Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Craft challenge

6:25 p.m. Today's project was to get Steve ready for his day at adult daycare. The day started off a little askew, because I had gotten up at 4 a.m., and done quite a bit of cooking ahead. I'd made up my Nicoise-style tuna salad for this week's lunches and my scrambled eggs with salsa, bacon, and cheese; emptied the dishwasher and made a chronoligical to-do list for today. Then Psalm 19:12 was my daily verse to post on Facebook:

Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.

Good prayer for all of us!!

Thankfully, the Lord allowed me to fall asleep once again from 5:15 to 6:00 when my cellphone alarm went off. As usual, I did my 30 minute routine, but heard the dog barking and peeked out to see Steve on the landing, and the doorbell buzzing because it had been pushed at an angle. (I'd had the exhaust fan going in the bathroom while I dressed to get rid of the steam). I hustled downstairs to let the caregiver in, and the dog out.

The caregiver came back downstairs with  Steve to take his meds and eat his banana. Mention was made that today he'd be catching the bus to Care Connexxus, and the newish caregiver asked, not knowing Steve's awkward beginning with the center,"What do they do over there?" I answered subtly, "all kinds of activities."

Steve's demeanor suddenly changed, he wouldn't even give me the usual kiss good morning, and on the way to go get his shower he stammered out, "I don't want to go to that!" Now Steve has been eagerly awaiting his bus ride twice a week for months now, but something just triggered the unusual response. I was certainly praying, and the caregiver apologized silently for his innocent mistake. I told Steve that there wouldn't be anyone home today; and to the caregiver I said, "just go on smoothly with the routine."So he led Steve upstairs. There could have been a bigger ruckus if prayer hadn't gone up to the Lord at that instant!

Upon his return to the kitchen, cleaned up, dressed nicely and shaved, Steve was a different person. Smiling and laughing, and giving me a kiss as he sat for his online devotional "The Purpose-Driven Connection," and the gentleman got Steve's coffee and started his toast. If I didn't have the Lord, how would I cope with any vestige of calm in the face of such irrationality in my husband? Jesus' promises give me such comfort and confidence! Hear Psalm 32: 6-7:

For this cause everyone who is
  godly shall pray to You
In a time when You may be
Surely in a flood of great waters
They shall not come near him.

You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from
You shall surround me with
   songs of deliverance.        Selah

Steve finished his breakfast, got ready very cheerfully, and paced by the front door awaiting the bus.I barely caught him and kissed him goodbye as he and his caregiver rushed down the driveway!  The bus came on time, happily, so I was then able to eat my breakfast, get my teeth brushed and makeup started, and pray with Cara. A busy and profitable day followed, including a heart-to-heart with one of my customers whom I've gotten to know very well. I love the business I'm in--such a ministry of personal caring!

I arrived back home around 1 p.m., and grabbed my tuna salad--delish, made with tarragon, peas, mayo, boiled egg and cilantro dressing, with a tad tablespoon of homemade pickle juice, and then headed upstairs to jot entries for my book on Steve's Alzheimer's.

When I greeted Steve and helped him off of the bus, he had an orange folded item in his hand, which he held out to me as we checked the mailbox. Pictured above, it was the craft project he'd done today at the center. When I told him I'd display the cut piece of craft foam with his initial and some sports and music decos, Steve said with a chuckle, "It was a challenge, but I did it!"

No matter what Steve's intellectual level or manual ability, I know as a wife to praise and build up my husband's efforts--that's a universal principle from scripture (Ephesians 5:33, I Peter 3:1-5). As far as what to say and do at any given time, especially when the enemy wants to hammer me over the head with Steve's confusion, I can look to Jesus' promise in Psalm 32:8:

I will instruct you and teach you
  in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye.

I love You, all-wise and incomparably merciful Lord!


Monday, February 27, 2012

Tiring out

10:05 p.m. Today's project was to visit my dad for our quarterly review of his trust, and the order in which I, as his successor trustee, need to perform a list of his estate's post-mortem actions, like getting his death certificate certified by San Bernardino County and paying bills. I think he holds these sessions because he knows that with all I have going on--Steve's care and care arrangements, running our household, the family, women's ministry leadership, my Mary Kay business--I am probably not retaining a large percentage of the detailed duties I'll need to carry out. None of the above ministries can be put on "auto pilot," nor should they be. Others assist, participate and lend their God given talents, but the accountability and decision making is given to the leader, by God's calling and design. The Apostle Paul exhorted Archippus in Colossians 4:17,

Take heed to the ministry which you have received from the Lord, that you may fulfill it.

At least retirement allows me to schedule my days and be flexible with my time, making it possible for me to visit with Daddy. So we took a tour of desks and documents, property lines and policies, and finally sat down at the kitchen table where I finished up some notes. On the way in from the garage, I asked Daddy how he was feeling, and he said in an disgusted voice, "I feel fine, but I'm just so tired all the time! I start to work on something for 5 or 10 minutes, and then I have to sit down!" I replied, "Daddy, you've worked hard all your life. At 84, if you need to sit down, just do it. You've earned it!" He did disclose that a radiologist had found a cyst on his kidney, but his primary care physician hasn't yet called him about it.  He mentioned that some calcium deposits were found also. Apparently he'd had quite a few in previous years, but just cut back on excess calcium in his diet. I'll urge him again to make an appointment soon with his primary doctor to get the results of that CAT scan, and I'll go with him..

The idea occurs to me to ask him if he'd like to come live with us, because we certainly have the space, but you could bowl me over with a feather if he ever agreed to that! So I call him regularly, he drives over here or I visit there, and will now do so more often. If he doesn't answer the phone, I call back until he does. My sister and her kids have been over to visit from San Diego more frequently, and our nephew from Los Angeles goes over on his own. Heidi and Pavel live right down the street and call him regularly. I wish Steven lived closer, and Kriss, too. We'll have to make sure to take Daddy to see his great-grandson Clark when he arrives at the end of next month.

As for getting tired, that is a natural stage, I believe, even for those who maintain a busy schedule well into their 90's, like Billy Graham. (Just not as busy  or physically strenuous as it was in earlier decades). The tiredness is not necessarily mental, because Daddy is very on top of details and deadlines. Perhaps it becomes emotional, kind of a drained mood that creeps in.

The description of a person's last days in Chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes ends that book beautifully, particularly verses 1, and 6-7:

Remember now your Creator
  in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
and the years draw near when
  you say,
"I have no pleasure in them."

Remember your Creator before
  the silver cord is loosed,
Or the golden bowl is broken,
Or the pitcher shattered at the
Or the wheel broken at the well.

Then the dust will return to the
  earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God
  who gave it.

As I headed out the front door, my sinking heart was uplifted-- there was no more Jehovah Witness literature! Stacked very neatly in his reading corner by the window were a Bible I'd given Daddy years ago, and the two daily devotionals that were among his Christmas gifts from us. In the last few months, he'd asked us to get him the Christian movie Courageous, and before that, Billy Graham's latest book Nearing Home.

Daddy could last another decade, and I pray he will! But now I have a peace that his spirit "will return to God who gave it!"

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Southern vision

4:13 p.m. Today's project was to "find a way--make a way--the Lord's way" through the end of this month. February always seems to be a stretching month, between the optimistic first month of a new year and our tax refunds arriving in March!

I can't help but think of the Lord's faithfulness through all generations (Psalm 89:1) or we wouldn't be here, would we? Whose family history doesn't include struggle, disaster, tragedy and injustice, the result of sin in this world, and man's utter selfishness, greed and desire for domination in personal and public life? Yet, the Lord gave our ancestors the perseverance to survive hard, menial work, because they had a vision of more successful generations to come, people they would never meet.

Last night after our daughters, son and their spouses left Heidi and Heather's birthday dinner party, I watched "The Help," the acclaimed movie about the daily experiences of Negro maids in the 1960's in Mississippi, the most segregated  state in the Union.  The effect of Jim Crow laws was far-reaching: armies of women entrusted with cooking a white family's meals, cleaning their homes and raising their children almost singlehandedly were not even allowed to use the families' bathrooms! One particularly cruel scene depicted a maid about to head home at the onset of a tornado, sent to the outhouse because it was "just a little rain." For the temerity to use an inside toilet, she was fired. Another maid, proud of her sons' acceptance into college, was falsely accused of stealing and arrested. When one maid's son was grievously injured on a logging job, his white overseer had his body dumped into a truck, and then left at a hospital to die. How many cases like this actually happened in the south before segregation was outlawed?

