Thursday, November 29, 2012

It wasn't that bad--or was it?

2:26 p.m. Today's project was to appreciate and cheer on my son-in-law Nick who has worked here at the house four days this week. The garage is now cleared out and categorized, up to the rafters! And today he was organizing another area of our home, preliminary to my decision as to what can be sold, trashed or donated.  His ready diligence reminds me of the description of the returning exiles in Nehemiah 4:6 rebuilding the broken down walls of Jerusalem, and how much they accomplished:

So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

With long-neglected work taking place at the house, I was free to go help my dad on Tuesday for several hours and get some rest later in the afternoon. This little nap kept me wide awake for my early evening event-- opening a Heart to Home cookie decorating class at church with a devotional and then enjoy learning professional techniques.  I wrapped up the evening observing Steve's bed- time routine at Raincross.

Yesterday, in addition to taking a brief peek at Steve in the morning, I was able to go select and reserve a live, growing Christmas tree at Sandhaven Pines, where we've been getting our trees as a family for decades. I'll have help from my older daughter and her husband on Sunday afternoon to bring the tree home and set it up in the living room, but it was a bit eerie picking out a tree by myself. At most, we had seven people present to help pick, and at the least, Steve and I went together last year. That's the normal progress of life, of course, as children become adults, move away and marry...and produce grandkids, like Adrian and Xavier, pictured a couple of years ago at the tree farm with Steve.


But going to the tree farm alone? Unfathomable! No arguments over the fine details in the search for the perfect tree, no leaving a person to mark the one we'd probably get unless we found better one,  no Steve on the ground  examining the straightness of the trunk, or actually sawing it down himself in earlier years. I tried not to become too sad, and focused on the incredibly fresh oxygen emitted by thousands of pine trees. "This is my Father's world," the hymn reminds us.

God is good, even when life takes the worst turn imaginable, such as having a husband who may not know exactly who I am. As I heard from a radio pastor this morning, God has a reason for each believer to be in their situation, and it is to glorify Him. We don't have to understand how He is glorified by a strong, able, believing husband and father losing all ability to function in normal activities of life. But God will be glorified, and is already glorified, as others see our family walking through this valley of permanent disability and premature death with trust in Him for everything.

Because we can do nothing to slow, ease or halt Steve's disease, Jesus' words to His disciples in John 15:5 (and to all believers who wish to walk with Him in fruitfulness for the kingdom) have even more weight:

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.

Even though I was lonely, and not sure exactly how to proceed alone with a positive mindset, God cleared my head. He allowed me to enjoy my time out on the open hillside, and I think the tree I selected is tall, straight and gorgoeus, about 11 feet tall! Jesus even blessed me with a business lead, the counter gal at the tree farm, to give her a facial. After Christmas, of course!

Maybe my solitary expedition wasn't all that bad, simply because Jesus was with me the whole time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"My name is Dana"

11:13 p.m. Today's project was to visit with Steve just before dinner at Raincross, where I'd relieve a caregiver and feed him, so that he or she could cover the other "feeders" at the table.

It had been a good Monday, with my son-in-law Nick cleaning and organizing out in the garage. I worked on my business and made arrangements to take the Jeep to be repaired and to pick up an Enterprise rental car, all at the expense of Farmers insurance, whose customer backed into me last month, and tried to accuse me of hitting her, even putting in a claim against my policy! Yet Psalm 32:10 rang true once again:

He who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him.

When I arrived at Steve's table, he was seated in a wheelchair, resisting moving into position at the table for dinner. He had fallen twice today already. I pretty much got him to turn his body and the wheelchair in the right direction, while chatting with the more lucid residents. One of them, a decently sharp one named Jackie, asked me, "Does he know you?" I hesitated a split second and said, "I believe so." I turned to Steve and said, "I'm your wife, right?" He smiled and nodded.

I then decided to pursue the matter, so I asked, "What's my name?" He grinned and tried to come up with it, but gave up, so I pointed to myself and said, "My name is Dana." Steve then straightened up, smiled proudly as if he were a student sure of the correct answer in class, and said, "My name is Dana." It is unclear at this point whether I said, "No, your name is Steve," or not, I was so stunned.

Just a few minutes ago, I came in from another trip to the ER, because Steve had taken a serious fall, stepping out of his chair when the st caregiver's back was turned to help another resident go back to her room for bed. This time he fell so hard that they heard it down the hall, landing on his back and head. So I respected their decision to send him to the hospital. I joined him later, as he was struggling against the stabilizing straps and board, yelling out. Even a shot of Adavan could not stop him from agitatedly lifting up his head and neck. Cat scans of head and neck showed no injury, so the doctor unstrapped him and called for Steve to be transported back to Raincross.

Plans are being made soon for Home Health to step in and help my husband, and for a physical therapist to work with him. He already has an appointment set for Friday with his own doctor. Steve is too weak nowadays to push himself up, just like he was here at home, where he lay on the tile one time until a scheduled caregiver arrived. It took 3 people to get Steve back up this time!

I'm not eager to speculate on Steve's future with a disease that just gets worse until it takes one's life.

Only God knows each person's time of departure, and all of the places to be visited along the way to our eternal destination, if believers: heaven!  As this trial is passing over, I will trust in Him.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Three feasts

9:34 p.m. Today's project was to  enjoy my third Thanksgiving feast in as many days! I believe that feasting is scriptural, since God ordained seven festivals (Leviticus 23, Numbers 16, 23,25 28) from Passover to Pentecost; and Jesus, as an obedient male Jew, observed them,  John 2:13:

It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem.

