Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Jesus breakdown

4:01 p.m. Today's project was to meet my 83 year-old dad in Loma Linda to participate in a VA alcohol and drugg addiction family intervention like the one I attended last week with our son's fiancee and our grandsons.

On Thanksgiving as I was answering questions from my side of the family about how our son was doing, Daddy popped up and said, "I want to go next time." Whoa! That was a surprise! Not really, I guess, because our son has always been close to his grandpa, since the pre-Christian days we lived with him in Redlands after my divorce.
Birds of a feather, we both arrived early and sat visiting in my car for a few minutes. I explained the purpose of the families-only session we'd attend first, where we'd be free to express our thoughts, worries, encouragement, any questions for the facilitator to help out with. Before I went in, however, I spent a minute talking with a young Christian mom who'd been very vocal about her faith last week, and told her how she'd encouraged me to be more bold in my witness today. Our son's fiancee, Daddy and I all shared in the session, and I asked some questions about the program which I can already see is having a massively positive effect on our son. He is like his real self, healthy, comical and finally able to express his thoughts.
Thank you, Lord, for bringing him so far in the program, physically cleaning out his body of alcohol! The healing isn't complete, but it's a good beginning.
After lunch, we gathered with the residents and were able to greet our loved ones. Each family had the opportunity for a skillfully facilitated interaction with their loved one. Some of them are being strengthened by returning to their faith in very difficult circumstances without the husband and father in the home. We all listened intently and empathized with one another--powerful support was in that room.
When our family's turn came, his fiancee began, our son replied, and she expressed gratitude that our son has decided to go on in his recovery to the next phase, in a new residence with a bit more independence, but with counseling and meetings throughout the day as he experiences now.
My turn came, and I began telling our son how much I love him, and his grandpa loves him, and then I just broke down weeping and told him that Jesus knows him better than anyone, and loves him more than anyone ever could. I begged him to come back to the Lord, to stop running. "Start praying! Open up your Bible! You know the Lord!" I then turned to the group at large and told them, "Jesus knows everything about each of us, but He loves us unconditionally! He has brought you here to begin your healing. In Isaiah it says Jesus is the one who heals all of your diseases and forgives all of your iniquities. He is the One! He loves you, all of you! And He is here for you! Jesus is waiting to be your Savior...go to Him!"
That was the Holy Spirit, pure and simple, because I was absolutely compelled to witness. There was no stopping the floodgates of Jesus' sacrificial love and desire to "draw all men to Himself," as He said of Himself in John 12:32.
May I approach you too, if you are not yet a saved, born again Christian? Let this Christmas mark your new life in Christ! Ask Jesus to be your Savior. Quoting II Corinthians 5:20, I join with the Apostle Paul and thousands of "ambassadors for Christ"over the centuries in saying, "as though God were pleading through us,"
We implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I love Mondays

3:47 p.m. Today's project, after recovering from a hectic weekend, was to go the the Jurupa District Office to pay my health insurance bill. It was very windy, so I nixed the idea of taking the 60 freeway west. The stretch of freeway between Riverside and Ontario is almost totally open for the wind to come blasting through, and notorious for overturned big rigs. My Jeep has a fairly high profile, so why take the chance? And I saw no need to have debris blown at me either. So I took Central out to Van Buren, for a smooth and peaceful drive until I made the right turn north, and traffic slowed to a crawl!

The bridge-widening project was in full production, and I'm glad. Many years teaching in Pedley caused me to drive home over this 4 lane bridge that carries some of the heaviest trafic in the County--from Jurupa in the north, then south past Riverside, Woodcrest , Orangecrest, and the Veterans' cemetery all the way to the 215 freeway. One year due to rains, a massive sinkhole appeared before Cal Trans could put up a sign, collapsing one lane altogether, trapping us and squeezing us out one car at a time over the bridge!

I used the time to prayerfully plan some changes to my "friends and family"cell phone plan, like putting my dad's phone on prepay, since he never uses it; and possibly doing the same for my husband, because he can no longer dial numbers--it's just too long between punches on the keypad for the complete phone number to connect. In the district office's lobby, I spoke with the representative, and discovered that for now, prepay would not be any cheaper, but I'll probably be disconnecting Steve's phone in the next year if he cannot even answer it or dial 911. I will certainly make that a matter of prayer, because it would take away another layer of independence. Even though I am on a "scorched earth" cost-cutting campaign, I don't want Steve to be hurt over something that might not make a huge financial difference.

Ephesians 4:32 tells us, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted..." and that's what I intend to be!

On this taking care-of-business day, I contacted our longterm care insurance agent to see how much money has accumulated for Steve'care, so the I might be a wise steward of the funds in the coming years. Thank you, Lord, that I will be able to have in-home care for Steve for a number of years! And should I become ill or incapacitated, my policy will provide peace of mind to our children.

While we pray, plan, and prepare for our loved ones' care, believers know that God can heal, provide, and produce sources of income and blessing we didn't even know were there! A verse I love to quote often, John 10:10, says this of His people, the sheep of His pasture:

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (KJV)

My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (NLT) And that doesn't necessarily mean having money!

I've never seen the point of envying others for their possessions of any sort, personal or financial. Steve and I have been well off, and now we aren't, pure and simple! What of it? Paul said in Philippians 4:12, "I know both how to be abased and how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."
And whether I have a little or a lot to work with, I can enjoy taking care of business every Monday!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The price of Alzheimer's

9:56 p.m. Today's project, after church, was to stop at Ralphs for sandwiches and supplies for the taco dinner I later served at Home Fellowship, and head out to Sandhaven Pines to get our tree cut down and set up at home.
I had thought we could get to it on Saturday while our youngest and biggest son was home, but he left for Fresno, and I hadn't really gotten the living room situated for a tree just yet. An afternoon visit to our son in San Bernardino took up the rest of the precious supply of sunlight, so Steve and I worked on the outdoor Christmas lights and went out to dinner at Creola's. That may seem odd with so much leftover Thanksgiving food in the house, but our modest meals of salmon for him and steak for me really hit the spot! Most of the turkey leftovers are now frozen anyway. We will not waste a single scrap of food, you can count on that!
I went to bed praying for some help for Steve to bring in and set up the tree. Because the young men at the tree farm chop down, net, and tie the tree to the roof rack of the Jeep, getting it home wouldn't be a problem. But when I texted my son Kriss and son-in-law Nick in the morning, neither were available. Kriss had opened up his Starbucks at 4:30 a.m., and Nick was on deadline with his Master's thesis. But I was still praying and searching for help, because Steve and I just would not be able to handle the 12 foot beauty by ourselves. In past years, when he had a complete system for setting up our trees, it might have been feasible. But last year, even with Kriss' help, he struggled to stay on task.
Jesus told us in Matthew 7:7, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." After joking with Brent and Debbie about the lack of help from their busy adult children also, Steve and I went into the sanctuary to sit further up front than usual, and who should come along and sit in front of us but Bob and Debbie Snyder, good friends who have come to my assistance with Steve in the past.
On went the Holy Spirit's light bulb, and during the greeting time, I asked Bob if they could come over about 1:30 to help with the tree (and enjoy some pie!) We discussed the details (including the three kinds of pie we had) after church, and Steve and I joyfully went to get our tree.
All went well at the house for Steve and me, despite many stops and starts, him not realizing that we could use an ax on the wet wood to help with sawing off the bottom, confusion as to where to place the tree stand once we set up the tree, and many other details that could have frustrated us both. I absolutely credit and give the glory to the Lord for my new-found, supernatural ability to help my husband. I have no technical or mechanical know-how whatsoever, yet I continually come up with solutions or things to try that Steve could have done in his sleep in past years. He truly was a mechanical genius. Problem solving would be taking place that I was never even aware of, because I would have been busy in the kitchen or directing the kids to complete other Christmas decorating tasks.
At this point, my choices are to sit in a heap with ashes on my head, mourning the loss of Steve's abilities and brain function, or get on with helping him and asking others for help as well. I choose the latter!
Bob and Debbie came over, the four of us had fun getting the mega-tree set up, and then we sat down for a visit, pie and coffee. What a wonderful gift koinonia (fellowship centered in Christ) is, especially now that we need to be surrounded by friends! The Apostle Paul lists the gift of "showing mercy, with cheerfulness" and meeting "the needs of the saints" as gifts of the Holy Spirit in Romans 12:3-13, just as he lists teaching, prophesying and prayer!
After Home Fellowship, Steve and I came home to continue decorating. He had some difficulty putting the boxes from which I'd taken manger scenes, decorative room accents and stocking holders, back into the closet he'd taken them out of yesterday. He just wouldn't --or couldn't --believe that there was nothing in the boxes but the newspaper pieces the figurines had been wrapped in, and he could put them away until January. That took direct supervision on my part, but he got it done. I have read that mid-stage Alzheimer's is characterized by the affected one having no recognition of the facts right in front of their face. I have prepared myself for this stage, yet when it happens, it's still shocking. But the Lord has me maintain a calm demeanor and not get tired of repeating instructions, step by step, in an encouraging tone. I'm getting used to interrupting my tasks--such as cleaning out the containers I'd taken food in for Home Fellowship. Helping my husband feel useful is more important!
It was still early enough for Steve to put the lights on the tree, a job he has done to perfection for 29 years, something that would be positive for him to do. Now that it's year 30, however, I came upon him standing on the stairs, with some lights at the top rear of the tree, and tangles streaming downward--something that never would have happened before. I stopped my washing of the bean pot and the crockpot to gently persuade him to remove the lights and stretch them out in a straight line on the living room carpet and begin again, which I helped him to do. This upset him, but I recruited Heidi, a methodical schoolteacher like her mom, to assist her dad.
Our tree doesn't look as professionally lit as it did have last year, but with the baubles and ornaments added, it will be fine. That's the price of Alzheimer's--nothing will ever be entirely the same. But we'll do as well as we can for as long as we can, as the Lord gives me strength to look upward, to ask Him what standards to relax, what temporal joys to forego.
After what Christ has done for me, there is nothing that I will hold back from Him, or cling too closely to. I doubt that I even know the meaning of sacrifice, even on a relatively minor level...I still want to have a say in what my house looks like, and I want to choose how I will spend my time--that's my flesh rearing up! I need to consult with my Lord daily, and have a peace when He informs me of the way He wants me to live.
Not my will, Father, but Thine be done!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A good home

