Category Archives: Life Lessons

Perhaps I am There for Such a Time as This…

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They are there, every morning, when I open up the store…the four of them.  They are pushing garbage cans and gathering cleaning supplies.  George, eagerly, greets me, “Hi, Vicky!”  It took him two months to learn my name…and he still doesn’t ‘know’ it.  “How long have you worked here, Vicky?”  He asks me every morning.  I answer to “Vicky,” and my answer only changes by a day or two, but he seems satisfied with the new knowledge each time I answer.

Elle is always done cleaning first.  She looks so much like my grandma, I just want to hug her.  Every morning, she brings me something…a broken product, an open piece of candy, merchandise that was out of place…and she always tells me, “Tell the police that I gave it to you!”  I assure her that the police are very thankful for her diligence.  She shares stories about the homeless cats she cares for, at her home, and promises me that she feeds them and won’t let them ever be afraid.  She thrives on praise and her smile, when she is proud of herself, is beautiful.

Freddy enjoys sharing his plans for the day.  One day he shared, “I’m going to the movies.”  In his singsong voice, he continued, “I am going to see A-N-N-I-E.”

“You’re going to see ‘Annie?'” I asked.

“I am going to see A-N-N-I-E, ” he repeated, this time making the letters with his forefinger.

“That’ll be great fun!” I answered, realizing that he didn’t know that “A-N-N-I-E” spells “Annie.”  

Many mornings, he will share, “I work tonight, right over there.”  He points across the parking lot to Perkins.  “You should come see me tonight.” 

(Oh, I would love to go see him!!  Maybe, one night, I will!!)

Finally, there is Jennifer.  She is the head of ‘Good Health’ at her group home.  She has lots of great tips.  When the four of them were heading out to breakfast, one morning, she told me, “I told Freddy that he might consider a nice salad.  That would be healthy.”

“Umm… Jennifer, I don’t think salad would be very yummy for breakfast.”  I winked at her.  “Maybe eggs?  Would eggs be a healthy breakfast?”

“Eggs are healthy,” she said. “A great source of protein!”  Freddy just turned up his nose.  His heart was set on pancakes.

I only spend about 30 minutes with them, on days that I open the store, but they have found a place in my heart.
They have become a part of my “for such a time as this.”

…perhaps, I am there for such a time as this…

Esther 4:14b Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

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Filed under Life Lessons, The Journey West

Unrecognizable

mirror

2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

I look in the mirror and I don’t even recognize the girl in the reflection.  The girl staring back at me has changed so much in the past two years.  

I will never forget the moment that Adrian and I, with a van full of Littles, pulled away from our house in New Prague, Minnesota.  I looked at him, squeezed his hand, and felt so much excitement at what the future would hold.  We had just sold our house, packed everything we owned into two semi truck trailers, and loaded our essentials into our camper.  We began our journey west to Williston, North Dakota.  We were chasing a dream.

I wish that I would have known, then, what I know now.  That this journey… this new job, with all of it’s promises… would require more sacrifice from our family than we could afford to give.  That there would be disappointment upon disappointment in Williston because of the housing market.  I wish that I would have known that we would spend 18 months trying to have a house built that would never be, and that the builder would take all of our money before informing us that he wouldn’t build our home.  I wish that I would have known that we’d find our “dream house,” 6 hours from Adrian’s office, and I would often be left alone with the Littles.  I wish that I would have known that I would have to take on a job, after staying home for the past (almost) 18 years.  I wish that I would have known how desperate I would feel, to go back to the way things were.

I have always felt a sense of pride in being “Beckie – full time wife and stay-home, homeschooling momma.”  I have always loved having Adrian home for dinner (nearly) every night.  I have felt safe, with him sleeping next to me in our bed.  I found security in the basics of what made us a family.  Now I feel like it’s all been turned upside down and shaken.  I don’t know how to navigate this new life. I miss my old life.

The girl in the mirror looks nothing like the girl I remember…and I really miss that girl.

The Lord is changing me…molding me…
I will go where He leads…and I will be the girl He wants me to be. 

Isaiah 48:17
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
The Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
Who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you by the way you should go.”

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Filed under Family, Life Lessons, The Journey West

Grandpa Has Dementia

I wrote this a month before Grandpa died…  I had no idea that this would be my last visit with the man who meant so very much to me.  Grandpa, I can’t wait to hug you in Heaven!  

