Thursday, November 17, 2016

Look Forward

I think that every time someone we love passes away, the first thing on our hearts is a bit of regret. "I wish we would have spent more time together while we could." "I should not have said that thing that time." In my case, with my mom, I have thought over these last few weeks of how it was a struggle not to lose patience with the symptoms of dementia or how I didn't ever seem to find the right words to comfort her when she couldn't understand why there was so much discomfort throughout her body. I never knew exactly what to say. But I know that guilt is a tool of satan. When we are Christians there is no place for guilt to live.
"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1

So, instead of being fixated on what I wish I had done that I didn't, I am going to remember all the good moments we shared, even the ones in the end, when it was most difficult. And I will look forward. I will see what I can allow God to do through me this day, and I will take all the chances I get to do some small thing that may impact someone bigger than I think. Jesus allowed himself to be interrupted when someone had a need. My mom did too. And here are the things that I am going to do more of from now on because of the influence her life had on me.

1. I will pay more compliments, 
When my mom thought something nice about anyone, she told them. Towards the end, she would forget that she had already said it that day, so she said it again. I don't know how many times I heard from her that I was "such a good mommy." She constantly told me how perfect I was for my son, and that God gave him to me because there could be no other mom in the world who would have done a better job. She offered the same kind of encouragement to everyone. In a society that is more prone to complain, share bad experiences instead of good ones, and look at all that is wrong, I have decided to be the person who looks for what is right. And then, I won't keep it to myself. If I think a nice thought about anyone, why shouldn't they know? Social media makes it easy. I don't even have to work up the nerve to tell what I am thinking in's as easy as sending a private message. So in my house, out in the community and from my computer or phone, I will pay more compliments. 

2. I will take more pictures. I already take a lot of them, but the one thing I thought when looking through family photos trying to find some to share of my mom was that there were not enough pictures of her.  I know that before the age of digital cameras, people just didn't take as many photos. But even after they became so widely used and we all had phones on our cameras, I think that my mom was the one taking the pictures at family events and I wish I would have thought to take one of her next. So from now on, whenever I am experiencing something I want to remember with people I love, I will take more pictures. 

3. I will make time for friends. My mom ALWAYS did. Memories I have growing up are of her friends coming over to have tea and talk. And if my mom had not seen someone in a while, she would schedule a time to go visit, or she would call to see how they were doing. Times have changed, and if you ask anyone how things are going, people always say "busy." Well yes, we have things that keep us busy, but I believe that if we are too busy to ever spend time with people we care about, then we are not within the will of God. In the end, only the time we spent loving Him and loving people is going to matter. So, if we are friends. you will probably be hearing from me. Let's get together soon, and when we do, we will take a picture! 

4. I will give God first place in my heart. My family and friends will be next, because I do believe according to scripture, God and people are all that truly matter. My mom must have known. She had more devotion books than I have ever seen in any room that I have ever been in, and I remember her spending her daily quiet time with God every morning. She closed the door and that time was only for reading and prayer, although she didn't ignore the kids if we needed something during that time. She met our needs and got right back into her Scripture. And I see that she applied what she knew. She didn't just read the Word, she lived it. And even though she thought she never did anything special, she was also happy with her life and content with everything as it was because she put God first. She was happy with less because her joy came from God and from giving of herself to improve someone else's circumstances whenever she could. 

These are the things I am going to do so that when my time comes, or someone else I love before me goes on, I won't have to feel that bit of regret. I won't leave kind words unsaid. My friends won't remain forgotten because I was busy. People I love will know that I love them. I do hold on to the last gem my mother gave me. In her final days, right before she became unable to speak, she was having trouble and in a lot of pain. It was a Saturday night. I told her I wished she felt better and I wished there was something I could do. I said I would take it away from her if I could. She patted my hand and said she was just glad I was her daughter. Those were her last words to me. So when the enemy wants to creep into my mind over the coming season and tell me I should have done better, I will remember what she said and know that she thought I did all right. There is no room for regret. No place for guilt. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite pastors, Steven Furtick. 

