Hearts of Love on Valentine’s Day

In a turbulent world, let's share love

On this Valentine’s Day, let’s love not just in word, but in deed.

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and that means hearts and chocolates, lace and roses, confessions of love and statements of commitment.  Our society, here in the United States, seems to be undergoing a fierce shaking apart.  Those who profess love protest in the streets.  The ones hurting the deepest feel the most alone while the loudest voices shake in anger.

And we serve a God who says, “Love one another.”

That’s what He asks.  What are we going to do?

This week at my school (I teach grades 7-10) we’re collecting Pennies for Patients.  At our youth group we collected toiletries for people without homes.  On my Facebook feed I see dear friends who’ve lost a parent and/or I see pleas for help for new cancer diagnoses, large bills for treatment or prayers for comfort as a loved one goes on hospice care.  I listen to or read prayer requests of broken homes, messed up families, drug abuse and pain.

Meanwhile the streets are filled with people yelling about love.

I don’t want to hear any more yelling.  Not that they’re wrong, just that yelling doesn’t solve it.  And I’m a retired caregiver, a teacher, a wife and a mom who is tired of noise.

I want to see hearts and chocolates, lace and roses, and I want to hear confessions of love and commitment.  I want our country to stop yelling and protesting and start loving.  God says it, and He says things for a reason.

Love is the only way the world heals.

So for those who come across this post, or your own conscience that tells us to actually DO something in love, let’s make this Valentine’s day something powerful.  Let’s fill our world with LOVE.

Make this Valentine's day something powerful #loveoutloud #Valentine'sDay Click To Tweet

I have, of course, some things near and dear to my heart, and I’ll post some links in case you’re looking for ways to share your love today, in a tangible way.  But there are a million ways out there to show love and care – find your way and DO it!

Love List

  1.  Donate to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.  They support research in a big way.  I’m partial to this one because it was my son’s battle.
  2. St. Jude is a children’s research hospital.  There are many, this is one of the more famous.  The beauty of childhood cancer research is that they share, and are thus making more progress than many adult cancer research programs.  Also, St. Jude seeks treatment for every child, without billing parents (at least that’s what they advertise).
  3. Look for your local school district.  Almost any classroom teacher would love some new books or some additional items to help in his/her classroom.  How about volunteering to listen to a child read?  It’s not as easy now as it used to be, our laws mean strict vetting of volunteers, but it’s still possible.
  4. How about assisting in a homeless shelter near you?  Google finds you lots of places that could use help.  I know the one near us is thrilled to get packages of toiletries.
  5. Donate blood.  There is ALWAYS a need.  I can attest to the fact that sometimes even children have to wait for blood, or platelets (that’s the one we always had to wait for) in times of crisis.  Donate!

This is just a tiny list of ways to reach out a share your Valentine heart of love with someone this week.  I’m sure you have a list too.  In fact, if you have a link you’d like to leave in the comments, let’s spread the love!

God bless you as you share your heart this week.

Let's fill our world with LOVE #Valentine'sDay Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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Safe in the Tub – the love in the midst of the impossible

Five-Minute-Friday: Safe

This post is written with the gang over at Five-Minute-Friday where we write on a prompt, for five minutes, and then post.  Don’t think, just do it!  This week’s prompt:  SAFE

It’s been sitting for nine years, safe in the bin I threw it in when I tried to return to “normal” after Andrew’s last chemotherapy appointment in December of 2007.  I cherished each card, letter, poster, and note people sent to us. But suddenly, that year, I needed to hide them.  We had more than enough reminders of Andrew’s travel through three and a half years of leukemia treatment.

I felt desperate to return to life.

Safe in the bin where I placed them. Reminders of support and love.

This week my school is kicking off the Pennies for Patients campaign for the Leukemia/Lymphona Society. On a search for the Pennies for Patients poster that featured Andrew, I rifled through that plastic tub that I have kept safe, but untouched for years. Just opening the lid provided a lightning flashback because of the innocuous heplock flush valve lying on top of the last MRI results.  I could not read more than 6 or 7 cards, as the tears blurred my vision. The valves, flush syringes and deadening cream in the bottom of tub ensured the return of the cover.

