Oh Shoot

Today I took my momma to one of her doctor’s appointments. It was downtown.

I knew I would need to pick her up an hour before her check in time, just because it was so far and she doesn’t move all that fast.

I try to ignore the condescending remarks, like “You’ve got this all figured out now, don’t you?” Like I’m twelve and that don’t normally driver to this very same hospital about three times a week to interpret.

During the long drive, she brought up all the regular people from her past, just as she always does, and asks why she can’t talk to them anymore, again.

There’s my brother, and her ex-husband, and occasionally my dad. She asks if I’ve talked to any of them.

Then she goes on to tell me how badly she wants to get out of her assisted living facility. It doesn’t matter how many times, or how many examples I give to show how nice her place is, she always tells me, “I know. I know.” And the next time I see her, she’ll tell me again.

Today, I ask her what she would do if she didn’t live there. What would she like to do?

“I have no idea.” Something else she also, always tells me. “I just feel lost.”

We talk about her brain, and how it’s not her fault. We talk about how this appointment is not going to fix her; we’re just hoping for her to stay the same.

Not mentioning that today she is better than what she’ll be tomorrow, and yesterday, she was better than what she is today.

For someone who struggles with talking, she always has something to say. After unsuccessfully searching for the right words, she ends up settling for, “… Oh shoot.” I keep listening and help out when I can.

After agreeing with her new specialist throughout the thirty minute appointment and reassuring the young doctor she didn’t have any questions, we walk down the hall and she asks me, “Did we find out anything?”

“Not really.”

“Oh, shoot.”

“It’s ok. You’re ok.”

We get back in the car and start the long trip home in rush hour traffic, this time.

Trying to console her, I reach over to hold her hand. She grabs it with both hands and as if by instinct, or possibly habit, she reassures me, “I know, Kim. It will be ok.” She pats my hand.

Concealed behind the tint of my sunglasses I start to cry.

I imagine, one day, when we’re in heaven, she will hold me close after being healed from all this life has thrown at her. And she will tell me, “You did good, Kim. I didn’t make it easy for you, but you did really good.”

I drop her off, text my brother to call his mom, then drive home to make dinner for my family.

Being Released

I’ve been wrestling with God since my last blog. I also have been trying to take care of myself because the days to come could be brutal if what he has planned isn’t what I’m mentally prepared to handle.

I’ve started Holy Yoga, which I have to be honest, is nothing like I expected. I’m signed up to retake a 12 week Codependency class. I’m meeting with a counselor throughout the month. I’m praying and have been asking for prayers. And lastly reading; scripture, yes, but also books and articles related to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

This is what I have learned.

  • We live our lives looking to men to be our God. Doctors make us feel good or feel better. They give us answers. They prolong our lives. But when the time comes, there will truly be only one God who can make us feel good or better. Only God can offer us any hope or purpose to why life is how it is. In the end it will only be me and Jesus.
  • God doesn’t like Alzheimer’s, but he will use it to show himself.
  • Those inflicted see Jesus in their caregivers. And if opened to it, caregivers draw on God’s strength, peace, and wisdom. He transforms them to look like Jesus.
  • Jesus served. And so shall I.

The change happened when I felt in my heart, my past relationship with my mom was done.

There is nothing to add or take from it.

You could say, I released her. That’s what it feels like.

Today, is a new day, a new start, and I have been called to continue refining my character by moving on with my Christ-centered life.

My identity, my worth, comes from serving my Lord, not replaying unforgiveness of the past.

I still have a lot of work to do. I have a lot of growing, while I’m here. I have been called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I have been called to let people see Jesus through me, not for my glory, but his.

I have sinned against my mom. I have not brought her comfort when I could have. I have chosen to pull away, instead of moving closer. I have made things harder on her by not helping her carry her load. I know what a touch does to her soul, but have not been around. I know how affirming words lift her spirit, but I have kept them to myself. I’ve known what she’s struggled to say, but I’ve made her continue searching for the right words. I know how much her family means to her, and I’ve kept them away.

To continue to ignore how God would want to use me, would be deplorably wrong. It would not only be a sin against her, but him.