Change is what I am going for, every day. My prayer is that Jesus will keep changing me to look more like Him in my actions and the way I live. My goal is for anyone to catch sight of Him in me. Mom didn't know it, but a lot of people were exposed to His love through her. May it also be said of me when my days have ended. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Taking Life Back

It has been a long time since I have written a post about anything. Close to 3 months to be precise, because the last three months of my life have been a whirlwind of personal crisis and all the emotions that come along with that. It wasn't long before all this took place that I had found myself in a place of perfect peace in the Lord, thanks to the "happy habits" I had written about in a previous post. Seeking God above all other things and spending time with Him every morning when I woke up, along with a healthy eating and exercise routine, kept me feeling strong through my mom's illness and through waiting to conceive a child that I felt God had clearly spoken to my heart about. That was one of those things I was surprised about when it happened, because we thought adoption would be the only way we would add to our family since our son does have a genetic disorder. So since I knew God promised me that if we asked, we would receive what we hoped for in the depths of our hearts, a healthy sibling for Lucas who has no disability. We kept asking, and we kept trying, and then on day in early July I finally saw the positive pregnancy test I had longed for, and I just hoped and prayed that my mother would live long enough to meet her next grandchild. She loved the one she had more than life.

We felt so confident that this pregnancy was the completion of God's plan for our family, and my stomach was rapidly expanding just as it did with Lucas, when I could hardly keep the secret. So we excitedly announced to everyone we knew that we were expecting our second child. Without reliving all the painful details, this was not to be the child that God spoke to my heart about. Instead a miscarriage began one weekend in early September, just a few days after my birthday, and ended with such pain and heavy bleeding that I landed in the hospital and had to stay the night. All the while I was needed at home to help take care of my mother, whose health failed more rapidly by the day. She was diagnosed with both dementia and ALS and I was my dad's only help. I went home from the hospital wanting to hide from the whole world, cry my heart out, and just be left alone, and never speaking about what had just happened to me because it hurt too badly to say the words to my friends, no matter how much they wanted to love and support me. But I didn't have time to grieve the way I wished I could. My parents needed my help. 

