Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mow, mow, mow your lawn

12:49 p.m. Today's project was to take a broken brake lever Steve had removed from the lawnmower to the huge Lawn Center store to order a part from the Ryobi company. The mower has not worked for a couple of weeks, but with all of the rain, there wouldn't have been any mowing going on any way.

This mower was a blessed gift from our friends Howard and Charlotte, given to us last year. It is very powerful and Steve has really enjoyed using it. So making a small investment in repairing it won't be a problem. Hearing of our plight, my dad came over on Tuesday to see if he and Steve could fix it. Turned out that the brake lever is broken, so getting a part shouldn't be a problem. Daddy wrote down all of the model and serial numbers since that is too hard for Steve now.

Proverbs 16:31 says, "The silver-haired head is a crown of glory if it is found in the way of righteousness." And this is one role our seniors can play and play well: advising their children with less experience and ability. My dad has been an invaluable resource for Steve,, able to help him on projects without consideration for the fact that Steve would never have needed help to fix a machine of any kind before Alzheimer's. Or if an undertaking were a two-man job, he would have had all of the steps and equipment laid out!

We took the part and all of the information my dad had written to the Lawnmower Center on the Northside of Riverside, and showed it all and the broken brake lever to the counter man. He entered the serial number in the computer and it came up as Ryobi's leafblower series! He went to the back repair shop and looked around, and came to the same conclusion: there had to be a different serial number, one that doesn't start with 11A. My dad isn't one to carelessly make mistakes, but anyone can transpose or write a wrong number. So we took our leave and our lever and came back home.

In the garage, I looked at the number and sure enough, it began with 11A. Looks like we've hit a pothole for now on our progress toward a working mower. Maybe the Lord wants us to bless a young man we know with some lawn work for a few weeks while we figure this out.

It's funny how we take things for granted that have served us well, and assume that they'll always work well. Our mental image of our bodies is a good illustration of this principle, because it always comes as a surprise when we can't eat whatever we like without getting heartburn or can't read small print after 40! In my case, whereas I walked up the entire length of the 45- degree-angled hill that leads to our house years ago, last summer I had to take small lengths of it and very gradually add distance each evening. Bummer! But a factual bummer, nonetheless.

In our walk with the Lord, we find that a gift or a ministry or even a way of relating to people that has been fruitful in the past or in a different setting seems to hit a pothole, and it no longer makes sense. There's nothing unscriptural going on; it's just that God wants to do a fresh work. I am very energized lately to witness to people I know, or don't know at all, in recognition of the dire days we are living in. Ove the last 30 years, I have witnessed rather boldly to many people and led some to the Lord. But now I seem to have a lot less fear about it--the urgency is too strong. "Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel," Paul said in I Corinthians 9:16. That's how I feel.

I also find myself a published author a of a book that lays down Christian doctrine very strictly, in a day when things are getting quite loose and cults are really making a push to deceive even believers. How does God plan to use Galatians: an Exploration of Faith and Freedom? This is

truly a new season of service, and I need to be prayerful and ready for what God wants to do!

Steve and I may get our mower repaired, or hire help, or purchase a new one. At this point I can't say. But our lawn will get mowed!

And God will see to it that His work is accomplished before the Lord Jesus returns, using His Church in whatever way He chooses!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"One of the nice ones"

4:04 p.m. Today's project was to spend a blessed and productive day at home with Steve, unlike the blessed and productive day I spent away from home yesterday! I must have needed an extra 80 minutes of sleep, because when I opened my eyes at 8:20, Steve was already up and getting dressed. Apparently the dogs didn't mind missing their usual 7 a.m. wake-up call either, because they went out shortly afterwards, same as usual. I guess I set my cellphone alarm and forgot to press "on." My devotions were about over, with just my journal entry to write, when Kriss called, as we had arranged, at 9:00. We had a great conversation, on speakerphone at his end, I suppose, as he commuted to work. I needed to get his okay to be the second in line on a power of attorney to carry out his dad's wishes should he become incapacitated and if I am deceased by then. Since Heidi and Heather already have responsibilities with life insurance policies and any remaining pension proceeds, and youngest son Steven may be living who knows where his bodybuilding/trainer/chiropractor career may lead him, it will be Kriss' job. He agreed readily. He told me that the band he's singing with, "Red Giant," is busy putting his vocals over the instrumentals they have already recorded. They have been giving him encouraging and strengthening tips for his voice. Kriss is naturally a gifted singer, but never had formal vocal coaching, so he loves it. He also is writing songs for the group, another gift he has been blessed with since high school. I love that he has a solid opportunity to do his music! Today Steve and I vanquished an underground agent of the enemy together--a gopher had chewed and weakened the stalks of two of my big broccoli plants, causing them to topple over! Steve discovered that the batteries in our ground vibrator were dead, thus the evil vermin had sneaked back. I got some new "C" batteries and that enemy is vanquished, but the Battle of Broccoli was just the opening salvo in the war that is organic gardening. As I watched Steve weeding the garden, I am reminded of the curse God spoke to Adam, and thus to all mankind, concerning growing crops after the Fall, Genesis 3:17-19, (NLT): Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return. People struggle to make a living and feed their families no matter what their vocation, don't we? If the Lord is gracious to us and gives us the means to buy or produce food, we then work very hard to harvest, clean, cook, creatively serve and safely preserve it. As we well know, "there's no such thing as a free lunch." You can take that concept back to Genesis 3! Yet, in Jesus Christ, God has given a path to peace and hope even in the hardest times. Those who have trusted Him for salvation and an eternal home in heaven also find comfort and wonderful joy in this life, an unusual peace in the darkest trials, and hope when the future looks tenuous, as the Apostle Paul experienced, when he "despaired even of life." (II Corinthians 1:8) My conversation with a pharmacy tech at CVS clearly illustrated this fact. She's somewhat new, so I said, "You'll get used to seeing me a lot. My husband has lots of prescriptions--he has Alzheimers." She replied, "I like seeing you. You're one of the nice ones. You're not like the lady I just had, who yelled at me so rudely over nothing at all! What is it when you just greet a person nicely and they just "grrrr" right from the start?! She's just unhappy..." (The young lady was visibly agitated, I realized). I said, "That is so hard! It doesn't have anything to do with you. She's hurting inside and taking it out on anyone who's there." Recognizing a Divine Set-up, I went on, "She doesn't have the Lord! When people know the Lord, they're Christians, it's not like a magic wand to take away your troubles, but Jesus can at least give you peace, hope, and help you cope with your life." She listened wide-eyed, very attentively and nodded, smiled, visibly relaxed, and we completed the transaction. Pray I'll get another chance to "complete the transaction," and lead her to the Lord, but meanwhile, may those of us who claim the Name of Jesus be "one of the nice ones."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A rutted road

3:16 p.m. Today's project was to spend the day with my dear friend of 30+ years, Monica. A visit from my dad made it possible for me to be gone away from Steve for several hours.

She is on the mend from cancer surgery, but still receiving chemotherapy through a pick (sp?) line inserted into one arm. Like I experienced with my own cancer surgery in 2003, she also wears a compression sleeve to combat the swelling that comes from the removal of multiple lymph nodes.

Today, my pal looked jaunty in her bright red Angels cap and matching top, and was in better spirits than yesterday when it seemed to her that all was just caving in on her--hair loss, difficulty sleeping, radiation therapy coming up this June, and the multifaceted effects of the assorted meds prescribed for her at Loma Linda. I remember my concerns, too, back in 2004, getting physical therapy for the sweling and scar tissue, and undergoing radiation. But the Lord was with me, I can truly testify!

I am reminded of what God said to Abram (Abraham) in Genesis 15:1b:

Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, and your exceedingly great reward.

God went on to promise Abram countless descendants, and the land of Canaan for him and his family. As God shepherded me through my breast cancer experience, He will do so for my friend.

It was a fun day at her home. Church members had painted the room her kids will be moving into a lovely taupe on top of a white chair rail, with deep cocoa on the bottom third. I gave her a pampering facial while we waited for lunch--mine from my lunch bag, hers a delicious tuna salad made by her daughter. We enjoyed a soda made with Stevia--pretty good, not too sweet. Amazingly, a friend brought them a free 5' x 7' storage shed, just blessing her socks off. Then came the delivery service with her meds and compression sleeves, in good supply for keeping the wounds clean.

