Finches, Fall and Freedom
September 25, 2014 | My Jottings
It’s been a big adjustment visiting Michael only two times a week now. Whether or not my visiting less frequently is helping him is still something we don’t know. Monday and Tuesday I didn’t drive up to see him (if you’ve never taken the virtual tour of the veterans home, click here) and he didn’t have particularly good days, and yesterday I spent the day with him and he was fairly peaceful.
Because the Lewy Body Dementia episodes of intense agitation, pacing and delusion have increased, his doctor visited Michael on Wednesday and prescribed Exelon for him. He will wear a patch and we are praying it helps him. Will you join us in prayer for that?
When I arrived yesterday morning after a beautiful fall drive up the north shore of Lake Superior, Michael had just finished breakfast. Cindy, the cook in the Birch household where Michael is being cared for, spoils him rotten and it makes me cry to just think of her. She is such a blessing with the way she teases him, makes sure he gets his glass of Kombucha in the mornings, makes six sausage links for him along with his eggs, and dotes on him like a mother.
After breakfast, wonderful, encouraging Laurie, who has worked at the veterans home for over twenty years, came to get Michael for physical therapy. Yesterday he went twenty minutes on the NuStep while Laurie played 1970s music and set out some of her own baked goods for the residents she helps each day.
Then we saw Michael’s doctor as mentioned above. Next, I wheeled Michael to the beautiful sun room (you can see all the different rooms on the virtual tour link above) where we sat and watched the many birds in the huge aviary. The low, golden autumn sun poured in through the windows, and we watched baby Society Finches practice their first fluttering flights. We listened in delight as the Weaver Bird warbled. We saw the Gouldian Finches poke their multi-colored heads out of the nest while they brooded their clutch. I took some clippers and cut Michael’s finger nails while we sat with the birds. They do nail care there, but Michael’s nails have always grown quickly and I had an ulterior motive in doing it myself. Blade Time. What is Blade Time, you ask? Well, Michael’s nails always feel like tiny blades after I clip them, and for thirty-three years he has lovingly scratched my lower legs and ankles with his “blades” while we sit on the couch and I slip into a semi-conscious state. It feels so relaxing. So after saying goodbye to the birds we went to the Great Room and I helped him transfer from his wheelchair to the couch. He sat on one end, I laid down toward the other end and put my feet in his lap, and there was Blade Time.
Soon we headed back to his neck of the woods and had a snack. Fresh baked sour cream/lemon cookies (cookies are baked fresh every single day in each of the four households in the building) and milk for Michael, and a cheddar cheese stick and some watermelon for me. The refrigerators are kept stocked with all kinds of food at all times (sandwiches, juice, fruit, cheese, shakes, yogurt, ice cream, etc.) because they want the men to feel at home and help themselves. This is in addition to the three huge and quite yummy meals they serve.
Michael and I sat at a table in the dining room and “visited” for a while. I use the word loosely because he isn’t able to say much that I understand, but holding hands and whispering “I love you” a dozen times is working for us. While we were waiting for lunch to be served, Michael leaned forward with an earnest look on his face and said just loud enough for me to hear, “I’m really happy with your looks.” Hahaha! That made me laugh and he chuckled right along with me. Just the way he worded it. So I leaned toward him and said, “Well, I’m happy with your looks too!” We grinned at each other and I thank God for a sweet memory made yesterday.
After a good lunch (BBQ ribs, red potatoes, vegetables, oranges, milk, ice cream sandwiches) Michael wanted to take a little nap. So once again I wheeled him to his room and helped him on to the bed, and we squeeeezed together and were able to cuddle for a while. We listened to soft, soothing piano hymns on his little CD player and he feel asleep quickly. When he woke up after about 40 minutes, I reached for my iPhone and took this picture of us:
After Michael’s nap we went to the Birch living room and watched a weird movie with some of the other residents, an old black and white film with a confused blonde woman who seemed to be wandering around looking dramatic and having amnesia.
