Jesus Finally Called

Mrs. Jo Ann Roberts, age 83, of Franklin, TN, formerly of Mayfield, passed away on Tuesday, May 09, 2017 at Alive Hospice in Nashville, TN.

She was a member of High Point Baptist Church and a homemaker.

Mrs. Roberts is survived by one granddaughter, Misty (Jeff) Woodford of Franklin, TN; two great grandchildren, Sam and Lexi Kate Woodford; one son-in-law, William Baker of Mayfield, KY; three brothers, Jack Hawkins, Billy (Beula) Hawkins and Donald Wayne (Sandra) Hawkins all of Mayfield, KY; two sisters, Patsy Nall and Peggy (Melvin) Alexander both of Mayfield, KY; two brother-in laws, Gail (Anita Sue) Roberts and Larry (Linda) Roberts; one step-granddaughter, Meghan Baker of California; one step-great granddaughter, Julianne Bea of Murphreesboro TN, and several nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Glen A. Roberts; one daughter, Pam Baker; six sisters, Madele Hicks, Reva Sims, Pauline Jackson, Kink Brown, Helen Drake and Jette Mae Goatley; and her parents, Roscoe and Roxie Rodgers Hawkins.

Funeral services for Mrs. Jo Ann Roberts will be 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, 2017 at Byrn Funeral Home in Mayfield, KY. Nic Allen will officiate. Interment will follow at Highland Park Cemetery.

Pallbearers will be Brad Hawkins, Chad Hawkins, Terry Jackson, Stevie Jackson, Cody Drake, Johnny Hicks and Melvin Alexander.

Visitation will be 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, 2017 at the funeral home.

How is she hanging on?

The question of the hour for the doctors, nurses and our family is, how in the world is she still hanging on? She’s 19 days past a blood clot in her superior mesenteric artery, she’s 13 days post stroke- neither receiving medical treatment; and she hasn’t had food or water in 13 days. She’s been totally nonresponsive for 8 days. It’s a medical mystery and an interesting journey in watching the human life cycle.

But, here’s what I know about my grandmother’s health journey, and it shines a great big spotlight into how in the world she’s survived this long. Grandmother was most likely born with infant rheumatism and a hole in her heart. She was sick most of her childhood, not expected to live beyond her teen years. As a teenager, she developed severe migraines that led to her getting shots in her skull. (This is where I am glad that I was a migraine patient in the late 90s-2000’s and not the 1940’s.) Not only did she live beyond her teen years, she was a hard working productive member of society. She delivered a child. In her later years, she stripped tobacco for a living in hot and terrible working conditions.

In 1997 the hole in her heart opened up, leading to emergency heart surgery. Several hours into surgery, the doctor came into the waiting room to let us know he was closing up, but didn’t expect her to come off the operating table alive. It was a hard couple days, but she survived. Four days later, a stitch pulled loose from her valve replacement, tearing the valve, and they had to go back in and do the surgery over. Again, the doctor said she was absolutely too weak to survive this surgery. We left the hospital a couple weeks later. In April 1999 the “cow tissue” valve failed and she had a “pig tissue” valve inserted. The surgery went well, no complications. At the time the surgeon told us that this would give her 7-10 years life at most.

In 2003 Grandmother had a heart attack, and needed a pacemaker installed. Again, this bought her a couple years at most. In 2010 her pacemaker was replaced with a pacemaker/ defibulator combination device. I can’t even tell you how many times the defibulator has activated after Grandmother suffered a heart attack. At least 10 times in the 2 years she has lived with me. It’s the craziest thing in the world.

In February 2014, the day after her 80th birthday, Grandmother watched her only daughter die. If anything would destroy a heart, I’d pretty much expect that to do it. I honest to goodness expected to bury my mother and my grandmother that week. And, yet, she is a survivor. She continued to live on her own for another year before moving in with us.

In the time that Grandmother has lived with us, we’ve been told she would not leave St. Thomas Hospital alive 4 times. Four times I have mentally and emotionally prepared for my grandmother to die. Yet, I sit beside her and type, and she is totally alive.

We have racked our brains as to what in the world she could be waiting on. Every family member has been here to tell her goodbye. We’ve all told her it is okay to go be with Jesus. I’ve asked her to go give my mom a hug for me and tell her that I love her. I even brought the dog up here to be with her last night. For the love of Pete, I went and made funeral arrangements for someone that wasn’t dead so I could tell her it was taken care of and not to worry about me.

But, she’s not suffering. She is comfortable, and her time on this earth is not done. So, for whatever she’s clinging to, I accept that she has something else to live for. Her time and journey on this earth is not done. By my math, she’s been defying death for 83 years, and 20 of those very actively defying the odds. She’s a fighter, she’s a tough old bird. And, she reminds me daily that there’s no struggle on this earth I can’t overcome. For goodness sake, if she can beat the hell out of death, I can conquer a few little work problems or parenting issues.

