Collected Tears

 

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Journal: Saturday, October 20, 2018

Today was a day of crying and praying and missing my Mom. Of all the people in the world that I can talk to and tell anything, she was always the one I could be the freest with. The one I could count on to comfort me and pray for me; to love me and forgive me when needed. So today was just a day that I really wish I could talk to her. Some days I miss her so much. I need her love, wisdom, thoughtfulness, and care. I know there will always be days like today and it won’t be easy but I know God can be my comfort. I can go to him.  I can take him my heart; I can ask for strength.  He is faithful.  He loves me even more than my mother.

I miss my Ladybug and our late night talks; our inside jokes and laughter; our trips to the Dairy Queen when we’d sneak off without telling the guys; The drives we took in the country when we were restless. I miss all of it. I love her so much. 

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.                                                               Psalm 56:8 NLT

One of the things I miss the most is talking to my Mom.  Before the Alzheimer’s took so much away from her we would talk constantly. I’d call her or she’d call me and we’d talk about everything and nothing in particular.

Even after the Alzheimer’s I’d call home, Dad would answer the phone but I’d always ask to talk to Mom.  Sometimes she’d talk a while, other times she’d have trouble with the phone. Eventually, she pretty much gave up talking on the phone.

I missed our talks even while she was still living.  There were times I’d tell her things knowing that she didn’t fully comprehend, or remember later, but at the moment she’d try to let me know all would be well.

A few months before she died we had a wonderful conversation about forgiveness.  I’d recently been short with her.  I told her that I was wrong and hadn’t treated her as kindly as I should have.  We talked about forgiveness in general and what it means and I asked her if she would forgive me.  She ever so sweetly said yes she would.  Even though she probably didn’t remember the incident in question and probably didn’t remember our conversation later, at that moment she understood my need to ask forgiveness and she sincerely, without question granted it. Much like she had several years earlier when I had needed to ask for forgiveness. (you can read about that time here)

Growing up, forgiveness always flowed freely. If Mom and I had had a particularly trying day as can sometimes happen, she always made sure before bed that all was well between us.  We would talk things out and I always knew she was there for me.  Even as a small child I remember kneeling beside her to pray about whatever was troubling me. Being the melancholy child that I was it seemed I was always needing to pray or talk about something.

That did not change as a teenager.  We had lots of adventures together.  I remember one summer or two that she spent a lot of time driving me around the countryside chasing a dream of a piano player (not Rocky, that came later) that I thought I was in love with. I also remember having many late night conversations about boys, dreams, life.  It was nothing to stay up until the crack of dawn talking. Even after I had married and moved away from home, we always had at least one all-night talk session when I’d come for visits.  Rocky and Dad would come downstairs of a morning and there we’d be still sitting on the couch.

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One of our adventures at a camp meeting in the mountains of Eastern KY during one of those summers chasing a piano player. The photo bomber also had a daughter, probably chasing the same piano player.

Later, when Rocky came on the scene I wrote her a letter telling her that I was in love and I knew he was the one.  I was in college and cell phones and Facebook didn’t exist, so you either made a long distance call or wrote a letter.  I found that letter last year when going through some of her things. She had kept it all these years. I know my Mama’s level of sentimentality and I know she hung onto that letter to mark a significant time in my life that she rejoiced in with me.

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Rocky and me the early years. Mom always said she couldn’t love him more if he was her son. The minute he came on the scene, he was family and she never let me forget that. She was always on his side. Sigh. I’m glad she loved him that fiercely.

I’ve always shared my everyday life with her.  Each new adventure, each crisis, everyday moments. It was all chronicled with her. And she never failed to cheer me on or commiserate when necessary.  Every new move she was there helping and planning with me even when it took me too far from home.  She never tried to hold me back, but always rejoiced at each new opportunity.

She did tell me, as she grew older, that she missed her daughters and wished they could both move back home. She once offered to give my sister her house if she’d move back home. And my mom really loved her house. She is now buried on the hill facing her house. When Rocky and I moved to Louisville in 2007 she was glad we were closer. She and Dad would come to visit and we would go see them when we could.

In 2010 when we went in with Dad to purchase the house next door to them she was excited for us to fix up the house and be there on breaks, but before we could spend much time there the Alzheimer’s was fast approaching. When we moved there in the summer of 2012 between the seminary and whatever was to come next, it was clear that Alzheimer’s had set in and we were needed.  I know it was a God thing that we had decided to buy the house two years prior when it didn’t really make sense to do so. We had no long-term plans of settling back home once schooling was finished, but home was exactly where we needed to be.

