A few of you have asked me to post the link to my husband’s blog, so here it is. If you are interested in creation science, this might be encouraging to you. Right Jerusalem Blade
A few of you have asked me to post the link to my husband’s blog, so here it is. If you are interested in creation science, this might be encouraging to you. Right Jerusalem Blade
As I have mentioned before, I read from several different types of books each day: my Bible, a theological book or devotional, something just for entertainment, and something to inspire me in my quest to become a better writer. At the moment my writing inspiration is coming from Julia Cameron’s book, The Right to Write. One day recently she suggested writing about my ideal life. What I wrote centered around a home where people come and go, visiting, sharing meals, playing instruments and singing together, and sharing hearts. I was reminded first of my blogging friend, Erin Kirk who has love dinners at her house, where people come, eat, and spend time just enjoying being together. And then I thought of my Facebook friend, Bobbie who has Monday meals at her house where she cooks up a load of food for whomever wants to show up. But these recent examples soon gave way to the memories that rushed to me from my childhood home in Africa.
When I was 10, my family moved from the small town of Tukuyu in the southern highlands of Tanzania to the larger town of Arusha in the north, just hours away from the Tanzania/Kenya boarder. Because of its location on the main road that connected the two countries, and the fact that it was the last town of any significance before the border town of Namanga, many people planned their trips to include an overnight stay in Arusha before getting a fresh start on their way to Nairobi. Our house was a large one, even by Southern Baptist standards (which any number of other missions will be quick to proclaim as entirely too high to be respectable). It consequently became a bed and breakfast of sorts to the missionaries traveling north to various Kenyan destinations. Often they would let us know they were coming, and if by some miracle nothing went wrong, they would show up on the day they were expected. But sometimes, things wouldn’t go as planned, or we wouldn’t have gotten the message, and they would show up on our porch as a lovely surprise.
These visits never seemed to ruffle my mother’s feathers. She had honed the fine art of hospitality, and was prepared for the unexpected. We had two freezers; one that was full of whatever meat my dad had gotten on his last hunting trip along with the rabbits we raised in the back yard. The other was filled with vegetables and fruit from our garden, homemade ice-cream, and any number of things prepped to make a meal come together quickly. Then we had a walk-in pantry filled with things like sweetened condensed milk and special supplies brought from the US and used sparingly (who knew you were supposed to put two whole cups of chocolate chips in one batch of cookies?). The pantry also housed barrels of flour and sugar that might have been bought from behind the counter at the lingerie store (there was a war with Uganda going on, and supplies were sometimes hard to come by). From these supplies mom would create a delightful dinner, always served up with sweet iced tea and often finished off with my her famous lemon icebox pie with perfect merengue.
I suppose it was there, in that home, that I began to enjoy the interaction of different people around the table over good food and sweet tea. Even when we didn’t have out of town guests, my mom would open our home to various and sundry people. She led a Bible study for women who lived in Arusha, but had come from various parts of the world. She fed the children of other missionaries on their lunch break from the local primary school. I had slumber parties for my birthdays, we had parties with our teen friends. I never got the impression that any of this was a burden for my mother. I think she liked sharing what she had with others.
My dad had a full time job teaching at the seminary, but I don’t want to imply that he was not a participant in this practice of hospitality. He, too, seemed to enjoy the interaction with other families. He was always up for a game of 42 and good conversation. I don’t remember him ever complaining about the revolving door policy of our home. After all, he was raised in a home that practiced hospitality. His family was at times pretty poor, and often had little to share but a roof and a cup of coffee (which is a story for another time), but they opened their hands and shared their two mites.
So why don’t I have this kind of life, if I want it so bad, you may ask. And the answer lies in the fact that Strokeman couldn’t abide it. He tries to tolerate people being here on a limited basis, but for the most part people are too loud to suit him, and they stay too long. And if the truth be told, they also tend to distract me from taking care of him. When people come to visit him, I have to warn them he is only good for about an hour, and then he will want them to leave. In fact, often he will refuse to see them at all, saying he doesn’t feel up to visiting. And so this ideal life will have to stay ideal in its purest form.
But as I wrote about this in my journal, I wanted to be careful not to allow seeds of bitterness to take root in my heart. It is all too easy to become enamored with what we can’t have to the extent that we don’t really utilize what we do have. So I had to ask myself, “How can I have the spirit of hospitality in my daily life in ways that won’t adversely affect my relationship with my man?” Hospitality is a biblical concept. We are told to be generous with what the Lord has given us, and to entertain strangers. We are taught to live in community with other believers, both in corporate worship and daily lives. So it isn’t just a dream, it is a commandment that I am to obey within the confines of my life.
