"A Very, Very, Very Fine House"

Just to set the mood... play this!

PICT0266.JPG

Yesterday, when visiting a friend in my old neighborhood, I paused for a couple minutes in front of our old home.  It looks pretty much the same even though it’s been sold again and has new owners.  It’s been almost 8 years since Gary and I stood in front, and said good-bye to the place where we spent our wedding night, brought home our baby girls, and sat around the table with our little grandchildren.  When Gary’s Alzheimer’s progressed to the point where we could no longer maintain our home, we downsized and moved to a condo. 

PICT0006.JPG

Last night I dreamed about that home of 34 years.  Crazy… I dreamed that I walked into the back yard and saw that the koi pond was nearly drained and the fish were flopping around, so I called out to Gary, and he came running from the front yard and got the water up to the normal level.  Then I dreamed that the new owner asked me to give a tour and explain the sprinkler system, and how to care for the garden.  I loved seeing Gary and his garden so clearly, even if only a dream.  I take it as a sweet grace from the Lord to remember.

I guess I still grieve the loss of our home a little.  I know for a fact that it was a necessary move, and that no house, no matter how dear, is truly home.  You’ve heard, “Home is where your loved ones are.” Or “Home is where the heart is.” I agree with that but it’s even more than that, because, now in my condo for several years, 2 ½ of them without Gary, I am “home” but even THIS home is temporary.  The eternal “home” that awaits me, where Gary is now, is truly HOME.  Moses said, “O Lord, You have been our dwelling place for all generations.”  (Psalm 90:1) And he said that after wandering the wilderness for 40 years, never having a permanent home. 

PICT0039.JPG

Someday, someone will tear down our old house to make a larger one, or fill in the fish pond, or cut down the big Buckeye tree in the front yard.  Owners have every right to do so.  If that should happen, and I'm around to know about it, may it remind me that it was never my real home anyway.  As I sat there on our street, remembering, I thanked God for so many years of His faithfulness to us in that house.  Satisfied, I left, and had a "fantabulous" day (as my friend, Diane, says) with her and my other friend, Lori, as the three of us worked together on Lori's photo albums preserving memories of her own.  Life goes on, and so does Joy, Peace and Love.

 1974 - Moving IN

1974 - Moving IN

 2010 - Moving OUT

2010 - Moving OUT

Everyday Weakness - Abundant Strength

 

A few days ago, I was privileged to speak to the women of Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, Florida.   They had asked me to recount the ways in which the Lord blessed Gary and I throughout his years with dementia.  Recalling the sweet grace of God poured out on us, and thinking through how ANYONE can take hold of grace, was a joyful experience for my own heart.  May you be encouraged, and strengthened in your own situation as well.  

 
IMG_7280.JPG

A bonus blessing for me was being introduced by my sweet April, who made me get a little misty-eyed right before speaking!  After our time of worship and study in the Word we were served a lovely tea by the men of the church.  It was a wonderful day with these dear sisters in Christ.   

Audio of my message, click HERE.

Printable PDF version click HERE.

OR you may read it below...  (I've also included some of the overheads that I used.)

IMG_7276.JPG

It was 3:15 am and the alarm was going off.  Thankfully, my husband did not wake up.  I slipped out of bed and quietly got ready for my day.  The night before I laid out my uniform so I could find it in the dark.  It was imperative that Gary stay asleep until 8:00 am when I would return from my opening shift at Starbucks.  This particular day, I had a migraine.  I would end up sick at work, but since I was one of two openers, I had to be there until a replacement arrived.  2 hours later they came and I went home, feeling miserable.  I was 56 at the time, and every one of my coworkers were younger than my daughters.  The pace was fast and hard for me.  I felt out of place and exhausted at work.  At home, my responsibilities had doubled because my husband, Gary was changing, and so our world was turning upside down.  We were being led down into a dark valley, forcing changes we never would have wanted or imagined.  In that valley, I came to see my weakness.  Every day.  AND in that same valley, I came to know strength that I had never known before. 

FullSizeRender.jpg

 

Today, I get to tell you about those weaknesses, and how Christ uses our suffering to display His power in us.   

 

 

10 years ago, life was rolling along.  We’d been married 32 years.  We had a small electrical contracting business, and were serving with College ministry at church.  We were living in the same house since we got married.  We were enjoying our grandkids and occasional travels to visit family and friends.   But around this time, Gary began to have difficulty with his thinking, particularly with problem solving.  This showed up in his work first and then other areas.  We wrote it off to being over-worked and super busy, but his cognitive problems got worse so we went to the Doctor.  After months of testing it was determined that he had Early Onset Alzheimer’s Type Dementia.  He was 57.  (Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.  It’s like reverse development, from Adult to Youth to Child to Toddler to Infant.)    I would guess that most of you have been impacted in some way by this illness, so you understand.  Gary was sick for 9 years until he went to Heaven 2 years ago.  For 3 of those years, I was caring for my sweet parents (both in their 90’s) who moved in across the street.  At one point I was managing 9 caregivers between their house and ours.  It was like we had our own Assisted Living Complex.

Since I was one with my husband, this trial was for me too.  Taking on Gary’s responsibilities was a crushing weight and we both had to give up so much.  The transition was difficult.  Could I be unselfish enough?  Could I keep home with me? Would I love him enough if he didn’t know me and couldn’t love me back?  We shed many tears together.  We were weak and we knew it.

Would Gary be belligerent, violent, and inappropriate, towards me, or would he be a wanderer? Would our love degenerate into insults and anger?

Forced to close our business meant tremendous financial needs, and I worked at Starbucks for the medical insurance.  Liquidating Gary’s inventory and equipment, and prepping our house to sell at the same time was a daunting task.

Life was so hard – Leaving our home, and ministry, and not being able to help our family or babysit our grandkids was painful.  All the while, Gary was growing more confused about who I was.   

What is distressing to you?  What about your life is difficult, impossible to fix?  Do you feel helpless?  What do you dread?  Are you Rejected, Alone, Persecuted?  No one is exempt from the hard seasons of life, those times when you are at the end of your own abilities.  Everyone here has a story to tell.  Everyone’s suffering is intense TO THEM.  I get to tell you how God worked through our trial, but we are in this together ladies. 

Today, we get to look at someone who has gone before us, into the valley of suffering, weak and helpless and found strength there.  So let’s go together to the One who loves us, to God’s holy word, where all the answers lie. 

We’re going to be mostly in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 so as you’re turning there, a little background.  The Apostle Paul wrote this particular letter during the most painful time in his life.   He needed to defend his authority and ministry to the Corinthian church, because false teachers were lying about him, and discrediting his ministry and were preaching some kind of a “different” and therefore false gospel.  The people he loved and had poured his life into, were questioning his motives and what he had taught them.  In order to protect them from error, he had to defend himself, even though he hated to do it. 

THROUGHOUT CHAPTER 11:

Paul gives multiple reasons to trust him because he was afraid they would be deceived. (v.3)  His character, humility, honesty, love (v.9-11) contrasted with the false teachers who “enslave, devour, take advantage and exalt themselves.” (v.12-20)  His suffering for the sake of the gospel, proved his integrity (v. 23-27), and his daily concern for them showed his caring heart (v. 28).

FINALLY, IN CHAPTER 12:

In order to convince them, he BOASTS.  Boasting is "to glory in", "be proud of."  Why would this humble apostle be boasting?

In v. 1 he said, “Boasting is necessary, (to protect them), though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.”(v.1)….”  Fourteen years before, (v.2) he had been “caught up into the third heaven, (v.3) paradise, and heard inexpressible words…” (v.4)  He could have boasted in all these things, but he wouldn’t. 

Being transported to Heaven set him apart from all of the false teachers.  But even though the vision experience was amazing, it was all God’s doing, and not his, so he refers to himself in the third person, saying “On behalf of such a man will I boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast except in regard to my weaknesses.”(v.5)  The only thing in HIS LIFE he WOULD BOAST about, was his WEAKNESSES.  That’s where God’s power was displayed most clearly, and the best evidence that Paul could be trusted.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Here’s where Paul begins to boast about his weakness…and I’m going to boast about mine too as we look at this passage together.  Paul’s situation was unique to him.  Mine was different, but I want us to follow Paul’s example and glean principles to help us in our trials.  There is much for us to learn from the Lord, as we face difficulties, and even though trials come in different forms and for different reasons, if we seek Him, the reward is the “peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Heb. 12:11

Humility From Pain

v. 7 “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me – to keep me from exalting myself!"  

Paul could have easily become proud because of his vision so God gave him a thorn to keep him from exalting himself.  In particular, a messenger from Satan influencing and driving the false teachers in this church.  This thorn was painful.  Greek for “thorn” indicates “sharp, painful, irritating; like a splinter or even a stake.  It was extremely painful for Paul. 

When things are going well, we are all susceptible to pride.  We love our autonomy and self-sufficiency, but God hates pride.  He’s “opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5b)  He gifted us with a trial.  Our painful thorn was dementia.  Gary gradually lost all control and I needed to accept help and seek advice.  Not easy for a couple of ‘do-it-yourselfers.’  Our self-reliance gave way to beautiful ways to display grace in our lives.

ADMIT YOUR NEED FOR HELP:

There were so many big decisions to be made, and my husband couldn’t lead or help me.  For example…  Should I continue going to church without Gary?  Should my parents move to assisted living?  How many caregivers could they afford to hire?  What about “end of life” planning?  What would Gary want?  How long should my mom be on life support?  After my Mom died, should my Dad live with me?  etc., etc.  Hooray for James 1:5.  “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach and it will be given to him.”  Absolutely true!  Every time I faced a big decision, the Lord gave me the wisdom I was asking for. 

GO TO YOUR SHEPHERDS:

In the early stages, Gary was confused about my identity, and was unsure if he could trust me to sign a Social Security form I’d asked him to.   He went missing one day and 45 minutes later I got a call from one of our pastors.  Gary was in his office getting his advice, making sure it was ok to sign.  Pastor Rick reassured him and Gary signed and came home.  That incident, laid the groundwork for me the following years.  I will never forget it.  GO TO YOUR ELDERS!  (Heb 13:17) “they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.”

INTIMACY WITH GOD

v. 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 

Paul begged God to remove the painful trial 3 times. For Paul to ask repeatedly, and then mention it, it must have been extreme.

I too, prayed intensely for God to please remove our “thorn.” The Alzheimer’s would not go away, but we both prayed for relief and strength to endure.  I repeatedly poured out my hurts to the Lord and was reminded of His incredible love for us.  I too was driven to deeper intimacy with Christ.  Others were drawn close too. 

 

Gary’s “I love yous” eventually stopped, and when the feelings of loneliness rose up, I called a family member or friend, to ask for prayer.  God heard every cry of my heart and provided encouragement every time I needed it; in the form of a special verse, note from a friend, or remembrance of something Gary had said in the past.  God gave me more love than ever for Gary and reminded me that He loved Gary even more than I did.   And now as a widow, God is my husband.  God is replacing the loneliness in my heart with Himself. 

