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Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Wrap-up

7:14 p.m. Today's project was to begin wrapping up 2011 in a variety of ways. Even though our tree still looks beautiful, I resigned myself to at least taking our most memorable ornaments off the tree and placing them in their individual boxes. While supervising Steve's raking out front, I made a quick call to our neighbor of 23years, Joanne, to see if the City had given a date for Christmas tree pick-up, since we don't take the newspaper any more. She has an artificial tree, so she hadn't paid attention, but did offer that we could just put it out on the next garbage day.  She wanted to get caught up on Steve's condition, and I advised that if she and husband Craig might want to visit with Steve while he can still smile and talk a bit (although he won't remember them. ) Hopefully they will come by soon.  Joanne was in our brand-new Moms in Touch prayer group that met at my house that started when Taft Elementary opened in 1990. We saw many changes of heart and outright miracles as we  lived the truth of Jesus' words in Matthew 18:20:

For where two or more are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

As for my business, December 31 of any year means the dreaded Inventory Count. Since my thrird year, I've put my count on our website in a "dummy" order that doesn't get sent in, even though I still made the initial count with paper and pencil. Today, I took my laptop and the portable wi-fi hotspot to my office, and input the whole inventory online. Still need to tote up my demo items, charitable donations and personal use, but the biggest job is finished, praise the Lord!

2011 is also closing out our "private" lives here at home. Our Korean student from University of California Riverside is arriving at the school around 12 p.m. on Tuesday the 3rd. So even though we've painted, polished and prepped the spare bedroom and bath, I had a lot of personal things to remove from the bathroom, along with my journal and notes from the roll top desk.  The bedspread and pillows just got rewashed as well. On the morning of the 3rd-nothing like cutting it close!-- a veteran Homestay "mom," Kathy, is coming over for a facial and last-minute hints and tips that only an experienced hostess would know. And I will be increasing the morning caregiver hours to last until 9:00, so I can drive our student to UCR and back from the 8:30 a.m. weekday drop-off without worrying about Steve and his caregiver getting back from their walk with Jada on time.The Lord is setting all we need in place. Jehovah Jireh, our Provider!

2011 was devastating for Steve, and utterly heartbreaking for me. Despite being on very high doses of Alzheimer meds, powerful behavioral and anti-seizure pills, as well as natural supplements, he has just plummeted month by month. Our family has witnessed his slipping from very forgetful but actively engaged, to confused, off-balance and physically compromised. Steve no longer knows where the garage or the dog food barrel is; cannot open a door, even the slider, without assistance; has trouble eating, dressing and caring for himself; and rarely speaks. He also needs constant supervision, and extensive help at bedtime as well.

When our foreign student leaves in February, a new program of care will begin. Brightstar Agency  will begin providing that constant supervision here at home. Details to come!

All was not tragic this year, however. My book, Galatians: an Exploration of Faith & Freedom, was published, the culmination of almost 25 years of Spirit-led teaching and writing on Paul's doctrinal declaration. Our daughter Heidi married a wonderful Christian man, Pavel, beginning a lifetime of love and shared ministry. Oldest son Sean is affiiated with and serving at the VA in Loma Linda, and his boys are excelling in high school. On my birthday, son Kriss and his wife Marisela surprised me with news of a baby on the way! Our son-in-law Nick finished his Masters' Degree at Cal Poly Pomona, and both Heather's ministry to high school girls and her photography are taking great leaps forward. Steven with his girlfriend Kathy, continue in prayer and evangelism, and he continues ministering to high schoolers in Fresno and ranks high at each of his bodybuilding competitions.  And my Mary Kay business is building with a team of Christian sisters to lead, encourage, and be encouraged by.

It wouldn't be December 31st if I didn't confess my sins to the Lord in my journal today, and if I didn't feel a need for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit! The former politician in me would like to say, "mistakes were made," but sin must be called what it is! Bad attitudes, lack of compassion, selfish motives, Gods sees it all. He not only sees, but stands ready to forgive. His indwelling Holy Spirit makes the difference between convicting us of sin to repentance and restoration, and the devil condemning us and driving us away from the Lord Jesus in perpetual shame!

Believer, confess your sins to our Jesus, and be forgiven. Unbeliever, confess your sins to the Lord Jesus, ask Him to save you, and begin 2012 as an entirely new man or woman, from the inside out!

I'll close this year of posts with a quote from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest for December 31st:

    As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, unremembering delight, nor with the flight of impulsive thoughtlessness, but with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.
  Leave the irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.                                                                     







Friday, December 30, 2011

An encouraging word, fitly spoken

7:32 p.m. Today's project was to see  a word from the Lord carried out through my Mary Kay sales director Laurie.

We had just wrapped up a fun meeting when I was headed out the door with both arms loaded down. She said, "Okay, Dana go get your hair done tomorrow and sell some product!" I retorted, "Hey, do I look like I need to go? Which I do!" We said goodnight and off I went. The funny part was that I hadn't even remembered that I had an appointment; I was just focused on getting back home through the Canyon, and whether I should deposit a customer's check last night or in the morning. Knowing that Steve was having his Thursday night popcorn with his hilarious caregiver, Cassandra, kept my mind at ease and able to do my job. Thank you, God, for believers who serve the ones Jesus called "the least of these," (Matthew 25:40) the mentally and physically disabled, the hurting!

Having decided not to risk walking up to a night deposit slot in a dimly-lit parking lot, I went straight home, enjoying worship songs on the radio, and assisted with the caregiver's night time duties.  Thinking Laurie might be prescient about my sales prospects for the morning, I left my inventory and gifts in the Jeep instead of hauling them all in. If her words were going to be as "apples of gold in pictures of silver," as Proverbs 25:11 puts it, I wanted to be ready. 

The Lord showed me to publicize the new lip glosses with samples, catalogs, and products to sell as I walked in for my 11:00 appointment. My 25% off Inventory Reduction Sale sweetened the deals, as sales tend to do. This "Look, everybody!" approach is not unusual for me, because the beauticians and their clients are my customers already. But they love to see the new products, especially makeup, so I show or demonstrate them by applying them under the hair dryer where I sit for a few minutes each time. Today was a good success--I sold products to three cash customers! But the day wasn't finished yet.

My sweet friend and team member Debbie called to let me now that she'd placed a nice-sized order, which helps me financially as a Star Team Builder (Red  Jacket). The company pays us commissions on our recruits' production, though not one penny is taken from their own profits. Sheer  genius! I especially saw God's grace in Debbie's perseverance, because she lost her mom, a godly, active 74 year old, just before Christmas. They know she's in a better place, but it isn't a better place here for those left behind. Debbie said, "It's like a black cloud was hanging over Christmas" with the memorial on the 22nd. I encouraged and loved her as best I could, and I know she will continue on with the Lord, and memories of her mom will just be all sweet as time passes. We can all receive Proverbs 10:22 in anticipation of the day when we all reunite in heaven:

The blessing of the LORD makes one rich,
And He adds no sorrow with it.

The blessings continued on. A very dear customer, my daughter's mother-in-law Kathleen, came over to try the new gel facial mask and visit. (All of the precise designations make our relationship sound so formal, but we have become good friends over the three years of our kids' marriage). She enjoyed a nice discount also, and I appreciated her taking time out of one of her last Christmas vacation days to have a facial.

Soon after, a mother-daughter team of Mary Kay consultants, Heather and Tara, dropped by, delivering two products on loan from our sales director, enabling me to complete deliveries already paid for. It turns out that they live in our general part of town and travel the same route through San Timiteo Canyon to Redlands, so the question was, "Why aren't we carpooling to our Thursday meeting?"

Yes, a good word was spoken over me for today, and a good business day it was! But more than that, I saw how God gave Steve and me a good afternoon together, relationships with friends were strengthened, and the finances He provided gave me the confidence to go buy my husband's meds without hesitation.

Thank you, Lord, for sending this new and exciting stream of benefits into our home. Isaiah 43:19 puts it best:

Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the
  wilderness
And rivers in the desert.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

For want of a charge

9:06 p.m. Today's project was to schedule facials with two ladies I met this week, who both happily gave me their numbers. Neither of them answered the phone or returned my call today. They may call me back tomorrow, or if not, I may call in a few more days. There was definitely time to check my email and fill the afternoon with others who might have responded to my Inventory Reduction Sale (IRS) message. But I had a problem.

