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Sunday, July 31, 2011

A little wiggle room



4:50 p.m. Today's project was to take action on a couple of projects I'd been praying about and waiting on the Lord to implement: posting a room to rent in our almost empty house, and possibly selling wedding centerpieces on ebay.



Around 5:45 this morning, I woke up to a very delicate pattering sound, so I peeked out between the blinds in my daughter's old room, and, taking into account my lack of corrective eyewear at that point, didn't think the tiles on the roof even looked wet. "Rain? You've got to be kidding," I muttered. I lay back down, still doubting, but the sound continued. When I heard thunder, and saw a flash of lightning, I woke Steve up, because he loves storms, and we settled back into a nice cozy sleep until my cell phone alarm went off at 7 a.m. for church.



While I waited to go back to sleep, however, I thought about income producing activities other than book sales and my Mary Kay business, which are ongoing and the Lord has blessed so far. The rent our daughter did pay is sorely missed, and on a tight fixed-income budget, there's very little wiggle room. With a the University of California a mile away, seems that we might be able to provide a safe and quiet atmosphere for a single student, with their own bathroom and kitchen privileges. The room in question is pretty girly, but a place to live is just that--a place to live!



Grown children seem to stay home much longer these days, and if they are working, it's right to charge a nominal rent, get some help with utility bills, and require that they attend church and Bible study. I Timothy 5:4 has an interesting little phrase about the children of widows specifically, but to my mind applies to all children:



...let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.



Church attendance is mandatory in our family, but cannot be imposed on a renter from outside our home. So I pray the Lord will send a young person we can witness to or mentor in the faith.

II Timothy 2:24-26 says,



A servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God will perhaps grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.



Witnessing to a new friend, or mentoring a young believer may turn into a wonderful adventure of faith!



As I placed my ad with Craigslist, I carefully read their non-discrimination policy and worded my ad accordingly:



"$400. Room to rent in a quiet neighborhood I mile from the University of California Riverside. Private bathroom and kitchen privileges. No pets, smoking, alcohol, parties."



I think in a shared housing situation, we could state male or female, but I don't think either of us cares which kind of person they are, or their age. When we meet with them in person, we can see whether they mind dogs outside in our backyard that they don't have to interact with unless they choose to. If the Lord brings a renter, they will be handpicked by Him, that's one sure thing!



As for the wedding centerpieces, I'll have to ask my Mrs. Heidi Ilie first. But whether I sell them or take them to her house, our garage will soon have some actual "wiggle room!"

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A brand new experience



8:16 p.m. Today's project was to participate in my first book signing as a newly-published author!


The Lord used Tate Publishing to put this first event together, and two more coming up in August. The concept of doing a book signing seemed very much "out there" for a person who has been a local public figure in the past (an elected school board trustee of the Riverside district for 3 terms), but hardly the type of celebrity whom people sleep out overnight to have their book signed by.


I'm just a person who has followed the Lord's leading in studying, teaching, and writing about the Bible; furthermore, a sinner saved by grace like multiplied millions of other born again believers.


I hadn't asked my marketing rep what I was supposed to do at Kraemer's Koffee Bistro from 1-3 p.m. today, so these questions came to my mind this morning:



  • Do I stand up at 1:00 and make a few introductory remarks?

  • Do I tell the history of the book, the way it began as hand-typed lessons in the 1980's?

  • Walk over to greet those who come in, or wait to see if they may just be there for a coffee?

  • Or do I combine the conversation of a small gathering with individual conversations?

  • How do I ask for the money? How much change should I bring?

  • What do I write to the purchasers? (I jotted down some verses from Galatians on a scrap of paper which got buried in my tote bag, so Heather ran out to get her Bible).

  • What kind of pictures would my daughter Heather take?

My dad left our house a few minutes before 12 p.m., so soon Steve and I were on our way down Arlington toward the Brockton Arcade with 14 books I had bought at the author price, and 9 books I'd borrowed from the Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley bookstore in case I ran out. It was sure hot! We put up the reflective shade on the windshield and went through the shady breezeway and into the shop.


Ken the great counterman told us to set up our books on any table. It was very silent in there, because his lunchtime rush comes pretty early. "Uh-oh," I thought. But we had prayed earlier, and for months before, so the Lord would bring the turnout He ordained. I related to what a long-time friend who came in later in the afternoon said, "I'm certain in my uncertainty!" No sense freaking out, especially an hour before the event began! God ordained the writing of this Bible study, and the creation and publication of the book Galatians: An Exploration of Faith & Freedom. If He didn't want anyone to read it and learn to know Him and better understand His plan of salvation as a result, God wouldn't have brought it to the point of publication! Isaiah 46:9-10 says,


...For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."


Steve, Heather and I ate a lovely lunch and got everything ready to wait for book buyers.


My friend Joyce came in, telling us that 6734 Brockton is actually across the street! Heather checked it out, and the coffee shop has the same address as a hair salon. At least the name isn't the same! She visited with us all and then bought a book signed to her friend, a woman who gives her life to help others. Galatians 6:9 seemed to be appropriate for her:


And let us not become weary of while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.


Two or three at a time, people came in, some specifically for the signing, and others I met on the spot. Conversation came easily, with Heather and Steve participating also. My two oldest sons' counselor from North High, Connie Decker came in, amazingly at the same time as our florist Cheryl and her high school senior daughter. They met Connie and will be able to benefit from Mrs. Decker's private college counseling business! Info was exchanged...


Two people came in who wanted the book to start Bible studies at their church or for a home group. Heather took photos of me with customers and friends as the event went on.


The leader of our Riverside Office of Aging Caregiver support group, Darlene, a published author on eldercare issues herself, came in with her husband. She actually got to meet my Steve, whom she's heard so much about in our classes. She and her husband Steve and the three Kruckenbergs had a really fun conversation. Darlene is a godsend of encouragement to so many! My note in her copy of Galatians to her said as much--she helps us have hope in what could be a hopeless situation, of living with a loved one with Alzheimers.


Later on, friends I hadn't seen for a decade or more came in, and joyous reunions took place. I ended up selling half of the books I brought, and more will be ordered from the publisher for Bible studies still to be formed. I'll be returning the borrowed books tomorrow, and now I have a copy to send to Calvary Chapel Distribution for review. Pressing forward, always forward, as God would have us do, reflecting and learning from the day's events but not camping there.


As I look forward to the next signing on a Saturday morning, my dad's birthday, August 13th here in my Mission Grove neighborhood, I anticipate not just sales, but more incredible divine appointments!!






Friday, July 29, 2011

God took the day and did as he pleased!



7:19 p.m. Today's project was to get my hair done, which was sorely needed in the root department! My schedule was set, or so I thought. But by 9 a.m., I got a series of text messages from my Mary Kay Sales Director reminding me to email a new consultant agreement to a girlfriend, and to check in with one of my team members.



After breakfast and putting my favorite dress on with all the jewelry I've won, I went downstairs to greet the female caregiver who would be staying with Steve most of the day. Maria has helped out before, and is a very competent Certified Nurse Assistant.



Her greeting to me was, "Do you have anything to cover up acne scars?" This was at about the time I was supposed to leave, so I held up everything, had her apply some yellow-tone concealer, and then let her try the foundation color I thought would match. It was perfect, despite my haste. She then asked for acne medicated lotion, and I had that on hand too. So she ended up buying concealer, foundation and acne treatment gel, a nice cash sale!



After my 11:00 appointment, I had prearranged with my older daughter to meet her at her classroom at Pacific Avenue Elementary School in Jurupa by 1 p.m. We'd work for a couple of hours, and then I'd jet over to a new customer's home by 4 p.m., one who showed a very strong interest in being a Mary Kay consultant. Heidi was having a rough morning, and the traffic she got stuck in trying to GET ON the 215/60/91 flyover probably killed an sixty minutes.Our planned hours of work were not to be, so I found myself with a couple of hours to kill. Made some calls, including to my 4 p.m. appointment, hoping to change to an earlier time slot, but her cell went straight to voicemail.