What I haven’t mentioned about each time I visit are the many interactions with the staff that occur. Cheerful, respectful aides help him to the bathroom, nurses hunt us down wherever we are in the building to give Michael his medication, recreation staff take the men on outings and plan activities to help them enjoy this home away from home as much as possible. The day before yesterday Michael and a few other men were taken on a drive to see the brilliant fall colors in our area. Here’s what many of our trees are looking like:
In just the past week Michael has played (and won actual money at) bingo, participated in (wheelchair) yoga, gone leaf watching, had a picnic, enjoyed some excellent live music performed by a local group in the facility’s Great Room, gone to chapel twice, and done some painting. There are at least three things each day, and even though to younger folks these activities might seem like nothing much, they help the time pass more pleasantly for the residents and I am so grateful. I am always so happy when I call to speak to Michael and nurses Donna or Tim tell me, “Oh, Michael’s not here, he’s having lunch with a group of the guys in town” or “he’s trout fishing on the pontoon boat today” or “he’ll be back soon, he’s out on a scenic drive and ice cream run.”
In spite of everything though, the beautiful facility, the dedicated and loving staff, the many generous activities tailored for veterans, and the very skilled nursing care, it’s not home. I don’t know if Michael or I will ever get used to being apart like this. That is the thought that seems to randomly come and violently tear at the fabric of gratefulness I’m trying to weave each day. I’m still writing in my gratitude journal, and it’s filled with things like: #3942 – Michael said his spa bath was “awesome” today, #3961 – Aide Amanda’s ready, cheerful help for Michael, #3987 – the breathtaking colors which remind me of your faithfulness and power, Lord, and so on.
When the grief comes, I’m trying to just be. The sadness envelops me and I often weep, but I sit and put my mind on the Lord and know He is there with me. He is well-acquainted with grief and sorrow.
Yesterday one of the veterans home employees named Denise came to visit briefly with Michael and me and she said the Lord had put something in her heart as she was driving to work. It was the account of John the Baptist, who was conceived, dedicated and raised to be the mighty prophet who pointed the way to Jesus after 400 years of silence from the Old Testament prophets of God. John did everything right — his whole life was given to preparing himself and others to meet the soon coming Messiah. He minimized his own importance, confronted the hypocritical Pharisees, baptized Jesus, and spoke against the corruption of Herod, resulting in his death by beheading.
Before John died, he wondered why he was locked away in a prison, and sent his men to ask of Jesus, “Are you really Him?” Because if Jesus really was the Son of God, why was John in a cell after serving Him so faithfully his entire life? Why didn’t Jesus do something about that? If you know the story, you know that Jesus didn’t give John the answer he was hoping for, didn’t supernaturally swing that prison door open for John and set him free. No. Jesus set John free in another way.
After Denise shared all this with Michael, she looked at him with tears in her eyes, put her hand on his shoulder and said, “Michael, you feel like your body is a prison and maybe wonder why Jesus isn’t setting you free from it. But even in this state, you are great for Him, and He is good and can be trusted with your life.”
I don’t know about tomorrow, but today this is enough to sustain us.
Wednesday’s Word-Edition 115
September 24, 2014 | My Jottings
A Worthwhile Link
September 22, 2014 | My Jottings
Good Monday morning to you! I’m hitting the ground running this morning, with hours of foster care training ahead, and a few other errands. I will have some things to share later on in the week, but for today I wanted to share a blog post with you I thought was quite profound. It’s by Sharon Hodde Miller and is about reading the Bible.
After reading this post I also realized that the approach to Bible study mentioned in it is exactly what Community Bible Study does.
So here’s the link:
And if you would like to see if there’s a Community Bible Study class near you, click here.
A Song for Michael
September 20, 2014 | My Jottings
This song by Ellie Holcomb has been playing on repeat in my house lately. It makes me think of my dear husband and all he’s going through right now.
I’m asking that these words would be true for him….
Have a peaceful weekend, friends,
There will be suffering…
September 17, 2014 | My Jottings
Does it seem to you like people everywhere are going through harder things than you’ve ever remembered? It seems like that to me. Maybe it’s just my age, and I’m more aware. After all, things have been pretty horrible in the world before the calendar flipped the page on the twenty-first century.