Earlier in the morning, I had attempted to post Psalm 10:13-14, the next verses in my bi-annual Facebook journey through that inspiring book of the Bible. I pretty much post the next verse that comes along, trusting that there will be personal significance for any of several hundred readers who may happen upon it on a given day. People have told me that they look forward to my daily scripture, just like I anticipate other friends' posting of verses or inspirational quotes.  Psalm 10 is  "A Song of Confidence in God's Triumph over Evil." And vv. 13-14 say,

Why do the wicked renounce
   God?
He has said in his heart,
"You will not require an account."

But You have see, for You
   observe trouble and grief,
To repay it by Your hand.
The helpless commits himself to
   You;
You are the helper of the
   fatherless.

The only problem was, that I could not get my notebook computer to connect to our Verizon 4G network, even though the network was on. (The outdated technology of our desktop made any attempt on that machine ludicrous; my son-in-law had been trying everything for days, and our business systems administrator friend was in agreement with that assessment). So, there the matter stood, even though the notebook is only a couple of years old and had been connecting perfectly well for weeks. I completed the rest of my devotions happily, enjoying the Bible, a selection from the devotional My Utmost for His Highest, and journalling  my prayers to the Lord. More calm now, I was resigned to the fact that sometimes we just cannot accomplish all we set out to do!

What to do? The local Verizon store rep told me to bring in the mi-fi hotspot and he'd check it out. After praying, and realizing the Lord had other plans, I logged out and shut off all components. Since Steve and I were both ready for the day, it seemed that using the Winco gift card I received from our oldest son was as good a way as any to spend a morning "disconnected" from the outside world. I laughed a bit at myself, wondering how we ever got by before the invention of the World Wide Web and the Personal Computer!

At least I my rickety cell phone was still working!

While we were in line, our tech expert called to see how the computers were doing since I installed a wireless network adapter. (Not good). He mentioned that he had returned a brand new, top of the line, newest generation $400 Android X phone himself for non-performance! Is nobody safe these days?! Common consumers like me haven't got a chance, if there's a piece of high tech equipment Neal couldn't get to work! Good grief!

Back at home, I put away the perishables, and turned both computers and the mi-fi hotspot back on. The 4G network flashed green pretty quickly. One thing I noticed when the notebook came on that it was unable to really complete the action because the orange low battery was flashing. I made sure it was plugged back in to the outlet charger and got Steve situated.

Then it occured to me--that might have been why it wouldn't connect to the network! It didn't have enough battery power. And sure enough, after several minutes, I hit the "Internet Explorer" icon on the desktop, and it connected right away! Something...So...Simple.

Quickly logging on to Facebook,  I posted my scripture, wished a few friends Happy Birthday, complimented an engaged friend's bridesmaids' dresses, viewed my profile page for any comments, and then checked my gmail email account, where I found that some ladies had responded to my ad!

Funny how a simple habit like keeping the laptop's battery charged can be so easily overlooked and become the source of aggravation! I'm reminded of a medieval nursery rhyme that begins, "For want of a nail," and escalates from a nail missing in a horse's shoe to the loss of the shoe, the horse, the rider, and the battle. And so it is with our walk with the Lord.

A believer might begin sleeping through morning devotions, drop out of Bible study, or neglect their small group home fellowship, then start skipping church, and then before they know what has happened, they just aren't walking with the Lord any more. They may or may not pick back up the bad practices they gave up through the conviction of the Holy Spirit when they got saved, because the devil manipulates each backslider differently. But without regular time in God's Word, fellowship with His people, listening to instructive, inspirational, convicting sermons, and having a regular prayer time, temptations are a lot easier to fall into.

Even Jesus, God the Son, attended synagogue regularly, and found prayer to the Father to be an absolute necessity! Luke 6:12 records Jesus' action before choosing the twelve disciples:

Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

Believer, you may not get up tomorrow with plans to rob a bank, poison the municipal water system, or shoot up heroin, but when you choose to neglect the worship and honor due to God, you will find yourself totally drained of the purpose, joy, direction and peace that could be yours from the abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit. That's because you will have been "disconnected" from the one true power source: Jesus Christ!

So stay plugged in and powered up!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Do you love Him?

5:16 p.m. Today's project was to sit down to my weekly journal research for my book on a Christian response to the trial we have been experiencing since we met almost 32 years ago: Steve's long- term debilitating fear and anxiety, and now Alzheimer's. I noted 70 separate incidents and prayers for healing just today, in the 2007-2008 journal (my fourth journal so far) and I'm not even halfway through the volume. I don't even try to imagine how this will all come together as a book. But God knows what He intends to include, so I'll do my part each week, and He will do His, right now in the preparation and later in the writing.

Of that I am sure!

As a Christian, I have the hope, the expectation, of being with Jesus in heaven one day. I also have an expectation that God will always do what He has promised to do in my life in the here and now. Hebrews 10:23 says,

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

I admit that I was a bit "wavery" this morning at 6:35, when I brought Steve downstairs for his meds and vitamins, and his caregiver hadn't arrived yet. The minutes went by, Steve ate his banana, and there was no help for me: I had to get him showered and dressed, something I hadn't done previously, because of course he took care of his own needs until this year, and we've had a male caregiver with him each morning now that he needs the help.

I would have just had him wash up at the sink but for the fact that he was due to catch his bus at 7:45 to go to Care Connexxus, his adult daycare center. So he had to be clean, clean shaven, and dressed in the nice clothes I had (thank you, Lord) set out for him last night. It's tough for an untrained person to help an adult in and out of their clothes, especially if they are stiff, disoriented, and can't help you by bending their elbows and knees appropriately. He also had no concept of the necessity of moving somewhat quickly this morning because of the scheduled pickup time.

By the grace of God , we got it done, with minimal arthritic twinges in my fingers from helping pull on snug socks!  I had him finish his breakfast and brush his teeth, but left shaving for last, figuring that if the bus came early, the essentials would be covered. Steve then sat on the front couch by the window, waiting for his bus while I finished my devotions. He looks forward to boarding it now. He jumped up yelling "It's here!" and ran to the door, with me grabbing $2 in coins for his ride, unlocking the door as the bus honked.

I kissed him goodbye, turned back to finish my devotions, have breakfast and dress for the day. What a hectic morning! But my notations went smoothly and very productively upstairs at the roll top desk.

Funny that the chaos should occur on a day dedicated to the Lord, isn't it? It seems pretty obvious to me that the devil had a hand in making my caregiver forget to come here, oversleep, or whatever happened to him.   I Peter 5:8 says that "the devil, like a roaring lion, goes about seeking whom he may devour;" Ephesians 6:11 tells us to "stand against the wiles of the devil;" II Corinthians 2:11 tells us that "we are not ignorant of Satan's devices." He'll use any trick to knock me off balance, distract me from my purpose, or even doubt that it's God's will for me to write this book! Well, sorry, devil, but I choose to believe God!



When God gives us an assignment, whether far-reaching or immediate, personal or public, a command to act upon, or a regeneration of heart and mind, we need to obey. It doesn't "make sense" to remove 4-5 hours of a work day for quiet study and reflection on the development of Steve's disease and the effect it's had on our lives, but that is what God told me to do, and cleared a way for me to have that time by Steve spending a day at daycare.  It doesn't "make sense" for multiplied millions of Christians worldwide to get up at least an hour earlier than necessary for their day's duties at work or home (or both) to read the Bible, pray, journal their reflections on the verses they've read, or fill in portions of a Bible study lesson. But we do, out of love and obedience to our Lord Jesus, who said in John 14:15,

If you love Me, keep My commandments.

Some commandments are universal, such as to love and care for one another, pray in Jesus' name, study the Bible and witness of our salvation to others. Other commandments are for you and you alone.

Do both! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Timing: a God-thing

6:44 p.m. Today's project was to arrive at Starbucks in Riverside's Canyon Crest Towne Centre by 10:00 a.m. and book appointments until 1 p.m. when Steve's caregiver's shift ended. Since I live just up the hill from the coffee shop, I'd have almost three hours to book.

I was utterly groggy and exhausted when I got up at 6 a.m., but have no sleeping-in option, because I let the caregiver in at 6:30. That gives me 1/2 hour to shower and prep before Steve gets up. That is his only unsupervised time slot all day.It was very late when I finished my post last night, due to the troubles Steve had experienced after consuming so much sugar. Of course I had a lot of cleanup to do with the large crowd we had, but that is to be expected. After 23+ years of exercising the gift of hospitality (Romans 12:13;           I Corinthians 12:28b, Titus 1:8) in this house, the Lord has helped me to set my systems in place.

Another aspect I was dealing with was a virtual "hangover" from taking Alka Seltzer Night Time Cold medicine. I probably should have added 2 more hours of sleep with the fizzy tablets. It was a "perfect storm" of weariness!

