Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Can We Really Go Back?

I participated a few weeks ago in a worship service at my home church with the church family that helped shape me into who I am today.  I was invited by a former Minister of Music to play the piano for the congregational singing and to accompany a small ensemble.  I was delighted and honored to be asked.  I found it amusing though that I would be asked since this was a reunion of the youth group from the 60's.  I was born in 1962.  But I knew why and was thrilled to be asked. It was because of the influence that these youth had on my life growing up and the influence that my parents had on their lives. 

My parents were lay youth leaders in our church and hosted many youth fellowships in our home and at our lake house.  My dad probably taught just about every youth that came through to water ski behind his boat as well as many adults.  Many of the people that day spoke about my mom and dad and the influence they had on them. My dad loved Jesus and he shared Him with anyone who would listen.  He and mom especially loved young people.  They taught Sunday School for years. The legacy they have left for my sister and me is priceless.  It makes me proud, that even so many years after my dad's death, that my parents are still remembered so fondly and appreciated for the influence they were on so many of their lives.

When I think through those precious memories, I think of all of the fun those kids had, the smiles, the laughter. I got to see and experience that because they were in and out of my house constantly. They not only came for fun though, they also came for wise counsel.  I remember the defining moments when they graduated from high school, their marriages, and some of them having children.  Then some moved away, and some stayed around.  But they all grew up while I was still growing up.  Some of them went into the Ministry.  Some became preachers, some Ministers of Music.  Others became Church musicians, and some Church lay leaders.  What was really special about this day was to see that Jesus wasn't just someone that they learned about during those years, but Someone who has truly transformed their lives. 

Many of the adults that were there in the 60's are still there today and even some of the youth I grew up with are now there as adults.  Some have moved on to other churches or even on to Glory!  Many of those adults had a great impact on my life and the lives of these youth. They are in their 70's, 80's and even 90's.  I will be forever grateful for those who have impacted my life by rocking me in the nursery, teaching me in Sunday School, Discipleship, GA's, Acteens, Sonbeams, choir, youth group, etc... THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!

But can we really go back?  Sure we can physically go back to places where we grew up, went to school, our homes,...but we can never become again who we were then.  We've moved on. We've grown up.  We've experienced more of life with the challenges and successes that have shaped us into the people we are today.  We'll never be that youth of the past, but that youth of the past is still a part of who we are and influences our thinking and living today. 

Why did I go back?  I wanted to see people who love me and whom I love.  I wanted to see if any of the youth I knew so long ago had grey hair now. HA!  I wanted to worship as an adult with the people who I watched worship as a child.  I wanted to help usher them into the presence of Jesus through my playing the piano because of their allowing me to play in church services as a kid.  If it hadn't been for this family of believers, I don't know how I would have learned so much about Jesus, His Word, and about myself.  They were my extended family.  A huge part of our family.  They welcomed me with opened arms when mom and dad adopted me.  Over 80 people came to see me that first day and mom says I never cried but just smiled for each one.  That's why I went back.  To give back.  To thank them for the investment they made in my life. To see some of them probably for the last time.  I needed to see them- one more time.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for designing Your Church.  We need each other no matter where we are or where we go.  Because of You, Lord Jesus, we can love each other because You first loved us.  I thank You for this opportunity to go back and to give back to these precious people.  Thank You for allowing them to be a part of my childhood, my memories and my family.  Amen.

My Pleasure,
Melanie


   

Think it on Sunday, Write it on Monday, Post it on Tuesday!

On Sunday we continued our sermon series called "Jesus Is...".  Our pastor is teaching through the book of John this year.  Yes, you understood correctly.  He will be teaching the book of John all of 2012.  It's very exciting to take one of God's love letters and read it and reread it with a heart of desire that wants to know Him deeply. Savoring each word as it's seasoned with truth, and then allowing that truth to digest slowly, we anticipate each morsel, seeking to absorb all that we can. There's so much being told about Christ as we trace the pen of John.