Jesus attended all of the festivals, and feasted with friends besides, to the point that the Pharisees used His enjoyment of meals with common people, to say to His,disciples,  Matthew 9:11,

Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? or, NLT, "Why does He eat with such scum?

In Luke 7:33-34, Jesus points out his critics' hypocrisy:

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!"

Suffice it to say, believers may feast happily and with gusto, because Jesus did!

Most Americans enjoy the annual feast day Thanksgiving, which corresponds with the Jewish feast Succoth, meaning Shelters or Tabernacles, where the people erected and lived in tents in the fields, thanking God and celebrating final harvest. Additionally, in our Judeo-Christian culture, we feast on Easter, which follows Passover on our calendar; then Christmas Day and Hanukkah. Fourth of July is the reason for celebratory fireworks and picnic food, remembering our fight to become an independent nation.

The Riverside Kruckenberg family hosts the annual August party for all of our extended family, too. But in comparison with the Jewish calendar, I think we're at least two festivals short in our year!

With that biblical background noted, I feel much more justified in eating: 1.  My own cooking on Thanksgiving.  2. A full Romanian style Thanksgiving meal on Friday afternoon at my daughter Heidi's in-laws' home with her husband Pavel's family.  3. Tonight, all five of my kids and their spouses plus all three of my grandsons were present at my oldest son Sean's home for a spectacular meal of roast beef, tri-tip, ham, homemade mac 'n cheese, gourmet squash and veggies, and an array of desserts. We had great conversation, and (as pictured below) fun playing with Clark!

During this weekend of celebrating, we included my dad, and went to visit Steve, as did his siblings earlier today. No loved one was excluded.

There is much talk and even demand today for "full inclusion." Looks like my Lord Jesus invented that!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


10:37 p.m. Today's project was to get the house ready for Thanksgiving dinner, bake one last pie, and get my sausage dressing mixed together. My daughter Heidi and her hubby were here to help out, and to enjoy the Kruckenberg Subway tradition the night before Thanksgiving when the kitchen and Mom are far too busy for any other cooking.

Tomorrow, with most of our kids, spouses, my dad and nephew, we'll go over the piece I copied from the now-defunct Titus Tribune women's ministry newsletter called "Thank Him Now." It gently reminds us that there's never going to be the perfect time to thank God, so thank Him right now, no matter what. Not easy, is it? But gratitude glorifies God by acknowledging the wisdom of the One who has an eternal plan for each one of us.

In this trying time, I will need to join all of our guests in sharing something to be thankful for. Despite Steve's sad condition, God has done many wonderful things for me, for my family, friends, and for my business. For that I rejoice daily. But listing those items out loud with a table full of people may prove difficult!

The Lord reminded me of an incident in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10:17-20. Jesus had sent out the seventy, two by two, to preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick. They returned to Jesus, amazed and full of joy because "even the demons are subject to us in Your name." Jesus gave them authority "over all the power of the enemy." Like Jesus' disciples, we do rejoice in the work God assigns to us, anoints us for, and accomplishes through us. But there is a greater reason to rejoice, the Lord said:

Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because yur names are written in heaven.

And above all, that is what I am thankful for!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Maker, my husband

8:36 p.m. Today's project was to visit with Steve at 2:30, after another Mary Kay party in Corona with two adorable nursing mommies of 8- and 10- week old baby boys. The gals really enjoyed their "virtual makeovers" online at my website. One of them quickly grasped the fun and financial opportunity of my business and will be joining my team soon.

When I arrived at Raincross, I saw a "Senior Gift" tree in the lobby, like the Angel Tree idea that Chuck Colson started for children of prisoners. The idea is that you select the name of a child (or in this case a senior citzen) written on a paper bauble, and bring back the gift they requested. On the way out after pondering this, I selected a lady who wants non-skid slippers. Paired with a Mint Foot Cream, that will make a nice gift to bring back before the due date.

This opportunity to give, and to chat with the receptionist Lisa, gave me a few minutes to settle my heart before going back to the secured "Connections Village" memory care section to see Steve. I had some trepidation because of the way he greeted me yesterday from the wheelchair he'd been placed in after losing his balance. When I walked into the activity room yesterday, cheerfully as usual, the caregivers said, "Look who's here! It's your wife!" like they do every time.  He raised up with a hideous scowl on his face, pointed a long bony finger out at me, shouting  "NO! NO! You..." and then trailed off. I'm there every day, so a greeting appropriate for a scary stranger or an enemy, rather than the wife who's there to comfort and cheer him up, was very sad and shocking to me. But the Lord said to His people, the nation of Israel, in Isaiah 54:5, which I also see applying to cases like mine and that of true widows,

For your Maker is your husband,
The LORD of hosts is His name.

I just had to count on Jesus for strength, for a calm and happy demeanor, because I'm being observed (in an innocent manner and for a fleeting moment) by the rest of the residents. So I not only want to calm Steve down, but be a witness to the room full of  afflicted souls. I am sure there are some who do not know Christ. And by building friendship and trust, I hope to have that kind of conversation with some of them before they leave this earth!

During the incident, when I had pulled/pushed/rolled him aside to a table where just to of us sat together, I put my face very close to his and asked, "Steve, why do you make a mean face and shout at me when I come in?" To some it would seem ludicrous to ask, but I feel Steve's not beyond reason. And God the Holy Spirit can certainly spark Steve's senses, including comprehension as needed. He seemed repentant, and finally looked up at me when I told him, "I'm your wife, here to make sure you're all right." Through the whole visit, as I showed Steve the contents of the Operation Christmas Child shoebox full of small gifts and goodies for an impoverished child somewhere on this globe, he just harshly stared with his head turned away. But he did let me kiss him goodby aftr several minutes, because i had to deliver the shoebox to Harvest Christian Felowship, a collection point.