 

(1 Peter 5:6-7)  “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” God is planning to lift us up as result of our hard times, (either by removing the thorn or giving us grace to flourish) so bring all your hurts to Him, because He cares. 

GRACE FOR WEAKNESS

v. 9a And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you for power is perfected in weakness.’ 

God answered Paul’s prayer.  Not with “OK, your trial is ending now,” but with more than enough grace to strengthen Paul in the MIDST of it. 

What exactly is Grace? In greek: charis.  Defined: God’s undeserved favor to us through Christ freely given to us for salvation, and for every other spiritual blessing. (Eph. 1) 

 Paul was no stranger to Grace.  He wrote...

  •  We are saved by grace… (Eph. 2:8) “For by grace you are saved, through faith; but that, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God...”
  •  We are glorified by grace…(Eph. 2:7) “...so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
  • In between, we live by grace... (Titus 2:11-12) “…the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age…”

 We are completely dependent on GOD’S GRACE to live our Christian lives.

 It’s MULTI-COLORED grace: (1 Peter 4:10) “manifold [multifaceted] grace of God."  We need...

Grace to believe the Gospel

Grace to understand the Word

Grace to trust God instead of ourselves

Grace to be assured of our salvation as we persevere

Grace to obey

Grace to endure with joy, and more

My pastor, John MacArthur, says ‘Grace is like the air we breathe.’  Sometimes God sovereignly intervenes in some way independent of our actions, but Paul told Timothy to “…be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 2:1)  We are expected to live lives pleasing to God.  But how do we do that in the midst of difficulty, confusion, and sleepless nights?  The Holy Spirit is in us, infusing us with grace as we engage with Him in four ways.    

TAKE HOLD OF GRACE – In the following 4 ways…

 1. Draw near to the THRONE OF GRACE. – PRAY

(Heb. 4:15-16) “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Good news… For believers, this is not a throne of judgement, but a throne of grace.  Jesus, your Savior is there, listening, caring, making intercession for you, He is going to help you live a godly life as you draw near and ask Him for help.

Jerry Bridges writes:  “So Jesus does fully understand and sympathize with us in our times of trials.  We can be sure, whatever the nature of our hurts, they are not new to Him.  Because Jesus can enter into our hurts, and does sympathize with us, we can approach God’s throne with confidence, without being ashamed to lay our weaknesses before Him.  He understands and He cares.” (p. 215 TBG)

  • Thank Him for His love and salvation.
  • Admit you are weak.
  • Ask for the spiritual strength to say “yes” to this situation.
  • Ask for help with specifics; practical AND most importantly, character.

2. Absorb the WORD OF GRACE -  the BIBLE

 “…word of grace to build you up.” (Acts 20:32)   Like eating healthy food, sustains your physical body, assimilating God’s word makes for a healthy spiritual life.  Sermons, Notes, Memorized verse that apply to your situation.  Not just reading it, but doing what it says.  Hiding it “in your heart” (Ps. 119:11) for a rainy day makes it available for the Holy Spirit to recall for you.

There were times when I really needed truth.  As Gary gradually stopped reading, talking, smiling and understanding it was heartbreaking, even depressing at times.  But God used His truth to display His grace and give me comfort and even JOY.  (Romans 8:32)  “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”  This verse became precious to me because, if God gave the very greatest gift (Jesus Christ) for our good, then everything else He gives is good for us too.  It became my go-to verse when tempted to despair.  By (Phil.4) “thinking about what is true.” God healed my broken heart and not just once!  Facing the fact that this trial was not going to go away, God gave me grace to think of ways to give Gary a meaningful life.  (i.e. making his flip book, memory books, PVC and screwdriver board)  This has turned into a way to help others on my website.  When we take God at His Word, and believe him, we find JOY! 

3. Embrace GOD’S PLAN for you. – SUBMIT

Because we believe God is sovereign and good we accept our situations.  Be humble like Joseph “…it was not you who sent me here, but God….God meant it for good…” (Gen. 45:8 & 50:20)  Be encouraged.  Your exaltation is coming if you “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7) 

Shortly after Gary’s diagnosis, Gary asked me to find the Alzheimer’s Association website so he could read about what he was facing.  (Memory Loss, Confusion, Personality changes, Repetitive behavior, Loss of communication, and the ability to walk, sit or control his body.  Eventually he would need full time assistance with everything.)  I watched him read the list, with tears in his eyes.  He never asked about it again but a few days later he prayed and asked God “that during his illness, he never do anything that would dishonor the Lord.”  He feared that as he would lose control of his mind, he would do something sinful, but Gary didn’t panic, get angry at God, or beg Him to take it away.    Gary was content with the biggest, scariest trial he would ever face.  He submitted himself to God’s plan for him.  And God did answer Gary’s prayer.

4.  Be open with the Body of Christ. – BE VULNERABLE

Be willing to accept help from Christians AND non-Christians.

  • Practical Help:  Humbling to let someone into your “kitchen.”  Remember, there are many ways to do things.
  • Spiritual Help: Be vulnerable to others and cultivate a small group (including spouse & elders) you can really trust.
    • Need their prayers
    • Need their help applying scripture
    • Need their objectivity

One of my good friends, reminded me about some scripture that helped me in a big decision regarding my dad in the final days of his life.  (tell incident)

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.” (Ecc. 4:9-10)

POWER FROM WEAKNESS

v. 9 And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you for power is perfected in weakness.’  Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

 Paul didn’t love the pain, but he did love the amazing grace that lead to spiritual power.  He had to be weak in order to be powerful. 

 What does “Perfected” mean?  Greek: telos = accomplish, complete, finish

 GOD’S STRENGTH ACHIEVED IN HUMAN WEAKNESS.

Anyone who thinks they are “strong” are fooling themselves.  The phrase: “You’re such a strong person” is a joke.  It’s God’s strength we need and that is a byproduct of the grace He displays in our human weakness.   As Christians we want Jesus Christ to be lifted up and not ourselves.

(Cor. 4:7-10) “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” 

 GOD’S STRENGTH IS UNLIMITED:  Paul prays that the Colossians be “…strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” (Colossians 1:11-12)

 You can put your confidence in God.

 “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isa. 41:10)

 “For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'” (Isa 41:13)

“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.” (Isa. 40:29)

 I want to draw attention to two different types of God's power that I've noticed:

 Example of INTERVENING POWER:

About 5 years in, as Gary was losing his physical strength…God did an amazing thing.  During the day, he would sit in his recliner and listen to music or work with his "gadgets,” but helping him move was hurting my back and shoulders.  Something needed to change…I told the family:  "What we really need is someone to help for 10-15 minutes, sporadically throughout the day.  Caregivers?….too costly with nothing to do 90% of the time.  College student?... gone to classes when I need them during the day...  Impossible, right?   We ended the discussion with "We'll just have to keep praying about it, and see how the Lord will work it out.”

LITERALLY, just a few days LATER, our answer had come.  Of course you know this guy.  Jason, being part of the ministry here, had been praying for us, and offered to help us with no prompting.  Well, God prompted him independently.  He was perfectly suited to help in every way.  Working from our home, a trained nursing assistant, and STRONG!   Jason was with us during a very important transitional time and served us wholeheartedly during those months. Jason will always be a reminder that... “God is intimately acquainted with all my ways.” Ps. 139

Example of DAY-TO-DAY POWER

In my soul, that will always be a monument to God’s strengthening grace, but so are the day-to-day, moment-by-moment graces that enable us to put “one foot in front of the other.” At the start of our Alzheimer’s journey I didn’t know when the end would be.  But I did know that Gary needed to have a smile from me, and my family and friends needed my prayers and love.  The Holy Spirit helps us live by grace, strengthening us for every task.  “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34.  We may not have tomorrow.  We are only guaranteed the breath that is currently in our lungs.  How will we live in the next moment?  Elisabeth Elliot often quoted an old Saxon Poem:

Do it immediately; Do it with prayer;

Do it reliantly, casting all care;

Do it with reverence, Tracing His Hand,

Who placed it before thee with Earnest command.

Stayed on Omnipotence, Safe 'neath His wing,

Leave all resultings, DO THE NEXT THING

EVERYDAY WEAKNESS BECOMES ABUNDANT STRENGTH

v. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul's example...Because of the refining process due to the weaknesses in his life, for Christ’s sake; he was “well content” (that means well pleased) with all of it.  He had experienced the spiritual benefits so he embraced the hurts with deep joy and peace. “Suffering is the path to spiritual victory.”  John MacArthur

How often are we well-content with our trials?

I came to love how Gary’s illness displayed God’s grace and power in our lives.  I found out that when we were the weakest, we were the strongest. 

Forty-two years ago I said “…till death do us part.”  Two years ago God parted us and I said “good-bye” to my Gary.  Gary is in Heaven with his Savior.  He is fine now, "extremely fine.”  He is finally "home" and I am so relieved and thrilled for him.  His mind is whole.  He is experiencing joy like never before.

At the beginning of his Alzheimer’s, he carried a letter he wrote to himself so he wouldn’t forget…

“I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ…to be all He represented Himself to be in the Bible.  The Christ, the Son of God.  I believe Him to be the soon and coming King.  I am not a believer by birth, nor can I be without God enabling me.  Jesus has forgiven all my sins, and has made me a member of His family.” G.P.   Half way through his illness, Gary shared the Lord with our 4 year old granddaughter.  Though he was barely speaking during those days, he very clearly said to her… ”When you get to know my Jesus, it’s gonna be great!” 

If you DON’T have a saving relationship with Christ, you might be asking, “What’s so great about knowing Jesus?  God wants to show His strength and glory through people, and so he gives them something painful.”  If you look around you, you’ll see that suffering, loss, pain are part of the human condition.  Everyone is subject to them.  Way back in the Garden of Eden, sin was unleashed in the world because man and woman (and all men and women since) chose to assert their own will over God’s.  God made the universe and everything in it.  He is holy and perfect.  It is SIN that has brought the curse of suffering into the earth and eternal punishment and separation from God. 

If you are unsaved, I am sad to tell you, the grace of God is not available to help you with life’s hurts and struggles and this is the best life you will ever have, and any sufferings during this life are nothing compared to the eternal torment that that awaits you after you die.  Our sins separate us from God, BUT long ago, God made a plan born of His love.  Here’s the GOOD NEWS!  BY GRACE, He would freely offer to mankind, a perfect substitute (that’s Jesus Christ) who could bear the punishment for the sins of any who would repent and believe.  His anger satisfied, and the gap bridged.  So GRACE is being offered to you today, by God Himself.

I want you to hear this in God’s own words…

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) 

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)

“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9)

“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.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

If you don’t know Jesus, and have not yet turned from your sins, and submitted to His Lordship in your life, please don’t delay in making things right with God, through Christ.  “…now is the ‘acceptable time,’ behold, now is the ‘day of salvation’…” (2 Cor. 6:2)

There is no victory, no success apart from Him.  Will you humbly admit that you are helpless to please God, turn away from your own efforts to do so, and believe what He says in His word?

