The Gift

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I received a gift some time ago that I just could not unwrap, I let it sit around, stared at it and knew it was there…but I just didn’t want to pick it up, unwrap it and peer into it’s contents.

In some ways, it was a gift I never wanted.

Sometimes….. I really just wanted to give it back or even throw it off my deck into the woods hoping it would roll down our hill into the creek and be washed away never to be seen again.

The more I stared at it, the more I despised it, but the more I thought about it, I slowly broached it and began to open it purposely and deliberately.  It was a slow, I began to peel away the layers of wrapping paper to slowly catch of glimpse of this Gift.

It’s been six LONG years since Curt was diagnosed at age 46 with Younger Onset Alzheimer’s.

It has taken me six years to just now begin to see the glory of The Gift we have been given.  It was not easy to see during those first few years.  There was some anger, bitterness, grief all piled together.

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But as the years have dragged on and I continued to plead with God for wisdom, healing, help, provision, financial stability, care, friendship, guidance….. I have finally come to realize He has provided us all those things on this journey. We have been able to look back and see how God has used our community, friends and family to bless us in big ways.  What a treasure it has been to see God’s hand moving to provide.

It’s been a Gift!

A true Gift… a gift few receive.

I have had a privilege of seeing the kindness of strangers, the provision provided to us by friends, our needs met in ways I never could imagine, sweet notes of encouraging words sent our way, surprises of kindness and care for our needs.

I remember that first Christmas after Curt was diagnosed, someone anonymously gave us this note:

Experiences…….it’s what our lives are made of……We would like you to accept this gift and experience something fun…..something relaxing and enjoyable away from your daily worries and duties…..we know how important this is and how seldom we make the time to do it.

Funny how many times we are not even aware of how many people we touch throughout our lives…..sometimes directly……..sometimes indirectly…….sometimes through actions……..sometimes through words…….sometimes by the smallest thing that we don’t even see…….So please accept this small  gift from people of lives both of you have touched…….some that you know……..some that you don’t……and each time you look at this angel…..know that someone is thinking of you and someone is praying for you………………

Enclosed was a check that pretty much covered our upcoming ski trip.  We had not told anyone about our trip.  But God knew….He orchestrated it all. He provided. He brought others to us at the right time.

One spring I was in need of a lawn mower.  A few days later a friend of a friend shows up at our door and says, “God told me to give my lawn mower to you!!”  What!?!!!!  Another example of our Gift.   I could go on and on, there have been many examples of seeing first hand God’s care provided to us through friends and our community.

People often look at me, and say they are sorry, sorry that bad things happen to good people.  They wonder how God could allow this.

But the Gift in all of this is seeing first hand the amazing way God has provided and blessed us IN the storm.  I would have never chosen this journey but I do have the choice on how I handle it.  And that choice involves truly seeing the Gift in all of it. My trust in the Lord to provide is forever changed, my faith, a fortress I cling to in this storm.  I have seen the hand of God provide for us in amazing ways financially, I have seen first hand people care for us and give us hope……do you see a glimpse of this Gift my friends?

Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

When you pass through the water, I will be with you.  When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned….

 

Yes when going through the trials of pain, heartache and heartbreak, discouragement and grief it is then that you too get to experience His Gift of seeing you through it and using others to bless you in it.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, at first my emotions did not want to see God seeing me through the storm, I just wanted the nightmare to GO AWAY.

But now as a seasoned sojourner blazing the trail of grief and heartache I do see how God has provided in amazing ways and I have come to see the true Gift of difficult trials.

If you are currently enduring a crisis, or living out the grief of a loss of a loved one, or experiencing the heartache of a broken relationship, or financial uncertainty, loss of a job, loss of something or someone dear to you or a serious health struggle………I do know this….  God may not take away your pain friends.  I am so sorry.  But…. He will see you through it all and maybe, just maybe someday you too will be able to truly see the Gift in all of it. Hang in there dear one.

It has taken me six years, but I see it now and am thankful. ❤

This Christmas, my favorite Gift is not one I will find wrapped under the tree.

After all as the song says, you must go Dashing Through the Snow in that one horse open sleigh, in order to be laughing ALL the way. 🙂

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays my friends!!

img_9122-1Thanksgiving 2016

 

 

P.S.  The picture of the gifts at the top of this page……the gift with the zip ties is the gift Madi gave Tyler last year at Christmas.  🙂  A fun sense of humor is another thing that has gotten us through all of this…..but that will have to be a post for another day. 

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~Also as an update on Curt, he is struggling a bit lately……all things we anticipated during End Stage Alzheimer’s and they are a typical sign of the long journey of a disease that offers no cure or positive treatment plan.  However, he does still maintain his contagious laugh and humor. Just yesterday I was showing him the pizza scene clip from Home Alone, he laughed so hard I had to remind him to breath! 🙂  We are thankful for that!!~

 

 

Good Grief

A few months ago I was at my annual Gynecologist appointment.  As I checked in the receptionist was going over my emergency contact info.  She asked, if my current address was the same, and what my cell number was.

