Heart of a Mother

The heart of a mother is one that, for some, is hard to explain and even talk about.  When I think of how to explain those words, I immediately get a picture of my own mom.  Growing up I felt very safe and secure. Both parents were and still are strong Christians. My brothers and I were loved and disciplined in a Biblical way and really never questioned our upbringing. It was good. My mother kept the home fires burning.  She did mom things: cooking, cleaning, carpooling, attending sports events, and church functions. She was a fantastic model for me. It wasn’t until I faced challenges of trying to become a mother myself that I began to realize there was more to a mother’s heart than meets the eye.

 

At the tender age of 38 I thought I was ready to attempt this “mom” thing. Little did I know that the road it would take me down would be one of great heartache. My journey to motherhood began with a miscarriage. A few months later, I gave birth to  a little girl only to be with her for an hour before she took an early flight from this earth and said goodbye. Later I carried a child for only 28 weeks and had to say goodbye yet again. Definitely not the journey I had pictured. My faith was challenged, but it kept me from spiraling into despair, and yet my heart still had to grieve the loss.  God never left; He just had a divine calling on my life called adoption. On June 14, 2006, a 7-pound, 14-ounce big blue-eyed little girl was laid in my arms! What else could I say, but, “WOW!” The heart of a mother began to swell within me.

koricovington

 

That little girl is now 11 years old.  Time flies! As I examine my road as a mother, I have begun to understand what was going on behind the scenes of things my mother would do. It’s all beginning to make sense. I’m blown away by how the heart of a mother reflects, in many ways, the heart of God.  We read about His heart for us in His word.  He instructs us how to live, then commands us to instruct our children. He protects us and in the same way, instills in us the heart-felt need to protect our “littles”. Psalm 18 is a beautiful picture of how He fights for us. So we also are not afraid to fight on behalf of those in our care.

 

My mom-heart gets foggy at times on what’s a true reflection of His heart. Actions that seem unimportant to me speak volumes of love to my child: a dorky valentine card, conversational candy hearts, a miniature box of chocolates, things that are no big deal to me are huge love actions in my house right now. These are opportunities to reflect His love in ways that my child can understand.

 

I love that the mom-heart He placed in each of us reflects His heart. What else can we say but “WOW!”

Kori Covington wrote this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

Grief and the New Normal

You’ve lost a parent. The funeral services are over and family and friends have returned to their lives and normal activities, and you realize that the normal you once knew no longer exists. You are faced with a new normal, one you didn’t want and didn’t ask for. There are no more Tuesday doctor appointments or Friday lunch dates. You pick up the phone to call your loved one to only realize that no one is there to answer. A hollow emptiness follows and you feel that you are all alone.

Everyone has moved on and seems to wonder why you haven’t, too. They don’t realize their normal still exists so they have the same platform to operate from, where your normal is gone and your very foundation has been shaken. The solid footing you have known your whole life has crumbled and changed.

You have stepped into a new reality with a new foundation of normal. It is similar to the end of other phases in your life. You graduate high school and can never go back to childhood. You get married and no longer identify with the single crowd. You have children and life is forever changed. A big difference between these situations and the one you are facing now is that you looked forward to those changes. You were happy about them, dreamed about them, planned for them. You shared your joy and excitement with your family and friends. But this is something different. The joy and excitement is missing, and you don’t jump in with both feet ready to get this new life started. You stand on the edge of your new normal looking back at what you no longer have, remembering, wanting.

You feel lost and alone. Your emotions are all over the place, and sometimes you question your sanity. “Is this normal? Do other people feel this way?”

You are not alone. It is like an elite club whose membership requirement is to have experienced the loss of a parent and faced the transition into a new normal. We see you and feel your hurt. Even if we know nothing else about you except that you have lost your parent, we feel a bond with you. It is like a secret handshake in the brotherhood. We identify with you.

You may not hear us or see us, but we are thinking of you and praying for you. We think of you in the days and weeks following the services, when all of your family and friends have gone home. We think of you each time we think of our lost loved ones: on holidays; in the grocery store seeing the cherries that Daddy always bought; sitting and watching the grandkids and remembering the patience Mother had, sitting for hours watching us; seeing you praise and worship in church, and knowing that the Lord is meeting you in a special way and touching you deep in your spirit.

