One of our volunteer leaders and her friend who's helping her tie her shoe.
My dear friend, Tom Davis, Pres of Children’s HopeChest, an international child advocacy organization, did a blog post today called What are You Grateful For?
He said, “Perspective. Today’s post really got me thinking about my life vs. the rest of the world. I thought I would make a top 10 list of the things I’m grateful for that most of the world doesn’t have access to. It’s helping me think differently about them and me. What would my life look like without these things? No particular order here. What would you add to this list?”
Top 10 Things Tom’s Grateful for:
- Clean water that comes out of my pipes and hot water.
- 24 hour access to doctors, medical facilities, and medicine.
- Grocery stores.
- Indoor plumbing, including toilet paper.
- Educational opportunities for my family.
- Access to banks and loans.
- Opportunities for my children, athletic teams, artistic opportunities, field trips, etc.
- A vehicle and/or transportation.
Great list. I would totally agree with all of what Tom said.
My list is a little different. I think what we’re grateful for has a lot to do with where we are in the seasons and experiences of our life.
I’ve spent most of my last five months spending time helping my mom (& mother-in-law) both move into Assisted Living (one in PA and the other in VA) and helping out with Young Life Capernaum for high school kids with disabilities. Those experiences have made me grateful for so many things I take for granted that impact every moment of every day.
This is my friend Koren and her sister Alexis, using her iPad so she can communicate.
So, here’s my list I posted on his site:
- Speech – being able to say what’s in my head.
- Mobility – to get where I want to go, when I want to.
- Eating – feeding myself, whenever I want to eat.
- Hearing – being able to communicate with sound and enjoy music.
- Seeing – to enjoy all the colors of life.
- Bathing – without needing someone to help me in the shower.
- Toileting – without needing assistance.
- Muscle control – to control my body, even to type this list.
- Reading & Writing – to enter into other worlds, learn and travel in my mind.
- Driving – taking myself wherever I want, when I want (it was really hard for my mom to finally give up driving).
- Medicines – that help with pain and physical problems.
- Independent living – to be on my own.
- Friends – people who love me and don’t judge me by how I look or act (that’s a big one for me!).
- Family – that loves me when I’m at my worst as well as my best.
- Just Being – to be able to enjoy life and all that God has given me in whatever circumstance I’m in.
Okay, my list can go on and on. I’m grateful for so much. I usually take time at the end of the day to thank God for something I’m grateful for. Sometimes, it takes up the whole page. Sometimes, when I can’t see the forest for the trees because I’m so tired, I just say, “Thank you.”
Have you ever had a conversation with God where you have your fingers crossed behind your back?
“Lord, I want to learn to be patient.” (Fingers doubled crossed behind my back!)
(I always have this little kid inside of me that thinks I can hide what’s really going on from God.)
It’s a bit of a paradox. I truly want to be more patient… but I don’t really want to go though the frustrating, exasperating, annoying situations that are going to lead me to need to be patient. (Like that old saying, “Lord, make me patient… and do it right now.”)
That’s the same way I felt when I decided to give up worrying for Lent.
I told God that during Lent I was going to give up my worrying, focus on Him, and replace the false anxiety-producing pictures in my head with positive uplifting images.
The moment that offering went from my heart to God’s ears, I knew without a doubt that I was going to face circumstances that would show if I really was sincere or not about my “sacrifice.”
Now, I have to say that I really do believe that God has my best interest at heart… maybe not my most comfortable interest, or my most enjoyable interest, but I do believe He has my best interest at heart.
That said, do I believe God will always keep me from experiencing bad things? Of course not. (Although as I have said before, I did naively buy into this thinking at one point in time when I was younger.) We live in a fallen and broken world. God’s job is not to keep me comfortable.
But He purposes to conform me into His likeness, to love and serve well.
But I digress…
I had made this commitment to follow the three R’s in dealing with the anxious images in my head: refuse, replace, and repeat.
I was in a meeting where there were some very difficult matters being discussed when my phone rang. Well, it didn’t exactly ring. It quietly vibrated and flashed. I looked to see who was calling and it was my daughter, Steph.
Now it was the middle of the afternoon and she never calls me at that time of the day, especially while she’s at work. I felt this little creep of anxiety inching its way up. My mind went where it usually goes when she calls at unusual times… that she was by the side of the road in a car accident (this is my worse fear so it is the one that pops up the most).
