Location, Location, Location

IMG_20190916_070458056Happy Monday! Rise and shine! OR as my mama’s family used to say, “Feet, hit the floor!” (grin) To be perfectly honest, I didn’t fully understand that last one when I was a kid. It just made me laugh. These days, I’m aware that whether or not I feel like shinin’ when I wake up, my feet still have to hit the floor for things to get accomplished and for me to make the day as good as I can make it.

“As good as we can make it,”of course, is a relative term. It doesn’t mean everything will go as desired OR as planned OR that we’ll have a party and feelings of total fulfillment at the end of the day, but today I was reminded that while we can’t always choose our circumstances, we can always choose our spiritual location. We’re always just as close to God…as we choose to be.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.” Isaiah 43:2 (NKJV)

That means even if our “location” today is a challenge for us, we are not alone. God is with us. He is ready to guide us and eager for relationship. We must make the choice to be guided and draw near if we have any hope of navigating this day in a way that honors Him and gives us the benefit of being His in ways that others can see and want to know for themselves.

Regardless of what you’re facing today, I hope you’ll choose to allow God to give you a song. Then, WHEN HE DOES, I hope you’ll choose to sing it loud and clear–and share it with those around you. While the highlighted Scripture above was a specific promise to a specific people, the principle is still the same because our God never changes. We can count on Him to be present–even when we fail to acknowledge Him!–because He has promised to never leave or forsake His people (Hebrews 13:5).

I pray that your week is a rip-roaring celebration of life and that you are fully aware of just how blessed you truly are today. If that isn’t the case (and it CAN be, regardless of whatever you’re facing!), I pray that you will take a moment and make the conscious choice to ask for God to help you see your circumstances through His eyes…and that you’ll be aware that His eyes are looking at you with love. You (yes, YOU!) matter to God and, more than you realize, you and your response to your circumstances matter to the people around you. 

“God Leads His Dear Children Along”  (lyrics by George A. Young, published 1903)

1. In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.

Refrain: (and THIS is what I’ve been singing this morning)
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

2. Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.

3. Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.

4. Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
God leads His dear children along;
Away up in glory, eternity’s day,
God leads His dear children along.

Location, location, location. Where do you find yourself today?

Grace and Peace!

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Soul Music

The music collection in this house is eclectic (to say the least). We have music that takes us back to different parts of our lives and melds them all together for us even now. Everything from Kansas and Tony Bennett, Elvis and Lynard Skynard, Bonnie Rait and Ray Charles, Loretta Lynn and Joshua Bell, James Taylor and Trombone Shorty, The Drifters and Ben Rector, YoYo Ma and Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir…You get the idea. We’re just all over the place. Each day is different and requires a different sound track to go along with it.

Today, my house seems newly able to breathe again because I got a truck-load (2, actually!) of furniture removed from it yesterday–with many thanks to two fantastic guys from my church for the loading and hauling!! Actually, the house has been doing just fine; I’m the one who has had trouble breathing with so many extra things around me. Cleaning out the home of my husband’s youth has been an emotional thing, to say the least, and finding all of the family photos and the few things he has desired to keep has played a bit of havoc with my typical “one in, one out rule”–which I had already violated several times myself well before we got started on this elephantine task! (I am now contemplating a new rule: One in, Two out!–maybe 3?) ANY. WAY!  I tend to be happiest with a bit more space around me, so it felt liberating to see the house clear out a bit. As the young men pulled out of the driveway, I raced to put on some beautiful classical music. The house and I needed to celebrate! (grin)

This morning, I put in an instrumental hymn collection as I admired the extra empty spaces and fixed breakfast. Standing at the stove, thinking about what else might need to go and wondering what else we’ll find and need to deal with going forward, a single line of verse from the classic hymn that was playing struck my soul with the force of a dove. Striking hard at the concerns and yet lighting softly on my spirit came this reminder:

For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

It was just the reminder I needed. My soul NEEDED the reminder that no matter what else we face going forward, God is in control. He has a plan. The plan is for our good. I know. I say that a lot. I NEED it a lot more than I say it! My soul needs the reminder that no matter what else happens, Jesus DOES do all things well and, since He’s in charge, I can rest in Him when rest just doesn’t seem possible.

God is faithful to remind me of this truth in an amazing variety of ways that are specifically designed to get my attention. Today, He decided to use the words of a woman writer who wrote those particular words 144 years ago. Frances (Fannie) J. Crosby, according to Britannica.com,  was “blinded by infection and medical ignorance at just six weeks old,” lived through the Civil War, and still published over 8000 hymns and gospel songs over the course of her lifetime.

Blind or not, it seems to me that she saw more than most people do. She saw God…when everything around her was in upheaval and nothing felt certain but destruction–when she LITERALLY could not see what was coming or know when to brace for the next onslaught of life, she looked for and saw God. I need to do that. So do you.

Yes, to have lived a life so altered by things outside of her control and found rest in the only One capable of giving true peace…well, that’s a lesson we can all learn from Miss Fannie.

“All the way my Savior leads me” ~words by Frances J. Crosby (published 1875)

All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.

And, yes, I know. “Jesus Loves Me”–the Bible tells me so…as did the music that continued to flow through the house and fill up all those empty spaces.

Will you let God fill up your empty spaces today? He loves you, too!

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….

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!