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Friday, September 30, 2011

Out and about, back and forth



9:27 p.m. Today's project was to get my back and ankle fixed--or at least adjusted or soothed--by the chiropractor first thing in the morning. The sciatica seems to have settled down in my left ankle. I've come to realize that I cannot avoid bending my ankle, whether I sit, stand, or walk. Lying down 24 hours a day isn't a realistic option, or I'd try it. And because I've favored that side of my back and leg, severe pain has attacked the right side this week. This will be a September NOT to remember, as far as I'm concerned. When they serve us well, and are moving along uneventfully, how we take for granted the "fearfully and wonderfully made" bodies God fashioned for us!



We left the house a little after 8 a.m., so I could deposit the two customer checks I collected yesterday afternoon. Steve and I arrived on time, and he took his seat in the waiting room where he always enjoys the Carol Burnett reruns Dr. Madison's office has going. I lay face down on the padded adjusting chair (or table) and relaxed with heat applied to my back. After an adjustment and probing pressure applied to my left leg, I did feel some relief and took my hubby home. We arrived to find the caregiver already on the porch, 15 minutes early. Steve loaded up my Mary Kay cart. I had time to show Andrew the room we are trying to rent, because he had expressed his need to find a place to live a couple of weeks ago. After writing down some ID information, I left him with Steve, on their way out to walk the dogs.


Two pleasant surprises awaited me at the hair salon: a customer paid me for some product, and it was one of the hairdressers' birthday, so the obligatory potluck included hot wings, several casseroles and fantastic, very spicy homemade burritos. I sat down with a couple of the girls, and had some nice fellowship as we ate. I will be remembering the sister of one of the beauticians in prayer--she has had one leg amputated, and the next is now be at risk. I began to feel quite a bit less sorry for myself as I heard about her, and then saw two sweet "regulars" with their walkers. Lord, please heal, comfort and minister your grace to these dear women, and may they be surrounded with help at home!


I then stopped at a friend's house to deliver an Apple Berry lipstick. Willie Mae's husband is a retired assistant pastor now afflicted as Steve is, with mid-stage Alzheimer's, although he is much older. She and I met in our Care Pathways class. She returned a copy of Galatians: An Exploration of Faith and Freedom to me, after reading through it for possible recommendation to her church's women's Bible study. I told her about our Care Pathways "Walk to end Alzheimer's" team and website, and she reminded me of our next support group meeting. I was glad to know that her husband will be returning to Care Connexxus next week, because Steve is going to try out their daycare program on Wednesday. I suddenly remembered my chiropractor's warning not to sit on soft couches, so I stood up to get going before I lost the good effects of my earlier adjustment...


After a Winco run to get 50 lbs of dog food, I returned home just in time for our caregiver to leave. His ride was already there. He asked, "We're going to In 'n Out after I get my paycheck--what do you guys want on your burgers?" When I asked how much money he needed, he said, "No way, it's on me!" Wow! about an hour and a half later, Steve and I received a hand-delivered feast. God is so good! The fact that we'd both had lunch didn't slow our enjoyment down one bit.


One reason I had to be back by 1:00 was that our landscaper friend Paul, a brother from church, was planning to come over and install our sprinkler timer system for us. So the two of us whiled away the afternoon, Steve doing various chores and watching The Waltons, while I made tons of phone calls to the ladies who filled out slips last Saturday at the children's boutique where I helped man a booth. I have two bookings so far, and more to schedule next week.


Paul arrived and speedily installed the timer. Then he went back and forth from the garage to the back and side of the house, obviously finding a problem with the electrical connection, because the sprinklers didn't come on. Turns out that our silly dogs had pulled up and chewed through some wires near their Dogloos! We had moved the shelters to the side of the house when we had to get the patio area cleaned up for Heidi's rehearsal dinner party, and if I figure the calendar right, that's about when the system went dead.


I think the dogs have had a little much too much time on their hands, even though Steve is out back with them off and on most of the day. Next time the wires will be buried better and deeper, and with protective covers!!


Despite our trials, or because of them, the Lord has surrounded us with tremendous friends, opportunities for giving and receiving, and a great deal of fun along the way. He has also brought His word to life. The kind of testimony and legacy I want o pass on to my children and grandchildren as a result of this experience is found in Psalm 22:30-31:


A posterity shall serve Him,

It will be recounted of the Lord to

the next generation.

They will come and declare His

righteousness to a people who

will be born,

That He has done this.




Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mini-Mental mess





4:00 p.m. Today's project was to welcome our long term care insurance's nurse to our dining room table for the semi-annual assessment of Steve's needs and the way the policy's dollars are being utilized.



The three of us got off to a rough start, because Steve struggles so hard with writing that even initialing forms is a struggle. After managing it two times, he began to get upset. So the nurse assured me that as Power of Attorney for him, I could do all of his signing and initialing. "Plus," I said, "He is present as a witness!"



The conversation was between the nurse and myself, and Steve was listening as she questioned me about his abilities in every single area of life. He looked a little self-conscious, but answered a few times for himself. He got up and got an apple after about 45 minutes, and then settled down in the kitchen. The interview was very detailed and lengthy, but not out of line for all of the services that policy can provide. Steve came back and sat down, but it was awkward, almost like talking about someone while they sit there, but unless I told him he needed to be elsewhere, there was no real way of avoiding it, not for two hours, anyway! I felt bad that the focus was on Steve's deficiences, because he couldn't help but overhear. It had to be devastating, to hear, for instance, that he can no longer dial a phone, or has occasional difficulties dressing.



But these are the current facts--and there has been a lot of mental deterioration in the last six months. Daily, in fact, he struggles with set routines, like feeding the dogs. And this is just the last three days. We live in a fallen world, and the fact of death and breakdown each one of us will experience sooner or later, is the curse all humans live under! Hear I Corinthians 15:21-22:



For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.


The grueling assessment was over, except for Steve's "Mini-Mental" Assessment of cognitive skills. He had just been through this about two months ago at the neurologist's office, and it left us in tears, but a current test was needed.


I left to take care of a few things in the kitchen, namely deal with a Mary Kay emergency with the senior consultant under me and her recruit. There were several texts and calls to answer, so I was able to get a handle on the situation. Meanwhile, I overheard the nurse's first few questions, such as "What day is this?" and "What season are we in?" with Steve not knowing. He didn't know his birthday or address, either. Suddenly I heard him cry out tearfully, "I CAN'T TAKE THIS! I'M FALLING APART!" as he escaped the dining room and flung himself on the couch in the family room.


I went over to the nurse, told her that the results were the same at the neurologist's office, wrapped up the rest of the signatures, got assurance that she would recommend an emergency alert bracelet for Steve and grab bars for our shower, and then she left. No matter how upsetting it was for us, the nurse was sympathetic, as well as noting the data. Steve's mental condition is undeniably bad now, and his emotions are following after, due to the fear and frustration he is experiencing.


Alone at last, we embraced, wept and prayed together. We made our lunches, and prepared to go to my appointment with a wonderful Christian lady who uplifted us with her enthusiasm and zeal for sharing with the unsaved, as well as our mutual love for end times prophecy.


The Mini-Mental test threw us into the stark reality of a "new normal," but I Corinthians 15:53-57, NLT gives this assurance:


For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.


Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:


"Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?"


For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.


We are all "terminal," as I heard a doctor say. But here is the end of the story: those who, like Steve, have taken Jesus as their Savior and followed Him in this life, will find perfect healing and eternal life in His presence forever more. Nothing that we suffered from here on earth, whether back pain or Alzheimer's, will even be remembered in the heavenly hereafter!



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Plan of care



7:59 p.m. Today's project was to welcome the nurse/manager and the scheduler from Brightstar care agency for an updated plan of care. The company has merged Los Angeles and Riverside offices, so new paperwork was due.



When the two arrived, I was surprised, because even though I'd written it down, I had been busy enjoying a nice lunch with Steve and my dad, and overjoyed that one of my Mary Kay recruits placed her first qualifying order as a consultant. Steve and I had gone over to Cindy's house after our morning's errands, so he just relaxed with a book while Cindy and I registered her on the Mary Kay "In Touch" website for consultants and filled out her order. Adding my Red Jacket recruiter commission to my dad's purchase of some men's products, I had a nice business day! And mailing out my 15% off sale postcards this morning should produce some sales, too. I am trying to be the woman "diligent in her business" that Proverbs 22:29 commends.