Monica and I discussed her question about where the Lord wants her to serve, and I felt that He is using her in writing questions for the junior high retreat, posting amazing scriptures on Facebook, and as a loving support to her family behind the scenes. Fear of illness and infections from the nasty flu bugs and serious colds going around now, as well as having her painful arms squeezed in hugs, has kept her from attending church. But now that the weather is warming up, she can sit just outside the door and partake of the worship and message on Sunday. Praise the Lord! We need our fellowship!

For the last four years, the family has had trials of different kinds, one heaped upon the other. Like the deeply rutted road that leads to their home, it has been season after season of rough travel as nevertheless they have remained faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. They have not lost hope, and the joy of the Lord is resoundly clear in their home! At times she and I talked quietly of serious matters we both face, and know we can count on one another's prayers as she is physically able to take that time, considering the many medical appointments she has each week.

The Lord knows each of our hearts--as II Timothy 2:19 says,

The solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: the Lord knows those who are His.

We may travel a road of limiting ruts, find smooth pavement on our way, or most likely experience both, but God Himself allows and engineers each of our circumstances for our good, and for His glory!

Monday, March 28, 2011

A tucked-in shirt

4:22 p.m. Today's project was to encourage Steve to do some trimming and clean-up work around the front and back lawns, since our lawnmower needs a belt and some repair work. He loves to stay busy, but in this midstage of Alzheimer's he isn't initiating tasks quite as often. Whe he gets to work, however, his work is very neat, thorough and well done. Our property looks great! In his career as a maintenance mechanic, Steve was highly trained in safety, due to hazards from electrical and hydraulic systems, not to mention the intense heat generated by plastic injection molding machines, some the size of my living room. He often had to do repairs to the air conditioning systems on the roof of the plants, repair the molding machines, create industrial robots, repair forklifts and vehicles, and run a crew of men under him in the maintenance department. Safety and precision were the hallmarks of Steve's career. God raised him up to the peak of his career, with national recognition in the plastics industry as one who saved his employers millions in repair costs and gave advice to machine manufacturers! I love to think of Steve in regard to Proverbs 22:29: "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? That man shall stand before kings." Now three years out of the plastics industry, some of the hazards he would avoid even a few months ago, like leaving tools out or in a walkway where he or I (or the dogs) might trip over them, or even leaving dangerously sharp serrated tree trimming tools in the backyard, are something I need to look out for. He does best working alongside my dad, or for friends who can keep an orderly project going on their own property. Christian writer Karen Kingsbury has a novel in her Redemption series that gave me a clue about one safety requirement of the workplace Steve has not let go of: the tucked-in shirt. These days, except for dress-up occasions, guys of all ages wear their shirts out, not tucked in. It's even rare to see my dad with his shirt tucked in--more comfortable, easier all around. At times when we are going to church or out together, my dear husband looks sort of out of place, with a high-waisted tucked in shirt, so I show him that his shirt has a finished bottom and was designed to be worn long, outside of a belt. Other times, just around the house, it doesn't matter. I want to do what Chuck Swindoll always advised, "Don't major on the minors!" In the novel, the main character works in an Alzheimer's care home, where all were puzzled by repetitive behavior of a man who continually rubbed smooth circles on his bedspread, all day, every day, ignoring everyone. A debated theory was discovered by the aide, stating that people in dementia go back to what they used to do when they were younger, in their productive years. So the aide asked the man's son what his dad used to do and found that he was a saddle maker, who rubbed the leather in circles on the saddle! Once they knew what was happening, the family could accept the behavior and appreciate that the memory of usefulness in his profession was still an important part of him. I know that it is only fiction--well-researched fiction--but fiction nontheless. However, it does make sense. In the production workplace, shirts must be tucked in for safety, just like uniform pants are worn at the instep rather than trailing on the ground. Loose clothing is actually dangerous. Since Steve was in the workplace for 35 years, ever since high school, it makes perfect sense. I'm glad that he thinks of himself as a productive, needed and respected worker! Shouldn't we all have the same attitude toward whatever God has called us to do? Colossians Chapter 3 has a word on this subject in verses 17 and 23: Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him...and whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. Steve and I just talked about the theory and his shirts, and he agreed. Loose clothing is unsafe in the workplace, especially around moving machinery and equipment. And he does identify with his past profession in his mind, and his clothing habit reflects it. He's learned to make adjustments when I ask him to, which I appreciate. Once again, I am so very proud of my husband, and always will be!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

20 minutes to lift-off

2:1 p.m. Today's project was to prepare meatball sandwiches for our Home Fellowship this evening. We'll be leaving about 4:45, so we'll have plenty of time to set up the crockpot with the sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese. So I made sure to get the spaghetti sauce heating up in the crockpot before we left for church at 9:30.

The morning had been hectic, but as I shared with a friend before service started, my mornings get hectic because I add in lots of little projects between my devotions, getting ready, and eating breakfast. This morning as I listed to the founding Pastor Ramiro Lopez on the evangelical Spanish radio station, 93.4 FM Vida Abundante talk about their outreach all the way from San Bernardino to Guatemala, and their Mexico prison ministry, I felt led to write them a check along with my tithe check to our church. Our service had a special speaker today, Don Stewart, co-host with Pastor Chuck Smith, of "Pastor's Perspective" radio program on KWave 107.9 FM. We have been looking forward to hearing him while our pastor is away leading a group in Israel right now.

It seemed that the enemy was very much trying to hinder me this morning (more than I typically hinder myself!), because a number of small snafus came up. My cell phone was dead this morning, but aha! the Lord woke me up 15 minutes earlier than the alarm I had set. Steve had left his wallet upstairs, so I took that down to him. Even my black socks were mismatched and I had to start over before I could put my boots on. Small things add up to minutes of time away from my schedule time and again. Song of Solomon 2;15 admonishes, "Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines." That's a skill I need to learn when my mornings start to go awry!

Because a pastor, author, and skilled Bible apologist was coming to our pulpit, I prayed for help as I scurried to get Steve and me out of the door. Bless his heart, he was just about ready when I came down to stuff down my scrambled eggs, vitamins and a strawberry. We were both ready, Steve went on out to the Jeep, and I reached up to set the alarm. The enemy had one more trick up his sleeve...the alarm wouldn't set, because one "station" was open, i.e., the wireless circuit was broken. But I knew immedieately which one #6 was, the Levelors in the downstairs office. Sure enough, one slat lay between the top and bottom portions of the sensor. I drew it back, checked that the system was on green, set it, and off we went. I worried about not getting a seat to hear this popular speaker, but we would be happy even if we were seated in the overflow room!

Amazingly, we arrived a bit early. Worship was powerful, and I had a moment to write checks for a young friend's mission trip and put money from a cosmetic sale in an envelope for Japan's tsunami victims. Don Stewart was outstanding, teaching that the prophecies given to Daniel Chapter 12:4-10, in 500 B.C., are truly ready to come to pass as "all the players--Iran, Syria, Russia and Turkey--are on the stage in their places." Furthermore, he said, that if Jesus is coming back in 5 or 10 years, we could be taken to heaven any minute! Are we ready?

Pastor Don told a story of the great evangelist D.L. Moody staying perfectly calm during a near-deadly shipwreck, and people asking him why he didn't attend the prayer meeting onboard. He replied, "I'm all prayed up." Are we? Or do we have unconfessed sin to take care of?

The best story came about a Franciscan monk was asked by another while playing a game, "If you knew Jesus was coming back in 20 minutes, what would you do?" Others answered, "Pray." Perhaps we might say, make that long-overdue phone call, reconcile, or tell someone we love them. But the man of God answered, "I would finish my game." That sounds stunning, but think about it--he was ready to go!!

We were asked the same thing. The first thought that came ot my mind was "could I get home in time to shut off the crockpot?!" No sense burning down a building... when I told that to Don Stewart after the service where he was graciously autographing his books, he laughingly said, "I haven't heard that one before!" If we've kept short accounts with God, have met with Him today as any other day, and have loved Him "with all our heart, soul and mind" (Deuteronomy 6:5) we don't have to scramble to get ready to go. We ARE ready. Might as well turn to the practical matters that make up life on this planet.

