Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finding that place of peace

4:44 p.m. Today's project was to take the Riverside City Utilities form to Steve's doctor for a renewal of our discount. We have a lowered rate for our water and electricity because they are both needed to run his C-pap breathing machine.

Steve was officially diagnosed with sleep apnea last year as a result of a sleep test at his neurologist's office. Over 8 hours, the sensors attached to his body, plus video monitoring, determined that he stopped breathing 12 times per hour! It's a wonder he had any energy at all for daytime. I know that his gasping for air, followed by a dead silence, woke me up regularly, but I apparently slept through most of his non-breathing episodes.

That's definitely dangerous.

So we began the task of learning to put on the mask at home, after training at the appliance provider's conference room. With Steve's Alzheimer's, it was an extra challenge helping him to remember the way the mask went on, and not take it off during the night. However, after the first two weeks, Steve had the routine down, and slept peacefully and quietly through the night. I enjoyed the relief as well.

The night time solace reminds me of Jesus saying in Mark 4:39 to the roiling waves on the Sea of Galilee,

"Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

In the past year, Steve has had much deterioration in his condition, losing his writing, a great deal of his speech, and has lost some coordination in his walking. And when it comes to grasping instructions, and following up instructions with action, Steve has lost a lot of ground. He has also begun moving in the opposite direction of where he needs to go--i.e., walking toward the living room when the dogs and dog-walking equipment are at, and outside, the back patio door. It is unbearably sad, but since these behaviors are woven into the fabric of our daily lives, I choose to accept any and all developments as from the Lord.

"Peace, be still," Jesus says to my heart, and I do try to pray and then speak as calmly as I can, remembering from my caregivers' class that it takes 30 seconds for an Alzheimer's victim to process what he hears. That's a lifetime in speaking and listening to a normal person who processes multiple inputs every second! The Lord does remind me of what I know--that Steve's discrepancies and neglectful behaviors are the disease--not anything intentional on his part!

To spare his feelings or any need to be defensive, I've taken to asking Steve if he can do a job before requesting his assistance. Most of the time he is confident to proceed. But when he is doubtful, we just do something else and I take care of the task later, or call upon friends and church members to help. That way, he feels productive and needed, and a lot less frustrated. I also do a lot of rephrasing, instead of "vain repetitions" that truly are in vain!

As to Steve's C-pap, this year has brought some difficulties in placing the mask and tube on his face. About half the nights, he gets it all together, and when I go up to check on him, he's already asleep with his C-pap breezily blowing a gentle stream into his nose. Other nights, he comes downstairs while I'm straightening up for the evening, and says, "I need help." That is a huge improvement from times when I'd check and find the whole set-up askew on the carpet! Then I'd have to give him a little tap and put it on for him. Now we work on it together.

Maintaining peace in a household is challenging when all family members are in their right minds (save for the adolescent years)! Imagine when your spouse just cannot focus on a statement unless you specifically ask him to look at you and remind him to listen, and then forgets what was said almost immediately. It really causes me to pray and consider my choice of topics and conversation openers. And when Steve initiates conversation I immediately stop everything and turn down and radio or tv, even praise music on the car radio. Often it's not quick enough--he's lost his train of thought. sometimes we can bring it back--together.

Please pray for us; I know many of you do on a regular basis, and I thank you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Comfort from commonality

4:52 p.m. Today's project was to rise up early--AGAIN--to take my husband over to Redlands to help my dad trim his palm trees. I thought I had set my alarm for 5 a.m., but it was 5:46 when I opened my eyes. After a very compressed morning in which we accomplished everything as usual without any goof-off time, Steve and I were on the road by 7 a.m.

I said "hi" to my dad, kissed Steve good bye, and took care of a few errands in Redlands before traveling back through San Timiteo Canyon. I stopped in Moreno Valley at a friend's place, to trade her my book for her poetry and short story collection, but she must have been gone for a medical appointment. I'll catch her later.

While standing on the porch between knocks, I got a call from church asking me to connect with a young wife and mom who is caring singlehandedly for her mother-in-law who has Alzheimer's, while her husband is at work. They share overnight and evening duties, but since one of them must supervise his mom at all times, it's causing quite a strain. I of course agreed to talk with her, not as someone "who has already attained, or already perfected" (Philippians 3:12), but as a more mature woman in Christ who has had the privilege of being schooled by the Lord for 31 years, and who is currently "pressing on," in the most difficult trial of my life so far.

Alzheimer's has certainly dealt Steve and me some setbacks and crushing disappointments, and I've failed to be the uplifting spouse I would like to be, more than once! But I have had the opportunity to be trained as a caregiver in sound, research-based and practical ways to deal with the daily stressors of this devastating disease. Most importantly, I have had the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to guide me, correct me, and lead me in His way as Steve's wife. And I have the assurance that there is no other place for me but right here, right now! In what is rapidly becoming my theme verse, I'll quote Jeremiah 29:11 once again:

For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

When my new fellow caregiver friend and I talked at length today, I of course asked some pertinent questions and did a lot of listening. Maintaining a marriage and raising children with an unstable and belligerent adult in the home is a formidable task, one for which this couple needs help, perhaps some respite care, or even more medical intervention. I could hear the sorrow, loss and frustration that care for the mother-in-law was causing. "I'm exhausted. I'm 30 but I feel like I'm 60." I referred her to the program that has benefited me so much, the caregivers' class from the Riverside County Office of Aging. I prayed for her as we closed our conversation.

I will be stopping in to minister to her on Thursday after my Bible study is finished, and will even get to meet her mother-in-law! The two of us will have fellowship in Jesus together, pray together, and I'll give her a booklet that I found so helpful, one of dozens we received over our 12-week course. Dealing with dementia does not have to destroy the caregiver, especially when we learn to go to the Lord for strength and hope for each day.

I pray that as my new friend progresses in her situation, learns better, scriptural coping strategies, and adopts practical solutions for her care giving, she will find out one reason for her trial, which II Corinthians 1:4 says, that as the God of all comfort

...comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort by which we are comforted by God.

But most importantly, II Corinthians 4:17-18 tells us,

For our light affliction, which is just for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Plan of care

4:48 p.m. Today's project was to sit down with nurse Theresa from Brightstar, the agency we use to provide caregivers for Steve, to create a Plan of Care. We've had a plan with Genworth, our long term care insurance company, whereby a nurse meets with us semi-annually to ascertain Steve's condition and the level of care he needs. This is a first for Brightstar, so it's a solid professional step in the right direction.

Things got hectic when the nurse arrived, because the rat man came at the same time. I asked him to check on the fallen drywall from the upstairs room we want to rent, with the crawlspace to the attic. (That's where he has laid his successful traps). So the nurse and I went on with the meeting.

She needed to know Steve's exact condition and stage of Alzheimers, and pinned down the exact kind of care needed at this stage. As I described Steve's current activities, strengths and limitations, we agreed that he needs supervision for his meal preparation and for safety while walking the dogs and doing his outside chores. Those chores come under the category of "light housekeeping." I found out that our policy will pay for help to actually clean the house and prepare meals, but as long as I am here, that's not necessary. Since I generally go out for three hours, a maximum of four times a week, Steve either eats with me or I leave all meal ingredients, or complete meals, for him to assemble, like a sandwich and chips for lunch.

We discussed the efficacy of the drugs Steve is taking, particularly Aricept 23 and Namenda, and if they are doing much at all to slow the inexorable march of his inherited affliction. The spasms began while Steve was on the highest, experimental dose of Aricept--so, was it doing that much more for him than the 10 milligram version was? That's a question for our neurologist once I get his EEG results, which the nurse said will show areas of brain atrophy. Steve will begin taking an anti-spasm drug soon, one so powerful that he can only take 1/4 tab a day for the first week, building up to one tab daily in a month! I am proud of him for adjusting to the sudden jerks his hands make, even to the point of positioning his Bible in such a way that it won't drop during the Sunday sermon. Steve does as we were taught a couple of Sundays past, to "desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the LORD is gracious." (I Peter 2:2)

God was surely gracious today! While the nurse went through and documented all of Steve's meds, I followed our exterminator out to the garden, where he had placed a baited rat trap early this month. "Looks like they ate all the bait! That's better than them eating your fruit and vegetables, right?" He went on to explain that the bait has an anti-coagulant feature that causes them to bleed to death internally...elsewhere. No dead rat bodies for me to have to stumble upon! And we finally have some veggies coming into full fruition!

