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”
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.
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.
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.”
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)
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!
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.
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.
“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 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.
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.
 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.  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.  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)
Much like today, our wedding day was a perfectly warm and breezy summer day in 1976. Though other July brides chose to honor our country’s bicentennial that summer by dressing their wedding party in a patriotic red, white and blue, I opted for the wedding colors I had dreamt about since little girls begin paging through bridal magazines dreaming about being brides. Ours would be a very 70’s rainbow wedding. My bridesmaids each wore a dress of a different pastel color of the rainbow, a big white floppy hat, and carried a beautiful bouquet of daisies that matched the shade of their dress.
Fortunate for us, our dear neighbor lady had stayed home from the wedding sick that day. Though I’m sorry she couldn’t come, as the story goes, with a quick phone call from my mother, Dottie hurriedly climbed through an open bedroom window, found the undergarment drawer, and tucked appropriately colored underthings into a brown paper sack, then had her husband Byron drive like the wind to deliver it to the church.
Caregiving can cost much more than the investment of time and energy caregivers share with their loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementia disorders. Oftentimes loving caregivers dig deep within their own pockets to supply resources their loved one cannot afford for themselves. I’m sharing this wise investment advice from my husband knowing that there are many family care givers who have risked their own financial resources to care for a parent.
A potentially risky decision that some caregivers make is to take out a home equity loan in order to pay for nursing home and caregiving expenses. By no means am I suggesting by sharing this article that we should ignore the needs of ailing parents and loved ones; rather, that we should all give careful consideration to planning for the uncertainties of the future so as to avoid risky financial decisions which may haunt us for a lifetime.
Source: Borrowing to Invest – HELOC
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.
I’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”