I wonder if he knows me, which is the top question I get from everyone. So far, I believe so. My daughter asked me if I'd still visit if her dad didn't know who I was. "Yes, I would," was my reply. I signed up 32 years ago to serve my husband "Til death do us part." And also, my daughter needs her mom to be a role model for her in lifelong commitment as a wife. Anyone, any age, can find themselves incapacitated. And if our spouse needs 24 hour care, we need to provide that to the best of  our ability, or get help as I have done.

Discouragement may cause me to not be jolly at times when I'm with Steve, or even cause me to hesitate to go see him. But my Christian walk must be consistent, my commitments kept. And love, above all, is what I want to convey to Steve.

I John 3:18 says,

Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

And I needed not fear today's visit--Stve was not agitated, but was calm and happy! Thank You, Lord!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lunch with a friend

8:49 p.m. Today's project was to meet a friend for lunch. We are friends by a move of God, because we probably wouldn't have met in the course of life. Maria only lives several blocks away from me, but there are thousands of homes in our neighborhood. She went to the Mary Kay website looking for a beauty consultant, because the aunt who had provided her products passed away. As a result of her plugging in our zip code, up popped my name, address, and phone number.

We made an appointment in June for Maria to come over for a facial. She's a teacher here in the Riverside school district, so summer suited her best. Her daughter Arielle, 21, and my 30 year-old son Kriss both completed the International Baccalaureate program at North High School. We're  teachers, as is my daughter Heidi. And she remembers the Kruckenberg name from my school board days. We hit it off immediately. God had brought me a new friend! Job 37:5b says of God,

He does things which we cannot comprehend.

Upon seeing Steve with his caregiver that afternoon as they walked by the living room out to the front yard to do some work, she asked very politely, but straightforwardly about his condition. That's what I enjoy about her. She's very direct in her comments, energetic, somewhat hyper, and a great talker as most teachers are, but an empathetic listener at the same time. I described Steve's quickly degenerating dementia at length, which engrossed her. But Maria has a shocking tragedy of her own: she's been struggling mightily, mostly achieving victory hour by hour, over Multiple Sclerosis.

We took our time getting her facial started, because I had to know every detail of her disease's onset, symptoms, treatments and coping strategies. How was her family affected? Her daughter was only 8 when her mom became debilitated while seeking the best treatment (treatment that included two spinal taps for finding and plugging the source of excruciating pain from leaking spinal fluid). My interest was piqued because I had just heard that a young homeschooling mom I'm close friends with, had been diagnosed.

On the first day of noticeable symptoms, September 10, 2001, Maria was in her classroom when she began to feel a burning, tingling sensation coupled with numbness in her feet. It spread upward to her lower chest over the next few days until she went on October break from her year-round schedule. That's when diagnosis was confirmed and she began a regimen of the powerful drug Neurontin, among others. After each paralyzing attack, she never gets back to 100% of strength or normalcy even when that attack subsides. Now she is 92% returned to normal functioning.  Neuropathy--the dying of tissues--sets in eventually. What a horror! Today as she shared again at lunch, a small tear was rolling down from one eye.

There are no really sensible or reassuring words to offer my friend, whom I am not sure has accepted the Lord,  except to tell her that I'm praying for every situation that affects her life.She's from a Catholic background, but I don't think she attends. She very much respects my faith, because of  her instant apologies to me after letting fly a word here or there that might not have been the best choice!

We shared, on a lighter note, about Arielle's pre-med program. Maria insisted on hearing the life of
each of my five children. We "talked shop" for a while, too, including the severe stress she's under, having been given 36 hours' notice to change from a 2/3 combination class to a 1/2. Even though I'm retired, it's fun to discuss teaching strategies with Maria, just like I do with Heidi and my younger daughter Heather's mother-in-law Kathleen. Guess that you can take the teacher out of the school, but you can't "take the school out of the teacher!"

Be the conversations ever so caring and empathetic, and my sales steady, these are not God's reasons for Maria's and my friendship to take root and blossom, any more than He has me trekking to Redlands strictly for tutoring a gifted student in Spanish for the AP exam. [see previous post]. He wants me to pray and prepare to share Christ with them at the time the Spirit says, "Now!" I am confident that he will guide me each step of the way as I love and contribute value to each of these friends' lives. Psalm 5:12 assures me:

For You, O LORD, will bless the
With favor You will surround him
   as with a shield.

God has given me abundant favor with these who need him so badly--may I not squander it by prayerlessness or carelessness!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Widening sphere

8:12 p.m. Today's project was to spend the late afternoon with a lovely family whose daughter I tutor in Advanced Placement Spanish. The family is from India, the mother a doctor and the father an engineer. My student developed a desire to learn Spanish, and being the same kind of overachiever as I was in high school, and planning on being a doctor herself, decided to skip to AP Spanish 3 as a sophomore. There is no Spanish-speaking background in their home, so, the doctor told a mutual acquaintance that she was seeking a person who speaks, reads and writes academic Spanish, and I was hired. This is , as I've pointed out before, an example of God's sense of humor, selecting a person who hadn't spoken Spanish regularly for many years!

There are other two funny aspects of this situation: I had been contacted over a year ago, but the doctor and I never connected. That made for one more year of rustiness in my speaking the language.  Also, my student and I both attend(ed) Redlands High school, just 43 years apart! This afternoon, for fun, I showed them the 1969 "Makio," the RHS yearbook of my senior year,so they could see an exuberant and skinny Dana Gray. The mom remarked, "1969--that's the year I was born!" Ah well, just glad I can still make a contribution at my age... Proverbs 16:31 says,

The hoary [silver-haired] head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness.