Some scenes were humorous in an ironic way, but I had more serious reflections, since both my parents were from the segregated south: my mom from North Carolina, my dad from Mississippi. They came of age, educated and successful, a decade before the Civil Rights era even began, because black society had its own successful institutions, primarily the churches. My father's family, later living in St. Louis, Missouri, became successful in the military and in business. My mother's grandfather was a Methodist minister who knew both Hebrew and Greek; my grandmother, a graduate of a black teaching college, taught in Greensboro. My mother attended Howard University, the famous black institution in Washington, D.C. before meeting and marrying a dashing young airman, Oliver Gray.

The slaves of only a two generations back from my grandparents worked hard to make their vision for future generations come to pass--and in many cases those visions did materialize. I think also of the faith of these Americans, much as I recall Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith, speaking of those who sojourned in a strange land, while looking for their heavenly home. Hebrews 11:1 reminds us,

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

As for those freed slaves who toiled in the segregated post-Civil War South, they believed that their offspring would become educated and successful, because they knew what God's deliverance meant: emancipation through God's instrument Abraham Lincoln, and ultimately, salvation in Jesus Christ!

My grandmother, Pearl Waugh Jordan, now a retired widow, did housekeeping for a white friend, Mrs. Strong, once a week, to supplement her income. She was supporting my emotionally disturbed Aunt Clarice who had never married. As a child in Redlands, California,  I remember one of "Nana's" letters that included a picture of "Tuffy" Strong, the family's poodle. When we visited my grandmother, we had gifts awaiting us from her employer. In fact, Mrs. Strong was the one who informed my mother that Nana was seriously ill. My mother went to Greensboro for a month to care for her mother and make final arrangements after her decease, as well as arrange with the family lawyer for Clarice's nursing home placement. As adults, my sister and I received checks for our share of the sale of Nana's home.

Hebrews 11:13-14, 16 says of the saints of old,

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured  of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland...But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

And now it's our turn, saints of God!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Showers of blessings

8:19 Today's project was to have my devotions as usual, see Steve off on the Special Transportation bus to his adult daycare, and perhaps set up our Muffins and Makeovers party for Saturday morning. Then two appointments would follow, with care giving help for him. The day started off oddly, at 5:20 with me wide awake. I say "oddly", because I'd stayed up reading one of my Amish Inspirational novels until midnight --my bad!

So I prayed and did go back to sleep until 6:00, got the coffee started, and read my daily portion from Spurgeon's Morning &  Evening. Ezekiel 34:6 was the verse quoted:

I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing.

As any believer would, I rejoiced in that verse in a rather lean week, especially the "saturating showers of grace" that Spurgeon writes of.

  Then it is plenteous grace. "I will send them showers." It does not say, "I will send them drops," but "showers." So it is with grace. If God gives a blessing, He usually gives it in such a measure that there is not room enough to receive it. Plenteous grace! Ah! we want plenteous grace to keep us humble, to make us prayerful, to make us holy; plenteous grace to make us zealous, to preserve us through this life, and at last to land us in heaven. ...
  Again, it is seasonable grace."I will cause the shower to come down in his season." What is thy season this morning? Is it the season of drought? Then that is the season for showers. Is it the season of great heaviness and black clouds? Then that is the season for showers.

I thought, those both could describe my season. Drought, as I  counted out coins for bus fare--they take one dollar bills only, and they don't give change for a five.  Dark clouds could represent the effects of Steve's late-stage Alzheimer's, even though I encourage myself in the Lord through the scriptures, prayer and fellowship all day long. Nevertheless, there's no wishing this disease away.

Showers of blessing would be most welcome!

15 minutes later, I came down dressed nicely for my day, let Jada out, and awaited the 6:30 arrival of the caregiver who would shower, shave and dress Steve for his day at Care Connexxus.  I heard Steve moving around upstairs, and then noticed it was 6:40. On a day when he has to be ready for the bus' 7:45 pick-up, this was not good. I called the agency while heading up to our bedroom. The owner who was on call promised to look into it, but meanwhile, I had rather a difficulty on my hands. The two of us did make it back down, Steve took his meds and ate his banana, I laid hands on him and we joined in prayer for strength for me and ability for him to get ready today. No caregiver showed up, but Steve was fed, spiffed up and ready by 7:45, praise the Lord.

Problem was, I hadn't been able to get into my scriptures yet, nor do any journalling. My prayer partner and I were also delayed in starting. [Satan had done a fair job of trouble making for the morning, that's for sure. He doesn't care to see Christians agreeing in prayer, reading the Bible and writing as worship to God!] But I felt consoled as I remembered Jesus' example of healing the man who came into the temple with a withered hand on the Sabbath, much to the Pharisees' deadly disapproval (Matthew 12:9-15). Human need comes first!

The "best" was yet to come. About 8:15, while Steve and I were on the driveway waiting for the bus, baggie of coins in hand, I called the bus service. Steve wasn't on the roster for today! WHAT? I've been scheduling Wednesdays and Fridays for at least a month, now that he enjoys going. Since no changes could be made, I quickly got next week lined up while on the phone with them. Steve and I did a few outside tasks before he continued in the backyard with Jada and I had my devotions inside. I also got the chance to pray with Cara for each other's day and needs. Despite all the obstacles the devil had thrown at me, I encouraged her with Ezekiel's "showers of blessings" that we should both expect today, and did eventually experience, per our text updates this evening!

As I reflect back on my day that was filled with Christian fellowship--the two caregivers and both customers I interacted with are active, strong believers-- I can't complain! For God proved His word (Deuteronomy 33:25) true once again:

As your days, so shall your strength be.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The heavens declare the glory of God!

2:05 p.m. Today's project was to continue posting verses from Psalm 19 on Facebook, starting with verse 1:

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.

This verse is so fraught with meaning that I've reposted it each day this week, adding an aspect of God's creation to it with each succeeding verse. What we see all around us, especially on a clear sunny day like we have in the Inland Empire of southern California today, is shouting, pronouncing and declaring the name of its Creator. Even the rain, clouds, snow, slush, ice and mud that we're not as fond of call out, "Jesus, Creator God!"

Colossians 1:16-18 in the New Living Translation informs us:

Christ is the visible image of the
        invisible God.
     He existed before anything was
        created and is supreme over all
for through Him God created
     in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
     and the things we can't see--
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and
       authorities in the unseen world.
     Everything was created through Him
       and for Him.
He existed before anything else,
     and He holds all creation together.

Look at how the entire universe hears of Jesus' craftsmanship from the skies, Psalm 19:2-4a (NLT):

Day after day they continue to speak;
    night after night they make Him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
    their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
    and their words to all the world.

Now the sun shows its joy, verse 4b-6 (NLT):

God has made a home in the heavens for
     the sun;
It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom
    after his wedding.
It rejoices like a great athlete eager to
    run the race.
The sun rises at one end of the heavens
   and follows its course to the other end.
   Nothing can hide from its heat.

Men and women have a very special place in creation as Jesus' ultimate creation. When I picture the sheer joy captured on the faces of my sons and sons-in-law after their marriages, and Steve's after our "I do's" were said, I just smile myself! As for the picture of the great athlete--there's our Steven, from skateboarding to shot put, football to bodybuilding--thrilled to compete, fully prepared by the Lord, eager for the jump-off, the starting whistle, the call of the announcer.

The Bible makes God's holy character, requirements, justice and judgment clear, using images we all can understand. Therefore, Romans 1:20 says,

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.

So drop your excuses, admit that you know full well who God is, and fall upon the mercy God provided by His Son's death on the cross for you, and be saved today!



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A bright glow just in time

6:29 p.m. Today's project was to get to the doctor ASAP and find out what is to be done about my every-other-day migraines! (If that's what they are). The Lord has kept me functioning on the most basic level thanks to the prayers of my family, friends and Mary Kay colleagues. He is so good--He gave me a new prayer partner yesterday: Cara, a vibrant young Christian girl whose testimony is compelling and her business achievements inspiring. She called to pray yesterday morning, having wanted to ask me for a while. But God is never early or late--He is just on time. And I was the one in much need, but wouldn't know it until 2 hours later!

Psalm 31:14-15a, my assurance for 32 years:

But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD;
I say, "You are my God."
My times are in Your hand.

