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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Serve and deflect



5:12 p.m. Today's project was to take my grandsons over to the Canyon Crest Towne Center to meet up with my daughter Heather at her office. As an admin at State Senator Bill Emmerson's field office, she solves problems for constituents such as trouble with unemployment, pensions, disability, DMV, housing, any State of California matter. Her cheerful voice, friendliness, and efficiency make her a perfect fit for her job. Diffusing anger and disappointment are much-needed skills here, because when an expected check doesn't come and payments are due, panic can set in and an irate mouth can be set off! She told me today that she receives many thank you notes. That's my girl!!
"When a (wo)man's ways please the LORD, even her enemies will be at peace with her," Proverbs 16:7 says. I have found that to be so true in the world of politics, where my Christian conservative stances, while pleasantly stated, didn't change during my 13-year tenure on the school board. Compromise is all right on values-neutral issues, but with bedrock biblical principles there is no room for it. Those district administrators who began as enemies feeling threatened by the parental uprising I represented, eventually attended re-election fundraisers for me and gave generous campaign contributions. Why? I hadn't changed. But they saw that I would do what was right, even coming to their defense when they were unjustly accused by others. I know of some who began attending Harvest, and others became more open about their faith. The Lord gave me a good run, and I believe Riverside kids received a better education because He called me to serve. at that time.
Speaking of political enemies becoming friends, Xavier and I ran into the wife of a school board member with whom I served for 11 years. Our differences were political, literally at completely opposite ends of the spectrum, even though they are Christians, too. And he is my father's age. But our relationship was always cordial and positive, and his wife even came to a charity event I helped organize, the annual Riverside Alumnae Panhellenic Home Tour Tea and Fashion Show. Steve and I attended a number of formal social and charity events with the couple and always enjoyed their company. There's more to life than politics!
Today at Ralphs grocery store, we hugged and caught up with one another. She hadn't heard about Steve, and was shocked, but was glad I retired early from teaching to spend good time together as a couple before his disease becomes advanced. My former colleague is having two knee replacements soon, and I promised to pray for him. Because of the testimony the Lord has given me, people know I mean what I say. I'll be praying next Wednesday!
Public fights over policy don't have to degenerate into personal disdain and enmity. Walk away friends! Romans 12:14-21 says:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.
Therefore
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head."
Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.
Serving the public is hard and sometimes discouraging work. The changes you work hard for come slowly while unwelcome changes devastate millions of fellow citizens in record time!
But remembering that in every situation that we serve the Lord Christ gives us renewed strength to enter the arena another day!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Great moments with a great man


10:55 p.m. Today's project was to take our teenage grandsons with us to Disneyland. We definitely looked forward to going when park attendance would be light and we could spend less time in line, thus enjoying more rides. Besides, the boys had earned $25 apiece and were looking forward to spending it! To save money, we packed egg salad and turkey sandwiches in a lunch bag with frozen blocks, along with a bag of non-refrigeratable snacks. On arrival, we placed our food in a locker, and went on our way.

Short lines gave us the chance to try new rides, even for us annual passholders, and made it a great day. We got drenched on Splash Mountain; boarded the raft and toured Tom Sawyer's Island, and tried the Toon Town roller coaster, firsts for all of us. The haunted mansion was definitely switched up for Halloween, very colorful. (Of course, escaping the muggy outdoors made that a nice choice). To my surprise, both boys took an active part in the guitar and clavinova performance activities in the "Innoventions" exhibit. I don't think Steve and I had been in that one since our early days of marriage!
I did have some new concerns about Steve's Alzheimers, however. He had trouble figuring where to sit in the Jungle Cruise boat, nervously changing from where the attendant had told us to sit because the boys were a couple of people apart from us. Of course I awkwardly followed him, hanging up the boarding process for passengers behind us. He has no recognition of the fact that Xavier and Adrian are 8th and 9th graders who don't need to be sitting right next to us, or even in the same boat...and they aren't going to go off with a stranger! Keeping Steve with us, making sure one or another of the boys went with him to the restroom, at least to wait outside the door to make sure he came back to where we were, made for some challenging times, but it worked out all right. I can see going with maybe another couple in future, not because Steve might wander off, but he might forget where he'd last seen me if it's just the two of us. Before I get too far with this train of thought, I am reminded that in one of my new favorite scriptures, Matthew 6:34, Jesus warns against borrowing trouble: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Amen to that, Lord!
We wrapped up our day about 6:00 p.m., with two rides around the entire park on the steam locomotive. So relaxing for all of our tired legs! We got to Main Street to collect our belongings from the locker about a quarter of 7, kind of nixing the idea of watching the big parade, so we headed toward the exit. Steve said, "Every time we go past that [Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln] I want to go in, but we don't." So I said, "Let's go in then, but get restroom taken care of first, so we can go home from there." I have to admit, since we are talking about Honest Abe here, that I was thinking, "We don't go in because it's boring!" But I realized it would be good for the boys, at least, and hoped it would keep their attention. And a fleeting thought that we probably won't renew our passes for the next year made this more important for Steve to enjoy.
As the reverent, dignified atmosphere of the foyer enveloped us, with its mock-up of the Nation's Capitol, portraits, and a bust of Lincoln, I was taken back to the last time I was there: 1964, when it first opened, on an 8th grade American History field trip! The theater was beautiful, the life story of Lincoln artfully drawn, and the Civil War photographs compelling. One painting of the 16th president standing alone in the White House, in the midst of deciding whether to commence the war, had a quote of his being read by the narrator: "I have faith in God, and I know He hates slavery and injustice." As a Christian, one whose ancestors were freed by this man, I was just overwhelmed with gratitude to God for raising up this wartime President to what has been called "the loneliest office in the world."
When the very lifelike model of Lincoln stood from his chair (reminiscent of the Lincoln Memorial Steve and I have had the privilege to visit in person) to deliver a speech about the meaning of liberty, and the fact that only from within can this nation's liberty be lost, I thought of the prescience of words spoken 150 years ago for today. We had all best guard our liberty--too many good men have died to preserve it!
Yet Lincoln was rejected by half the nation and eventually assassinated. Our Lord Jesus was rejected by men, and crucified. God's sovereign will is beyond our comprehension, and will ever be so. Yet "I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it that men should fear before Him." (Ecclesiastes 3:14)
In my own relatively obscure life, I have been facing a good deal of rejection lately, and I must submit to the Lord in every instance. May my legacy, my contribution to the testimony of belivers, be to humbly and trustfully grow closer to my Lord, keep only Him in first place in my heart, and walk in incomparable, incomprehensible joy!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Behold, I do a new thing


3:13 p.m. Today's project was to dig out the contents of our compost bin that have been "cooking" all year, and spread it out on the harvested garden soil. After a scorching week of temperatures up to 120 degrees, the slightly overcast sky and cooler air were like a starting gun for me to join Steve in the garden!

Earlier, Steve and the grandsons had washed up our two dogs after I came home from Bible study and reminded them. Seems Steve hadn't noticed that all of the supplies--towels, shampoo, dish soap, leashes to keep Jada and Bailey still, a bucket and rags--were set at the sliding glass patio door for easy access. I had put everything there, talked with Steve and the boys about the job yesterday and today just before I left. But upon my return, when I asked Xavier why they hadn't done the task, he said, "Grandpa said we didn't have the stuff." And in his Alzheimers-affected mind, Steve didn't have the stuff to wash them with! Even though he can physically see, it''s the processing of what he sees where things get tangled up, or in case of the dog-washing supplies, items become invisible. Let me testify that this phase of his condition will take some getting used to. Before this week, if I set everything out that he needed, or pointed him to the appropriate supplies, he'd get right to work with no further delay, whether I would be home or not. He lost a lot of things, but never had trouble interpreting what was in front of him...

I sometimes think, with the changes that happen for Steve on an increasingly regular basis, of Isaiah 43:18-19:

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

While I understand that believers are to press forward, and I certainly do, in the Lord's strength and with His leading, and that we are not to pine for the "good old days," I know that these verses call for looking forward to a great day of deliverance, not the worst possible outcome for my husband! So I take these verses to mean for the nation of Israel in particular, but for us as well, that there will be a new heaven and a new earth where we will be rewarded with eternal residence. "So why does this passage of promise keep coming to mind?" I ask the Lord.