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When I walked into the hospital room, Grandpa was lying in bed with his eyes closed.  His mouth was opened and his breathing was labored.  An IV dangled from his arm, his elbow had a nasty scrape from a recent fall.  His legs, uncovered, were swollen and seeping blood and a clear fluid.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I stroked his forehead, gently, trying not to disturb his sleep.  He slowly opened his eyes and looked at me, through his pain-medicated haze.  Someone in the room asked him, “Do you know who that is?”  With a tiny sparkle, he loudly said, “Beckie!”  I kissed his forehead as the sparkle began to fade from his eyes.  He reached for my hand and squeezed it three times, to say, “I (squeeze) love (squeeze) you (squeeze).”  I squeezed back three times.  He kissed my hand, holding it tightly, then closed his eyes and drifted back into an uncomfortable sleep.  I spoke with the people in his room, and with his nurse, about Grandpa’s condition.  I had never seen him that bad.  The nurse explained that Grandpa’s congestive heart failure was worsening and that the sores on his legs were caused by edema, a pooling of fluid that settled in his lower extremities.  As we were talking, Grandpa started to yell, “Help me!”  Esthyr, already shy, startled and began to cry.  Patting Essie’s back, and trying to calm her, I stood next to Grandpa and kissed his forehead.  For a moment, he relaxed.  Over Essie’s crying, I tried to explain to Grandpa that he was at the hospital and that the nurses were trying to help him.  He wrinkled his face in pain and yelled, “Help me!”  My heart ached and Essie cried harder.  His voice was so loud and desperate, it must have sounded scary to my wee girl.  I had to excuse myself to take her out of the room.  I walked to the nurses desk and asked if Grandpa could have more pain medicine.  He was writhing on the bed, and just wanted relief.  The nurse got up, immediately, and checked on the orders from his doctor. I followed her to the room and Essie started crying, again, when she saw the unfamiliar faces.  I held her close to my chest and whispered in Grandpa’s ear that the nurse would be helping him and that I needed to leave for a while to take care of Baby Esthyr.  He took my hand in his, squeezed it three times (to say, “I love you”).  I told him that I would be back soon and he yelled, “Please do!”  Essie’s bawling reached a new level of loud.  I kissed his forehead gently and left the room.  

I heard someone talking to the nurse about Grandpa…saying that he said that he was in pain, but with his dementia we really couldn’t know.  I could barely breathe.  I said, “He is IN the hospital because he is in pain!  At the very least, he should be able to be comfortable.”  The nurse assured me that she’d make him comfortable.  

The story is much longer, really, but this is way bigger than this particular story.  This is about Grandpa…my grandpa.  Maybe, just maybe, it is also about your grandpa.  

I have watched as my sweet grandma slipped away into an Alzheimer’s fog.  It was truly merciful, and a blessing, when she was called home to Jesus.  As she took her last breath, I thanked God for taking her to Heaven.  Though I knew I’d miss seeing her, I had missed “knowing her” for years as Alzheimer’s stole our real grandma from us.  I have seen how painful it is for someone to know that they are losing their memories, their ability to control their behavior, their ability to recognize their loved ones…  I have seen how painful a lack of empathy and compassion can be on someone who is desperate to escape the terrible pain of Alzheimer’s and dementia.  I watched my innocent grandma get mistreated because she was a victim of Alzheimer’s.  I heard people question her when she spoke of pain she was feeling.  It became clear that Grandma had become “Alzheimer’s” to people…she was no longer “Grandma.”  As I stood in that hospital hallway, listening to someone question Grandpa’s pain, I remembered Grandma’s pain…and how abandoned she must have felt when her loved ones didn’t believe that she was in pain.  

Yes, Grandpa has dementia.  Yes, Grandpa has become lost in his own mind.  How scary and awful that must be!  His body and his mind are failing him.  He tries to stand up and can’t trust his legs.  He tries to remember the simplest of things and can’t recall them.  He has grown completely dependent on others for his most basic of needs.  “He talks so naughty!” … “He is so mean!” … “He is so belligerent.” … “He keeps swearing!”…  On and on and on, the people continue to tear him apart.  Even in front of him, people have described his “awful” behaviors…behaviors that he cannot control.  He clearly understands what is being said.  “He will forget what we say,” they say, trying to placate me.  In that moment, before he forgets, his heart sinks and he feels embarrassed and ashamed.  In that moment, he is being destroyed by the ones who are supposed to love him.

The time came for me to say my final goodbye to Grandpa.  (I had to drive home to take care of my family.)  I stroked his forehead, then held his hand and kissed him.  I told him how much I love him.  As I held his hand, I prayed to God that He would be merciful to Grandpa.  I prayed for his caregivers, that they would be kind to him.  Before I let go of his hand, I squeezed it three times to say “I – love – you.”  