I became violently ill during a tax appointment in Tustin, and by 11:30, I was ready to throw up, with a completely disoriented husband to care for and the distance between Tustin and Orange to Steve's sister Linda's home to drive for a planned lunch get together. I grabbed plastic bags from a gas station shop, and visited their bathroom, while Steve stayed strapped in the Jeep in a handicapped spot. Looking back to yesterday, I suppose I'm grateful for Steve's utter inabilitiy to undo his seatbelt or get out of the car on his own.

By the grace of God and the prayers of my daughters, Steve's siblings and my Mary Kay friends Laurie and Cara, I made it to Mike and Linda's home, where I promptly vomited and was put into a bed Linda had prepared. Steve's sisters Sharon and Linda, her husband Mike and daughter Kindra kept Steve entertained, fed him lunch and whiled away the two hours while I slept. The household dog Buddy came and cuddled with me and kept me warm while I fell into a deep sleep. Upon awakening, I smelled the good food and the brownies baking, but only sipped a few drops of water. We all visited, and Steve was very contented.

At the end of our visit, since we had to be mindful of the 91 freeway bcoming more crowded with every passing minute, Steve and I were given a large packet full of photos, class pictures, and report cards from Steve' s late mom's belongings.His sisters had put each of the four siblings' mementos in separate piles. We happily took them, thanked them all once agin, and made it home on the wings of prayer once more. 

Steve later opened his pictures, and is shown holding a Christmas gift he'd made for his parents in 2nd grade at St. John's Lutheran School. It says TRUST IN THE LORD ALWAYS and is signed "Steven K" in printing very reminiscent of our Steven's printing. 

A vibrant, sharp boy was pictured all through his school years, and I now have his newborn picture, too--looks very much like our newborn Kriss!

Before I called Steve over to join me, I just sat weeping over what has now become of him--mentally lost, becoming physically disoriented, unable to do any activities of life without being led by the arm, pointed in the right direction, and assisted to complete the task--even sitting in a chair. When I mentioned yesterday's wonderful visit to our caregiver, Steve looked at me quizzically. No memory of it whatsoever.At least the rest of us have a memory of the warmth and blessingof family togetherness.

Much as I wish we had enjoyed many more years of Steve at his best, a man who led his family to church each week, in prayer and evening devotions, and supported us all, our time is down to the wire. Our children are going on with their lives in God's way and timing also, visiting their dad as often as possible. My ministries beyond my care for Steve continue, again in God's way, a comfort during this time of losing my husband. Yet, Galatians 4:4 tells us that God sacrificed his only Son in His time as well:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Verse 7 continues,

Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

We can trust God's timing!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Back with a bang!!

11:40 p.m. February 18th: Today's project was to give God the praise and the glory for a wonderful recovery from my illness yesterday!

Because of His grace, I was healed of a full-day malady, able to host a "Muffins and Makeovers" party this morning here at home; enjoy our youngest son Steven's visit from Fresno (and help him with marketing ideas for his dietary program); and attend our Kriss and his wife's baby shower in Long Beach, with many family members and friends. Hubby Steve was home and well cared for, even taken out to Carl's Jr. for his favorite hamburger and fries.

No one enjoys a trial, but as my morning devotional from Spurgeon said, "real growth in grace is often the result of sanctified trials."

2:39 p.m. February 19th: Today's project was to give my youngest son and bodybuilder Steven a hug before he left for home, and to reflect on the conversations we had about his Crohn's disease--and my own persistent digestive maladies--late into last evening.

On Christmas Eve, Steven became violently, wretchedly ill, like I was on Friday, except for lasting two full days and hitting like a ton of bricks every 6 weeks. After working with his professional dieticians, who formulate diets for the bodybuilding pros, they advised him that he has Crohn's disease. I describe as being "at the far, far end of bad for stomach ailments." If you go from lactose intolerance (son Kriss) to celiac disease (allergy to wheat, me) to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS, which I thought I had and almost caused me to miss Steven's Baccalaureate in 2006, but for downing a full large bottle of Pepto Bismol) to colitis, then you get to Crohn's, which can be fatal, whose inflammation and resulting scar tissue can even necessitate the removal of the small intestine.

All of these except for Crohn's are conditions, and not related to colon cancer, as far as I know, a killer which we all should get screened for, starting at age 50.

What Steven is doing is dealing with Crohn's in the right way--with dietary discipline. We are both amazed that some just opt for removal of their small intestine rather than change their eating habits! He was already eating very clean, with no junk, no preservatives, eating organic, fresh food only. All he had to eliminate were artificial sweeteners, oatmeal, broccoli and sweet potatoes (because of the fiber) and red meat because it takes the body longer to process than chicken, fish or turkey. Amazing! God has been truly in this way of eating for Steven, and has blessed his bodybuilding career and training of others as well.  In fact, he'll be the featured speaker at a church conference for women's health in Fresno next month. As much as I miss him, the Lord is using him there to heal others, whether spiritually at the People's Church by using his gift of healing, or guiding people to good health as a fitness trainer. His goal is to be a chiropractor, a natural healing method I've utilized for years.

All the glory goes to the Lord, Yahweh Rapha, as declared in Exodus 15:25b-26, when God promised the Israelites, at the sweetened waters of Marah, that if they fully obeyed Him, He would not bring on them the diseases He brought on Egpyt:

There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, and said, "If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you."

With Spirit-led ministry to high school youth and evangelism to the lost, you'd think Steven would be tempted to say, "Why me, God?" But he wasn't raised like that. When I am tempted to ask the same question about our trial with Alzheimer's, I quickly correct myself to say, "Why not me, Lord?" I was reading to Steven last night out of Charles Spurgeon's Morning & Evening devotional for February 18th,

Afflictions are often the black foils in which God doth set the jewels of His children's graces, to make them shine the better...Depend upon it, God often sends us trials that our graces may be discovered, and that we may be certified of their existence....God often takes away our comforts and our privileges in order to make us better Christians. He trains His soldiers, not in tents of ease and luxury, but by turning them out and and using them to forced marches and hard service.He makes them ford through streams, and swim through rivers, and climb mountains, and walk many a long mile with heavy knapsacks of sorrow on their backs. Well Christian, may this not account for the troubles through which thou art passing?

Indeed it may, to God be the glory!


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Camping in

3:32 p.m. Today's project was to manage my personal care in the half hour before the caregiver arrived to take care of Steve. There was but one catch: I had turned off the water to the house at midnight--two sections of connectors had split from one another and water was shooting out! Nice work in the rain...

Last evening I'd washed the breakfast items by hand to keep from running the dishwasher, but had done a quick load of wash. Our friend the plumber's day-long efforts were hampered by the rain, because the glue apparently didn't dry properly, and the solder hadn't set, he told me when we met back up at the house about 8:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Steve and I had enjoyed a fun evening at my daughter's in-laws (the Loves') house, where I baked my meatloaf and they graciously added bread, cheese and fruit to keep us from starving as the meatloaf cooked. Good people and fun, too! Our kids live out of town and/or have ministry obligations on Wednesday, and our siblings on either side live quite far away. So Proverbs 27:10 applies:

Better is a neighbor who is nearby than a brother who is far away.

So this morning, my faucet was a gallon of distilled water. Nevertheless, I completed my facial routine (of course) and had a kind of "camping out" experience for the rest. I promised myself a hot shower after repairs were done! When the caregiver came, I did go outside and turn on the water, just to make sure Steve had a hot shower--he gets disoriented if his routine changes, and also gets very chilled, like some very elderly people do, even though I run the heater at 73 degrees in the morning.

Mercifully, Steve and I had a chance to be out of the waterless house. We returned from visiting with a friend this morning, and limited our activities to anything we could that didn't require running water. Our plumber friend came back over, I filled up a bucket with clean water and carried it inside to tide us over. He worked diligently to piece the pipe fittings together. Back in the house, hand sanitizer came in handy as I put together some red sauce with broken-up chunks of last night's meatloaf in the crock pot. I sprayed Shaklee organic germicide on my hands to get the traces of meat off my fingers, and poured some leftover water I'd found in a carafe down the disposal and ran that in a very short burst.

The camp kitchen was functioning fairly well!
All was good, the plumber left, and then about 20 minutes later, I turned the water on, to see some small drips. I went ahead and turned the pressure down, but I was going to have my shower! That would be appreciated by my Mary Kay sisters at our meeting this evening, I'm sure. Currently, I'm running the dishwasher and the house has been cleaned. I'll turn the water back off late tonight. "Camping in" isn't too groovy--wish we still had the RV to spend a night or two in, because we always kept its water tanks full!