I'll be finishing the preparations for a yummy dinner for our friends at Home Fellowship, which includes a fresh-picked salad from our garden. Meanwhile, I'll continue to look expectantly for Jesus to call me home at any time, while serving and living for Him, loving my husband, kids and grandkids, and allowing Him to shower me with unimaginable and undeserved grace!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

He has done all things well

1:45 p.m. Today's project was to go to Marry Me Bridal in Orange for a fitting of Heidi"s wedding gown. I very much appreciated the mother-daughter time together as we went on our way.

At the salon, just the basic adjustments needed to be made, around the neckline, the midriff, and to hem the bottom for the shoes our bride is wearing. The next fitting is in three weeks. I am SO glad there were no snafus, thanks to the Lord, who "has done all things well"(Mark 7:37). As I left the Mary Kay Career Conference last night, explaining why I'd not be back for today's session, a gal remarked, "The Fitting? Ooh--that's when everything bad happens!" Methinks Americans have been watching too many bridal shows! Our morning went like a dream.

On the way to our next stop, Robbins Bros. Jewelry at the Galleria at Tyler, I called Steve to see how he was getting along, and let him know we'd soon be back in Riverside. He actually did answer his new cell phone, a small victory! This had been a struggle for the first two weeks he had it, so again, Jesus has done all things well!

Nothing like the glitz and glam of a jewelry store to put a sparkle in a girl's eyes. The store manager offered me a latte, and Heidi's business was taken care of speedily. Just like Steve had a sturdier silver version made of his white gold wedding band for his active work environment 30 years ago, Pavel's band is tungsten, as is our son Kriss' ring. Lunch at the Elephant Bar afterwards was delicious, with enough leftovers for a meal for Steve and me later today. Lovely day all around, working on the last few details. The cake, transportation of guests and bridal party, the family bridal shower menu, even my dress choice are still "TBD." But God will make clear exactly what He wants in each instance, down to the smallest of details.

That's how much He loves His children!

I admit to wasting some time and oxygen on the way back from Orange musing about the other mothers I saw at the salon who seemed so much younger than me (at first glance, anyway) and pondering that I was 33 when I had Heidi. Well, nothing about that is going to change, or even should be changed, because God's timing is perfect. He gave us our children as He saw fit, along with His Word to raise them by. We spoke of the Lord daily to our "Little Hi," (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) and much fruit has been borne as she now is a teacher of Bible studies herself.

As Mark 7:37 says of Jesus, "He has done all things well."

Friday, March 25, 2011

The right priorities

1:55 p.m. Today's project is to attend the Mary Kay Career Conference at the Ontario Convention Center. Arrangements are in place for Steve's regular caregiver to arrive by 4:00 p.m. so I can meet my Sales Director and unit girlfriends at the nearby Marie Callendar's.

The last time I attended this conference it was held in Bakersfield in 2008. My daughter Heather, who was my recruiter and senior consultant, and her best friend Megan were in the car with fellow consultants Kim and me, rocking out to Michael Jackson tunes to pass the long drivetime away. Megan and Heather are old married ladies now! And only Megan and I are still in the business. Times change, don't they, along with the phases of our lives.

We enjoyed $80 worth of free products, all kinds of training and inspiration, Christian fellowship within our unit, and just plain fun. The plan for this weekend's two-day event is for the consultants to spend the night at a slumber party in our Sales Director's home and return in the morning. However, I'll need to drive back tonight because Heidi's wedding gown fitting is tomorrow, and I know my priorities, interestingly, the ones the late Mary Kay Ash herself laid out: God first, family second, and then your business."

Deuteronomy 6:4 (NLT) says, as to our first priority,

Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength."

The word of God is just as vehement in its command to care for our families:

If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel. (I Timothy 5:8, KJV)

And the Lord has commanded us to be diligent in our work or business. Who can forget the virtuous woman selling her wares in Proverbs 31, or Lydia, the hospitable seller of purple fabric in Acts 16? In Romans 12:11, the Apostle Paul exhorts believers to be

Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.

Included in this verse is our church ministry as well, whatever the Holy Spirit has gifted each one to do.

Long convinced that there is no division between secular and sacred work for the believer, I feel that all of our efforts in life can be used to reach others for Christ and to encourage and instruct other believers. As long as my priorities remain intact, and I prayerfully prepare for each day, the Lord meets me at home and in the marketplace for the glory, praise and honor of His Name!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Early to rise

4:05 p.m. Today's project was to take a sheet of Target bridal registry slips to the local UPS store. I'd downloaded them for our printer at home to include in Heidi's wedding invitations. They came out a little pale, so I was hoping the store's color copier would produce a brighter result.

So far, this errand has not been accomplished. I left the house before noon with the sheet of slips and headed to the Canyon Crest Towne Centre. First, however, I needed to do my exercise, then take my blood pressure at the Rite-Aid there. While walking, I decided to go to State Senator Bill Emmerson's office where my daughter works and ask for some constituent service. The staff ladies were eating lunch, so I briefly asked for their help in finding Alzheimer's caregiver support groups in Riverside. Otherwise, I'm headed to Canyon Lake, a 30-minute drive south on the 215 freeway, to join an established group recommended to me by long-time friend Barbara next Monday. I think my issue is a good use of taxpayer dollars, considering the prevalence of this disease and the toll it takes on families.

I continued my walk, combining stair-climbing to the 2nd stories of sparsely occupied office buildings and walking around on the sidewalk, until time to take my blood pressure at the drugstore as the doctor has ordered. My first reading, while slightly out of breath, was 135/70, not that great. So I slowly strolled the aisle, putting milk in my cart. I took a seat, "cuffed" myself once again, and was happy to see a reading of 129/62! Thank you, Lord!

Having checked my credit union balance as I left the store, I realized that a deposit was due to be made! Off I drove, deposited $40 cash Mary Kay earnings, and then realized I needed to get back to Steve. When I got home, I found him and the dogs out, so I drove down our street to pick them up and bring them back after clearing out the back of the Jeep. When I found them, poor Steve was shivering, because the pallid sun had gone behind the clouds since they'd left, and he didn't have a jacket on. In a scene of pure commotion, we got Bailey and Jada loaded up in a few seconds. Funny how big those girls look in a small enclosed space! (They are pictured above with Steve and my older grandson at Jackson Lake in Wyoming, looking pretty small in that majestic setting).
Our afternoon went smoothly enough, and before I knew it, my daughter was already home from school. It may be time to re-evaluate the time I get up in the mornings lately. If I get up at 7 when Steve puts out the dogs, it seems to go well and all my tasks get accomplished. But when I laze about until 8 o'clock, I find myself quite scattered, even though I spend the same amount of time in devotions and Bible study to get off on the right foot. I can't help but chuckle at Proverbs 26:14 (NIV):
As a door turns on its hinges,
So a sluggard turns on his bed.
That's been me the last two days, and I must mend my ways! Perhaps I should start by foregoing my favorite show, "Doc'" an old program on the Gospel Music Channel that I watch late in the evening while Steve gets settled into bed with his C-pap machine. I tivo all of the shows, and I love the prayers, Bible quotes and Christian values exemplified by the show's characters. But I need my sleep more!! Looks like we'll have to get an earlier start at night.
I will pray with the Psalmist, Chapter 90:12:
Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Job #1--Change the numbers

3:12 p.m. Today's project was to drop my blood pressure 40 points!

Yesterday I had the scariest surprise at our doctor's office: a blood pressure reading of 164/88! It was 2:45 in the afternoon, and the day had been tumultuous. I had been praying to witness to others in the morning. By the time I came back from my walk, I was able to share briefly on the sidewalk with two Jehovah Witness gentlemen. Since Steve's caregiver was present, I went on to write my blogpost, with the Book of Revelation on my mind, contrasting the fates of the saved and the unsaved. While in the middle of writing, I had a serious conversation with two much-loved family members, where honesty all around was the key, as it should be with believers.