What to do? I stopped by Albertson's for two bananas and some cash over, then headed home, when the Holy Spirit popped an idea into my head: why not give Maria a facial? Since she'd already bought her product, we could focus on cleansing and taking good care of her skin, and using her new products in the correct order.



As we did the facial, Steve went ahead and walked the dogs, since she'd already made sure he had his lunch. She also completed an interview about doing the business herself. You never can tell! One thing I have learned in this business is the truth of the scripture I Corinthians 4:5, and that it applies to so many daily situations, peoples' actions, or even whetherthey are saved:



...judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God.



As I help women to look and feel better with our products, what could be considered a shallow exercise in vanity becomes so much more: a chance to get to know each one as an individual, their likes and dislikes, hopes, dreams, goals, and the way they see themselves far beyond an image in the mirror. It is so gratifying to lead a self-deprecating woman in proper skincare and cosmetic application, be it ever so simple, and see her "light up" for possibly the first time in her life. Building a business on that basis is very gratifying!



I went into my office to organize customer cards and go over some items with my Sales Director, while Maria returned to look after Steve. Around 3:30, I finally heard back from my 4:00 appointment, who was having a family emergency, so I signed the agency time sheet and we said goodbye to the caregiver. She's coming back next Tuesday afternoon, bringing her mom with her, for a little Mary Kay party!



The Lord completely rearranged my day, even topping it off with time together with my husband, the perfect close to a wonderfully busy week! As we just now came in from a strenuous walk up the Canyon Crest hill, I can only repeat a line from a favorite praise song,



How Great is Our God!



Thursday, July 28, 2011

Finally!



1:36 p.m. Today's project was to get the technician from Dewey Pest Control over here to find the spots outdoors where rat traps need to be set. He's done a great job of keeping the crawl space clear, but my tomatoes are disappearing nightly, as soon as they get about 2 inches across. At first I thought they were merely growing slowly, even though I'd harvested some cherry tomatoes and some yellow grape tomatoes. We looked more carefully at two promising Early Girl type larger green tomatoes, only to find them bitten in two by the next day.



A squirrel seems to be the culprit, since I actually saw it two days ago, sitting on my front porch!But the size of rat trap we have ordered could catch at least a body part of bigger vermin. It seems that between the gophers early in the spring and summer (which Gopher Purge plants chased away once they took root) and something large on top of the ground that ate my full-grown, producing broccoli plants and two large tomato plants, Garden #3 has attracted a thriving community of thieves. I am so grateful to the Lord that my first two gardens at this home did so wonderfully, as the picture from last July shows. I did have an excellent harvest of peas, carrots, spinach, cilantro and mesclun salad greens this year. Green onions are looking good, as are the tomatillos. My first cantaloupe got eaten while still a fuzzy, hard ball.



But the good news is that all of the plants have blossoms, the peppers, melons, tomatoes and particularly the green beans, which are producing nicely. The corn has its first silk, too. Praise the Lord for a long growing season in SoCal!


God did create all of these creatures, and as Job 38:41 asks concerning God feeding wild animals,


Who provides food for the raven, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?


I will honestly say that I don't wake up with ideas for feeding local ravens, but they are welcome to take a dive into my garden and eat grasshoppers like the small birds I noticed yesterday. I'm allergic to bee stings, but I'm happy that bees are back in my garden pollinating the flowers of my vegetable plants. It's been a fairly light year for bugs, so I can thank God for his servants the birds eating them!


Like so much of life, creatures and situations you can find no good in, actually have a good point or two--as to rats, I'm not so sure! But on the bright side, my exterminator has a job, doesn't he?


As our women at Bible study prayed this morning so fervently for seemingly incurably ill people, my good friend Charlotte not only prayed for healing and peace for Steve, but that he might be used by the Lord in a way that He alone would choose--that's a bold prayer that shows belief in a mighty, mighty God!


If I'm to grow wonderful crops by the end of the summer, I'll praise God. If this garden's a relative flop, I'll still praise God for the opportunity for Steve and me to work together on a busy project that provides outdoor exercise, fresh air, and teamwork. And I'll remember the words of Ecclesiastes 3:11:


He has made everything beautiful in its time.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

God ties it all together



9:26 p.m. Today's project was to have a nice brunch with retired friends I'd taught with at Pedley Elementary School in the 1999-2006. Afterwards, Terry was going to have a facial.



Four of us were expected, but Cindy had to babysit her infant grandson earlier this week, and Terry had a new grand baby born last night. So, it was our hostess and me, which obviously the Lord ordained, because as Psalm 139:16 says,



Your eyes saw my substance,

being yet unformed.

And in Your book they all were

written,

The days fashioned for me,

When as yet there were none of them.



The two of us enjoyed a lovely lunch together, visited her garden, did lots of talking and compared and commiserated with one another about her 90 year-old mother with Alzheimer's and my Steve. The same "mini-mental" exam Steve failed on Monday, her mother gets about half right. As we talked about our sadness, and the fact that our loved one's not the real person any more, I did mention that only knowing the Lord keeps me going through times of frustration. We both tend to keep busy, she with a large property that constantly needs tending, and me with my business, writing, and Bible studies.



Perhaps what we both need to do is grieve the loss we are experiencing. But rather than seek distraction or an emotional cover-up, we need to give it all over to Jesus! Our Savior said in Matthew 11:28,



Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.



But we must come to Him first!!



This evening, I took Steve to Wednesday night service, which we may begin doing, because he just struggles too much with all of the small group discussion and interactions at the Men's Study on Tuesday nights. Sadly, I'll just have to miss my Piecemakers group that meets upstairs simultaneously. I'm thinking that this is a good solution to his feeling lost, because on Sunday mornings he does well and stays attentive, because it's only one person, Pastor John, speaking the whole time, so he can focus better. Thank you, Lord, for turning on the light bulb of Holy Spirit wisdom!



My plan was also to retrieve 10 copies of Galatians: An Exploration of Faith and Freedom from the church bookstore after tonight's service, to add to the ones I'll need to have on hand to sell on Saturday at my first signing event.



I'd leave a receipt, and any of the church's books that sell, the money will go the them. (Full retail price, unlike the slightly discounted price they offer church members on all of their books. So that will help them out!) Unsold books will go back to them on Sunday.



When we arrived, the bookstore wasn't open, so we went in and were handed Harvest Crusade materials. I had forgotten that it was a training night for ushers, on-field counselors and follow-up workers for the Anaheim crusade August 12-14, and the LA crusade September 10. Okay, that made this service even more exciting, and brought back memories of years when Steve was an usher, and I led the Prayer Tower and did on-field counseling.



We viewed a short video of hurting people who had gone forward at last year's crusade, and then Pastor John gave a sermon on compassion for the lost, like Jesus has.


It is obvious that I need to be more bold in my witness, but not so obvious as to my being an on-field counselor. Where would Steve be during my time on the field? We'd have to make sure we went with another person or couple. But first--let me pray about it!!


After the service, I got the 9 books the store had left, gave the gal the receipt, and Steve and I went home, satisfied with our evening which we both thoroughly enjoyed. I'll close with the rest of Jesus' saying in Matthew 11:29:


Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.


Forgive me, Lord, for not coming to You with my burdens for the rest that You alone can offer!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Support given here

5:28 p.m. Today's project was to attend the Alzheimer/Dementia caregiver support group held by the Riverside County Office of Aging. They arranged for a very nice gentleman caregiver from the Home Instead agency to stay with Steve for the 2 1/2 hour duration of my driving and the class.


I was somewhat loath to go, since I'm stilll in the writing phase of the Thursday morning I Samuel study, but since I had rsvp'ed and care arrangements had been made, I went. It was so refreshing to be greeted even in the parking lot as another member of the class pulled up the same time I did. We really did form a bond during the first 6 weeks of classes, even though each of us has a different scenario at home. Steve is by far the youngest victim; and only the very oldest family caregivers are caring for a spouse. The rest share care for an affected parent with their siblings or spouse.


