Being a Belt

I want to be a belt. A good clinging one.

When my mom was in the hospital, a couple weeks ago, she wasn’t walking very steadily. The nurses put a gait belt around her waist before she got out of bed each time. It gave them a grip so they could keep her from falling.

This came to mind as I was reading my Bible this morning, because in Jeremiah God calls His people to be a belt. Not to wear a belt that could be used to keep them from falling.  But to actually be His belt.

God tells the prophet, Jeremiah, to get a linen sash (the NIV says belt) and to put it around his waist and then take it off and hide it in a hole in the rocks by the river. This is an object lesson to His people. After many days, Jeremiah is told to go back to the place he hid the belt and dig it up.  He finds the belt and it is ruined and “profitable for nothing.”

And then God says that those who follow the dictates of their own hearts and refuse to hear Him are like that ruined belt.  They are profitable for nothing.

And He says, instead of hiding in the rocks, the sash (His people) should be around His waist, clinging to Him.  Then they would be His pride and glory and an honor to His name.

Sometimes, when problems seem overwhelming, do you ever just want to go sit by a river?  Or hide in the rocks?  Or dig a hole in the proverbial sand and put your head in it and just pretend none of the problems are there? Escape and hiding from it all seem like the answers some days.

But with Alzheimer’s, and so many other challenges, there is no real escaping. Even if we get a needed break, the struggles are still there when we return.

So, what do we do?  I love that this passage, in Jeremiah 13, says that God wants us to cling to Him.  He wants us tied around His waist like a sash. Tied securely.

In some ways this seems more frightening.  It puts me out in the open, not hidden in the rocks. I have no control. No shelter. I am going wherever He chooses to go. At the speed He takes me.

Being a sash, a belt, is trusting the One who bears you. It’s saying, “Okay.  I’m with You no matter what. I’m clinging to You.  I’m going wherever You’re going.”

It requires faith. And surrender to His will.

But it’s also a place of comfort and true security.  Because His mighty arms are on either side of me. And when I’m close to Him, clinging so tightly, maybe I can hear His very heartbeat. And nothing can touch me unless He allows it.

And being a sash, listening to Him and obeying Him– not the dictates of my own heart– may bring Him glory. While hiding, and doing my own thing, makes me profitable for nothing.

Abba Father, help me cling to you today. I want to be Your sash—tied securely to You, going wherever You call me to go.  Always between Your arms and close to Your heart.

Help me to be a belt.  A good clinging one.

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Lessons of Love and Relationships

Mom was sitting on the love-seat in a pleasant mood when I arrived today.  She was talking to her dear doll, Annabel, giving her a pacifier and asking her if she was cold.  We chatted and sang together a bit. I asked her who her brothers were and she said, “I have about SIX of them.”

“Yep, who are they?  Delbert….”

And she named them all.  I told her I had three brothers and she was surprised.  “Do you want to hear the names of my brothers?” I asked, hoping it might spark her memory.

“Nah,” she replied, clearly uninterested.

I cuddled up next to her and put my head on her shoulder.  “I love you, Mom,” I said.

“I love you, too,” she replied sweetly.  “Who are you?”

“I’m Cheryl.”

“Cheryl Lynn?” she asked, her face lighting up.

“Yep, Cheryl Lynn.”

She interacted with Annabel for a while, and then suddenly stood up, walked across the room and dropped her doll head first in the waste basket. “There,” she said.  “ Dumb it! Dump it.”

She came over by me and sat down on the footstool for a few minutes, and then got very agitated, because she didn’t know how to get off it.  There was no place to put her hands down.  I brought a chair over and eventually she was able to get up and move back to the love-seat.

At one point we were both up walking and met in the middle of the room.  She looked at me quite seriously and said, “I’m crazy.  Did you know that?”

Before I left I picked Annabel up out of the wastebasket and tucked her next to Mom on the love-seat.

As I drove an errand after the visit, I thought about how many relationship lessons God just gave me. I thought about the truth, that sometimes people want to talk to you, but they don’t want to listen to what you have to say.

Most of them don’t just come out and say, “Nah!” But they make it clear enough. And there’s no point in talking to someone who’s not really listening anyway. And I reminded myself that I want to be a good listener for others.

And sometimes the people who don’t want to listen to you still tell you they love you. And maybe they do in their own way, the best they know how at this stage in their lives.  Maybe they don’t know you as well as you wish they did, but there is still something in their heart that connects with yours.  So, if you’re willing, you accept the amount of love they are able to share.

And sometimes people get in a spot and feel stuck.  Sometimes I do, too. And isn’t it lovely when someone stays by you and tries to be helpful and says encouraging things? I want to remember to do that for others when I’m able.