This week we looked at John 1:19-34.  The verse that stuck with me the most was verse 29 when John sees Jesus coming toward him and he says, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." The revelation that I came away with was grasping the fact that John the Baptist got to introduce Jesus to the world.  He announced Jesus' arrival saying, "Behold! The Lamb of God." That struck me this week differently than any other time I've read it or heard it.  What a privilege. John introduced our Savior to His own creation.  Wow!  It makes me think of when the King and Queen are being announced as they arrive at the ball.  As each guest, with great anticipation, waits at the bottom of the winding staircase in the ballroom, the excitement builds as the King's arrival draws near.  Jesus, the Lamb who would be slain, was the One whom they had so long awaited.  He had just arrived to begin His ministry, though not at the top of a winding staircase, but near the Jordan River, away from town. His servant John, who had been baptizing in the river, announces to the crowd, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!"  It just gives me chills.  But what was even more fascinating to me was the realization that I have the same announcement to make as His servant today and every day that God allows me another breath.  "Behold, the Son of God has arrived!"  Everything I do and say should be fulfilling that purpose -to point the way to Jesus Christ.  All of us, who are Christians, have the same purpose and privilege that John the Baptist had.  He was just the first to proclaim it.  Now Jesus has called us to proclaim Him as well!   When Jesus arrives again, it will be to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The trumpets will sound the announcement of His final arrival. "Behold, Jesus Christ!" He will be forevermore in His new position on the throne, and we will reign with Him for all eternity.

If you can take the time, click on the video below and worship Jesus today!

My Pleasure,
Melanie
                    

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mom's World, a New Chapter

The next chapter has begun.  Last Thursday, Rick and I spent most of the day helping to place mom's furniture in her new room, hanging the curtains, making her bed and organizing her closet.  As we were emptying some drawers in her old apartment, mom came in from the dining room.  I was afraid that she might get aggitated and wonder what we were doing in her stuff.  But, to my suprise, she said, "This is my first day here!"  What was so strange is she is standing in her villa; the room she has lived in for the past 6 years ,not the dementia unit where her new room is being set up.  She was smiling and looked excited.  I asked her how she was and she said she loved it.  She also said, "And the best part is I don't have to wash any dishes."  She laughed!  What a transformation from Sunday to Thursday.  She has now lost the past 6 years of memory and she is just going with the flow.  It's  all fresh and new for her.  Thank you, Lord.

On Friday, my sister and I went to give some gifts to her former care givers and let them know how much we have appreciated what they have done for our mother and for us. We also cleaned out a little of the stuff in her villa and took some things over that mom would need.  As we walked into the VISTA (the dementia unit), mom was asleep at the dining table. She popped right up when we addressed her.  She even introduced me and my sister as her 2 girls to the ladies at the table with her.  Wow.  She hasn't been that assured of who we are in a while.  What a turn around.  She was very content and seemed very happy.

That night I got a call from the care supervisor and she told me that mom had gone to play BINGO in the other area of the building that day.  She told them that she couldn't stay there long because her room was in the other area.  They said, "Ok, Mrs. Junelle."  When it was time to go back to her area she began walking toward the wrong door.  She was headed for the door that leads out to the parking lot.  One of the assistants said, "No, Mrs. Junelle.  We go this way."  Mom said, "Well, it says "EXIT".  They all got a buzz out of her and the care supervisor splitting her sides on the other end of the phone.  She said that when they pointed my mom in the right direction she went on her merry way to her new room.  Sounds like my mom is back to her funny self, but without the past six years in her memory.  I'm sure there will be more to add later, but for now this new chapter has started well.

Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank you for taking care of our mom and this new move in her life.  We couldn't be more thrilled with the way things have gone.  You are so good and we praise You for your provision for mom.  Please continue to watch over her and her care givers.  Help us to continue to honor her and take care of her in the best way possible.  She has been a wonderful mother to me and my sister.  Even though she didn't birth us physically, she is the epitomy of what a mother should be!  She has loved us, provided for us, gave up a career to raise us, and most importantly, she, along with our dad, taught us about You.  They both gave us themselves and that's the best image of Your love anyone could ever mirror! AMEN!

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Drifting Further Away- My Mom's World

The beginning of 2012 has been a whirwind of a ride with my mom.  January 1, 2012, a trip to the emergency room and on to a hospital room.  Five days later, she is moved to "skilled" care at her campus of assisted living.  Yesterday, almost two weeks later, she is moved back to her apartment in the assisted living area.  Three major moves-each change moves my mom another step away and deeper into her world; the world of Dementia.

