Remembering God’s Faithfulness in the Storms

It’s happening more often these days. It happened tonight. My 94 year old mother-in-law bowed her head and put her hand to her forehead and sat that way, looking perplexed. “Are you okay, Eunice?” I asked.

“I’m confused,” she says.

“What are you confused about?”

“I don’t know where I am, or how I got here.”

“Well,” I say, “this is where you’ve lived for over two years now. You live here with your son, Jeff and me. I’m Jeff’s wife, Cheryl.”

She looks at me and nods, but doesn’t seem reassured. She puts her hand on her bowed forehead and again says, “I’m so confused.” My heart goes out to her. I pray with her and that seems to give her a little comfort.

Eunice was a strong and very intelligent woman. She knew the names of hundreds of children she worked with through the years at church. She knew every verse of probably a hundred hymns by heart. She read profusely, completed crossword and jigsaw puzzles faithfully, and sewed quilts beautifully.

But now she looks at her son and some days asks, “Who are you?”

“I’m your son, Jeff. You’re my mom.”

“I’m your mom?” she says with disbelief, and laughs.

The confusion is showing up more frequently. It reminds me of my own mama’s journey with Alzheimer’s, except I don’t remember Mom ever actually saying that she was confused. But she would very often say, “I want to go home!” Even though she was still in the same home she’d lived in for over 50 years. And she would holler and say, “Mama! Mama where are you?”

My own Mama passed on to Jesus this past December. It was a challenging journey through Alzheimer’s with her. And now we are on another one with my mother-in-law. A reader liked an old Facebook post I’d shared in 2014 today. When I saw the notification I reread the post and it reminded me of lessons I learned back then, that I need again now.

Here is the gist of it….

Thunderstorms are in the forecast for later, so I go over early to give Mom her bath. Afterwards I sit by Mom on the love seat, and the rain begins to pour, and the thunder claps, when she says, “You are me and I am you.”
I’m not sure how to respond to that. So I say, “I love you, Mama”
“I love you, too,” Mama sweetly answers. A bit later she stares at my face and abruptly asks, “Who are you?”
“I’m Cheryl.”
“Who are you?” she immediately asks again.
“I’m Cheryl.”
“Oh,” Mom smiles, “YOU’RE Cheryl.”
“Yep, I’m Cheryl. Who are you?”
“I’m Nina Fay.”
“You’re Nina Fay. Do you love me?”
“Well,” Mom says cheerfully, “I used to.”  
I’ve noticed a scratch on her arm and so I rub some ointment on it while I tell Mom what I’m doing. She says, “Bless your little heart!”  

 

There’s a break in the thunderstorm, so I get up to leave. Mom gets upset and urgently shouts, “Stay here! Stay here!” She’s never done that with me before, so I settle back down next to her. She seems reassured and she pats my arm and tries to rub away my freckles.

And I think now what a strange conversation Mama and I’ve had. And I know a few years ago it would have broken my heart. Well, actually something similar did I’m sure. Alzheimer’s is a journey of heart breaks.

But please hear this…God keeps healing the brokenness and the cracks. His love seeps in and soothes and repairs and heals until you find out that your heart is much stronger than you ever thought it could be.

And on this unwanted journey, God keeps raining grace on us. He gives strength to get through the day. He sends lessons we would have learned no other way. He gives tender moments and smiles that are more precious seen through the pain.

My dad was just saying today, as we heard the thunderstorm crackling overhead, that he liked to sit out on the porch during storms so he could hear the power. I know what he means. God is powerful and mighty and there is something about a thunderstorm that reminds us of that.

And there is something about walking through Alzheimer’s with a loved one that reminds me of His power, too. Because I know I couldn’t bear it without Him. I know He is surrounding us with His love and growing us in new ways. I know He is with us through it all.

So I can sing the words of a favorite song of mine, (by Casting Crowns) with confidence and faith, “I will praise You in this storm….”
“……And every tear I’ve cried, You hold in Your hand. You never left my side. And though my heart is torn, I will praise You in this storm.”

He is so good. He is worthy of our praise!

 
I’m so thankful I read this today. It reminds me how faithful God is. He was with us through the Mama storms. He will be with us through the mama-in-law ones, too.
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Someday, Not Today

Sometimes Mama says such profound things that I can hardly believe it. Especially since she has so little vocabulary left and her sentences are generally very short.