However, I appreciate how Christ gave me time to heal. I appreciate that he didn’t condemn me for taking so much time in my pain. I appreciate how he didn’t let me sit in my sorrow, nor run from it, but nudged me to keep searching for something I didn’t know what I was searching for.

I have made up my mind to follow Christ. I will pick up my towel and serve him, by serving my her.

Day one, he has erased my hard feelings. That doesn’t mean they won’t come back, but for today they are gone.

I have had a meeting with my family and have asked for their support and understanding and what’s even cooler, is they have decided to come alongside and do it with me.

We will learn together how to have someone who can quite possibly, although not purposely, hurt our feelings but still have a place in our life. We will learn what Alzheimer’s looks like and adapt to its changes. We will choose to love even if we don’t feel loved.

We will learn grace, together.

It is an honor to be given the opportunity to act out my faith in obedience.

However…

I’M SCARED! I’ve already lost my mom. She died 16 years ago when she had her last stroke. I’ve already grieved that part, and if I let her back in, and I love her, I’m going to have to eventually grieve her again.

But I will, because as awful as that day will be, more tragic would be walking away from the gift she could be giving me.

Maybe things happen in my childhood that shouldn’t have, maybe she could have been better, but maybe she’s been given a second chance. I can still learn and grow from her.

I have always searched to become the woman I was supposed to be.

And to not take advantage of this opportunity could mean walking away from my destiny.

Settling for something less.

Allowing unforgiveness to steal my birthright.

Maybe we both have been given a second chance. Maybe she can finally see Jesus. And I can finally become the woman God designed me to be.

I Just Don’t Know.

Recently, I took my mom to get the results of her MRI and memory test, as well as recommendations from her doctor.

My whole goal of taking her was selfish. I have become so bitter towards her over the past 12 years. I don’t want to be bitter anymore. I don’t want my mom hating me when she dies. I don’t want me hating her when she dies, either.

Everyone keeps telling me I need to get over it. I need to ignore what she says. But inside of me I’m fighting so hard for her to hear me. She makes me feel unloved, unvalued, not important, not special. I wanted her to cherish me and to put me first or at least consider me, but she never has. And now that I’m an adult and I finally realize what I’m looking for in our relationship, it’s too late. She’s not the woman who raised me.

My mom died over 16 years ago. And oh how I loved her so much then. She was my best friend. I wish I could love her like that again. I forgave my mom for things she did, even if I didn’t understand what she had done.

I look at her now and I’m afraid if I continue to forgive; if I don’t call her out on how she makes me feel, if I don’t tell her she’s wrong every. single. time, that she’s going to take my self-worth away, again. I’m afraid I’m going to turn into the person I used to be. The one who let people walk all over me, who people took advantage of. But that won’t really happen. If she says she doesn’t like my hair, it doesn’t mean I’m not pretty. If she criticizes my clothes, it doesn’t mean I don’t look nice. If she complains I don’t help her, it doesn’t mean its true. If she doesn’t like my driving, it doesn’t mean I’m a bad driver. I can hear and identify the guilt she’s trying to make me feel, but I don’t have to feel it.

The first thing the doctor says, as he walks into the room was, “I’m impressed…but not in a good way.” He then proceeds to explain that my mom’s brain is riddled with extensive damage. I tell him we figured she has had about five strokes. By looking at the results of the MRI, he says he believes me. He shows me pictures of a skull that has more holes than anything else.

He then looks at her memory test. He explains that 80% of her deficiencies come from her strokes. It is that bad, but the other 20% is coming from signs of Alzheimer’s and depression.

It’s why she’s getting worse.

He recommends referring her to a stroke clinic as well as adding another antidepressant, considering the one she is on does nothing to treat the depression she has.

I am numb. I feel nothing but continue to ask questions as he is quite literally, walking backwards out the door. His answers all become, “The Stroke Clinic will help you.”

She gets to start the new antidepressant, but we wait for a referral to the clinic.

