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

Resting Face Fix

We sat on the 52nd floor of Prudential Tower inside the Top of the Hub restaurant.  It was the last evening of a week-long training in Boston, Massachusetts.  The city lights twinkled in the night-time landscape.  My female co-worker’s fork froze midair ascent when he said it.

His name was Alan.  I had stored him in my contacts as Al from Nashville–met 2012.

Among the dark wood finishes and fresh flowers, we had a deep conversation about youth led substance abuse prevention and teen empowerment.  With intrigue and conviction, he points to me, “You are smarter than I thought you were.”  I am silent, then he continues, “Looking at your face this week I didn’t know you were this intelligent.”

Huh.

Now…I may suspect this was a moment of unconscious bias toward females in his life.  It could be.  But I chose to own my piece of it quietly because this was the fourth time in my adult life that something like this was said to me.  Four felt like a theme.  Even if the score is three males to one female who said something similar over the years, it is still a theme.  I’ve been back burner simmer thinking about this subject matter for a while.

Fast forward to 2018 when I’m getting ready to leave for a writer’s conference.  On my list to discuss with my Masterminds group was:  My Resting Face Problem.  I filled in the 4 women team on the issue.  They offered quality meeting people for the first-time guidelines.  Then we came up with the idea to have specific words in mind all week that would hopefully project on my face in the quiet times, walking around campus times, and all times.  They suggested I come up with 3-4 words.

Strategy Words So, I did just that.  During the drive I committed that the following words would be on my face while in public always:  welcoming, kindness, humble, confidence.  Each time I left my room I looked in the mirror and said those words.

Then a metaphoric resting face earthquake happened not 24 hours into the conference.  I received a punch you in the stomach kind of phone call from home.  The call was about work, co-workers and children I care about immensely.  It was a blind side and news of a likely short-sighted decision that could roll down hill in a painful way.  I turned my face toward the nearest wall because I felt the strategy words slide right off my face.

I quickly prayed for many things and did my best to acknowledge gratitude that no one was physically bleeding or worse at home.  I was minutes away from the next meeting with a literary agent.  Turning toward a wall may have morphed into bouncing off walls because someone noticed.  I strained for composure when the sweetest person scooped me up.  Her name is Janine Rosche.  This dear sister sized me up in less than 2 minutes and asked if she could pray me over the hurdle.  Uh, yes please, Jesus take the wheel, I’m thinking.  She prayed me from brain implosion WHAT!? to calm.  I am forever grateful.  She is a Christian Romance writer.  Her blog is JanineRosche.com.  [I will buy anything she writes–hear that publishers?!]

The shakeup was Monday.  I carried on prayerfully the rest of the week.  Mostly I could focus, but I felt my body stress while in a new situation and it hurt to know people were hurting at home.  Resting face words became even more important because I used thinking about the words to center myself each day.  I needed to remember who I am and why I was there.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday hummed along and I enjoyed connecting with people and learning.  Thursday afternoon I sat down before the long drive home to care for some business deadlines and emails.  The covered patio overlooking a pond was a comfort.  I knew I’d feel better if I knocked out the work rather than pause at rest stops looking for wi-fi.

So help me, the phone rings and during the call I hear another piece of work information that sours my stomach.  People can be cruel.  The details don’t matter, but it was a problem that led me to be concerned whether I could handle driving 6 hours home.

Most conference attendees were already gone.  The campus was quiet.  Along comes a husband and wife team from Alabama that I had met earlier in the week.  They run a marriage ministry.  They stopped to say hello.  I explained that I was concerned about making the drive.  They asked if they could pray for me.  Yes, please.  

And then the full circle moment zapped my heart.

This is a clip from their prayer:

“….Lord, every time we’ve seen Glenna this week her face is a welcoming face, a kind face.  She is weary right now before the drive, but we ask you restore her confidence that we know is in her.  We thank you for the humble spirit we’ve sensed from her all week….”

I almost fell to the ground.

God is good.  God looks out for us and all of our struggles.  He even helps with resting face fixes!

While the Bible may not talk about the term “resting face”, I do cherish the following verse because rest and God’s presence is vital through the ups and downs of life.  In our facial expressions God can give us rest and focus.  In our struggles the greatest theme above any of our own life themes is the fact that God can weave the words and people we need into our current challenge.  We have His presence and we have His kind of rest available.  He will go with us.

And he said, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.”  Exodus 33:14  NKJV

Glenna

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

 

GRATITUDE WALK

Sometimes I focus too much on challenges ahead or on things I want to happen. While I’m all for big goals and dreams, my mind and body slows down or trips over my bigger dream when I should focus on what I can accomplish today. What task can I do today that will ultimately help get me closer to the dream I seek?

