Friday, December 31, 2010

How will it end? or begin?

4:15 p.m. Today's project was to prepare our house for a small gathering of friends to welcome in the New Year, although I'm not sure how many of us will stay up until midnight. The huge amount of cookies and candy I made this year are best shared before eating them becomes an ingrained habit in 2011! In fairness, I asked our friends to bring their goodies along with anything else in the snack and side dish line that they would like to share, ie., "get rid of."

We'll enjoy a meal, and then play either sedentary or active games, depending on our mood. I was pleased that my daughter Heather was willing to bring over the Wii Dance game we had played on Christmas afternoon. She and husband Nick are headed to Oceanside tonight, so it wasn't needed. She and Heidi were visiting when Steve and I got back from our friends' home.

Linda Martinez had been texting back and forth with a few of us good friends about her severe neck pain, but this morning's message floored us: her husband John, who works graveyard for Stater Bros. warehouse in Redlands, had slid on black ice driving home through Reche Canyon early this morning! The truck was towed, John is okay, but it may be totaled. Reche Canyon was closed--but, the enemy has his demons everywhere, because SOMEONE HAD REMOVED THE "ROAD CLOSED" SIGN! Steve and I called for directions and quickly went over to comfort and pray with the Martinezes and their daughter Lisa. The three of them just looked shocked, stunned and defeated, much as you or I would be, when we stepped into their living room.

We all were on the driveway inspecting the Ford F-150 when Steve noticed that its axle was broken. The rest of the truck, which they'd gotten such a good deal on earlier this year, wasn't too bad from the 360 degree skid John had experienced. The passenger side window was smashed out, which slamming up against a hillside would do. and the rear passenger side tire was off. The ice was so bad that 3 other cars had run off the road, and even the tow truck had a rough time maneuvering. The Lord had His hand on the drivers, that's for sure!

What makes this incident so heartbreaking is that John, Linda and Lisa have suffered so much in the last few years--serious diseases (cancer, diabetes, neuropathy, sleep apnea), other car accidents, chronic pain and even job fluctuations and loss. There are even structural problems with their house.Yet they are very faithful believers who never hesitate to encourage, share their faith, and Linda is always ready to teach a class for our Heart to Home ministry. Those who love them just ask, "Why them? Why so many trials?"

We prayed out by the truck, and then headed home, sad and hurting for our friends. We can't even pretend to understand, but we can only be assured that God knows what He is doing in each person's life, just as He knows each person inside and out. And that even includes the evildoer who removed the warning sign on Reche Canyon's entrance.

I looked in the subject index of my New Living Translation Bible at a theme commentary on Job 9 called, "The Righteous Suffer." The writer (Douglass Moo) refutes Satan's accusation that we sometimes buy into: "They must have sinned!" That isn't necessarily true, or I think we'd all have nothing but misery, since we all sin...and most of us have experienced God's mercy and grace when we absolutely know we've sinned! Romans 2:4 tells us that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. Praise Him!

Moo continues, "We are not meant to know or understand everything. Some things are for God alone to comprehend and direct according to His sovereign will. Our response should be to accept in faith what He sends us. Even when we suffer, we can trust God."

As I wonder how 2010, with its huge blessings and sorry disasters, will end, and how 2011 will begin and unfold, I can pray (for my children out traveling to the homes of friends, especially our youngest going up to the snow in the mountains near Shaver Lake), and trust in God's mercy, love and watchcare for all of us this evening.

Happy New Year to you, and joy in the Name of Jesus!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Made to order!

5:01 p.m. Today's project was to welcome Steve's caregiver/companion Frank to our home for a "get-acquainted" visit. Bright Star's nurse manager had described him to us, and let us know that they thought he'd be a perfect fit, but we were surprised to find ourselves more than pleased with their choice.

As a prayed-for, or at least hoped-for quality, I wanted Steve's companion to be a Christian, or at least not a person of conflicting beliefs. Steve agreed in the many discussions we've had up until today, but was, of course, completely surprised to see Frank at the door. Our daughter had seen his car parked in front of our house, and I told her, "He probably got here too early and didn't want to impose by coming to the door until 11:00 exactly." Meanwhile, Steve had been working around the front and back of the house, oblivious to the parked car and driver. When I went out to put a package I was returning into our mailbox, Frank got out of the car, we introduced ourselves, and went into the house to greet Steve.
Within a few minutes, the manager came in, and "somehow," we began talking about Steve tabbing his Bible last year, but being unable to find the needed scriptures during the pastor's sermons even with the tabs this year. But despite the difficulites, I shared with them, he really enjoys church, especially the worship.Then it turned out that Frank is active at Harvest, where we attended for 22+ years, and Lisa is a believer, too! (I knew I liked that agency immediately, and now I know why I never even considered interviewing anyone else!) It was a total God-thing!! There is no other accounting for my just "happening upon" Christian caregivers. Frank is "made to order" for Steve. They even walked the dogs together!
I'll quote my friend Paige Philpott's comment as I shared this wonderful news on Facebook:
God is so faithful to take care of you! I love that our uncharted territory is known thoroughly by Him, inch by inch!

As Steve recounted , with a little stammering, his involvement as a single guy in moving the original pews into Calvary Chapel Riverside, and I mentioned that we had been married there, the four of us enjoyed pure koinonia, a joy in Christ despite the sad need for the agency's services. And I'm thinking now of the way in which God rewards His servants who make every effort to help in His work, like Steve did throughout his teens, twenties, thirties and forties--ushering at church and at the Crusades, answering any call for setting up or tearing down events at Harvest or Calvary Moreno Valley, assisting in an evangelical outreach to Mexico with Horizon International, and his last ministry, helping run the audio-visual equipment on Wednesdays and Sundays at our church.
Our God sees, He knows, He is here. God loves my husband as much now that he is unable to serve, as He loved him when he was using his ingenuity and skills in ministry.

And God remembers! Hebrews 6:10 assures believers,

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which you have showed toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints and do minister.

Why am I crying, really crying, not just a misty-eyed sniff? I guess at times the enormity of the journey we are on hits me; but the enormity of my Jesus will surpass anything that life brings our way.

With all of the blessings God provides, and the Holy Spirit's supply of courage and confidence, we will enjoy our family, our friends, and in all its aspects, our future!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ears to hear

4:35 p.m. Today's project was to restart my prayer partner and my weekly prayer appointments at 9 a.m. In order to have plenty of time for my own devotions and prayer journalling, I got up earlier than usual at 6:30. Monica and I had a wonderful, anointed, encouraging time of mutual intercession as well as prayer for others.

Since Sunday, I have been reading The Purple Pig and Other Miracles by Dick Eastman, an incredible history of his journey in the realm of intercessory prayer. From his prayer closet in college, to the global prayer outreach he heads today, God has performed one miracle after another with a simple message: He wants His people to pray!! God spoke to Solomon regarding the temple he was chosen to build.

II Chronicles 7:14-15:

If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.

Of what sin are most of us as believers guilty? Prayerlessness! We most likely pray quickly and simply throughout the day, and may have a designated time of prayer daily. We may journal our prayers, imploring our Father's help with our problems and crises. But do we spend the hours in intercession for the lost, the diseased, the persecuted and the discouraged whose plight breaks our Father's heart? I know I don't. Reading of entire weekends devoted to high school prayer retreats, hours of prayer that led to visions of God's plans as He instigated the Jesus Movement, Youth With a Mission, Every Home for Christ, and the International House of Prayer, has convicted me of my lack in this area! A sore lack!

Yet our God is so merciful, allowing us to be taught by His Spirit in gentle increments--or by mind-boggling shocks, if that is what is called for! This morning, I was writing in my journal about a difficulty in my daughter's life, and just prayed that she would help her friend whom she had been very close to, move into a new place. I went on with the day, and texted her to see where she was later this afternoon. She was helping her friend move! We hadn't discussed this at all--it was the Holy Spirit mending and healing their relationship, and I had the privilege of bring on the same prayer "page."

It's the "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 4:3!

This morning I had the distinct impression--or more like a compulsion--to pay my health insurance bill today, although tomorrow would have been fine, too, and maybe it wouldn't be raining like it is today. But I felt led to call the Jurupa Unified School District Benefits office to advise of my payment, and the technician said, "This is the last day we'll be in until January 10th." God knew that I had just until this afternoon at 4 p.m. to get my payment in. As a retiree, I certainly don't keep abreast of district matters and schedules any more, but God does! And He never "slumbers nor sleeps" (Psalm 121:4) but keeps us safe and cared for around the clock!

