Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Denial is Not Just a River in Egypt...

There are moments in life where you simply cannot deny any longer.  A few months ago, I finally reached that point with my mom.  For a year or so, I pretended that her memory wasn't really failing. I avoided in-person interaction with her at times because I knew that if I was with her, I'd see that the woman I've known from my first moment of life is slipping away, so I called her to chat instead of visiting.   But that didn't stop the process from happening.  It kept right on going, with or without my acknowledgment and permission.

My mom has dementia.  It's getting worse, not better, and it's not something that can be denied any longer.

This week on Spring Break, I've spent the large majority of my time dealing with it.  The time off work began with the long avoided (by her and me!) doctor's visit where she had to tell an "outsider" for the first time that she can't always remember things.  On that particular day, it was things like how to subtract 7 from 100 in her head.  And her birthday.  On other days, she can do those things, but somehow can't remember that she was a bookkeeper for 45 years before she retired.  I'm learning not to be shocked at what escapes her and just roll with it, but here where it's safe to emote freely, I can let you know that it's like a body blow every time I find something new she can't quite recall.  It never gets easier.

After the initial visit, we shared a time of mother-daughter blood draws the next day, hers for baseline levels of many things I have to educate myself about, and mine for an upcoming annual physical that I'd also like to avoid, but won't.  (I'm very practiced in the art of denial and avoidance!)  It helped her that I was getting my blood drawn, too, especially since she couldn't quite remember why she had to have hers taken.  That actually may be a blessing in disguise!  Tomorrow, I'll take her for her first MRI where we will also see a baseline of what we're dealing with and how far advanced it is.  Later in May, we'll see the neurologist and maybe by then I'll be ready to hear the word she is almost certain to utter to me.  (No, I don't think it's likely either...can you ever really be ready for that?)

It's easy for me to believe that this "thing" taking my mother away from me a little at a time has the upper hand.  But today, God reminded me that's just not so.

The day began with a call to mom, as it often does.  Today, though, she let me know she'd lost her teeth and found a lot of money.  OK...not our normal "good morning" conversation.  So, I decided that a visit to mom's house would move to the top of my agenda for the day to determine just what we were dealing with.

When I arrived, she had her purse, her keys, a fistful of money, and was ready to go!  Slow down, Mom!  I was able to ask a few questions and get her to sit down and tell me what had happened before we hit the road.  Essentially, she lost her top dentures when she fell asleep on the couch with them in last night, and couldn't find them this morning.  So, while looking for them (in the top, unused drawer of her dresser in her bedroom - don't ask!) she found a lot of money.  About $700, she thought.  Oddly enough, the woman who worked on a daily basis with money now can't really count it well, so I asked if I could see it.  $328.  She wasn't too far off, right?!

After I counted the money, she was ready to go buy new teeth.  They sell them on Main Street, she thinks.  Whoa, Mom!  Slow down.  Let's figure this out.  We can find your teeth here, I bet.  That's when I got the news that she DID find them...and they were "crushed" by the couch.  She said that when she moved the couch to look for them, she heard a "crunch" and so she moved it a few times, just to be sure she wasn't hearing things.  When she lifted it, they were in several small pieces, so she threw them away.  (Yup...I confirmed they were indeed destroyed and in the trash!)

Perhaps it would be a good time to tell you that my mom was a single mom for much of my childhood.  We lived paycheck to paycheck and always made do, but never had much extra.  She had no real retirement savings, and currently lives off of social security and has medicare insurance.  So basically, I'm the bank for her.  I honestly don't mind buying her groceries and clothes, whatever she needs and can't cover with the monthly social security check. She did this for me for the first 18 years of my life after all, and returning the favor is a true privilege and honor.  But I'm not really prepared for the cost of dentures, which medicare won't cover.  I do have bills of my own to take care of in addition to hers.  So I sat down and looked online for a dentist who could quickly make dentures.  I also was looking for one who had a payment plan, since I was fairly certain that I couldn't afford them without one.

That's when I came across "affordable dentures"...that will cost $325 and only take a day to make.


Really, God?  Wow.  I shouldn't be surprised, because I've seen You do it over and over again...but WOW!!!

