Monday, August 14, 2017

Tracks on my Heart

That's Mom's addition on the right in this photo. We escorted her down that ramp for a walk nearly every day for 12 years.  
When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the spring of 2004, we spent the following summer building an addition on our house so we could bring Mom to live with us.  The apartment included top-of-the-line laminate flooring, a handicapped accessible shower, a kitchenette, and a big bay window; Mom had everything she needed. For the next twelve years my husband and I provided her care.

During these years I made a poor choice of a floor-care product for Mom's apartment. It was a hardwood floor cleaner, that, unbeknownst to me, left a residue behind. Each week we would spread another layer of this glossy stuff on Mom's floor, and the smudges and scuffs would be temporarily polished away. After Mom moved out last fall, I decided to deep clean, and so I used an ammonia solution to remove the old polish.  To my dismay, layer upon layer of the polish had accumulated. Even now, after multiple cleanings, the track marks from Mom's walker resurface a few days after I've scrubbed.  I don't know how long it will take for the marks to disappear for good.

This morning I was reading my Bible and praying when an illustration came to mind.  Daily realignment with the Lord through Scripture and prayer is like a thorough scrubbing that removes the pain of the scars our hearts bear.  If we fail to seek the Lord regularly, we carry the burden of the tracks our sorrows have made upon our hearts. The resultant emotional pain impacts our treatment of others so that we are unable to channel God's love in a way that helps and heals.  Apart from the Lord, we are misguided to wrong goals, and we become relief-seekers rather than needs-meeters.

It's liberating to remember we aren't in charge of healing ourselves, or even of figuring out what is wrong so that we can focus on doing better.  Our only responsibilities are to seek God first, and then to trust Him to take care of the rest.

~~~

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
--Matthew 6:33


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Before and After

I've always felt a sense of responsibility to the caregivers who read this blog. When readership was at its height, I knew that a number of my fellow caregivers depended on the strength I found in the Lord as a source of encouragement.  I've felt badly these past months not to post more regularly, but I came to the end of myself.  After we placed Mom into nursing home care one year ago, I fell into a grief of mind and spirit that has been one of the darkest times I've known.

I don't know how to explain how I survived this time without sounding trite. I will not slap a platitude upon grief-induced depression just because it is more of the mind and heart than of the physical body. During this time, even the effort required to open my Bible was difficult, and the words on the page would run together meaninglessly.  I subsisted on a verse or two of Scripture a day and spent a lot of time crying out to the Lord with my sorrows. But through all my misery there was a slender thread of assurance that the Lord was with me in it. Maybe this quote from my mother will shed some light: "There have been times in my life when I let go of Him, but He never let go of me."

I suffered a series of physical ailments that forced me to the solitude and security of home. I wanted badly to escape into the distraction of church and community activities, but even as I suffered one minor illness after another I understood the Lord was showing me that running from my misery would only lengthen its duration. It was as though he gently ushered me to a quiet place apart, and kept me there.  I spent my days doing housekeeping tasks that could not be avoided. I visited my mother most days, and did the necessary bill paying and paper filing, but it was like wading through deep water. It was somewhat like being isolated by a cloying, dark mist so that all my senses were dulled. It was as though Lord provided just enough strength for the necessary activities and then withdrew His enabling power.  When I inquired of him (time and again with tears and shouting and journal pages filled with my sorrows) I received one word: rest.  Over and over again.  Rest!

My sorrow had its roots in physical and emotional exhaustion from a rocky final year as my mother's primary caregiver. It has taken me a full year to assimilate what has happened to me, regain my emotional balance, and process the grief of all that my mother's Alzheimer's has taken from us.

One morning last week, a year from the day that I had escorted my mom out the door from the home she'd had with us for 12 years, one year from the date that I entrusted her into the care of others, the burden of depression lifted. It was as though scales fell from my eyes and I could see in color once more.  I walked into my living room, stared with distaste at the 1980's fireplace brick, and rummaged around in my basement looking for supplies to rejuvenate it.  I spent all day with spray paint, chalk paint, and 3 boxes of plain white chalk.  When I stepped back and surveyed my work, I felt unreasonably happy: dancing and singing happy!  I can still do things.  I can have new life following this season of caregiving!  The Lord has been good to me.

Healing is a process, and I've experienced minor setbacks. A wave of sorrow here, a day of exhaustion there. But I am better.  I am getting better.

The point of this post is to encourage anyone who is in the midst of a what I call caregiving recovery period (the time of transition away from the role of primary caregiver) to give yourself time and space to heal. Don't jump into a new phase of life until you have had time to regain your physical, mental, and emotional balance.  Pray for a space apart and cry out to the Lord.

Even if you let go of Him, He won't let go of you.

Friday, August 4, 2017

I Am Weak, He Is Strong

Today's post at my 100 Days to Freedom blog is encouraging for caregivers--click the image below to hop on over and receive a blessing!  If you don't like to click links, you can also copy and paste this link in your browser's address bar: onehundreddaystofreedom.blogspot.com

https://onehundreddaystofreedom.blogspot.com/2017/08/i-am-weak-he-is-strong.html




Friday, July 21, 2017

Forgetting...



We all have remembered pain. Sorrows from the humiliation of past sin, a painful physical ordeal, or loss of a loved one all provide fodder for the enemy’s strategies against us. He wants us bound by the grief of the past and fearful of what might happen in the future. If he can keep our eyes on memories and fears (neither of which actually exists in the present moment), he might distract us from the nail pierced hands and feet of the Savior who bore these sufferings for us. 

Memories of painful experiences from the past can continue to wield power over current behaviors. Here is deception-busting truth: Jesus, by taking our sins and sorrows upon Himself, severed bonds to the past that otherwise would have crippling power to influence us for the remainder of our lives. This is what it means to have our sins removed as far as the east is from the west.*


    Jesus has walked with us through every dark night and pain-filled moment. He never left us even during times of sin or seasons of suffering. When he didn’t remove the pain, He bore it with us, shortened its duration; and loved us through it. We may not understand the whys of difficult days but we need not be bound by past memories or fears for the future. We can choose to trust in our Savior’s love. We can cast our cares on Him. 



*Psalm 103:12

Today's post is from One Hundred Days to Freedom, day 14


Friday, July 7, 2017

Our Shortcomings...



My sweet and beautiful daughter, Melinda, is a busy homeschooling mom to three busy little boys. No one I know does more or works harder, but she runs in a near-constant state of overwhelm, and the enemy likes to bring whispers of "not good enough" against her.

Yesterday I prayed that the Lord would provide encouraging words, and then wrote an email to my daughter. When I reread what I'd written, I realized He had answered my prayer, as it was quite definitely not of me, but of the the Lord.

Here is that message to Melinda with a prayer that it will encourage weary caregivers as well:

Just walk the path before you.  It is the striving and reaching that increases one’s strength.  Don’t give way to discouragement, and don’t listen to the enemy’s tiresome “you’re no good” litany. Praise and thanksgiving sensitize the heart to those golden moments that are touches of Heaven on earth, and simultaneously silence the enemy’s nonsense.   
The Lord is with you. Your shortcomings, inadequacies, and failures in no way impact God's power, provision, and perfection. He is not only your God, He is your partner in your prayers, work, desires of your heart, and most of all in your love for your children. You are not enough, but God is.   
His power is made perfect in weakness.  Fall back into His arms not in that you stop trying, but in the sense that resting on His strength will imbue your strivings with Holy Spirit power.  Specifically, this looks more like trusting rather than additional Bible reading or study; it is an attitude of the heart. But do read/study/absorb God's Word. It is your strength-giving power for this season of your life. 

