Monday, November 28, 2016

If only I'd known.

"For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,"  says the LORD, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10 esv 

My friend Laura lives on the other side of our state. We try and get together as often as possible, but circumstances in our lives makes it challenging. I am a full-time caregiver for my son who suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  Laura not only works but also helps her dad care for her mom who is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s.  

She has supported me through some very difficult things so when she told me she was planning a 75th birthday party for her mom I wanted to be there to help her. It’s been hard for her, especially the last year, watching her mom’s abilities and memory fade away.  Not knowing if she would understand it was her birthday, it was important to Laura to make this day special for her mom.  It was her 75th Birthday and we were going to celebrate!  

When I arrived at her house Friday night, we talked about her plans for the party and what still needed to be done.

Laura was gone when I got up Saturday morning.  She left to pick up her mom as she does every Saturday.  She brings her back to her house to give her dad a break.  I was in the kitchen when I heard them come home so I walked over to say Hi. Noticing her mom did not recognize me, she still reached out her hand to squeeze mine. I gave her a little hug and then went back into the kitchen.

 A while later I heard music coming from the sun-room. I went to see what was going on and as I peeked around the corner I saw Laura sitting beside her mom at the table.  I paused in the doorway unnoticed and watched.   Her mom was eating lunch. Every few minutes Laura put food on the fork handing it to her mom while gently encouraging her to take a bite.  The music I heard was from a video of her mom’s favorite gospel music streaming on the computer.

I was surprised at my emotions as I watched them.  I thought of my own mom who lost her battle with cancer 3 years ago now watching my friend’s mom losing her battle with Alzheimer’s. Both of our moms were strong Godly women, good friends, and prayer warriors.  My mom kept a journal of people she prayed for, and Laura’s mom would often wake up in the middle of the night, get down on her knees to pray for anyone God put on her mind.  Now, she cannot speak and must be prompted to take a bite of food.

I stood there fighting back tears. The longer I watched them the more my heart filled with peace. Despite the business of party preparations Laura chose to stop and be still. To be fully engaged in the moment with her mom.  The harsh reality of the situation seemed to fade as the calm gentleness of Laura’s actions helped create an atmosphere of peace.

I eventually walked in and sat down beside them. Allowing myself to stop to be in the moment with them.

The next day I watched again as Laura went to her mom to help her up out of a chair. Gently and unhurried explaining to her what she was doing. I watched as the family gathered around her to celebrate her 75th birthday with dignity, love, and honor.

It was an emotional weekend yet I am thankful I was a part of it. I went with the assumption I was going to help and support her as she has so many times for me in the past.  But  I received more from her than what I gave. I was encouraged by watching the way she ministered to her mom.  She stopped in the flurry of life and activity to be in the moment with her mom, to minister to her mother’s heart.

Being a care-giver is hard. Caring for those we love with special needs can be exhausting. We often find ourselves rushing through the everyday task just to get them completed.  That weekend I was reminded how important it is to take the time, to slow down, to be in the moment. Focusing on the person, not just on completing the task. 

Laura has given me permission to share with you one of her journal entries. It expresses how important it is to appreciate those precious moments that can easily be overlooked. While her experience is with her mom and Alzheimer’s I believe, we can all gain some valuable insight from her words. 

If Only I'd Known;  by Laura Krieger

If only I'd known that would have been the last time I'd hear you pray by my bedside I would have tried harder to stay awake to tell you thank you after you said amen.

If only I'd known that would be the last time we would laugh and dance together I would have asked for one more song and twirled until we got dizzy.

If only I'd known that dinner you fixed would be the last time I would eat something put together by your hands I would have lingered and eaten slowly.

If only I'd known that would be the last time I would hear you sing I would have stopped what I was doing and joined you in song.

If only I'd known that would be the last time I would hear your voice telling me how much God delighted in me I would have recorded it so I could listen to it over and over and over.

If only I'd known your hug would have been the last one given freely I would have clung to you and allowed myself to feel the strength in those arms that held me as a newborn, as a teenager and as a woman.

If only I'd known that would be the last time I would hear your laughter and see your eyes sparkle with mirth I would have committed to memory what I had said to make you laugh with such abandon.

You don't have to be a care-giver to get caught up in the business of life.  Is there anything you need to let go of? Are you taking time to " be in the moment" with those who mean the most to you? 

originally posted

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A brief moment. A lasting Impression.

Psalm 103:20, eSV
Bless the Lord, you angels who belong to him, you mighty warriors who carry out his commands, who are obedient to the sound of his words.
As Veterans Day approaches I can’t help but think of a young soldier who we met for a very brief moment. His small gesture made a lasting impression on Ryan and I.  
It was near the end of the school year, and the 5th grade band which Ryan was a member was to put on a performance. This year had been a difficult year. Ryan lost a lot of physical strength and could no longer walk.The wheelchair became part of his everyday life.   He was very conscious of the wheelchair and was not ready to be on a stage in front of people. 

I understood his fears, but continued to reassure and encourage him to participate. He worked hard, in spite of his limited strength, to learn how to play the songs on the clarinet.  Although still nervous, Ryan was able to fight through extreme anxiety and fear to participated with his class on the night of the concert.  I know it was hard for him. I witnessed his battle to overcome  fear and anxiety, but he got up there and was amazing. I was so proud of him! 