Those are the "economy" dentures, so I'm not sure what the quality will be, but I'm guessing that they're the ones we'll walk away with.  Nearly the EXACT amount of money that my mom "found" in a drawer of a dresser she doesn't use...has no idea where it came from or why she has it.   I know why she's got it...I know precisely why that's the amount of money she found!

Dementia doesn't win.

God does.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

When You Don't Have It All Together...

It's been a while since I've blogged.  It's been a while since I've felt like I had anything to say, actually.  Somewhat ironic considering the title of my blog is I've Still Got Something To Say!

I'm one of those people who has always been pretty transparent.  I figure this journey of life is meant to be shared and that we can learn amazing things from each other if we are brave and bold enough to share our stories.  But what I normally share is when I've had some brilliant insight, an epiphany of sorts.  It doesn't have to be a victory that brings that kind of learning, though I've shared plenty of those along the path.  Typically, those kinds of insights come from the lows, actually - not the highs.  I write about my life to process internally what's happening in and to me and then share it in case other people can benefit from it, too.  I usually write after I have it all together.

And maybe that's why I haven't been writing a lot in the past year.  I don't have it all together.  And I don't like admitting that.  I surely don't like living it, but admitting that just now feels like admitting defeat, and I don't do defeat very well.

For as happy as I generally am, I can also be pretty intense.  That comes from being an over-achiever, I think.  I can get a little obsessed at times.  (Those closest to me know this, understand it, and give me far more grace than I could ever thank them for!)  To me, having it all together means having control of all the plates I've got spinning - and there are many.  That's okay...I can spin a lot of plates at once - that's not the issue.  What is really throwing me is that so many of them are spinning out of my control lately.

So where do you go when you don't have it all together?  No, really.  I'm not rhetorically asking that question; I'm legitimately wondering.

I am a Jesus girl and I run all things in my life through my Jesus filter...but I also like having answers, and right now, I don't have any.  It's not that I don't think He'll lead me to's just that right now,  I have none.  And I don't like the feeling at all.

I collect positive, encouraging phrases like the one I put in this post, and I come back to them time and time again - hoping that one day I'll believe them.  But the reality is, it's hard for me not to have control of so many things in my life. .  My mom, my 20-something kiddos, my job, and a variety of other situations are happening in my life right now that I can really only react to, not control.  It doesn't feel like it's okay not to have it all together!

So why am I breaking my pattern and talking about life if I don't have it all together in my head right now?  Well...a few reasons, really, but mainly because a few days ago Facebook brought an old blog post of mine from a year ago back to my attention in its "See Your Memories" feature - and boy, did I need to read what I wrote a year ago that day!  I'm writing for my future self - and for anyone else who cares to read it.  I'm writing because this is how I do life - I process it with written words.  I'm writing because for me, it's as necessary as breathing.  (I already feel a little better just because I've put this all down in words, instead of letting it just rumble around in my head.)

For today, this counts as my win...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Who I Am

This summer, my church has been preaching a sermon series on the 7 "I Am" statements that Jesus made about Himself in the book of John.  This morning, as I was having a private pity party about the state of my physical and mental health right now in life, something struck me. Jesus had plenty to feel pitiful about, too...He cried, too...He wanted a different outcome, too.  But what got Him through it?

He knew who He was.  

When He gave us those "I Am" messages, He revealed in ways that we could understand that He was indeed God incarnate and had come for a purpose - to seek us and save us.  But what if He was speaking them to Himself, too? Verbal reminders of the absolute truths of His existence. Reassurance that no matter how out of control the world felt as he walked His way toward the cross, there was a plan...and it hadn't changed. HE hadn't changed.  Don't we all need that kind of knowledge from time to time?

Perhaps the better question is if He knew who He was...shouldn't I know who I am, too?  The enemy is gaining so much ground in my thought-life this summer, which is something really hard to admit for a Jesus Girl who loves her God as much as she ever has.  The enemy is trying hard to convince me that where I am is all there is, it won't get better, the best days of my life aren't truly ahead of me, they've already passed. But perhaps that's happening because I don't really understand and haven't laid claim to who I truly am.

And perhaps the way to take ground against my enemy is to do that - know my absolute truths and speak them. Own them.  Believe them.  So, with all due respect to my Savior who did this so much better than I'm about to, here are my own "I Am" truths.

