The veil has holes

My walk in the woods

Last night was a very strange night. I cried almost all the way home and didn’t know why. I had a sense of foreboding I couldn’t shake. This school shooting has weighed heavy on my soul. Just too much heartache there for one incident. Too much sorrow for one town to carry. So I thought it was maybe that.

Then I thought about Elaine’s folks. I remembered the times when they were healthier and they would go to church with us. I still remember the day we almost dropped our teeth when her Dad unfolded his wallet and put money in the plate. We have both heard them say many times that “churches are only after your money.” Her Mom was even talking Baptism.

I asked God how it is that somebody can get so close to seeing a better way of life and turning away. To stepping all the way up to the river of life and then turning back around….leaving thirsty. 

Then I remembered how many times I had done just that.

When I came through the door Elaine was teary-eyed as well. “I think Mom’s having a heart attack…..what should I do?” She has been through this with her Mom already years ago. And she knew what to do, she just needed someone else to help her carry the load.

“Nothing,” I said….we do nothing because that’s what she said she wanted.

Her Mom’s own words were: “I don’t want to be cut on anymore.” And I can see why. She has been through cancer twice, including a mastectomy, chemo and radiation, 2 heart attacks, and a triple bypass. As a nurse, she diagnosed herself with Alzheimer’s around 10 years ago.

She is done with treatments. And hospitals.

But when you are the one standing there with life and death hanging in the balance, it’s not that easy. Our first instinct is always to do something. But sometimes the right choice is to let nature and God choose. Giving someone what they have chosen is the hardest thing to do because it’s right.

The reason Elaine knew that there was really something wrong was because her Mom didn’t fight her on anything getting ready for bed, and lately that has been the norm.

She went on to tell me that both cats acted strangely all evening. As if they knew something was wrong. Briggs wouldn’t let her Mom alone, he kept following her to her room and jumping on the bed. She finally had to close the door.

So we watched TV and prayed. Elaine had asked her Mom if when the time came, that she would ask God to take her soul. Her Mom said yes. There was no need for a big theological discussion. She knows where salvation comes from, she was raised on it.

And all the while, I remembered how last Christmas was spent in the hospital with her Mom, alone…and I vowed it would never happen again.

Today when I called at lunch she said they were at Subway and her Mom was eating and felt okay, with no recollection of ever feeling bad.

And today, I am feeling how just thin that veil between life and death can be.  Any one of us could be instantly on the other side, and not necessarily who you might expect.

Alzheimer’s Diary…..A continuing lesson in love

And above all these put on <sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”>love, which <sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”>binds everything together in <sup class="crossreference" value="(C)”>perfect harmony. And let <sup class="crossreference" value="(D)”>the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called <sup class="crossreference" value="(E)”>in one body. And <sup class="crossreference" value="(F)”>be thankful. Colossians 3:14

I have probably tacked this verse onto the beginning of posts more often this year than any other. Have you put on your love today? This past year, I have had to start over time after time, day after day. As most of you know who read my blog on a regular basis, we are working on year two of Elaine’s Mom living with us.

It’s been tough, to say the least. Hygiene is an ongoing issue more and more. We are working on week 4 with no shower, again. The last time, Elaine had to physically get in the shower with her because she refused to put water on her head. And she was washing with shampoo. Incontinence is also a problem. She refuses to wear the undergarments so bedding has to be changed often….laundry done several times a day.

Because she has been increasingly combative, her dose of Anti-psych drug was doubled just this past week. We noticed the rage has been just barely contained….it’s always just under the surface. The pacing and the agitation seem to go hand in hand.

It is disheartening and sobering for Elaine to realize that right now if her Mom were not on the Seroquel she would be in a lock down unit as we speak. Her Mom still knows very well where she is, but when her Doctor tells her that if she won’t let people take care of her she has to go somewhere where they can, he is met with indifference, a shrug of her shoulders.

It has been a constant challenge for both of us to do that “putting on love” thing Paul is talking about. And I am on another trip to California to see my family on Sunday. It’s hard to be the one always left behind. For two years, she has had to watch others travel, go on weekend trips, vacations. That is what caretakers face every day…….for them life has stopped. They feel just as chained as if they were in stocks.

And how can life still feel like it’s at a standstill, when the workload never stops?

Please pray? For wisdom, and strength to bear up. To keep laughing somehow. To know when to say “when.”

Pray for strength and grace for me as well. That I can be the right kind of support. Too often I feel like the check marks on my own personal report card are screaming out a big red “fail.” But God knows my heart, thankfully.

I take comfort in the fact that He hears my prayers of forgiveness uttered after every exasperated blown out sigh……He knows we are all dust after all, nevertheless a kernel of God keeps us all preserved for eternity.

Praise God.

And more and more and more, we are craving the peace, the harmony that used to fill the house. We still have it for the most part, we just have to fight for it where before it was effortless.

Here is the magic formula that works for any and every situation:

Love + Peace = Harmony

I will need until every last breath to put it into practice.

