Peace Wrapping Around Us

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

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I’ve been wearing my mom’s socks; it makes me feel close to her. It is one of the ways I am navigating through grief these days and finding moments of peace during the Advent Season.

I’ve also been seeing her in my dreams. she usually doesn’t say anything; she’s not even necessarily a main part of the dream and I don’t remember all the details. it’s like watching a movie and there are people walking down the street or in the background. you see them but they’re not part of the main movie.

When she does show up in my dreams she looks like she did in her fifties. She’s dressed stylishly with her hair pulled back and she’s walking with confidence and purpose. She looks happy and peaceful.It’s seeing her like she was before the Alzheimer’s. I think these are little gifts that God has been giving me to reassure me that all is well. To remind me that she is whole now and complete in him. I still miss her terribly but I wouldn’t bring her back even if I could.  She’s dancing with Jesus and I would not take that away from her.

A few nights ago the funeral home that handled her arrangements hosted a memorial service for those who had lost loved ones this year. It was a sweet simple service that began with singing Joy to the world, followed by a message that allowed us to acknowledge our grief and accept it while encouraging us to find comfort and peace in laying our grief at the feet of Jesus.

The service ended with the song I can only imagine. When they sang the line about dancing or standing in awe I told my husband and father that I’m sure mom was dancing for Jesus. She was full of life and laughter and even in the most horrible ravages of Alzheimer’s that still Shone through.

Sitting in the sanctuary of the local Baptist Church hearing the scriptures read, listening to the words so aptly spoken, hearing the songs of worship, I began to notice that there was such a sweet spirit of peace wrapping around us. It was a peace brought on by the presence of the Lord among us but also a peace brought on by the collective grief of those present and the knowledge that we are all walking the same journey.

Even though our grief manifests itself in various ways it is still a common thread that binds us together. We know how the others feel and we know that God is our only peace.

I am thankful for that service and the reminder that it gives to me during this season of celebration.

A reminder that even in our grief we can still celebrate happy times, we can embrace our loved ones, live life fully and honor those we have lost by remembering them and making room for the grief. Joy and sorrow are not an either-or choice; they are allowed to reside together in our hearts and bring us peace and comfort.

whatever grief you are feeling during this season of Advent I pray you are leaving your heart open to be filled with God’s peace.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)
Grace for the journey,
Teresa
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Prompted By Minnie Pearl

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Today’s post is Part of a 31 Day writing series where I choose moments from my life and let them be my writing prompt for the day. Earlier today, during a conversation with my mother, she brought up the straw hat with a dangling price tag, wearing Minnie Pearl.  She tells me she could be the next Minnie Pearl.  I have heard this for years.  

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floralstrawhatHowwwwwwwwwdee!  So, my mom keeps telling me she could be Minnie Pearl.  We’ll be having a conversation in which she’ll say something funny that causes us to laugh. Then, Inevitably, she’ll comment, “I believe I could be…oh, what’s her name…she’s dead isn’t she”? I’ll say, “Minnie Pearl”? She’ll say “yeah, I could be her.”

 

She has actually told me this for years, well before the Alzheimer’s set in.  I find it comforting that of all the memories she is losing, she still retains the one about being Minnie Pearl.  That may not seem significant or even normal, but somehow for us, it is.

I wonder just what it is about Minnie Pearl that my mom identifies with.  Is it the clean humor? The infamous price tag? The clarion “Howdy”? The “I’m so Proud to be Here”? Is it an ideal? Does it remind her of a simpler time?  I think it is a combination of all these and I think it’s as much the person (interview at 2:45 on the video) behind the persona as it is the character.

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Minnie Pearl gave us permission to laugh at ourselves.  She gave us permission to embrace our imperfections.  She graced us with the hallmark of simple, everyday life that aspired to live above the muck. Minnie Pearl, simply put, made us okay with being us. I think we can all relate to the human foibles she kindly poked fun at, that propel us through life.

The clear take away for me is a reminder to be me and not to take me so seriously. Enjoy life and quit trying to attain a perfection that was never meant to be mine. I think that is a lesson that my mom has learned through life events. She has learned to let go of perfect; she has learned to laugh at herself.  She has embraced an ordinary, everyday life with grace,character, strength, strong moral values, compassion and humor.  She has laced life with the gift of laughter.

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Even now, with Alzheimer’s she knows the value of a good belly laugh and it’s power to heal.  She knows the value of not taking yourself too seriously. She knows the value of a well placed “Howwwwwwwdee, I’m so glad to be here.”

Leaving you with a grace-filled Howwwwwwdee,

Teresa

 

 

Love Bears All

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“How much do I owe you?” she said.  She kept repeating it several times.  Each time I assured her that she didn’t owe me anything.  I assured her that I had helped her because I loved her, not because I wanted anything.  I think she knew she didn’t owe me, as we have always joked in our family about “sending the bill”, but still a small part of her seemed to feel the need to offer.  I think it was because she was grateful.

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Grateful that I helped her bathe.  I don’t do it to be noble or garner praise.  I do it because somebody has too.  It’s not my natural inclination to bathe others, or help them to the bathroom or with whatever personal needs they need met.  I mistakenly entered a nursing program when I was 18.  How naive of me.  I lasted until mid-October.  When our instructor told us that the next semester we’d be giving shots that was the last straw for me.  That was my aha moment that I was not meant to be a caregiver.  I mean, the bed baths and the perverted old man had been a clue, but the shots just pushed me over the edge.  So, I’m a nursing school drop-out.