And sometimes people are crazy.  Sometimes sin entices people and they make poor choices and throw away relationships, or even their own children. And it’s heartbreaking and wrong and crazy, crazy, crazy. And sometimes, as family or friends, there is nothing we can do about it but pray.

But other times, maybe we can stop the crazy.  Maybe we can gently say, “Did you mean to do that? Let’s stop and pray and start over.”

Maybe that’s one of the reasons God gave us loved ones. Maybe that’s one reason the Bible says over and over, “Love one another.”

And maybe as we prayerfully seek God’s wisdom, He will show us ways to restore broken relationships…ways to get the “Annabels” in our lives tucked back in close on the love-seat where they belong.

 

 

 

May We Be Found Faithful

Yesterday I woke up and looked at my desk.  It was just as I’d left it when I got the emergency phone call on Thursday.  My Bible was open to Isaiah, my reading glasses resting on the pages. My cup of coffee sat next to my journal…

The phone had rung, and as I answered I assumed I was getting my normal “Just checking in” call.  But instead I heard Dad say, “Mom’s hurt.  Get over here quick.”

I ran down stairs, grabbed my keys and drove over.  As I turned onto their street I saw a fire truck, a police car, and an ambulance.  It didn’t immediately register to me that they were for my mom.  It must just be a coincidence, I told myself.

But then I parked my car and immediately a police man said, “Are you Cheryl?” And I heard Mom hollering and saw her strapped to a gurney about to be put in the ambulance. Suddenly I was surrounded by about eight or so policemen and paramedics. They told me a neighbor had seen mom down on the sidewalk by her front door and had called.

Mom was irrational and hollering, and the paramedics were wondering if she’d had a stroke.  I told them she had AD and this was normal for her. They still suggested she be brought to the hospital, because of her fall.  They also told me Dad was a little incoherent because his blood sugar had dropped very low. They told me to take my time and make sure Dad was okay before I followed them to the hospital.

The hospital visit began with eight hours in a small emergency room. The nurses and doctors were quite wonderful and so understanding. But of course the whole thing was exhausting.  I was so thankful that she was not seriously hurt—just some scrapes and bruises, and was able to go home the next day. By Saturday I was relieved to see that she was back to normal for her.

Then today, I was waiting for my mother-in-law to meet me at my house to ride with me for her birthday dinner.  Suddenly a stranger pulled into my driveway, and rushed up to my door.  I opened it assuming she had come to the wrong house.  But she said, “Are you Nina’s daughter?”

“Yes.”

“She’s having an episode in her backyard.  Come right away.  Your Dad isn’t answering his door and we called the police.”

Oh, mercy!  Not again, I thought, as I ran to their house.  I found the neighbors standing next to the house. They pointed to mom, standing by the bushes in her stocking feet hollering and upset.  They said they had pounded on the door for Dad but he hadn’t answered.

I went over to Mom and she literally was standing in the bushes, her face up against branches, hollering gibberish.  I helped get her out and walked her back into the house.  Dad met us at the garage door. He’d been looking for her.  For some reason he hadn’t heard the knocking.  I got her inside, and went back and thanked the neighbors, gave them my phone numbers, and talked to the police.

I made sure mom and dad were okay and then ran back to meet my mother-in-law. Then I called my brother and asked him to get a high lock on the kitchen door to the garage that Dad could reach, but mom couldn’t.  We’d had child safety knobs in place before, but for some reason it was gone now from that door. (On Thursday Dad had left the front door unlocked, because he was expecting my brother any minute.)

Later I went back and found my brother had installed the new lock in right away, and I talked to Dad about keeping the other doors locked all the time.

I’m thankful for neighbors that care and take action.  I’m thankful that Mom was not seriously injured.  I’m thankful that God is always watching over her.

But when I picture her outside, lying on the sidewalk hurt and confused, or walking around in her stockings outside, I cringe and I cry.  My poor mama.  Oh it could have been so much worse.

And I think about it all and it hits home that none of us knows the future. We don’t know when we’ll get a serious phone call or an urgent knock on the door. We don’t know when we ourselves will take out last breath.

And just like we do all we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and well, we want their souls to be well, too. And so we can pray for them and invite them to church.  And we can tell them about Jesus and how He died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins.

We can tell them that Jesus wants to give them new life now and for eternity. And our part is to believe in Him and follow Him. We can’t make them believe, but we can prayerfully do our part and trust God with the rest. And we can do it all with love and grace and gentleness.

And someday Jesus will return….”And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds…” (Matthew  24:31a, NKJV)

“Then two men will be in the field:  one will be taken and the other left…Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:40, 42)

Jesus goes on and tells us to be ready and to be faithful and to be wise and watching. He is coming at an hour we do not expect.

