"Better Than I Deserve"

 Big Sur 1974 - Our Honeymoon road trip

Big Sur 1974 - Our Honeymoon road trip

Things I repeatedly hear:  "It doesn't seem fair what you and Gary are going through."  "Gary doesn't deserve this."  "Why did this happen to you?"  Let me tell you, if Gary could speak, and you ask him "How are you doing?"...this is what he'd say.  "I'm doing better than I deserve."  In fact, he'd tell you that it's better to be living with "difficulty" than living "the easy life."  Wise Solomon said "It's better to go to a house of mourning, than a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart...The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure." (Ecclesiastes 7)  Thinking deeply about mortality, is a good thing to do.

 Septermber 2012

Septermber 2012

 As Gary's wife and "caregiver" I am regularly reminded to "take care of myself, because I deserve it."  It's a common belief.  "Everyone deserves to be happy."  "We deserve to be safe."  "I don't deserve to be treated like ..."  But do I, or you, or anyone REALLY deserve to have a good, easy, or prosperous life with no worries or troubles?  Even though we are in the midst of this horrendous illness, Alzheimer's Disease, Gary and I are at peace. We are content.  I want to explain why.

Did you know that I'm a sinner?  Did you know that you are too?  Did you know that sin and evil are real and not just a mistake, mishap or oversight?   "Sin", though not a term that is used much any more,  is anything that men and women do (or don't do) that causes them to fall short of the standard of perfection set by the One who created them, regardless of how our culture tries to explain it away.   In fact, every person born on this planet is capable of doing evil things. When people continually reject God and pursue living for themselves, they can eventually be completely given over to horrible behaviors which are motivated by Satan, who, by the way, is real, and he's not a character in a red suit with horns, and a pitch fork.  The Bible says he "prowls around the earth like a roaring lion seeking who he can devour."  We see evidence of his activities in the news, but we also see in every human being, myself included, a selfish, sinful heart.

  One of our fruit trees

One of our fruit trees

 Why?  It goes way back to the beginning of things when God made the world and everything in it.  He put man and woman in The Garden and gave them everything they could ever need including a relationship with Him.  I don't know how long their life of bliss lasted but one day, The Enemy, Satan, started putting seeds of doubt in their minds.  Just like me and just like you, they were tempted to think that maybe God was limiting them in some way, that they "deserved" more.  Maybe they knew better than their Creator.  You know the story.  Adam and Eve took things into their own hands, ate the forbidden fruit, and rejected God's way.  They didn't think God was going to satisfy them any more.  That is known as 'The Fall' and what a fall it was.  If we're honest with ourselves, we'd admit that every single one of us, would have done the same thing.  Even as a young person, I can remember choosing to do what I wanted, even though I knew it was not right. I often had prideful thoughts thinking I was better than others, and many times I didn't trust God and what He said.  Most people say pride is a good thing.  God says it is a sin.

 Our old fig tree

Our old fig tree

So even though God placed Adam and Eve into the perfect world, they messed up.  Now, the earth, and people, had a curse to live with.  God's curse.  Things would not be easy.  Now there would be sickness, weeds, difficulty, and death.  "Not fair" you say?  That's because we don't really grasp the perfect holiness of God.  He is not like us.  He is not lacking anything.  He has complete knowledge and wisdom.  Everything He does is completely just AND he is completely merciful at the same time.  Like it or not, there's a price to be paid for human willfulness, that boldly shakes it's fist at God and says, "I don't need you!"  OR the more subtle "God fits into MY own idea of who He is, and I'll run my own life."  But, even though this is a hard truth, God's perfect justice demands punishment for anyone who would be so bold as to think they know better than Him. Eternal punishment for sinners.

"The wages of sin is death..."  Romans 6:23

 2008

2008

As soon as they ate the fruit, knowing they had chosen to disobey God,  they felt guilty, ashamed and hid themselves with fig leaves.  We are just like them.  For thousands of years people have been trying to come up with a solution for their guilty feelings.  You know...that "yucky" feeling you have when you know you did something "wrong."  We try to ignore it, or justify it, or keep busy so there's no time to think about it, but every person on the planet knows they are fallible, and something's just not right.  There is a never ending search for peace, satisfaction, fulfillment, balance or even "religious" activities.  But sadly, most of the world's religions only lead to a deceptive sense of security, based on doing enough good things to please God and win His favor.  But no one can be good enough.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23

 Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012

We are sinful people living in a broken world, with no way to make things right or avoid eternal punishment.  But, God had a plan based on his great love for mankind. He would provide the perfect substitute, His son, to be punished in place of sinful people, IF they would admit their sin and throw themselves on His mercy and ask for forgiveness.  A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated Christmas, The Advent (the awaited arrival).  Baby Jesus was born 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, but that was only the beginning.  He lived 33 years without any sin, ever.  Only God could do this.  Jesus was fully God and fully man. He was born so he could die on the cross and bear the punishment FOR US.  That's what we really deserve!  Eternal punishment.  That would be justice.  But instead God offers us a gracious gift.  He offers salvation.

"For by grace you have been saved, through faith:and that, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."  Ephesians 2:8-9

Basically, God does it all the saving work.  He offers salvation to the spiritually blind, bankrupt, imprisoned, and oppressed.  (Luke 4:18)  People bring nothing to the table.  That's Love.  That's Grace. Jesus bore His Father's punishment for the sins of all those who would believe/trust Him, when he was crucified.  Admitting our need for this great substitution  is the key to Salvation and being "right with God".  When a person turns from sinning (repents), and believes God (faith), takes Him at His word, he is a new person.  His soul is washed clean.  God no longer sees his sin.  The Bible says God removes that sin as far away as the East is from the West. The debt is forgiven. 

"He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:21

 2011

2011

Gary and I just celebrated our 38th Anniversary on December 28th.  We are experiencing the love and care of God in very personal ways and even though Gary and I are suffering the loss of memories, communication, and companionship, God is helping us to loosen our hold on this earthly life, which is just a blink, in light of eternity.  It will be over before we know it, and, just like all of you, we will stand before the Creator in all His majesty.  For the first time ever we will be in the presence of the absolute perfection and blazing glory of God.  Jesus Christ will be there, seated next to His Father.  He will either say, "Depart from Me, I never knew you."  OR "This one is mine. Their life is hidden in Me. Enter in to the joy of my rest." All people will either spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.

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Gary began to follow Jesus Christ when he was 21.  I was a little younger, but it is never too late for anyone.  The license plate was on Gary's work truck for many years.  He loved to tell others about Jesus, and how to know Him.  I am positive that my husband would be pleased that God is causing others to consider the condition of their souls because of our trial of Alzheimer's Disease.  Soon after getting the diagnosis, he prayed, "Lord, please use my life and illness to further Your Kingdom and bring glory to Yourself."  So, please, please consider your soul.  Do you trust Jesus?  Do you live for Him?   Are you saved?

This is why Gary and I are at peace, and content

in the midst of advanced stage Alzheimer's.

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand and we exult in hope of the glory of God."  Romans 5:1-2

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I'm Amazed...let me tell you what's up!

Certain events become "milestones" in our lives.  You know... like the birth of a child, death of a loved one, marriage, etc. Then there are other events that, while on the surface, may be only be mildly interesting, but the "back story" reveals their deep significance.  I have been SO EXCITED to tell this story but had to wait until this weekend.  You'll see why if you read on.

To tell it right I have to back up a couple of years and explain.

In 2007 Gary was diagnosed with Dementia due to Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease.  Over the next few years, as his disease progressed, and we learned more of the typical path ahead of us, big decisions were made.  In 2009 we decided it was best to sell our Sunland home and "downsize" to a more manageable place that would suit our coming needs.  The next summer, we moved to our new home, a condo in a 55+ community in Santa Clarita.  That was in May of 2010.
 

Moving Day - May 2010
From the beginning of our journey, in 2007, my heart's desire was that I could keep Gary with me for as long as possible, and hopefully all the way to the end of his earthly life.  I wanted to be the one to manage his care and this is much easier with him at home.  As his body and mind would decline, I knew I would need more help (see related post), and so when I knew we would be moving, I began to look for something very specific.  A condo so I'd have no yard work, one story for obvious reasons, and most importantly...an extra bedroom and full bathroom to eventually be used for a live-in caregiver when things got beyond my physical abilities.  Many of you have been here and know what a nice home God provided for us which fulfilled these needs, and has a beautiful view to boot!