Feeling like I needed an extra boost to keep putting one foot in front of the other in the incredible darkness I felt after my loss, I ran to the doctor to get back on anti-depressants, something I had only done once before even though depression has been a struggle of mine for many years. I usually manage it well because of God. It's only because of His strength and deliverance for me that I come out of it every time it comes for me, and again, the way I eat and exercise can also make a big difference. Well unfortunately, in times of high stress, I like to eat badly, even though I KNOW it won't help and will ultimately make me feel worse, stress eating remains a kind of disorder I have to determine to fight against every day. It's a thing that you feel like you can be free from, until the next terribly stressful time rolls around, and then you know that your drug of choice still has a hold on you. I felt compelled to eat what would bring me momentary joy. I ate pizza, chocolate, deep fried Chinese food, and more. I still read my Bible, ate my vegetables and still got my workout every day, but as you can imagine, I still gained weight. And then came the next blow. 
My mother's condition worsened and she became more and more frustrated, because she could not understand any of the things that were happening to her body. She had refused most things that would have helped her because she just couldn't comprehend why she needed them or force her self to do things she did not like as she would have done if she was of sound mind. Her disease took away her ability to swallow, and because she never wanted to live with a feeding tube. she rapidly lost weight. On a Friday in late October I knew that she was not going to have many days left, and then, upon witnessing her terrible misery and anguish, I prayed that she wouldn't and asked everyone else to pray the same with me. I didn't want to be without my mom, but I didn't want her to have to live the way she was. Nobody can imagine what it felt like, but by the way it looked, it was dreadfully painful. I helped my dad get her into bed on Saturday night and prayed she wouldn't even have to wake up. But I am glad that she did wake up that day. Although initially she was distressed, there came a more calm state over her. I stayed with my parents most of Sunday morning and called their church for her to go on their prayer chain, then I left for our church to request prayers for her there too. I left right after worship, rather than stay for the whole service, because I sensed my mom might not make it through the day. I stopped at the grocery store to by my family dinner and to grab some flowers for my mom in her favorite color, purple. I returned home to the sound of singing coming from my mom's bedroom, and discovered two of her friends from church were there, singing some of her most beloved songs. Then my brother and his wife arrived, and although mom had been sleeping, and not very responsive to anything, she woke up while they were there. My son Lucas came in to the room and climbed up on the bed too, and she reached out to him, and he high fived her and and he smiled at her. My mom was awake while her whole family was there and seemed not to be in any pain during those moments and for that, I am going to be forever thankful to God. Late in the afternoon, she seemed to go into a comatose state of being, and we thought she would pass in the night into her Heavenly home. But she woke up about 10 PM, very agitated, struggling for breath, and I helped my dad get her medicine to her that would help her feel less anxious. I asked if she knew that it was perfectly OK for her to go and be with Jesus and she slightly nodded her head to me. I read to her from her bedside Bible and played her some music, all the songs I could think of about Heaven, so that she would feel it was safe for her to go and not worry about leaving us behind. She lived through the night,but she was never awake again. Throughout the day, her breathing became more and more shallow, until it finally stopped. It was unreal to see her the way she was in the end, and to be one of the people trying to determine if my mother was actually dead. Even though we rejoiced that God heard our prayers and took her into His eternal safety and joy, we cried for her. We cried for a life that had ended and for the mom, wife, and grandmother we were all going to miss from now on, even though she had not been the same person for the last several months. 
With God always at my side, determined to be the voice in my mind that always overpowers the others, I have decided something. I will not let my past losses or my current sadness control my future. The best way to honor my mom is to live like she did before the diseases took away her normal. She gave of herself freely and enjoyed the simple things in life. Although it has only been about a month, I talked to my doctor today about stepping down from my prescription. I serve an all powerful God who has the ability to change my mindset without the help of pills. As I have said before, I fully support anyone who NEEDS to stay on prescriptions and there is absolutely no shame in it. Dealing with depression is going to be different for everyone. There may be other times in my life when I feel the need for medical help again too. But my personal choice is to treat everything as naturally as possible. 

You know what else helps depression? What is proven to help people feel better? Exercise and a healthy diet. Food does matter to all parts of the body, including the brain and the hormones which directly effect how good a person feels. Check out these images to understand why I feel like I can beat this condition with my food and I think others can too. 

As you probably guessed, many people, myself included, want to go for the not-so-healthy foods in times of sadness. We want instant gratification and comfort. But as you can see here, certain foods have positive and negative impacts on the brain and body, Another thing I wish to do in memory of my dear mom is to educate people about this as much as possible. I believe 100 percent that some of the foods she enjoyed a bit too much of later in life affected her brain function, and made her illness harder for her. Instead of being frozen by my sadness or fear of what might happen next, I am going to honor my mom's life by trusting God, giving my best to Him, and being proactive. I will not continue to wallow or rely on anything besides God and the ability He gave me to choose wisely in order to improve my life. I know His plans are good plans. I don't know why we have to wait to see His promises come to pass at times, and I don't know why this one about our family could not come to pass in time for my mom to see it. But I take comfort in the thought of her being with my two angel babies in Heaven. She got to meet the grandchildren that none of us have had the joy of seeing yet, and she got to do that in her complete state of glory in the presence of God. My joy is greater than my sorrow. 
Will you consider joining me for my next "Happy, Healthy Habits" group on Monday? Its a simple 5 day challenge group that takes place on Facebook, and it is completely free of charge. It's something I do to help others, while keeping myself accountable to the friends who join me too. I want to prove it to you AND myself that we can live happier because of what we eat, what we drink, and what we think. Let's try together.