmist’s words flow over me and speak to me of things that come from a heart determined to be God’s. I used to really identify with the Psalms that focused on the positive–and I still do, but some days I feel really close to David and his fellow writers as they talk about their difficulties. I get them in a different way these days.

I’ve also started listening to the Bible on CDs as I work around the house. I’ve read it all before, of course, but I’m finding new life in words that are read with a dramatic voice and musical accompaniment in the background. I turn it up loud enough to be heard all through the house and get busy doing my chores. Sometimes I get mentally sidetracked as I find a dust mammoth (I hate dusting and I have a cat, so…it happens) or locate a piece of mail that might have slipped through the cracks of our schedule. Usually when that happens, I back the CD up a track or two to make sure I didn’t miss anything, but the other day I was making up a bed in one of the guest rooms and I heard something that I wanted to make sure I heard again and again.

The voice was reading the section in Exodus about when God’s people were building all of the parts of the tabernacle. A couple of  guys named Bezalel and Oholiab (yes, I know…not many of them around these days) were specifically gifted by God to “do every kind of craft…and the ability to teach others.” (Exodus 35:30-35)

I love that part and I always read it through at least twice when I get there! As someone who enjoys creating, it sounds like these would be people I would want to know and learn from–and, probably, occasionally be jealous of, as well. (just keeping it real here. grin) I mean, who wouldn’t want to know how to do EVERYTHING artistically AND be able to teach?! That sounds like a dream job to me. (AnyWAY! I digress!) As great as it would be to know how to do everything artistic in nature, it was equally important that they be able to teach others. (Sometimes, we’re not always good at sharing our knowledge of how to do what we know, are we? Something about job security, selfishness and pride, maybe? Just a thought.) Truly, though, there was enough work for everyone on this job of finding ways to use everyone’s talents to glorify God. And, in case you’re wondering…There still is.

I listened more intently. In fact, I went back and started the whole CD over so I could hear it ALL again. The descriptions of materials used, the order in which things were accomplished, the reason for certain steps or materials–all of that fascinates me. At the end of Chapter 39, the work of creating was finally finished and they began the bringing of the pieces to Moses for inspection and for placement…and it hit me: As gifted as the artisans and workers were individually, it was the completely assembled pieces in their proper placement that created the place of worship and gave the people a place to know was inhabited by God.

So, Becky…what does that have to do with us now? Well, more than you might imagine. After I took time to give praise for this wonderful Word, I contacted a friend who–like me and others I know right now who are feeling a bit battered by our current circumstances– and shared with her that God, the master Creator and Healer, is ALSO able to take all of our shattered pieces and put them back in order–to put US back in order!!–so that we can continue to be a place and person of worship and praise no matter what we are facing.

I thought of all of this again as I stood in church yesterday morning and participated in worship; singing with and praying for all those other friends who I know are feeling a bit shattered by their circumstances, but who made the choice to worship the One Who makes all things new and for Whom nothing is impossible. The One Who knows every single thing we need…is also the Source of every single thing we need. Worthy of worship and worthy of praise, indeed! I pray He will be especially near to you today. He is able!!

Grace and Peace! (and healing, if you’re in need of it!)

Psalm 139: 1-18 (CSB)

Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up;
you understand my thoughts from far away.
You observe my travels and my rest;
you are aware of all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue,
you know all about it, Lord.
You have encircled me;
you have placed your hand on me.
This wondrous knowledge is beyond me.
It is lofty; I am unable to reach it.

Where can I go to escape your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I live at the eastern horizon
or settle at the western limits,
10 even there your hand will lead me;
your right hand will hold on to me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light around me will be night”—
12 even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to you.

13 For it was you who created my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise you
because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.[c][d]
Your works are wondrous,
and I know this very well.
15 My bones were not hidden from you
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in your book and planned
before a single one of them began.

17 God, how precious your thoughts are to me;
how vast their sum is!
18 If I counted them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand;
when I wake up, I am still with you….

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Dementia Chronicles (part 4)

Dementia–the gift that keeps on taking. Every time I think we’ve got a few things figured out, we find out there’s so much more that we don’t know about this nastiness. The fact that no one else knows either is no comfort at all! Some of the things you expect to lose. Some of the things…well, you just never see them coming. 

It was a great weekend. We took an extra day off to roam through the mountains on the way to see our loved one and other family members. We were excited to see her new placement in a fantastic memory care unit. Advised to come after lunch since that would allow our loved one to remain on schedule for most of the day, we showed up when and as instructed.