Here is what I have come up with: I can be the one who welcomes interaction with others; who provides a listening ear, a hug, a prayer, a safe haven for those who need to share their hearts. I can work systematically down the church directory list and do my best to get to know the people listed there; their interests, their needs, their hopes and dreams. I can pray for them, encourage them, and offer advice when warranted. I can use the electronic means availed to me to accomplish this at times when I can’t open my home. I can go to others’ homes and serve them there. I can be honest with people about my limitations, explaining that they must be quiet, that we might need to take a walk, that I can only give my attention to them for a short period of time. I can make a conscious effort to make regular checks on the man in the bedroom. The door can’t be revolving, but it can come open on a limited basis for short periods of time.
And so I learn to practice hospitality against the odds. I make my heart a place of refuge as opposed to my home. People can be as loud as they want there, and it doesn’t bother anyone.
What are you saying, “I can’t” to in your life today? Ask God to help you see it from a different angle. Ask him to help you utilize your gifts in the confines of the life He, in His great wisdom has given you. You might just be surprised at how much you have to work with.
Below is a guest post written by my dear friend, Abby. I first met Abby years ago when she was a young teen looking for baby sitting jobs, and I was a young mother looking for a babysitter. Since then we have become fast friends who have weathered many a storm together.
I would encourage you to visit her blog site AGentleandQuietSpirit to read more of her wonderful insights. I have to say that when I asked her to write a guest post for my blog I didn’t think she would be taking shots at my pride:). One thing you should know, though. She preaches to herself, and does her best to practice it. And if I were writing for her blog, she would put all sorts of nice graphics in. But I am just not that savvy, so here it is in its no frills purity.
Have you ever had one of those moments of ‘clarity’? A moment when the dust of this life lifts for just an instant providing you a view of truth, the world, and yourself like you’ve never seen it before. A moment when all you’ve read and studied of the scriptures becomes so brilliantly clear. Often they aren’t very pleasant. Often they let you see yourself as you truly are – a sinner. That veil lifts. You catch a glimpse of your inescapable sin nature. I had one of these moments the other day centered on the idea of humility. Humility infuses the Word. The truth about Christianity, true Christianity, is it’s all about the loss of self. This isn’t a popular concept these days. Other ‘religions’ don’t promote humility, not on the soul level Christianity does. Many Christians don’t promote humility but self-help and self- actualizing. Many Christians have drunk the kool-aid. (Don’t believe me? Check out Joel Osteen’s new book.) This was my moment. I realized how invasive humility is in the Scriptures and far away we’ve moved from that truth. True Christianity leaves no room for self. None.
My greatest temptation in life is pride. I’m an overachieving, aggressive, exaggerating storyteller who was homeschooled in a conservative home. I come face to face with my own pride on a daily if not hourly basis. Pride is not something only us storytellers struggle with, but our American/Western culture as a whole. We are such a proud people. We are so proud we have made pride a positive character trait. We have religions, both Christian based and pagan, that worship pride, accomplishment, and self. It’s all about you.
The longer I trod this weary path, led by the Word of my Lord, the more I see pride’s vile poison. It makes me suspicious of others, drives me to assume everyone wants to outdo me, fears everyone has outdone me, makes me to want more stuff, seek compliments, steal the spotlight, and hate anyone who doesn’t’ see just how important I am. Sadly enough, most of this starts with my husband and my home. Pride feeds the flames of arguments and refuses to acknowledge wrong. Pride drives us apart.
The ‘wise older women’ of our culture teach the younger women that meekness and humility make you a doormat.
You know what?
You want see the ultimate doormat? Look to Christ.
He didn’t open his mouth even when His life was on the line. He didn’t defend Himself when he was falsely accused. I open my mouth when my desire for a new set of curtains or a movie is on the line. Really? Christ found submission to his Father more important than life itself. I don’t find it important enough to trust and obey for a movie.
Have you ever thought about the path Christianity takes you down? Every day, you become more aware of your sin. Vile, noxious, violent sin makes you who you are. It invades you and your world on a level inseparable from existence. Every day, you must go beg for grace. Every day, you must remember what that grace cost – the only truly innocent life. That was the price for grace. Do you want to walk this
path? It won’t be healthy as our culture defines health. It won’t be wealthy as our culture defines wealth. It won’t be happy as our culture defines happy.