The presentation today was given by a lawyer, an expert on elder issues, and much detail was taught to us about powers of attorney for finances and healthcare, wills, living and irrevocable trusts, "do not resuscitate" orders, and end of life care preferences. I am thankful that the Lord has led us to purchase the long term care insurance that funds Steve's caregivers on a regular basis, except the ones arranged for this class by the Office of Aging. We've also completed Advance Directives that our kids and doctor have copies of, as well as Steve's Medicare provider Caremore. I have sent all of our banks and insurance companies signed powers of attorney.

Being a firm believer in wise preparation, I quote Proverbs 27:12a to myself:


A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself...


In other words, take whatever means you have to look ahead and protect your family! I also have long term care coverage, so our kids won't have additional burdens either if that day comes when I might be incapacitated, and they need to work daily or care for their own little ones. We never know what a day may bring, but we can act in a diligent manner with the information we do have, and act upon what we see!


Yet God holds His people accountable for more than practical matters of daily living and temporal well being, important as they are. Jesus once rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for being utterly devoid of spiritual discernment as they rejected Him and challenged Him to "show them a sign from heaven." Hear Matthew 16: 2-3:


He answered and said to them, "When it is evening you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red;' and in the morning, 'It will be foul weather today, because the sky is red and threatening.' Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times."


Heavenly Father, may we not only seek You and the wise counsel You have generously provided in Your word to guide our living, but may we store up spiritual treasure, make Spirit-led decisions and provisions for our loved ones now and for eternity! In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A shock but not a surprise



6:47 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve to an appointment with his new neurologist, Dr. Sovory, at the Riverside Medical Clinic on Day Street. Not only did we need to meet the doctor referred by our new medicare primary care doctor, but we're seeking help with the sporadic twitching and jerking Steve's experiencing now.



I quickly filled out the paperwork, and then it was time for us to go back and for Steve's brief mental acuity test given by the nurse.



She opened with asking him how old he was, and his birthday, but he didn't know. The same with the date, day of the week, the year, the season we're in, even though she said things like, "It's hot now," and even game him the names of the seasons to pick from. He couldn't give her his address, or the city or county where we live. He did know to say "California," however.


The nurse said three simple words: "apple, table, ball," and he couldn't say more than apple, and that after several repetitions. Counting backward from 100 was immediately out of the question. When it came time to "think of a sentence and write it," he just went blank, but Steve's never been one to randomly enjoy imagining things. (He used to be creative in physical problem solving, however). I suggested he just write one word, hoping for the best, even though his writing ability is long gone. Even signing his name is a monumental struggle. He made a short wavy line, maybe an inch long. On the same paper, he was tasked with copying a line drawing of two intersecting boxes, quite simple. Instead of logically using the open space below, his hand kept going up to a narrow space under the picture, almost as if being closer to it would help. But nothing was drawn.



I had been finishing my makeup and not even looking at him so he wouldn't look to me for any sort of signal or gesture, and it soon became hard to keep back the tears. Both the nurse and I kept saying, "It's all right, Steve, " just keep going. His face was turning red and he said a phrase he repeats almost daily, "I'm falling apart." It reminds me of his late brother Larry, when he lost his ability to move, saying, "This is the pits," from the chair that became his total environment.


When the nurse left to go get the doctor, we both shed a few tears.



Since we had the drugs with us, the neurologist asked what a couple of them were for. Lovastatin, a heart medicine, was prescribed to keep blood circulation going to the brain. Lamictal was prescribed for him many years ago, after he'd stopped Wellbutrin, for emotional instability that was causing uproars and problems in the family. It's made a huge difference in all of our lives.



Dr. Sovory suggested that with the paranoia, fear, anxiety, rages and outbursts Steve was prone to, that she wants an EEG and MRI done of his brain, because the inherited dementia may have something to do with a defect in the frontal lobe. She also wants to do a spinal tap. Maybe it's not Alzheimer's. She considered the relative suddenness of his inability to follow instructions at work he'd been doing with great success for 35 years, every year of it in the plastics industry as a maintenance mechanic. Alzheimer's is known to develop very slowly.



Does this give us hope? I will be interested to find out what brain imaging reveals. Dr. Sovory said this is definitely for information purposes, not to seek a cure. No one in our family is seeking a medical cure, because we know that only the Lord can heal the unhealable! But if there's a way to stop the twitching--and I was handed a prescription for Clonazepam with a schedule to begin it gradually after the brain tests, because it will affect them. Praise the Lord, she will give us some generic Aricept to tide us over the times when there's no money to refill the brand name version for a few days each month--it just comes up at a bad time on our fixed income schedule, and withdrawal symptoms appear after the first two days, which we found out once to our dismay... never again! My Mary Kay earnings were timely last week to prevent any trouble while I was gone.

As I ponder all of these scientific advances, I just stand in awe of the Lord who created all of our brains, healthy or fatally flawed. Psalm 144:3-4 reminds every one of us to be grateful to Him:


LORD, what is man, that You take

knowledge of him?

Or the son of man, that you are

mindful of him?


Man is like a breath;

His days are like a passing shadow.


As I advise my children, and told the neurologist, live your life to the fullest, get your education, (which exercises and grows the brain's connecting synapses), follow the Lord's leading, and trust Him with every aspect of your life!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Digging up from under the pile God's way

5:50 p.m. Today's project was to welcome three sets of company to our home, allowing the Lord to pull us up from under a pile of trials that have characterized the month of July.

The month began with our dogs getting out of a gate my husband Steve left open, costing $530 in total fees to bring them home, only half of which has been paid; the Jeep's transmission blew on my daughter's wedding day, so that along with the animal shelter fees, the new part ($800) and a very small payment to our mechanic, much less than he deserved, our house payment was in jeopardy. One car, one driver, one choice...


In another part of the state, our youngest son was also struggling, with the summer halting the physical education program he ran for mentally retarded adults; and the economy in Fresno caused his private clients to quit. His bodybuilding sponsor proved very sporadic in their payments, so Steven experienced real physical lack, and even his great faith was shaken: no job offers despite hundreds of applications, several interviews, putting his rent in jeopardy. More than once I offered to bring him home. (His Jeep is currently needing a water pump replacement--must be the 6 year mark for our identical models)! But he feels that with the ministry he's involved with, that God wants him there. If that is true, then I fully expect God to move in Steven's behalf. May the last two interviews result in the perfect job for him! As his mom, it's so hard to get his text messages, during the struggle and only being able to send a few bucks to help, and rarely doing that. My main source of comfort for him has been scripture. If God would allow David, the man after God's own heart, to be a 10 year fugitive, stating in I Samuel 20:3b, "there is but a step between me and death," then He can obviously allow other men and women who are walking with Him daily and serving Him, to suffer great trials.


That's how I see it, because we all have lessons to learn in this life, and trials do some powerful teaching.


God graciously allowed me to earn my expenses for my trip to Dallas, but I barely could afford to eat, and ate very little besides the meals Mary Kay Inc. paid for, and almost couldn't get my luggage checked in because I hadn't realized that even the first bag costs $25! $50 down the drain--and over my cash travel budget. But God was faithful to provide the money. Additionally, I lost my sunglasses and broke my camera. I'm just grateful to be home, honestly!


Upon arriving home, after signing all of the caregiver's time sheets in my clean kitchen--good job, guys--I checked the thermostat, and it read 83*. What? I kicked the air conditioning down several degrees and went about to eat a quarter chicken leftover from a casserole I'd made for the men, unpack, spend time with Steve, and just rest. But it was hot. Now the thermostat read 87* and it had to be faced--the A/C was broken! Steve, not surprisingly, hadn't said anything. So we turned on 3 fans and actually were reasonably comfortable. "We're not fixing this, no money, so we'll just figure on getting used to it!" I told Steve.


This morning after church, I posted a request for A/C repair suggestions on Facebook, and by lunch, Jason, an old neighbor, had called me and was coming over in the afternoon. Thank you, Lord, that he discovered a small part that was not working, and got the air on for us, and will be checking with the manufacturer on a warranty. The part may cost us nothing!!


