Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Another slant on the Greatest Generation

2:57 p.m. Today's project, identical to yesterday's for the 9:30-10:00 a.m. time slot, was to listen to Dr. David Hocking on K-Wave FM Christian radio. He follows another outstanding Bible teacher, Alistair Beig, whom I listen to daily as well. I'm soundly taught and challenged in my walk with Christ by both teachers, but I want to focus on Dr. Hocking in this post.

When I was first saved on January 6, 1980, I began listening to the local Christian radio staion KBRT ("K-Bright") every waking minute I was able--that was the level of my desire to learn the Bible! At age 28, I figured I had not a moment to lose! God knew from the foundation of the world why I was so compelled to listen to radio Bible studies as well as to cassette tapes of Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie in the listening library of Calvary Chapel Riverside (now Harvest). And I definitely betook myself and my oldest son to church whenever the doors opened, and attended a Friday night home Bible study. As a single mom, I knew that Jesus Christ was the only hope for us in this life and for eternity, and I wanted to know Him through the Word of God as thoroughly and rapidly as possible! Jesus was prophesied through the Holy Spirit saying in Psalm 40:7,

Then I said, "Behold I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart."

God is never in a hurry, of course, so I do get a chuckle over the vehemence of my desire to learn, but in my case, God wasn't very slow in proceeding, either. After all, it was His doing that I was a career insurance agent who drove around all day, and could listen to John MacArthur, J.Vernon McGee, David Hocking,  Billy Graham, Chuck Smith, and other teachers whose names escape me after 32 years. Additionally, Dr. James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" taught me how to be a Christian mother, and in pretty short order, on July 11, 1981, Steve's wife. Other anointed teachers, like Drs. Walter Martin, R.C Sproul, Ray Ortlund, and Henry Morris had huge impacts on my generation, whether through their radio programs, books or guest appearances on Rich Buehler's talk show on KBRT. I even had the privilege of hearing the late Alan Redpath at Harvest, and joining in the choir and serving a phone counselor for a Billy Graham crusade in Anaheim years ago

We hear very often of the greatest generation, those like my father, 85, who served this nation so honorably in World War II, Korea, and later in Vietnam.  But I look back, now three decades later, to the way a young single mom with a burning desire to learn the Bible--a lifelong pursuit--had these teachers to edify and educate me. And how I would need all of that knowledge, because God called me to be a women's Bible study teacher six months after I was saved! After immediately seeking counsel from my home fellowship pastor, and acquiring a mentor, mature Christian Bonnie York, I now  had guidance in studying even more intensely, but with more focus and direction.

Some of my past radio teachers are deceased, many have passed on their minstry day-to-day    teaching duties to their middle-aged children or long-time, proven staff.  J. Vernon McGee's "Through the Bible" recordings are to be played in perpetuity on the radio. I certainly hope the same is true for Chuck Smith, Billy Graham and David Hocking. These teachers were my "spiritual fathers." Though my generation has certainly stepped up to the plate in teaching, training pastors around the world, charities,  missionary work, writing and evangelism, these men's passing will be mourned by Christians worldwide.

As I listen to David Hocking's expository teaching each morning, I continue to learn and attain a deeper understanding of  the meanings of original languages, very needful since I never studied Hebrew or Greek. My own teaching and writing is never far from mind, and I know that my next summer's ladies' II Samuel study will benefit from Chuck Smith's teaching of the book currently at noon daily. His NKJ Bible that I teach from has important commentaries dispersed throughout, full of the scholarly--and loving--Pastor Chuck. His voice will be in my brain, that's for sure!

God is moving into the next generation of ministry now. Today, I am seeing my daughter Heidi teaching verse-by-verse Bible studies with her husband to the critical 5th & 6th grade age group; my daughter Heather leading, mentoring and inspiring high school students at her church, and leaving with her husband to help plant a church in 2014;  my youngest son Steven ministering and mentoring youth, boldly evangelizing, and using the gift of healing God has given him. God's work is always moving forward, using my generation's leaders and soon going beyond us! This is life. Only God lives, moves, creates, instructs and saves forever!

I John 2:12-14 covers us all:

I write to you, little children,
  Because your sins are forgiven
      you for His name's sake.

I write to you, fathers,
  Because you have known Him
    who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
  Because you have overcome the
     wicked one.
I write to you, little children,
  Because you have known  the

I have written to you, fathers,
  Because you have known Him
    who is from the beginning.
I have written to you, young men,
  Because you are strong, and
    the word of God abides in you,
  And you have overcome the
    wicked one.

As we look back to our "spiritual fathers," let us follow them in God's footsteps!

Monday, October 29, 2012

This is a battle

6:29 p.m. Today's project was to comfort and be of assistance to one of my grown children. Just as I have been experiencing lately, one attack or discouragement has followed the other for them. But today, with inspiration from C.H. Spurgeon's Morning & Evening devotional portion for the morning, I felt energized and full of the Holy Spirit to help face the latest "giant."

In Matthew 6:9, the beginning of the Lord's Prayer, Jesus says,

"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven..."  Spurgeon builds upon this:

This prayer begins where all true prayer must commence, with the spirit of adoption [Romans 8:13], "Our Father." There is no acceptable prayer until we can say [like the prodigal in Luke 15:18], "I will arise and go to my Father."  

And go to our heavenly Father we did, praying through text, telephone, and written supplication in my journal. Then, knowing that this is a devilish attack, an harassment against my offspring, I sought godly counsel from an old friend known for taking on large public entities in battle for the glory of God. He helped me many a time when my public service was mocked and slandered, when I was president of a statewide caucus of believing school board members. His explanation of the paperwork, and his guidance to appropriate action will be invaluable!

As I met with my sleep-deprived child around noon today, I told them, laying on hands and praying, "This is an attack of the enemy and we're not having any of it! The Lord is going to fight for us and the victory is assured!We are going forward into this battle and will not succumb to the enemy's lies and libels, and will use all means and expect all miracles to win the day! In Jesus' name, Amen!"

Having now taken all Spirit-led and rightful steps and procedures for this incipient stage of the conflict, we can now be at peace and we can continue on in the Lord's prayer:

"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Next: knowing that honest admission of any part they had to play in the incident must be made, we follow Jesus' model of confession:

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Now we acknowledge the utter ownership and omnipotence of our God:

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Refreshing grace

8:42 p.m. Today's project was to prepare my home for Muffins & Makeovers guests in the morning; and a working visit from my daughter and her husband in the afternoon.