4:06 p.m. Today's project was to visit our son at the recovery home where he is completing the first phase of the Veterans' Administration alcohol and drug addiction program.
The location on the west end of San Bernardino isn't the city's finest address, but the residents all have chores to do, so the house looks better than the surrounding ones. Everyone is friendly. They remembered me as I came in, from last Tuesday's family meeting/confrontation session. I hope I'm not like the Pharisees of Jesus' day "who love salutations in the marketplaces" (Mark 12:38), but I do love to say "hi" to people, all kinds of people, and give them a big smile!
I was guided to to the back patio where my son and his fiancee were waiting at the door of the office. There I signed in and surrendered my cell phone to the supervisor. He said, "It's not the phone itself, but the cameras, because of federal regulations." That was fine with me, because I wanted to concentrate on my son.
We hugged and went inside to a long table where I gave him his birthday gifts. I had a package still in its shipping wrap, which I feel was the Lord who kept me from opening it and re-packaging it, because I could have been a shady family member trying to smuggle in drugs. But I doubt that Swiss Colony, purveyor of the smoked beef rolls and cheddar that our son gets for his birthday every year, is shipping drugs aound the world!
The other gift I brought was an album of our son's childhood, from infancy to preschool years, Pack 127 Harvest Cub Scouts and Webelos, his soccer team, time with his deceased grandmas and his cousins, and of course with Steve, our younger kids, and I. He remembered every picture and what he was doing at the time. It was a pleasant conversation starter for the three of us, but served a greater purpose: to show him that even if he feels he was pushed aside for all of the babies that came along later, he was loved and we gave him lots of good activities that Steve and I participated in with him. We were den leaders for his Cub Scout den and Steve went on the father-son outings with him during Webelos. I hauled all of the younger ones to his soccer games, and also to see him run track and play football later on. He attended the Christian school where I taught, so we spent plenty of time together, doing lots of talking about the Lord and practicing his memory verses as we traveled around town. I also homeschooled him for one year so he could be home with the rest of us every day.
Only God can remove pain, hurt, disappointment and the feelings of being left out or rejected. Bitterness and resentment destroy a person from within. As I read or heard somewhere , "Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die." As believers, we need to have a different take on childhood hurts. We need to give them to God, forgive the offenders (or presumed offenders) from the heart.
Jesus said in Matthew 18:35,
So My Heavenly Father also will do to (punish) you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.
My hope soared just now when I received the following text from our son's fiancee:
___has become a different person and I am amazed at how he has changed his attitude about drinking and about life in general. I am very proud of him.
That makes two of us!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Twice the strength--twice the danger?

8:26 p.m. Today's project was to pick up a new prescription for my husband Steve, who is suffering with mid-stage, early-onset (55) Alzheimer's. The Aricept 23 milligram is over twice as strong as the 10 milligram version he's been taking, but Dr. Rai, his neurologist, instigated the change. I didn't even know that the drug came in that strength!

Over the last two years that Steve has taken Aricept, I'm not sure whether it has slowed the progress of this tragic disease, or perhaps ameliorated the symptoms or kinds of forgetfulness. He also takes Namenda for the same purpose. Our family practitioner, Dr. Guzman, prescribed Lamictal for anxiety years ago, and has added some meds that keep the arteries clear and circulation flowing. Both doctors are abreast of the total prescription count. I have researched some natural options, and we've actually seen good results with PS, fish oil, B-complex, gingko biloba, magnesium, Shaklee Vitalea multivitamin, and we both take a quarter of an aspirin daily.

With an inherited disease, like the early-onset version of Alzheimers that runs in Steve's family, one wonders what good any of these medications and supplements will do him now or in the long run. His father died of it by 69 after becoming symptomatic in his mid fifties; his 57 year-old brother is now bedridden with no control over his limbs at all. It's at the point where Larry's food will now have to be pureed. Steve is very physically fit and active, but his confusion is getting more noticeable. And he cannot follow directions he hears within a minute of hearing them. So lots of repetition and demonstrating tasks goes on around here! I try to remember to give one request at a time, because he gets mentally tangled up and frustrated very quickly.

So I am definitely on a learning curve! The Lord reminded me of the way He teaches us in Isaiah 28:10 (NLT),

He tells us everything over and over--

one line at a time,

one line at a time,

a little here,

and a little there!

I am daily praying and trying to remember to speak, ask and direct my husband in his tasks God's way!

This evening we had an unpleasant incident here at home. Our son Steven, home from Fresno, microwaved a meal while I had my "day after Thanksgiving" layered casserole in the oven. He also managed to have the steam iron running to press a shirt on the dining room table, when click! All the power to the one circuit breaker that controls the oven, microwave, desktop computer and dining room chandelier and porchlights was gone! I went upstairs to our master bedroom to make sure the breaker in our bath wasn't tripped. It wasn't.

Steven went out with the flashlight to check the breakers on the electrical panel; they were okay, too. Next, his dad and I went out to the panel on the north wall, flipped some breakers back and forth, to no avail. Now it was time to figure what we could live without, like porchlights, dining room and entry lights, even the computer, because we have my "pink Princess" mimi-notebook I'm using now.

Son Steven mentioned to me, "if you write that book on Alzheimer's CHAPTER ONE should be, before you know it's coming on your husband you should know how to fix everything in the house, not rely totally on your husband!" Sounds good in theory, but one person can only do so much, between being a mom and having marketing, meals, clothing and household order to keep up, ministries and a career like most women have, but I do get his point. As it is, I am suddenly in charge of the automatic sprinkler system, all bills, financial and medical planning, such as manging all of Steve's meds. I had to pray and learn suddenly, "on the job!" But God has seen me through, answering those "arrow" prayers like "help, Lord!" Tonight God was once again gracious, because all the power came back on again as soon as we stopped finagling with the breakers and let the system cool down!

Later, Steve and I were washing up dishes after dinner, and he just could not get the wash/rinse concept down. After many repetitions, he did get going on it fine. After an incident like this, I am wondering if there is a downside to using Aricept 23 mg to strenghten his memory and speed up his brain's processing. We have plenty of time for me to investigate becuase we have a lot of the 10 mg. left.
The Lord is helping both Steve and me to learn one thing at a time, one day at a time!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010: What did I learn this year?

6:49 p.m. Today's project was to unstuff, stuff, roast, peel, quarter, whip, boil, mix, bake, spoon, unwrap, carve, warm up, pour and enjoy our traditional Kruckenberg-Gray Thanksgiving dinner. We had 18 at table and three youngsters in the kitchen. Our guests brought sides and desserts, so it was a bountiful dinner.

