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Upside down

 

It has been months since I last wrote on my blog.. I thought maybe I would give it  up.. but I see that people are still reading it so I am back. My world has turned upside down since I last posted. My husband’s disease suddenly worsened and he was hospitalized. He is now in skilled nursing.. all of this started on the day after Labor day so it has been almost two months. I had to move quickly and I am now staying with my daughter. She and her husband were gracious enough to take me in and let me be here until the next step is clear.

Everything is unclear.. my husband is still here but eventually this disease will take his life and I will be a widow again.. The first time was 20 years ago. Everything is different this time.. Steve and I are having a sweet season right now.. I am able to help out with his care and show him that my love is just as strong as ever.. He is able to smile and tell me he loves me.. even though he is confused and disabled now.. He remembers me and he remembers us. We still look into each other’s eyes and I continue to look forward to each day that I have on this earth with him.

Dementia is a terrible disease and it should not have the right to take the life of someone so young.. it is so hard on the person who has it and terrible on those who love that person. Sometimes I just can’t imagine that the Lord is allowing this and yet I know deep down that he has purposes that are totally mysterious in all that is happening. I am grieving for the life we had together.. knowing it will never return. I miss us.. our home, our lives our dreams. I look ahead the road is empty.. no more dreams for me.. only the hope that God will not waste this suffering.. that He will use me to bring comfort to those who will go through this and need understanding.. He is teaching me what grief feels like that is daily.. anticipatory grief.. ambivalent grief.. grief that rises up and attacks me at night.. grief that hides it’s face and suddenly tries to drown me.

A while back I started writing poems.. I never even liked poetry but they seemed to come out of the darkness and sadness.. from somewhere deep inside me.  Here is the most recent one:

The Eye of the Storm

It is totally dark

the winds blow all around me

There is no future

No light

Only a deep darkness

I am alone

sad, lonely, waiting

The road ahead is empty

He is here with me, yet I 

feel like I am falling

Keep me close to you Jesus

 

My memories of our life together are like sweet soft pillows that I lie on at night when the sadness comes.. the trips we took.. the dinners we ate.. the drives we went on.. the sweetness of our love.. nothing can take that away.

Our God is with us as we continue to trust Him through all of this.. He will never abandon or forsake us.. we are His.

Romans 8:28

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“We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.”

This is a quote from the Voice translation of the Bible.. I love the way this is expressed.. so clear and easy to understand. I learned this verse when I was a new believer and have held on to it ever since.. over 40 years now. Lately I have been doubting that it could possibly apply to my present circumstances. How could the Lord bring good out of this? My husband losing so many abilities and words and me losing him little by little.. impossible to see that turning into something good and beautiful.

This weekend the Lord showed me that He is still living up to His words in this verse. My two step sons and my grandson came to visit us. The back story is that there has been almost no communication with his oldest son for many years.. the last time we saw him was 9 years ago and there have been almost no conversations for the last 17 years.. since we got married. I don’t know what happened.. but now it does not matter at all. As they were driving here from Idaho I decided that I wanted to welcome them with a dinner and I drove to the store.. While I was there I questioned the whole thing.. what would it be like? Would we all feel very awkward, would there be anger? I distinctly heard the Lord say ” It is a celebration” and that we were welcoming home the prodigal son. Wow! Really God? Sounded good to me and I bought what I needed to make the dinner and went home wondering .. what next?

They arrived a couple hours later and when we opened the door.. it was exactly like the story of the Prodigal son.. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”  …The room was filled with joy and the weekend continued to unfold.. with many tender moments and many tears.. I was stunned.. never expecting to see this moment and never imagining it could happen right now!

For me it has lifted the depression and despair that has surrounded me for the last year…my faith was getting weaker and weaker and I was crying out to Him daily.. Save me. . I saw that the Lord is bring good out of the suffering of this season.. I know now that the Lord has been at work even though there was not a single sign of that.. He was doing things in everyone, preparing us for that moment when He would move and do what He does best.. bring Healing and Reconciliation!

I see how God is using my husband to bring us all together.. this man I married is an instrument of sacrificial love for the whole family.. He is still giving so much to us as he is losing everything.. For the first time since we got married I feel grafted into his family and they are becoming more and more precious to me every day.. what a wonderful gift.

I hope this encourages you.. I know what it feels like to lose hope and to wonder if God even knows or cares.. the trials of this world can devastate us.. He will show up and surprise you, just as He just did for me.. This season is never going to get easier, but my desire is to continue to Trust Him and to believe He has more gifts to shower down on us.

” He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.”

