Caregiver vs. Caregiver

Perhaps I should not write this while I still remember her license plate number.  This is fresh, y’all.

Let’s begin with one of my favorite quotes:

Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.  ~  Martin Luther King Jr.

It was a perfect breezy 80-degree morning, the kind of morning where it looks like the sun is gently kissing each surface around you.  Hubby left for work with minimal physical challenges.  I jump in the car early to go pick up snacks and water for a 24-person summer school field trip.  I feel joyful and have plenty of time to shop in our local grocery store.

I paid without feeling rushed.  I turn left out of the store to walk toward the ice chest.  I need two bags of ice.  Ahead of me is an elderly man shuffling his feet like Tim Conway from the old Carol Burnett show.  I guess he is in his late 80’s or early 90’s.

My mind goes two places.  One, I want to make sure I leave him plenty of room.  I walk behind my cart slowly.  Two, I find myself praying for him.  I thank God that this man has lived a long life and ask that he have a wonderful day.  Given his difficulty to walk, it is great that he is outside enjoying the weather.

I stop to place my hand on the ice chest door handle.  The man is well ahead of me at this point.  Suddenly my eye catches sight of erratic body movements further ahead of the man.  Jumping out of a white SUV parked curbside down by the liquor store is a woman near my age.  Her arms flail.  Her voice is loud.

“You’re about to be run over, Grandpa!” She bellows.  I notice her slim figure looks good in white pants.  Odd the things you pay attention to sometimes.

Aw, I think maybe she is trying to banter with him.  To connect.  To have fun.

Censored beep, beep, beep later I realize she is not being playful at all.  She is livid.  At me.

She yells my direction, “Some people are so rude!”

What?!

I attempt to tuck in my inner Martha.  Martha, my mom, had a short fuse made of magnesium.  I can let this go.

And then my mouth opens anyway.

“Maybe from your perspective,” I send her way.  “But from where I am I was giving him plenty of space and even saying prayers of thanksgiving for him.”  I know that probably sounded stupid, but it was true.

After all, the woman is beyond us and there is even a brick column obstructing her view.  From where her SUV is parked it would be easy to jump to conclusions.  There’s no way she can accurately assess the distance between Grandpa and me from her location.

And then her mouth opens.  She combines words like prayer and the b word and other words I’m not going to type.

Sigh…this day had been going so well.

Is she coming after me?  My faux Terminator eye surveys our surroundings.  In seconds I assess where the security cameras hopefully are, what time it is, how my body will flatten hers if she hits me first, and contemplate if I can withstand assault charges.  I am not proud of this.  I’m just saying I was raised in a way that is ready for unanticipated action.  Generally, I am a pleasant person.  I try to maintain a kind face even in these strained moments.

I finish putting ice in my cart.  Grandpa shuffles into the liquor store and the angry lady gets back into her SUV.  I step into the parking lot so I can make a mental note of her license plate, then turn right to find my car.

I maintain awareness as I load my trunk.  I know my insides are shaking a little bit.

Sitting in the car I text a trusted BFF to ask for prayer.  A day once going well now feels scary.

When back on the road, I see the SUV.  The lady still looks erratic.  She runs her hands through her hair many times and might be yelling at Grandpa.

I drive, pray, go over the checklist for the day.  Crisis adverted.

Then a deep truth hit my heart.  That lady is a caregiver for Grandpa.  I don’t know if she is every day, but this day she is.  As my mind softens, I dismiss some judgement about how if she really cared about Grandpa she wouldn’t send him alone into either store and especially not the one with hundreds of glass bottles.  It occurs to me that maybe as a caregiver she is angry.

And sometimes I feel angry as a caregiver too.

I just felt anger toward a fellow caregiver.  With good reason, I saw her as an enemy first.  But what does the Bible say about our response to enemies?

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:44

Do I love her?