Nurse Teresa, Jeremy and I started on our paperwork after my dad took his leave, and Steve began mowing the front lawn. I tend to just go along with what is happening to Steve's mind because the changes are so daily, and I observe the changes at close range. But when questions are asked about daily activities, and needs that the agency can fulfill, like cooking and housekeeping if needed, I'm forced to reflect on the current state of Steve's affliction. With his general confusion and utter lack of comprehension of what is going on, I am now recognizing that he is not going to improve, no matter what a medicine or supplement temporarily accomplishes. There's a lot of stress in needing to rush outside to prevent a mishap, or give pertinent directions, like how to water an avocado tree. Even a simple act of putting dirty laundry in the basket up in our bedroom and then, in a separate instruction, carrying that basket downstairs can become a fiasco. It's very difficult for me to walk upstairs with my back pain, but I have to anyway, if he cannot figure out what moving the clothes from the hamper to the laundry basket means. And so it goes all day.


I would so love to have someone else drive, too, because it hurts to turn my back and neck to steer out of a parking space. But chiropractor visits and grocery shopping have to be done. I would also enjoy a nap, but that could become difficult unless I know Steve is situated or busy with a project inside the house. There is a huge temptation to despair or become resentful of our situation, neither of which attitudes honor God, who in His providence has allowed physical and mental frailty to be part of the human experience. Putting our current trials into scriptural perspective, however, I remember I Corinthians 10:13:


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 the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.


Jesus said, in Matthew 28:20,


...lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.


Many times, God does miraculously heal or solve an incredibly complicated problem, as He has graciously done for my friends, family and myself over my 30 years as a Christian, and undoubtedly for 29 years before that, even when I did not acknowledge Him. But not all trials are incidents or passing situations. In some trials, like the degenerative disease of Alzheimer's, the victim and his or her family are in for a very long season of difficulty and genuine suffering on many fronts--physical, emotional, professional, and financial. Fear and dread of the future quietly stalk each young adult who might inherit the disease, as they pray and donate to research for a cure. I am co-captaining an Alzheimer's walking team for an event in Rancho Cucamonga October 29. Steve's disease has progressed into the moderate stage, and all of his medications have not had the efficacy to stop it. But our children may see a day in the future that will be different!


Has God just abandoned the participants in this particular trial? Of course not! What He does provide is Himself, in the form of those who pray, and who act as His hands and feet, repairing our lawn equipment and sprinkler system; bringing meals as my injury makes it tough to cook and keep house; and even calling me from Arizona to see how I'm feeling! Above all, the comfort and peace the Holy Spirit gives me through scripture and directly to my heart strengthen me daily, hourly, even by the minute when I'm tempted to be discouraged.


Jesus Christ, shortly before He was crucified, warned and encouraged His disciples, and us, in John 16:33,


These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.




















Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"I have called you by your name; you are mine."



5:43 p.m. Today's project, after barely crawling out of bed with serious back pain, was to get Steve and myself ready for my morning at ladies' Bible study at church. Nervousness seemed to pervade everything, even my journaling, because our caregivers have been MIA or very late this last week. I began to picture a variety of scenarios.



1. The best of the bad scenarios was that the caregiver would be late, so I would barely get there before the ladies did, even though a group leader needs to arrive early to gather name tags and attendance sheets, and re-arrange the chairs to make smaller, cozier circles. (The Monday night groups are much larger).



2. The next best scenario, which has the caregiver not arriving at all, was a little more tricky, though not impossible. I could take Steve with me and let him sit in the back with a book of his choice during our times of discussion, and then watch the video along with us if he cared to. This would call for him to hurry back upstairs and change into his better jeans, which would trigger major confusion. (Whenever I ask him to change pants for laundry, for example, he takes off his shirt too). So we would definitely have been late.



3. Worst case scenario, I'd just text one of the leaders and say I couldn't make it without a caregiver. And with my back in vicious pain, three hours of being seated, no matter how edifying and full of sisterly fellowship, could have made an absence quite justified in and of itself. But that was out of the question: not only was it my duty to lead my group, but the ministry I lead, Heart to Home, is beginning a new fall session of classes, and I'd asked for some time to announce and describe the four selections we are offering. With the pain I had when I woke up, #3 was the first option that came to mind, honestly! But I was determined to serve the Lord as He had asked me to. I knew He'd bring me through.



A passage of scripture I have loved since my earliest days as a believer is Isaiah 43:1-3a, where God through the prophet assures Israel:



But now, thus says the LORD,

who created you, O Jacob,

And He who formed you, O Israel:

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by your name;

You are Mine.

When you pass through the

waters, I will be with you;

And through the rivers, they shall

not overflow you.

When you walk through the fire,

you shall not be burned,

Nor shall the flame scorch you.

For I am the LORD your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your

Savior."



Nervous and jumpy with worry, I couldn't help but be distracted by mentally rehearsing the exasperated words of the agency's scheduler last week: "Why does this keep happening? And it only happens with you guys!" before she tracked down a caregiver to come over to replace a no-show.



Now I don't know the exact answer to that question, but since there's an unseen world of spiritual warfare going on around us all, the devil can certainly trip up or slow down a caregiver on his or her way to assist a person who needs to be present on time to teach a Bible study on Thursdays the last 4 1/2 mos; or a leader of a Bible study group at her church who also needs to be on time. And last Saturday, even though it was a Mary Kay business obligation, my witness and my credibility as a believer mean something to me, and to all others who think, "This is how a 'real' Christian behaves, huh?" So barring a traffic accident, being on time was imperative. And people ARE watching, you'd better believe! The sweet consultant I was sharing the shift with at our MK booth is very active in her church, but asked me once during a lull in our weekly meeting, "You're a Bible person. What do you think about ...?" Thankfully the Spirit gave me a scripture for her!



So for me, punctuality, reliability and consistency have more than the standard meanings. "As He is, so are we in this world" (I John 4:17b). Believers are to represent Christ faithfully, working and ministering as unto the Lord, making our best effort, without excuses. In my case, I could seek services at another agency, or ask for the most punctual of caregivers to be assigned to Steve. "A plan of care" meeting with the agency is taking place here on Thursday, so God's timing seems to be just right to get this issue hashed out, tactfully and in a spirit of gentleness and respectful correction.


I was upstairs turning on the shower, when I heard the doorbell. It was only 8:15, and I'd scheduled with the agency for 8:30! The caregiver came early!! I was able to leave a little after 9 a.m., arrived at church with time to spare, and we had a marvelous discussion of becoming obedient to the vision God gives you.


May the name of the Lord be praised!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Getting and giving help in God's timing



5:58 p.m. Today's project was to attend a caregivers' support group at Encore Village, a very nice residential care home where my friend's 85 year-old disabled father lives. I thought it might be a good discussion, as well as a nice location to begin my project of providing beautifully wrapped tubes of hand cream for elderly care home residents for Christmas. On the way home I planned to stop at Care Connexxus, an adult daycare center, where I needed to drop off the TB test result and medical exam paperwork from Steve's doctor.



The PLAN, anyway, was to usher the caregiver in the door at 8:30 a.m. and have some time to show them where the lunch supplies are, and get the them started walking the dogs with Steve. The support group started at 9:30 across town. 8:45, 9:00, Brightstar couldn't get hold of the assigned worker. By 9:45, I got word that one of our best caregivers was called as a replacement, and he was on his way. I left a voicemail on my friend's phone, told her my predicament. I decided that if that's what God allowed, then I'd best "go with the flow," instead of acting in futility of mind, so I might, as Ephesians 3:16 says,



be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.



Thus, Plan B. The Lord said, "Just go to Care Connexxus." So I not only saved precious mileage, and turned in Steve' paperwork and consulted with the business' accountant and social worker, but gave them my letter describing the donations I would be asking to collect from local businesses. With the information, I gave out cosmetic and fragrance samples. Since Care Connexxus holds a Christmas party for participants and staff, the staff was pleased with the idea. Thank you, Lord! Now, of course, I need to hotfoot it to some nearby businesses to raise participation for the free hand cream.