But not before a huge rush of appreciation and love flooded me.  I saw some imaginative and slightly odd cards decorated with love by children none of our family have ever met – those children who prayed for my boy.  There were recognizable post-it-notes that I would find on my desk after returning to work after a nine-hour-day at chemo.  I read hand-written poems and prayer placed in my mailbox by my high-school students and a note left on my clean pile of laundry by a friend.  A couple of empty envelopes baffled me, but just until I remembered the lady who sent us half of her over-time check for 6 months straight to help us out.  I hadn’t met her then, but she chose to bless us anyway.

There are more.  So many more.

A tub full of blessings and love waiting for when I need it, or when I can handle it.

A safe place full of reminders that our world holds beauty in the midst of ugly, and safety in the middle of a storm.

There is still beauty in our world that keeps us safe and grounded through hard times #fmfparty… Click To Tweet

Confessions my FMF friends:  I honestly have no idea how long this took me to write.  I got hung up on the tub full of blessings tonight, which forced me to write when I thought I had nothing on the prompt!

 

Screaming – Five Tips for NOT Screaming

When you feel like you really need to!

While tempting, screaming seldom solves anything.

“Get out of my way!” I screamed at the driver who cut me off. “Where could you possibly have to go that’s more important than me taking my son to the ER?”

“I don’t have time for this!” I screamed in my classroom at the mountain of papers the substitute had piled up for me to grade.

“You can’t have him, we’re busy!” I screamed at the people wanting to talk to my husband about stupid mundane problems at school. “Can’t you see my son is hurting?  Who cares about your trifling issues?”

“Don’t talk to me about your over-active son’s problems!” I screamed at the couple in the elevator. “My son used to be active, but now he might not even live!”

“Don’t joke about me ‘moving in’ when you see me carrying a suitcase into the hospital!” I screamed at the janitor. “This has become my life overnight, and it’s NOT a joke!”

“How can you all keep going on as though nothing is happening?”  I screamed at the world.

“How can you go snowboarding when my son is fighting so hard to live?  Why do you go shopping when my son is being poked over and over?  Why are you renting movies and cracking jokes when my son is in so much pain?  How can you go to school when my son is going through torture?”

I screamed at everyone!

My son. My only son. Fighting for his life while the world keeps going. My precious, precious son.

Wait a minute.

God’s son. His only son. His precious, precious son.

Does God want to scream at us?  “How can you keep going?  How can you keep doing those mundane useless things?  Don’t you realize my son was tortured, poked and suffering?  My only son?!”

But that’s not the kind of God He is. He doesn’t scream at people, just like I wasn’t really screaming at anyone. But I wanted to.

I wonder if God ever wants to scream.

Five things to do when you feel like screaming (but can’t):

  1. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm.  Seriously, it sounds too simple to be real, but breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth can change your mindset.
  2. Vent to a journal.
  3. Pray—if all you can say is, “Dear God!” it’s okay. He understands the groaning of our heart (Romans 8:26-28).
  4. Praise God—it sounds counter-intuitive, but praise wins over rage, every time.
  5. Phone a friend (a safe friend) and ask if you can vent out loud.
Five tips to prevent you from screaming, even when you feel like it! #caregiving #stress Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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He Lives within my Heart

After-effects of a battle with Alzheimer's

 “He lives within my heart!”

You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart!

It’s amazing to stand in an auditorium filled with Christian pastors and teachers and have all 300 or so lifting their hearts to God together in song.  I loved every moment.  Until they introduced the hymn, “He Lives”.  The song leader motioned everyone to stand and I felt my heart sink even while it also rejoiced.