Lent..again

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As I look back on my blog, I see that I seem to write a post every year during Lent.. I want to be true to that tradition and it has been a while since I posted. I always see Lent as an opportunity to reflect.. to look back and to see how God has been working and to be aware of what He is doing right now.

I don’t even remember the Lent season last year.. probably because I was getting ready to bring my very disabled elderly mother to my home. I brought her here almost exactly one year ago.. It was the day before Easter 2018.. so that was March 31st.. the day after my wedding anniversary.. I was pretty worried about how it would go and that was apparently a prophetic feeling…since it did not go well at all and three weeks later I was frantically looking for a skilled nursing facility that would take her.. I never found one but Kaiser did! What a trial that was.. then we were faced with another even more challenging situation. It was becoming very clear that something was wrong with my husband and I knew I had to face whatever it was.. we found out in May that he has a rare type of dementia..

I have been grieving since that neurology appointment and it is only now that I feel like I can say that I have begun to accept this outcome.. many nights of crying, yelling out to the Lord and feeling sorry for myself followed that diagnosis. We are now living in a “new normal.”

This year for Lent I was hoping to focus on giving up worry and anxiety.. but God seemed to have another plan for me. Instead of trying not to worry or be anxious He began to show me that it was impossible to truly get rid of those things and that I needed to give myself permission to have those feelings and others  and to welcome them as part of me.. I never imagined that as an option.. but it has helped tremendously. There is even a name for this.. Welcoming prayer..As I have tried this.. my process is to sit with my feelings, to acknowledge them and not fight them.. to just feel them and when they are less intense, I release them to the Lord.. The result has been more peace and much less fear.

It was a big shift for me to realize that all feelings are legitimate and that I don’t have to deny them or try to kill them.. even the ones I dislike.. that the Lord will enable me to live through the times of sadness, pain, grief, worry, anxiety, fear and anger. I realized at a deep level that I am not defined by these feelings or these times of struggle. We live in a broken world and when the brokenness overwhelms us it is incredibly difficult and impossible to pretend that we are not suffering and hurting.

The take away is that we are loved by God even as we battle the feelings we wish we never had. He is not going to leave us even when our circumstances overwhelm us. So I am living more fully day by day and thanking Him for the good days..or maybe just the good hours or minutes.. Knowing that this journey is full of uncertainty when it comes to our future but that we can be certain of God and His faithfulness.

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Memories

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Remembering is such an important aspect of our faith. We remember all that the Lord has done for us.. He remembers us.. our needs, desires.. everything about us.

I have lots of time on my hands these days since my only job is to help my husband in the ways that he needs it.. The condition he has affects his memory and that impacts our relationship as well.. I want him to remember things that he has forgotten and he remembers some things that I can’t remember because we were not together until later in life. With this extra time.. I can reflect on how all of this is impacting me.

I understand that his forgetting is a big deal for me.. it seems like we base so much of our life together on the good times we have shared.. Fortunately he still remembers lots of those times.. but I know that could change. Today as I was getting lunch ready I thought about this and realized that the Lord has all those memories and even if we forget things.. God does not and someday we will be together with Him and all the memories will be returned to us.  We will be restored and nothing will be missing.

One thing that my husband is not forgetting is the Lord and how important He is to us. He won’t lose that knowledge because he has the Spirit of God in him.. we can pray together even if he forgets many words..we can reminisce about how God has always been there for us even if the details are foggy.. Our God is very much in our midst and He will stay with us through whatever the future holds.

My job besides the care giving is to remember the goodness of God above all else. To dwell on all the ways He has come for me when I thought everything was lost.. to know that nothing that is happening behind His back.. He knows and He sees and He will direct our steps in this season.

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
 yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.”       ( psalm 77:11-12)

Be Still and Know

The theme for this year is from psalm 46:10. ” Be still and know that He is God.”  This verse follows me everywhere I go. Where is this stillness that He promises?.. I am not sure. Inside I am often anxious and worried.. the stillness I long for is so hard to find. Sometimes I see myself in the 23rd psalm.. ” Beside the still waters”  when the circumstances are just right. If I am walking outside on a beautiful fall day I get this glimpse of the quiet and the stillness that He is offering. I long to be there continually but it is very difficult. Our circumstances jump out at me and demand attention.. turning me away from God. All I can do is turn back and cry out to Him.. teach me to rest in you and to be at peace no matter what happens.

I know His faithfulness.. after walking with Him for forty years.. He has come for me over and over again. He has provided in so many ways and revealed His presence over and over.. yet I struggle to believe Romans 8:28 right now.. What good can come from this Lord? So what is there for me to do? Wait, pray and trust that He is at work and that in His time He will come for me again and lift me above the pain and suffering.