When the blogpost was finished, Steve and I had lunch and left for a Mary Kay appointment, to get gas, and eventually to go to Dr. Guzman'z office. We drove to the client's home, and because I was merely delivering product, Steve stayed in the car reading. Once inside, I spoke to her about joining our business, but after she began to share her very difficult childhood and areas of struggle, I realized this was a Divine Set-Up! Most of our time was spent with me witnessing to her quite vigorously, as the Holy Spirit was giving me concepts from Scripture, examples of others with similar backgrounds to hers who had found peace--not magic bullets--for their lives in Jesus Christ. I gave her my very dramatic conversion, literally a night-and -day difference, having been "delivered from the power of darkness and conveyed into the kingdom of the Son of His love" (Colossians 1:13). And Ephesians 5:8 says:

For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.

Our conversation ended because we both had to get going, so I advised her to read the Gospel of John to know who Jesus really is. But the entire time, I felt very physically agitated and stressed, although the Spirit's words were flowing well through me, and I was not overly nervous. Even later, getting gasoline and cash for our ofice visit co-pays, the tight feeling in my chest and feeling ill at ease did not go away. This was a full-fledged attack of the enemy! I had been in an intense spiritual battle and had not fully realized it while it was taking place. I think there is much more to this gal's hurt that is below the surface--God knows. Father, intervene and cause her to accept Christ as her Savior!

As we parked at the office, Steve had lost the book he was going to take in with him somewhere in the car. (We always come prepared for long waits). I lost my patience momentarily, because we were a tiny bit late, but we walked into the doctor's office in decent spirits and he relaxed for a few minutes while I took care of our sign-in and co-pays. Steve had his usual good reading, and happily, has gained a few pounds. I had lost two pounds now that I am seriously doing low-carb eating (which I love). But, my blood pressure was appalling, considering I'd exercised that morning, too--164/88? The last time I had it done, it was 120/60, with no exercise and no weight loss! The nurse took it 3 more times, and I was able to get it down to 144/80, but with a pulse rate of 81. Not good. Needless to say, I left with instructions to take my BP daily, drink lots of water, and exercise. Yikes!

We picked some greens from the garden, had dinner early, and got ready to go out again, first to a very positive Mary Kay appointment and then on to church, where I taught my class on organic gardening, a great joy, and Steve attended Mens' Bible study. We came home uplifted and ready to finish up our day.

Steve and I cleaned up the kitchen, let in the dogs, covered the avocado tree with a sheet, and retired. Sadly, he woke up three times during the wee hours: once to go answer the front door where no one had rung the bell or knocked; the second time making loud noises because his C-pap was now off; and the third time to yell out, "Who are you?" while shaking violently.

But the Lord was so gracious to me! True to His word in Psalm 32:7, "You shall surround me with songs of deliverance," He gave me a lovely praise song that stayed in my mind and lulled me back to sleep, and allowed me to sleep in until 8 o'clock. I took my morning at a slower pace, spent time working on Heidi's registry inserts for the wedding invitations, and then went out by myself around noon to do some MK business, pick up some groceries, and take my blood pressure. The moment of truth came at CVS: 128/70, good! Steve and I walked down and up our nearby hill later in the afternoon. Doctor's orders!

Since stress seems to be the issue, it was time to look at what bugs me. It's not busyness, because I am a people person who relishes having lots of ministry, business and home tasks to accomplish. (Remember I had 5 kids, held public office, finished grad school, participated in all the school activities, and led ministries not that long ago!) A delight of my afternoon today was to run into church friends at the WalMart shopping center. But Steve's difficulties while we're driving, like calling out for me to "go!" when my light isn't green, or sending out false alarms and making "fright" noises, has almost caused an accident more than once. It's time to limit some of our outings, I'm thinking, harsh as that sounds. But if I become ill, are the kids able to step up to care for their dad?

I am also asking friends, our doctor, and our longterm care agency to find Alzheimer's caregiver support groups that meet locally. A Christian-based one would really be great. And closer to my heart, our son Kriss texted me last night:

"You need to reach out to us more, Mom. Build more conversations into your week with me and the others, it'll become a routine. But it won't happen if you don't help us help you."

Word! And may I be a doer of the word, not a listener only!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Quite a contrast

11:35 a.m. Today's project was to consider the dramatic and terrifying events of Revelation Chapters 18 and 19 as judgment of the enemies of Jesus Christ and salvation of believers are juxtaposed. Just as the delicate flowers on the young lady's skirt contrast with the harsh wooden background, so will the eventual fate of believers and unbelievers be opposite in every possible way!
The great city of Babylon, which some commentators say could represent the Roman empire at the height of its power, known for its lucrative worldwide commerce, is thrown down in an instant. Chapter 18: 17-20 (NLT) says:

In a single moment all the wealth of the city is gone!

And all the captains of the merchant ships and their passengers and sailors and crews will stand at a distance. They will cry out as they watch the smoke ascend, and they will say, "Where is there another city as great as this?" and they will weep and throw dust on their heads to show their grief. And they will cry out,

"How terrible, how terrible for that great city!
The shipowners became wealthy
by transporting her great wealth on the seas.
In a single moment it is all gone."

Rejoice over her fate, O heaven
and people of God and apostles and prophets!
For at last God has judged her for your sakes.

Great songs of victory result in heaven, and the long-suffering saints are prepared and welcomed to the Marriage Feast of the Lamb! Then, total judgment and victory belong to the conquering Christ, and another feast takes place--that of vultures gorging on the flesh of the beast, Jesus' unrepentant enemies and the evil kings of the earth!
This morning, I was journalling to the Lord, challenged by the message given Sunday night by Matt Brown at Sandals, to take 5 minutes to share the gospel with others, with no preconceived notions of who might be suitable. I wrote that doors of witnessing where I would interact with unsaved people regularly, like work and places where we would vacation were now closed. I prayed for new opportunities to arise in my retired life. A few hours later, when I came in from my walk, I had the chance to speak to two Jehovah winesses coming up to our house! Our talk was brief, because I had to go in and shower, but seeds were planted, and perhaps at the next Christian home, that seed of the Word will be watered!
Lord, please let me be ready and faithful to share the gospel of Christ today--and every day, as You bring unsaved people into my life! Time is short, the world is in dire shape, and people are frightened. May believers bring them the only message that has eternal peace to offer!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Seeking connection

3:17 p.m. Today's project was to finally connect with my prayer partner, whose time has been completely taken up with chemotherapy, physical therapy, and chiropractic treatments for the cancer that was removed earlier this year. We communicate by text and Facebook, and she leaves very encouraging notes for her scores of friends, full of hopeful, powerful scriptures that God is using in her life right now. Because of her weakened immune system, she has had to miss church and Bible study, so many of us send and post verses for her mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. Most important, she also has a wonderful husband, daughter and extended family to support her!

My sweet friend is very much in need of companionship, because the enemy does jump in with fear tactics when she's alone. Now, with her serious hair loss, there's a need for close friends to be with her for an experience she labels "traumatizing," as others can verify. A woman's hair is known as her "crowning glory," and it has been so much a part of our feminine identification through the centuries! "Braided" and "plaited" hair are are seen as adornments in I Timothy and I Peter, even as women are warned against putting their focus on elaborate outward stylishness. But Paul, in a discussion of order in the church and prayer, contrasts the man and the woman:

Does not even nature itself tell you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.

So for a woman to lose her hair is a very hard shocking thing to bear, and much moral support is needed! I will be honored to stay with my friend next Tuesday, a good day for me because I already have a caregiver scheduled then. May our day be uplifting, fun, and funny, a couple of crackpot cancer survivors enjoying the Lord together!

Last week, I realized the need for another kind of connection, namely an Alzheimer's caregiver support group. The Lord showed me that even if I did a multiple things, like Bible teaching ministry and holding public office while raising five children, I now lack the strong leadership that made it all possible. I had a husband in the sense of decision maker and provider, someone to lean on in trials and difficulties that arise in every family. I still confide in Steve, but he is unable to retain the information or grasp the emotional component of my words or body language, and some times just looks at me when I'm in tears. It's not his fault, because the disease has robbed him of comprehending of the seriousness of given situations, and he has no clue of the devastating future impact on me or him of events that take place. And of course, he cannot take charge of problem solving like most husbands would, making things right, standing up for his wife. Even the most serious conversations leave no impact on him. Wish I could just "float above" the crises instead of being the human being responsible to confront and solve them!