So, I had my devotions as always, about 2 1/2 mugs of coffee, and set up Steve's breakfast while the caregiver did his morning grooming. Seeing that Steve was ready for the day, had his breakfast, and was headed out with his caregiver and Jada, I just went back upstairs and slept until 9:20.Obviously, I wasn't going to be at Starbucks at 10! Even though I just had to dress and put on my Mary Kay face, I still hadn't eaten my scrambled eggs or brushed my teeth. I noticed a message on my cell from CVS pharmacy about one of Steve's prescriptions; I hadn't packed my inventory, my wrapped gift baskets or binder with customer info into the Jeep. But the Lord knew I needed the rest.

When I arrived at the coffee shop with my Christmas gift cards, I was happy to see that I could get a seat inside, in the cozy corner that I favor if it's not occupied. With my salted caramel frappucino in hand, and a hold on the "2nd one free," I began making my calls with mixed success. But the Lord's encouragement was mixed in as I spent a few moments visiting with the parents of one of Kriss' best friends from elementary school. a little later, I smiled at one middle-aged lady and let her know that a seat next to me was open. I was thinking, "Maybe she'll want a facial!" But she started talking to me right away, and mentioned renting her guest house to UCR (University of California Riverside) students...hmm. I mentioned the UCR Homestay program that we are going to participate in next month, and it turns out that she's been involved for six years.

What made our visit and the quick way we hit it off  so wonderful is that she's a Christian! And that's what makes the timing of my arrival a total GOD THING!!   

We fret so much about the exact time we need to be somewhere, the exact time we need God to deliver us from a trial, or the deadline we set for God to bless us. Then we determine that if deliverance, blessing, or resolution doesn't happen on a date certain, life as we know it will never be the same. I've caught myself, and you have too, feeling utterly sad about my bleak prospects. Then, the Lord unfailingly shows me in His Word yet another example of His mighty saving and keeping power from the foundation of the earth!

Yet somehow, He can't take care of me this month? while the situation may not be, the "poor me" act is laughable for a believer who has seen the Lord deliverance again and again.

David was in a very bad spot in I Samuel 30, when he and his men returned from fighting to find that their encampment in Ziklag burned and all of their wives and children kidnapped. His men were about to stone him in rage and grief. One of the most instructive verses in the Bible (v.6) then says,

But David encouraged himself in the LORD His God.

He consulted the Lord, was told to pursue the Amalekites, he and his men did so, and recovered all who were lost. The Lord was more glorified by that tremendous deliverance than on a day when all was going smoothly.and the same goes for us. We want to glide smoothly along in life, despite the knowledge that life just doesn't go that way for very often. But the Lord has better things for us that we can think of, ever more glorious deliverances from trials and unexpected blessings galore!

I'll be calling my new acquaintance for advice before and during our Korean student's visit, and she may even become a customer. But the Lord had brought a new friend into my life.

In HIS timing!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Find that hidden place

8:37 p.m. Today's project was to prepare our home for the third Christmas celebration we've hosted this week. After Christmas Eve service, we enjoyed the company of our daughters and their husbands, and Heather's in-laws the Loves. Steven had been home all day, in from Fresno at 4 a.m., but wasn't feeling very well. I'm not remembering whether he ate with us, but went upstairs to lie down when we had dessert and games. Then he abruptly ended our party by calling "mom" from upstairs to help him during an attack of violent illness. Since I had to put Steve to bed at the same time, I unceremoniously yelled down my request that everyone there clean up! My daughters and our guests helped, bless their hearts, so I could focus on my two Steve(n)s. I was up so late with Steven that I posted my Christmas message on this blog on Christmas Day!


Christmas day itself was fantastic, and I was super blessed to have all five kids and their spouses with us.,. Today's gathering of Steve's family (and my dad) was just plain fun, with tons of dips, treats and munchies for the large crowd. We had every stage, from grandparents to two-tear-olds, veteran marrieds to our newest bride -to-be, Kendra, engaged to our nephew David.

Steve enjoyed the visiting, had no problem with the noisiness of the little ones, and only spilled a little food. His sister Linda and her husband Mike took him out for a brief walk, before our riotous "White Elephant" game. I think my hastily-assembled bag of hospital supplies was the most obnoxious gift, but the plush singing reindeer was a close second (See above).

Proverbs 17:22 says,

A merry heart does good like medicine. We had a huge dose of guffaws tonight!

I wish I could say that Steve's evening continued to go well. Instead of limiting himself to one dessert choice, (his sister's cheesecake) as we'd agreed upon earlier, he took advantage of my moments away as hostess, or even when I got up to get more food for the two of us, to nosh on several kinds of cookies and sweets,. It's difficult now to tell him that he shouldn't have any more than a limited portion, especially with company present.

Steve has always had low blood sugar issues, so he disciplined himself to eat sugar free ice cream and I moved to baking with low-sugar alternatives. The whole family embarked on a healthly diet via Shaklee products and wholesome nutrition. But now, with Steve unable to self-monitor on any segment of his life, he depends upon me, and I am quite consistent in limiting his sugar intake. But in a social situation, Steve just sees a sweet and can't project into the next hour to remember how sugar will soon affect him. And I'd even made sure he'd had a couple of tamales and other sources of protein first!

Tonight, Steve staggered and stumbled as we walked out to the dumpsters to empty garbage. Instead of continuing the cleanup of the downstairs floor, I had to walk out wth him and physically turn his body in the direction of the correct dumpster: paper recycle, green yard waste, or brown regular garbage. It's very tiring in the late hours when I'm finally able to get to my duties, after I've first put him to bed. So the consequences  of sugar fall quite heavily on me. He actually made an angry comment this evening! And if Steve had walked out on the sidewalk, he could have been arrested for public drunkenness, his walking was so uncoordinated, his limited speech slurred, and his eyes so unfocused..

So I suggested that he sit down and pray for help to the Lord who has, is and will be granting healing to those who ask, seek and knock.He nodded off, and then I led him upstairs to bed. (Luke 11:8-9)

I am not sure how to handle social eating with Steve, other than to avoid it, but that's not healthy for me or him emotionally, to become isolated from family and peers. If I can ask for help I do, like at Home Fellowship where the hostess Brenda puts desserts on the far back table in deference to my need to select perhaps one small cookie for Steve rather than leave desserts within his reach.

Believe me, I will be asking, seeking and knocking on heaven's door for strategies and techniques to employ that I might be prepared. A favorite Proverb( 27:12) says,

A prudent man foresees the evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.

Lord, please show me where to find that hidden place of wisdom and safety for my husband and me! In Jesus' name, amen!

Ants!

9:31 p.m. Today's project was to host a lovely Christmas gathering that began at 8:45 with the arrival of our son Kriss and Marisela, and developing baby Clark. The caregiver had just left and Steve and I were pretty much ready, just getting some table settings done and wrapping up my devotional time.

All five of our kids and their spouses came, and we all had a wonderful time eating Marisela's delicious gourmet French toast, downing lots of hot cider and Kriss' perfectly brewed coffee. We had three kinds of bread: pumpkin from Nick's mom Kathleen; cranberry from Heidi, and cinnamon coffee cake made by our son Sean. Gifts were then exchanged. The more novel ones included a personalized ceramic pig for Clark, who also got children's books and a gyrating food bowl--non-spill, it says! Steve was very happy with his "Not of This World" t-shirt and new jeans. My dad loved his devotional books, the girls were pleased with their handmade necklaces, the Amazon and Starbucks gift cards were plentiful. I received a mushroom garden from Steven, which I can't wait to start cultivating and eating from!!

We had seven kinds of homemade cookies, too! A roast beef dinner was enjoyed by several of us, followed by--more cookies! Steven, who had been sick all night, was able to join us and definitely livened up the conversation. Heidi and Pavel returned from his parents' house with a huge bag of pomegranates. We all visited for another hour, and they left, as did Nick & Heather. I was helping Marisela pack up their gifts and goodies
when she mentioned, "Be careful with the pomegranates. They have ants all over them."

Did that ever get my attention!

Do you remember the cavern scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) where Harrison Ford yells out "Snakes! Why does it have to be snakes?!" Seems there was a phobia going on there. Well, I feel just as fanatically disgusted and revolted by ants! Give me one long snake or a big spider any day over a trail of ants!