And if I don't make it to the hairdresser Monday, there will be a lot of silver hairs showing!

When I first came to the home, I noticed many Hindu pictures, statuettes, and worship items. As my student and I would read and discuss Spanish passages about the cultures and religions of the Hispanic countries of the world, we discussed her background and beliefs, and I shared mine, including my study of the Bible and the book I'd written, Galatians: An Exploration of Faith & Freedom, published last year. She excitedly told her mother about this when she came over to inquire about her daughter's progress and to give me a check for the tutoring session. The doctor was very pleased to hear about this, and impressed that I'm a published author. That was not my intention, but academics like academic achievement in any field of study, the Bible being no exception. It served as an opening for sharing Christ.  But my witness will only ring true as the doctor observes my professionalism, integrity, and her daughter's accomplishments.

The young lady has improved wonderfully in her speaking the language now that school has started and she is practicing more. Her teacher asked, "What's your secret weapon? You've really improved!" God gets all the glory as far as I'm concerned. Whose idea was this whole tutoring thing anyway? Certainly not mine! I wouldn't have had the nerve to put myself forward for the job, nor would have felt very qualified, other than on paper. Don't you just love God's ways? They are truly "past finding out" (Romans11:33).

A few weeks ago, I commented to the mother that her daughter was going pretty much past where I could teach her, but the doctor would have none of that! She said, "This is where she gets to practice the conversation, have discussion one-on-one. Please continue until after the AP exam." She walked me out to my car and confided that the teacher actually disparaged, because of their ethnicity and her daughter's brilliance, her taking Spanish at all! I comforted and encouraged the mom that, as a doctor here in California, speaking Spanish would be an advantage, very desirable. Inside, I was boiling at such ignorance at my alma mater--and such racism.

I've been disappointed to hear it taught that intellectual attainments, degrees and titles are not to be admired or sought after by Christians, because we are all equals. Of course "we are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). But just as a woman's kitchen prowess can open a door to a job in a bakery where she can witness for Christ, an advanced professional degree can open a door of testimony in a different setting, to a different kind of person. Or an officeholder who serves or has served honorably retains respect from those whose jobs were affected by their policies, as well as from the public at large. That's what I call a wide sphere of influence! Only let that influence be used to spread the fragrance of Christ.

Believers owe an incredible debt of gratitude to the high scholarship of the Apostle Paul, the translators of the King James Bible, commentator Matthew Henry, C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Dr. James Dobson, Jay Sekulow--need I say more?  God calls, educates and prepares certain people to "stand before kings" (Proverbs 22:29).

Each one of us has been created, educated formally or informally, and as believers, gifted for unique service in realms designed specifically for us, chosen from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) by God. Every step of our lives, whether in or out of His perfect will at various times, has led us and prepared us for  the ministries we have today or will have in the future.

May we lift up Jesus as we serve others in His name and at His bidding!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Not the way I planned

9:00 a.m. Today's project was to set up appointments, call my customers with birthdays in November, and spend a nice hour visiting Steve while my son-in-law Nick continued his wonderful organizing and cleaning of our garage.  Then I'd go visit my dad and deliver products to three customers on the way home.

Not many of these goals were accomplished, at least not in the way I'd envisioned them, except for Nick's very focused sorting and tossing. I managed a start with the phone calls and made up some egg salad for lunch, and then got ready to go to Raincross. I suddenly realized that the backyard was very quiet. Not wanting to start any commotion, I silently went from window to window looking for the dogs while Nick replaced on the blinds of the slider going into the back patio. Jada (8 yrs old) and Jazzlyn (1 yer old) were nowhere to be found!  I called on the Lord for peace, not trusting in my own inner resources whatsoever. The dogs had fully gotten on my nerves! Hallelujah that Jesus promised us peace-- "My peace I leave with you,"-- John 14:27, and I needed peace now!

Calling from the back door of the garage, I got no response. So I went over closer to our side fence, and called again. There were our two girls, romping with the pit bull next door! But when I poked my head over the fence, "Roger" went ballistic. Kind of the opposite from a normal dog whose greatest duty in life is to bark furiously at others of its own species, but just bark a bit at a friendly person they know from next door. Up scrambled Jada, into my barren organic garden, so I opened the chainlink gate, escorted her out and into her crate. She didn't even care that Jazzlyn wasn't caged too, as she normally would--she just lay down on her pillow in relief!

Have you ever been swept up in the excitement of others in an uncharacteristic way? The fun and daring is very entertaining for a few minutes, but then you know the consequences are going to be unpleasant. I remember when I would spend the night in Jr. High with my best friend Chris, when we'd disguise ourselves as boys, get cigarettes from her parents, and sneak out of the house in the middle of the night, to wander about the south side of Redlands or to t.p. the houses and trees of boys we liked. Naturally, her mom knew how many smokes she had left, so we did get busted. It was about 50 years ago, so I can't say whether Mrs. Pounds called my mom to come get me or not. The scolding was not fun! The fun of sin doesn't last long either. We are told in Hebrews 11:25 about Moses

...choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin 

Next was Jazzlyn's turn to come home, but she couldn't jump the neighbors' dog run to come up to the hole in the fence. So, keeping my cool, I called the neighbors, and, receiving no answer, grabbed a short leash, and drove next door in case I could get the silly puppy into the back of the Jeep. The homeowners weren't there but their son's girlfriend was there with the pit bull. She assured me, "'Roger is just harmless." She was awfully gracious to house Jazzlyn and Jada in her backyard, and we visited while I was moving their recycle cans over to their dumpster.