On the repair front, I found out that today's weather didn't do us any favors either!! The fierce winds kept the soldering flame from heating up to its hottest point, an expert plumber advised our friend. He'll be coming along tomorrow to "seal the deal." Praise the Lord, who has not left us alone in our trials, but sends the help we need.

In John 16:7, Jesus comforted His disciples about His return to heaven:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

Our helper, the Holy Spirit, is ever-present, guiding, teaching and leading us in our work, family lives, and in developing the skills we need to be fruitful Christians.

And how grateful I am that God chooses to fill the Body of Christ with those who have gleaned wisdom and help others to do the same!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The flood waters receded

9:40 p.m. Today's project was to welcome our friend and plumber over to put an end to the veritable flood of water that has poured out in a steady, and then steadier, stream over the past several months. We've used gallon and 5 gallon pails to catch it and pour it out on the trees, plants, and into Jada's water bowl on the back patio, but we'd have to be running out to the front of the house all day and through the night to keep up with it all!

Lou came over at 8:30, just before Steve boarded the bus for Care Connexxus. While he got his things, I did some last minute water-requiring activities like brushing my teeth, and then he shut off the water to the house. I set the alarm, gave him a check for one-third of what the fancy plumber from last week was going to charge, and headed over to the Canyon Crest Centre's Rite-Aid drugstore.

I needed the print-out of all of Steve's prescriptions for 2011, in case they should add up to 7% of our income  when combined with both of ours at CVS. He needed to be present, however, so we'll have to go back another time. Even though he wouldn't have any inkling of why we were there, just seeing Steve enables them to know that he is in agreement. That's showing good diligence and protecting customer privacy in my view.

Next stop was Starbucks, to make phone calls, follow up with customers, and meet ladies by offering them free facials. I've never left a Starbucks with less than two leads. And when the Lord is really smiling upon my efforts, I even book appointments on the spot with the women I meet! I mentioned the way my unit members are amazed by this to our dinner hosts later in the evening (and later in this post). I laughingly told them,  "The only reason as to why this works for me is that I guess I just look harmless!" Praise the Lord for creating me and making me, what Jesus exhorted His disciples to be in Matthew 10:16:

Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

The lady I made an appointment with appeared to be working on a Bible study in a nearby corner. I waited for an opportune time when she put away her materials, I introduced myself, we chatted a little, and it became obvious that we were sisters in the Lord! She's headed off to New Zealand with her husband at the beginning of March. She shared quite a bit of her testimony and we just encouraged one another in the Lord, with some of our favorite scriptures.

She decided to make the appointment because she has a serious concern about finding makeup for her very dark skin in New Zealand, so having a tube or two of foundation with her is a shrewd plan!(And Mary Kay has the most extensive lines of makeup for women of color in the beauty industry). "I'll find your match--I keep good inventory!" She was very happy with our visit. It was a God-thing, a real day-brightener!

Along with the beginning of rain came the realization that I needed to hurry on to the Riverside County Office of Aging Caregivers' support group at 11:00. I'd packed some sliced banana and cranberry bread to share, so I didn't have to run back home.  We had an extensive time of sharing, making me realize how blessed I am that Steve is not nearly as lost, combative and physically compromised as the 85 to 98-year old parents most of my peers there are caring for. Whereas I am already an owner of everything my husband has, the middle-aged children of elderly parents in denial about their dementia have to really struggle to help their parents make sound financial decisions. A couple of the Alzheimer victims are about to lose their homes because they "don't want outside help." Meanwhile, their "children" are having physical and emotional breakdowns from the stress and hard work of care giving.

The group was very encouraged by my appointment with Steve next Monday, and want a report back about the new Alzheimer's injection treatment, and to hear whether Steve will get accepted into the study. I was glad to have something uplifting to report to the group, because those other caregivers are exhausted, some barely hanging on.

On my way home from a subsequent facial appointment with a gal I met on Monday at the Moreno Valley Starbucks, I took a call about our alarm system signal not working! No one had been in the house the entire day. After turning the house water back on, I ended up having a very tedious conversation with the alarm company which included  setting off the alarm at about a million decibels, ugh, hearing Jada in the garage howling in her crate! The upshot of that ear-splitting commotion? The alarm's digital system was fine...I look at this as good diligence and customer protection!

Our plumber came back as we returned home, re-glued and duct-taped the fissure, and will be back in the morning to permanently attach the final section of pipe. But for now, I've done a load of wash and I'm about to joyfully scrub the kitchen sink!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ending in the right way

7:17 p.m. Today's project was to attend Ladies' Bible study and lead my group. Since they are enjoying breaking into smaller circles, I made sure to buy a new black printer cartridge so I could make 3 sets of our questions for each leader to ask her women.

The Lord did something out of the ordinary at 8:15 this morning. He impressed on my heart to call one of my ladies who had missed the last two Tuesday mornings.  Steve and his caregiver were out walking the dogs, and even though I had just microwaved my eggs, He repeated his directive, so I went out to my car to get the group roster. She answered right away, and she was fine, but had the same frustration with the group that I'd had two weeks earlier--one or two members, bless their hearts, were talking at length on subjects that were completely off the topic of the Bible study questions. so she just decided to stay home rather than get totally frustrated.

I admitted that I had shared her frustration. The difference is that as the leader, I'd sought the Lord for a way to carry out my responsibility and conduct the group "decently and in order" (I Corinthians 14:40). I told her about our small group format, and she said, "That's great! I'm coming today!"

The morning went along smoothly, with the early shift caregiver ending his shift 1/2 hour before the next one was due to cover the hours of Bible study. 15 minutes passed, I called the agency, and found out that they'd misunderstood me, or I'd goofed up, or both, and the next caregiver was assigned to arrive at 10:00, about an hour and a half late. Well, I called church, told them my situation, and they made arrangements for my group. So odd, how the Lord had made everything right with my absent member, then allowed me to miss group time. The Lord's ways are past finding out, just as written in Job 9:10 and Romans 11:33!

When I finally arrived at church, I had to peer around the sanctuary for my women, and there they were sitting with the groups on either side of our normal location. Dear Helen had three groups to lead, because my friend Malinda, another leader, had gotten sick!  So I joined the group near the gal who had just decided to come back. She grabbed me and gave me a kiss, and said, "I'm so glad you called me this morning!"

The Lord allowed me to pray with and exhort a hurting sister, who cares for her mother with Alzheimer's, to seek pastoral counseling to cope with her unsaved and accusatory siblings. One of my facial appointments was rescheduled, so my afternoon schedule got switched. But all went as God ordained--I spent some time working on my book, and Steve and I went out for our 32nd Valentine's Day dinner!

Amazed and grateful, I love it when God intervenes and rearranges my days HIS way!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Three new praises so far today

2:33 p.m. Today's project was to "set up shop" at the Starbucks on Day Street in Moreno Valley, to enjoy uninterrupted working time setting up appointments with customers, making new contacts, and inviting all of them to Cara's and my "Muffins and Makeovers" class on Saturday morning at my house.

Our male early morning caregiver was to leave at 8:30, and our excellent handyman Lou was due at 9:00 to see about fixing the dreadful leak from our front-of-the house faucet. He did come over, and quoted less than half the price of the Yellow Pages plumber who stopped by last week! Since Lou has done construction plumbing, from building to tear down, we have confidence that the Lord has brought him to help us out.

In Daniel 5:11, when King Belshazzar's wise men could read or arrive at an interpretation of the writing from the hand on the wall at his great drunken banquet, the queen told him not to be troubled. She told him,

There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father--your king--made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers.

Daniel was called, and gave the interpretation--the doom of the Babylonians (verses 25-28).

God has truly gifted members of the Body of Christ in myriad ways, while also gifting them with the desire and compassion to go to the aid of others. And if they earn a living this way, they rightfully should charge a fair price for their labor.

Romans 12:5-6a say: we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individual members of one another. Having then gifts according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them...

