Taking Care of Mama: A Change of Heart

 

 

Have you ever wondered why God allows people to live on and on into their 80’s and 90’s in various states of pain and disability—severe arthritis, blindness, deafness, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other chronic, debilitating and painful conditions? If you have an elderly loved one who is suffering, then you probably have. Recently, my own 91-year-old mother relayed to me that she doesn’t understand why the Lord still has her here on this earth. Here is a glimpse into her life:

I walked into her room at the rehab center one hot summer afternoon. There she sat in her wheelchair, eyes gently closed, head tilted back ever so slightly. She didn’t move as I called out, “Hey, mama”. She is nearly deaf so she didn’t hear me as I threw open the door and trounced into the room. As I gently touched her arm letting her know of my presence, she straightened up and looked at me with sad, discouraged eyes. “They brought my breakfast again before washing my face and putting my partial denture in”, she said. Being in a nursing center for the first time had been quite an adjustment for her after living on her own all these years.

As I began to visit with mom, an old friend of hers walked in. Sadly, my mom had no idea who it was, not because her memory is going, (her mind is sharp as a tack) but because she can no longer make out facial features. She suffers from macular degeneration and is almost blind. All of her life one of mom’s favorite pastimes has been reading. Now… there is no device or pair of glasses that can help her make out the words on the page.

Because she cannot read or watch T.V., she spends most of her time at the nursing center just sitting. Sitting and thinking. Waiting for the next visit from a friend or family member. Looking out the window into the sunny courtyard.

When it comes to mobility, mom can still make her way from point to point—slowly and painstakingly—with a walker, although she has severe arthritis in every joint.

Mom is in the rehab center for physical therapy after cracking several ribs in a fall. Her recovery has been painful and slow and she has been very discouraged at times. It has been quite an adjustment for all of us as we’ve had to watch mom rely on others for even her most basic needs.

Mom is 91 years old and is a believer. She has told us she is ready to go and be with Jesus—to be free from pain.

As mom’s health has declined, the responsibility of her care and the management of her affairs has fallen largely to me as her only daughter. My brother helps when he can, especially with things like home repair and other things that are out of my wheelhouse. But I have taken on being her chauffeur, her grocery shopper, her business manager, etc. It’s sometimes tough to manage my own home and family as well as hers. As I often say, my peers and I are a part of the “sandwich generation”, taking care of our elderly parents while still parenting our own kids.

As I began doing more and more for my mom, I resented the new “duties”. I felt they were an inconvenience, a chore, an intrusion. Couldn’t someone else do it? I had a busy life of my own with 2 kids still at home. I felt trapped as I realized there was no one else. As I spent more and more time with my mom— taking her to doctor’s appointments, helping her at home, tending to her personal needs—a funny thing happened. I noticed a change in myself. I began to care for her out of love rather than obligation.

I literally felt a change occurring in my heart. That’s when I realized why God allows people like my mom to live into their 90’s in struggle and pain. It is for us—for me. Through serving my mom God has taught me about self-sacrifice. He has developed in me patience, empathy, and mercy like I’ve never known. He has taught me the true meaning of servanthood.

You see, through my relationship with my aging mama, God is making me more like Him.

 

 

Posted in Parenting, Spiritual Encouragement, Thankfulness | 4 Comments

No More Excuses: Fitness by Default!

 

Today I went to the gym. I have put it off for so long but alas, one-by-one my excuses have fallen away and now I am left with only one—my own pathetic lack of discipline.

I can no longer complain that I have babies under foot and would have to get a sitter. I am past the taxi-mom days of running children from sports to play dates to music lessons, so “busy” is out. I no longer leave the house to go to a full-time job every day, so I can’t cry about exhaustion and work deadlines. And, to my delight, (or dismay?) a friend told me about this amazing, no yearly contract, special offer at our local gym-which is ridiculously close to my house! So, “can’t afford the membership” and “too far to drive” are out the window, as well.

Darn it! There go all my go-to excuses. Now, I am forced to overcome my lack of discipline and get into the routine of slapping on my sneakers, squeezing into my stretchy workout pants, and driving to the gym. The good news is it’s a ghost town at the time of day that I show up. Everybody else is at work!

What about you? Maybe finding time for exercise isn’t your problem but what about spending time in the Word of God and developing your relationship with Him?