“He better not direct and have us hold out that note,” I whispered to my husband regarding the actions of the song leader.  I tried to sing, I really did.  But as soon as we hit the chorus, tears beat the words to my mouth.  Swiping my cheeks frantically, I leaned my head down so my hair could cover my face a bit.  The congregation sang mightily and the chorus sounded amazing echoing around that great hall.

They hit the last verse and I muttered to myself, “Don’t hold it…don’t hold it.”

I’m pretty sure that song leader attended the same university my dad did.  You know, that one where they teach you to hold your arms up and wave the audience into unison singing, where you learn to sing with emotion and emphasize certain notes.

This song leader entered the chorus with gusto and loudly sang the lines, “You ask me how I know He lives?”  He  took a deep breath, and just like my dad used to do, he directed all of us to a grand finale,

“He LI-i-i-i-i-i-i-VES, within my heart!”

“Amen!” shouted pastors and teachers.

“Oh dear!” I whispered.

He lives…

My dad’s been gone just over a year.  The pain and confusion is over for my dad. The caregiving days are over, for my mom.  I no longer wonder or worry about how dad is doing, but it’s worse not having him around.  When I hear those songs he loved so much, or read a verse he cherished, or see a new building being built or spy old blueprints: in those moments the loss of my hero smacks me so hard.  It blindsided me during that hymn and I hate that it did, yet I love that it does.  My dad sang that song out of pure unadulterated joy in his Savior.  He believed God had led in his life and he believed that Christ lived in his heart.  He believed it, he lived it and he sang it.

Watching my dad with Alzheimer’s was difficult, but getting the opportunity to see him cling to the love of his Jesus was beautiful.  I couldn’t sing “He Lives” with my fellow teachers very well.  The tears fell too freely.

But I have the song in my heart, where my dad taught me to place and hold the love of God.  “He Li-i-i-i-ives, within my heart!”

Alzheimer's cannot remove Jesus living in your heart! #HeLives #caregiving Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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New Year or New Every Morning

God's grace offers a fresh start every day

God's grace means we get a new start every day

God’s grace means we get a new start every day

On New Year’s Day, it’s natural to focus on the “new” part.  It’s a new day, a new week and a new year all in one, this year.  Today is a traditional time to make New Year’s Resolutions and a time when the entire country focuses on getting organized and healthy and cleaning up our acts.

For me personally, it’s even bigger than just the start of a year.  In the last few months I’ve switched houses twice, live in a different city and state and of course, I changed jobs. “New” has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve never been much for making Resolutions, mostly because I’m not good at keeping them, also, if I think about all the things I should be changing in my life it becomes overwhelming quickly.  Let’s face it – I have a lot I need to work on changing.  I should straighten out my diet and exercise more.  I should be more organized and more consistent.  I should spend more time in God’s word, I should…I should. The “should” list is pretty much endless.

Yeah.

I’ve never been much for the New Year’s Resolution thing.  In spite of that, I cannot help but think about how great the ability to start fresh feels to my soul.

Today I read this verse in Lamentations 3:22-24

Because of the Lord’s gracious love we are not consumed,
    since his compassions never end.
They are new every morning—
    great is your faithfulness!
 “The Lord is all I have,”[a] says my soul,
    “Therefore I will trust in him.”

God’s grace is new every morning!  Did you get that?  Every morning when you get up, you start new with Jesus.  New Year’s Resolutions?  Not necessary.  Every single day is a new start.  Through God’s grace we get to work on changing what we need to change every single day.

God's grace is new every single day. #godsgrace #newinchrist #blessedbutstressed Click To Tweet

 

My Christmas gang was so much fun. But now it's New Year's and new starts...

My Christmas gang was so much fun. But now it’s New Year’s and new starts…

I’m sitting in my quiet house, after a crazy busy Christmas break with all my kids home, plus other friends and family who visited.  It was wonderful – tiring but wonderful. I had a huge list of things to get done through the break and I completed a good portion, but still have lots to do. I should be…should do…should…

My plan is simple.

I’m going to cling to being new, every day, through the grace of Jesus Christ. God can change in me whatever He needs to change. He will give me the strength to do what I need to do. He provides whatever I need.  I will rest in Him and choose His grace each day.