There is no doubt that the Lord is more active in my live and decision-making than ever before. The Holy Spirit gives me solutions for a myriad of issues every day. But God created people to be together in community, to assist one another practically and emotionally. "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ," Galatians 6:2 says. What is Christ's law? In John 15:12 Jesus tells us: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

One creation the Lord has gifted people with to bless their community is commonality. People going through, or having gone through, the same experiences can be of invaluable service to others who are struggling. For example, I was able to give my prayer partner some advice to reduce swelling in her arm, because I had dealt with it after my breast cancer surgery 7 years ago.

Now I need help in coping with the mental instability of my husband from more experienced family caregivers, because the random trials of life hit me very hard when stress and strain are already high. [I could call upon our adult kids, who commiserate and help out when they can, but they are young adults, with life experiences and wisdom just now forming.] In the mid-stage of Alzheimer's, Steve is very functional in most ways except for confusion, forgetfulness and slow processing of information. Even with professional trained caregivers who will continue to come in to assist me, there is no way to get through the later stages without wise and experienced, likeminded support!

I had been referred by the Alzheimer's Association to the Janet Goeske Senior Center for a caregivers' support group, but it turns out that the center only played host to the Alzheimer's Association group. So today, I called again, and the Goeske Center gave me the Home Instead company.They recommended a caregivers' group in Rubidoux and the Riverside Medical Center on Lakeview Drive. I think that's by Ina Arbuckle where I used to teach.

One would think that with Alzheimer's becoming so rampant as our population ages, groups would be springing up everywhere. But it is less compelling of a need than alcohol/drug or anger management groups that are court-ordered to keep offenders out of jail and protect society. An Alzheimer's caregiver may be despairing at times, or the sufferer may wander off, but harm to the public is pretty rare. I am grateful for caring professionals and trained volunteers who take on the facilitation of what must be very emotional discussions!

Lord, please help Your people connect, support, and love one another, as You have loved us!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Love before you lead

3:18 p.m. Today's project is to ready ourselves for Home Fellowship at 5:30 p.m., and then to Sandals' evening service with our daughter Heather and son-in-law Nick at 7. We'll need to leave our group discussion by 6:15, because we'll be traversing all of Moreno Valley to the north end of Riverside. They have been inviting us since their new sanctuary has been open for services. We visited their "Trunk 'n Treat" Halloween alternative event last fall, and it was the largest church event I've ever been too. (Nick, heather and their friends' octopus display is pictured above). Steve and I could hardly make our way through the thousands of young families, visiting dozens of booths set up in the trunks of cars. Their location out in the industrial Northside of Riverside gives them access to a fairly unchurched community with many huge multiple-family housing units. May the Lord give them an open door of ministry to preach the gospel!

Sandals' focus on body ministry as the path to evangelism is centered around Small Groups that meet in homes. We love that because Steve and I met in a home Bible study out of Harvest Christian Fellowship 31 years ago; subsequently we attended various home studies as a couple and as a family. I taught several books of the Bible to women through the 1980' s in our home as well. Ever since our youngest son went away to college four years ago, we have participated in home fellowships through Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley, and we enjoyed a summer married couples' study through Harvest the last two years.

We are utterly convinced that the pattern of the early church, the small home meeting, most closely resembles the Early Church. Acts 2:41-47, which we studied last summer in the home of our friends Jeff and Monica Tomchek, describes the explosive growth and lifestyle of believers after Peter's Sermon on the Day of Pentecost:

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

What we see here is the perfect model for the Body of Christ, with an astounding yield of saved souls and sweet fellowship!
  1. The Gospel is preached
  2. Salvation is offered
  3. Listeners repent
  4. New believers are added to the church
  5. Believers continue in the apostles' doctrine
  6. Believers have fellowship
  7. Meals are shared from house to house
  8. Corporate prayer is a constant
  9. Signs and wonders were done through the apostles
  10. Possessions were shared, and divided among all as needs arose
  11. Believers continued daily in one accord in the temple, praising God
  12. The church had favor with all of the people



I am certain that the love demonstrated by the early church drew members of the public like a magnet. As it was 2,000 years ago, it is today: you have to love before you lead!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Relative needs

6:07 p.m. Today's project was to maximize earnings and minimize expenditures, while covering our household needs. Customer calls brought in new business over the last day or two, and we received our the rent check from out of state, but the deposit won't likely post until Tuesday. Since we'll be driving to church Sunday morning, back out that way for Home Fellowship in the evening, and then joining Heather and Nick for their evening service at Sandals' new facility in the far northern end of Riverside, the 1/4 tank of gas we had wouldn't have cut it. Praise the Lord for plenty of food here at home, and most other necessities!
The picture of last year's winter garden is a promise of plenty of salad greens to come, already growing again this year. Have you noticed how much produce has gone up? At least we left the grocery store with the results of our bargains and my modest business profits, and now had gas money.
As we walked toward our car, a tall, blonde, skinny lady and her little boy approached us. In a thick eastern European accent, she asked for help while her son held a sign. I was able to give her a little something and pray they found more before nightfall. It's not for us to judge by people's appearance whether or not they are needy, and I couldn't tell anyway. Hebrews 4:13 says "there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." So God knows! But we can always find something to give. That's why we participate in every charity clothing drive that leaves a bag on our doorstep, and I took a bag of "gently used" clothes to our church's clothing swap slated for April 9th.
Back close to home, I purchased a whopping 5.13 gallons of gas, or almost a quarter tank for my Jeep, with my $20 bill. The advice "don't spend it all in one place," is hard to follow these days with gas prices edging up to $4.00/gallon. For those of us on fixed income, or worse, unemployed, that's a real challenge. Being an even wiser steward has become mandatory, like doing several errands in the same part of town each time you take your car out. Some of us remember being outraged when gas went over 25 cents a gallon in the 70's when I was at UCLA! Imagine. My dad earned a very good living as a gas station owner in those days, too.
I pray our state can return to being the bright, promising place I grew up in, and our nation as well. Praise God that hope never dies for the believer, because whether in health, illness, impoverishment or even death, Jesus our High Priest "is able to save to the uttermost all those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus embodies hope for all people, communities and nations, hallelujah!
Down as I get sometimes when we're between pension payments, or as sad as I felt for the mother in the parking lot, I couldn't help but ponder a video I viewed on Facebook, with a Christian man of India sharing the way that God compelled him to go out to feed the starving ones of his city. For those wading in the Ganges River, with no food at all, even consuming human waste, there is no government or societal "safety net." The results of centuries of degrading and demonic idol worship are everywhere. While there is no perfection in this world, our Western Civilization, originally founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, has lifted more millions out of poverty than the world had has ever known before, as well as provide billions of tons of food for those mired in slavery to false religions.
May we not forget the truly desperate in the third world, and give to charities such as Samaritan's Purse that take the Gospel with the goods so desperately needed by victims of war, neglect and tragedy. May we feel compelled to give to local charities who employ and house the poor, as well as make others aware of help they can receive, many of us for the first time in our adult lives, due to disability or unemployment. In other words, may we be Jesus' hands and feet, and His voice too, as we share why we give! I John 4:17 says,
As He is, so are we in this world.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Breathe in His grace Part II: A new vantage point