God always does His part, but it helps if we look and listen to His still, small voice, or even open the mail He sends our way in a timely fashion... I was working on sending out bills for the first of the month when I came across one huge blessing that had been in the bill folder for a week, a Verizon credit of $49.00! I had overpaid last month, forgotten about it, and dreaded opening the current bill. Foolish fears! Next item in this uplifting check-writing session: as I was making out our mortgage check with plans to send it in time not to pay a late fee, I had the impression that I should check to see if an "interest paid"total for 2010 was on the bill like it often is at the end of the year. And what did I find?

"Credit for interest paid in 2010 will be given only if received by December 31, 2010."

NOT by the 1st of January as I would normally have sent it in! You can believe I mailed that check at the Chicago Ave. central post office ASAP!

Jesus exhorted His listeners six times in the Book of Matthew alone, to "hear." He quoted Isaiah 6:9-10 about the people being hard of hearing (13:15). Matthew 13:9 says, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" In v. 43, again, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"

Jesus is not talking about physical ability. Revelation 2 contains six similar exhortations: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." We are to be quiet, ready and listening to God's voice!

As to the heavenly end, I take much comfort in knowing my Father is looking and listening, too! Ponder and be blessed by I Peter 3:12a:

For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,

And His ears are open to their prayers.

Thank you, Lord!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Transcending peace

7:34 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve to Disneyland. We first stopped at the Moreno Valley Chik-Fil-A to say "hi" to our Piecemaker friends and work on a New Year's Eve get- together at our house. By that time, Steve had gotten past the confusion and frustration that had characterized our morning. We had prayed together and I had asked friends on Facebook to pray. It was obvious that many did! Prayers of the righteous are effective, God tells us in James 5:16.Check Spelling

Jill asked me whether we'd be "blacked out" during the week between Christmas and New Year's, but I didn't really know and typically hadn't take the time to find out. "Got places to go, things to do, and people to see!" is how I sometimes unsuccessfully function, as I was soon to discover.

We ate our delicious chicken treats and drove off to Anaheim with a huge packed dinner in an insulated lunch bag, and jackets to put in the Main Street locker we favor. As we went along Ball Road, we saw the sign telling us to head into Disney's remote parking. Then came the sign, "Disneyland full. California Adventure open." That was okay by us, because our favorite attraction, "Soaring Over California," is in that park. But I began to wonder, "Do we have Premium passes--no blackout dates--or Deluxe, with minimal blackout dates?" So I asked the parking lot attendant and he said, "This is a triple blackout date. So you'd be better off going back out onto the street to go to Downtown Disney." I was grateful that Steve and I could enjoy the day no matter what, and frankly, glad we didn't have to explain a Disneyland closure to a carload of hyped-up little kids!

We enjoyed the beautiful day, wandering around the shops together and eating our snacks outside a bookstore. We played with remote control cars in one shop where you pay for your model car body and parts, then get to put them together in a "pit" surrounded by excited kids and adults, with a pit boss timing you. Sounds like a good birthday present for Steve! We enjoyed the giant creations in the Lego store, and ended up our 3 hours of free parking in the ESPN Zone playing air hockey. Steve picked up a lot of speed and coordination once he remembered what to do, and saw how competitive I was! Slammin'!

Christians can enjoy the life and circumstances God has allowed us whether or not those circumstances are to our liking. We could have gotten mad today at not checking our blackout dates, turned around and come home, but what would there be to praise God in that attitude and action? I'll certainly check next time, before our passes expire on January 7th.

Our family was disappointed that our Orange County relatives couldn't join is on Christmas Eve, but we were blessed by the 5:00 service and went home to a great meal and a fantastic evening, followed by a great Christmas Day. God can cause the wrath of man to praise Him, (Psalm 76:10) but why put Him to that test to begin with? Why nurture an angry demeanor that flares up at the slightest provocation when you can appropriate the peace of God's Spirit?

If Jesus could say, "I am meek and lowly in heart," (Matthew 11:29) is there any reason we cannot pray to have those characteristics too? Believers fail and act foolishly, as I can attest, but we can all learn and improve with God's help!

I really enjoyed reading the foreword and commentary on the Apostle Paul's epistle to the Philippians by Roger Mohrlag in the New Living Translation from my quiet time of two days ago.

Paul writes from prison to Christians who are experiencing opposition, encouraging them to imitate his life and attitudes. By speaking of his own courage, commitment, confidence, and contentment even in prison, Paul encourages them to respond similarly as they face opposition. In doing so, he shows us that a Christian life of joy, peace, contentment, prayer, thanksgiving, and devotion to Christ can transcend all circumstances. (emphasis mine)


Monday, December 27, 2010

Signed, sealed, delivered

5:00 p.m. Today's project was to go to Bright Star, the agency that will be providing a caregiver for Steve, and sign a contract. I had been in discussion with the owner and his nurse manager over the last week, and now it was time to "get it all down on paper."

Contract signed and sealed--now for the delivery!

They have selected a 60 year old caregiver, licensed and bonded, a specialist in Alzheimer's care. I wondered about the age of the gentleman, but apparently he is very healthy, fit and able to walk with Steve and the dogs. As a peer for my husband, they will be able to enjoy doing the same things. I had written "Christian" in the application blank for religious preference, so I know that the one they are sending won't be promoting another faith, at least, and may be a Christian himself. As evangelicals, we will count it a joy and privilege to open up that conversation! We agree with Romans 1:16-17, NLT:

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes--the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. as the Scriptures say, "It is through faith that a righteous person has life."

In all of our dealings with the agency and its personnel, I will want to hold to a high standard of Christian demeanor, speech and action. On Thursday our aide, Frank, and the nurse-manager Lisa will be here for two hours to get acquainted with Steve and his daily routine. A process that I began last spring, no, actually 10 years ago when we bought our policies, will now be set in motion. Yesterday's fiscally sound decision for Steve's care is no longer a safety net, but a reality.

It's hard to figure out how I feel about this today. Steve is not in need of physical assistance in personal care, even though confusion about the proper clothes to put on for yard work or church (not switching the two, as he has done!) and never knowing left from right, the time, day, or what to do first in a task will only get worse. Before we get into a phase where hygeine or eating becomes an issue, I want Steve to get used to his aide and follow his directions with trust and a feeling of security similar to how he listens to me. On June 25, Heidi gets married. An aide for Steve to help him get dressed, lined up, and ready to walk down his daughter down the aisle, Lord willing, would be a blessing indeed, allowing me to be the very busy mother of the bride that day!

Not one of us is privy to what God has planned for our future, but we are to be wise stewards of the light that we have today. And like manna in the wilderness, God gives us what we need daily in our travels through this wilderness called Alzheimer's!

God's people have the seal of the Holy Spirit upon us, for daily guidance and all that we need to live, and a guaranteed delivery into the arms of Jesus for eternity. Ephesians 1:13b-14 says,

You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession (us),


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Yes, Lord?

3:43 p.m. Today's project was to attend second service at our church, Calvary Chapel of Moreno Valley. We had been tempted to sleep a little later after yet another 1:00 a.m. bedtime, but we went on ahead, even arriving early!

It's a shame that the snctuary wasn't full to overflowing, because Pastor John's message of saying "Yes" to the Lord no matter what He calls you to or asks of you was solid. The key scriptures, Matthew 9:27-31, where the blind men answer "Yes, Lord," to Jesus when He asked if they believe; John 11:25, where Martha answers "Yes, Lord," when Jesus asked her if she believed Jesus was able to raise Lazarus after his death; and John 21:15-22 when Peter answered, "Yes, Lord," when Jesus asked if he loved Him.

19th-20th century missionary to India, Amy Carmichael, wrote a devotional on this theme with the accompanying scriptures, Pastor told us. I remember reading a biography of her many years ago, and having copied a quote from her about obedience to the Lord that I kept in another devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, until the paper disintegrated. That book is on its last legs, too, I'm afraid!

I think that saying "yes" to the Lord begins back a bit further with what the boy Samuel was prompted to say by the old priest Eli when the Lord called him in the night : "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." (I Samuel 3:10b, KJV) And maybe obedience goes even another step back, back to sitting at the feet of the Lord in a quiet state of heart and mind, expecting the Lord to speak to us. After all, Sameul was told to lie back down in his bed and wait!