Our next scheduled guests were daughter Heidi and husband Pavel, fresh from their first married couples' retreat, to pick up her mail and her cell phone bill, which she gave us a check for. But while I was outside ministering to our air conditioning repair man, she and Pavel were reviewing the disc of their wedding pictures--another blessing, because I now was able to attach a photo to their wedding announcement, and email it to the Press Enterprise. God even cares about the relatively minor details of our lives!


Best of all, my friends Joanna and Sarah came over as promised with a huge supply of Mary Kay business tools and supplies, because she has given up her successful business in favor of finishing her bachelor's degree and preparing for a move to Alabama with her husband and family for ministry at Calvary Chapel Foley.


I can't even list all that she brought me, but one "hostess gift" stood out, to testify of God's love for me: a pair of sunglasses!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dallas!



9:43 p.m. (Central Time) Today's project was to get from Riverside, CA to Dallas, Texas for the Mary Kay Seminar. Last night, I walked Steve's caregiver through all the house and food issues, kissed Steve goodnight and goodbye, and went to sleep. My cellphone alarm was set for 2:30 a.m. I am writing this on my phone so not sure how to skip lines!



July 23rd, 3:06 p.m. Today's project was to get up at 3 a.m. (CST), read my scripture, do some serious journalling with the Lord, freshen up quickly before waking up my sister beauty consultant and traveling companion at 4:55, and post Psalm 142:1 on Facebook:



I cry out to the LORD with my voice; with my voice to the LORD I make my supplication.



The last five days have been thrilling, encouraging, and spiritually inspiring, with warm personal comments and challenges from beloved leaders. Yet moments of oddball, unwarranted conversations (and non-conversations!) threatened to dampen my confidence and distract me from what the Lord is speaking to my life at this time.



Ever notice that when you are listening to the Holy Spirit and asking for guidance in rearranging various elements of your life, niggling, petty worries tend to come up? "Everyone seems to be talking to everyone but me," (realistically, that's pretty common on a momentary basis); "I'm different from everyone else," (realistically, are there any two people alike?); "My life has too much going on to organize my business and consistently achieve," (in actuality, the testimonies of the dedicated Christian women who have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams make my life's challenges look downright manageable)! I Corinthians 10:13 says,



No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.



My excuses began to melt away in the glare of the Holy Spirit's bright light!



"I'm too old to work toward the goal of being a Sales Director." In what way? Physically? Yesterday a number of us decided to walk two miles in the sweltering, 100+ heat from the Dallas Convention Center to the Hyatt Hotel. The girls were anywhere from 30-40 years my junior, but along with my daughter's best friend, and wearing heels, I reached the hotel first, just walking a quick, steady pace, uphill and down. So that excuse is nonsense.



Mentally worn out, with an aged brain? A brand new director I met is 62 years old, and more focused, probably, than many of her younger peers! And a number of high achievers are considerably older than that, and came on stage last night to receive their diamonds in wheelchairs.



"I don't have time." Yes I do, if I decide to utilize the same number of hours that God gives everyone-- in a structured manner! And we received great training on how to do just that. I am currently praying about eliminating any non-essential activity God shows me, and I will.



"I'm not organized." Not so! A few tweaks, a lot of doing what I've been told for almost four years, and taking advantage of a customer delivery service will save time, money, and shipping costs while improving my ordering status. And getting serious about financial management will improve every other area of my business. I've been instructed on that, too. Already my customers are receiving their catalog every quarter, and are organized by time period and the way I know them, ie., teachers, family, customers from my daughter, neighbors, church friends, beauty salon, etc. Physical receptacles will put these matters to rights. And tracking my daily activity will let me know why bookings and sales are or are not happening.



Coming home today to a very clean house and a happy husband let me know that Steve is going to be fine as I use a few hours a day to make the most of what I've been given by the Lord in every area of importance to a business owner. He supports me wholeheartedly. After the Lord Jesus Himself, that's one approval I won't go forward without!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Hec-tick!



4:38 p.m. Today's project was to get everything ready for my trip to Dallas for the Mary Kay Seminar. I've been trying to figure out why I feel so incredibly stressed this past week, considering I used to fly to conventions around the country for thirteeen years when I was a school board trustee, between state, regional and national conferences.



When I was elected to my first term in 1992, Steve and I had 5 kids at home, the youngest three pictured, ranging in age at that time from 3 to 16. Our children attended preschool, elementary and high school. You can just imagine all of the school and after school sports and programs our family participated in, as well as time spent at church as a family and in kids' activities like scouts.



I was a Christian school teacher where the youngest two attended, and Steve worked long hours, sometimes 6 days a week. To say we were a busy household on the run is putting it mildly, especially with added school board trustee meetings and responsibilities. But the Lord worked His purposes for the years I served, never allowing a defeat in three elections, supported by the citizens for fundamental change in how kids are taught. As God said in Isaiah 46:9b-10:



I am God, and there is none like Me,

Declaring the end from the beginning,

And from ancient times things

That are not yet done,

Saying, "My counsel shall stand,

And I will do all my pleasure"



With the graduation of my youngest son coming up, and heeding the call to further ministry and Bible teaching opportunites on the mission field in Wales and at Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley, I decided not to run for re-election in 2005. School officials, parents and voters were shocked, but the only place to be is in the center of God's will!



Steve and the kids and I did some traveling by airplane, and while there's always plenty to do before a vacation, like paying bills ahead of time, and getting the paperwork in order, I didn't feel quite so overwhelmed as I do now.



This will be the first time that Steve will be home without me or our recently married daughter since his Alzheimer's caused him to be at home full time and me to retire. This year we have needed to utilize our longterm care insurance to bring caregivers into the home for various periods of time, 2-3 hours usually a couple of times a week, for Bible study, or business appointments. With Heidi at still at home, I was able to spend a couple of nights in Fresno with our youngest son, checking out his living situation and visiting his church.



This opportunity to go to the Seminar came from the Lord, who made all of the arrangements fall into place, even as recently as my to-the-airport transportaion. My part has been to earn the total hotel fees, which the Lord did for me over the last two days. But with Steve not being at home like any other retiree, I've arranged for our regular caregiver to stay with him for 5 nights. That means tons of written instructions, because Steve won't be able to stay on schedule even for his personal habits. At 7 p.m. when Carlos arrives, I'll be showing him the meals I've cooked and frozen for the two of them, where all of the daily breakfast and lunch foods are, the gardening and lawn mowing schedules, trash pick-up, too.



If the two of them want to go to church for studies this week, it works out well, because Carlos is a member there--which we didn't know when he was first assigned to Steve by Brightstar! Heidi and her husband know him from the Thursday night Young Adults group.



Though the Lord's hand has been on every aspect of my trip, the details required to make it work have been daunting and time consuming. But there's no way we can afford for the guys to eat out, so I've stocked the pantry, freezer and fridge. I was glad to hear Carlos say that he likes pretty much everything!



As I see all of the details of my attendance at Seminar this week falling into place, I am overjoyed, not because there won't be odd difficulties and unseen issues--because that's life on this fallen planet. I am overjoyed to know that my God is faithful, and will always be!





Sunday, July 17, 2011

Community gathering place










3:33 p.m. Today's project was to attend the 9:45 service at our church. Steve and I had planned to get to church early, because I needed to meet up with a friend. We also like to sit near the front so we can pay close attention to the worship, anouncements and message.



The morning started out in an un-promising way about 5:45, when I heard whimpering from one of the dogs in her crate down in the garage. Because of his C-pap machine, Steve can't hear them any more, but if it keeps him breathing, it's a small price to pay. And I wear a Freedom Alert pendant to bed, since he wouldn't hear me choking or having any other kind of distress, either.



God gives us wisdom, doesn't He, and the ability to prepare for the things we can. Proverbs 27:12 says just that, that a prudent man foresees evil and flees...bascially, as Chuck Swindoll used to say, we should "control the controllables."



Lo and behold, Bailey had had another accident--ugh! So I let both dogs out, sprayed her towel and crate with Shaklee Basic G germicide, and went back upstairs. At 7:00, the mess got cleaned up and went into a bleach load in the washer to soak. "Looks like the new Disney dog food is bothering her tummy," I told Steve, "So after church we'll stop at Winco to get some of their 35 cent/lb kibbles, start a half and half mix, and then slowly get her back to the 50 lbs of the brand of food we just bought!" Funny, but the last few bags of the brand that bothered her Friday and Saturday nights had given her no trouble whatsoever.