Sleeping in until 6 a.m. felt great, if risky, because I advertise my readiness for Saturday makeovers to start at  9! For most people, 3 hours would be plenty of time to accomplish the morning routine, and have your home guest-ready, but my devotional and Bible study time is extensive. I wouldn't trade my intimate quiet time with Jesus for anything! It's  invigorating, comforting and convicting all at the same time-- advantageous in this life for the wisdom the Holy Spirit freely gives. Studying God's word prepares a  believer for service and against sin.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, II Timothy 2:15 says, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Since I woke up without joint pain, I decided to give the aerobics a rest today--why push it for the 6th day? My blood would be circulating plenty, because I'd be adding vacuuming and mopping for company to the daily backyard cleanup, dog management and lawn watering.  As I Timothy 4:8 says, and I'm purposely stretching the point, apologies to our family's bodybuilder and fitness trainer Steven,

For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

I organized the downstairs, had it looking very pretty, was very made up and nicely dressed, but nobody came as the hour time slots ticked away. Not to worry, since I had a party at 3:30 to pack my tote bag for.

The quiet morning, interrrupted only by the dogs' barking in frustration on their leads, gave me time to process the failures of the day before, in light of the learning and blessing God has prepared for me regardless! As much as I know that the scatteredness that caused me to have to postpone two obligations at the last minute, affecting the day's income for two craftsmen and harming myself in the process, has been forgiven, I needed to apologize and reschedule. Yet the Lord was gracious, helping me when another obligation that came to my attention, and then sending me a generous check in the mail.  Romans 5:20 says,
...where sin abounded, grace abounded much more...
The Apostle Paul is very clear that grace is not a license to sin! He says in Chapter 6:4b,
that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should also walk in newness of life.
In the early afternoon, my daughter Heidi and her husband Pavel came over to visit the dogs, patch the back fence--the building of a new one having been postponed, see above--and he ended up repairing a sprinkler Jazzlyn had wrecked, as well as walking the dogs. Heidi and I sat and talked, caught up on her school teaching issues, the upcoming election, and the gorgeous new china set I won from Mary Kay. We also shared concerns for Steve, her siblings' response to his condition, her grandpa's window repair, and Thanksgiving plans. I was refreshed, just as I was when daughter Heather and son-in-law Nick came over yesterday to let me back into the house with her key. The wind had blown the front door shut on me, so there I was,  pacing out on the front patio until the two of them arrived. 
Today, I was amazed and even more humbled: not one word of irritation was expressed; there was just a willingness to help me out over here.
That's refreshing grace!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Building my house

The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.
--Proverbs 14:1
2:54 p.m. Today's project was to begin The House that Cleans Itself by Mindy Starns Clark, and with the book, its methods. I like the premise of the need to focus not on changing behaviors (such as piling up clutter), but on changing one's house into one that's set up to be conducive to keeping things very--not perfectly--clean. I feel that the Lord is leading me to put our property in order after so much emotional chaos and physical neglect while I cared for Steve here. The offers of unsolicited help from my kids to do just that is a confirmation to me, and very welcome. But the responsibility is mine, as the homeowner, and God's, who owns everything!

My main indoor problem is piles of paper--household mail and bills, my Mary Kay customers' records, Bible teaching and writing ministry binders and notebooks. General mail is not a problem, because I walk from the mailbox to my paper recycling dumpster before taking it into the house. Unless it's personally addressed to a family member, it goes away. (That's about 90%). I began auto bill pay some months ago, but need the bills themselves to put in the correct amount for a given month, as utility bills vary. Additionally, I may want to pay a bit more on a particular bill if the Lord has blessed me with some extra funds.

Wait! Revise! The true indoor problem I have is being hyper, distracted, and going off on rabbit trails. For example, the first step the author suggests is drawing a floor plan of my home. No problem, right? I've lived here 24 years. There wouldn't have been a problem if semi-perfectionist me hadn't wasted 20 minutes searching for 8 1/2" by 11" graph paper. The map needs to look sharp and pretty, doesn't it? Even if I'm the only one who sees it. Came up empty after searching through my office. I, or a child I loaned it to, must have used it all up,. So, down in the mouth, I mentally settled for using a college-ruled spiral notebook. Spending money for graph paper would be off-budget, kind of silly.

By now, it was about 3 p.m., so I needed to go upstairs, taking my notebook with me,for a 20 minute nap before changing clothes and traveling to Redlands for our Mary Kay Success meeting. I'd been doing a lot of booking by phone before I took a break to start on the cleaning book. When I got back up,  I corrected myself thus: set up the dogs' dinner and water in their crates, bring them in, and THEN clean myself up and change for the meeting. The book could wait a few hours. I did feel convicted of my unintentional procrastination. Exodus 22:29 says of following God's command concerning offerings,

You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce...

And in a more relatable and spiritual sense, we can look to Psalm 119:57, 59-60:

You are my portion, O LORD;
I have said that I would keep Your words...
I thought about my ways,
And turned my feet to Your
I made haste, and did not delay
To keep Your commandments.

In other words, get it done!

Now back at home after conducting the skincare class for the unit, I let the dogs out, refreshed their water, and crated them for the night--another 20 minute process that called for a change of shoes and donning my Freedom Alert alarm pendant before dealing with them. Bless their hearts, it's not that Jada or Jazzlyn would bite me, but with their twists and turns and getting underfoot (amazing for two such huge dogs) I could fall like I did a few inches on my tile when Jazzlyn slipped on her way to the garage. Did you know that dogs cause 1 million injuries to their owners in the US each year? I fully believe it! So I make meticulous preparations for every part of their day, much as I did as a mom, getting everything ready for my little ones before they woke up. The dogs are VERY time-consuming. But somehow, they are just so endearing, no matter how pesky some of their behaviors are!

Now, time to start my floor plan, which I did with the upstairs first. That diagram is fairly decent, although I do see why my dad says my handwriting is illegible. The next sketch, downstairs, is a complete mess. And tracing over my lines and labels with dark marker , as directed, did NOT help. Good thing I know where I am in my house and what the diagram actually means! An emphasis is to be put upon the most frequent places of ingress and egress, to determine traffic flow. For me, it's the door from the garage because I park the Jeep inside. But when family or friends are over, the front door obviously gets the most traffic.

The book is written with the idea that there are a number of people in the home, a family. A single house dweller like myself at this point, can probably make changes quickly, since there are no other opinions to consider. But on the other hand, there is no one to blame if things are out of order!

I'll report on my progress periodically as I learn the method, while keeping in mind that God is a God of order. As I Corinthians 14:40 says should be the conduct of a church service, so I want my home and activities to be!

Let all things be done decently and in order.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

First outing

2:56 p.m. Today's project was to pick up Steve from Raincross and take him to the dentist. It was the first time he's left the residence with me since he moved in September 8th. He's been on a few outings with the Connections group on their bus, such as visits to Fairmount Park and the Farmers' Market.

With advanced dementia, one doesn't know what to expect: fearfulness at going out without the group or excitement at "escaping." On a given day I suppose it could be either, or just general apprehension at a change in routine.

