NCN 2019–Days 22-24

Has it been a great week? Are you pleased with where you are and all you’ve managed to accomplish this week? I hope so! I actually hope a lot things for you.

  • I hope you’re healthy and able to do the tasks ahead of you well.
  • I hope you’re surrounded by people who lift you up and let you know that you’re valued and valuable.
  • I hope you’re excited about the days ahead and have fond memories of the ones you’ve already passed through.
  • I hope…I hope…I hope…so many, many things.

I think the main thing I hope, however, is that you know God personally. I hope that you realize that He’s real and that He loves you even more than you can ever imagine. I hope you talk with Him and walk with Him all of the days of your life. I hope that if you don’t know Him, that you’ll want to change that.

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”  ~Stephen Covey

Getting to know God isn’t difficult, but it does require a decision. He wants to be known. He wants it so much that He sent His Son Jesus down from heaven to live a perfect and sinless life before us so that we could know God more intimately than ever before. Jesus’ life and death here on earth makes it possible for us to have life and experience God throughout eternity.

How is that even possible? Because Jesus didn’t stay in the grave! He is alive and He’s waiting for each of us to take advantage of the life He came to provide for us. All that’s left for us to do is to make a decision to believe and follow Him.

It’s a simple thing, really.

  1. You have to first realize you haven’t lived a perfect life. In short, you have sinned–that means you have missed the mark. There is no one perfect, but God. (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Romans 3:23)
  2. Sin comes with a price that must be paid by someone. Your sin will never go away on its own and you have no way to make it do so or earn forgiveness for it through your own efforts. Without someone to pay the price, sin will destroy you. (“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23)
  3. You need a new life and to get it you NEED a Savior. Jesus is that Savior. There is no other way and no other option that will get rid of your sin and make it possible for you to know God personally and have an intimate relationship with Him. (“You must be born again.” John 3:3 / “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6)
  4. You need to know that Jesus is your only possibility for salvation, but you also need to believe it and share that knowledge with others. (“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame,…'” Romans 10:9-11)
  5. You need to know that, once you make this decision, your life will never be the same again. Because Jesus paid your sin debt, you will belong to Him and that will mean changes (wonderful changes!) are coming your way! You will no longer think or act in some of the ways you previously lived. You can’t make these changes on your own. You will have a standard that you never had before and you will have the Holy Spirit living inside of you to guide you, but you will also need to seek out others who have decided to follow Jesus and live in fellowship with them as you learn more about God and all that He has in store for you. (“And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves…” 2 Corinthians 5:15a / “If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7)

This decision will be the most important one you ever make. By choosing to believe all the Bible says about who God is (and who YOU are created to be!), you are not signing up for a religion or joining any particular denomination. You are beginning a relationship with GOD–and that is exciting!!

I hope you’ve made the most important decision to follow Jesus. If this is new to you or you would like to know more about “what’s next” after making this decision, I would LOVE to help you learn more about my wonderful God. You can reach out to me in the comment section or send me a private message in several other social media outlets.

As for NCN and this weekend? Remember: you can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION. I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Grace and Peace!

 

NCN 2020–Day 6

My husband and I were reminiscing over breakfast yesterday. One year ago we were coming off a great and successful show with lots of plans for our business future. Now, we no longer have a business. By it’s very nature, life changes. We had no clue how much that would be true for us this year. You may be in the same boat with us.

Our season for this year has been a difficult one, but we’ve learned a lot. While some of it is stuff we’d really rather NOT know, we now have a pretty solid base of knowledge and  friends/resources with additional information on the subject for reaching out and helping others who also find themselves loving a person with dementia/Alzheimer’s. Our family is blessed in that we’ve continued to work together to figure out the solutions that work for us and be as supportive as possible in the process.

Along the way, we’ve had legitimate times of despair and frustration. That, too, is life. As I walked along the road and talked to God about this yesterday, I absolutely loved that as I ran through the mental list of difficult changes during the past year, I had a corresponding list of blessings that we are now seeing or that have emerged as a result of those changes.