Waiting on the Lord in meditation, silence or prayer can have mega-powerful results! I am reading The Purple Pig and other Miracles, a Christmas gift from our son Steven that was assigned reading by one of his professors at Fresno Pacific (Christian) University, expanded from the first edition of 40 years earlier. The author, Dick Eastman, had led the movement of 24/7 prayer throughout the world, with a vision to reach every nation with the gospel. The Global Day of Prayer this last May 23rd, in which I participated online, was one outflow of Eastman's waiting quietly on the Lord in his backyard prayer closet! He writes,

Tears were flowing that day in prayer. I knew the Lord was calling me to a life of staying small in Him. I soon learned that the smaller we become in our own eyes, the bigger God becomes in what we see of Him and what he ultimately does in and through us. I thought of one of the most memorable quotes I've ever read regarding obedience and faithfulness. It was Mother Teresa who said, "God didn't call me to be successful; He called me to be faithful."

I can't wait to read the rest of Dick Eastman's book!

God will call a believer to the work He has for that person, be it in or outside of the home, the community, the county, state, nation or world. If one will wait, listen, allow God's Word to flow freely, "out of his heart will flow rivers of living water, " Jesus said in John 7:38. Let the Holy Spirit fill us and energize us to get up and obey!

We will be called, but will we listen? And if we listen, hear, and believe, will we act on God's call? In my own life, the effects of Alzheimer's on my husband Steve called me to a quieter life here in the home, and God arranged every detail to allow me to retire. Out of this retirement has come a book to be published in 2011, Galatians: A Call to Faith and Freedom.

2011 will bring more difficulties of all kinds as Steve's disease progresses, barring a miracle. But if God can in His grace bring a Bible study workbook to life and 2 decades of writing into fruition, He can give me the compassion and skills I'll need to go forward with Steve's care. That's a guarantee, because our God is faithful, and so He will ever be!

To me, the Christian life has been a 30+ year grand adventure, with heartaches and joys aplenty. I look forward to every day in great anticipation to see what God has planned for me. For every Christian who desires to go forward in his or her walk, and be used more and more for His kingdom, keep in mind Jesus' story of the faithful servant who was praised by his lord in Matthew 25:21,

Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord."

Lord, I want to enter in!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

10:20 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy a fantastic Christmas day with our family. Now that the kids are grown, the sibling gift exchange, which included spouses and fiances, went beautifully; all gifts were thoughtful and clever. My father gave very precious keepsakes to the girls and their fiance and husband, and blessed our sons, too. Gifts exchanged between Steve, my dad, the kids and myself were wonderful, and our prayer times at breakfast and dinner were anointed. And my 83 year old dad stayed long enough to enjoy our "Arista" (Italian pork roast) and take home plenty of goodies ahead of the rain.
The Lord blessed our humble efforts with His loving touches throughout the day, from morning through evening games. We are so blessed , not only with our children, but with the families they have (or soon will be) married into. And our youngest Steven will one day find the young woman God has prepared for him as well.
As Steve and I wrap up the final cleaning and dishwashing, and listen to Frank Sinatra sing "The First Noel," let me just say,

Friday, December 24, 2010

The day before

3:34 p.m. Today's Project was to get everything ready for our Christmas Eve party with our family and Steve's side tonight after 5:00 service.

Of course a simple plan morphed into going to CVS to pick up meds Steve ran out of, and sorely needs; gathering raisins and nuts for fudge and persimmon cookies, and doing a small cookie exchange with my neighbor Cindy. All has gone beautifully!

The Lord graciously woke me up at a quarter of 6 this morning to start my French market soup, after the beans had been soaking for a day and a half. Nothing more embarassing than partly cooked beans! Then for the next portion of the soup, I added a hamhock and went to bed for another hour. "He gives to His beloved sleep," says Psalm 127:2.

We just got some difficult news. The family in Orange is wanting to be together with Michelle, who recently lost her husband, Steve's brother Larry, and is really struggling today. Maybe we will go down and visit with her and see other family members, too.

After the service, we'll pray about whether just to enjoy our own family, or go out there tonight.

As the Lord leads, but we will commit to keeping the Lord Jesus Christ at the center of Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fit in God's eyes

8:00 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy our son Steven's company while getting used to his ultra-healthy six-meal-a-day diet. Not that I would be eating it myself, although like Steven, I eat eggs every day and enjoy meat at each meal. What takes getting used to several times a year is my kitchen smelling like egg white omelettes, broiled chicken breast, and tuna fried in olive oil! He's carb-loading right now, so oatmeal is a breakfast item, and rice appears throughout the day. Like most healthy eaters, he avoids any simple sugars like white bread and "whole wheat" bread which is nothing of the sort.

Steven's meals are so precise because he is a competition bodybuilder and a fitness trainer as well. He does nutrition coaching and recently held a seminar at a friend's home for a few of us. He has won several titles since he began competing 3 years ago, all the way to Number 5 in the heavyweight category in California--all natural, no steroids. Since he has the Collegiate Nationals in May, he'll need to bulk up to 260 pounds, and then lean down with fish, eggs, almonds, chicken breasts and broccoli. It's the strictest diet you can imagine, and makes the Atkins diet I'll be on before our daughter's wedding look like party food! Add two hours of cardio a day, along with lifting, and it really becomes a lifestyle. Pure discipline is what it takes to be a winner. Or should I say, "The Winner!"
I have noticed that discipline in my Christian walk is essential to my spiritual fitness. By spiritual fitness, I mean having Holy Spirit ability to reamain calm when provoked or disappointed, while still maintaining a scriptural stance in a situation. Spiritual disciplines of reading and studying the Bible daily; praying and writing my praises, confessions and requests to the Lord each morning; and being mindful of my witness to others inside and outside our home go a long way towards having a victorious Christian life. Just like our son and his diet/exercise regimen, a believer who has made a stated determination to walk worthy of her God does not take a day off. Jesus is too dear, too precious, and this Life too hard-fought to let it carelessly slip away.
This is the abundant life God designed for us! Jesus said, "I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly"(John 10:10) or as the NLT puts it, "My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life."
I just had a wonderful if brief visit with my grandsons and my daughter-in-law. Adrian and Xavier are now 13 and 15, and know the Lord as their Savior. It's not that we have lived a perfect life, but our Jesus is perfect, sinless, God come to earth to save us from our sins. and what ever small part Steve and I have had in leading them to Christ, we are grateful for! But without prayerful planning and again, the stated determination that as many family members and others we come into contact with will hear about Jesus, who would have gotten the blessing of witnessing to our dear grandsons? I'm glad it was us!
As the next two days, Christmas Eve and Christmas, come, we will have opportunity to serve our family members: Steve's family on Christmas Eve, and our children, my dad, and their spouses and one significant other (Pavel) on Christmas Day.
May we do honorable service, with spiritually fit, humble and loving hearts, remembering that it is You we celebrate!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The full range

9:11 p.m. Today's project was to visit our son-in-law Nick's parents John and Kathleen for our annual exchange of little gifts at Christmas. It was a "Nick and Heather" day (reminiscent to me of the "Nick and Nora" movie series of the 1930's), because we went on from the senior Loves' home to the kids's place.

Nick and Heather decorated their REAL Christmas tree today! This was not just an excuse to visit them, but true excitement on my part, because every day is a festive day for me in the Lord, especially during the season when we commemorate His birth. Heather also needed some Mary Kay eyeshadows for our oldest son's fiancee. Another thing that made the day special, is that Nick is no longer allergic to pine trees as he was in childhood when he was prone to asthma attacks. That was also a reason they haven't wanted any pets. Heather grew up with dogs of course, but allergies prevented that option for Nick. Praise the Lord for His healing and grace!

In their driveway before we exited the Jeep, I was having a text "conversation" with our youngest son who had the bright idea of bringing home an English Bulldog puppy for Steve, "so Dad won't have to walk the dogs any more." I let him know that not only would a crying puppy be totally unsettling for Steve, but the labs provide him with exercise and companionship. And we have never housebroken a puppy in 28 years--all of our dogs have been at least a year old when they were given to us. "Besides, I am completely overwhelmed already, " I let him know, and it would be too much for Steve to handle training a dog. So I feel reasonably confident that an English Bulldog puppy won't be coming home with Steven tonight...

This evening, watching Steve forget how to wrap a present made me reflect on this week's Alzheimer issues. He lost a pair of shoes for a couple of days; items will be left in all kinds of random places if I don't remind him to put things back where they came from; he was eating some pot pie and somehow the fingers of his left hand were in his food, while he still had his fork in his right. And sadly, his speech and general facial expressions are becoming more limited.This morning, I took him upstairs to change into his better jeans for our visits later in the day, but when I came back from my hair appointment, he hadn't changed!

It's at times like this that I ask God to give me the patience and compassion of His own heart, as well as the wisdom to know when I'll need occasional help with Steve's daily activities. I am sporting a bruised, swollen hand from part of a dog crate slamming into my knuckle when Steve mishandled it on Monday. (Normally, I wouldn't even needed to be involved in folding up the crates for moving into a different area, but he couldn't figure it out). It hasn't slowed down my shopping, wrapping, cookie making or banking activities, but it is visible evidence of a need for help here at home.