Routines are important. (for all of us!)

We arrived and were met with great joy, got an opportunity to see the new digs, and were then led to a private sitting room off the main unit. We had a wonderful visit! The conversation lagged a bit at times as we ran into memory blocks or losses, but we quickly diverted and changed subjects when needed. Finding new ways to share information is tricky these days, but we made it work. I took pictures and they turned out looking ready for framing. Everyone looked happy and healthy.

FACT: You can’t always see dementia…even when it feels like you really ought to be able to do so. That is a deceptive gift.

As we returned to the unit, our loved one was excited to see the new storyboard lovingly created by her daughter loves to scrapbook. It is gorgeous! Filled with family photos and facts from happier times, storyboards help identify each resident’s lodging place and gives others on the unit an opportunity to get to know people in ways they can no longer share for themselves. Our loved one stood there smiling, pleased, and said she remembered some of them. It was a gift for all of us as we took our leave for the day.

We returned in time for breakfast the next morning and found that we were surprise guests again…with no memories of the day before, but it was ok because we were able to have real conversations again. Moments of lucidity are a gift that none of us take lightly anymore. We shared the photos from the day before as proof that we had indeed been there and were rewarded with smiles and shoulders shrugged with confusion about why she didn’t remember. Another photo was taken to document this visit, as well. The storyboard was a brand new surprise…again…and I breathed a prayer of thankfulness for the delight it brought and asked God to let it always be a source of joy.

My check-in call today wasn’t as joyful. It was painful as we once again went down the questioning pathways that led us to where we are. I did my best to bring comfort that God is still in charge and is in the process of providing even when our loved one finds it difficult to accept and can’t remember why this provision is even necessary. I was grateful that just talking it out and being heard seemed to help calm things down. Ending our call on as high a note as possible, I still texted the following to a friend afterward.

Had the hardest realization today… She said, “I just need something to look forward to!”–and I realized that Dementia has stolen this gift from her. When you can’t remember what happened, you also can’t recall what is supposed to happen…and it just broke my heart. 😭 What a horrible, horrible thing this stuff is!!! What she can’t recall, she fills in with error, so she feels abandoned. No memory of our visits this weekend at all today.

Some days it is as hard to be the forgotten as it is to be the one who is forgetting.

Comfort us all, Father God, as we do our best to keep honoring You and our loved ones even as we lose them, as they lose themselves, and as they eventually lose us all before they’re actually gone.

Remind us that in You nothing and no one can ever be truly lost, God.

We need to remember that. We desperately need to remember that.

Automatic timer

IMG_20180822_173452044_LLMy cat has a feeder with an automatic timer on it. I bought it for one of those times when I had to travel away from home for several days and I just never unplugged it. It keeps right on serving up the exact amount of food it is supposed to at exactly the time that I’ve determined my cat needs to eat based on what our vet knows about our cat’s health and welfare. It’s a system that works for me.

Smokey’s still not too impressed with it.

He’s more into me feeding him every single time he yells for food and seems fully convinced that I’ve somehow forgotten about his needs in this process of failing to follow his desires. He makes sure I’m aware of his opinion as he begins to voice his concerns over me allowing him to “starve” approximately 2 full hours before every regularly scheduled feeding time.

I’m like that with God sometimes.

You are too, I bet.

We get so focused on what we want and when we want it that we forget there’s a reason we’re not in charge. (Psst! It’s because we’re not GOD!)

I’ve noticed this a lot more lately–both the desire to have my prayers answered before I actually pray them and the part about me not being God.

Today, though, I saw God absolutely show out. He showed up in the middle of a mess with our loved one and He absolutely “made the rough way smooth.” Isaiah 45:2 (NASB) says, “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars.” 

I know He wasn’t talking to me in Isaiah, but the God who never changes showed up for our family today just like he told Isaiah that He would do for His people back then. We had a need that was time-sensitive, unexpected, and totally out of our ability to fix. If we had an automatic-timer-God, there’s absolutely no way we could have believed that our need would have made a difference in His answer or in the time of delivering the answers.

We don’t serve that kind of God, however.

We serve the unchanging God of the unexpected. He’s the One in charge of every single thing and He has the answer to every single problem you or I will ever face. While His timing may not always suit us, He is always and forever on our side, providing what we need right when we need it…and often, not a moment sooner.