The Final Answer

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
I smoothed the sheets on my bed this morning and said a prayer of thanks because I didn’t feel like I did yesterday morning. Yesterday I wasn’t ready to enter into the day and I did something I never do on a day off……I went back to bed. Yet, even as I crawled back under the covers, I was aware that it was a luxury.  Just the fact that I could do it. Most can’t.
I pulled the covers up, curled into a ball and slept until 9. For me, that’s late.
After that I went to Walmart, which is my new place between places. I call it my own personal Bermuda Triangle. I sat with my cart amongst the fake Christmas trees and patio sets and smiled at the irony. The depression snaked behind me, but just then I felt I had outsmarted it. I felt cushioned in an island of peace. Even the pink one didn’t bother me, it stood there innocently wearing sparkling white lights. How could I get mad at it?
I sat there playing my Words with Friends like I had nothing else to do. And it was good.
I got back and put everything away. And Joyce was agitated and pacing. I had closed my bedroom door and I think that threw her off too. Alzheimer’s patients are like Autistic kids in that they like routine and they like normal. They don’t like change.
And she forgets that Elaine has a job now and wonders where she is. Imagine never remembering anything? Your mind would have to work 10 times harder than anyone else’s.
Every time I sat down at the keyboard to clack out words…..she came in or out the door. I gave up trying to write. I felt hemmed in, so I went outside for awhile and watched the birds eat the bread I left. The cactus wrens were up to their usual antics and I couldn’t help but smile watching them.
And later the phone rang and it was a dear blogger friend just calling to say……”I have been praying for you.” Never underestimate how important that is. To me it was grace like spring rain.
He told me his frustration about how some of his young friends just don’t seem to get it. That it’s not all about them, but it’s about us and how we are all in this world together. And about Haiti and a world of people in need. And suddenly my problems felt smaller again. And I was able to write about just that very thing. Thank you, Duane Scott. You are a treasure.
Elaine came home after having to call four parents for out of control kids on the bus. They were new kids added to her route. She was exhausted. It was obvious the other driver had been ignoring the bad behavior. And then she sat in a training class where one of the other drivers constantly interrupted the instructor with unbelievably foul language.
Nobody was saying anything, so she finally did.
Then later my Mom called and told me of her friend’s daughter in law. She is in Stanford right now, a mother of three. They were all camping and she came home with a fever. Now something is attacking her liver. She is in Stanford undergoing tests and they can’t find anything wrong, all those very bright minds.
And it was morning and it was evening and God is pulling the shade down on another day.
And the team we were rooting for last night is going to the World Series.
Each day has its own set of wins and losses. Sometimes people get it but sometimes they don’t. And it’s okay……..We do the best we can any given day. And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness and prays for us with groans that words cannot express.
And in every conflict, as my friend so wisely said, the answer is always the same……Love.

Unwrapping His Promises

How long we wait, with minds as quiet as time………….Thomas Merton

And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
 “And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
Isaiah 58:10-12

 
My time in the desert has taught me much. When the heat stretches on and you see no end, you long to escape it. You drive up north, you go to the coast, or you go to the theater or the mall. You learn to adjust what you do. You learn from the little creatures you see that somehow thrive, and it inspires you too to go on. This imagery is easy for us desert dwellers. But here, God is trying to teach a different kind of lesson.

A lesson for when the soul is parched and needs refreshing.

He is trying to teach us a new way of living for when life burns you out. We say, “I need a trip to the Spa,” But He tells us we need to give to those who have less. New life, new energy, new hope is found when we do for others, and when we lean on Him in the doing. In a way, God is saying, “Get your mind off yourself and you will feel better.”

But unless we also harness the power of the Holy Spirit, we will quickly be burned out. It’s only when we join hands with the Creator that this regeneration and refreshment happen. The body might be beat, but inside the Spirit leaps.

In caretaking I have found this to be true. As soon as I stop harnessing God’s power, I find my anger flaring up at all those little moments….a shirt getting stuck on the hanger, her pacing back and forth, her opening and closing the door 10 times.

I focus on a Motorhome that sits idle in storage for the lack of freedom to just get up and go. I lament the loss of freedom and say it’s not fair. What is fair? People in Haiti are living in tents and have no clean water.

It wasn’t fair the Jesus had to go to the cross but He did. And now despite everything I deserve, I get Heaven here and now. And for eternity. With that in view, I can be more than a conqueror.

Whatever we are going through here and now, it is only for a season. And there are blessings everywhere we turn when we have the Lord to refresh us in all those scorched places in life.

Let’s unwrap His promises today, the basket is overflowing……..

Pray as if it’s the first time

 
 
There must be a time of day when the man who
makes plans forgets his plans,
and acts as if he had no plans at all.
 
There must be a time of day when the man who has
to speak falls very silent.
And his mind forms no more propositions,
and he asks himself:
Did they have a meaning?
 
There must be a time
when the man of prayer goes to pray
as if it were the first time in his life
he had ever prayed,
where the man of resolutions puts his
resolutions aside
as if they had all been broken,
and he learns a different wisdom;
 
distinguishing the sun from the moon,
the stars from the darkness,
the sea from dry land,
and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill……
 
No Man is an Island:
Thomas Merton
 
This is where I am today, friends. I sat in silence today, my candle flickering,  unable to say any prayer that made any sense. Tongue-tied I sat in the silence. I was feeling nothing except the sense that I had lost myself and I wanted me back. Caretaking does that.  
 
