Living Lessons

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My Mom (on right) with two classmates around 1945 give or take a few years. 

I’m not sure how we got to May so fast. The week was long. I had a cold and made it all five days to work. By the time I actually got to sit with Mom it was Friday. It was warm in the house so she suggested we go sit outside in the swing. I said that would be nice. I know that is one of her safe places. Her view on the world she has always been so comfortable in. I bought her foundation the other day but I noticed she hadn’t put it on.

We settled outside but the unsettled look resided in her eyes. She was describing how she felt and I made my best effort to make her feel at ease with what she was feeling because that’s what Mothers do and that’s what Daughters do when they become Moms. Whether they have kids or not is beside the point.

When you care for your Mom at some point you become one.

She struggled to put it into words. I said, “I know, you just feel out of sorts, like something is out of place.” She said, “It’s not like I am sick or anything, I’m not throwing up.” This is what she always says. I tell her I feel the same way on certain days. And I do. Just being in this crazy world is enough to make you feel like that.

A Mom and 3 kids came by and the one on the skateboard crossed over to our side. “You look good on that,” she called out to the girl. The girl smiled and sped by. I wanted to ask her if she knew who she just passed. Someone who has been a matriarch of Glenhurst Street for 50 plus years. Someone who always had a fresh pot of coffee on for the neighbors. Someone who raised other people’s kids for years, held Bible studies around her table, always the first to go meet the new people on the block.

Old people……old cats……Briggs is staring at his bowl now like he never ate and he has just finished two shrimp. Sometimes I think he is lost too. We have made him padded surfaces all around for his fragile hips. We do our best to make him feel at ease in his old age. When he howls, we call him and then seems to come back from where he was. He is down to ten pounds from the beefy sixteen of his ninja cat climbing jumping youth. We are so glad he is still with us. 

Mom was wistful but anxious as her vibrant blue eyes surveyed the yard……”I still remember when your Dad brought home that tree,” she said. “It was in a little pot and I can still see it. Now look at those leaves, that trunk and how big it is. Only God could do something like that.”

“Yes,” I said, “I agree.”

I sat across from her on the chair, but inside I was sitting next to her with my arm around her tight. I didn’t want to give her what I had. I told her that, and she said, “I don’t want to give you what I have either.” She pulls old memories from a rich vault and relives them over and over. We listen as if it’s the first time we heard.

She says, “Everyday I thank God for all His blessings. He has been so good to me.” I replied, “Yes, and with Him we never have to be alone.”

“Yes, that’s the best part,” she sighed.

Mom, you are still teaching me. You don’t need short term memory to be strong, courageous and wise. I only hope I never stop learning.

 

The Weary World Rejoices

 

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“The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…..” O Holy Night (circa 1847)

Maybe this morning you are reaching for the hope of that “new and glorious morn” the song speaks about. Maybe for you it is nothing but a song lyric, or a hope so distant you can barely see it through the weight of your present circumstances. The world Jesus came into was certainly weary, no different than today. I see just how weary as I pass the homeless each day, making camps wherever they can out in the cold. I even see it in the eyes of shoppers who get to go back to their warm houses after the mall. I see it in the gratefulness of the elderly whom I deliver meals to each day.

I slogged and shivered my way down to the river this morning juggling cups and a spare tank of propane for the heater. I settled in my chair and my breath puffed out warm into the cold air and I promptly spilled hot coffee all over my robe. I barely felt it. My morning prayer routine here is a bit different. Used to be, I took about 5 steps out the front door into my little shop. Here it’s a little walk and I bump into several things getting ready in the motorhome before I head out the door. The neighbor cat greets me at the end of the step. We have started feeding she and her brother since he is seldom home.

Walking along, I was pondering several things. There are many things I don’t know the answer to. I don’t know why I thought I would feel perfectly settled here, since I don’t feel any more settled here than I did in Arizona. I thought I would be able to make things better for my folks, but it turns out I can’t fix the fact that they are growing older. I can’t make them young again and able to do all the things they did before.

I also don’t know why it is that I am smack dap in the middle of all this beauty and it doesn’t seem to penetrate my heart. Nature has always been somewhat of a cure for me, and the fact that it’s not the healing balm it usually is has me unsettled. But here’s the thing about God, Christmas, Advent and the hope that it brings. I don’t need to know all the answers. I really don’t need to know any answers except Christ and Him crucified.

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2

So, turns out I can’t fix broken situations or people, or even myself, but I can hope and trust in the One who can. This is what real faith is. It means that someday I will know the answers to these questions if God in His own good time reveals them to me. And if He doesn’t, that’s okay too. I hope in the One who does know all the answers. Who wasn’t afraid to come down in the weakest form imaginable, and start out knowing nothing. That’s enough for me.