Even before dawn, the Lord was active in my behalf in the wee hours past midnight, for the reason that I couldn't sleep. So I came downstairs and completed my notes on I Samuel 26 and 27 for Thursday. When I arrived in the kitchen, I thought I'd take a look at the bottle of Bayer Back & Body extra strength aspirin to see what was up, because aspirin usually puts me to sleep. Not this variety! The two active ingredients are aspirin and guess what? Caffeine! Nothing to do but to wait out my the dishwasher got emptied and I also swept the kitchen floor. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might," Ecclesiastes 9:10 says. Sleep came at last, but not for too long, because Steve went with me to an early hairdresser appointment. I sold a small amount of product, so the day was positive already.

My 10:00 o'clock Mary Kay spa facial appointment cancelled on me, so I dropped off a party packet for a hostess, mailed my book to a chain of Christian bookstores for review and consideration, and picked up some much-needed groceries. I then contacted another Christian vendor about carrying Galatians. That book is keeping me busy lately, and thank you, Lord, for that!

Theresa and I wrapped up our plan of care, a very appropriate step in doing what's best for my husband when I need to be absent from the home. I checked the missed calls on my cell phone, and found out from voicemail that our bank, Provident, had reversed a charge they had levied against our account, and credited a large deposit that should have been posted in the morning! Praise the Lord, we survive another day!!

While making plans for our future, I keep in mind that James 4:13 says,

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."

I also know that since God's plans and His loving care are so much greater than anything I could conceive of, that I'll follow His "plan of care" (Ephesians 3:20) which exceeds all that I could ask or think!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

When leaders lead

7:04 p.m. Today's project was to set my alarm 15 minutes earlier than the usual for 2nd service on Sunday, because the Jeep was on empty and I had no idea whether the neighborhood Arco station would even have gas today. I wanted to be prepared for a longer drive, just in case. As I went downstairs and got the coffee going, I remembered that I'd made up the scrambled egg mix (sausage, cheese, home-canned green salsa, 6 eggs) but still needed to fry them up fresh. So I posted my scripture on Facebook, thankfully had only one birthday greeting to give, Ben Johnson, an old friend from school board days and Harvest.

Devotional time was especially rousing, because my scripture portion was Judges 5, the victory song of Deborah, wife of Lapidoth, the prophetess and only female judge of Israel. Without her exhortations, timid Barak wouldn't have gone to battle--in fact, he insisted she go with him! (Judges 4:8). Israel had backslidden after the death of the last judge Ehud, and the Israelites were once again oppressed, this time by Jabin, king of Canaan.

Deborah judged Israel from the Tree of Deborah in the mountains of Ephraim. A word came to her from the Lord, and an army was gathered under the command of Barak of the tribe of Naphtali. This army didn't even have weapons, while Jabin had 900 iron chariots! God put them in disarray, Israel won, and yet another woman, Jael, killed the enemy's army commander Sisera.

Deborah and Barak's song sets the scene, verse 2-3:

When leaders lead in Israel,

When people willingly offer themselves,

Bless the LORD!

Give ear, O princes!

I, even I, will sing to the LORD;

I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.

Deborah describes a grim time in Israel, v. 6b-9,

The highways were deserted,

And the travelers walked along

the byways.

Village life ceased, it ceased in


Until I, Deborah, arose,

Arose a mother in Israel.

The people had fallen into idolatry, so there was war in their gates.

Not a shield or spear was seen

among forty thousand in Israel.

My heart is with the rulers of


Who offered themselves willingly

with the people.

Bless the LORD!

Deborah goes on to commend the courage of the tribes who fought as well as to rebuke those who didn't! I like Deborah--a bold and effective leader called by the Lord, who very well knew that no man was available! God took pity on His people once again, in disarray like sheep without a shepherd.

The song saves the most dramatic recounting for the last--the death of Sisera, v. 24-27:

Most blessed among women is Jael,

The wife of Heber the Kenite;

Blessed is she among women in


He asked for water, she gave


She brought out cream in a lordly


She stretched her had to the tent


Her right hand to the workmen's


She pounded Sisera, she pierced

his head,

She split and struck through his


At her feet he sank, he fell, he lay


At he feet he sank, he fell;

Where he sank, there he fell


After that dose of adrenaline, I felt ready to get going, with full confidence that I could keep Steve on schedule, get ready, cook and clean up breakfast, and get to church on time! Early, actually, because I had to return 5 borrowed copies of my book to the Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley bookstore and give a card to our friends.

We got our gas (at a 10 cents/gallon discount at Shell), and still had almost 45 minutes to go before church. So we popped into Winco and got bananas for Steve and dog food, and hit the 60 freeway east. We had plenty of time to find a shady parking spot at church, return the books, visit with friends, and head to the sanctuary for our favorite seats on the aisle of the 3rd row. On the way in, I was stopped by Marcia, who works in women's ministry, asking me if I'd spend some time with a young woman who is caring 24/7 for her mother-in-law with Alzheimer's. I'll get a call later from the office with contact details. Thank you, Lord! That was one more indication that You can use even the most daunting trials, like my husband's Alzheimer's, for Your purpose of ministry to others who are hurting.

Believers, listen and be ready, because you just don't know when God will call you to lead, to step out in front for Him!

Saturday, August 27, 2011


7:54 p.m. Today's project was to sign copies of my book, Galatians: An Exploration of Faith & Freedom, at Berean Christian Stores in Riverside. Tate Publishing's marketing rep put this event together and I've been waiting excitedly for this day all summer.

Predictably on the night before an important day, sleep came in segments, but at least in between disruptions from Steve's loose C-pap hose, I slept pretty soundly, dreaming about Wyoming and wide open spaces in God's creation. So I woke up in decent condition, and began with God's word, while Steve took the dogs for an early heat-beating walk.

Steve and I left the house about 11:15 for the 1:00 p.m. event, because we had to get a bit of gas--up 14 cents/gal since yesterday, no lie--and had to put some cash in our youngest son's account. Hallelujah that he starts a full-time job Monday, but he needs gas to get there!

I also wanted to drop off a Travel Roll-up Bag for a generous Mary Kay customer who lives in the west end of Riverside. For lunch, we picked up a huge deli sandwich to share and a white chocolate ice blended coffee drink from the Coffee Bean inside Ralphs on La Sierra Avenue.

Just walking to and from the car was torture in the horrible heat. Whew! We parked in a shady area and ate our food in the 20 minutes before setting up inside the store. I confess here and now that I left the car and A/C running!I heard it hit 108 today!

Store manager Nancy greeted us, and put a nice sage green tone-on-tone patterned cloth over my table at the entrance. Shortly after 1 o'clock, our daughter Heidi and husband Pavel arrived, and friends soon followed. I had to laugh with one of my buddies who already has a copy of my book, and who I think came for the air conditioning and the fun! Other friends came with their families and as always with believers, our fellowship was sweet. I love the way God's people support one another whenever possible, and keep each other's spirits lifted. One friend, Jennifer, has a niece who is singing next Friday at a coffee shop in Riverside's Woodcrest area, and Steve and I plan on attending.

It is a humbling, yet precious, experience to sign books for people whose walks and ministries I know well. That believers of such high caliber are trusting that Galatians will be edifying to them is an amazing thought, But God also had some unexpected blessings in store...