So I asked her to take the bag out to the garage, and we went on with our goodbyes, including sending Steven on his way back to Fresno.  Hoping for the best, I went to the dining room table to do some clearing up when I saw them--tiny grayish-black ants, not a lot, but enough to put me into a smashing and brushing away mode. I got the Basic-G organic germicide that kills them on contact without poisoning the dining room table cloth. Steve vacuumed for me, and I felt like we were on top of the situation. Heidi got a text asking if she knew about the pomegranate-loving ants. She replied that sometimes they do have ants. I wrote, "You know how I am about ants, lol!"

The Lord just showed me not to ruin a fabulous Christmas Day, and to make a joke out of the ant invasion.  Steve and I  enjoyed such a great day with all of our kids. Even Jada enjoyed the treats from her stocking and being played with. Irritating though they are to me, ants just aren't worth letting go of the blessedness God had seen fit to give to us. We had lots of opportunity to share the gospel and testify of Jesus in a very natural, relaxed, sugary atmosphere. The Lord was in this place! Steve and I witnessed our children giving and receiving thoughtful creative gifts to their parents and siblings.

Life has lots of "ants," doesn't it? And the devil loves to blow tiny incidents or details up to the point where all of the Holy Spirit's work and witness are forgotten. What are your ants? A house that isn't perfectly clean? Low on cash? Kids acting up? I can testify that all of these conditions are temporary, as a mother of five grown children and a grandmother of two and  a half.  But God's richest blessings are kept in store for, and meted out to, His precious children throughout the world. Just like earthly, sinful  parents do. Jesus pointed out this out with an incisive question in Matthew 7:11:

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

   

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's finally here!

12:10 a.m. Today's project is to wish all of you a Merry Christmas, and full of the knowledge of how much Jesus Christ loves you, so much that He came to die on the cross for your sins. Please ask God to forgive your sins, and ask Jesus  into your heart today, that you may be with Him one day in heaven, and live the most wonderful life imaginable now as His born again child.

You won't be living on easy street, but you will have His loving guidance, wisdom, care and hope within you, and one day walk on streets of gold!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Friday, December 23, 2011

Caring connexxus

7:48 p.m. Today's project was to gather the wrapped Mary Kay gifts our Legacy unit had prepared, and meet colleague Cara at Care Connexxus. That's the adult daycare program Steve attends on Wednesdays so I can research and write my next book on the way Alzheimer's has affected our lives from a Christian perspective. It was such a blessing when Laurie, our sales director, made this a unit-wide Christmas project, with Cara in the lead, to donate Mint Bliss foot cream to the participants!

Our day at home started off roughly, with a snafu at Special Trans, but the bus did come to pick Steve up and take him to the center by 8:45. That gave me time to get all dressed up for the Christmas party that would start when "Santa" arrived at 10:00. Cara and I were there around 9:30, and had a very pleasant visit with Rita, the Activities Director. Later as we talked, she asked to look at a copy of my book, Galatians: An Exploration of Faith & Freedom, which she may use for her new devotional starting in January. I suppose we made good use of our time, because Santa was quite late! But in the large assembly room, the aides and attendees were singing Christmas carols quite vigorously, so all was well. Psalm 150:6 says,

Let all that has breath praise the LORD.

And that includes disabled adults!

I gave the gifts to Rita to go ahead and place under the Christmas tree as she thought best, and sat on a couch in the small sitting room after Cara had to get back home. A friend called me and related the most amazing story: a nephew of hers came out of a 50-day coma due to the vehement, tearful intercessory prayers of a total stranger who heard through about him through a network of text messages! God told her to pray like she'd never prayed before, and in obedience, she fell to her knees and began. Later, she felt compelled to travel to meet the young man, and offer living proof that many, many people cared about him. He now knows that suicide is not the answer--Jesus' love is! As Jesus was born and lived in flesh and blood to save us from our sins, He puts His love into flesh and blood people to share with the hurting and lost.

I went to the couch where my husband was sitting and joined him as the party started. He was relating to and enjoying the event, and miling and speaking to friends. The wheelchair-bound people were brought up first for a picture with Santa and to receive their gifts from the center and from us; then the ambulatory lined up. I was proud and happy to be at Steve's side as he hesitantly (at first) shook hands with the Santa, and then sat down for a picture to be taken. I took a few pictures myself, and Rita mentioned that I'd brought some gifts, just quietly to Santa. Steve and I then left so he could spend the rest of the day with me.

The amazing events--call them a God thing or a miracle--continued, as we pulled up into our driveway. There, lo and behold, was our old neighbor Helen Luckinbill, puliing into our driveway at the same time! She bought her home when we bought ours 23+ years ago! Now 81, she was out and about to do some Christmas shopping. So I invited her in to have some tea and persimmon cookies, catch up with each other's lives, and of course, see my gift collection of perfumes, all wrapped beautifully by a friend. Helen proceeded to buy almost $90 worth of gifts, a godsend in a lean, lean week!

Steve had gone upstairs to nap, but Helen and I had the best time, and she went on her way rejoicing, and I was certainly delighted as well!We'll get together at her home in San Jacinto after the first of January.

I have no idea how Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day after will flow together, all taking place here in our home, but God is in the path-smoothing, way-making business as He showed me today. So I'll close with the ending of Psalm 150:6:

PRAISE THE LORD!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Faithfully floured

9:10 p.m. Today's project was to make three more varieties of cookies that my family looks forward to each year: cut-out sugar cookies, strawberry jam-filled bars, and persimmon cookies. The sugar cookies now await icing and decorating, the jam cookies are finished and so are the persimmon. Whether I can make a second batch of mint meringues and a pan of fudge await the verdict of time, pure and simple. The countdown to Christmas Eve's after church meal and Christmas' midday dinner is now truly ticking!

This morning, Steve and I picked up a few last dinner items, like potatoes, beef gravy, extra butter and margarine (for some of the 1960's vintage cookie recipes when margarine was in vogue). I've placed the kielbasa and chicken thighs for my French Market Soup in the fridge to thaw for Christmas Eve, as well as the beef roast for Christmas day. Now I just need to remember to get the beans soaking overnight on Friday!

Steve went with me to our organic market Sprouts, and then to Ralphs, but it's becoming more difficult to keep him with me in grocery store aisles. Additionally, since he doesn't appear "handicapped," shoppers in a rush see no reason to give him time and space to move over in the aisle, unless they pick up on my voice guiding him with phrases like, "Come on, Steve," "Stay with me," "Let's move over this way," or "Why don't you hold onto the cart." People give space and extra time for him to move out of the way most times, but they are very preoccupied right now, and we had a few bumps today. Once other shoppers get a glimpse of his vacant, uninvolved, anxious stare they'll grasp the situation, smile and move out of our way encouragingly. God bless the considerate shoppers in our neighborhood--they make my expeditions with my husband easier to enjoy! I especially appreciate running into friends like Kathy at CVS last night, who hadn't seen Steve for several months, since her son and mine moved apart after college graduation. I know that the change in Steve had to be a shock, but she made greeted him, made eye contact, and her friend was pleasant when Steve tried but failed to shake his hand.

I appreciate the calm, helpful but non-pitying attitude the people we associate with, at church for the most part, or in the neighborhood, take towards Steve and me when we meet up with them. I know that they are grieved for us both, but they never fail to be encouraging.

And boy, do I need encouragement, and though he can't actively express gratitude, Steve does, too.
One way I encouraged Steve today, while having some concentrated time to work on my cookies,  was to have him go get some $.49 tacos at Del Taco with his caregiver. The Lord made that a refreshing time for me to build a nice salad for my own meal before moving to the next recipe. While we need to encourage others, we need encouragement ourselves!

In Deuteronomy 3:28, when God told Moses to turn the leadership of the people over to Joshua, He said,

Command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him, for he shall go over before this people, and shall cause them to inherit the land which you shall see.

My Sales Director Laurie encouraged me greatly this evening before our meeting, by telling me, "You're going to run tonight's skincare class." "Why?" I laughingly asked. "Because you're a Red Jacket!" Since I came expecting to be part of our gift-wrapping project, that was quite a surprise. "Do you feel like you're being thrown to the wolves?" she chuckled. "Yep, but I'll do it." There were just two guests that other consultants had brought, and the class went fine. It was odd to give a class without closing each guest with a sale. But that's what sales directors do at every Success Meeting--lead classes for any and every guest of all the consultants. I know that the Lord was leading--He's shown me that it's time to step up! I taught the consultants a couple of weeks ago on time management, and it was well received. I was nervous both times at first--imagine being Joshua!-- but God's given me the knowledge and experience, and it's time to use them.