This morning we had a care plan meeting to reevaluate her situation and yes, we are making another move tomorrow- to the Dementia Unit.  This was not how I thought my day would go, but my sister and I agreed this would be the best and safest decision for her now.  I've gone and bought a bed, new comforter set, pillows, sheets, a curtain rod, and a curtain for her new room.  Decorating makes me feel like I'm really helping her even though I know she isn't really aware of what's taking place. 

The staff in this new facility seems nice and a few of them already know mom since she has lived on campus for six years.  I'm not worried about her care, just saddened that she may have drifted further away never to return to the point where she knows me, Michelle, Richard, Rick or my children.  She asked me this morning where her children were.  On the outside she appears to be better, but deep inside she is still searching for that "happy" place- one where she feels safe, comfortable, and knows where she is.  Right now, I think she is still floundering and doesn't know where to land.  Hopefully, in this new, safe and smaller enviornment she will adjust and settle into a "happy" place.  That's my prayer for her.

It seems to me that God has been preparing us for this move since Christmas.  Since we probably aren't ready to let go all together yet, God is allowing us to grieve in stages.  With every step away, it's like we grieve a portion of her that we don't have anymore.  After dad died, she drifted, and we grieved for her and for him.  That's where she has been happy for the past 6 years.  Over the past several months, we've watched her struggle with her memory.  She caught herself as she was telling our adoption story when she asked my son if he remembered when we adopted my sister.  Before she finished her question, something told her that wasn't right and she dropped the story altogether. I've watched her try to figure out who I am at times.  I grieved.  Now as she has drifted even further away we're grieving some more.  This may sound strange, but God is good like that.  He is taking her to be with Him eventually, but He's taking her in stages and maybe that's for our benefit and not necessarily for hers.  It's hard to watch her drift, but we still have her with us and that's a blessing!

Tomorrow begins a new chapter.  I don't know how she will adjust to her new environnment, but I believe we're making the best decision possible at this time.  It's been a journey that we have no map for, but around every turn I know our Lord is with us and will walk with us the whole way through.  That's what faith and trust is all about.  If we claim Him as our Lord and Savior, then we put our trust totally in Him.  She's in His hands and that's the safest place to be!

"For we walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dementia, My Mother's World

Happy New Year!  7:30 am.  Just getting ready to roll out of bed, shower, and prepare for church when.....RING!  The telephone is ringing on New Year's Day at 7:30 am.  On the other end is the nurse where my mother lives in an assisted living community.  "I wanted to let you know that we have sent your mother, by ambulance, to Lexington Medical Center.  We found her in the floor and she could barely tell us what her name was.  She was showing symptoms of a stroke so we felt it best that she go to the emergency room."  I asked a few questions and agreed that they made the right decision. I called our Minister of Music to let him know I would not be at church to play the piano for worship.  Happy New Year.

When I arrived at the hospital, my mom was asleep.  The EKG, blood pressure cuff, and IV had all been attached to her frail little body.  She looked peaceful enough, but I had no idea what was wrong or what the prognosis was.  The nurses were great and the doctor was very thorough.  After a CAT scan, pelvis x-ray, chest x-ray, and a urine analysis, it was determined that she did not have a stroke.  The urine test though showed that she had a severe Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).  She was also running a high fever.  UTIs and other infections can really mess with a person's mind, especially if she has dementia.  Every time my mother gets sick, her dementia worsens, at least for a while. 

Because her short-term memory is completely gone, mom didn't know where she was or why she was at the hospital.  Her speech was still a little slurred and she was still so confused.  But through it all, she was still cooperative, didn't complain, and was her sweet little self.  What a tremendous blessing that my mom's world is still, for the most part, a content and happy one.

She stayed in the hospital for 5 days and then was transferred to the skilled/rehab facility on her campus where she lives.  She has been gaining her strength back and working hard in physical therapy.  Still not knowing where she is, telling the nurses occasionally, "I'm in the wrong room!", and wandering some, she is STILL content and cooperative for the most part.  She has had one anxiety attack which was brief where her oxygen level dropped, but she is going back to "her room" on Tuesday! 