One gift that I see with volunteers in our church, is that of helps. Cindy, my good friend, has just this gift. On one day's notice, she eagerly agreed to help me out by supervising Steve for a few hours today! (She has much experience with Alzheimer's from caring for her late father-in-law). I gave her a list of both outdoor and indoor projects Steve would enjoy, his lunch and snack, and was then able to conduct my business with complete peace of mind. When I returned, my carrot and spinach seeds had been planted in the garden, Steve had swept the driveway beautifully, and one of our burned-out fluorescent light bulbs in the kitchen was replaced. I brought home a new one from Lowe's on my way back, and she got back on the stepladder and put that one up, too. Our Jada welcomed her immediately, sensing a big dog lover and remembering their past games of fetch. I Corinthians 12:28 includes "helps" in the list of spiritual gifts, and verse 31a directs us to "earnestly desire the best gifts."

A third praise came from an entirely different direction. My nephew Brady emailed me a link to a new experimental Alzheimer's treatment that is showing tremendous promise with many late-stage patients. So I watched the video of an elderly gentleman's incredible improvement and filled out the online form. While I was at Starbucks, I got a call. Their nearest clinic is on Hospital Road in Newport Beach, so I made a free consultation appointment for next Monday after our tax appointment in Tustin and a visit with Steve's siblings in Orange. Might as well just dedicate an entire day to personal business instead of staggering this kind of appointment throughout the week.

I have no idea whether Steve's early-onset inherited dementia will be one that is qualified for the clinical trial; the information really didn't elaborate. But my prayers for healing or improvement to any degree, as the Lord wills, may come through a new method, not the standard medications that help with functioning, but don't affect the disease's progression.

Honestly, if Steve just returned to the level of independence and functioning here at home that he had two years ago, or even last year, there wouldn't be an issue of whether he could go back to work, like there was when Alzheimer's ended his career in 2008. With his disability income, my pensions, and my Mary Kay income, we are getting along with the Lord's help (and miraculous happenings of every kind)!

I praise you, Lord for these three marvelous works You have done, and it's still afternoon yet!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Color, color,everywhere!

9:32 p.m. Today's project was to participate in an all-day makeup artistry certification class by Robert Jones, top advisor to Mary Kay, Inc. and creator of several of our products. His list of celebrities whom he makes up with our brand exclusively, is very long and impressive. The 8 hour workshop, held in Long Beach, was highly professional and delivered every single concept and skill promised.

It took some rather tense moments to get the caregiver lined up for Steve yesterday, because our sales director Laurie had just informed us of an half hour earlier meet-up time at the Riverside Plaza. Why was this a big deal? Because I already had Elias scheduled from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and the agency won't have their people scheduled for more than 12 hours. I now had to be at our carpooling spot  at 6:30, so it was late afternoon yesterday when an arrangement was made for the caregiver to arrive at 5:45. In the early evening. I wrote up instructions for all three meals, labeled each element of them and Steve's snack and med schedule, and left a note that my dad would be visiting. Amazingly, I still got to bed early to rest up for my 4:30 alarm. Why so early? I needed to have my usual devotional, coffee and breakfast routine before getting fully made up and dressed professionally, plus packing up the items from the very long supply list required for attendees. After paying $57 for the workshop, I wasn't going to miss one bit of instruction because of sloppiness on my part! As I Corinthians 10:31 says,

Whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God. 

This is my profession now, and I want to service my customers with  a high degree of knowledge and up-to-date skills. That takes instruction and practice, practice, practice! I've been teaching basic glamour makeovers following my customers' skincare classes  the last 4 1/2 years, and they've been pleased with their results.  But I'm one who always strives to improve in areas of life I profess to care about. I love instruction, whether from the Bible for spiritual, family, and life in general; and additionally, I seek specific educational sources to enhance my professional growth.

One might think, "Makeup? How trivial!" But nothing that makes a woman look and as a result, feel lovely is trivial--after all, God is the One who created beauty and gave us the eyes, brains and hearts to appreciate it, whether in nature, or on human faces! And for me there is the certainty that the Lord gave me when He told me a few months back, "I am in this for you." And He shows it! Get this: my highly motivated new consultant of 5 days' tenure, will be signing up her cousin on Friday! She hasn't even given her first facial yet...hilarious!

So this morning, I popped my eyes open and checked my cellphone, hmmm, 4:25. Well, I might as well get that 5 minute advantage. Ran downstairs and turned on the coffee and the lights, and never did hear my 4;30 alarm go off. Instead, it was dialing a customer's number---yikes, at 4:30, what on earth had I done?Thankfully they didn't pick up! Yet, the snooze went on at 4:35 while I was washing my face. God had graciously awakened me, so I wouldn't sleep past my time, panic, or fret about missing my ride!

So Jesus not only cared enough to make sure I attended this workshop as arranged in every detail, but wouldn't even allow me to jump wildly out of bed late. He knows me so well and loves me so much!  If something is important to me, it's important to Him. That is because as His child, I am important to Him, as is every believer. God loves the world and everyone in it, don't get me wrong. But when we acknowledge our need for Him, ask Him to save us from our sins, and are born again and filled with His Holy Spirit, God's entire power and love are unleashed in our behalf in ways we can't even comprehend. Imagine--the Creator of the universe waking me up on time, even early, which suits me just right! I love You, Lord!

Because of God's loving watchcare, Steve was well taken care of and had a nice day; and I learned a tremendous number of useful skills while enjoying Christian fellowship with the gals in our unit. We encouraged one another and cheered each other on. And then Steve and I enjoyed a quiet evening together. Psalm 138:8:

The LORD will perfect that which concerns me. 

So glad I don't have to!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Will a man rob God?

7:14 p.m. Today's project was to settle down from the household duties, appointments, spending time with a friend, even pushing to get my Bible study lesson finished on schedule, to do what I'd committed to the Lord.

When God told me to begin gathering material for a book on our life-shattering experience with Alzheimer's from a Christian perspective, He also gave me a way to devote a few hours a week to writing it. I have been researching my journal entries of the last 5 years and making notes on those that specifically refer to Steve's incremental mental, emotional, spiritual and professional ups and downs as the disease began creeping in. God allowed me to discover Care Connexxus, an adult daycare center where Steve could take a bus back and forth, while enjoying social activities with others and a nutritious hot lunch during his 8:30-2:00 visit. At first he didn't want to go because he thought it was a residential program, but now he looks forward to hopping the bus and tells me, as best he can, some things he does. Steve especially enjoys balloon volleyball!

In those 6 hours, I can dig into my journals in a completely quiet house, giving the notations my complete attention for the morning. On the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas I set the project aside, but have compiled close to two hundred entries, all numbered so I can go back to them in an orderly fashion when it comes time to write. The day Steve goes on the bus is Wednesday, when there's a Bible study at the center, so that has been the day for my writing.

After discussing some costs with my long term care insurance company, and hearing how much less expensive it is for Steve to spend a day at Care Connexxus than to be at home with a caregiver, I decided to exercise some stewardship and add Fridays too. He's been fine and eager to get on the bus as always.

But here's where I got sidetracked the  last three weeks! I would think, " Now I have two days available. The day doesn't matter, it's the writing that does, so I can do it on Fridays, too." Well, you know what happens when you put off any commitment--something else inevitably pops up to take that time slot! I'd get home in time to do some of the notations, but I'd be pretty distracted as the day's happenings occupied my mind.

So the very different interpretation of Malachi 3:8's question

Will a man rob God?

that the Holy Spirit spoke to me specifically, has nothing to do with tithes and offerings as the actual context means. (In fact the Lord has been blessing my business and I've loved tithing on my profits each week). I was robbing God of my promised time to meditate and allow Him to format the book He wants written. Scary and convicting!

This afternoon, Steve was settled in the family room watching "TheWaltons" and having his afternoon snack, so I went into my office and made a score of notations before getting his dinner ready. 2008 was a real year of transition from Steve working to his inevitably permanent unemployability. Repeatedly, however, and still to this day, I ask the Lord for healing, for a miracle, just like I did in the journals.

God will make a way for everything He calls me to do, in the time He wants it done. His concern is less a time slot than a heart-slot!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

One less pill

4:01 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve for his 6 month appointment with his neurologist, Dr. Sovory. She has been much more aggressive in seeking answers and treatments for his condition, than her predecessor Dr. Rai. We listen to her very carefully, because she also listens carefully, and then gives very thorough explanations and rationales for her recommendations. She is also a believer, and has even started working on my Galatians Bible study!

An added touch of encouragement from the Lord? The nurse gave me an order for two products, which I was able to fetch from the Jeep and get paid for after Steve's appointment. Always good to carry inventory with you because "you can't sell from an empty wagon!"

