GRATEFULLY SURPRISED

GRATEFULLY SURPRISED

Has it really been two years since I moved my seventy-eight-year-old baby sister out of the house, where she had lived for forty-three years, and into an adult, assisted living facility?  Seems impossible!  June suffers from Alzheimer’s.

For many heartbreaking weeks, I cleaned out, threw away, gave away, sold, and packed up my sister’s whole life, with the exception of a few choice items, saved to furnish and decorate her room at the new residence.  Those were stormy, tearful, exhaustingly sad days for both of us.

In the beginning, being extremely paranoid, June was certain that her caregivers were stealing her jewelry and clothing.  She would wad up her favorite things and hide them in drawers or in the corner behind the bureau.  She was combative to the degree that caregivers were hesitant to enter her room.  I tried to be there to smooth the path for everyone.  That’s hard, but that’s who I am.  Over the months, with the adjustment of medication, things improved.

I had committed to spending two afternoons a week with my sister.  As a court appointed guardian and conservator, I am required to see her only once a month.  But, she is my sister!  So, I went faithfully on Tuesday and Friday afternoon.  Did I want to go?  Not always!  Sometimes we fussed because I had little enough sense to try to reason with her.  When I finally learned to agree with my sister, or just keep silent, the yelling stopped and things were much calmer.

When I was angry with her, as I often was, I tried to remember special times we had shared.  I thought of the chubby toddler with big blue eyes and a mass of curly hair.  I remembered the sweet kindergartener I pushed high in the swings at recess time, the summers we sat in the living room floor playing “Sorry” all day long.  Could I ever forget picking cotton beside her on Saturdays, in the summer heat, and the fun of singing together at church, and her poetry?  Of course, I remember the joy of singing at her wedding, and the sorrow at seeing the tears slide down her cheeks, as we stood beside the grave of her infant, stillborn son.  O, so many memories! Precious memories!

I have been sick this week, so I didn’t see June until yesterday.  Length of time evades her now.  If I say, “I’ll be back in three days,” that could be thirty days or tomorrow, so she is always pleased and surprised when I show up.  When I enter her room, like a child, with twinkling eyes, she asks, “Did you bring me something?”  I always take her a bit of chocolate.  I break it into small pieces and put it in her mouth.  She can no longer grip with her hands.

Our two hours together are spent watching “The Waltons,” and “Little House.”  She cannot manipulate the remote, so the TV stays on the same channel.  Actually, June talks continually always trying to tell me something that has happened or something she wants me to remember.  When she loses her words, she says, “I know what I want to say, but I can’t say it.”  If I try to help her by contributing a word or a name, she declares that I am worse off than she is.  Sometimes, out of frustration, she is angered, but many times she just laughs and I laugh with her.

Yesterday we talked about her husband.  When I called her attention to his handsome photo on the bureau, she said.  “I was wondering where he is.”

“Oh, sweetie, you remember,” I said.  “He is in heaven waiting for you.”

Her eyes widened, and with a smile, she said, “Oh, yes, in heaven!”

Then she said, “You look very pretty today.”

Looking at my watch I realized it was time to go.  “Is it all right if I leave?” I asked.

“Yes, but please be careful out there,” she replied.  “You know, you’re the only one I’ve got.”

I was surprised, gratefully surprised, at the pleasant time we had together.  Driving home, I realized that when I finally quit trying to fix her, trying to make her remember things she could not remember, when I decided to accept her as she is, our relationship improved immediately.  I pray for us every morning, but, honestly, I pray for myself more than for June.  I pray that God will give me wisdom, and understanding, a gentle spirit, and an abundance of love.

Now I look forward to our visits.  It is no longer a chore to be dispatched, but a time to be enjoyed.

Let me encourage you today.  Accept your loved ones for who they are.  You cannot fix them, but you can love them, pray for them, and serve them.  God will do the rest.

Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.”  These words speak for themselves.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

RESURRECTION MORNING

We were always awake and out of bed before the sun came up on Easter morning.  With great anticipation, we donned our new frilly spring dresses and white slippers.  Sometimes there was even a pretty little Easter bonnet.  It was chilly on that late March or April morning, but no one wanted to cover a new dress with sweater or coat.

At the church, we joined a long line of cars making their way out Apache Trail to the butte ten miles east of town.  Arriving in the early dawn, we trudged to the top.  Someone carried a guitar or lugged an accordion.  Looking east toward the Superstition Mountains we viewed with awe the bright crest of the sun as it inched its way up over the hills.

Then the music began.  “Up from the grave, He arose…He arose!  He arose!  Hallelujah! Christ arose.”  Even as a child, I felt my heart swell with joy as we lifted our voices in song after song.

“He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today.

He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know He lives?

He lives within my heart.”