My dad passed away six years ago, shortly after we moved my parents to the assisted living community. Once my dad passed, it was like that chapter in her life came to a close.  She still knows about him and has good memories, but my mom doesn't speak of him often except to say on occasion, "That Mahlon was a good guy.  I really miss him."  Lately, though, she seems to just sleep a lot, eat when it's meal time, and share mine and my sister's adoption story every chance she gets.  If you visit long enough, you could possibly hear it several times.

This morning around 7:30 am, I received a phone call from her nurse saying that she (my mom) was trying to call my dad on the telephone.  The nurse wasn't aware that my dad had passed away 6 years ago, and when I told her that, she said she was so sorry.  She asked me if I wanted to speak to my mom and I said, "Sure."  Mom got on the phone and said, "What is Mahlon's telephone number?"  I told her our old home number and she said, "Seems like I could remember that."  Well, that seemed to satisfy her and the nurse didn't call back. 

I've learned through my experience with my mom and watching her function in this strange world called dementia, that the best way to deal with it is to enter into it with her.  If she thinks she is in the wrong room, then comfort her by telling her she will be in her room soon.  If she wants to call my dad, give her the phone number.  If she thinks she's already had lunch, don't argue, just go with the flow.  The dementia world is one of fear.  They aren't sure where they are, who the people are around them, and what is going on. Arguing with them to get them to understand something that they can't figure out just frustrates them even more.  If they're not comforted immediately, it can also make them angry and push them further into their unknown world.  As a result, the person arguing with them becomes frustrated and even hurt because this person that they love is not behaving like the person they have known for most of their lifetime.  "Why is my mother speaking to me this way?  What have I done to make her so angry?"  NOTHING- absolutely nothing.  They are reacting to the fear inside of them and much of the time they are trying to compensate for their lack of memory and cover up that they are really scared.  Compassion is the key.  Soft voice.  Don't get into an argument with them and whatever you do, don't walk out on them.  They need you even if they think they don't. 

In my mother's case, she can't remember anything once you have spoken about it.  When I say her short term memory is gone, that's exactly what I mean. I explain it this way.  It's like her memory card is full and she can't retain anymore information. It's hard for some people to grasp, but literally 2 seconds after we've discussed something, she doesn't even remember the conversation. She cannot process any more data. My best illustration of this is when we celebrated Christmas a year ago. My brother-in-law told my mom on their way out the door that she must have been good this year to get all of those presents.  My mom said, "Did we open presents?"  We had just completed opening presents 10 minutes earlier and she couldn't remember it.  The bright side was that she could go back to her apartment and experience the joy of each present all over again because she didn't remember.

                                    Me, Mom, and my sister, Michelle on Christmas Day 2010

My mom's dementia world- one where there is no concept of time or a calendar, occasionally fearful, alone, confused, but mostly happy and content. Don't fight their world. Enter into it gently and compassionately. Comfort your loved one the best you can. Remember every moment is just that- a moment where much of the time it is filled with uncertainty and doubt.

This is much like our world even when we live in reality.  Don't we function much of the time in uncertainty and doubt?  It's a scary and lonely place to be.  But as Christians, we don't have to function that way.  We have a Savior, Jesus Christ, that we place our complete hope and trust in.  We never have to doubt.  We just have to trust Him to take care of us and to do what's best for us.  Even when we don't understand why or what is happening in the moment, we can lean on Jesus and not be afraid.  He came into this world and conquered the greatest fear of all- death!  He is full of compassion, love, mercy and grace.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths."  Proverb 3:5-6
                                          
 My Pleasure,
Melanie

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Blog!

Why in the world would I want to create a new blog when I already had one?  Well, it's called "been hacked"!  My email address was hacked before Christmas and my password was changed.  Now I can no longer blog on my other blog site.  So here I am, back in the seat again, inviting you to come along with me on the journey that God has designed for me to walk. Experience life with me as we discover the pleasures He has for us- His pleasures forevermore. 

"You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."  Psalm 16:11 NKJV

My Pleasure,
Melanie