The Lord had more blessing in store, even as I was on my way out of the door. I saw a small lady in a self-propelled wheelchair, who looked very familiar. "Is that Rose Oliver?" I asked the social worker. "Yes, but she doesn't talk." "I know," I replied. "She had a massive stroke about 8 or 10 years ago.May I go back in?" I announced, "Rose! It's Dana!" She gave me a quizzical, but alert processing look. "I'm Dana! Remember me?" Her face just lit up, and she said, her only accessible words for the last decade, "Oh my!" Rose was such a civic-minded public volunteer in Riverside, co-chair of one of my school board fundraisers and helped coordinate the Mayor's races as well. She and Rose Mayes shepherded the city's fundraising commitment to finally, after 5 years, get the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue, engraved with scriptures, set up at City Hall. Rose is an outstanding leader and was an active member of her First Baptist Church. Since she is no longer in a skilled nursing facility, I can surmise that God has been faithful to give her a huge amount of healing. I am blessed by Malachi 4:2:



But to you who fear My name

The Sun of Righteousness shall

arise

With healing in His wings



And I will not give up on helping Steve better his health and mental acuity. On that note, while driving up to my house, I was reminded to stop over across the street at retired teacher Carol's home to share my book, Galatians: an Exploration of Faith and Freedom, with her. She had been on the run during my signing at Berean almost a month ago, and asked me to bring the Bible study over. But do you know that my 3 weeks of sciatica followed on the heels of that day, and I just couldn't walk or go anywhere unless it was mandatory. It was so good of the Lord to remind me while Steve's caregiver was at our house. We had an unhurried visit, and she not only bought a book to do the study on her own, but she plans to recommend it in her position as a Bible study teacher at their church. The other important point we covered is that she has begun taking a brain-building supplement, and her memory is improving. Claims have been that it has the effect of alleviation of Alzheimer's symptoms, which need to be examined. At the very least I need to check it out and maybe buy it for our children who have a measure of genetic risk.



I am grateful for the way my day--the Lord's day--turned out, all to His glory and our good!












Sunday, September 25, 2011

Waiting on the Spirit



7:20 p.m. Today's project was to spend a nice afternoon with Steve after church. We were very encouraged by Pastor John asking us to stand if we needed a refilling of the Holy Spirit, which we both did, or to be baptized in the Spirit initially, as the risen Jesus commanded His disciples in Acts 1:4-5; 8:



And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."



"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."



What is lacking in many Christians'experience is sharing the gospel with their family, friends and acquaintances. We were challenged to share Christ with someone today. I generally do share the Lord out loud or in writing with people I meet or know who are not saved, but today the only folks I saw in person were believers! The two possible non-Christians I spoke to on the phone this afternoon I'll be seeing tomorrow and Tuesday, so good personal opportunities for sharing are imminent.



The amazing part about the refilling of the Spirit today was that other Christians and I have been discussing recently the need to hear more of the baptism of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit in church services, like we did in the 80's. How exciting that we had that opportunity today! God hears the prayers of His people, and the spoken and unspoken longings of our hearts. The key player, of course, is the Holy Spirit Himself, who puts a desire to know more of God in our hearts to begin with. And as God, He can move upon the hearts and minds of many believers at once--He is omnipresent, indwelling all born again believers, no matter who or where we are, as I Corinthians 12:13 tells us:



For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have been made to drink into one Spirit.



After loaning our daughter our American Kennel Club dog manual and returning wedding centerpiece mirrors to one of her friends, we left the church parking lot for home, re-energized and ready to ask the Lord, "What do you want us to do, as individuals, as a couple, as Spirit-filled members of the Body of Christ?"



We'll be waiting to hear!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mom's on her way!



3:31 p.m. Today's project was to go to our daughter's house in Redlands to cook a dinner with her. I'd asked her to select a good chicken recipe she'd never tried, so she could learn a new dish, and maybe some new techniques.



This morning, I battled fog and trepidation--fueled by threats of CERTAIN DEATH by the devil-- to drive to Redlands to help man a Mary Kay booth at the huge semi-annual "Moolala" babies' and children's clothing boutique. Traveling through the curvy San Timiteo Canyon was out of the question, so freeway it was. Happily the freeways were moving smoothly. As I rounded the overpass to the 10 freeway east, I saw that the sky in Redlands was balmy and blue!



It so illustrates our Christian walk, doesn't it? All manner of fog and dark clouds of fear, doom and doubt loom overhead and immediately in front of us, discouraging us from going where we are committed to going, the next step that God is calling us to. We truly need faith and trust in God to move forward in our walk, as well as in our witness. My life verse, Philippians 1:6, says,



He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.



Working a 3 hour shift at a boutique to garner leads for future facial appointments may not be the biggest assignment I've ever had, but arriving early (which I did despite Steve's caregiver being a few minutes late) and staying a half hour more than required was a good witness, amen? And how silly and unreliable would I have looked in calling the sales director saying, "It's too foggy to drive," when skies were clear at my destination?



On our way to my daughter's now. Since Heidi is not feeling well, I need to find out if she had time to gather ingredients; if not, Steve and I will stop and get a few things. We just bought chicken this afternoon at Winco anyway.



Being her mother's daughter, Heidi had all of her ingredients ready. The two of us, roles reversed, since I was the assistant this time, assembled the pounded chicken breasts. I topped them with butter chips, and into the oven they went. My daughter got the rice cooker going, and before we knew it , we were sitting down to Jalapeno/Jack cheese/cilantro-stuffed chicken breasts, with warm green salsa topping. Steve had been watching the DVD "Bruce Almighty" in the tiny den, so I called him and we all gathered for dinner. How I treasure the talks Heidi and I have on scripture, Bible teaching, and improving our service to others! We also spent time talking about relationships with friends, how to raise a new puppy, exorbitantly spicy food, and coping with life in these times we live in.



I can confidently state that things are going swimmingly at the Ilies.' Heidi's bad cold is also on the mend. I pledged to loan her and Pavel our comprehensive AKC dog manual before they make a decision to get a new puppy, just to see what they are committing to. Their adult dog Sammy is just a doll of a dog. How will a young German shepherd fit in?



It is so gratifying to see scripture prove itself to be true, particularly Proverbs 22:6:



Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Getting to know you



4:42 p.m. Today's project was to become better acquainted with my Tuesday morning Bible study group members. As the weeks go by, I won't necessarily be calling all of them on a weekly basis, but more as the Lord leads and according to their needs.




Today I wanted to introduce myself further, find out more about each one and see how they were doing on their lessons. If anyone is having confusion as to how to proceed or what a question is asking them to do, I wanted to clarify with my own workbook open to today's page and nip worries in the bud before we get any farther along. The first video lesson had very thorough explanations, but it is my responsibility to help each woman in my group to feel comfortable and capable of completing her homework weekly. The lessons are laid out in a simple format that highlights and emphasizes the exact words of the scripture, not the writer Anne Graham Lotz' opinions. And using the inductive method of study causes each woman to receive answers from the Lord that are specific to her, with spiritual concepts that are universal to all mankind! II Timothy 3:16-17 says,



All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.



And in these dark and difficult days of personal trials, devastating losses, as well as apostasy and false doctrine on every side, the Christian absolutely must be equipped with a knowledge of the Bible! If we do not study God's word, we won't have it ready in our minds and hearts when lies and accusations from our enemy the devil confront us.



Most of the ladies had started their lessons, and a couple of them were waiting for their copy of The Magnificent Obsession workbook to arrive in the mail. I reached all but two that I had phone numbers for, so I expect to hear back from the ones I left messages for this evening, Our conversations were wonderful, with them sharing what I needed to know to best to pray for them. (And they for me)! James 5:16 says,



Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.



And healing comes in many forms!



I love the individual days of study, and am looking forward to the outworking of the Holy Spirit's influence from those five those days as we do our group question session next Tuesday after the video teaching! God has much in store for each of us.



Thank You, God, for Your word, and that when two or three are gathered together in Your name, Lord Jesus, You are in the midst! (Matthew 18:20)






Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fall wrap-up



9:46 p.m. Today's project was to wrap up our summer Bible study in I Samuel, wrap up the kingship of Saul, and wrap up the sovereignty of the nation of Israel all in one morning!



While the deaths of King Saul and his sons threw Israel into chaos and domination by the Philistines, a new king will be coming in the next book, II Samuel, our study that is slated to begin in June 2012.