As I said, the meeting I was in had a number of people in it who were discussing some very delicate issues. It would have been totally inconsiderate for me to excuse myself to take the call. So I didn’t.
I took a deep breath and let it go to voicemail. I said to myself, “No. I don’t want this horrible picture in my head. I’m going to think of her sitting at her desk, working at her computer, and she’s just fine.”
It was hard but I did it. “Okay,” I thought to myself, slightly smugly, “that wasn’t so bad.” And I went back to my meeting.
Five minutes later I looked down and saw the phone ring again. It was Steph.
Now, I was in an internal panic with lots of thoughts racing through my head and my heart starting to race.
“Why was she calling again so soon? I wonder if something really is wrong.” (There are lots of reasons I react this way and I’ll let you in on them at another point.)
My mind immediately had her in a disastrous situation calling with bad news.
Now I had a choice to make: Was I going to worry – would I give in, run out of the room and take her call? Or would I refuse the image and ask God to quiet my head and my heart?
(I hate to admit this but it wasn’t an easy choice.)
I decided to focus on the present, where I was right now, and not the imaginary – what could be happening.
I looked normal on the outside. Nobody in that meeting could tell by looking at me that there was a war going on in my head and my heart. But inside, I was really struggling.
I made a decision: I decided to choose to not worry; to be okay with the uncomfortable feeling and be present where I was. I truly was uncomfortable but I kept praying and repeating, “No. I don’t want this picture in my head. I am picturing her as okay.” And when I saw the bad picture pop into my head again, I changed it back to another good picture, like changing channels on TV.
Now, could there have been something tragically wrong? Absolutely. But this is where crazy thinking comes in: I usually think it is more likely that something bad is happening rather than something good. I decided to choose the opposite: if it were just as possible that she was calling about something good as something bad, I was going to focus on the good.
The 20 minutes until the meeting was over seemed like forever. I prayed and God helped me focus on the task at hand. When it finally (!) ended, I stepped (not ran) outside and listened to her voice message.
“Hey mom, it’s me. I wanted to see if I could borrow something for work so I didn’t leave a message. But then I thought of something else I wanted to tell you so call me when you get out of your meeting. Love you.”
I silently prayed a prayer of thanksgiving…and I decided next year I’m giving up chocolate for Lent.
(As my quest to give up worrying for Lent continues, I have had more circumstances where I have been challenged to not worry. I’ll tell you more about them next time. It’s been good but not easy! But I’m taking it one day at a time.)
Confession: I am a Worrier – with a capital W.
I think I might need a 12-step program.
“Hi. My name is Karen. I’m a Worrier.” “Hi, Karen.”
Because lately, I’ve begun to wonder if I’m not addicted to worry.
Over the years, there have been many unexpected crises that have impacted my life dramatically—my dad had a stroke when he was 53, my girls both were diagnosed with a bleeding disorder as babies, then Steve’s dad got cancer and died from AIDS he acquired from a blood transfusion. Crises continued to happen throughout my life. In recent years, my childhood best friend’s husband dropped dead of a heart attack, my sister-in-law died of breast cancer, another dear friend’s husband died of pancreatic cancer, etc.
But somehow I wasn’t prepared for them.
Looking back, I realized I had been taught some bad theology early on by well meaning friends. I was told that once I gave my life to Christ then God had a “wonderful plan for my life.” I assumed (naively) that this meant my life would always be wonderful.
And in many ways it has been. But in many ways, it hasn’t seemed so wonderful when people I love have suffered and I have lost people very near and dear to my heart.
Add to that, I am a caregiver. By training I am a “helping professional” and by nature, I care for people who are hurting. That’s who I am and how I am gifted. And that’s a good thing.
But over time, I have sunk deeper and deeper into a “worry mindset” that permeates how I look at life and how I respond to situations. (And my worry mindset drives my family crazy!)
Now I know this is going to seem ridiculous to many people, but somehow worrying has become almost a comfort to me.
Let me explain.
Since I got that first phone call about my dad’s stroke when I was 22 years old, something gets triggered in me when I get bad news out of the blue. I’m happily going along with my life and suddenly, my life changes.