I pray when He returns He finds us faithfully serving, faithfully loving, and faithfully following Him. Maybe we’ll be holding a loved one’s hand and comforting them, or sitting at a desk reading Isaiah with a cup of coffee….

Well Bless His Little Heart

Dad in the town parade with his dog

Dad in the town parade with his dog

Jesus, bless them, please.

Today Mom asked, as she always does, “Where’s Raymon?”

And I answered, as I often do, “He’s out getting you food.”

But then her answer surprised me.  She smiled and looked pleased and said, “Well, bless his little heart.” I chuckled at the comment, but now I embrace it as a prayer…

As I was cleaning at their house today, I continued to overhear Mom ask, “Where’s Raymon?”…even though he was just a few feet away.

And I continued to overhear Dad patiently reply, “I’m right here.” Over.  And.  Over.  Again.

And I had to think, bless his heart for his patience.

Later, Dad and I were in his office, and I was going through his mail with him and making appointments.  Almost the whole time we could hear Mom hollering from the other room, where she sat by herself, “Don’t do that to me!  Stop it! “….interspersed with very loud nonsensical noises. It made me a cringe a little and feel stressed out.

And I thought, I’m only here for a few hours at a time.  Dad lives with this behavior 24/7. This has to wear on his nerves.  Bless his heart.

As I did some more cleaning, Dad admitted he was feeling shaky. He has diabetes and has to watch his blood sugar. He sat back in his chair and I brought him a banana and some milk.  And I thought, “Oh God, please take care of him.  And bless his heart.”

When we sat and talked he told me how he has to be so careful now where he puts things, because Mom is curious and likes to pick up things and then puts them in strange places.  He had recently bought some plumbing parts and was missing a pipe.  He looked for it for days.  (And when I say looked, I speak metaphorically because he is basically blind.)

He finally found it in Mom’s bedside wastebasket. He told me he goes regularly through her wastebasket by hand, piece by piece, because she’s always throwing out something.

Oh Lord, please bless my Daddy’s heart.  Bless him big time!

While I was there today, I also saw a picture I hadn’t noticed before, stuck in the china hutch.  A picture of my daddy, when he was a teenager.  I remembered he had told me about the day he was in the town parade, riding his bike with his beloved dog.. He got second place.

And the photo reminded me of his childhood stories and of the younger healthier daddy he was to me…when everything was bright and cheerful and life was so much easier for him.

And yet somehow, with God’s grace and strength, he carries on with so much love and patience.  And he calls me every day and cheerfully asks me how I’m doing. And I am so blessed by him.

And I pray now, I pray with tears, that God will bless Dad’s heart beyond measure and abundantly.  And I pray that for all you amazing caregivers out there, too.

God bless your heart.

And for all of you who have already lost a parent you were caring for, and are grieving, may God give you comfort and peace, and bless your hearts.

Yes, Lord Jesus, please bless hearts today.

My World is Still Here

I know most of Mom’s sentences by heart these days, as she tends to be very repetitive.  But today she quite spontaneously, and for no apparent reason, said, “My world’s still here.”

I chuckled and replied, “Your world’s still here?  Well, that’s good!”

She answered thoughtfully, “Is it?”

And as I busied myself preparing for her bath I thought about my own world, and the pressures and sadness of some life issues, and I felt heavy and stressed.  I gave mom her bath, which is never pleasant, and the shadows darkened.

I sat with her later, as we waited for Dad to come home, and she spoke jumbled nonsense and I just wanted to run away from my world.  I wanted to sit in a patch of sunshine and look at the diamonds sparkling on the lake.  But responsibilities held me in the shadowy place.

Then a verse from my morning’s Bible reading came to mind. “…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”  Ephesians 5:19-20 (NKJV)

I started singing “How Great Thou Art” hoping Mom would join in, as she sometimes will. But when I paused for her to fill in words she just looked at me blankly. And then she nodded off to sleep in her rocking chair.

Dad soon came home, and I left and was busy the rest of the afternoon with other responsibilities.  I called out to God in the bits of time that I was alone and I tried to give thanks for the good I know He’s doing. 

The day still feels shadowy to me. I need to spend some more time praying and making melody and giving thanks. And I need to release my cares and “my world” to my Abba Father. My world is still here, but it’s in His loving and mighty hands.

I can let go of its weight and trust Him with it. I can prayerfully listen and obey as He shows me the things He wants me to do about problems. But I can’t, and should not carry my world myself. I can let go and sing to Him. I can sleep in peace knowing that our Father doesn’t slumber.

My world is still here. And God is holding it.