Do you ever wish at the end of a long day on your feet that you had worn hose or socks with your shoes? Well, I am currently soaking my feet in cool water and epsom salt in a basin with my pant legs rolled up,while Steve, the kids and their significant others watch "Toy Story 3" in the family room. Steve and I have done most of the clean-up, so this is a nice break.

Before dinner, we gathered in the kitchen to pray, calling everyone in from a game of catch with the dogs. After we prayed, I asked everyone to tell us what they had learned this year. Answers ranged from our second grade great-nephew who learned multiplication, to my 83 year old dad saying he's learned more about the Bible, to my nephew who learned to play golf, our Steven who discovered that he hates flying, and Steve learning to play checkers. Since I had texted everyone ahead of time so they could think about it, the Lord had already given me an answer which I wrote out (but only shared a bit of):

I learned not to be embarassed about living on a limited fixed income; giving up conveniences like a working garage door opener, or choosing not to use the dishwasher to save money. I also learned not to be embarassed over trivial things, like waiting an extra two months before getting my roots dyed; or having to say, "We don't have the money for gas," to go to an event or meeting.

And I can ask for help now, without embarassment.

But think about the worst public embarassment you've ever had, and think: What could be more embarassing than being stripped naked, beaten and nailed to a cross on the most public place in Jerusalem?

As Hebrews 12:4 reminds us, we haven't given our lives fighting sin!

I am grateful for the relative toughness of this season in our lives--because I'm learning more of the depth of God's big and small mercies!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Grays, Kruckenbergs, Ilies, Abbotts, Roelofsz's, and ItalicLoves!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My nap?

4:10 p.m. Today's project was to make rolls, mix up stuffing, glaze and bake a small ham, and not let Heidi and Pavel and their apple pie project get in the way in my small kitchen!

This would have been fairly reaonable for our busy kitchen, if I hadn't done a poor job with the rolls I made last night and gone to bed with a migraine, brought on, I'm sure, by the extremely emotional day we'd had in the Veterans Administration counseling center. Heidi called at 9:15 pm to let me know that she was heading out to Victorville to be with her friend Charise's mom, because the grandma was having life-and-death heart surgery. So she asked for prayer to not have fog going through the Cajon Pass. I also posted the prayer request on Facebook--lots of prayer warriors there!

After "losing" my dessert to the migraine--vomiting-- I left the rolls to cool and be put away by grandson Xavier and went to bed in our spare room. I set the alarm for 6:30. At 2:20 a.m., I heard Heidi walking into her bathroom and bedroom across the hall, so I texted her for an update while thanking God that she was home safe. The surgery was very long, and lasted through the morning. We are still praying.

The boys' other grandpa was slated to pick them up at 7:15, so he called me at 6:19 because they didn't answer their cells! I treated myself to 11 minutes of sleep until my alarm went off, and the day began. The boys left right on time, and Steve and I went to do our devotions. Later, Heidi got started in the kitchen, and things coordinated fairly well considering all of the broken sleep in the room!

When I just was about to lie down as my rolls were rising, Steve came in with the mail, which included Steven's long-awaited financial aid check, praise the Lord! "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life," Proverbs 13:12 says. For poor Steven, who has barely been surviving up in Fresno due to the lack of fitness training clients in this slow economy, the money will definitely be a tree of life! He can also pay me the money he owes for helping him out this summer.

But nap? No way! I raced to the credit union where we both have accounts, deposited it and put his share into his checking, minus the agreed-upon debt, before 2 pm's posting deadline. There will be a two day hold, but $100 is available to this "starving student" right away.

Back home, I went to glaze the ham, help with the apple pie and put the rolls in the oven. I was glad to see the sun, because Steve could get the front lawn mowed. He is at loose ends in the house after doing a few odd chores, which today included sanding a spot on our banister that had driven a huge splinter into the palm of my hand last night.

A productive day has been had so far for all of us, and now we'll run out and pick up Subway sandwiches, as is our tradition on the night before Thanksgiving. No nap is possible now, but God is holding me up well. And since Steven is going to be here in an hour, we'll have a sandwich for him, too.

With one more batch of rolls to go, I am praying and planning, even having consulted twice with the King Arthur flour people by phone. May the rolls rise fully, and our guests be delighted with the fruit of our labor and the glorious produce of God's creation. May His Name be lifted up once again at our feasting table!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Corinthians 13:7

7:04 p.m. Today's project was to take our grandsons to Loma Linda with me to participate in a family intervention with their dad. The structured, facilitated session was a function of the Veteran's Administration residential alcohol and drug addiction residential program.

The enemy, that old serpent, the devil (Revelation 12:9) was not about to let me out of the grip of embarassment and concealment about my son's addiction without causing as much last-minute difficulty and discouragement as possible!

Despite having grown up in the area, and exiting the correct off-ramp 15 minutes early, I missed the small "Veterans Administration" sign and went on up Mountain View Avenue to the dead end, following Google map directions. I then crossed the freeway to the north end with 5 minutes to go, only to meet another dead end! I called our son's fiancee and had trouble connecting, so called 411 and got directions, but the number to push for repetition got lost because I was driving all the while. One of the kids googled from his phone, but I went back to the freeway and exited again. It was the start time, 10:45 already!

I finally saw the sign for the VA (the intersection not mentioned in the Google directions) and turned into the massive complex. I had been told that the counseling facility was across from the hospital, and so I circled around. Not a guard or parking kiosk in sight to ask for directions. I sent Xavier into the building that said "counseling center" to ask where we should go, and then entered a parking structure. Circling around to the top, I found myself trapped. "Where is the exit?" I asked a bike security guy, and he said, "Just turn around." Without one bit of help backing up, I had to turn my Jeep around between two rows of parked cars! That was another 5 minutes lost, and I was in tears at that point.

When I drove back down to pick up Xavier, I sent Adrian after him, but I just had to sit at the stop sign, because it's one way only, the opposite direction that the boys were walking! I was calling them on their cells, yelling out the window until a nice lady asked if she should call them back. She got their attention while I just wept and cried out to God, "Lord, You made this appointment and told me to go! You said You would get me there! Now we've come all this way only to miss the whole thing?!" I was crying uncontrollably with frustration and yelling for the boys to run. I called Adrian on his cell and told him, "You guys run every day in PE! Run!" So we all got back on the circular road when our son's fiancee called and said, "It's in the same parking lot as Clarke's Nutrition store. And of course they'll wait for you to come in!" In a minute we were in the complex, and then in the room with other family members. Praise God!

Along with our son's fiancee and her two teenage daughters, we heard the most heart-wrenching testimonies, and then each of us except my older grandson spoke of what had been done that hurtfully impacted our lives. From listening to other moms of addicts, I realized that by offering our son a place to live a few years ago, we had delayed his decision to stay sober for good. (And he'd been hiding bottles in our home, unbelievably, while attending church with us and living as part of the family).

We all went out to lunch, enjoyed some fun moments, and then were seated in a new large meeting room, where we got to see my son. He looks great, clean and healthy, and was delightfully surprised to see the boys. We each confronted him and he saw firsthand that drinking was not "just my problem." A hug concluded each individual interaction.

Sharing was painful but honest for all of us but we got to express our love and support for him. I had assigned the boys to read the "Love Chapter," I Corinthians 13, yesterday and this morning, and I want to close with v. 7 in the NLT:

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

We remain hopeful and trusting in the Lord!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The key and the bolt

4:29 p.m. Today's project was to finally get my 3 inch long roots colored by Irene, my hairdresser. With the out-grown roots being kinky as well, this was not a do-it-yourself job! In my rush to get Steve and the grandsons situated, I didn't eat breakfast--just packed up two Boldboiled eggs, some mustard, mayo and cilantro/green goddess dressing, and made egg salad in the lunch room of the salon while I waited for another client to be done. I also had the opportunity to call my prayer partner Monica for her birthday, even though she spent it in Loma Linda's CT scan department, as they search to see whether her breast cancer has spread to other parts of her body. She was able to pray with me for my son, and we truly lifted one another up! "...pray for one another that you may be healed." James 5:16a says. I was glad that I'd taken the time to Facebook message our pastor's wife to pray for the family intervention session I'll be attending with our grandsons tomorrow.