New Year's Resolution or new start with God? #newinchrist #newyear2017 Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from 2016!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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The Music of God’s Love

My Christmas Agenda Might be Different from God's Plan

I had not idea the music to make me less homesick could be a blessing to a lonely old man.

I had not idea the music to make me less homesick could be a blessing to a lonely old man.

I leaned against the cold marble, pulled up my knees and brought my flute to my mouth,  and let the beloved music of home and Christmas fill the frozen air.  The French train station was crowded down nearer to the tracks, but not where I sat guarding my backpack.  My traveling companions suggested songs and I tried to comply, having no music, as I felt I had sacrificed valuable space already, backpacking around Europe with my flute.  I played “Silent Night” and the echoes drifted across the high ceilings and wrapped around the marble pillars.  I closed my eyes and tried not to feel homesick as my fingers automatically searched for the next note.  A strange smell wafted into my consciousness and I opened my eyes as my song faded.

There, about six feet to my left, tottered a smelly old man, practically toothless, dirty and hunched over with tiredness and cold.  He stopped when he saw me watching and stayed where he was.  My friend suggested another song and with my eye on the bum, I started to play again.  He shifted closer.

I scooted a tad to the right and continued playing.  He shuffled nearer still, an odd hum coming from his direction.  The backpack to my right prevented me from moving any farther and I lowered my flute to shove the bundle over.  My friend said quietly, “He’s not going to hurt you.  Your music is beautiful and he just wants to enjoy it.”

Scared and insecure, I began playing again and in spite of my self-consciousness and the smell drawing closer, I lost myself in the music and played to the end of “What Child is This?”  In the sudden silence following my song, I heard a burp.  I stared helplessly at my buddies who giggled a bit and shrugged.  “What are you going to do?  He likes your music.  It’s his blessing tonight.  Play more.”

Leaning to the right, trying to appear as though this were comfortable, I played on as the old man on my left leaned with me.  By half-way through “The First Noel” I could look up and see him almost bending over the top of where I sat on the floor.  His eyes were closed and a slight curve lifted the sides of his mouth.

At the sight of that smile, I relaxed for the first time since arriving at the train station hours before when we found out our train wasn’t going anywhere.  I’d had an agenda – through France and onward to Italy.  Let’s move it, Christmas is coming!

I rested my right elbow on my backpack and looked up at the peace on the face above me, smiling and nodding to the haunting notes from my flute.  I played on, the sounds amazing in that ancient marble building.

I had an agenda, but God has a plan! #blessedbutstressed #christmas Click To Tweet

I had an agenda, but now, with 30 years of hindsight, I wonder if God didn’t have another plan.  While I desired travel, to make memories and experience new sights and sounds, maybe I was actually there to be Christmas to a sad and lonely old man on that cold winter night.

I’m facing a crazy busy Christmas season, yet again.  I have a new-to-me house to move into, kids to pick up from airports, gifts to wrap and memories to make.  I have an agenda.  But I need to pause, because I can’t help but wonder what plan God has for me this season.  Who will God send me that needs to feel the beautiful music of His love?

Who needs the sweet music of God's love? #blessedbutstressed #christmas Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week.

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

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A Neutropenic Christmas

God's Love in the Small Things

We can make the difference - even during a a neutropenic Christmas!

We can make the difference – even during a a neutropenic Christmas!

“All I want for Christmas is…” the song echoed down the hospital corridor as I made my way back to my neutropenic boy’s room.  My mind finished automatically, “…to be home.”   I wanted to be home, I wanted to be with my whole family, I wanted to not be watching temperatures and blood counts.

Truthfully, this was the day after Christmas.  We had been home for Christmas, and the blessings we felt as we gathered around our tree had me fighting back tears most of the day.  December 26, however, brought with it a fever with an unknown source and we were back in the children’s ward, listening to Christmas carols and still smelling the turkey.