Odder still, when we were at Winco last Friday, the Lord allowed us to see that there were 50 lb sacks of the cheap food, but I told Steve, "It's the same price as that Disney brand they just love." So in essence, I didn't listen to the Spirit telling me to buy the Winco brand, and ended up with two days of mess. Another Proverb, 23:19, covers this aspect,



Hear, my son and be wise; and guide your heart in the way.



I exemplified the case that the same person can be both prudent and unwise in the same day, even the same hour, to my embarassment! I'm so glad God loves me just the same, with an everlasting love!



Despite the smelly start to our morning, we left the house nice and early, with wedding centerpieces for our son-in-law Pavel in a box, and all of my products in case I ran into anyone who needed anything after church. Sure enough, my friend and I had a nice chat and I helped her with the perfect colors for her skin tone. Then, despite peering around in church before the service, during the greeting time, as well as after, I realized I hadn't seen my son-in-law when church let out. So Steve and I got into the car, drove around to the front of the church and there was Pavel talking with friends in front of the space I parked in. Good! He got the centerpieces and saved himself a trip to our house. (And we rid ourselves of 2 out of 18 vase arrangements gracing our garage)!



As I was looking for Pavel right after church, I asked a friend Karen if she'd seen him, and commented, "I'm always looking for someone, aren't I?" We shared a laugh, and that's a sign of good fellowship at church, a real gathering place for the Family of Christ in Moreno Valley. I love that about our nation, the way that churches are the center of activity and personal support for multiple millions of people, in caring ways that government, or even the neighborhood school, can't match. Whether at Harvest or Calvary Moreno Valley, I seek members of our church family first for help, and they in turn seek me out as well. Professional and personal assistance takes place among the members, and arrangements are made for future get-togethers of every variety.



Personal friendship opens doors to a even larger community on the social networks of like-minded people who can help one another in "real life," so it's a beautiful, scriptural circle of community, inspiration and expertise that produced the pastor, photographer, seamstress and cake baker for our daughter's recent wedding, as well as all of the bridal party who weren't siblings!



Psalm 133:1 so truly says,



Behold how good and how pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity!






Saturday, July 16, 2011

Timely wisdom at my feet




9:57 p.m. Today's project was to call all of my Mary Kay customers about my 15% off sale on all products. I was short of the hotel fees for Seminar next week in Dallas, and taking money from our household account was out of the question. After all, this is a business expense, so I needed to earn the money, with a discount on all inventory items. I had made one sale last night after several hours of calling, but did reconnect with some ladies; that will bode well for future sales, I pray. My damaged cell phone was performing admirably, despite another piece falling off the bottom of the cover this morning before I even began my calls!



Steve and I slept a little later than usual, because I would need all the strength I had to persist in calling with a great, upbeat attitude and enthusiasm for each person I spoke to. On a quick break after Steve cleaned up the accident one of our dogs had in her crate, I went into the garage to add bleach to the washer and I found the above index card on the floor at my feet. I recognized my younger daughter Heather [Love's] handwriting; in fact, her box of high school stuff was nearby. It must have been an assigned verse that Heather was to share with the Grove Community Church youth group, because the front had her name on it in another person's writing, and she had copied the verse and some definitions that were amazingly timely for my day.


James 1:2-3,4 (NIV):


Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.



Under this verse, Heather had written, "Tough times never last, but tough people do."



The definition of perseverance she quoted from Webster's Dictionary was "to persevere: to work through it; to persist (as in an undertaking) in spite of difficulties."



As I called dozens of ladies and left message after message, I had been feeling discouraged, what with the interruptions for directing Steve in his daily activities, and preparing lunches and meals for next week while I'm gone. When he took the dogs for their walk, I got in a solid chunk of phone time, totally focused, and made another sale. The faithful Lord honored my commitment and the labor that went into keeping that commitment, and didn't let the tears that threatened to flow come into my voice or onto my cheeks!



My Sales Director texted some encouraging words, we loaded up my inventory, and I left to do some banking and to deliver products, taking my phone list with me for time between customer visits. While at Wells Fargo, I got an urgent message. I actually added a new member to my team today, with her filling out the online application on her own! Thank you, Lord! I love the way He throws in some encouragement every day!



Mandisa's song "Stronger" kept going through my head, especially the lines, "It's gonna make you stronger!" and "Try, and do the best you can, go on and let Him take your hand; fall into the arms of Jesus." Yes, that was what I had determined to do. So as I drove away from one paying appointment, I called others who live in Moreno Valley. One sale quickly formed, I made my mascara delivery and picked up another check--moments after Jennifer had thrown way her old mascara-- and made an arrangement for two other deliveries. I checked in with Steve, and then made another quick deposit.



At home, Steve and I did some gardening and had dinner. I called another customer and we drove over to her house, left products and picked up her payment. Back to the bank!

Now 8:15, it was too late for a Saturday night to call anyone, so we went on a walk around the neighborhood and spent some much-needed time together.



By Monday, the last day I can work before leaving early Tuesday, may the Lord be gracious to me and provide all of my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus!




Friday, July 15, 2011

A refreshing, friendly, happy place



9:22 p.m. Today's project was to visit Kraemer's Koffee Bistro to meet the owner and staff, drop off fliers, and thank them for hosting a book signing for Galatians: An Exploration of Faith & Freedom on July 30.



I have lived in Riverside for decades, but had never ventured into this part of the Brockton Arcade, despite having eaten at the Green Onion, had my hair done at nearby salons, checked out snowboards at the sporting goods shop, had my wedding diamond replaced at the jeweler, and gotten massages at a chiropractor there on Brockton, as well as taken 3 of my four kids to the orthodontist catercorner from the shop. It's truly a hidden gem!



Kraemer's has been run by the family since the 1960's and sits on one side of a shady breezeway with covered patio tables. Since I parked in the back, that's the direction I entered from. At 1 p.m., it didn't smell like coffee, because they serve lunch and breakfast too. The lady in front of me was paying for her panini sandwich, and the counter guy was taking care of her, making sure it was just right, extolling the virtues of the panini, and generally keeping up friendly chatter. I felt my body instantly relax, forgot about the fact that I didn't look like an "author," or even a "Mary Kay lady," but was comfy in a long blouse and some nice Bermuda shorts my son-in-law gave away a few years ago. I truly enjoyed standing in the short line, smiling at the busy--but not too busy to be having fun-- staff, and the patron sitting at the counter inside. You just start smiling there at Kraemer's! I knew from talking with Jake the owner a week or two ago that he is a Christian, and is delighted to offer the book signing opportunity my Tate marketing rep Jeff Fisher set up.



Where has this place been all my life? God knew I needed to decompress today, and He provided an oasis of cheer for my soul!



I had time to look at their extensive list of ice-blended coffees and pick one I'd never seen anywhere before--Chocolate malted. Wow, couldn't wait. When it was my turn, I introduced myself and my fliers, so the counter guy called over his shoulder to the lunch maker, "Jake, it's Dana from the book signing!" Jake wasn't more than 7 feet away in the kitchen, so I think he had gathered who I was, so I started laughing, "Yes it's me!"



Jake reiterated that he was honored to host the signing, "and I hope there's a line out the door!" Incredible. I told them my daughter would be photographer for the day. I pray he'll have lots of drinks and food flying out of his kitchen and over the counter for his generosity. My drink was beyond delicious, after the counter server and I agreed wholeheartedly that yes, I definitely should have the whipped cream on top! Talk about someone perfect for his job!



I slipped out to the nearby patio table with my drink to fulfill the other part of my errand: to get out of the house to a coffee shop and make business phone calls to drum up sales to help finance my hotel costs at the Mary Kay Seminar next week in Dallas. But first, I excitedly texted my daughter Heather, to invite her and Nick to have lunch on us at Kraemer's before the signing starts. "Bring plenty of business cards, " I told her.