True Christianity doesn’t grow cultural giants. It grows broken people forced to see that they are monsters. Suddenly the veil lifts. You see it. You see your pride for the black hole it is. By grace alone, you hate your pride. Christ died to take that away, in all humility and submission. How quick to mercy and forgiveness you become when you have tasted your own sin. How quick to be longsuffering. You know your worth. You know each breath is undeserved. So, wife, next time your husband asks you to do something that you don’t want to do, or you feel put upon, or worse, afraid, remember Christ’s great humility. He opened not his mouth to the point of death. He died for you. Your husband has nothing to do with this, only Christ. He died for you.
Don’t swallow the lies of this world. You aren’t worth it. You don’t deserve it. You deserve death and judgment. You are worthy of the wrath of a righteous God. A word of warning: the world will hate you if you do this. It will HATE you. It hates the idea of a wife shutting her mouth and in humility obeying her husband. It hates a husband actually leading (commanding) his wife and children. Christ obeyed his Father to the point of death. What is the world to us?
How many marriages would last if spouses looked not to pride, but to humility? How many more teens would be wise and mature if they looked to their parents with humility instead of pride? How much more loving would our churches be if we humbly served one another, mouths closed?
Do you know any religion that brings peace and harmony through humility? Christ does. He commands us to battle our flesh, battle our desires and passions. The world tells you to give into your desires, to be passionate. Christ commands us to control and guard our hearts. The world tells us you can’t chose who you love. The Bible says to live a quiet life of service. The world tells you to be amazing and don’t let anyone stop you. The world seems pleasant, appealing, and good. We should stand up for ourselves. We have rights. We’re Americans. We deserve it. But sinners, if you will be saved, beg for grace and submit yourself to the Word.
Be warned. If you follow this Warrior into the very pits of hell, it will be your heart He destroys. You will follow a Captain who won, not through might and battle, but by shutting His mouth and humbly obeying what His Father commanded. His obedience cost Him His life. He died. How can you expect to call yourself a Christian and not be called to the same fate? The world will not love you. It will think you are strange and possibly dangerous. It might try to take your children away from you. It will ridicule and mock you. It will call you weak. It will tell you you’re what’s wrong with the world today.
Close your mouth. Christ has broken your heart, and He will hold it, guard it, heal it, and bring you home. Quit trying to be accepted. Quit trying to make this world home.
Give up this world. Trust yourself to Christ. Why? Because He rose again.
About the time we finished out patient rehab we began to get notices of loved ones dying: family members from both sides, close friends and dear neighbors. Some funerals I had to skip, but some I just couldn’t bring myself to miss.
February 2012 found us packing for the funeral of my Uncle Alvin in nearby Georgetown. As I was putting the last few things in the car, I received a call from Strokeman’s sister-in-law telling me his mom was not doing well, that her one kidney was failing and that she had chosen not to pursue dialysis. So as we drove to one funeral we were making plans to try to make it to Memphis in time to say goodbye before another funeral. (This is when I began to dream of finding an old fashioned valet who would travel with us and be responsible for dressing, feeding and assisting Strokeman). I wouldn’t have minded if he could drive as well, as I was not looking forward to traveling the same road on which I had totaled my car a few months before. (You can read about that here). We took our time, spending the night after just a few hours of driving, made it there safely, and were able to say our goodbyes before Nanny passed away a few days later. (And here is my post about that).
I still miss my mother in law. I think of her often, and remember stories she told, words she would use, and housekeeping tips she gave me. I have a recipe for her sour cream pound cake written in her own handwriting, on the back of which is written, “I use Worcestershire Sauce in my roast.” I have her electric skillet, something I had no idea what to do with until she widened my cooking horizons. I think of her when I polish the wood in my home, and when I use the dishrag and a toe to mop up spills on the floor at the end of the day. I have her Bible, and when I open it, wafts of her signature perfume greet my nose. How thankful I am for the blessing of a mother-in-law who loved me and accepted me just the way I am.
That February was also the one in which my oldest son got to go visit my middle son who was stationed in Germany with the army. They snowboarded the Alps together. Meanwhile, my youngest son was boarding in Colorado. It made me happy to think of them all doing something they love to do, even if they were spread about the world.