So it was again today. He knew beforehand that we would have this need. He knew the answers it would require and the timing to make it all work…and He still allowed us to FEEL the need and MAKE our requests to Him! It is not the first time this has happened (not by a LONG shot!) and it will not be the last time it happens, either. This is not because He is unkind, but because He saw beyond the need at hand and knew that we ALSO needed to have our faith increased, our community of prayer partners encouraged, and so that all of us could be reminded–once again!–that while His timing isn’t automatic, He is always an on-time God.

Grace and Peace!

Margin meets meaning

I recently had an epiphany as I walked in the relative coolness of my early Georgia morning. By the way, I love the word epiphany. Although the dictionary defines it this way:

e·piph·a·ny ( /əˈpifənē/ )  noun

  1. the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).
    • the festival commemorating the Epiphany on January 6.
    • a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being.

Wikipedia (the true source of all internet wisdom—HA!) defines it this way: An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, “manifestation, striking appearance”) is an experience of a sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective. 

ANY.WAY! I had one of those as I walked and prayed about something I’ve been praying about for months…literally months and months. I’ve struggled with whether walking away for a time from some activities that I love is actually God’s will or just a desire to make things easier right now given the family circumstances that we are facing. I believe that I might have finally figured out that those two things aren’t always mutually exclusive. (By the way, change is hard.)

A dear friend and prayer partner recently asked if I was still working on “margin” in my life. I told her that I hadn’t had much time for that lately, but perhaps, I SHOULD be working on it. We laughed and moved on with our conversation. Her simple question set my mind in motion, though, and I began to look for ways to incorporate what I spent a whole year learning about just last year. It shouldn’t have been so difficult to remember–and I really shouldn’t have needed someone to remind me of what I had so recently learned, but it was and I did. (Did I mention that change is hard?)

As I walked along the road I asked God–again!--what it was that He wanted me to do about my schedule. I had thought that giving up our business would open up all the time and allow for all of the personal reserves that we would need, but that hasn’t been the case. Instead, I’m finding–as many of you already know–that physical work is far easier than making our way through the spiritual, emotional and mental battles of dealing with a loved ones’ dementia. Suddenly, I had a thought that tied AJ’s simple question to the ones piling up in my prayer time: What if last year’s focus on Margin was ACTUALLY all done in preparation for what we would face THIS year? What if God, in His infinite wisdom KNEW and provided me with a whole year to practice what I need to practice, grow, and teach in a whole new way during the difficult days that we’re facing right now? (MAYBE because God knows change is hard for us, too?)

Well, well! Hmmm…things. to. think. about!

I shouldn’t be surprised by that. God is always good. He is always preparing us for the next levels and making us fit for the next battles. What surprised me–again–was the WAY that He seems to have done so about this subject. You see, I thought that last year’s focus on Margin was ALL about LAST YEAR and all of the business and busy-ness that it contained. I lost sight of all I have learned from that quote by J.O. Sanders, “God never ploughs [sic] unless He purposes a crop.”

Well, welcome to the season of harvest right here in the first week of summer. I came home and immediately put into action a plan to rearrange my schedule. Some of the changes involve things that I dearly love and that I have held onto out of a desire to serve God and others by using the spiritual gifts that God has given to me. Personally, I had questioned if it would be more selfish to continue in them (and possibly do them poorly) or to step away for a season. Following Christ closely doesn’t leave much room for selfish motives or ambitions, so I am putting some things aside for the moment that will, hopefully, also help provide an opportunity for growth in others. If “the moment” becomes longer than I currently anticipate, then God will be in charge of that, as well. His gifts are never meant to be hoarded or neglected, so I am certain that He will make a way for all of us to grow. Additionally, while I will be laying aside some tasks, He has already shown me ways that I will be able to take up/expand some others.

The main thing I brought home with me from my Monday walk was a sense of release/personally answered prayer and a sense of purposely walking closer to Jesus than ever before. I’m finding that this season of difficulty is also demanding a deeper journey with my Savior (because…well, you knowchange…!)…and I’m finding myself more in love with my God than ever before as I rush to draw near to Him. There is no other way to survive this!

Perhaps there’s more to teaching than simply standing before a crowd or pecking away at a computer. Hmmmm…Maybe, just maybe, I will be teaching others about God by putting into practice what He’s already taught me…when I just thought I was busy and in need of some margin for my soul. Instead of simply going for a walk by myself, I encountered God and He set about changing my expectations, my prayer time, my understanding of past lessons learned, and, as a result, my reality. Epiphany, indeed.

Grace and Peace!