I started my seventeenth year in Community Bible Study yesterday and for the next thirty weeks we’re going to study 1 and 2 Corinthians. Already I’ve learned just how unbelievably depraved things were back in the days of Paul the apostle, somewhere around 50 A.D. There were things going on in Corinth that almost made my jaw drop to hear about them, and some of these things were happening in the Church. So maybe things today are just the same old, same old, and there really isn’t anything new under the sun, as Solomon said. I don’t know though.
I have friends who have sorrows that burden my heart so heavily I hardly know what to say to them. Christian parents estranged from their Christian adult children. Parents who have been prevented from seeing their only grandchildren because the family withholding visitation is erring on what they think is the side of truth rather than on the very needed side of mercy. At least that is my perspective.
I’ve written about some of this before and it’s still baffling to me.
I know a Christian family torn apart by the Christian father’s lies and bizarre behavior, and he still doesn’t have a clue that he is the problem. He turns on a dime to attack and betray those he says he loves, then gushes words of devotion to them the next day. He talks incessantly about Jesus and forgiveness and doesn’t understand why he doesn’t have the trust of his wife and respect of his grown children when he still has a pathological lying problem.
I know a man who studies the Bible for hours a day (no exaggeration) and teaches the Bible, yet screams and swears at his sweet family and calls them hateful names for ridiculous infractions you’d think I was totally making up, they’re so inconsequential. When he gives his testimony in public settings, he tells mind-boggling lies about his life to make his “conversion” seem more dramatic. His family has pleaded with him to allow his faith to spill over into his real life, but he just gets more demonic as the days go by.
I know of a man with an exquisitely lovely young wife, and his secret back alley and bathroom stall life was recently exposed, and their romantic little cottage with the chickens and the dogs is no longer home to a newly married couple. She moved away to start anew and he never once apologized for his deviant, destructive choices.
I know believing people whose spouses have been the source of such pain in their lives, they think death seems easier. One dear mother of five I know learned a while back that her Christian husband has been a serial adulterer, says he doesn’t love her anymore, and seems very matter-of-fact about divorcing, and not very broken hearted about what this has done to his children.
And I know a family who seems to be haunted by a spirit of depression. Prayers are prayed, help is sought, Bibles are read and verses memorized, praise music is played, dark spirits are rebuked, and still those family members struggle deeply to stay alive and put one foot in front of the other.
Shall I go on? I think not. But I could. And I’ll bet some of you could list some tragedies of your own, things so deep and painful you don’t really want to talk about it. And maybe you don’t even pray about it much anymore.
And now here comes my latest tale of woe. Yesterday after CBS I drove up to spend the afternoon with Michael in the veterans home where he receives nursing care. I was so excited to see him. One of his favorite meals was served for lunch: hearty helpings of meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh buttered carrots, a wheat roll with butter, and a lemony cheesecake dessert. He and I sat outside on the patio in the beautiful autumn sunshine and I helped him eat his meal. It was peaceful. He wanted to go lay down for a nap after that and we squeezed together in his twin bed, comfy and happy to be together. I thought. Michael then told me he was despairing of life and couldn’t take another day. I burst into tears at this declaration and instead of trying to comfort him and pray for him, I boo-hooed that I couldn’t believe he was adding this burden to my heart since he knows how difficult things are to begin with.
Right around this point Michael’s social worker, a very kind and competent woman, knocked on the door softly, and came in to speak to me about how things have been going with Michael these past couple of weeks. Apparently my patient and gentle husband has been yelling, striking out, running back and forth for hours until sweat drips off his face, and looking for ways to get out of the large bay windows in the dining room of his residence. This is the face of Lewy Body Dementia. This is what happens in the evenings when he goes through an episode, and when it’s all over and the staff can finally help him to lay down and go to sleep for the night, he wakes the next morning quite cheerful, not remembering any of it. In fact, when Michael’s social worker was describing to us what was happening with more frequency, Michael looked shocked and said he would never hit anyone. I completely believed him. I suppose it’s a mercy that when the Lewy Body rears its ugly and grotesque head, Michael isn’t fully conscious of what he’s doing. There are days when his Parkinson’s-afflicted brain won’t let him walk even three steps or speak above a whisper. Then there are times when the Lewy Body disease kicks in and he can run, jump and shout. It almost seems surreal to type all of this, to say that this is what our lives are now.