I am a daughter of the King and I belong.  So much of this summer, I have felt lost, left out, alone. But what I feel is not what is true. I'm going to say that again...what I FEEL is not what's TRUE! What IS true is that I am a member of the family that God has made, and I can and should reach out when I feel lost and alone. I believe we were made for community, and right now in my life, I belong to some amazing ones that have my back and care deeply about me.  This is a precious gift.

I am perfectly imperfect.  Although I hate making and owning mistakes, I understand that they have been some of the most incredible opportunities for GRACE to make itself evident in my life.  I am alive and moving forward in life because of incredible grace! Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. I have experienced what the angels never stand in need and embrace a Savior.  There is no need to continue to beat myself up over choices I've made that I regret...I've learned, I've been offered forgiveness, mercy, and grace, and I can move forward.

I am a work in progress.  I will never be complete this side of heaven, and I wasn't meant to be.  If I lack in an area, I trust God will work it out in me and lead me in His paths as I yield myself to Him.  I don't need to be complete, and in fact, I can't be.  Completeness isn't my goal - growth is.  Am I moving in the direction I should be is the question that should be answered....because when my direction is in alignment with His, then I am living a life that brings me satisfaction and happiness.

I am loving and kind.  This is something that makes me strong, not weak. I love deeply, easily, and well. I enjoy doing nice, kind things for people, and I will go out of my way to do so. My love and kindness are never misplaced, even when they are not returned to me the way I want or hope they will be. This world is very short in the love and kindness department, and sharing mine liberally isn't a bad thing.  In fact, it's exactly what God wants me to like He does.

I am strong and capable.  Yes, I am limited right now physically, but I won't always be, and in fact, I have made many gains already to reclaim strength.  I will keep making those as time passes. Yes, I am mentally worn down right now, too, but that's my choice.  I am able to think, reason, pray, and make decisions that will change my reality. Those are God-given gifts, and when I use them, I AM strong and I AM capable of doing what I want and am called to do.

I am intelligent.  Yes, I forget things from time to time, more than I used to.  But I am smart.  I know things - many things - and that's nothing to be ashamed of.  Nor is it meant to become a source of false pride in my life.  It is the result of a lifetime of loving to learn, and I don't want to ever lose that desire to learn new things.

I am an overcomer.  I am because He is, and He says I am.  In fact, He says I am MORE than a conquerer! Jesus' victory on the cross gives me access to the same power He used to defeat death and the grave. If I'm not using it, it's not because it's not's that I'm choosing not to access it, and I need to remember this!

Chronic pain is real, and it has passed the God-filter for this season of my life. He's allowed it in for His purposes in my life, and I know that it is, at least in part, responsible for my mental state.  I haven't been as strong as I want to be and need to be to fight the lies of my enemy...and I've had way too many pity parties!  The pain IS real...but I don't have to let it effect my reality.  These truths about me are no less true because I am in pain.  Maybe this is why He let it through when He stops so many other things.  Maybe He wants to me claim and live Philippians 4:8...

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,

OK, Jesus...I feel you!  It's time to focus on who I am...and who YOU are!  No more pity parties to begin my days.  There's nothing pitiful about me...not one thing!  Time to live that truth.

Moving Forward...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I See You...

It's been a long time, I know.  But it's also been a long, hot, painful summer for me.  And as trying times in our lives usually do, it's teaching me some lessons about who I am, who I want to be, and what I'm willing to sacrifice to be that person.

Because of knee replacement surgery, I've had a lot of solitary, sitting-on-my-couch-with-nothing-to-do-cuz-I-can't-move time.  Oh, don't get me wrong - double knee replacement will change my life for the better.  But that's a definite WILL...not a HAS.  The process of getting from the surgery to the better is not for the weak, my friends!

But this post isn't about me whining or bemoaning the fate of my summer. Nope!  I mention it to explain that all this sitting around has given me an extraordinary amount of surgically enforced "down" time...and my active mind isn't at all used to that.  I may not be very physically active this summer, but I'm rarely not mentally active...and I've really been doing some thinking.  Overthinking in too many cases, I'm sure. I've had some happy moments and some dreadfully sad ones, but in it all, one theme keeps coming back to me and it's time to talk about it...get some feedback, hopefully.  Let me fill you in on some of what I've been feeling and thinking.