I was able to start keeping my grand daughters some, as long as one of the kids was here to help me. I penned this little poem during that time:
golden sunlight shines through wispy hair
fighting sleep while rocking
baby watches wide-eyed
big sister shenanigans with uncle
echo laughter of delight
music and makeup
waffles and wonderment
excursions to imaginary destinations
big apron swallowing little kitchen help
February 2013: In search of a pool that would be more consistent in temperature, we joined Lifetime Fitness. The adjustment was hard on Strokeman. He doesn’t do well with change-have I mentioned that? However, the close parking access to the door, the ease of the family dressing room, and the accessibility to the pool at any time of the day we managed to get there made it a workable situation for quite a while. I also began to make use of the free classes, the treadmills, and even set up a meeting with a trainer. Often, on my Mondays off, I would make my way there for an hour or two of workout followed by a visit to the hot tub.
One of those days, I noticed that my nose was very sore around the bridge. It was swollen as if I had run into a door or something, but I thought I would have remembered if I had. I finally broke down and went to a emergent care place to find out I had cellulitis. I found myself taking antibiotics for the first time in so many years, I can’t really remember the last time. It was painful and looked awful, but was fodder for much humor, as I have a rather large nose to begin with. I am not sure how one gets cellulitis on the bridge of her nose, but I can say with certainty it is something you want to avoid if possible. Every time I would get sick, I would remember the many times people have said that your body tends to hold together in the midst of crisis only to fall apart when things slow down. I would worry, “Is this it? Am I about to start experiencing my health go down the drain? But so far, the Lord has been very gracious to me. As a general rule, I have been very healthy.
February 2014: A dear friend loses her mother, and I am reminded of those last days with my mother-in-law. A new friend is in the midst of a tug of war with an insurance company, and I am reminded of the struggle I had getting cognitive therapies covered in outpatient rehab. And I can be thankful that these difficult experiences have given me something to offer others in their struggle to survive the deep waters. I am thankful that I can pray with understanding, encourage as one who has gone before, and offer advice from my journey. I can tell them what my friend at church told me, “There is joy in the morning, and in the mourning.”
This is the last month we will be members at Lifetime Fitness. Almost as soon as we joined they began to have trouble regulating the temperature of the pool, and most days it just wasn’t warm enough to suit our needs. Due to the stroke, cold registers as shooting pain, so the water temperature is a really big deal. Our plan is to join the fitness center connected to the pool at which he received physical therapy the end of 2012. The drawback here is that they have no family dressing rooms, which will require us to come home before showering off (still wishing for that valet). Thankfully, Strokeman’s new insurance will cover this expense for him.
This month I am thankful that I continue to widen my arena of encouraging others, whether they be young mothers, new writers, newly inducted caregivers, or just fellow travelers on the road to life. I am looking for what I can do instead of whining about what I can’t.
In the midst of this I am working at remembering that always, always, my first earthly priority is this man I have committed myself to in sickness and in health. I am thankful that each day brings opportunity to grow together and love each other. While things are not the same as they were before that fateful day, there is much that is good, and even some that is better. Friends mentioned the other day that they were blessed by the interaction between me and my man. I was curious what they saw that was different – have things changed so much? From our perspective, the change is minuscule movement in an upward direction. It’s hard to see the difference when it is such a slow flow. But others who see us only periodically can notice the change. It’s good to get their insight.
Still seeing change, still learning to accept that which will stay the same. Still learning to be patient, calm, courageous, and adaptable. Still finding God’s grace to be sufficient.
Some days, it’s hard not to feel totally defeated by the circumstances we face. We see no way around the obstacles, and we fear for our lives or the lives of our loved ones. We begin to doubt whether God is who He says He is, then we begin to doubt if we are really saved, because otherwise how could we have such doubts about God? What can we do to bring ourselves out of the pit of despair? How can we find courage to take the one little step we can see to take, and trust that the next one will be revealed after that? For me, that is a time to follow the example of the Psalmist and do a little preaching to myself about what I know to be true. He asks, “Why is my soul cast down? Hope in God.” I think that is why I like this song by Charles Wesley. It is one of those preach-to-yourself kind of songs. It starts with a self admonishment: Arise my soul, and shake it off. You get the idea that this person is so overwhelmed that they have fallen under the weight of their guilt and fears. But notice, the lyrics don’t go on to say, “you can do it” “you are stronger than you think” “follow your dreams” No. instead, Wesley takes us to the cross and reminds us what was accomplished there and how that changes everything about life.
Arise, my soul, arise,
Shake off thy guilty fears:
The bleeding Sacrifice
In my behalf appears:
Before the Throne my surety stands,
Before the Throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.