 

 

 

 

Waiting on perfection

I’m weird. (Don’t laugh too loudly. You are, too.) One of the things that make me weird is that I’m always in pursuit of perfection. That may sound like a good thing…but it can get in the way of getting some things done around here. In college, I would often be found cleaning the kitchen and bathroom the night before an exam because I “neeeded” (yes, ALL those extra “e”s are needed there.) to have things “perfect” before I could concentrate on the studying.

There are other things that contribute to the weirdness, of course. We all have things that make us individuals, but I guess that pursuit of perfection in the strangest things is one of my biggest challenges. I’ve been battling it (as in, I’m rarely distressed over it, but I’m always aware of it!) for a long time, but never more so that these past few months as we’ve battled much bigger issues.

I work hard to keep our home clean enough to be restful to me so I can make it restful for others. That means you can’t eat off the floor (since I have a cat and I don’t eeeven recognize a 5-second rule when there are animals inside), but all the towels and blankets are folded neatly in the closet and I try to keep reasonably up-to-date on the laundry. I’m not such a stickler on the dusting in times of stress, but it does bug me on occasion. I don’t let it get in the way of having friends over for a chat, of course, but I’m aware. Very aware. (Btw, I am only this way about MY house–or the hotel rooms I’m inhabiting. I could not care less–and don’t even notice!–other people’s spaces. I’m there to focus on the people, not their surroundings, aaannnnddd…maybe I should learn from that and cut myself some slack, but…so far…that hasn’t happened all that regularly.)

With all of the traveling and hospital sitting-time we’ve done recently and all of the necessary schedule re-routing as a result, some of these normally-done chores of mine have fallen behind in favor of just trying to catch up on a little rest so we can “do the next thing.” Because of that, I’ve not been able to be as creative…or, rather, I’ve had to be creative about finding ways to do some creating. I’ve optimistically carried painting supplies places that I never allowed them to see outside of the luggage and I’ve resorted to pinning things on Pinterest boards that I would like to try one day…when all things are perfect…and I have the time. Blogging is about as creative an opportunity as I’ve been allowing myself and I think that’s been more sharing than creating for me lately. Yesterday, I chose to allow myself to “create” some mail for loved ones. See, I’m stretching it.

Last night I showed my husband the wrapper off of a Dove Dark Chocolate square that says, “The magic is in the mess. Dorothy S., Louisiana” I don’t know who Dorothy S. is or how the people at Dove chocolates found her, and I would never have believed her to be right in this statement before, but something about her words grabbed me. The more I thought about it, I remembered that if I wait to create until things get “perfect” about the situation we’re in right now, then I might not create again for a long, long time. I can’t do that. I can’t wait anymore to let things be perfectly straight and manageable and comfortable and whatever other word I’ve allowed to interfere with doing something that feeds my soul and expresses life-joy even in the midst hard things.

This, too, is a mental health issue. It’s also a life and time management issue, a willingness to have fun issue, and a seize the moment for joy issue. In short, it is a God issue…as most things are. We don’t have to be perfect to enjoy the day we’re being given, but we DO have to be willing to look beyond our circumstances and remember that Jesus came to give us life! Abundant life! HERE and NOW…and in the time beyond, as well. While taking time to bless yourself may not sound very spiritual to some people, doing so can be a reminder that God created each of us in His image…and the very first characteristic that He shared with us was His ability to create.

“In the beginning God created…” Genesis 1:1.

While we won’t create anything so magnificent as the world and all that is in it, we can choose to create some joy and some peace and some rest right were we are today.

So. What are YOU waiting on to bless YOUR own soul? Don’t get caught up in your circumstances so much that you forget to LIVE in the midst of them! Advice from me to you (and from me to me!): don’t wait on things to be “perfect” before you start making them “better.” Find a way to bless your own self today. Maybe it is by creating, cleaning (uh, nope, that’s probably just me. sorry!), going for a ride or a walk, getting an ice cream cone, reading a book (or even just a chapter?), taking some hobby time or simply sitting still and breathing quietly for a bit. WHATEVER you choose, make sure you take time to thank God for the moments and ask Him to help us ALL choose to really LIVE and LOVE the life we’re given instead of waiting on everything to be perfect.

Grace and peace…and LIFE!

 

The 90%

It’s been a rollercoaster for us lately. You can probably say the same thing about your life. That’s the key word, of course…it’s life! Nothing ever stays the same, otherwise we become stagnant and stale in our outlook, our aspirations, and our prayers. None of that is a good idea. As much as we often say we’d like things to stay the same, growth can’t occur in a vacuum. Change is constant, inevitable, and God’s deliberate idea of blessing us.

