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Posts Tagged ‘God’

Assignments from God are there to help us grow.

I miss Erma Bombeck.

While sorting through files recently I found a scrap of newsprint which I had clipped from our local paper.  Turning it over my thoughts raced back nearly 20 years when her column “At Wit’s End” was a twice weekly must read.  For those who never had the chance to become acquainted with Erma’s charm and wit, she was known, and probably still is, as a great American humorist.  I’m not sure if that adequately describes her, but it’s a start.  No doubt she was a devoted wife and loving mother because her mainstay was poking fun at child rearing, homemaking and living in suburbia.  Much of what she wrote began with a good laugh and often ended with a few tears, or she could reverse all of it leaving the reader chuckling the whole day.  Or you could just be filled with the profound and clever wisdom of it all.

The column I had pulled and filed away was so very poignant.  I suppose that’s why I tore it out and kept it all of these years.  Erma loved to play God and she was very good at it.  Well, maybe not play God; she was more like a reporter standing next to an assistant angel watching them at work.  She wrote about humanity’s relationship with God fairly often, which made us think, ponder, smile and feel good.

Special motherhood was the subject matter of my yellowed copy as Erma visualized God hovering over the earth deliberating which mother would get which spirit child as God and an angel made notes in a giant ledger.  The day’s work also included assigning an exceptional patron saint selected because of his or her strengths.  “Give her Gerald,” God instructed the angel, after assigning twins — probably two adorable, rambunctious, high-spirited boys — “Gerald is used to profanity.”

Progressing nicely in their labors, God passed a name to the angel and said, “Send her a handicapped child.”  Puzzled, the angel asked, “Why this one God?  She’s so happy.”

Explaining, God said it wouldn’t be proper to give a handicapped child to a mother who didn’t know laughter.  “That would be cruel.”

Continuing, God listed the qualities this woman had:  Patience – but not so much that she would drown in despair feeling sorry for herself.  She won’t have time for a pity party.  “Once the shock and resentment wears off,” assured God, “she’ll be fine.”  Then he told the angel how He had noticed her feelings of independence and self-worth that He found rare, yet so necessary in a mother.  The special-needs child required a mother who could do for the child what was needed and still be her own person.

With caution the angel informed God that this independent woman didn’t even believe in Him.

God just smiled, assuring the angel that He would take care of that.  “She’s perfect, with just enough selfishness.”

Stunned, the angel asked, “Since when is selfishness a virtue?”

God nodded to the affirmative, explaining that she would have to separate herself from the child on occasion, or she would never survive.  Then He went on listing all of the blessings that would come with this child of need.  How the mother would never take for granted the growth of her child, how just hearing that first, “Mama” would be a miracle, and how generous these children are with their love.  “I know that she would teach the child of my creations, seeing and knowing them as she had never seen them before,” confiding in the angel that this child would be blind. The angel agreed, and God concluded, “She will never be alone, for I will be with her every minute of each day.”

Curious the angel asked about the patron saint.  “A mirror will suffice,” God smiled.

All of this, of course, gave me cause to wonder about His assigning caregivers to an ever-growing number of people with Alzheimer’s.  For sure, there are countless members of the human family with special needs even if that need doesn’t appear until later in life.  Previously, I have talked about my friend, Madalyn.  Light heartedly, we remind one another that we don’t remember signing up for this job.  And yet, the assignment was/is ours just as parents with children having special needs learn to accept and live with what’s given to them.

So what are some of the hoped-for character traits which God might have seen in us?  Wow!  I wonder if He remembered that most of us – whether caring for aging parents, other relatives or our spouse – aren’t young anymore.  We used most of what were the best parts of “Us” bringing up that batch of children He sent to us early on.  So, now we’re running on leftovers?  No matter though.  Let’s see what those leftovers might be and what worn-out qualities we’ll have to reorder.