GRACE FOR SALVATION – GRACE FOR LIFE – GRACE FOR GLORY

For believers, the grace of God is available to help you suffer “well” knowing that God is your loving Father, and these sufferings will be nothing in light of the glories of eternity where there will be no suffering; only joy in His presence.  If you are hurting or weak today, BE ENCOURAGED!  GOD WANTS TO GIVE YOU HIS ABUNDANT STRENGTH.  Sometimes it comes in surprising ways, sometimes, day-to-day, but His grace is “super-abundant” and He doesn’t waste anything.  Every single thing in our lives are for His glory and our good. So see your weaknesses as a good thing, bring your troubles to God, to know Him better, and then keep relying on His grace and power working in your lives.  Will you thank Him for the grace to endure it with joy? 

“God is able to make ALL grace abound to YOU so that ALWAYS having ALL sufficiency in EVERYTHING, you may have an ABUNDANCE for EVERY good deed” (2 Cor. 9:8)

WHEN I AM WEAK THEN I AM STRONG

I’m right there with you Ladies.  I have to remember these things too.  Widowhood has its own unique thorns and struggles as I find my footing in my new role.  

My hopes of Gary smiling at me, or saying a word, or noticing if I walk through the room, are over.  I will never have that again.  But I am so happy for Gary.  I can’t wait to see him again, in Glory, where he and I will be face to face with the One who gave us the power to keep our vows and love each other “no matter what.” I'm forever grateful to God for that.  And grateful to you for letting me BOAST about His wonderful grace!

Photo Mar 08, 2 51 39 PM.jpg

 

 

If you would like have some of the precious verses from this post, I've designed on little cards for memorizing, or daily encouragement, or to share with a friend, you can order them at my shop... Click HERE                                 

 

 

Dear Caregiver

Dear Caregiver, (or anyone entrusted with the well-being of another)

I know you are doing a really good job taking care of your loved one.  You know what kind of food they like the best, their favorite music and TV shows, and how to help them into and out of a car.  You have been caring for them for a long time, and have sacrificed much, maybe a job, free time, space in your home, involvement in church or other activities.  In a world where human life is being devalued, you are giving yourself to someone and honoring them the best way you know how and if you are a Christian, you are most likely serving, “as unto the Lord”

"Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." (Colossians 3:23-24)

There are times when you enjoy the satisfaction of serving with kindness, and patience, and you are glad for the sanctifying work God is doing in your life through the difficulties you experience day-to-day.  And then there are the other kind of days…

Frailty.  Exhaustion.  Frustration.  Confusion.  Caregivers live with a burden.  It is a good and worthwhile burden to have, but still hard. Being in charge of another person’s welfare, is a daunting task.  I want to remind you that you can and should share the load.  Being physically worn out, and mentally burned out will not make you a better caregiver.  Actually you do your loved one a disservice if you don’t take care of yourself.  

Share the Load

2012-10-02_11-10-25_646.jpg

As a caregiver for my husband, Gary for nine years, I disliked the phrase “the caregivers must take care of themselves first.”  It sounded selfish to me.  I guess, dropping the word, “first” from the phrase would make it a little more palatable.  The fact is, that if the caregiver is a mess, they have nothing left to give.  Just as the airlines know that adults need to get their own oxygen flowing BEFORE their kids’ oxygen, we need to be as healthy and rested as possible. 

Sounds logical, right?  Well then why are caregivers known for being burned out?  For one thing, we don’t like to ask for help and if it’s offered we only want it on our terms.  I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that I often thought I was the ONLY one who could take care of Gary well.  PRIDE.  Yep.  In reality, we probably do know what works best, because we’ve been doing it the longest, but as long as our loved one is safe, and the help is reliable, and trained, it is a good thing, to have a little time to yourself, for shopping, relaxing, being in church and fellowship.  There are many ways to do things, and sometimes we need to humbly learn from others.  Our way is not always the best, and certainly not the ONLY way.  I gained many good tips from Gary’s several caregivers, and volunteers who came to spend time with him.   Gary went to Adult Day Health Care a few times a week for a couple years too.  Even though I resisted the idea at first, he liked it and the programs there were designed for his level of ability.  I’m glad a dear family member convinced me to give it a try. 

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”  Ecclesiates 4:9-10

Gear Up

Another reason for caregiver burnout is failure to GEAR UP for your situation!  By this I mean, remember that depending on the cause of the dementia, it is not likely going to get better.  Your loved one will get worse, so make use of the many helps available.  Here are just a few examples:  My friend, recently bought a “nanny cam” so she could keep her eye on her father, just a couple of rooms away.  This allows her to get a good night’s sleep by just peeking at the monitor, and can see him still safely in bed, and she can go right back to sleep.  The alternative was going down the hall to check on him several times a night.  Another great help is fixing pureed meals for an entire week at a time.  Have a caregiver do it, or do it yourself, but it’s a big time saver, especially if your loved one is not awake or eating on a normal schedule.  You have their food at the ready when they are.  So if your loved one is needing softer foods, consider investing in a blender.  (See short video on meal prep HERE.)  RAMPS YES, THROW RUGS NO…Eventually your loved one will shuffle or scissor-step, and will not do well with loose rugs to trip on.  If you have even a slight step down you should have a ramp.  (For more tips on Accessibility, click HERE.)  Of course there’s a cost to these great tools, but figure out what you may need and do need now, and start asking around.  If you know exactly what you need, you will know what to ask for.  I realize there is a cost to these things.  Start praying and be specific as to what you need.  Maybe family members, who know the specifics will be able to help.  God supplied all our needs, in sometimes surprising ways.

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Stay Connected

Lack of fellowship and worship can be really tough for Christians.  We thrive on the spiritual friendships and encouragement we receive from other believers and we need to participate in corporate worship.  Of course there may be seasons during a long illness when you will not be able to leave a loved one on a Sunday, but again, if you pray about it, and let God know your desire to continue with worship and fellowship (even if it is different than before), my experience was that God provided.  I had to entrust Gary to someone, not “hand-picked,” but qualified, but he was in God’s hands and I had to exercise faith.  Church attendance was limited and sporadic for me during those years, but it was so WONDERFUL when I could be with other believers singing praise to God and enjoying the preaching of the Word.  In a pinch, I could Live-Stream the service, but it’s not the same. 

 “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:24-25

So, my caregiving friend...

I hope some of these thoughts and ideas will be helpful and not burdensome for you.  Mostly I just want you to be open to all kinds of help, both human and practical, and staying connected to your church.  I know how heart-wrenching and wearing it can be to be responsible for a loved one.  May you find contentment, and peace as you face each day by resting in Christ’s provision. 

Love always, Laurie

 

 

My Grief Diary: A Happy, Grieving Heart

Next Friday will be the Anniversary of our last goodbye.  Over the last year, as a recent widow, I have sought to understand my new and different life.  After forty plus years with my husband, I find myself alone.  For all those years, and right up until Gary died, I knew exactly what I would and should be doing each day.   My life with my sweetheart was good and fulfilling.  In the months following his departure, adjustments have been made in my life and are still happening.  I suspect the future will hold more changes, and growth for me as well.  That’s ok.  The changes are sometimes hard, or painful, but I'm seeing that there is good on the other side.

Discovering (and dealing with) the new me!

I’ve been learning about “the new me,” the “me-without-Gary.”  We were one flesh for 40 ½ years and I’ve been shaped by him.  Being alone, and being in the grief stage, I've found some things in my heart that need to be repented of.  I've also found more depth in some of my interests and creative side.  There are brand new and faith stretching opportunities to explore and I plan to do so.  (Specifically an upcoming trip I'll be sharing about here.) The Lord has used Gary to help me grow, as a Christian and as a woman.  I am still “me” but I am finding new ways to grow. 

Saying "yes" to everything - well not EVERYTHING, but too much!

One thing I’ve noticed is that after nine years of having certain restrictions on my life, (because of Gary's health needs), I began to say yes to everything.  Well maybe not “Everything” but lots of things.  I kind of went crazy with going here, going there, doing this and that, and taking on a lot.  Nothing bad here, just LOTS.  I was wondering how the Lord would direct me, and unfold what He wanted me to do.  I’ve been able to see more clearly now certain things that are more important than others and great ways to enjoy life.  I don't think I will EVER really get a handle on time management, but I've noticed that I need to be on guard against being greedy.  For instance, I like to put many intriguing things on my list of "to-dos" but sometimes it's better to do fewer things, and do them better.  There will never be enough time or opportunity to do everything.  It's ok to dream, but when something can't be done, I must not get frustrated, but rather be thankful for what I AM able to do. 

Changing roles is not easy.

My sorrow for Gary, has been ongoing for many years.  When he departed, I was already kind of used to missing him.  What I was NOT used to, however, was feeling the loss of my main “occupation,” being his helper.  This has been the thing that brings the most tears.  I miss Gary, I miss being his other “half.” It's a slow process, but God is steadily healing this part of my heart.  I've been able to study about the beautiful role that widows have in the church.  I'm excited about that.  We widows, have a special place in God's heart and He has much for us to do.  "...so that they (older women) may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." Titus 2:4-5

I’m almost through the first year of being on my own, and all the first holidays without Gary are behind me.  I’ve been up and down with emotions as I approach the anniversary of Gary’s home going in a few days.  Mostly happy for Gary, but sad when I think about the final goodbye, and missing my role of helping him.   Through this entire first year, God has been at my side, drying my eyes, giving me things to laugh at, and love, and reminding me of wonderful memories with my sweetheart.    I hope you are all expressing your love to your dear ones and treasuring your days together.  We are only guaranteed the breath that is in our lungs at this present moment so make your day a good one.  May we all feel and think deeply, and give ourselves completely to Jesus Christ so that our lives will count for eternity. 

 

 

 

 

Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. 

Ecclesiastes 7:3

 

I've read a couple of wonderful books on grief.  The most recent was The Undistracted Widow, by Carol Cornish.  I highly recommend it!  (Click HERE for my review.) 

"Where Can I Go?"

Imagine with me for a minute.  What if your mobility was completely dependent on others.  You are able to walk, but you are too wobbly to be safe.  Maybe you are unable to decide anything for yourself because your brain no longer takes initiative.  You can't just get up and walk outside even if you used to go for a walk every day.  You feel restless but you don't know why, and your muscles are getting stiff because they aren't being used as much anymore. 

Folks with dementia are in a pickle.  They need our help.  I made this little video to inspire and help with some tips when it comes to getting our loved ones moving.  This "How To" video is number five in a series. 

But before you watch it, I want to draw your attention to someone in the video who is the winner of BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR!  Karl's wife, Becky was our primary caregiver during the years that Gary was still able to walk.  Karl was INVALUABLE for helping Gary "see the world."  He and Gary actually had similar interests, so he was a perfect walking support for Gary.  He gently and humbly helped my husband enjoy the great outdoors while Becky documented their many outings.  "Many thanks, Karl!" 

To view the video, click on the arrow in the middle of the scene below.   (If you are a subscriber and are reading this post in your email, you'll have to click on "Read in your browser" down at the bottom, to view the video.)