~~~ 

  

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Beyond Our Ability to Endure


When we are nearly paralyzed by grief or pain, when all our strivings and struggles have ground to a halt beneath the weight of simply surviving the challenges of each new day, we can be encouraged by Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 8-11:

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.

This account tells us that even the Apostle Paul struggled under the weight of suffering so severe that he thought he might die of it!  The encouragement comes when we recognize that the God who delivered Paul is the same God who loves and will deliver us; we can share Paul's faith when he says "He has delivered us...and He will deliver us again."  

From Day 31 in my devotional, One Hundred Days to Freedom:


God has saved us through our belief in what Christ has done, and He looks at our hearts ahead of our actions. It is belief that fuels our trust in God, and trust is the necessary foundation of obedience to Him. Through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, the God of all creation inhabits the past, present and future. It is safe to place our trust in Him. 

When we feel pressured beyond our ability to endure, it is time rely fully on the Lord.

~~~

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in Your hand...
--Psalm 31:14-15

Note:  This post also appears today at my devotion blog: 100 Days to Freedom  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Restore, Renew, Revive

I can't see the outcome of the changes that are happening in my mother's life
and my own, but the Lord is with us, and the results of this time of change are in His hands.

 I've feared that my mother and I are so connected through bonds not only of love but also of her powerful need of me, that her death might cause a life-threatening rending in my heart.  I've caught glimpses that the Lord has caused my mom to remain here so long in order to give me time to bring these ties that have bound me to her into His light.  Severing those connections is not a surgery I can do for myself.  

This is embarrassing. What if those tiresome, only-child jokes about apron strings and being Mommy's little girl turn out to hold truth? But of much greater concern to me at this point, what if the severing of those ties finishes me off?  I've had a mind picture of my mother and me in separate vehicles, traveling side-by-side.  I've escorted her on her journey to a boundary I can't cross, and it is time for me to make a U-turn and head back to finish my own journey.  How do I make that turn?  

A few mornings ago I awoke with the terms "restore, renew, revive," in my mind.  I think that the Lord is telling me that when Mom passes away that I can trust Him to restore what has been lost, renew my zest for life, and revive me, even physically.  But I can't see past that seemingly final blow of my mother's passing.  It's like that uneasy moment when one restarts a computer and the screen goes blank.  Will it spring to life once more?  

The one sure promise to which I cling is that the Lord is with us.  He's promised never to leave or forsake us. Whether healing and restoration occurs on this side of the Jordan or after our crossing, He is there.  This fact of His promised presence brings peace.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” 
--Julian of Norwich


I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.
--Psalm 27:13-14