How can events and conflicts in the lives of people living thousands of years ago be as fresh and compelling as today's headlines to us? One simple answer: the Holy Spirit breathes life into the pages of the Bible, as He breathes life into the hearts, minds and souls of those who are born again. I Corinthians 1:18 explains:



For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being

saved it is the power of God.



We believers are awaiting our King JESUS' return in glory, power and complete victory over all of the forces of evil! Jesus is coming back--not as a helpless infant, a spiritually mature adolescent, or a loving, healing, patient Teacher. This time He will come as king of all the universe, leading legions of His saints in conquest. Hear I Corinthians 15:24-25:



Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.


and



Revelation 19:11-16:



Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.



He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And he Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.



And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name that is written:



KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.


Yes, our King is coming!


Even though I Samuel 31 ended our book on a tragic note, we focused on our hope in Christ. After prayer for one another and our families, we blessed one another with a wonderful meal, delicious desserts, and plans to see each other at church next week. I love my fellow sisters in Christ, such devoted students of the Word, and friends for life!




Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lord, what would you have me to do?



7:42 p.m. Today's project was to join my fellow caregivers for our first monthly support group potluck. Our facilitator Darlene, on staff with the Riverside Office of Aging, guided us through the very impressive agency website. There's even a section to post notices,which I might take advantage of since we still don't have a renter for our extra room.




Earlier this morning, I was working on our church's new Bible study for the season, The Magnificent Obsession by Anne Graham Lotz. We are studying the life of Abraham inductively, a study method which I have been using for decades, in which the reader pulls meaning out of Bible verses, and then asks a question of oneself. The first verse of Day One was Genesis 12:1 (NIV):



The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people, and your father's household and go to the land I will show you."



Factually, God called Abram to leave his life in Ur and travel to an unknown destination. The lesson here is that God calls us to do His will regardless of what we want or feel comfortable doing. So the question I asked of myself with this verse was,



Lord, what do you want me to do?



With a disabled husband; grown children to encourage and assist as needed; ministries at church (Bible study, Heart to Home, and Helps); the garden and my Mary Kay business, all of which I enjoy tremendously and provide fellowship with other women or support for our household, that seems like an odd question to ask. But with the end of my spring/summer teaching of I Samuel, I find myself in a fresh new season. And suffering a physical attack of sciatica the last three weeks has naturally got me pondering whether something needs to give--one of my ministries or my business? Or my next garden? Or do I just need to use my time more prayerfully and efficiently? I confess to being slightly puzzled.



As I walked into the Riverside Office of Aging with my tropical fruit salad, I was hugged so tightly by one of the group members I hadn't seen for a month, and greeted just as warmly by the other women and our facilitator. We all set our dishes on the side counter, grabbed water and started catching up. Four of the gals had been at the Mary Kay spa party Mary Lou hosted, and I'd had follow up appointments with two others. Mary Lou was delighted to receive her hostess gift, too. A number of us have become close friends now, and already plan to attend a support group at the Encore senior center on Monday morning. Willie Mae's "Cornbread Salad" was a huge hit, as was Ginny's hash brown casserole and the carnitas Connie brought, even without the salsa and guacamole she forgot at home! Diana served lemon bars, Michele brought very tasty deviled eggs, and Elsie brought a pound cake. Mary Lou's pumpkin pie rounded out our feast.



It just felt like home. I really don't know how to describe the quiet but firm assurance that I am going to be involved with these ladies for a very long time. The Lord said to me, as we were all looking at informative flyers with caregiver education opportunities, "This is what I want you to do."



What did that mean? Just attend the group's events and keep learning how better to care for Steve? Step up and help organize some activities? Comfort and encourage the ladies, which God has already had me doing? Or receive comfort which I need just as badly as they do, if not more, since Steve is so young? Continue to share Christ with them all or one person in particular?



All of the above?



Imagine Abram traveling 400+ miles to an unknown place, probably asking fewer questions than I just did! That's why Abraham is called the "Father of faith!"Romans 4:3 says,



Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.



A wonderful peace came over me as our meeting went on, and I found myself, along with Mary Lou, volunteering to be a captain of our caregivers' team for the Walk to End Alzheimer's on October 30. Families and friends can participate, even dogs can do the walk at Cucamonga-Guasti Park in Rancho. The caregivers' group will include classes that are meeting at other times, so we could have up to 100 people. I excitedly sent email to our kids and their spouses as soon as I got home!



No telling where all this will lead. But as I obey God, I can trust His plan for my life, and be assured that He is leading me in the right direction!









Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dependently independent

8:15 p.m. Today's project was to lead my discussion group at the first session of the Tuesday morning women's study at Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley.

Steve and I got up by 6 a.m., to be ready for our caregiver's slated arrival time of 8:30. As a group leader, I planned to be at church by 9:00, half an hour before the attending ladies were to arrive. The morning began with really bad pain in my leg upon waking, and back pain with it. I'd been getting better, but of course, this was a day to serve and minister to God's women, and the devil doesn't appreciate that! At least, praise the Lord, I woke up only a moment before my alarm went off, so I'd slept through the night. Sounds like I'm reporting on a small baby, doesn't it? But God was faithful. Psalm 127:2 says: "For so He gives His beloved sleep."

Devotions were very sweet this morning, and our breakfast routine went smoothly. Steve laid hands on me while I prayed verbally, and he agreed silently, for my back and leg pain to desist.I just now reflected on one of God's greatest gifts to me--a praying husband, even if he struggles to articulate the words. God hears even silence.

8:30 came and went--no surprise there, since it was a Bible study day. I called the agency to see what the caregiver's ETA was, and she called me back to say 10-15 minutes. GRRRREAT! Ugh. Could I at least get there on time the first day? Apparently not. I finally was able to leave at 8:55. Highway 60 east was flowing well, so I arrived at 9:15.

Whenever I get aggravated over depending on others' timing and schedules, or the traffic they face, I am reminded of what Jesus said to Peter about his later years (and eventual death) in John 21: 18 (NLT):

I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don't want to go.

Steve is rapidly approaching this stage of dependence even though he is only 56. Increasingly, he gets confused by his shirts, especially pullover knit golf shirts with collars. He just can't figure out the right direction to turn the shirt to Button-up shirts are simpler, because it's obvious that buttons are in the front. Sadly, I've found that he's tried to avert confusion by slipping off a buttoned shirt over his head and trying to hang it up for next time. If the shirt smells clean, I'm up for a repeat wearing. If not, it goes into the hamper.

He is not alone in the shift to dependence being made here. Just like it is stated in John 21:18, I too used to just go wherever I wanted to, hopping in the car and running errands, doing ministry or socializing. I could tell Steve I was going on a walk, and just go out the door. Until a couple of months ago, I felt free to keep facial and party appointments for my Mary Kay business, with one of the kids coming over, or a caregiver, or Steve could just be here for a couple of hours. Now because of his confusion, all must be planned out in advance, coordinated with others, and the fun spontaneity of my business, where I could pop over to someone's house with a product or samples, or a hostess party packet, is almost past. I definitely have to allow time for Steve to get ready to go along; only then can I run over to a customer's place. The same goes for banking and grocery shopping. I do occasionally walk across the street or a few doors down by myself to visit neighbors briefly, but I make sure Steve stays in the house.

One of the strengths of our marriage has always been a measure of independence for both of us. If Steve had to work six days a week, I just managed the house and kids by myself an extra day. When I went to grad school during the kids' middle and high school years, Steve managed the house and kids a few evenings a week. (He'd gotten used to my absences on a small scale with PTA and twice-monthly school board meetings). It wasn't easy for either of us, but we respected what needed to be done when the time came to get it done! We always knew the Lord had goals and plans for our family, we'd lifted all incipient ventures to the Lord, and we didn't begrudge doing our part in support of each other.

Our stage of life now, arriving with Steve's early-onset Alzheimer's, is a call to another kind of interdependence. I'm retired so I can meet his needs as they evolve. He's here providing loving companionship and time for me to do something I never would have attempted while a career professional--writing my book, Galatians. There's a difference, though-- I need help a few times a week to help him. and he needs help in doing his household projects that only other men can provide--whether caregivers or volunteering family and friends.

The pastor who married us, Tim Weeks, once very positively described Steve's and my marriage, and me in particular as "dependently independent." I like that. In other words, 2 married individuals= 1 flesh!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Emerald green joy



5:04 p.m. Today's project was to pick up our lawnmower, with the help of John and his truck, from Empire Mowers in Moreno Valley. It has been a long time coming, with very high grass in both yards.