Why in the world would anyone want to trudge to the top of a hill in the dark of a chilly morning?  Couldn’t we sing and pray at church?  No need to get up so early.  No need to expend such energy—

TRUE!  However, I think we just wanted to get as near to heaven as we could on that special day, and we wanted to be there very early as the sun arose for that was when the women came to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty.  On top of that butte, we felt the kiss of heaven as we rejoiced at the truth that Jesus is alive, indeed.  We called them “SUNRISE SERVICES,” those early morning EASTER events.

Our Pastor read the resurrection story from Mark 16:1 – 8, pausing briefly as he read verse 6.  “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  HE IS RISEN!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid Him.”

After prayer, we skipped excitedly down the hill.  We were on our way to Easter breakfast.  A room was reserved for us at the “Feed Bag,” a favorite restaurant in town.  We ate pancakes and eggs.  We exclaimed over the glory of the sunrise and talked about the sweetness of the service.  We laughed and complimented each other on the beauty of our Easter finery.  Then we went to church.

What, more church?  Oh, yes! Easter had just begun.  There would be more singing, more praying, more preaching and more rejoicing.  This was a day of celebration—celebration of the resurrection—celebration of new life—new life in Christ Jesus. Not only was Jesus alive never to die again, but we also were alive, for because Jesus died and rose again, I too, had received the gift of eternal life.

Oh, and don’t forget.  There was a Sunday evening service as well.

From this long expanse of years, I am not trying to spiritualize everything that happened on Easter Sunday, but I must tell you truthfully I do not remember the excitement of Easter baskets and egg hunts, though I love the thought.  I know we colored eggs on Saturday afternoon, and I am sure there was a chocolate bunny or two, yet those things do not occupy a large space in my catalogue of memories.  It’s those early morning events to which my mind always returns at this time of the year.

Now understand.  I am not adverse to the myriad of Easter symbols we have adopted over the years.  I love the fluffy yellow chicks, the beautiful flowers, the cuddly bunnies and the colorful eggs.  However, for the most part these symbols find their roots in paganism, but I have chosen to accept them as symbols of new life and that is what Easter is all about.

Did you know, centuries ago, we celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25, Annunciation Day—the day Angel Gabriel announced to a teenage Galilean girl that she would bear the Christ Child?  That’s the day Jesus became an embryo in Mary’s womb.  That’s the day the promise of new life kindled hope in a darkened world.  No wonder we called it a New Year.

So enjoy your eggs and chocolate bunnies, but remember, the greatest and truest symbol of Easter is an empty tomb, for Jesus is not there.  He has ascended to the Father, and from that throne on high, He still extends the gift of eternal life to those who will receive Him.

THAT’S WHAT EASTER IS ALL ABOUT!!!

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                    

LOVE KEEPS GOING TO THE END

It’s easy to write about love, talk about love, and read about love, but the time comes, sooner or later, when we are called upon to demonstrate that love in a tangible way.  Love, sometimes, becomes a backbreaking, emotionally painful, tiring, and tedious job.

On March 1, after forty-five years in the same home, my sister moved to a lovely assisted living residence.  The next day I went back to the house she had vacated.  It was sad and lonely without her, and it was a total disaster—like a war zone.

Having been ill for more than a year the house had been sorely neglected.  Now it was my job to get it ready to put on the market.  I had no idea where to begin, so I decided to begin with her bedroom, where she had not slept in years.  She could no longer manage clothes hangers, consequently, her clothes were in piles on the bed and in the floor—old ones, new ones, dirty ones, and clean ones.  That’s where I began.  For the next two and one half weeks I sorted, gave away, threw away, and packed up forty-five years of my sister’s life.

Finally, on Friday, I picked up the phone and called my brother in Fort Worth.

“Where are you,” I cried.  “She’s your sister, too.  I can’t do this by myself.”

This preacher brother of mine farmed out his puppy, and boarded a plane for Phoenix.  He came with a suitcase full of work clothes.  Every morning he is up before I am, ready to tackle another day of daunting work.  Finally drawers, cupboards and closets are empty, and it is time to clean, and clean we have done.  I had forgotten the color of the kitchen floor and the bathroom fixtures.

You may ask, “Why didn’t you just hire the work done?”

I could have, but, in deference to my sister, I didn’t want anyone to see how she had been living.

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I am proud of us—this 81-year-old sister and 87-year-old brother team.  We are quite a duo, and I have learned something about myself.

One of Webster’s definitions of love is, “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.”

In the middle of the night, when sleep eludes me and a million thoughts about what must be done tomorrow invade my mind, I have discovered that I do not resent this backbreaking, sorrowful task that has fallen to my lot.  I am not angry with my sister for making such a mess.  I do not feel sorry for myself, because this responsibility looms so large that I cannot sleep.  I do not find myself whining and complaining about what might have been.