After an hour and a half of lighthearted fellowship at the salon, and now fit to be seen, it was time for me to tackle some business items. I had already called the phone company to pay the past due balance on the disconnect notice. That accomplished, I called DirecTV to get a channel restored that I had inadvertently removed while reducing our package to save money. The Lord blessed, however, because we deactivated a second receiver that hadn't been used in years, forgotten under a stack of papers on an old tv in Heidi's room. Overall, I cut at least another ten dollars from our monthly bill! The NLT version of Psalm 58:11 says:

There truly is a reward for those who live for God; surely there is a God who judges justly here on the earth.

While stopping at home to make sure that Xavier made sandwiches for Steve and his brother, I received a call from married daughter Heather, asking me to pick her up at work because her car was ready at a local repair shop. I wheedled a 3-piece chicken fingers "lunch" out of her in exchange for a ride...We stopped at her house to pick up something I've been anxiously awaiting: the disc with the pictures she took of Steve and me for our Christmas card!! I went on from the shop off of University to my optician's office at Brockton and 14th to drop off some Mary Kay products. Another client said she'd just get her moisturizer sunscreen from me on Sunday so neither of us have to drive out of our way. Thank you, Lord, for growing and blessing my business!

On the way home, I pulled over and talked with Tate publisher's cover design editor about adding a subtitle under Galatians. She suggested "A workbook on faith and freedom;" "A study of faith and freedom;" and "An exploration of faith and freedom." I am leaning towards "exploration," but want to pray on it and get a few opinions.

I initially wanted to seek some opinions on which picture to select out of 16 taken of the two of us, but I realized that the Christmas card needs to be a pleasant surprise to the recipients. As I explained to our grandson, I want to give a keepsake to everyone so that they can remember Steve as he looks now, while he can take directions and pose for a picture, which may not be possible next year. The Lord knows, but being proactive in a positive venture can't hurt. And I think making the cards will be more economical than the elaborate cards we usually send.

All of these matters are matters of prayer, whether large or small. As I learned when purchasing the turkey last Sunday, God wants me to not only "Pray without ceasing, " (I Thessalonians 5:17) but I am to "be anxious for nothing, but with thanksgiving, let my requests be made known unto God" (Philippians 4:6b).

I learned an Amish proverb in my nightly reading from Wanda Brunstetter's A Simple Life that truly captured my imagination, on how to greet and close our day:

Prayer is the key to the day and the bolt to the night.

The key and the bolt, indeed!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It happened on Arlington Avenue

8:08 p.m. Today's project was to pack up a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, find out where the closest collection center was, and deliver it before today's deadline.

Each year since Franklin Graham's (son of evangelist Billy Graham) Samaritan's Purse international mercy ministry began the shoebox project, our has participated. The concept of a severely needy child in a war-torn or otherwise bereft corner of the earth receiving a Christmas box full of toys, school supplies, clothing or personal care items has found a permanent place in our hearts. The first year the project was launched, Franklin Graham himself came to Harvest Christian Fellowship to accept and pray over the thousands of gaily wrapped boxes on the steps of the massive sanctuary.

Our family's commitment has never waned, from the days when we prepared one box as a family, letting our little ones include an item; to the years when each of the kids packed their own box with items they had selected on our annual expedition to KMart; to getting their grandpa involved and packing a box each year; to times when they would pack a box with a boyfriend or girlfriend on their own initiative; to packing up boxes with youth groups or on their own as young adults; to now, when Steve and I pack a box by ourselves. Back in the day, we would include a note and picture of our family as well. My 83-year-old dad still packs a box!

One year while I was still on the Riverside School Board, Arlington High School's student body holiday charity was an Operation Christmas Child shoebox drive. Franklin Graham's vison has become a worldwide phenomenon. And when the videos were played each year of the children getting their boxes, there wasn't be a dry eye in the sanctuary--those kids couldn't have smiled any bigger if they tried! Only Jesus' smile could be greater!

"Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven," Jesus said in Mark 10:14. May the littlest victims of war and poverty be abundantly blessed by these gifts given in the Name of Jesus!

Steve and I arrived at Harvest on Arlington Ave. just before the start of their 5 p.m. -fourth- Sunday service. I parked and took the shoe box to the front entrance of the sanctuary, where there were large boxes already packed and stacked. But a nice greeter gal told me I could leave it on the table in front of the door.

Memories flooded in. Was it really 31 years ago next January that I first walked into Calvary Chapel Riverside as a divorced single mom who had just been born again? and was undoubtedly greeted by a certain handsome mustachioed usher at the front door whom I married a year and a half later?

Wedding day, July 11, 1981 took place in the sanctuary that bears no resemblance to the high tech, sophisticated setting the congregation now enjoys. Greg Laurie is still preaching the gospel--that has most certainly not changed! Our four younger children were dedicated by Greg, about one every other year for a while there--joy unspeakable, all the Lord's doing! Steve and I led a cub scout troop that included our son Sean there at church. I taught women's studies and led ministries, Steve ushered, and we enjoyed the home Bible studies we attended. Our children were saved and subsequently baptized through the Harvest ministry, and participated in youth groups. Heidi was on the first crew of the Harvest Cafe in 2002. And we always packed up shoeboxes!

As we drove back down Arlington Avenue, I reviewed other memories with Steve: my teaching at Grace Baptist school; the Sears where we bought the kids' school clothes, got portaits done, and bought just about everything else; the Post Office with the funny backwards curved mail "drop-way;" the Rent-A-Center where we rented a washing machine when ours broke down after 22 years; the Honey Baked Ham store; Jefferson School which I visited numerous times while on the Riverside Board of Education; the lovely, shaded side streets on either side of Arlington; the Riverside Unified Central Registration building established during my trustee tenure; the modestly respectable neighborhoods I walked each afternoon for months during my election and re-election campaigns.

God has granted me a rich and full life in Riverside with my family. And the best part of it all is Jesus Christ at the center. Without Christ, I would never have met Steve, nor had the children we share. Without Christ, I wouldn't have the strength to care for him in his hour of need as an Alzheimer's sufferer. Without Christ, I would not have been a Christian school teacher and educated my own kids, eventually running for school board and changing the life prospects of hundreds of thousands of children over 13 years.

Yes, much happened on Arlington Avenue and its surrounding area. But nothing worthwhile happens without Jesus Christ, as the Apostle Paul said in Acts 17:28, the One "in whom I live and move and have my being!"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Over the meadow and through the woods to grandmother's house we go!

6:47 p.m. Today's project was to meet our grandsons and their mom at the Wal Mart on Aero Drive in San Diego and bring them up here for a visit.

Of course, my day was nothing like that!

First I met up with my girlfriends at Mimi's for breakfast and gab at 8:30. I skipped the breakfast and just gabbed, because I had to pick up 3 prescriptions for Steve, load the car with the lunch I'd packed earlier, and leave by 10:15 for the noon pick-up. The younger grandson Xavier was texting me all morning, but I took advantge of that to remind them to bring their Bibles, jackets, boots and warm clothes. We had a surprise adventure planned for them on the way back--a visit to Sandhaven Pines to help us select our Christmas tree! I was excited about introducing our family's long-standing traditon to a new generation.

This was a very rainy day. By the grace of ged, even after some confusion and changes of shoes for Steve, we left on time. The cloudbursts came one after the other all the way to our destination, but the Lord kept us safe and the jeep's tires performed well in the moderate traffic. I was kind of drowsy from getting up early, so when we arrived at the shopping center 30 minutes early, I snagged a Peppermint Chocolate Iced Mocha with a double shot of expresso at the Starbucks inside Vons. Steve and I also selected drinks for him and the boys.

Here's where the day began to get strange. I got a call--not a text--from Adrian, the older, less chatty grandson. He told me that Xavier had locked the keys and his luggage inside his mom's Suburban--and there was plenty of maternal "excitement" in the background to verify this mishap. (Haven't we moms all been there?! I'm certainly not one to cast stones!) So I said, "We'll just come down to Chula Vista and when I get there I'll call Triple A." As long as the member is with the vehicle, it doesn't have to be my car, so we checked out of the store and went about 15 minutes further south to their apartment complex.

The Lord had already provided help, because a tow truck driver friend of their mom's was on his way. We chatted awhile in the carport, then I went inside my car to put the seat back and rest. I guess the expresso hadn't kicked in yet. Poor Xavier was utterly embarassed, but his mom said, "we all make mistakes!" How true that is...both his dad and his Uncle Steven actually locked themselves in cars as preschoolers, so I've spent my share of time waiting for the AAA driver with the Slim Jim to arrive before I could be on my way to work.