A Huge Thank You Note

I know hand written notes are a thing of the past. But, it is something I really love to do. There’s just something special about writing an encouraging note to someone, or expressing your gratitude for a gift or kind deed. My kids have had personalized stationary since before they were born. I should own stock in a paper company. My kids are required to write thank you notes before they are allowed to play with their birthday presents. I get it, me forcing them to do it takes a little of the sentiment out of it. But, I want to establish the good habit in them while they’re young. LK has taken ownership of this, and now shares my love of writing encouraging notes, and thank you notes to those who’ve helped her or gifted her with something.

Moral of the story, if you do something for me, I want to write you a thank you note. Not out of obligation, but because it truly is something I feel compelled to do out of joy. The last three weeks of our life have presented a huge problem for me in this area. I simply can’t keep up with who I need to write a thank you note to. The list would be in the dozens. Some things, I don’t even know who did them or who brought them. If I did know who everything was from, I really don’t have any minutes left in my day to write dozens of thank you notes; and my brain is so exhausted I don’t know that I could write a coherent sentence to properly express my gratitude. I’m desperately trying to release myself from that responsibility.

So, here is my one huge thank you note for all of you who have so richly blessed us over the last few weeks, and months for that matter. First and foremost, thank you for the prayers and support. We mentally and physically could not sustain ourselves in this situation for this long if it weren’t for God’s mercies new every morning and the joy of the Lord retaining our strength. Honestly, I haven’t had the time or energy that it takes to pour out my heart in prayer like I would want to do. So, thank you for interceding on our behalf.

Thank you for those who have worked wonders for my kids. Just showing up to watch them on a moments notice, taking them to school, picking them up from school, covering dance carpool, fixing their school lunches, giving them money for field trips, and book fair when I forgot. All the mom things that I totally should have been on top of arranging, thank you for not expecting me to have it together and just doing it for me. And, for them. Their tanks are running a little empty from lack of mom’s time and attention. But, your hugs, love, and support have filled them up. It’s been a true blessing for them to see the beauty of a community surrounding them and loving them well.

For food, oh so much food. The great thing about being in the South is when we don’t know what else to do, we show up with fried chicken. I have 2 refrigerators and 2 pantries busting at the seems with food. Seriously, every day people are bringing random groceries and/or prepared meals. I’ve been to the grocery and Costco once in the last three weeks. That wasn’t because I really needed any food, I just needed to do something normal in my life. You have know idea how blissful it was to pace the aisles of Costco last weekend. Normally, I would scream in terror of the idea of Costco on a Sunday, but it was so nice to just be out. I still haven’t prepared a meal for us in 3 weeks. Granted, Jeff has warmed up a few casseroles, but nothing major. And, friends you must think I need lots and lots of wine. Because, we’ve received cases worth. It’s really comical to think about my sweet preacher’s wife mother in law sitting at my house as neighbors dropped off 8 bottles of wine in one day. And, it was still sitting on my kitchen table when one of our pastors stopped by with ice cream. Honest to goodness, I haven’t had a drop of it. I’m afraid to come in and pour a glass only to be good and relaxed, and get a call to come back to Hospice. But, trust me, when this all passes, I’m sure I’ll sample some. Thank you for feeding us so faithfully for 3 solid weeks. I’m sure y’all are as tired of all this as we are.

Laundry, can we just talk about people walking in my house uninvited and doing my laundry. Well, most everyone in town has the electronic deadbolt code to our back door, and our garage code, so I guess we’ve extended an open invitation to our home. But, I would have never expected people to let themselves in to wash and fold my dirty drawers. Seriously, I think Jeff is a little traumatized. But, we are beyond blessed and grateful. Again, when you don’t know what else to do, you find the little things that we just don’t have time to deal with. And, the rest of the world is most grateful that we aren’t walking around with dirty underwear on. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to the at least 3 of you that I know have come in and taken care of our laundry the past 3 weeks.

My work, or should I say your work. Thank you to my fellow realtors for being patient with me as my paperwork isn’t as timely and tidy as normal. Thank you for my clients for understanding I’ve got alot going on, and even in this hot market they aren’t upset that I can’t go show them a house right this very second. I would be worried about losing out, but they’ve just said, if it’s meant to be, it will be. Thank you for the realtors and support professionals that have done my job for me. Showed my clients houses, filled out forms, done research, unlocked doors for inspections, taken pictures, and the whole list of things we do behind the scenes for me. May is looking to be my biggest month ever in terms of dollars closed. And, I’ve worked less in April/May than I ever have in my life. Yet, because of your support, it’s all come together just fine. And, not one of you have asked what my plan for reimbursing you is. Actually, most of you have refused payment when I’ve tried to compensate you. In an industry that is often cut throat and every man for themselves, I am honored to work with and be friends with the most compassionate realtors and clients in the industry. I only hope I can repay the favor someday.

Just caring. In the age of social media and over scheduled lives, I think we can get pretty lonely sometimes. Just because we have disconnected from our social groups and don’t have time to invest in true relationship. But, my oh my, how you all have invested in us. Constant reminders of your care and concern for us are truly keeping us going. LK often asks “Who is your best friend? Who should be my best friend? How do you pick a best friend?” Well, I am here to tell you we have ALL the BEST friends God put on this earth. Love unconditional, selfless service, and genuine compassion. Truly, trying to go over the top and outside your natural ability to make sure we don’t want or need anything. It’s been a true blessing beyond what I can describe.