Two retired educators, Carol from Jurupa USD and Nita from Riverside USD, came into the store completely unaware of my book signing, but we had good visits to catch up. Nita will suggest my book for her church's women's study; Carol, my neighbor, wants me to come over with the book, so we can go through it together. She and her husband Glenn host small Bible study groups in their home regularly.

Then a couple came up to my table, introduced themselves, and the man told me that the Lord has laid the Letter to the Galatians on his heart to study with the married couples' group they lead, and there I was!! We discussed how to open and start the 12-week session, so I pointed out the background material I included in the introduction. He needs at least 7 copies, and he or his wife will pick them up from me personally later on.

The pastor of Family Fellowship Church International that meets at a local hotel, came up to the table with his wife, and we had a lengthy conversation. He is just 30 units short of his Doctorate of Divinity from Azusa Pacific University. I learned from their website that they formed their church about a year ago with a vision for families. How exciting! Dr. Walker had been looking for a study that was doctrinally sound, and bought a copy after flipping through it and speaking with me. May the Lord use Galatians to influence believers I won't probably meet this side of heaven!

I didn't sell that many books, but having my books on the shelf at Berean, the fellowship, and the nice day out for Steve and me, made it an awesome, worthwhile day. I realize the potential magnitude of the connections I made today, because the Lord reminded me of Ecclesiastes 11:1:

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.

Thank you, Lord, for Your gifts and opportunities!

Friday, August 26, 2011

God our Deliverer

6:47 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve for a haircut, long overdue. Although, if it had grown out in a cool way, it actually might have been flattering!

We signed in at Fantastic Sam's at 11:20 a.m., and then left for about 15 minutes to go get Steve's prescriptions, a disposable camera, gum and a FREE package of Woolite Drycleaners' Secret dry cleaning cloths. So it was already a good day for this coupon and freebie lover!

My little happy mood wore off considerably as we sat for another 30 minutes awaiting Steve's turn. I resisted walking up to the counter and checking the names constantly, but I did ask if Steve's name was on the list since later arrivals, apparently with their names ahead of his, kept getting called back. Finally a fourth hair cutter came in, so the process sped up. By 12 p.m. I was getting antsy, because a caregiver was coming over for Steve at 1:00 so I could take my dad to his 2:45 appointment in Redlands.

So I decided to practice what I preach, keep a decent expression on my face, pray, and, as James 1:4 says, "let patience have her perfect work." God delivered me from any urge to jump up or pace in the tiny waiting area, and Steve got his haircut, nice and short!

Back at home, we quickly got Steve's sandwich together, I turned on one of the sprinkler stations, got Steve to water the garden after he ate, and ran upstairs to change into a cool thin, flowy dress. This hot weather doesn't help any aspect of anything one has to do outside of our homes! It's all I can do to be civil--thanks be to God, who delivers us from sin! Psalm 19:12-13a says,

Who can understand his errors?

Cleanse me from secret faults.

Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;

Let them not have dominion over me.

The caregiver, who lives in Redlands, arrived, and said that traffic was already bad, so I kissed Steve good bye, got gas up the road, along with a cheapie burrito, and decided to take the San Timiteo Canyon route when I saw that indeed, the transition to the 60 west was already backing up. 25 minutes later, in plenty of time, thanks to the timely warning that kept me off the freeways, I pulled up into Daddy's driveway. We had a bit of time to wait, but he came out of his doctors appointment with a fairly good report, considering all he'd been through this month.

On the way home, I decided to stop into Vons downtown and pick up some groceries. As I drove down Orange Street, I had the strangest thing happen--my right ankle went into a painful cramp, while I kept working the gas and brake pedals! What on earth?! I've had leg cramps, foot cramps, and labor cramps in various locations on my body, but this was a first... I figured I'd better park and text a bunch of people to pray, because there's no way I'd be able to drive with that foot in a fixed position for the way home to Riverside.

Responses were pretty quick. My daughter Heidi reminded me to drink more water, and I did buy a cold bottle of it at the store and downed it. Walking around in a cool supermarket helped my ankle to loosen up, and calmed my nerves. I took some extra strength Bayer "Back & Body" caplets with my water and got back on the road. I decided, since it was only 3:30, to drive through the lovely homes in the older part of Redlands, doing a little sightseeing and dreaming in my hometown, which was way too quiet and boring when I was a teen, but seems idyllic now! God did answer prayer and delivered me from my ankle cramp!

Two more deliveries took place: whatever small brush fire started near our Sycamore Canyon was rapidly put out. And, when I arrived home, Steve showed me a box that had just been delivered--8 more of my books, just in time for my signing tomorrow afternoon!

Whether the matter is impatience, rude speaking, terrible traffic, physical pain, wildfire or a shortage of books, my God is able to deliver me!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Can you have it all?

4:17 p.m. Today's project was to teach I Samuel Chapter 25 to our Thursday Bible study group at Malinda's lovely home.

The frustration of the morning started early when the caregiver did not arrive even 15 minutes past the appointed time of 9:30. My neighbor Cindy was here at 9:30, so she and Steve and I were visiting while we waited and the agency tried to track down the caregiver, who normally is here pretty close to time and very good with Steve. Poor Steve--he was alreading standing with the dog leashes and his hat on, but he basically had to sit down and wait. The agency scheduler had someone on the way, so Cindy and I left, arriving 15 minutes late, ugh, this is very hard for a punctual person like me. But now I am living in a different mode, depending on others to arrive at the house with the vagaries of traffic, the caregiver not knowing they were scheduled, etc. I guess nothing is certain but uncertainty!

When Cindy and I arrived, the ladies were all seated in the living room visiting, and we dived into our review of last week, and then our lesson. The subjects we covered included stealing, wifely submission and obedience, generosity to those around you, fair payment for services rendered, multiple wives. We had quite a mix and lots of openings for sharing our thoughts and experiences, based on God's word.

But the essence of this book, to me, is character, pure and simple. Either we reflect the character of Jesus, or we reflect the character of the devil. Jesus said in John 8:44 during an intense rebuke of the Pharisees,

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

In Chapter 25, we see a strong contrast between Nabal "the fool" and his wife Abigail "the joy of her father." Nabal was a churlish, foolish, wealthy braggart, with thousands of sheep and goats that were being sheared in the area of Carmel while David's army was there. So David's men unofficially guarded the shepherds and shearers.

Sheep shearing was a time of feasting, so David sent messengers to Nabal to ask for food for his men, since they had kept the shepherds and shearers safe, and not one thing had been stolen. Nabal went ballistic, insulted David in every possible way, and refused to share his bread, his water, or his meat, with some "runaway servant" (v. 10). In our group we looked at the fact that everything on the face of the earth, including the air we breathe, is God's. We are merely stewards of His gifts to us. I Corinthian 4:7 reminds us Christians,

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

After this egregious insult, David and his men strapped on their swords, preparing to kill every male member of Nabal's household. Word came to Abigail of the impending slaughter through a servant who recounted the way that David kept them safe. He told her to "fix it." That servant reminds me of the Holy Spirit, informing, guiding and warning us faithfully when action needs to be taken.

So Abigail, described in verse 3 as "a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance," swung into action and commanded her servants to take the best of everything in the household, load them on donkeys, and set out before her. She rode behind to meet David and hopefully prevent him from reacting vengefully to Nabal's insults.

Abigail prostrated herself on the ground, begged forgiveness, and convinced David that to murder all of the men in the household was beneath him, especially when he had been fighting the Lord's battles heretofore. Abigail reminded him that when he became King of Israel, this murderous deed would haunt him. David accepted this wise reproof, accepted her gift, and the two parted ways. The day following Nabal's drunken feast, Abigail told her husband about their narrow escape, he had a heart attack, and God killed him 10 days later. Justice was served.

Beauty and brains, courage and conviction are all portrayed here by Abigail. She had it all, including eventual marraige to the future King of Israel. Is it possible for a woman who fears the Lord to have it all today, when shallowness seems to accompany beauty, and greed and aggressiveness pass for conviction?