Funny how, as a grandmother, I had a peace today, and just prayed while I rested. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God;" it seems to take us years to learn to obey that directive, doesn't it? My natural behavior is to jump up and take off in every direction at the first appearance of a problem, figuring it must be solved NOW, and who better to do it than me? Well, God has already solved the problem at hand, whatever it may be, before it even happens! But not if we won't let Him!

The car was unlocked, Xavier's bag was retrieved, we piled into the Jeep, and off we went, eating our pack lunch and making good time, until--horns blaring and lights flashing, an ambulance crossed six lanes between me and other stopped cars. Firetrucks and emergency vehilcles sped in the carpool lane, and there we sat for the next 30 minutes! On the 15 freeway north, at Rancho Bernardo, we actually all turned off our engines. It didn't matter if it was raining, I lowered the windows for fresh air, and texted Heidi and all of Facebook to pray. By now the expresso was kicking in, so there would be no napping. Praise the Lord, we saw people start up their cars and were were soon on our way. The mangled cars a small distance up the road were very frightening to see; I just hope and pray the person(s) survived.

Finally, regular speeds were restored, as the rain continued. Xavier queried me in "21 questions" style, but until we were within one block of the tree farm, neither boy could guess our destination. Grandma still has a few tricks up her sleeve! Since Steve had forgotten where we were going, I took quite a risk whispering it in his ear, but the boys didn't catch it.

What fun we had bundling up, hiking over "hill and dale" at the tree farm, strolling through rows of soaking wet trees, and posing for pictures! The boys, just like our kids did, chased each other a bit, we lost one or another of our party a few times, but in the end, we found a gorgeous12 foot tree. Steve and I will go back to have it cut down once we coordinate some help from one of our sons, son-in law, or son-in-law to be. The lady who reserved the tree for us, commenting on the rainy conditions, said, "At least the trees are certainly clean!"

We're home now, relaxing and looking forward to a fine day at church tomorrow. Steve and I are re-adjusting to our frequent, favorite houseguests. Teenage boys! I can hardly believe they are 13 and 15.

Lord, thank you for these two fine grandsons, that they know You. Keep them safe from over-exposure to the world, I pray. And please provide us the groceries to meet the needs of their adolescent appetites!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Where we need to be living

5:05 p.m. Today's project was to take a friend to her surgeon for a check-up. Her appointment was at 9:00 in Riverside, so I needed to pick her up in Moreno Valley by 8 in order to get back in the bad commute hour traffic. We arrived in plenty of time, she got a good report, and I was able to pop into the Starbucks at Arlington and Brockton to say hi to my barista friend Pati, as well as pick up some groceries at Vons while she was with the doctor.

In order for me to have devotions, get Steve situated with his Bible study and fix our breakfast, I had to get up at 5:30. I woke Steve up before 6, because his Alzheimers has extended a formerly 15-minute shower, shave and dress routine to an hour. From downstairs, rather than direct observation, I imagine that a lot of backtracking, changes of clothes and shoes, lost items and indecision characterize that hour. I don't interfere; I just work the extra time into our schedule. No harm done--that's an uninterrupted hour for the Lord and me to fellowship together!

The Bible verse I posted this morning on Facebook was totally apt, Psalm 108:1-2, because it was still dark outside at the time, about 5:45!

O God, my heart is steadfast;

I will sing and give praise, even

with my glory.

Awake, lute and harp!

I will awaken the dawn.

Much as my flesh wants to rebel, my mind and heart find something wonderful about being in the Lord's presence in the early morning hours. Few distractions, for one thing. And the feeling that the whole day is ahead, ripe with plans and anticipation of God's work and will to be accomplished in the succeeding hours.

When I went outside this morning, however, the cold, damp air hit hard! While I had plenty to do with my friend in the morning, and a customer appointment in the afternoon, what would Steve be doing? He normally spends 75% of his day outdoors, landscaping, gardening, taking care of the dogs. As I went on with my tasks, I kind of expected him to just bring the dumpsters back from the curb to the side of the house, stay inside and maybe surf the Net, not much more.

I was pleasantly surprised to find, after two hours, that he had been cleaning the kitchen floor and vacuuming, and everything looked nice! For him to take this kind of initiative, especially after a week without his Aricept, was excellent, and much appreciated. By lunchtime, however, Steve was pretty much at loose ends, so I reminded him of his book, Amish Grace, so he could be occupied, not standing around with hands in pockets awaiting instructions from me.

Then we were literally "saved by the bell," because his oldest sibling, Sharon, called with a very sad report on their brother Larry, 58, who is now totally bedridden in a care facility with Alzheimer's. Larry is about to go to the stage in his deterioration of having to eat pureed food, another devastating development for his wife Michaele and for all of us. Imagine Sharon's heartache at losing her little brother to this thief of a disease, and her youngest sibling Steve, just a number of years away from a similar fate unless the Lord intervenes.

Steve then carried on a very cheerful conversation with his sister, and was finishing his sentences pretty well from what I could hear from the kitchen. Of course, she didn't bring up Larry at all. His mind is stimulated in a positive way by the conversational efforts of others, and her call was very uplifting and timely.

I find Steve and Sharon's conversation to have just the effect the Bible says it would: "How pleasant it is for brethren--and "sistren"--to live together in unity!" (paraphrase of Psalm 133:1)

I took off again to sell some lipsticks at my hair salon and make a bank deposit, and returned to find that Steve was out walking the dogs. Good--they were all probably getting stir-crazy. But it did make me grateful that we live in a climate where the sun is shining most days of the year and Steve can be outside to his heart's content. God knows where each of us is supposed to live, and with whom, for our best and highest good. He painstakingly and lovingly plans out His children's lives on our way through the valleys, hills and straight-aways of this life on our way to heaven, of that I am confident.

As Job said, 23:10, 14a:

He knows the way that I take;

when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.


He performs what is appointed for me.

Thank you, Lord, because I could never plan or design a better life for myself than what You have ordained!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baking day #1: punkin' pies

3:56 p.m. Today's project was to bake two pumpkin pies. I needed to freeze them in several layers of aluminum foil, because we'll be picking up our grandsons on Saturday, and my traditional pie day, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, will be taken up with family time.
I discovered the recipe I now use last year, after almost four decades of sweating it out as my regular Libby's recipe cooked for at least 30 minutes longer than promised. I had to put foil on the darkening crust while the center stayed liquidy!
And since all this would be taking place on Tuesday night after a long day of teaching, it was one hot kitchen here at home. So I would pray, occupy myself with chopping up celery and onion, frying up the sausage for the stuffing, and try not to snap at the family!!
I would get so convicted! We need to remind ourselves whom we are making this meal for--the Lord, and our families. We homemakers and cooks need to glorify the Lord in all things and thank Him as the Pilgrims and Christian Indian Squanto did, before and during our "meal of the year."
In Nehemiah 9:36, after the Jews who returned to the land of their forefathers had signed their covenant, they recounted their times of exile and then said:
Here we are, servants today!
And the land that You gave to our fathers,
To eat its fruit and its bounty,
Here we are, servants in it!
Can't you just feel their amazement, energy, and total excitement to be in the land? By chapter 11, the people had drawn lots for one in ten to dwell in Jerusalem, "And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered themselves to dwell in Jerusalem" (v.2). The work then began on the House of the Lord.
I thought that this phrase from verse 17 was a blessing: "the leader began the thanksgiving with prayer." And that's how I want to begin thanking the Lord, with heartfelt prayer.
So imagine my delight when, last fall, I was flipping through one of my many dog-eared food/baking/cooking/women's magazines and found the pumpkin pie recipe that produced easy, perfect pies on the first try. God had answered 30 years of prayer and ended 30 years of aggravation!
And also, kudos to Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk!
Perfect Pumpkin Pie
1 15-oz can pumpkin
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices and salt in a medium bowl until smooth and pour into crust.
Bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat and bake an additional 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted one inch from crust comes out clean. Cool. Garnish as desired.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Truth in the inward parts

5:08 p.m. Today's project was to share information with extended family members that is difficult, but prayerfully will have an outstandingly positive outcome. I had been praying for the last week for the Lord to show me if, when and how to speak. With permission, I gave the facts, and our approbation of their decision to get help, to my sister, niece and nephews who are coming for Thanksgiving dinner.

