Hope, Keeping it Real

Lessons In Living Through Dying

As I reflect on the last few weeks and the last ten months of my life, it keeps popping up that as much as I have experienced great loss I have also experienced great gain. I have learned so much in the process, and in the last days of my mom’s time on earth I learned more about living and life than I can completely understand.

I am absolutely still not sure that I have all the words, but in the meantime, I share what I can and hope that someone else will pick up even the smallest nugget that they can hold on to or release; whatever the case may be.

Life is really short. Really. Maybe I have a better understanding of that now more than ever. I don’t currently see that through a filter of sadness, regret or remorse but more through a filter of determination, courage and freedom.

What I learned about the brevity of life, even though my mom made choices that I wouldn’t make for myself, is that when you go through hard, ugly and painful things there’s still a blessing buried in that mess. It’s all about how you choose to see it. Even more so, how we choose to respond to it. I thought I had that concept pretty well mastered, but maybe not as much as I do now. Once again, as a believer in Jesus, I see how He is making all things work together and I am even more convinced that there’s no coincidence in His economy; just divine plans for a purpose.

I have realized after two plus years of hearing the words “new normal” that normal is not my favorite word, but new is a word that makes my top five. New after experiencing death takes on a whole new color and the best part of the new came on this side of heaven.

I have learned a whole lot more about my passion in life, and what picking up the pieces to rebuild looks like. There are more pieces being left on the floor than used in the creation of the next new chapter. That’s something that I have learned and understand at a greater level. New means new. Pieces of the old get added to the mould, but it’s a brand new creation opened up by purpose, plan and through a lot of pain. It’s still a new thing and sewn together by experience, belief and the choosing of one’s perspective and attitude.

I have learned the massive importance of true self care and how to go about that in the most loving possible way. Loving God and loving others is important, right now this other needs to crush the self care in the here and now as well as going forward. And it really just cannot be optimal or set aside for any good reason at all.

I have learned that a mom will truly go through life trying to protect their kids until their last dying breath. I have also learned to speak my heart even when it’s not the most favorable opinion and it’s still okay because my needs still matter as much as they always have.

Sharing all of these thoughtful and experiences seems like the best way through the grief. I long ago stopped saying things like I am fine. I have really learned more about the depth of His love for me. So instead of saying I am fine, how does “I am doing as expected” sound? Although I have also learned that grief does unexpected things at will all day long.

Take whatever you need to from this. If it’s how to see differently I hope you do. If it’s how to let go, I hope you do. If it’s how to find a mustard seed of faith then I hope you do. If it helps you let go, then I pray that you will.

Hope, Keeping it Real

Glimpses of Heaven on Earth

I think I need to give into the fact that this is the current situation and it would make sense that when I write it would be fertile ground for sharing pieces of hope and encouragement just as much as any other set of difficult circumstances. 

If I told you about how many times in the last 72 hours I saw and felt God at work in the most amazing, profound and stunning ways you would literally just be blown away. I do want to summarize and share some pieces of that in hopes that you would see Him today in a whole new light and be reminded, perhaps, of how big He is and maybe, like myself, have kind of put Him in a limited box or space from time to time. That makes me sick to my stomach, but after these few days I can see how I have done that before, again, still and even now. 

Do you know that dying is hard work? I never really thought of that but watching it happen and how our bodies literally are either in fight or flight at all times is just amazing. We are created so intricately, so purely attached and sewn together by His hand that it is just almost too much. Watching someone inching closer to reaching for Jesus’ outstretched hand and her body say, not, not yet, is the most beautiful and awful experience all at once.  As crazy as this all seems and sounds, there are people surrounding me during this time that have witnessed pieces of all of these things for themselves. Yes, there are days and nights when I am not sure if I am dreaming or delusional but I tell you what I think that God actually has given me a clear vision of some pretty fantastic things. 

Watching a person fight like hell, watching how our body responds when it starts to die and yet goes into a place of fighting to hang on is so fascinating. Fight or flight. Hold on and let go. All at the same time. There it is again. The both/and. 

