Gifts Given in Secret

When our children were little, I recall an occasion when we secretly planned something we called “Operation: Secret Drop.” Whenever we would grocery shop, we’d let the kids pick out an extra item or two for someone else. We didn’t have a huge grocery budget ourselves, so just bought a few non-perishables every week. A few weeks later, we had a few Continue reading “Gifts Given in Secret”

Weeding the Heart

Anyone who knows me at all realizes that I love flowers. This time of year, my garden is brimming with them. But you only see what I post on Facebook…the loveliest of the lovely. But, there are things that are not so lovely.

Wayne and I appreciate my sister’s every-other-week caregiving visits and are learning to take advantage of time when mom is well cared for to spend time together. It was a blessing that a recent visit fell on our 41st wedding anniversary, allowing us to get away for a day at a nearby bed and breakfast.

Walking Iron B & B

Besides well-pampered time with my hubby, I appreciated the gardens at Walking Iron Bed & Breakfast. With one step out of our beautiful first floor room’s door, we could sit a spell in a comfy Adirondack gliding chair on the immense wrap-around porch and enjoy the cottage garden’s beauty. Of course, being a gardener myself, that wasn’t enough. I had to traipse around the whole garden touching, smelling, photographing and making mental notes. As I wandered, I sensed innkeeper Karissa’s gardening style was much like my own. Like my garden, Walking Iron’s gardens are not professionally planted or tended by a landscaping company. The owners of the B&B plant and care for the gardens themselves. In fact, when we arrived, our hostess was dressed in her grubbies and staining the garden arbor which graced the entrance to a very beautiful corner of the earth.

I loved Walking Iron B&B’s very beautiful sunny gardens brimming with beautiful daylilies, hardy hibiscus (some grown from seed), Asiatic lilies, coreopsis, zinnia and roses. The shady gardens included many gorgeous ferns, astillbe, a nice collection of hosta, and I loved the innkeeper’s use of a smattering of repetitive elements – a sort of eclectic order. But, you know what I loved most? On close inspection, Walking Iron’s garden had weeds. Lots of them. And many of the weeds were the very same type I had in my garden. In a twisted sort of way, I was encouraged and inspired by that.

Walking Iron Weeds…Just Like Mine
Beauty is always marred by sin’s curse

Seeing the weeds in someone else’s otherwise gorgeous garden spoke volumes to a heart that struggles with frustration over the number of weeds in my own. You might not believe it if you have only my Facebook garden pictures to look at, but not all of my garden is composed of lovely, healthy plants and well-mulched, dead-headed and weed-free spaces. Much of my gardening time is devoted to digging and pulling weeds, including attempting to get rid of plants with “weedy habits” which threaten to push other more favorable garden lovelies out of their respective beds. Wayne hauls a trailer filled with garden debris over to our city’s composting site nearly every other week during most of the summer. My friends rarely see me post photos of my weeds. Or my Japanese beetle infested roses. Or my phlox and honeysuckle plants ridden with powdery mildew. Or the nasty “stretchy weed” that is a menace in my flowerbeds. But weeds, disease, barren spots, insects, burrowing critters and other pests are all part of of the world of gardening. Gardens aren’t perfect. And people aren’t either. My pastor, Jeremy Scott put it well when he reminded me that, “Beauty is always marred by sin’s curse.”

Powdery Mildewed Phlox

Just as closer examination will reveal weeds in the most manicured of gardens, close examination of our lives reveals weeds – things in our lives we choose not to reveal. Sin, actually. We may try to hide it from others, and might even do a pretty good job of that. However, Scripture reminds me that I sometimes can’t see the weeds in my own life.

“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; let them not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.”  Psalm 19:12,13  (NIV)

Some of my sins are much more obvious than others. I can’t deny I have a problem with overeating. That particular problem is easy for the whole world to see. But there’s also that stinky attitude that crops up whenever I don’t get my way. And my more often than I care to admit struggle with redeeming time wisely; my Bible may sit in the same spot gathering dust for way too many days while Facebook gets checked religiously.