Saturday I had the pleasant news that the mower had nothing seriously wrong with it, just the problems caused by oil in the gas tank and vice versa, a mixup Steve had last month. The balance was half of what I had been dreading, too. God is so good!



The three of us arrived about 9:15, I paid the balance owed, and the mower made a loud entrance near the front of the shop. I didn't realize it, but the reason the mechanic was showing me a terribly worn blade, and lecturing quite seriously about keeping the blade sharpened, was that he had replaced the blade! Same with the air filter--he was holding a dirty one and telling me how to blow out the dirt a few times a year. I was just listening and staring without comprehending that he'd changed that, too. Because the mower came up to the front near John's truck so quickly after I paid, I hadn't had time to read all of the work that had been done. It was a full maintenance, not just cleaning out the fuel lines. John said, "He replaced the blade and filter." Oh, I finally realized, those were the old parts from OUR mower, not just some parts the mechanic was telling me about! How dense could I be? I was just so preoccupied with relief that the mower was fixed, I suppose.



It goes to show that any one of of can be utterly clueless in a situation. It just depends on the situation. And I don't think Steve was paying attention, although he was standing right next to me, because the gentleman was addressing me...is Steve's condition so obvious? I often wonder if people think he is mentally retarded or has a speech impediment. I don't necessarily bring up his Alzheimer's in a momentary situation like at the mower shop. What do others do in similar situations with an affected loved one? I'd like to have some advice.

I am so grateful that our all-knowing God has others in place who are knowledgeable, skilled craftsmen like Bezaleel in Exodus 38, who supervised the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness!

That's exactly the kind of man Steve used to be, a mechanical genius, able to figure out, repair or fabricate any kind of equipment. And that's why I never paid attention to the details of the motors, appliances or engines he repaired over the last 30 years, any more than he involved himself in my chosen brands of diapers or recipes! We just enjoyed the fact that opposites attract and have been blessed to have been completed by marriage so perfectly by the Lord.



When we got home, Steve got right to work, once he grasped putting the mower onto the front lawn instead of turning it around on the driveway. He pulled on the starter cord, and nothing. Oh, no! Then he remembered to prime the engine with a push buttton in the front, and the mower started just fine. Praise the Lord, because we would have had no way to take the mower back to the shop. After a few rows, not like he used to mow so beautifully even a month ago, but rows still the same, the mower stopped. Instead of getting irate, we prayed, and God showed him what was wrong--the grass catcher was full. Steve was pulling grass out with his hands instead of unhooking the catcher, so I helped him detach and lift out the bag. He put those clippings into our wheel barrow instead of just dumping the contents directly into our compost. A lot of time was passing, and I was needing to attend to my own tasks. It was time now to put the grass catcher back on the mower and proceed, so I helped him get that done. He was able to finish the front lawn with direction to not take the mower over the barren section near the bank, but to focus on the real grass. I had moved the green waste dumpster over so that he could more quickly empty the catcher as needed.


It was time for a break for water and the strawberry Ensure he likes, and then Carlos, one of his caregivers, came over. I had already decided that whether my facial appointment held or not, I'd let Steve have help doing the backyard and in fixing his lunch. With Steve having supervision, I could run over to my doctor's office with my spine x-rays, and I'd have uninterrupted time studying for my Thursday teaching of I Samuel 31. I arranged all of Steve's lunch food, told the caregiver where it was, and then let him take over with Steve. I could hear a few yells coming from out back, but overall, even though Steve had frustrated moments, they got the job done, and I accomplished all of the research portion of my study that I normally spread over two days.


As I later watered the lawns, one station at a time, I was taken away by the emerald brilliance of our front lawn's tall fescue in particular, and the smooth flatness of our backyard's mixed Bermuda (I guess). It's not House Beautiful , but we've managed to be wise stewards of our property.


We have trees to be trimmed and roots to be removed from our lawns, and another layer of paint to apply to one wall of the room we want to rent. But we're happy with our progress. So far, so good!


Going to the Lord in prayer made our tasks go more smoothly today, even with the obstacles and shortcomings that are characteristic of life in this world.


Jesus told us in John 16: 33,


In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bountiful fellowship



7:15 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy a delicious barbecue with our daughter Heidi's in-laws, Constantin and Rodica, their grown children and local cousins. We hadn't seen each other since the kids' wedding in June, so this was a very welcome invitation.



Steve and I got home from church about noon. I gave him a nice sandwich and a banana so he wouldn't have a blood sugar drop, but not a big enough lunch to spoil his appetite for the 2 p.m. feast. I ate a Pepper Jack string cheese wrapped in three slices of lunch meat and a cherry tomato from our garden. After mixing up a tuna salad for next week, I took an hour's nap. Why? Because for some reason, maybe painkillers wearing off too soon, I've been waking up fully around 3 a.m. So this morning I stayed up, and after praying for a while, made a few notes about my business in my datebook, read a few pages of a Christian mystery novel, and went back to bed. Might as well "redeem the time" as Ephesians 5:16a advises!


Steve and I rarely get out to the western end of Riverside any more, because any shopping we need to do can be taken care of in the central area of town where we live, or further east in Moreno Valley between our home and Calvary Chapel. So as we exited the 91 freeway, we took in the sights and noted changes in the commercial area, and then drove into the country-ish section called La Sierra. The Ilie's home is in an area that is normally quiet, although today there was some teen angst being displayed out in the middle of the street. Since Proverbs 26:17 says, "He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears" (and I'm a dog lover), we dodged the verbal combatants and parked at the Ilies' house!


As we stepped out of our car, we looked ahead on the curb to see Heidi and Pavel parking at the same time. We exchanged various items we'd brought for one another, and strolled through the lovely green bower of assorted small trees and plants, feeling instantly cooled off, to the front door to be greeted by Pavel's brother David and his dad. In the house, his sisters Becky and Sarah were busy chopping up veggies, roasted corn and peppers for salad. Rodica rushed in from her grilling station to say hi but needed to keep a watchful eye on her pork and chicken. I showed the girls the mango and the Mary Kay cleanser/moisturizer sample packs I brought for them and their mom, and then I joined the group watching a tv preacher, then a dog training infomercial, and finally the Cooking Channel's segment on Toronto's "Japadog" hot dog street vendor's amazing cuisine. Then dinner began, with Constantin asking me to give the blessing.


The meat was generously portioned and perfectly grilled. The salads were tasty and varied, and we even had our choice of desserts. Becky made me some flourless peanut butter cookies--what a sweet, thoughtful gift for a person allergic to gluten!


The best part of the meal was the Christian fellowship and the good natured teasing of the newlyweds about starting a family! We all admired Heidi and Pavel's wedding album, which they put together beautifully. And we had some discussion of the wedding video, but most of us haven't seen the "uncut" version. As long as Heidi is happy with it, I'm content. It does remind me, though, that I need to get the big portrait of Heidi ordered from Shutterfly, and look for a 20x30" frame from Michaels. Where God guides, He provides, so I'll trust Him to make that happen!


After dinner and dessert, and the departure of our newlyweds, we four parents and the always hilarious Sister Lupe had a wonderful discussion of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. We spoke of the lessening of the active gifts being manifested in "afterglows" at church compared to the 80's and 90's. We also, as parents, shared our concern that our children walk with the Lord, above all else! Steve and I were given generous sacks of homegrown goodies to take home as we said our goodbyes. The Lord has blessed the Ilies and through them, us!


I am so grateful to have in-laws so close by in Riverside, and congenial ones at that! May we continue to enjoy our children and future mutual grandchildren for many years to come, should the Lord tarry!
















Saturday, September 17, 2011

Modest good news!



3:28 p.m. Today's project was to clean up old garden vines, harvest some late produce, and preserve some veggies for the next seasons. Green beans, yellow cherry tomatoes and Bell peppers are today's selections. We'll pick cantaloupe and watermelon in a few weeks. That will be well worth the wait.



Our good news was that our lawnmower is fixed, and all they had to do was flush the oil out of the gas tank, carburetor and fuel line, and gas out of the oil pan. Otherwise, the mower is sound, and the bill is half of what I was expecting. You rock, Empire Mowers!


