Wednesday ~ April 10, 2019: Hanging Up The Gloves

Fighters live to fight. Every single day, they are working out, stepping into the ring, practicing their best moves against the unexpected, and constantly on guard. “Fighter” is not just a title. It’s a way of life.

I was just four years old when I knew I was in my first fight. Someone told my dad I did something. He took their word over mine and delivered the first spanking I remember. He made me lay down on the bed and struck me repeatedly with his belt. He told me to stop screaming and I shoved my fist into my mouth and bit down to hold back the screams. I sobbed well into the night. I remember thinking in that moment that I would never win. At the age of four. Sadly, it’s one of my first memories of my father.

I adopted that philosophy for several years. “I will never win!” Sometimes, he would come in from work, slam his lunch box on the counter and order me to my room. I did not know what I had done, but I knew what was coming. Maybe someone made him angry at work, maybe some road rage on the way home. Didn’t matter. I became the whipping child, out of 6 siblings at the time. For a couple of years, these intense bouts continued until I became aware that what he was enjoying was breaking me and making me cry. When I cried, I sobbed for a long time afterwards. I determined at 6 years of age, he could not have my tears anymore. It caused more rage in him and the spankings took on a new ferocity, but I clamped my jaws so tight I thought my teeth would crack, chewed the inside of my cheek, whatever I could do to distract myself from the immediacy of the attack.

He then turned to more cruel measures and took perverse pleasure in punishing me in the most horrific and frightening scenarios. It took it’s toll, but I was in the fight of my life and most of the time it felt like I was fighting for my life. When I was twelve years old, I required hip surgery. Part of the recovery process was to be in a body cast for 6 months. I remember Dr. Kingsbury looking at my mother and saying, “I am not going to put Karla in a body cast. I think she has a fighting spirit in her that will help her heal. I also believe if I put her in a body cast, it will break her.” Thank God, Dr. Kingsbury saw me! My father apologized to me a few years ago before he passed and we made peace. I realize now what I went through as a child helped me stand in the face of all the health issues that were to come.

I have fought every day of my life since I was four and possibly before that. I fought through abuse, I fought through rape, I fought through being crushed by our church family which shut down our ministry for twenty-five years, I fought through cancer three times, I fought through both knee joints, both hip joints and one shoulder being replaced in 3 years, I fight through fibromyalgia, I fight through mixed connective tissue disorder, I fight through COPD, and now I fight Alzeimer’s.

Until, now.

Now, I must retire and hang up the gloves. The fight is over. The final bout has been called. My doctor told me yesterday, that I am losing instead of winning. I cannot stand the thought of losing. It goes against everything I stand for in my heart and mind and body. Yet, his reasoning made sense. He echoed something my daughter told me on Saturday and it had been reverberating in my head without acceptance.

I am losing large blocks of time. Sometimes, just for a couple hours. Sometimes, several hours from one day into several hours from the next day. He told me this is caused by trying to force my brain to do tasks it simply can no longer access. Stressing the brain beyond it’s capabilities. Things like figuring with numbers, working with recipes, anything that takes mental acuity and planning. I try to accomplish a task over and over and over without success. It is frustrating because I know that I know how to do this one thing, yet cannot. Due to the overload, my brain flees the area. He said I need to step out of the ring and turn it over to those who love and support me, the younger versions, who can step into the ring and go toe-to-toe on my behalf.

So, now it becomes a question of how does a fighter retire? You know the old adage, ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink’? Yeah. I’m there. I heard them, I took copious notes after the doctor visit yesterday, but I do not know how to step out of the ring. The fight that has saved me for years is now causing me to decline faster. The fight that used to do me so much good is now harming me. When my mind is forced to fight, it goes into flight mode. This causes my cognitive skills to go into steep decline causing more cell damage at a faster rate. I have to give priority to my loves and my memories. I have to stop in my tracks and figure out how to live out of the ring.

A Fighter always knows it’s time to retire when they begin to lose more bouts then they win. Their managers ask them to retire and then their fans join the chant. They want their prize fighter to retire with dignity before being forced out in shame. They love their fighter. They have spent years, money, and time cheering them on to victory time and time again. The Fighter’s self worth, their sense of purpose, comes from every aspect of the fight. The excitement of stepping into the ring, the pride of winning round after round, the rope-a-dope that went viral, the applause, the self-satisfaction. It is so fulfilling it becomes addictive. The “Fighter” eats, breathes, and lives to fight.

I cannot and quite possibly don’t even know how to go about giving up the fight. Lord, I need YOUR strength. I need YOUR wisdom! I have thrived because of the fight. I do not wish to just survive, to just exist. Show me how to thrive without fighting every moment, every step, every day! Please!!!