Now I wonder if I'll have enough books on hand, may have to borrow some and quickly order a few more. I could get all worked up over this, but my marketing rep told me to print up some Tate order blanks, and do it that way if I run out. Then of course I'll take or send the books to the purchasers. What do authors say at public events? I try to picture the signings I've seen on tv, but those were famous people like Laura Bush, so lines were indeed out the door, even people waiting overnight at major chain bookstores, so I still don't have a clue for the modest event that will be taking place on the 30th.



I do know this, that God hasn't carried me this far, through so many trials, to drop me suddenly! Right now there's a video playing on the Gospel Music Channel by "The Afters," whose chorus says,



"You light up the sky to show me You are with me;

No, I can't deny that You are right here with me."



My phone calls were surprisingly easy and flowed, probably from the tasty good mood I was in with my chocolate malted! Best of all, I continued calling back at home in a good frame of mind, making connections with lots of gals, and offering them bargains and good service on a wonderful line of products. There's potentially a lot at stake right now for my business, but as my sales director emailed me last night, "This is God's battle!" (II Chronicles 20:15)



Yes, all of a believer's battles are the Lord's, so as we do our best, we can trust Him for a righteous outcome!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

I can identify, can you?







10:28 p.m. Today's project was to teach I Samuel Chapter 20 to our growing Bible study group. In this chapter, raging obsessive King Saul goes completely over the edge, cursing out his son Jonathan as a bastard, a fool and a traitor for not turning David over to be killed--so Jonathan can ascend to the throne after him. (Both Saul and Jonathan know the prophecy concerning David as the next king of Israel, but instead of accepting God's word as Jonathan does, Saul is determined to preserve his royal line).



The coup de grace comes when Saul publicly hurls a spear at his own son, who has honored his father at all times, sending him out of the New Moon feast in a rage.



We reflected as a group on what Jonathan's emotions must have been at that point. Of course he was enraged, as scripture points out. But what about shame for his father's disgraceful, violent, public behavior? Finding himself in the horrible position of being "caught in the middle" of a one-sided war between two people he loved? Loyal to his father to his dying day, while knowing that Saul was demented and demon-oppressed, the Holy Spirit having left him long ago? Compassion toward his father, remaining in his service to be that godly advisor to the throne? And just as impactfully, Jonathan had literally lost his best friend.



Those of us who have dealt with or are dealing with a loved one with mental illness can identify with Jonathan, we all realized. The real person, the parent who treated us with kindness, selflessly focusing on the best for us, is gone, having become spiteful, bitter, verbally or even physically abusive, due to dementia. Or worse yet, doesn't recognize us at all.



In my case, a husband who was never happier than when helping others with any kind of electrical, building or auto repair at no charge, who set up our computers, entertainment systems and installed our phones and sprinkler systems at two houses, can barely peel a banana due to Alzheimer's. A man who bought his first home with his own earnings at 24, ended a wonderful career by age 53, far too young to be retired. He could not maintain a thought long enough to reliably follow through on directions. In a manufacturing environment, that was dangerous and costly. He doesn't remember the places he worked, even when I point out that we are driving through the cities where the plants are located.



Yet the Spirit is still with my Steve! He loves to worship, and has a memory of hundreds of praise songs that enables him to close his eyes and fully focus on each song. Praise the Lord! It is truly amazing that a person who cannot remember to form coherent sentences at times, can obey Ephesians 5:19,



...speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.



When a believer is filled with the Holy Spirit, all things are possible, as the Originator of song, gives a song to our heart and mind, even in the night (Job 35:10), and in the night places of fear and dread of the future. Jesus goes before my husband and me, and our children, no matter how our family dynamics change due to Alzheimer's!


Psalm 32:7, penned by David to rejoice in restored relationship with God, wrote these words of hope that comprised a popular worship song of the 1980s:



You are my hiding place;

You shall preserve me from

trouble;

You shall surround me with

songs of deliverance.



Selah.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On her own!



5:04 p.m. Today's project was to have a nice mother-daughter visit over at the home of newlywed Mrs. Heidi Ilie. I purposely waited until this week, because her husband Pavel went back to work after two weeks off. You may not know it, but Deuteronomy 24:5 says,





When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has chosen.



Looks like Pavel owes her 50 more weeks!



So Heidi's had a couple days on her own at home, training their new dog and taking care of business. It wasn't hard for me to give her some space. I've been so busy with my Bible study, beauty business and the marketing and promotion of my book, Galatians: An Exploration of Faith & Freedom, that I wasn't really tempted to call or text in between the couple's Sunday afternoon visits, when they check their Facebook pages and photographer website for the wedding pictures that have been posted, and pick up items from her room to take to their darling little house.



I miss my daughter, but it's different than when she lived at University of Redlands for four years, then in an apartment for a year. This is for keeps, just like for her dad and me, "till death do us part." Thus there's no reason to get maudlin about God's perfect will for her life with a man who loves the Lord, first and foremost, and loves Heidi with all his heart. I could tell from when we've seen them that Pavel is one happy man, and Heidi is very content also!



That's our Lord for you! "He does all things well." (Mark 7:37)



I love the crazy odd closets and corners that come with an older house! The nice glassed-in pantry, a very good-sized storage barn, finished patio and well kept grounds are just right for them. And Sammy, their chihuahua/whippet mix, is very excited, made friends with grandma right away, and is a good walker. He's still getting used to his crate, and loves to show off his furry squeak toy. Everything is tidy--she's my daughter, after all--and the furniture choices they've made are tasteful. Their next goal is to get a floor-to-ceiling bookcase.



We visited for a while and then went off to Verizon to reorganize our Friends and Family plan. I also looked at the Smart Phones I'm eligible for with my upgrade, but do not like the buy-in of $159! Guess I'll keep Krazy Glueing the phone I have.



Heidi treated me to some yummy nuggets, my Chik-Fil-A favorites, and described her and friend Bibi's sharing with a Jehovah Witness gal yesterday. I'm proud that she is so well equipped, and will only grow stronger in the Word with each passing year.



A friend posted a quote that I blogged about a few months ago, about the cruel destiny of mothers who pour their lives into their children, only to have them leave one at a time. If that left me empty, it would be a cruel fate indeed! I have known mothers who go into deep depression when their nest becomes empty; it's fairly common. BUT, I feel confident in the upbringing the Lord led Steve and me to give our children, to see them (generally) choosing a direction in life, accomplishing their educational goals, working hard, and above all, following Jesus Christ. And to watch their young marriages flourish is a treat, a comfort far beyond missing having another person at home to bounce ideas off of besides my husband. After 30 years, Steve tends to agree pretty easily, and I truly love vigorous discussion and varied points of view myself!



Heidi has noticed little differences that vary between things they both will learn to adjust to in living with another person, to things I warned her she'll still be talking about 30 years from now, and we had some good chuckles as wives--some aspects of life around the house with a member of the opposite sex are universal! Decades of joy and growth will be a special treasure they'll share in the Lord. And like all committed Christian couples, they'll have the Holy Spirit's guidance through it all.



I pronounce myself wholly satisfied with my daughter's marital well being, and assured that the Lord Jesus has taken up residence in the Ilie home!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

And so we wait...



8:57 p.m. Today's project was to continue my study notes and begin writing my Bible study for Thursday. We'll be discussing I Samuel 20, where David awaits word from his friend Jonathan as to the state of King Saul's mind toward him. Jonathan states that his father would have told him if he had evil intentions toward David; but David is not convinced, and is rightfully wary of Saul's previously demonstrated murderous jealousy. "There is but one step between me and death," he declares in verse 3.



It was a tense 3 days, I would imagine, as David waited for the inevitable bad news that he must run for his life. With vows of loyalty and a renewal of the covenant between them, Jonathan and David part ways and David becomes an outlaw, though innocent of any wrongdoing.



Several believers I know are awaiting news that will be life changing, for better or worse. One couple is waiting on a signature from one manager that will determine whether they can complete the sale of their home. (And the person just left it on his desk the last few days, unsigned)! Another friend is awaiting Social Security approval, though she has been disabled for a number of years. Still another is waiting for results of an MRI, CT scan, and blood tests. These matters are worrisome, and the consequences are huge if the answers are undesirable or even devastating...