Because of the fact that Steve has lost most of his speech, Dr. Sovory said his symptoms are  not presenting as Alzheimer's does. (That dementia type is most prominent in the literature and easiest to diagnose). That's an amazing statement, but wouldn't be very comforting to our kids, because it it is still an inherited severe dementia.

One point that I brought out are trouble swallowing pills, so I've cut out the large natural vitamins, even hard to swallow when cut into quarters. At least his Rx meds are all very small. Other new developments are utter confusion on things like knowing where the garage is, or caring for himself personally. She emphasized that even with Aricept and Namenda, no slowing of the disease is possible, but listened when I told her that behaviors are noticeably improved when he takes them. I forgot to mention Steve's troubles with grasping things and cupping his hands, as you do when holding crackers or pills before putting them in your mouth. But  I suspect the doctor's answer would have been the same. Her recommendation is the Excelon patch, which has shown good effects, with patients who can still speak saying that it makes their heads feel "clearer." i checked out the FDA's report on it, and there are no side effects to be concerned with. And, it's one less pill to take, because a new patch is adhered to the upper or lower back on clean, dry skin. We'll pray that the "fuzziness" Steve used to mention (when he was able) is diminished!

We surely can see the validity of Job's statement in verse 14:1,

Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.

Life on this earth is full of trouble, just different troubles for different people! Dr. Sovory told me as we left, "You seem to handle the situation so pleasantly," and I replied, "It's the Lord," which she agreed to, but I truthfully added, "And I'm not always pleasant!" "You're human!" she laughed as we left.

Our day did have some delight in it, because we stopped in at my friend and neighbor Cindy's to see and hold her 5 week-old granddaughter--so dainty, cuddling up to me right away! And at the end of March, our new grandson Clark will be born. Life is wonderful, because God makes it so--despite all of the trials and sorrows we experience.

Christians loook to our eternal home in heaven, but God gives us abundant, joyous lives in the here and now!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The circle of encouragement

5:05 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy encouragement from sisters in the Lord, from two entirely different apects of my life.

I called one of my mentors early this morning, and she took a great amount of time out of her busy schedule to counsel, inform and strengthen me. She challenged me, too! Her wise words made it clear that there are issues to let go and issues to let lie. The second category calls for prayerful confrontation at a propitious time. The Lord's timing and direction are everything. I love the confidence we can have with the issues of life when we wait upon the Lord. We can say to our Jesus with Spirit-inspired confidence, as the Psalmist did in 119:26 (KJV),

It is time for thee, LORD, to work;
For they have regarded Thy law as void

...and let Him handle the matter by showing us what to do!

My spirits were much lifted, by good, godly words of counsel--not very different than I have used to counsel other women. But the need was mine today. And God met my need.

My morning went very smoothly, with a fun morning makeover class in Redlands. I've grown very fond of driving through San Timiteo Canyon past the horse ranches and orange groves to my home town. Even the long freight train that held me up didn't bother me on this beautiful day, made even more precious by the worship songs I was listening to on KSGN 89.7 FM.

After consuming my pack lunch on the way home, I had time to get to know my new consultant Bianca, since her roommates over at University Village were incredibly late for her party. Dropped off a party packet with another customer, had a little visit, picked up some eggs at Ralphs, and then came home to a rested and happy Steve, who'd spent the first hours of his day at Care Connexxus. At home he'd walked Jada with his caregiver and done some yard work. Our daughter Heidi even popped by before I got back, so that made a nice little surprise for Steve, too. Proverbs 10:22 says,

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

That's how I felt this afternoon, especially when two large and heavy boxes were delivered to my front door. One was our baby shower present for Clark, our newest grandson-to-be; and Bianca's New Consultant Kit from Mary Kay--it came in just two days! That box is filled with promise and challenge, fun and hard work--all gifts from the Lord to man(woman)kind. She was so excited that she rushed to my house to open it and practically jumped up and down to see all the contents--a business in a box!!

My second dose of encouragement came in the form of a handwritten note, fast becoming a rarity, according to a report from the US Postal Service. More's the pity--the curtain is coming down on the era of the kind of unique, personal communication that calls for an investment of time. Technology has a prominent place in my life, obviously, but to open a letter is a treat, as it is to write and send one. Happily, my kids, their spouses and significant others still write thank you notes and send letters!

This precious note came from a beautiful young mom who has her share of troubles--constant pain that some days threatens to keep her from lifting and caring for her baby son. Her blog, "Courage Does not Always Roar," is on my blog's reading list, and I check in with Stacy regularly.  She wrote that my attitude in our trial with Steve's illness encourages her, and that she prays for me often.

The prayers of others are my secret weapon--a weapon that's a secret to me, ironically-- used in my behalf when I have no idea it's even being wielded. No wonder my days have portions of joy in them! And my prayers and words lift others up too; so do yours, believer. Never think your prayers are not being heard and acted upon by your heavenly Father, because they are!

Encouragement comes full circle!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Opened up for all to see--and pray

5:51 p.m. Today's project was to facilitate discussion with my Bible study group. The ladies seemed to like dividing into smaller groups, saying it gave everyone a chance to share. As I did last week, I moved from group to group, participating after each one had her chance to answer a question.

One of the questions in James: Mercy Triumphs was to describe an occasion when God turned our bitter waters into sweet. One friend shared the breaking open of a secret grudge she'd held to the strengthening of a friendship; the Lord helped another to realize that the reason for her bitterness was largely exaggerated and self-concocted; another felt that instant confession behooves her when bitterness tempts her to hold a grudge, quoting Jesus' warning in Mark 11:25-26:

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.

When my turn came, I brought up the fact that I had to confess and forsake my heart's severe bitterness publicly. "That's right," Barb cried out, "We just read that teachers come under greater judgment!" (We'd had James 3:1 in our homework this week). I proceeded to tell them, and Michelle remembered, how as the substitute teacher for the large Monday night Bible study session, the topic (obviously planned by the Holy Spirit) was unforgiveness!  And the Lord had dealt with me seriously earlier in the week when He had called me to write a letter of forgiveness to the person who put my mother on hospice just as she was beginning to recover from Guillaume-Barre disease, had her removed from Loma Linda Medical Center against my and my sister's wishes, and set her up in her own home to die. Many in the women's ministry had been praying me through this long trial, and were horrified at my mother's death. I held bitter hatred in my heart, no doubt about it. Yet, we know from I John 3:20,

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

And God would not leave me in that bitter acid bath! He told me to write the letter, and I obeyed, writing it from my heart. The facts did not change, but the Holy Spirit changed me!

There is something about openness with family, friends, church family, and colleagues that may make others a tad uncomfortable, in the sense of not knowing what to say in response. We've all experienced this. But is it NECESSARY to always have something to say? I do not believe it is. What we need to do is pray. This is what I read in my Spurgeon devotional, based on James 5:16's exhortation to "pray for one another:"

Remember again, that intercessory prayer is exceedingly prevalent. What wonders it has wrought! The Word of God teems with its marvellous deeds. Believer, thou hast a mighty engine in thy hand, use it well, use it constantly, use it with faith, and thou shalt surely be a benefactor to thy brethren.

As the precious handmade quilt above suggests, let us accept Christ's invitation to a deeper life, characterized by confession of sin, openness with our brothers and sisters in the faith, and prayer for one another! 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Adding feet to faith

6:56 p.m. Today's project was to meet a friend and customer at Starbucks in Moreno Valley, enjoy a nice visit, and keep her family's needs in prayer. We did spend some time sharing and anticipating some exciting new developments in her life. I'll be seeing her and her girlfriends on a couple of Saturday mornings for a "Muffins & Makeovers" style skincare and beauty session another unit member and I are starting weekly on February 18th. She was looking very well, considering her long season of recovery from work-related injury and the resultant surgery. God has strengthened and preserved my friend physically and spiritually, praise His name!I wrapped up her products and gave her an audio CD to listen to (" Mary Kay, the Perfect Opportunity") as she was leaving. She's been in business for herself before, so who knows?

I continued sitting at my table making phone calls to customers.I  offered a free facial to two young ladies seated near me--one in Army fatigues and one in very stylish civilian dress. I'm mailing a catalog, microdermabrasion sample, and a party packet to new friend Judy before she leaves for an Army training in Texas--she's excited to have a party when she returns in April! and it's the least I can do for a gal who's serving our country.