I was in for a nice surprise. The staff had Steve dressed very nicely, in his "Sunday go to Meetin' " clothes. He got up when I came in, and we exited to greetings by name, while I reassured everyone that Steve would be coming back to have lunch after seeing the dentist. He's part of a very caring, if eccentric, community, and now I've become a fixture too. When a caregiver and I walked him through the alarmed door, Steve looked a little shaky (like Truman on "The Truman Show" who didn't pass the movie set boundary of his world until the very end of the movie). But Steve kept walking while we talked. He was very uncertain as to whether to proceed through the main lobby, maybe thinking he needed permission. Nevertheless, we exited to the Jeep successfully. After much urging and positioning, Steve remembered how to step up and into the passenger side and we were off.

He enjoyed the ride, but didn't register any recognition of the area between our neighborhood and the kids' middle and high schools, which route we drove regularly for years. We have friends there, too, and patronized the Petco in the shopping center. When I asked him to find one of his favorite things, a particular shape in the clouds, he didn't even bother looking up until I pointed out a helicopter. I need to keep Isaiah 43:18, which I quote often in connection with Steve's current mental condition, in mind:

Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.

At the dentist, I received assistance in getting Steve out of the car, and he was happily smiling on the way in. We sat down. I had time to show him a picture album such as I take with me often these days when he and I visit. When a loved one cannot talk, it helps to have ready subject matter like pictures to share with the. I enjoy seeing him pleasantly nod as he figures out who everyone is. 

Pretty soon, Steve was seated in the x-ray room, with quite a few instructions and having his legs moved onto the chair, and covered with the heavy draping. He had a very friendly, cheerful tech who kept him chuckling and compliant. So far, so good. Thank You, Lord, for providing just the right person! In every detail of my life' responsibilities, I know, as Hagar addressed God in Genesis  16:13, that

You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees .

Because Steve kept dozing off and wouldn't open his mouth, the dentist and the hygienist suggested Loma Linda Dental School, where other means, such as light anesthesia and propping his mouth open, could be employed for scraping the tartar off of his teeth. While I did ascertain that his dental plan would cover the same service in a different place, I had Steve pray with me that they could at least polish his teeth and make some headway against the buildup near his bottom front gums. And praise the Lord, Steve's teeth got thoroughly cleaned and some tartar buildup was removed by the tech. Steve struggled, but made it into the Jeep. Success!

I wish I could share a happy ending to our hours together, but we  then encountered another price of dementia. On the way back to Raincross, I asked Steve as we approached our house, "Did you ever walk the dogs over here?" He slightly nodded, but didn't perk up with nostalgia. Then I purposefully drove Steve around our busy corner, distinctive for the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park across the road, and slowed down right in front of our house. I asked him if he'd ever been there, and he didn't react as a person would who wanted to stop in, or return to the home that he's missed and stay there. He showed no sadness that I kept driving down our street, and didn't look to either side to pick up familiar sights. He was simply a man out for a drive on a beautiful day, nothing more, nothing less.

I should be grateful that I had no teary scenes to deal with, but I'm not. It reminds me of the way that I was grateful at the cheerful way Steve went into Raincross that first day, but wasn't truly happy about it, because the natural questions, objections, and anger that most residents have toward their families upon placement never materialized. My husband's thoughts and personality are buried deep inside him and increasingly harder to reach.

If it weren't for the Lord who dwells within him and sustains him in ways his loved ones cannot comprehend, Steve would be a lost, lost soul.

May our first outing not be our last!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

You have My permission

3:33 p.m. Today's project was to run a number of errands after visiting Steve at Raincross this afternoon. We talked, walked around, and swung in the patio swing, and I made sure he had a couple of good drinks of water. He actually said "Dana!" as we were swinging, but his sentence sputtered and cut out almost instantly. When I left, however, he was attempting to pick up his cup for himself and use a straw. Almost as quickly, he withdrew his hand. Whether he feared spilling it, or lost focus, there is no way of knowing.

I'd been in need of computer printer cartridges, but between visiting Steve, Bible study time, business appointments and keeping up the house and yards, this errand has been put on a back burner. The same with banking, getting gas, and grocery shopping, which I enjoy. This was a big afternoon, then, because the dogs were safely crated. They'd had a morning of freedom in the back yard and then kept out of trouble on their tie-outs (other than the puppy getting a little tangled as usual) during my time at church. All of my errands were in Central Riverside, as is Raincross, which made for less hassle.

The bank was my first stop, with a healthy deposit of business checks. A guilty realization came upon me that I was enjoying myself as I walked through Staples, perusing the $1.00 cart before selecting my printer cartridges. At my favorite grocery store, Vons, a polite man gave me a shopping cart before getting his and his wife's cart, and I had pleasant interactions with other customers and the staff. Found sales on the things I eat regularly--seasoned almonds, cuts of pork and beef, tortilla chips, low-carb Lean Cuisine meals--and I found icing for a cake I plan to bake and donate to church on sale at half price. The Lord gave me 3 bags worth of bargains today.

In the last month, it's with a start that I enter any grocery store, because I no longer have to turn my cart to the bread aisle, and don't have to buy milk, two universal staples. That's because I don't consume either of them! A strong and somewhat disconcerting inner voice says, "There's no one else you need to buy food for!" Strange thought for a mother of five, once responsible for feeding seven people. I feel to a tiny degree what Naomi felt, in the Book of Ruth. She stated, after losing her husband, both sons, and one daughter-in-law, upon her arrival back in Israel from Moab (Ruth 1:21, NLT):

I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi [pleasant] when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?

Actual tragedy in the form of Steve's dementia has indeed struck our family, but my children, children-in-law, and grandsons are all alive. They just don't live with me, which is natural, since four out of five are married and the youngest is in the city where God has called him to ministry, work and school. I just find myself in an odd position: since I can in no way care for Steve, God provided a very nice, safe, and healthful place for him to reside. So I actually have almost complete freedom to do as I please--answering to the Lord only, in that what I please to do needs to please Him! As a business owner, I don't even have a boss. In ministry, I am grateful to be accountable to the pastors and women's ministry leadership, but none of them direct my daily comings and goings.

It's just weird. Even though I've been a self-starter, initiator and leader since I could formulate ideas and plans independently, it's still weird, not to have to consider anyone else's needs at home. Whether it's when to get up, exercise, go to bed, take my supplements, serve dinner--to myself, that is--put gas in the car, make doctor appointments, work, you name it, my schedule is between me and God. There's also no one else to blame if I have candy and ice cream in the house, stay up late visiting online or watching sentimental Hallmark movies. On the other hand, no one else will be tired or have a headache the next day if I make less-than-stellar choices.

People have asked me how I feel about being in my house alone, and for the first month I honestly told them, "I don't know how I feel. It's too new. I'll get back to you!" There was a two-week stay of a foreign student that went okay, but he chose to live elsewhere, in a home with kids his own age (22), quite understandable. It would be nice to have a roommate, a lady my age, perferably, for company and a little income, or another student, perferably female, for conversation and a small amount of income. The Lord hasn't provided the person yet, and may not choose to do so. No sense in violating II Timothy 2:24,

The servant of the Lord must not strive...