I’ve been struggling to come to peace with mine and my mom’s relationship for a long time. It was important for me to understand the messages I was internalizing as a child, to be able to break free from codependent relationships I was drawn to, felt comfortable having, so that I can become healthy and break the dysfunction I was used to. I blamed my mom for everything.

I blamed her for my abusive relationships. I blamed her for feeling bad about myself. I blamed her for being treated as a doormat. I blamed her for every single bad thing that has happened in my life. And I still blame her.

But I am an adult now. I’m not a child. I have found my voice. I know my worth. Yet, I’m still here hating her. Hating someone who isn’t even here anymore. And when she passed, she meant everything to me. There was no hate, only compassion. I knew she wasn’t perfect. I knew she did her best.

But as this new person started to walk around in her old body that looked just like the mom, I knew I was becoming angry because she’s not my mom. She couldn’t make me feel loved like she used to, even as dysfunctional as it was. And then I started looking within me, trying to figure out why I was the person I was. And I grew angrier realizing the consequences of an unhealthy, and equally broken person who raised me, had on me.

And I was robbed again, because I couldn’t yell at her, at the mom who raised me, because she wasn’t her anymore.

Dammit Kim, why can’t you let this go? I look at a picture of her when I was young, and remember feeling love, but I look at a picture of her today and even though she’s not capable of trying to hurt me, I feel anger. This isn’t even the woman who had screwed me up! But I’m making her pay for it.

Within the last year, I have started praying that God would show me my mom through his eyes. The first time I realized how much he loved her was when I was explaining my mom’s unsafe relationships, to a friend, and she tells me, “Wow, Kim. I really thought you were going to tell me how someone was taking advantage of her, but honestly, it sounds like the other way around.” She’s not lying. You hear stories all the time of people luring vulnerable people into unsafe settings to either rape, beat or rob. But not my mom. She has found another male, not to rape, beat or rob, but definitely to manipulate and take advantage of. Shows how lonely he is too. But I saw for the first time how much God is protecting her. In fact, he always has.

And not only always has, but if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear she was His favorite instead of me!

She lost both her parents when she was young. She and her sister bounced around family until they were of age. My aunt explained to me they should have been in foster care.

Then she gets pregnant with me when she’s 17. She marries my dad right out of high school and six months before I am born.

Her aunt shames her by not letting her wear white.

She makes a ton of bad decisions with my dad, while raising two kids. She leaves us, divorces my dad. Makes a ton more bad decisions. Meets, falls in love with, and marries someone who’s seven years older than me! Oh, she continues to make different but still bad decisions, but this man loves my mom like no other.

And then she has her stroke, the last one. She’s 49. Within a blink of an eye, my mom is gone, but she’s not. Her shell survived. But her brain, her brain has more holes than not. And it takes a while, but she starts walking again, and talking again.

But still, he dotes on her like a queen for the next ten years or so. But now things start to change again. She’s not the same woman who was my mom, nor the woman who was his wife and now more things are changing in her, things she can’t control, and Alzheimer’s has begun and she’s making more bad decisions, but like I said, it’s not even her anymore. She tries to kill herself on her 60th birthday.

But she’s His favorite and her shell still survives. Oh my God, why? I know it’s not because she’s a fighter, but it’s because she’s His favorite too.

She’s moved into an assisted living facility. She’s bitter, angry, resentful, lonely and eventually divorced; again.

Is she His favorite, or is she cursed? She has pushed every single person who has ever loved her, or she has loved away. And aside from her two sisters who live very far away, she has one daughter who still has anything to do with her, and this daughter is angry and bitter but trying desperately to forgive her mom who has left long ago, so she can honor the shell she was left with. The shell that once, before 46 years of bad decisions, gave life to. And even that bad decision produced four amazing people who call her grandma.

One last thing, before the doctor leaves us sitting stunned in his exam room, “If she was right handed, she wouldn’t be able to talk.”

Immediately a different reality overwhelms me. Yes, I lost my mom over 16 years ago, but by the grace of God she can still speak simply because she is left handed.

Maybe, just maybe God loves her so much that after all the tragedy she has lived, she still has something to say. Maybe something I need to hear.