I just wanted you to know. You are not alone.

This post was written by Darla Carthel. To read more about her, click here.

Practical Ways to Care

Becoming a full-time caregiver of a parent, spouse, disabled child or foster children is life-altering at a minimum. For many it can be the most demanding, difficult job they’ve ever done as they lay down their lives to love, serve and care for the needs of another. Today I want to offer some practical ways you can be a minister of love, hope, and encouragement to these special people.  I’m writing as a daughter, a respite care provider for my parents, as someone who has been a foster parent.

When my dad was about 60 years old, he developed a rare brain disease that began with things like not being able to tie his shoes and all too quickly took his ability to speak and use his hands and arms. My mom was thrown into processing all the changes that were occurring with my dad, taking care of him, making financial and business decisions, doctor’s visits, and care of the home and property. For several years, Dad could not be left alone, and taking him anywhere was an enormous challenge.

Suffice it to say that, for many, caregiving can be very isolating. Caregivers often struggle with exhaustion and being able to take care of themselves, as well. Their lives can feel totally out of control and they need help and compassion.

There are many ways that you can breathe life into their situation.

  • Visit: Ask when it’s a good time to come by. Bring them news of the outside world: what’s happening at church, your job, the community. Please, tell a good joke. The Bible says that laughter is good medicine. One of my dad’s favorite hospice nurses would carry on and tease and make jokes about the awkward things that would happen when she was caring for him. Don’t forget a hug or touch for the disabled, even if it’s awkward when they can’t respond. They still know.
  • Listen: Caregivers need to be able to tell someone about how hard it is and if they’ve had a particularly bad day.
  • Meals: A healthful and delicious meal is a God-send.
  • Holidays: Offer for them to join you at your house, or ask if you can bring the food to them and do the dishes.
  • Remember: Send texts, a thinking of you card, or call. Pray with them.
  • Help: Offer to help with yard work, pick up groceries, or stay with the home-bound person while the caregiver gets out for a while. My uncle kept my dad once a week while my mom went to lunch with friends or a doctor’s appointment and ran errands. These friends and this help from my uncle were life support for her.

Body of Christ, we have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need. 2 Corinthians 9:12 says,

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

This post was written by Erin Smart. To read more about her, click here. 

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On Grief

Grief can occur from a multitude of things. I grieved when Daddy was diagnosed with cancer. I grieved when Mother was diagnosed with dementia and I realized that the mother I had known was lost to me. I grieved when each of them died. All three forms are the same process, the same pain.

There are 5 stages to grief:

  1. denial and isolation
  2. anger
  3. bargaining
  4. depression
  5. acceptance

You don’t always go through them in order, and may not experience all of them. Grief is unique to the individual, and can hit you out of the blue: in a movie, at the store, when you pick up the phone to call them and realize that they aren’t there to call.

You have to allow yourself to grieve. There is no correct amount of time and no right way. It is personal, but if you don’t allow yourself to heal, you can move into complex grief, which requires professional help.

One of the hardest things in dealing with grief, is that while you are dealing with yours, and trying to hang on, others are dealing with theirs, and trying to hang on, and you are thrown into the mix together.

There are 3 personality types for expressing grief:

  • Intuitive mourners– touchy, feely, comfortable with emotion. Sensitive to others. Less able to rationalize and may appear more overwhelmed and devastated.
  • Instrumental mourners – seek accurate information, analyze facts, make informed decisions, problem solvers. They may appear to others as cold and uncaring, seeming to be dispassionate and detached
  • Dissonant mourners – in conflict between what they experience internally and what they express outwardly. They are in conflict with themselves and want to avoid it. They struggle to hide their true feelings in order to maintain the image they want to put forth. They may condemn themselves and feel guilty for not feeling what they think they are suppose to feel.

Whichever category you are in, to you that is the right way. It is easy to judge others and be angry, but it is important to remember to have grace for those in the other categories, too.