I could claim that a quest for 100% openness and transparency with our personal business was the motivation, but I admit that I really did not want to be on the spot at the dinner table as they ask why our family member isn't here. So the topic is now "off the table," literally. People can ask me about the situation in a return text message or email, but the facts are what they are. And I applaud the courage it took to make the right decision.

We are told in Psalm 51:6, in David's great confession of sin,

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part you shall make me to know wisdom.

I'd like to break this verse down. In the first half, God's desire for His people is clear. I always want to be honest with myself and others, and am a truthful person, by the power of the Holy Spirit, not in my own strength. The Lord knows everything that has, does, or ever will concern me, so my part is to admit and acknowledge the truth as He and I have relationship.

In the second part of the verse, I am assured that God can be relied upon to make me know wisdom. Wisdom is defined (by me, I suppose) as knowing what to do with the facts, information and skills you have at your disposal. Would the phrase "uncommon common sense" fit in here?

Wisdom, or discernment, comes into play when another's personal business is concerned. Some truths are not ours to tell! For example, I'm not going to give derogatory information to a child about their parent--it's the parent's role to decide when the child is old enough to receive that information. So wisdom must be used! I believe I handled this matter with truth and wisdom, as the Lord led me. And by permission!
Challenges to our character come at us daily, in every arena of life. We need to pray for as long as necessary until we receive a word from the Lord when considering a sensitive matter, and act accordingly!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Somber, yet steadfast

3:11 p.m. Today's project was to attend Bible study with my friend from down the street. We arrived just as the joyous hubbub in the coffee and snack area of the church foyer had cleared and the study was beginning. That works fine for us; less temptation from baked goods! In regard to the temptation of delicious-smelling goodies, I remember a nightmare scene from "Young Sherlock Holmes," one of our family's favorite movies, where the cream puffs have faces and legs, jump out of the bakery case, and attack young Watson! So cindy and I escaped untempted.

Our lesson was a very serious one, where teacher Beth Moore spoke of her family's generational alcohol addiction , a very real and personal matter to our family. I took away from the video hope. I rest in the assurance that no matter what is in the family's closet, God will shine truth and hope on the evil, if even just one person decides to break the mold for their generation, tell the truth and stand for the truth. No person can save another, but each of us can let our light shine. Throw off that bushel basket! is the way I would espress it from Jesus' words in Luke 11:33-36(NLT):

No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who come into the house.

Your eye is the lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is bad, your body is filled with darkness. Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.

May I be light in a dark situation, steadfast in my faith, and may others stand up and join me!

Some somber news: my dear friend Monica was diagnosed with very incipient, stage one cancer. I spoke at length to her husband Jeff, because she was only sitting with family today, and he said that the doctors at Loma Linda do not want her to rush into a treatment choice, whether surgery first, then chemo, or vice versa. I'll be praying with her tomorrow. But the Lord is faithful, even in a time of intense fear: Monica and Jeff will get to attend the Harvest couples' Retreat coming up for free!!

Life is difficult, yet joy supercedes sorrow when we know the Lord! As the only Healer and Redeemer, God awaits our cry for help. I pray that His kids will remember to lift our arms and cry out, "Abba, Father," like a small child looks to be lifted up in the arms of their daddy. Our earthly fathers help, teach, train and provide; but our Heavenly Father is the only One who can truly "make it stop hurting," and "make it all right!"

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pretty good for a Monday!

4:01 p.m. Today's project was to cut expenses and fees from various sources. Since last night, when we saw an ad from DirecTV quoting a new subscriber fee about $50 a month less than what we have been paying for the last few years, our daughter Heidi urged us to try to get that same price. Thanks to the Lord, even if we couldn't come in as new subscribers, they were able to cut $18.50 off a month, a nice rate change.

Next, I called our primary care doctor to see what the cost was going to be to obtain two years' records of Steve's treatment for Alzheimers. Our long term care insurance company, Genworth, is requesting records from his neurologist also. The receptionist told us that if they get the request directly from the company and then fax it, we wouldn't be charged. Better yet, I later discovered a voicemail from Genworth, saying that they use a records capturing service and that they cover all expenses! God is so good!

I went ahead and called the neurologist, because we had run out of Steve's Aricept and I hoped they had more samples. The nurse and I had a long conversation in which I mentioned some uncertainty about whether that drug was effective or not, because Steve uses natural supplements, nutrition, and four other prescriptions coordinated between both doctors, as well as my consistent, systematic efforts to keep him focused and on task every day. The nurse mentioned that perhaps Steve would benefit from a much greater dose of Aricept, and that the neurologist would prescribe it. Now we just have to find a pharmacy that carries the 23 milligram version.

I know that Steve's times are in God's hands, and so is the progress of this devastating inherited disease. But at this midpoint, where his confusion is increasing, but is not yet overwhelming to us, could more medication hurt? I'll let the Lord give His verdict, by allowing the stronger version to become obtainable--or not!

Believers do not always get a direct word from the Holy Spirit on a matter. Just as often, or probably more often, God allows His will to be made plain by the circumstances He puts us in. The Apostle Paul wanted to take the gospel into the Asian province of Bithynia, but was hindered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6-7). We 'll see what happens. Aricept 23 mg will either become available in our area or it won't, and I'll be at peace either way...and either way, the co-pay on this brand name drug will still be $50 that I am waiting to be provided with! Meanwhile, Steve is doing fine after two days without it.

Next, I was able to make a successful product exchange on the Mary Kay website, so I won't have wasted money on a client-returned product. Love that 100% satisfaction guarantee!

I had been praying for Steven's appointment at Fresno Pacific's Financial Aid office today to get the correct amount of the Parent Plus loan arranged, in order to pay the remaining tuition balance for the year and have some money for him to buy books with and live on. By early afternoon, it seems that the figures were arrived at. Pretty good for a Monday!

No such luck, however, dealing with the County Animal Services division. Seems I can't get a senior discount on license fees until age 60, next year, and that both dogs have to have a V-chip inserted! When did this ruling go down? I guess "people business" has had me occupied, along with survival...the Lord knows, and He will make a way, I am sure. So there's another financial goal to plan for!

My determination is not to let "the little foxes" (of dread and discouragement) "spoil the grapes," (Song of Solomon 2:15) as I trust the Lord along the journey of this life. I love life, even with its stresses, strains, struggles and heartaches! That's because I know, in a personal, intimate way, life's Giver!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The culture of spiritual discipline

1:08 p.m. Today's project was to get the biggest frozen turkey I could find, a Butterball preferably, before the 23+ pounders sold out. With my whole side of the family coming for Thanksgiving, I needed to jump on the grocery store turkey sales that began this morning.
The quest began yesterday, with my dad giving me money toward the gathering, as he does each year, and a discussion of the deals around town. Then I made phone calls, only to find out that the Sunday circulars would be the first revelation of the stores' exact sales terms and conditions. The butchers' lips were sealed...they know how to build suspense and get you into the store in person!
I set our bedside alarm clock for 6:15, because I knew I'd need at least an hour and a half to drive, shop, and drive back from the selected store before time to leave for church. The Lord prompted me to set my cell phone alarm also. I set it to vibrate on top of my clock radio, which has been a little shifty lately, even though I set it on the station with the strongest signal, KFI. (You can hear KFI in Nevada, and north past the Grapevine!) Sure enough, it was the cell alarm that woke me, and we got up for our morning devotions and prayer time.
Ads for Staters (.57/lb and $25.00 purchase) and Vons ($10/turkey over 16 pounds with purchase) were in the paper, but Ralphs didn't have a flyer. So I called, and their deal was .37/lb with $25 purchase! I made sure Steve was situated, got myself dressed and ready, and drove to Ralphs Mission Grove. Disappointment--the biggest turkey was 18 pounds, and the butcher didn't know when big ones would come in. Back in the car, I dialed up Staters in Woodcrest, and they had them up to 24 pounds, so off I went. I made sure to drive the 50 mph speed limit on Van Buren, because I didn't want this great day to be marred by a speeding ticket!
By 8:15, I had the biggest turkey in the store and my $25 worth of groceries, was at the checkout, and home before 9:00. Hallelujah, mission accomplished, thank you, Lord! Since we don't have to leave for second service until 9:25, I had time to eat my pre-cooked scrambled eggs, down some more coffee, do something with my hair and put on eyeliner, mascara and understand, the necessities! We did make it to church by the opening prayer.
This may seem like another one of my madcap adventures, but I believe that God has called us to have what I term "focused determination" in whatever we are called to do. As a homemaker, my job is to feed my family prayerfully, healthfully and economically, as well as utilizing the Holy Spirit's gift of hospitality to my extended family. We really enjoy our Thanksgiving together and look forward to it almost as much as Christmas. It's the meal of the year!
I was bolstered in my faith that this morning's events were to be God-directed and God-ordained by the devotional I read at 6:20. The November 14 selection from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, probably the most-read Christian devotional of all time, said this:
"We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the culture of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail. Never allow that the haphazard is anything less than God's appointed order, and be ready to discover Divine designs anywhere."
Today, God was in the miraculous birth of a friend's first grandchild; in the magnificent vista of blue sky and mountains surrounding us; and in every aspect of one of His daughters finding the right turkey at the right price.
Develop in us, Lord, the culture of spiritual discipline--Your eyes and Your mind to recognize, acknowledge and rejoice in Your mighty works!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A long-anticipated outing