I have made FOUR other videos in this series.  To see them, click HERE.

My Grief Diary - Gary's Joy

Today is the nine month anniversary of Gary’s exit from planet earth after nine years of suffering with dementia.  (Read more HERE.) May 13, 2015 marks the end of his silence, weakness, and loss, in this life, and the beginning of his perfect life in heaven.  There is a special memory from that day that I am ready to share.  Recalling this event, from the very end of his life, turns sorrow into joy for me.  It is my gift of love and encouragement to you, dear friends.  In order to explain, context is needed.

 Gary’s body had been shutting down for several days, and on Wednesday morning, there were signs that the end was approaching soon.  Thankfully, Gary had no pain or agitation, and therefore, needed no morphine or other medications.  His hospice nurses concurred that he was resting comfortably.  Our family had been with us all week, and that morning, we had been reading favorite bible passages to him, singing hymns, telling him we loved him, and praying at his bedside, in between repositioning him and swabbing his mouth with water.  He was extremely weak, but restful this day, as he had been for months really.  If you recall, he had been sleeping/dozing for 20-22 hours a day for many months.  

As far as other forms of communication, Gary hadn’t spoken in sentences since 2013.  In 2014 he said “Hi” or “Ok” every few weeks.  Moments of eye contact were few and far between for all of 2014 as well, mostly because he so rarely opened his eyes.  I believe he was still somewhat aware of things, right until the end, because when Pastor MacArthur had visited us a few days before his death, Gary squeezed his hand while Pastor John was praying for him, but his facial expressions had been “flat” for several years. 

Looking back through photos, I think the last true smile from Gary was at the end of 2013, in response to something Becky said, and even so, it was not his typical “Gary” grin.   

 

So, that morning,  as the signs of impending death increased, we were all gathered around.  We didn’t know exactly when he would take his last breath, but we all wanted to be there.  Sarah had explained to the children that it is not a sad or fearful to see a Christian die because they will go straight into heaven to be with their Savior.  We would know this to be true very soon. 

At a little before 11:00 Gary surprised us.  He was laying on his side, and his eyes popped open, he craned his neck, and his frail, thin face broke into a huge smile.  We hadn’t seen him smile like this in literally years.  Silly me, I tried to engage him by asking him, “What do you see Gary?”  I was hoping he’d talk to me, or look at me, but it was obvious that he was looking right past me, still grinning from ear to ear.  I was shocked because I didn’t know his face was capable of smiling anymore.  It was an excited look…truly happy with eyes wide open.  I stepped back, so as to get out of his line of sight, and let him fully experience whatever it is that he was seeing.  We all saw him looking so happy, and later surmised that he continued in this joyful state for about 20-30 seconds.  It was long enough for the whole family to get around on our side of the bed to see him.  Then he closed his eyes, and took a couple more breaths, about 30 seconds apart, and breathed his last. 

I do not know what Gary saw while his body was dying.  He could have seen Jesus welcoming him into heaven and saying what we all long to hear…”well done, good and faithful servant...enter into the joy of your master.”  (Matt 25:23)  Maybe he saw God sitting on his throne in indescribable glory.  (Revelation 4 & 5)  For sure, he was leaving his body, and going into the presence of the Lord.  (2 Corinthians 5:8)  I will never know what Gary saw, until it’s my turn.  We are sure, however, that while he was dying, he saw something amazing that made him happier than I have ever seen him. 

 “You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” 

Psalm 16:11

Not everyone is conscious, and unmedicated when they die so those standing around may not see an outward expression when a soul passes from earthly to eternal life.  No one is exempt from dying, however, so perhaps you will use this little account of Gary’s happy face, to pause and think.  Will your first view of the afterlife be as joyful as Gary’s was?  Gary placed his entire life in Jesus’ hands because he knew he was a sinner in need of salvation.  It is impossible to be good enough to get into heaven on our own. The bible speaks to this.  I wrote more about it in this older post HERE.  

 

 “His glory is great through Your salvation

Splendor and majesty You place upon him.

For You make him most blessed forever;

You make him joyful with gladness in Your presence.”

Psalm 21:5-6

 

NOTE:  Our Pastor, John MacArthur has written a great book, called “The Glory of Heaven.”  It addresses the BIBLICAL description of heaven and the UNBIBLICAL accounts of near-death and other “heaven and back” experiences.  You can get it on Amazon HERE.

More from God’s word...

 “For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  2 Cor. 4:17-18

“Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Ps. 73:25-26

“Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for you loved Me before the foundation of the world.”  John 17:24

 

 

Facing Grief - A Book Review

Saying goodbye to loved ones is nothing new.  Death is as sure as life.  Three hundred and forty two years ago, in 1674, a little book was written to help some parents who lost a beloved child.  It has helped me too and I want you to know about it. 

The title, “Facing Grief: Counsel for Mourners” perfectly describes what this little book is about.  The author, John Flavel, a minister in the south of England, had already buried two wives and his parents when he wrote these pages.  Facing Grief is not an autobiography, but his own tragedies, give legitimacy to the hard but helpful truths he put down on paper.  There are minimal stories, or personal examples, but if you want to know how to mourn in a way that glorifies God, Flavel brings Scripture to bear on grief.  The language is in the “old English” style, but this did not deter me.  I soaked up the pages. 

Everyone’s path of grief is different, and yet, for Christians, there are certain things we need to remember. 

Here are a sampling of quotes from each section…

  • The difference between “moderate” and “immoderate” sorrow and the biblical parameters of both. 

              “We must allow the mourning, afflicted soul a due and comely expression of his grief and sorrow in his complaints to both God and men….There is no sin in complaining TO God, but much wickedness in complaining OF Him.”  Flavel sites David in the Psalms as an example of the right way to grieve…”I poured out my complaint before Him; I showed before Him my trouble.  When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then you knew my path.” Psalm 142: 2-3

  • Sorrowing can cross the line and become sinful. 

              “Our sorrows may then be pronounced sinful when they deafen our ears to all the wholesome and seasonable words of counsel and comfort offered us for our relief and support.”  I myself have been guilty of this.  On more than one occasion, I’ve said to dear ones, “You don’t understand!”, hurting them, and missing out on the comfort I needed and would have truly helped. 

  • For the unbeliever, sorrow can be a good thing.

              “This affliction for which you mourn may be the greatest mercy to you that ever yet befell you in this world…Why this is sometimes the way of the Lord with men: ‘If they are bound in fetters, and held in cords of affliction; then he shows them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.  He opens also their ear to discipline, and commands that they return from iniquity.’ Job 36:8-9

  • There are many, many comforts for believers.  (This is the largest section of the book.)

              “Always remember that, however soon and unexpected your parting with your relations was, yet your lease was expired before you lost them, and you enjoyed them every moment of the time that God intended them for you…Oh, if this had been done, or that omitted; had it not been for such miscarriages and oversights, my dear husband, wife, or child had been alive at this day!  No, no, the Lord’s time was fully come, and all things concurred and fell in together to bring about the pleasure of His will.  Let that satisfy you: had the ablest physicians in the world been there, or had they that were prescribed another course, as it is now so it would have been when they had done all…He who appointed the seasons of the year appointed the seasons of our comfort in our relations; and as those seasons cannot be altered, no more can these.  All the course of providence is guided by an unalterable decree; what falls out casually to our apprehension yet falls out necessarily in respect of God’s appointment.  Oh, therefore be quieted in it.  This must needs be as it is.”

“Call to mind in this day of trouble, the covenant you have with God, and what you solemnly promised him in the day you took him for your God… Now Christians, make good to Christ what you did so solemnly promise him.  He, I say, HE has disposed of this your dear relation, as pleased him, and is thereby trying your uprightness in the covenant which you made with him.  Now where is the satisfaction and content you promised to take in all his disposals?  Where is that covenanted submission to his will?  Did you except this affliction that is come upon you?...this day it is put to the proof.  Remember what you have promised him.”

“Be careful you exceed not in your grief for the loss of earthly things, considering that Satan takes the advantage of all extremes…When it is dark night with men, it is noon-day with Satan; that is, our suffering-time is his busiest working-time; many a dismal suggestion he then plants and grafts upon our affliction, which are much more dangerous to us than the affliction itself…desponding thoughts…hard thoughts of God…murmuring and repining…irreligious and atheistical thoughts…By these things Satan gets no small advantage on the afflicted Christian.”

“If God be your God, you have really lost nothing by the removal of any creature-comfort….God is the fountain of all true comfort; creatures, the very best and sweetest, are but cisterns to receive and convey to us what comfort God is pleased to communicate to them; and if the cistern be broken, or the pipe be cut off, so that no more comfort can be conveyed to us that way, he has other ways and means to do it by, which we think not of; and if he please, he can convey his comforts to his people without any of them.”

  • Excuses and pleas for excessive sorrow AND practical ways to restrain oneself from it are answered in the final chapters.  These hit hard and get right to the point. 

Facing Grief is not an easy “feel-good” book.  But good theology is comforting.  As a Christian widow, I find my greatest comfort in my relationship with Jesus, my Lord and savior.  I always have.  This book has reminded me of His wonderful love, and comforts that come in many forms.  Sorrow over losing a loved one is normal, but because of Jesus, I can sorrow with HOPE!  Not “hope” meaning “I hope so.” But HOPE meaning “SURE of God’s promises.”

IMG_2986-001.JPG


Lest anyone think I’m not grieving about Gary, don’t get me wrong, I am still sad at times.  But this very good book has cautioned me to be careful as I grieve.  My loss should not be a source of sin in my life.  It should drive me to a closer walk with the Lord.  Peace and Joy are the beautiful byproducts.  Just as King David knew he would see his son again, I know I will see Gary too,  He's not coming back, but someday I get to go where he is!  

Success To Spare

A few days ago I had the privilege of telling our story to a group of ladies at our church about our 9-year trial.  I was asked to share how God had helped us along the way.  It's been 5 months since Gary went to Heaven and it was the first time I'd gathered my thoughts about our years with Alzheimer's Disease as a whole, and the key ways our Lord impacted us during that time.  It's a story of God's power on display through human weakness.  If you would like to listen, click on the photo of Gary and I below.  (It's audio of my talk along with a slideshow of the photos I showed during my talk.)  OR, If you would rather read the notes of my talk they are posted below the photo. 

To listen to the talk, click this photo:  (If you are viewing this in an email, you may need to view in your browser. 

To read my notes, start here:

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I’m so happy to be here tonight to BOAST about my weaknesses because Christ used them to display His power.  In order to do that, I need to go back a few years so you can see how God gave us more than we needed to succeed.  Tonight you’re going to hear a sad story, but I don’t want you to be sad. You may be afraid that something like this would happen to you, but I don’t want you to fear.   You may be right in the middle of something just as hard or harder, but I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed.   I want to encourage you.  I want to bring us to the God of grace who wants to strengthen you.  I want you to smile with me at our great God, because I’m going to tell you what He has done. 