Do you have a million excuses for neglecting your daily time with the Lord?

For many of you, exercise or gym time is something you wouldn’t even think of missing on a given day. You have made it a priority. It is a part of your very identity. Missing your workout even effects your mood and therefore, your relationship with your family and others.

Shouldn’t you put just as much importance on developing your relationship with the Lord through a daily quiet time? We can actually know the heart of God through studying and meditating on His Word. We can find strength, wisdom, comfort, peace, and validation there. We can commune with the very God of the universe through the act of prayer.

Christian, what excuses do you have for not getting with God every day? Nothing is more important for life, for peace, for relationships, for godliness. Make it a priority. No more excuses.

Give God the very best part of your day and he will bless you with time for everything else he needs you to accomplish. I have definitely found this to be true in my own life. Praying that you will make time for Him!

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8 (NIV)

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”              Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” 1 Peter 2:2 (NIV)

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My Husband Will Never Change (and I’m so glad!)

 

My husband was up at 5:30 this morning. I listened as he gathered his workout clothes and tennis shoes, and then proceeded to the kitchen to prepare his protein shake. As the whirring sound of the blender died down, I snuggled deeper into the covers, adjusted my pillow and fell back into some serious REM sleep. Early morning workouts are not my thing—at all. My husband’s morning ritual is one that I am very familiar with. You see, my sweet husband is pretty much the same person he was when I married him more than 20 years ago, in spite of my impassioned attempts to change him. (Young wives, re-read that last statement!)

He loves to exercise. He is very “routine driven”. He likes alone time much more than people time. He takes each day as it comes rather than talking a lot about the future. And he is much less into communication/verbal dialogue than I, keeping his own thoughts to himself unless prodded to do otherwise. He’s also a big sports fan and has trouble sitting still for very long, whereas, I can watch 2 or 3 movies in a row or read an entire book without leaving my comfortable chair.

In the early years of our marriage, we had lots of “discussions”, mostly initiated by moi, about how we could improve our relationship if only he would do such and such. I made numerous ill-fated (although well-intentioned) attempts to change him in one way or the other—to make him more communicative, more social, more engaged, less strict about his routine, etc. I did use a gentle approach—because that’s the way I am—and wrote lots of nice lists and notes for him which I placed in obvious, accessible places around the house. And I prayed for change.

For a time I lost sight of some very important facts:

  • God’s unique design for men was intentional. And he made men and women different for a reason. Your husband is not meant to be just like you.
  • No human being is—or will ever be—perfect in this life, including the aforementioned, moi. This is why leaving a marriage thinking “the grass is greener” is never a good idea.
  • True and lasting change in human beings must come from within.
  • It’s easy to see the beautiful things about your spouse if you just look for them.
  • Marriage is and will always be more give than take. It cannot be successful unless at least one of the parties involved has a selfless, servant attitude. (preferably both, of course!)
  • Most husbands just want simple things out of life. Things like peace, acceptance, respect and, oh yeah, good food.

Over time God taught me these valuable lessons and today, life is more peaceful and settled— but still fun and exciting! We can’t change our spouses. We can pray for their growth, love them, respect them, and make our homes a warm and relaxing place for them, but we have to leave the rest to God. We need to focus instead on our own relationship with Christ, becoming the best partner we can be under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.

I’m so glad I was unsuccessful in re-making my husband. After all, God made him just right the first time. These days I am more grateful than ever to hear that buzzing alarm clock at 5:30 a.m. given the fact that my husband survived open-heart surgery just a year and a half ago. His life is a precious gift to me. And I’m glad he is still the same man I married all those years ago—even if I will never, ever, convince him to sit down with me and watch all four emotional, riveting hours of “Gone With the Wind”!

 

 

Posted in Divorce, Marriage, Spiritual Encouragement | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Simple Things That Make My Heart Sing!

 

I sing in a two different choirs. My own church choir, which is like a family to me, and a large statewide choir (500 strong) that sings at various events and churches around our state several times a year. Participating in these two choirs is an important part of my life and brings me great joy. It lifts my spirit and fills my soul to sing praises to the King of Kings with other believers. It makes my heart sing.

But, there are  other, non-musical things in my life that make my heart sing, as well, like:

Enjoying a full house, noisy once again as my independent young adult children come home for a holiday or family event and interact with each other in fun and teasing ways—a vivid display of their unbreakable family bond.