5:11 p.m. Today's project was to go grocery shopping after a fairly lengthy wait of almost two weeks. If my dad hadn't come over with his annual contribution to the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner we host for my entire side of the family, I would have had to wait another several days to buy any fresh food. I actually found myself dreaming about going to the grocery store a few nights back! It reminded me of what Isaiah 29:8 says:" when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he eats; but he awakes, and his soul is empty..."

The Lord has been providing most graciously, but bills come first, and here is where a well-stocked cupboard comes in handy, along with the skill of cooking from scratch! We've had good meals from staples that all homemakers should have on hand. The home-canned barbecued beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce and salsas have been used for delicious dinners, thanks to many hours of labor in the garden and tolerating the boiling steam of the pressure canner. Proverbs 22:3 (NLT) says, " The prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences." I believe we all need to be prepared for hard times!

This last few months of penury remind me, honestly, of the many times when I was home with the kids that Steve and I had "more month than money" (Ron Wiseman). So I was confident that God would see us through as He always has. Like then, I am not employed outside the home because I am caring for a loved one who is not independent enough to care for himself.

But faith needs hands and feet to get the job done! With earnings from my business available after placing an order for customers, I went into a local grocery store to see what kind of deals were happening for large turkeys with a minimum purchase. With almost twenty people coming, I'll need a 24-pounder at least. So I headed into the frozen turkey section and the butcher told me that a turkey was free with a $25 purchase. It was like a dream come true, as I loaded the biggest one into my cart and got much-needed necessities. Well, that dream turned into a nightmare when I got to the checkout and found out the actual deal: if you bought TWO turkeys, one was free with $25 purchase!! As I was talking, a young mom behind me pulled out of line and headed for the turkeys. But when the manager clearly explained their sale, unlike the butcher who was apparently confused herself, I cancelled the entire order which I could not have afforded. I gently suggested that the butcher might have a need for some accurate information from the manager.
It was funny, the feeling of calm and peace I had, not embarassed at all, thinking, "I need to be a wise steward of the money God has granted me," and left the store empty-handed. I then called around and found that all the stores will have deals starting Sunday.

It just wasn't my day to go shopping! Today worked out well for the few items I needed, such as laundry soap, bananas and evaporated milk; tomorrow I'll head out to snag a big turkey and see "what the deal is!" (and where it is)!And I'll double check my coupon websites, too.

A newly married friend, Melissa McCauley, described in her blog the difficulty and heartache of having to put off her marriage to RJ for more than a year and a half due to his unemployment. She came to see that no matter how badly she wanted to marry the man God had for her, it just was not the right time. So they spent time growing in their faith, ministering together to youth at Harvest's Orangecrest satellite church, and serving with her mom at the Harvest Crusade kitchen for the workers before their September wedding. Basically, they were redeeming the time in service and prayer (Ephesians 5:16). RJ has a job, and they are now married. I almost wrote "finally," but God is never late--He's always on time!

Whether it's a wedding or a shopping trip, God has the perfect time and place for all things!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous woman or two

4:42 p.m. Today's project was to work on financial matters. I made a deposit into son Steven's account to help him fill up the gas tank of his rental car in Oklahoma so he can fly back home; drummed up some business at the beauty salon; and then checked on Thanksgiving turkey deals on the way back. I also happily spent time with Steve here at home. The Lord graciously made my time productive and fruitful! There truly is a "time for every purpose under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:17).

Preceding all matters in importance, however, is taking time for prayer. Early morning is best for me, because days seem to take on a momentum of their own. This week, I have been journalling prayers for my friends in need of physical healing and alleviation of pain. One was suddenly re-hospitalized, one has had a breast biopsy and nervously awaits results, and the other is afflicted with frequent chronic pain from a number of diseases. Others must move out of foreclosed homes, have husbands out of work for very long periods, seriously troubled family members and trials of every kind. Yet, these sisters of mine have remained faithful to the Lord, and it is my privilege to pray for and serve them in any way I can.

Steve and I are ourselves struggling from the physical, emotional, mental and now the financial ramifications of his Alzheimer's disease, but the Lord is truly making a straight highway and streams in the desert! (Isaiah 40:3; 35:6) The last week has brought me hundreds of dollars of business to keep our household afloat during a very dry season of unexpected disappointments, and more sales are popping up almost daily. Blessed be the Name of the Lord my Provider!!

When I had a chance to pray with my prayer partner this afternoon for a cessation of the overwhelming fear that has gripped her after her biopsy--they took some lymph node as well as breast tissue--I mentioned afterward the surprising breakthroughs in my business. She said, "That's no surpise to me!! I have been praying for your business night and day, because I knew you guys need the money!" I am in tears right now, thinking of this prayer warrior, in dire financial straits herself, and possibly facing the worst of diagnoses, diligently praying for me...God, You are so awesome, no, there are no words to describe Your goodness and the way Your Holy Spirit places a prayer in someone's heart and on their mind!

Having this mighty, loving, gracious, compassionate God to pray to, the One who can actually DO something about our requests, who can turn our health and wealth in the opposite direction in a flash, gives me a confidence that cannot be found in any other source. None. And no matter how difficult the days are down here on this earth, He will make a way, a virtual "highway in the desert" if need be, to bless, encourage and aid His children.

A few minutes ago, I found just what I need to complete the table setting for the table I'm hosting at our church's Ladies' Christmas Dinner at on December 3rd, the dessert plates I had been praying about! A friend has eight of them, the exact number I need! No calling around, no spending money I don't have at a department store, and no using gas I don't have running to garage sales--she lives right down the street. Blessed be the Name of the Lord my Provider!!

Believers, let's not neglect praying for one another! How else can we participate in God's miraculous doings? As James 5:16, (NLT) says,

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

Yes it does!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Partially clean=totally dirty