The person of Jesus Christ stands before the throne of judgement where I have been condemned to eternal death. He becomes my surety – that is the payment for my legal debt. So first of all, dear soul, remember that your standing before God does not have to do with your ability to be good enough or have enough faith. Your standing is based on the work Christ accomplished for you on the cross.
But what does this mean, “My name is written on HIs hands?” We find this in Isaiah 49:16. The commentaries tell me that this signifies that we are always on his mind – always before his eyes. I always think of His nail-scarred hands being presented as proof of the atonement having been made. Imagine my surprise when I found that this verse may refer to a practice of putting a symbol of a face or other significant marking on the hand or forearm by infusing ink or henna into the skin. Um, is it just me, or does that sound like a tattoo to you, too? I am not a fan of tattoos (just ask my daughter). However, it does seem to be a practice of this younger generation to get tattoos that represent a significant event or belief – something you want to remember forever. So here we have our creator saying, “you are so much before me, it is as if I have a tattoo of you on my hand”. That is a tattoo I can get excited about!
He ever lives above
For me to intercede,
His all redeeming love,
His precious blood to plead:
His blood atoned for ev’ry race,
His blood atoned for ev’ry race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
And, dear soul, remember that Christ has risen from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and he intercedes for you always- intercede: intervene on behalf of another. He didn’t just satisfy the charges against me then walk out of my life. He continues to pour His love out on me by praying for my every need. And it doesn’t matter the color of my skin, or my gender, or my birth place, His blood atoned for every race. He once and for all sprinkled his blood on the mercy seat on my behalf. The blood of bulls could only point to a better sacrifice to come. His sacrifice was sufficient to bring peace with God. Atonement – bringing reconciliation between God and man.
Five bleeding wounds he bears,
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers,
They strongly plead for me;
Forgive her O forgive, they cry,
Forgive her O forgive, they cry,
Nor let that ransomed sinner die!
Remember, my soul, the wounds he bears (See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down – but that’s another song). This is what the Father sees when He looks at me. He sees the accomplished work of his son. Now, as a writer, I am generally very protective of other writers’ works. I don’t like for words to be change, especially if it changes the intended meaning of the author. However, this song is a person’s interaction with his or her own soul. And so, I have taken the liberty of inserting the word “her” where Wesley wrote “him”. I am not one who soapboxes about the use of the forms of “he” as a generic reference. I get it, I can generalize. But here, in this song, I feel a need to make it very personal. And so, as the rest of the congregation sings “him” in this verse, I sing, “her”, because when He intercedes for me, he says, ” forgive her”, and I need to be reminded that this is a personal relationship between Him and me. It is not generic in it’s application, it is specific.
My God is reconciled;
His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for his child,
I can no longer fear;
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father!” cry.
Ok, soul, so if Christ has paid the price for my sins, then I am now at peace with God. We are reconciled. Not only are we on “good terms”, he has adopted me, and I am now his child. And he is a father who is able and willing to give good gifts to his children. He is a Father who loves and protects and completes what he begins. So there is nothing this world can throw at me that I need to fear. And I don’t need to fear his wrath either, because His son has provided for me the legal standing to come to him as my Father and cry, “Abba!” (daddy, papa, poppi, baba). Now, if that doesn’t make my soul arise, then what, pray tell, will? What better news could anyone come up with than this? This song makes my heart sing.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know this song, but I didn’t really pay attention to the words until I heard it sung by Twyla Paris, some time in the late ’80′s. (She also takes the liberty of substituting the word, “her”). Recently I was introduced to Sovereign Grace’s version, and more recently, Indelible Grace’s version. I love them all, because no matter what tune you sing them to, these words give me great courage. They help me shake off those guilty fears, whether they be regarding my own salvation, or whether they be about other, less important issues. It’s like seeing the world go from being a big confusing blur to being in beautiful, sharp focus. Is there anything too hard for God?
Lately people have taken to asking me this question, “So what does a typical day in your life look like?” I cannot tell you the flood of thoughts that run through my head as I try to come up with a coherent answer to that question. I worry that if they really knew how aimless my days can be that they would be appalled. I try vainly to come up with what a typical day in my life actually looks like, because none of them are really the same, but then why do I feel like my life is this endless monotony? And then I wonder if they will feel compelled to try to help me get things out of the chaos and into the arena of structure. Or will they think, “What does she have to complain about? That’s not a bad life at all!” Well. Let me give you a peek, dear friends, into a day, with the disclaimer that it may or may not look like any other day in my life:
This morning I opened my eyes at about 7:30 and started thinking who I needed to be praying about. I prayed for my new friend V who is suffering from some pretty difficult health problems, and I prayed for C whose husband just came through brain surgery and is on a long path of recovery. I prayed for D and J whose story I can’t even hint at here. I prayed for K who is suffering a great loss that she may never fully get over this side of heaven.