I am sure there are dozens of other things that people have done for us that I forgot to mention. I’ll beg your forgiveness and promise you I am no less grateful for the things you have done. I’m sure it will come to me in the moment I press publish. So, please accept this very non-personal and specific blog post as my huge thank you note to all of you. The role you have played in our journey is significant. And, I hope the blessings you’ve reaped from serving us so well are as great as what we’ve received. Truly, from the bottom of our hearts we are grateful beyond what words could express.

Livin’ on a Prayer

Actually, we’re living on thousands of prayers. I am convinced the only reason I can still put one foot in front of the other right now is that we have dozens of friends constantly lifting us up to the Father in Prayer. There are many sceptics of the “church”. It all seems like a bunch of nonsense from the outside. Why would you get up and go to church on the one day of the week we could sleep in and chill out. Why would you go to Bible Study during the week and hang out with a bunch of Jesus Freaks?

Let me just tell you why we do it…. Let me start by recapping the last 17 days of my life. I had bladder surgery on April 10. Lexi Kate broke her foot April 16. Sam is sick on April 18. Grandmother gets sick and starts throwing up blood on April 19, we call an ambulance. April 21 I am in the middle of a home inspection when the hospital calls and tells me I need to come back immediately and make a decision on emergency surgery or sign a DNR put Gran on comfort care only. April 22-23 Gran starts to improve. April 24 Sam says he doesn’t feel well after school, soon after he runs out the back door puking. On April 25 Gran is doing better and we plan on transferring her to NHC rehab in Franklin. In the process, she has a stroke, is left without her sight and cant really speak. We decide to send her to Alive Hospice. April 28 I develop a urinary track infection.

All the while Jeff and I are trying to work full time jobs. I’m closing houses, and working with buyers and sellers to get under contract, and teaching at our local association. Not to mention kids activities and being in charge of the 25th Annual Fourth Grade Walk at Moore.

I’m pretty sure the real me is somewhere in a corner rocking in the fetal position. But, through it all, I’ve actually remained relatively calm. Not to say I haven’t had bouts of tears erupting from my face like Niagara Falls sprung a leak. Because, that has happened- more than once. People keep asking me how am I doing it, how in the world are you holding up? Well, I can’t really explain it other than our people have circled around us and are just being the “church”. I get dozens of calls and texts every day from people telling us they are praying for us. I haven’t been to the grocery, fixed my kids lunches for school, cooked dinner, or folded laundry in over 2 weeks. People are just constantly coming in and out of my house taking care of things, picking my kids up, whatever they can think of to serve us. Even when I tell them we are fine…. So, I am not doing it all, my people are standing with us and helping us through it all. I often worry about how all of this is impacting my children and what type of therapy I’m going to have to send them to. But, then I set back and watch as someone delivers my clean and folded laundry to my back porch as I’m leaving the house. My kids are going to be alright. They are watching and soaking in how much their family is loved and supported. Yes, we’ve had a pretty crappy month. We’ve walked some really, really, really hard roads these past 3 years. But, we have not once walked alone.

So, to answer the question, how do I do it all. I don’t really know the right answer. I do know the saying “God will never give you more than you can handle” is total crap. I couldn’t handle all this if I tried. God is totally handling this, and He’s using His people to bless us in some amazing ways. Beyond that, I’m just genetically wired to be a doer. I’ve offended many a people by letting my “doer” heart over take my “feeler” heart. I’m a Martha, I wish I had more Mary. I’ve always been a little Energizer Bunny task master. You’ve got a problem, I’m here to solve it. Something needs to get done, I am your girl. God just gave me the gift of organization and efficiently handling things. It’s who I am. So, I remove the emotion from the situation, and start making things happen. And, when there’s more problems and things that need to happen than I am capable of handling; God shows up in physical form of His people to do the things I just can’t concentrate on doing. And, we are richly blessed, putting one foot in front of the other, living on your prayers.

 

 

Stuck on the Wrong Roller Coaster

I LOVE a good roller coaster: Steep climbs, big drops, speedy twists, sharp curves, a couple loops and OVER in less than two minutes, all while securely buckled in with lots of padding. Then, there bad roller coasters, like the ones at the fair or a mediocre amusement park: rickety, more bounce than spin, too many ups and downs, just enough sharp curves to make you loose your lunch, so rough you feel like your neck will break and they go on forever. Right now, I feel like we are stuck on that roller coaster. The ride is no fun and we just can’t get off. We’ll climb the hill, expecting the thrill that’s coming and it ends up just being a bummer.

Our journey with dementia in general has been like a bad roller coaster ride. Good days, bad days, but stuck in the same ‘ole loop. The last week it’s been like we got buckled in and they just won’t let us off. Last Wednesday, everything was going great. It was a beautiful day so some of the neighbors were over playing in the yard, a couple moms, Gran and I were sitting out in the yard watching the kids play. Life was pretty much perfect. Then, the conductor pushed “Go”. Gran started not feeling well, I take her inside, she has bathroom explosions of epic proportions, she starts vomiting blood, and it took all I had to 911 before I passed out. I am not a nurse. I am not Florence Nightingale. I am barely surviving dementia care, and this mess is so far beyond my pay grade I don’t even know what to tell you.