4:13 p.m. Today's Project was to bask in the truth that having difficulty in one area of your life doesn't have to define the child of God. And having difficulty in one area of your life doesn't mean that our Father sees His child in only one dimension either.
My life (and yours) reminds me of the views of the Grand Tetons I shot from two vantage points at Jackson Lake, Wyoming. Using a telephoto lens, I see the biggest mountain up close, in all its blue and white magnificence; but from a normal distance I see the lonely pine tree I missed in the "big picture."
A trial or conflict looms so large in our life that we completely droop, overwhelmed and defeated, whether we caused the problem or not. Trouble rightly becomes the subject of our prayers, but, is that one issue the only concern we need to lift to the Lord? Should it halt our praises, block out all of the good God does for us all day and night? "Whom the LORD loves He chastens, " (Hebrews 12:6), but He corrects us in love, for our own good, and receives our repentance and forgives COMPLETELY! God moves on--shouldn't we?
I remember what God told Joshua in Joshua 7:10 after the Israelites' defeat at Ai: "Get up! why do you lie thus on your face?" Wow! God told him why it happened, what to do to fix it, Joshua obeyed, and then the armies of God's people went back to conquer the city.
Last night, after a shocking and dismaying afternoon, God basically--but more gently-- told me to get up and go on in victory, a victory He would provide.
still fighting tears, I got Steve and his caregiver situated, drove over to Redlands for my Mary Kay meeting, and had an encouraging conversation with my son Kriss before I went in. At the meeting, I received some recognition for my week, and had the privilege of giving the inspirational message to close the meeting. It was full of scripture and was very well received. I even won a pair of earrings!
I had moved from the looming mountain of heartbreak to a view with a realistic perspective. Yes, heartache was still in the background--troubles don't magically disappear. But that fresh work of God continues even today, refreshed by a night's sleep. I gained new customers and sales, had a good day here at home, and am looking forward to some fun fellowship tonight.
When I get my mind off of "the destruction that lays waste at noonday" (Psalm 91:6b), I can see the fresh, green, straight, standing pine tree of the presence of God, and know that He loves me like no other, as He tells me in Psalm 91:14-16:
Because he has set His love upon
Me, therefore I will deliver him.
I will set him on high, because he
has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will
answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver Him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Breathe in His Grace Part I

2:34 p.m. Today's project was to breathe in the sweet aroma of the grace of God through the Son Jesus Christ, by the workings of the Holy Spirit!

Last night, things did not go well. Steve had an emotional breakdown over putting on his C-pap mask (which he has done successfully every night for several months) and I tried to help, to no avail. The combination of irrational confusion on his part and late-night exhaustion on mine was a bad one. After he got safely settled down with his mask in place and humming along, I had a lot to confess before I went to sleep! I prayed for spiritual renewal after the pattern of Psalm 51:10:

Create in me a clean heart,
O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit
within me.

We both had a good night's rest despite the prior night's trouble, and enjoyed a pleasant morning of devotions and Bible study. In my journal, acknowledging the "caregiver burnout" that I've read so much about and thought I'd escape, I wrote, "Father, please forgive me and help me to know when I am at the weakest part of my day and send a warning! I ask for Your Spirit to refill me today, and for each day..." Conviction weighed heavily upon me, but just being able to pray for help from the God of the universe was such a comfort in itself!

God not only answered that prayer, but blessed me in several ways today. Our friend Howard called up, and asked if Steve could come over and help out in his orchard. That was a godsend, because Steve loves to work over there, and it would make my mornings errands go much more quickly and smoothly. The Lord is the One who put that on Howard's heart, although he needed the work done, I'm sure. As Psalm 103: assures us, "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and full of compassion."

After doing some banking, I took the memory card out of the C-pap machine over to his neurologist's office to download into their computer. The nurse came out with it a few minutes later, saying that Steve is doing even better than the last time they read it--far fewer apnea episodes. Praise the Lord. I have noticed him sleeping very quietly and soundly, and I thank the Lord for His kindness!

God had a blessing for me in regard to the Heart to Home ministry, too. The Holy Spirit directed me where to look for my notes on the organic gardening class I'm scheduled to teach to kick off our spring series of classes! That saves me quite a bit of time, since the material will be essentially identical to last year's class that was well-received.

On a smaller level, I saved quite a bit with coupons over at Vons grocery store; made a nice cosmetics sale; and had a pleasant time driving across town with our daughter Heidi after she dropped off her car for maintenance. And I will be looking for the Alzheimer caregiver support meetings at the local Janet Goeske Senior Center--it's time!

Tonight's Mary Kay training meeting will be especially fun, with an "Eyes Cream Social" theme featuring new eye makeup techniques and ice cream sundaes. I'll be giving the inspirational message based on Proverbs 29:25, "The fear of man brings a snare." (About fearing to ask for help from others as well as fearing their opinions, as it relates to making the calls and connections that are the lifeblood of our business). Since most of our unit's consultants and directors are believers, we'll learn marketing skills, acknowledge the week's accomplishments, and enjoy fellowship as well.

Steve came home refreshed and energized, and set out to walk the dogs in good spirits. And I feel refreshed as well by my day away from constant care--loving and fulfilling care, but care nonetheless. I guess I didn't think I'd become overburdened, because I remember caring for my five children with almost no babysitters, 7 days a week for 20-some years, while leading Bible studies and women's ministry programs. Of course, having a husband who supported the family well and was an active dad made the burden seem light, a blessing from the Lord even in difficult times.

I realize now the extent and depth of lack now that my husband can no longer fulfill his headship role, all decisions must be made by me (on the human plane), and his health and safety are now my responsibility. Add the financial strains of fixed income, and we've got ample territory for the enemy to try to trespass on!

Like a widow, I am relying solely on God's generous mercy and grace for wisdom, provision, and the prayerful support and encouragement of church friends. Scripture is very clear about those who need God's assistance due to circumstances they cannot prevent or change. When I think of all of the ways the Lord has carried me the last two years, I can only do one thing:

Breathe in His grace!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Neuro day

1:34 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve to his neurologist, Dr. Rai, for the last time. On April 1st, he'll be on Medicare, and I had to select not only a new primary care provider, but a new neurologist.
This 6 month check-up was an opportunity to report any changes in Steve's status, habits, abilities and weight. He's lost some pounds since we were there last, unlike yours truly who slipped over to the scale while we awaited the doctor! Yikes--must get serious. Since we are both seeing our primary care physician next week, that's a good way to judge whther I actually get serious about changing my eating habits.
When we first met Dr. Rai a few years ago, he and I did not hit it off, to put it mildly. I was in the beginning of coping with Steve's Alzheimer's symptoms, repeated job loss, and application for permanent Social Security disability. All of this became a frighteningly full-time job with no clue as to how to handle it. I needed compassion and concern, along with constructive advice on the disease and its likely progress. Instead, I received a rather cold, if technically competent, response. He seemed to minimize Steve's dire family history and my concerns, and refused to sign a paper asking him about Steve's symptoms for our legal case against Social Security. We ended up with him silently walking out of the exam room as I expressed tearful outrage at his harsh manner.
In future appointments, he listened more and attempted to be somewhat more personable; I maintained my composure a lot better, and our conversations became more professional. He prescribed the sleep apnea tests and the C-pap machine that keeps Steve actually breathing all night without interruption now. He could very well have saved Steve from dying in his sleep!
I am finding myself in tears right now because we can't go back to Dr. Rai's office again. Steve is now on Medicare, and the local Medicare network does not have Dr. Rai on its list of providers. I selected someone I'd heard of in the same part of town. Even sadder is giving up our primary care physician, Dr. Guzman for Steve, same reason. I have known of the doctor I selected, and have no doubt Steve will have excellent care, but it's just disappointing. We've been seeing Dr. Guzman for almost 20 years and have become friends. I'm glad I don't have to switch, at least until I'm forced to go on Medicare at age 62. (That's when private plans shoo you out the door).
God has called us as believers to be orderly, obedient participants in society as a good witness to the world. "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven," Jesus said in Matthew 5:16.
While there's no emotional component to stopping at a red light, giving up doctors who know a medically and mentally fragile person like Steve is hard to cope with. Change is part of life, which I well know after 5 decades of living, but this will be very difficult and confusing. Perhaps in future times, more providers will be added to the CareMore group, and we'll take back up with Drs. Rai and Guzman. Or maybe not.
Isaiah 43:18-19 says quite a bit about letting the past go:
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.
In You, I can go forward. Looking at You, I can rejoice!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Blessed out of your socks? Make sure they don't get stolen!

3:58 p.m. Today's project is to cool off, get a grip, settle down, and get in agreement with God! After a wonderful morning of Bible study, in which we ended up challenging one another to make a covenant with God, of freedom from bondage, we enjoyed fellowship in the potluck format we Christians do so well.