In the body of Christ, we are gifted in different areas. Some are merciful, others are nurturers, others servants. But as we grow in Christ, we try to develop all of these areas within ourselves, and learn to do what doesn’t come naturally.

The way you handle grief and caring for elderly parents can be viewed in the same way. We need to step up and do whatever needs to be done. Do your part and let others do theirs, in all areas. You need each other, and need to help each other stay healthy.

There are people willing to help you. Let them. Find someone who has experienced it, and ask questions. Turn to your family and friends. They are the physical hug from the Living God Who will get you through this.

This post was written by Darla Carthel. To read more about her, click here

An Attitude of Gratitude

An Attitude of Gratitude

Starting my mornings off in my cozy bed with my personalized Bible verse has really been a positive action for me. Rise and shine!

This is the day the Lord has made. Let ME rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

I try to say it out loud and declare it to be so. 

 It is very important for me to talk myself into a positive grateful mood to begin my day and often to continue that positivity throughout my day. You see, my precious husband of 46 plus years has had Alzheimer’s Disease for a long time. I have been a caregiver for others with Alzheimer’s also. My husband’s aunt, my wonderful Mother, my special Mother Mother-in-Law, and numerous patients. I have been a RN for over 45 years. 

 Forming the habit of being positive in each situation that arises is difficult, but not impossible with God’s help.

l can do anything through Jesus Christ who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13

Find something affirmative in each situation that arises. Even if whatever is taking place at the moment is not so good, expect God to bring good out of it.

Surrounding yourself with Christians, such as your family, church family, neighborhood friends, colleagues, support groups, etc., is extremely important. You can cry, laugh, express your anxiety, get angry when you need to, and hopefully without judgement. Praying with a group is so refreshing, healing, and empowering. 

The act of grieving is so very hard when your loved one is leaving you mentally while his body is shriveling slowly away. Gratefully, he’s not in pain. I have laid next to him reminiscing about our life—especially how we met, holidays, birthdays, trips, harvesting, sport events, friends, etc. Not crying, for his sake, was extremely hard, but then on my long drive home from Lubbock back to our farm a flood of tears came. Many times I had to stop off the side of the highway to get my crying over with so I could drive home safely.

I truly enjoyed my days of laughter with my husband. I could not laugh AT him with his very bizarre actions or things he said caused by his Alzheimer’s. I did laugh about those things later though. “A cheerful heart is a good medicine.” Proverbs 17:22

Making out a list of your blessings is cathartic. Thanking God for the love of my life, our 2 wonderful sons, our 2 fantastic daughter-In-laws, and our four terrific growing-up-way-too-fast grandchildren is at the top of that list. Having the finances for my husband’s care is such a blessing. I am so very grateful for the good care he is receiving though the nursing home and hospice staff. What a blessing these hardworking loving people are.

Care givers, take care of yourself!! Ask for help. Accept help. Take care of your medical needs. Exercise, find some form of activity that you like so that you will do it. Get with a buddy so you will be accountable. Make your exercise a routine habit. You’ll feel so much better. Feed yourself healthy meals. Your body is a temple of God. Treat it that way. Show your body the GRATITUDE it deserves.

~*~*~*~

Helen Teeple is our guest writer today. She has been married for over 46 years, and has 2 sons, Brian & Keith. They have 1 granddaughter and 3 grandsons. Helen has been a BSN, RN for over 45 years. “I knew I want to be a nurse when I was 6 years old. When a RN friend called me to come to work as a Hospice Nurse I felt God was preparing me for the season of my life I am experiencing now.”

Helen is a member of the  First United Methodist Church of Floydada, TX. She grew up in Irving, TX, and graduated from TWU in Denton, TX. She lives on their farm in South Plains. “I never thought or dreamed I would marry a farmer, but God sure had other plans for us, and I’m glad I followed His directions!”

Re: The Heart of Grief

griefDuring the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2016. We hope these will encourage you and connect to your heart. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February 2017!