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Tuesday ~ February 19, 2019: My New Normal

The greatest Neuro-Scientist, Mathematician, Tech Genius, Architect, Linguist, Database Administrator, Engineer, Cytologist, Physicist, and Artist came in the form of one Being. God! When HE created our brain, HE proved that fact. The intricacies and beauty of this creation simply overwhelm me today.

My doctor gave me a few websites and told me to read them first thing every morning. It would help keep me aware and updated each day as to what is going on in my brain. I am very aware, almost hyper-aware and that is a great advantage to have in my thought pocket. Each cell in the brain contributes to your overall thought process and your abilities, skills and function capabilities. Every cell is connected in how they play so well together.

Through different events in life cellular damage can occur. One of the leading damaged cells issues is Dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term for brain cell death caused by many factors. Parkinson’s and Huntington’s can cause dementia. Strokes, tumors, head injuries can also cause dementia. Vitamin deficiencies, medication reactions, and the natural aging process can all contribute to this often misunderstood and misdiagnosed problem with the brain.

A fair portion of those listed above are not dementia-severe. The dementia may come and go and can even be reversed in some cases. While dementia is sad and can destroy lives, much of the time there is hope. One of the diseases under this umbrella of Dementia is Alzheimer’s. Not Old-Timers, not Alltimer’s. Alzheimer’s. It is a progressive disease with no cure, no coming back, no stopping. Just constant, steady changes and death in the brain cells that affect important abilities for day-to-day life. It began for me a few years ago, but I had no idea this is what was happening to me.

I would think I had told someone something only to find out I had not. I would have days where concentrating was not just hard, it was impossible. My words began to slip from me. I would use them in error of their entire meaning. Not just adding a syllable here and there or a prefix or suffix that did not belong. An entire word used in the wrong way. I could not think of the right word. It was as though it never existed in my mind although I knew something was wrong with what I said. Folks would supply me with words in effort to be helpful and it made me angry. I was not angry at them. They were trying to be helpful. I was angry with me because it highlighted the problem happening with my brain. It reinforced the fact I had a problem.

I began misplacing things. Important things. Needful things. Beautiful things. Things I loved. Sometimes, I would come across them in strange places, sometimes I had false memories of doing something with a particular item and sometimes I have never found them again. Case in point? My 2K diamond stud earrings. Gone with no idea where. This makes me sad and angry at me.

One day I decided to just be comfy and wear my favorite shirt and sweats. I pulled out the sweats and turned to look for the shirt. I searched through the entire walk-in closet, the hamper, my dresser drawers, and the washer and dryer. The only shirts I owned were hanging in my closet. So where was that shirt? I decided to just look at all the shirts in the same color in case I had just overlooked it. So I started to look for all the …… I couldn’t remember the color. Style? Nope. I knew I owned that shirt but to this day cannot tell you what color, style or even whether it’s cotton or silk or whatever. It’s gone.

The frightening part for me is knowing it existed but having no other recall. I don’t think it’s missing which really scares me. I think perhaps I am wearing it right now but no longer recognize it as the favorite shirt that I love and fall back into when I want a comfy day. It’s the pieces that I know are missing that bring the fear and sadness. I know it is a process and that it will continue to happen and that I cannot stop it. For a few days this week, I have struggled with the microwave. I know what it is. I know what it does, but I can’t make it do the one thing I know it can do for me. Cook something fast. Then I begin to wonder when the day will arrive that I don’t know how to work the stove….

I know all the Biblical references for fear. I know all about trusting Jesus and having faith that HE will get us through this, but the unknowns and the whens and the what-ifs are plaguing my days and my nights. I eventually can get settled and go back into just git ‘er done mode. But the struggle is real and worsening almost daily. It is frightening.

It is not only frightening for me on my own behalf, I am even more worried for my family. I am putting everything I can into making sure the days ahead for them will be as easy as I can make them. I am getting my affairs in order, so to speak, while I still know what those affairs are and making sure they know my wishes so there will be no question what to do when the time comes. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done, but these are not decisions that I ever want my husband or my children to have to make. I will have as much in place as I possibly can in hopes that it will lessen the load a bit for them.

I know the road ahead will be harder for them than for me. I know their hearts will break on a daily basis as I know mine is doing now and surely would do if God forbid, the situation was reversed. So if I can find the strength and will to do what I can for them now? You best believe I am sure-fire going to git ‘er done!