Somehow, that has developed into this crazy thought process that thinks…
…if I’m not thinking about anything and something bad is happening that I don’t know about,
…then, if I consciously think about it, maybe it won’t.
Hence, I worry.
I know that doesn’t make sense but that’s the way my little mind sometimes works.
The way this has evolved over the years is that my mind creates these horrific pictures of what might be happening. When I find out that nothing has happened, the little voice inside my head says, “See. What you imagined didn’t happen. Now you can relax.”
What does this really mean? It means I somehow think I can control what is happening. (Ha! This is so embarrassing to even write!)
Unfortunately, the downside of this is that there is this continual war between my mind and my body. And my body is acting out with symptoms of anxiety… like not being able to sleep, to a racing heart rate, to grinding my teeth at night, even to chest pains that lead me to the ER with a panic attack. (It happened the night of my birthday when I turned 53, the same age as my dad when he had his stroke. You don’t need a shrink to be able to analyze that one!)
My friend Mike Hyatt had a blog post that helped me think of this in a new way. He suggested that worry and imagination might be two sides of the same coin. That people who worry often have very active imaginations.
This idea began to take root and I started looking at what was happening in my head when I was worrying. And sure enough, I was seeing pictures of what might be happening that I didn’t know about…
- My daughter bleeding out at the scene of a car accident.
- My husband having a heart attack while he’s away on business.
- My house being foreclosed.
- My getting cancer and not living to see my grandchildren.
Not pretty pictures.
And the more I saw these kinds of pictures, the more they popped into my head. And the more anxious I got.
Until it felt like all I was doing was worrying. And yes, good things still happened and bad things still happened but there was no correlation between the intensity of my worrying and what was happening!
I was discussing this with my friend Patsy Clairmont and she told me when she struggled with anxiety, she used the three R’s: Refuse, Replace and Repeat.
Refuse to think about the picture that isn’t true. Just stop.
Immediately, Replace that picture with something positive (Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8)
Then Repeat. Over and over and over until your mind has shifted from the bad picture to a good one. (For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7)
Right after my conversation with Patsy, Lent was approaching. I was trying to decide what I could give up for Lent to remind me of Christ’s suffering. (Over the years, I have given up chocolate, wine, and romance novels—all things that I felt would help me to focus during the 40 days of Lent!)
Around this time I was talking with a friend and asking her to let me know when she arrived at her destination because I was a worrier.
She said, “Too bad you can’t give up worrying for Lent!”
I hung up and thought about it and decided, why not?
I would give up worrying for Lent. Whenever I found myself worrying (and creating these awful pictures in my mind) I would focus on Christ and create a new picture.
The problem was, I knew by definition, I would have situations occur that would normally cause me to worry where I would have to change my thinking.
And they did.
So, I’ll tell you in my next blog post the details of how it’s going but until then I’ll give you a hint: it hasn’t always been easy but it has been good.
Philippians 4: 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Hi Mom. It’s Kel. I’m back in the States! We were transported out of Port Au Prince on an Air Force C-17 cargo transport plane to Charleston, SC. Oh, Mom, I have so much to tell you but I’ve been up for almost 36 hours so as soon as I get some sleep, I’ll let you know all the details. It was hard to leave but I’m glad to be home.”
Those were sweet words for this mama to hear! My daughter was home, safe and sound. I could hear in her voice that she was exhausted but she was also exhilarated at the same time.
Kelly and adorable Haitian baby boy, whom they suspect had pneumonia.
Three days into their trip to Haiti, Kelly got sick with a GI bug (I, not surprisingly, was a wreck knowing she was sick) but she said she was really grateful it only lasted 24 hours and she was able to rejoin the team at the hospital (Kelly and her coworker, Erin, were the only ones who could start IVs so she was desperate to be able to help).
She told me later that the hardest thing for her during her time in Haiti was being sick herself and not only could she not serve, but someone on the team needed to stay with her and make sure she was okay (thank you MTW!). Kelly said she may never know why she got hit with whatever it was that made her ill. It didn’t seem to be a virus or food poisoning since nobody else got sick.
Gratefully, when she was finally able to get back to work, she was able to jump in full force for some of the 16-hour shifts they worked until more relief help came.