Overgrown lawns aren't sinful--although the condition could signify sloth if the necessary equipment were available. It's not unsafe. Our unkempt look may actually be "waterwise!" Lawn experts recommend not mowing one's lawn too short during the summer because longer blades retain water better. No wonder our jungle looks so green without a daily watering!


But the unsightly appearance, unusual because Steve normally mows every week or so, is disturbing to me. And the excess grass, busily retaining moisture, has seen a solid crop of nasty black toadstools and is crowding out some flowering plants on the slope in the front of the house. Steve raked out the toadstools--or mushrooms, possibly--and pointed out to me a large tree root that was growing back up to the surface, turned black. That's what the fungus was eating away at. So I think tree and landscape people need to get involved, even after the mower comes home on Monday. Just as we had to trust the Lord with the price of mower repair, we'll trust Him to find us help to get at problems below the surface.


So much of life is going on busily, unbeknownst to us, below the surface of our priorities and beyond the farthest galaxies in the heavenlies. A person may seem standoffish, but we don't realize that they may have an overwhelming issue preoccupying them. That's why it's my practice to go past first impressions to become familiar with each individual's consistent pattern of behavior, while praying between meetings with them for God to show me how best to minister to them. God knows each person better than we know ourselves! Hebrews 4:13 (NLT) says,


Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.


As for God' dealings in the lives of everyone who has ever been or will be born, there is an unseen realm of spiritual activity where Satan and his demons battle for the souls of men against God's armies of angels. Ever wonder why your life seems so full of opposition when you make a decision to commit your life to God, by the shed blood of Jesus Christ? Or when you decide that being saved was just the first step in your new life, and you determine to read your Bible daily, pray, spend time studying God's word with other Christians and tell others about your salvation? Ephesians 6:11-12 tells us to use all of those actions--our spiritual armor:


Put on all the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.


Because I believe that God knows me and what I need, and when, and is not limited to monumental acts such as creating and saving me and bringing me my husband of 30 years and my children, I can trust Him. I can rely on Him to take care of troubles that are serious, like Steve's Alzheimer's, and problems that annoy and embarrass me, due to the trappings of American civilization and neighborhood standards, like our overgrown grass. Whether earth-shattering or trivial, God knows my needs and desires, and gives me reasons for great joy in circumstances in which deep depression would have characterized me before I came to Christ.


God's in huge good news--our son Kriss and his wife Marisela are expecting! And God's in modest good news--our lawnmower is fixed!


It's all good for the believer in Jesus Christ.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sigh-day



5:21 p.m. Today's project was to have a chiropractic adjustment after wrapping up business and personal errands for the day. I just want to sigh with relief and look forward to the weekend. I heard someone say once, "When you're retired, every night is Friday night and every day is Saturday." That person hasn't been at my house in the last two years!




This morning I realized that I still have the same feeling about Fridays as I did while teaching: you may have lots of things to do still, but you're wrapping up the week so you can enjoy the two measly days when you don't have to report for duty anywhere. So my mental state was already more relaxed, even though I had duties scheduled. Today's schedule was:



9:00 Help Steve get dressed and ready for the day, overcome various mishaps.

9:45 Get gas, transfer funds at bank, drop off Rx at CVS, buy celery and brain pills at Sprouts.

10:15 Hair appointment--demonstrate and sell Mary Kay cosmetics to new and old customers.

11:15 Deliver nail polish to customer, and explain the need to order one of her lipsticks.

11:30 We devour brown rice and almond nacho chips on the way home.

12:00 Set out Steve's sandwich fillings, dice mango; eat celery with salmon cream cheese.

1:00 Prepare for two nursing students to sign up for Mary Kay, get Steve ready to walk dogs.

1:15 Rat man here to check on traps; no sign of students, make other appointments and order.

2:00 Steve walks dogs, I water garden and avocado tree and clean out dogs' water bowl.

3:00 Chiropractor appointment, show him x-ray films, get adjustment.

3:40 Go to Vons for deli sandwiches, sit together, eat and relax; pick up a few other items.

4:40 Text from students that they are still in LA; will reschedule

4:45 Get Rx muscle relaxer at the CVS drive through, enjoy hysterical laughter from pharmacist at his MK mens' cologne sample. Probably glad I finally had something for him instead of his female colleagues!



Home, finally, to ponder the results of my chiropractor visit. It seems I have some arthritic disk degeneration way down at the bottom of the spine (#72?). But in response to my query, I was assured that it's better than most people my age. Thank you, Lord, because my mother had crippling arthritis. After using heat and giving me an adjustment, he suggested flipping the mattress I sleep on, walking in shoes with good orthotic support on a flat surface 7-10 minutes at a time (No 45 degree Canyon Crest hill)! Do the stretches on the paper he gave me and come back next Wednesday. Later I left him a voicemail describing the puffy numbness I often feel on the surface of my left calf, even though it's not swollen in the least. Why do I think of the most interesting and puzzling questions AFTER I leave the doctor's office? You too?



From this point, 6:00 p.m. I'll serve Steve a leftover bean, cheese and homegrown green salsa concoction on a flour tortilla for dinner, since we had big sandwiches so late in the afternoon. Then we'll clean things up, I might try to walk, and then settle on the family room couch with heat on my back and my leg up on the couch. Steve and I got a lot done today, the Lord helped my shorten and limit my overreactions and apologize for them speedily and sincerely.



Then perhaps we'll peek out to see if Dan, the neighbor who helped us with our circuit breaker on Wednesday, is still up for mowing our front lawn as he offered. I am so glad the Bible tells me in Psalm 145:8-9,



The LORD is gracious and full of

compassion,

Slow to anger and great in mercy.

The LORD is good to all,

And His tender mercies are over

all His works.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Backed up

9:56 p.m. Today's project was to get my back x-rayed, doctor's orders. On Monday, my leg pain seemed to be lessening, but I kept my appointment with Dr. Guzman anyway. He agreed with the chiropractor's sciatica assessment, and ran me through the same bend-and-stretch tests as Dr. Madison did. He did add, since the pain was beginning to shift to my back, that the chiropractor should look at the sacroiliac area. He prescribed a muscle relaxant, Somma, for "any time during the day when you don't have to focus or concentrate, or drive." And just when is that time ever going to occur, with Steve's increasing needs to look out for, and my total responsibility for the working of our household? Even my great joys in life, like family, ministry, and my business, require focused attention. I told him, "Looks like I'll be taking it at bedtime, then!" Dr. Guzman proceeded to write an order for an x-ray of my spine, with the pictures to be hand-delivered to him.

I didn't fill the prescription because I'm a little leery, but Steve and I went to Healthcare Imaging, which doesn't take appointments, to get the x-rays done. We stepped into a crowded, chaotic-appearing scene! Good grief, I thought, signed in, and a gentleman got up and gave us his seat next to an empty one!! "Sitting's no good for my back anyway," he declared when we thanked him for accommodating us. "There's no good position for my back, I mused bitterly, as I sat down. A word to the wise: don't go to any doctor's office or medical facility without a book to read. The selection on the tv is bound to be ignorant, so you may as well have something of your own choice to read. Steve had God's Promises for Every Occasion, and I delved into Never Far from Home, one of dozens of faith-building Amish novels I collect.

Two hours later, my back was killing me from sitting, and I kept praying for calmness of spirit and for my name to be called. I actually wanted to jump up on a chair and yell, IT'S MY TURN! But God showed himself true to His word:

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee." (Isaiah 26:3, KJV)

Wanting to be a good witness, I couldn't behave rudely, even doing my best not to hobble on the way to the receptionist to ask how long. I was feeling sad, sorry and stressed about the rest of this wasted afternoon. I couldn't have gotten there any earlier, because I needed to eat my lunch salad after Bible study, and help Steve to get tidied up to go. While he got ready, I at least had a moment to run out to the garden and pick a good handful of green beans and water a section of the backyard. I firmly believe in "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16). That's why delays drive me around the bend, as I think of all manner of constructive things to do instead.

The back pain got so bad that I almost told Steve, "let's go," but then I was called back, almost staggering with stiffness. The x-rays were taken, the crazy wrap-around gown was discarded, I was dressed and carrying the film out of the building. Mission accomplished!

I wish there could have been a witnessing opportunity, to redeem the time in a meaningful way, but the tv was blaring nearby and the two of us were sitting in our own little row, behind some talkers. We both made good progress with our books, anyway!