As far as this earthly life goes, "new things" are definitely a mixed bag! My children's maturity as adults, establishing their marriages and homes, starting families, and stepping up in ministry are wonderful reasons to get up each day with excitement, as are the publication of my book and future ministry opportunities coming up. Even the year-long cycle of the garden is invigorating as new tasks present themselves. My grandchildren will increase in accomplishment and numbers, too. So many reasons to look forward to God's "new thing!"

But the largest situation looming in our lives is Steve's deterioration, pure and simple. I arranged for a nurse from our long term care company to meet with us next week for a pro forma home assessment. That will clear the way for hiring a trained companion with Alzheimers and eldercare certification from an agency I interviewed a few months ago. Will Steve need someone here when I have to go out? How soon will he be unsafe to stay alone?
Already unsteady on his feet at times, will he be able to walk Heidi down the aisle next June?

Most devastating of all, how soon--or late--will Steve need to live in residential care? These are not good things to look forward to, not uplifting developments, are they? Like the grubs and spiders Steve and our grandson found in the bottom of the compost bin, some real ugly times are coming. No sense denying it. But God knows all of this, and He will make a way, not only for practical considerations and professional care, but for the peace that a clear spousal conscience provides, joy in every day that he does well, and a strengthening of our love through all of it!

Hear the New Living Translation of verse 19b:

I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Yes, God WILL make a way! And most amazing of all, He will give me the grace, joy and strength to welcome each "new thing" He brings into my life!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Life in the sun


4:44 p.m. Today's project was to take my husband and older grandson to my dad's house in Redlands to trim tree branches on his property. We took the long way around,through San Timiteo Canyon, over to Alessandro, and then on a serpentine journey on Sunset Drive, the elegant neighborhood where my friends and I staged elaborate scavenger hunts back in high school: "Go Terriers!Class of '69!"

Adrian joined his grandpa to earn "community service credits" for his high school, but when his great-grandpa paid Steve and him $50 apiece, he decided to forgo the credit for spending money at Disneyland Wednesday, kind of a no-brainer since he has 3 and 1/2 years to earn 30 hours of credit. Since Xavier had declined to go, but was working for me in the garden and around our home, we'll find a way for both of them to earn their spending money. "The workman is worthy of his food," Jesus said in Matthew 10:10, and in John 4:36, "He who reaps receives wages." The boys' workmanship shows that they have qualities of eternal value: goodness, self-control, patience and faithfulness! Those qualities will earn them acceptance and open many doors in the future. The Fruit of the Spirit wins both friends and converts! But it's not all work and no play this week, as Xavier had fun running through the sprinklers with our labs, and both of them mastered some new video games.

On a more serious note, the daughter of old friends is having her baby 4 weeks early, and needs prayer. about an hour ago, I noticed that a former girlfriend of our son Steven's, normally in the bank's corporate office, was subbing at our branch. Since I am there all the time, she told me one of the tellers was having her baby, and the manager verified it was our friends' daughter, a month early. I remember expecting Steven in August, and being hospitalized for 3 days with high blood pressure before delivering him 10 days early. Today's brutal heat must be 15 degrees higher than it was then! 115 degrees reported in Beverly Hills? Must be 125 here!!

We all would do well to stay inside, pray for the pregnant ladies we know as well as for the sick and elderly, and be ready to assist our neighbors in any way.

Lord, keep our weaker members safe and well, and may we all receive a fresh, cooling refill of Your Living Water!


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Teacher appreciation


4:29 p.m. Today's project was to get to church early to leave a sample craft at the Activities Table for the Heart to Home ministry between first and second services. I also wanted to be on the lookout for Joyce, a teacher friend who attends my summer Bible study. She wanted to see my old copy of Matthew Henry's Concise Bible Commentary. Normally, arriving at church 1/2 hour early would be a near impossibility for just Steve and me, but adding in two teenage grandsons with last minute trips back into the house for a Bible, and a cranky garage door that kept going back up on its own, and our timely arrival was a true miracle!

We had had some controversy as to whether the younger grandson would sit in church with us, or attend jr. high class (my preference), but it turned out that jr. highers were to attend in the sanctuary because their teacher was at the Men's Retreat. Doesn't God have a way of resolving matters beautifully? My sleepless night of praying and determination to maintain discipline and respect in our home had been answered in a satisfactory way for all of us. Friends, believe Jesus' words in Matthew 7:7: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find." That promise is true for solving a problem, receiving a gift or for any other concern of our hearts!
Since we had arrived early, our family was able to sit much closer to the front than usual and had designated seats for Adrian, Xavier and for Heidi, who came a bit later. I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard Joyce's adorably familiar greeting, "Miss Dana!" She has southern roots, I'm pretty sure...I let her have the book, and she asked me whether I had the "complete" Matthew Henry commentary. I told her the one I was lending her was the concise version, with one page of notes for each chapter, but it did cover the entire Bible. She said, "One of the Friday specials at Christianbook.com has his entire, complete commentary, 3 volumes, on sale." "That's amazing!" I answered, but in our reduced income state, I knew it would never be mine. And you know, that 's okay, because I'd been using the shorter version since the 80's when I began teaching Bible studies.

This classic commentary, written between 1706 and 1721, is one of those Pastor/evangelist Greg Laurie recommended while training us home pastors, along with book commentaries by Barnes, Ironsides, and G. Campbell Morgan; Unger's Bible Dictionary, Nave's Topical Bible, and Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Greek Words, Manners and Customs of the Bible, and Romans Verse by Verse to complete the list. As a newly married woman needing to be thrifty, acquisition of this teaching library was my great dream, so I asked Steve for a new book or two on every gift-giving occasion. Many intense and eye-opening hours of study have come from the Lord through these gifted men of God!

Joyce suddenly declared, "I think I'll buy them for you!" "What?" I cried. "You don't have to do that!" "They're only $29.95 for all three volumes." Flipping to the inside cover of the old version I was loaning her, she saw 3121 Vallejo St., Riverside 92503. "Is this your address? I think I'll just have it sent to you." Still shocked, I managed to say, "No, it was where we lived when I bought it 26 or 27 years ago. " "I have your address somewhere, I think," she said, and laughingly scooted off to her seat as the service was about to start.
Sometimes God just blows his kids away with His goodness! And He uses other believers to bolster us up, showing His great love and kindness when we're feeling just a bit down. Steve, Heidi and the kids hadn't noticed what happened, and I didn't think to tell Steve about it until later this afternoon. I guess I was, like Mary the mother of Jesus, "pondering all these things in my heart" (Luke 2:19) for a while.
But I sure did worship with fresh enthusiasm and complete joy!!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Generating believers


3:28 Today's project was to pick up our grandsons from San Diego. Normally, we'd have had to drive all the way further south to Chula Vista, but my former daughter-in-law had a seminar in Old Town, so we met them at the WalMart off of Aero Drive at the north end of town. Adrian, 14, and Xavier, 12, have a districtwide fall break, so both high school and middle school have three weeks off. After giving Kippy some Mary Kay products she likes, as well as peppers from our garden, we drove off towards home.

We stopped in a shady part of a nice neighborhood to eat the excellent sandwiches, barbecue Kettle chips and peanut butter cookies we'd bought at Vons. Then we headed north with the local Christian station blaring "teenage" tunes. At any given time, however, one or the other had headphones on with music, or a handheld game, but they were listening as well. Adrian and Xavier accepted the Lord as younger kids, and they come with us to Calvary Chapel whenever they are here to visit. The principal of our church's school baptized them at Lake Perris a few years ago, with their aunties Heidi and Heather and their dad Sean present along with us.

In Acts 2:38, Peter exhorted the people of Jerusalem,

Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.

I remember in 1980 when I was baptized as a new believer at Lake Perris, that being obedient to this command of scripture was another exciting adventure I was privileged to participate in as a member of the Body of Christ. Never did I picture the children who would follow in my footsteps, because Steve and I hadn't even begun dating yet! Years later, our son Sean was baptized at Yucaipa Regional Park, and then a few years later still, Kriss, Heidi, Heather and Steven chose the sacrament as well. All had a full understanding of the commitment they were making before they "took the plunge."