As my husband and I have discussed our circumstances, laughed, cried, prayed and driven more miles this month than I can say, we’ve been reminded of the truth that Chuck Swindoll so beautifully penned many years ago:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church….a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.

I believe God gave this insight to Pastor Chuck. I’ve had his quote pinned or taped to some surface in every office I’ve ever worked in professionally. I read it every day for years. I think it stuck. I hope so, anyway. The truth it contains has bolstered, encouraged, and (at times!) convicted me. I’ve been blessed by it.

Attitude is important, but so are the people around us. I’ve been blessed by my circle of friends near and far as they have prayed, called, emailed, texted, and made sure my cat was ok when I couldn’t. Some even sent cards and Scripture happies in the mail! IMG_20190617_064938374

Others ministered to us in different ways. My friend Patty (which came out typed as “Party” originally because my fingers obviously know the real Patty!! Lol!) actually blessed me back in December with a Christmas gift that has continued her blessing. Every day, I walk past a calendar she sent to me. Each month has a new reminder as the focus. This month, it has been a reminder to choose “gratitude” as my attitude! IMG_20190617_062805485

Well, there have been days when that was easier than others, but I have done my best to be grateful and express that to God and those around me. Today, I will get to choose again. So will we all.

What attitude will you choose as your 90% today?

Grace and Peace!

Words to live by

I was reading in Luke Chapter 1 the other day and I was particularly struck by the detailed recording of the conversation between Mary and the angel, Gabriel. My favorite line in that conversation is when Gabriel reminds Mary of something she already knew:

“For with God, nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1: 37 (NKJV)

We ALL still need to be reminded of that.

We also need to be reminded of Mary’s response to this news that would put her life in danger and change the world forever as she said, “Let it be to me according to your word.” Since Gabriel was bringing a message straight from God, what Mary was REALLY saying was, “I’ll do whatever you say, God.” 

That’s still a pretty good response today no matter what is going on in our lives.

I also love that the recorded conversation between Mary and her Cousin Elizabeth. Because I’ve spent a lifetime surrounded by strong, wonderful women, I guess I’m intrigued by these two. So many years and some distance apart, but brought together by their love for God and the miraculous way He was at work in their lives–these women are fabulous!! I think I would have liked both of them!

What really struck me this time, however, was the simple fact that their conversation was ever recorded in the first place. At the time, of course, women–especially the unmarried and the ones who hadn’t able to get pregnant–weren’t typically regarded as important enough to mention, much less record. I don’t think I’d ever thought about that before, but there it is! It’s a conversation full of love and praise and joyous celebration over things that would have been considered odd (at the least), scandalous (for sure), and (for Mary!) possibly even deadly once the news got out to the public. Yep, it’s all laid out in a lot of detail…I guess Zacharias decided to record the occasion since he wasn’t allowed to speak at the time! (grin)

Regardless of who wrote it down in the first place, I love their unconditional acceptance that God was in control in both of their circumstances. Regardless of how they were viewed or valued by society, these women KNEW they were loved and valued by God, so walking out whatever He had next for them was a decision that had been made long before they had this conversation. The knowledge of that showed up in their responses to their circumstances and in the words that they spoke to each other. I find it difficult to believe their communications with other people around them would have been much different. Yes, I really do think I would have liked these women!

While what’s going on in my world is nothing like as big as the announcement that God’s Son would be arriving soon and His heralding-messenger cousin would, quite naturally, be arriving even sooner, I have to take stock and consider some things:

  • Am I willing to believe that what Gabriel said is true–that NOTHING is impossible with God? If so, shouldn’t that show up in the way I speak about my current circumstances and when I listen and speak to others about theirs?
  • Am I willing to accept whatever God has planned for me…even if I don’t like it or know all of the details?
  • Am I ready to stop whatever I’m doing and joyfully welcome others into my circle who are having life-changing things happen in theirs, or will I shut them out and just focus on what’s going on with me?
  • Am I ready and willing to sing God’s praises and tell others of His goodness in the midst of something that feels more than a bit scary and might not go the way I would want?

SONY DSC“For with God, nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1: 37 (NKJV)?

With Him, nothing is impossible! Without Him? Well, that’s not possible.

I’ve made my decision. Have you made yours?

Grace and Peace!