Out into the sunshine once again, my seized-up back finally got released. Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's a miraculous day in the neighborhood



7:44 p.m. Today's project was to get our circuit breaker turned back on about an hour ago.




I had turned on the microwave and the oven at the same time, briefly, which I've done before with no problem. Once every few years, the circuit that runs both those appliances, the front porch light and the desktop computer would get tripped, so on big cooking days like Thanksgiving, I plug a small microwave in an outlet belonging to another circuit so as not to have the meal ruined. Otherwise, Steve would just jet outside to the circuit box, flip over the switch and all of those appliances would pop right back on. He had labeled each one when we first moved in, so it was easy.



One Tuesday night years ago Steve was at men's study and the circuits blew, so "Baby" Steven and I went out to do the switch-flipping deal, were clueless, and ended up with all the electricity to the house turned off! (I even called Riverside City Utilities to make sure our bill had been paid). We prayed and brought on the candles and flashlights to sit together reading, I think my grad school and his high school homework, until Steve got back. But it was getting late, and we had messed up so badly that we had to call the utility emergency people, and that city worker arrived about the same time as Steve. Embarassing! I think a fuse had blown. Steven's and my bad!



"Don't send a fool on an errand," I believe Proverbs 26:6 says!


Dinner time today was simple: broiled hotlinks in buns, and refried beans in the microwave, with homegrown marinated cucumber slices from our friends the Martinezes. The issue began when I ran the microwave briefly while the oven broiler was on. I didn't even realize it until I checked on the hot links to turn them over, and tried to set a timer to get some nice crispy blackened spots on them. The lit areas were blacked out on the oven and the microwave--uh-oh! So I rousted Steve and we went to the circuit box and began madly flipping the switches in the sections labeled "kitchen." Steve didn't remember which switch powers the oven and microwave, so of course we couldn't get anything going. I was definitely grateful that the Lord had led me to print up lessons for Bible study tomorrow earlier in the afternoon, because my desktop computer was also powerless. God was looking out for me and the ladies, as always.


We went next door, no one was home, and then I called a few other neighbors, no luck, and the kids were nowhere around. So we ate dinner, which was actually cooked well enough and at eating temperature. I brushed my teeth and strode out the front door looking for any neighbor guy I could catch to come over, since we all have identical electrical boxes. When I left, Steve was pushing buttons on the dead stove and microwave, so I figured he was occupied.


My thinking was basically Proverbs 27:10, "Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far off."


About four houses down, I came upon a man I didn't know, mowing his lawn. I introduced myself and told him about our problem, and that Steve forgot what to do, and he said, "Is he the one who walks the dogs every day?" "Yes, that's him!" I answered. So he cut the power to his mower and walked up the block with me, saying, "No problem!"


And it was no problem! Our neighbor Dan found a switch that was tripped halfway, shut it all the way off, and then flipped it on. Voila! The front porch light was on.


The neighbor then asked whether we had a lawn service--you can't miss our overgrown lawn--and I told him our mower was in the shop until Friday. He asked if we had a big lawn in the back, and I said "Oh yes, solid grass, but the dogs don't mind!" So if we don't have a mower by Friday, he volunteered that if we walk down to see him, he'll be out front edging his lawn and he'll help us as long as there is some daylight. Nice neighborly attitude! Reminds me of the street I grew up on--people just walked over and helped each other.


And finally, the miraculous aspect of this evening? I asked Dan what he did for a living, and he said, "I'm an electrician for a school district. That's why I said, 'NO PROBLEM!' "


I'm so blown away by the Lord's goodness, because I know that for God, there is no problem, ever, when it comes to helping a couple of His kids!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

An adult daycare possibility



6:43 p.m. Today's project was to go visit Care Connexxus, an adult daycare center. Steve had sat patiently reading a book while I did a "virtual makeover" glamour appointment with a friend from caregiver class, in the same area of our city as the center.



I had heard glowing reports about this company located on Adams Street near Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, while attending a caregiver class sponsored by the Riverside County Office of Aging. The ladies who use the center are very happy with the care their husbands or parents receive. In fact, my customer had just dropped off her 81 year old father-in-law for his first day at Care Connexxus just before we arrived at her home!


The daily program at the center goes from 8:30-2:00 p.m., includes breakfast, lunch, any assistance needed, physical exercise, arts and crafts, and even a twice-monthly Bible study. Care Connexxus is not a residential home. The program provides help for caregivers who need to continue working during the week, and for retired caregivers, it allows time for them to take care of doctor appointments, grocery shopping and other errands that would be very difficult with an advanced dementia patient along. And frankly, most of our adult children work full time, care for their own kids, or don't even live in town. Friends who want to help come over when they can, but they have daily responsibilities of their own.


One special "sweetener" from the Lord is the center's activity director Megan Justice, whom we know from our Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley home fellowship group last season.


Why would I need adult daycare for Steve when I am retired and basically home, except for Bible study and facial appointments a few times a week? Well, the Lord has put it on my heart to begin another book, based on my blog entries about our experience with early-onset Alzheimer's--from a Christian woman's viewpoint. When author Carole Gift Page challenged me to do just that, I told her, "Your words are confirmation that it's of the Lord--I already have a title for it, and have been documenting pertinent blog entries for the last two years!"


Writing takes long hours of concentration and utter silence as you put your thoughts onto a word document, delete, re-write, add or take away. For the writing of Galatians: An Exploration of Faith & Freedom, friends Howard and Charlotte would invite Steve over for several hours at least once a week to work in their orchard, an activity he loved. I'd have uninterrupted time to write. Other friends did the same occasionally. Then Howard and Charlotte moved, bless their hearts, to be close to their only child and his family in Arizona. I'd do the same, honestly.


I was assured back in July by Genworth longterm care insurance that adult daycare is covered, as long as I provide a State license number to them. Transportation is also covered, if needed. Care Connexxus has several vans to pick up their participants and take them home. These convenient facts don't necessarily mean the Lord wants me to have Steve spend a day there from time to time, but the facts are encouraging, like the fact that all care staff are CNA's. (Certified Nurse Assistants).


Psalm 119:105 (NLT) says, very aptly for this time of decision,


Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.


As Megan led the two of us around the very large facility, we passed through the dining hall, full of the aroma of "Italian Chicken." Dietary limitations are considered if needed, which Steve doesn't. There are exercise areas, a living room, game and arts rooms. I think Steve was taken aback by the number of people in wheelchairs, but at least half of the people were fully capable of walking round on their own. Outdoor exercise is done daily, and there is half court basketball for those who are able. They have one of our favorite games, Wii, also.


We received paperwork for Steve's doctor to fill out, no problem, and I've already set up an appointment for him to get a TB test. When we finished our tour and I handed the papers to Steve, he tossed them on the floor in an upset gesture, but I just picked them up and handed them back to him. I heard Megan talking with him as I hurried rather urgently to the ladies' room.


As we finished our tour and stood outside, I clarified what Steve was thinking: that it was a rest home and that he'd be living there. As I comforted him I explained that no one lives there--it's 6 hours a day, for as many or as few days a week as a caregiver needs to utilize. Right now, I think one day a week would be enough. He understood then. My husband definitely qualifies for the center, because the only criterion is that a person can no longer live alone, whether from a physical standpoint or a mental one. With the confusion Steve has developed lately, he may be worse off than many of the people we saw today--it's just that he maintains his physical health and activity level to the point that he appears well on the outside. And I praise the Lord for that!


Once Steve realized that he might just be going once a week, he was much better about it, quite relieved, and he returned to being his regular pleasant, cooperative self. Our afternoon was fun and busy, with a trip to Empire lawnmower with my daughter's father-in-law John, who graciously hauled our mower (and us) in his beautiful "dualy" truck. Because I can finally walk like a regular person, as well as stand for a period of time, we stood out in our front yard gazing at the huge thunderheads above the nearby hills, something I haven't taken much time to do, even though Steve always calls my attention to shapes in the clouds.


Psalm 121:1 (NLT) says to me as I seek answers and decisions,


I look up to the mountains--

does my help come from there?

My help comes from the LORD,

who made heaven and earth!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mondays rock when you're standing on the Rock!