There was no trouble leashing Jazzlyn up, but I had to half-load her into the car. German shepherds must not have a natural talent for jumping! We got back to my garage and she came along on the leash like we'd been out for a stroll. Sigh. But she did go into her crate without protest--even a puppy can wear herself out!

Now, after losing half an hour, I went to see Steve, which didn't go as planned either. He was leaning again, this time so severely that a chair had to be placed under him to keep him from toppling over. I made sure to give him a couple of glasses of extra water, but he was still agitated when I left...

The rest of the day, consisting of  a visit to my dad to run an errand for him, and an appointment with a customer, went well. Nick put up brand new blind slats he discovered in the garage, patched and secured our fences, and installed Skype on my netbook. Our long term care insurance finally paid the last bill of the Brightstar Agency for Steve's care in August and September. At last I heard from a member of my team whom I'd tried to catch up with for months. Thanksgiving dinner plans and the guest list are shaping up.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I have much more to thank the Lord for than any number of complaints about "my time, "my money," "my husband," and most of all, "my plans." God always knows best. And when we do feel puzzled, stalled, frustrated or exasperated, we just need to trust God, ask for a Holy Ghost refreshing and refilling, and handle the matter, do the next thing, and keep on walking with Jesus!

Monday, November 12, 2012

A life of my own

9:52 p.m. Today's project was to be of minimal assistance to my son-in-law while he organized and decluttered the garage. Nick would occasionally ask me about a collection of books, or old campaign clippings and literature, and even a huge bubble wand, and I'd say "save" or "toss" or "garage-sale" it.

Most of my time today was taken up with listening to Bible studies on the radio while contacting customers for Mary Kay facial and party bookings. In the midst of this, I shredded some decades-old docs and sorted and cleared out my business' income tax files. In my own little way, I am following the book my blogger friend Carol gave me, The House that Cleans Itself by Mindy Starns Clark. The release of clutter and removal of mountains of paper causes a very restful condition. I then went to see Steve, but found him napping in his room, so I just stood there and prayed for him a while, and drove over to Vons to pick up plenty of butter, whipped cream, eggs and cream cheese for the run-up to Thanksgiving. It's the sides, dessert ingredients and odds ' ends that have me running into  Vons twice in the same day, on the day before the day before Thanksgiving most years. Trying to be a little more savvy this time! Proverbs 14:1 says,

A wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her own hands.

So along with my daughter Heidi, I'll build a wonderful Thanksgiving meal--or a full day, really--for all family members who are able to join us. Some years we have over 20 people, but never less than 10. I LOVE IT!

A friend, Charise,  asked me on email the other day how I'm doing, and here's what I wrote her:

"It's been daily seeing Steve that keeps me praying and doing what God wants me to help him with--calming him when he's agitated, walking him around the premises [of Raincross], swinging together on the porch swing they have there, reading him verses--that's what gives me peace.  And, I realized yesterday, the Lord has helped me to form a life of my own, because Steve won't be coming home. It's taken a couple of months, but things are shaping up, and the kids have been a great help with that. I was kind of in limbo at first, but that stage is over and going forward is God's will for me, and all believers, isn't it? He holds the future, I just serve and obey!"

For the first month, I honestly didn't know how I felt, other than it was weird to live alone in a large house, and not buy bread or milk, because I don't consume them! Now, my emotional state is more well-defined. If it weren't for my Mary Kay business with its goals, inspiration, challenges and fun girl time, I would be spending more time alone, more time feeling down and lonely. Another thing that keeps me from self-pity, moping, stagnation and depression is the overwhelming responsibility for every single aspect of this house, the dogs, and for our lives.

Most of all, it is an intimate relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ that keeps me praising and rejoicing, whether at church, Home Fellowship or on my own here at home. Just because my marriage partner has changed, shall I not sing loudly and publicly to Him who changes not? Besides that, He awakens me with a fresh worship song that God puts into me when I arise, undoubtedly having sustained me through the night while I slept. Psalm 32:7 is the realization or God's promises,

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

Cover me, hide me, preserve and deliver me, O Lord, I pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pick your head up!

5:41 p.m. Today's project was to visit Steve in the afternoon, after a busy morning and midday   doing "mini-facials" and lead gathering at my decades-long nail lady's salon. Lots of leads for future bookings and a nice sale, very much worth the time.

Each time I go see him, it's a different time of day, depending upon my schedule. Late afternoons when many of the residents are napping before dinner, seems to be a good time to visit Steve, who's wide awake after an early post-lunch nap. When I arrived today, a caregiver was reading sayings and having the residents guess answers, which several of them did very well at. Steve would smile along, but not be able to think of anything, nor did he comprehend the activity. He kept bending over almost low enough to tip out of his chair, picking at some imaginary thing on the floor. [He would do that at home, too, just as he would say, "I want to go home!" and run for our front door]. I kept helping him sit up and encouraged him to listen to the riddles.

It's fun for me to cheer the others on, mostly ladies at least 25-30 years older than Steve. Since I come every day, barring a medical procedure and an annual all-day boutique last Friday, the group  welcomes me happily. The Lord has given me this ministry of encouragement, whether for my family, friends, blog readers, ministry co-workers, customers, colleagues, or staff and residents of Raincross. Since I give monthly facial parties at the assisted living place my dad was in, I get to bring some fun to Emeritus personnel and their lady residents, too. 