We all have our seasons, the important thing is to keep walking through them with our eyes and our hearts lifted up toward Heaven. Peace be with you all.  I will leave you with another bit of comfort I read down by the river today:

“When the Time Is Right: December 7

There are times when we simply do not know what to do, or where to go, next. Sometimes these periods are brief, sometimes lingering. We can get through these times. We can rely on our program and the disciplines of recovery. We can cope by using our faith, other people, and our resources. Accept uncertainty. We do not always have to know what to do or where to go next. We do not always have clear direction. Refusing to accept the inaction and limbo makes things worse. It is okay to temporarily be without direction. Say “I don’t know,” and be comfortable with that. We do not have to try to force wisdom, knowledge, or clarity when there is none. While waiting for direction, we do not have to put our life on hold. Let go of anxiety and enjoy life. Relax. Do something fun. Enjoy the love and beauty in your life. Accomplish small tasks. They may have nothing to do with solving the problem, or finding direction, but this is what we can do in the interim. Clarity will come. The next step will present itself. Indecision, inactivity, and lack of direction will not last forever. Today, I will accept my circumstances even if I lack direction and insight. I will remember to do things that make myself and others feel good during those times. I will trust that clarity will come of its own accord.” Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go.

Thoughts

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 1 Thessalonians 4:11

There is something divine about the simplistic beauty of doing tasks around the house……around the yard. There are times when everything you set out to do seems thwarted by some sinister being you can’t see, and then there are those times where everything flows and there is a rhythm in it. One task leads to another and there is supreme satistaction that comes when a task is complete. A peacefulness.

That was today.

I wonder about the time when I will no longer be able to “do.” I think that Jesus will come back before then but I really don’t know. The way the world is going, I don’t think He can keep from coming down and straightening this mess out for very much longer. But that’s just me. I wonder about the “full number” the Bible talks about. I picture Jesus on His throne in His Nikes just waiting for that magic number to come up, and Him coming down here faster than a lightning bolt.

I wonder about the trumpet blast. I wonder if I will really be ready or if he will catch me off-guard. Every now and then I go to a movie on a Sunday, and I sincerely hope He doesn’t come back on one of those times. I have just enough Baptist in me not to want that to happen.

Funny the thoughts that float around in this little ‘ole mind of mine.

That’s me today, just thinkin thoughts and writing them down…….

Wow, I missed blogging!

I am still on the road……veered off the path back to the desert to visit the Pacific Ocean for two days. It was a spontaneous idea but one that was necessary. Traveling with challenges sometimes makes one do things that are off the beaten path a bit, but it will only set us back one day.

The ocean has always been a mirror to me, a picture of God’s glory and power and magnificence. It always stops me in my tracks. I got some wonderful photos last night and froze…..but it was all worth it. I can brave the elements to stand next to the pounding surf….

I hope to blog again later……And thank you for all your prayers during this trip. They were much needed and appreciated. I am learning to count the miraculous moments, the gifts God has given us this trip. I hold them up to the light today, His light.

I am thankful we have kept our sanity thus far. It was touch and go many times. Elaine’s Mom had taken two falls by the time we pulled up into my folk’s driveway. She had also refused to stay with her brother, who lived 40 minutes away. She thought she was still in Arizona. In the end she did stay, and Elaine got a three day break before picking her up again.

The cross gets heavy at times, but we know His cross was heavier than anything we could begin to imagine. He will carry us through…..

Louis and Jesus

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7,8 

When you spend any amount of time in a rest home, you get to know some of the residents. You walk the halls and notice things, people. You are grabbed by the desperation that seems to live and breathe there…..Many times the vacant stares we are greeted with make us want to dash out the door and take a deep breath of the fresh air of the living. We recoil at the bleakness of it all and none of us wants to think about the possibility of going there someday. I call it God’s waiting room.

It was on such a walk through the halls, that Elaine met Louis. He was sitting in the doorway of his room reading His Bible. It was the Bible she noticed first. She greeted him in the engaging way she has…..she is a real people person. He brightly said, “The book of Numbers!” She noticed his sweet spirit and the light in his eyes…..the gentleness in his soul. There was hope there. He said, “I read this Book everyday.” She told him how wonderful that was. His walls were adorned with Scripture verses, pictures and books. Louis was still very much in the land of the living.

She made a habit of looking for Louis every time she went in. One day she wanted to introduce me to him, but he was out. His family had come and taken him visiting. Louis told her that he came from a long line of Preachers. His Grandfather, his Dad and he were all Pastors, and so were both of Louis sons!

One day while they were having church in the main hall, we spied Louis sitting in back……his well worn Bible open on his lap.

After being gone for awhile, we went back looking for Louis but he was nowhere to be found. The nurse said that about 2 weeks before, he had died peacefully in his sleep…… Louis is with Jesus now. We rejoiced for him. He knew where his strength lay and where his hope rested. His happiness and joy didn’t depend on his circumstances. Instead of spending time wishing he were someone else, he communed with Jesus every single day in that rest home. Louis, like Mary, chose the better portion. He spent his days listening to voice of Hope.