At this point I was distracted, thinking of what I wanted to accomplish today. I need to write something for my blog (wasted minutes here being frustrated at how much of my time and mental energy has been spent on Strokeman’s blog – I’ve had plenty of time, it isn’t his fault!). I need to take care of the roots on my head that are giving me a distinct skunk-like appearance. I need to catch up on the clutter that has started to take over since my back started hurting on Thursday (by the way, all those people out there who have chronic pain: how do they keep from killing people? I feel mean as a snake!). I need to write that letter to my dear friend whose wife just died. I wonder if I can also manage a bath in epsom salts today to soothe the angry beast in my back? And come to think of it, I need to talk Strokeman into a shower.
I crawled out of bed, put on my glasses and grabbed my phone. I gathered the urinals by the side of the bed that needed emptying and dumped them, washed them, dried them, and put them back on Strokeman’s bedside table. A small price to pay for being able to sleep all night uninterrupted. He asked me to help straighten his shirt where it had gotten twisted during the night, and to don his non-skid sock that keeps his left foot from slipping when he walks to the bathroom. I also made sure his right house-shoe and cane were strategically positioned, then I got dressed.
As I went to leave the bedroom, Strokeman told me he had another change to his blogpost that had already gone up this morning. I swallowed down the irritation, and said, “OK” as I made my way to the kitchen to find the coffee. With coffee in hand I sat in my favorite blue recliner that belonged to my mother-in-law, and opened my computer to check my blog stats, Facebook, and email. I noticed my irritation with every little thing before I noticed the ache that still resides in my upper back. I read a few things, responded to a few things, played a round of Bubble Safari, and downloaded to my phone the new Gungor album I purchased this week. I heard the toilet in the guest bathroom leaking and fixed it. Then I went to check on Strokeman to see if he was ready for breakfast. He was back asleep, so I fixed my own breakfast of gluten free toast and one egg over easy.
As I ate my breakfast I read Matthew Henry on Judges 20. I noticed with relief that I am almost done with Judges, and next comes Ruth; a book I have less confusion about. I gleaned a bit from Henry’s commentary “worthy” in my estimation to be copied into my journal where I collect quotes that appeal to me from the various authors I am learning from at the moment. From Henry I wrote, “Everything that grieves us should bring us to God.” and “The falling out of friends should thus be the renewing of friendship. Even those that have sinned, if at length they repent, must be forgiven and comforted.” This reminded me of a painful loss of friendship I experience last year, and prompted a prayer for wisdom as to how to proceed there.
I went on to the next book, The Tealover’s Devotional, a gift from my youngest daughter. From it I wrote, “There is a great deal…” and then Strokeman called from the bedroom. I marked my place and went to tend to him. He made his breakfast order – pancakes, eggs and ham, chamomile tea. I went to the kitchen to make pancakes, listening to my new album while I cooked. I am going to like this band a lot! I set up Strokeman’s place at the table, complete with morning pills, and went to help him get out of bed. While he made his way to the table I set up my laptop so that I could make the necessary changes to the new blog. While he ate I took dictation, checked his blog stats for him, and posted a link to his latest post on my Facebook page. The he decided to add another link in his post, so I went back in to make yet another edit, trying unsuccessfully to hide my irritation. Strokeman thanked me, then said, “I have had enough, I am getting uncomfortable, and pushed himself away from the table so that he could have room to stand up. I thought to myself, “Good! Cause I have had enough too! Oh dear Lord, please forgive me and help me to have a better attitude.” Then I went to help him settle into bed where he would lay, watching TV and thinking about his next blog post until lunch time, occasionally yawning loudly or moaning.
At this point I decided that I had better not hold out for a bath, and resorted to taking some tylenol, and making another cup of coffee – both things I don’t do very often. Then I went back to my chair to finish up my reading. I noticed my new picture hanging on the wall above my desk; a gift from a dear friend. It has the words, “HERE I RAISE MY EBENEZER” crocheted into a beautiful lacy mat that is overlaying a dark background. I love it for the person who made it, and for the significance this phrase has in my life. I continued to write, “…of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea. Emerson” I took a moment to imagine a chest of tea…wouldn’t that be a lovely gift to give someone? Then I was reminded of the tea I received from my friend Francis last week, and thought, “Yes, a lovely gift.”