Yesterday, I spent the entire day relaxing and enjoying myself on the Riverside Alumnae Panhellenic Home Tour, with my daughter Heather's mother-in-law Kathleen and her sister Mary. We strolled through all four homes, admiring every last detail, then viewed one award-winning garden over a 4-hour time frame. Such fun! It was as if the Lord was saying to me, "You have My permission to enjoy yourself." He even caused my two o'clock Mary Kay party in Menifee, about 30 minutes away, to cancel, so I'd have the entire day free! [It'd been a very good selling week, so I didn't mind. And He even gave me an additional order by phone!]

We women love to feel guilty if we aren't doing the absolute best we can for everyone concerned, but only Jesus ever did that!  We don't even know what is best for everyone in our lives, even ourselves. And I found myself heading toward the trap of "How can you enjoy yourself when your husband is suffering from a fatal disease?" I guess as a believer, I have to trust that God means it when He tells us in I Timothy 6:17 that our trust should be in Him,

...who gives us richly all things to enjoy.

Aren't you glad He loves us that much?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My head's exploding Part II

7:56 p.m. Today's project was to take my dad Oliver, 85, grocery shopping at his nearest Stater Brothers market. I blocked out at least 3 hours for this expedition, including an hour's round trip drive to Redlands. The dogs were safely crated after their morning out in the yard, so off I went. I was mailing a letter to our son Steven in Fresno at the Post Office in order to catch the 10:45 pickup, when I reached into my bag on the front seat, and couldn't find my makeup bag. Not acceptable to a Mary Kay lady who hadn't put on her lip primer, lip liner, lipstick and gloss yet! So while still in the parking lot, I dumped out the voluminous bag's contents. The cute, hand sewn black & pink bag wasn't there. Boo!

Decision time: go back the 3 miles to the house and arrive at Daddy's a little later, or proceed onward,  "unfinished?" I drove back, retrieved the bag from my bathroom counter, and left feeling much better. Our shopping trip was slow and consisted of several back & forth searches through the store, despite Daddy and I both having lists. (Like father, like daughter, everything planned out). I hadn't shopped there before, but figured the layout would be like the one in the neighborhood where I last taught school, gang-infested Rubidoux. Not so. Nor was it like that chain's older store in his area that Daddy was used to. At least those were our excuses!

I give these illustrations of senior moments for both of us, though we are 24 years apart in age. I had another one later this afternoon, leaving my cellphone at home on my way to visit Steve.It was dicey, but survivable! Ever since yesterday, when I viewed Dr. Teepa Snow's video clips, I've been pondering where those of us over 50 fit in the second video, "Senior Gems," where she compares the brain to beautiful treasures at each stage of aging, even to an area that prayerfully most of us won't reach--the final stage of dementia. Let's dive in!

Dr. Snow takes the approach in a positive direction before diagnosing the point of an individual's disease progression by asking:

  • What can they do now?
  •  Are there unmet needs?
  • What environmental helps can be utilized?
  • Are they ill or in pain?
  • Do they have a urinary tract infection, which 60% of seniors get, due often to dehydration?
She states that dementia victims lose AND keep abilities.  Here are the GEMS:

Sapphire: the brain is aging, but not abnormally. We are slower. It takes us longer to learn new information. Sometimes reminder props are needed in the environment. Don't overwhelm them verbally. I noticed that I was asked to "slow down" twice, while speaking to a former high school teacher of mine the same age as Daddy, on the phone today. That's a hard one for me--information just bursts out! (Better not lose too much)!

Diamond: Still sharp, but has become very rigid. They talk about older stuff,  real stuff, but decades old. May not take in new information about situations or people. Diamonds have many facets, so others see different facets than you do. (I notice how differently my kids see their grandpa than I do, given the same events and conversations). Use their rigid habits in a positive way. Let arguments go. Remember that diamonds are very sharp, and, as many of us have experienced, they can cut you!

Emerald: They are now going back in time--getting very vague. They think they're in another place and time. They'll say, "Gotta get home!" when they are home. Poor personal care begins at this stage. They might skip meals, or double-eat. Be friendly, use humor. Do tasks alongside them.

Amber: softest of the gems, changeable. Changes take place in a moment in sensations and exploration of the environment. Repetitive noises appear at this stage.

Ruby: They lose fine motor control, can't use utensils, tools, or engage in tabletop activities. (Steve can't understand or physically pick up markers to play Bingo, for instance, and must be fed). Dementia victims have large motor skills only at this stage, big movements, like walking. Much resting. Have about 16 waking hours. Need physical assistance, as I've seen with Steve, for every activity of living, ie., dressing, bathing.

Pearl: like an actual pearl, the person is now hidden deep inside the physical shell. The sensory and motor strip explained in Part I now dies. The muscles contract, seize up; they can't swallow. Caregivers must modify touch, warmth and comfort. With great support and care, you may have wonderful moments of connection--that can change in a moment. But you can't change the outcome.

Tragic as the final stage was for my mother-in-law, and then my sister-in-law, to see their husbands take that final fetal position, they knew that Lorenz and Larry had the assurance of salvation that I plead with you to take for yourself: the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord! Ask Jesus into your life right now, by confessing that you are a sinner and asking Him to forgive your sins and come into your heart. Jesus said, "the one who comes to Me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). Your Savior awaits you with open arms!

Please do me the honor of contacting me if you have prayed the prayer of salvation. Welcome into the family of God!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My head's exploding Part I

4:48 p.m. Today's project was to attend our caregiver support meeting at 10:00 a.m. Even rising about 5:45, I barely made it on time, because, as you would guess by now, I needed to:

  • Work out
  • Clean up backyard, set out water and untangle long tie-outs for the dogs
  • Enjoy devotions, prayer and the Word while the "girls" slept in their crates
  • Post scripture on Facebook and wish friends Happy Birthday
  • Make out my absentee ballot
  • Sweep, vacuum and mop downstairs
  • Deliver product to a customer at our medical clinic near the Riverside Office of Aging
  • Deposit ballot in the secure box at Registrar of Voters, also nearby
All on only one cup of coffee and a nice plate of scrambled eggs! The Lord faithfully gets this morning person going early, and has taught me to make good use of my time, and to do things "today, not tomorrow, " (TNT) because, as Proverbs 27:1 says,

Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day
  may bring forth.
I signed in at the Office of Aging, and joined the meeting during sign-in time. It was so neat to be greeted with hugs by friends from our original January 2011 12-week training course, Ginny and Willie Mae. Ginny's mom is 96, and at Ginny's home in the afternoons after her mornings at Care Connexxus Adult Daycare, where Steve used to go; Willie Mae's husband, in his 70's, has a very slowly progressing case of Alzheimer's, so is at home with her. New members have joined, and some I met once and will be getting to know better each month. and our leader Darlene was ready with two video clips by a Occupational Therapist Dr. Teepa Snow. Her insights and the science behind them just amazed us and refreshed our views of what is happening with our loved ones.
In the first  10 minute clip, "A Tour of the Brain," Dr. Snow showed the parts of the brain and the behaviors they affect, and consequently, which behaviors Alzheimers or dementia affects.
The Frontal Lobe is the executive control center; makes us act appropriately and control our impulses.
The Temporal Lobe has a right and left side. The right side (formal language, remembering) is attacked by Alzheimer's. Despite the disease, the right side preserves automatic social chit-chat, and enjoyment of music and rhythm.  But this side also preserves and produces the vulgar, forbidden and even racist words that you may never have heard even once from your loved one. It's the disease! 
The Hippo campus controls learning and memory, but the disease begins to limit new  learning. But the affected person can remember emotional things. They forget recent things, and get lost in day and time.
The Occipital Lobe takes in information. So in the case of vision, the disease victim begins to lose peripheral vision because the brain shuts it off--it just can no longer handle all of the data constantly coming in, so it focuses on just central brain information only. So the brain ignores peripheral sections.
Sensory and motor strips travel the length of the spine, and go from head to toe. The brain controls muscles; there is a connection between sensation and movement. (What I sense and what my brain needs to do about it). Certain areas of the body, like mouth, palms of hand and soles of feet become hypersensitive, making a challenge for the caregiver.
I got so much information in 10 minutes, such scientifically accurate information, that I felt as if my head would explode form "new learning" of my own. Experientially and anecdotally, I've seen many of these happenings in Steve.  And on tomorrow's post, I'll review the next video clip, "Senior Gems," about progression of the disease. It's stunning, and beautifully and compassionately presented.
As we unlock the roles and power of the brain, we cannot help but glorify Jesus Christ, God the Son, Creator of every cell of us! Hear Amos 4:13:
For behold,
He who forms mountains,
And creates the wind,
Who declares to man what his
  thought is,
And makes the morning
Who treads the high places of the
The LORD God of hosts is His

Monday, October 15, 2012

God's good gifts

4:42 p.m. Today's project was to have a "regular" Monday morning--exercise, put the back yard in order, grab my coffee, and sit down with the Lord for an hour while the dogs were still sleeping in their crates in the garage. After posting my scripture, checking messages and greetings, and wishing family members and friends Happy Birthday, I had some serious concerns on my mind. I posted an urgent request for prayer without mentioning the subject matter. Christians know that at times when we don't know what or how to pray, Romans 8:26 tells us (NLT):

... the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.

When I returned to the kitchen table to journal, I saw a text message on my cell phone, my colleague Cara asking me if I wanted to help at a lead-gathering table at the LA Fitness gym. The Mary Kay Foundation gives millions of dollars for research into cancers that affect women, so during Breast Cancer Awareness month, Cara's setup would include informative brochures that show breast self- exams and promote mammograms. It was 6:30, and since the event was from 8-10:00, I needed to get hopping. After giving the dogs their morning time out, and finishing my journals, I landed upstairs. Then I saw another text message from a young friend: "Good morning, Dana! I'm praying for you, hope you're ok! Love, Bonnie."  She had taken a further step than the other dozens of prayer warriors posting on my wall--she made a personal connection. And God was very busy in my behalf today, easing my troubled mind with blessings in answer to all of those prayers. As James 5:16 says,

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man [or woman] avails much.

More sweeteners from the Lord came my way. My hairdresser and I had a nice time of sharing, and the straightener she used didn't even hurt beyond a mild sting. That's a first in about 50 years! Two new product orders came in, one of them at the optician's office where I picked up my new contact lenses for half the price I had expected. I then had a precious text from a daughter-in-law about visiting Steve with our son. I was able to assure her that Steve will be overjoyed to see him, and her, of course. Speaking of Steve, he was deep asleep, napping so peacefully when I dropped by, that I couldn't bear to wake him. The attending caregiver said that Steve was really tired, so all was well. "For lo, He gives His beloved sleep" (Psalm 127:2). Rest beats agitation any day!

God wasn't done yet! On my way to pick up my forgotten datebook from Cara's porch, I spotted a "Vons Discount" gas station on a corner I don't usually pass, though it's fairly close to Steve's residence. That's good news, because in these days of exorbitant gas prices, 20 cents off per gallon is a real Godsend! Thank You, Lord, for that discovery!

Upon returning home, I had a note from a dear friend, Honey, my mentor in Bible teaching from 30 years ago. She just had her 80th birthday up in Squim, Washington. A widow for the last few years, she wrote me that she starts each day saying, "Lord, thank You for the 53 years I had with Joe." Honey's still teaching me...

I'll close with the verse my mentor and sister closed her note with, Zephaniah 3:17 (KJV):

The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will joy over thee with singing.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Public demeanor

7:56 p.m. Today's project was to consider the Vice President of the United States' debate performance. 82 interruptions and making faces were the reported activites he indulged in on stage. I'm glad I was at my Mary Kay unit meeting and was able to avoid the grave embarassment I would have suffered as a former publicly elected official!

In 1992, I was top vote-getter in the Riverside Unified School Board election, thanks to: the Lord, who called me to run two years before, showed me how to lay the groundwork, and told me that I would win; a dedicated team of praying women, who took my campaign issues and requests to the throne of God as instantly as they arose; scores of wholeheartedly dedicated volunteers; and plenty of door-to-door campaigning for me, my husband, and the whole family. Even Baby Steven, 3, went along to help put flyers under door mats. Oldest son Sean, then 16, helped his dad and other male friends from church, hammer in yard signs. I placed plenty of signs myself on my lunch hour from Bethel Christian School (where I taught kindergarten) with the trusty sledgehammer I carried with me in my van.

I know both how to be a challenger to seated offficeholders, and during my three terms, how to be an incumbent. But my role as a locally elected official, just like my role as a wife, mother, Bible teacher and elementary teacher, was always to represent Jesus Christ, and in so doing, represent well the 90,000 registered voters and the 40,000 children of the school district. I took, and take, I John 4:17b seriously: He is, so are we in this world. Or as the NLT puts it, ...we live like Jesus here in this world.

While campaigning, and in any and every public debate forum, I focused on problems and issues that needed changing, and my plans to do so. I never mentioned a single incumbent by name, strictly telling the truth about the documented, and anectdotal, poor reading scores and useless methods being used to teach reading, especially. I represented the parents' views on math instruction, busing and year-round school. Flagrant sex education instruction without parental permission needed to cease as well. (And during my first term, it did!We even instituted curricula for Family Life and the 9th grade health and biology course that mentioned marriage)!

Once an officeholder, the perks and status would be tempting to make a newly elected board member compromise, but not this one. God, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of many constituents who also took the trouble to attend the meetings and speak up, gave me the strength to stand up despite numerous 4-1 votes. Yet, by the end of my 3rd term when I decided not to run again, the district had changed in the parents' direction, and education was improved for all children and youth. That's solely the work of God! He deserves all the praise, every bit of it.