All of that does not change what a beautiful creation this brain of mine is. It is a maze of millions of neurons all communicating with each other and with the rest of your body. If you see an image of the brain in working form, it is a thing of beauty and breathtaking to watch it work. I have watched several videos and MRI image presentations in order to grasp and understand this is my brain on Alzheimer’s while I can do so. Different areas of the brain allow us to function as a whole. Alzheimer’s eventually affects pretty much every area. It kills the neurons which prohibits their ability to communicate. One after another, they die and cease to function. Memory, thinking, judgment, language, problem-solving, personality and movement can all be affected by the disease. I am experiencing changes in every single one of these now. My memory is cloudy, thinking is iffy, language (my love for words) is slipping right through my fingers, problem-solving now takes two of us, personality is changing subtly as this point (hopefully I am the only one noticing), movement is hampered by missteps, falls and dropping things.

While the greatest Neuro-Scientist, Mathematician, Tech Genius, Architect, Linguist, Database Administrator, Engineer, Cytologist, Physicist, and Artist created this mind, HE is not responsible for what is currently happening within the confines of my skull. The fall of man, the choices made, have caused this disease. I have not and will not blame God. HE is the ONE I depend on to get me through and the ONE who will see my family through. God did not do this to me! I fully believe HE allowed it to come my way. But HE did not cause it!

So why would the greatest Neuro-Scientist, Mathematician, Tech Genius, Architect, Linguist, Database Administrator, Engineer, Cytologist, Physicist, and Artist allow such a thing to come my way? I believe it is because HE trusts me to trust HIM. Maybe I flatter myself with that belief, but God knows that no matter what I go through, I look to HIM and give HIM the praise and glory for every day He grants me and thank HIM when the day is done.

I don’t know the end game and that’s probably a good thang! My husband keeps gently guiding me with one day at a time advice, and while I try hard to adhere to that, the what-ifs still slip through.

I pray this snapshot helps you to understand what Alzeimer’s is doing and maybe you can help someone else who is suffering with this disease that so very little is known or understood,

 

 

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Monday ~ April 1, 2019: HIT THE BRAKES!

Have you ever been doing about 80 mph on one of our Texas highways, legally on some stretches of road, and suddenly, you have to bring your vehicle to a standstill? I don’t drive anymore, but as a passenger? I slam both feet to the floorboard, hit the front of the dash with my palms and push with all the strength I have. I reckon I’m trying to help the driver avoid the accident in front of us. It’s instinct. You hit the brakes whether your driving or not. You have to stop the ride to prevent what might have happened.

Yesterday was one of those days when I felt something horrible coming. I was hitting the brakes with everything I had, but not stopping. Then it was happening. I was still hitting the brakes, but could not stop it, and that’s all I remember of the first half of the day.  It was the absolute worst moments, hours, I have experienced so far. I want to share it with you, if that’s okay. If this journey can help one other person feel less alone, or help one person understand what someone they love is going through, then to God be the glory for giving me a voice.

We were having a Family and Friends day at church yesterday. After church, we were having a carry-in (potluck) dinner. I cannot do recipes anymore. The measurements confuse me and the ingredients get all messed up in my head and it turns out a disastrous, inedible dish. I love to cook and experiment with new dishes so this has been a great loss to me. I new whatever I prepared for the potluck would have to be super simple and something I new pretty much without thinking. I decided on cocktail bbq meatballs and deviled eggs. It felt like spring-time picnic food and in my mind at the time? Easy peasy.

The bbq sauce took some work to get it right, and 3 attempts on deviled eggs. I was frustrated and felt confusion all around me. I started fighting for me, to maintain focus and create a decent dish or two. I remember showing my hubby which dishes to put in the car, getting to our church, and then….

Throughout the evening before and that morning, I could feel things shifting, changing, but could not describe, could not get the words to explain. That’s when I first knew something was happening but didn’t know what to do or how to react. On the way to church, I kept trying to stop it, but couldn’t speak the words, or ask for help. By the time we took our seats, I was beginning to lose sensation, thoughts, recognition, until everything was fading into total chaos in my mind. I had tried to hit the brakes to slow my ride but nothing happened. I was in the midst of a terrible crash and the my world, as I know it, was completely out of my control. I remember the taste of fear, the smell of fear, the feel of fear and that’s all. It was as if everything I knew was gone. I was alone. That was all I could experience.

At some point, I knew I was sitting at a table with my granddaughter and realized my Pastor was sitting across from me and he was talking to me. I knew him, I knew his voice, I knew I trusted him, and slowly, I returned to the me I know. My husband came with a plate of food and we sat and talked and laughed and all was well.

I am assuming the Alheimer’s snatched me for a few hours. I had been told this would happen. I though it would be like taking a nap. I thought it would feel like a dream, or that I would not know it was happening at all. But I knew it was coming, I knew it was happening and no mater how hard I pushed back, I could not stop it.