Steve and I are waiting for funds to make our house payment and pay other bills, thanks to a blown transmission and our dogs needing to be retrieved from the County Animal Shelter (Steve left the gate open one afternoon). On a less critical note, I am waiting to see if this year's garden is going to produce full-sized vegetables, or should we just stop the costly irrigation and strenuous hours of work, shovel it under and start again next year with Garden Number 4?



After 10 years of running, David did become king of Israel after the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, and the defeat of their loyalists. And God has proved faithful to my family and me over the last 31 years; He has never failed me. It was a 7-year wait after having a 1 millimeter cancer removed from my breast before I could get life insurance at a normal price; and 24 years before a hand-typed Bible study of Galatians became a published book. If you are under the age of 24 I guess that gives you some perspective on waiting for the Lord's timing!



Weight loss, finishing college and grad school, changing the Riverside school board's education policy, my kids becoming adults, achieving career steps in the education profession and in my current Mary Kay business, seeing my Galatians study sold nationwide and used in church groups-- all have taken or are currently taking time. There is no sense fretting, because God knows what He has in mind for each of us. And so we wait...



I am happy to report that unlike David, no one is hunting me down to kill me, but Alzheimer's is daily killing my husband's comprehension, confidence, coordination and cheer. He is still trying to keep up with his daily tasks, but he's giving up a little faster, and is more hesitant to try new things than before. Morning disorientation is becoming more frequent and his enjoyment of social situations is slipping along with his speech, which had been improving the last few months. Thankfully and praise God, we are as close as ever, and I wouldn't trade my early retirement for anything. The last two years have been precious! God has given us so much to be thankful for!



While lack of patience is pretty much a trait of my task- and goal-oriented personality, Steve's disease progression towards complete loss of memory and recognition of loved ones is one benchmark I am willing to wait for as long as possible!

Monday, July 11, 2011

STILL THE ONE





9:45 p.m. Today's project was to spend the day with the man God designed for me from before the foundation of the world, just as He designed me for Steve.



We met at a home Bible study taught by Tim Weeks, now pastor of Calvary Chapel Grass Valley, but a leader at Calvary Chapel Riverside, in 1980. I had just gotten saved and had only been attending Calvary for a few weeks when I was invited to the Friday night study hosted by John and Cindy Collins. Pastor John Collins is now head of the Harvest Crusade ministries). The group was comprised of several singles and some couples. I remember thinking that Steve seemed very quiet, but was also very handsome sitting over in his corner!



As a divorced single mom with plenty of the world behind me, I wasn't looking for any more boyfriends; in fact, I was convicted to leave an ungodly relationship I was in. One Wednesday night at church, I made my decision, and with encouragement from more mature believers, I moved my son Sean and me in with my mom in Mentone, east of Redlands. But, despite moving 20 miles further away, I kept coming to Calvary, got inolved in children's ministry, listened to Bible studies constantly on the radio, and felt especially compelled to keep coming to the Friday night study.



It's funny, but one of my favorite songs that Steve and I listen to on my iPod is "Coffee Shop" by Landon Pigg, about the compulsion a young man has for coming into an old coffee shop day after day, when it dawns on him that he's coming to see a girl who works there. It's a plaintive song in a minor key, and always brings tears to my eyes, because God compelled me to persevere in attending the faraway study I loved and learned from, because that's where my future husband was! Steve never missed, either...



Yet we never had a personal conversation until one night Tim had us break bread and pray with another person. I don't even remember how Steve and I ended up partners--other than God did it! I don't think sparks flew, but we began talking one on one from that point on. He told me later he'd been praying for a wife ever since he bought a house in Riverside on his own. But I wasn't praying for a husband. Being a single Christian with lots of new, wholesome, funny and encouraging friends, and now teaching at Grace Baptist school where Sean attended preschool, made every day a joyful adventure! I lacked nothing, or so it seemed to me.



But the single life was not to be for long. Just like Abraham's servant, a type of the Holy Spirit, brought Rebekah to Isaac while he was meditating in a field (Genesis 24:62-65) so the Spirit brought me to Steve, in a white Thunderbird rather than on a camel!



Among our single friends, another yong man had shown an interest, and I think we had coffee together once, but just as friends. Then Steve and I and two male friends from Bible study went to see the movie "Popeye" at a theater near the Tyler Mall. He and I sat next to each other and had some personal conversation that sparked an interest. I believe we occasionally went to Wendy's and out to pizza, but in a group most of the time. Not what you'd call a hurried courtship!


One night at an "afterglow," where believers would continue meeting after the service on Sunday evenings, using the gifts of the Spirit and praying, God told me clearly that Steve was the man I would marry. So be it, there's no arguing with the Lord!



We began dating and by January 1981 we were holding hands at Bible study! Sean liked Steve because he fixed his broken toys and slowly became the father he was missing. (Steve adopted him 2 years later). Steve proposed on Valentine's Day and on July 11, with our families and church friends in attendance at Calvary Chapel Riverside, with me wearing a lacy, designer white gown made for me by my maid of honor, and Steve in a tan western-style tuxedo, we were married.



God has given us a wonderful life, raising our five children and now in early retirement because of his Alzheimer's. But when we embraced one another this evening, we could have been those newlyweds in Palm Springs in 1981--only better!



Thank you, Lord, for Your creation and plan for marriage, the best way of life this side of heaven!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Exposed to the Son













6:30 p.m. Today's project was to check up on a few things: whether my son Steven got home from a San Jose bodybuilding event (he did, having placed 3rd in the Open Men's Heavyweight class, the youngest and only natural competitor); keep looking for Heidi and Pavel's toasting flutes; and see whether my recently uncovered watermelon mound was progressing.



The location of the flutes is still hidden from us all, so I've sent an email to the caterer and will contact everyone who helped us clean up after the wedding. They will turn up, I am sure, just a matter of God revealing to me whom to ask and where to look. I Corinthians 4:5 tells us that we can rely upon God to bring hidden things to light, so I'll stay cool!



The passage above refers to the day when Jesus will reveal and judge the counsels of each person's heart. But He is 100% familiar with the contents of our hearts this very moment, whether we try to hide the darker elements or not. Hebrews 4:12-13 says of God's revelatory word,



For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.


And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to Him to whom we must give account.



I remember reading this passage as a new believer and feeling a chill go up my spine, probably because it tied in so well with my mother's admonitions to my sister and me that "God sees everything! He even knows what you're thinking!" Since I was not saved until 1980 when I was 28 years old, that always seemed scary. But even as I fall more in love with the Lord each day, there is an awesome, reverent, healthy fear of the Lord that should never, ever leave even the most experienced and mature saint! Because God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent!



Back to the watermelon mound. I had noticed that the seeds never germinated, even with the hot, sunny days, sand and compost mixed into the soil and the same amount of water their neighboring cantaloupe plants get, which are now spreading and flourishing. Yesterday Steve and I were out weeding, watering and generally straightening up the garden. I pocketed some nice-sized tomatillos as I was hoeing out the irrigation ditches at the back end of the plot, when the cause of the watermelon non-starters suddenly dawned on me. The huge tomatillo bushes had completely overgrown the watermelon mound, hogging all the sunlight and probably a good amount of the water, too. No wonder they didn't stand a chance, despite all of the nutritive help they'd been given!



They were not exposed to the sun.



As for us human beings, if we fear God's judgment and wish we could hide our motives from Him, no amount of "amendments" of fun, success or even staying on the down-low will help. We need to be exposed to the Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ the Son, and ask Him to forgive our sins, accept His death on the cross as all-sufficient to save us from a living death today and eternal death in hell. There is no other way to truly live, grow and thrive in this life, and in the life to come.



We need Son-exposure!



Saturday, July 9, 2011

Texted to pray



5:42 p.m. Today's project started at 6:03 a.m. when I got a text from my youngest son Steven, saying , "Praise God, the headache is gone."



