Sending Love to Louisiana and Texas

My Mama was born and raised in Louisiana. She left everyone she knew at the age of twenty one when she married my daddy and moved about a thousand miles north. She lost her southern accent, but she never lost her love for her family and home land. In her last years she was still saying, “I want to go home. I want to see Mama.”

As long as she could use a phone, she called her family and friends often, even in the days when long distance was expensive. When she was a stay-at-home-mom, earning extra money babysitting and sewing for neighbors, she would save her earnings to pay for trips back to Louisiana to see her precious family.

It didn’t matter if she had to sleep in the back of a station wagon. It didn’t matter if she had to sleep in a leaking tent trailer. It didn’t matter if she had to eat baby food, because the park stores weren’t open when we arrived for the night. She would do it all cheerfully and without complaint to see her people.

And now one of Mama’s nieces and one of her nephews are in Houston, dealing with floods in and around their homes, because of Hurricane Harvey. And Louisiana is getting hit with rain and storms. And in the midst of our whole country’s concern for the region, I feel Mama’s passion for her home town and her people. And I pray and cry as I watch the news. And I smile with pride as I see people sacrificially helping each other.

The reports of damage are overwhelming and heartbreaking. But the people are brave and strong. Like Mama.

I remember a night, three years ago, when Mama taught me a lesson that still comes to mind today…

Dad called and said that Mom had fallen and he needed help. I rushed over and heard Mom yelling as I used my key to unlock the door.

She was shouting, “Mama! Come here and tell me what to do!” And then, even though it must have been scary for her to be stuck on the floor unable to get up, she abruptly switched to singing. As I opened the door I found her lying on her side in the middle of the living room calmly singing, slightly “warbly” and off-key, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus…”

Thankfully, Mom was okay and between my daughter and dad and I, we were able to get her up. But the lessons from Mama linger…

When you need help shout for it. And then, while you wait for help to arrive, stay calm and remember the Friend who is always with you. Sing and pray. God is near and help is coming.

“What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer!”

This was the last hymn Mama remembered. The last hymn she sang on her own. And one of the most memorable lessons she taught me.

We’re praying for you Texas and Louisiana. Stay strong and remember the Friend that is with you always!

Mama and I send our love.

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Seeking Peace

 

Finding peace for my mother-in-law is an ongoing battle.  She’s almost 95 and she’s getting more confused. She often looks perplexed and says, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.” It has become one of our biggest challenges to find things she still can do, so she can feel satisfied and happy.

She was active with quilting, church activities, puzzles and reading before dementia took it’s toll a few years ago.  She’d already given up reading and crossword puzzles before she moved in with us two and a half years ago. Sewing, and even simple jigsaw puzzles, are difficult now.

We’re thankful she’s taken to adult coloring books. She colors every page of every book we have bought for her and treats it like her mission. Sometimes she says it’s fun. Other times I think it just gives her a sense of accomplishment.

She enjoys a few old tv shows, some music, seeing her great-grandchildren, and sitting outside on a nice day. Sometimes she likes to look through her photo album or help mix up a cake.

But her days are still long. And more often we are hearing that refrain, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

I don’t remember having this issue often with my own mom. But it came up now and then. Like the day I wrote about a few years ago, because it had a happy ending…

I was visiting with Mama, sitting next to her and holding her hand, when she abruptly asked, “What do you want me to do?”
I answered with the first thing that popped into my head, “Be happy.”
“I am,” Mom said. And then added, “I did that.” And she looked at me expectantly, like now that she’d done that I should tell her what to do next.
I didn’t know how to respond, so I said, “I love you, Mama.”
“I know,” Mom answered matter of factly.
“Do you know who I am?”
“No,” she said, with no hesitation or remorse.
“I’m Cheryl. Or Sherry. You can call me Sherry if you want.”


Mom was leaning over in her rocking chair, her head almost resting on the arm of her chair. She looked up at me and said, “Sherry…Sherry Lynn?”


And even though in days gone by, hearing my middle name often meant I was in trouble, this time it meant that some part of Mama remembered my name.

And I was happy, too.

I miss my Mama now every day. She went Home to Jesus almost two weeks before Christmas of 2016. Often my mother-in-law’s confusion reminds me of things we went through with Mama. And though I have more experience now, having already completed a “tour a duty”, I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I think I don’t have any.

I often pray words like, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. How are we supposed to handle this? What do You want me to do now, Lord?”

I don’t always get a clear answer. But I know, even when I’m muddling through in my own confusion, that Jesus knows my name. First, middle, and last. He knows everything about me. And He loves me anyway.

And that’s why, when I focus on Jesus and trust Him with everything, I can find peace in this challenging journey of seeking peace for Mom.

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  John 14:27, NLT

 

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Trusting in God When Mountains Crumble

Sometimes when mountains crumble it is good to be still and know that God is God…

I’m reminding myself of this again, as I see my mother-in-law struggling to remember. She’s almost 95, and has been living with us for about two and a half years because of her dementia. She struggles daily now to know who we are, where her bed is, and what she just did. She was a very intelligent woman, and now so often she shakes her head, and puts her hand to her forehead, and says, “I’m all mixed up. I’m so confused.”

It’s so hard to see her go through this. But it was even more emotional going through it with my own mother. Each new loss wrenched my heart. I still remember the day my heart crumbled…

I had been visiting a few minutes with Mom when she looked at me, as she often did, and asked that familiar question, “Who are you?”

“I’m Cheryl,” I replied.  Usually this answer would cause her to smile and say, “Oh, Cheryl.” Or to ask “Cheryl Lynn?” with some recognition.

But that day she said, for the first time, “Cheryl…Who’s Cheryl?”

“I’m your daughter.”

“Oh,” she answered blankly.  And then politely added, “It’s nice you came.”

I said, “I love you, Mama.”

 “Oh, you do?”

“I do!”

“Okay,” she replied.

I told her about her four children and named all of them. She bit her fingernails and seemed uninterested.  I told her she was a good mama to us and took good care of us all the time. And she answered, as if I was speaking of strangers, “Is that right?”

And I was sitting with Mom in the same living room where she watched over me when I was a little girl, where she threw me birthday parties, where she handed out Christmas presents with joy, where we read our family devotions every night, where she rocked her grandchildren with love…and she was asking me who I was.  And wondering who Cheryl was.

And my heart crumbled and I fought tears.

I took a small Bible out of my purse and asked Mom if I could read to her and she agreed. I opened to the Psalms and read from chapter 46 (NLT)…”God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.  So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea…”  And a little later in the chapter…“Be still, and know that I am God!”

Alzheimer’s is a changing world.  It keeps quaking and shifting.  And things we thought were strong and forever, like mountains and like a mother’s love, crumble away and slide into the sea.

There is no safe place in Alzheimer’s. You can never expect things to be better tomorrow. In fact you can be pretty confident they will be worse.

There is no safety or security in Alzheimer’s.  But there is in God’s arms. He is our refuge and strength.  He is our help. He didn’t say we would get through it all without tears.  But He says we can do it without fear.

I can trust Him and be still and know that He is God.

I can’t control this disease.  I can’t make my mother-in-law’s mind remember anything. But I can know that God is with us and that He will help us today and through it all. And I can know that in the end we will be with Him for eternity and all will be restored.

So today I will rest in that.  And I will be still, as the mountain crumbles.  And I will know that He is God.

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