Last night after our kids and grands left to go to their homes, I sat in my husband’s arms and sobbed. I was afraid I had embarrassed him because on the inside I was running and screaming and fighting. He said he didn’t think anyone else would have known what was happening but my family. He assured me I had held it together on the outside. He talked to me about his love for me and how nothing can or will ever change that love. It was sweet and perfect and reassuring. I don’t want this thing. I don’t want it for him or my kids and grands. I want to live out our retirement years together, loving and living every moment. All I could think is what I don’t want and what I do want.

During the night, God reminded of the story of the blind man in the Bible. Everyone assumed either he or his parents must have sinned because he was blind. Jesus told them the man was blind because God was about to get some glory.

I begin to think about yesterday in a different light. God had helped me fix my dishes for the potluck. HE had helped me keep it together through the service. HE sent me Pastor to me just to talk and sit with me which gave me peace. He got me home and back to my place of safety. He sent me children to make a beautiful homemade dinner and they brought the most beautiful birthday cake I have ever seen. Then to close out my day, he settled me in the loving arms of my beloved to soothe my heart and finish the day. God did all of that because HE loves me and knows I will give HIM the glory.

I think the realness of it all is sinking in and I know that I know, Jesus is with me.

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Thursday ~ March 28, 2019: Al Fine

Our lives are a symphonic composition written and conducted by God HIMSELF. HE raps the proverbial baton as our life begins and orchestrates our life-music to Al Fine. Blessings, mercy, grace, storms, and discipline all flow through HIS hands into and around us influencing everything. Our decisions are all based on what HIS grace allows and what HIS mercy withholds. While we have full reign over our choices, HE does send influence to guide us into all truth and eternal life with HIM. There are movements of extended harmonic and rhythmic chords to long passages of dissonant chords and syncopated rhythm within a symphony just as in life. There are times of sweetness and joy and there are times of chaos and upheaval. Yet, in the end, we can be completely satisfied with the skill of our Maestro, if we allow HIS leading through every phase.

When I was first diagnosed with moderate Early Onset Alzheimer’s my family was and still is my main concern. I want them to have full, complete, joyful lives. I have always tried to smooth the way for them so they could fulfill their destiny. Teaching my children the difference between right and wrong, cleaning the home, preparing meals, ironing clothes, (thank God that task has lessened over the years), and spending hours in prayer asking for God’s protection and guidance for each of my loves. That part has not changed. What has changed is how I can smooth out the rough patches ahead for them. That is my job, because I am a wife, mother and grandmother, and my love for them dictates what I do and when I am to do so. I asked God to help me think of all the ways I could remove some stumbling blocks from their path. With the help of my loving, supportive family and two incredible friends, I have accomplished everything I needed to do within 2 months.

I began with creating memory boxes that my family can open and go through with me to help provoke beautiful memories. Lots of photos, books, CD’s, trinkets, collectibles, etc. fill boxes of love. We have already looked through all the photos and enjoyed plenty of laughs, travels through time, and “awww” moments.

My oldest son, who lives in Tucson, flew in and I sat at the table with my three children, my husband and two dear friends. I filled out a Living Will and DNR with specifications, signed over legal power of attorney for medical decisions and signed over financial power of attorney. The DNR was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I wanted to just fall apart and walk away, but knew I could not and would not allow myself an easy pass. My goal was to make what is to come easier for them, not me. I fought with all that I had to not cry and make it any harder on anyone. Giving over all control of my finances wasn’t terribly hard as my hubby always makes sure I have more than I need. I do enjoy playing in the stock market and shopping, the control over my own financial slice of the pie, but I can live just fine without those. The medical power given to someone else was a little harder as I realize that it is getting harder for me to explain what is going on in my mind already; the forgetfulness, the impenetrable blank wall, the time loss, so that will soon to be in full force. I also filled out my will and appointed an executor.

This past Sunday was an amazing day on the symphonic scale like Beethoven’s 3rd. I heard my beloved hubby preach again for the first time in 25 years. The long wait was worth it to see God’s anointing and gracious hand still upon his life. He has been teaching a Bible study at church the past few weeks, but it is not quite the same as seeing and feeling his unique style of preaching. I felt so completely blessed to have lived to see and experience that moment with him. When I was battling cancer and he was facing a possible heart-transplant, neither of us were to sure we would live to love this day, yet here we were because of God’s orchestration.