She then told me she has my husband Curt listed as an emergency contact.

I didn’t say anything for a few awkward seconds.

She asked if I wanted to make a change to the emergency contact.

After a long pause again with a long sigh, and I said, “Yes I probably should”

It was at that point she proceeded to tell my how she was recently divorced and had to get her ex off of all her emergency contacts.  She said, “Look I can remove him easily, it’s no problem, then you are free of him!”

I said nothing

Just a simple, thanks and gave her the names of my kids to put in for the  emergency contact.

 

I wanted to tell her He is NOT my ex, he is my sweet husband who is struggling with the horrors of Alzheimer’s and can no longer dress himself, feed himself or use a bathroom with out help.  I wish so much that he was still my emergency contact, the one who can take care of me in an emergency!!!

But I just didn’t feel like getting into it on that particular day.  Heck I was just thinking lets get this stinkin annual evil deed over with, after all this is the gynecologist’s office.  I was not really in the mood for chit chat before hand!

That kind of thing happens frequently

It’s a constant reminder to me of loss and grief.

 

Just tonight as I wheeled Curt around his new skilled nursing facility exploring it a bit.  I found myself meandering down a long hallway.  We came to a door and several windows.  I looked through the window to get my bearings as to where I was.  It was then that it hit me…….

those batting cages are right across the street.

………We sat right across the street from the very batting cages Curt would take Tyler to constantly.   They would work on Tyler’s swing and hitting a fast ball.  Oh the contrast was almost paralyzing. 

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Another reminder to me of the depth of our loss.

 

That is how grief is, when it hits, it hits hard. 

Alzheimer’s is a weird disease in the sense  you are confronted with grief while the person is still here.

With school starting next week, I always grieve the loss of starting back to school with out Curt.  This is the 5th year of Curt not starting back to school with me.

I start alone.

This October will be 6 years since Curt was first diagnosed. 

6 years!

Madi was in 8th grade running cross country, she had not even started her lacrosse career.  She couldn’t drive yet and was still short (ha ha, for those who don’t know my tall girl stands at 5’10)

Tyler was in 10th grade just beginning to dream of a drivers license and was starting the recruiting process for baseball after a trip to the College World Series. He was anticipating the start of High School basketball season.

I of course was young, athletic, skinny, cooking gorgeous healthy meals for my family every night while working full time……ok ok, but you get the idea.

Here they are starting school a month before Curt was diagnosed.

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Here we are this summer….a lifetime of high school and college memories that Curt does not know

View More: http://bekahgracephotos.pass.us/bethany2016

 

Oh the life we have lived with out Curt understanding or realizing the significance of so many family events and milestones.

You see this grieving has been going on for 6 years.

We have grieved many losses;

The day Curt had to stop driving

The day he stopped teaching

The day he could not longer dress himself on his own

The day he could not longer pitch to Tyler

The day he needed help being fed

 

And I could go on and on.

 

Life has been a struggle.  This summer the wrath of the storm of the last almost 6 years finally caught up with me.  Early summer was hard as I was really coming to terms with the onslaught of the grieving process and all we have lost.

I have learned a lot on this journey and honestly that is one of the biggest things I have learned…that it is a journey.

Grief, struggles and difficulties are a journey. 

They don’t go away in an instant.

I often pleaded with God to just make this easier, send a magic Easy button down to me that I could push and everything would be okay.

But yea, that didn’t happen. 

You have to keep pressing on

Keep seeking

Keep pleading

Acknowledge that you can’t do this with out God, and realize God is not always the quick fix God. Struggles can last for a long time, but God is still in it. 

I am reading a book by Elizabeth Eliott, “The Path of Loneliness.” She shares a passage from her journal shortly after her husband was brutally murdered in the jungle of his mission field.

” Yet I find that events do not change souls.  It is our response to them which finally affects us”  and little farther down in the passage…”The power of the Cross is not exemption from suffering but the very transformation of suffering.”

 

Yes dear friends, those of you who are struggling with fears, worries, grief, weariness, loss. 

God will see you through it, it took a long time for me to understand this.  I wanted God to fix it, heal Curt, make this nightmare all go away, make life easier.

But He didn’t

And after 5 years of struggling through all of that, I am now emerging from the cocoon of His provision.  I now see that His grace is sufficient, and God’s strength is what has sustained me. 

2 Corinthians 12:9

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you My strength is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore most gladly I would rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

It has taken me 5 long years to understand that and believe it. I am only starting to understand the GAIN of LOSS.  What I have gained in relationship to the Giver far outweighs our loss.