8:57 a.m. Today's project was to FINALLY rid the kitchen of the smell of the Liquid Smoke that had toppled over and spilled Monday night, was discovered Tuesday, and almost cleaned up Wednesday!
On Monday, we invited Heidi, fiance Pavel, Heather and husband Nick, to a dinner of barbequed beef and pork ribs to celebrate the visit of our youngest son Steven from Fresno. In the Kruckenberg home, we use any excuse to party! But seriously, we don't get to see Steven very often, so I threw a dinner together.
At the grocery store, I passed up the bottled sauces in favor of making my own, which I've done for 30 years at least. Homemade potatoes au gratin and green beans rounded out a fairly economical meal, because I combined ribs from the freezer with a few fresh additions to feed us all. Kriss and Marisela couldn't make it from Long Beach; Sean and Pam were busy.
Dinner went well, and the sauce I'd made with just two drops of Liquid Smoke added to the ketchup and my "secret spices," came out pretty well. As we were cleaning up, I noticed that the cap to the little bottle was cracked off, so I hastily put a baggie over the mouth of the bottle and secured it with a rubber band. Back in its place in the refrigerator door with other condiments, it was forgotten in a flurry of kitchen straightening. Steve, Steven and I had to retire early, because we would be leaving at 4 a.m. for John Wayne airport, for Steven's flight to Oklahoma. His girlfriend Angela would be graduating from Boot Camp at Ft. Sill on Wednesday.
All went as scheduled, and Steve and I crashed for two hours upon arriving home. I kept noticing a very strong barbeque-y smell in the kitchen. When I checked the few leftover ribs, they were sealed in foil, and the barbeque sauce was sealed airtight in Tupperware. Very odd, I thought. I did some spray-cleaning in the fridge, but it wasn't until Wednesday that I discovered that the tiny bottle of Liquid Smoke had tipped over BEHIND the other bottles and flooded the bottom rack on the fridge door! No wonder it was so strong, enough to burn your eyes. So I cleaned with windex, and soap and water, so that just some stain remained on the rack, and then cleaned the vents at the bottom of the fridge and some leakage on the floor under the fridge. This leak was really pervasive! I cleaned the area then with Lysol bleach spray, too, but it only seemed to dim down the odor.
It's at times like these that I wish we had "smell-o-vision" online so that the piercing smell could actually hit you!
Today, I investigated once again, because the smell was not 100% gone. After removing the bottles once again, I noticed the light stains. That's when I realized that leaving even "light" stains was enough to perpetuate the harsh fumes! I did a massive scrubbing of every concieveable part of the lower part of the fridge, with whiter-than white results! I may just get the victory...
Isn't it the same with our sins? God tells us to do--or not do--something, and we mostly comply. Like Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, who withheld a portion of the financial donation they had pledged and were struck dead, we want to hold onto just a bit of our bad habit, or only sin with our mouths "occasionally," when God has clearly spoken to us on a matter. Like my stained refrigerator door that smelled about as much as it had when the liquid was in a puddle, our "not that bad" sin still reeks!
Our sin stinks to high heaven when partially confessed and repented of, rather than put to death at the foot of the cross once and for all! Partially clean=totally dirty.
But the same God who has the power to forgive sin and clean us up is merciful, loving and merely asks that we repent in 100% sincerity. We need to be ready to make a U-turn. He is powerful beyond description to make things right in our lives, unlike us. He knows how frail we are, how difficult sin is to overcome, and even the excuses we ladle out. But, we are told in I John 1:9,
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Isaiah 1:18 says,
Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be as wool.
Let's take these verses to heart and quit settling for partial (zero) obedience!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wall of (His) Fame

5:01 p.m. Today's project was to sort through the blessed and blessed-less parts of my day.

Steve and I got up with good anticipation this morning, because I was giving a Mary Kay facial party for at least six ladies, including close friends and friends of friends at a lovely home in Moreno Valley, near Ramona Expressway. Steve would be spending the morning with his friend Howard, chopping, cutting, clearing, whatever tasks needed to be done in the orchard. As I dropped Steve off, I picked up my buddy Charlotte, Howard's wife, to come with me. Another good friend and neighbor Cindy, would join us later.

Gracious hostesses mom Josie and her daughter Mele had set out a welcoming array of desserts, coffee and juice. Ultimately, we had 12 in attendance, counting an adorable 18 month-old boy, who saw no problem with applying moisturizers from his grandma's tray to his chubby face! Very good sales today as well as good fellowship. Thank you, Lord, for this success!

However, on the blessed-less side of the equation, I had had a distressing email forwarded yesterday by youngest son Steven from his university, stating that his student account was blocked, his credits would not count, etc., because his tuition was not paid. At the bottom of the threatening notice, being a Christian school, was Psalm 118:24, "This is the day that the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." ( ! ) This missive arrived after I had been been told by multiple office aides over the last two weeks that all of the money was in from Steven's loans, and that an overage check was on the way to our house! The loan had been approved by the federal student loan program on October 15th, by the way!

This morning on the way to the party, and then at home later in the afternoon, confusing communication continued. I am praying that my telephone appointment with the head of the department tomorrow will get me the straight story! At risk, of course, is not only the overage money to which we committed to provide necessities like Steven's rent and books, but his ability to stay in school altogether. As I went about logging in the customer information from my party and then drove to the bank to deposit a check, and thanking God at the same time for His provision from the business, I still felt discouraged.

Seated in my office later, I glanced up at what I think of my "wall of praise" for blessings and accomplishments God has brought about in my life this year. Pictured above, you might be able to make out a STAR consultant recognition certificate and ribbon from MK; a letter from the Jurupa school district informing me that they were returning two checks because no health insurance payments were needed for July and August; the letter from Riverside Public Utilites informing us that we qualified for a discount because of Steve's C-pap machine; an apron given for recognition of two of my recipes on the "Just a Pinch Recipe Club" website; Tate Publishing's author timeline for the production of Galatians; a letter from my doctor stating that I had no trace of breast cancer, a letter my life insurance company required for standard coverage; a small plaque and a workman's apron for helping lead at our 2010 women's retreat; and most dear, a photo of 4 of our 5 kids with spouses and their dad on Mother's Day this last May.

God has led, worked miracles, come alongside, and provided for me in so many ways that I have now named it the "Wall of His Fame." As the conquered nations knew the fame of the Lord God when His people sojourned in the wilderness (Numbers 14:15), I want God's fame and glory to emanate from my and my family's lives. Through tribulation and triumph, let the Name of the Lord be praised!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

To live, forgive

4:43 p.m. Today's project was to leave our house at 4:15 a.m. to take our youngest son Steven to John Wayne Airport in Irvine. He has now happily arrived in Oklahoma, eager to visit with his girlfriend Angela at Fort Sill, where the recruits will be celebrating their graduation from Boot Camp tomorrow. Steven will be staying with Angela's grandmother for the next few days. I'm looking forward to the pictures and Steven's tales of adventure.
Thanks to the Lord, the low traffic and plenty of coffee, Steve and I arrived back in Riverside before 6 a.m., and promptly slept for the next two hours! By 8:15, I felt energized enough to grab a few bites and to ride with my friend Cindy to Women's Bible study. This week in our Breaking Free study, we had dealt with positive and negative family influences through the generations preceding us, and it was very emotional for the vast majority of us, because, as we were reminded, even the lineage of Jesus includes murderers, adulterers and prostitutes. So looking at the past, though painful, is a necessary part of allowing the Lord to put it behind us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we can be made free!
Knowing that the Lord has the very hairs of our head numbered (Matthew 10:30) and that He longs to be the central part of our lives, makes it so much easier to walk away from embarassment, shame, past hurts and humiliations, or even scenes of violence we may have been privy to. Asking Jesus into your life makes all the difference in whether you will remain bitterly single and distrustful of the opposite sex, for instance, or have a long, healthy, and successful marriage. Two siblings can have utterly different life outcomes from the same set of parents. Jesus is all the world to one sibling, and He is allowed to heal and move them past the damage done to--or by--them; but the other sibling holds onto bitterness and refuses to forgive, ruining their life in the process, as well as harming their children.
Jesus said in John 10:10b, and He meant it, "I have come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." God longs to love us into the abundant life--let Him!
One reason I was quite compelled to make it to study was that, as a member of the Prayer and Share team that stands up front at the end of each session to pray with or even just hug women who come forward, I knew that we would all have ladies to comfort today. And in true Romans 12:15 fashion, I did weep very much with a single mom who has a week to get her household goods packed up and out of her foreclosed home, with very little help. If there is such a thing as a "prayer of devastation," this was it. Yet, I assured her that God has a place for her family, and to stick close to Him as He leads her beside the still waters of peace and provision.
For practical help, I took her upstairs to the church office to speak with Pastor Mike. He took her number, and will have a crew there to help her soon. Praise the Lord!! That is the Body of Christ in action. As a single mother myself decades ago, I know full well that God is the father of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5) and He relieves the fatherless and the widow (Psalm 146:9). Sadly, in today's culture, divorce has caused the ranks of the fatherless to swell, as well as those in widow-like circumstances. But our heavenly Father does not overlook the poor, and never will!
Most of us come from pasts that had some measure of painful circumstances. Dreadful, harsh and uncaring words and actions have affected our human outlook, rarely for the better. "In me, that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing," Romans 7:18 says. But when touched by the Holy Spirit, through being born again, my pain can become compassion, my fears can be faced, and I can go forward to replace anger with forgiveness and love, destructiveness with focused purpose, and make my life a living sacrifice, as God has ordained it to be!

Monday, November 8, 2010

So very grateful!

8:03 p.m. Today's project is to thank the Lord for a wonderfully answered prayer for one of my children! Thank you, Lord, for Your faithfulness, for refusing to let them go...

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you" (Jeremiah 31:3).

Thank you, Lord, for engineering all of the circumstances; for doing Your mighty work; for showing once again Your faithfulness! Thank you for meaning it when you told them, unconditionally (Hebrews 13:5),