Adrian and Xavier have faced their parents' divorce, which thankfully was on amicable terms. They continue on in the Lord, and, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, excel in school. Their good manners and consideration for others has won them commendation from teachers and peers. Last summer, they helped me at Vacation Bible School, actively participated ane encouraging the preschoolers. In past years they both attended VBS, and Adrian was a crew helper after he passed out of elementary grades. We've helped them attend youth retreats a few times also which they have really enjoyed. I can see their growth! And now we have joyfully found out that the attend Cornerstone Church in National City with neighbors who give them a ride!

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it," Proverbs 22:6 says.
How delightful it is to be able to help form my grandchildren's character, too, because, as Peter said, "the promise is to your children, and to all who are afar off!"

Friday, September 24, 2010

Golden greeting


3:01 p.m. Today's project was to overnight some information to the Student Loan people, directly to a very helpful agent named Sue. We are trying to cobble together a Parent Plus loan for Steven, for the last relatively small amount he needs to pay his tuition for the year at Fresno Pacific.


While paying for the mailing at the local Mission Grove UPS store that Ron has owned for two decades now, it occured to me to ask if they had a gold metallic pen. I wasn't looking for the bulky markers you decorate with, but a gel pen style . The assistant found it for me, $1.99, and I "went on my way rejoicing," like the newly saved man in Acts 8:39!
Why the excitement? I had been waiting to go shopping for a check to be deposited for over a week, so we could buy some groceries, and it came two days ago. I speedily paid bills and restocked the pantry, fridge and freezer, but one item was needed: the gold pen.
After taking a Heart to Home journaling class at Calvary Moreno Valley from our pastor's wife Robin, I began the practice of writing each day's page in shades of the same color, using and alternating different color "families" per day. But there is one consistent color at the top of each page: gold, as I greet God the Father with "Good Morning, Lord!" I praise Him for His spectacular creation, love, forgiveness, mercy and righteousness; for His creation of marriage and family, and for my salvation through His Son Jesus Christ!
Whenever a gold pen dries up, I resort to using bronze or silver, still lovely, and certainly as heartfelt a greeting, but not as ultimately gorgeous as glistening gold. It's just a quirk in my morning devotions that I enjoy, and maybe brings a smile to the face of my Father!
We humans love our traditions, patterns, and routines, don't we, whether public or intensely private. Family rituals, like Sunday church, having dinner together, reading the comics, birthday celebrations, giant Thanksgiving dinners or baking at Christmas give us a sense of belonging, and help form our identity. Those regular, repetitive events mean "home, " and will likely continue from one generation to the next. Our nation also has several holidays and remembrances, September 11th being the most recently established. Remembrances unify us as a people, preserving our unique, God-inspired and God-ordained history.
God established rituals for His people, such as the feasts in the Law of Moses, attendance at corporate worship, the fellowship in Christ inherent in taking communion, and baptism that signifies new life in Christ. The entire universe runs on a precise repetitive pattern, until the day God decides, "Time's up!" and Jesus Christ's return ushers in a new heaven and new earth.
I very much enjoy my morning devotional ritual, of which journaling is one part. It's a time to pour out my heart to the Lord, by writing out my prayers. Did I pout in my poverty and refuse to journal without a gold pen? Of course not! A pencil or a crayon on a scrap of paper would do--I just want to talk with my Father!
Will I relish putting my new gold pen to paper to greet the Lord tomorrow morning? You bet I will!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Miles to go on very hot feet


7:56 p.m. Today's project was to take a day off as a celebration for finishing my Walk in the Word: Galatians edits and go with Steve to the LA County Fair. He hadn't been since we were newlyweds, and I last took the kids to the Fair with my youngest son in a stroller. (Steven's now 22). I had purchased discount tickets online, so we had built up some anticipation.
The morning began oddly, because Steve had somehow misplaced his C-pap mask. The hose and unit were in the usual spot next to his side of the bed, but not the mask. At the point where I just gave up helping him look and went ahead downstairs to put on the coffee and start my devotions, he hadn't found it. So he was rather shaken and disoriented. Where could it be?
I prayed for him, and for me to be patient and nice about misplacing something expensive and beneficial--the Lord knows my shortcomings in this area--and went back up to see what was going on. The mask had been found--in our master bath!! Steve said, "I don't remember putting it there." He must have gotten up in the early morning hours and taken it off. "Is he starting to 'sundown?' " I wondered. (That is the condition Alzheimers patients develop where they are active, awake and busy at night while everyone else in the household is sleeping). No sense concerning myself about it now, I thought, let's just get on with our day. "Sufficient for the day is its own trouble," Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, so that sounded good to me.
We completed breakfast, put out the dogs, and it was time to get gas for the Jeep. Steve's job is to open up the gas cap while I pay at the ATM--he hasn't handled money or debit cards for almost a year-- then after I select the grade, he pumps the gas. I came back from the pay kiosk to discover that he'd not started his part of our joint effort but was staring out to the street... I just reminded him to get started, and he filled up the tank. It's one of scores of little opportunities for him to be successful that I try to set up throughout our days.
On the road at 10:45, we had no traffic to speak of, and drove straight to the gate. A shuttle took us to the line, and then we had 15 minutes in line before heading out to the midway. Our first stop was the Texas state display, where lots of funny jokes were told and I won a state flag bandanna for knowing that Texas chili has no beans. Maybe we'll win the free trip to Texas for two that we registered for!
Our first ride was on a steep, splashy drop-off, and we just got drenched, or rather, I did, because I was in the front of our kayak. We dried out pretty fast in the sun. And unlike Riverside, there was a cooling breeze there in Pomona to make things pleasant. Lunch was hot dogs on a stick and nachos. But I seem to remember fair corndogs having a gritty cornbread batter--this was kind of floury. I picked off some of the covering and gave it to Steve. Next stop was the funnel cake stand where they advertised chocolate covered bacon! That was a must- have, since bacon is one of my favorite foods. Served out of the freezer, this was a crispy, delicious treat--one I just might try to make at home!
In the homemaking and cooking exposition hall, I saw all kinds of jelly and jam--but no "Yellow Tomato Jam" like I make. Hmm--I should enter a jar or two, maybe in the upcoming Perris fair. The handmade jewelry and creative table settings were impressive, as were the elaborate cakes. I even saw a new Christmas cookie for 2010 and took a picture so I won't forget. My daughters and I try to add a new cookie each year to our repertoire. This novelty cookie will be one even my grandsons can help out with.
No fair would be complete without live critters, so we set out to discover where the farm animals were kept. We got wrong directions from a lady in the garden building, but we did see some kangaroos and got in some real cardio purposelessly walking up and down steep paths, because no animals, not even the promised circus dog show was to be seen at the time advertised for today! But Steve took a picture of me with my head sticking out of the cutout face of a Shaggy Dog.
We had to get serious about seeing the cows, horses, hogs, chickens, ducks, sheep and goats at this point. Things are kept so clean these days that you can't just follow the flies or smell of manure. And consulting a map when neither of us has a sense of direction doesn't work, we discovered. Finally we were pointed on our way and saw some giant Clydesdales, and all of the other animals you would expect at a fair. But I did notice not very many of each kind. I wonder if 4-H is going out of style, or our poor economy has left high school kids unable to feed and care for livestock--what a shame either way! The petting zoo was very busy, and we were told by one guide that 3,000 school kids had come through this morning. Wow--glad to see "country" skills still being taught to youth!
I was gratified to see several vegetable varieties that we've grown in the garden area, and inspired to carry on for another season!
We sure did a lot of walking, and had fun on a mechanical foot massager for 25 cents apiece. Best of all, we had a relaxed time together in the light crowds that lessened Steve's anxiety.
But one thing was missing from my last visit--the strolling German oom-pah-pah band! "To everything there is a season," Ecclesiates 3:1 says, and this was the updated version of the LA County Fair, a very good one!




Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An odd little dream with a great big truth



3:19 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve to see his neurologist, Dr. Rai, to renew his Namenda prescription. With only one day's supply left, we needed to get to the office.





I had a very odd dream last night. For the record, that evening I had been at church with my quilting and crafting friends the Piecemakers, while Steve attended men's Bible study. Unlike some nights, I hadn't taken any Tylenol or Advil PM like I sometimes do, and I don't think the tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream I ate would have caused nightmares!