My day of baking was not only productive, but calming and energizing as well. God was allowing me to do an activity in which I feel quite confident first, in order to prepare me for a task that might have made me panic. But always remember I Thessalonians 5:24,  those of you believers who desire to serve the Lord, whether called to do so at home or in public:

Faithful is He who calls you, who also will do it. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bakers three

3:46 p.m. Today's Project was to welcome my two married daughters to my kitchen to make two of our family favorite cookies: Lemon Squares and Chocolate Layer Cookies. The Mint-chocolate chip meringues are finished, and the sugar cookie dough has been chilling in the fridge since I made it yesterday. We bake from scratch, even picking two lemons off our tree in the backyard.

The girls and I had another fun reason to visit--letting Heidi bring her dogs Sammy the Whippet mix and Jazzlyn the BIG baby German Shepherd for a play date with Jada. On Wednesdays, her "Pop" (Steve) goes to adult daycare, so Jada's a little bit at loose ends for most of the day. So out of town visitors were perfect for her.

Also, Jazzlyn tries to boss Sammy around by her sheer bulk, so she needed to encounter a very alpha female dog on new territory. It was barky and tense at first, and Jada had to nip Jazzlyn, but the three of them ran around, got acquainted and had fun. Sammy, the retiring type, came in to relax, shunning without the ruckus. Our family just loves dogs, inside, outside, large or small. God's creatures add so much love, loyalty and fun to life! We  and in turn must treat them with kindness and consistent discipline. Proverbs 12:10 says,

A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal,
But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

In an agrarian society, animals were a substantial financial investment, and key to family survival, in the same role as farm animals still serve today all over the world. We may not keep chickens ourselves--though I've thought about it--but we all eat eggs! Praise the Lord for those whose husbandry keeps us fed!

Heidi and Heather mixed, layered and put their cookie bars into the oven. I served them a thank- you lunch of macaroni salad with minced turkey Kielbasa, while I savored the delicious tuna salad I'd made yesterday. Then we sat down to watch the Christmas movie "Elf." (Or they stayed seated the entire time, while I popped up and down as usual!) Fun "girl time" this afternoon.

Later on, after they went on their way, I finished the final layers on both desserts: powdered sugar on the lemon squares; mint frosting and a thick dark chocolate glaze on the layer cookies. I'm currently deciding when I should cut out and bake my sugar cookies. So much depends on Steve's routine, needs and schedule, so the Lord will show me when to fit it in. At least I only make 4 dozen of them these days instead of the 8 dozen I would make when all the kids were home. We'd have so many, that as neighbors, the kids' friends and others dropped by, I'd have them grab a knife, a toothpick or frosting gun and decorate one to take home!

I'm reminded that there is a saying that goes, "The past is prologue." Ecclesiastes 1:9 says,

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done.
And there is nothing new under the sun.

As a mom of two godly grown daughters, I certainly pray that they will carry our many traditions,  especially believing in and following Christ, into their homes and beyond. Their children will be the richer for it!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wrapping as the Lord leads


3:54 Today's project was to begin wrapping up the Mary Kay Mint Bliss foot lotion our unit is giving to each participant at Care Connexxus, the adult daycare where Steve spends each Wednesday. This is our Christmas charitable project, and I am super proud of our Sales Director Laurie for inspiring us all to meet our goal of 80 wrapped gifts. Cara has also been a blessing, heading up the effort by keeping us stirred up as well as keeping a record of our progress in selling the lotion to customers, whose retail purchase buys two wholesale gifts. (Consultants buy at half price).

Cara came over this morning to get us started wrapping with cellophane, gift shred, tinsel and netting. Frankly, I needed someone to make up a couple so I could "get it." I love to cook, bake, cross stitch, and decorate anything that isn't moving, but the gift wrapping gene just wasn't given to me by the Lord!You know who used to do the best wrapping each year for birthdays and Christmas? Steve! Being so precise, his packages were just amazing. Same with our wallpapering projects. No one could match tiny flowers along a seam like my guy! We were such a great team for these things--the Lord would give me a vision for the entire concept, and he would engineer the details. As Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 states,

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward
   for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his
  companion.
But woe to him who is alone
  when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.

And I definitely "fall down" on gift wrapping!

The two of us, she a "Director in Qualification,' and I, a "Star Team Builder," discussed our goals, and I have the same one as she: Sales Director. The only thing about my situation is not that Steve is seriously disabled, because people have succeeded in every field of endeavor there is with serious issues at home. I just do not know if in the next year I will have less time to do my business, if Steve needs much more hands-on attention and even medical involvement; or if for the same reason, I could more time because I may not be able to have much effective impact if he doesn't recognize me, or the family, or his home, and if he needs 24-hour skilled nursing care. So while I pray and wait to see what god would have me do for my husband, I might as well do the work which is currently providing cash for Steve's medications and household expenditures, plus providing uplifting Christian fellowship and fine benefits to customers.

If you think that my description of Steve's potentially poor condition is an exaggeration, there is certainly precedent in his family. Towards the end of his life, Steve's dad Lorenz demanded of his oldest daughter, "Who's this old woman?!" while glaring at his wife of 40 years...This disease is completely individual, so I do not know how Steve's condition will progress, or what kinds of things or people he won't recognize by this time next year, or even by next spring. We, and that includes researchers, just do not know. Nevertheless, in our home we live to serve God and others as we always have, but in surprising new venues. "Not my will, but thine be done!"

One thing each Christ follower does know in a life of unknowns, is that God graces us with gifts, talents and provisions to bless others with. Project leader Cara and other consultants will be present to  watch the participants open their gifts at the center's Christmas party on the 23rd. I'll be there too, in somewhat of a dual role. Steve will get a surprise when I arrive! And most of all, the two of us will be looking back on a year when we lived with Alzheimer's and even found ways to thrive and reach out to others.

Our God is awesome! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Preach the word by any means

6:18 p.m. Today's project was to get my beautiful Christmas e-cards sent out to all of my family and friends whose email addresses I have. We went all out last year with traditional folding cards, like we've had custom made for our entire marriage, but with a twist. The big difference is that last year's card was meant to be a prayer keepsake, because the picture of Steve and me on the cover will most likely be the last formal portrait he'll sit for. (The photo on this blog is from the same series that our photographer daughter Heather made for us).

Constant care and supervision is needed now for Steve. There are also many interruptions caused by his new inability to go in and out of doors, voice his needs, or perform basic tasks like feeding the dog or putting an apple core into the kitchen compost container independently.  So ordering cards, as well as addressing, stuffing and licking envelopes was out of the question this year--way too time-consuming, and not inexpensive.  Since I've been sending out Christmas cards since I was old enough to help my mom in the late 50's, this was a hard decision to make. I just love Christmas cards, both the ones we've had printed for us, and the ones we receive. Cut-outs from my favorites each year make gift tags for the next year.

To a believer in Christ, Christmas cards with an uncompromising, unapologetic gospel message and Bible verse serve a much higher purpose than simply sending greetings to those we wish we could see more often. Christmas is the perfect time to remind one and all of the birth, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why, during my 13 years in elected office, our card list grew into the hundreds--it was a God-given opportunity to send biblical cards out to colleagues, school district employees, associates and allies who didn't know Christ as their Savior! Eventually, I saw souls converted and hearts turned to the Lord. I pray our family's steadfast witness was a part of those individuals' salvation.

The message Christians are called to preach is summed up beautifully in I Timothy 3:16:

God was manifested in the flesh;
Justified in the Spirit;
Seen by angels;
Preached among the Gentiles;
Believed on in the world;
Received up in glory.

This year, the medium differs, but the message does not! I selected two cards that I alternated among my multiple lists of 25 recipients that Dayspring allows members to send a card to at one time. One shows a blue-toned manger scene, and asks, "How do you gift wrap perfect love?" The other, which I love, is in gold and plays "What Child is This?" (my favorite carol). It says "Jesus" on the cover, and then list His attributes over a background of glistening gifts, and ends with "He is every good gift from God's heart to ours."

Maybe I'll go back to sending "real" Christmas cards another year; I hope so. May I keep in mind that the only reason to send cards at all, in any format, is to make Christ known to one and all!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The right swap

8:34 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve to the last Home Fellowship for 2011. We also brought my macaroni salad and our white elephant gifts which I could no longer identify. I'd wrapped them last Monday, after all. That's a lifetime of Christmas wrapping paper and packages ago!

Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

The Lord knows how to cancel appointments and put others in their place, that's for sure. After church, Steve and I planned to grab something to eat and then drive to a new client's home for a foundation color match. But she called with a family emergency out of town. Meanwhile, daughter Heidi and her husband Pavel needed to come over and work on my computer after teaching Sunday School. So Steve and I went to Winco, stocked up on groceries, and were home in plenty of time to have lunch and spruce the place up a bit. (Isn't it amazing how at some point, your children become guests in their childhood home?!)