Steven had just gotten up in San Jose for his bodybuilding show at 6:30 p.m. What a praise report after his frantic text message of 8:50 p.m. last night!



Yesterday afternoon, he drove north from Fresno, and found cheap lodgings. His message to me last night read, "Pray for me I have the worst migraine I can't even get out of bed right now."

I texted all of Steven's siblings, his dad and I prayed, and then I thought, let me notify my almost 600 Facebook friends, and especially the "Post a Prayer" FB ministry administrated by my dear friend Linda Martinez. I answered my son back, "go lie down in the dark," but he reminded me that he had to apply his body color and needed to eat at 11:00 p.m. per his very strict dietary routine. While I stayed in communication with Steven all evening, prayer was flowing forward from around the country for him.

It was humbling and inspiring to see believers praying, and I posted many thank yous! Yet, despite the hope and faith I had in God's ability and willingness to heal, the devil had these barbs to toss at me:



  1. Should you have given Steven $30 for a room?

  2. What if it's not God's will for him to compete?

  3. Isn't it a sign he shouldn't be in San Jose, since his sponsor fell through on the lodging?

  4. His migraine won't go away, so all that time and money wasted!

  5. What if it's an aneurysm?

  6. He'll die all alone.

  7. Better find out what motel he's in, in case he dies!

  8. Then it will be your fault because he wouldn't have had money to stay in a motel!

From the "practical" to the absurd, were the tormenting thoughts that hit me because my child was hurting 6 hours away! In confronting these taunts from the accuser of the brethren, the old serpent, the devil (Revelation 11:10, 20:2), I kept praying and calling to mind the prayers of the saints on my son's behalf! (I did ask Steven where he was staying, and was glad he had a bed instead of his original plan of sleeping in a hotel lobby!) I love the way Revelation 5:8 speaks of the prayers of the saints being in the presence of the Lamb in heaven, as "golden bowls of incense." I felt and was bolstered by my friends and acquaintances, brothers and sisters in the Lord, praying for a young man most won't meet until we are all together in heaven!


There's no telling right now how Steven's bodybuilding contest will go, but he is healed and competing, with music from Christian rapper LeCrae for his theme song. My prayer is that the lyrics will be edifying for believers and convicting to the unsaved. My answer back to him on receipt of the good news of his migraine being gone was, "Now go out there and give God the glory!"


And that's the answer to this mom's prayers!

Friday, July 8, 2011

II Corinthians 1:3-4



8:14 p.m. Today's project was to comfort and be comforted. II Corinthians 1:3-4 says,



Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.


A little after 11:30 this morning, I picked up a voicemail from my dad saying it was urgent that I return his call. His 4-year-old Weimaraner had died, he believes, by poisoning, because she was healthy and suddenly stopped eating about 10 days ago, then her appetite improved for a day or two. This morning he found her. "Glass mixed into hamburger seems to be the method dogs are being killed by here in Redlands," he said, and noted a morning when the dogs on his and the other side of the fence were barking furiously, he thinks at a burglar trying to break into a neighboring home where the people had been on a long vacation. The younger of his two dogs probably got to the meat first, and as a result, died a painful and cruel death. Daddy was needing information for which agency to call, since he knows we have been through three doggie deaths over the last 30 years, so I suggested Animal Control to start. Later she got picked up at no charge. So sad and disappointing, but we talked about it for a while, and he recovered his usual demeanor, full of ideas and advice as always.


Not long after, a customer and former teacher colleague came by to pick up a Mary Kay "Satin Hands" gift set, and we got onto the subject of her 90 year-old mother in severe late stage Alzheimer's. "Marnie" is trustee of her parents' trust, and had come from a tax appointment with the attorney, and then from talking with the renter in the home her parents had lived in. Her mom is now in a private home care setting, where she is known as Amazing Kay for her speedy escapes to visit friends who live nearby!

Yet, Kay doesn't know her daughter, calling her by the names of her own sisters. She wants to know how her own parents, dead for 50 years, are doing on their farm in Minnesota, and recently wrote them a letter. The memory picture albums Marnie brings over on her twice-weekly visits do little to jog her memory, but by the end of each visit, her mother does call her by name. "She's just not the mother I knew." We talked for a very long time, because it was much needed. Marnie is hurting and overwhelmed, but very glad she retired in 2008 to take care of her parents.

I don't fully understand dealing with this insidious disease in an elderly parent, but I know the Lord had me there to listen, comfort, assure Marnie she was doing the right thing, especially having moved her parents out of their home for safety reasons. Both her late father--stroke-induced dementia-- and her mother actually tried to escape a large and very well run facility, Integrated Care Communities, and accused Marnie of tricking them. "I still feel guilty about it, but I had no choice." My prayer is that a door of witness may be opened with my friend soon; only Jesus can cleanse from guilt and pain!

At 4 p.m., it was my turn to receive comfort and encouragement from my friend Candace, whom I'm helping start her Mary Kay business by giving her a basket full of fun summer products to sell to earn the money to invest in a New Consultant kit. As we looked through the "stocking stuffer"-priced goodies, she asked me about Steve, listened and truly empathized, because her mother-in-law had early-onset Alzheimer's and had become violent by age 60. This reached a point where living with the family was out of the question. Although my plan, Lord willing, is to have home care for Steve all the way through, I feel comforted to know that others have made the tough decisions and it's been for the best for everyone. I'm grateful to the Lord for His continual guidance and provision, and for those who have walked the path before me.

This week, several email messages of comfort and encouragement have come from family and friends in response to the cancellation of our 30th anniversary service and party, assuring me of continued prayer for Steve and me. I love our family and church family with all my heart!

What I appreciate most is the way my Lord Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father, "the God of all comfort" orchestrated each conversation today. Therefore I rest in Jeremiah 29:11:

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

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The narrow gate



6:22 p.m. Today's project was to teach our Thursday Bible study, on I Samuel 19, a chapter that opens with murderous intrigue, moves on to determined and deadly pursuit, but ends with the Holy Spirit's divine intervention to protect David, the man after God's own heart.






As we shared today, with open discussion throughout the teaching time, so many of our group of women are in serious trials of physical affliction, financial duress, uncertainty in critical matters with deadlines, or facing the loss of a loved one. Some of the issues, like my husband's mental decline, are frightening; other issues verify the steady harassment of the devil against the child of God. Yet, testimonies of grace and guidance from God's Spirit uplift us continually, in large matters and small. God is with us!

My devotion this morning, from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, was very challenging in regard to trials, and I will be quoting portions from the July 7th message:

Enter ye at the strait gate...because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way..." Matthew 7:13-14.


If we are going to live as disciples of Jesus, we have to remember that all noble things are difficult. The Christian life is gloriously difficult, but the difficulty of it does not make us faint and cave in, it rouses us up to overcome. Do we so appreciate the marvelous salvation of Jesus Christ that we are our utmost for His highest?

...


If we obey the Spirit of God and practice in our physical life what God has put in by His Spirit, then when the crisis comes, we shall find that our own nature as well as the grace of God will stand by us.


Thank God He does give us difficult things to do! His salvation is a glad thing, but it is also a heroic, holy thing. It tests us for all we are worth. Jesus is bringing many "sons" to glory, and God will not shield us from the requirements of a son. God's grace turns out men and women with a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ, not milksops. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to live the noble life of a disciple of Jesus in actual things. It is always necessary to make an effort to be noble.


It's hard to see the nobility in raising the funds to put a strong spring on the above-pictured gate so the dogs won't get out again, including paying someone to do it. But that's the kind of task I find myself confronted with, along with re-teaching my husband table manners, dressing and grooming. But aren't we tested "in the arena" of everyday discipleship? I confess that my temperament fails more tests than it passes, but each day the Lord gives me a fresh word from scripture, and a fresh start, with encouragement so supernaturally uplifting that it can only be from Him. There's no other way to account for the joy and excitement I live in daily, the keen anticipation of a mighty work in my life, not a wish, but an assurance that God is with me!


The gate and the way to eternal life are narrow and difficult indeed, but the Light that goes before me is Jesus Himself.