When I read these very wise words of Thomas Merton something within me sprang to life. The recognition that so much of what we are doing in our modern society makes it all but impossible to hear God’s voice. I have felt that I needed to get away and hear the sigh of the wind in the pines…..I tried on Sunday. We drove all the way up to the rim, but there was a fire and all we could smell was smoke.
 
Sometimes it doesn’t work out. But God is still here…..and within me, His Spirit.
 
As long as I have Him, what else do I need? In His fullness I can find everything I will ever want, need or desire. The need I feel within, that deepest longing that we all have, can be fulfilled in Him and only in Him.  
 
When I read the lines……..”When the man of prayer goes to pray as if it were the first time in his life he had ever prayed,” my soul quickened. Merton got it. And I can get it too.
 
We are all broken. That’s where we must start. And it’s not so much a learning, it is a remembering who we are. In the Spirit of reconciliation we must turn and help heal each other. That is what makes God happiest of all. Too often we sit alone in our pain and confusion, when right next to us is someone who could help, and in letting them help us, we help them too.  
 
I leave you to prayer and meditation in every quiet moment you find today.
 
Meditation: Psalm 15
 


A day in the life

 

Staying one step ahead. That is what you consistently have to do. And if you forget, it throws the whole day off. That kind of living alters your life. It’s very much like having a toddler in the house, you must think of things they may get into before they do. Secure the area at all times.

You leave the washer open in the morning and ready for her soiled PJ’s to go into. And you never  leave washed clothes in the washer, soiled clothes will go on top of them. Many loads had to be repeated because of that.

Check room for dirty clothes she puts back in closet.

Secure unopened mail. Put it somewhere she won’t find it.

Leave phone turned down, always.

Don’t leave suitcases out unless you are ready to answer 100 questions about where you are going and when.

Signs on doors, on microwave…….so many rules.

Yesterday the pacing was bad. Every time I settled down to write she would come back in the door. Or go out again. The silent close of the screen door……50 times a day. And every time, the air conditioner would click on trying to keep up with the raised temp in the house.

There used to be a zoo in my hometown that I liked going to, but I always felt sad for the coyote. He paced all day in his little cell. As a kid I wanted to set him free and live the life he was meant to live, running through fields chasing rabbits. I have never really liked zoos since.

I know Joyce must feel a bit like that coyote, and I can’t imagine what it’s like inside her mind. So I really try to be patient. We take her to Walmart and buy her an ice-cream and let her sit on the benches and watch people. She likes that and so far has only wandered off a few times. Security had to be called.

But yesterday I was in a hurry and just wanted to get there and back.

By the end of the day I felt like the coyote as well, so I went to the store again……..I found myself whistling in the aisles…..I felt that sense of freedom that happens when you are suddenly sprung. I understand now how women with small children feel, just wanting to go…….anywhere away.

Elaine dreams of Alaska with an unlisted number.

This is our life right now. And Jesus is here with us. So it is going to be okay. Because…..

“Never will I leave you or forsake you…….”

Asking the big questions

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:17
 
I slept late because I took a Walmart sleep aid. I missed prayer this morning……and running. That threw me all off.

Then I was messing around with the template and header on my blog yesterday and messed it up. So now it is beautifully off centered…..and the lettering is also not centered. Bless Dusty Rayburn for sending me the code. I know what he sent was right because he is a very smart guy, and a techie. But I put the code in and nothing changed.

And I decided that was okay because my life is very much like my crooked blog header right now. A beautiful picture  but gloriously off center. Not perfect. So I decided to leave it like that as a reminder.

“How did you love today?”

At the close of each day it’s what I ask myself. It seems more often than not there is a big fat red “F” on the report card in my heart. Mentally I check off everything I did wrong. I see fail after fail. Glaring at me from inside their smug little boxes.

We need to ask ourselves the hard questions as Christians. That was what came out of the church service on Sunday morning and ever since, I have wondered. Have I fit Jesus into a comfortable niche in my life?  Am I a “friend” or “follower” like on Facebook or Twitter, or am I a Disciple?

Disciple has definite connotations.

I felt the weight of it all as I stepped out the door to finally go running. I needed it to clear my head, and heart. And as I ran, something happened. I felt it lift. As I heard the words to East and West, I felt the warm oil of His grace from the top of my head all the way down to my toes.

It was like the oil I was anointed with once for sickness. And now I was feeling the healing of His Grace all over again.

Grace that is always greater than all my sin.

And where grace enters in, He always brings His love with it.

Oh God, this is it. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, for the assurance I am still and always Your child.

Only in Jesus can I be that picture of perfection. God sees my heart. The truth is, there is a lot I will get wrong today too, but there are some things I will get right.

I will get up and try again tomorrow with Jesus. And I thought another thing too this morning. That like Alzheimer’s? Once we confess to God, he not only forgives, He forgets all about it.

He has given me a living, breathing example of that right in my own home.

I guess you could say that God has a form of Alzheimer’s too when it comes to our sin.

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12