Yesterday I know that I saw a glimpse of heaven, and that my mom saw a vision of the after. Not maybe the afterlife, although that picture was definitely shared with her but the after for her children and specifically for me. .

Our day started in a quiet space. I was up really early as sleep is just hard to come by at the moment. I had some nice classical church hymns playing and the blinds drawn. The princess suite (the area created for my mom to rest) was very peaceful and serene. While mom was struggling to utter more than one word sentences, struggling to feed herself (she still tries and then we take over for her) and all of this is happening, she starts to cry. When I asked her if she was sad she said yes. I asked her if she wanted to talk about what was making her sad. She said yes and proceeded to tell me she was going to miss me.

Now, about that time, we had some visitors coming to the door to see us and while my bestie went to find them outside and bring them in I was able to say all of the things I wanted my mom to hear before she couldn’t respond at all. She might be unresponsive at some point (we know it is coming) and although she may be able to hear us, I guess I just needed to know by seeing her face and whatever response she could give that she had in fact heard me.I told her I loved her and that we were sad to see her go, but it was much harder to watch her suffer and that I knew that Jesus was waiting for her. So we cried together and then one of my other dear friends and his wife came in right as I had turned the volume down on the sound system. 

For awhile, we sat and talked about heaven and how awesome it was going to be. We visited and chatted and mom was still emotional, so I asked her if she wanted to line dance. She laughed. I changed the music to the kind of music she enjoyed and we listened to songs by Don Williams, Merle Haggard, etc. and a little sing along ensued. Stop right there. Maybe you are thinking that we have lost our minds, but I am telling you that humor and laughter is good and healthy as long as you counter that with feeling the emotions on the opposite ends of the spectrum and are not using humor as an avoidance tactic. I have experienced just about every emotion and feeling we could possibly know in hour-by-hour increments, minute-by-minute increments for quite some time now, so I am celebrating with the sense of humor, sarcasm and wit that runs deeply in this family.

As our visit started to wind down, after a whole lot of sharing faith, hope, experience and worship, I asked my friends to pray with me over my mom. And so there the 4 of us stood and we praised God and we shared our pleas for complete healing and a peaceful transition.

Do you know that I had thought about or dreamed about calling those very same people to come visit and pray with me? Do you know that I had not uttered a word about that and my person took it upon herself to call them for me and I had no idea. When she told me that they were coming out, I was stunned and there may have been more snot-crying. She thought I was upset, and I said, “No, you don’t understand. I either dreamed it or thought about it but I had already planned to call them because I had already seen us standing around mom just talking with our friend Jesus.” He knew what was going to happen and He had already shown me. She heard Him and she knew what I needed. That’s what love does. That’s how God works. 

Not even 2 hours after what felt like maybe close to some final hours with the condition mom was in, to the time she started one of her comfort meds and I am sitting there watching my mom who could not communicate well, feed herself, or walk/bathe/clothe/toilet herself and had tremors so bad it rattled every hard surface she touched able to communicate with more than one word responses, feed herself, walk with her walker, toilet herself and even partially re-dress herself and her tremors were gone. For me, that was a brief glimpse of the complete healing waiting on the other side. She will be able to do all these things and more. Also, I am not even sure that clothes are an optional or mandatory thing in Heaven so who knows if that even matters. 

We had a couple of what are we seeing here? Her time is coming closer and faster than we thought.I thought maybe we were being punked in the worst kind of way. Then we see a temporary comeback and then we slide further into another territory that is similar to where the whole thing started. For my mom, last night, we were in a cabin in Montana. She was so agitated and worried and restless which, if you don’t know, is part of the pre-dying phase, and it made the entire night really difficult to manage. But at least we were in a cabin in Montana.

 As the night/morning wore on and I literally lost count of how many times we got out of bed and to the chair and back, something else happened that I had also seen or dreamed, and had shared with people. 

While we were in that cabin in Montana, mom was worried about something and I literally met her there, and we talked about it and I assured her that everything was okay, the cabin had already been taken care of and that she had nothing to think about but resting and enjoying it. I asked her if it would help if I climbed into bed with her and just rubbed her arm. She said yes, and so I did. I climbed into that bed and did what God had shown me was already going to happen. 