40 years ago...

my husband and I promised God that we would love and serve each other no matter what.  “For better or worse.  For richer or poorer.  In sickness and in health.”  Looking back, we are grateful to God for our daughters, their husbands, and our grandchildren.  We began attending Grace about 34 years ago and loved serving in the college ministry here for many years.  Gary was an electrical contractor and I helped him with his business.  We lived in the same home our entire marriage and had no plans to leave it ever.  We were enjoying our grandkids and looked forward to travels to visit family and friends. Our lives were full and like most people, we had plans and dreams for the future.  Our plans were not to be.

About 9 years ago, Gary began to have difficulty with his thinking, particularly with problem-solving.  This showed up in his work first and then other areas.  Because of some other things going on right then, we both wrote it off to his being over-worked and super busy, but the cognitive problems got worse.  We sought medical help.  At this point, it was clear, he had “mild cognitive impairment” so there were months and months of medical and psychological tests to discover the cause, and after eliminating a long list of possibilities, it was determined that he had Early Onset Alzheimer’s Type Dementia.  He was only 57.  (Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and is rarely contracted under age 60.  Dementia is an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities.  I would guess that most of you have someone in your family or know someone who has dementia of some form.  As the Baby Boomers age, there are going to be more and more who suffer with it.)   

Shortly after Gary’s diagnosis...

he asked me to find the Alzheimer’s Association website so he could read about the typical symptoms of his disease.  (Memory Loss, Confusion, Personality changes, Repetitive behavior, Loss of communication, and the ability to walk, sit or control his body.  Eventually he would need full time assistance with everything.)  I watched him read the list, with tears in his eyes.  He never asked about it again but a few days later he prayed with our friends and asked God “that during his illness, he never do anything that would dishonor the Lord.”  He feared that as he would lose control of his mind, he would do something sinful, but Gary didn’t panic, get angry at God, or beg Him to take it away.  He submitted himself to God’s plan for him.  Gary was content with the biggest, scariest trial he would ever face.  It was scary for both of us because we knew what would likely happen as the disease would progress, and we would begin the “long goodbye.”  But even so, back in 2010, Gary shared the Lord with our 4 year old granddaughter.  He was barely speaking at the time when he very clearly said to her… ”When you get to know my Jesus, it’s gonna be great!” 

"I am well content with weaknesses..."

I wasn’t always well content…I had my own set of fears. 

Would we both be unselfish enough to go through this trial in a way that pleases the Lord? 

I would have to give up my time, pursuits, energy for the sake of serving Gary completely.  He would have to give up the things he loved, his work, his home, his fish pond.  Gary’s responsibilities were added to my own, and it was a crushing weight.  The transition into my new role was not always smooth.

 Early on someone gave me a wonderful book by Robertson McQuilken who gave up his career in order to care for his wife with dementia, because of his vows of love before God.  This book set the tone for me.  God used this man’s wonderful example to encourage unselfishness in my life.  This trial really revealed the idols in my heart that were stealing my worship away from God.  I found that “keeping things the same and comfortable” was an idol in my life.  At times I resisted the changes coming.  It was a grace of God that He revealed this to me.

 Would I be able to keep Gary at home with me or would he need a nursing home?

I couldn’t bear the thought of him not being with me, yet what if I wasn’t capable of caring for him.

Would I keep loving Gary when he no longer knows me? How do you love completely with no return on that love? 

He was already getting confused about who I was.  He thought I had a twin sister who was trying to come between us.  Between these episodes and the loss of his abilities to care for himself, there were many tears and prayers shed together.  The losses were painful.  I was in desperate need of grace and strength.   

“I am well content with distresses.” 

On top of the personal losses, there were financial losses. 

We had financial needs. – Recently I was going over the events of the early years of the trial.  Things were so difficult then.  With Gary’s diminished capacity to work, we needed extra help to keep business alive, until we knew what was wrong.  His business had been suffering for multiple reasons, but mostly because of his increasing mental problems.  There was a real estate investment we had made before we knew Gary was sick, and it became a financial burden because Gary couldn’t keep up with it.  We were financially unprepared for Gary to stop working.  Once we knew what was wrong with Gary, we closed our business but that meant we lost our medical insurance as well as income.    We were left with no resources of our own, and had to depend completely on God to care for us.  HE DID.  There were financial gifts and practical helps abounding from the body of Christ.

God showed us that He was listening to my cries for help in a remarkable way. – I decided to apply for a job at our local Starbucks.  For minimal hours there were full benefits, so we could get our medical insurance.  It was close to our home and Gary could stay alone for short periods at that time.  I don’t know how I got the job, apart from the Lord.  There was a group interview with about 15 young people.  Around the circle of applicants we were all asked ‘Why we wanted to work for Starbucks.’  Many noble answers were given, such as ‘wanting to be part of the SB community,’ or ‘wanting to change the world’ by selling such a good product that is fairly traded, and helping third world farmers.   When it came round to me I said, “I really need a part time job, close to home that provides medical benefits.”  The next day I got a call from the local store manager, and I was hired.   I asked for the opening shift so I could get home to Gary when he was waking up.  I was there for two years while we waited for Gary’s Medicare to begin.  Though it was not an easy job, it was perfectly tailored to our needs, by the One who upholds us with his strong arm. 

Those years were exhausting. – I had to be at work from 4:00 am -8:00 am every weekday.  When home I was liquidating Gary’s electrical inventory, tools and truck.  There were many medical appts., as well as my regular activities.  On top of that, our house was becoming a burden, since Gary was unable to take care of all the maintenance issues in the house and garden.  I'd get off work, come home and mow the lawn or fix broken sprinklers...the things Gary used to do.  I decided we should downsize and sell our beloved home.  That added more work to do as we prepared it to sell.  Looking back, it is amazing to me that I was able to persevere during these two years.  Only by God’s strength.

“I am well content with difficulties.”

What seemed difficult for us, was easy for God.

There were so many difficult unknowns.  How would we survive financially?  Gary was confused about who I was.  Our ministry at Grace was fading away.  We ended up switching from College Ministry to Mainstream because Gary couldn’t keep up with the pace and the constantly changing faces of the college students any more.  For instance, he used to be involved in the lives of the students, having conversations on a Sunday morning, but he increasingly withdrew, getting his coffee and donut and sitting down alone.  It seemed our usefulness in the body of Christ was ending.  I didn’t know that God was preparing us for a future ministry.  I will tell you about it later.

In 2010 we moved to a smaller place that I could manage.  At the beginning Gary and I went for walks and even took a couple of trips across country to see family, but his physical difficulties progressed, confusion got worse and soon we were staying close to home, limiting our days out.  Gary’s world got smaller and smaller.  So mine did too.  I was depressed for several weeks over how Gary was declining so rapidly.  This verse really ministered to my heart then, and repeatedly since.

 “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32

If God gave the very greatest gift for our good, then everything else He gives is good for us too.  Through redirecting my thinking to what was true, God healed my heart and restored my joy.  I referred back to this verse many times during the ensuing years.

One year later

in 2011, my sweet parents (both in their 90’s) moved in across the street.  It was such a blessing to have them nearby but as their needs increased over the next three years, a new layer of responsibility was laid upon our family.  I was able to help them some, but eventually caregivers were needed for them as well as Gary.  During the next 3 years, even though there were ups and downs, we settled into our trial.  It was at this time that God did an amazing thing.  In addition to 6 caregiving hours, Gary and I received wonderful support from our Bible Study and other friends at church.  But on the days I was alone with him, Gary was needing more assistance than I could give him.  Most of the time, Gary was content to sit in his recliner and listen to music or work with his "projects."   But when I needed to move Gary to the restroom, or in or out of the car, or getting ready for bed, or up in the morning, my body was getting hurt.  The wheel chair was heavy.  My hands hurt, trying to help Gary dress, as he gripped the fabric.  Supporting him as he “scissor stepped” was hurting my shoulder.  Something needed to change… I told the family:  "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.”

Just a few days later, April called. A young man in their college ministry in Florida who had been praying for us, and following my blog, said he’d really like to come out to California to help you both.  He wondered if you'd like his help?"  He’s a CNA, works from home, loves Jesus, responsible, young, strong, and willing to exchange rent for care.  No one suggested this to him.  God prompted him to come to our aid.   Jason was with us during a very important transitional time and served us wholeheartedly during those months.   He forever endeared himself to our family.  He will always be a reminder that... “God is intimately acquainted with all my ways.” Ps. 139 

God had been graciously strengthening us for seven years.  He proved His power in our lives in each daunting situation.  I think it was to prepare us for 2014.  We would need it more than ever.  It is hard to describe the stresses and losses of last year.  Even with all the good help from family, friends, and caregivers, there were times I wondered how I could manage to help all three of my dear ones. I felt like I was putting out fires constantly.  For most of the year I was managing 9 caregivers between the two households.  Gary became completely bed-bound, sleeping comfortably 22 hours a day, only awake while being fed his pureed food or having his teeth brushed.  On the rare occasion he actually opened his eyes he did not appear to recognize me.  He could do nothing for himself.  My father was bed bound from a small hip fracture, and my mother was hospitalized with a heart condition.  Things deteriorated and by October, both of my parents were in Heaven.  There was much to do in planning their memorial services, settling their affairs and selling their home.  There was little time to grieve their loss.  I found myself increasingly lonely for Gary, sad about his condition, and overwhelmed with the pace of life and big decisions to be made throughout the year. 

8.jpg

Remember…2 Corinthians…

“When I am weak, then I am strong.” I was strengthened over and over.   In fact God gave me victory over these things.  Here’s how:

“In all these things we over-whelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”

Romans 8:35-37- Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

Pastor John explained in his commentary that to "overwhelmingly conquer" means to “Over conquer.”  It's having victory with "success to spare."  If we belong to Christ, He will make us victorious in our weaknesses. 

Yes, I was lonely. 

Since 2011 there had been no more “I love yous,” but I found that God was enough.  When the feelings of loneliness rose up, I called a family member or friend, to ask for prayer.  I remembered Romans 8:32; that God made the greatest sacrifice and would fill the voids in my heart.  I did not despair. He heard every cry of my heart and provided encouragement every time I needed it.  It might be a special verse, note from a friend, or remembrance of something Gary had said in the past.  Remember that at the beginning I feared that I wouldn’t be able to love Gary enough.  God gave me more love than ever for Gary.  That’s SUCCESS TO SPARE!

Yes, I was sad. 

Gary’s ability to read, talk, smile, understand, steadily diminished for years.  Thankfully, he was comfortable and peaceful, but watching his helplessness was heart wrenching at times.  Early on, by GRACE, I began “thinking about what is true.” (Phil.4)  This trial was not going to go away.  I tried to embrace that fact, and began to think of ways to give Gary a meaningful life.  (flip book, memory books, gadget box)  This has turned into ministry on my website.  It gave me SO MUCH JOY to do these things for Gary. GOD CONQUERED SADNESS WITH JOY!  That’s SUCCESS TO SPARE

 


Yes, I was easily overwhelmed and uncertain. 