How long did it take me to pray for my enemy?  Answer:  38 minutes

It was easy to recognize Grandpa’s struggles, but it was hard to recognize the possibility of her struggle.  It took me 38 minutes to pray for her.  Maybe she needed to let off steam and I was an easy target.  To follow are a few additional thoughts about invisible caregiver pain:

1.  People don’t read minds.  The SUV lady couldn’t read my mind and I couldn’t read hers.  Lord, May we try to give people grace first instead of judgement.

2.  Perspective is varied.  Depending on where you are standing or what you are doing at the moment before you look up makes a big difference in what you see.  I suspect if the woman had been parked behind us or beside us she may not have jumped to the conclusion that Grandpa was in danger.

3.  How often do we miss the caregivers?  We sign up for meal trains, we bring things to patients who are sick, but what can we do for caregivers?  There are other blogs and articles with ideas on this.  I encourage you to keep caregivers in mind when you support people who are hurting.  Lord, Please help caregivers to be comforted, seen, and heard.  Also, help me to be sensitive to the journey of others.  Amen.

Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.  1 Chronicles 28:20

When Was The Last Time

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2009 Shaw Farm

When was the last time he took my hand and we took a walk together?  When was the last time he could stand up from the couch without thinking about how to stand?  How many years ago was the last time he could golf–his all-time favorite activity?  When was the last time our home did not involve daily groans and pain?

As a mother, I vowed to cherish everything about our sons:  every flutter as they swam in the womb, first grins, first toys, first words.  My heart skipped beats when their little hands kept reaching for mine well into elementary school years.  I knew their childhood would end.  I treasured their soft skin and cuddles.  I would not squander those moments.  And while storing up sweet memories I welcomed the fact that one day our boys would move on to a greater destiny beyond their mom’s heart.

What I did miss was treasuring simple moments with my husband.  Yes, I appreciated him.  Yes, we tried to spend time together.  Yes, we overcame the fact that opposites really do attract and chose to draw closer to God, our translator, to communicate.  Yes, we did not give up on our marriage or each other.  But did I truly cherish him?  I didn’t think he was leaving.  And he hasn’t left, but sometimes it seems like he isn’t all here either.  My mind reaches for precious moments of ease that I forgot to store in my brain.

Grief arrives in many forms.  Sometimes we grieve the loss of a job or relationship.  I’ve endured the pain of people close to me passing away.  You may have too.  And now I endure the pain of watching chronic illness ALS-21 steal expectations we had for our present and future.  Our youngest child is a teenager.  I thought we had more time before hubby and I grew old together.  But symptoms of old slowly moved into our home decades too soon.  We are like the metaphoric frog in the pot of tepid water who didn’t know the heat was about to turn up.  We sat calmly in the pot not noticing that the water began to boil our circumstances.

I spend hours each week clearing “stuff” out of our house.  It feels like we are in a race against the clock to move to a more accessible place.  We had plans to remodel that will never happen while we are here.  I feel the ugly emotion of jealously toward people I haven’t met who will do projects here that I likely will not see.  Tears drizzle my checks occasionally over leaving our home of 20 years too soon.  What really got me down deep was when our oldest son was home on leave from the Air Force.  A couple nights he didn’t want to go see friends.  He shared that he just wanted to enjoy the walls of our home because he knew he might not ever again get to come home to this address.

On the flip side of the moving coin, I celebrate the thought of being in a home where my husband doesn’t have to crawl upstairs at night.  Are we old enough to require a no steps living arrangement?  Apparently yes.  This thought process requires me to clear clutter faster.  Time is not waiting for me.  I’ve quit looking at other homes online because I need to focus on the task of leaving this home first.  I trust God will provide the right place for us at the right time.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34

I often tell myself that our situation could be worse, that there are worse things that people deal with.  These thoughts push me along to be grateful for the good things in our lives that we do have, or things that are better because we’ve had to adapt.  For example, I’m not sure my husband has ever verbally appreciated me more than he does now.  His kind words mean a lot to me.  We are also more forgiving and appreciative these days.  It seems like we have reached a calm place where we are slow to anger and less judgmental.  I thank God for the side benefits of sticking together and pushing through tough times as a team.