A few nights after that, Kelly and I got into a short but interesting discussion when she called home one night to check in (thank you AT&T for free phone calls home from relief workers!).
I asked her how she was doing emotionally. She said she was okay and that the conditions were frustratingly primitive, but it wasn’t all that different from working in the emergency room and that she was really enjoying what she was doing.
“’Enjoying’ probably isn’t the right word for it, honey,” I said, in my usual mom/editor voice.
“Actually, Mom, I think it is the right word,” she said, with a hint of indignation in her voice.
She continued, “I’m not saying that I’m enjoying the circumstances the people are in, or enjoying the conditions here. But I am enjoying what I’m doing to help. It’s what I’ve trained for and what I’m called to do, so yes, I am enjoying it.”
Sigh. I just hate it sometimes when my kids are more mature than I am.
After some reflection, I decided she was right. She has grown up since childhood reciting the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q: What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
She was enjoying God by using the skills, talents and gifts He has given her. She has gone to school for years, taken lots of specialty courses in crisis, wilderness and survival medicine so she can help in such a time as this.
I realized that it is okay to “enjoy” who you are and who you were created to be, even when the circumstances seem to be the most dark and discouraging.
And in this horrible, hot, heartbreaking situation that is Haiti, she was enjoying God, and who He is and I think, too, He was enjoying her. She was being His hands and feet in a situation that so desperately needs His hand and His touch.
When she got home and was finally up for sharing some of what went on, she said there was one incident that stood out that described the conditions at the hospital.
Kelly and Erin were working the night shift and they were trying to get an IV into an infant while sitting on the floor (there were no beds in the hospital). Suddenly, the power went out! She said they didn’t panic because since the lighting wasn’t great to begin with, they were both wearing their high intensity headlamps so they were able to continue working.
That was the good news. The bad news was that the room went pitch black and with their high beam headlamps cutting through the darkness, every bug in Haiti was instantly attracted to the light!
Erin had to keeping blowing in Kelly’s face to keep the bugs out of her eyes! Fortunately, they were able to complete the IV, but as soon as they got the IV going, Kelly said they looked at each other and burst out laughing! (She thought the poor patients must have thought they were completely nuts!)
After hearing her story, it hit home for me what a difference it makes to have light in a dark place. Yes, the bugs come and make life difficult but light gives life… and even joy in the midst of total darkness.
“Hi, Mom. It’s Kel. Haiti is chaotic and crazy but I’m feeling so much better. I think I just had a 24-hour bug. You wouldn’t believe the horrible conditions here but I’m doing great now. Patients are all over the floor of the hospital and it’s total chaos, but we are making a difference and that’s what counts.”
I just got off the phone with Kelly, my daughter who is serving on a medical team with Mission to the World (MTW) in Haiti. She normally works as an Emergency Room nurse at Duke Hospital in North Carolina and has been on the MTW International Disaster Response team for the past year waiting to serve when a disaster occurs.
Not surprisingly, my sweet girl is an adrenaline junkie. She loves high adventure and has a heart for serving others. She loves kids and always wants to be in peds whenever she’s working. She seems especially gifted in pediatric trauma.
Sigh… For a mom like me who struggles with worry and anxiety, wouldn’t you know I’d get a kid like her?
Since the heart-wrenching crisis in Haiti began, my emotions have been off the charts. On a scale of 1-10, I’ve been at a -1 and a +11 and everywhere in between.
I knew she would go to Haiti. I knew she would want to serve.
She’s fine now, but when I got the message she was sick in Haiti, I really had to search my heart and see if I truly believed the words I wrote to her before she left. (And I had plenty of time to think, search and pray when I was tossing and turning all night long!)
So thankfully, the answer ended up being yes. Because God gives me the strength to trust Him, one moment at a time.
(When I asked her if I could share what I wrote she said, “Of course. I know you Mom!”)
All kidding aside, I want you to know how much I love you, how proud I am of you and how grateful I am to be your mom. You know, when you were put into my arms 28 years ago, it was truly love at first sight. You were so adorable… plump, inquisitive and ready to explore the world.