LAMENT IS NATURAL AND NECESSARY, but COMPLAINING DOES NOT HAVE TO BE A PART OF IT.

That’s right. Read that again. (Seriously. READ IT AGAIN. It’s important.)

No matter what changes have come your way since our last NCN, you get the choice about how you’ll react to them…and choosing to acknowledge the losses–even when they are deep and devastating!–without wallowing in the negativity of complaining about them IS possible.

As I type this, I have a list running through my head of friends and family who have faced devastating losses this year. Please know that I am praying for ALL of us as we hurt and as we heal! Whether your loss and lament involves changes at home, at work, at church, or within your circle of love, it is critical that you acknowledge it to heal, but equally critical that you stop complaining about it so that you can move forward.

Lament is NOT just complaining. Look it up.

Mourning the hard losses and difficult changes is natural and is a phase to move THROUGH. Complaining about them keeps them fresh and rehearsing the hurt keeps you bound to it. We need to find ways to use what we’ve learned to help and bless others. Let’s start moving forward toward healing instead of just moving in circles of complaint.

I know. This may seem like an odd post for NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER. I wasn’t planning to write a post like this, but somehow it just seems necessary today. I don’t know who this one is for, but I’m asking God to bless you. I’m asking Him to be especially close to you today and I’m asking Him to start helping you move THROUGH to the other side so that you can begin to see your own list of corresponding blessings as a result of the changes you’re dealing with today.

You are loved more than you can imagine. God adores you and He wants the best for you! Complaining about it won’t change a thing and, aren’t you ready for a positive change today?

Remember:  You can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION.

Grace and Peace!

 

Dear Rosanne (Dementia Chronicles #4)

According to my handy phone calendar, the date was May 21st. I had lunch with what I hoped would be a new friend from church. Everyone who knows her seems to love her. I want to love her, too. Friendships aren’t always easy to establish as we get older. They take time to develop and more than just surface details in common. I think she and I might have some things that could help with that. She seems really great. I want to get to know this for myself.  

I’ve always been that way. I want to find things out for myself. It slows the learning curve some days. Other times, it really pays off to get that first-hand, personal experience. I was hoping this would be one of those times…

…and I was right. She was every bit as wonderful as people said. She knows God–really knows Him and she was intelligent and funny. Those three things don’t always go together, but they do in her. I like it when that happens. I think it’s the way God wants all of us to be. She’s also WAY kinder than I think I could ever be on a normal day, much less one when I’m stressed or tired or hungry (hmmm…this list may be getting a little bit too long. Note to self: pray about this…and pray that it isn’t always like patience, where you can only get it if it’s tried and you’re pushed to practice it.) (Why do I think God just laughed at me?) ANY. WAY! She’s kind–all the way down to her thoughts!–and that’s impressive to me. I want to be kind like her. Maybe, if I hang around with her a little bit…well, it’s worth a shot, anyway.

We had lunch at a corner diner in town and then stayed for awhile talking about all kinds of things like Bible studies we liked and wanted to do, family, trips that were planned, and…the loved ones in our lives who are living with the challenges and changes of dementia, how we’re handling things, what we’d really love for God to do about it, and a whole host of other things. We ended up inviting our waitress to worship with us and, as we left, we decided that we’d both like to do this again. We set a tentative date for “sometime in September.”

Well, Rosanne, it didn’t happen. September has gone and we never got our second lunch date. To be honest, October’s going to be a bust in that department, too, but I’m holding out some hope before the next one arrives. I don’t want to be pushy or overly optimistic–as I tend to be, at times–but maybe, just maybe, we can make it happen before then. I know from the snippets of information through friends that both of our loved ones are in new locations now and, I pray that your person is settling in as well as ours seems to be. Oh, how I pray that is the case. Seriously, I am praying for you and your loved one just like I’m praying for mine and for all of the others who have stepped out of their silence to let me know they’re all in the same boat right along with us.