  1.   Patience:  Not a lot left, but I’m slowly acquiring more.  I no longer plead, “Give me patience and I want it right now.
  2.   Strength and energy:  The tank is pretty near empty, but I’m surprised how much I can muster up when required.  However, I have been known to sneak away and take a few naps.
  3.   Wisdom:   I didn’t have all that much when I had our first baby, but I managed to gather some by the time they were grown.  Whether it was enough I’ll never know.  My mom used to say, “It’s a shame that age comes so quickly and wisdom so slow.”  But what I did learn applied to children and young adults.  Now I must begin all over again gathering applicable wisdom for an adult with special needs, and it’s different.  I can’t sit down and reason with Ken about his attitude and how it might have a negative effect on his future, and then remind him he should make every effort to change his thinking.  If he listened at all he would probably say something like, “YOU!  You don’t know anything!” Any new wisdom I might receive will have to be applied to me so I can become a better caregiver.
  4.  Sense of self and independence:  I believe I still have that.  Being my own person has always been a blessing.
  5.  Tears:  God didn’t list them in Erma’s column, but tears go along with empathy, sympathy and love.  Besides, living in a state of perpetual mourning tears are commonplace, and are necessary as part of venting.  I’m sure most women, including mothers of special-needs children have a goodly supply of tears.  Typed on the prescription bottle is, “Use tears as needed,” but they often spill out during unexpected splashes of joy, and random acts of kindness.
  6.  Selfishness:  Yes.  I have my share of selfishness too.  And God’s reasoning is so good.   It is prudent to have some kind of life away from our needy charges no matter what our age – without any guilt.  We do have to take care of “us,” or we can’t take care of them.  Just as the instructions on the plane tell us: “Place the oxygen mask on you first, then the child.”  “ME FIRST” is a must-have attitude.  That advice belongs to all mothers and caregivers alike, but never “Me first and only me.”
  7.  Vanity:  That wasn’t listed either.  I would say to the angel that in this case, like selfishness, it is a virtue, and one of dire importance.  Not a narcissistic kind of vanity; I’m referring to humble vanity.  (Now, isn’t that an oxymoron?)  Nevertheless, when we look our best, we feel and do our best – at least we do better while striving for best.  Motto of the day: comb hair, brush teeth, touch of makeup and put on a clean shirt.  Get dressed every day and no sloppin’ around the house in a bathrobe.
  8.  Laughter:  I believe a good hardy laugh shakes down the woes leaving room for joy and other good feelings.  I have always tried to be best friends with laughter.  If it has slipped away, renew the relationship. Find where it’s hiding and bring it into the living room so it becomes part of the family.
  9.  Acceptance:  It may take a while, but no one can fight “what is.”  This is where life has taken me, and many of you, and there is no escape for the dedicated.  Might as well sally forth into the tomorrows and make them as good as possible.  Besides, nobody knows how many tomorrows are left.
  10.  Call home often:  God was certain we could do the job, and whenever we need to talk, He’s there.  He said so in Erma’s column: that he would be there every minute of every day.  Not only because he loves us, but He so appreciates us for doing some of his work, and caregiving is God’s work — especially when it’s done with a glad heart.

Oh!  And by the way, I believe Patron Saint Gerald has been reassigned to me for those times when my patience tank is running on empty.

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cloudy sky

Looking towards heaven we remember the miracle of Easter, and gain hope for other miracles.

“Then why do we have Easter bunnies?” asked Haley, a few years back when, as an extended family, we talked about the holiday and all of the traditions.  The little ones gathered with us that evening were the third and fourth generation of Ken’s and my progeny, but one doesn’t have to be very old to question rabbits, especially small bunnies, hopping around delivering Easter Baskets.

“Tradition,” they were told by one of the adults, who continued to explain how bunnies and chicks born in the spring represented new life to the ancients, many of whom converted from pagan idol worship to the teachings of Christ, but brought with them some of their pagan symbols.  Over the centuries those symbols became intermingled with the “new life” of the resurrection of Jesus on the third day following His crucifixion.  Succeeding years of symbolism and generations of adding glitter to old traditions, we as a majority Christian nation seem to be more caught up celebrating the season of new life with colored eggs, jelly beans, chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks than we do the resurrection and “new life” of our Lord Jesus Christ, which of all miracles is the miracle of miracles.

During His ministry, Jesus performed many miracles which are recorded in the New Testament for us to read, honor and ponder.  And today — miracles continue.  There are countless miracles, recorded and testified to in these modern times.  I am one of them.  Following last year’s automobile accident and being somewhat aware of my numerous injuries and the trauma encountered, I mumbled from my hospital bed, “I should be dead.”  My grown children made no comment, but I could see worry in their eyes, nor did the medical people who constantly surrounded me confirm – or even suggest to me that my condition was grave.  It was later that my young friend, Malena, a former member of an  EMT ambulance team agreed, having been present and an observer of similar accidents where the victims were pronounced dead at the scene.  I am here because of the prompt, efficient actions of another EMT crew, amazing doctors and nurses — and the absolute, undeniable healing power of prayer, the laying on of hands and God’s grace.