Then I remembered that I had my mini-notebook computer and mobile "hot spot" with me, so I logged onto the Mary Kay website and gathered some information from my national director. I also checked on the status and progress of my team, and felt extra cheery because a new team member was due at my house to sign her agreement at 1:30 p.m. The Lord is rewarding the effort He's asked me to make, while keeping Steve well cared for and  usefully occupied at home. I asked Steve to pray as I left for work this morning--because this is my career, and I'm no longer treating it as a hobby like I did a few years ago. My goals are set before me, and I take my work seriously, and try to conduct my business professionally and consistently. And Steve is proud to be part of the effort with his prayers.

By the time I'd left another customer's house, I'd made $74.50 for 2 hours of effort, consisting of pleasant conversation with women I like to spend time with! What's that--$37.25/hour? And it all went straight into the bank. You see, I needed to earn my share of a family baby shower gift without cracking into the household budget. Again, thank you, Lord, for money to spare!

The Lord showed me that I need to break out of my fear of spending any money to buy a coffee for the ladies I meet with, drive the extra miles to deliver products and pick up payments, even give away a brush set for a new consultant agreement! And I even tithe in cash on my business, no matter how small that 10% is some weeks!

Talk about getting out of my comfort zone: last week, I scheduled a movie date in the middle of the day for Steve and me with another couple for a Monday; and Friday I'm setting aside time to have breakfast with a friend to enjoy her chickens' fresh eggs, without nervously grudging lost phone and appointment time. If she needs product, I always have inventory with me in the Jeep, but if she's still good, we'll have just as great a morning! I need to spend a little, whether time or money, to reap big rewards! Ecclesiastes 11:1 agrees:

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

And Jesus is quoted in Acts 20:35,

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Let's boldly give to others in behalf of the One with limitless power and provision--what do we have to fear?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super First Sunday

3:36 p.m. Today's project was to prepare, eat and enjoy Super Bowl snacks with Steve before and during the game. We'll need to leave our house before the game is over to attend our weekly Home Fellowship Bible study, but we don't mind. For the first time in our marriage, it will just be the two of us here!

Like all other Sundays, we began our morning headed out to the 9:45 service at Calvary Chapel. I somehow reflected on today's date, and uh-oh, it was the first Sunday of the month, Communion Sunday! Why the trepidation over an ordinance of the Church that Christ commanded, and which I have taken part several times a year, and even conducted myself at women's Bible studies, conferences and retreats over the last 32 years? At Jesus' last Passover supper with His disciples, Luke 22:19-20 tells us,

  And He took bread, gave thanks, and  broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
  Likewise, He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you."

The answer to the "trepidation" question is that passing the trays of communion elements each month is a real test of balance and alacrity on my part. Steve's hands shake so badly when a task is unexpectedly thrust at him that either tray could go flying! (And even though Communion is announced by the pastor, Steve in his dozing state does not hear it, or if he does, would not recognize what John is talking about). Last time, I was holding two tiny grape juice-filled cups and the usher, our friend Jimmy Kamio, had to get the tray off my lap! No harm done, but those were some scary moments. You just don't want to disrupt the work of the Holy Spirit in such a worshipful, serious atmosphere with a major fiasco.

So, as we traveled east along the 60 Freeway, I told Steve, "We need to pray for communion today, " and we did. We both felt reassured that God would take care of the matter, because Psalm 138:8 promises,

The LORD will perfect all that concerns me.

We always sit on the right side of the church, about two-thirds of the way back, arriving early to occupy the aisle seats. The ushers know Steve's situation and that I might have to take him out,  so we are able to let late arrivals slip by us instead of scooting over. It is helpful at Communion time as well, so the usher can assist me without disturbing anyone.

Today, I reached over Steve to take the tray of crackers from the next lady over while he was singing with his eyes closed, oblivious. I gave him his piece, got mine and helped him grasp it, something that took a few moments, even though I'd selected a big piece for him to make it easier. While he stared at it querulously, I just kept whispering, "Wait!" so he wouldn't follow a natural impulse and crunch on it. So far, so good, the first part of Communion was a success for Steve.

The real challenge is the grape juice. The beautiful silver tray is pretty heavy when it's full, but again, I smoothly took the tray while Steve's eyes were closed. Concentration on worship would be a luxury for his caretaker!  The Lord gave me the quick idea of taking two cups in one hand, and holding the tray with the other. That worked, and the usher came by before Steve would want to hold his own cup despite his severely shaking hands. At just the right moment, I handed him his cup and told him to drink it, a challenge these days since he purses his lips whenever he's drinking anything, not letting in nearly enough liquid. So he began doing this and I whispered, "Just drink it down," because the ceremony was ending and people would be passing the plastic cups down the row. The cups were nicely collected and the service ended with me thanking God for being true to His word, and for allowing Steve to take Communion once again!

I don't know what the future First Sundays hold, but I know Who holds the future!

Saturday, February 4, 2012


7:10 p.m. Today's project was to join a large gathering from our church, Calvary Chapel of Moreno Valley, to bless and send Marc and Bonnie Ortega off to their 50-state cross country missions journey. According to his dad, they expect to be gone for a year. Active in young adult and young married ministries, helping in children's church and wherever needed, good friends to all they meet, they will be sorely missed by all of us. Bonnie is also one of my daughter Heidi's dearest friends.

This will not be Marc's first mission trip. He and his younger brother Robert took a witnessing walk up the coast of California a few years back, depending upon help they received along the way. They ended up in San Jose, working at a church, and were given the above-pictured van by that church. Romans 10:15 begins with this question:

And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written [Nahum 1:15 is quoted here]:
  How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things?

Pastor Mark opened the fellowship (koinonia) meal with prayer, and we all enjoyed a delicious barbecue and side dishes. I had started preparing my bean and corn dish last night, knowing I'd be out at a breakfast this morning. Everything was delicious, and I was able to enjoy many conversations with both young adults and those with more life experience--I think that's a tactful way to describe my peers!

I remember when Steve and I were first married, he talked about going on a missions trip to help people in primitive places with his mechanical skills.We prayed about it, but that wasn't God's call for us. We had mission fields in our home, community, and workplaces. I was able to go on two short-term mission trips to Wales in 2004 and 2005. Later on, ministry opportunities presented themselves right here in Riverside County which God specifically called us to.

Bonnie's girlfriends had a very unique idea for all of us to participate in--to write a letter, unsigned, with a blessing, advice, or scriptures we might have in mind. Most everyone sat down to prayerfully and meticulously write their message.What a joyful experience, and an honor, to know that your letter will be opened at the exact time that the Lord ordains it to be read, precisely for the circumstances at hand, and the specific people Marc and Bonnie will be meeting that day!

One way we can be part of Marc and Bonnie's missions trip is to pray for them, as their magnetic card asks. I think that Paul's request for prayer in Ephesians 6:18-25 is applicable here, that believers need to be

...praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints--and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.

We await a glorious praise report next year!

Friday, February 3, 2012

New revelations about the two of us

8:50 p.m. Today's project was to make a few discoveries about Steve and about myself!

This morning, one of the caregivers who normally helps Steve with his shower and grooming was a no-show. Bad day for that, because Steve had to be ready earlier than usual to catch the bus to Care Connexxus. So amazingly, thank You, Lord, I got him all squared away, with the exception of having him shave himself. (The guys use our MK Men's shave foam and give him a very good razor shave, but the electric shaver was an okay alternative because Steve could do it himself while I got his toast and devotions going). My own devotions were delayed some, but as Steve contentedly waited for the bus to get him, I was able to get caught up. The morning went well, against the odds! As Jonathan said before he and his armor bearer won a skirmish against a large Philistine force in I Samuel 14:6,

For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few.

Or in my case, caring by calm, trained professionals or by a hurried, clumsy spouse!

I was able to take care of some of my business calls, complete my online bill pays and head off to a desperately needed hair appointment. It began 30 minutes late, and I was worried about not getting home in time for Steve's return on the bus at 2 p.m. Plans to meet friends for a birthday get-together at Mimi's went out the window, but as Irene worked well and speedily, I relaxed and she did, too. There was a lot of funny conversation in the salon, and everybody's good humor was infectious.

A disappointing facial cancellation and smaller than expected 2011 tax report on my royalties from Tate Publishing bothered me more than they should have, because cancellations are not rare; and I've sold quite a few books outright for full price. But the Lord the Spirit showed me something about why less-than-happy developments bother me unreasonably. And it is unreasonable to be deeply bothered by things that are not out of the norm at all.