7:02 p.m. Today's project was to get Steve ready for his day, from finding the right jeans, to straightening up the master bath and bedroom after he was finished dressing. Brightstar agency did a great job this morning, considering that I had to contact them a 8 a.m., for a shift to start at 9:30. Once caregiver Carlos arrived, I was able to have him assist Steve with threading his belt through his pant loops, and changing from work boots to sneakers. Just before I left, the two of them went off walking the dogs. They later gave them a bath. With a professional caregiver at home with Steve, I have complete peace of mind about his safety, the preparation of meals, and the fun he has doing his chores with a companion. In the afternoons, they relax watching "The Waltons" or they pop in a movie.



Therefore, I didn't leave the house red in the face and hot under the collar! Because I could concentrate without worry or distraction, I had a wonderful Monday, holding three makeup appointments and making almost $100! And more business is forthcoming. I popped in for lunch, had Carlos cut up watermelon for all of us, and then left or a makeup consultation. From there, I visited Dr. Guzman about my sciatica, leaving with some encouragement to go back to my chiropractor Dr. Madison. I also got some wise counsel about Steve's tremors.



The reason I love Mondays is that all of my "pent-up demands" for business and financial arrangements get wrapped up. Calls are made. Letters get mailed. Forms get faxed. And I enjoy lots of brief but pleasant conversations with both strangers and acquaintances. You never know whom you might be able to witness to...



The Lord spoke to me about having a calm spirit last night and this morning. Along with His correction, God has promised to lovingly help me keep my temper when things get out of order, messy, or take "too long" at home. As a result, I behaved decently today, and expect to get better every day, because Jesus has promised me in Hebrews 13:5,



I will never leave you nor forsake you.



Jesus will not leave me nor forsake me whether I face pressure from outside forces or my own bad attitude within. He simply will not permit me to "go it alone" even if I'm the problem! That's when God works best--when we know we can't "fix it!"



In I Samuel 29, which I am teaching on Thursday, David finds himself in a dreadful position that he could have entirely avoided by consulting the Lord beforehand. He'd been serving as a military commander to King Achish of he Philistines,pretending to have been killing Israelites while killing and plundering several ancient tribes south of Judah. But now the Philistines were marching to war against King Saul and the Israelites. What was David to do? He's be seen as an ingrate and a coward if he deserted his benefactor King Achish. If he fought against the Israel of God, his own people would never have honored him with the crown, and if the Saul had been killed, David could have been blamed for something he swore he'd never do, just by fighting or even being a rearguard, for a Philistine king. It was entirely David's fault--he'd run straight into the welcoming arms of the heathen. Would his conniving chickens come home to roost?


God, never at a loss for a solution, delivered David by using the heathen themselves. David was soundly rejected by the four other Philistine kings as a turncoat and potential traitor, and told in no uncertain terms to pack up, and get out by morning, him, his men, and all of their families--back to Ziklag in Judah. Being corrected and chastened by unbelievers--no good, friend, whether in 1,000 B.C. or in 2011 A.D.


A believer can't sink any lower! So, as Psalm 34:12-14 exhorts us, asking the question,


Who is the man who desires life,

And loves many days that he may see good?


The answer is,


Keep your tongue from evil,

and your lips from speaking deceit.

Depart from evil and do good;

Seek peace and pursue it.


And that's the Word!




Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflections on a 10 year anniversary



1:44 p.m. Today's project was to gratefully attend the church service at Calvary Moreno Valley. I'd had to miss last week, because the pain from my left hip down to my ankle was so severe that I didn't even come downstairs until the afternoon.


After a week of getting out for appointments with modest success, if not without considerable pain and soreness later, I've been planning my return to 2nd service very carefully. I hoarded the last ThermaCare heat pack until today, and placed it just below the hip. I timed my Advil so that it could be taken with the small amount of water in my bottle at 10 a.m., just as worship and greeting ended, and a long spell of sitting for the sermon would begin. We even sat in the back so I could unobtrusively go to the ladies' bathroom lounge area and sit with my left leg up if the pain persisted. Lastly, I put a cut-off piece of knee-hi stocking on my calf, to see if mild compression might help, along with resting my leg on the back of my son-in-law's chair on the hand rung that was there, as well as placing my tote/purse under my leg.


Success, thank You, Jesus! I was able to fully concentrate on our pastor's powerful message from Psalm 11, where David is on the run from Saul, a theme that has occupied most of our Thursday morning study of I Samuel this summer. The title of the sermon was, "What are we trusting in?" Verses 1-5 read:


In the LORD I put my trust;

How can you say to my soul,

"Flee as a bird to your mountain"?

For look! The wicked bend their bow,

They make ready their arrow on the string,

That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.

If the foundations are destroyed,

What can the righteous do?


The LORD is in His holy temple,

The LORD's throne is in heaven;

His eyes behold,

His eyelids test the sons of men.

The LORD tests the righteous,

But the wicked and the one who

loves violence His soul hates.


On September 11, 2001, our nation saw many things that we had trusted in, including the almost the complete banishment of God, fall apart, be devastated, and realized that our secure borders were no longer secure. Neither our government, our educational or business institutions, our civil authorities, nor our military forces could halt or do more than react to the calamitous loss of lives, property, power and wealth on that day. As our family witnessed on the Sunday after the attacks, every seat in the huge sanctuary at Harvest, as well as aisles, the foyer and the floor in front of the pulpit, the "sprung building" and the overflow rooms were filled beyond capacity as our people desperately sought God from fear and terror of more attacks, even chemical or biological warfare. Our Satanic enemies, on the other hand, danced in the streets half a world away...


We saw the face of sheer evil "in the name of Allah." What a demonic travesty! A false religion, a false god, resulting in terrorism by the most extreme adherents, expecting to be rewarded with 7 virgins apiece in heaven! Their present condition and eternal fate are taking place as Jesus described in Mark 9:43, in "hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched--"


Yet now, as our nation built itself back from the ashes, our institutions once again functioned, and vengeance was wreaked on terrorists worldwide, a lethargy and spiritual deadness, even an hostility to evangelical Christians and Jesus Himself, has gripped this land, to our sorrow. Businesses large and small are failing. Perversion rules the airwaves and Internet. All mention of God is forbidden in more and more public settings. Christians are told to get lost, stay hidden, or as David put it thousands of years ago, to "flee as a bird to your mountain." Keep your religion inside churches and homes! But we must trust God to "give us more boldness" in witnessing, as the apostles asked of God in Acts 4:29.


In my own personal battle with trust, I find that I can trust God for protection while speaking about Jesus publicly; witnessing is a joy and a thing I do as the Lord prompts me. But in my daily personal trials, facing daily deterioration of my husband's mind, and the losses attendant in that, especially financial ones, as prescriptions and trips to the doctor and neurologist eat away at our modest retirement and disability budget, my trust gets strained, honestly. The shock of having to hire help for tasks Steve did for 29 out of the last 30 years, the danger inherent in his working with tools that he handled his entire lifetime, or my having to do tasks I've not been instructed in are this day's new realities. I burned some of my hair on Thursday, because I was lighting the barbecue, normally Steve's job that he forgot how to do, and neglected to check and find out that the knob was turned to High. Whoosh, up came the flames! Thanks be to God that I wasn't injured at all!


When the Alzheimer Association writes of the billions the disease costs our economy, they aren't kidding. When you think of lost wages of both the victim and the caregiver, medical costs of both victim and caregiver (due to stress), disability payments, both State and Social Security disability paid out over an individual's lifetime, doctor and specialist visits, and ever-increasing fuel costs to get to the appointments, it boggles the mind. While the Association's job may be to lobby Congress for more research funding, can we actually put our trust in government? Or science? So far, no cure and or drugs to effectively slow down the disease's progress have come onto the scene.


Should we not rather be praying for God's healing, and for His mercy to help sufferers and their families? And testifying of God's great love and mercy daily, which I get so tempted to forget?


There is a website asking people what public service they intend to accomplish on September 11, 2011. My public volunteer service will be exactly this--attend church, partake in communion, be built up in God's word, encourage other believers and witness to the unsaved! After I see the prophecy video at tonight's service, I will be eager to witness to a person who needs to know Jesus. I will prayerfully look to open a door He may set before me, because as a believer, I will not "flee as a bird to my mountain," fade away, go quietly or hide behind my home's curtains and doors.


That's one thing that is NOT going to happen on this day in 2011!