There are skeptics, of course, but as a woman of faith I choose not to be one of them, instead I give credit where credit is due.  I accept miracles and wonder how the doubters explain away that which is right before their eyes.  Many in the medical field have witnessed and have been a part of other miracles and some share the experience with the world.

From two different sources on the internet comes the account of Jeff Markin, an apparently healthy man of 53 who was on his way to work when he was overcome with feeling sick.  He called his boss saying he was sweating and suddenly felt ill, and that he may not make it to work.  Encouraged to go to the hospital Markin arrived at the emergency room of Palm Beach Gardens Hospital in Florida and collapsed on the floor with full cardiac arrest.  After 40 minutes of intense effort and being shocked with a defibrillator numerous times Dr. Chauncey W. Crandall, the supervising cardiologist was summoned.

Dr. Crandall said the room was like a war zone with everyone doing all they could to save the man’s life.  However, Markin showed all the signs of death: the heart rhythm flat lined across the screen, his pupils were dilated and it was determined he had been “down” too long for any hope.  The other doctors left, and time of death was determined and recorded.  Dr. Crandall signed his name to the report and turned to leave.  At the door he heard a voice telling him to pray for this man.  Busy with his work load and feeling rushed, he continued into the hall.  Again, he was stopped short and instructed a second time to pray for this man.

Returning to the patient’s bedside where a nurse was preparing the body for the morgue, he placed his hands on the man’s chest.  Markin’s fingers, toes and lips were literally turning black from lack of oxygen when Crandall honored the Lord’s command and began to pray, crying out for the man’s soul.  At the conclusion of the prayer, Crandall asked the ER doctor, who had returned — wondering what was going on — to shock the patient one more time.  Out of respect for his colleague, he complied.  The monitor showed a perfect heartbeat.  Jeff’s fingers and toes twitched, breathing resumed and he began to mumble.  Three days later with the patient still in ICU, Dr. Crandall found Markin sitting up and alert with no brain or organ damage and a healthy heart.

As with all miracles, there is no explanation, nor is there a reason for Jeff Markin’s healed heart. Furthermore, the good doctor makes no effort to provide one.  A Christian all of his life, he made it a policy not to mix his religious beliefs with his practice.  However, he began a search with prayer and the laying on of hands as another avenue to healing when his son was stricken with leukemia.  Dr. Crandall has written “Raising The Dead” chronicling his experiences.

He also commented about faith and its importance, quoting from scripture a portion of Matthew 17:20 when Jesus said, “If ye have faith of a mustard seed…………..nothing shall be impossible to you.”  On the video I watched, Dr. Crandall concluded Markin’s account with, “Miracles are real, and they are real today.”

I pray for Ken that he may be comforted in his affliction, and I pray for me that I may continue to cope, be patient and find joy in my service to him.  This is our assignment, and while it is an assignment I could do without I also understand its importance in a very broad sense.   Every reported case of AD presents to the medical community the urgency of escalating their research.  If Ken’s illness helps to spur that research, even one little bit, it may save future generations from this miserable disease.  I pray for our ability to manage what we are dealing with, not for the Lord to give us a miracle and remove our burden.

Ken and I have had our portion of miracles, including being blessed with full, rich lives — not without our share of other adversities — which have made us stronger.  Moreover, we take delight in our wonderful, ever-growing family – all of them miracles in their own right — and I am still here to care for my husband and be with him as he continues his lone journey home.  Ahead is the assurance for the most important of miracles: new life somewhere in the distant future — all because of that magnificent miracle which happened on a bright, spring morning nearly 2,000 years ago.

As fellow Christians do we really need to be reminded that there is more to Easter than baskets and candy?   The answers might be “more than likely,” “probably,” “I suppose,” and ultimately, “yes,” because we are human, and we become distracted getting caught up in the ways of the world, the pomp and pageantry we have created – and don’t forget — the good taste of chocolate bunnies.  Yes, we do cast a fleeting shadow on the simply stated – yet — majestic message of that long-ago Sabbath morning:  Jesus lives.

Hopefully, in celebration of this Holy Day we call Easter, let us all take the time to peek through the shimmer of cellophane grass, past the colorful, hard-boiled eggs and jelly beans, and gratefully look for and remember what’s important on this and every Easter Sunday: the miracle of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and His extraordinary promise to all mankind.

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