I believe so! There is outstanding beauty in a woman who loves the Lord and is engrossed in His word as her guide for living. As for brain development, Psalm 119:99 says,

I have more understanding than all my teachers,

For Your testimonies are my meditation.

On the topic of courage, Proverbs 28:1 tells us,

The righteous are as bold as a lion.

Conviction? The Holy Spirit within us convicts us of right and wrong, leads us in the way of Christ, and ensures us that His promises are true, because He has told us, in Hebrews 13:5,

"I will never leave you nor forsake you."

As Christian women we do have it all--in Jesus!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sudden bereavement, grinding grief

9:33 p.m. Today's project was to visit a woman from church who has lost her mother and father-in-law within the last week. Additionally, their beloved doggie was euthanized. That is a lot for a family to bear all at once.

A friend, Deborah, had brought up the family's plight during the prayer request time at Thursday morning Bible study, and I followed up with her as to exactly what the needs were: meals, or a visit and prayer? A visit would be appreciated, so I got Lynn's number, and we made a connection, scheduling for this evening.

Because Steve and I were going to midweek service, we planned a 6:30 visit. The enemy was getting us both riled up, as I went to one mistaken address on the street after another. I find myself more distracted by Steve lately when driving to appointments, instead of focusing on my destination and what God has called me to do once I get there. As I spoke to him in an irritated tone when he walked out into the street instead of getting back into the car for me to back out, I said to myself, "God can't use you when you're acting like this!" So I apologized as we finally found the house (a case of my transposing numbers) and walked to the door, as did he. We briefly prayed also while waiting for the door to be answered. God is so faithful to use us when we fell utterly useless!

Lynn's husband Dave answered the door, greeted us both, and then went to another part of the house. Lynn gave me a huge hug, so sweet and welcoming despite her grief. And to my delight, there was Deborah, which made for a smoother start to the conversation. I introduced Steve and explained why he had to be with me, and I led the conversation to talk about how her mom died, the memorial, the fiscal and legal details were mentioned, and then I shared some commonalities with losing Steve's and my mom. I told Lyn that I miss my mother 6 years later, but now I think of her funny sayings and habits, her good advice throughout my life, my upbringing, and good memories. Lyn's pain is so raw right now that she can't envision coming to a place of peace--but it will come. We discussed her immediate plans, I shared scripture, and we ended with prayer.

I can't help but contrast the emotional effect of a sudden bereavement and the slow, grinding pre-bereavement that I am going through with Steve. A sudden loss causes utter shock, disorientation, and devastation, but you are very aware of what you are feeling and experiencing, the violent pain inside, the emptiness. And it is the calling of the church to come alongside the family with whatever needs they may have when a loved one dies.

But the grinding grief that is affecting me with Steve is probably like Pastor John's story this evening about the man who was balding, but didn't know it as long as a he had a hair to comb over. When he finally announced he was bald to his wife, she informed him that he'd been bald for a long time! The point is that everyone but me can see my grief, although it became apparent to me when our caregiver class discussed it, and I accept it as happening.

What have I been doing to maintain my joy? Staying in the Word, praying, journalling my prayers, keeping active with Steve, my business and ministry, helping and encouraging others and staying in fellowship in every way possible. While I prefer to rejoice with those who rejoice, I also weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15). That's the way to be human. It's called empathy.

And I have been the recipient of wonderful empathy from family, friends, acquaintances, customers, church leaders and neighbors. And when empathy comes in the form of practical help, I wouldn't dream of refusing it! Pride has no place, because the people I may have helped in some way in the past are helping me now! Or better yet, they are helping others because they were helped!

At this time, I have not experienced what Lynn is suddenly going through. and she probably can't imagine what my life is like. But we have both made a new friend due to terrible circumstances, as Mordecai put it in Esther 4:14, for such a time as this.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Truth seekers

9:47 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve to Riverside Community Hospital for an EEG test of the electrical activity in his brain. His neurologist is looking at all possible causes for the spasms he suffers from, which can vary from a simple sudden hand jerk, to a full body slam that awakens me from the other side of the bed.

This evening at a restaurant, Steve's hands were moving around randomly in dozens of tiny tremors, making it hard to pick up his carne asada burrito. With almost a will of their own, his hands would try to pick up a bit of dropped meat when his mind had intended to lift the whole burrito to his mouth. I was watching, paralyzed with shock. I wasn't sure he'd get to eat a single bite, so I snapped out of it and helped him cut off the extra tortilla wrapped around the end, then he was able to begin eating. It was a very long few minutes of nerve-wracking frustration for him and fright for me. I like for Steve to be as self-sufficient as possible, but it was evident that he needed active assistance rather than the verbal directions which usually work. Later, when we were putting gas in the Jeep, Steve unscrewed the gas cap to get ready while I ran our debit card. When I returned, he had put it back on again! I think that somehow he imagined that we were already done...

Imagine your hands moving in the opposite direction from where you desire them to, or to have your hands move when you are just sitting still, holding a cup of water or coffee!

Dr. Sovory gave him a prescription for Clonezipam (sp?) to control the spasms but we were not to fill it until after the MRI, because it would have an effect on the test. It must be very powerful, because, according to her direction sheet, Steve is to take only 1/2 a tab for the first week, then 1/2 tab twice a day for the second week, gradually working up to two a day in week 4. I dropped off the prescription tonight at CVS, but they have to order it, so the pills will be in after 3 p.m. tomorrow.

If it weren't for the Lord holding my hand, and Steve's, we would be walking bereft of comfort or hope in this new scary, treacherous territory, now that he is exhibiting physical symptoms along with advancing mental confusion.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil... Psalm 23:4a

One way the Lord provides comfort and hope is through others who have walked this path before me. Today, I was helping a friend from our Alzheimer/dementia caregivers' class with her foundation color at her home, and she shared some of what she has gone through with her 85 year-old father, now in the Encore care residence facility. Her description of the "opposite" issue really spoke to me, whether in personality, habits, or physical control. It is just so sad to see Steve pick up something to lift to his mouth, then put it down suddenly, only to recover and pick it up as originally intended. One decision concerning eating in public is coming up: it may not be an earth-shaking matter, but I wonder if he'll be able to attend Home Fellowship this fall, where breaking bread with the group is a key part of the gathering. This last term, I already was bringing him his food and drink, because making choices in a buffet line is so confusing for him. I will certainly ask the Lord what to do as the time approaches.

Be anxious for nothing, Phillipians 4:6 says, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And I am incredibly thankful for Steve's and my 30 years as husband and wife, especially for each day we have together now.

In this spiritual warfare in which anxiety and dread of the future are the enemy's weapons of choice, I choose the peace that comes with trusting God and rebuking mental and emotional jabs that Satan sends each day in the all-powerful, almighty Name of Jesus! Philippians 4:7 continues,

...and the peace of God, that surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Write it down!!

4:48 p.m. Today's project was to get my hair colored, kind of a last-minute decision that had me calling the agency to see if they could send over a caregiver for a couple of hours, counting my drive back and forth to Moreno Valley. I could have taken Steve, no problem, but they did send a very nice lady over.

This would not have been out of the ordinary, except for an odd occurrence I found out about when I returned. Steve had worked on one of the pop-up sprinklers, made his lunch, and gone on a short monitored walk, which was fine. The caregiver confessed to "crossing all of the signals" on the DirecTV unit when Steve tried to watch a program, but I quickly set that to rights while listening to her report.

The shocker was when the caregiver said, "Yes, he took his medicine, too." WHAT? Steve only takes his medication with breakfast, and then one Namenda pill at 2 p.m. It was only 1:00, so I'd left no instructions for him to take any pills. I quickly checked his 7-day pill dispenser, and praise the Lord, he hadn't taken a double dose of his powerful prescription meds! I asked her, "Which ones did he take?" "The ones over there on a napkin. Because that's where he sat down for lunch."