The next book I picked up was a book I “won” for a comment on a blog, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing. From it I wrote, “When we come home to God it is not a leap into darkness. It is a magnificent leap into light – the light of God’s love for us!” I thought about some special people I have in mind to give this book to.
Finally, I turned to The Right to Write. Then I noticed the toilet was leaking again. This toilet that has been fixed by me, my son-in-law, and two different deacons; it’s very persistent in its insistence to stay broken. Back to my book after stopping the annoying tinkling of water from the tank of the renegade. Too many quotes here to share at this time. The gist is: Put it in writing. But this one, “We are all works in progress. We are all rough drafts. None of us are finished, final, done.” It reminded me of a conversation with a friend earlier this week, “I think it shouldn’t be this hard to remember that God will provide. I should have learned this lesson already from past experiences.” Which made me think of another friend who is apt to say something along the lines of, “I am thankful that after all these years God is still faithful to point out the sins I still need to fight against.” Which prompted me to pull Larry Crab’s book off the shelf; the one that years ago planted the idea in my head that our whole lives we really fight against the same sinful tendencies, just in different venues and from different angles. I thumbed through it for a minute, then went to stop the toilet from running.
In the midst of all this, I texted and messaged various people about various things, and finally I set about starting this piece of writing – noticing it was already almost noon.
After a while I got up and went to the kitchen where I unloaded and loaded the dishwasher. Then I started a load of clothes. I made lunch out of left over brown rice that I stir fried with fresh veggies and a couple of eggs. While I ate, I read a chapter of a rough draft entrusted to me by a friend. And then I read another chapter, because I couldn’t stop. As I was contemplating a third chapter, I heard Strokeman calling from the bedroom. After tending to his needs I asked him if he wanted lunch. He opted for soup and crackers, with the promise of chicken fried steak from Babe’s for supper.
After getting him settled into bed, I went for a walk. On the way home, I met up with my single mom neighbor and her son. I learned that I had been referring to her son by the wrong name in my prayers for them. When I got back, I took Strokeman on a walk; out the front door, around the cement pad a few times, then back inside. He got a shower and a cup of tea. Then I made myself a cup of tea. Actually, I made myself a cup of coffee, dumped it out, and made the cup of tea I had set out to make. Then I ordered Strokeman’s supper from Babe’s.
As I drove to pick up Strokeman’s steak dinner, I listened to my new album again. Just as I peaked the hill between my house and town, I noticed the sky to my right was light gray with darker gray wispy clouds. To my left the horizon was aflame with deep maroon. Gunger sang, “You make beautiful things out of dust, You make beautiful things out of us.” I had a moment.
Returning home, I set up Strokeman’s dinner and the computer and got him up to the table. We answered the two comments he got today and read through next week’s chapter. We checked stats and Facebook, and I read him a Spurgeon quote that somebody had posted. Then I put him to bed, “fat and happy”.
I did a little playing on Facebook, then a little writing, then I went to take care of those roots, wishing I hadn’t waited so late to get this done. While my hair was “processing” I ate the rest of the stir fry I had made for lunch and watched a British mystery on PBS. I took a shower to rinse my hair, blew it dry and dressed for bed. I poured a small glass of wine, got a little bit of chocolate, and finished watching my British mystery.
When my show was done, I went in to the bedroom, put eyedrops in Strokeman’s eyes, gave him his melatonin, and made sure his urinals were ready for use. At 10:39 my head hit the pillow. By 10:40 I was asleep. The toilet ran all night.
In January of 2012 I finally received a wheelchair that was at least close to what the therapists had ordered for Strokeman over six months before. It had taken working with three different companies before I finally got one with somebody competent enough to interface with the insurance company and the rehab center to accomplish this task. This was a great relief to me, although for weeks I worried that I would hear from the insurance company that they had not approved it. I lived in fear of having to go back to the loaner that had not survived our car wreck in all that great condition.
That month I had to buy a car to replace the one I had wrecked at the end of 2011. It was the first time I actually dealt with this process, as I had always left the car buying to Strokeman prior to that fateful day when his head exploded. My son and daughter-in-law had helped me determine what I needed to purchase by spending a day with me exploring used car lots. Then I went online and found a car of the necessary specifications near here. I took Strokeman out for a test drive to see if it would work for him, and then I bought the car using money from our small retirement fund. It was a time of many mixed feelings. As I had never done this before, I was fearful that I would soon experience buyer’s remorse (I still haven’t!). I felt a great sense of accomplishment to have managed to find, purchase, and insure the car with very few complications. I felt worried that I would soon use up whatever reserve we had in terms of finances and be forced to make difficult decisions about how to make ends meet.