I thought I assumed this difficult task because I had no choice.  However, as I worked alone day after day, I had plenty of time to think, and I rediscovered that I DO LOVE MY SISTER.  I have always loved my sister, but somehow this undertaking demonstrates it in a bigger way than anything I have ever done.   This may be the most unselfish moment in my life.

My baby sister’s blue eyes are faded now.  Her uncontrollable curls are gone and her hair has thinned.  She asks the same questions over and over, and is not sure of the day of the week.  Yesterday we had a pedicure and painted her toenails bright pink.   She kissed me “goodbye,” when I took her back to her pretty room.

I am glad and humbled to love my sister in this manner.

Emily Dickinson said of this kind of backbreaking, emotionally painful, tiring, tedious love, that it is, “The solemnest of industries enacted upon earth.”

Now, I truly know what “LABOR OF LOVE” means.

Last week, while I was working, my sister’s neighbor came to the door.  She is a rather crude, officious woman.  She came declaring her love for my sister.

“My sister was afraid of you,” I said.

“Oh, I know,” she laughed.  That’s what made it so much fun.”

Love is a word that rolls easily off our tongues.  We readily declare our love for each other.  We stand at the altar and vow our fidelity, “Until death do us part,” but when the going gets rough, “love” discovered for what it really is—an emotion without commitment, sometimes evaporates.

Love without commitment is not love at all!  Love that does not endure to the end is not love at all.

John 13:1 tells us that  “…having loved His own who were in the world…” Jesus, “… loved them to the end.”

It was love for you and me that took Jesus to the cross.  He didn’t quit when He was arrested, beaten, and spit upon.  He didn’t quit when he was nailed to the cross.  He loved us to the end.  He loves us still.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

SWINGING ON A STAR… My Little Sister

Two weeks ago I moved my little sister from her home of forty-five years to an Adult Care Home.  Miraculously, she went without a murmur.  Now I am cleaning out her house and getting it ready for sale.  It is a sad, sad time for both of us.

There has been no time to think about my blog, so I have decided to recycle one of my favorites:  “YOU COULD BE SWINGING ON A STAR.”

You will understand that lately, at least emotionally, I haven’t been doing much star swinging.  I have been muddling around in stark, painful reality, but I am reminded continually—God is there.  Even in these circumstances, I can sit with Him “…in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  I am hanging on to the stars!!!  You can hang on with me.

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YOU COULD BE SWINGING ON A STAR

“Would you like to swing on a star

Carry moonbeams home in a jar

And be better off than you are

Or would you rather be a…”

 

Swinging on a Star” was an academy award winning song, in 1944, when WW II was in full swing.  Burke and Van Heusen, song writers for Bing Crosby’s forthcoming movie, “Going My Way,” were told to write a song that amounted to the Ten Commandments with a rhythm section.  The producers wanted to positively influence the viewing audience to a better way of living.  That’s pretty amazing!  Don’t you think?

The premise of the song is that we can be satisfied with who we are never aspiring to be better or to do more.  The cute and entertaining lyrics give us a choice.  We can choose to be like the stubborn, stupid mule, the fat, lazy and extremely rude pig, or the slippery, aimless fish.  Or we can shoot for the stars and become more than we ever dreamed.

Most of us have had and still have dreams, many of them not yet realized.  And, sadly enough, for one reason or another, some of our dreams will never come true.

We dream of establishing families and homes and careers.  We dream of wealth and conquest.  We dream of scaling mountains and sailing seas of writing books and composing songs.

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As a young girl, I dreamed of handsome suitors, and bouffant wedding gowns, of sweet, plump, cooing babies, and a preacher husband with whom I would captivate the multitudes.  I dreamed, also, of becoming a famous writer with a vast following.

In fact, I spent the first half of my life just yearning to be noticed—to feel important.  I wanted to be included, to be one of the “in” crowd—the popular bunch.  I was raised by Godly parents, who did not allow me to participate in many things my peers enjoyed.  Consequently, I sometimes felt that I was on the outside looking in never part of what was really happening.

]Looking back, now, I realize that many of my young dreams, dreams that are common to most little girls, never came true.  A bit of sadness comes with that realization.  Yet, those unfulfilled dreams were replaced with bigger, better almost unimaginable goals.  When you can’t have what you think you want, you don’t give up and do nothing.  You fasten your hopes on something else.  I was taught to be strong and determined, enterprising and energetic.  My Mom was not the “giving up” type, nor am I.

\When that groom and bouffant wedding gown didn’t materialize, I knew I couldn’t sit down and quit, so I concentrated on my education and got on with my life.  I fastened my heart and mind on a new dream—a new hope.

Psalm 39:7 says, “And now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in you.”