This is a ministry any believer can have, with no preparation except prayer, and having the heart God has given you that replaces the heart of stone, of coldness, isolationism, avoidance and apathy you had in the past. And if you were a compassionate person, you now enjoy the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit to minister, as 2 Corinthians 1: 4 tells us of

...the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

There are nice "sweeteners" from the Lord in my daily visits, and I'm not referring to the cookies baked fresh all day on the premises! It's very restful to sit and swing with Steve when the weather's pleasant, and it's good to see him walking with decent steadiness, although he's deeply bent over. For a while, he took a strong interest in our family picture albums, but lately won't turn his head or focus his eyes on the pictures. I was glad to have clipped and manicured his fingernails yesterday, despite the fear and shaking he exhibited while I did it. Steve is kept well groomed by staff, but his nails were just a tad longer than I like, so his hands looked very nice today.

The residents provide many humorous moments. Many are able to make wry comments, jokes, clever observations,  and exchange pleasantries with me. One lady is very loud, mean and bossy to the caregivers, who take it all in stride, of course, since social graces pretty much fall by the wayside with Alzheimer's. Today, in preparation for dinner, Steve was seated next to her, and after receiving surprisingly pleasant comments from her, I told her that Steve's my husband. She turned to Steve, and said, "So you're a married man!" He smiled and nodded. He was tipping over sideways, really leaning, despite my efforts to get him to straighten up and look in my direction.

The lady said, "Pick your head up! Pay attention! This is important! Your wife is here, man!"

And so I was, and so he did, smiling away.

Thank you, Lord!

Friday, November 9, 2012

God's creative division

9:44 p.m. Today's project was to get my colonoscopy, the complete scope exam of my colon, completed. I say "completed," because the procedure begins with a liquid diet 24 hours before. After a nice morning visit with Steve and a successful Mary Kay facial in Corona, it was time to get busy with my colon clean out.

The allowed foods were water, gelatin, beef or chicken broth, coffee and two teaspoons of sugar at each meal. The gelatin would be easy, because I had a package of Royal brand in the cupboard. I got my ice water ready and put some water in a pan to boil. Then I read the diet directions more closely: "Any color but red."  (I guess when the outflow begins, the victim might think they were bleeding). So much for that, because I couldn't see going to the store just for jello. Now that it was past 1:30 p.m.,  I felt a sense of urgency that would soon be duplicated physically later! I needed to start drinking my 2 gallons of cleansing solution  at 3 p.m. Jello was out, so I'd have to let that dessert go. With the Lord's help and radio Bible studies playing in the background, I continued on.

The broth was fairly easy, if labor-intensive. I wasn't going to buy that at the store either. The Lord had led me to save the core of a rotisserie chicken I'd nibbled on for two weeks in the freezer, so I filled a large pot with water, threw in the chicken, found celery and onions in the vegetable tender in the fridge, and made a respectably tasty soup, the broth of which would become my sole food for the afternoon and evening.  I strained out all traces of meat and vegetables quite well, but it wasn't as crystal clear as the store-bought bouillon cube type. I pronounced it "qualified,"(not perfect) and began sipping it. Better to let God do the perfecting! I John 4:12 says, and encourages me,

If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

2:45 p.m., time to get my pre-chilled gallon of PEG-3350 and Electrolytes for Oral Solution (known sardonically as "Go-lytely"), into a small cozy room along with my novel Three Weddings & a Bar Mitzvah, cell phone, laptop, chargers for both, my purse, water, all needed for surviving the next 7 hours. I had to down one gallon in 7 hours, and somehow remember to eat and drink water as well. I finished a couple of days in my Bible study workbook, read quite a few chapters of "three weddings," did Mary Kay business on the laptop and wrote vague progress reports for Facebook and did email on my phone.

God blessed a plan I'd made with a young gal Robin, who came by at about 4 p.m. to walk my dogs.I'd already let in the rat man from Dewey Pest control, told him I wasn't feeling well, and disappeared behind the downstairs door. I communicated, sight unseen, with Robin through texting, so she even feed Jada and Jazzlyn on time after their walk. On and on went the drinking of solution, so cleaner and cleaner I must have gotten! I shuffled out to the garage to let the dogs in for bed at 8:45 p.m., drank several more swigs of solution with the predictable results, and headed up for bed at 10:20.

Somehow, finishing off that gallon of "Go Lytely" wasn't a very thrilling victory. But I wouldn't quit until I met my goal! Despite the dreadful discomfort, God brought me through and I thank Him!

After an uneventful night, for which I'd prepared for the worst by placing an incontinence pad over my sheet and a portable commode by my bedside, I know, overkill ( ! ), I got up, exercised, cleaned up the backyard, had my devotions, while quaffing 1 quart from the 2nd bottle.

The worst was yet to come! Instead of lying quietly, getting sedated and drifting off, the nurse placed my IV needle pack into the crook of my left arm, causing the most violent pain I've had since my last child birthing. The saline base was traveling into my tissues and muscles, NOT the veins, and I was in torment, praying like crazy, almost unable to speak, I was crying so much, and unable to move the arm for the pain. I was praying, "Lord, I hope someone senses through the Spirit that I'm suffering right now, and prays urgently for me wherever they are!"  "Lord, there's no one I can call to pray, I'm alone!"  Jesus answered, "I'm here." That calmed me down. But I realized that I was panicking, too, worrying that my arm would be paralyzed, or so stiff that I would have to call one of the kids to come over and help me. I realize now that in places of severe pain, of any kind, my aloneness comes to the forefront, putting me into a panic that could turn to helplessness, and with that, would come despair.

But God! But for God's power and intervention, the enemy would snatch a victory for himself when we're slipping away from strong faith in God. And He answered my prayer.

 The nurse came back over with another one, who seemed to be a superior, lessened and then turned off the drip. They gave me a hot compress and a pillow to rest my left arm on, and then spoke of moving it to a different place, maybe the veins would be better. A third nurse came in, a chemo nurse who would be doing my procedure with Dr. Ravi. She tried two needle sticks in the back of my left hand, but no success--the veins "blew up". She now went to the 3rd and last area possible, so I said, "We'll pray hard!" Into the back of my right hand, the needle went in and Praise the Lord, she was able to put in the catheter and restore the drip!