Here's the scenario: Our family was living in a wide open country-ish house and had gone to bed on huge mattresses. In the morning, I awoke to find a huge black beetle, a nasty rat, a turtle, and a snake crawling through the bedroom, leaving their obscene droppings! "How did they get in here?" I remember thinking, while trying to catch them and shoo them out, at least shoo out the beetle, rat and turtle, because the snake had slithered out of sight. I woke Steve up and he got rid of them, pointing out a partially damaged screened window at floor level that I'd missed as the opening the filthy critters had used. So Steve came to the rescue!



Dreams are generally semi-sensible and don't stick with us much past the sound of our alarm. It is said by brain experts that dreams are the mind's way of solving problems--and I've awakened with an answer to an issue many a time over the years. In the Bible, the dreams of Pharaoh interpreted by Joseph in Genesis and Daniel's terrifying dreams had international significance. An angel not only told Joseph in a dream to marry Mary and name her expected son Jesus, but warned him in the same way to take little Jesus to Egypt for safety from Herod. God can speak in any way He chooses, although we are most wise to pray and consult the written Word of God for absolute certainty of what His will is for us. Romans 15:4 says, "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Hope, truth and comfort, for believers, has their source in the Bible!



In Dr. Rai's office, the three of us talked about the progression of Steve's Alzheimer's: an unintended 16-lb weight loss, a gradual loss of speech, severe difficulty writing, and one good part, his quiet restful sleep with the C-pap machine. Dr. Rai wanted to see the Smart Card out of the machine to see how many times Steve stops breathing during the night, if any; and he asked me to bring a list of meds prescribed by other doctors with their dosages for the next appointment. As we reviewed the tasks I need to complete, including taking him to our primary care doctor about the weight loss, Steve said, "And we need to bring the Smart Card." So he had grasped that point and was paying enough attention to remember it!



Later, while walking out in the fresh, cooler air of the neighborhood, I reflected on my dream of Steve coming to my rescue, in light of our appointment with the neurologist, where Steve had been the one to remind me of the Smart Card. It was as if the Lord was showing me that I could still depend on my husband; I hadn't lost my "hero!" Steve's still "got it," as protector and man of the house. He just needs help right now. When I think of all the years he singlehandedly supported the five kids and me, what I am doing to help him now is pretty small in comparison!

How grateful I am!

And when each of our faculties are fully restored--even enhanced!-- in heaven, we'll be together forever, with no memory of our supposed sacrifices! We'll simply give glory to God that we have been found faithful!

How grateful I am!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Faith is not a status


4:41 p.m. Today's project was to make sure Steve got up in plenty of time to shower, dress and have his devotions before we left for Charlotte and Howard's for working in their orchard. From 9-12 I'd have time to write. Praise the Lord for such good friends! And as a bonus, the day dawned cool and foggy, perfect for working outdoors.
Earlier, I had turned to my reading in the Gospel of John in the New Living Translation, and started with the commentary as usual. Editor Gary M. Burge's comment on John 3:10-18, Jesus' challenge to Nicodemus the Pharisee, astounded me to the point that I had to hand-copy it and it's stayed with me all day!
"For [Gospel writer] John, faith is not a status, but an investment in the person of Jesus. Faith means accepting who Jesus is and what He claims to be. Faith constitues a commitment to let His call change the way we live. Faith is the work God wants from us as we abide in Jesus' Word, as we love Him, and as we obey His commands."
May we have the faith God desires to instill in us, to walk in His ways and love others as He loves us!!


Monday, September 20, 2010

The kindness of friends


3:40 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy a nice visit with my dad, relax with Steve after a hectic weekend, and continue taking out plants that are drinking up water but are no longer producing high quality vegetables. The day began with a cell phone beep at 6:00 to come downstairs and write an anecdote to accompany the commentary and Bible study questions on the second half of Galatians chapter 5. I had tried to get going with it while Steve was napping yesterday afternoon after church, but decided to just reword some questions and references instead because my time was limited.
This morning, the Holy Spirit prompted me to write about the Fruit of the Spirit for Lesson 12, using my gardening experience over the years as an illustration. The planning, execution, nurturing, battling with enemies and ultimately, the victorious harvest all mirror our walk with the Lord, and our dependence on Him to develop good, worthwhile life-fruit. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control," Galatians 5:22-23 says.
Kindness is the fruit I would like to focus on today when I think of my friends Cindy, Charlotte, and Debbie. On Monday of last week, Charlotte and her husband Howard invited Steve to come over and help in their orchard, freeing me up to write for 3 hours. Friday, Debbie and her husband Bob took Steve to see "Cats and Dogs" at the $2 movie theater and I got another chapter done. Late Friday afternoon, my neighbor Cindy brought over a homemade peach cobbler as a "thank you" for our Bible study! We've been enjoying that scrumptious treat over the last few days, a real bright spot on our menu! Heated, with a touch of whipped cream on top-- heavenly! I Timothy 6:17 says that the living God "gives us richly all things to enjoy," and that includes friends, food, and fun.
For all of the potential sadness Steve and I could be experiencing as his Alzheimer's progresses, God has sent us multiple sources of blessed enjoyment each day. The support of friends and their timely kindness mean so much in this difficult season. For Steve to feel useful and occupied, invited and welcome, is the best kindness of all!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

When we don't know how to pray


3:43 p.m. Today's project was to take my Heart to Home craft sample, a reversible Thanksgiving/Christmas table runner, to the activity sign-up table. I wanted to arrive before the start of second service at Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley, and maybe catch some ladies who were leaving first service.


The activity table had been moved for this evening's church picnic, and I could not find the temporary location. So I searched again after service, and was grabbed by a friend, Sherri, who had seen my posting on Facebook about Jean Ellison's memorial. Jean had moved to Bakersfield in order for her daughter Roslynn to care for her, albeit reluctantly, so dedicated was she to her church. Because Roslyn hadn't attended here, neither Sherri nor other ladies, like Barbara and Mihwa who had attended Bible study with Jean, had any idea where their friend had gone. Her death came as shocking news to them.
Sherri just broke down weeping in my arms, saying, "every time I drove by Jean's house, I would just pray that the Lord was with her, and that she was all right. I kept wondering where she was." I told Sherri that rest assured, her prayers had been answered abundantly! Living in Bakersfield with her daughter and with her son and his family nearby, Jean had gone to church regularly, spent tons of time with the grandchildren, and was very happy. Roslynn had told me that in the last few months of Jean's life, she and her mom had made up for years of living far apart for reasons of her career. In the mornings, her mom would get up, get into her Word, singing or humming a praise song. As I described the tribute that Roslynn--a former professional singer-- and three friends sang at the memorial, Sherri recalled how Jean had trained her children to sing praise songs in a little family quintet. Sherri's prayers were abundantly answered, even though she'd had no idea what was going on in Jean's life. Jean was comfortable, cared for, surrounded by family, in fellowship at a local church, and joyful in her last months.
Romans 8:26 tells us,
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
With no facts to guide her, and no source of information about Jean, the Holy Spirit was praying through Sherri! Those prayers were answered ultimately and fully on August 30, 2010, the day when Jean heard the words of Matthew 25:21 from her precious Savior's lips:
Well done, good and faithful servant...enter into the joy of your lord.
And she did!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Beginning, Middle and End




9:32 a.m. Today's project is to attend two events with eternal significance of the beginning of a new life, and the end of a life.




Jeanne Ellison left this life last month after walking with the Lord for many decades. Her daughter, Roslynn Prior, called me to let me know she wanted to have her mom's homegoing celebration here in Riverside area. Jeanne had attended Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley until recent months when Roslynn moved her to Bakersfield to care for her. The service will be at 2:00 p.m. at Harvest Christian Fellowship where Roslynn attended for many years. Psalm 116:15 says, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints." Death is the believer's ultimate opportunity to fully live, just as Jeanne is doing now, in the presence of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

On the other end of the spectrum, 2 hours later, is the long-awaited wedding of RJ McCauley and Melissa Tomchek. A wonderful time awaits us all, with the creativity of Melissa's mom Monica and faithful friends who have donated the gorgeous venue and hours of time. Both RJ and Melissa are leaders in youth ministry at Harvest, and Melissa is employed there. This wedding had been planned for last year, but finances and RJ's unemployment in this tough economy caused a sad postponement. The Lord turned everything around, bringing to reality Proverbs 13:12, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life." May these two have a blessed life together!