Because of my financial concerns I began to explore avenues of earning income from home. I knew I could not leave Strokeman unattended for any length of time, so I felt that at home options were the ones to explore. Each one I pursued seemed to lead to a dead end.
This month was the one in which we received the results from Strokeman’s neuropsychological examination that confirmed much of what I had already begun to suspect: He was not capable of making good decisions for himself, but he didn’t know it. It was helpful information, but difficult to hear.
Over all, that month was one of feeling overwhelmed with the life I was living. So many things I had to be responsible for! So many decisions to be made. So much to do in a day with so little sleep at night.
January of 2013 was a month of sickness, first for Strokeman, and then for me. I got the flu, which had me sitting up in the recliner for about two weeks in order to get any sleep at all between coughing fits. Because I was so ill, and Strokeman refused to let anyone else tend to any private needs of his, he was filthy and unkempt. I was so embarrassed when my son and his wife came to visit and found us in such a state of disarray, but was glad to see them, and to feel good enough to spend a wonderful day exploring the Dallas aquarium with my daughters and granddaughters. One memory that sticks out to me more than any other that week was watching my daughter-in-law lean over and kiss my stinky, scraggly husband on the forehead. I cannot tell you how that blessed my weary soul.
I was four months into writing my blog, and at this time each entry was written with tears rolling down both cheeks. I confessed to my girls that I was writing a blog, and gave them permission not to read it. I was still flying under the radar in terms of letting anyone know I was blogging. I think I had 6 followers. As I look back, those days of writing were a means of processing, grieving, and facing up to the life I was given. It kept me from shoving everything down or aside where it would only haunt me from the dark corners. It forced me to consider myself before God. It helped me see God’s tender mercies and constant provision.
At this point I had a sitter who came every Monday to stay with Strokeman for 8 hours. I used this time to run errands, visit with friends and just replenish my “cope”. Things were less hard, but by no means easy.
January 2014 finds us both well physically, after a pretty rough December for Strokeman. I am working at getting back to some regular schedule of writing, since this is something that got derailed during the holidays. I have become a flybaby, in an attempt to become more organized in my life. It is also a way to work systematically toward getting our house ready to sell so that we can move into something smaller with less land. This will help financially, as well as just simplifying our lives a bit. We don’t need this much space, and the upkeep is more than I care to deal with. My plan is long term, not this year by any means.
We have two less people living under our roof, as my daughter has moved to her own apartment and my son’s friend who was renting a room has also moved out. Both of these moves were timely and appropriate, but they have brought about changes, both good and bad. I miss the interaction with others, Strokeman loves the quiet.
I am trying to find time each day to get outside and walk on our windy, hilly road; one mile for now, maybe more later. Some days it is still too cold, but when it is bearable, I will find my way out the front door for a few minutes of exercise. I sometimes meet up with neighbors who are also walking. They ask about how Strokeman is doing, and I still find that most days I have to fight the tears to tell them. Two months short of 3 years, and still I cry, but not as often and not as uncontrollably.
Strokeman has begun to do some walking outside. This is a great encouragement to me. He has also spent the last few months writing down some of his wisdom in the area of creation science. I am in the process of setting up a blog site for him where we will post this work on a weekly basis. He has about two months worth of blog posts. I am hopeful at that time he will be inspired to write more about something after that. He writes it out longhand, and then I type it up for us to go over and edit. This has been a great project for him on many levels.
I think I have begun to reach what I would call my “target audience” through my blog, although it is still rather small in terms of scope. Because of this, I have found myself saying often, “It will not always be this way.” I say it to younger women whose children are sharing sickness and whose husbands seem to always be at work when disaster strikes. I say it to others who are in the thick of medical crisis only to find that the pipes have frozen or the car won’t start. Life comes to us in waves, and whatever is happening in life right now, whether good or bad, it will not always be this way. It is for this purpose I have decided to look back at the past few years and compare them to now. Remembering what it was like a year ago, two years ago helps me to see how I have grown. It helps me to see how far we both have come. And hopefully it will give courage to those who are in the thick of the difficult part of the life-wave. It will not always be this way.