The three of us had a nice long visit--I say three because Steve took a nice long nap on the family room couch in the meantime. But having him rested is best for Home Fellowship night. I also managed to "pass on" a few extra ornaments our current Christmas tree isn't big enough to support. I'll see the other kids this week, so I'll keep it up, chipping away at the pile.  "Here a little, there a little..." as Isaiah 28:10 puts it.

Steve had a very shaky time after his nap, so I doubled up on his multivitamin, and made sure he took his Namenda and his anti-spasm medication. I recently mentioned to the caregiver that I want Steve to put his own medication in his mouth and hold the water cup to swallow the pills with. And as far as he can manage, he needs to dress himself. There's nothing to be gained by treating him like a huge infant, causing him to lose all independence and confidence in his own abilities. Again, Steve needs a lot of help, just not 100% help--yet. Even though his confusion is very severe, causing him to stand in front of the patio glass door with a bowl of food for Jada instead of opening the slider and handing it to her, for instance, and being  baffled by putting on his seat belt, he tries very hard to help at home.

As for Home Fellowship, I want him to continue to attend for as long as possible, since he loves to be in fellowship with other believers, even if he doesn't speak.The picture below shows one of the funnier moments of our White Elephant game, with the lucky recipient of a partially eaten sandwich in total shock! Steve also did well in selecting his gift, with my help, and quietly smiled, laughed along and enjoyed all of the wisecracks and as many of the absurd comments that he could comprehend.

Because tonight was a potluck, I knew I needed to fill Steve's plate with the simplest foods, a roll, meat in bite-sized pieces, and avoid the more sugary desserts.  Yet, Steve spilled lots of macaroni salad on the floor beneath him, and has begun putting his fingers in his food--controlling his utensils is just too hard. The hostess and I quickly swept it up, in a very low -key manner. But how long can he keep this up before a real mess occurs? I want to be considerate of the other members of the fellowship.

Or maybe I should leave other people to God! I found out tonight that the couple shown with the pitiful White Elephant gift prays for Steve and me at 5:30 every morning as they leave for work. Amazing, unbelievable, but nothing is impossible with God! He has arranged by the power of His Holy Spirit to have Steve and me covered in prayer before we even awake each morning!

I spend so much time, as people tend to do, praying for what I think I need, while God is providing  one of His finest gifts--intercessors!

That's one swap I'm overjoyed to make--His plans for mine!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ethan, nurtured and admonished

4:03 p.m. Today's project was to use my 50% off coupon at Berean Christian Store in Riverside. Steve was here with his caregiver, mowing lawns and walking the dog. When I left, they were playing Wii bowling!

I needed to find gifts for my dad, Steve, and one son-in-law. But after my daughter told me he didn't want anything, I figured that the very modest gift I got him, plus one more item all the guys in the family are getting, I'd make my dollars stretch for Daddy and Steve.

First, it took me quite a while to search the recent bestsellers for one I haven't bought for them already. Then I popped over to the Bible study group resources, where I saw three copies of my book Galatians: An Exploration of Faith & Freedom, on the shelf among books by very famous authors! I can't remember how many copies the manager purchased during my book signing, but am glad to know that it's selling.

My choices were a daily devotional for my dad, along with a book, for my first trip to the checkout counter with sale items. Then I went to use my "50% off any apparel" coupon to find an inspiring NOTW ("Not of This World") t-shirt for Steve, full of scriptural artwork. As I took my place in line, I heard a young dad behind me calling his little boy, "Ethan, come over here," and then "Ethan, leave that alone, and come over here," a little more firmly, but in a calm assured manner that was totally commendable, and fully expectant of obedience. "Ethan" sounded and looked to be about three, and did come over by his dad. Naturally, the little guy began taking nearby low-hanging items off of their hanging tabs, and was showing them to his dad.

"Make sure you hang those back up."
"I just want to show you, Dad."
"I can see it from here while you hang it up."
"Okay."

Then in a conversation that assured me that this little boy was being raised to know Jesus, Ethan pointed to what must have been a picture of Calvary, and said,

"Is that Jesus on the cross?"
"Yes it is."
"Is He ready to come down now?" [Now that was kind of tricky; that could have called for a complicated answer for the little guy. I was dying to hear what the dad would say!]
"Yes, He is."
"Oh. Who are the other crosses for?"
"Two other guys."
"Why aren't they still there?" [Another interesting answer called for: how do you explain that they're not the focus of the painting; or, that they'd already died and been taken down, to a three year old? No one says that parenting is easy!]
"They're just gone now." [I was now waiting for 10 follow-up questions, having raised five 3 year-olds of my own!]
"Oh." [Ethan just knew that Dad had the right answer!]
"Now you make sure that you put that back the same way it was."
"Okay."

Unbeknownst to him, what a blessing this young dad was to me, demonstrating that there are excellent parents in this generation who are being obedient to Christ, relying on the Holy Spirit to guide them in raising their children. There was no self-consciousness on the dad's part, no worry about which disciplinary step to take next, no fanfare, yelling, or letting his son get out of control in the store. The father simply expected his son to obey him!

What a picture of God the Son obeying God the Father to complete the plan of salvation by going to the Cross! Hebrews 5:8 explains of Jesus,

...though He was a Son, He learned obedience by the things that He suffered.

There is no doubt at all that the son and father behind me loved one another, and that Ethan was being nurtured by his parents in a godly home. But, as the dad demonstrated, the other part of parenting is firm, consistent discipline with actual consequences that are clear to the child. So the parent admonishes, or seriously warns, the child who is tempted to do wrong. Today's scenario at Berean was the perfect example of Ephesians 6:4:

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Friday, December 16, 2011

God goes before you

5:05 p.m. Today's project was for Steve and me to attend my colleague and friend Cara Murray's graduation from California Baptist University. Because of the large audience of family, friends and well-wishers, the ceremony was held at the huge Harvest Christian Fellowship sanctuary a few blocks away.  Cara graduated magna cum laude in English, no small feat while seriously working her Mary Kay career!

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for CBU, because that is where I got my teaching credential, Master's Degree in Education, and my Preliminary Administrative credential. Four wonderful years of hectically running from my Pedley Elementary School teaching assignment, to grad classes a few days a week, except on the 1st and 3rd Mondays, because those were my School Board meetings. Good thing my kids were in middle school, high school and college by then, and my oldest was married with two sons. I love Cal Baptist because it has never left its core purpose: The Great Commission, Jesus' words in Matthew 28:18-20a:

And Jesus came and spoke to them saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you..."

CBU has poured itself as an academic community of highest accreditation into the furtherance of the gospel as its graduates begin their professional lives in their communities. Having received my Bachelor's degree at the University of Redlands, another religiously-founded school iin the Inland Empire, I see a difference between the two schools: one school's commitment to Christ as their reason for being, with mandatory chapel weekly, Bible classes, and missions assignments for their students; and another, U of R, that is an excellent private liberal arts school with solid alumnae support. When I attended U of R for my senior year, 1977-78, I wasn't even a Christian, so it was fine by me!

The keynote speaker, Dr. Montia Setzler, senior pastor at Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church, chose Joshua 1 as his text. He particularly focused on the struggles the graduates may face in the current economic situation. But he reminded them that God helped them overcome serious challenges their entire academic career, and He will be with them as they launch into independent adulthood. 

At the time of Moses' death, God encouraged Joshua  as the new captain and leader of the Lord's forces, in verse 9:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

For us believers of the new covenant in Christ's blood shed on the cross, the promise is the same as was given to Joshua. Jesus concluded His commands to the disciples in Matthew 28:20b with the finest promise a human being could ever receive:

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

An empty cup

3:16 p.m. Today's project was to head over to Starbucks, get a peppermint mocha frappucino--yes, even this cold morning--and show my basket of pretty wrapped gifts to staff and patrons alike. Then I headed out to the patio to make booking phone calls. Today's emphasis would be on referrals from contented customers I have serviced in the last month.

I was bouyed by the news on Nightline that "Mary Kay Cosmetics is Responsible for Bringing America Back," with $2.5 billion in wholesale billings in 2010, in the depths of this terrible recession.  "Powder, Polish, and Pink Cadillacs" was reporter Terry Moran's byline. Wow! I am honored to be a small part of this wonderful organization!