Other details remain the same. We continue to work through the mental hurdles and the actual, real-life physical tiredness that comes as we sort through all of the details and the possessions of a life B.D. (Before Dementia). We spend a lot of time praising God for His provision and crying out for more of the same on a regular basis. We’re moving forward day by day at what seems to be a weird morphing of glacial/faster-than-a-speeding-bullet pace–kind of like being whisked from place to place in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure of long ago…(yes, I really did see that…and I wrote it down, too. SMH…maybe you’ll still have that second lunch anyway?) We move from step to step in realization and recovery and regret and relying on God for breath to breathe our way forward. Then, just when we think we’re getting a handle on it, we start over again because we went through a stack of pictures or a box of paperwork and fell apart again over silly things that make no sense at all.

…unless you’ve been there, too. Care-giving is not for sissies–even when it takes different forms and you have really good help and a great support system.

All of that, Rosanne, to say this: I hate we missed out on a second lunch-date in September, but I’m hoping we can set another tentative date in the not-too-distant future to talk about God and what he’s teaching us in this time of deepening dependence on Him.

Also, I’d also like a lesson or two in that kindness-thing, if you’ve got the time…I’m trying, but I still struggle with that mentally way more than I should.

Grace and Peace!

I decided…and you can, too.

IMG_20190906_092212433I woke up late (at 6:15A 🙄) this morning and found that my wonderful husband had packed his own lunch and gone on to work without a single complaint. His simple act of grace was much appreciated and such a blessing that I DECIDED that I would fill my day with his example. As I walked my way through my prayer list this morning and worked around the yard, I’ve been determined to make this a day when I simply gave God praise for the blessings of life.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve got to tell you that I almost didn’t make it through my prayer list. I almost slipped up and asked for something! (EEEEK!) I’m kidding of course–about the eeeek! I know that God doesn’t mind our asking for things, but my goal for the day is to just tell Him “thank you!”…so…I had to revise a couple of things as I went through my list.

For the family God placed me in and continues to bless me with, I thanked Him for His watch-care and the privilege of a Godly heritage, for strong and healthy nephews, and the gift of actually LIKING my family members. I know that is a gift many cannot claim.

For the friends who encourage my heart and keep me accountable, I praised Him for His personal touch through their counsel and told Him how glad I was for those who know Him and reflect Him in my daily life.

For the ones who have survived and and are still facing hard things, I gave God praise for the strength I see in them because I know it comes from Him.

For those dealing with difficult health issues, I gave thanks that God is our Healer and our Provider.

For the ones with difficult family issues, I told God how wonderful it was to see them love even when it is hard to do so and how proud I am that they haven’t given up when so many others would.

For the ones who have just faced the physical storms and are now facing the aftermath and cleanup from Dorian, I thanked Him for their personal safety.

For those who, like us, are dealing with the heartbreak of dementia within the minds of loved ones, I gave Him praise that we can still lift each other up and encourage each other in our shared experiences. I have become grateful that I can pray for them (for US!) with new understanding.

For the one who has just lost her father, I gave God praise for his legacy and the beautiful picture she posted of the last time they laughed together.

Along the way, I met a new-to-me neighbor, trimmed back some shrubbery and a couple of rosebushes while I thanked Him for the delightful scent of the roses and for places along the stems that aren’t covered in thorns. I also managed to liberate a VERY green frog who had gotten trapped in my rain barrel and I expressed my gratitude for clean water and the luxury of sharing it with plants in need. I found limbs that needed pruning and gave thanks for the right tools to use and the ability to drag the detritus to the fire pit out back.

IMG_20190906_102932890_HDRAs I finished my yard work and made my way to the porch, my phone rang and I rejoiced to have time for a conversation with my brother, whose great joy in getting to cut hay on his birthday made me laugh. I sat on a small pew on my porch, read through some of David’s songs of praise and allowed the wonder of having a hallowed place of my own to sweep over my spirit. I was reminded that I have a hand in MAKING a hallowed place anywhere I DECIDE to give God praise and enjoy the blessings He has provided. We are unusually blessed–and when we decide to think about it, celebrate it, and share those blessings with others around us, we can help them remember that they are, as well.

I hope you remember that and celebrate your blessings today. Feel free to share them with me so I can tell God “thank you!” on your behalf, too!

Grace and peace!

 

 

 

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….

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!