Steve had sat down in my chair where my vitamins--Shaklee Vitalea multivitamin, fish oil, gingko biloba and a 1/4 aspirin--were placed for tomorrow morning. Since they're harmless, it was okay. But when the caregiver left, we had to talk.

I tried as best I could without devastating him, to explain to Steve a universal precaution: you NEVER take another person's pills! I told him that if I ever have to take heart medication, for instance, he could be in big trouble. And even though the pills were out, he does not take anything with his lunch. So this was a very weird fluke. He was predictably upset, but, as with a child you've rescued from running in the street, I had to make the seriousness of this as plain as possible. Not sure how long he'll keep it in mind, but I did my best.

There's nothing to stop him from opening one of my daily portions of vitamins in their segmented portions, either--it's a simple screw top arrangement.

I have been operating on a "positive" note arrangement, writing and telling caregivers what Steve needs to do or take if appropriate. I never imagined a caregiver would let an Alzheimer's patient consume anything I didn't specifically direct, in writing. We've had other caregivers who've been here for the first time, and I've been very pleased with their supervision.

So I did call the agency and they suggested sitting down for an updated "plan of care" for Steve, beyond what the Genworth longterm care insurance nurse has written every 3 months. Sounds good to me! Steve seems to be in a new phase of disorientation now, and our approaches will have to change. And you can bet I'll keep all of the pills and vitamin supplements out of sight!

I am so grateful that my husband wasn't harmed in any way, and as we straighten out the difficulties and find out what is happening in Steve's brain tomorrow with his EEG, I will determine not to become discouraged, but remember Psalm 145:14-21:

The LORD upholds all who fall,

And raises up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look expectantly on You,

And You give them their food in due season.

You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The LORD is gracious in all His ways,

Gracious in all His works.

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,

To all who call upon Him in truth.

He will fulfill the desire of all who fear Him;

He will also hear their cry and save them.

The LORD preserves all who love Him,

But all the wicked He will destroy.

My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD,

And all flesh shall bless His holy name forever and ever.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Look who's here!

8:15 p.m. Today's project was to sleep in late and attend third service instead of second. If that doesn't sound revolutionary to you, that means you don't know Sunday morning church culture very well!

So let me explain. (I have a disclaimer if the facts don't fit your church, or you only have 2 services like my old First Methodist church in Redlands).

First service, generally the smallest because it begins at 7:45 or 8 :00 a.m., is not as populated by parents of small children, because it's just so hard to get everyone diapered, changed, dressed and fed, teeth brushed and out the door by 7:15 or 7:30. So the most seasoned, dedicated saints fill the pews, not the youngest, generally speaking. If they're a decade or two younger, they may get up at such early hours for commuting all week that being at church by 7:45 is a breeze. Or they have an "out to breakfast" Sunday tradition, relishing a whole day free. Plus, they keep their circadian rhythm intact by not sleeping in! I admire them greatly. For years at Harvest, Steve and I made it out to first service with the kids, but once we both had to get up before 5 a.m. all week long, sometimes 6 days for him, I said, "we have to get some rest one day a week," and he agreed. So much for circadian rhythms!

Second service, which begins nationwide at 9:30, 9:45 or 10 o'clock, is by far the most popular. Tons of families with kids. There is a large number and age range of attendees filling the pews, necessitating what we fondly call the "Calvary Crunch." In such a busy service, Steve and I have gradually shifted up to the second or third row, so we won't have so many distractions as we worship and focus on the message. Our good friends (the ones who don't make it to 1st service, that is) sit up there, too. Feeling well rested, we really enjoy!

Third service is getting more crowded all the time. Lots of teens and young adults attend--I guess because they are still growing, they need their sleep--or they stay up later hanging out with friends than we middle-aged folks do on a Saturday night. One nice thing about being married is that your best friend already lives at your house. And if a grown child or two are at home still, you have a ready made party. Just call Papa John's for delivery!

I did notice, and have heard from the worship leaders, that 3rd service often has larger altar calls, because young people tend to socialize more, they invite their unsaved friends from school and work, and those precious young people go forward to become born-again! One statistic I read years ago says that the vast majority of people who are believers accepted Christ as children or teens. Why? Because they are searching for the meaning of their lives, and are not excessively preoccupied with career, marriage, family and societal concerns like the well-established adults around them. They're more open to making a radical change. And Lord willing, they'll make the radical change to knowing Christ as their Savior and serving Him all their lives!

Jesus said in Mark 10:14,

Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.

With that very unscientific set of observations made, why were we at 3rd service today? Well, because our daughter Heidi and husband Pavel decided they were going to 3rd, so we thought we would too. Which doesn't actually make a lot of sense, because we don't even sit together for whatever reason! With the whole day yesterday at the spa, which I liken to a day out at the beach in the way you feel so relaxed, even drained; and then moving beds and fixing the sprinklers, we were rather done in.

I set my cell phone alarm for 7, like a normal Sunday, so Steve could put out the dogs, then I was planning to luxuriate in bed until 8:30. But I was wide awake, and so was he, so we went about our normal routine. I had to put gas in the car, so we would need to leave early--10:30, my goodness! It felt good, but a little at loose ends, actually having time to kill on our way to church!

We had another reason to touch base with Heidi and Pavel, which was to sign a copy of my Galatians book for a friend, Jason Bryan, whose book they've been hanging onto, planning to give it to me to sign. So they, and Jason, Steve and I, were all there. I was able to write a nice note to this godly young man after the service. I had more fun seeing who I've missed because of being a second service person, and who, like us, normally is a second service person, but didn't make it today! That included our friends Bob and Debbie. It was good to see the ushers for third as well. It's like a whole new world.

One week soon, I'll talk about why we always sit on one side of the church, even entering each week by the same doors! Aren't you glad God loves us with all our quirks and odd habits?

The KJV says of us in Titus 2:14 that God has purified for Himself "a peculiar people!"

Amen and yes, indeed!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A slice of heaven

5:14 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy a spa day at Glen Ivy resort with my daughters, Heather's mother- and sister-in-law Kathleen and Amy respectively, and my daughter-in-law Marisela. This girls' day out was the perfect wrap-up to my birthday week.

We did the obligatory and delightful mud bath, and then dried off in the sun. The complexion of our entire bodies was t invigorated by the shower and scrubbing off the mud. Plus the eucalyptus scented soaps and lotions really give a refreshing feeling.

It was much more crowded today than on the December weekday in 2009 when I went for the first time with Heather and Kathleen. But we tried all of the experiences we wanted to except

the sulfur pools, where each soaker gets 20 minutes. The wait would have been too much. We did skirt some swarms of bees and yellow jackets but they didn't sting any of us. Both Heidi and I are allergic to bee stings, so we walked carefully.

Lunch was almost ruined by swarms of yellow jackets as we took our seats on the patio at first. But they were landing in my food, and all about our faces and heads, so we grabbed our trays and hustled inside. We mentioned it to various employees, so I hope they can at least set up traps and release them in nearby Temescal Canyon! Otherwise, our lunch was wonderful. I loved my "Street Tacos" made with grilled salmon. I noticed with amusement that as the six of us sat at two small tables, we were were grouped thus: Kathleen, her daughter and daughter-in-law; and me with my daughter and daughter-in-law. Cute, I thought, not even intentional!

I can't help but think with affection of the way the Lord has blessed me with more daughters as my sons have married, and the good relations I have with them all. While the evil mother-daughter team of Herodias and daughter Salome caused the beheading of John the Baptist (Mark 6:18-29), I prefer to remember precious Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth, traveling back to Israel from Ruth's native Moab after the death of Naomi's two sons. One of the most famous vows in all of the Bible was stated by widow Ruth to Naomi:

Entreat me no to leave you,

Or to turn back from following after you ;

For wherever you go, I will go;

And wherever you lodge, I will lodge.

Your people shall be my people,

And your God, my God.