Living there was as it should be.  Mom was restless a lot and had lots of questions about everything in the early days.  She would come to my house for reassurance or sometimes just to chat a moment.  The door was always open for her and sometimes she’d be back and forth several times a day.  We’d have the same conversations, mostly with her trying to make sense of the muddle in her mind.  Memoires were hiding and bits and pieces would show up and she’d need me to help her make sense of it all.  She trusted me and I did all I could to honor that trust.

Even in the difficulty of living with Alzheimer’s, we had some good times and lots of laughter.  I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.  But sometimes I’d miss our old conversations.  The last couple of months before she passed away there were several times I’d think I need to call Mom only to immediately remember that things were different.  I went through a spell in the summer of nesting and tweaking my living room, buying lamps and finally hanging pictures.  All the things I would have discussed with Mom.  So, I called my Dad and shared with him.  I suppose I could have told mom, but I knew it wouldn’t be the same and I also knew that she might not even engage at all on the phone.  I wish I’d tried anyway.

Since her passing, I have had several times where I wish I could talk to her or something will happen and my first thought is to call Mom.  I’ve needed so much to hear her words of wisdom, comfort, and encouragement. I’ve needed to laugh with her. There are times that you just need your mother because no one understands you like she does. In those times I remind myself that God can comfort me and that he truly understands.

I cling to all the hope, dry my eyes, and do my best to live life without my Ladybug.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. ~~ Washington Irving

Another song for you to listen to, For Those Tears I Died

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

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My mom, the cheerleader (8th grade, Mt. Carmel) standing by the fence in front of their church turned house where they lived in Beechburg, KY.
This home is now a garage and
my best friend recently purchased the property.
My Mom has always been my biggest cheerleader.

Come back tomorrow for more of the journey?  Just a reminder that I usually post later in the day. Clicking on the ladybug graphic will take you to the first page in this series with links to the daily posts. Thanks for reading!

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Truth, Love and Praying Hard

And I Pray Hard

 

I’m in a mood today. Not even gonna lie or pretend it’s not so.  So many things in this crazy world boggle my mind and make me angry.  Why can’t we just all get along.  That is a rhetorical question so no need to answer unless of course, you have the final answer. Which I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist seeing as how we are all people with opinions.

As my husband often says, opinions are like belly buttons everybody has one. But, you know what?  God’s opinion is the only one that matters and we better be paying attention to what he says.  

Bombs sent in the mail, a shooting at one of our local Krogers, Politicians trying to out-yell each other, unborn babies being killed, people changing who God created them to be, and whatever else you want to add to the list.  I usually go about my day acknowledging that these things exist and that we live in an imperfect world and I understand that we will not see perfection this side of heaven.  I am thankful that I don’t have to school the world, that is God’s job.  And he will in his time make all things right.  I hope we are ready.

So, most days I take it in stride, trust and carry on, knowing that God is in control. But somedays, like today I’m just not in the mood to keep it to myself.  So, you dear friend, are getting to see the flip side.

I know this thirty-one days of writing is about grief, specifically the grief of losing my mother.  But, in the midst of grieving my loss, living in the world does go on and I can tell you that this world certainly causes me grief too.  I hope it sometimes causes you grief as well. That’s how we know we care. That’s how we know we need to search for God’s truth and stand on it. That’s how we know that sometimes we must speak even if it’s not popular.

One thing I remember well about my Mama.  She would not tolerate injustice. She did not make excuses for sin And she would tell you the truth and put you in your place quicker than you could scat out of her way. Ask me how I know.

She always told the truth and she didn’t pat you on the back and tell you everything was ok if it wasn’t. If you were setting yourself up for consequences she would tell you to build a bigger barn for all that you were about to reap. But, she did it in Love.  Oh, she might be heated in the moment; she might be in a mood and she might rant a little and cause you to roll your eyes and sigh real deep, but she always made sure you knew you were loved. That’s how we knew she cared.  She cared enough to tell us the truth and raise us right. And we better honor that teaching and make her proud.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.      3 John 1:4 NIV

So, today in the spirit of my dearly beloved Mama I come to you in a mood. I am telling you that it is time to get your house in order and get your priorities straight. It is time to quit making excuses for the injustices of this world and our own sin because if we keep making excuses we are going to need a barn the likes of which we have never seen before. 

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 1 John 1:6 NIV

I hope you read between the lines and know that it comes from a deep place of passion for people to see the truth from God’s viewpoint.  I do have opinions; it is more than possible that my opinions are not always right. But I do know that God is sovereign, he makes many things crystal clear in his word and I think it’s time we wake up and listen to what he says.

It is also possible that all I’ve been through the past couple of months has made me realize that life is too short to hide behind weak excuses for making wrong choices and eye winks of acceptance at things that are clearly out of sync with God’s precepts. If we are Christians like so many of us say we are on social media, then it’s time we step up to the plate and do it God’s way.  It’s time we ask him what comes next and then listen for him to tell us. That is how my Mama lived; she spent a lot of time on her knees crying out to God.  She wasn’t perfect, but she was his and she lived her life standing on truth.