There's a prayer about knowing what I can't change, and knowing what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I'll add, Lord, give me the wisdom to get help, and to know when that time has come! In disturbing circumstances of any kind, it's always wise for believers to fall back on James 1:5:

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

I have been getting all of the documentation and forms in order with our long term care insurance company, so that the only step left to take was to call the Bright Star agency and make an appointment for a caregiver to get started coming over for a couple of hours to meet Steve and begin to assist me at home. While in the Altura Credit Union parking lot, I called the director-owner Rob and discussed a tentative start date for next week. I just need to double check my paperwork and see what categories of help Steve is in need of.
From visiting, to business, to future planning, today's projects went well, kept my faith strong and my confidence in Christ secure. That makes for a wonderful day!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The mint that refreshes

9:25 p.m. Today's project was to get up around 7:45, get dressed, make coffee, post my scripture on Facebook, read today's selection from My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chamber's seminal book of devotions, and drive with all prudent dispatch to the store to get some peppermint extract!

Why such haste? Because yesterday, Ralphs down the hill from my house in Canyon Crest was out of even their generic brand. And when I asked for Schilling, a brand used for generations, they "no longer carry it." I resignedly asked when the extract would be on the shelves, and this morning was it. The shelf would be restocked overnight. I guess this time of year the local residents all have the same idea, an idea that calls for mint flavoring! If I hadn't been pressed for time, and the rain hadn't made driving very unpleasant and marginally dangerous, I would have driven elsewhere. I made sure that our visitor Nick moved his car from behind mine in the driveway, and made two kinds of cookies anyway, adding mint chips to the meringues to make up for the missing extract. It is for the frosting on my layered mint chocolates that I need the real thing.

I decided to go up the hill to the other Ralphs in Mission Grove after calling to see if they had the item. Assured they did, I drove over, carefully, in the pouring rain. While there searching for bargains, I also picked up a pork roast for Christmas dinner, some generic cereal for Steve, and bagels from the markdown cart. Then came a wonderful bonus blessing. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and there was my old girlfriend and women's ministry co-worker from years ago at Harvest, Rocky Petty! A huge smile on her face, blessing everyone in the radius of her joy, Rocky made my morning. The checker whose line I went through said, "I just love that woman! Every time she comes in, she just inspires me!" I said, "Yes, that's Rocky, full of the Lord. It's totally the Lord shining through her!" The checker then wished me Merry Christmas!

"Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven," Jesus said in Matthew 5:16. We all need to exemplify the Light of the World who dwells in us, Jesus Christ our Lord! (Even in this dark and wretched rain!)

I thanked God for His exquisite timing and direction in something as simple as a trip to the store! It was nothing I had done, and that includes not having a very good attitude. He just is that good to me--and to you!

At home, I took the meringues out of the oven, and found they weren't as minty as they should be, so I soaked a tiny bit of paper towel in the extract and placed it in each cookie tin. By later in the morning, the taste was strong!

Our evening was blessed by our guests, the Ilies, rescheduled from yesterday. We had mulled cider, turkey pot pie, spinach salad and three kinds of cookies for dessert. What a neat time of fellowship and getting to know each other better! I am very glad Heidi will be marrying into their family, because they are very strong and anointed believers, so my heart is at peace and full of joy!

No matter my stresses and momentary irritations, God is always refreshing my spirit and encouraging me throughout the days--He is the only source of rest for my soul!
Forgotten Cookies (Mint Meringues)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat until fluffy 2 egg whites (at room temperature) and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar with a wire whisk attachment on your mixer at top speed. Gradually add 3/4 cup of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Add a few drops of red or green food coloring and 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract.
Stir in 6 oz. (half a package) of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Drop by scant teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper). Place in preheated oven. Turn oven off immediately and leave in overnight or at least 8 hours for meringues to dry.
Chocolate Layer Cookies
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup margarine
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sliced or slivered unblanched almonds
Mint cream
Chocolate glaze
Cake:Melt chocolate and margarine in microwave, on high 1 minute, stir, then 30 seconds. In a bowl, beat eggs and sugar until ivory colored. Add flour, nuts, chocolate mixture and stir. Pour batter into greased and floured 8" or 9" square pan.Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan.Spread mint cream evenly over baked cake. Cover and chill until firm, about 1 hour. Drizzle chocolate glaze over mint cream layer. Chill again and cut into small bite-sized squares. Keep refrigerated.
Mint cream: Beat together until smooth, 1 & 1/2 cups confectioner's powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons soft margarine, 2 tablespoons milk, and 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract.
Chocolate glaze: Melt together 2 tablespoons margarine and 2 oz. sweet chocolate,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Change of plans, from cooking to baking

4:10 p.m. Today's project was to prepare my dinner ingredients for this evening. We were expecting our future in-laws, the Ilies, over for dinner. I'd decided on a chicken pot pie, so I went about chunking and parboiling potatoes, broccoli and carrots, and then cutting up the turkey white meat I had kept frozen from Thanksgiving and making gravy. (I just munch the dark meat for a snack).

My daughter Mrs. Heather Love came over for a morning visit while I was in the kitchen, so she learned the ingredients I put in my mulled cider (clove-studded orange, apple juice, cinnamon stick, and a sprinkle of nutmeg). Heather had made some cider for her annual Christmas party the previous weekend, and exclaimed, "Nutmeg! That's the spice I was missing!" We also talked about a side dish she can make for Christmas Eve at our house this year, to go with my French Market Soup. My Chicken Chile Cheese Bread should do the trick, so I wrote down the ingredients for her. (Recipes follow).

As I was in line at Ralphs with two more pie crusts and other necessities, Rodica Ilie called me with a sudden change of plans. Her brother, whom she'd not seen for 30 years, was going to be at their house at the same time we would be sitting down for dinner, so we rescheduled for tomorrow. "I'll just bake cookies instead," I told her, as the Lord would want me to be gracious about a development that cannot be helped. In Ephesians 4:1, we are exhorted "to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

So we refocused on getting the dogs' crates into the garage and drying them off, thanks to my lame idea of moving the crates out to the patio to begin with, so there'd be room for company this evening to visit in the family room if they chose to. I neglected to remind Steve to get a waterproof tarp to put over the crates, so their towels and crates were soaked! What a commotion in the rain, with Steve dragging the crates to the back garage door, me figuring out how the crates were designed to collapse and could be moved by unlatching sets of hooks, and finally setting them back up and drying them! Now Bailey and Jada are doing nicely in the garage and Heidi's house guest Nick, a friend from Arizona, is here with Heidi and Pavel visiting. Looks like I'll be baking this evening: "Forgotten Cookies" mint meringues and Czechoslovakian Strawberry Bars. It's a perfect pairing: you use two yolks in one cookie and two whites in the other!

And, my pot pie just needs to be assembled tomorrow, so perhaps I can take a Christmas gift to my son, who is now in the 2nd phase of his VA treatment program. The Lord has it all under control!

Chicken Chili Cheese Bread

Cut a large French bread loaf in half lengthwise. Spread each half with a mixture of 2 sticks softened real butter, 2 cups shredded jack or cheddar cheese, or a mix of the two; red salsa to taste, and 2 large cans of chicken. (Or 2 cups cooked cubed). Toast 350 degrees on a cookie sheet for about 30 minutes or until cheese melts and gets lightly browned. Serves 12

French Market Soup

Wash a 2 c. bag of mixed beans, and let soak overnight, covered with water and 1 T salt. Drain and add 3 c. water, 1 hamhock, 2 bay leaves. Simmer 3 hours. Add 1 quart tomatoes, 2 onions, 2 garlic cloves, 6 stalks chopped celery. Add salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Simmer 1-1/2 hours uncovered. Add 1 lb. smoked turkey sausage, 4-5 chicken thighs. Cook until chicken falls off the bones. Remove bones and return meat to soup. Serves 8-10.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Let it rain...

10:20 p.m. Today's project was to drive to the Casa Del Prado Theatre to watch our great niece Cameron dance in the Nutcracker, a production of the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet. Cameron, 5, is in her first year with the group, and had a part as one of the Sugar Plum Candies.

Our nephew Chance treated us to our tickets, and Steve and I have been looking forward to this for a long time. I drive to San Diego several times a year, so that was no obstacle. But the weather sure was!