After both Sunday morning services, two of our children and my husband and I drove out to Bluebonnet Hills Memorial Park in Colleyville and they helped me choose a lakeside family plot. We purchased one large enough for family members who choose to be buried there as well, after many, many more decades of LIFE. I chose an area right next to the lake with a beautiful blue marble headstone and bench and when you sit on the bench you have a gorgeous view of the lake and fountain, birds chirping in the trees around me, and butterflies alighting every so often on the flowering hedged enclosure. So peaceful. So beautiful. And I finally own lakefront property. LOL

The next evening, my husband and I sat down with a very kind gentleman who helped me plan the memorial service, from location to style, pictures, music, and of course, it will be catered! As a family, we always gather around the table for food, laughter, and family games, so the food was a must. I chose a purple urn for my ashes, yes, of course it’s purple. I want it to be beautiful. It even has a little silver to make it sparkle. I want the service and the final earthly resting place to be perfect and beautiful, a place of peace and comfort for those I love so much. I will be present with the Lord, but want them to feel free to come and sit whenever they feel a need and find peace, knowing I will be at peace.

This may seem like a very morbid blog to some but for me it is peace at Al Fine. I have done everything God has shown me to do and I give HIM all the glory for guiding my steps and giving me strength every day to complete the journey set before me. I have experienced life in a way that many never imagine. To some, my life might be boring, but for me it has been completely fulfilling and satisfying. I have no regrets. I now look forward to each day, to just loving my family and those around me. I look forward to helping when I can and being good company when I cannot. I look forward to making as many great memories as possible with those I love and spending every day with them and Jesus. I cannot control the days ahead but I love the ONE who holds all control. I have not yet reached the Al Fine in my symphony. There have been several variations along the way. Some have begun like the fugue, building quietly and suspensefully to a dramatic climax around a given situation reminiscent of a period of time early in our marriage. Some variations have been like the strings, with angels controlling the arco, introducing something new to my life like each of my children. Sometimes the entire orchestral section slows to Adagio and life settles into a slower pace for a while which is now. Wherever the Maestro chooses to take me next is perfectly fine with me for all is well.

I am now 63 and for the past almost 43 years, life has been a beautiful symphony and I cannot wait to see all the beauty ahead of me. I wrote a letter to my family that I will print off and share with them when the time is right. It is to remind them of my constant love for them and total devotion to the people they have become. No matter what, I will love them with all of my heart, forever and always!

I love you, too. Jesus loves you even more. Is HE rapping the baton to get your attention to turn towards HIM? Are you allowing HIM to orchestrate everything that HE has in store for you? If not, please turn your ear to catch the music, enjoy the cacophony of sound and enjoy the Masterful beat of HIS heart as you traverse your life-journey. HE is waiting. Live every day to the fullest and allow the Maestro to bless you to Al Fine.

 

 

 

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Sunday ~ February 24, 2019: Denial is Not Faith

If you cannot speak your reality or if you allow others to shut down your voice because they do not want to accept your reality, that is about fear, NOT faith. Some folks shake and quake at the thought that anything bad could ever approach their life or the lives of those they love. Oh, no! Don’t speak negativity within my earshot. It is as though everything spoken can be used by the devil to destroy them and to that I say, “Greater is the God in me than he that is in the world!” My reality does not define me. God does. I can accept, process and endure all things because of HIM.

When a Warrior goes onto the battle field, they are fully prepared for anything that may come against them. They armour up and go! Bullets whizzing past them so close they can split hairs, mine fields exploding with deadly intention all around, hand grenades being lobbed willy-nilly in their direction and yet they continuously move forward. If they give up ground or cower in ditches? They lose. If they do not maintain their wits, their skills, their armour, their strengths? Catastrophic loss. They don’t gain ground by saying, “We are not in a battle. We are not fighting. This is not happening!” They know their reality, embrace it, and fight. Anything less? Unacceptable to a Warrior.

If we fear “negative confessions” and embrace “positive confessions” whether they are true or untrue based only on positive or negative, we live in a fool’s paradise. We think the tongue has all the control but we do so in error. Just as the natural tongue is useless without the brain, the tongue of a Christian is controlled by the heart. Out of the abundance of the heart, the tongue is in motion. If your heart is not in the right place? Your utterances will follow. If your heart is striving to follow God your words will prove that out as well. Failure to accept the truth of your situation does not make you a superior Christian who is above all others. It does not mean you have superior faith. It simply means you are fearful.

In Matthew the sixteenth chapter, Jesus began to try to prepare the disciples for what was to come. He told them of HIS future suffering and eventual death and resurrection. Peter came up for air and said, “No, Lord. Don’t even speak such negativity. This is not what will happen.” What did Jesus say? “Get thee behind me, satan. You offend me with your inability to accept what is happening. You are now a stumbling block. You have become a dangerous trap to me. You are focused on how man feels and not on what God desires.” God’s divine plans always supercede man’s ideals and hopes and are far beyond our conception. We think in the finite and HE thinks in the infinite. We think from a humanistic point of view, HIS is divine. We want what’s easy, HE wants what’s best.