Where you die, I will die,

And there will I be buried.

The LORD do so to me, and more also,

If anything but death parts you and me.

Ruth's loyalty and love were rewarded for eternity, as God placed her in the human genealogy of Jesus Christ!

After arriving home and freshening up, I had a second blessing in store. Paul Kilbourne, the landscaper for our church, Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley, called to say he was on his way to help us with our sprinkler system. Yay! Upon inspection of our timer, he told us the kind of timer to get, and told me something that would have saved us a month of tedious and wasteful hand watering: just turn the screws on the valves in the yard, and turn on the stations by hand! As I told Paul, Steve (who installed the entire system in 1988) forgot about the valve screws, and I never even knew they existed. At first it was hard to keep the sadness away when I allowed myself to think about this while turning each screw in order every 10 minutes, but since God has an answer for every problem, I can rejoice in the confidence we have in Him!

A third blessing happened in the early evening when Heidi and her husband Pavel, and his sister Becky, whose truck they used, came over to bring our queen bed back to place in the spare bedroom. Up the stairs they hauled it, with help from Steve, and down the stairs they brought the single bed mattress that had been in the room. I traded food processors with Heidi, in hopes that my Cuisinart will be able to handle a nut grinding task her Hamilton Beach cannot. And I don't use the Cuisinart except for making large batches of tomatillo salsa each summer anyway; I'm sure her processor can handle that. I also gave her a slow cooker recipe book, just the thing for the working wife!

Mutual love, help and provision for one another are ways that God's people can taste just a slice of heaven here on earth! Thank you, Lord!

Friday, August 19, 2011


3:46 p.m. Today's project was to attend an orientation for the Homestay program sponsored by International Education Programs of the University of California Riverside Extension. This program assigns foreign students to nearby homes throughout the school year, with the goal of improving their English language abilities.

The requirements are few: you must own your home, speak English as your language at home, have a separate bedroom with a bed, desk and dresser, and their own bathroom; and be willing to give them 3 meals a day and transportation to UCR. The stipend is quite fair.

The meeting was conducted by the administrative assistant for four of us. It's rather different from having a high school foreign exchange student because during the summer, kids as young as 10 are allowed in the program. There is no upper age limit either, because whole groups of teachers may come for TESL (Teaching English as a Second Langauge) training, and choose a private home over a dorm room setting.

A family can choose to only have one student, which we would, or could have two. Most students are Asian, but can be European as well. It was suggested that we have a rice cooker, because that would be a comfort food for many of the program participants.That's fine--maybe I can borrow one from my daughter Heidi if she doesn't use it that often. However, the students are to eat what you eat, and can make their own breakfast and pack their lunch with food you provide, for an American experience. We were encouraged to take them with us grocery shopping, for instance, to pick out some selections that look good to them to try. What fun!

Since the students are at school at least from 9:00-3:00 p.m., we were urged to sit down to dinner as a family each day, something Steve and I have always done with our family. Most weekends, they take part in full-day outings, and we would be obligated to pick them up at a much later time. But since I live about 5 minutes away, that's not a problem. "And if a student is home with us on Sunday," I asked, "May we take them with us to church?" "Of course,"was the answer, so that was much appreciated. Church-going is definitely an American cultural experience they could learn quite a bit from! The opportunity to have a guest in our home hear the Gospel would be awesome!

Romans 10:14 says,

How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

Thus, I'll be quite eager to take them with us to church!

We need to submit pictures of the front and back of our house, and the room they'd be staying in. I already have an offer of a desk in the works, probably much more appropriate than the roll top desk we would have moved into the room. Steve and I have been refurbishing that room and bathroom for the last few weeks, and they are looking move-in ready.

Who knows what the Lord may do in our lives, and in the life of a person whom we will only know for a season? Who knows if we'll even be selected?

There will be cultural differences, and we were advised that the Homestay guest's language limitations can lead to miscommunication. The IEP office is ready to handle all matters of that nature, to make sure both the host family and the student are comfortable.

Whatever our differences, the love of God in the Person of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will win the day every time!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Take it to the Lord

243 p.m. Today's project was to teach and learn from the wonderful ladies at our I Samuel Bible study. There's just no experience like sitting with a group of friends who know one another very well, have the Lord and family issues in common, and care deeply about the life issues and trials others are experiencing from week to week.

At 9:40 this morning, I picked up my neighbor Cindy with a sleep deficit due to Steve disconnecting his C-pap hose in his sleep, along with the spasms, large and small, that jar the bed and disrupt my sleep. A few cups of coffee during devotions helped with that, but another trial hit. I heard the lawnmower going while I was upstairs. Even though I had asked Steve to wait for the caregiver Carlos to help him out, I thought, "Well, if he can do it himself, good deal," and got ready to go downstairs, eat my breakfast and prepare to pick up Cindy.

When I came down and found Steve in the front yard, he was putting handfuls of cut grass into the green waste dumpster instead of unhooking the bag from the mower and simply dumping the contents. I directed him that way, and the job was done. A few minutes later, Steve told me, "I can't find the dogs!" The gate was latched, so I thought they might have sneaked into the garage by the back door, but no such luck. (He left the gate open when moving the lawn mower, then with the noise of the mower, didn't know they'd left). It was 9:11, so he took two short leashes and went on their walking path. I ate, then drove out to pick him up and drive the route. No dogs. Since we still owe $255 for the last time they got out, we won't be able to retrieve them from the Animal Shelter again. That's just a fact.

This is the third incident with the dogs this week--Steve fell off the curb while walking them Monday when one crossed in front of him; yesterday, he returned without going anywhere because he couldn't keep them from crossing up their leashes; and now another problem. The dogs are sensing that their "pack leader" has gone missing, I think, and like kids, are taking advantage. simply put, decisions will have to be made.

Our caregiver came over, so I asked him to help Steve go find the dogs. I drove down to pick up Cindy, and saw them walking back with Bailey and Jada just then. Thank you, Lord!

Along with Steve's confusion and the dog issue, my heart has been heavy about my dad, even though he's doing better every day. we won't know until next Friday whether his bladder cancer is back. Then there will be some massive decisions to make. I don't believe he is going to submit to any more invasive treatments, and at his age, he can't be blamed.

On the way to the study, my mood lightened, just to have a girlfriend to unburden with, and she did the same about her uncharacteristically fussy baby grandson she babysits. When we arrived at Malinda's, everyone was there, seated, fellowshiping, and welcomed us in to get our drinks and join the fun. Her living room was full, full of women who love and apply the Word of God to their lives--it's not just a matter of getting their lesson completed. These gals can truly say, with the Psalmist in 119:97,

O, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.

We laughed, we cheered, we mocked the phony histrionics of King Saul, when he was shocked to see David within killing distance, but David didn't kill him. We really got into I Samuel 24, and all of its ramifications for today's Christian: our conscience, our maturity, leadership, obedience, and the deadly effects of resentment, bitterness and obsession over people and events that affected us badly in the past. We also learned not to jump at what appears to be God's providence, and to use Spirit-led discernment at all times.

But the most precious part of our day today was our prayer time, where we share and write down, each one's prayer requests for ourselves, family, neighbors, jobs, and even a possible job action at the grocery stores (a strike). I open in prayer, and then as the Lord leads, each one who cares to, prays for another person's need, and we pray in an unstructured way. I wrap it up and close. The presence of the Lord is palpable--Jesus is definitely in the midst, and listening with full attention as we agree together in prayer for one another.

May our fellowship, study and prayers be a "sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:19).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A dedicated day

8:53 p.m. Today's project was to write my Bible study for Thursday morning. After the first two days of the week flying by with medical appointments for my dad and an MRI for Steve, I had my research notes finished, but the actual lecture had to be written out.

So I made sure to get a good night's rest and slept until 8. We had devotions and breakfast, and then I switched my cell to "all sounds off" and settled down to work.