2014 was a rollercoaster ride.    It is hard to pace your life, when you don’t know how much longer your dear loved ones will be alive.  There were multiple events across the street.  My mom had heart problems, my dad was falling and ended up with a hip fracture and bed bound for 6 weeks.  The days with my parents were precious and I’m so glad they were nearby.  I would not have been able to travel to be with them.  During this crazy time, my health began to give me trouble.  Headaches, blood pressure, weight gain, allergies, neck pain.  I was encouraged to get refreshment in order to not “burn out” so I knew I needed to carry on with my life a little.  I enjoyed a couple of small trips last year, some special weddings, and kept up with my artwork which is always a sweet time for me to think and relax.  I feel like I’ve been in a time capsule for years and lost time with my family and friends, especially the grandkids.    Gary’s condition was fairly stable as he slowly declined, but precarious.  Some event would occur that would take his life.  A bed sore could lead to a systemic infection.  Aspirating his food or drink could lead to pneumonia.  Failure to swallow, could lead to starvation.  He was so weak, that I began praying that God would take him home in God’s perfect time.  On the other side of this trial, He is giving me back the postponed relationships and my body is recovering.  GOD CONQUERED UNCERTAINTY WITH TRUST.  That’s SUCCESS TO SPARE!


Yes, I was in need of wisdom.

There were so many big decisions to be made, and my “head” couldn’t help me.  (I could use the entire evening on this point alone, but will just give you a couple of examples.)  Should I continue going to church on Sundays without Gary?  Should Mom and Dad go to assisted living?  How many caregivers could they afford to hire?  What about “end of life” planning?  What would Gary want?  How long should my mom be on life support?  After Mom died, should my Dad live with me?  When should my dad go into Hospice care?  Etc., Etc. 

Hooray for James 1:5.  “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach and it will be given to him.”  Absolutely true!  Every time I faced a big decision, the Lord gave me the wisdom I was asking for.

Gary set the example for me way back in 2007.  It was a time when he was confused about my identity, and was unsure if he could trust me to sign a Social Security form I’d asked him to.   He went missing one day and 45 minutes later I got a call from our pastor, Rick Holland.  Gary was in his office getting his advice, making sure it was ok to sign.  Rick reassured him and Gary signed and came home.  That incident, laid the groundwork for me when up against big decisions throughout the following years.  I will never forget it.  GO TO YOUR ELDERS!  Heb 13:17 “they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” 

Many decisions I needed to make involved our family.  Thankfully, my daughters and their husbands are all believers so their advice was invaluable to me as well.  We came together over many issues to see what the Word of God said.  One of them helped me think through my concerns with going to church without Gary.  Leaving Gary with a caregiver on a Sunday morning was one of the hardest things I had to do.  I would be a weeping mess during the hymns.  Why? Grateful to be there, praising God’s character, but sad to leave Gary at home after so many years of being at Grace together.  But God wants us to meet together with the body on the Lord’s Day.  By His Grace, I chose to obey, and it was such a blessing every Sunday morning to know I was pleasing God. 

GOD CONQUERED MY QUESTIONS WITH BIBLICAL ADVICE.  That’s SUCCESS TO SPARE!


In all these things...

'GARY AND LAURIE, overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.’

Our Pastor, JOHN MACARTHUR wrote… “Just as we can only love God because he first loved us, we can only hold on to God because he holds on to us.  We can survive any threatening circumstance, and overcome any spiritual obstacle that the world or Satan puts in our way because…‘in all these things, we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.’ Romans 8:37”

Continuing in Romans 8, For I am convinced that neither death (Gary’s death) nor life (my life alone) nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present (our trial, your trial), nor things to come (the unknowns we fear), nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, (even Alzheimer’s Disease) will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   

Forty years ago...

I said “…till death do us part.”  Five months ago God parted us and I said “good-bye” to my Gary.  Gary is in Heaven with his Savior.  He is fine now, "extremely fine.”  He is finally "home" and I am so relieved and thrilled for him.  His mind is whole.  He is experiencing joy like never before, because, at the beginning of his Alzheimer’s, he wrote in his own words…

 “I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ…to be all He represented Himself to be in the Bible.  The Christ, the Son of God.  I believe Him to be the soon and coming King.  I am not a believer by birth, nor can I be without God enabling me.  Jesus has forgiven all my sins, and has made me a member of His family.” G.P. 

One of his favorite verses is:

Romans 6:23 - “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If you don’t know Jesus, and have not yet turned from your sins, and submitted to His Lordship in your life, please don’t delay in making things right with God, through Christ.  There is no victory, no success apart from Him. 

Meanwhile, my earthly life goes on.


My hopes of Gary smiling at me, or saying a word, or noticing if I walk through the room, are over.  But now there is something new.  Feelings of joy and satisfaction, for Gary's new condition.   I can’t wait to see Gary again, in Glory, where he and I will be face to face with the One who made it possible for us to keep our vows and love each other “no matter what.” I'm forever grateful to God for allowing us to travel this road together upheld and strengthened by the love of God.

My 40 year ministry of serving my husband is over.  God has me changing gears and it feels odd.  Please pray for me going forward.  As I grieve the loss of my Gary, I want to grieve in a way that brings God the attention and honor He deserves, letting others know that God is more than enough for any problem or loss, for those who are truly His.  It’s easy to get ‘self-focused’ as a new widow, with many options before me.  I want to make the best use of this time for the Kingdom.  The faithfulness of God has not diminished just because Gary is not here with me anymore.  God was faithful and good to Gary.  That was evident in his life.  The same faithful and good God is MY God too.  I am excited to see how else He will continue to display His strength through my weakness.

One of the things I’m most looking forward to is being useful at our Alzheimer’s Dementia ministry at GCC. We meet on the last Saturday morning of each month, for breakfast, spiritual encouragement, and prayer.  We offer others spiritual support.  Please pray for this very special ministry.  There are no doubt many in our church who are touched by dementia, and could use the spiritual refreshment.  Perhaps you would like a place to serve.  Some in our group have a hard time coming to church, because there’s no one to sit with their loved one at home for a couple hours, or assist them on the campus.  (i.e. You can’t drop off a loved one with dementia while you go park.  They will wander away.)  Others need help applying online for govt. services.  The needs of primary caregivers are great and always changing.  If you believe the Lord would want to use you to help us, please join us.  Please let others know about this and encourage loved ones to come. 

Pastor Rick McLean gives oversight to our group at Grace Community Church.  818-909-5519

I love sharing the practical things I’ve learned in caring for Gary.   I've made many of them available in the Alzheimer's Resources section of my website. 


I can’t think of a better way to finish our time together, than by reading what Susannah Spurgeon wrote after the death of her husband, and preacher, Charles Spurgeon.

I have traveled far now on life's journey; and, having climbed one of the few remaining hills between earth and Heaven, I stand awhile on this vantage-ground, and look back across the country through which the Lord has led me.

A well-defined pathway is visible, but it appears devious and wandering; sometimes skirting a mountain-top, whence one could catch glimpses of "the land that is very far off"; and, further on, descending into a valley shadowed by clouds and darkness. At one time, it runs along amidst steep places, and overhanging rocks; at another time, it winds across an open plain, brilliant with the sunshine of goodness and mercy, and fanned by breezes which are wafted from the fields of Heaven.

There are flowers of joy and love growing all along the way, even in the dark places; and "trees which the Lord has planted," give shade and shelter from too great heat.

I can see two pilgrims treading this highway of life together, hand in hand—heart linked to heart. True, they have had rivers to ford, and mountains to cross, and fierce enemies to fight, and many dangers to go through; but their Guide was watchful, their Deliverer unfailing, and of them it might truly be said, "In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years."

Mostly, they went on their way singing; and for one of them, at least, there was no joy greater than to tell others of the grace and glory of the blessed King to whose land He was hastening. And when he thus spoke, the power of the Lord was seen, and the angels rejoiced over repenting sinners.

But, at last, they came to a place on the road where two ways met; and here, amidst the terrors of a storm such as they had never before encountered, they parted company—the one being caught up to the invisible glory—the other, battered and bruised by the awful tempest, henceforth toiling along the road—alone.

But the "goodness and mercy" which, for so many years, had followed the two travelers, did not leave the solitary one; rather did the tenderness of the Lord "lead on softly," and choose green pastures for the tired feet, and still waters for the solace and refreshment of His trembling child. He gave, moreover, into her hands a solemn charge—to help fellow-pilgrims along the road, filling her life with blessed interest, and healing her own deep sorrow by giving her power to relieve and comfort others.


Please pray for me and yourselves as well, that God’s strength would be abundantly displayed through our weaknesses.  Let us anticipate how our Lord will give us success to spare…enough for our own difficulties, with an overflow to help others also. 

 “in all these things, we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”

That’s Success To Spare! 

I would love to hear how God has strengthened you in your weakness, if you'd like to leave a comment below...

My Grief Diary - Staying Busy

 

Projects help.  Tackling something I've been ignoring, feels good.  Accomplishing a goal is satisfying.  Being busy is a distraction from the sadness of Gary's absence.  A couple of weeks ago I freshened up my bedroom with paint, a new bed, and pretty bedspread,  I really had fun with this after so long with a hospital bed, and other medical things dominating our space.  Making Gary's eulogy video was a big project which I loved doing.  I guess necessary paperwork and legal things are a kind of "project" too, although, not my favorite.  Social Security had to be contacted, other things had to be cancelled or changed.  The loss of a spouse requires this kind of activity and there's been PLENTY of it.  I've been pretty busy.

Most recently, the project was a memorial album to contain all the lovely notes, cards and photos from Gary's memorial service.  After taking over my table for a couple of days, it is done.  I enjoyed putting it together and reading some of those lovely and encouraging notes for the first time.  It looks great and if you come over you will see it all finished on my coffee table.

...about staying busy...

It's easy to obsess about finishing something that is occupying my mind and house so sometimes the daily tasks fall by the wayside. 

I am really enjoying my new freedoms and the opportunity to tackle some fun projects but after the project ends, with more time to think, I am sometimes hit with sad moments.  

I am wondering how to balance my time.  When I was caring for Gary, I knew EXACTLY what God wanted me to do with my time.  But now...for the time being, I am "doing the next thing" and praying for direction for the big picture.

I am doing well, but don't feel as though I have found the balance yet.  Staying "busy" is fun and distracting, but I want to be thoughtful like David.  "Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me." Psalm 131  I get that it is important for me to take the time to feel but I want to feel with right perspective. 

an example from last weekend...

I had a fleeting moment of sadness and got misty yesterday in our Fellowship group at church.  I was passing the weekly sign-in list of names to my daughter, Sarah, and noted to her that her dad's name is no longer there.  She made the comment that his name is on a much better list.  That made me smile.  She was referring to the Lamb's Book of Life.  "He (Jesus) said to them....rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." Luke 10:20.  Good theology is encouraging in a time of grief. 

 

Seeking Caregivers?

"WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR GREAT CAREGIVERS?"

From those seeking practical dementia related advice, that’s my most Frequently Asked Question to date.  The answer is, “lots of places.”  Over the years, Gary’s care needs ranged from accompanying him on a walk with him, to complete physical care.  We had a team of family, friends, volunteers from church, agency care givers, private hire care givers and home health aides (through hospice).