And by all means, Love should always be the foundation.  We can have our mood moments, but at the end of the day, we need to make sure those we are in contact with know that Love is the foundation it is all built on. Not a love that waters down the truth but a love that comes along beside and walks together in the right direction. A love that does not shrink from standing on the truth.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18 NV

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

 

Postscript:

I have not slept well the past few nights and that sometimes puts me on the dark side.  Also, in the spirit of confession, I was quite put out today because my mail person stuffed a book in my PO box so tight I couldn’t get it out.  It made me angrier than it should have considering the circumstances and in light of so many other things that are more important.  Thankfully, I have put that in perspective and am ok.  Tomorrow all will be made right on that count and I’ll have my book. At least I hope.

In the spirit of further confession, after reading this post I waffle between posting or not because it might come off a little harsh and preachy.  But, I think I’ll let it stand as it is; raw, authentic emotion that erupted in the middle of my grief journey.

Two things: one, after reading it back I realize I need this sermon as much as anyone else, so maybe it is God’s message to me to not be complacent. Two, I am not meaning to offend anyone because “as much as possible I try to live peaceably with all men” (women too).  I apologize if  my words offend you, but if they do, I would ask that you ask why? Maybe I have hit a nerve that requires further examination.  I know I have hit some of my nerves.

As always thank you for reading.  I love all of you and wish you well.

One more thing.  Today’s post is not exactly pretty, so I thought maybe the words don’t need a picture.  Then I remembered the picture of a graveyard I took and the graphic I made that says And I Pray Hard.  I decided that picture or at least the message was just the reminder we all need. To pray hard.

 

Come back tomorrow for more of the journey?  Just a reminder that I usually post later in the day. Clicking on the ladybug graphic will take you to the first page in this series with links to the daily posts. Thanks for reading!

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Complete

and in Him, you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

Colossians 2:10 (New Am. Standard)

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My beautiful Ladybug as a young woman dressed in her Sunday best.

Edited from thoughts I put on my phone app October 10, 2018:

I know from a scientific standpoint that it probably wouldn’t make sense to say that a person with Alzheimer’s could, in their final days, be cognizant or whole again. But, I would like to think that the week we spent with Mom in Hospice that she did have an understanding of the things we were telling her and even though she wasn’t completely alert that somehow she was comprehending.

I know when Dad told her he loved her she responded and tried to tell him she loved him.  I know when my brother’s family were with her she tried her best to sit up and engage with them.   And, when my Aunt Jenny’s name was mentioned she reached up her arms as if to hug her.

I know that she knew when my sister was by her side. It wasn’t until after my sister arrived that she slipped deeper into a sleep state, so I know she was waiting for my sister.  We all had moments with her and I know she was comforted to hear our words of love and affirmation.

The day I was telling her how beautiful she was and how I  was going to see that people read her poetry I know she perked up and understood what I was saying.  I also told her that I was going to do my best to see that all of her family made it to heaven. I feel that she was not just hearing me, but that she was understanding the way she would have before the Alzheimer’s. I think she was fully aware.

I just need to mention that even in the final stages of Alzheimer’s she responded well to us but there were facts missing.  She recognized love, and that we were familiar, but she didn’t always know exactly who we were.  There were many things we’d talk about, but complete comprehension of facts and details was missing.  Those are the things I think God restored to her that final week.  Knowledge of exactly who we were and full comprehension of what everything meant.   Those details that made the love even more special to her.

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2 NIV

Science knows a lot, but there is much not known as well.  God knows all things including what science doesn’t know. With him all things are possible and his purpose will be accomplished. So, to me, it makes sense that in my Mom’s final days he could restore her mind and give her those moments of clarity as her loved ones told her their final goodbyes. I’d like to think it was God’s gift to all of us.

She is now completely restored and basking in the Love of her heavenly father. And that is the greatest gift of all.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1 NIV

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

Come back tomorrow for more of the journey?  Just a reminder that I usually post later in the day. Clicking on the ladybug graphic will take you to the first page in this series with links to the daily posts. Thanks for reading!

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A Firm Hand And Tender Mercies

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A few years ago I wrote a list of things I had learned from several influential women in my life and shared it here.  For each of these women, I chose a list of ten things that they had taught me.  One of those women, was, of course, my mother.  Needless to say, she taught me much more than just those ten things.  I was fortunate to have a mother who instilled Christian values in me as well as giving me a great love of daydreaming and using my imagination.  She loved me with a firm hand and tender mercies.