I sat with a sister for a few moments of ministry in the sanctuary, and then joined the group in the foyer. What an impressive spread of all kinds of entrees, salads and desserts! There were blessings of a spiritual nature as well. The ladies were very receptive to our leader's announcement of the next Heart to Home session "Produce, Preserve and Provide God's way," that will begin next week with my class on organic gardening. Then we will have Canning ABC's, and the third week will feature household savings. Thank you, Lord, that the ladies want to attend! I have so agonized in prayer over this series!

One matter on my heart is Thursday morning Bible study (in I Samuel) that I will be leading again this spring and summer. When I was still teaching school, we'd begin in late June. The last two years, we've begun in May, as soon as the study at church is completed. But this year we ended early, and my core group of gals is ready to start when I am. They are committed to the study of the Bible, and so supportive. Theresa and Malinda said, "we're ready to start when you are!" Love it! So April might just be our date, and our teacher members who won't be free until June can jump in then...they'll be getting the lessons by email so they can stay caught up. My women remind me of the Bereans mentioned in Acts 17 :11(NLT) :

The people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.

That's what we do each Thursday at 10:00-11:30 a.m. --search the Scriptures together as I teach the truth, as led by the Spirit of Truth!

But there is one lack I've felt, as compared to teaching my women's home study in the 80's: no childcare. Many young moms and grandmas watching their kids' kids for the summer have expressed a desire to attend, but can't. Our hostess Debbie is quite receptive to having the kids in a bonus room upstairs, no problem. But who would be willing to take on the responsibility? One mom is praying about it and agreeable to taking turns with someone, so as not to miss the study every week. So the Lord put another gal on my heart, Angela, and I found her after the Bible study. When I began talking about helping out with kids, she said, "Amber and I will both do it," gesturing to her friend nearby. Wowee!! "Yes," Amber said, "So we'll have a Bible study with the little ones, too?" Gulping with shock, I said, "Oh yes, that's fantastic! I was just praying for babysitters!"

We talked a little more, I assured them that they'd be able to keep up with the lessons by email, and I wandered about on a cloud, reeling from God's goodness! Enjoy Ephesians 3:20 with me:

For He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think!!

I was definitely blessed out of my socks!! We finished up at church, and on the drive home, my neighbor and I talked over the challenge to write up a two-sentence covenant with God, place it in an envelope and give to a spiritual leader in your life to read, seal and keep for you to be accountable. I was definite about whom to share my covenant with, a long-time mentor who is now in her 80's and lives in Washington State. But I was still rolling ideas around as to the choice of topic (out of so many possibilities, sadly). She, on the other hand, had no problem knowing what she would write. She's developed many ways to allow God to be with her, and her trust and wisdom have really progressed.

The Lord showed me something, though, after I got home, said goodbye to the caregiver, and Steve and I began doing a little light housework. He was going to get a small dustbuster vacuum he likes (that has almost no power) but I suggested that he just whip out the Swiffer and mop instead of kneeling all around the floor vacuuming up one bit of debris at a time. So I went out to the garden while he did that, and when I came in he asked where the little vac was. I told him he'd left it out in the garage charging last night.

Meanwhile, he got the regular vacuum while I washed up flower vases and Windexed our living room glass table. He again wanted to know where the little vac was, and we went out to the garage to look. It wasn't where he 'd put it last night, but there was something else there--a broken Swiffer mop! I asked him with some irritation when he planned to tell me he'd broken it, but I just figured I'd use a coupon and get another one at some point. His Alzheimers' is causing him to act like a child trying to hide an accident from "Mommy." Heretofore, we've been perfectly fine confessing damage we've caused, realizing, as adults do, that accidents happen.

After a while, he came to me with a furious face loudly accusing, "You're taking away all the things that are important to me!" "What? I (unfortunately) yelled. He went on,"The little vacuum! Where'd you put it?" I told him, "Like I JUST said, you left it before bedtime last night on the charger near the freezer! Now please go back to the garage and find out where you moved it!"

I am not proud of losing it, and confess it as sin. But I am still more concerned with Steve's periodic disease-caused irrationality. We may need more caretaker hours, because the above-mentioned scenes happened while I was doing paperwork for his new Medicare provider, trying to fax his Power of Attorney to them, so they can deal directly with me from now on. This stuff has to get done, and on time. He calmed down, apologized for the false accusation, and we have had a peaceful afternoon. There was a problem changing his shirt after walking the dogs, but we managed past the frustration point to take care of it.

While I have more decisions to make as I sail the uncharted waters of new stages of my husband's Alzheimers, I know that I need to covenant with God to pray first instead of reacting around the house and letting Satan steal my joy and many blessings out from under me! If I give all of my home, marriage, family and health issues over to God, I can stop being "large and in charge," and learn the difference between being the responsible party and the boss! I'm a loud and lousy boss--that's a fact. I want to fully enjoy the years Steve and I have left, like we usually do, by exercising some Holy Spirit self control.

When I sat down this afternoon to blog, I felt an immediate sense of calm and purpose, fueled by some Wasabi almonds and fresh lemonade. Now that I've confessed to God and to you, better write my sentences!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Skip over the snare!

3:35 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy the wonderful doings of the Lord in several areas of my life, business, and ministry.

Years ago, a fellow Bible study leader at Harvest told me that she learned the meaning of Jesus' exhortaion in Luke 11:9, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Their family really needed new carpet in the house they were renting, and they had prayed and prayed, seemingly to no avail. Oddly, she kept hearing the words, "You have not because you ask not." Puzzled, she told the Lord, "We have been praying for new carpet!" He finally spoke to her saying, "You haven't asked the landlord!" Armed with fresh courage, she and her husband asked the landlord, and new carpet was laid down in their house!

It seems funny to recall it now, but I've never forgotten her story. I sometimes find myself not going any farther than the initial, most important step, lifting up my need to Jesus. He hears, and if my prayer is in agreement with His will in the matter, He faithfully answers. But sometimnes the path to that answer goes through other people. And we'd surely agree that we feel more timid, nervous and uncomfortable about asking others for assistance than talking it over with the Creator of the universe! It's that "fear of man" that snares us, as Proverbs 29:25 warns against.

For weeks, I've been praying, thinking and working on the next Heart to Home session, needing a third class to follow my gardening class and Cindy's canning class. I really wanted to emphasize home thrift, but didn't want to teach another class. Actually, the Lord has shown me many workable ideas that I could present, but a most rewarding aspect of my ministry is to mentor and encourage other women to step up to leadership roles, and to develop and use the gifts they have to bless others. Nevertheless, a rather shaky class was being pieced together, but I wasn't satisfied yet.

Then the Lord had me call Joanna, an active young mom at church who co-directs a Moms' Bible study and is brilliant at finding shopping deals for families. She promised to pray about the April 5 date. I needed an answer by today, because this is the last evening Bible study for the season, and that is the best way to spark interest in our Heart to Home offerings. And I'll make the announcement Tuesday at our morning study. Before church yesterday, I spotted another bargain shopping young mom, Jennifer, and caught up with her afterwards. She delightedly answered yes to either teaching the class or assisting Joanna! By afternoon , we had a class formulated, with me teaching daily household thrift ideas, and the two "Titus 2 Mamas" teaching "Showers of Savings." All in time to make a flyer for tonight's Bible study announcement, thanks to speedy Marianne, the church's office administrator!

Another intimidating endeavor over the last four years is calling my Mary Kay customers for appointments. Even though the responses I get are uniformly positive, calling never gets any easier! It's that "snare" again! What's the worse they can say? "I don't need anything right now" or "This week is too busy?" We always end up having a comfortable chat, catching up on family news, sometimes praying together, so the phone call is uplifting. In spite of my hesitancy, the lord has given me a fine week. Friday, one recruit became an active consultant, a good step for me. I then asked four women for no-obligation interviews about possibly becoming beauty consultants, and they readily sat down with me. My goal for today was to invite 2 or 3 of them to our meeting Thursday evening. So far, one has agreed and I left messages for two others. I then found the courage to send out a marketing email to 30 customers announcing a gift with purchase. Just what was I afraid of? Success? Being blessed in my business for being diligent?