We get to the hospital around 8:30. Tests, tests, and more test. Around 11:30 we still don’t know exactly what’s wrong, but we know she’s being admitted, so I go home and resolve to come back the next day. When I arrive the next day, I see that Room 316 is no ordinary room, it’s the ICU. Okay, surprise number one, but we’ve got this. Pretty much as soon as I got there, we went down for an upper GI scope. Dr. Parker was amazing and came out and talked to me as soon as he did the scope- clear as could be. No sign of any upper GI bleed or issue. We’ll do lower scopes tomorrow. So, back to the ICU, back to waiting while all is holding pretty stable. Again, I go home for the evening. The nurse calls me in the middle of the night and scares the be-jeez-us out of me. All is technically well. I arrived back at the hospital around 7am Friday morning, and we immediately go back down for Lower GI scope. Her colon wasn’t as clear as it needed to be for testing, but in general the lower GI tract seemed to not be the problem. Back up to the ICU. I left around lunch to try and go work while the Gran was going for a CT scan and EKB. And, this is when the coaster started coming off the track. Around 2:00 my phone started blowing up from case workers, doctors, surgeons, and a whole host of people that said important things that really just sounded like the Peanuts in my head. I immediately headed back to the hospital to make a decision on doing emergency surgery to remove blood clots from the Small Intestine, which basically involved removing the intestine, or removing all life sustaining measures and let nature take it’s course. After talking with the doctors and family, and praying about it. We decided to discontinue medical treatment expecting nature to take it’s course over the weekend. And, the weekend comes, and we started climbing the hill. Gran gets better, the doctor no longer feels that the blood clot is the superior mesenteric artery will be the thing that leads to her death. Improvement continues into Monday and we make plans for a discharge to NHC for Rehab, with the possibility of her actually being able to come home. Gran was pretty agitated Monday evening, and the nurse had to call me a couple times. And, then the rough loop comes Tuesday morning. I got to the hospital around 7:00am with clothes in hand with plans to take Gran to NHC in Franklin. Wheels off the track! Gran has an apparent stroke, leaving her speech slurred, totally disoriented, unable to hold a cup or fork, struggling to swallow, and apparent loss of vision in her left eye. NHC Rehab is no longer an option, as she isn’t in shape for Rehab. I regroup with the Pallative Care team and decide what to do now. We again make the decision to remove life sustaining measure, transition to total comfort care. Gran’s insurance doesn’t cover resident hospice, and I’m not comfortable bringing her home. Thanks to some unsung heroes at St. Thomas West, we are granted a room for in patient hospice at Alive Hospice in Nashville. It truly is a holy place. Gran got moved there about 3:00 yesterday afternoon.

She’s been in and out of consciousness the entire time. She did talk to hers brother and sisters that came to visit. She talked to me this morning, and even appears to be able to see some. So, we continue this roller coaster ride. I honestly don’t know why Gran is still on this earth. She’s suffered so much. She so desperately wants to die. She even says that on her good days. My prayer is that Jesus would heal her pain and settle her heart and call her home….

Her hands have been like this all morning, I can’t help but wonder if she’s praying to get better or praying her way into Jesus’s arms.

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Made to Thrive

One thing that I’ve been pondering a lot lately is, When in the world are we not going to feel like we are in survival mode? If you’ve ever been a mom you know the feeling I’m talking about. I can’t quiet describe it, but it’s a deep internal exhaustion that wouldn’t matter if you slept for a week, you just need a nap. You need a reset. You need a break from the curve balls life is throwing your way.

Here’s kinda what I mean….. Jeff and I got married in 2004. Unlike many newlyweds, our first year of marriage was probably our easiest. We were older (at least he was) when we got married, we both had very good jobs, and lived in a condo he’d lived in for years. It was just easy. Then next year we (read primarily I) decided it was time to move our office space, build a house, and have a baby. I found out I was pregnant New Years Eve 2005. I puked for the next 9 months. Then we had a newborn who had a tendency for acid reflux and ear infections…. And when she was about 18 months old we (once again read primarily I) decided we needed another baby. Then, I had 2 babies in diapers with acid reflux and ear infections and then 2 toddlers with ear infections, and just a crazy dandy little life going. Again, if you’ve been a mom you know these are survival years. And, then just as my kids were starting to get “easy”, my mom died unexpectedly in February 2014. Want to talk about a blur of mere survival, that was certainly the next year of our lives. About the only significant thing I remember about that year was an ATM machine in Paris eating our debit card and me screaming at Jeff as to what a terrible idea it was for us to take that trip so soon after Mom had died because I wasn’t emotionally ready to enjoy anything, especially a trip around the world. In 2015, we moved Gran in with us. She certainly wasn’t in terrible shape at the beginning. But, for the most part caring for a dementia patient with heart failure among other health issues has pretty much been like having 15 toddlers at one time. Seriously, I’ve had 15 toddlers in my care at one time and it was easier than most of our days with Gran. We have straight up been in survival mode for the last 12 years of our life, with just a moment of breath here and there.