As I was driving home, thoughts filled my head…  Grandpa is much like Baby Essie.  She needs me for everything.  If she is uncomfortable or hungry, she cries out.  When she wants to leave a hospital room because Grandpa is calling out in pain, and it scares her, she cries.  If a stranger talks to her, or she has a dirty diaper, she cries.  I respond to those cries with love, trying to find a solution that will make her more comfortable.  (If I don’t respond, immediately, Essie’s cries become more desperate and her cries become louder.)  Grandpa is completely out of control of everything.  He can’t even stand up without help.  He needs people to meet every need that he has.  When he cries cries out, or yells, it is because he needs something.  Just like a baby, it is the only way that he can communicate his needs.  When people aren’t meeting his needs, he gets angry and says some pretty horrible things.  If Essie could use words, she would surely say terrible things, too.  “Get me the hell out of this carseat!” … “Make those stupid people stop talking to me!  I hate strangers!” … “My diaper has been poopy for an hour.  Stop watching TV and change me!”  Would I be as quick to walk away from her as people are to walk away from our elderly grandparents??  Would I blow off her needs and just leave her?  Would I leave her with a daycare mom who would just walk away from her, while she cried?  Would I tell her daycare provider, “She says she’s poopy, but there is no way to know because she’s just a baby.”? 

The definition of dementia is: a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.  The definition of grandpa is: the father of one’s father or mother.  Grandpa IS NOT dementia.  Grandpa is the man who raised my mom, the man who took care of me (and the rest of his grandchildren).  He is the man who fought in World War II.  He is the man who adored my grandma.  He is the man who loved us all, even when we were unlovable…the man who stood up for us when we couldn’t stand for ourselves.  Grandpa HAS dementia.  He needs his loved ones to love him when he is unlovable … to stand up for him when he can’t stand up for himself.  When he is crying out for someone to help him stand up, we need to sit with him and tell him how sorry we are that he can’t stand.  We need to pray with him when he is scared.  We need to stroke his cheek and tell him how much we love him.  We need to tell him that we understand his anger, and that we are so very sorry that we can’t “fix him” and that we will do everything we can to make him as comfortable and happy as we can.  

If this story is about your grandpa, your grandma, your mom, your dad…  Please remember that you were loved when you were unlovable.  This person who needs you, desperately, took care of your needs when you couldn’t.  This person calmed your cries, protected you from your fears, kissed away your pain…  This person is YOUR person.  

Proverbs 17:6 Children’s children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father.
Isaiah 46:4 Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.
Psalm 71:9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails.

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What is Your Story?

 

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As I get to know people, I find myself “reading their story.”  Whether we are aware of it, or not, we are all telling a story…and we are often unaware of the people who are reading our story.  The cashier at Target, whose register quits working just after you’ve unloaded your entire cart onto her counter.  Will you tell her a story of your impatience or will you tell her your story of kindness and understanding?  The teenager at McDonald’s who messes up your order and forgets to give you the small fry for your kid’s Happy Meal.  Will you tell him a story of anger over his mistake or will you tell him a story of patience?  The old man at the bus stop, chattering away about his life.  Will you show him that you have no time for his nonsense or will you listen intently to all he has to say?  The nurse at the clinic who calls you in to be seen thirty minutes after your scheduled appointment.  Will you show her a grumbly attitude because your time is being wasted or will you show her that you’re thankful that the doctor takes his time with each of his patients?  
1 Peter 2:21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.

When you are out with your husband, do you hold your husband’s hand or do you leave a distance between yourselves?  Does your husband talk with you, sharing his day, knowing that you will be an eager listener or do you each have your own lives that are separate from each other?  Do your children see you kissing your husband when he comes home from work?  Do they see you preparing a special dinner for him after he’s had an especially long day?  
Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.

When you are at the park with your children, do people see you sitting on your cell phone while your wee ones play or do they see you playing with your kids?  Do you yell at your kids from the bench when they throw sand, or do you walk over to them and encourage them to do something else?  When they misbehave, do you scream at your children and belittle them or do you correct them in love?  
Psalm 1:8-9 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. 

So many people are watching your story…. What do you want them to see?  I want people to see Jesus in me, when they read my story.  
Psalm 18:28 You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.  

I want to always be aware of the story that I am sharing….and I want it to be a story that shows others the light of Jesus in me.

1 Peter 2:12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

 

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