Our Condo since May 2010
So, since we've been here, I've been asking God for just the right person at just the right time to move in to that room.   Several months ago it became apparent that I needed much more help and so I began adding to our "team" of caregivers.  They are here at specific blocks of time on 3 days a week.  On 2 days I run errands and have appointments, and on Sunday I go to church.  That works out perfectly, BUT, what about the sporadic help I need throughout the other days.  I don't need help 24/7 because 90% of the time, Gary is content to sit in his recliner and listen to music or work with his "projects."   But when I DO need to move Gary to the restroom, or in or out of the car, or getting ready for bed, or up in the morning, my 59 year old body is getting hurt.  My back and shoulders tell me that I am doing too much; the wheel chair is too heavy to load and unload from the car, Gary's "scissor stepping" and balance issues cause ongoing shoulder pain, and dressing/undressing makes my hands hurt because of his upper body strength which he uses to grip the fabric, and resist bending or straightening his arms. 

I know... lots of detail here...but you'll see why...read on.

Tightly gripping hands
At a family strategy meeting in July, as we were figuring out how much additional care giving we'd need, I was asked, "What would be your perfect scenario, Mom?"  I said,  "What we really need is a young man with a strong back who can help with sporadic physical and personal needs throughout the day...10-15 minute segments and then go.  It doesn't make financial sense to hire someone to be here all the time, since caregivers need a 3 hour minimum and they'd be sitting twiddling their thumbs 90% of the time."  Well of course that seemed impossible.  The timing seemed right for a live-in helper, but we couldn't even think of the right type of person.  A student would be gone too much.  A retired person likely lacks strength.  The Lord had provided the room, but who could fill the bill?  We ended the discussion with "We'll just have to keep praying about it, and see if the Lord will work it out."  About that time, our friend, Gretchen, suggested we look for someone who worked from home.  I continued to pray for this as well. It probably goes without saying, but in order for someone to live with us in our home, they need to be trustworthy. 

Support Needed


Ever since God saved me I have loved talking to Him.  He hears me.  He cares.  I tell him everything.  I ask forgiveness when I sin and I praise Him for His wonderful doings.  I ask Him for things that arise up from my desires, but I don't expect Him to provide them if they are not good for me.  I may not see the specific results, but I am convinced that He is attentive and doing thousands of seen and unseen things all the time everywhere.  He is particularly attentive to our cries for help when we entrust the results to His wise, kind, just and loving care.



The family strategy session was in mid-July.  4 days later, I got a call from our daughter in Florida. It went something like this:
 


April:  "Mom I want to tell you something.  Do you remember meeting Jason?" 
Me:  "Yes, I've met him on one of our visits there, but don't really know him."  (He was one of the young men in their church and a good friend of our son-in-law.) 
April: "You know, he follows your blog, he's been praying for you and Dad, and he told us that he would really like to come out to California to help you both.  He wondered if you'd like him to do that?"
Me:  Stunned Silence.  
Me:  "He wants to WHAT?
April:  "You should talk to him.  You'd really like him and he's so responsible and loves the Lord.  He's a really neat guy."
Me:  "Did he know we were praying for someone like him?"
April: "No."

Gary's interestd in  the garden, but can't get back up.


So since July, Jason and I have been shooting emails back and forth, working out the details of how things will work, but to get to the point, he is on his way RIGHT NOW, from Florida to move in with us this weekend.  I have been waiting to share this amazing news until he's on the road since things can always change, but as of now, he's in Texas, and on a course, set by the Lord to be our help and encouragement.  



If you think God is vague and generally disinterested, or too busy to notice the specifics, get this:


Jason has been a CNA. (Certified Nursing Assistant)
Jason has a full-time job which he does FROM HOME!
Jason loves Jesus.
Jason has is considerate and responsible.
Jason is young and strong.
Jason is willing to exchange rent for care.
AND...most amazingly...It was our dear Lord that prompted Jason to want to come and serve us!  Not me or anyone else!

Of course things may change.  I don't know how long a time Jason is going to be a part of our home and lives.  But God is sovereignHe is Large and In Charge.  This is God's story, not mine.  He can do as He pleases, and I trust Him.   Whether long or short, the HUGE lesson I have learned and will NEVER forget,  is that "God is intimately acquainted with all my ways." as He says in Psalm 139.

"The Lord will accomplish what concerns me..." Ps 138:8

"In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help;  He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears." Ps. 18:6

"Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.  He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;  I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation."
Ps. 91:14-16

God is REAL folks. Take Him at his word.  

Gary at Descanso Gardens