Perhaps you can no longer leave your loved one alone.  You need to go to work, or need respite time.  You are ready to hire a care giver.  I hope that my experiences will be helpful as you navigate this new season in your family’s life.    

For both my parents (in their 90’s) and Gary, I have used a care giving agency AND have hired my own caregivers.  Between my mom and dad, and Gary, I was managing eight caregivers concurrently, for over a year.   There are benefits and challenges with each method.  Mainly it depends on your availability and your personality. 

Many think it is not possible to have private pay caregivers and do it legally, without paying “cash under the table” to hide the income, but this is not true.  Payroll can be done properly with use of an online payroll system.  There are many payroll services, but I used Intuit.com $20/month. At hiring time, I entered the employee’s information, then each week, entered their hours and mileage if any.  Intuit generated the pay stub and I wrote the check.  Caregivers are classified as Household Employees by the IRS so you don’t have to withhold their personal income tax.  You DO however have to withhold and contribute for FICA (Social Security and Medicare) and a few other taxes, but like I said, Intuit does all this calculating for you.  Then they generate the Quarterly tax forms when they are due. 

These observations are based on my experience and are intended as an overview.  Please do your own research regarding your own situation.

This entire post (including the table below) is available as a pdf file. To print, click HERE

A couple of suggestions to get started if you choose to…

 Use an agency

 1.      Ask around for some word-of-mouth recommendations.

 2.      Call the agency to set up an interview.

 OR...Hire your own caregivers

 1.      Be sure you have the personality to hire and fire, keep records, and do payroll, AND the connections where you can find some good, qualified people.  I personally would be hesitant to advertise in the paper.  I met someone in our Alz. support ministry at our church, and also advertised for caregivers in our church opportunity sheet.  Either way, you’ll need to manage the caregivers, by training them to the specifics that your loved one needs.  (Their tastes in food, music, tv, hobbies, etc.) 

2.      Call your homeowner’s insurance.  Ask them if they cover household workers if they get injured in your home

3.      Ask around.  Talk to lots of friends and acquaintances.  Maybe someone knows someone…etc.  Run an ad in your church opportunity sheet.  State the job requirements, hours rate of pay, and the qualifications you require.

SAMPLE:  Elderly couple in Santa Clarita, need part time caregiver.  Must be able to assist with transfers from bed to wheelchair, provide transportation to appointments, (fit wheelchair/walker in trunk and have a good driving record. Assistance with phone calls.  Housekeeping (laundry, meals, cleaning, etc).  Assistance with bathing.   Certified Nursing Assistant level of experience preferred but not required.  Must have strong communication skills.  Character and/or professional references needed.  Rate: $10/hour and $.50 per mile for use of car.  2-3 days needed.  (Especially weekends) 7:00am-3:30pm.  Payroll status: “Household employee” for tax purposes.  Contact information: (your info here)

4.      Integrate the paid caregivers with the free services available.   Friends or family who offer to help regularly, Hospice aids (if hospice is involved) should be worked into the routine for your loved one.  If a friend has offered to help you on a regular basis, reduce your care giving needs by that amount of time.    

5.      Be flexible.  There may be seasons when an agency is a better fit than a private caregiver.  For instance, most of our caregivers were folks from our church, so when it became impossible for Gary to attend church with me, we had an agency caregiver who was willing to work on Sundays.

6.      Build a team.  We started with one agency caregiver, and as Gary’s needs increased over several years, we eventually had four plus a hospice aide.  If someone was sick, or planning to be out of town, it gave me some others to call on.  Sometimes my plans had to be changed, because there was no one available, but that was true with the agency too.

Take your time in deciding what to do.  It may feel like you must decide immediately but a little more thought sometimes is just what you need to be confident with your decision.  As with anything new, there is an adjustment period.  Give your choice a chance to work out, before you panic and go back to "square one."  Communicate with your new care giver to help them understand your loved one.  I truly hope you have benefited by our experiences.  Gary would be pleased as well.  

Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below. 

Celebrating Gary's Life

It was a joy to celebrate Gary's life three weeks ago with many of you.  There are few events in my life that have been so meaningful.  Thinking through his whole life, as I wrote his story,  gathering the photos for his Eulogy, and selecting his favorite music, often brought me to tears of joy.  Over the most recent years, I've wanted new friends and younger grandchildren to know the "old," healthy Gary.  His memorial service was the opportunity.  Looking farther back, it always amazed me how Gary's life was transformed by God.  That was the best part of his story. 

April made the comment that "It's nice that we do Memorial services, because they give us a purposeful way to remember."  So true.  I'd been thinking about Gary's life for a long time during his steady decline, but planning this tribute has been a significant part of the grieving process for our family.  Many who attended, had the same experience.  We want to remember the things we love.  I love my husband, and many of you did too. 

Thank you to all our friends who helped our family realize the dreams and plans we had for this very special day.  And though Gary would not have wanted so much attention, we wouldn't have changed a thing. 

If you missed the memorial, you can watch it right here if you'd like. It includes tributes from family members, friends, and our Pastor John MacArthur, the Eulogy video, and reception photos.  It is not brief but of course, neither was Gary's life.  (If you are reading this via email, you'll have to click the "Read in Browser" link at the bottom of your email.) 

NOTE: My apologies if you already received this post.  I was having a problem with the RSS feed, and needed to republish the post for those of you who subscribe to my blog.

Celebrating Gary's Life

It was a joy to celebrate Gary's life three weeks ago with many of you.  There are few events in my life that have been so meaningful.  Thinking through his whole life, as I wrote his story,  gathering the photos for his Eulogy, and selecting his favorite music, often brought me to tears of joy.  Over the most recent years, I've wanted new friends and younger grandchildren to know the "old," healthy Gary.  His memorial service was the opportunity.  Looking farther back, it always amazed me how Gary's life was transformed by God.  That was the best part of his story. 

April made the comment that "It's nice that we do Memorial services, because they give us a purposeful way to remember."  So true.  I'd been thinking about Gary's life for a long time during his steady decline, but planning this tribute has been a significant part of the grieving process for our family.  Many who attended, had the same experience.  We want to remember the things we love.  I love my husband, and many of you did too. 

Thank you to all our friends who helped our family realize the dreams and plans we had for this very special day.  And though Gary would not have wanted so much attention, we wouldn't have changed a thing. 

If you missed the memorial, you can watch it right here if you'd like. It includes tributes from family members, friends, and our Pastor John MacArthur, the Eulogy video, and reception photos.  It is not brief but of course, neither was Gary's life.  (If you are reading this via email, you'll have to click the "Read in Browser" link at the bottom of your email.

What's Next?

(A quick note here before I get started...  Our family wants to say a huge THANK YOU to those of you who came to Gary's celebration service on Saturday.  It was a truly wonderful morning.  Your presence with us was SO SPECIAL and my heart is about to burst with things I want to say about the morning.  That's for another post.   If you had to miss the service, it was recorded, and I'll let you know when it's available.)

Not sure what it will be yet...but right now, am basking in God's love, remembering my amazing husband, and thinking about the future.  In the three weeks since Gary's departure, many of you have asked me this question...

"So what are you going to be doing now?" 

Now that my number one love and ministry is not needing me anymore, my life is going to look a little different. 

One thing that struck me yesterday, is that the faithfulness of God has not diminished just because Gary is not here with me anymore.  God was faithful and good to Gary.  That was evident in his life.  The same faithful and good God is MY God too.  I am excited to see how He will display that in MY life in the years I have left. 

I don't know the details yet, but I do know some things for sure...  I want to spend more time with younger women, encouraging them to live lives pleasing to God.  (Titus 2)  I am looking forward to more time with grandkids so I can help them along the way as I enjoy them. 

"Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons." Deut. 4:9

As I move into my new role as a widow, there will be things to learn and discover.  Gary would want me to embrace it, and try to see God's work in my life.  There will be grief, but that is normal.  I will try to seek comfort from the Lord. 

In my home, Alzheimer's Disease is gone but I'm not walking away from those who are suffering from it.  I'm going to have more time now to help with our Alzheimer's Support Ministry at church.  I intend to continue making the little instructional videos to encourage care givers, and provide other resources as well.

Peace

I stood on our favorite beach yesterday, and cried, because the final chapter of Gary's life is finished, and I miss him.  It won't be the last tears, but there is peace in the missing.  It's so hard to explain and if you are a Christian, you know what I mean.  It's a deep-seated joy and comfort that comes from the One who gave His life in exchange for mine.  He said He would never leave or forsake me and he hasn't.  He said nothing would separate me from His love and it hasn't.  Gary is gone, but I am not alone.  I'm anticipating a closer relationship with the Lord, and new opportunities to see His grace and love in my life. 

I know there will be aspects of my future that will be really difficult but not impossible.  As you can see from this photo from Gary's Bible (Romans 8), nothing can separate Christians from the love of Christ.  In verse 38 you can see that includes DEATH.  Gary has died, but lives on.  He is fine.  I am fine.  I'm very much loved by God, because I'm in Christ.'  v.39

There will be joyful and sad discoveries, strange new feelings, and things to learn in these next weeks.  I'm wanting to bring you along this next part of my journey too.  Thank you for caring.  Thank you for listening.  I love to share with you and hope to continue doing so. 

Happy-Sad

It is hard to describe the opposing feelings within me.  Sadness and loss, are intensified, even though I've been saying "goodbye" to Gary for a long time.  The hopes of him smiling at me, or saying a word, or noticing if I walk through the room, are over.  But now there is something new.  Feelings of joy and satisfaction, for Gary's new condition.  He is finally "home" and I am so relieved and thrilled for him.  There is a new happy freedom for me too, as I can come and go, without giving thought to arranging for caregivers or concerns for Gary's well being.

He is fine now, "extremely fine,"  but I miss him.  When his body was taken away, it was really hard for me.  It was the form that his soul was housed in for nearly 65 years, and I loved the whole man.  Inside and out.  The finality of death added a new level of sadness to my life.  It was just the shell he lived in, but I've been one flesh with him for 40 years, and that is over.  "Widow" is a new title for me, but I'm Gary's widow, and he has shaped me.  We shaped each other.  God used us in each others' lives to cause growth.  I'm forever grateful to him. 

In this odd little time between Gary's death and his Memorial Service, coming up on Saturday, I've been crying and laughing.  I find myself habitually looking in our room to see how he is, feeling strange at the grocery store, when I don't need to pick up Gary's foods, and wishing he was here to talk to even though he couldn't respond.  But preparing for Saturday, is new and different, and I'm loving going through the old photos and memories as I write his eulogy.  It's such a neat way to receive comfort.  After next week, I'm sure I will start to explore the "new normal," but for now, I'm doing ok, and enjoying the busy preparations. 

Thank you all who are so lovingly caring for our family during this time.  My heart is empty and full and I'm ok with that.

Memorial Service

You are most welcome to join our family as we celebrate and remember Gary's life on Saturday, May 30, at Grace Community Church, (13248 Roscoe Blvd., Sun Valley, CA 91352) at 9:30 am in the Worship Center.  Reception following.