The staff began documenting when these LBD episodes were happening, to see if they could discern if something was triggering them, to better help Michael. At a meeting yesterday, I was told that they believed they had figured out what was triggering most of his distress, which would then set off terrible hours-long episodes.
Guess what the trigger is?
I felt yet another wave of grief wash over me when they gently told me that right after my visits with Michael, these episodes come on. He does better on the days when I’m not there.
And they also noted that he becomes upset after I call him on the phone. I’ve been driving up three days a week (and sometimes four) to be with Michael and we usually have a nice, pleasant time together (considering the circumstances), trying to make the best of this. And I’ve been calling him twice a day, once in the morning after his breakfast and once in the evening after his dinner, to be a comfort to him and to tell him how much I love him. They told me my evening call was a trigger for him, since he exhibits some of the “sundowning” behavior that many dementia patients do.
So they compassionately asked me if I would not come up to see Michael so often. They thought two days a week would be good to start, to see if he would do better and have less distress. And they asked if I would only call in the mornings from now on.
It took me some time to process this and to understand that it’s not my presence that’s upsetting to Michael. It’s my departures. He is relatively calm and happy when I’m there. And apparently when I leave to drive home in the afternoons, he just can’t take it. His social worker and one of the head nurses even told me they think that somewhere deep inside Michael thinks that each time I come to see him, I might be there to bring him home.
Lord Jesus, please help us…
I didn’t drive up to see him today. And I won’t go up to see him tomorrow, or the next day.
Today I grocery shopped, and cried. Then I went to Great Harvest to buy French baguettes, and I wiped tears when I got back to the car. I drove to the post office and to the drive-through pharmacy, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much anguish and pain my decision to place Michael in a skilled nursing care facility has brought to him. When I got home I carried in the groceries, put them away, and sat in my bedroom chair and knitted for a while, tears welling. I did laundry, made a pot of soup and let it simmer all day, and thought about how much my husband would love a steaming bowl of beef vegetable soup at our table with chunks of bread to dip in the broth.
There isn’t one person who has advised that I should bring my husband home, knowing what his prognosis is and how quickly the Parkinson’s with Lewy Body Dementia seems to be advancing. Well, there is one person who thinks it’s a sin that I am not still trying to care for Michael at home. He has no idea what it’s like to care for a person who can hardly do one thing for himself, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week….but he told me recently in so many words that 1 Timothy 5:8 is my clear mandate. Are you familiar with that verse in the Bible? Here it is:
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
I guess I don’t need to say that the words he offered me did not bring comfort.
Soooo, on that note I think I’ll stop rambling for now. It seems to me like life is getting tough for so many people. I want to walk closely with the Lord and I want Him to comfort me. I want Him to comfort Michael. I want to be a comfort to my friends and family, and I certainly want to be a comfort to my husband. Sometimes I’m not sure how to do that anymore, so I pray. And cry. And pray some more.
Here’s something from the Bible (Amplified Version) that does bring me comfort, the very words of my Savior:
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”
God’s peace to us all,
Heaps of Hydrangeas
September 13, 2014 | My Jottings
I’ve had a busy, blessed week. I will post some pictures and details soon, but today is a catch-up day so this will be a short post. My dear sister-in-law Christy flew in to spend a week with me and she and I had the most wonderful time together. She is winging her way home right now.
We have a hydrangea bush in our front yard that has never been so full and beautiful. I’m not a gardener but I think the plentiful snow and rain we’ve had these past months might be one reason why it’s showing off so much.
Sara has used some of these huge blooms for some floral work she’s been doing, so keep in mind when you see the photos, about 25% of the blooms have been cut. I think if you click on the photos twice, they’ll enlarge quite a bit.
I’m off to do some laundry, paperwork, bill-paying, vacuuming, and knitting. Christy is an expert knitter and helped me get started on a winter hat for Michael. It will be full of mistakes, but full of love too.
Do you have hydrangeas? If so, how are yours doing? What other kinds of flowers grow in your yard/containers/imagination?