Sometimes we can find ourselves laughable, can't we? Is it lack of faith, lack of obedience, or a little bit of both? What we need to remember is God's faithfulness and his great love for His children, shaky and timid as we can be sometimes! In closing, keep in mind 2 Timothy 2:13:

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

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Proving a negative

12:28 p.m. Today's project is to celebrate the lovely spring vibe that's around us here in Riverside and much of the United States. With Daylight Savings Time starting at midnight this morning, I found myself in a "mood," so I'm making fresh lemonade from the fruit my dad gave us last week. I also am gathering ingredients for the potluck that will grace the last meeting of our ladies' Bible study on Tuesday.
To that end, I decided to make a popular layered breakfast casserole, which calls for eggs, white bread slices, milk, seasoning, cheese and a pound of cooked, crumbled bacon or sausage. (Recipe to follow). At first, we planned on stopping at the grocery for the bacon, eggs and bread, but I thought, "better see if we have some bacon in the garage freezer." So we enjoyed a fundraiser hamburger and burrito for Casa del Pastor, the abandoned women and children's shelter in Mexico that our church sponsors; picked up calligraphy pens for Heidi and me to address wedding invites this week, and came home. Believers need to be wise stewards of both spiritual and physical gifts God has given us (I Chronicles 28:1b, where King David entrusted stewards over all of his and his sons' possessions; I Corinthians 4:2, an exhortation that stewards must be found faithful). Waste in any area is pretty much unthinkable these days!
So I asked Steve to look for bacon in the chest freezer. He came back asking what was it I needed? And then went out again, and I realized that I might be asking him to "prove a negative!" You know how in politics, candidates have accusations flung at them, and all too often fall into the trap of trying to prove they didn't do it, i.e., the "when did you stop beating your wife?" kind of thing. By asking Steve to go get something that may or may not be there, I would be causing him unnecessary doubt about what he'd heard, and he'd feel blame for not finding it. As he battles Alzheimer's, an emotional difficulty arises that would never occur to a person who could confidently report, "We do (or don't) have it." He'd be wondering, if the bacon wasn't there, if he forgot what I wanted, or if it was there and he didn't see it, or whether he had difficulty looking in and among larger packs of frozen goods to find it. All of those occurrences are very common lately.
Steve came back saying that we didn't have any bacon, so I didn't press it. Now that he's out walking the dogs, I'll go myself and check. It wouldn't matter normally, but since I have to squeeze blood out of turnips these days (and I need that ingredient!) it's worth pursuing.
When Steve returned, I let him know that he was right, no bacon. But I did find a whole loaf of the white bread I'll need--a penny saved is a penny earned, right? The bacon can be purchased tomorrow.
Kitchen projects are fleeting and according to whim, but my marriage is permanent, with a stated determination to keep it that way until the Lord calls one of us home. So loving my husband means protecting him from any additional self-doubt caused by my words and attitudes. Steve's emotions are fragile, his thought process is breaking down, and I want to build him up, not contribute to the breakdown!
Hear Ephesians 3:12-14:
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
Puffy Brunch Eggs
4 slices white bread, torn up
1 pound cooked, crumbled bacon or sausage
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
6 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
Dash white pepper
Place bread in greased 13 x 9" casserole dish. Place sausage or bacon over it. Then cover with the cheese. Mix milk, eggs and other ingredients and pour over. Casserole can sit overnight covered in the refrigerator. Then bake 350 degrees 35-40 minutes. Serves 6.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A year of lasts

8:35 a.m. Today's project was to wake Steve up at 5:15 to get dressed for the Calvary Chapel Men's Breakfast; help him get out of our bedroom door in dawn's semi-darkness, and make sure he was able to get out of the front door when his friend Howard came to pick him up at 6:15. I know that the men will all make sure Steve is taken care of in a tactful, non-judgmental manner, because I've seen their godly solicitousness at Men's Bible study on Tuesday nights. Yet...will Steve's Alzheimer's even allow him to handle food in public in another year?
I think this will be a year of "lasts" for many activities we are now hanging onto.
Each time I work extra hard to build up the excitement for an event or activity that Steve won't remember by the next day, I think, "Should I even bother?" If that sounds mean, just think about what you hear from couples married more than five years: reminiscences. We used to reminisce, too. "Remember when you hopped up and down after eating Dijon mustard for the first time when we were newlyweds?" is one memory I used to tease Steve about, because it was rolling-on-the-floor funny. (Now, of course, he eats very spicy food without batting an eye).
These days, he doesn't even remember the house he bought when he first came to Riverside, the first home we lived in, unless I show him old album pictures. When we drive through the area off of Indiana and Tyler, he no longer says, "I wonder who lives in our old house?" or gives the area any acknowledgement at all when I ask, "Remember Vallejo Street?"And he can no longer identify the kids' individual childhood pictures in albums. He shows real appreciation and makes appropriate comments, but the goofy pictures aren't as funny when frustration threatens to overwhelm you! And I've had to learn to hold back the tears when he points to a picture of one of our kids and says, "now who's that?" Or when Heidi I were discussing the girls' birthday party dinner plans and he said, "What's the occasion?"
It's like his the memory portion of his brain has been wiped out concerning anything that took place before the prior hour. Just now, Steve came in from walking the dogs--how long will I be able to allow him to go out with them alone?--and I asked about the bath he'd given them while I was at a baby shower. The following is a very typical dialogue, of which I am generally the initiator now:
How did bath time go?
What bath time?
Didn't you give the dogs a bath?
Oh yeah! Fine, They liked it.
Yes, they love water!
Steve does a detailed, wonderful job of all that he undertakes, but more often the tools are left out on the driveway, doors are left unlocked, or internal doors are unnecessarily bolted. Sadly, the last job his late father was fired from because of Alzheimer's was as a school janitor, for leaving important security doors unlocked, and locking other doors that needed to stay open.
I don't know what path his disease will take, but what I do know is that God is greater than any gene or inherited disease--He created our minds! And He knows how every matter we are bothered by today, will end, and how He will be glorified and ourselves blessed. So I refuse to panic; I just desire to make wise choices and apply prudent safety precautions.
Steve's mid-stage Alzheimer's forgetfulness isn't necessarily limiting, because I or one of the kids, or friends drive him where he needs to go. I accompany him and help with conversation gaps at social events, and remind him of knife, fork and napkin usage, and when to be ready for transitions between activities. Since buffets can be tricky, as at Home Fellowship, I fill both of our plates and bring them back to the table. He's experiencing more physical awkwardness, plus severe difficulty in making choices. No one would object or show any impatience, but I want to be considerate of 25 other brothers and sisters lined up to "get it while it's hot!" It's the polite way to take care of Steve's meal. How long does he have before he cannot handle food carefully? I'm not sure we'll be able to attend a Home Fellowship group next year. Only the Lord knows, and what Micah 4:2 says is true:
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.
Praise the Lord that Steve is able to enjoy Sunday morning worship service, especially the songs that glorify God and give hope in trials. I turn his Bible pages to the key passage so he can read along and leave it open there, because flipping to other verses Pastor John mentions would just add frustration for him and break his train of thought. I turn in my Bible and show him the words so he can follow along. And I hear from the pastor of Mens' study that even though Steve can no longer write to do his homework, he is attentive and enjoys the fellowship. Isn't that what matters?
For now, I can run errands for an hour or so, and Steve is fine at home; for longer periods a caregiver is scheduled twice a week. Is this the last year before he'll need constant supervision for safety? I'm already uncomfortable about the ladies' retreat that both Heidi and I are attending in June. Prayerfully, the other kids can come over to stay for the weekend, maybe one night each. Better get on that now!
I am very grateful that Heidi's upcoming wedding is the last our family will host--the youngest of our five is male, praise the Lord. We're praying the Lord gets Steve through his walk down the aisle with our daughter without incident. Mom won't be able to run interference for him that day! My God is able, I have no doubt, to get Steve down that aisle safely and smoothly. "He (Jesus) is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25)," so orchestrating a 1 minute walk is infinitesimally small in comparison! Trusting in Jesus is the only way to get through the issues-- large and small--of this life.
"A prudent wife is from the LORD," Proverbs 19:14 says. Lord, let me be the prudent, loving wife that my husband needs!