Obviously, you are still the same person (well, except for the plump part! ;-)) I truly did fall in love with you. You were a kid who jumped in with all your heart and soul. From those days when you were a year old and swinging from the canopy of your crib, I knew you had a zest for life and a determination to just “go for it.” You were such a strong-willed child; you know I covered the paddle with lots of batting so I wouldn’t hurt you trying to mold your little feisty, determined, temper-throwing behavior without breaking your focused, intent, exceedingly strong spirit in the meantime.
I know you spent a lot of years “sitting on the bench.” Volleyball was good for you but I can’t tell you how hard it was to watch you give your all and not get to play. But God produced in you endurance, patience, and teamwork where you contributed your all, even if you weren’t on the front line. But now, you are going to be on the front line and those lessons you learned along the way have made you who you are: a long-suffering, committed team player who is patient and caring, in spite of difficult circumstances. That, my sweet girl, is the mark of a true servant leader.
And so, like the day you were born, I put you again in God’s hands to guard and guide you. Young Life’s slogan, “You were made for this” seems to be appropriate for this day. I truly feel that this is a culmination of what you have been working for so diligently these past years. And I am so proud of you. I know that as you strive to be the hands and feet of Jesus, that there will be rough times. But if you keep your eyes focused on Him, I know He will be there with you.
So to be clear, I really do believe that God is sovereign. I do believe that He made you, He owns you, and He loves you even more than me.
Trust your instincts, trust your heart, and trust the Holy Spirit to guide you as you walk into a place where you will see the horrors of a fallen world. I pray you will be the answer to prayers when hurting people have cried out and asked God to send help.
And, of course, I want you to be safe but the bottom line is I trust you and trust the one who made you.
Go with my deep love and prayers that you will be able to help those who are hurting and so desperately need your touch.
I love you sweet girl.
P.S. And don’t forget your Go-Girl so you never have to take life sitting down.
“Imagine your life, wholly untouched by angst. What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats? If you could hover a fear magnet over your heart and extract every last shaving of dread, insecurity, or doubt, what would remain? Envision a day, just one day, where you could trust more and fear less.
“Can you imagine your life without fear?”
For many years, my answer to this questions has been, “no”.
If there were an Olympic sport for worrying, I would be a Gold Medalist… just ask my family. “Oh my gosh Mom, if I don’t check in with you within 5 minutes of when I’m supposed to, you immediately think there’s been an accident.” “Honey, just go to sleep. It’s going to be fine. You worry all the time.”
In fact, last spring was really tough. I was taking some prescription medicine to help me sleep at night and come to find out, one of the side effects was: anxiety. I was having chest pains and my heart was thumping out of my chest. Should I go to the ER?
(Having had these same symptoms a few years ago – and now realizing I was on Ambien then, too –I did go to the hospital and they said I was having an anxiety attack.) So I was pretty confident that these symptoms were history repeating itself. But it was still scary.
I prayed a lot. “Please Lord, take these feelings and symptoms away. My head knows you’re in control of all things, but my body is feeling otherwise!”
After I stopped taking the medication, although I didn’t get much sleep, the anxiety decreased dramatically.
Still, the worrying plagues me.
Just for the sake of brevity, I’m going to cut to the chase and tell you two things that have helped me.
First, my friend Mike Hyatt wrote an excellent blogpost called Worry and Imagination: Two Sides of the Same Coin?
After reading it, I began to be able to not get sucked into the anxiety provoking image that was in my head, but step back from it a bit and look at it as an “imaginative scene”. Then I could be more objective about it and evaluate the likelihood of its occurrence.
Then, I just finished Max Lucado’s new book, Fearless.
Now, I was hoping that Max would just lay out the simple formula on how “not to be anxious for anything” and I would be “cured”.
But actually what he gave me was much more valuable.
He took me to a place, where I could wrestle honestly with my core questions… if God loves me, and He loves the world, why do bad things still happen? And do I really trust God with my life and the lives of those I love? Is there really a plan where “all things will work together for good?”
Yes, I knew there wasn’t a simple formula to make it all better. But, particularly in the discussion guide, Max gave me tools to make my worries “concrete.” He helped me focus on the One who says to the wind, rain and thunder, “Peace. Be still.” and all is quiet.
Does it mean that bad things won’t happen? Of course not.
But it does mean that I can trust the God of the universe with my life, my worries and my imagination.
by Robert J. Kowalczyk, Ed.D.