I am even more sure of who He is. Dying is a birth story into the next life. And so, these different ebbs and flows in the process are much like false alarms in the labor process until when God says it is time, the baby comes. We wait with anticipation and all possible emotions in the meantime as a new baby comes into the world, and the fight or flight instinct is very present there as well. 

This is just a little snippet of a beautifully painful and joyful glimpse of leaving this earth, graduating into Heaven and all of the pieces of heaven on earth mixed in to boot. 

Trust Him. Trust that He does know our every thought and need. Trust that He can see what we cannot see and sometimes, He shares a glimpse of what’s coming. Thank you Jesus!

Hope, Keeping it Real

Never Too Late

I have not been able to prioritize writing over the last few months. Oh, I have had a lot on my mind and a lot to say, but this was never really meant to be a personal journal type of blog that only contained my recent season and current experience in the first place. So I did not write, and if I am honest, probably mostly because this was not how I intended to utilize this platform, but apparently God has a better idea of what is going on and needs to happen. 

Honestly, I kept hearing God telling me that He never wastes a hurt and that someone else may hear a piece of the story that will unlock a prison, release a chain or give them hope anyway. I ignored it, and the brutally honest truth is that I was having a hard time seeing the joy in the middle of this hellish experience. It’s in there, joy has always been there because He is there and here and everywhere; I just didn’t know how to find that piece for a bit. 

And then…..

Backstory and a quick one: My mother has finally come to terms with the fact that we are not going to win this battle and agreed to start hospice care. All of that was not in a pretty little bow, but we got there. It officially started a few days ago, and I have to tell you that I feel like the cavalry has arrived. It has, I tell you. The letdown of the adrenaline and pure grit that I have been operating on for the last several months is overwhelming in the best kind of way. Just a few days into this, and not all the moving pieces in place and I feel like a ton of bricks just got dropped on me emotionally, but the physical weight has also been left. It is odd and beautiful. It is sad and joyous. It is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Just another both/and scenario. 

Jesus told us this in so many ways, and it hit me hard in the last 24 hours that He has and is still with and for me. Just as He is with and for you through any and every.little.thing. Seriously, how do we become so unaware of that? The scripture puts it right out there plain as day. 

John 13:7-You don’t understand now what I am doing, but later you will understand.

Yesterday, I heard my mom talking to an old friend that practices a different religion than I do. They were talking about the rapture. For me, that means ‘second coming’ and so when the friend told my mom that they did not believe that was true and that it really wasn’t in the Bible anyway I about lost my mind. I heard mom say that it was in the Bible, it was in Revelations. (Super proud and wonderful moment there.) The friend says, “We think that the book of Revelations is mostly symbolic.” Okay, well duh. The friend says, “Jesus did not say it anyway.” My heart broke for this friend and it broke my heart even worse knowing that my mom may be tempted to believe that. The truth is, that Jesus tells us throughout the Bible that He is coming again, and that if we have given our lives to Him as our Lord and Savior we will see Him face to face. There was further conversation between the two about heaven, hell and purgatory and I was annoyed, somewhat triggered, and told my mom after they hung up that it was really cool that she knew what Jesus said through Revelations and that it was, in fact, throughout the Bible that He was and is going to return. I left it at that. 

At 2:30 this morning, it hit me. I was thinking, planning, not sleeping and figuring out how to utilize the team that God has placed around me to support me and our family during this time, and it hit me that my mom was not feeling at peace about things as to where she will graduate when this time is over with. How heartbreaking. Maybe somewhat normal to not be sure, but still heartbreaking.

 I know that she was saved when she was 7 or 8 years old. I have written proof of that in my possession and I know that we don’t earn that salvation and I truly don’t believe you can lose that. Once you are a YES girl, you are a Jesus girl. Period. 