So much of it is about choice, isn’t it? Life and death. Some have continued to choose life and some have given up and closed themselves off to it.

Louis chose life.

“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster.” Deuteronomy 30:15
Each day brings forth the same choice, life and death. To dwell on all the riches of God’s blessings, or to dwell on everything we don’t have or feel cheated out of. To be grateful or miserable. Really, we are all in God’s waiting room, whether we know it or not. One small step away from eternity.

We will miss seeing Louis there reading his Bible. It was an encouragement to me, just to know he was reading those words of life, still trusting in His savior. But now when I think of Louis, I smile…..knowing that the waiting for Louis is over. He is basking in Godlight.

With every Monday that rolls around, I am amazed that I still have so much to thank Him for:

The best night’s sleep I have had in awhile…..fresh okra from the garden…..people who speak life to me everyday….hope for the coming cool weather….piles of books that speak encouragement…..shelter from the unbearable heat outside….the end of another week’s work…..time spent just hanging out, laughing, talking with my best friend who is so grateful for me, and tells me so often…..a beautiful awe-inspiring sky coming home from work…..being able to buy special things to send to my family, along with my love. #701-712

Remedy for Regret

The way I see it, one of the best ways to minimize regret both now and in the future is to cherish the present.  Nothing makes you feel more acutely the weight and passage of time more than knowing that you weren’t fully living it when you were there. The thing is, it takes time to learn that. I think of times spend with loved ones and I want desperately to get that time back because I know where my mind was back then. Too many times it was distracted……or I was irritated by some small thing.
Or focused on myself. I wish I could go back……redeem it somehow.  
Now that I have reached fifty plus two, time feels like an out of control river rushing under a bridge, and me watching from above. Instead of focusing on what time I still have, I get caught up in time I see already gone. It’s like trying to drive by watching the rear view mirror.

I lose sight of what is still to come, and there is so much more.

I think it is a mistake to think that once you get a certain age, the best years are behind you. Every stage of life is important and necessary and of great value and each season carries it’s own unique lessons. And when I think of eternity, all I see is an ocean of time with an giant expanse of more joy and peace than I can possibly imagine. 

I am determined to live more right here in the present. I confess, this week my focus has been on just getting to the end of the week. I started the week already looking ahead to the weekend…..I wonder now what moments I stole from myself or someone else…….

That is the best way I can think of to let the people in my life, and God know that I truly cherish them……

Right now.

First two pics are from google
Last two were taken of niece Lauryn by her big “Sis”

Prayer Request

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

I have a special prayer request from my blog family today. My best friend Elaine is struggling under a heavy load right now. She just started a new job, which was a very good opportunity she didn’t feel she could pass up, but now she is wondering if she made the right decision. She also has what feels like another full time job, taking care of her folks. She is wondering now whether she should have taken the job at all…….and also wondering how long she can do both without it adversely affecting her health, which is it already doing. Today she cut off her unemployment, and it feels final. No more safety net.

She thought she would be able to ease into her new job, but they loaded her up the first day, knowing she had experience. The prayer she needs most right now is to learn to let go. To learn how to leave work when things are unfinished. To let it all go at 5:00 and not carry it home, where the other job, the other stress  starts.

I feel helpless. I can help, but only so much. It is the internal struggle and burden she alone carries that I can do nothing about. But I know One who can. And she has prayed about it, over and over. What do you tell someone who is carrying this kind of burden and has no clue how to unload it? It is all too easy to speak platitudes: “Just give it to God….” I know she already has. I wonder why God doesn’t just do a miracle inside her and fix it. I ask myself, “Doesn’t He know all the things she is doing?” But I know He does. It just seems to me He is biding His time. She needs help now.

And yet, I see all He has brought us through since all this started.

And I know He has been there, and will continue to be.

The statistics of caregivers dying before the ones they are caring for are way too high. I have heard it over and over again. I don’t want her to be one of those statistics. She doesn’t want to be either. She has too many others who depend on her. God knows that.

Thank you in advance for praying. I breathe thanks for all He has brought us through today. And for what I have learned from this thus far:

That maybe I am more of a caretaker than I thought I was….. that I am doing things I thought I could never do……that in spite of it all, there is still joy and laughter to be had……. for extra leaning on the Lord for our strength…..for noticing beauty in the midst of quiet moments of rest……for appreciating even more the support of good friends…..for the prayers going up from dear friends and family……for extra physical strength and steady attitude…..for hope to see what God will do through this…..extra understanding for others going through the same struggle….and for the Lord who holds my friend and me in His palm……#656-667

When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. Psalm 37:24

holy experience