At age 62, after a long career in the nonprofit world in America, I decided to take early retirement and spend my retirement years traveling around the world. As a retirement gift to myself, I spent the month of January 2003 traveling around parts of Asia (Sri Lanka, the Maldives Islands, and Thailand). As a special retirement treat, I booked my airline seat in business class for that long journey to Asia and my return to my home in Minneapolis.
At the end of my month’s retirement holiday, flying from Bangkok to Minneapolis, I had to change planes in Tokyo. As the flight was called, I decided not to fight the crowd trying to board and waited until final boarding. When I headed to my assigned seat I found it occupied. A flight crew member checked my ticket and the other passenger’s ticket and discovered that a computer error had in fact assigned the two of us to the same seat. Since there were no other seats available in business class, I was told to wait while a flight crew member checked to see if there was a seat available in first class. I could tell by the expression on the flight crew member’s face when she returned that she did not have good news for me. I was told first class was also full and my only option was a seat in economy class. I was offered an apology for the inconvenience and a free business class ticket for future travel. I accepted the offer and headed to my newly assigned seat.
When I made my way to my newly assigned seat, once again I found it occupied by another passenger. The other passenger checked his seat assignment and discovered that he was in the wrong seat and moved. I then settled into my seat for the long journey home. My seat mate, a Chinese man, leaned toward me and said, “I was just getting to know my seat mate, and now I have a new one.” That was the beginning of a long conversation, and a friendship, over the many hours it took to fly from Tokyo to Minneapolis. The man’s name was Dr. Xiuwen Wang. At that moment, little did I know that he would become my new boss in China.
Dr. Wang, educated in America, had lived in Ohio for the past 15 years. He recently had returned to China to serve as the principal of a newly constructed K-12 private boarding school in Yangzhou, PR China. Dr. Wang was on his way to Ohio to collect his family to return to their new home on the school campus in Yangzhou. When he told me of this wonderful new school for which he would be responsible, he did so with great passion and enthusiasm. I recognized immediately that he was a man of great vision and had a commitment to educational excellence. I discovered in our lengthy discussion on that airplane that we had a great deal in common relating to the education of children, whether they were students in America or in China. I in turn shared with Dr. Wang my past professional experiences and educational background (I have a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Psychology and Special Education). Before landing in Minneapolis, Dr. Wang had convinced me to come to Yangzhou to join his educational team of skillful school administrators and teachers, a decision I have yet to regret. So in August 2003 I packed my bags and headed to Yangzhou, PR China to serve as Dr. Wang’s assistant principal for what I thought would be for a one-year period. In addition to assisting Dr. Wang with various administrative duties, my main responsibility is to oversee a large group of international teachers of English. That one year has now grown to five… and only time will tell if there will be a sixth year.
Being an American working in China, sharing my professional expertise in education, is truly a privilege. It provides me with an opportunity to know and appreciate the rich Chinese culture. I am often overwhelmed by the warmth and friendship that is extended to me by my many new Chinese friends and colleagues. Qiao He, which means “a meeting of fate,” was truly a blessing upon me, one that has changed my life forever.
My mom has always been an amazing woman… strong beyond belief, sharp as a tack, and more energy than a roomful of Energizer bunnies! No kidding, my dad had a stroke when he was 53 (his left side was paralyzed) and my mom took care of him single-handedly for almost 22 years until he died. For all intents and purposes, she had no life besides caring for my dad. She never considered that there was any other choice.
Mom’s of that stereotypical Midwest-Norwegian farm heritage… up at the crack of dawn, get done what needs to be done as quickly as possible and don’t stop ’til you drop. She took care of my dad (never herself) from sunup to sunset, day after day, year after year.
After my dad passed away, my mom cried and grieved for about a year and then the butterfly emerged from the cocoon. She sold the house and moved into a retirement community as one of the youngest members. She made new friends, traveled the world, and was in charge of just about every volunteer activity you could imagine.
That’s why it’s so hard for me to wrap my arms around my mom now (figuratively speaking, of course). It was about two years ago that my bright, energetic, superwoman mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
Her onset of Parkinson’s was gradual at first. She would fall on occasion (I was with her when she fell and hit her head while traveling in China and Spain, which was really scary in foreign countries!) and she complained about feeling stiff all the time.