And I was prompted again to help bring her peace, and when I caught on to what He was asking me and how He was reminding me that despite the trouble, He has overcome. Despite the short season of suffering and pain, there is a pain-free, unfathomable perfect home in Heaven waiting. I must have asked Him the question, “What do you want me to do here?” And with a big, fat heavenly, straight from God answer He told me. Help bring her peace. Honor her, and help her to understand. I think I know what He wants me to do, and He has provided me the words and wisdom; the people, and the opportunity to provide her assurance and peace that she will be meeting Jesus face-to-face and in her heart of hearts she knows the truth, and the truth will set her free. She has already asked so many things that would go against what the religion she follows is absolutely against and for me, there is no more real picture than knowing Jesus and the truth deep, deep in her heart. That brings me peace!

In a step of obedience, to be an instrument in the peace process, I made the phone call to a dear friend and brother. Before I even uttered the words that I was about to ask him, he said yes. I am not even kidding. As soon as I am able to have a conversation with her about how I sense that she is unsettled about what will happen when she graduates, where she is going and whether she has truly been saved or not I will. And then, I can make that phone call and that friend will come. He will stand in the gap, answer the questions, and help me to bring some peace and assurance that PRAISE GOD she will be seeing Jesus and she will be completely healed when that day comes. I am also at peace knowing we may not get that opportunity, but I am confident and at peace enough for her. She gets to meet Jesus soon.

All of this to tell us this: there is hope, there is a purpose to every painful circumstance and experience and there is a Jesus that is alive and well working on our behalf in the middle of absolutely everything who will continue to draw us back to Him again and again and again. We are called to be His hands and feet, serving others as He would do, and helping them know peace right up until the very end. While our family manages the balance of heartbreak and hope, I pray that you will find peace, make peace or choose to renew your relationship with His peace. It’s never too late to be used by God. 

And friends, there is so much more that I am realizing and experiencing about community, faith, heartache, hope and all the things in between. The unreal phone calls and conversations, the willingness of dear friends to pray with and for me; to laugh and snot cry; to mourn and celebrate; to listen to me swing from all in Jesus girl to all sorts of anxious and slightly inappropriate Jesus girl; has been an incredibly treasured gift. All unknown to me at various points, but never unknown to Him. 

Wishing you peace today and always and the courage to do the next right, hard, nearly impossible thing that He asks of you. 

Keeping it Real

When patience is tested

I got up at least 6 times throughout the night last night and my cranky was at a level 4, but not quite defcon level 5.

It’s been like this every night for almost a week now. I don’t know that I remember how to have a newborn in the house again. But that drive kicks in and we do what we do because that’s what love does.

To be clear, I am not always appreciative of the opportunity to be tested in my patience or my grace. In fact, while getting my mom patient dressed this morning I may or may not have told her that I would suffocate her if she didn’t start sleeping at night. She knew I was kidding, but for the real, I am whooped.

I cannot help but see how God sees me again and again, doing the same dumb things that cause trouble or pain or rattle my peace. He keeps loving me when I keep Him up all night, I am sure.

And the next morning He wakes me up to continue to live and love loudly knowing that before nightfall my patience will be tested and I will also have the chance to love bigger. Like making a fancy breakfast for the one that keeps me up all night, He loves big and loves when I am exhausting because He so loves me and you as well.

He loves still. He loves despite and He loves because love does.

So, I invite you to reflect and share about the times you are exhausted and your peace has been rattled. Do you choose to love bigger and louder? How do you change the trajectory of your day and perspective when you’re whooped? Can you see yourself and others through the eyes of grace?

Hope

Choosing a response

So, today I moved my mom in with me. I knew when God said that He wanted me to trust Him and do this that I would choose to respond.

There was some arguing and whining about what it would cost me, but in truth what it cost me (emotionally and physically, not financially) is far less than what it has already gained me. I didn’t do it because of the benefit to me in any way, I did it because God says love Him and love others. She is an other no matter our history.

And so, today I settled her in, made her lunch and helped her shower. I was hit with the image of Jesus washing His disciples feet as I washed her hair. It was in that moment that I gained another HUGE perspective about choosing the response He would ask me to. Choosing the response that looks past so many things and sees your incredibly sick mother as another piece of His handiwork and having compassion for her and the things she didn’t choose as I would have it.