My Birthday Gift
September 4, 2014 | My Jottings
I am fifty-seven years old today. When you get to be at this stage of life, birthdays don’t mean what they used to. I’m usually tickled to get a few cards from those I love, and that’s about all I want or need.
Well, this morning at the crack of dawn God gave me a beautiful birthday gift, and He wrapped it all in red.
I had gotten up early when it was still almost dark, made breakfast and set out meds for our Fosters, let the dogs out after they ate, and turned on some soft music. There was a yellowish cast to the light outside, distant rumbling thunder, and black clouds in the sky ready to unleash a torrent of rain. After a few minutes I walked down the hallway toward our bedroom, and just as I was passing my office I saw it through the sliding glass door — a little red cardinal sitting atop a fence post in our back yard! I haven’t seen a cardinal in years. I know others in our area see them, but they are still extremely rare this far north in Minnesota.
I watched him sit there for over a minute, whispering thank you Lord, praise you Jesus! again and again, then quickly went to get my camera, but by that time he’d flown off to another part of the fence and I couldn’t get a good shot.
Here’s the view of the fence I saw when I was walking by. I wish I had been quick enough to photograph the cardinal. The fence post in the right window pane, right above my office chair, was where Mr. Cardinal was perched. It’s not the greatest picture, but you can click twice to enlarge if you like.
When I came back with my camera and he had moved out of range, he was sitting on another fence post looking at his wife, just like in the picture below, but of course the picture below isn’t my picture. Durn.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Cardinals are common in many states in our country, but rare in our state. As a matter of fact, The Bird Powers that Be estimate that there are .05 – 1 cardinals per square mile in our northern part of the state. (Does that mean that some square miles have a half a cardinal in them?) And if you look at Minnesota on the cardinal territory map below, you’ll see there are areas of the state with no cardinals at all.
So for a beautiful and very rare little cardinal pair to show up on my fencepost, at the very moment I was walking by as the dawn broke, on my birthday, well….I’m thinking that was God reminding me how much He loves me and is watching over our family. That’s a very welcome reminder during this part of our lives, and I am so touched at how personal He is.
If you don’t know the cardinal story and why I’m talking about this, you can click here. It’s a short children’s story I wrote. The names and places have been changed, but all details are true for our family.
Thank you all for your kind and uplifting comments on my last post. What a difference you all made for me.
I’m headed north today, to spend my 57th with someone I love who’s 65.
Nor pain anymore
September 1, 2014 | My Jottings
I remember when my parents divorced when I was fourteen years old, and the way it felt like the earth was splitting open and swallowing our family. I thought it was the most terrible thing someone could experience. Such pain.
Then I recall thinking that the greatest anguish I’d ever felt was when my husband Glenn decided he wanted Karla, the bespectacled and sailor-mouthed wife of another man, more than he wanted me and our two little baby girls. Now there was some pain.
Then came the years of ineptly raising my three daughters, and all the ways I blew it as a mother, and the agony of seeing their pain as they made their way in life with the residue of my fierce love and glaring mistakes in their hearts. There’s no pain like the pain of watching your children’s pain, that I can tell you. But many of you probably already know what that pain feels like, don’t you?
Then there came a day when I thought I had fallen into the very bowels of hell, the pain was so unbearable. It was the day one of my sweet, little grandchildren went missing, and search parties and police were dispatched and prayer chains were activated, and she wasn’t found for hours. The cold dark was falling and she was gone, and I will never forget the horror that swallowed me, the prayers I screamed as I thrashed and rolled around on my bedroom floor almost out of my mind with fear and pain. And I will never forget how it felt to get the call that she had been found and was safe and fine. The words relief and joy and thankfulness don’t even touch what the lifting of that terror felt like. But that pain shook me and changed me forever. I will write more in detail about that another day.
Tonight there’s a deep torturous pain in my heart, my mind, my soul, my body. This pain makes most of the other pains I thought were so great seem like blips on the screen of life. I just got off the phone with my dear husband Michael and am so paralyzed by the grief and uncertainty I feel I don’t know what to do. So sometimes when I don’t know what to do, I write.