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She made me pay for that.  Not to be mean, but to teach me a lesson.  Uniforms, shoes, stethoscopes etc are expensive and I had entered into a noble profession lightly, without much thought, other than the memory of the cute lab techs I’d witnessed when my grandfather was in the hospital a few months earlier.  I mean decisions have probably been made for worse reasons, but really.  As I said, I was very naive at 18.  And such a romantic.  So, I worked at babysitting and paid back some of the money to my mom who had worked hard as a school lunch lady to help me.  Thankfully, she was able to use the uniforms and shoes as this was in the days when school lunch ladies wore white uniforms.

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This sense of making things right and being responsible still lurks around the fringes of her current state of dementia.  She needed to tell me that what I’d done was worth something to her.  She compliments me whenever I do something to help her and tells me that others would be glad to have someone do the same for them. She tells me I could probably get other’s to pay for my services.  I patiently explain to her that  I am not certified to do these things for pay.  Nor, would I want to.

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She is always grateful and even though there is a vulnerability in letting me help her, she does so because she trusts me and because she knows she needs my help.  It is hard for her to give up her independence, she who has always been the caregiver, always the one to meet the need.  It is hard for me to see her lose that independence, to realize that she doesn’t remember to bathe, or lotion her skin, or brush her teeth, all those little things that we take for granted and do habitually.  She is still particular and loves to be clean, she just doesn’t realize when she isn’t.  So, I remind her as gently as I can that it’s shampoo time.  I help her in as practical a way as I can because I know she wants to be as normal as possible. It is a humbling experience to be given that kind of trust.  Especially, from one who has always been so independent.

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So today, when she yet again asked what she owed me, I tried to make her see that she was the reason I was able to do these things for her.  Over the years I have watched her take care of others; it is her love language.  No job too dirty.  She has wiped many a dirty bottom and washed many a dirty feet.  She never sees the dirty part of the job. She just sees the need; her compassion and love for others compels her to act in loving service to them.  By watching her in action, I have seen that love bears all things.  Love takes care of the dirty. Even though it doesn’t come natural to me, I am able to act with compassion because her example taught me how.

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Love is a wonderful thing when we let it drive our actions.  It will take us out of our comfort zone into places we never thought we’d be capable of inhabiting.  When we remember the price love paid for us, it enables us to show that same kind of love to others. Especially to others.

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Loving Because of Grace,

Teresa

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A Handful of Change

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Yesterday I had a day out with my sister.  We took some items to the booth space I share with my father at an Antique Mall (more about that later), we shopped and then we went to my favorite local Italian restaurant for lunch.  It was great as usual.  We were stuffed.

As I was getting in my car a man approached me and wanted to know if I would do him a big favor.  He seemed harmless, so I asked what he needed.  He said he had just applied for a job at the restaurant and he wanted to know if I could spare a couple of dollars so he could get something to eat.  I rarely ever carry cash.  I explained to him that I didn’t have cash that I’d had to use my card to pay for lunch.

As he was turning to walk away, I remembered that we usually dump change in the console between our seats, so I looked and sure enough there was some change.  I called him back and said I have change I can give you.  I started counting out the quarters.  When I got to a dollar and fifty cents, I realized there was no need to count out the change, just give it to him.  So I picked up a couple of handfuls and gave it to him and told him good luck with the job hunt.

He walked away and I looked to see if there was more change, there was, so I rolled down the window and told him I’d found more change if he wanted it.  Again, I told him good luck with the job and said “God Bless you”.  He in turned said “God Bless You”.  Then he asked my name and told me his name was William and reached out to shake my hand.  He then said, “don’t ever lose that beautiful smile”.  He was very respectful and seemed genuinely appreciative of what little bit of help I had given him.

It was a small thing to do really, but it had a profound effect on me because it reminded me not to take so much for granted. And it reminded me that sometimes God presents us with opportunities to serve and we just pass them by.  We don’t pay attention.  I could have looked the other way when I saw him coming, I could have ignored him, or I could have just let him walk away when I remembered that I had change.  Sure, he could have been scamming me, but I am choosing to believe that he wasn’t.

It was worth the little bit of change I gave him to take the chance.  I’d rather think that I helped someone in need, instead of worrying about the fact that someone may have cheated me.  I don’t miss the change, but I would have missed the opportunity to feel good down in my soul where it counts.  And I would have missed the opportunity to pray for William.  Because once he walked away, I felt that I should pray for him and when he comes to mind I will say other prayers for him.  By name.

More importantly, I would have missed the opportunity to be obedient.  The opportunity to “do unto the least of these”.  That’s really what it is all about, isn’t it? Doing unto others as Jesus would do.  Showing compassion, reaching out, being a blessing and in turn being blessed.

Opportunities abound in the world around us, both large and small.  We just need to recognize them and be willing to be the hands and feet.  “Little is much when God is in it”.  No matter how small something seems to us, it may be big to the person who is in need. A couple of dollars seems like chump change when it’s scattered in my car, but to a man who is hungry it is the burger from the restaurant down the street that slows the growl and gives him energy to try again.

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Blessings in Grace,

Sadie