The procedure went well, polyps were removed, and I've had a very good afternoon, with a visit from daughter Heidi, and a ride provided for our Mary Kay meeting where I was crowned Queen of Sales  for my numbers of last week.  God knows how to end a day--after all, it was He of whom it is said in Genesis:

God divided the light from the darkness.

And I am so glad He's still dividing!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Baby Love, My Baby Love" (the Supremes)

3:26 p.m. Today's project was to visit my long time physician and friend, Dr. Richard Guzman. Not only did he have his nurse give me a tetanus shot, but I received another set of lab sheets for blood work and a mammogram, since I didn't get this done in a timely manner, just as I stalled on my mammogram and colonoscopy. But I was spared a scolding, because I do have a colonoscopy scheduled and my blood pressure was a nice 125/75. Along with his med student observer, we shared our election day hopes and enjoyed some laughs during the visit! I love the royal purple post a friend put up on Facebook this morning:

"No Matter Who the President is, JESUS is King!" How very much in line with the description of Jesus in Revelation 20:16,


But as you can see, there is much bigger news for me, even bigger than today's election--I have a new grandchild on the way!! It's even sweeter to realized that Baby Love is a surprise, but not to God. And now that I  reflect on  him or her, we two praying grandmas certainly never gave up asking, seeking, and knocking on Jesus' door for this little one. In Luke 11:9-10, Jesus says,

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it will be opened.

And for believers to put our requests in the right perspective, there's Luke 12:29,31:

And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind...But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.

Having grandchildren may not be a matter of daily necessity for us older women today, but adding new generation members to one's family was absolutely a matter of economic survival in Jesus' time on earth, when all labor and care for the aged was carried out by family members.  Not to mention carrying on of the family name--the Law of Moses is very explicit on preserving family identity and property! (See Deuteronomy 25:5-6 on preserving the family name, and 27:17 on removing one's neighbor's landmark). Today as well, we want our posterity to reflect the heritage in which they and their parents were raised.

Some of us have had children whose beginnings surprised us, and have seen them grow up to become incredibly anointed, gifted members of the Body of Christ, with unique and inspiring ministries that will one day surpass our own contributions. God knows what He's doing.

The Supreme's song  from my junior high era says, "My Baby Love, my Baby Love, I need you, Love, oh how I need you, Love!" The Love and Kruckenberg families need and wait expectantly for our own Baby Love!

With the birth of every child, believers cannot help but think of the Child born on earth, already the Savior of the world even before the Holy Spirit conceived Him in Mary's womb, who forgave our sins and revolutionized our lives, "that we should be called children of God" (I John 3:1)

May all of my grandchildren come to know and love Jesus!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A little newness, please

10:35 p.m. Today's project was to visit Steve in the late morning. I was eager to see whether he would remember me after I missed our visit yesterday, and be extra happy to see me. Lately, he's been greeting me with a mean, angry face until he realizes who I am, relaxes from his initial shaking and agitation, and gives me a smile.

When I stepped into the common room, all of the residents were seated for lunch, but it hadn't started yet. Steve had an empty seat at his table, right next to him. His lunch companions were both dozing in their wheelchairs. The rest of the room was abuzz with conversation and laughter from residents, caregivers and aides. Steve was just sitting quietly as he usually does, bent over, staring at the floor in front of him.

One of the caregivers cried out, "Steve! Looks who's here! It's your wife!" He barely lifted his head in acknowledgement as I walked over to hug him. He started up at me with an angry look on his face, flinging out his grabbing hands, and saying, "You here?! I told you!..." then tried to make an accusation of some kind, based on an incident when my picture fell out of a glassless picture frame onto the carpet in his room. For about a month now, he's been thinking that "those people" want to get rid of me, when it was just a fallen picture. I told him I was going to give him his lunch and that seemed to help for a while.

I got some glasses of water for him, because he seems to perk up some and become calmer after drinking. The director of memory care, La Christola, confirmed what the other caregivers have said. Steve's combative and doesn't want to be changed or dressed upon waking, and it takes extra personnel to get him going and dressed for the day. She is going to fax in an order for the supplements Theanine and GABA at my request--both organic supplements promote calm.

Lunch went well, with me feeding Steve. That alleviates the work of one caregiver, who can now feed another resident in the same time period.  I try to be as unobtrusive as possible so they can feed, toilet and lay their charges down, in order, for their naps. Steve did get angry suddenly, pulling on the tablecloth, pounding the table and loudly speaking. We then went on with our meal.  Steve did keep leaning over to the side, so the staff fears he might have a Urinary Tract infection (UTI). He'll have a sample of urine collected and sent out to a lab for results early on Monday.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Steve wanted to get up and walk after his large lunch as we generally do, but began leaning so hard to the left that I couldn't hold him up, and two attendants were called over to get him standing, and then walking by the hand with me. When I left, Steve was sitting in a safe position on his bed, so I notified the staff and left, worn out and sore from half-pulling Steve down and up the hallways during our "walk.".

This incident today got me thinking about the times the Bible mentions mental illness, demon possession, or the presence of an evil spirit causing the person to be an outcast from the general population. In I Samuel 16:14, we read that after his kingship was rejected by God for disobedience and David had already been anointed as the next king, 

But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him.