Lewy Body Dementia is one of the devil’s diseases. I can imagine that satan enjoys all disease, but I think there might just be a few illnesses that particularly delight him and I think LBD is one of them. I think ALS is another. Lewy Body Dementia causes episodes of intense agitation, confusion and delusion. Michael can be relatively calm for a few hours, and then change in just a few minutes into someone I don’t recognize. This afflicted man I don’t know paces, bangs on doors and walls, calls my name loudly and doesn’t understand or believe when the nursing staff tells him I’m not there, because his diseased brain is hearing my voice call to him so clearly, over and over. He thinks he’s being lied to and imprisoned. The staff he normally smiles at and trusts becomes the enemy during one of his episodes, and he shouts and rails against them and recoils from them when they try to calm and help him.
I tried to comfort him on the phone for over a half an hour. I talked to him of our thirty-three years together, of some of our best memories, how thankful I am that he and I fell in love and he brought me to the beautiful state of Minnesota. I talked about how our Jesus is powerful and present, how His name is the name above all names, and how He is right there with Michael. I said how this time of suffering won’t be too long, and before we know it we’ll all be with the Lord in Heaven, and we’ll finally be the real us, and there will be no Parkinson’s or Lewy Body Dementia or selfishness or pain. I asked him to say this simple prayer with me: “Jesus help me…Jesus please help me” and he repeated after me in desperation and rapid, breathless, almost unintelligible speech.
I told him many times how much I love him. I just kept saying, “I love you Michael” while trying not to let him hear me sob. At one point I could make out his response to me: “That’s what you keep telling me,” and in that voice I’ve always loved, I heard derision and unbelief.
And this, my friends, is pain. It is a hellish torture I don’t know how to endure.
And my blog is no fun to read. I know that. I’m sorry. I’m so blah blah blah Lewy Body Dementia blah blah blah Bible verse blah blah life is so hard blah blah blah times one thousand.
I wish I could go back to sharing recipes and writing about freeing muskrats from fences, about how Audrey loves Grandma’s bottom and the good books I’ve read with Mr. McBoy, about my beautiful daughters and my bad little dogs, about my dear friends and the love story God has given Michael and me.
They say everyone has a story to tell. I’ve been telling bits of our story here on my little blog for a few years now.
This part of our story is painful. I don’t know any other way to put it. Do we have blessings and provision and books and vision and food and air and sleep and friends and family and the hope of Heaven? Yes, oh yes. Thank You Lord, I say again and again. So many others suffer so much more.
But I’m going to tell the truth. I also whisper, Lord please. Please. Please have mercy. My husband is one of the most merciful people I’ve ever known. Lord, please have mercy on him tonight. And tomorrow. And forever.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
* * * * * * *
All my days are in Your hands
August 28, 2014 | My Jottings
My dear friend Sue asked me recently what I do to pass the time in the car on my hour-long drives to be with Michael. I pray and I take in the beautiful scenery of the north shore of Lake Superior, but I don’t pray the whole time. I’ve always listened to music in the car since I was a little girl, and that’s mostly what I do the three days a week I make the trip. When I think about it, that’s a minimum of six hours a week for an opportunity to fill my mind with things that will possibly make a lasting difference in my life, or not.
There are times when I’ve forgotten to bring a different CD along and I’ll listen to satellite radio. I still sing along to “Bad Moon Rising” by CCR, “Moon River” by Andy Williams, and “Tupelo Honey” by Van Morrison, but those songs just throw me back on memory’s lane and feel a bit like eating a rice cake.
Then there are times when I bring a CD or two from home, and as I listen to the whole album on the drive north, one or two songs will begin to stand out as what I desperately need to be feeding my soul these days. Then I listen to that one song, or two songs, over and over again for sometimes days at a time. I can’t explain what it feels like; it’s as if my languishing, ailing spirit gets a drink of fresh and pure, healing water, and sits up and throws off its bed clothes and begins to pour the whole bucketful down its throat.
This is the song that’s refreshing and strengthening me of late. It’s by Irishman Robin Mark, whose music I’ve long loved. It’s on his CD entitled “Robin Mark-Ultimate Collection,” and you can listen to it below. I’ve also included the lyrics.