Choosing to see the incredible love and compassion that He has for me. A broken sinner, learning to live loved and love like Jesus.

Today was a special day and affirmation that His plans are always better than my own.

My encouragement for you today, dear loved ones, no matter who or what you believe is to see those around you with the eyes of compassion. Check to see if there are places and relationships in your life that you may not be choosing the best response for them or for you and then choose to adjust if needed.

Hope, Keeping it Real

Before, Beyond and a Little Horse Training

I have been intentionally focused on so much beyond what my heart can even process over the last few weeks. I am choosing to stay in the moment, and not be distracted by things that are way out of my control and instead choosing to do something about what I can. 

The political climate, the division, the non-stop argument about vaccinate or not to vaccinate, and all of the other things swirling in the cesspool of the media and public outcry would have been really distracting, intriguing and debilitating before. 

Before, the situation we are walking through with my mom’s illnesses and all the complications that has brought, would have left me in a pity pool party for one. 

And I know, without a doubt in my mind, that God knew the before, He knew the now and He knows the beyond. When I get stuck in the middle of wanting to understand the why, and find myself beginning to care a bit too much about opinions and lack of wisdom then I start doing and thinking in a pattern of before. I even start behaving in a pattern similar to that which was before. 

I am constantly having my head turned round like a stubborn-headed horse that wants to go their own way. He is constantly having to remind me who has the reins and who doesn’t. He doesn’t do it forcefully, but gently. He uses constant even pressure to remind me that He has control and can see beyond. He uses a still, small, steady voice to remind me that it’s all going to be okay, because He has everything lined out ahead.

Beyond four months ago, when the last thing I ever imagined I would be doing was taking my mom into my home to care for her when she cannot truly care for herself any longer.

 Beyond a year ago, when we weren’t even speaking to each other.

 Beyond nearly six years ago, when I had to set the boundary for my own sanity while He knew what was coming and had some horse-training to do. 

 Beyond a period of more than eight years of walking with Jesus, choosing recovery and continuing to practice the principles in all my affairs when this stubborn horse would rather just run or quit. 

My hope is in the One who knows the beyond because He is the beyond. He is not only beyond but above all things. 

The things of this world, they may matter some, but they don’t have the final say. The hurts, habits and hangups do not have to have the final say when He is given the reins as many times as it takes. Eventually, the horse will no longer need to be regularly reminded of who is in control or who has the reins.  Even the most well-trained but still stubborn horse needs a little tune up every once in a while. 

My encouragement today is to remember that He goes before. He goes beyond. He can see what we cannot see. My question is how many times in the last months has he gently pressured  and turned your stubborn head around to remind you that He has everything held gently in the palm of His hand?

Have you forgotten that He is not only the lamb, but the lion?

We sit in the before every day that we wake up and know that one day all things will be new again. We can look forward to the beyond where He went before us. 

Hope

Being Upheld and Holding Up

We made it! We saw the end of a difficult year and now we turn the page for the next chapter.

I have never been the “what’s my word of the year” person or been super big on sitting down and writing down a list of goals, but I do take the time to reflect, review and look forward to a fresh page. 

As I am reflecting, talking with God and thinking about what has happened and what has yet to happen, I hear Him telling me, “Take forward with you all the good, and the bad, because without one there isn’t the other.”

The recovering instant-gratification girl would really like to be able to button up the crazy 2020 chapter with a pretty little bow, but the living-in-the-moment girl knows that’s pretty much not remotely possible. 

I hear Him whisper, “I have upheld you. I have strengthened you” and I KNOW that to be true. So, when I think of being upheld and how I am holding up and how we are collectively holding up I can not only think of what I personally have faced in the last 12 months, but so many other people I know as well. Not one person I know has had a stellar year, but we have all had opportunity and reason to take some stellar lessons with us into the next one. 

How have I been strengthened? How have you been strengthened? Through trouble and hardship; mourning and loss; and division and drama. I think I am familiar with that territory. He has a great track record of holding me up, strengthening me through the stretching of faith muscles and trust muscles, and I have held up just fine. It was not painless, but it was an exercise in what to hold on to and what to let go of. 