It was "Mrs. Toad's Wild Ride" as we entered the 215 South, trying to get the GPS working and helping Steve find the insulated lunch bag that he couldn't remember having put in the car before we left home for church earlier that morning. He ended up sitting in the back seat, so he could more easily find the lunch and eat his sandwich. (And was less of a distraction!) I ate a miniature orange--"Cuties," they're called--string cheese and a handful of Doritos, because the weather soon captured my attention! No time for salad!

The rain had been kind of drizzly earlier in the morning, but now it was a downpour. The glare from the sunlit clouds was dreadful, and combined with the spray-up from cars in front of me, made visibility very limited. I was glad to be wearing a huge pair of sunglasses meant to cover prescription ones, kind of like Morty Seinfeld (Jerry's tv dad) wore on the old show! But they made for excellent glare reduction, so I was thanking the Lord for them!

Many times I feel just like the Psalmist who wrote,

Who is like the LORD our God,
Who dwells on high,
Who humbles Himself to behold
The things that are in the
heavens and in the earth?

In every detail, God cares for His kids! We listened to Mercy Me's "Christmas Sessions" CD, but it was impossible for me to really get into singing along, because my eyes were focused straight ahead, my hands gripped the wheel, and I constantly adjusted and re-adjusted the front and back wipers and defrosters as the downpour would subside and start up again. Around Fallbrook, where hills rise up on each side, it got a bit foggy too, adding to the nerve-wracking glare. We just prayed as we went along. Thankfully, there was not much traffic--most people had the good sense to stay home!

The GPS had us go in a kind of roundabout way, counterintutive to my usual way of getting to the Balboa Park-Museum area (15->163), but we followed it (from the 15->8->52), I guess to keep peace in the car and not be told to "go back" by the bossy voice! I called Chance and he had directions for me from where we were, so it all worked out. My spirits lifted with the rain as we entered the San Diego city limits.

Steve and I got there in plenty of time to park at the Natural History Museum and walk over to the theater. We met up with Chance after he had dropped Cameron off backstage to get ready. Also there were our nephew Brady and his girlfriend Jessica; and niece Destiny, boyfriend Daniel, an Irishman who says "Happy Christmas," but I let that go with only minor teasing...Destiny's daughter Ashley, son Garrett, and Ashley's little girlfriend made up the rest of our party. The two 4-year-old girls were dressed in very nice floor-length party dresses, and 7-year-old Garrett looked very gentlemanly in a dress outfit with a sweater.

The ballet was wonderful! My Heather was in the Nutcracker back when she was three at Riverside Ballet Arts. She continued to dance all the way through her junior year in high school. Cameron did a very nice job in her group's brief appearance, despite one little girl picking up the artificial snow and throwing it at the others! It's good to learn an artistic skill that can stay with you for years. Kids who participate in extracurricular activities tend to associate with a better peer group and get better grades, because they are utilizing more of their God-given brains and talents, and have to learn to manage their time!

Believe me, I know! I was in Methodist youth group, orchestra, choir, and various clubs in high school, and continued in that vein with concert choir, sorority and service clubs at UCLA too. Since I met Christ in 1980, my focus has turned to knowing and serving Him, but I still keep busy at home with Steve and our family, writing about and teaching the Bible, and in women's ministries. I love every minute!

Steve and I declined a dinner invitation to Olive Garden, because at 4 p.m., it was already getting dark and we needed to head north. Steve mixed up my spinach, bacon, fried onion, Craisin and raspberry vinaigrette salad so I could eat on the way, while the sky was just a little drizzly. But with nightfall came steady rain, and a repeat of the process I'd gone through on the way south. Ugh! A bit bedraggled and little the worse for wear, we grabbed some necessities at Ralphs on Alessandro, and finally made it home.

Thank you, Lord, for answering our prayers and delivering us home safely!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

This lemon isn't a "lemon!"

5:33 p.m. Today's project was to make my second variety of Christmas cookies, Lemon Squares. These popular dessert bars are super tangy and sweet, made with fresh lemons from our tree for the top clear custard layer, and lots of powdered sugar for the topping and in the crust layer.

Steve picked lemons for me yesterday in the drizzle, and brought the above-pictured oddity in with the normal ones. From one angle, it looks like a lumpy cat going forward; from the other, like a Grimm's fairy tale monster or gargoyle sticking its tongue out at you! Our daughter found it so hideous that she had to hide it covered in the kitchen compost container. For her, this fruit is the stuff of nightmares--for me, this growth of several fruits together is "a real lemon!"
Something just didn't work, and the normal, smooth-skinned globe we expected to harvest didn't materialize. Or God has a sense of humor! I think it's in the category of "so ugly it's cute," like the Ugliest Dog contest you can watch on Animal Planet. So I rescued it and have it here on my office desk where I can see it and chuckle.
One thing I noticed is that it smells sweet and sour, just lovely, every bit the same as a regular lemon. I imagine that if I had the heart to cut it, the inside would taste like a lemon-or lemons--as well. But it's just too much of a novelty to dissect!
Think about the way we look at one another: we look at the outside, because that's all we have access to upon first meeting. If a newcomer "fits the mold" of average height, width, clothing style and speech pattern, we comfortably add them to our group. If they're a little quirky or not that attractive, or of a different cultural background, they're still all right, because they'll probably add a little "flavor" to the gathering. But if they are extremely different culturally, or are disabled, things are awkward until we politely recover ourselves and treat them with solicitousness, so as not to be seen as exclusive or snobbish.
The problem is with us, not the "different" one! We all want to be the perfect "lemon-shaped" lemon, and not stand out at all, but that's not God's plan! He made us all different on the outside; and where it counts, on the inside. In I Samuel 16, God sends the prophet Samuel to find a replacement for the failed Saul, Israel's first king. After passing up all of Jesse's older sons, God picks David the youngest, telling Samuel in verse 7,
The LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
Haven't you found that the most precious, loving people you've had the privilege to know are actually nothing like you? And that the only reason you even noticed them, met them and talked with them was because you both love Jesus and met at a Bible study or at church?
That seems to me to be God's plan in building up His church! It's not our surface commonalities that draw us to one another in the deepest way, so that we can serve one another by the power of the Holy Spirit; it's peoople with Jesus at the center of their lives, having all the things that matter, such as faith and the promise of eternal life, in common!
And yes, even though Ephesians 4:6 tells us there is "One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all;" verse 7 maintains our individuality: "But to every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." and the Apostle Paul goes on to describe the many kinds of gifts found in the Body of Christ, for the mutual benefit of all of us.
God wants us to be together, to be unified, for our own good. Look again at that lemon, which is really a number of lemons that grew together, and consider Ephesians 4:16, NLT:
God makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
That lemon isn't such a "lemon" any more, is it?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Date night

9:56 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy a nice evening to wrap up a less-than-enjoyable week. What with the memorial service for my brother-in-law Larry earlier this week, getting a cold, and having to miss out on serving the widows at their annual Christmas dinner at church, it was time for a fun night out! Hallmark channel movies are sweet and sentimental, but I'd rather be living my life with my own Beloved than watching actors any day!

Before Steve and I left for Downtown Riverside's Mission Inn, our daughter's fiance Pavel came over to go to escort her to Calvary Moreno Valley's Young Adult Christmas dinner. Heidi wasn't quite ready, so we asked Pavel to check out a 7-year-old laptop computer. I had found it too heavy to carry around, had then given it to second son Kriss, who then purchased a Mac, and left this Dell PC in a closet here at home. The computer was still good, so we'll work on connecting it to our wireless network later.

As the three of us were visiting, Heidi stepped downstairs in her new Christmas dress (that she made me swear not to describe to Pavel, as if I would!) and I managed to capture Pavel's reaction to seeing her in it the first time!

Amazed? Smitten? Bowled over? Whatever word you choose, it was the perfect reaction a young man should have to his lovely bride-to-be; and the perfect reaction a man should have to his lovely wife of few or many years! God's plan for thrilling love between a man and the woman He has selected for him should never diminish!

In fact, Steve and I have found love more exciting with every passing decade--good things come to those who wait--to those who actively nurture their marital relationship.
Proverbs 5:15-19 says, NLT,
Drink water from your own well--
share your love only with your wife.
Why spill the water of your springs in
the streets,
having sex with just anyone?
You should reserve it for yourselves.
Never share it with strangers.
Let your wife be a fountain of blessing
for you.
Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
She is a loving deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts satisfy you always.
May you always be captivated by your love.
When I watch my daughter Heather and son-in-law Nick holding hands and so proud of being married 2 years; read Kriss' raves on Facebook about his wife cooking the "best food I've ever eaten;" and watch Heidi and Pavel building their life and ministry together on the way to the altar, I know that God's Word is true, and His promises are real! Do it His way, marry for life, and God will graciously see a man and woman through every challenge and responsibility, with rewards and joy you never thought possible. The children who result will indeed be the icing on the cake, over and above your already abundant life!
In Isaiah 1:19 God says to His people, "If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land." Let's be willing and obedient, honor our marriages, and enjoy God's richest blessings!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Widows' Might

3:41 p.m. Today's project was to set and host a table at the annual Widows' Might dinner that our church puts on for widows of all ages at Christmastime. Our Piecemaker quilting and home arts group takes the lead in organizing, decorating and serving these precious women.