Appointments cancel. (Reschedule them).
New authors need time to build their readership. (Write the next book).

One facet of my personality is that I expect to excel at everything I do, which is outright impossible, because everything I do, in the home and out of the home, involves other people and their free choices whether or not to "get on board." One thing we learn in Mary Kay is that we can't be another person's motivation. [Come to think of it, a high school counselor advised me of the same thing many years ago when one of my sons was struggling]. In our unit we also are reminded that God will bring the right women to us at the right time--we need only be prayerful and work hard. If God's given us a goal, He'll work with us and for us!

I realized and believe that the overarching issue that presents itself as angst over relatively small matters is Steve's dreadful illness, and the new discoveries about his inabilities that I make every day. When did he become unable to cup his hands normally (so as to take a few small pills), instead of twisted around as if he had severe arthritis? (Which he does not.)When did he become afraid of sitting down--anywhere, any surface, any height? While we were sitting at my book signing table this afternoon, I said, "Let's play 'rock, paper, scissors,' " to pass the time after we ate our meal. Of course I explained the game several times, and he got that, but could not change his hand position from flat to a ball in any kind of time, and could not form the scissors shape at all. Just when did this happen?

When you are gravely worried and in the process of making critical decisions about your spouse, children or parents, you can still experience joy and fun, but it doesn't take much more than a commonplace, tiny incident that has nothing to do with your loved one's illness to taint your peace. Not destroy it, because Jesus promised in John 14:27,

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. 

I pray Philippians 4:7 over all believers who are struggling or sorrowing tonight, that "the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A short season

9:31 p.m. Today's project was to say goodbye to Jung, our student from Korea. We drove her over to the University of California Riverside this morning as usual, only this time I handled her rolling suitcase, while she carried her tote bags to the student courtyard, where we parted ways with a big hug. I'm going to miss her! Hopefully, in the short season she was with me in our home, an impact was made--of encouragement, and an example of joyful living during a trial.  I pray this 30 day period in our home will be something she'll remember when tough times come her way. And we long-time Christians know those times will come!

Since it is highly unlikely we'll meet again in this life, Steve and I are happy to be absolutely guaranteed to see Jung again--one day in heaven  at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9)!

Part of the call on my life from the Lord Jesus is not only to teach women's Bible studies, but to mentor those women, whatever their ages, in living a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led life as a believer. God has also continually shown me to be open to the women He brings into my life in other settings. Women just seem to see something in me and begin to confide their deep hurts, fears, dilemmas and victories, too. It's the Lord sending them! Whether they are my nieces; colleagues at work before I retired; district administrators during my school board tenure; and now in Mary Kay, I prayerfully listen, share, laugh, cry or give scriptural counsel to them, as I do with my own daughters. Since only the Lord is truth, and is the Source of all knowledge and wisdom, I am merely a vessel God has decided to pour His life-giving words through. I, Dana, have nothing of my own that would benefit anyone! Even the daily experiences I recount in small part here were God-ordained and by His hand arranged, before the very foundations of the world were created!

Some seasons of mentoring are many years long, such as with Bonnie who mentored me as a new believer with a teaching gift; and Honey, who prayed with me every day and set an example of outstanding Bible teaching and wifely graciousness to her late husband Joe. Yet, life moved my mentors on, including my late mother and mother-in-law. So God has called me to step up further, to widen my circle of ministry. When He calls, what can my answer be but "Here I am, Lord, send me!" ?

Being a mentor, such as I am to the women on my Mary Kay team, most younger, some in my age range, doesn't mean I know everything, or that I cannot learn from them too. I love to hear my sweet ladies' suggestions and tips on everything from the fastest way to get to our meeting in Redlands to mastering a new eye makeup application. Our Sales Director, who will be heading up a national area one day, is the same age as my oldest son. But she is my go-to person and development trainer as I follow her in my own career path. But the tables get turned around occasionally as we discuss spiritual or life matters. We can listen openly to one another, with respect to each one's greater level of experience. Yesterday morning, Laurie, Cara, and I were in Laurie's kitchen before a meeting, and I had been explaining about the rise and fall of Moreno Valley economically. Cara (age 21 and very successful in our business) said, "Dana, you are such a huge source of information! How do you do it?" I answered quite honestly, "Just keep living!" They were rolling with laughter, but isn't time spent living and learning a huge part of knowledge? There's just no substitute for putting in the time. Honestly, I'm 60 years old--shouldn't I have a pretty good store of information at my disposal by now? Proverbs 16:31 says,

The silver-haired head is a crown of glory,
If it is found in the way of righteousness. 

And that's key to being a mentor, leader, or example: to live "in the way of righteousness," not perfection. My 19 year-old new recruit Bianca (who is a Christian) and I were talking about living with serious trials, and I freely admitted to blowing it at times with Steve. But we're both so grateful that we can pray, and that Jesus is always with us. She said, "I 'm so happy I met you!" That blessed me incredibly, and my heart is humbled to know of the responsibility there.

James 3:1 says,

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

Though scared somewhat by that admonition, I am encouraged and challenged, too. Bianca, Jung, and the female caretakers who come into our home were not even selected by me--Bianca came up to my display table at the Chico's in-store charity event on January 12th; Jung was assigned by UCR; the Brightstar agency sends their CNAs by availability and perceived compatibility with Steve.

God sent them because He has a work in mind for their lives--and for mine!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Oh, my head!

4:50 p.m. Today's project was to get rid of the headache that started at 7:30 this morning.

I was very excited to see our tree trimming service arrive spot on time, with their giant truck, crew and wood chipper. Need I mention that jada was wildly excited too, as witnessed by her over-the-top barking through the wrought irn gate? She set up a determined opposition to these intruders in her bailiwick (the front yard), and held her position without wavering, the very picture of protection!

Steve and his caregiver Carlos were sitting on the living room couch waiting for the Special Transportation bus to take him to Care Connexxus, and watching as the tree service got their equipment in place. Carlos and I had both parked our vehicles on the street so the truck could come up the driveway. Jada was disciplined for her racket by me placing her in the crate in the garage with her bedding and water bowl.  She didn't quiet down, but at least she was out of the work men's faces and in a place of being ignored.

Absurdly, like a parent to a child in tantrum mode, I popped by head out and scolded, "No one is listening to you!" Whatever, my headache was coming on, and it was only 7:45! Steve's bus came,  Iwalked him out, paid the driver, and kissed Steve goodbye.  Carlos, with 20 minutes left on his shift, leashed Jada up in the garage, then took her for a walk-run in the opposite direction of our front lawn. Thank you, Lord, for a respite from her racket! Who would think that the steady roar and rumble of a tree chopper and a wood chipper could be described as a relief?!  As Roman11:33b says of God, "His ways are past finding out."

Carlos returned with Jada, I signed off on his shift paper, and Jada was once again consigned, bark and all, to her garage abode. At least I had the opportunity to escape the non-stop barking by taking Jung to school, so after turning down the owner's offer of a ride in the truck's "sky basket," she joined me in the Jeep and we were on our way. I remarked wryly to her that "I always inwardly grumble when the neighbors have some noisy, giant cement truck pouring a patio or a pool, or delivering lumber and taking up part of the street, but I don't mind when it's at my house!" She laughed along with me, because it's universally true--we don't want to be inconvenienced unless it's our own doing! It's Jesus' principle of the "log in my eye" vs. the "speck in my neighbor's eye" from Matthew 7:3-5. "Hypocrite!" is what our Lord cried out, and it's no laughing matter, but a sin that needs confessing.

By 9:00 when I returned, the work was almost wrapped up, and the crew were busy sweeping off our roof and removing every last twig. Ken the owner gave me a photo op of him up in the sky box while his men cleaned up. And a beautiful job they did at a fair price!

I let Jada out, refreshed her water, and left through San Timiteo Canyon for our "Wednesday Morning makeovers in Redlands. My nerves soothed away as I enjoyed a beautiful day and the curving road. I also felt blessed that I added a new and enthusiastic member to my team yesterday, and am inviting more guests to events and booking more parties. It had been a fine week in my business; Steve would be enjoying a good and active day with the weekly Bible study at Care Connexxus; the trees had been cut way back on their way to restored health; and after a hardworking afternoon in the garden, it's ready for planting. And my headache subsided.

God is indeed good, all the time!