I walked into Andrew’s room and saw his brightly flushed cheeks and over-bright eyes and I knew the fever hadn’t abated.  “Are the girls coming?” he asked.

“No.  It’s snowing, Andrew.  They can’t get over the pass very safely.  Daddy says they’ll try tomorrow.”

“Ok”  His eyes closed but his hands still twitched restlessly.  I settled onto my cot.  “Mommy,”  his eyes were on me,  “I loved Christmas!”

“Me too, buddy.”

Andrew during his surprise Santa visit.

Andrew during his surprise Santa visit.

As my four-year-old drifted off to the sleep he needed so badly I remembered the visit from a local Santa, who’d known Andrew couldn’t go out.  I thought about my friends who were all happy to remove shoes, to use Germ-X, to wear a face-mask while they visited.  I pictured the video made by my friend so my boy wouldn’t miss his Bible class.  I recalled the gas gift cards, the books and the music CDs we’d received.  I smiled as I heard again the students who’d come caroling at our door, knowing Andrew was missing the annual Christmas party at the school.

I had been scared, when approaching the Christmas season with a neutropenic boy.  I wondered how we’d make it special and keep our traditions with him being so sick.  I prayed daily we could actually celebrate Christmas at home, together.

I’d forgotten that God is found in the small things.

He’s found in the gifts and thoughtfulness of friends and family.  God gave us presents we’d never thought of, allowing us to see the caring of the world around us in ways we never would have otherwise.  God opened our eyes to the beauty of time together over anything and everything else.

Not every caregiving story provides that kind of Christmas.  As I write I think of the many caregivers I know and love who no longer have a person to take care of: they would give anything to be called a caregiver again.  They are facing a Christmas that feels empty.

My prayer, this Christmas season, is that we remember that God is in the small things… Click To Tweet

My prayer, this Christmas season, is that we remember that God is in the small things:  the things that you and I do to remind caregivers they are not alone.  Those moments we spend sending an encouraging note.  That extra copy of a picture we share with a caregiver to show them we remember, we care and we love.

Maybe sometimes God’s love comes through visits from Santa or maybe it’s in that bottle of Germ-X that caregivers know too much about – whatever form God’s love takes, let’s you and I be the ones to share it!

Whatever form God’s love takes, let’s you and I be the ones to share it! #neutropenicchristmas… Click To Tweet

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week.

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).


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Caregivers for Life

When the beauty never fades and the loves never gives up hope

Loving hands are caregivers for life

Loving hands are caregivers for life

Although the house smelled of medication, rancid dishrags, baby powder and urine, the remnants of a life well-lived were evident all around. Knick-knacks reflecting good taste and money waited for my dust-cloth. A black grand piano sat in ancient splendor in a darkened and neglected corner of the living room.  A pile of dishes and a dirty stovetop didn’t quite hide the name brands that spoke of good breeding.  The luxurious carpet hid my footsteps from the reason I entered the house.

My reason certainly wasn’t to get rid of the horrible smells, although that was the source of my income.  My reason was not to cut the dust and allow the lights to sparkle off the ornamental decorations in the living room although that was on my to-do list.  My reason was not to change the dirty sheets, nor to spray air-freshener, nor to wipe the mirrors, all of which needed it in the worst way.

My first reason sat at the table, silver blue hair matted in the back and smoothed in the front, rocking back and forth, murmuring “No, no, no, no, no, no…no.”

My second reason stood beside her, his own gray hair flopped to the side, nervous but conscientious hands fluttering to help out his adored wife of 60 years.  He held out a spoon filled with mush and coaxed her mouth open, “Just one more bite, darlin’….you have to eat.”

“No, no, no, no, no.”

“Come on now, darlin’.  Just one more bite and then we’ll go get your hair done.  You’ll like that won’t you?  You’ve always liked getting your hair done.  Come on.  One bite, darlin’.  You need to eat.”

Moving in a burst of speed, he stuffed the bite in between another set of “no’s.”