Jesus realized the importance of situational clarity when he told the disciples that Lazarus “sleepeth”. John 11:11. The disciples said, “Oh, well, if he is just sleeping, your beloved friend will be just fine.” Jesus realized when he said sleep, they thought sleep as in well-deserved nap to refresh. He had to be specific and tell them that Lazarus was dead. Then they understood clearly. Rose tinted lenses do not serve God’s purpose. If we cannot look at a situation or issue or health crisis for what it is? I submit to you that it is fear, not faith.

I happen to believe if you are going to speak to the mountain, you first must see the mountain and know it is a mountain. Saying it is not a mountain does not make the climb any easier. It does not change the fact that you are in the valley. It does not lesson the size of the issue you are facing. A mountain is a mountain is a mountain. If God does not see fit to move it, HE will help me climb it. If I am not ready yet to climb, HE will stay in the valley with me until it’s time to climb. HE is God of all things in my life and HE is still on the throne, whether HE is removing the mountain, stretching out HIS hand to aid in the climbing, or holding me close while I remain in the valley. I still see the mountain. I just happen to believe HE is with me no matter where I am in life and I embrace HIS perfect will in every aspect.

Don’t get it twisted ~ The acceptance of my human frailties allows me to fully appreciate, articulate, and embrace God’s omnipotence, HIS omniscience and HIS omnipresence. I do not run away scared. I run to HIM who has all the answers when I do not. Understanding what is happening to me with the Alzheimer’s and the COPD to name a couple, is not a failure in my spiritual walk. It simply encourages me to rest in HIM and know that HE is and always will be in control! I trust HIM! “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” Psalm 56:3,4. God does not expect us to be perfect because HE knows we are not. HE knows we have fears. But HE does expect us to be honest when we come to HIM. And HE desires for us to trust HIM. Working daily to trust HIM more!

My tongue speaks because of what is in my heart. My tongue does not have a mind of it’s own and neither does it have the power to control my destiny. My relationship with God, HIS place in my heart controls my tongue and it’s ability. And when my tongue can no longer speak those words? It’s not because of my heart. It is because my mind cannot find the words to express what’s in my heart. It will not change my heart. It will not change my love for HIM and it will never define me. God defines me. My belief in HIM to see me through defines me! God is able when I am not, because HE IS ALL THAT!! (And a bag of chips.)

I may have Alzheimer’s and COPD, but they don’t have me. God does!

 

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Thursday ~ February 21, 2019: Trust is NOT an Easy Thang!

Trust is an easy word to use and any easy thing to expect from others, but it is not and never will be an easy thang! Trust is not just something cool that happens. Trust is not easy. Trust as a noun, by def, is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. The verb form of trust is actively believing in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Someone recently implied, for the second time, Alzheimer’s, henceforth known as the A Word, might be a part of my life because I let the devil get his foot in the door. They went on to share that they would never let that happen. That supposition is completely offensive to everything I believe in and hold in my heart to be true of God.

If I trust God and I do, then I must trust HIM with everything. I cannot pick and choose. I would not want to pick and choose. Trust is blanket coverage. I trust HIM to watch over and protect my children and their children, I trust HIM to guide my husband’s leadership over our home and all that entails, I trust HIM to get me through each and every day. I quite literally could not survive this issue without complete trust in HIM.

Two things came to mind when this came up for the second time in conversation. The first was Job. Yes, the devil did approach God after trying to find someone to destroy. Please note God suggested Job to the devil. HE told satan that he could touch everything connected to Job but that he could not take his life. Why on earth would God do such a thing to a man who devoted his life to God? Trust! God knew that Job’s love and trust was firm in the God who created him. And God’s trust in Job was unshakeable!

The devil made a run at Job that lasted for months and would have left most of us in a puddle of surrender. God’s trust in Job was reciprocal. Job trusted God to see him through. God did not intervene. Yet, Job knew God had his back and when it was all over Job’s latter was greater than the former because God rewarded his trust. God will always reward those who trust in HIM!

The second idea that came to mind was the hours Jesus spent on the cross. HE was GOD! HE could have called thousands of angels. HE could have released HIMself from the suffering. But trust in the plan kept HIM there. Trust granted HIM the ability to remain while they drove in those huge spikes. Trust sustained HIM through it all. Even when HE cried out in pain, feeling forsaken, trust kept HIM in place to fulfill God’s plan. When the time came, HE laid down his own life because of trust. HE trusted in the plan. The plan was our salvation!