After a difficult evening at home, I found it hard to sleep, with my heart palpitating and severe head and neck pains. I did take a migraine pill, genetic Imitrex, at bedtime, which was very late. In the early morning hours, I woke up with a sore throat. Fearing that I've contracted the virus that Heidi has had for a couple of weeks, I called our leader Jill to let her know that I would set up my table, but my fellow Piecemaker buddy DeAnna would be the table server. No sense spreading germs at Christmas!
Don't you love having sweet friends who can step in when you're down, either emotionally or physically, or a bit of both, like I happen to be at the moment? Proverbs 18:24 says, "There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, " and our friends from Calvary Moreno Valley certainly fit that bill. Of course, my One Friend, who meets me in every circumstance is Jesus Christ Himself!
It's been a rough couple of weeks, with Larry's death and memorial having an effect on Steve, especially, and our whole family. On top of this sad event, are financial issues. Although I believe the Lord has helped me to get our affairs in order for the time being, dealing with bills and creditor arrangements singlehandedly has been a monumental strain. I can mention issues and shortages to Steve, but he just gives me the sympathetic look of a neutral observer. It's not his fault, although sometimes he talks about how he failed his family, but I staunchly reassure him that Alzheimer's certainly isn't his fault!
But when you've been partners with a spouse for nearly 30 years, it's lonely being solely responsible to "make it work." Praise God that He has gifted me with the logic and organizational skills to juggle home, family, my business, ministry and friendships. As I noted in yesterday's post, God will perfect all that concerns me...and 2011 promises to bring more confusion to Steve and a new paradigm when I hire a helper for him a few mornings a week. Thank you, Lord, for Your provision of longterm care insurance!
One item that kept me up last night was figuring out how to leave Steve from 3:30 until after 9:30 p.m., when the widows leave, we clean up all of our dishes and decorations, and I finally arrive home. How was dinner going to work? Could I prepare it ahead? Spend nonexistent money buying him fast food? Heidi would be at home until about 6:30 when she leaves for Young Adults meeting, but she would be busy getting ready to set up for their Christmas dinner.
So my sore throat was actually providential! I just have to be back by 8:00 or so, and Steve and I can have a nice dinner at home.
I chose a simpler Bible theme for my table for this event, using my sister-in-law Michaele's handmade nativity set. A dinner for widows is graced by the artistry of the much-loved newest widow in our family. How beautifully God uses each detail, doesn't he?
And He will perfect all that concerns you, too, believer!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Between His shoulders

5:28 p.m. Today's project was to take the Jeep in to Moss Motors for a quarterly service, only 30 days late! I'm glad we waited, because I had a nice coupon for fluid replacement and overall checkup for $18.95. While we were there, the service writer Tanya arranged for their affiliate Riverside body shop technician to give us a written estimate on the damage to the front bumper and headlight cover from our encounter with the Christmas tree in the carpool lane of the 60 freeway a couple of Sundays ago. A claim has been started with Mercury Insurance, so we'll see how we come out in regard to the $500 deductible. Since the Lord graciously kept us from injuries or major damage, we don't need to be in a huge hurry--the Jeep's drivable!

Listen to the blessing Moses gave to the tribe of Benjamin in Deuteronomy 33:12, which makes me feel secure as well:

The beloved of the LORD shall dwell safely by Him,
Who shelters him all the day long;
And he shall dwell between His shoulders.

"Between His shoulders!" Wouldn't that be near to God's heart? As a believer, I know that I am close to God's heart--after all, didn't He send His Son to die for me, so I could live with Him forever? That's a truth I can rest in, and so should you, if you know the Lord, and if you have not made that life-altering commitment, do it today!
As Steve and I took Christmas cards to friends and enjoyed fellowship, greetings and goodies, I felt so thankful for all that God has done for me. It's easy to focus on shortages, losses, and limitations, but what about God's rich blessings of family and friends? and the way He works out my circumstances? Psalm 138:8 says, "The LORD will perfect all that concerns me."
God has perfected, He is perfecting, and ultimately He will perfect all that concerns me, in my perfect eternal home, Heaven!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stepping up to the podium

12:17 p.m. Today's project is to help Steve prepare to say a few words--a very few--at his brother Larry's memorial service tonight at Calvary Chapel Anaheim.

I began by asking him if there is anything he can recall that the two of them, who shared a room in their parents' home until Steve bought his first home in Riverside, did together that was funny or characteristic of their boyhood.

Problem is, Steve cannot spontaneously remember anything at all. I would have been able to put a phrase or two on a 3x5 card, and then remind him as we walk up to the podium together, and maybe his older sisters could chime in, but I need a little something to work with. His hands are too shaky to hold the card himself, and I don't want undue attention drawn to him.

I texted his oldest sister, Sharon, to see if she has some memory-jogging topics for Steve, which will come in handy for a few words apiece. When I mentioned the 4th of July, since I know that fireworks were legal in Orange County, Steve said, "Oh yeah! The cherry bombs that Sharon's husband Chadwick brought--you know, you weren't supposed to have those!" He and his brother were probably in elementary at the time.

More facts:a raccoon named Geraldine was given to the family; the Kruckenbergs went to Sequoia, King's Canyon and Yosemite camping; they also went to visit their father's Kansas relatives. This afternoon, Steve's cousin Stephanie told me about a camping trip she, Larry, Steve and a friend named Judy took up the coast to Portland , Oregon in 1977. Steve drove the yellow truck and camper he had when we married in 1981. The guys had an argument about whether they should turn around and go to Hearst Castle, but Steve wanted to keep going. Larry told him to "Bug off!" and they all dissolved into laughter when Steve made a buzzing noise!

So we'll see how the Lord leads Steve this evening. Good friends have definitely been praying.

James 5:16 says, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." The Lord heard and answered!

Now that we are back home, I can happily say that the memorial was inspiring, fun, and made me realize how much we love Larry and will miss him. His three sons did an amazing job of speaking and presenting oldest son Chad's video montage of Larry's life.

When it came time for the siblings to take our places at the podium, Steve was hesitant and didn't know what to do, so I told him we were all going up together. Sharon spoke first, then Linda, each reading letters they had written their brother. Steve whispered to me, "I don't know what to say!" I told him I would start for him. I began by mentioning that Steve wanted to remember some childhood topics, like their pet raccoon--no response from Steve--and the Cherry Bombs. Then Steve lit up!

He pointed to Sharon and said, "That was Chadwick (her former husband), not us!" It was a good moment. Then I brought up the trip to Oregon and Steve said, "Yeah, Dad never wanted to stop til he got to the end of a trip, either!" I mentioned that Larry reminded me of the older brother on "It's a Wonderful Life," holding off on personal dreams to care for his parents, and closed with the fact that Larry had been so welcoming to me and my son when Steve and I married. I almost broke down crying...

Larry's widow Michaele's many church friends prepared a lovely snack reception where the fellowship continued. Our kids made sure to introduce themselves to relatives they had never seen, and Heidi took Pavel around to meet their Aunt Linda's family. We all vowed to get together on Christmas Eve, too!

Isaiah 57:1-2 says,

The righteous perishes,
And no man takes it to heart;
Merciful men are taken away,
While no one considers
That the righteous is taken away from evil.

He shall enter into peace;
They shall rest in their beds,
Each one walking in their uprightness.

Larry has been spared having to live another moment in this evil world...our loss is Heaven's gain!

Monday, December 13, 2010

What made me cry?