Having the gift of hindsight, we know that King Saul's rages and depression caused him to bring David into the court to serve him by playing his harp and singing. Years later, while fleeing from Saul, David feigned madness in Gath of Philistia, in order not to be killed, since he had been Goliath's slayer. I Samuel 21:10-14:

So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let saliva fall down on his beard.

David was allowed to depart from King Achish, who apparently felt he already had enough madmen to deal with (V. 15).

In Daniel 4:28-33, King Nebuchadnezzar was boasting of "this great Babylon which I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty," when a voice fell from heaven, prophesying what happened within the hour (v.33):

That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebucadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws.

Saul was killed in battle with his sons, with only momentary clarity and cessation of his irrational and murderous pursuit of David; David became king, which would have happened without going into the enemy's territory and feigning madness, both of which show doubt about the anointing God had put on his life.EventuallyNebuchadnezzar praised God, gave Him the glory and was restored.

In the New Testament, I mainly think of the man of Gadara (Mark 5:9) who was wild and mad, heavily demon possessed, unable to live with his townspeople until Jesus cast out a legion of demons, perhaps as many as 6,000. God was glorified by the amazing sight of the one who had been demon possessed "clothed and in his right mind"(v. 15).

God is definitely glorified by His mighty works of power, whether it be a rebellious sinner like I was suddenly repenting [turning] from my sins and following Christ, or a physical healing, of which the Bible records Jesus healing thousands during His earthly ministry. But those of us with mentally ill family members pray for healing daily, and are waiting and watching the deterioration and not really expecting it, as I confess for myself at times, and for you as well, I imagine! There is no doubt that Jesus can and does heal! But if he chooses not to heal my Steve, then I must ask Him to allow me to help and encourage others in their own dementia tragedies, and share the resources and learning I've been blessed to be privy to.

No one chooses to see a parent, spouse or other loved one succumb to dementia, and eventual death when the person forgets to breathe. Yet for a Christian, there is the bigger, brighter picture: eternity, where ALL will be in perfect health, and without sinful unbelief, either. Revelation 21:4-5a says of  our lives in heaven:

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."

Friday, November 2, 2012

"I am the Lord, I change not." Malachi 3:6

9:01 p.m. Today's project was to walk amidst the busyness of my business day in the knowledge that no matter what happens, God remains the same, as Malachi 3:6 assures us! I let this verse be my watchword from this morning when I read it in my Morning & Evening devotional, to this late hour as I reflect upon it.

Woke up this morning to my cell phone alarm at 5 a.m., 45 minutes earlier than usual, but, for no apparent reason, because I was already awake, waited until the 5:15 secondary alarm went off to get up. "Because I can!" must have been my reasoning. Honestly!

Today was to be a big day, because I'd be heading out to Moreno Valley by 8:30 for an all-day Holiday Gift Boutique at a friend's home. The Jeep had been packed the night before with inventory,wrapped gifts, baskets, decorations and samples for my luxe Mary Kay table; also in place were chips and refried bean dip I'd made to share with other vendors. I even had three different tablecloths so a final, perfect decision could be made. There's just once chance to make a first impression, so my best effort would go into this event!

In my devotion this morning, Spurgeon wrote,

It is well for us that, amidst all the variableness of life, there is One whom change can never affect; One whose heart can never alter, and on whose brow mutability can make no furrows. All things else have changed--all things are changing. The sun grows dim with age; the world is waxing old;the folding up of the worn out vesture has commenced; the heavens and earth must soon pass away; they shall perish...but there is One who only hath immortality, of whose years there is no end, and in whose person there is no change.

Think of the changes we routinely weather, like the weather itself! I checked the Accu-Weather app on my smart phone several times this morning and yes, there would be fog still present during my planned drive time. That's scary to me, even with a new pair of contact lenses inserted this morning.  So, after  my devotions, I determined that I wouldn't leave until 9:00, for the 10:00 scheduled opening of the event to the public.I'd just have to work a little faster in setting up my display.

With some extra time, I made up a fresh batch of scrambled eggs with salsa, chopped roast beef, shredded cheddar jack, cooked in butter--no fake food for me. And I had a chance to listen to a couple of Bible teachers on the radio that I normally miss, and a phone-in, pre-recorded encouraging message from a Mary Kay director, while getting ready.

Another change--we didn't exactly have the house jam-packed with patrons, kind of puzzling, because we, among all of us vendors, had to to have invited 500 people, with reminders and Facebook posts with pictures (mine, because my friend wrapped the gifts so beautifully). But we didn't start to pick up a steady stream of customers until about lunch time, very odd. So we vendors got to know each other well, bought and traded wonderful products with one another. There was plenty of time to lavish attention on each lady who came to shop with us. They had mini-facials, and one did her complete eye makeup with our new compact shadows. I not only made a nice amount of money, but got three, probably four new bookings and added 6 people to my preferred customer list!
I covered 7 Christmas gifts, too!

There was another change, whose consequences I'll see tomorrow. Since I left the house about the same time Steve's caregivers at Raincross are getting him out of bed, and returned home at his bedtime, this was the first day in 8 weeks that  I couldn't go visit him. I pray Steve will recognize me and be glad to see me tomorrow.I feel bad about missing a visit, but this is how I earn a living for us.  For the next several weeks, this is the same lucrative retail season for me as it is for Nordstroms-- selling exceptional products perfect for gift-giving. I won't have any other all-day events to attend --that I know of so far-- that won't leave me any time to visit Steve, but I'll be working long hours around those visits. I never forget to thank God that at age sixty-one I can work, especially in my own fun, pleasant and feminine business.  The exciting thing is that personal, one-on-one business interactions often lead to personal witnessing and uplifting opportunities.

May that aspect of my life not change too much--unless for the better, in both service and ministry to others, always growing and improving!