Holy Is Our God — words and music by Robin Mark
Lift up His name
Within the sanctuary
Lift up His name
Among the people who are gathered here to sing His praise
Who are gathered here to sing His praise
Holy is our God
Holy is Your name
Mighty are Your works and deeds and
Wondrous are Your ways
All that You have made
Shall return and give You glory Lord
The earth the sky the sea and all within them
This universe beyond the sight of mortal men
All subject to His reign
All creation subject to His reign
The great I AM no end and no beginning
You were and are and evermore You shall be
All my days are in Your hands
All my days are in Your hands
Two phrases especially keep calling out to me as I drive north and listen: All creation subject to His reign, and All my days are in Your hands.
It’s profound to me how all of creation is subject to God’s reign. I see the towering pines in the Superior National Forest pointing to the sky, the white capping waves of massive Lake Superior coming only so far on the shore, the blinding rays of the sun coming up without fail as I drive along its shore, and every one of them are subject to God’s reign. They do what the King of the Universe says. Every part of creation, in its own way, points to its Maker and gives Him glory — makes Him look powerful and beautiful and detailed and awesome and trustworthy, because He is.
He gives me free will. He has set up His world so that His most precious creations (you and me and every other person) can choose to love and represent Him as they go about their days, or choose not to. I can point to my Maker and make Him look powerful and beautiful and detailed and awesome and trustworthy by the way I love and obey Him, or I can do my own raggedy thing and not make Him known at all. As I listen to this song repeatedly each week, I cry out to God and ask Him to help me love Him with my whole heart, obey Him and bring Him glory like the rest of His creation does. I truly need His help in this.
And then when I sing along with Robin Mark “all my days are in Your hands!” I remind myself of what this means for Michael and me. I so want to comfort Michael with the fact that he and I are both in our Father’s capable, loving hands, and we can trust Him even though this season in our lives feels lonely and dark. Michael’s mental capacities are dimming, but his spirit is not. The outward is fading away, as an old oak sheds its leaves and ceases to flourish, but the inner man, the spirit of my husband, is that same bright flame that has been there since he gave his life to Jesus when he was thirty years old. I know that somewhere deep inside, his spirit responds readily to God. I see evidence of that when we’re together and I can’t begin to say how priceless it is to me.
Friends, thank you for stopping by today. I’m grateful for those of you who comment and speak of your prayers for us.
May God bless you and yours, and may He help us all to love Him more with each passing day,
“So we do not lose heart…”
August 25, 2014 | My Jottings
Michael has been in the veterans home for fifty-three days now and I’m wondering when and if this is ever going to feel less heartwrenching. I realize that this is not all about me, and that he is the one who has had to make the bigger adjustment and be away from his home, and he probably feels more pain and grief than I do. But there are days when I feel utterly bereft. Just typing that last sentence has brought tears.
I’m very grateful for things that distract me from focusing constantly on us being apart. On Saturday I hosted a baby shower for our daughter Carolyn and about twenty-six people attended. I worked on things slowly and over the course of three days — I premade as much of the food as possible, cleaned the house a bit, washed rugs, set up chairs, and on the day of the shower I actually made my bed and put all its decorative pillows in their places (which almost requires a detailed schematic).
Doing the shower was a blessing. So many beautiful women attended; friends of Carolyn’s, friends of mine, all gathering together in such generosity to help her prepare for this new little girl we’re so excited to meet in October. Two of the recipes I liked the most are from Shauna Niequist’s book called Bread and Wine, which I highly recommend. Her bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and pecans were sublime. I also made her watermelon and feta salad. I marinated chunks of watermelon in fresh-squeezed lime juice for a few hours, and made a vinaigrette with white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper, and tossed it all together with arugula, crumbled feta, chopped mint, red onion and lime zest. It was so unique and delicious!
And Carolyn and Jeremy’s baby will be the most adorably dressed little girl east of the Rockies, I predict.