Are you grieving a loss or expectation of any size?  It takes time to grapple with it.  If you have tips or favorite verses about grieving that you would like to share, please comment.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Feel the Feels

Pic Feel the Feels

You might think that someone who was a psych major would already know this, but what I am about to share is something I’ve only figured out how to do in the last 18 months.  I am not an expert, but I am getting better and practicing.

As children many of us are taught to suppress undesirable emotions.  For example, we may be told don’t be mad, sad, cry or demonstrate feelings that might make someone else (like a parent perhaps) feel uncomfortable.

Nowadays in my work I find more and more information that states it is important to validate a child’s emotions.  Tell the child it is ok to feel what they feel, and then encourage them to think carefully about what actions they will do next while being aware of their feelings.

Sidebar:  Jesus had all the emotions while on earth that we have too.  It’s how we utilize those emotions that matters.  We can welcome the feeling(s) and still be in control of our behavior choices.

Recently I told a friend, “Not that you are…but be enraged if you need to be.  Use it.  Maybe you need a little mad to keep moving.  Feel the feels and let them pass through your body.  Then get back to work.”

I have found that if I fight the feels, then it takes longer for me to get on track.  I have learned to:

  • Pause.  Allow myself to take a time out when I need it.
  • Identify the emotion or emotions.
  • Say in acknowledgement “I feel _______ (fill in the blank).”
  • Visualize the emotion(s) pass through my body.
  • Repeat as needed.  Breathe and exhale through the process.  Release the pain if needed.  Sometimes I thank the emotion for stopping by and for reminding me that I am human.

This process validates rather than fights the feeling.

Key:

  • Fighting or suppressing emotions derails my time management.
  • Validating and identifying an emotion normalizes my feelings and takes much less time to address.

Another time saver is when I pray, “God here is________.  Take it.  Lead me in the direction I should go.”  I am done figuring out anything that my Higher Power can bust through walls and decipher for me.

We have grace for others, we need to have grace for ourselves too.  I’m trying to do so anyway.  It is hard!

God has adamant love for you.  You are not alone.

Proverbs 3:26 …for the LORD will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.

Hebrews 4:16   Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

All the above being said, emotions that get in the way ongoing should be addressed with a professional.  Be brave and seek help from your doctor or therapist as needed.  There is so much power and freedom to be found in tapping into the truth about ourselves.

Glenna

 

THE GARBAGE IS FULL

Pet peeve alert. And a disclaimer alert. –As in, what I’m about to tell you is something I witness that bothers me, but I also struggle with this topic too. I humbly share the following metaphor and follow up information. See if you can relate also.

First, the metaphor: I don’t like garbage to pile up in my vehicle. It does not bother me if other people fill their cars with garbage, but every time I pull into my driveway or a parking lot with a trash can, I try to toss the garbage. I do not sweep or wipe out my vehicle nearly enough, but the garbage must go daily.

Last week I was eager to clear my trash when I noticed that every garbage can in the parking lot was overflowing. If I had tried to add my trash, then I only would have added to the overflow situation. The garbage cans were full. My trash would have to wait.

This life moment reminded me of how sometimes people go through a heavy mess of stuff in their life. Sometimes a person is so overflowing that their pain is obvious. That person may choose to share their troubles with you.

Here’s the pet peeve part: when someone begins to share what is ailing them I think we need to be careful not to add to their garbage. Jumping in to tell someone a story about our own lives, interrupting the other person, trumping them with a nearly similar story…all of that is usually not a good idea–at least not a good idea in that initial sharing time. How much better is it when we simply seek to be present for the other person? How rare is it for anyone to feel heard all the way? –For someone to speak and to be allowed to finish their thought?

I’m not saying that we never share when we have something in common with the other person’s issue. I’m just saying that if someone’s garbage is full, then don’t add to it. Maybe you send them an encouraging word later. Maybe you tell them at a later time that you may be able to relate to their story. Or maybe you simply give the other person the gift of listening and leave it at that.