My relationship with God is stronger. It’s being held up. My relationship with my siblings is stronger. Those relationships are being held up. My connection with my dad is stronger, and it was held up through the strain his children are experiencing facing a horrible set of circumstances with our mother-his ex wife. My relationship with my mom, the person that hurt me the most, loved me the worst, and did the very best she could do at the time is stronger. He is holding it up and I am being held through every challenging piece of the story while the book comes closer to the ending. 

My reflection is this: what do I want to carry with me, and what do I want to leave behind? I tell you, I don’t think I can leave one piece of it behind. Since He has a great way of using all things for His glory and our good, I don’t think we can just spit out the things and pieces that leave a bad taste in our mouths. Instead, we take it all forward. Without the bad, there cannot be the good. Without darkness, nobody can see the light. 

The situations, circumstances, changes and losses of this last year will always serve a bigger purpose if we let them. I will take forward the moments of hard; the times that isolation became too heavy; and the days that felt like they were years long because there was a limit placed on what we could do, where we could go and what we could do. The extra bonus complications that the pandemic brought also brought out creativity. I had to get creative many times over in how I was going to afford another special memory for my mom or with my mom. I did not always like it or see it as a great opportunity, and I bitched, moaned and complained. But being held up, helped up and held onto by my God meant that I would soon see the blessings even in the many bummers once again. I still saw 365 sunrises and sunsets. I still had love and loss and all in betweens. I had major milestone high moments and some really ugly low moments. I had a lot of BIG feelings and I didn’t hide from them. I had a lot of opinions and still managed to do what I could to keep my mouth shut in wisdom and grace. 

As a reminder for you and I, He will strengthen us. None of us truly can get through our lives without Him being the good God that He is. His strength to carry us out of, over, and through the things He knew were coming is all we have to get us through the hardest of days. 

When this period of history is written in the books, I hope that we can reflect on all the good in it. Many times before in our history, in our personal lives we have gone through dark things (addictions, divorces, child loss, death, etc.) and He has given us wisdom, peace, recovery and growth beyond our understanding. I am confident that He will continue to do the exact same thing with all of this and whatever comes next. 

So, thank you 2020 for all that you have taught us. Thank you Jesus for what you have upheld us through. Truly. We have all experienced more love for our neighbor; more creativity in difficult times; more compassion for those with less resources, less family or those that don’t even know that they belong to You as Your children; and we have all experienced the loss, rebuilding and value of community and basic human decency. 

Welcome 2021, we are stronger than whatever silliness you have to throw us, we are being upheld by the One true God and we are not just ready to hold up but to level up. 

Keeping it Real

Interruptions and Interventions

What an exhausting, trying and beautiful year 2020 has been. I have been reflecting on the troubles and trials so much and it is sometimes difficult to find the silver linings but they are definitely there. Sometimes you just have to look harder to find them!

I got to go to church service in person yesterday for what feels like the first time in forever. And, it was just what my weary soul needed. God knew! 

Yesterday started off in the normal pattern of a text from mom, a sudden burst of anxiety of “now what” and decisions and actions that are anything but normal. But for now, they are my normal. Phone calls and conversations about whether to continue treatments or not knowing that the treatments being received are the only real tangible things keeping a person alive. Decisions and actions to remove something from my overloaded plate that was both heartbreaking and at the same time gave me a huge sense of relief and peace. Both and. There’s always a “both and” it seems. 

As I walked through the doors of the church I felt peace. I felt home. I felt relief. I felt love. I felt anticipation not anxiety. I was greeted with familiar faces and friends and it felt nice to feel normal. God intervened in a way that I didn’t see coming. 

I worshipped my God and felt His presence. I listened to the message about interruptions, and I heard God speaking directly to me about messy people, messy situations and that being the whole point of the Christmas season. I listened to the story of the interruption, the splitting of time and how God uses the messiest people to do His greatest work. All things I have heard before, and all things I know. However, familiarity DOES set in after a while and without God, there would be no impact on my heart and life if I allowed the mundane and familiar to take hold. 