She had a slight tremor in her hand but, still, the diagnosis came as a shock.
The doctors put her on medication to slow down the progression of the disease but it slowed her down, as well. That, and the fact that her body is just plain worn out after years of taking care of my dad…
This is so not what I expected.
This sounds tacky but I always sort of expected that one day we’d hear that my mom just keeled over and was gone. Simple, quick and fast—just like my mom.
But actually, these days she’s looking more like the other, non-Energizer bunny—the one who just slowly winds down and painstakingly stops running.
I don’t know if it’s the Parkinson’s, the medications, or a combination of both, but my mom is acting very differently these days. She falls frequently, needs a wheelchair often, and is getting confused with details more and more often.
And quite honestly, I haven’t been doing so well with that. When mom says something that is off the mark, I get irritated; not all the time, but sometimes she says things that are so out of character, I am shocked. Then I hear myself talking to her with a tone of voice that is appalling and I hate how exasperated I sound when I respond to her.
I have been trying to figure out why I get so irritated with her. The conclusion I’ve come to is that it’s an issue of my expectations: I expect my mom to be “her old self” and when she isn’t, it makes me sad and hurt and frustrated and angry, all at the same time.
I miss my mom, the way she was. I miss her quick wit and her humor that got her through so many really, really tough situations. I miss her spunk and her tenacity and her perseverance in the face of challenging adversity (let’s just put it this way, my dad was a great guy but would never be nominated for sainthood!). And I miss the person who emerged from that cocoon of self-sacrifice to enjoy living life with a zeal that was a pleasure to watch as I saw her get back some of the “quality of life” that she had missed for so many years.
I know intuitively that Mom hates being in the position she is now. She doesn’t like needing to be the one being “cared for.” She has always been the caregiver so this is a new role for her. And one she wouldn’t have chosen if she had a say in it.
So it’s time for me to emotionally be okay with letting her be who she is now, the same person only in a very different stage of life. It’s time for me to pause and differentiate between my mom in my memory and my mom today with Parkinson’s (she can’t change her Parkinson’s and neither can I—even though we both would want to).
And, most of all, it’s time for me to remember that each day with her is a gift, because no matter what, she’s still my mom and that, I would never change.
I was visiting with friends in the mountains of Colorado and had the opportunity (notice I didn’t say pleasure!) of hiking up to this beautiful waterfall. There’s something profoundly moving about seeing God’s beauty in nature, particularly when we drove up most of the way and walked down!
I had time during our walk back down to the cabin to catch up with my dear friend, Katya, who was visiting from Russia. She provides orphan care and shared what has been going on in her life since I last saw her in Moscow. Beautiful scenery and a time with a good friend… spectacular!
I’ll be the first to admit that I love good romance stories — stories that tug at my heart and transport me to another place and time. I love stories of people who, like me, are looking for love and end up finding it right in front of them. But most of the time, those stories entertain me but don’t touch me deeply. Those stories make me happy momentarily but usually they just create a longing for more romance stories.
That’s why I’m hesitant to call Andy Andrews’ new book, The Noticer, a romance story, but in fact, it is the ultimate romance story because it does what truly good stories are supposed to do — they satisfy you deep in your heart and make you long to be a different and better person because of the story.
The Noticer is about the power of choosing to change your perspective. It chronicles the lives of a handful of individuals and their encounters with a man named Jones, who just keeps showing up and helping them to see things from a different point of view. Jones somehow knows things he shouldn’t know about the people he runs into and then he invites them to see their lives differently and create a different outcome for themselves. One of those people he has an encounter with is the author, Andy Andrews. Andy’s life is changed in ways he never would have imagined.
As I started reading, I kept wondering if this were a “true” story. I’ve read other books of Andy’s and so I know the front of the stories is at least “somewhat true” (that sounds like an oxymoron!). But after reading the book, I decided that I actually don’t want to know. Because what makes it a great read is that it doesn’t matter… it feels like it could be true and that inspires me to think differently about people (and situations) I “randomly” meet along life’s way, not unlike Andy and the other folks in The Noticer.
The Noticer is a quick read… but I realized when I was finished that I wanted to read it again. Because I knew that if I read it again, I would read it with a different perspective. And that’s what a truly good romance should make me want to do.