So, lately my heart has just kinda been thinking there has got to be more to this life than just survival. Don’t hear me saying I don’t feel blessed. Because, I am certainly one of the most blessed people I know. I have a husband who loves me fiercely; great in-laws that support and love us so well; 2 beautiful, healthy, smart children; great jobs; wonderful friends; and an amazing village of support for all we have going on in our life. But, life has thrown us a lot of curve balls and it is just emotionally exhausting regardless of how much help you have. Casting Crown’s song Thrive has been on the radio a lot lately. In some ways it is my anthem right now. Here’s my favorite part of the song:

Just to know You and to make You known
We lift Your name on High
Shine like the sun made darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive

Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable,
Love unstoppable, anything is possible

Read more: Casting Crowns – Thrive Lyrics | MetroLyrics

We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives, we were made to Thrive. YES! I want to Thrive. And, right now, I don’t feel the Thrive. But, I do know this. We have known God, and have done our dead level best to make Him known. We’re working on the Joy unspeakable. I assure you our Faith is unsinkable, we’ve been surrounded by Love unstoppable and we certainly know that anything is possible.

So we continue the journey of survival. Especially in weeks like this one where Monday yielded a 10 year old with a broken foot, Tuesday yielded an 8 year old missing his field trip to go to the doctor for a strep test, Wednesday yielded the 83 year old vomiting blood all over the house and us calling the ambulance, Friday yielded making decisions on emergency surgery or removing all life sustaining measures and letting nature take it’s course, and Saturday yielded the medical staff telling you that if nature doesn’t take it’s course by Monday they’ll discharge the 83 year old to your care and to the home of your small children and you pray nature doesn’t take its course for them to witness. All of this just one week after I’ve had surgery myself. One foot in front of the other, sucking as much joy as we possibly can out of this life as God as ordered it for now, knowing that anything is possible. This too shall pass, and we will come out on the other side knowing we were made to Thrive.

Sometimes you just have to be willing

So, it appears that my family does lots of big things in April. Those things aren’t the point of this post, but this morning’s “big thing” kinda caught me by surprise. Seven years ago today, Jeff and I realized we had done absolutely all we could do to hold the ship together, and we had to sell our house.

To be honest, I can’t remember what state our marriage was in at the time. I don’t even know if we knew ourselves in the midsts of that storm. We were just hanging on for dear life. The housing downturn of 2008-2009 had finally bled us dry by the spring of 2010. We’d sold cars, got second jobs, lived off savings, retirement, credit cards, and pocket change for over 18 months. We had 2 small children. The only asset we had left was a significant amount of equity in our house. So, Jeff and I prayed, begged, and pleaded; and we decided our only option was to step out in faith and sell the house. Of course I knew it was a terrible time to try to sell a house- I did it for a living. But, we thought if maybe we priced it right, we could sell our own.

You see, my house was about the only since of pride I had left. We had placed a Bible in the foundation of this house, we had prayed over the house and the babies that didn’t even live here as we were building it. We did exactly what we promised God we would do and faithfully hosted Bible studies and church events in this house. We never lost sight of the fact that God’s blessings had provided this house. But, I had totally lost sight of the fact that it was His to take away if He so chose. In the economic downturn, we tried our best to manage it all ourselves. We had a plan, and we worked the plan. But, the plan started running dry. And, there was literally nothing else we could do ourselves. And, I was pissed! I was mad at God for not providing. I was mad at Jeff for not making a drastic change sooner. I had given up so many things I loved, and we truly only ate food I could get for nearly free by shopping sales and using coupons. Lord, please don’t take my house from me too.

But, on that night of April 13, 2010, we decided we had to give the last bit of whatever we had to God. And, we walked in faith that whatever God had planned would be even better than whatever we had planned in this house. And,  you know what happened after we conceded and trusted God by putting our house on the market….. I sold over $1.25M in real estate in the next few weeks. Y’all I hadn’t sold that much real estate in the last 2 years. My listings had been on the market MONTHS. It wasn’t nearly comparable with God providing Abraham with an alternate sacrifice when Isaac was on the altar. But, for us, it was very similar in our faith journey. It was like God was saying, I don’t really want your house- I just want you to be willing to give it to me. We kept our house on the market for a few months after the provision that God provided. Because honestly, we kept asking ourselves, “Was the lesson really to just see if we would be willing to give it over to God?” In the time the house was listed, not many people even came into the house. Even after scheduling showings, for one reason or another, they just didn’t actually look at it. So, eventually, we took it off the market and moved on. Now, don’t hear me saying that God will never take things away; He just wants us to be willing to let them go. Because, one I don’t think that’s biblical. And, two I wouldn’t have the authority to say that. Sometimes God does take things away. But, sometimes, all He wants is for us to be willing to let it go.