Some dribbled down her chin and the discolored dishrag was put into use again, wiping the goo.

The rocking continued, echoing the defiant, “No, no, no, no…No!”

With a series of practiced moves, he finished up the feeding session and turned her wheelchair to the door, which I held open.  As he eased his wife into the front seat of their car, he patted her hair as smooth as he could and then loaded the wheelchair into the back.  He rounded the car and made to enter.  I interrupted as gently as I could, respect in my every thought, “Elder Stevens?”

He looked up from sorting his keys.

“Your hair….”  I paused, awkward about how to address an esteemed man such as he, relegated from Professor, Pastor and author to that of caregiver. He just stared at me, not helping me out.  “…you might…want to…uh… smooth your hair a bit.”

He reached up with a self-conscious giggle and smoothed his hair.  He motioned to his wife, “She would hate that!”  He plunked himself into the car with a laugh and sped away at a speed strangely at odds with the slow pace of his household.

I took a deep breath and turned back to the house again.  I held that breath as I raced through the house, throwing curtains wide and slamming every window open.  As I drew back the patio door,  the fresh breeze swept through the house and I let out my breath in relief.  I turned to the living room to start dusting.  That job was the most pleasant and it gave the worst parts of the house time to air out.

As I dusted the lovely furniture and ran my cloth over that beautiful grand piano, I pictured Mrs. Stevens the way I’d grown up seeing her; elegantly stepping from their nice car and walking up the front sidewalk with a grace that made her medium form seem tall, her mink stole wrapped around her neck under perfectly styled and blue-tinted hair.  Her husband would walk beside her, a gentleman as always, escorting her to their house with a hand at her back and another ready to open her doors.  She would sweep inside and soon I would hear the smooth sounds of Mozart drift from their house.  Sometimes I would pause while riding my bike and just listen to the flow of lovely notes coming from within my neighbor’s house.  .

A stroke had zapped her in the middle of the night about a year and a half ago.  My parents had gone over to help, before the ambulance could get there.  They told me that it was bad, that Mrs. Stevens might not live.  Our family prayed for her regularly over the next few weeks and were delighted when Elder Stevens had informed us of the joyful return of his wife.

I watched as their car pulled up the driveway and he came around to escort his wife to the door.  I waited for her stylish appearance.  Instead, he pulled out a wheelchair and a small, stooped and misshapen form was lifted out and into the chair.  He wheeled her up the sidewalk while she said, “No, no, no, no, no.”

“See?”  He beamed, “she’s getting her speech back!”

I was stunned and heartbroken for the loss of such a beautiful lady.

I finished in the living room and moved to their bathroom.  That was the worst and I detested cleaning it.  I had described it to my teenaged friends and they asked why I worked there and why I didn’t find a better job.  I glared at the bathroom and donned my big rubber gloves.  Here goes.  Ugh.

Why do I do this?  I thought to myself.

But as I scrubbed I thought of another moment I had stood, extremely reluctantly, in that same bathroom.

Elder Stevens had called me, “Carol, can you please come over, we’re having some difficulty.”  Upon arrival I discovered she was stuck where she had fallen in the bathroom and he couldn’t lift her.  It was truly the most uncomfortable moment of my life and I wanted to crawl away in shame.  Mrs. Steven’s head shook and she cried, “No, no, no, no, no.”  I wanted to cry with her but instead reached out a helping hand.  Together we lifted her, as he crooned, “I know Darlin’.  I know.”  Together we carried her into the bedroom and laid her gently on the bed, where he smoothed her hair and spoke softly to her.  “I know, Darlin’.  I’m sorry.  It’s just Carol.  You remember our little neighbor girl, Carol.  She just wants to help.  It’s OK.”

He still was soothing her with gentle encouraging words as I slipped out the door to take a deep, fresh breath and collapse in my own backyard with tears running down my cheeks.

What kind of life was that?  The elegant mink was in the closet, the hair was rarely beautiful and the only thing she could say, after a year and a half of therapy continued to be, “No, no, no, no, no.”