But, there are many more hidden things in the garden of my life, known only to my Master Gardener. God sees my weeds. He knows the condition of my heart. The mean words that slink their way into my thoughts – not spoken aloud, but spoken in the heart. The ungrateful spirit.  The judgmental attitude. The worry. The irritation I feel when my Alzheimer’s plagued mother disrupts my sleep. The wicked thoughts and imaginations of my heart.

The Psalmist teaches me that, no matter how beautiful our lives may seem, we all have those hidden weeds. Those things known only to God. How thankful I am that verses 12 and 13 of Psalm 19 are followed by the more well known verse 14; the prayer of David’s heart – and mine.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

 

 

Wisdom from the Lips of a Child

The grandkids had all gone home and I had completed my post-grandkid visit tidying up routine: making beds, putting art supplies away, cleaning fingerprints off the glass-top coffee table, sweeping up crumbs from under the table, and the like. Even though it is a lot of work, it was good to have four of my grandchildren keeping me company while my husband was away on a little trip helping our son get his new home’s interior repainted.
George being George

Sandwiched in between taking care of my sweet Momma, our day together was filled with coloring to our hearts’ content, painting with my oldest granddaughter, baking, building roads and castles with good old-fashioned blocks, vintage Lite Brite artistry, feeding marbles to toy dinosaurs, sorting through a jar of old buttons and playing “favorites,” and creating fun designs with Perler beads. And for the three grandsons…taking a bath in Grandma’s HUGE bathtub…with bubbles and dinosaurs, of course!

Grand-cleaner Violet

Even cleaning was fun when my granddaughter Violet pitched in to help me clean her Papa’s office. Grandson Charlie even earned a little pocket change by dodging mosquitoes to help me pick raspberries and blueberries.

Though my Momma looks forward to the visits of her great-grandkids, the change in the level of activity always brings a certain level of stress to her Alzheimer’s plagued mind. She worried about a lot of things while they were here. Everything from whether or not they should be outside playing, to wondering what dangers lurk behind the basement door (it’s a playroom for the children). When I had put the boys to bed, she wandered around the house looking out of the windows counting and wondering if everyone was inside yet. But, even with all the stress (exacerbated by her usual sundowning), it was good for her too with coloring projects, crafts, meal-time chatter, and conversations with her great-grands providing a temporary distraction from her own problems.
Artist Henry

It was also good for the great-grandchildren. In ways big and small, they contributed to caring for their great-grandmother; from speaking up so that GGma could hear them, to answering the same question five or more times (and not looking annoyed). Great-granddaughter Violet has developed a very keen ability to discern what her GGma needs or wants. On this visit, her great-grandma was in a circular worrisome thought pattern, fretting about what still might need to be accomplished on a to-do list she found on the kitchen table (it was actually MY to-do list). Violet brought out a photo album and placed it in front of her great-grandma, then sat next to her and began to help her page through the book. As GGma talked about the pages, Violet discreetly slipped the to-do list away. A more graceful (and thoughtful) act of redirection could not have been accomplished by someone two or three times Violet’s age.

Unfortunately, Momma’s battle with Alzheimer’s has progressed to the point we can no longer leave her alone (and I don’t have room for all 6 of us in our car – and, even if I did have room, Momma resists leaving the house). For some reason, even though we have fun together, I feel really bad when the grandkids come and we can’t “go” anywhere. But our oldest grandson set me straight when he candidly told me,
“Grandma, I love coming to your house so much. I love it more than all my toys and video games stacked on top of each other!”
My Charlie

My daughter assures me that stacked up against video games, this is a VERY high compliment.

Well, that heart-melting comment from my 8-year-old little love reminded me that, with a little bit of effort, I can still create some memory-making moments with my grandchildren while caring for my sweet mother. Of course root-beer floats for an after-supper treat and pancakes for breakfast didn’t hurt a bit in the ratings department.

Unspoken

Danielle Swett Olander describes herself on Facebook as an “Accomplished Instructor; Convention Exhibitor at Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) and Multitasker Extraordinaire at Olander household.”

An apt description. Though we’ve only met in person a few times, our friendship grows deeper by the day as we each take care of someone we love who has Alzheimer’s. Danielle is a family caregiver who watches over her father-in-law, Tim, who happens to be my husband’s and my close friend.