 




"Till Death Us Do Part"

Forty years ago I said “…till death do us part.”  Two days ago we were parted and I said “good-bye” to my Gary. For the last nine years I have been grieving the loss of my husband, and dreading the moment in time when we would be separated from each other and now it is here. I can’t wait to see him again, in Glory, where Gary and I will be face to face with the One who made it possible for us to keep our vows and love each other “no matter what.” My heart is empty and full at the same time.

Thank you for your love and prayers.

Memorial Service

You are most welcome to join our family as we celebrate and remember Gary's life on Saturday, May 30, at Grace Community Church, (13248 Roscoe Blvd., Sun Valley, CA 91352) at 9:30 am in the Worship Center.  Reception following.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones." Psalm 116:15

Journey's End

If you have been following my blog for any time at all then you know about my dear Gary's Alzheimer's Disease.  Though his nine year decline has been very gradual, to the point of him being bed-bound over the last year, things have changed dramatically over the last week and now he is nearing the end of his earthly life.  Thankfully, he is comfortable and peaceful.  Our family is rejoicing for him as he gets to go to his eternal home with Christ, but our hearts are heavy as we must say good-bye soon. We are sharing some sweet memories with each other and telling him how much we love him.  He is very close to the end of a long journey. 

A sweet comfort to my heart is this promise in the Bible to those who love and follow Jesus.   May it encourage you too.

"Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Thank you,
Laurie

One, Two, Three, etc.

Today is a big day!  I finished a third "How-To" video.  I've waited to announce this series on my blog, because  it takes "three" to make a series.  This is just the beginning!  I have so many more I want to make.  After 9 years of living with Alzheimer's, Gary and I have experienced many things.  Some things have become so valuable to us, that I just HAVE TO SHARE.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, a short video is worth even more. 

 

 


My mind is flooded with ideas, so get ready to see regular additions to the Creative Ideas on my Alzheimer's page.  I'll put all three videos right here on this post.  Just click on the image to watch. 

<-----"Who Am I?" (2.5 min. Video)

(NOTE: If you are an email subscriber and are reading this post in an email you'll have to click on "View in Browser" in order to play the videos.)

 

 


 

 

Many of the ideas have come from others and the books on my Book Review section, but hopefully these short videos will be a quick help to others.

                     "What Can I Do?" (3 min. Video) ---->

 

 


 

<------"What Can I Work On?"  (3 min. Video)

The BIG IDEA here is to focus on what the loved one CAN STILL DO and help them do it.  Wishing, prodding, and hoping that they will be like they used be is only frustrating for them and sad for you. 

 

 

Please share these videos with anyone who would benefit.  You can share this post anywhere, or share the videos from YouTube. I'd love to get feedback from you too.

Grasping at Straws

2011 11 November Cambria Moonstone Beach.JPG

The months are marching on.  Gary is sleeping through them.  He wakes a few times a day, and I tend to his physical needs.  His senses and strength are minimized to almost nothing.  I wonder that he is still living.  But he is living, and the other day, I cried just at the thought of him not being here.  I must confess mixed emotions and am not sure how to pace my life and thoughts, hoping that God will take him home to heaven where he can have a perfect mind, but joyful that he is still my earthly companion.    I’m so grateful that I’m not the one to decide Gary’s ultimate, and final departure from our marriage and this life.  I leave that to his Creator.

Connecting

Meanwhile, I still love him, and am finding joy in the littlest things.  Years ago I was the typical wife, full of expectations.  If Gary didn’t give me the attention I wanted, I was tempted to complain.  Things are different now.  Because those more obvious acts of love are missing, I am learning to appreciate more subtle “connections.” 

 2006 - Gary shares his ice cream with grandson, Micah.&nbsp;

2006 - Gary shares his ice cream with grandson, Micah. 

When Gary's eyes open, sometimes for as long as 30 seconds, I spring into action, to get in front of his gaze hoping for a look of recognition, or I place one of his orchids on his tray table in front of him.  The funny thing is, by the time I have the plant in place, he’s asleep again, but I like to try anyway.   

Occasionally I give him his favorite…Coffee ice cream.  Only a few bites, but I think he still likes it based on how he eagerly takes it off the spoon.  It makes me smile because it reminds me of his nightly ritual bowl of ice cream for many, many years. 

 
 Commentary on Romans by H. Ironside

Commentary on Romans by H. Ironside

When he makes a monotone, humming sound I try to discern if he needs something, or is trying to sing, or speak.  I ask him to tell me more, and find myself praying that I will understand if I need to. 

I come across an underline in a book he’s read.  I read it to see what was important to him.  What did he want to remember?  It helps me continue to follow his lead, even now.

 

 

In past years, we talked and laughed and loved.  Currently our interactions are few and far between as I grasp at the straws of what’s left of Gary’s abilities.  I don’t have too many regrets over the years,  but it's good to remember that we can always be more appreciative and encouraging in our relationships.  I share these little incidents with you in the hopes that you will make the most of every opportunity to love your spouse, (or anyone in your life).  We are not promised next year or even tomorrow.  Don’t waste the time you’ve been given with your loved one.  

Redeem the Time

"Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is , through the living and enduring word of God.  For, ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF THE GRASS.  THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER."  (1 Peter 1:22-25)

What Is Going On In There?

I wish I could see into Gary's brain sometimes to see what is going on in there.  How many of the normal brain cells are left?  What does he think?  DOES he think?  What does he perceive?  Is it just images and sounds that mean nothing?  I'm sure there is something going on, because he tries to wipe his mouth or itch his nose, but his arm is too weak to reach all the way.  He looks right at me, occasionally, but I can't tell if he knows me.  He still eats so I know his brain is still causing him to respond to food in his mouth.  So anyway, I really like this 3 minute animated video describing what happens to a person's brain when they have Alzheimer's Disease.  I have watched Gary progress through nearly all of these stages.  I'm not real good with clinical explanations, and that's why I like this.  Many of you know someone with Alzheimer's so I hope it is helpful for you too. 

This devastating illness separates loved ones with an invisible wall,  yet I am confident that Gary is not alone.  There is One that knows exactly what is happening deep in Gary's brain, and He will love him to the end.  Gary's Savior, Jesus Christ is not on vacation or asleep and even though Gary's mind is being taken over by the disease, he is being loved and cared for, by his Lord, just like King David.

"O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You."  Psalm 139

Book Review of "Second Forgetting"

 May 2010

May 2010

When we realized that my husband, Gary, was having short-term memory problems, and began the process of diagnosing his condition, we hoped it was something curable, like a thyroid imbalance, or B-12 deficiency.  As the many tests eliminated the more “hopeful” possibilities, there was a recurring and frightful thought.  “I hope it’s not Alzheimer’s.”  I think more people are afraid of getting dementia, than cancer. 

Why is that?

Our memories define us.   Think how many songs refer to our memories.  We take selfies in front of the Grand Canyon.  Love letters are tucked away in a box.  The idea of forgetting what we have done and who we are is terrifying.  For a Christian, the possibility of forgetting God, and our relationship with Him is unthinkable.

Dr. Benjamin Mast has presented a comforting answer to these fears in his book, Second Forgetting.  As a licensed clinical psychologist and committed Christian, he gives hope for those who are forgetting and those who care for them.  After 8 ½ years of caring for Gary, who is now in advanced stage Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, I found this book EXTREMELY helpful. 

 "Second Forgetting" by Dr. Benjamin Mast

"Second Forgetting" by Dr. Benjamin Mast

Dr. Mast explains The Second Forgetting as follows:   “We are all imperfect and broken.  We forget the Lord, even in the best of health.  This is what I call the “the second forgetting.” p 18.  Everyone forgets God.  Even believers do.  That is why we need reminders.  Dr. Mast sites the Israelites who forgot God repeatedly yet God never forgot them and kept His promises to them.  This is comforting.

Two chapters are devoted to understanding Alzheimer’s disease and how the brain remembers.  Knowing the various ways to access memories stored away in a person’s brain is really useful in helping those we care for.  The distant past, actions, emotional events are memory systems that are accessible longer than the short-term memories which is one of the first “memory systems” to fail. 

The most helpful part for me personally was the section on the Gospel, who a person is in Christ, and how God interacts with believers, whether their minds are healthy or not.  As Gary is mostly non-communicative now, I have been wondering how his inner man can be renewed, though his body is decaying day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)  I believe it is true, but wondering HOW.  By working his way through Psalm 139 and Romans 8, Dr. Mast draws out how God intimately cares for His own.  He fully KNOWS us.  He extends GRACE to us.  Nothing can separate us from God.  Not even dementia. 

There are some great practical ideas in this book for all of us.

Help for the “forgetful”

The body of Christ has an important role in serving dementia affected families. Practical tips are given for how to serve.  For instance, “Visit, but be flexible.  Caregiving for someone with advancing dementia can be quite unpredictable.  Something could come up that is out of their control and they may need to cancel.” p 119

Help for caregivers

Biblical encouragement to “press on,” follow Christ’s example of service, and rely heavily on His grace in the exhausting days.  In reality we are serving the Lord Jesus, as we serve our loved one.  “As a caregiver, you can take comfort in the knowledge that you too have a caregiver, one who can surpassingly meet all of your needs.  Christ is our caregiver.” P 90

Helping the loved one…

Remember their faith

“… multisensory stimuli can be used to help them remember.  Smells, sounds, sights can prompt recollection of different parts of a person’s story.  Pictures and music can be particularly helpful…”  p 125

 December 2008

December 2008

Remember the Lord

All through scripture God sets up “memorials” so His followers would remember the important things.  Who He is, His promises, His kind and gracious deeds to His own.  We can do the same thing with those we care for.  Old photo albums, talking about the Lord, regularly reading the Bible, listening to hymns, and prayer* are good ways to keep God in the forefront of our minds, and help our loved ones do the same.  New long term memories will not be formed, but moment to moment comfort and sanctification can take place. 

Even now, we can be building into our lives habits that would support our relationship with the Lord if we should forget one day.  Dr. Mast has excellent suggestions on this. He closes with the following thought: 

“It is far more significant that God remembers us than that we remember him.  This speaks to the reality that our salvation, from beginning to end, is by grace.  In Grace God reaches out to rescue us – not the other way around.  Our salvation, ultimately is not up to us.  We cannot save ourselves, and there is comfort in this as a person experiences physical and mental decay.” p 163 

Now that Gary is in advanced stage Alzheimer's, I don't know what he is remembering much less what he thinks, but I do know He is safe in God's hands.  We are past the usefulness of most of the practical suggestions from this book, but they are really good and we have done many of them.  If you are caring for someone like Gary, please get this book.  Find out how you can help your loved one remember the Lord, and be comforted that God remembers them.  

*Note: As with any good resource I’d encourage discernment as you read.  There’s a second-hand example given about a Catholic woman finding peace through praying the rosary.  No doubt a true story, but I wish the author hadn’t used it in a book about how to help Christians remember the Lord. 


As always, your comments are always welcome.  Just click on "comments" below.