When Christ truly became the center of my life, my hopes and dreams changed.  Being noticed, being important, being in the limelight didn’t matter so much anymore.  I hitched my wagon to the stars and sang the old song, “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord. I’ll be what you want me to be.” And that’s exactly what I did!

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I must tell you that I have been swinging on a star for close to fifty years.  I have never aspired to be an astronaut exploring the far reaches of space, but God has blessed me “…with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Eph. 1:3.

I have never been invited to the White House or Buckingham Palace, but every day I worship at the throne of Almighty God, and I speak daily with The King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I will not be satisfied with the status quo, because, even at the age of eighty with diminished physical strength and glaring family needs, I believe God yet has bigger and better things for me.  I’m excited!!!

Here is the message.  YOU HAVE A CHOICE!  Like the stupid, stubborn mule, you can spend your time kicking and braying at the inequality of life.  You can, like the rude pig, snort around in the slop of this world searching in vain for some satisfying morsel, or like the slippery fish, you can go with the flow aimlessly swimming to and fro eventually snagged by  some fisher’s hook.  Don’t you know?   God has something better for you.

“You can be better than you are.

You could be swinging on a star.”

Eph. 1:3.  “How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him.”

THE SUN WILL COME 0UT TOMORROW!!!

 

 

THINGS UNEXPECTED

Today the Court awarded me Guardianship and Conservatorship for my little sister—my baby sister.

I had been the baby for two and one-half years when my sister made her appearance.  She was born at home, as were the rest of us, with the doctor in attendance.  In fact, she was born not five miles from where I sit at the moment.

After her birth, when I was first allowed on my Mama’s bed, Mama pulled back the corner of the blanket which swaddled that little package snuggled in her arms, and I saw that tiny creature for the first time.    I was delighted.  Bubbles of joy escaped, as I clapped my little hands crying, “See, I told you I’d get me a rubber baby.”

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“Bottle Tot” dolls were all the rage back in the late thirties.  Made of heavy molded rubber, she cried, drank her bottle, wet her diaper and went to sleep.  You could bathe her with soap and water and powder her with talcum.  Advertisements touted her as a doll that was so much like a real baby that every little girl would think there was a new comer in the home.

I sort of turned the thinking around believing, for a moment, that the real new comer was the dolly I so longed for.  When I discovered that this doll really did cry and wet her diapers, and that she occupied too much of my Mama’s time, my joy evaporated.  “I don’t like her,” I sobbed.  “Just kick her out the window.”

Before long, however, I was madly in love discovering that a real little sister was a better playmate than any toy.  I remember her as a chubby, blue-eyed toddler with a mass of curly hair.  We were little girls together at home, after our siblings were grown and gone.  We played together, and slept together.  Our lives were and are so entwined it is as though we are joined at the hip.

I have always been there for my sister loving her and protecting her.  When I was in second grade and she in kindergarten, at recess I found her, led her around by her chubby little hand and pushed her in the swing.  Her teacher told our mother that she would never learn anything, if I didn’t leave her alone.  Through the years, no matter where around the world I was, in times of need, my sister called.

Now the unexpected, the unplanned, certainly the unwanted has happened.  My sister is no longer able to take care of herself, so it is only right that I become her guardian and assume the responsibilities that implies.

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Now, that’s easy to say, but at the same time, there is a sense of resentment that creeps in, for this is not the way I planned it?  No!  Having worked hard all my life, I thought by now I would be “footloose and fancy-free.” My sister and I would be the two prettiest old women in town having the time of our life traveling the world, doing things, laughing and playing and loving each other.  In fact, I imagined that she would take care of me in my old age.  Alas, that is not to be.

Plans and dreams of a lifetime are often shattered by the unexpected.  A loved one dies, a relationship is shattered, a fortune lost, and we are left forlorn and confused, and sometimes, resentful.

When Cecil and I married on February 9 four years ago, we looked forward to a cloudless future.  That optimistic expectation came to a screeching halt five months later, when he was promoted to heaven.

I have learned that it is not the enormity of the tragedy that determines my future, but rather, my response to that unexpected event.

My sister’s illness and Cecil’s death were certainly not crises for which I was prepared.  However, I have learned that God is never surprised by anything, nor is He unprepared.

When the unexpected comes, God doesn’t say, “Oops, I wonder how that happened?  No!  He says, “I knew all about this before time began.  I am here to comfort and strengthen you.  Take my hand and I will walk you through this and bring you out in triumph better and stronger than you ever were.”

Feeling sorry for myself I can nurse my resentment, or I can turn it over to God and trust Him to accomplish His will, for He does have a purpose in all of this.

Job said, “…He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10.

II Corinthians 1:3-4.  (The Message)  “All praise to the God…of all healing council!  He comes alongside us when we go through hard times…”

The sun will come out tomorrow!