I remember so clearly the moment the pediatric ICU doctor asked Brad and I to come into the conference room. He wanted to show us the MRI of David’s brain and explain to us the effect that the stroke had had on his brain. He seemed so calm and nonchalant, like this was just another day in the office.  As he pointed to the picture on the screen, he explained that the part of David’s brain that was all black was the part that was completely dead because of the lack of blood flow. It looked as if half of David’s brain was not working any longer.   I was completely in shock and overwhelmed… It was truly the first time I had ever wanted to punch someone in the face. In that moment the rage I had towards this reality, the fact that my 5-month-old son had a stroke, was overwhelming.  It was the first time I had really experienced grief. It was all I could do to stay standing and to walk out of that conference room. As I went back to David laying in his crib in the pediatric ICU, the only thing that was going through my mind was the lyrics to a song that had been playing in my car. The words to the song said “He is good, He is good, His love endures forever.  Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.”

I am still overwhelmed today when I think about that picture of David’s brain. The emotions I feel about the traumatic experience we’ve walked through are still real today. The grace of God in that moment, was the song that He so graciously sang over me…it reminds me of God’s ability. Not my ability. It reminds me to give thanks to God. To speak the truth of God’s goodness over David and his stroke and over other circumstances I face that bring sadness and grief to my heart.  It reminds me that God’s love is forever!  Grief and sorrow are real. They stay with us. But God extends His grace to us when we are dealing with grief and that grace allows us to keep living.

Two verses will always be dear to my heart because of David’s stroke. One is in Deuteronomy 30:19.

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

 

The other is Psalm 126:5,

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.

God continues to use both of these verses when I’m walking through grief. One of them gives me permission to feel and cry, and the other encourages me to choose life…even in the middle of my pain.  Grief is real. It’s an emotion that’s meant to throw us into the presence of God.

Dear friends, if you’re experiencing grief today don’t ignore it. Run towards God…let His grace wash over you. Let His words speak to your heart. There is no shame in grief…in fact we can see it as a gift if we’re willing to experience it, embrace it, and receive God’s comfort because of it. 

May the peace of God always rule deeply in our hearts…no matter what we face!

Blessings,

Julie

This post was written by Julie Snellgrove. To read more about her, click here

Making a Home: Words for a Care-Giver

My perceived golden years were supposed to be the time when ingathering was finished and I could enjoy the fruits of my many years of labor. The time when most of my bucket list could start happening and I could do the things I had put on the back-burner and told myself I’d do when I got old and gray. Then life got in the way and things didn’t go as I dreamed. My Little Mama’s golden years became tarnished by the patina of Alzheimer’s and she needed a care-giver. My golden years had changed into something totally different than I expected.

In seeking God‘s perspective for this season in my life He reminded me of this promise in 2 John 1,3:

To the elect lady and her children (family)… Grace, mercy and peace WILL be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ…

He reminded me that these words were much more than a salutation. They were HIS words of LIFE to me and that if I received each one and laid claim to them for my own as a daily blessing from Him then I could be who He wanted me to be for my family in this season.

GRACE. MERCY. PEACE. These words have nothing to do with what I do to make my home comfortable for my family….they have everything to do with who I am in my home with my family.

It is God’s grace that helps me when I have to parent my parent to make sure she remains safe and healthy. It is His grace that helps me in the times buttons from childhood get pushed and I want to respond in a defensive, emotional, or hateful way. It is His grace that helps me to be able to walk away from the physical clutter and chaos that this disease brings into a home.

It is His mercy flowing through me that gives me compassion for the times Little Mama comes to me scared because she doesn’t know where her parents or her husband or her puppy is. Mercy for when she doesn’t know where she is or why she is living with me so that I can comfort her and make her feel safe. It is His mercy that lets me know it is okay to be messed up emotionally at times when I get frustrated or when I see the confusion and pain in Little Mama’s eyes.

Most of all I find I can have inner peace because I know I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing in this season. Honoring my Little Mama and knowing this pleases my DAD. And if I continue to press in to receive and live in these blessings from Him, my home will flow in abundance of what He wants it to be….maybe not Better Homes and Gardens perfect, but God-Perfect….a life-giving, loving, warm, comfortable and safe haven for my family’s spirits.

This post was written by Kitty Shipman. To read more about her, click here