Love like Jesus. Love messy people. Love people when they are messy. Love when it is hard and more so when it is hard. Love the hardest people to love, because I am not always the easiest person to love. All interventional thoughts that came to mind as I felt Him speaking to me. 

Nothing about the circumstances I and my family find ourselves in are normal. This year has been a year of constant interruption, disruption and turning upside down. As we walk through the season of the end of life for my mom, He intervenes to remind me that even when I am so.freaking.tired and so.freaking.annoyed at having the same conversations about health, money, the care she is receiving, the demands and the complaints she has over every.little.thing;  I am to be a messenger of great joy for all people for all times. 

And so, this intervention and reminder of my own frailties and inadequacies; the times that I am more grumpy than grateful; the times that I whine more than I should and all of the times I am difficult to love all served to refuel my desperate need for God, my church family, my recovery and my relationship with Jesus. 

Without His interruption and intervention, I would be so lost. There’s no way that what we are walking through could ever be done without Him. 

I am grateful to walk through the season we are in, in the time we are in, and realize that ultimately I am loving as best I can, doing the best I can and that this is a gift to give my mother the best last days and months of her life that we possibly can. It is a gift to be able to help someone die well. Truly. We don’t know exactly when that decision will be made, and she will be ready to just let God take her without the use of medical treatments, but I know that she is getting closer to making that decision. We have had the conversations, and it is both painful and beautiful to have that conversation with a person that you have had a VERY complicated and difficult relationship with. It is difficult to tell someone that she does not have to hold on for her kids, that she gets to choose when she is ready to stop and that we WILL be okay. It is both horrible and wonderful. 

My encouragement today is to remember to look at the person that is difficult and draining and look past what they are saying and doing, to feel what they might be feeling and have compassion. Then ask God for his intervention and strength to continue to love that hurting, scared, angry person underneath as Jesus loves you. 

Hope

Staying in the moment when I would rather not

It’s been awhile. It’s been a road. It’s been a challenging season with way too many things happening all at once that’s taking a heavy toll on me in every way possible.

But knowing that God isn’t surprised at all and that He will make all things right brings some comfort and peace sometimes. I am not yet angry with God. Honestly. It isn’t His doing that finds us with the reality of the end days or months of our mom’s life.

I AM angry though. I am fighting not being resentful of her because a good portion of this she did have control over and chose not to change habits or lifestyle. And then there’s the financial choices she made and didn’t which leaves us to figure out to not only pay for her basic needs but her cremation or services when the time comes. In my heart, I know that day is far more near than we would hope it to be, and at the same time I ask God to take her home.

When the anger and resentment comes I am reminded of “thou shall not judge” and have to look in the mirror.

And so, trying to live in one moment at a time is stupid hard when we also have to make decisions that are best for her when there’s so many if/then scenarios in play.

So, I keep praying. I keep trusting. I keep doing. I keep feeling. I keep struggling to accept the love, care, and offers of help in various forms. I forget how to love others and let others love me. I do.

What we are dealing with isn’t uncommon. It’s not any harder than what other families go through. There’s no chapter in the playbook that explains how to deal with making the best decisions possible during a deadly virus outbreak. There’s no chapter that adds in our very special set of family dynamics. There’s just not.

Mixed in with total hell is absolute joy and amazing grace. I have a lot to talk about and yet nothing to say. I’m exhausted and cannot sleep at the same time. I’m in the middle of both/and. We are in the middle of a storm and a miracle.

Whenever I start to wonder what the next day looks like let alone the next few months I am assured that He is already there.

Hope, Keeping it Real

When Everything Stops and Doesn’t Stop All at Once

It’s been a while. It’s been a year and it has been five minutes and it has been a hellacious couple of weeks. In the middle of this, I sure hope you find some encouragement.

Labor Day 5:39-ish p.m. (September 7, 2020) my whole world as I knew it tipped upside down. The phone calls began. The searching began. The calm mixed with panic began. The expecting the worst and praying for the best began. 

What do you do when you find out that your mother is lost, delusional and doesn’t really want to cooperate in being located? You drive. Like a bat out of hell. You talk on the phone, text and break all the rules while you communicate with your sister and two different police dispatchers in two different towns. 

