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.

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