Our relationship was riddled with the usual upsets and imperfections and occasional sass, but I always knew she was a safe place to rest my weary head and unpack my troubled soul.  I remember her praying with me on many occasions. One such occasion was when I accepted Jesus at age ten.  She and my father knelt with me by my bedside.  I remember pouring my heart out in tears as they prayed with me.

I also remember many a late night talk fest where she nurtured my dreams and plans or listened to me wax eloquent about the latest love of my life.  I had quite a few crushes and she always listened with sincerity when I thought I was in love.She was even on board with helping me chase a certain family gospel group around because at 16  I was sure I was gonna marry their son. When I was 17 he married another young girl and broke my heart for about five minutes.  We no longer had to travel all over the countryside to chase a guy, but that didn’t stop our late night talks about anything and everything. She was my biggest cheerleader.

A lot of people have gravitated towards my mom over the years needing her to be their cheerleader.  She is a good listener and a natural born caregiver.  She genuinely loves people and prior to the Alzheimer’s was always taking someone under her wing. It was nothing for her to bring someone into our home and nurse them back to health, or if they weren’t going to get well to bring them comfort in their final days.

I’m sure my mom has never taken a spiritual gifts survey, but I’m also sure that one of her gifts is mercy.  She has always been at her best when helping others.  She used to tell me that when I was old she’d take care of me.  And were it not for the Alzheimer’s I know full well that she would be the first one by my side on the days that the MCTD wears me down. Even so, there are days she looks at me with such tender compassion when she realizes that I’m tired or not feeling well and she talks to me about Jesus.

It has only been over the past few years that I have truly begun to grasp the truth in number seven on her list: helping others is a way to help ourselves.  As I have become her caregiver, and especially, as I see each day how much help she needs with everything it has been a humbling experience.  Caregiving does not come naturally to me.  I’m pretty sure I don’t have the gift of mercy.  I love people; I have compassion for people; I do not want to take care of people. But, I take care of my mom because I love her and because she needs me.

I take care of my mom because she showed me how it’s done. She truly understands what it means to serve others. She understands that sometimes you sacrifice your plans to meet their needs.  And, while it’s still a learning curve I’m beginning to see clearly how helping her is helping me.  It’s helping me be a little less selfish as I put another’s needs ahead of my own; it’s helping me trust that God’s plans really are better than my plans as I reevaluate my dreams; it’s helping me learn to live in the present and savor simple moments as I embrace slow living; it’s helping me accept that there are things I cannot change as I trust God’s provision.  I’m learning to live God’s way, submitting to his firm hand and tender mercies.

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

What have you learned from your mother?  I invite you to share her wisdom in the comments!

Thankful for tender mercies and grace,

Teresa

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what mama said

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All About The Love (for Rocky)

Love is

It seems to be the season of Love. Christmas was barely over before stores started peddling their wares. Reminding us that we need to shower the one we love with goodies that show them just how much they are loved.

Maybe it’s just me, but I want to be showered with love every day. And by showered I don’t mean Candy, flowers and cards. Although, those are nice and I’m not going to refuse a gift on any day of the year if my love wants to shower me with treats.

I’m all for that of course, but love is so much more than a date on a calendar that reminds us to tell people we love them. Love should be an everyday occurrence. It should be told in all the ways we interact with the one’s we love.

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I feel so blessed to have that kind of Love.  A love that is constant day in and day out.  A love that is not fickle or conditional.  A love that was given to me over thirty years ago with a promise that it was forever.  My love has fulfilled that promise beyond what I could have dreamed.

I am blessed to be living a daily love, so in honor of my husband, who has loved me so faithfully, I wanted to share these words with you.  I wanted to publicly declare that I am so thankful to be loved so well.

Happy Valentines Day, Babe!

In case you need more convincing of just how great this man is and how much I love him, I have posted some links below to other posts in which I’ve written about how wonderful he is.

Prompted By Worship,      This Man,      Love Speaks In Everyday Moments,     A Sweet Curious Moment

Thanks for indulging my mushy side for a few moments.  It is, after all, Valentines Day weekend.

Loving in Grace,

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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This Man

 

rocky.waitingThirty years ago I became the wife of this man. I remember how the knowledge that we belonged would hit me at the most unexpected times in the most awe inspiring way. This was a gift from God to be treasured. Life has not always been perfect or easy. But it has been good, filled with adventures, love, forgiveness, sacrifice, support and encouragement. This man takes good care of me and nurtures me. He gets me. This man has shown me mercy and showered me with kindness. This man has loved me well. This man committed to a forever journey with me. This man has my heart. I wouldn’t change a thing because everything we have experienced together has shaped who we are and is our story. It is a grand story and one that I hope has many chapters left to be written. This man is my man and I love him. Today we celebrate thirty years of being one.

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