As with many things in life, there is a middle ground as well. Next week, Steve and I are attending a party for Mitchel and Paige Philpott, a midlife couple who married in a small ceremony earlier this summer. Both Christians, they had suffered tremendously in past marriages, remaining single for years, serving the Lord. Then Paige and Mitch met and fell in love. They are hosting a get-together for friends at their home which I am very much looking forward to!

I love the way that God puts no limitiations on creating joy and happiness for His people, no matter what their stage in life! He values marriage and families and blesses those who choose to do things His way.
The greatest wedding feast of all time and eternity is described in Revelation 19:6-9:
And I heard, as it were, the the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, "Alleluia! For the Lord God omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are they who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' "
That's us, brothers and sisters, believers in Christ, that's us!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Free in so many ways!


4:04 p.m. Today's project was to drop Steve off at his friend Bob's house for a guys' afternoon, and then return home for some much-needed hours of writing in silence and, other than the wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit, solitude!

Galatians 5:1-15 deals with the need for believers to "stand fast in the liberty with which Christ as made us free, and not become entangled again with the yoke of bondage." The word for "stand fast" is the same as used in Ephesians 6:11, in the quintessential passage on spiritual warfare. It means to stand upright, or to adhere to our liberty. That almost seems contradictory, standing firm for freedom of living, and being loosed from binding religious regulations! I usually think of standing firm against an encroaching danger as resembling this bull elk guarding his herd in a meadow in Colorado. He was uptight, to say the least!
But as Christians, we don't have to stress over whether we are really saved, what we have to do next to stay saved, or worry that we haven't performed enough righteous deeds to maintain our Father's love, or to keep our name from being eased from the Book of Life. When we made a commitment to Christ by faith and trusted Him for salvation to eternal life, we let go of the striving to please God and earn a spot in heaven. Now we can let the Holy Spirit show us how we are to walk with God and please Him, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved and want to walk worthy of God, who has called us into His kingdom and glory. (I Thessalonians 2:12)
Going backward to regulations like the keeping of certain days, foods, dress and rituals now that I am living in freedom would be like me putting myself back on a restrictive elementary school schedule now that I'm retired! In other words, it's astoundingly ridiculous!
But Paul warns of the danger of the Galatians' sojourn into Jewish legalism (especially circumcision) to ensure their salvation in Chapter 2:21, NLT: "I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die." He later adds, in Galatians 5:3-5 (NLT), a rebuke followed by comfort, much as a parent comforts and encourages the child he has just corrected:
I'll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God's grace.But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us.
Thank you, Lord!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Mom Look


3:09 p.m. Today's project was recalling a spectacularly embarrassing incident that cast a momentary shadow on my reputation as a Christian, a mother, and a leader at my kids' elementary school. I was reflecting on how our kids behave when we're not there to correct or warn them with a "mom look." Oddly, both of my daughters can conjure up that look, and neither one has children yet. Heidi doesn't even have a husband to practice on, but to her credit, she has perfected a similarly scary expression, the "teacher look," so close enough.

Future grandchildren by these girls of mine had better behave!
One sunny spring afternoon, I drove around a few corners to pick up my four younger kids at W.H. Taft Elementary School like I always did, and took my place in the curb line in front of the school with all of the other moms. As I pulled forward, what did I see but my four, Kriss, Heidi, Heather and Steven, kicking and smacking one another with their lunchpails! There had to be one hundred people present for this spectacle--students, parents, teachers and other staff members. I was mortified. As PTA president, head of the room mothers, and the outspoken Christian leader of the school's Moms in Touch prayer group, I virtually lived in a "glass house," with my kids' grades and behavior being surreptitiously watched day in and day out. Not a good witness!
Instead of allowing the older ones to help the younger two into the van as I normally would, I put it in "park," got out, and not-too--gently loaded them into the van myself. They certainly got an earful as we drove off, and lost their after school snack and playtime they usually enjoyed before starting their homework. Conflicting claims muddied the issue at the time, but Steve and I certainly addressed their behavior at our family devotions that night. They all apologized, confessed to disobedience and repented.
Proverbs 28:13 says, "He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy." We were able to move on, with no loss of love or reputation, and my children are responsible, wonderful adults today. Furthermore, the memory makes me burst out laughing every time I picture it.
The Apostle Paul had the same problem with the baby Christians in Galatia, who were off onto a "works" doctrine that had them convinced, despite the fact that they were Gentiles with no Jewish background, that they needed to keep legalistic rituals from the Law of Moses in order to be "complete" Christians. Paul had founded and pastored that church no more than 5 years before. Now they were traveling a dangerous road, away from the simple message of the gospel: Jesus Christ died to save sinners!
So Paul had to write a very serious letter of correction to his "spiritual children" as any diligent parent would. "I am afraid for you," he says in Galatians 4:11, "lest I have labored for you in vain." So in this epistle, we have what Martin Luther called "the Magna Carta of Christian Liberty." In verse 11 of chapter 3, Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4: "The just shall live by faith."
Because Christ has paid the price for the sin of mankind, and for your and my sins in particular, we can come to salvation by faith, no tasks or proof of worthiness required!
Our children may act up and embarrass us, and we must correct them. But none of that will make a bit of difference unless we teach them, and show them, Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Hallelujah!









Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's a God thing


3:10 p.m. Today's project was to run down to Vons to get some Iams 1 year+ food for Jada and Bailey, milk and bread for Steve, and generally fill up our empty cupboards and freezers. We'd been waiting for the rent check to come in from our rental house in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I ended up knocking $35 off my bill without even opening my coupon folder--big meat sale was on, and I also found some "buy one/get one free" items.

I was wandering about the produce aisle when my old friend Rocky ran up to me with a sister from Harvest whom I hadn't seen for twenty years. We had a ball catching up. They strengthened me in our trial with Steve's Alzheimers, something I really needed after a very difficult morning where it became obvious that Steve no longer understands directional words and prepositional phrases like "over there," "behind you," or "in front of the tomatillo plant." We both got very frustrated this morning, but by the time I left, he was raking the garden soil for composting, and ready to mow the lawn. My Lord truly is "the God of all comfort," as II Corinthians 1:3 says, but it sure was a blessing to be loved on by friends!

Both encouraged me in the Lord in regard to my teaching ministry--Rocky wants me to have my teaching sessions taped for video distribution (What?!) and both gals are excited about Galatians coming out in the spring. "Please just buy a copy!" I joked. Proverbs 27:2 says, "Let another man praise you, and not your own lips," so we'll just leave it at that!

Rocky has been developing a ministry to victims of violence, arranging the venue and featured speakers. She is hoping to inaugurate the program on October 4th after a number of delays. The delays had her down, but I told her it's just not God's timing yet. She said, "Maybe He's going to do something so huge that more time is needed!" Now that's the spirit!!!

As believers, we have so much good to share with one another, so many ways to uplift each other concerning family and ministry matters. And we should look for opportunities to speak a good word, giving that "cup of cold water" to the thirsty, those who, like me, don't even realize how much strain we are living under. (And how badly we need a hug!)

That's what made this morning's encounter in the produce aisle a God thing!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Honoring and uplifting









1:06 Today's Project is to travel to the Starbucks in the Long Beach Towne Centre to hear our son Kriss and his longtime band-mate Alan perform. We'll go early, against traffic, window shop, grab some dinner, then get good seats and coffee treats while we wait for them to play. Kriss' wife Marisela will be there too, with some pictures I can download for the 1st anniversary digital wedding album I plan to create later this month.

Kriss warned me that they will only be playing three songs, but that's fine. I want to hear the acoustic sound they've developed and the new songs he's written. As parents, we've always supported our kids' endeavors, cheered them on, and seen them vastly improve their skills, or lose interest and move on. Lots of the latter, but that's not unexpected. Young people need to try different skills and see what lifelong, compelling gift God has placed in them.