Occasionally I struggle with this area too. After an exchange passes I may think, “Why did I feel the need to share that in response? What was my motive?”

If our motives are to be there for others and not add to their garbage, then usually the answer is to be present, to be quiet and truly listen.

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things you have….

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God….

May we be a good listener for others.
May we be blessed with good listeners when we need them.
May we know the difference and the right timing for both.

Glenna

FORGIVENESS – YOU CAN’T EARN IT, BUT YOU CAN GIVE IT

One time a therapist asked me, “So when are you going to forgive them?”

I replied, “I do. Every morning of every day.” I paused. Then said, “And someday I won’t have to think about forgiving them anymore.”

The therapist gave me a look that I interpreted as, Ok then. Carry on.

Seems like an extreme moment in some respects and it was for me. Fortunately I’ve reached a time now when I hardly ever think about the situation which brought me to that moment. I suppose I’ve arrived at the “forget” part of “forgive and forget.” I’ll take it.

Forgive and forget rarely happens at the same time for most people. I see folks deal with hurt and struggles regarding forgiveness over and over each year.

Humans. Seems like we like to carry baggage around sometimes. I am learning to travel lighter and lighter and to forgive quickly–try to!

The song Who You Are by Unspoken is one of my favorite songs about forgiveness.

Have you ever known someone who wants to stay mad, wants to hold onto their hurt, wants to punish someone into apologizing and then still won’t forgive them? That is a sad and difficult place because even if someone did say or wants to say sorry the other person refuses their attempt.

I know sometimes people need time. So give them their time. All you can do is apologize and hope/pray for the best.

Forgive yourself too. Give forgiveness and release yourself from the pain. Forgiveness is a process.

Aren’t we lucky that Jesus doesn’t hold grudges?

Imagine if Jesus said, “What? I die in sacrifice for you and you still mess up? I’m not talking to you. I’m going to bully you, punish you, tell everyone I know about how you wronged me. I’m not even going to look at you.” Imagine.

But that’s not how Jesus is. He forgives 70 x 7 (Matthew 18:21-22). He says love your enemies (Matthew 5:44). He says we are to love one another (John 13:34).

The Bible is filled with good advice about forgiveness…and all that wisdom is easy to forget about when we are mad. Put away the anger. Draw life from His Word.

Here’s a link to: Who You Are. I adore the lyrics.

Enjoy.

Peace,

Glenna

I HAD NO IDEA

This week I have been reading the book Heaven Is For Real.  I’m reading it because the Burpo family (who the story is about) is going to visit our church in a few weeks. 

For a couple years now, friends have suggested I read Heaven Is For Real, but I have resisted.  I’ve said things like, “No thanks.  I don’t want to cry” or “I don’t want to read something that will make me sad especially if it is about a child who goes to heaven”–even if the child comes back to earth I feared that might be more than I could handle.

But now the Burpos are coming to town.  So I read it.  And it was eye-opening.

Most noteworthy for me is the multiple rainbows that Colton Burpo saw in heaven and the book’s reference to Revelation 21:19-20 where the rainbow colors of heaven are described.

Rainbows in heaven?  –How did I miss that all these years?!  I’ve heard about gold and pearly gates (the very next verse!  Revelation 21:21), but I missed the rainbows.  And how did I write and publish a book referencing a rainbow bed in heaven 3-4 years ago without knowing this Bible fact? 

I certainly knew about a rainbow in the Noah’s Ark story, but I did not know about rainbows in heaven.  –I probably should note here that another book I’ve been avoiding is the book of Revelation!  I need to get over that avoidance issue too, but ever since I saw the movie A Thief In the Night at way too early of an age (parents, don’t scare your children!) I have not felt the need to read the last chapter of the Bible.  We all have issues of some kind, amen?  Now you know a couple of mine.

In 2008 our kindergartener told us not to worry because his mamaw/my mom who passed away is sleeping on a rainbow bed.  I found his words to be very comforting in our time of grief.

So comforting that I wrote a book about it.  His perspective was sweet.  Kind.  Helpful.