Thirteen years in ofice were not without personal attacks against myself from a very few ill-willed opponents, and tens of thousands of dollars thrown against me in each election by the CTA and local chapter of the teachers' union. But wth God's determination that I was to be in that position, the members' dues money was wasted. By my third term, district administrators were giving me campaign coffees because they knew my record of honesty and focus on academics had benefitted the students. But a Christian in office could have done no less--not while claiming to be a follower of Jesus!

One night, in the midst of a very heated debate that raged locally and statewide, the lineup for the public comment microphone was long. Most were against me, along with my colleagues; some were for me, but as the citizens stated their points, I looked each one in the eye with a demeanor befitting a public official, and kept my facial expression pleasant and concerned. Three radical people got up and called me vicious names, just short of profanity --for which they would have been removed by the police. Yet, did I roll my eyes, make faces, or interrupt them? Absolutely not. I looked each of my revilers directly in the eye, with my demeanor unruffled, and they rather shamefacedly left the microphone when the red light came on. It made the newspapers, believe me!

After the 4-1 vote, and later at the meeting's end, I stepped down from the dais as I usually did, to greet supporters and opponents alike. My outspoken, yet honorable, opponents came up to me, and almost in tears, apologizing to me for the hideous behavior of some on their side, so ashamed were they. That is how politics is supposed to work--we may be in opposition to a fellow citizen's viewpoint, but it's not about the person--it's about the policy! And I am friends with those good people to this day, still well respected, and the respect is mutual. They campaigned for my next re-election, by the way!

Love my policy positions or hate them, not one person could say that I ever brought embarassment or disgrace to the school district. It may sound trite from repetition, but truly, I answer to a higher power, my Father in heaven.
May our national elected officials understand that they do, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Spurgeon on prayer

9:12 p.m. Today's project, first thing as always, was to read my Morning & Evening selection for today. Charles Spurgeon's devotional is also just about the last thing I read at night.

I had been able to share with one of my sons an instance of what is described in the Apostle Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 12 verse 8, as a "word of knowledge" that came to me while praying intensely for someone.  He said, "That was more than a coincidence," and I replied, "It was a 'God thing.' "

Lamentations 3:41 is the headlining verse of this selection:

Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.

Spurgeon begins,

The act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is a very salutary lesson for such proud beings as we are. If God gave us favors without constraining us to pray for them we should never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of wants, a catalogue of necessities, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness.

Hidden poverty is an amazing term that could mean, or apply to, so many things! From an impressive physical appearance of one's self, car or home, that closer inspection reveals to be in a sick, run-down, or decrepit condition; to an individual who gives the impression of being completely self-sufficient, but who lives in lack and fear daily.

And the phrase Human emptiness reminds me of Jesus' rebuke and true description of the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:18 which boasted, "I am am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing." Jesus knew their true condition! They did not know that they were "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked." Yet in His great love, Jesus tells those He loves, even while rebuking and chastening them, one of the most famous of His quotes, Revelation 3:20:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Spurgeon continues,

The most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty in self and constantly depending on the Lord Jesus for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and hence the use of prayer, because, while it adores God, it lays the creature where it should be, in the dust.

Jesus said in John 14:5,

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me, you can do nothing.

Prayer has a practical, immediate, positive effect on you and me, like the aerobics class I take in the mornings. Spurgeon explains,

Prayer is in itself, apart from the answer it brings, a great benefit to the Christian. As the runner gains strength for the race by daily exercise, so for the great race of life we acquire energy by the hallowed labour of prayer. Prayer plumes the wings of God's young eaglets, that they may learn to mount above the clouds.

Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God. We know not what prayer cannot do!

Thank You, Lord that You taught us to pray, and that You hear and act when we do!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A logical progression

7:54 p.m. Today's project was to put as few miles as possible on my Jeep, so as to keep the radiator's leaking to a minimum. After my very physically active morning of aerobics, yard cleanup (including sharp pieces of wood chewed up by our puppy Jazzlyn and strewn all over the yard) and watering the lawn, I had an hour to myself for devotions, Bible reading and prayer. I've taken to leaving the dogs in their crates sleeping until almost 8 o'clock--rewarding myself with a peaceful time from 5:45 until then. For many years I enjoyed morning quiet time after Steve left for his commute and before my children woke up.  David wrote in Psalm 63:1-2:

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.

Lord, thank You for the flowing water of Your Holy Spirit when I meet with You!

But that peace and quiet is too soon over! Indeed, Jada and Jazzlyn have been a noisy handful lately.  Thus I'm very grateful that my daughter Heidi and her husband Pavel came over early yesterday evening so he could mend yet another escape spot in the wooden fence. Heidi and I, meanwhile, went to visit her dad. Happily, Steve was in his usual pleasant mood, and enjoyed sitting with us on the porch swing out in the garden area. The three of us reviewed a photo album from the time period of Heidi's teen and college years, that showed lots of his side of the family, including his late mother, brother, uncle and aunt. He acknowledged their familiarity, but showed no hint of sadness or of missing them. I imagine he thinks they are all still alive. Heidi like Raincross, but mentioned how far her dad has gone downhill in the last month. It's not due to where he is, however--he's losing the ability to visually track pictures, television, writing, or even a spoon moving toward his mouth while being fed. His mental deterioration was shocking while he was home, too--that's why the Lord told me to find him an appropriate place for him to live!

As I looked at today's calendar, I remembered a meeting at the Riverside Medical Clinic concerning the need to pick another Medicare provider for Steve. As I looked over the list, I realized that there was no real need for me to attend, so I called and requested that the information packet the attendees received be mailed to me. One less trip out with the car and its leaking radiator--which by the time of my call to Riverside Medical Clinic, I had already refilled to a safe level with half a gallon of 50/50 mix Peak anti-freeze-coolant! The Lord has been so good to me in this trial. My mechanic has ordered a warrantied radiator for only $173; the coolant was just $6.00 a gallon on sale, which was ending yesterday after I bought it; and lo and behold, out rent check from Wyoming was already in the bank when I checked the balance! I don't have to delay getting the radiator replaced once it arrives at the shop. 

My one non-negotiable outing for the day was to visit Steve. I helped feed him the last of his lunch and we spent time walking and talking. Then I needed 3 more stops, so I planned them for the same areas of town. Home Tour business, Heart to Home ministry arrangements, grocery shopping at Vons, and a Mary Kay errand all  got covered in as few miles as possible, even though Riverside is pretty large in area. Banking and a stop at Sprouts organic market for their awesome coffee creamer wrapped up my junket in a logical progression.  