I was once asked, "How can you spend so much time at band and football boosters, soccer, Little League, scouts, basketball, Good News club, PTA, dance team, skateboarding, etc., while working at the same time?" To me it's a no-brainer--how could I not? Besides growing in our relationship to the Lord and one another, what else of any importance whatsoever do parents have to do that compares to uplifting and encouraging our children?! If we take the trouble to bring them into this world; raise them in the Lord for at least 18 years; financially support their ministry, sports, and arts endeavors in elementary through high school and then help them with college, why shouldn't we enjoy the reward of their accomplishments?
I had a chance to see my younger daughter Heather in her professional role today as well, because she needed a document from our safe. She is the office administrator for State Senator Bill Emmerson, and has a very large office, which she has totally decorated in a "Heatheresque" fashion, with lots of mementos and photos. She is an excellent rep for the senator, but her heart is calling her to be a photojournalist. And she will be, I am certain! Her pictures grce our home and the homes of her many subjects. Meanwhile, you can click on her website, www.heatherallisonlovephotography.com from the Reading List of this blog.
Time to get ready to travel to Long Beach and enjoy our son's artistic accomplishments!








Pslam 128 shows the current and future blessings of having children. Verse 3, blessing the man who fears the Lord, says, "Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of yur house, your children like olive plants all around your table." (See picture above)!




As for the future, we've seen that come to pass as well. Verse 6 says: "May you see your children's children." So far, we have two grandsons.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Home Alone


2:35 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve over to Howard and Charlotte's to help Howard trim his trees. The Stevens' have a couple of acres in Woodcrest that require lots of maintenance. On returning home, I felt a bit disoriented, like the kid from the "Home Alone" movie--what was I supposed to do again? Seriously, I'm so used to making sure Steve is situated, from taking his meds, doing his morning Bible study, eating, and starting his tasks for the day, that going about my own business without interruptions felt odd!!

In addition to a fun outing for Steve, who loves gardening, landscaping, and all kinds of tools, the 3 hours gave me a solid block of time to work on my Galatians edits. It is very hard to concentrate when anyone else is in the room. Since I did retire to spend time with Steve and help him to stay occupied and feel useful after losing his ability to work, I had been getting up very early to write in the morning silence. But I would only have about 60-90 minutes to work. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit faithfully opened up my mind each morning with ideas and applications from life and His Word! The verses that the reader needs to look up and write down were all in place, as was the basic commentary. The editor just needed me to expound more fully and make some corrections. Progress has been solid, but slow. In all of that, however, I can clearly see that God will not, and never has, failed me yet, 30 years and counting!

But with a deadline of September 15th to add expositions and anecdotes to each section of the study, I was needing to find a solution that met both of our needs. I thought of all of the work Howard has to do on his property, and the way that Steve enjoys his work mornings trimming trees for my dad over in Redlands, and a mutually beneficial plan for all of us came about, thanks to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and love in the Body of Christ! God is faithful to meet all of our needs, and is pleased to allow us the fun of being part of helping one another!

Philippians 4:19 says, "My God shall provide all of your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." And "all" means ALL! Our need was for friendship and fellowship support for Steve; Howard needed some help; and I needed time to be home alone with my computer!

Needs are all around us: Steven needs college funds and a new place to live in Fresno; Steve and I need to meet all of our obligations on drastically reduced income. Dave and Lynnae Williams from Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley need to come up with $250,000 to cover their son Skyler's medical expenses after 1 1/2 months in the hospital with serious digestive issues, with no insurance coverage. Their information and donation website is below, and I'll add it to my Reading List: www.wix.com/medicalupdate/skyler.

Skyler's website has the song "That's What Faith Can Do" playing in the background, and it's a sound reminder that when we find we've hit a wall, God is right there on the other side. After all, didn't Jesus come through the walls of a house to prove to the disciples that He is alive? (Luke 24:36)

Because of Jesus' resurrection, instead of all hope being gone, hope is just beginning!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A normal Sunday afternoon?


5:36 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy a normal Sunday afternoon, just like Steve and I had enjoyed (minus the kids, of course) for decades. Our habit was to run a quick errand after church, like today when we got gas and picked up two 39 cent tacos for 42 cents, using a free coupon, and enjoyed them at home.

I turned on "Spirit," the contemporary Christian music station on DirecTV, checked in on the computer, then went out to the garden to water and harvest the last few vegetables at the end of this summer 's growing season. "To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven," Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1. Soon we will be plowing under compost and dead vines, letting the soil build up with the huge bag of potting soil we have ready, and then we'll plant another winter garden. We did have one major surprise out there, however. I looked at a rogue, out-of-season broccoli plant, and whoa! There was a huge floret right in the center! Steve is enjoying it right now with his dinner.

Part of our Sunday afternoon routine was Heidi helping me clip coupons from the newspaper, which she did from elementary age through college when she came home on weekends. Now that she spends Sundays teaching 5th/6th grade at late service, and has teaching plans to prepare for her own classroom, as well as afternoon outings with her fiance, I'm on my own. No worries--that's the way it should be!
There was another missing element, I realized as I clipped and sorted: NFL football! The season opener was today, and back when the boys were home,there were never any questions asked--the game would be on! If Sean, Kriss, or Heidi hadn't turned on the game, Steven, our defensive tackle, bodybuilder and all-around athlete, would have. Steve joined them on the family room couch for snacks and relaxation. So I turned on thegame, for little more than sentimental reasons. But one Sunday p.m. football game would barely scratch the surface had Steven been here. We used to watch SoCal high school game highlights after coming home from Steven's King High School games--both home and away--until the wee hours. Then college football, my personal favorite, would dominate the tv all day Saturday. Heather could hardly manage to slip a Turner classic movie in between! Listening to the plays, famous names, calls and commentators made me miss Steven less. Our family sports fans come by it naturally--as a high school athlete myself, I never missed a home game, either the Redlands High Terriers or the UCLA Bruins in the 60's and 70's.
My husband lay down on the couch for a nap as I fielded text messages from Steven. He is really struggling as the economy caused his gym clientele to shrink; his rent is due, and there doesn't appear to be a more economical housing choice locally. He is also still piecing together funds for school. As yet another loan fell through, I let him know how hard I had prayed for his dad to stay employed until Steven could graduate from school. But that was not God's timing for the effects of early-onset Alzheimers that keep radiating out in ever-widening circles of sadness for all of us. We seek the Lord first, not as a last resort, but as our best hope in everything!
As the youngest and the last one still in school, Steven has been hit the hardest, because we cannot help him in any but the smallest ways like we helped the older ones.Yet this is the kid who shines with the joy of the Lord at all times, and he trusts that God will give him an answer for every single need he has.
As my "normal" Sunday afternoon turned a bit sorrowful, I remember prisoner Paul's exhortation in Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, 'Rejoice.' "
Let me continue to pray and rejoice, too!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

To create a new family




7:56 p.m. Today's project was to prepare for, set up, gather and finally enjoy Heidi and Pavel's engagement party at Smokey Canyon Bbq.

I realized there was no way I'd have the concentration to work on edits for Galatians, so I went straight to my daily devotions with a sense of purpose pervaded by peace. The scripture portion for today was Luke 17, and my focus became Jesus' description of His Second Coming in verses 22-37.
Verses 26-31 in the New Living Testament read thus:
When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah's day. In those days, the people enjoyed banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat and the flood came and destroyed them all.
And the world will be as it was in the days of Lot. People went about their daily business--eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building--until the morning Lot left Sodom. Then fire and burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. Yes, it will be "business as usual" right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
For some reason, maybe the different translation, I was just fascinated by this passage! Today was just like any other day here in Riverside, other than the two trips I made to CVS to get pictures developed and buy picture frames, plus one trip to Ralphs for Woolite rug foam and frantic housecleaning for the Kruckenberg-Ilie pre-dinner get-together at 4:30. But everybody else was just contentedly going about their business. Knowing the date is 9/11, and many friends on Facebook were posting our whereabouts ten years ago today made the identically beautiful blue sky a bit more eerie, I suppose.
But overall, today could be the day the Son of Man takes His church out of the world and begins the seven years' tribulation and the earth's inexorable march to judgment. Jesus is coming back!
Of course, like many people, our family is involved with buying (daily necessities); selling (Mary Kay); and in pre-wedding festivities, just like the people in the former days of Noah and Lot. The difference is that for our two families and the entire group at the dinner, there is no fear or dread of judgment. That is because we have each made a commitment to Jesus Christ, and live for Him daily. We look expectantly to His coming to take us to heaven whether by death or by Rapture. And because "it is not God's will that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9), we witness to anyone God leads us to share with. We don't want anyone to choose eternal death--we want them to choose eternal life!
The Kruckenbergs and the Ilies say, with Joshua (24:15) "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."




