Archive for February, 2014

Most helpful information to handle those blink-of-the-eye emotions. Thank you Kathleen.

Alzheimer's: Hope and Help for Caregivers

Most caregivers discover that’s just how quickly moods can change. In the proverbial blink of an eye, those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can go from sullen and uncooperative to relaxed and quiet. Just as quickly, conversation and smiles may become shouting and restlessness. Obviously, it’s not too challenging for caregivers to keep up with positive change. But how do we shift gears when a positive mood suddenly becomes negative?

  • Listen

After a morning of easy talk, easy smiles, easy cooperation, Mom scowls, first at me, then at the plate I’ve just set before her. I study the plate but find nothing that might have upset her.

“It’s just lunch, Mom,” I tell her.

No doubt she can’t hear my upbeat, positive voice over her own shouting. “What is that? I don’t want it. I don’t eat here.”

sun and lightning

I’ve learned to pay close attention to what Mom says…

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I stood in the middle of our third bedroom, in just enough space for my two feet, and surveyed the neglected collection of plastic tubs filled with fabric, beads and thread, boxes of memories, and piles of liter. The floor must be under there. Somewhere.
Dust had accumulated on everything with a flat surface. The closet was stuffed to capacity, and the second bedroom looked no better.

What a garbage heap. Will I never learn?

In a few weeks our grandson will be here and would need a place to dump his suitcase and lay his head at night.

There was only one solution. The words I swore would never come out of my mouth again—GARAGE SALE.

So, I’ve spent the past two weeks, separating, organizing, and boxing trash, treasures, and memories. Agonizing over which stack to sentence each discarded object. I’ve troubled my own trouble by putting off this arduous task month, after month, after month.

The mission now encompasses the entire house. Every room is upside-down-and-backwards. And tomorrow—Garage Sale Day—looms like a gigantic storm for which I am totally unprepared.

I have miscellaneous stacks of items by the back door, waiting to be carted onto the driveway as soon as the sun rises in the morning. And I dread the process.

I laughed, imagining the size of the camel caravan when Abram and Sarah packed all their stuff (and that’s what my translation calls it—stuff) and set out on a journey to only the Lord knew where?

Then I thought about Nehemiah going back to Jerusalem. He set out by himself, at night, to survey the damage to the walls of the Holy City. As he passed the first two burned out gates he came to a place where the rubble was so deep his horse couldn’t make it through.

That’s how I felt as I looked at the growing inventory of treasure, trash and memories. An insurmountable mountain. How would I get everything out the door? But I’d come too far to back out now.DSCF4422

Sometimes our hearts and minds also become so mired with the junk of this world and stuff from our pasts, we can’t make it over, around, or through the brain clutter or the heart stutters. And we’re forced to either stop and clean our spiritual house or run the risk of sliding into a quagmire of addiction, anger and bitterness, or depression.

Take heart if you’re there, dear friend. God promises to give us courage as we allow Him shine the light of His love into those dark, scary places.

But we must open the closets.

And that first closet is prayer. Your prayer closet. Perhaps the only prayer you can utter at this point is “Help me, God.” I did that in 1988 when our marriage was in trouble, and those were the most powerful and quickly answered words I’ve ever uttered. God did exactly what I asked. He reconstructed our lives and our home.

Then you must pull out and dust off your Bible. Place it by your favorite chair and commit to a definite time, each day, to read and study God’s Word. The interruptions may seem unending, but spending time in His presence will be the best investment you can make—I know. I’ve been there.

And then to listen. Listen as the Spirit, through the Word, nudges your thought process. That still small voice inside reminding you of rebellion, disobedience, and unfaithfulness you’ve let slip in unnoticed.

Confess it. Whenever the Spirit convicts, right then and there. Tell God you’re sorry. Ask His forgiveness and know that because of the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for your sin, God puts your sin behind His back. He casts your sins into the depths of the sea. As far from Him as the East is from the West. Forever.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (I John 1: 9-10 NAS).

Then move on to dismantle the piles of past pain you’ve stashed for safe keeping in the dark alleys of your heart. Hurts you occasionally pull out, when reminded, to rehearse and prod these grief’s, injustices, or injuries, to resuscitating and keeping them alive.

Rip those secret things from the shadows. Hold each one in your open palms and with arms lifted, give them to God. Tell Him they’re too painful to keep and allow Him to take them away.

Will it be hard?

Yes, but God promises:

…I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you…” (Hebrews 13:5 NAS).

When we clutch our fingers around painful emotions, holding onto them like buried treasure, it just hurts more when God pries them from our hands.

Just like empty closets need to be filled with clean, fresh linens, we must trust God to wash, make-like-new, and fill those stinky strongholds in our hearts and minds with His light and His grace.

Then perhaps we will be more selective in what we choose to hang on to in the future. And then again, next time, maybe we won’t wait so long between cleanings—physical or spiritual. Because grief and pain don’t sell at garage sales. Everyone already has enough.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NAS).