I was bone tired when I went to bed the night of the shower, and left some of the bigger dishes like the punch bowl and serving platters unwashed until last night. I laid my head on my pillow and thought of Michael, how much he would have ooohed and aaahed over the good food, how he would have been one of the few men to enjoy seeing all the baby finery, and how much I miss him. All. The. Time. Is this our life, Lord? Is this how things are going to go? I find myself asking senseless questions like this, still in what feels like a stunned state of limbo. But this is not limbo. It is life. And we have got to learn to live it in the peace and grace promised to those who trust the Lord.
But then I ask myself, is this really trusting the Lord? And as ridiculous as this answer sounds, it’s honest: I’m not sure yet.
I met a wonderful woman of God named Nancy whose husband spent three years in this same veterans home, and he finally died there this year, from Parkinson’s Disease with Dementia. Nancy radiates God’s joy and peace, and she speaks to me of how she believes this place was a gift from the Lord to both Marshal and to her. She was so blessed that the Lord wanted her to have a life too, as she puts it, and that He provided this fantastic facility where the men are honored and served so respectfully. She drove up twice a week for years to spend time with her husband, and when he finally didn’t know her anymore she made the hour long drive only once a week. She said it was hard, but that she was so grateful God provided this placement so she could sleep at night, not completely wear herself out trying to care for a husband with overwhelming physical and mental needs, spend time with her grandchildren, go to a concert once in a while, and so on. She told me that they do so much more for the men at this veterans home than she could have ever done for her husband.
When Nancy shared this so lovingly and graciously with me, it made perfect sense and I felt in awe at God’s goodness to her and Marshal. I am in the same situation. Yet I struggle to see it the same way she does. Nancy calls to check on me and I sometimes sob when we talk — she understands. She gently tries to get me to see how necessary this is and what a lavish provision it is. And with my head I do see it that way. My heart is still aching, though. Maybe my heart is blind.
Nancy sends me notes in the mail filled with wisdom and scripture. I read them again and again and try to soak in what it is she feels the Lord laid on her heart. I pray that peace and assurance about all of this eventually comes, especially for Michael.
Yesterday morning I drove north to spend the day with Michael and I took along a couple of treats from the baby shower. He and I made our usual rounds, going to sit in front of the aviary to marvel at the birds who sing and trill so confidently. We wheeled outside to sit in the gazebo, and he agreed with me that one of the most lovely, soothing things ever is the sound of a soft wind blowing through a thousand birch trees. We went back inside and I helped him eat his delicious lunch, a very Michael meal consisting of a hearty, boneless pork chop, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh mixed vegetables, a buttered whole wheat roll, and some soft-serve ice cream with chocolate syrup drizzled over it. Then he and I scrunched together in his twin bed and napped for a while, or at least he did. I took him to the Physical Therapy gym where he did twenty minutes on the recumbent bike. At 3:00 he and I went to the Sunday chapel service in The Great Room; we sang several old hymns and listened to a man from the local Vineyard congregation share.
I always get ready to return home around 4:00 p.m. I hate having to tell Michael because he seems surprised and crestfallen each time. He asked me yesterday when I could move in to the veterans home with him, and seemed a bit taken aback when I told him we still had a house and Foster residents I needed to care for, and that I couldn’t move in right away. :( Before I leave I help him get out of his wheelchair and into a recliner, which sometimes takes two people so an aide will assist us, cover him with a quilt, reassure him that I’ll return to him soon, and then I get very close and whisper the most fervent prayers to the Lord in his ear.
Michael closes his eyes with me and I thank the Lord that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39), and ask for His help so that we don’t lose heart, and to keep our hearts and minds set on Him even though our bodies are wasting away, remembering that we’re being renewed inwardly (2 Corinthians 4:16-18), and then I thank God over and over for such a husband as Michael, and ask Him to send ministering angels to help him, send the Holy Spirit to comfort Him, and to bless Him with joy and the peace that passes all understanding. Even though it’s almost impossible to understand Michael’s speech anymore, I can hear his quiet yes, Lord and his amens as I pray.
And then I kiss and hug him goodbye, walk through the locked doors of his residence, down the halls of this veterans home, through the impressive front room with the fireplace and the giant moose head hanging over the mantel, out into the parking lot, and to our car.
Before I fasten my seatbelt and start the engine, I reach for a Kleenex.