Our financial struggles certainly didn’t end there. But, I’d say our worry did. We still had moments of frustration and I’m sure we fought about it a few more times. But, I’ve never once doubted that God wasn’t going to show up just in the nick of time and manage our every need. I wish I could say that I’ve never again put idols in my life that came between me and my Lord. But, if I’m really honest, I probably do that daily. I will say over the last 7 years I’ve matured a little and realized it’s a lot less painful to let go early instead of white knuckling it until my fingers are locked in place.

I guess in this Easter Season it’s appropriate for me to ask what do you need to lay down at the altar? Pride, Shame, Doubt, Money, Life Plans, Kids, Marriage? I don’t know and I am certainly not one to judge. I’ve got a trailer load of stuff within me that I could use to lay down. But, I know that same God that delivered us from a financial burden that we saw absolutely no way out of; is the same God that provided the ultimate sacrifice for us. No coincidence in my mind that I’m reminded of that sacrifice this Maundy Thursday. Yes, my Jesus hung humiliated on that Cross. He bled and died. He paid my debt in amounts I can never repay. But, my Jesus also walked out of that grave. My Risen Savior. My True Provider. And, whatever battle I face, I don’t face it alone.

Why I hate dementia.

Well, I don’t have enough time to sit here and tell you all the 15,000 million reasons I hate dementia. But, just trust me on this one: it is the most awful thing in the world. I seriously think I would rather die of a slow and painful flesh eating bacteria than have to live and die with dementia.

I’ve been real convicted lately about how I respond to Gran and her spells. Part of her behavior, I am 100% certain she can control. I can catch her manipulating situations. But, for the most part, dementia has taken over her brain and she just can’t help it. So, if she isn’t being intentional in her SOB-ness, there really is no value in me responding with a hateful heart. Dementia gets a double victory if I allow it to steal my joy also. I decided this weekend I was going to truly pamper Gran, not fuss, not yell, not get angry and respond in 100% kindness, just to see if my happy heart would rub off on her a little. Because, just maybe I was making the situation worse by feeding the anger.

On Friday, I took Gran to a local meat and three restaurant. Those are her favorite. She ordered enough food to cover the entire table. I knew she wouldn’t eat it, and when the waitress questioned her order, I told her to bring it as ordered. Normally, I would have gone on a tirade about the wastefulness and the diabetes and all the reasons she couldn’t have all the food she wanted. But, I didn’t. And, of course when the food came out, she yelled at the waitress, fussed about having too much food, and on and on. I just kept trying to re-direct her to positive thoughts and behavior patterns.

Saturday was full on make Gran happy day. I took her driving to see Tulips, her favorite flowers. I took her to get her haircut and styled, and get her face waxing done. We went for pedicures. And, we went out for a steak dinner. I spent all but a couple hours of the day with her. We folded laundry together. I really tried to cater to things that make her happy. But, guess what, it didn’t make her happy one bit. She fussed, she complained, she acted out. She told me I was a terrible person. Why?

Because she truly doesn’t know how to be happy. She cannot find contentment. One of the things I have learned about dementia is how as the disease progresses parts of your brain die. Once you lose a skill, it can’t come back. You can’t relearn how to ride the bike once it’s gone. The area that stores those skills isn’t available. It hit me Sunday morning on our way to church that Gran’s part of her brain that controls the emotions of joy and contentment are just gone. Dead. It is neurologically impossible for her to be happy. And, that is so very sad. Just like she has lost her ability to tell when she is hungry or full, she has lost her ability to know when she should be glad.

Just imagine if you had to live for years without the ability to experience joy. It’s truly devastating. And, it’s hard for us to live with. Because, no matter how hard you try to control your own emotions and not let someone else steal your joy- you can only fake it ’till you make it so long. I have to remind myself moment by moment that responding in anger only makes me madder, and it isn’t good for the kids. But, when the shit literally hits the fan, it’s hard not to lose it sometimes.

So, dementia of all the things you’ve take from us, the ability to experience joy and contentment is by far the worse. And, for that I hate you!

 

Where are the cameras and producers?

Because, I am totally sure I am being Punk’d. For real, sometimes I think my life is a really sad version of a very comical reality TV show; this is all one bad joke and they’re going to clue me in on it any second now. It has to be reality tv, because no one could make this crap up for a comedy or dramatic series.