Walking with my husband on a sunny day, under the shade of the oak canopy that stretches over our quiet little country road—engaging in deep conversation or just holding hands in silence.

Lying on the beach with a book in my hand, lulled into relaxation by the hypnotic sound of the undulating ocean waves and the warm caress of the summer sun.

Sharing moments of growth and epiphany with other women of all ages who have come together for Bible study and encouragement.

Seeing glimpse of spiritual ownership and growth displayed in the lives of my young adult children, a confirmation of God’s grace and mercy to an imperfect yet well-meaning mama.

Enjoying quiet, uninterrupted private times of prayer and devotion with the God of the universe on my humble back porch.

Holding my very first grandchild and seeing in his eyes the hope of Christ for the next generation.

These simple things make my heart sing.

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Daily Habits for Effective Christian Living

 

Living a purposeful and effective Christian life with a spiritual mindset doesn’t come naturally to us. In general, we are more earthly minded, haphazardly rushing about our day completing tasks, going to meetings, running errands—focusing on the urgent, but not necessarily the important duties of life. Few of us have ever taken the time to develop a plan of action that will lead to a more effective and purposeful spiritual existence. Here are 5 practical steps we can take each and every day to maximize our impact in our little corner of the world:

  • Encourage a family member with a note, a kind word or a helpful act. Everyone needs regular encouragement. Our husbands need to hear that we appreciate them, our kids need to know that we’ve noticed their progress and growth. I mean, who doesn’t love a note in their lunchbox signed with a heart, or a message scribbled in lipstick on the mirror? How about a Bible verse taped to the closet door? A little note only takes a minute. A simple act like taking over a person’s chore for the day or giving them a spontaneous back rub can really lift their spirits. You know what actions speak love to your child or to your husband. Plan to implement one of those actions each day.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10

  • Encourage someone outside of your family by sending a text (it only takes a second), writing a card, or paying a visit. We all know someone who is either in the midst of a health crisis, going through family struggles or just needing some encouragement. Maybe there is an elderly widow or widower in your church or neighborhood who needs to see a smiling face or to simply know that someone cares. Loneliness is a very real struggle in the waning years of life. On days when you find yourself with a little extra time, maybe you can bake a pie or deliver a flower bouquet to someone in need. The point is to look outside your family each day and think of someone who needs encouragement. Then, be Jesus to them.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:8-10

  • Meditate on God’s Word. Find some time in your day for a few moments of quiet solitude to read and meditate on the Bible. His Word is our instruction manual for living. It is also God’s love letter to us—a view into his very heart. How can we possibly know God and his purpose for our lives if we never read his Word? If you’re not sure where to start, use a daily devotional as a guide, choose a book of the Bible to read through over a few days, or just begin where the spirit leads. You may have to be creative in finding time. If you work outside the home, perhaps you can slip away to your car at lunchtime, or get up early in the morning before the kids. The Bible is a treasure trove of insight, wisdom, and comfort. Dive into it every day!

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

  • Spend time in prayer. Prayer is not a magical, mystical practice; it is simply a conversation with God. We pray in order to take our struggles, fears and questions before Him seeking mercy, healing and help for ourselves and others. In addition, it is through prayer that we thank and praise God for all he has done for us and for all that we have. The time and place are not that important. In fact, prayer is to be an ongoing attitude of the heart. We have access to God anytime, anywhere, and for any reason. He is always waiting patiently to hear from us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

  • Invest in your personal health and wellness by getting some exercise (this could mean walking the dog or working in the garden—no gym membership necessary!) and taking the time to prepare a healthy meal or snack. Like it or not, it is through these imperfect human bodies of ours that we minister to others and carry forth the message of Christ to the world. Therefore, we need to have the energy and stamina to complete the task. That means making sure there is some sort of physical activity in our day and that we eat, in moderation, a variety of the delicious and colorful foods that God has provided for us. Rest is another important component to health and wellness that we often overlook. Make time for a nap or plan to get 6-8 hours of sleep a night. Or, just step away from your life for a few moments and do something relaxing that you love. (reading!)

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.                                1 Corinthians 6:19-20

If we can incorporate these 5 habits for Christian living into our daily routine, we will become more effective in ministry and in life as we learn to: love and encourage others, develop our relationship with God, and take care of our earthly temple. Let’s begin today!

 

 

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