I took my drink and my elegant gold gift basket to a sunny table and began my calls. But suddenly the sky darkened and a chill hit. Even I had to grab my things and head inside, and I don't usually get cold. Once I stepped inside, I saw a table almost in a corner, with big red easy chairs on either side. But I hesitated to sit, because there was an actual coffee mug with a spoon in it, along with dregs of coffee dried on the inside.

"No, just go ahead and sit down," a white-haired gentleman told me. "No one's sitting there. That's the oldest trick in the book, leave a cup to keep anyone from sitting down!"  I laughed and said, "Must be some character, like on the Cosby show where a man sits in their coffee shop each day loudly demanding that each patron read Conrad's Heart of Darkenss!" We agreed that that book is pretty serious, heavy reading, and went on to other subjects, including Romania where my son-in-law's parents hail from, the national debt, the wild success of the Mary Kay business, his retirement from Silicon Valley, the state of public education as a career, his uncle the assistant museum curator, retirement, Steve's Alzheimer's and the latest research.

It was kind of funny that neither of us understand the point of Twitter! Of my five kids, only the two who were the most popular and outgoing in high school, Kriss and Heather, twitter. The rest of us are content with Facebook. The man I was talking to did recommend "The Social Network," the film documenting the beginning of Facebook.  11:55 came, I had to go home to relieve Steve's caregiver, and we said goodbye. I threw in several mentions of the Lord, missions trips and ministry throughout our conversation, but I didn't get the impression that he was a believer. Prayerfully, some seeds were planted. I just constantly practice what the Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy--be ready in and out of season!

Reflecting on that empty coffee cup, I have to think about the most beneficial way to fill that cup. The worldly person will tend to fill it with education, achievement, a professional career, travel, extensive reading, good conversation--nothing wrong with any of those; in fact, I can relate to most of those items, whether before I was saved, or after. But there was always something missing before January 6, 1980, the day I got saved. There were times when there was no comfort to be had, no true enjoyment of events I would have taken my little son Sean to. But present with me  always was that nagging guilty conscience, an awareness of my sin, but no effective way to deal with it. I was like Paul's description of  himself in Romans 7:18-20:

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

We are all born sinners, but develop just enough of a conscience to know right from wrong, in the midst of doing wrong anyway! The sin nature of man has complete control over each of us, unless the Holy Spirit  woos us to repent of our sins, ask Jesus Christ to forgive us, and submit our lives to Jesus,  for the free gift of eternal salvation.

We all have a choice. Romans 6:16 asks,

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves as slaves to obey, you are that one's slave to obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?

And Romans 6:23 wraps it up:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What will fill your cup? life or death?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

'Tis the season!

7:39 p.m. Today's project was to scour through old journals and make my notations for my book on Steve's and my experience with Alzheimer's. Caregiver Carlos helped Steve onto the Special Trans bus, and he left for his day away. So I was able to dedicate the time Steve was at Care Connexxus to that very task.

I started a tad late because of helping the alarm company technician get his authorizing paperwork signed so he could change our alarm system from analog to digital. After I went on the Verizon 4G digital network, even for my land line, the company didn't receive the alarm testing siren when we tried it last week. So there was no time to waste, especially during this high-crime season. Additionally, I negotiated a lower monthly rate by renewing our contract! I then made a beeline for the spare bedroom upstairs, because the area where I normally sit would be inaccessible for the next several hours.

Having planned this out ahead of time, I asked the morning caregiver to carry a kitchen table chair upstairs for me, so I was ready to "read and write" at the roll top desk by 9:30. That room, where Heidi lived most of her life, is pretty pleasant with its two corner windows. In January we will be hosting a  33 year-old woman from Korea attending the University of California Riverside English Language School. She should enjoy the roominess and quiet, with Silver Dollar Eucalyptus branches hovering over the red tile roof outside her window from one corner and a view of the local hills from the other.

The Lord knows why He matched her with us, so I have a peace about her visit. Program officials are thoroughly aware of Steve's condition, and it's fine, because the student would have no responsibility for him at all--that's my role. And if I have to go out, his caregivers do a great job!

In the country "profile" I received from the Homestay officials, it was stated that "50% of Koreans are Christians." So we might be meeting a sister in the Lord! And what a blast that will be, as Psalm 133:1 says,

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

And if she is a Buddhist, as are the other 50% of Koreans, she'll certainly be hearing the gospel in our home. The program wants the students to have an authentic American family experience, so we are allowed to take our student to church, just like any other family activity.  I'll be committed to witnessing to her both in our home and out, because we are exhorted in II Timothy 4:2,

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.

Who knows? Perhaps 'tis the season for this young woman to be saved!

Finally succumbing to the Christmas season pressure, I decided to start wrapping the six White Elephant Exchange gifts Steve and I will need for three occasions coming up. Each year, I think that this will be a snap--just find White Elephants from past years, re-wrap, and be done. But no, I received a number of oddities this year given in all seriousness, with useful purposes--for someone else, or maybe after I bought the same item for myself. The gifts were wrapped in a variety of papers, so that Steve's and mine wouldn't be immediately recognizable. The reason? Once a recipient has opened a truly pointless or obnoxiously tacky gift, I don't want them to be warned off by another gift covered by the same paper!

I then moved on to gifts for my kids' in-laws, which I wrapped very carefully and signed cards for. Those might be the only cards I give out this year, for economic reasons. The plan at this point is to send Dayspring Christian e-cards to our whole list, excepting my dad and his siblings, whose email addresses we don't have. Besides, our entire list received our portrait card last year, which I hope they have used as a reminder to pray for us, which was the point of having it made. That's why I enjoy the photo cards families send out--I can lift them up for the Lord to meet their needs this year each time I pass our card gallery wall.

At 2:05, Steve's Special Trans bus pulled up, and he disembarked, with both of us saying goodbye to the other riders. And what made my day was this: the bus driver, presumably a City employee, said cheerily, "You two have a Merry Christmas!"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No shortcut

3:47 p.m. Today's project was to finish putting ornaments on the Christmas tree. During this ongoing job, I gave a facial to Steve's caregiver after they walked the dog, did laundry, wrapped a present, made business phone calls, and separated out ornaments my newly-married daughter might like for their first tree, a 7.5 footer. Come to think of it, our son Kriss and his wife got their first tree this year also, so I should make them the same offer! Heather reclaimed some of her handmade baubles and a wall hanging about three years ago when she and Nick were still newlyweds in their apartment.

Some of these jobs, like trimming the tree and wrapping presents, served double duty--need, and clearing space on my entry way floor and in my Mary Kay office. Those storage boxes are pretty huge, and with Steve's occasional balance issues, boxes on the floor are downright hazardous!

I also needed (and still need) to find a missing saucer from the Widows' Might dinner last night. By the time I arrived to pick up and transport my tableware, the ladies had rinsed and stacked the plates and gathered up the utensils. But it wasn't until I got home that I noticed one saucer missing. So this morning I've called the church, they've searched and come up empty; called, texted or emailed others who helped serve at the dinner, and not much progress has been made. But if God can uncover the location of one table hostess' tiny diamond earring, He can help us locate my Nikko "Happy Holidays" Christmas tree saucer!

As we give our lives to the Lord, trust His word, wait on Him, and practice due diligence in awe and reverence, Psalm 19:7-8 reminds us,

The law of the LORD is perfect, 
   converting the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is
   sure, making wise the simple; 
The statutes of the LORD are
   right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is
  pure enlightening the eyes...

After making diligent search of my house and Jeep, and making diligent inquiries at church, I decided not to fret--the saucer will turn up! (Or I'll have eleven instead of twelve).

We had a pleasant interruption this afternoon, a call from Steve's optometrist's office that his glasses had arrived. Excellent development, because sharpening any one of his senses can only help with balance, perception and cognition. We happily went to the medical complex, he was fitted with the very basic bifocals, and we left five minutes later, praise the Lord.

We drove across Day Street to Winco discount mega-grocer, and picked up some items for the week of Christmas, and basics, like eggs and chicken, I guess that's backwards. ("Which came first?") Then I asked Steve, who was carefully picking his way down the aisle, "If you could have any treat in the store, what would you pick?" He smiled, but couldn't think of anything, and also looked hesitant to voice an opinion. Then we saw them--corndogs! Nothing like these batter-dipped treats to bring back memories of the National Orange Show, county fairs, Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm! In my humble opinion, the Orange Show in San Bernardino had the biggest and best corndogs anywhere, no contest! In the 60's , they also had the scariest rides. A shame it went away in the 80's, because only my oldest son may even remember going with me and his grandparents, or with Steve and me.