I had reflected with a friend on Facebook that being temporarily separate from our phones, whether shutting off the ringer or just leaving them at home, was surprisingly relaxing and freeing. Maybe human beings weren't meant to be accessible to everyone they know--and don't know--24 hours a day.

The One I need to be in touch with 24 hours a day is always there, paying absolute attention to my praises, thanks, confessions, and petitions--that is the Lord Jesus Christ. "I will never leave you nor forsake you, " He stated (Hebrews 13:5). I believe Jesus, and I know that He is concerned with every aspect of my life.

I love the way the Lord is working in my behalf, in the background every day. I had cancelled a hair appointment for 10:00 a.m. Friday morning, because I am joining my daughters, daughter-in-law, and Heather's mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her friend Megan at the Glen Ivy Hot Springs and Spa on Saturday. Having a spiffy new hairdo isn't very wise in the mud bath or the sauna! Until this morning, that time slot was empty. But when I checked with the University of California's Homestay program to get an application for a foreign exchange student to live with us, amazingly, their orientation class is Friday at 10 a.m.! So while I was rearranging my schedule for my little reasons, God had a bigger, more advantageous use for that time slot!

As I sat down to write out the study, I thoroughly enjoyed the episode of David sparing King Saul's life in I Samuel 24, when his men urged him to kill his pursuer on the spot. David sliced off a piece of fabric from the king's robe and then had a serious attack of conscience about showing disrespect.

I pose the question: what are our consciences like? Clear or cloudy? Do we do the right thing in the right way or do just enough to get by? Do we respect authority as Romans 13:1 tells us? Do we obey our employers and leaders as Titus 2:9 says? And if we are called to leadership, like David, do we not only model good behavior but enforce it?

Saul eventually broke down weeping when confronted by David, and confessed his evil doings. He became quite eloquent at comparing David's righteousness to his lack thereof. He even publicly acknowledged that David would one day be king. Saul asked for a covenant between them, David agreed, and the two went their separate ways. We shall see if Saul truly repented (changed his ways), or regretted (felt sorry for) his sins, as we continue with this fantastic book over the next few weeks.

Dedicating this day to the Lord was a non-negotiable, and I'm glad I "turned off and tuned in" to the voice of the Holy Spirit to complete the task He had assigned me. As God assured His people Israel, Isaiah 30:15b says,

In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dana, you are old, advanced in years...

9:23 p.m. Today's project was to turn 60 years old. Even though I enjoyed many activities this August 16th, attaining that age is quite enough for one day, don't you think?

My daily devotional reading has been in Joshua this month, a book of physical warfare as the Israelites wiped out the vile pagan nations and claimed the land that God promised them. My chapter yesterday was Joshua 13. By this time, Joshua had led the people to victory after victory and assigned lands of thirty-one former kings to the 12 tribes of Israel. But the job was far from finished, as God's words to Joshua make clear. Verse 1 especially struck me as a strong statement from the Lord that He has much ministry (and many challenges) ahead for me:

Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: "You are old, adevanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed."

God then enumerates all of the peoples of the land that must be eliminated, and their lands parceled out to Israelite tribes. The list is extensive and to my non-military mind, overwhelming. I have been trying to imagine each morning what it would be like for Joshua to lead not only the army, but millions of people as they mowed down every nation in their path! Yet, as long as the wholly followed the Lord, victory was assured. God promised Joshua in verse 6,

Them I will drive out before the children of Israel; only divide it by lot to Israel as an inheritance, as I have commanded you.

As for me at 60, I am very much engulfed in physical warfare right now--the daily fight to keep Steve from deteriorating so speedily from Alzheimer's; making ends meet on a fixed income; attempting to repair many broken systems in our home and on our property; keeping myself healthy, active, and prosperous in my business; marketing my book, Galatians: an Exploration of Faith & Freedom; and added recently, assisting my dad.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 tells us,

For our light affliction, which is just for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

There is spiritual warfare coming my way daily as well, as I commit that I will: spend time in the Word and prayer each day; write and teach I Samuel weekly to my precious Bible study women; maintain a godly, loving manner with my husband, whose advancing disabilities have him in tears of frustration regularly; prepare my heart for a new Bible study year at church as a group discussion leader; encourage my grown children and mentor their maturation in Christ; witness to the unsaved; cheerfully assist my dad with his medical issues; and begin the book God has spoken to me to write about our experience with early-onset Alzheimer's.

All who have made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and make Him their Lord are engaged in spiritual warfare (see Ephesians 6:10-18) because the devil, our adversary, like a roaring lion, walks to and fro, seeing whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8). In spiritual terms, who will decide to walk away, back into the world at the devil's beckoning? And who will resist the devil (James 4:7) and cause him to flee from you? Sounds overwhelming, doesn't it, just like Joshua's conquest of Canaan!

But I serve the same Lord who commanded Joshua to conquer and parcel out the land for God's people, even if he was old and advanced in years. That doesn't matter when following the Lord, except to provide a timeframe for accomplishment that's rather different than when I had many decades to the natural end of life.

Because He goes before me, I will also reach my God-directed destination in every area He leads me to!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wait, wait, wait and wait! Part I

8:18 p.m. Today's project was to meet my dad at Redlands Community Hospital for his checkup and lab results. He had spent a couple of very uncomfortable days wearing a medical appliance, so he was definitely looking forward to having it removed today, since his symptoms had subsided. Thank you, Lord for answering the prayers of Your people in my dad's behalf!

Though the drive through San Timiteo Canyon was a breeze, finding a place to park at the hospital was a challenge. But the Lord was with me, because I found a wonderfully shady parking spot across the street. I took one of my Bibles with me, along with my I Samuel 23 lesson for Thursday in case I arrived before him. (I complete the lessons along with the women, so that we're on the same page as we review the questions each week). I wondered if people thought I was preaching door-to-door! But since my outfit included Bermuda shorts and flip-flops, my appearance was probably a little too casual for witnessing.

Daddy had gone in, gotten his labs, and was waiting for the physician's assistant to come back and meet me. And wait we did! He had to keep getting up for the pain caused by his appliance, so I advised him to sit way out on the edge of his chair for less pressure. To pass the time, I told him of the appointment I had gotten him with his primary care physician for the end of next week; the medical transportation van he might have use for appointments; and my contact with the Home Health aides. The PA must have paged Dr. Fox 20 times, but I guess they just consulted with him, rather than have him see my dad in person. We waited while nurses were contacted about removing the appliance, and waited while the fire alarm went off and the doors to our corridor automatically locked down. That was a fascinating process that no staff members but one nurse who came with a fire extinguisher seemed to take seriously. And the alarm stopped just as she arrived! I guess the alarm got pulled in the Emergency waiting room.

Daddy's appliance was removed, and then it was time to wait once more--in the lobby--for discharge papers. This took an hour, seriously. By the time I hit the road for home from his house, it was 2:30 p.m. 4 hours, almost!

There was more waiting to be done, because my husband Steve had a brain MRI scheduled for 6 p.m. at Riverside Medical Clinic on Brockton Ave. We dutifully arrived at the X-ray reception spot at 5:45, filled out the paper about metal in his head, and as I had done at the hospital earlier, I gave out Mary Kay samples. Then we waited over 30 minutes. Aren't you always amazed at the number of people who arrive after you but are called back before you? Of course, I realize that we probably aren't all competing for the same machine, or tech, but it still seems so--unjust.

With all this waiting uppermost in my mind this evening, I thought to look up verses in God's word about waiting, for my own sake as well as the sake of anyone else who finds waiting unbearable. God does mighty works for and through us whether we are sitting waiting, or actively going about our day. When we feel we're not accomplishing anything, God is, whether we want to believe it or not. Think of this: just maintaining a pleasant expression while waiting is a good witness!

Psalm 27:14:

Wait on the LORD;

Be of good courage,

And He shall strengthen your heart;

Wait, I say, on the LORD!

Lamentations 3:25-26:

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,

To the soul who seeks Him.