So, here’s your laughs today. Because y’all I have to let you laugh with me because crying gives me a terrible headache and makes my face get even more red and my rosacea will flare up for days. Karma has a funny little way of sending me life lessons. A few years ago when park assist on vehicles became all the rage I not so secretly made fun of the idea. I mean really, we need cars with cameras and beepers and lines, and shakers to tell us how to get in a parking spot. I don’t know about you, but my parents taught me to parallel park in a freaking Dodge Intrepid that was 600 feet long. Nobody needs park assist on their car. Well, in 2014 I bought a new car, actually a red bus. But, anyway, they didn’t sell the car I wanted without park assist. You know I was never going to use that mess. Because, if I can’t parallel park this bad boy Downtown Franklin next to Starbucks or Mercantile Deli, I ain’t got no business driving it. Well, that was before traffic went crazy and there were no longer parking spots on the street or in the parking garage, and you had to pretty much park in a field in Spring Hill and walk to Franklin. But, I digress…. But, after driving it a couple years, I kinda got used to my backup camera, and my car telling me when I was kinda close, then too damn close to things around me. And, I fell victim to yet another technology and let it start controlling my life. And, wouldn’t you know just as soon as I become BFF’s with my park assist, it went out. Not even kidding. About six or seven weeks ago a little message popped up on my dash “Service park assist”. That was on a Friday. I had crap to do. I mean lots of crap. I was just recovering from my carpal tunnel surgery and really back in the swing of things, and I just pushed the button to make it go away. Because, you know I can parallel park a bus. The very next freaking day, it was raining, I had to be at Father Ryan for a Dance Showcase, my car was loaded with squealing girls, and dance bags, and props, and I was just praying to make it through 2 shows alive. I wanted to figure out what door we needed to go in, where I should park so I didn’t have to carry things so far, yada yada yada. And, I was parking in a freaking normal parking spot. Did I mention it was raining, because it was. And I decided to change parking spots, so I backed out of the one I was in, and BACKED MY BUS INTO A FREAKING CONCRETE LIGHT POLE. Not a small little thing, a freaking 4′ square base, 30′ tall light pole! Who does that? I mean, did I not see it? And, of course this was totally Jeff’s fault for not telepathically knowing that my Park Assist was not working and he totally should have stopped what he was doing that Friday afternoon to get it fixed, and I obviously wouldn’t have backed into a pole if my little sensors had told me to watch myself.

That was mid-February and I still haven’t had my park assist fixed. Because, well, honestly, I’m kinda mad at myself for doing something so terribly stupid. And, I ain’t got time for my car to be in the shop, and I’m not driving a freaking golf cart while they fix my bus. Fast forward to today. I was in a hurry, went to Sonic to grab food, and was backing out of the car hop spot like a bat outta the hot lands. And, guess what! I backed my car right into a concrete wall. I’m not even kidding. Thankfully, I was going like 2 miles an hour, hit it straight on, and it did no more damage than the concrete light pole had already done. Who does these things? Seriously, I think I should turn in my driver’s license. I have obviously forgot all manner of caution my parents taught me 20+ years ago. So, if you see me and the red bus backing up; in your own best interest get out of the freaking way. I am probably not going to see you, and I will probably back right into you. But, I promise to get my park assist fix soon….

So, if you follow my personal Facebook page, you know from the little blips that I’ve been posting the last couple weeks that Gran has been on the hot mess express. She’s been real bad. Like, super mean bad. Sunday, we had our Bible Study group at our house for dinner and a project, so I took Gran to Belvedere for the day. She doesn’t like me setting up for parties, and she really doesn’t like a house full of people. So, she just had to go. She doesn’t ever really misbehave at Belvedere, but Sunday was special. In the midst of my party, they called me to come get her. She has a little fr-enemy we’ll call Miss G that drives her crazy. It makes me laugh alot, because Ms. G does all the things to Gran that Gran does to us that drives us crazy. Like asking the same question over and over, getting in your face when she wants something, taking food off your plate, pooping in her pants and not cleaning it up, and singing all the time. It is annoying, I get it. Trust me, there are times I want to send Gran to the moon for doing these things. Well, apparently Miss G was acting extra special Sunday, and Gran had enough, and Gran decided to send Miss G into next week. The staff was trying to clean up dinner and get the ladies ready for bed, so Gran had to go to the Principal’s office and got sent home. I’m glad she has dementia and can’t remember that little trick. Because, I can’t be picking her up early every day.

Yesterday, Gran was super mean to me at home. I almost ran away. For real, Jeff was worried when I went outside. He followed me to make sure I wasn’t leaving forever. This morning, when I dropped Gran off at Belvedere, I told the nurse I had $300 cash to ensure she didn’t call me today. I mean, call the ambulance, call the sheriff, call the undertaker, call the dog catcher. Call whoever you need to call if there is a problem, but do not call me. And, I’ll be rolling up in here at 7:00pm and not a minute before…… As I was dropping LK off at dance, Belvedere was calling. Thank you Caller ID for protecting me from that trap, but I ain’t answering. I went to Canada, they don’t have service here, see you next week. If she’s being bad, I don’t want to know. I pay good money for you to just handle it. So, I check my VM. “Ms. Woodford, this is P & J from Belvedere. We heard Ms. Roberts was in the hospital and we just wanted to check and see how you all were doing.” WTF? I thought Gran was there. Oh No! Nurse B took me seriously and didn’t call to tell me they sent her to the hospital. I love you B, but I guess I should call and figure this out. So, I call Belvedere to see what the scoop was and tell them I wasn’t aware she was at the hospital….. Totally wrong person. Gran is alive, and kicking, doing just fine on the hall. And, can I just confess a little something without you thinking I am scum of the earth? I was actually sad that she wasn’t at the hospital. Because, for about 5 minutes I thought we were going to have a peaceful night at home and I was going to get to sleep in my bed all night without a cane beating it down hollering my name……

I told you, I can’t make this stuff up. I feel like I am being Punk’d on a daily basis. I have another funny story, but I gotta run. Thank you all for loving and supporting our family well through this journey. We laugh and we cry, but we make it through.