Just like the Orange Show in its heyday of Hollywood movie stars and big name rock bands headlining the evening shows, this world and all of its system of operation is also coming to an end. The devil has run the show, with evil temptations to sin intended to destroy each human life before we can come to accept Christ as our Savior. When satan offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world if he would bow down to him, Jesus didn't argue the devil's ownership of the world. Adam's sin turned it over to him! Hear Luke 4:4:5-8:

Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, " All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours."

And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD Your God, and Him only shall you serve.' "

Jesus knew there would be no avoiding the Cross, no shortcut to saving those who would come to believe in Him and be cleansed by His blood shed for all mankind. Jesus came to die for you and for me.

Will you renounce this world system and step into Jesus' kingdom for eternity by asking Him to come into your heart? The time for a decision is NOW.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Widowed but wed

5:03 p.m. Today's project was to set up my table for our annual "Widows' Might" Christmas dinner. This elegant but cozy dinner for 21 will be starting soon in our church's sanctuary. I normally would stay to serve my table, but with a cold today, I didn't want to make the ladies sick. I'll return to clean up when the event closes.

The leaders of our Piecemakers quilting, crocheting and general crafting and hospitality ministry, Jill and Vicky, also plan and design this event. Our widows meet twice a month on Sunday afternoons. I love the scripture that the name of the group came from, Luke 21: 1-4:

And He (Jesus) looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the (Temple's) treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had."

These two lepta, Greek coins, were the tiniest of copper coins. What great faith this widow had! She had learned to lean on, trust in, and rely on her God! The Bible has many stories of God's especially tender care of widows, because without a husband to work and support her, this was a very difficult circumstance to be in, especially if a widow had no children to take her in.  In Deuteronomy 10:17-18, God describes Himself as

God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow...

When widows Ruth and Naomi returned from Moab to Judah, the landowner where Ruth gleaned grain for her mother-in-law ordered the reapers to drop extra grain on the ground for her (Ruth 2:16). And Elijah, commanded by God to go to "Zarephath which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you (I Kings 17:9).  The widow, a Gentile, was preparing her and her son's last meal, but in faith, fed the prophhet first. God rewarded her by miraculously providing oil and flour for the entire time of the regional drought, 3 years. Later, Elijah brought her dead son back to life!

In Luke 7:11, Jesus raised the son of a widow in the city of Nain from the dead during his funeral procession. And the feeding and provision for widows was one of the first administrative decisions made by the apostles in the early church, Acts 6:1. Yet widows had a responsibility to behave in a godly manner in order to receive assistance, I Timothy 5:3:

Honor widows who are really widows...Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.

Does this remind you of Anna, the elderly widow and prophetess mentioned in Luke 2:36-38, who had the honor of testifying over the baby Jesus at the time of His temple dedication?

...she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem. 

There isn't a married woman alive, no matter her age, who doesn't wonder what will become of her should she lose her husband. Military action, car accident, or death after a long illness can place any one of us in this position. Prayerfully, if we have been faithful and godly (not perfect!) wives, we will be blessed when that time comes with comforting memories of working and building a family together, serving in ministry together, and enjoying life as one flesh.  I suppose the thought comes to me more often now, with my husband the victim of the rapidly progressing, incurable disease of Alzheimer's. But I am not panicked, obsessed or living in dread. I certainly pray to have my husband with me for as long as possible, with the two of us communicating and in relationship for as much of that time as God wills it so.

And I pray for a miraculous healing every day!

Isaiah 54:5 says to a barren and widowed nation,

For your Maker is your husband,
The LORD of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy
  One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth. 

Should the Lord Jesus delay His coming, and I become a widow, not only am I a bride of Christ, but I will have a wonderful, inspirational group of sisters waiting to envelop me in their sweet arms of fellowship!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In bitty pieces

4:01 p.m. Today's project was to get my daughters' and daughters- in-laws' opinions on what my sons and sons-in law want for Christmas. Was all that punctuated right? Goodness! Somehow, you don't think of these things when birthing child after child!

Since we'd all agreed that it is going to be "that kind" of a Christmas season, ie., very low budget on gifts, the replies came back very appropriately. As for us, I asked for a manicure and pedicure, a seafoam green bathroom rug set from KMart--the Martha Stewart line comes in a fantastic array of colors--and a new pair of dark blue Wrangler or Lee jeans for their dad. The Levi 501's he loves to wear to church are now pretty stressful for him to deal with.

Even my high school age grandsons asked for modest gifts, characteristic of their kind and understanding hearts, I just love them to death! The older one, Adrian, has a birthday on the 21st, so I'll be keeping him in mind for an earlier gift. Since my sister, nor Steve's siblings and we never did exchange gifts after starting our families, that has been a definite stress-buster. Meaningful cards have always been the only expectation, and I love posting the greetings on my card wall. Our kids and spouses all do a secret gift exchange, and it's fun to see them unwrap their stuff, really clever, funny, and just right for each person.

There's only my dad left of the grandparents, so the yearly challenge to find Daddy a gift he won't surreptitiously return to me a few weeks later is on!

It always amazes me that one birth  of  one man in history, Jesus Christ, has originated a season of gift-giving and celebration over 2,000 years in Western civilization, and now, because of worldwide evangelism,  He is beloved and celebrated on all of the continents of the earth! In the USA, commercial pressure has many people I know either frenziedly completing their gift list, or paralyzed with worry over their limited ability to do so. Either way, I hear more women saying, "I just can't do anything until after the holidays," whether they can or not. Television commercials have created such a sense of urgency that discomfort has replaced delight in gathering together at church, fellowships, or at home with our families for meals and traditional activities that aren't necesarily expensive. I think the gift of time is what many family members would enjoy this time of year. It's a great thrill when my kids text me an invite to an activity with them, or respond positively to a request for help decorating. And now as adults, they get together as married couples, a reflection of the closeness our family has experienced, by the grace of God!

In years past, the girls and I would take the malls by storm, fill up our gift lists, and bake non-stop. Baking is still a goal and a plan for the last half of the month, as is a Christmas breakfast and dinner. Christmas Eve service will be the opening of our celebration, with supper potluck preceeding our White Elephant gift exchange.

As the year comes to an end, I admit that traditional Christmas activities and preparations are very meaningful to me, absolutely, and I pray that my children will adopt some of them while adding  traditions from their in-laws as well. But now, with issues of aging and particularly Steve's dementia coming into play, I tend to be in the mode of Psalm 16:5-9, trusting God for my life today, and for my eternal life more firmly than ever:

O LORD, You are the portion of
 my inheritance and my cup;
 You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.

I have set the LORD always before
  me;
Because He is at my right hand I
  shall not be moved.

Therefore, my heart is glad, and
   my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.

Enjoy the treats and events of the season, the people and the pageantry. But rest in hope, and as Romans 15:13 says, be filled with all joy and peace in believing!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

...So I can help people again

4:32 p.m. Today's project was to restore joy and calm to my husband Steve, now in late stage Alzheimer's. We'll be going out tonight to view Christmas lights downtown at Riverside's Mission Inn, then settle in to watch the Christian movie, "The Grace Card."

He had had a fun morning with his caregiver, going to the grocery store and over to KFC for a snack, as well as doing some tasks here at home.  When I came back from Muffins & Makeovers at our Mary Kay studio, Steve and I put away my facial things and inventory totes, and placed some more of our favorite ornaments on the Christmas tree. These days, I place the ornament in his hand, then lift his hand to the selected branch and we put the ornament on together. Even though he remains expressionless most of the time, I know he feels enjoyment at the sight and feel of each beautiful work of art.  How good is "the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy" (I Timothy6:17). In the  picture, Steve is holding his formerly favorite ornament, a large spike that reminds us of the tree Christ hung on. Each year, he would place it deep within the branches for the rest of us to find.

A while later, he had a very difficult and discouraging incident which left him in tears, just desolate. I felt down as well, but needed to strengthen myself in the Lord for my husband's sake. An atmosphere of hopelessness could send him on a severe downward spiral; his emotions are already fragile.

It wasn't the time for making additional decisions, either; those can wait upon my private prayer time!

I sat with him on our couch and asked if he wanted to pray.  He did, and said to the Lord though tears,  "just let me get better, so I can help people again."

That's Steve, so totally Steve, a man whose whole gift and ministry in this life was helping others with any sort of physical, mechanical, building or repair need. And that is what makes him saddest, along with watching other men going to work, and feeling useless since he can't use his gifts for others.

I admit to feeling convicted, because in his position, I would probably be asking for healing, period. Or at the very least, for the ability to walk normally, or to be able to care for myself once again.

If you lost all of your adult capabilities, what would you ask God to restore?