It is good that one should hope and wait quietly

For the salvation of the LORD.

Romans 8:24-25:

For we were saved in this hope (redemption of the body), but hope that is seen is not hope, for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

Isaiah 30:18 shows us that even the Lord waits!

Therefore the LORD will wait, that

He may be gracious to you;

And therefore He will be exalted,

that He may have mercy on


For the LORD is a God of justice;

Blessed are all those who wait

for Him.

Amen--I can wait, Lord, if that's what You are calling me to do!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Second first son

8:12 p.m. Today's project was to thank the Lord for our son Kriss who turned 29 at 11:16 a.m. today! He is the second of our sons, but the first child for my husband Steve, born one year and one month after our wedding, and just before my 31st birthday! Why we women want to make sure to state that we were not yet whatever age is just the way it is, I guess! (I made sure our wedding date came before my 30th birthday the year before. Must be truthful for the marriage license)!

Kriss has been a real pride and joy to us both, accepting the Lord at an early age, maybe four years old, growing up to become an academically gifted and musically talented student. His years in North High School marching band in the drumline, ending with him being drum captain in his senior year, were a source of enjoyment for our whole family. We went to all of the Husky home football games. As a band booster club mom, I helped serve snacks at the grueling summer band camps, and helped organize the walking, candy and scrip fundraisers. Steve and I helped the Blue Star Regiment with moving equipment onto the field, distributing uniforms, putting feathers in the hats, laundering gloves, and I regularly pinned up hair for the girls, and helped the flag team and baton twirlers into their outfits. I also accompanied the band to festivals, tournaments, and other competitions around California and out of state. Kriss' experience meant so much to me because it brought back so many great memories of my own days as a high school and college musician.

Kriss and his friends formed a Christian band called "Broken," in middle school which gained some traction locally. It was in that group that Kriss changed from drummer to lead singer, which he later pursued in the band "First Time Falling," along with an initial music major, at Long Beach State. On this note, the North High yearbook that came out in 2001, his graduation year, featured "Broken" performing in an outreach for Brothers And Sisters In Christ (BASIC), the Christian club he helped lead. The only problem for his School Board trustee mom, was that Kriss was shirtless! Of course I received my extra copy as all Board members do. When I arrived in the District office there were laughs all around. As Proverbs 15:13 says, "A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance."

Kriss had his ups and downs during college, but graduated and is now married to lovely Marisela, and very happy in Long Beach as a manager for Starbucks. He also writes songs and performs with the Christian band "Red Giant," soon to release their first CD. He does solo gigs with former FTF band member Alan on guitar with the Derekstar artist group, and manages an upcoming performer J C Villafan, in Long Beach.

I am looking forward to his and Marisela's visit on my birthday Tuesday evening, where we'll share in the surprise they say they have planned for me. I'll be at a Bible study leaders' meeting earlier, but will leave in time for my son's visit.

With the difficult Alzheimer-tinged trials Steve and I are facing daily now, from leaking outside faucets on both sides of the house, the crashing down of a section of drywall that covered the opening to the crawl space, and now my dad's serious bladder ailment, my kids are bright lights and loving supports for me. Kriss especially, with his empathy, communication skills, good sense and thoughtfulness, has been a particularly wonderful encouragement to us in this year of Steve's decline.

Mothers and sons have a special bond, I think. Jesus' mother, who "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Jesus' birth and angelic celebration in Luke 2:19); told the servants at the wedding at Cana when she reported to her son that they had run out of wine, "Whatever He says to you, do it" (John 2:5) so water became wine; was the person Jesus planned care for as He hung on the cross, telling the disciple John "Behold your mother!" (John 19:27); and Mary was with the disciples and followers of Jesus in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them all as tongues of fire (Acts 1:14, 2:2-4). Mary was a born again believer in Jesus Christ the Son of God--her son!

Kriss has made us laugh, made us wonder, and made us proud. But as with all of my children's lives, I truly believe the best is yet to come!

I love you, son!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Drama unfolds in Redlands

3:35 p.m. Today's project, and my day, began a little over 12 hours ago as we left my dad's bedside at Redlands Community Hospital at 2:00 a.m. for a couple of hours of sleep.

Daddy had called the night before about 7 p.m. to say he was having bladder urgency probelms, and blood in the urine. We kept in contact every half hour, but by 9:45 Steve and I got out of bed, dressed, and I put on my "basic face," since Daddy's said no rush., and drove to Redlands, about 20 minutes away. Our daughter Heidi had spoken to us and her grandpa also, a critical aspect because, since she lives on the same street, we need a back-up in case we cannot come over, and she and her husband are happy to help.

After all, "Children's children are the crown of old men," Proverbs 17:6 says!

Steve and I dressed, took drinks and snacks and a book for each of us, plus some Mary Kay sample handcreams, and drove over to Daddy's house. Steve sat in the back, and Daddy up front with me, for what I imagine was a tortuous time for him as we took the very long Fern Avenue to Redlands Community Hospital on Terracina, parked and walked way around to the emergency section. Happily, they took him back fairly soon, I gave out my handcream samples to the receptionists, got Steve settled in a seat in the waiting room, and and was buzzed back to keep Daddy company.

After samples of what appeared to be mostly blood, it was decided to flush out the bladder, a painful and invasive procedure that called for medication. It did break up clots that in the bag looked like chocolate chips...

I so appreciate the ongoing prayer from so many friends and family members, because the blood clots began to subside and urine flowed freely! Then clots and stoppage recurred, and I was told at 2 a.m., "go home for a couple of hours, and then return to take Mr. Gray home." I flatly told them that if I waited much longer, I wouldn't be able to drive safely; I needed some rest. (And though I didn't say it, there would be no alertness or consciousness of potential danger coming from Steve at this point in his disease).

We slept at home in our clothes after I put the dogs out, and then got a call about an hour later insisting that I pick Daddy up! I asked for an hour because we needed at least that much more rest. Then as we were on our way back, I decided to call, and got the doctor. Praise the Lord, Dr. Berringer said, "I'm keeping him. The clots keep recurring, so he'd be home and then have to turn around and come back." So we were able to turn around not far from the house, sleep until 8 a.m., shower, have our devotions, breakfast, and be ready for the 9:30 call that Daddy was ready to go home.

I found Psalm 127:2 so apt:

It is vain for you to rise up early,

To sit up late,

To eat the bread of sorrows,

For lo, He gives His beloved sleep.

Steve and I made it to Daddy's room by 10:30, where he was receiving instructions on using a leg bag with his catheter at home. We left with a prescription to fill and a promise of a home health nurse visit that would be coming soon to make sure Daddy worked the leg bag properly.

I began to realize that keeping Heidi and Pavel informed was going to be critical part of helping my dad with his care. So I made sure she would be over at Daddy's while we were there. It didn't go over well with Daddy, because he is dependent on me alone to help with his medical affairs, and of course I'll be with him for all of his doctor appointments. I can arrange for a caregiver for a planned appointment, thankfully. But I can no longer run out of the house on the spur of the moment with Steve in his current state. Broken sleep is hard on any adult, but an Alzheimer's victim becomes totally disoriented when his routine is disrupted. He has had a very bad day today. My Dad is reluctant to understand that, but with Heidi and Pavel living down the street, and reiterating their commitment to help out as they can, he will have to allow someone else to take him to the hospital occasionally. Or call 911, which is what I would do!

The couple popped over for a brief visit, we kept it light, but I did bring up their availability and hours either of them could help. In fact, the doctor told me that if he has any more blockage or clots, he has to go to the emergency room immediately! And that could happen any number of times around the clock...

My sister and I talked this afternoon, and we are solid in forming a family "care team." She'll make sure Daddy knows that she knows all of his issues, and that she is on board to help when she retires in 2 weeks. The Lord is with us in all of these things, I believe.

Psalm 91:15 assures God's children,

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 I will satisfy him,

And show him My salvation.