2:38 p.m. Today's project was to drop off a flyer with my hairdresser to post for a pre-wrapped gift sale of Mary Kay products, and then go on with Steve to Winco to shop for some necessities.
Until our rent check comes in from Wyoming, provisions are pretty thin here at home, to say the least! Steve has gotten a little sick of oatmeal for breakfast, so one goal on this cash-only shopping trip was to get him some cereal. We have milk already. I also needed just a cup of sugar, but figured I'd have to buy a pound of it. Eggs, batteries and dog food rounded out the list. We prayed as we walked in for special bargains!
Just as we were headed for the baking aisle, the Lord pointed me to the bulk bins. Duh!! So I scooped up sugar for about 69 cents, a pound of generic honey nut oat cereal for $1.79, and 10 lbs of dog food that looks amazingly like the IAMs I'll buy later this week, for 33 cents a pound. Score! On to get cheap eggs, Blue Bonnet tub margarine for Heidi and Steve, and then I paid half the normal price for my fave Italian Sweet Cream coffee creamer. 4 Duracell batteries were the biggest single expenditure at $3.48, but we had none, and I'll want my camera for the gathering of the family for brother-in-law Larry's memorial tomorrow. $13.92 out the door, praise the Lord! Still have money for gas to travel to Anaheim and back.
As we walked from the margarine area to the coffee aisle, I began to tear up as I looked at Steve, complacently walking along beside me, responding to my deliberately cheerful comments, but not really talking, just nodding his head. I just was overcome suddenly, that he would even be with me in a grocery store in the middle of the day--he would have been at work 5-6 days a week the first 27 years of our marriage! Yet I don't see any grudging or discontentment during our errands--he enjoys getting away from the house and yards for a bit.
Also, we finally seem to have hit a "happy medium" walking pace in stores, between my speeding, full-focus forced march and his lagging several feet behind with me stopping and waiting for him to catch up. It's not a slow "browsing" speed, but it's not racing, either! So yes, people with Alzheimer's can still learn--at least Steve can. I held his hand with mine on the cart at one point for a few seconds, just as a reminder, and he kept up just fine from there.
Another sad impression came over me while we were at the bulk bins: a young couple carefully measuring out their food, what looked like baking ingredients. Again, it just struck me that the young man was out of work, but blessed with a thrifty wife. I then noticed several other such couples, some maybe in their forties, all of the guys well into the career decades of life. I managed to contain myself from weeping out loud until I got into the parking lot--I actually had heart palpitations.
"There just are no jobs--ablebodied men with nothing to's just so sad," I cried to Steve. I prayed that God would find work for the husbands and fathers of our county, that they might enjoy the dignity of once again supporting their families.
Not wanting my melancholy mood to affect Steve, we focused on finding cheap gas for tomorrow's trip to the O.C., found a new shortcut to the Old 215 freeway, and headed home for a big bowl of honey nut oats for Steve, and a spinach and butter lettuce salad, with bacon and homemade Ranch dressing, for me. Steve checked his suit for tomorrow's service and is now out walking the dogs; I'll be making some cookies for a cookie exchange later, and packing up Christmas china and glasses for the table I'm hosting at the Widows' Might dinner Thursday. Best of all, our Steven is driving down from Fresno tomorrow to join us at the celebration of his Uncle Larry's life.
I found comfort today for the pain in my heart in Psalm 116:5-7:
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
Yes, our God is merciful.
The LORD preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
Even in these hard times, the LORD is dealing most bountifully with His people!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

From the sublime to the absurd

4:51 p.m. Today's project was to meet my friend Sharon Schutte at the Heritage House in the Arlington area of Riverside. After church, I drove Steve home, fixed him two grilled cheese and taco meat sandwiches, and was on my way. It felt good to have some time to myself to do something fun with an old friend, to have some "girlfriend time!" (While he napped in the family room).
Sharon and I go way back to the 1980's when we were new believers and in women's Bible study together at Harvest Christian Fellowship. We lost touch when Steve and I felt led to change to Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley 8 years ago. We caught back up with one another on Facebook last year, got together in a weight loss challenge class, and share our walks with the Lord on our blogs. She has an intimate walk with the Lord, is a student of the Word, and is supportive in every way to her pastor husband Rick. Sharon has always blessed me with tons of encouragement in writing Bible studies. And we both love antiques and home decorating, creating beautiful surroundings inside and outside our own homes. I think our friendship exemplifies Philippians 2:2, where the Apostle Paul says, "Fulfill my joy, that you be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind."
The Heritage House is across from the YWCA on Magnolia Avenue. Today's Christmas open house was free to the public, and parking was available at the Y. There was even a crossing guard for the guests' safety in crossing the four lane street. The Riverside Museum Association really knows how to treat its patrons right! We were greeted on the front porch by costumed docents and "Father Christmas." After we heard a complete history of the home, we were treated to a wonderful performance by harpist and singer shown above. She "just so happened" to be singing my favorite carol, "What Child is This?" in a deep, clear alto.
I think what I enjoyed so much was the fact that the event was titled "A Victorian Christmas," not "A Victorian Holiday," and "Merry Christmas" was heard throughout the home and in the bazaar in the back part of the property. Praise You, Lord Jesus!
I cannot begin to describe all of the lovely furnishings, original paintings and antique art pieces, even the original owner's clothes in the walk-in closet. Books, china, original chandeliers, incredible wallpapers and six hand-tiled fireplaces grace the 1891 home. One of the City's first indoor bathrooms is still in place, apparently making a splash in the newspapers of the day! The home was wired for electricity, because the owner had had electricity back in New York where she came from. So by the time power was available in California, all was ready.
Of course the kitchen was our favorite, with a very low iron stove--my back hurts just to imagine the cooks bending so low! I cooked and canned for four years on a wood stove in Colorado, but it was at normal people's height at least! A real novelty was the Enumerator, a bell system that not only rang the kitchen, but showed the room number the person was ringing from! Yes, each room was numbered. The Victorians, on the cusp of the modern era, thought of everything, it seems!
Sharon and I completed our leisurely tour in the back yard, where we were served hot cider and cookies, in front of the carriage house. Decoupage ornament crafting for the kids was being taught at a long table. It was time to hug goodbye and return to our hubbies at home.
Steve and I had another very special event to attend and a few preparations to make.
Our weekly Home Fellowship is a precious part of our lives, where we worship, eat fine meals weekly, pray and study God's Word. This week, we had a Christmas potluck, more food than even 25 people could consume. And desserts? Please--you name it, it was on the table. Our contribution was a spinach dip in a bread bowl, which I had prepared ahead of time. We also took two wrapped White Elephant gifts: a make-it-yourself sock kitty kit, and an exercise journal for LA Fitness members that Steven had buried in a box in the bottom of the "Christmas closet" in my office. From the Cal State San Marcos materials I found, it must have been left over from when he was a trainer in Escondido.
We had a blast as one ridiculous gift was revealed after another, from a Tiger Woods 2006 golf DVD, MREs from an Iraq vet in the group, a pickle-shaped smelly candle, and talking Micky Mouse doll, to a massive collection of flat-out junk that I ended up with, from a brother (Ron) who had obviously been cleaning out his closet too! I was on the floor in the middle of the group sorting through the nutty mess, laughing so hard I was crying. At the bottom of the sack of junk was a framed picture, very apropros, because its outrage-diffusing caption was Proverbs 17:17, "A FRIEND LOVETH AT ALL TIMES." (and forgiveth a bag full of junk to drag home!)
Whether my experiences today were delightfully sublime or utterly absurd, as a believer I can truly say, "A friend loves at all times!"

Saturday, December 11, 2010

God's Fall Clearance

4:37 p.m. Today's project was to take my Bible, coffee, pens and journal and sit at my front patio table, enjoying God's presence on a beautiful, clear and breezy morning.

I venture out front in my slippers and full-length house coat--reminiscent of Joseph's "coat of many colors"--and park myself at a small tile and wrought iron table at the back of the front yard, behind the Chinese elms and by the brick and cast iron gate to the back yard. Tucked back there in the shadows, I am effectively hidden even from passersby on foot, of which our street has many on Saturday mornings. My chairs, sturdy but not too comfortable, are made of dark metal and pretty heavy. With some of the winds we've had, that's a plus. One is covered with a darling blue and green "no-sew" fleece blanket from a Heart to Home class in Colorado a few years back, that originated from the classes of the same name that I still lead weekly at Calvary Moreno Valley. The ministry there paid Steve's and my airfare as keynote speaker, and blessed me with one craft item from each of their 20 classes.

The other chair has a loosely woven, light green throw on it, just enough to make it comfy. Those blankets stay outside in all weather, and dry out on their own after a rain. In the center of the round table is a very large round planter basket that could be hung up if the chains were still attached. The basket was the victim of crashing trees about four years ago, when a car and a truck collided at our corner and the truck ended up in our yard, having sailed through our street corner wall. (Since then, we had a tall, steel-reinforced brick wall hand-built for us by a great stonemason we know). Now the coco-lined metal basket holds spider plants and a sweet "string of pearls" succulent plant that drapes its pearls over the sides and onto the table.