And thanks be to Jesus who provided cool weather, helping the Jeep not to overheat.  God is good, all of the time!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Poor design

2:21 p.m. Today's project was to get up at my usual 5:45. Due to my mechanic coming over to check out a very bad leak from the Jeep's radiator at 8 a.m., I needed to work out, clean up the back yard and get water ready for the  dogs--I feel like a little farmer, taking care of the animals at daybreak! After completing my quiet time I got myself ready for the day, and, before Steve Kirkwood arrived, I had my thrice-weekly prayer time with my prayer partner Cara. Isn't God's timing excellent, unsurpassed, and perfect? Psalm 31:14, 15 gives believers such assurance:

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

I greatly admire God's timing when it makes my morning go smoothly; don't we all? But not so much when my mechanic tells me that he'll be looking for a 3rd radiator, because of an original manufacturer's defect in the way the radiator is fastened into its cavity. Don't ask me for further details because mechanical talk makes my head hurt! We all have our gifts in the natural, but also in the Body of Christ, remember, as Romans 12:4 tells us:

...we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function.

Bless his heart, Steve Kirkwood will be looking for a radiator with a lifetime warranty, which won't be easy to find with the 2006 Liberty's radiator leaking in less time than its own factory warranty gives it. And because it's the placement, not the product, there's been no recall and the dealer hasn't yet offered me a free service or replacement! I'm not even asking for a price on the new radiator, but I was advised to check the radiator's fluid level daily, with a flashlight to be absolutely sure the fluid level is good.

"No big," you might think, but the reason I haven't done that lately is a small matter of the steel hood of the car crashing down on my head on August 6th! Talk about a whopping headache, yet being grateful that it didn't land a few inches lower and break my neck. Apparently, the long and heavy PVC pipe I was using to prop up the hood gave way, for the only time in scores of oil additions and radiator checks, when I bumped into it unawares. My mechanic said, "Prop the hood up on the opposite side of where you're working." Well, that would be very obvious to a mechanically inclined person with eye-hand coordination and strength in that side of the brain, but hallelujah that thus-gifted people make themselves available to the hapless folk in need.

You'll notice that I'm not discussing potential expense because God used my blogging just now to remind me of something! While skimming through my pictures on this computer for a picture of the Jeep [and finding one of son Steven repairing his identical one] I passed through so many events and daily happenings I've  photoed that caused severe financial strain or serious hours of hassle, like past repairs on our property, or spending the day in West LA to get Steven's passport for him prior to his sponsored trip to Canada for a photo shoot.

I remember bemoaning costs of time and money before leaving each situation with the Lord, and just going forward with my duty as required by each situation. There's nothing I could have done to either prevent or cause the radiator's leak, but I assure you that God knew the expense was upcoming. and knowing all things that happen to me before the foundation of the world, He will show me what to do and when, and how to pay for it.

The verse I'll close with and upon which I regularly rely rather than panic, is Psalm 138:8a:

The LORD will perfect that which concerns me.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Being carried

7:57 p.m. Today's project was to get everything ready for my almost-weekly "Muffins & Makeovers" facial and makeover class. My guest, whom I met at a huge children's boutique, had confirmed with me, so perhaps the Lord would be gracious and allow her to purchase a Mary Kay product or two. All sales proceeds these days add to my plane ticket fund for a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina. There's a wonderful annual conference I've qualified for, called "Charlotte Advance," hosted by our National Director Kathy Helou.  

My very busy businesswoman customer relaxed, enjoyed the facial and loved the products, an assortment of which she did purchase. I really thanked the Lord for the rapport Jean and I had established, and for a check to deposit at the bank!  After my tithe, there was enough for the airfare and the small conference fee. Maybe nothing to live off of for the next week, but with a house full of groceries and staying local to save gas, I'd be fine. Like the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:11,

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.

On my way home to and from the bank, I was listening to Pastor Chuck Smith teaching Psalm 23, about the specific ways a shepherd leads sheep to a comfortable place to rest, without thirst, friction with other flock members, irritants or fear. Only then will she lie down. Verse 2:

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

As I pondered my current state, I'm not lacking groceries and personal friction with others of Jesus' sheep is rare. But I would describe the main reason my rest is sparse is physical weariness. With Steve no longer doing little tasks, and the caregivers now gone to employment in other homes, the tons of daily help I received inside and outside on the grounds of our home is gone too. The CNAs  would even walk, bathe and clean up after Jada while Steve looked on or did a small part of the task. So now, with an additional dog, a very lively German shepherd puppy, I am using up lots of extra time keeping their surroundings clean and in order. Add all other tasks inside and out, and this has become a very hard time. And the loneliness of not having my husband at home with me is always hanging over my head..

Pastor Chuck went on to recount the famous poem "Footprints in the Sand," where the single set of footprints belongs to the Lord--while He was carrying a believer through the roughest times of his life. I shed some tears as I drove down Alessandro to prepare for any afternoon facials I might do. The reason? The Lord is carrying me this very moment while I work through and retool my life and schedule. God said to His people in Isaiah 46:4,

Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will
  carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver

I am surely in need of carrying now, because I received word that my student renter is moving; therefore I'll be refunding him his pro-rated, paid-ahead rent as agreed. My ticket fund will be halved from withdrawing $213,  and I need to verify my go-or not-go status for Charlotte by tomorrow night.

God hasn't dropped me! What will He do or allow, for me to travel to the conference? No deadline is intimidating to God because He sees every matter we struggle over as already resolved.

I'll travel to Charlotte or I won't. I'm too busy being carried to waste time fretting!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Second day of the rest of my life

9:04 p.m. Today's project was to start the second day of the rest of my life.

In the last post (October 3) I likened the cleared-out garden to the end of one life cycle, as it were, and the "groundwork" for new life in the upcoming year.  The soil not only rests from active work, but will slowly form the organic nutrient foundation for next year's growth. Tough as it was to put it into writing, 31 years of normal married life cycle are now over, not to return. Now I will be looking, studying, questioning and listening to see what this "new thing" (Isaiah 43:19) is that God has for me!

Last night after the guests and many consultants at our Mary Kay meeting had gone home, five of us listened to our national director Kathy Helou's monthly "Power Up" call. Since she is a very committed born again believer, the name of the call reminds us to look up at all times.At least that's how my mind interprets it! Throughout the call, Kathy intertwines teaching, exhortation, kudos, new product and company program updates, and the "I-story" [testimony] of each new sales director.

I noticed that, even if their progress to the goal of having a beginning unit membership of 24 women was very different individually, the same theme flowed through all of the excited new directors' stories of success. They all had had to make a fresh new start, even in a new city, while building their business. Whether they moved back to the city of their childhood, or followed her husband's career across the country, these women found a blank slate that had to be filled in quickly with activities that would support their goal.

Starting over is hard, even though I'm still running the same house, driving the same Jeep, paying the same bills, attending the same church and participating in the same ministries and community charitable groups, and tutor the same AP student in Spanish as I did when Steve was still at home. On the change side,  I do have a second dog for my Jada to train--a rambunctious German Shepherd puppy--daily visits to Steve; a new foreign student boarder; and have begun a televised aerobics class. There are lots of things for me to get busy with, especially as my Mary Kay team grows.Since I came out of the womb with a to-do list, I continue to be constructively occupied, seeking new challenges--not casting about for something to interest me for this second phase of my life.