I moved to the kitchen.  Yuck.  It always smelled because the only time it got thoroughly clean was Thursday, the day I came to clean.  Elder Stevens tried his best, but it was all becoming too much for him.  He just couldn’t keep up and Thursday was his day to start again.  Each week I noticed things were a little worse than the week before and each week I tried to take on more duties.  He was tired, careworn, and I assumed he was heartbroken.

I checked the clock and realized I only had about 20 minutes until they would be back from the hairdresser.  I liked to be done before they got back because that way they came back to a sparkling fresh house, and, that way I didn’t have to face her helplessness and his concern.

I vacuumed my way down their hall and as always, my eyes were drawn to the pictures on the wall:  Elder and Mrs at their wedding, faces filled with hope and joy.  The two in the mission field with their son.  Mrs. Stevens  with her sisters, and Elder Stevens with his parents.  Her playing the piano in a glorious concert hall. Their 25th wedding anniversary and a picture of their 50th.  Everyone smiling, happy and looking like they belonged together.

Wrapping the cord around the vacuum cleaner I spotted movement out the sliding glass door.  It was their car racing back to the house.  I zoomed the vacuum into the closet and sprinted through the house slamming windows closed and turning off extra lights.  The garage door slid closed as I slipped out the front door.  Through the breezeway between house and garage and over the sounds of repeated “no’s” I could hear his gentle voice, “I know Darlin’.  You’re tired.  It’ll be okay honey.  We’ll just get you in the house and you can rest.  You look so beautiful with your hair all fixed like you’ve always liked it.  But then, you’ve always been beautiful.”

“No, no, no, no, no.”

“Well honey, you say that, but I love you.  I’ve always loved you.  We’ll get through this, just like we’ve gotten through everything.  You’ll feel better as soon as you rest.”

I clicked the gate shut behind me as they came around the corner.  Tears filled my eyes.  This is why I keep cleaning their house.  He doesn’t want a stranger for his Darlin’, and I cannot imagine a more beautiful picture of love.  Every time I heard those sweet gentle words I knew I would clean any mess, for however long it was needed, for a couple so in love that the beauty never faded and the love never gave up hope.

Family caregiving: when the beauty never fades and love never gives up… Click To Tweet

 

Do you have a caregiving story for National Family Caregiver Month?  Click here!

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week.

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

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All Those Comments

Which voice will be yours?

We’ve all heard them – those cringe-worthy comments that are delivered with care, but little experience or understanding.  Those phrases that slap a caregiver upside the head and leave one reeling with hurt, confusion and a struggle with faith.  Those sentences that are well-meant but not well delivered.

“God must have needed you to slow down.”

“God is just looking for a chance to provide a miracle.”

“If you just have enough faith he’ll be healed.”

“If you spend an hour every morning in prayer…”

“If you would change her diet…

“I have the perfect home remedy for you, you know those medicines are evil…”

“Have you searched your heart for that un-confessed sinf?”  And I hear the unspoken:  “because obviously your four-year-old doesn’t deserve this so you must have done something.”

These kinds of comments fling themselves at caregivers more often than you’d think. They, along with other pat answers and common consolation phrases jump out of a mouth and crawl around in our heads and there are moments that we want to beg for someone to just BE there.  To listen.  To cry.  To laugh.  To go out shopping.  To provide a book.  To sit with the patient.  To smile.  To understand.

That’s community.

My sister lost her son in an accident years ago, but every time she meets another mother struggling to walk through life without a child, there is an instant connection, usually involving a hug and some tears.

A friend has a daughter with traumatic brain injury.  She has new friends undergoing the same struggles with a child or sibling or spouse.

My mom is coming up on the year anniversary of my dad’s death, and she goes out to eat with some widow friends and sometimes they talk about their spouses, but other times they say nothing at all about it.

I have a new friend, because her son was diagnosed with leukemia in the first week of school (just like mine) and the similarities were haunting.  We bonded instantly, but I find myself without words now, because her boy lost his battle with cancer.