And now?!  Now I’m still comforted, but I’m wondering what did our 5 year old son see back then?  What was happening in his line of sight?  I’m beginning to understand that the eyes of a child see more than we grown ups can imagine. 

Let’s listen carefully to those young minds who are open to the world and perhaps open to the blessings of heaven too.

Peace,

Glenna

Books:  Heaven Is For Real, Rainbow Bed:  a child’s perspective on coping with grief

PRECIOUS VIDEOS

I’ve learned not to be surprised by irony in life.  In fact, I welcome it.  How about you?  If I’m aware enough to notice when it happens, then I raise an eyebrow to God and ask, “Is this ironic thing something you are using to get my attention?”

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a writer.  Harriet the Spy was one of my childhood heroes because she walks around writing in a notebook.  As a child I walked around with notebooks too–and I still do today!  The desire to write and publish books has grown in my soul since I learned to read and write.

The first book I had the courage to complete was about caregiving and grief.  After years of wanting to complete and publish any of my writing ideas, it was grief that fueled my fire to finally finish a writing project.  Rainbow Bed:  a child’s perspective on coping with grief (2009) was a labor of love inspired by how one of our children dealt with the caregiving and death of my mother. 

That was a dark and painful time for our whole family.  Not only did we lose my mom, but we also lost my sister-in-law just 5 weeks later.  Sadness swallowed us whole it seemed.  Since that time, most of our darkness has lifted.  We all have needed time to adjust to our “new normal”.  Rainbow Bed:  a child’s perspective on coping with grief is one of the projects that helped me through the hurdles of grieving.

Flash forward to 2012.  I have been meaning to download and organize family videos.  Anyone else overwhelmed by how to do that?  I keep hoping that the video recorder will hold up until I figure out a good system.  Meanwhile, I’ve been taking videos of school events and holidays year after year.

Often while recording school events I have a nagging feeling that I might not be the only parent in the room who would want copies of my videos someday.  I brush off those thoughts, but keep the camera rolling.  Who would want my footage?  And how often will even I look at these videos when my own kids are grown?!  Most of my zoom is focused on my children, but I take the time to scan the crowd of kids involved–just in case.

This summer one of Ben’s classmates died as a result of a horrible car accident; Grace, 10 years old, a precious, kind, amazing sweet girl.  I have given her mom space, but also sent encouraging notes occasionally–mostly to simply say “you’re in my thoughts and prayers”–because c’mon, what words could I possibly say to this dear mother who has suffered so much?  Encouragement is a fine line when tragedy happens.  Choose words carefully, I tell myself.  Let people know you care, but be wise and pray about what words to say and what words not to say.

But I’ve been thinking about those videos more and more wondering if Grace’s mom would like copies of events K through 4th grade.  Of course, that would mean I’d have to start organizing those videos I’ve been avoiding! 

I can’t imagine the pain their family has endured.  I didn’t bring up the videos to Grace’s mom, but then the door opened.  I received a text from her saying that they have one video of Grace, a clip taken by her younger brother.  That was one of those ironic moments.  I barely whispered to God, “Guess you want me to mention those videos, huh?”

So I did.  And she wants them.  Today, another parallel day with grief, I finally worked on organizing my videos, downloading precious moments in-between time working on this new blog.  I’ve cried while watching Grace and Ben run around in their kindergarten gym class, sobbed in contrast to their class singing happy songs like America the Beautiful and Fifty Nifty.  And, seriously, Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA sung by third graders was never fair from the first time.  I cried at the original performance.

In a few moments I will drop off 5 DVDs to Grace’s mom, a woman who found the courage to raise her hand in praise during her own daughter’s funeral when no one in the rest of the room could.  Could I do that?  I pray I never know.   

I wonder if children in our community receive a little more patience and love from their parents who know about Grace’s story.  I know that is the case in my home.  The opportunity to hug my children is extremely valuable. 

I’m glad today was a day to finally tackle projects like precious videos and creating a blog.

Blessings to you and your family,

Glenna

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