Hang in there dear one if you are struggling, rough days may not go away but if you keep seeking and pleading, God will see you through it. The Gain of Loss is yours to find and cling to in the storm.  ❤

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Curt in his new facility!  The transition went really well….yes He is seeing us through it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walks of Life

IMG_6316Curt now spends a great deal of time in a “Broda” chair,  it’s a like a recliner on wheels. As of late he has not been content in the chair, he moves his legs in the chair constantly, sorta rocking it up and down in an attempt to get up.  The problem is, if he does get up and walk around, he gets tired easily and becomes a fall risk.  It’s one of those difficult situations, with no easy answer.  However, I have noticed he calms down immensely when I walk the hallways with him in his chair, his sporadic, uncoordinated movement begins to ease up and his eyelids grow heavy.

So lately I have been spending a lot of time walking the halls of the memory care facility with him.

During our walks, I often find my thoughts drifting back to another  big walk we  took together.  I remember walking the halls of our local hospital all through the night until the sun came up while in labor with Tyler.  We walked, we talked, we prayed and anticipated our future together as a family.

Now we walk the halls of a memory care facility, I can barely understand anything Curt says anymore, he is either awake, agitated and antsy or tired, calm and serene.  He still smiles and laughs, but not quite as frequently as he did.

Our dreams for our future at the hospital that night in December, have now faded into the black hole of Alzheimer’s.

And I guess that is why I have struggled as of late to update this blog…….I have been grieving.

I  had a rough winter….not horrible, but for me, and my usual optimistic self it has been difficult.

I am weary

I miss Curt and his wisdom, guidance, care and companionship

I miss the kids since they are both now at college

I am weary

I am tired of taking care of everything and making decisions with out Curt’s wisdom and insight.

I am tired of taking care of taxes and filling out the FAFSA (ha ha, ok that is just something Curt would thrive taking care of, I on the other hand DREAD it all)

I am just tired, stuff bothers me more, there is always this huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over my head.

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However, during all of my grief and calling out to God, I have found something.

Something I anticipated, but waiting for it was not in my plan.  I am a millennial generation baby boomer…..I don’t wait well. 🙂

A treasure, a gift, I have just begun to unpack…..

I am learning to embrace the promise of Romans 8:28

And we KNOW that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.

It was a struggle for a long time, to think God is working this out for good…..like you’re kidding me right??  There is no good in having your husband diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 46, when your kids were 13 and 15?!  How can that be GOOD!?

But then I received a hand made prayer quilt in the mail recently from a prayer ministry in North Carolina.  As I pulled it out of the wrapped box, I was confused as to what it was.  The backside of the quilt was a busy mess, but when I turned it over, I saw the completed quilt and it’s full beauty.  If I only looked at the back of it, I would see an angry mess, in disorganized chaos.

If I just looked at my circumstances I see a deplorable, emotional MESS of chaos and loss.

But in the big picture of ALL that God is weaving together, the quilt of life comes together and I start to see how God is weaving all of this into His perfect plan.  If God leads you to it, He WILL see you through it……..it may not be easy, but He will see you through it. 

Not gonna lie, this has NOT been an easy journey, but as I look back on it the last 5 years, God has provided for us above and beyond.  He has met our big needs and little needs.

 

Okay now stick with me on this analogy……….You know how sometimes when you are out driving and you realize you are starving hungry…..Like seriously famished, I could eat a horse kind of hungry.  Then you eat some random granola bar you find in your glove compartment to hold you over until you can get real food.  You are satisfied for a bit, and you feel a little better and can press on until the big meal comes.

Well if you are still with me on this one, that is how God has been providing for us.  Sure I wish the big meal would come and make it all okay, but the little morsels of His truth, strength, and grace is what keeps me going on a daily basis. I feel a little better and can press on through the day.  His strength is what keeps me going, those little morsels of strength keep me, keeping on!

  It’s only when I look back do I see how many times He has given me that random granola bar when i needed it to get through the day.   A friend drops off a meal, someone volunteers to help with yard work at the right time, a friend stops by to see Curt, a card comes in the mail filled with kind words and encouragement, God meets our looming financial needs in BIG ways, a friend invites me out to dinner when I need it, God speaks in a big way to me through His word, I hear a song and I am brought to tears, yet ultimately encouraged through the words. 

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Oh friends I do believe God is working this out for His glory, but for anyone who is struggling with the onslaught of rough times, do know it’s not always going to be easy, and at times it will downright suck.  But in the big picture of it all keep seeking, pleading, praying. Remember to snack on those random granola bars of provision that God sends your way to empower you to press on. Your life may look like one hot mess of grief and sorrow, but the Master quilter is bringing this mess all together for His Good.  Press on!

2 Chronicles 20:12 ……….We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you!

 

Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far
‘Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven’s working
Everything for your good

~Danny Gokey

“Tell Your Heart to Beat Again”

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~thanks for walking with us on this journey~