That night, everything I knew stopped and did not stop. Since then, it has been a nightmare and a blessing all mixed up in one. 

We just found out the hard way that my mom has dementia with behavioral disturbances. We just found out she knew something was going on and hid it from everyone. We just found out her financial condition, the condition of her home and health and her mind all at once. To say it has been an overwhelming experience is a total understatement. 

A few weeks before things really blew up, I had written her a letter. From the phone calls that I was getting from my sister and all of the things happening, it was clear that something was not right. It was there, and yet we were in denial. But I was not in denial about the fact that after 4.5 years of estrangement, I was now in a place that I needed my mom to know I loved her despite all that had happened between us. If the worst was happening, I did not want her to disappear from our lives feeling or thinking that I did not love, admire and forgive her over and over again. She received that letter, and she knew how I felt and received everything I needed to say to her and all that she needed to hear. What an awesome thing God did to allow that to happen at just the right time. No matter what happens now, she knows.

I have spent more time in my car and eating on the road than I have in my own home over the last two weeks. I have driven a minimum of 125 miles a day, moved her belongings, seen her face every single day, and talked to her multiple times a day in between. And the doctors. And the lawyers. And the family. And the friends. 

I have received the incredible blessing of love and support in hugs, gift cards, prayers, texts, phone calls and all sorts of ways. That family of friends that has been my lifeline is right with me holding me up. Holding us up. HE is holding us up. 

We have been told by one memory care home that they would love to have her, then decided against it in the same 24-hour period leaving us to scramble to find something else because she was soon to be discharged from where she was being taken care of. She clearly cannot fully take care of herself, and that stubborn, independent, adventurous part of her is still very much there but in a very delusional and unsafe way. I have a lot to say about the care she received before arriving at the place she will call home now. I have a lot to say about the lack of care and compassion and concern and the disgusting truth about some of what has been experienced. I have a lot of funny/not funny stories about what she has said and done mixed in with the terrifying facts and experiences and what-could-have-been as well. All of these things I will wait to tell you about if I ever do. All that matters right now is she is safe, that I have a whole new perspective on many things, and that I am so incredibly sad for the families that don’t have the same supports or information that ours currently does. 

I have learned how awesome the brain is and how memories get mixed up and what dementia looks like from the inside out so far. All of this, with my sister and best friend right next to me, and my brother just a phone call away. I have laughed, cried, grieved, mourned, been angry, and been detached all at once. Being all of these things all at one time is so freaking exhausting. 

But God. He has provided the exact amount of financial support that I need to have food and gas. He knew this was coming.  He has provided financial assistance to carry us through her first month of VERY expensive care while we jump through all of the hoops to get her situated. 

He has provided a safe place for her with LOVING people that understand the impact of dementia on families as well as the impact of the stupid effing pandemic that keeps us apart from each other. I have been able to settle her into her new home (mostly) and see her face-to-face without a window, for as long as we want to sit together, and they look the other way when she forgets that she cannot hug her kids right now. 

He knew it was coming because there are countless people in my life that have experienced or are experiencing this. We/I have support and people that have gone before to help answer questions. A lot of it. He knew what we would need far before we asked for it. 

I tell you what, if I told you all the ways that He has shown up you just would hardly believe it. But I do, because He has. 

So, I don’t apologize for not writing or creating. I have been merely surviving and waddling through each day the best I can. The best we can. This has been a team effort for sure. Some of you have been part of this and I don’t have words right now to tell you what that has meant. Thank you is not sufficient. 

My prayer requests are that we get to have our mom with us as long as possible; that my brother would get his butt on a plane and get down here before she does not know who he is; that the neurologists would have a clear answer and path for what happens next; and that the path would be wide and smooth for the paperwork and things that have to be put in place in order to provide her the best care possible in the months ahead. 

Everything stopped and didn’t stop all at once. Chances are the progression of the disease is going to move forward, not backward. Chances are this is going to be a long road for a long time. Chances are that mom will know that she is loved, cared for and pampered with pretty much whatever her heart desires along the way.