Friday, September 10, 2010

A pretty challenging project




3:21 p.m. Today's project was to create a floral centerpiece for Heidi and Pavel's engagement party tomorrow. The gathering will be intimate, just immediate families and bridal party. The pastor who will be performing their ceremony, Sammy Martinez, and his wife Ivett, will be attending also.

The couple's chosen venue, the Smokey Canyon Bbq restaurant in the Canyon Crest Towne Centre, serves magnificent barbecued entrees, sandwiches, and knockout homemade desserts. The patio that we've reserved only seats 28 at the 7 tables, so the gathering will be cozy. In case of hot weater at 5 p.m., there are enough shade umbrellas for the tables; in case of the kind of cool evenings we've been enjoying, heaters are available. Smokey Canyon has us covered!

Wound up as I naturally am, the need to provide a centerpiece small enough not to overwhelm the bride and groom's table when placed next to an 8x10 portrait, has had me tossing and turning a bit this week! I knew I wanted to incorporate Heidi's colors of fuschia and orange, preferably with her beloved Gerber daisies, and would work in her wedding reception ribbon into whatever the florist created.

I got a referral to my hairdresser's sister-in-law, who has a thriving floral business in Riverside. When I called and described what I wanted--a "modest" arrangement--the price was $55.00. That actually was reasonable considering that she would have had to special order the Gerber daisies. But this is not a week for that level of expenditure. If it weren't for three Mary Kay lipstick sales, Steve and I would have been cutting it close on paying for our two dinners on Saturday! The Lord provides!

Vons at the Plaza had just gotten their fresh flower shipment in when I arrived at noon. I was able to get the main colors I wanted by selecting two bouquets that featured daisies, mums and carnations with pretty foliage and small flowers in complimentary shades for $9.99 each. The square glass bowl, left over from a bouquet Pavel had brought Heidi some time ago, was in my office, and the wired ribbon was in a box in the upstairs guest bedroom that I refer to as the "wedding supply store." It used to be my "Mary Kay store," but is rapidly being overtaken. You won't be able to see the queen bed by next June!

One thing I realized on my way home from the store was that even though I had read my chapter of Luke, posted a verse from Psalm 97 on Facebook, as well as spending two hours writing an exposition and anecdote for chapter three of Galatians, I had forgotten to make my daily journal entry!! I was missing that lovely, quiet time of pouring my heart out to the Lord and receiving His tacit comfort and love in return. No wonder I was jumpy and nervous, even though the Lord was working everything out wonderfully. I realized the truth of 2 Timothy 2:13:

If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.

After quickly putting the flowers in water and hiding them, helping Steve with his sandwich and eating some chicken, the first opportunity I had I sat down and journalled! One thought occured to me meanwhile: here I was, worrying about my daily morning ritual, when the entire book of Galatians was written to free immature Gentile believers from bondage to outmoded Jewish rituals and observances! God seems to enjoy ironies, doesn't He?
Was I worried about losing either my salvation or my Father's love? Not at all. I just noticed the effect on my peace of mind and normally joyful disposition. Starting the morning right, not only writing about God, but writing to God, makes for a better day, pure and simple!

Finally, it was time to get creative!! I glued the ribbon around the bowl, filled it with clear glass beads, cut the flowers' stems down to about 5 inches, and arranged them in what I hoped would be a pleasingly symmetrical manner. A decorating champ of a girlfriend, Monica, texted me back from my picture message that the arrangement looked great--and she would have given me some honest tips, I'm sure!
The Lord provided once again, meeting all of our needs, even the need for enjoyment of the beauty He created! (And for a quarter of the price!)
Later in the afternoon, I popped over to the restaurant, examined the patio tables, and the small centerpiece will be just the right size! Thank you, Lord!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Puffy Brunch Eggs


3:20 p.m. Today's project was to attend our last Thursday Bible study for 2010 at Debbie Snyder's home. We had studied I Samuel since June 10th, and seen each other and our families through many trials and triumphs with the Lord, and have eaperienced many answers to prayer.
I loved what one gal shared: "Through studying the book of
I Samuel, I feel like I have come out of the wilderness into new life. As we study the lives of the characters, we are coming to know ourselves." For a Bible teacher to hear that is very humbling, and I am grateful to the Lord for the work of the Holy Spirit in my mind and heart, for His gift of studying and teaching, giving Him the glory for the work His Word accomplished in all of our lives this summer!
Especially amazing is the fact that over 60 women were completing the written lessons online each week! Truly, God is creating a thirst for His Word in women around the state and nation.
By popular demand--Malinda Fairbanks' demand--I brought my "Puffy Brunch Eggs" dish that I make for Women's Bible study get togethers and erstwhile Christmas mornings. Here's the recipe, requested for my former Pedley Elementary colleague Andy Elliot:
4 slices white bread, torn up
1 lb. cooked, crumbled sausage or bacon
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
6 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp dry mustard (or a squirt of prepared mustard)
1 tsp salt
Dash white pepper
Place bread pieces in a greased 13 x 9" casserole dish. Spread sausage or bacon over it and cover with cheese. Mix milk, eggs and other ingredients and pour over. Casserole may covered overnight in fridge. Bake uncovered 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Serves 6-8.
We ladies "of a certain age" reflected and rejoiced in the season of life we are in. Our children are grown, even if one or more live at home still (or should move back home)! Our lives are stable, despite serious health issues that arise with elderly parents, spouses or ourselves. Financial reversals are taken a bit more in stride because we have seen the Lord's faithfulness over the decades. Psalm 37:25 says, "I was young and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken nor their descendants begging bread." As women of God and women of the Word, we have come to accept what the Lord says about us, not what the world would say. We value an attractive appearance, but admire true beauty of character much more, the kind that Proverbs 31:10 says has worth "far above rubies." We joyfully take up the responsibility of modeling godly character for our precious daughters and daughters-in-law. And we now have grandchildren to love and lead to the Lord, probably the greatest gift of all that comes with age!
And we thank you, Lord, for our salvation, for all of Your promises and their fulfillment in Christ!
With the life expectancy we ladies have should the Lord tarry, new projects and ministries will come forth in our lives as the Lord leads. May we be filled with the Holy Spirit, and open our hearts and minds to hear His leading! For Jesus promised in John 7:38,
He who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.
May we be conduits of the Holy Spirit's living water, to bless and help others in the Name of Jesus!
* More good news! Look for my former colleague Michele Armstrong's new book, Ten Questions God Asked, on my reading list under www.winepress.com