Am I anxious and worried about what I haven’t done yet instead of relaxing and working on the tasks at hand? Do I do nothing when I could be doing something? Occasionally I shut down when I should get busy. And sometimes fear leads me to work on the less important tasks instead of focusing on what I know must be priority.

One calming exercise for me is to take a Gratitude Walk around the house (or anywhere). I thank God for things like laundry detergent, clothes, heat, family, pets, food, a quality vacuum cleaner, etc. You name it, there is so much to be thankful for.

Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Once I give thanks, I make my to-do list. I ask God to help me complete what can be done today and He can take care of the big goal in His time. Then it’s my turn to get busy.

Don’t let your mind or anxiety slow you down. Greater things are yet to come…one grateful step at a time.

Glenna

ASK GOD; THE STORY OF MY FLIGHT WITH DAVID

Last week I was blessed to go to a conference out of town.  The conference was incredible; however, the two flights on the way to Boston were “eventful”.

Flight One:  The couple sitting next to me vomited into a cup the whole flight.  Gross.  They had to get replacement cups a couple of times.  Yep.  Yuck.  Thoughts of movies like Contagion came to mind.  The row of people in front of me was obviously sick with colds.  Snot, sneezing, watery eyes. 

Are you still with me?  I wouldn’t blame you for running.  At the time I wanted to run too, but there was nowhere to go!  Every seat was full. 

Flight Two:  The pilot announced that we had a mechanical.  We sat at the gate on another full flight for 40 minutes until the issue was resolved and the flying part of the flight began.  On this flight I sat next to a man who looked like he may have had a rough life so far, but he is not puking or sneezing so I’m good to go, I thought.  His rosy face looked like someone who might have issues with alcohol and I may have smelled similar indicators.  I cautioned myself not to judge.  He seemed quiet and I imagined we would get along swell in the serenity of our silence.

Until he was no longer quiet. 

I was playing a game of chess on my Nook® when he observed my (lack of) chess skills.  Side note:  I have not won a chess game against our 10 year old for over 10 months.  My seat buddy began to provide several chess tips that I plan to try at home.

And then he began to share stories from his life–a lot of stories.

I should point out that I really do enjoy hearing stories from people.  I believe that every story counts and is interesting.  I like to listen.  I liked listening to him.

But there are moments when you meet a talkative stranger when you pause to wonder if once the faucet is running…if it will ever stop running.  You feel me?

Logically I knew the flight would end one way or another, but I was in stranger land and there were many acres to hear about.  The more comfortable he became, the closer he was to me and occasionally he would rub my arm.  Meanwhile, spit flew from his mouth several times to land mostly on my arm.

I felt that uneasy trapped feeling.  That’s when the thought entered my mind you better ask God what to do with this situation

So I did:  God, what do you want me to do?  What does this man need from me?

My immediate reply thoughts which may have been answers straight from above were:  He is lonely.  Encourage him.  And my next thought was And somehow tell him that God is there for him and he should–if he feels he needs to–catch up on his relationship with God.

Oh, man.  My throat gets dry and my stomach nervous when I feel the need to mention God to a total stranger!

The life stories played on.  He used to own a title agency and lost his business.  When he was a kid his family moved around a lot.  He currently does not have a home.  He flies to work for a couple weeks for a car promotion company and then returns to crash on various friends’ couches.  He lived in Florida for a while, but has decided he no longer is a fan of the state.  He was picked up for a crime he didn’t commit and spent time in jail.  Before going to jail he spent five awful days in a prison van picking up other prisoners.  He never had kids, but wishes he had.  I could go on….

I was at a loss for words until the pilot asked us to prepare for landing.  I asked my stranger friend, “What is your name?”

He said, “David.”

“Ohhh,” I replied and shared my name too.

“Nice to meet you,” David said.

I shared, “You know…in the Bible, David reinvented himself several times.  He wasn’t just about killing the giant and then life was peachy.  David endured a lot.  He made mistakes.  He bounced back.”

David’s eyes seemed to brighten.  “I forgot about that.  You’re right.”

“I bet you’re in the middle of reinventing yourself too.  Correct?”

“Yes.  I am.  But I’ve been away from God for a long time.  I’ve been thinking about getting back in touch with God and maybe going to church.”

“Good for you,” I agreed.  “God is just a prayer away.  He’s here for you today.  And you’re wise about church–that would be a good place for fellowship and to grow in wisdom.”

Before we left the plane, David determined that he would reconnect with God and with a church he had been thinking about going to visit. 

David also stated that he had been wishing for encouragement that day.

You never know who you’ll meet any given day.  And how many times do we not know what to say? 

I’m going to ask God more often what to do.

I do not have all the answers, but I know who does.

Love,

Glenna