I am not equating my life or what I am going through in any way to Job and Jesus. God forbid. I am saying if they could trust with all they went through, surely I can trust with my pittance of suffering. First and foremost, I do not believe anything comes my way but what it has passed through HIS hands. In the midst of Job’s suffrage he asked why we would think we can only accept the good things from God’s hands. (Job 2:10)

God’s hand was on Joseph from the beginning but he was betrayed, sold as a slave, and thrown into prison but in the end knew that it had all been a part of God’s perfect will for his life. While God has a perfect will for our lives, it does not mean, nor even imply that all will be well all the time. If it was not so in the life of Christ, why should we be expect a perfect hunky-dory life? It is not about HIS love for us. He loved Job and Joseph and they are just a couple of folks the Bible tells us who rolled through some tough times. When we suffer it is not a reflection on love. HIS love for us is boundless and endless.

Sometimes, the test is not in the questions we can get right, but in our attitude during the testing period. Can we roll with tough times? Can we still trust HIS hand when we cannot see where HIS hand is leading us? Or must we always believe only good things will happen to Christians? That’s not what my Bible tells me. “And we know all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. This means that anything that comes your way, good or bad, will be for your spiritual strengthening if you are serving God and walking in HIS purpose for your life. It does not mean, nor even imply that everything coming your way will be awesome or even financially beneficial, as some believe. It just means whether the things you go through are good, bad or ugly, they will make you stronger and be good for your soul. That gives me immense comfort, y’all!

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” Matthew 10:29. If my Heavenly Father cares about one precious sparrow’s life, can I trust that HE also cares, sees and knows everything I experience? Of course, I can and I should! 

I serve a Sovereign God. I know HE is in total control of my life and I trust HIM to be working all things together for my good. For my growth. For my soul. For my eternity. I cannot be plucked from HIS hand, (John 10:29), but I can suffer. My life eternally belongs to God. This body can be destroyed and I will continue to trust in my Creator.

Trust is not an easy thang! It should be a building block of your foundational relationship with God and with others. Trust can weather a lot of storms. Trust stands the test of time. Trust is a treasure. I do not trust easily. If someone puts their trust it me, I consider it a sacred gift. It’s not a something to be used or granted unwisely. It takes hard work, faith, and hindsight. Be careful with trust but know this ~ God can be trusted to always do what is good for you. I look back over my life at all the times HE had my back and I was completely unaware. That faithfulness demands my trust. Sometimes I look at the life I am living and wonder how what I hold in my hands came about from what I pictured my life to be at this point. But God. HE had another plan. I trust HIS plan over my dreams every time.

I have a firm belief in HIS reliability, HIS truth, HIS ability, and HIS strength and am actively believing and trusting HIM! Yes, HE could’ve prevented these health issues. Yes, HE can heal me at any time. But if HE is trusting me to stay faithful even in the bad? I am trusting HIM to see me through to the good! Trust! I do and will! No matter what! I would not dream of telling what HE can or cannot allow. But I will tell HIM every day that I am trusting HIM to see all of us safely to the other side. Trust! HE can handle it!

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Monday ~ February 18, 2019: The Fighter Within

“A Fighter knows a Fighter.” A friend said this to me yesterday on the phone. It was a very sweet, encouraging conversation, but that one phrase stuck with me. I have always been a fighter. Not by choice, perhaps, but meeting the challenges presented in life has given me no other option. Fight or Die, every single day and I choose Fight every time. It is part and parcel of my soul. But I don’t think anyone other than family has ever recognized the Fighter within. I was a little surprised. Yes, I am in the ring every day.

My daughter sent me a text a while ago which said, “I was reminded yesterday that one of the most amazing traits about my Mama is that she is a warrior.” I am a fighter, not by nature but out of necessity. Fighter by nature only if you mess with my husband or my babies. I will throw down on you so fast your head will spin. Not physically. I don’t even take on gnats anymore. But I love words and I know how to use them in such a way that by time I am finished, you will weep and call your mama and apologize for every time you chose to throw shade your entire life. We will be comin’ to Jesus before the bell rings and we exit the ring. I do not know how to NOT come up for air if you mess with them.

Now you can mess with me all day long until you are exhausted, sweatin’ profusely, and laid out, but you will not move me. You can throw shade and drink my tea. My 4 year old granddaughter folds her arms akimbo, taps her little toe and sez, “I don’t like you, Nee~Nee!” I smile and tell her that’s fine with me and remind her she still needs to do what I say. Now if she cannot sway me? Honey, ain’t nobody gonna hurt me with their word toss. Somebody called me a name they thought would hurt my feelings, I just smiled and thought soup. What they hoped would hurt my feelings actually just made me hungry. Words used against me truly don’t phase me. Not a soft spot for me. Not gonna expend one ounce of energy on that mess.