A friend had a miscarriage a couple of years ago and wrote her story.  The response is huge, all voicing the need to know they’re not alone in their pain.

Anita’s husband is the miracle. Pedro is the one who made it, against all odds, but it has taken Anita time to get over the effects that caregiving creates.  She and I developed a bond over the phrases, “Don’t you wish someone would have told us?” and “Can you believe someone actually said that?”

I also have the miracle.  My healthy 16-year-old son, while still struggling with some remnant effects of such strong drugs for so many years, is doing great.  Oddly, and much against my will, I still find myself wanting to talk about it, or hearing the word leukemia and shuddering, or nodding in sympathy when hearing of anxiety attacks or the inability to sleep because of caregiving.

When I meet another parent of a leukemia patient, we have no shortage of words, understanding nods and hugs.

This is community.

This blog is created for community.  We each need a place to know we’re not alone and to hear that we did NOT create whatever catastrophe has struck our loved one.  We need to know that we’re not crazy when we can’t sleep and weight gain (or loss) is typical and somehow, some way and some time, we will be okay again.

November is National Caregiver’s month.  We are looking for guests to share their journey.  Let someone know your story – it might be similar to theirs and you might become that understanding nod, that smile or that hug that someone needs.  Sign up to share YOUR STORY here.  You might be that voice telling a caregiver that they’re not crazy and definitely not alone!

Be the voice to create community with positive comments #caregiverconnections #caregivermonth Click To Tweet

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week.

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

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The Power of Pudding

helping the medicine go down

 

Finding the secret to giving a young boy the nastiest tasting medicine became the challenge of my life over-night when he was diagnosed with leukemia. We tried everything.  Applesauce, ice cream, juice, Popsicles, regular food he liked (burritos were a favorite) yogurt and just plain water.  Nothing made that bitter, metallic taste palatable.  Applesauce worked pretty well for one medication, but made another worse.  It was a mystery and fighting a fussy four-year-old over medicine designed to save his life wasn’t really an option.  I had to win this battle!

And then one day, magic happened.  We tried pudding.  Vanilla didn’t work and butterscotch didn’t work, but with chocolate we struck gold. With chocolate pudding my boy could choke down his medicine with only a slight shudder shaking his body.  A good pudding chaser and he was happy. We had discovered the magic potion for medications.  The power of pudding!

If you’re a caregiver, you know what I’m talking about.  You look for that magic thing to coax someone to take another bite, or swallow their meds or relax those muscles enough for therapy.  If you’re a mother you look for the right currency to generate cooperation in your kiddos.  If you’re a teacher you look for the motivation to inspire something beyond the fill-in-the-blank mentality.  If you’re a coach…well, you get the picture.

In our every day lives it is more and more apparent that we’re going to need some pudding for life!  Sounds crazy, but think about it.

Politics. I’m not going to get into any political debates, don’t worry, but seriously, do we think we’ve put our best foot forward with our election options?  How about country relations? Global environment?

Crime. Lord, will the shootings ever stop?

Abuse.  Neglect.  Starvation.

Ugliness is pretty much everywhere.  It’s hard to take what’s happening in our lives sometimes.  It’s hard for Christians to argue that God is in control when things are so ugly.  Except we know He is. We know He holds our future, but the “now” can be pretty hard to swallow.

We know He holds our future, but the “now” can be pretty hard to swallow. #inspirememonday… Click To Tweet

So today I have some pudding for you.  Something to help us get through the bitterness of what this world has to offer.  Something to make the “now” palatable, although still not great.  Something to stop the shudders of nightmares and the tears of grief.

Here’s some medicine to get us through today, and this medicine has far more power than pudding.  Please add your preferred pudding/medicine in the comments below!

Pudding to help the medicine go down

Pudding to help the medicine go down

 

 

Pudding to help the medicine go down

Pudding to help the medicine go down

Pudding to help the medicine go down

Pudding to help the medicine go down

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week.

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

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