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Know when to call

3:36 p.m. Today's project is one I've been putting off for as long as possible,
but Steve's growing confusion, lack of focus and attentiveness have made it clear that the time has come to make arrangements for what you could describe as "companionship care" for him.
I'm looking for twice a week, four-hour shifts with a licensed, bonded and trained caregiver who could be with Steve when I need to go out, keeping him directed and involved in activities he already loves: gardening, working with tools to make small repairs around the house, landscaping, and caring for our dogs. As physically fit as he is, he likes to keep moving and active. I've contacted our long-term care insurance provider, GE Capital, to start a claim, and will be arranging details with the BrightStar Riverside agency soon.
I'll utilize the time for writing, women's ministry and Bible study, not to mention running the household, helping with Heidi's wedding, making business/pension arrangements and paying bills without interruption. Whereas just a month ago, Steve needed just a bit of guidance and reminders to get started on projects that would keep him constructively occupied for most of the day, and even work on self-initiated projects as well, he now stops to ask me what to do next throughout the day, and needs me to repeat it several times. That now includes simple tasks like preparing a sandwich for lunch. I prepare notes and a schedule grid, and give very specific directions (former teacher here!) but his processing is slowing down. We both end up wasting precious time looking for his lost tools (which I have no idea where they would have been stored to begin with), and even hunting for misplaced household items I need.
A person trained in Alzheimers care who can take part in Steve's hobbies would bring him a much-needed sense of prioritizing and order without getting frustrated, like a spouse or adult child would. That's because we remember him as he really is deep down inside, and are having to learn new and unnatural strategies for communication and conversation. Incidentally, the devastating character of the information we give Steve has no effect on whether he can remember it, I've discovered. I found it shocking to be asked several times who we were going to see in the hospital, for example, when the patient is our 4 year-old great-nephew with a cancerous tumor in his stomach, little Cody Ashton.
Most of us tend to remember horrendous information much more readily than every day matters. Not so with Alzheimers! Every concept is up for grabs in the lottery of memorability. I generally have a peace about Steve, and we have a wonderful relationship as husband and wife, even if the leadership role has had to be reversed. We have hobbies we enjoy together, like gardening and fitness walking, travel, using our Disneyland passes and entertaining; we attend church and Bible studies as well. But I also know my hyper, multi-tasking , utterly logical and orderly personality well enough to arrange for help, rather than try to "be Super Woman" and become increasingly irritated with Steve for the mix-ups he causes and has no control over!
Steve needn't lack activities or attention because I have a critically busy two weeks ahead,
and he could definitely use the companionship of a helper who can enjoy his interests with him.


I am simultaneously helping our youngest with his college bills, editing my book on a deadline, arranging Heidi's engagement party details and decorations, and planning to assemble a digital wedding album for Kriss and Marisela's first anniversary gift. Oh yes, I need to assemble a breakfast casserole for our Bible study's last get-together brunch in the morning!
God knows all of these matters and responsibilities, and He knows me better than I know myself!
As David said in Psalm 139: 1-3,
O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
I would strongly advise anyone who foresees taking on a caregiving role to first honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses--and ascertain at what point you will begin to need help!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

GOD is IN THE HOUSE!

3:41 p.m. Today's project was to pray for our great-nephew Cody's surgery on the mass in his stomach at 7:30 this morning. Believers around the country were praying to the Lord.
His father Chad wrote on Facebook, "I am ready to take this journey with my family."
The preliminary report is good: even though the mass is the size of a baseball, it is self-contained, and, if it is cancer, it's a low-grade type, amenable to treatment. Praise You, Lord Jesus!

As of this writing, my nephew told me that Cody's going to be asleep until tonight, most likely, and allowed to wake up on his own. I feel like the blackest part of the dark cloud, the fear of a worst-case scenario, has been lifted. Psalm 50:2b says, "God will shine forth." And he is!

So now we're all waiting for the CHOC pathologists' verdict.

Steve, the kids and I were in the same waiting position about 10 years ago. A tiny, hard lump was found in my lower right breast that had not appeared on my most recent mammogram. The pathologists examining it after a biopsy were suspicious, so surgery was speedily scheduled. Four specialists examined the lump, but didn't know what is was--too solid to be a cyst--but it wasn't cancer!! Praise God!

My results with a miniscule lump found on a mammogram three years later were not as positive. In the same location, a 1 millimeter cancer had developed. A biopsy showed it was cancer. Twelve days later, it was removed, along with surrounding tissue and 22 lymph nodes. Recuperation, including physical therapy to restore the use of my right arm, was hard, very hard. Had God left me? Never, impossible! "I will never leave you nor forsake you," Jesus said, Hebrews 13:5. No caveats, no exceptions. Jesus is always with me!

Seven years later, I remain cancer free, by the grace and will of God. All the credit in this world goes to my primary care doctor, cancer surgeon, oncologist and radiologist, and to my HMO plan as well! But to God goes the ultimate, overall glory and praise.

Our entire family on all sides, is trusting Cody to what God said He would do in Psalm 50:15:

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Speak the truth from love





8:14 p.m. Today's project was to get up by 6 a.m. to do some edits on my book Galatians while the other members of the household were still asleep. I knew that by 12:00, my dad would be arriving with a watermelon as promised, and we'd be barbequeing hamburgers. The small white beans that had soaked overnight would need to start simmering with molasses, maple syrup, bacon and a few other cupboard staples.

My editor had asked me to add some anecdotes apropos to the sections of each lesson. I worked once again on the introduction to the book, keying in on the Apostle Paul's love for his "spiritual children" in the church he founded. He couldn't bear to see them slip away from the truth of the gospel, that Christ died for our sins that we might have eternal life. Men who taught that even non-Jewish converts had to keep the laws of Moses in order to become Christians had wreaked havoc in the church. Paul's severity in this very personal epistle came from his great love and concern for the Galatian believers.
The Lord reminded me of a time in my life when my younger daughter Heather, then 3, thought it a real laugh riot to unfasten the seat belt that kept her car seat in place. So throughout the day, I'd be out on erramds with her and her infant brother Steven, and click! I'd pull over, scold, smack her hand and fasten the seatbelt again.
One day, after picking up our Kriss and Heidi from kinder and 1st grade at Emerson Elementary, I decided to stop Heather's dangerous practice. I drove to the back area of the Canyon Crest Towne Center parking lot at about 2 miles per hour, and heard the click, the other kids tattling, and Heather laughing. I stomped on the brake, she tipped forward into the back of my seat, and was so shocked--though unhurt-- that she never unhooked her seatbelt again!
Sometimes drastic action and strong wording are needed for the Lord to keep us from serious error and sin. As for those who lead others away from the truth of the gospel, God will not tolerate their wickedness. Notice Paul's strong language in Galatians 1:7b-9:
There are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
God loves us too much to let us drown in legalistic errors, whether caused by the Judaizers of Paul's day, or the door-to-door cults of today. The enemy of our souls is at the root of all perversion of our faith.
Listen and learn the lesson of Galatians: Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins; thus we can be saved for all eternity--period.










Sunday, September 5, 2010

CHOC


7:09 p.m. Today's project was to visit our great-nephew Cody at the Children's Hospital of Orange County, better known as CHOC. It's located on Main Street in Orange, just blocks away from most of Steve's side of the family and Cody's own home.
As you enter Main Street, the first thing that looms is construction, a giant steel structure that I would presume is a new building. I believe it hasn't changed much since we last visited four years ago, when Steve's mom was hospitalized at St. Joseph's next door. When you park, there is a courtesy shuttle to take visitors to the front desk check-in. Greeting us at the shuttle stop was our nephew Chad, Cody's dad. The long, heartfelt embraces he gave us spoke volumes... I was so glad we'd made the time to visit!
Another thing I noticed about CHOC was the high security. Our diver's licenses were scanned and visitor badges made up. (I whited out Cody's room number). Very impressive, and with little ones in danger from any number of threats such as noncustodial parent kidnapings and child molesters, the tightest security is a must. One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 24:3: "Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established." The Board of Directors and staff there exhibit excellent wisdom!
When we arrived at his room, Cody greeted us, after being reminded of the jumphouse and our dogs. He was watching Spongbob on a tiny DVD player and talking up a storm to his mom and grandma. Then he'd run over and pick up a toy or two, then back to the show. Whew! This boy with a serious life threatening condition has more energy than most of us on our best day! The only down time he'd had, according to his grandma, was when the nurse came to draw blood, despite the efforts of his grandma and dad to distract him and cover his eyes. Honestly, it's all I can do not to cry myself when I have blood drawn, and I fully understand why it's being done! But Cody is a real little soldier, and snapped back quickly.
Daytimes his mom, grandmas and dad are there, but at night, only one visitor may stay over, so Chad does the night shift. Baby sister Rylee has been at home for the most part, since Rachel has been at the hospital all day since Friday.
Steve and I left uplifted and hopeful, knowing that the Holy Spirit is present in Cody's room in the hearts of every family member, praise the Lord, and that God hears our prayers for the tumor to be found benign!
We also felt that we had acted in obedience to Pastor Tim Hamilton's exhortation this morning from Matthew 25:39-40 where Jesus commends the righteous:
When did we see you sick or in prison, and come to You? And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."
We traveled to see Cody and his family for love and the privilege of coming alongside them in their trial, not for any recognition or reward, far be it from us!
Jesus asks the same of all believers--serve Him by serving and uplifting others!