Now, for what will I expend all energy and every stance and technique of fight I know? To get through the day and do what is required of me. I set my own requirements. I set my own hours. I set my own limitations. My husband tries to intervene and do for me when he gets home in the evening. If I have done all I can do, I smile and thank him sweetly. But if I have anything left and he starts to clean up the kitchen after dinner? Uh, nope! We’re gonna have to talk.

Every morning, when I awaken, I thank God I’m still here and then I do a thorough assessment of ME. I know the moment I wake up how much I can do that day based on the pain I am in when I open my eyes. If you have or know anyone with FMS, you know every single moment is hot pain. Just a wrinkle in the sheet you are laying on can be excruciating. (I rec silk sheets.) Everything hurts all the time. My body feels as though I have gone nine rounds over and over and lost every round, but still standing for the next nine. My family has learned over the years where I can and cannot be touched on my skin. They have learned how to hug me because I cannot/will not ever give up their sweet hugs. And then I experience flares when the slightest sound even hurts. But I refuse to go to bed. I refuse to take pain meds. I refuse to quit! Ain’t NObody got time for that! I fight on!

So my husband and my children know when I ask for help, it is for something I physically cannot do. If I do not ask for help? I’m going to do whatever but you just need to back up and give me a minute. I love my husband to pieces but if he starts on that kitchen? I’m gonna ask him to please not. Come sit with me. Come talk to me while I rest. Come hold me while I cry and then I will get back up and I will handle that mess. It’s not that I don’t want his help and usually, when I do start to handle it, he comes alongside and we work together. I love it, but I’ma gonna be in there, too, washing, rinsing, stacking.

The COPD complicated things a bit. I have to pause a little more often. Tristan has to come chase the girls for me sometimes. I no longer vacuum at all. I know my limitations and have adjusted. The Alzheimer’s issue? Yup. Further complication, but I’ll deal. Eventually. I’m a fighter. It’s what I do. What I know. How I roll.

Here is the thang ~ Baseball has pinch hitters. Football has backup quarterbacks. Actors have understudies. Pretty much everybody has a stand in or backup. My husband who is a Senior Database Admin told me a while back they were considering hiring a Junior. These folks can step up and do the exact same job as the original. And then there are assistants. Paralegals, dental hygienists, Congressional aides, Supreme Court clerks, Admin assistants, etc. Assistants assist those who need their assistance. Go ahead, you know you wanna try saying that five times, fast. But a fighter steps into the ring alone. No one wants to jump in and share their face for the haymaker coming your way. The left jabs are coming so fast, there’s no time to replace you in the ring, and no rule that would allow for the possibility. You are in it to win it, toe to toe with life, and the only respite you get, if you’re good, is to pull a Rope-a-Dope once in a while in hopes of catching your breath and wearing your opponent down a little. But what if someone offers to step into the ring with you?

As a fighter, if you’re wise, you will surround yourself with encouragers, trainers, people much smarter than yourself, empathizers not sympathizers, and possibly buy stock in emergency ice companies. (They’ll get it to you fast, ya know?) But no one else can step into the ring for round one but you! Seriously! The thought of an alternative is crazy, right? No one goes in to start for you, no one is stepping in to give you a break, and nobody, but nobody is going to stand, take the punches, deliver the counters, and slug it out until the bell rings but you!

Here is the crux of the thang ~ What do you do when someone does offer to take one hit for you? It’s against your personal rules. It is not in your reference manual. It goes against your grain. It’s not even on your possibility radar. Someone, not your husband or children whom you can accept help from only when absolutely needed, steps up and does something so kind in effort to make the fight easier. To spare you one lick! Do you refuse as you worry it could weaken the warrior stance you have perfected? Do you refuse all the while wishing with every fiber of your being that you could accept? Do you say “No, thank you” when your mind is screaming “Yes, please!”? Won’t accepting the offer result in a TKO? Won’t accepting the help cause you to fold? To become as weak as a newborn? Won’t all your fight flee? But ultimately can you, are you willing to risk their blessing by refusing the offer?

God sees the fight and God sees the fighter. HE knows you and me better than we know ourselves. If we trust HIM, how can we not trust the people, the blessings, HE places in our lives? So, as usual, when I fight best and hardest it is because I trust the Lord to have my back.

On this day, I choose to trust HIM and look at the things HE is doing on my behalf as a gift. It’s not easy for me, but I will accept the offer of a hand in the ring, from a Fighter who knows a Fighter, who feels and knows the day you’re experiencing. It doesn’t always have to be Fight On or TKO, Baby. No one is going to call a technical and say the fight is over and you lose if you accept a helping hand once in a while. It just may help you to Refresh & Fight On another day.

Fight On ~ But try to be willing to accept help from others as orchestrated by HIS hand. And perhaps you will find out someday that you blessed others along the way. We all need help whether we can readily admit it or not…..

 

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