So I decided to write this out.. to reveal my struggle.. to stop hiding.. I am grieving the loss of so many things right now and watching my life change radically.. feeling at the mercy of God and wondering if there will ever be joy again.. Maybe you feel the same way.. if that is the case, I hope you know that you are not alone. All of us go through these dark seasons.. these tunnels where the Lord seems so far away and there are no answers.. we live by faith not by sight.

So Lord.. I pray for anyone out there who is in pain.. anyone who is grieving.. anyone who is longing to feel close to you.. Come for them Lord and come for me.  Amen

 

Here comes July …

 

 

 

I actually have a very difficult time as July begins every year. Undoubtedly because this time of year is associated with two big losses in my life. My deceased husband died on July 6th and my beloved sister-in -law died on July 12th. The deaths were nine years apart, but the memories are always fresh. This year as I grapple with the disease that is affecting my husband.. the grief was triggered again.. So.. there is no way around it all. Life is about loss in many ways and the years that pass take the edge off but the losses are never gone..we learn to live with them. That is the nature of grief.

Maybe you are wondering why I write about grief so often.. the answer is because it has changed me to understand and accept grief as part of our life in this world.  God made us the way we are.. He allows us to feel sad and lonely and forgotten. He allows life to be more challenging than we ever imagined. He knows we are going to suffer and that we will cry out to Him in our pain. We live in a fallen world and all these things are reminders to us that there is more. ” All the sad things will become untrue.” I am totally counting on it..especially now.. more than any other time in my life I am longing for that heavenly mansion and the place where there are ” no more tears.”

One thing suffering does is produce a hunger in us for the Lord.. we can either pull away in bitterness or cling tightly to Him.. sometimes we end up doing both as we wrestle with challenging circumstances. We may lash out in anger and tell Him He is unfair while at the same time crying out for relief.. at least that is what I do. Today while I was sitting with my cat and reading my BIble I thought of this song from an old CD and as I played it I realized that it was describing me.. just as I am, not as I want to be.. but as I truly am today.

 

Following up.. Romans 8:31

I want to thank those of you who responded to my last post and are praying for us. I almost took that post down because it makes me feel too vulnerable.. but I am leaving it. The emotions I was sharing are real.. when you are in the depth of grief and loss, these are the thoughts that cross your mind and there are many questions that remain unanswered. God has not suddenly let me in on His purposes.. but He has been showing me His presence in the last couple days. I sense that He is at work in this season and that He will carry us for as long as we need it.  In the past I wrote about grief and loss .. I began experiencing it deeply 19 years ago when I was widowed and have been counseling people with grief issues ( which turns out to be most of us)

This season of grief is different in that it is ongoing and will not necessarily get easier to live with. Because that is so foreign to me, I suspect that the Lord is teaching me even more about this topic and for that I am grateful. It means I will have a greater understanding of those who live with grief because of something that has happened that does not go away.. I think about parents with a disabled child or one who commits suicide. Others who have lost family members suddenly in accidents or other life changing events.  I am also reminded of those who watch a loved one suffer through a long season of illness caused by cancer or another one of the many disease that plague our world. We can never know all there is to know about grief and as we get older there are more and more losses of all kinds.. Aging in itself is loss.. loss of strength, stamina, dreams, desires, abilities.. and so much more.

Unfortunately as we live in a youth oriented culture there is little focus on this process.. almost as though people think that it will not happen to them.. let’s close our eyes and pretend we are going to live forever.. I understand the temptation to do that, but it will only cause us more pain in the long run.. So the alternative is to face what is happening and to truly value the days that we have on this earth.. I am taking lessons in that subject daily. God continues to work with me to help me let go of the things that I cannot change.. and to be at peace with Him in an unbearable situation.. Only He can enable me to do that.. It seems that the major lesson is that I need to be totally dependent upon Him.. to come to the end of my own resources over and over. Yes it is very humbling for a self-sufficient type.

I want to share the hope I have with you since I shared some of my despair and depression in the last post. I am hopeful that God is in control and that He will provide for us.. I am hopeful that others will benefit from reading this blog as I share. I am hopeful that this life is not all there is and that someday the waiting will be over. I am hopeful that I will learn to live more fully even when I can’t see more than a step or two in front of me..

So.. as this journey continues.. I am hopeful that I will have new things to share with you and that they will build your faith.

So we move from Romans 8:28 to Romans 8:31

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?

He is our hope and He is faithful and He will not leave us.