After the concert while we were waiting for the gym to clear, a man in a military uniform came up from behind, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Ma’am, can I give this to your son”? In his hand was an American flag patch that he had just removed from his uniform.  Not sure what to think I replied with a very hesitant "yes." The young soldier walked over to Ryan, bent down and shook his hand.  This young soldier proceeded to tell Ryan he did a great job, how proud he was of Ryan and that he was very brave.  While he was speaking he handed Ryan the flag. He turned to me to say good bye then headed back to where his family was waiting.  Ryan opened his hand to show me the flag.  That is when I  noticed the flag had 2 medals pinned to it. 

I knew medals were given to military personnel for specific achievements or events but did not know what these 2 medals signified.  Later that night we got on the computer to look up the significance of them.  

The parachute medal symbolized that he was assigned to an airborne unit and had participated in at least one combat parachute jump.  The second medal a Combat Action Badge, provides special recognition to Soldiers who personally engaged with the enemy or are engaged by the enemy during combat operations. The oak wreath symbolizes strength and loyalty. 

Ryan was confused. He asked, "Why did he give this to me?"  I replied, "These medals were given to him in recognition of his courage and bravery in battle. Maybe it was his way of letting  you know he sees you, and recognizes you are fighting a battle too. A different type of battle but one that also takes bravery and courage." 

This young soldier had probably gotten off of work just in time to make it to his child’s concert. Yet he felt a nudge to stop for a brief moment, to reach out and encourage Ryan.  He had no way of knowing how much fear, and anxiety Ryan battled through to get up and perform that night. Yet I have a feeling he understood Ryan’s battle far more than I could or ever will! In the same way the soldier was awarded these medals of honor for his bravery in war, he saw that Ryan deserved recognition for his bravery, not only because of what he was able to overcome that night, but in Ryan's life long battle. .       
 “The Lord gets his best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.”  ~ Charles Spurgeon

Heavenly Father, 
I thank you that you sometimes send special angels into our lives to give us moments of  hope and encouragement. I pray a special blessing over this soldier that touched our hearts. I also pray protection and strength for all our service men and women who so willingly serve our country.
In Jesus name I pray,

originally posted

Thursday, November 3, 2016

What are you hiding behind?

Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor; for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another to lift him up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (AMP)

I checked in for my hair appointment and was told my hairstylist was running late. I sat down in the waiting area, my mind filling with thoughts of how the day had gone so far. It had been a hard emotional day and I had no desire to be around anyone. I was in no mood to make polite small talk but knew if I canceled my appointment it would take at least a month to get back in. So I waited. I was determined once I sat in that chair, I would close my eyes and tune out the world. That was my plan anyway. 

My hairstylist finished up her client and quickly cleaned up her station. She hurried over to me apologizing for being late. I muttered, “That’s okay" and followed her to her station. I sat in the chair, and she briskly flipped the cape around my shoulders asking me how I wanted my hair cut.  I started to answer but her reflection in the mirror caught my attention. I stopped mid-sentence and said, “You look beautiful today”.  As I spoke she stopped her flurry of activity. Her eyes meet mine and started to well up with tears. She said, " Thank you. You have no idea how much that means to me.  It has been an extremely difficult week.  I just wanted to feel better so I got up extra early to make myself look presentable. I figured if I looked okay maybe I would feel better.” 

I have known her for a few years and knew she had three small boys all with some challenging issues.  I asked her a few questions about her boys, then did a lot of listening. She finished my hair, I stood up to leave and gave her a big hug! I told her I understood the feeling of being overwhelmed and reassured her, she was doing a great job with her boys! 

When I think about it, I have no idea why those words came out of my mouth. After all, I was planning on tuning out the world.  But God had other plans. He knew she needed some encouragement, someone who would listen.  In a way my plan did work out. I wasn’t going to talk, right? Well I didn't do much talking just a lot of listening. In that moment all she needed was an understanding ear.   

I wonder how we put on a “happy face”, when we are miserable on the inside.  We go to the extreme to make everything look good, like we have it all together while all the time hiding our true feelings. 

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with caring about your appearance. There are those days, even though we may not feel like it, making that extra effort does help us to feel somewhat better.  Especially when we may be in the depth of depression.   

However, it goes beyond physical appearances.  I’m thinking about when we are constantly using extra energy to hide behind the mask of “everything is great”.  The mask of perfect. The perfect family, job, house, clothes, hairstyle, marriage, etc.  If we look and act like we have it all together then maybe no one will ask questions.  We try to fool others and even ourselves into thinking if everything on the outside looks good, then everything must be great!

We are afraid of what people might think if they really knew what was going on. But keeping up this pretense is exhausting! We are using energy that we really can’t afford to keep others from truly seeing behind the mask.

I know it is hard to let your guard down and remove the mask. Not everyone can be trusted to protect your heart. Yet sometimes we need to take that chance.  Do you have a friend or two that you will allow to see what you are hiding? 

Likewise, I think we are all able to be that friend to someone else. It does take time, time for them to see you really do care and can be trusted. You can start by just being available, asking a few simple questions and really listening.

Taking the time to see what others are going through and to offer them encouragement may be just what we need as well.  By helping others, we might find the courage to drop our mask and let them in.   

Be the kind of friend that goes to the hard places that hide behind the mask.  Offering encouragement, hope and a new perspective. Life is hard. We aren’t meant to do it alone!

By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped. Ecclesiastes 4:12 (MSG)

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for always being with us. I also know the importance of us being there for each other.  I pray that you will bring those trusted friends into our lives that we will feel safe in sharing with. Help us to offer up that same safe place for them to be open. I pray that we are able to offer encouragement and strength for each other.  

In Jesus name I pray,

Originally posted