Whenever I get the urge to take my devotions outside every couple of months on a Saturday, I can enjoy the street scene of activity and look at Box Mountain, Sycamore Canyon, and distant
Mt. Baldy if the day is especially clear, because we sit at the top of central Riverside. But today, a funny sight had my attention between paragraphs in II Corinthians 12: millions of bright yellow, orange and red Chinese elm leaves were piled all over the ground! Even more were still fluttering gently down in the breeze.
Last week, I made sure to snap pictures of the trees' resplendent, flaming display, because, as expected, the Santa Ana winds followed last Sunday's rain, and the leaves are history for 2010! Even though raking leaves is a chore, Steve was grateful to have recovered from his bad back by afternoon so he could make the yard spiffy again.
With such an obvious change of seasons as took place in our front yard this weekend, I can't help but think that it's God's "Fall Clearance," making way for winter as we know it here in Southern California. Fewer dry leaves mean less flammable fodder for the fire season. And the winter variety of grass that the trees were shading for so long can now get a nice serving of wintry sun. God's cycle is perfect. Isaiah 40:22 describes Him as "He who sits upon the circle of the earth."
There is a cycle for our lives also, if we are in Christ. We will serve Christ in each season of our lifes, growing and progressing from young, single, and single-minded believers, like those kids of mine who are in ministry and at church about every night. Theyare just like Steve and I once were. Young believers marry, have children, and serve by pointing our community to God's plan for families. We may not have as much freedom as our single friends, but have great influence all the same, because mature experiences build our faith and testimony, and lead to more responsible leadership roles at church. Nothing like raising a family to train you for dealing with all kinds of individuals you will be serving! I guess the family-raising and career-building years are like summer, or that's the way I've often heard it presented.
In fall, where I find myself, no more children are left at home, most of them are married or soon to be, grandkids are now on the scene, and it's a wonderful time for further reaches of ministry. I find that there is time to write, and the fruit of 30 years of walking with the Lord is really ripe now and ready for wider distribution. I can't wait for my first book, Galatians: An Exploration of Faith and Freedom, to come out next year! Will many people buy it? I have no idea. The marketing department at Tate Publishing will need to see to that. But, Lord willing, it is a first step of a career I barely dreamed would become a reality.
Fall has some difficult times too, for all of us over 50. Parents pass on, or become very limited in their activity; our own bodies begin breaking down. Steve is struggling with Alzheimer's, but he certainly has more good days than bad, by far. Arthritis is no fun, but it isn't enough to bog me down. There's too much living to do--and Advil works fine! Thank you, Lord for all of your provisions, including medicine!
Winter is coming just around the corner, I imagine, but the Lord will meet me there like
He has met me at every other stage of my walk with Him. "Can two walk together unless they be agreed?" the prophet asks in Amos 3:3. No! That's why I want to be in agreement with my Lord Jesus as much as possible. And since my human (sin) nature does not want to agree with God, I pray for His Holy Spirit to empower me daily.
I want to walk as Jesus walked in every season of my life!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The only safe place

2:27 p.m. Today's project was to help Steve's back to heal and nurse him through a bout with a touchy stomach.

The back ache began on Wednesday, with no known cause. His back just "went out." I helped set him up with alternating hot and cold pads, as our trainer son Steven prescribes, and that brought limited relief. He took Advil every few hours as well. Then Heidi remembered another back pain tip: lie down on your back with pillows under bent knees. Steve spent several hours resting upstairs in that position, actually sound asleep. When he got up, he was still bent over at the middle, so we went back to the heat/cold routine. Friends were joining us in prayer, too. By Thursday, he was walking a bit straighter, but not yet ready to walk his usual 2 1/2 miles up- and downhill with the dogs. Jada had made it out of her apparently-unlocked crate overnight Wednesday, gobbling some candy corn and stale cookies, so the dogs were getting stir-crazy--missing their master and howling for their 3 p.m. walk! So the Lord gave me a good idea.

The Holy Spirit is the Source of all of a believer's good ideas, creativity and plans--I am so grateful every day for His intervention and inspiration! Recall Acts 8:29, where the Spirit directs Philip to witness to an Ethiopian eunuch in the desert of Gaza. Philip came upon this high officer of Queen Candace's court reading the book of Isaiah. "Then the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go near and overtake this chariot.' " Philip obeyed, brought the man to salvation and bapatized him then and there! Then verse 39 tells us that "The Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more, and he went on his way rejoicing."

The Holy Spirit definitely speaks to believers today, not necessarily with amazingly dramatic results, but so that we might obey God in matters large and small.

The need for Steve to get in some active interaction with the dogs was getting serious, so I took a folding chair out to the patio and placed a clean rolled up area rug for his back, and voila! He could sit and throw Jada and Bailey the ball for at least an hour. They were very excited and he got some fresh air, too. He's back out there again today!
We had another issue come up during the early morning hours today as well. I heard the beep of Steve's C-pap breathing machine turning off, so I rolled over and said, "Turn that back on, please," without even waking up, probably. He said he felt sick, so he removed the mask and went to our bathroom. But he just had a serious pain in his stomach that has tapered off somewhat today, but hasn't caused any "outpourings." I prayed and gave him some Tums along with a light breakfast of cornbread, and some slices of rye toast for lunch, but his appetite is very low. I'm hoping we can attend the Calvary Chapel Christian School's presentation of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" this evening that we've already bought tickets for.
I can't help but think that some of the stomach upset may be connected to his brother's death on Wednesday, which we haven't spent a ton of time talking about, just sporadically as his sister calls, or I show him the Facebook posts of our nephews and other family members.
Just now, I asked him if his stomach pain had to do with Larry's death, and he said, "Yes." I asked him what he was thinking about mostly, and he said, "How many weeks or months do I have left?" Ministering to my husband as best I could, I said, "What happened to Larry is very different from what your situation is with Alzheimer's. And you are four years younger. " I told him that I could relate, because when a friend who was expecting her baby at the same time as Heather was due, had a shocking placenta previa stillbirth at 8-1/2 months, for a while I thought it would happen to me, too. But God showed me He has a different plan for each of us.
I added, "What if you (or I) die in a car accident, or of cancer? It may not even be Alzheimer's that takes your life. We have to trust the Lord."
My prayer is that both of us, and our children, arrive at that place of trust, no matter what tragedies happen to our loved ones.
It's the only safe place.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Goodness abounds

4:30 p.m. Today's project was to sort through the many, but modest, gifts still in their shipping boxes in my office, along with our Christmas cards. Good thing no one comes in here but me! I'm not the best at hiding and disguising things, other than turning around the brand-name labeled boxes from one company so the name doesn't show.

The quantity of gifts goes up with each marriage we celebrate in our family! We've had a bit of a tradition with Heather's in-laws, the Loves, which has resulted in our receiving some gorgeous handmade wooden items, such as the tree topper we now use, and the cutting board and wooden fruit bowl Nick's dad John made for us. I like to give flowering plants, gift baskets or a craft item. This year, we'll include Kriss' in-laws and probably Pavel's parents in fun gifts from SHHH...The Popcorn Factory. Or should marriage be the criteria? I'll be pondering that one. Wouldn't want to be premature...

Of course the kids, their spouses and significant others are on the gift list, as is my dad, my former daughter-in-law and and Sean's boys, our grandsons. Blessedly, I expect the list to grow as our younger four kids begin to "be fruitful and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28). I love God's plan for marriage and family, especially the grandkids part!

"Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged," Proverbs 17:6 says, NLT, and I can attest to that, and definitely am looking forward to attesting some more!

We had two pleasant surprises today. This morning, my dad popped over with a condolence card for my sister-in-law Michaele for Larry's passing, and brought Steve a Deluxe McDonald's breakfast. Problem was, Steve had finished a huge bowl of oatmeal and a bagel not 30 minutes before. He wasn't hungry, but ate an English muffin. We promised my dad that Steve would have the scrambled eggs and sausage sandwich for lunch, which he did. That big breakfast proved to be the gift that kept on giving, because Steve ate the pancakes and syrup after he came in from time in the backyard with the dogs.

Finished wrapping my gifts, placed them under the tree, ate my salad, and was taking a quick nap when our son-in-law Nick called, offering to bring over Marie Callendar's soup and cornbread. Not one to turn down any freebie, I texted him to come right over. We had a nice visit, caught up on the latest, and Steve and I will enjoy a nice minestrone with excellent cornbread...Marie Callendar's is the best. And from a long-time cornbread maker, that's no small praise!
I'm reminded that part of the celebration of the Jews' deliverance in the book of Esther, commemorated to this day as the Feast of Purim, was the "giving gifts of food to each other and presents to the poor" (Esther 9:22).
I think that's a good practice for us Christians as well!