We all have a different Africa

First of all, must Spring Break really end? We just spent the most glorious week at the beach with our family of 4. Sam even claimed it to be our best vacation ever- topping Disney World and tying with our Disney Cruise. I don’t know about that, but I will say that it couldn’t have come at a better time. All of us needed the sun and sand with all our mind, heart and soul. I am beyond grateful for the ability our family has to take vacations and that not only can we get away, but that we have the financial resources to pay for the facility resources available to keep Gran while we are away. It is a blessing I don’t even lightly take for granted.

One thing God and I had several chats about this week as I let the waves of His Grace and Mercy just crash over me. I’d really rather be in Africa…… As Christians we often say I’ll follow God wherever He calls. And, then, we check in with God and say, You know I’ll follow wherever You lead, but pretty please just don’t take me too far out of my comfort zone. For those of us living in a very comfortable first world America, with very little persecution for our faith, we almost always associate God calling us to do the impossible to be something like serving as a missionary in a Third World country such as Africa, Haiti, the depths of Asia, or something like that. We often dismiss the fact that our Africa could be right here, smack dab in the middle of our perfect little world.

There was a point in our marriage that I was pretty sure our calling really would be to a Third World country. Jeff and I are both very mission minded, and “go” is a passion of ours. Given Jeff’s skill set, it would have made very good sense for God to call us to a disaster torn area. Specifically, in 2010, I think Jeff and I were just waiting for the Holy Phone to ring and God to tell us we were headed to help rebuild Haiti. With the skills we both had, it just seemed like a natural fit. And, even with two toddlers, I was almost eager to go. And, the phone never rang…. We didn’t even get the call for a temporary week long service project. I don’t know if I was sad that I felt like God didn’t think we were up for the mission challenge; or if I was mad that He didn’t save us from our own financial hell of a downturn in the housing market that had greatly impacted both of our careers. But, we stayed and continued to muddle through our normal life. Not to say God didn’t use us in that time, He certainly gave us both many opportunities to serve our community and local church.

All that to say, while I’m the first to admit I greatly enjoy my lavish lifestyle, flair for travel, and way too much stuff… a call to sell it all and hit the mission field probably wouldn’t have been a huge personal sacrifice for me. It just wouldn’t. Not that I’m begging God to test me on that this particular moment. I just think I could have done that with relatively little dependence on Him. It would have just been another item on my checklist. I would have planned and managed that calling to death and told God how and when we were going to do it. And, in all of my “self” I would have totally missed it. A calling to “Africa” is about total dependence on God. Letting Him do the planning, letting Him get the Glory. Understanding that there is absolutely no possible way that WE or I could take one step toward the call without utter dependence on Him. And, for that reason we all have a very different “Africa”. Your calling may truly be to move to a Third World country to serve the sick and hungry.

And, in case you haven’t figured out, my Africa is staring at me from the comfort of my own home. As a child I was terrified of old people. Visiting my Great-Grandmother in the nursing home made me physically ill. I wanted to go to Medical School at one point in life. I would have had TERRIBLE bed side manner. I would have been nice and sweet on the first visit; but when you didn’t do what I told you to do to make yourself better, or you starting whining about feeling bad- I would not have been kind. I also thought about being a teacher. Problem with that plan, I tell you once, you learn and we move on. Telling you multiple times- I ain’t got the patience for that. Hello, Misty, welcome to your Africa. You will serve Me in a way that throws you to your knees moment by moment. You will be so uncomfortable and know that without complete and utter dependence on Me, your Lord and your God you truly cannot face another tomorrow.

What does that look like to me? It is two years of caring for an old person. A diabetic that refuses to properly follow her diet, thus continues to feel bad. One that needs medication on a regular schedule, yet fights it. One that poops their pants and needs to be cleaned up. One that can’t remember what you said 30 seconds ago, so you repeat yourself over and over and over one thousand times. Someone that used to love and adore me, yet now cusses me and hates me and tells me what a terrible person I am. (Yes, I know this isn’t my Grandmother really saying these things.) I never really thought about caring for a dementia patient as being on mission. But, God continually shows me to take joy in these moments, because it is where He has called me to serve in the moment.  Believe me, most days I am begging God to call me to Africa to escape my world. Somedays, I say forget you God, I am running away to Africa to hide in a hut in a remote village so you can’t find me to call me to serve You. How long will God leave me in my proverbial Africa? I truly have no idea. I don’t know how much longer my family can continue to serve this way. But, for now, I pray that God gives me the strength to remain faithful to the call before me.

So, where is your Africa? Do you need to sell it all and serve in a foreign land? Do you need to take in an orphan and love one of the least of these in your own home? Are you fighting a terrible disease so that God can get the glory in your fight, whether He get the glory in your earthly physical healing or your eternal healing in Him? Do you need to head up a community project to honor and serve the Lord in your neighborhood? I don’t know what God is calling you to do. What I am almost willing to bet, it isn’t what you have planned out and asked God to bless. It probably isn’t something you could easily do on your own. God is calling us to complete and total dependence on Him. Allowing Him to work through us to bring Glory to His name.