Today my daughter and I were discussing summer hopes and dreams and vacations. And logistics. Because Mama needs so much help transferring now, and many of us have strength and back limitations, we have become dependent on a few for moving Mama. And sometimes the strong backs are the ones who need the vacations.

So we were discussing these things and figuring out alternate schedules that might work, so Mama still got some moving and changes of scenery, and a chance to stretch her legs a bit.

Later Annie went over to Mama’s to feed her supper. And she came back and said, “Do you know what Grandma said, Mom? She said, ‘Someday, not today, things will be different.’

And Annie and my husband and I all looked at each other amazed. One, because this is a long sentence for Mama to say at this point. And two, because there is so much meaning in that sentence.”

Because someday things will be different. Someday, only God knows how soon, we won’t need to plan around Mama’s care to go on vacation. Someday we won’t need to go over every few hours to feed Mama and change her and move her. Someday we won’t hear her yelling anymore. Someday we won’t be counting out her pills or talking to the nurse or bathing her skin. Someday we won’t be brushing her hair or helping her brush her teeth as she yells and bites the brush.

Someday, not today, things will be different.

Someday I won’t be able to feel her baby soft skin. Someday I won’t be able to smooth back her silvery hair and look into her blue eyes. Someday I won’t be able to hold her arthritic hand and feel her close her fingers around mine. Someday I won’t get to snuggle next to her at nap time and feel her put her arm around me and pat my arm and back. Someday I won’t hear the comments she makes and be amazed.

Someday, not today, things will be different.

Annie finished feeding Mama supper tonight and was saying good-bye to Dad and Mom. Dad said, “Good-bye, Annie.”

But Mama started saying, “Hello! Hello!”

Which makes me think, that the moment we say good-bye to Mama on this earth, she will be saying “Hi!” to Jesus in Heaven! Mama knew Jesus and trusted in Him when her mind was strong, so she will be with Him for eternity. And there with Him her mind will be healthy and clear again.

And I can picture her greeting family and friends. I can see her hugging her own mama. I see her smiling and laughing again. And never in pain ever, ever again. And I know someday I will see her again. And I wonder what our first words to each other will be.

Someday, not today, things will be different.

So today I will treasure up the sweet moments…the shared meals, the hand holding, the cuddling, the singing, and the words Mama says. Today I will hug Mama close and know that she is here and I am blessed to care for her and love her. Today I will kiss her wrinkled cheek and tell her that I love her.

And with God’s help I will serve faithfully on this holy ground He has given me as my mission now.

And I will remember…someday, not today, things will be different.

 

 

 

What to do When the Shouting Hurts

Mama hollers so much these days. Loudly and sometimes for hours. We try to make sure all her needs are met, but we often can’t figure out what is upsetting her. She shouts so loudly that it hurts our ears and we marvel that her voice doesn’t wear out. There is little we can do. But one thing helps more consistantly than others…

I sit by Mama. She props both her legs up over one of mine, so it feels like she’s half sitting in my lap. She rubs and pats my arm as we chat. I name her siblings with pauses between each one and she says, “Yes, that’s right.” And, “Go ahead.” I count to two and she takes over and counts to ten herself.

I tell her things about her family and her childhood and she nods and says things like, “That sounds right.” And then I sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” And Mama sits quietly listening to the whole thing until I’m done. And then she says with enthusiasm, “Good!”

And her praise warms my heart.

And it all makes me think how the world is hurting my ears and my heart right now. There is so much shouting. There is so much anger.  It doesn’t seem to end. I wish I knew how to calm it all down.

I open up an old hymnal and I look at the words of the hymn I sang Mama…

“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!

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in Prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Saviour still our refuge—take it to the Lord in prayer. Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer; In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there.” (Joseph Scriven, 1819-1886 and Charles Converse, 1832-1918)

And the hymn of our fathers calls me to my knees. It reminds me that there have always been sins and griefs and sorrows and cares. There has always been despising and forsaking. And that thankfully we have always had prayer.

We have a precious Savior. He is still our refuge. He is always our solace.

And He is always good.

I can sit close to my Abba Father. I can know His strong arms are around me. I can pour out my heart to my Jesus, my faithful friend.I can share His love with others. And when the shouting gets too loud, I can keep my hand in His and just keep singing, “What a friend we have in Jesus…”