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The only words worse to hear than “I’m sorry, your flight has been cancelled,” are the ones that say, “Ma’am, we don’t know the location of your luggage.” And last Wednesday at Ft. Lauderdale’s Airport, three hundred twenty-five miles from our destination, we heard both schedule-shattering-statements.DSCF4389

My husband went directly to car rental, while I attempted to retrieve our luggage. All Jacksonville bound passengers stood and waited. An hour passed while three claims agents searched records, made phone calls, and searched the plane for our luggage.

With no success, one threw her hands in the air and said, “I have no idea where any of your bags are. We have no numbers on them. They’re probably sitting on a runway in Houston or on their way to Baltimore.”

My heart plunged to my boots as I realized during the chaos I misplaced my jacket that held a pin I had given to our daughter DSCF4418the Christmas before she died. Distraught would have described me. Perfectly.

I’m sure many of you feel my pain, but we’re first-timers. I’d love to tell you my reaction was one of mercy and grace. Not so much.

Now I understand why those hundred pound sweet things tote their roller bags down the plane aisles, hoist them to the seats but can’t lift and smash them into tiny overhead bins. I’ve viewed them with disdain through the years and checked all my luggage. Never again.

In the rain and at night, it took seven hours to drive to Jacksonville. And the reality of the situation soaked into my brain.

I had no clean clothes. No cosmetics. No clean underwear. Not DSCF4356even a comb or toothbrush. And we had to be at a celebration early next day at an Air Force base in Georgia where my son was to take his “fini” flight in his A10 Warthog.

The jeans and sweater on my body were it. I had lost my jacket. So I wallowed in poor-pitiful-pearl mode, contemplating what I would look like by morning.

In the middle of my despair that small voice whispered, “Think about those wandering the streets tonight who only have the clothes on their back.” I know, I whined, but I have to go to a party tomorrow and that brand new outfit I bought to wear is who-knows-where. How could I possibly go in the clothes I had on? What would everyone think?

We arrived at 10 PM to spend the night with my BFF, Pat, and her husband, Rick. Pat had a pot of chicken soup on the stove, our bed turned down, and pajamas laid out for both my husband and me. With my last conscious thought and a full tummy Wednesday night I thanked the Lord Jesus for caring friends.

In the wee hours of the morning I startled awake and scriptures began pouring through my mind:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (I Peter 5:6-7 NAS).

Hope was resurrected. I shouldn’t be anxious. God knew the DSCF4347location of our luggage. Maybe the bags would be at the airport in the morning and we could pick them up on the way out of town. Then Paul’s words came:

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13 NAS).

My stomach knotted. Anxiousness rushed back in and I knew the luggage would not be there in the morning. And I cried, “but God—”

And these words flashed neon.

“And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (I Timothy 6:8 NAS).

I lay there stunned as my whole being digested God’s words and I squirmed. His words hung in my mind, reprimanding me. My whole focus had been on me. My new outfit. My trip. My son. And I was ashamed.

Glancing around the darkened room, familiar, treasured objects from years past caught my attention and reminded me I was warm, dry, fed, and with friends who loved me and I loved them. Memories of our families and past good times lined up and marched single file through my melting heart. And I thanked God for Pat’s warm jammies and she and Rick’s friendship.

Next morning Pat laid out a lovely lavender sweater and jacket for me to use. In the bathroom she shared her stash of makeup samples and we left for the festivities, relatively put together.

This day was not about me, it was a celebration of our son, Michael, and his successes. Who would even notice what I had on. And I flushed that streak of pride down the toilet.
It was a grand day with family, giving honor to our son and daughter-in-love, and to the men who give their lives for our freedom to be Americans. And I was grateful to them and to the Lord God. And delighted to be included in this Air Force tradition.DSCF4399

Late Thursday evening our luggage was located, in Jacksonville, and we picked it up on our way back to Ft. Lauderdale to return the rent car and catch the returning flight to Dallas. As we pulled into the Lauderdale airport I told Dick I wanted to check lost and found for my jacket. He said, “Honey, don’t get your hopes up.”

A very nice young man asked if he could help. I gave him a description of the jacket and the pin. And he returned in a moment with my jacket, complete with the pin. I cried tears of gratitude and joy! He smiled and said, “And it was a passenger who found it.”

Yes, a passenger who may or may not have known that God guided DSCF4384their heart and actions that day to teach this old lady to wait on the Lord. He’s in control of all things. I am not.

However, next time I fly I will not pack my underwear, nor my cosmetics, nor a clean change of clothes. And I’ll be first in line this weekend to purchase one of those detestable roller bags to stuff in those crowded overhead bins—just in case.

I know many of you reading this blog have likewise suffered painful experiences that taught you humbling lessons. Please share them with us in the box marked comments. God allows us to go through hard lessons so we can share what He’s taught us.

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