But now that I have the Lord and Him only to help me decide what to do and how to fill my waking hours, I think that this new phase is one of total responsibility and complete accountability for all decisions made in this family of two. And yes, Steve and I are still a family of two, though worlds apart in communication, awareness, physical and mental ability.  There is no longer any discussion, problem solving or planning with my life partner, my peer. Input from the kids, friends, and ministry or career colleagues and mentors is welcome and heeded. But they aren't part of the "one flesh" of their dad and me, any more than I am in their marriages. And that's how God designed it.

What I miss is seeing the Lord work in my husband's heart and mind to bring fresh, ingenious, prayed-over solutions to the irritating household problems any couple faces.  Yet, the Lord is the source of all wisdom, no matter how large or small the issue: Proverbs 2:6-8:

For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge
 and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for
 the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk

As a seemingly independent woman and seemingly sole decision maker, I cry out to my Jesus, Psalm 86:11,

Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Let it rest

2:02 p.m. Today's project was to tear out the remains of the 2012 garden. My good friend Cindy came over this morning and  really worked hard to help me get the job done. Over the last month, the yield, size and quality of the produce, mainly tomatoes, has degenerated, so that this gardener knows that the unripened vegetables are not going to ripen, and wishing won't make it so! I picked two tiny ripe cherry tomatoes yesterday, adding them to the few that a client gave me, and am truly savoring them as the last of my harvest.

It's hard to admit that a season is over, whether it has been a good season or a bad one, even while the evidence God gives is right in front of our faces. When we are really in tune with the Holy Spirit, we will pick up on His will for us in the Bible, just as part of our daily reading. I was encouraged two days ago by Jeremiah 23:3-4, God's promise to restore and prosper His people, a remnant out of exile:

"But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds who will feed them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking," says the LORD. 

Recently, people ask me how I am "holding up," and deeper questioners ask what my life is like now with Steve no longer at home. My reply is that I am restructuring my life, generally referring to scheduling daily visits to Steve after my morning exercise, devotions, yard cleanup, and dog duties. Also worked in are times to help my dad, business calls and appointments, and blessed fellowship with girlfriends and my kids. I set aside little pockets of time for community organizations to which I belong, and personal ministry as the Lord brings women my way for counseling.

In the season of hands-on care for a disabled loved one, the Lord gives definite times of anointing for service, physical strength and even joyfulness we could never muster up. But overwhelming sadness along with mental, emotional, organizational and financial strain keep a caregiver from caring for herself in important ways. My health was deteriorating, even though my energy and drive never left me. Yet God never let go of me, even in the toughest hours, not once, nor did I lack loving encouragement from family and friends to carry me forward.The time finally came for me to obey His still small voice that told me to find a place for Steve to be cared for.

Now, that God has given me the responsibility for building my somewhat single life His way, I am tackling long-dormant issues. I discovered a morning aerobics class on a Christian station, and get up early to work out.  To burn a few more calories, some days I follow up with a walk in the cool air, and always get the backyard cleaned up and three water bowls filled for our dogs. My strength is returning, and prayerfully, my healthy weight will too.

Another matter to get in hand is the household budget! Interestingly, my prayer partner Cara invited me to a Dave Ramsey financial workshop series at her church Sandals on Wednesday nights. I couldn't commit to 9 weeks, but I have begun implementing the principles I have learned, such as knocking down debt, and trying to create an emergency fund. Years ago, when Larry Burkett was teaching biblical money management, I was stymied in the budgeting process by my husband's vehement and angry refusal to participate. I believe his dementia was already coming, because emotional disturbance--fear, mainly--was at the root of many conflicts. So I gave it up, with unfortunate results.

Now, God is redeeming and providing the guidance I need to prosper. The Dave Ramsey videos and materials are evidence of a financial "shepherd" who will guide me; the Good Shepherd, my Jesus, has promised in the above passage from Jeremiah, that I will fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall I be lacking. And He is good as to His word, having already provided a foreign student to pay me room and board through the fall and up to Christmas season! There's a miracle--now my work will be the means to financial freedom.

The bare ground of the garden is like our marriage, now decimated by dementia.  It is devastating to look at and contemplate, because it no longer pictures the lush and vigorously growing relationship we enjoyed in the past. And I accept that as God's will for us, unless He chooses to reverse it.

But bare ground also represents potential for a never-imagined, glorious future! Over the next several months, the soil will rest and the life-giving organic matter beneath the surface will burst with new life, capable of supporting life-giving plants and their produce.

As with that future plant life, there will be God-given life, in a new style, for Steve and me as well!

"Behold," says God in Isaiah 43:19, "I will do a new thing."

Monday, October 1, 2012

Long-awaited visit

8:02 p.m. Today's project was to plan and prep for my son, daughter-in-law, and their baby to visit from Long Beach this afternoon. In the triple digit (107 degrees) heat here, I was relieved that Kriss' visit with his family had been planned before I'd thought about attending the church barbecue taking place in the same time frame!

I sat with my daughter and son-in-law at the 9:45 church service. We enjoyed the guest musicians the Gutierrez Brothers as well as the pastor's intro to I Corinthians and an encouraging altar call at the end of the service, of people who decided to give their lives to Christ. If one is sincere in giving one's life to Christ, he will have a life of joy no matter whether experiencing happiness or even tragedy, because Jesus is always with us. Jesus said, John 6:37b,

...theone who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

After the service, I sped off to Raincross' Connections for Living secure memory care village to visit with Steve. In response to his tablemates' inquiry as to his shirt's trademark logo NOTW (Not of this world), I was unexpectedly given the chance to preach the gospel, for Jesus said of Himself, continuing  in John 6:38,40:

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me...and this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life; and I will raise Him up on the last day.

Home at last, I spruced things up, redecorated for fall, laid out a clean tablecloth on the floor for Clark to play on, said goodbye for the afternoon to my student houseguest, had lunch and took a little rest. Then the door was unlocked--the kids don't knock or ring the doorbell--and here was my Baby with his parents!! What a delight, and it's so gratifying to see my son Kriss doing well at work in a job he enjoys, and Marisela mothering Clark so wonderfully and consistently.

We played on the floor, I fed, rocked and burped my grandson and admired him exceedingly. How I love my children and grandsons! Wihin the last three days, I had lunch with my Heather, attended son Sean's wedding, spent an afternoon with Heidi, during which her husband Pavel walked the dogs and mended the fence; sat with Steve every day; and was blessed by Kriss, Marisela and Clark's visit today! Now I just pray our youngest son Steven would come down from Fresno!

Yet, not all is hapiness for any human being. for our family, a very sad tragedy, even a far-reaching one, hangs over our heads in the form of  early-onset familial dementia. But we in faith believe, with the Apostle Paul,  2 Corinthians 4:7-8:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair...

Dear Lord, we glorify Your name, and trust in You as You have given us the faith, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that one day we will see our Heavenly Father face-to-face!