Danielle graciously gave me permission to post this Facebook essay on my blog. I know it will touch the hearts of many of my friends and followers whose lives are also impacted by this memory-robbing disease.

I grew up in churches that would allow you to say you had an “unspoken” prayer request. Usually it was something that was a little too private to share in public but that you desperately wanted someone to pray about. Or perhaps it was just to have something to say when it was your turn to share prayer requests. Today I have a little story about a different kind of unspoken request.

On Monday, the young lady who is helping me with Tim’s care dropped him off at our house around lunch time. He had a sandwich and was resting in his favorite chair. Our kids turned on a classic TV show, but he obviously didn’t want to watch it. I put out a chair in the driveway and suggested that he sit outside until the show was over. It was a beautiful day, the kind we endure January for around here. A little later I went out to the garage for something and didn’t see him in the driveway where he usually sits. I went back inside thinking perhaps I had missed him in the living room. When I didn’t see him there, I sent a child to the basement and another to the backyard. A third jumped on her bike to begin riding around the block. He wasn’t anywhere nearby. I realized that he had left without telling me where he was going.

I opened up Find My Friends on my phone and began a search for Tim. Thankfully he had his phone with him. A little blue dot “TO” appeared about 3 miles away, not far from his apartment. For the first time ever, he had decided to go for a walk, from our house all the way back to his apartment, 4 miles away. I called him and ended up bringing him back to our house where he declared he had done enough walking for one day.

Sometimes we know specific requests to pray for our friends. Other times, we simply bring them before God, knowing that he “knows what you need before you ask.” (Matthew 6:8) In our bowing before the Father, I know I have simply asked for his guidance, grace, or comfort for a friend, not knowing exactly what their need was. I know many of you are praying for Tim daily. You probably didn’t pray on Monday that he would protect him when he went for his “walking spree” (Tim’s words that day). But God knew what Tim needed. It gives me great comfort and strength to know that Tim’s care doesn’t rest completely on my shoulders. Thank you for praying for him.

Romans 8:26-28

[26] Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. [27] And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. [28] And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)

Stuff Exchange Blessings

I will probably run out of friends and family before I run out of things to give away. But, in this process, I’m learning much about the value of things in comparison with the value of being a blessing to others.

IMG_0670I’ve been working my way through some of mom’s possessions which followed her from her apartment to her new abode in our home. I’ve been trying to put as many of her decorative objects into use here as I have room, so as to make her feel more comfy and at home. Though she has already been through two other downsizing events in the past two years, we are still left with way more items than she needs (or can appreciate in this stage of Alzheimer’s). As much as possible has been given to family members who have expressed an interest in her belongings. My daughter took on the responsibility of selling or giving away the furniture that was no longer needed (and I am SO grateful for her help). Each day the invasion of moving boxes on my 3-season porch gets smaller as I carve out time to go through their contents. For this, I am grateful. Continue reading “Stuff Exchange Blessings”

Church at the Kitchen Table

Sometimes “church” doesn’t just take place on Sunday morning seated in a pew in a sanctuary.

Last night Momma sat at her end of our kitchen table smiling. Seated around our table were some pretty special dinner guests: my girlhood pastor and his wife, Ed and Diane Fuller, and their son and daughter-in-law, Scott and Dianne Fuller.

I told Momma about the visit shortly after she awoke in the morning. It’s funny how certain future events linger in the mind of a person experiencing significant short-term memory loss, yet other things slip right through like sand through a chicken wire sieve. Continue reading “Church at the Kitchen Table”

A Smile from Dad

My 3-season porch is looking more like a porch than a moving company warehouse. Slowly but surely, the boxes are being emptied, things are finding their home, and order is being made of boxed chaos.

I’ve been spending time sorting through dozens of photo albums over the past few days. It’s been a trip down memory lane – complete with laughter, a few embarrassing moments, rushes of happy thoughts, a few tears and momentary sadness.

My sweet Momma spent countless hours at a little table in her basement putting the incredible number of photos my Dad took through the years into carefully labeled photo albums. Dad took LOTS of pictures. A CrAzY number of pictures. Every time you scratched your nose or stuffed something in your mouth (or so it seemed to me), he was there snapping a photo. But, he captured a LOT of family memories too.  Continue reading “A Smile from Dad”