Unintended Benefits

My friend Jody (hey, 3!) inadvertently sent me on a mission as she shared about participating in an online Bible study through her church. I’ve been out of the “official” Bible study loop over the past several months as we’ve worked to settle our loved one into her placement and routines. In the process of that, my own routines have quite gone out their own window and, as anyone who is part of a care-giving team for a loved one can tell you, concentration abilities can sometimes take quite the hit.

Mine did, anyway. I understood the why, but I haven’t liked the process of trying to regain ground that had always felt so ingrained as to be considered permanent. Stepping away from leading and then from even doing my own in-depth study was quite an adjustment. (So was regaining ground on some of my neglected chore list!) I reveled in the Psalms after my daily walks and God allowed David’s writings of his own struggles to help sooth my own. Over and over I read them. They are familiar ground to me, so I chose to read them in a “different” translation (ESV–English Standard Version) so I wouldn’t gloss over the meanings on my way through them. That helped. I saw things I’ve never noticed before and these new-old words were a balm and a blessing, so when Jody shared her new challenge, I jumped on board immediately.

Her online group is using a book by Susan Goodwin, Jennifer Peterson, and Molly Sawyer (all new to me), entitled EVERY WORD A Reader’s 90-day Guide to the Bible. It’s short and just exactly what the title implies:  a guide to reading the Bible through in 90 days. I’ve read through the Scriptures many times, but never really put a defined timeline on it. Even so, the 90-day thing sounded just like what I needed:  an opportunity to dive into the Word with some concentration and discipline. This isn’t intended to be a “deep” dive. It’s supposed to be more of an overview reading and the authors have included some general questions/commentary/points of interest for the reader to consider along the way. Ninety days through the Bible translates into about 10-15 chapters a day, so far, and although I generally read pretty quickly, I am finding that I’m deliberately pacing myself to match their targets instead of just racing through as I had previously thought about doing.

(Annnnnnddddd…Falling behind makes for a tough catch-up process. Ask me how I know and insert an eye-roll here!)

This journey through the Bible follows a chronological reading schedule instead of the more traditional route, so that change has been intriguing to me, as well. I already knew that Job and Abraham were likely contemporaries, but reading Job right after Genesis made me truly connect some of their cultural dots in a new way. Perhaps that is also due to my decision to read through these 90-days in the Christian Standard Bible (CSB)-translation instead of my trusty NKJV with decades of notes in the margins, dates out beside SO many of the verses, and sticky notes protruding from many pages to mark topics and notes along the way.

I’m a “word nerd” and that means I’ve always loved the lyrical nature of the King James English. I typically use the New King James because that translation retains the lyrical poetry without the formal Thees and Thous for readability. I’ve used my burgundy leather-bound copy of that translation for years, so I wasn’t quite sure I would really enjoy a more contemporary language styling for these ancient Words. I wanted a fresh start for this project, however, so I picked up my purple-bound (I love purple!) CSB translation which I have used for additional clarification during previous studies. The CSB remains faithful to original text and translates in a word-for word and thought-for-thought manner to give us a wonderful readability of the truth within the covers. Win-win! (Did I mention that this one is purple?! Love it!!)

I expected to use this challenge as a way to marshall my now-all-too-often-scrambled thought processes and help me regain some stability of study habits. I hoped to be alert to learning along the way, of course, but the 90-day pace doesn’t allow for in-depth study right now, and that seemed to be all I could handle. That’s really different for me, but the logical side of my brain says I have to start somewhere to regain the ground, so this was my shot. What I hadn’t prepared myself for was something I should have thought of from the beginning: the Word of God is powerful and healing and interesting and entertaining and instructive…and just reading through it in this measured pace has sparked my interest in finding out more/digging deeper to the point that I’ve had to actually force myself not to stop and dig deeper along the way…every few minutes or so! (grin) The “new” language for these ancient truths has made me fall in love with the Words all over again and I’ve found myself caught up in the drama and the history of it all. (Even reading through Leviticus wasn’t a chore this time!)

Along the way, I’ve also been highly entertained by the way the more contemporary phrasing has caught my attention and made me laugh and see imagery I know that I’ve missed in previous readings. I’ve started a small sticky-note reminder of some of my favorites. I’ll close with the two that made me start the list:

“If only you would shut up and let that be your wisdom.”  Job 13:5 (CSB)

and

“…All fat belongs to the Lord.”  Leviticus 3:16b (CSB)

I’ve got to tell you, those two gems–and the wisdom and the hilarity that ensued in my mind as I read those words–are worth the entire project! I needed that truth and humor combination. Maybe you did, too.

Spend some time in the Word today to deliberately draw closer to the One Who made you and loves you most. I think you’ll learn more than you intend…and God has way of giving us gifts that we didn’t even know we needed as we choose to be obedient.

Grace and Peace…and laughter with God!

 

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!

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.