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

God, I need you. I am here, once again on my knees, my face to the ground. Help me. Help me to love my mom. Soften my heart. Make this feel right. How can I possibly be there for her, and for what is to come, when I feel as crummy as I do?

To Change the World

I want to change the world.

For me, my world is not the people on the streets, or the children living in poverty on another continent, oceans away from me.

That world is much too big for little o’ me.

No, my world starts with those people who are the closest to me.

My family, my friends, my coworkers, my former schoolmates, my neighbors, my acquaintances…

People I interact with and do life with everyday.

I want to be surrounded by so much love; by so many people who live life for others.

I want my children to be brought up in a community that is for each other, and not against.

I dream of a day, where we all move as one body, doing the works of Jesus. Bringing heaven to earth, to reach out to the people on the street, and the children living in poverty on another continent, oceans away from me.

I don’t care what church they go to. Or don’t go to.

I don’t care, what city, state or country they live in.

I don’t care who they voted for. Or if they did.

I want to see my community move, not because the church tells them, but because Jesus moves them.

I want to see a community where the Spirit dwells within them, richly.

I want to change the world by encouraging, supporting and showing.

It’s so simple, but it’s not so easy.

Many people are full of good intentions or excuses, but good intentions and excuses do not fulfill transformation!

The Spirit of the Lord is not silent, still, or too busy.

I dream of a day where my community not only reaches up, but also reaches out. A community that not only listens, but obeys. A community that stops acting like sheep and starts shepherding.

Every. Day. All day.

Serving the Lord is a full time job. It requires overtime. Sacrifice. It’s sometimes grueling, but most the time rewarding.

It’s a lifestyle.

It’s a lifetime.

And one day the opportunity will be gone.

Make this day, and everyday, count. They are numbered and are running out.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10

Is the thief stealing, killing and destroying your time? Or are you living your life to the fullest? Are you living out all the opportunities Jesus has made for you?

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. – James 2:17

My life is not my own. I was not put here for my own gratification. I am not here to see how successful I can become, how many riches I can aquire, or how much freedom I can possess.

May the Lord use me as he sees fit. May he take all that I have for his glory. May I be emptied so that He may fill me. May there be less of me and more of him.

I live only so that one day I may hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

So are you with me? Can you help me?

If someone reaches out to you, will you pick up the phone? Will you help them move? Or watch their kids? Will you ask those who are hurting, how you can help? Will you LOOK for who has a need, and fill it? Will you welcome those who are pushed aside, or shunned from society? Will you give second chances and offer forgiveness? Will you cry with your neighbor? Will you do more than just pray for them?

Will you stop being offended and serve them instead? Will you stop sitting in a pew and start representing our King? Will you stop saying, I’m too busy?

Because, we can all can ask, and we can all listen, and this IS following Jesus.

We are on assignment!

Will you be the church with me Every. Day. All. Day?

I want to change the world. And my world starts with you!

The Mom I Needed to Be

Years ago, I had asked my boys’ dad if I could have three of his old shirts he doesn’t wear anymore.

I wanted to turn them into pillows, so the boys would have a part of their dad when they were with me.

I had a friend of mine, who knows what she’s doing, come over to help me. Remember, I’m not a crafty homemaker by nature. And it didn’t help I had a sewing machine that belonged to my mother, and in my lifetime I know had never been cleaned.

What should have taken a couple of hours, if I remember correctly, took the entire day and then having my friend take them home to finish them on her machine.

The important thing was they got done.

But here I am, years later, and one of my sons asks if I could re-fluff his.

Seriously? You still have it? It’s not destroyed? But you destroy everything? Why didn’t you destroy this?

Yep, he still has it. But to save face I have to tell you, it’s never been washed in all the years he’s had it. Gross.

So this morning, before work, I find myself looking around the house for my seam ripper.

As I sit down at the kitchen table with his deflated pillow and my ripper, we banter back and forth about how much work this is going to take me and that he should not make me do this, and how I’m a mom and it’s my job to do this for him, because I love him.

In walks one of his brothers, and guess what? Now I have to fix TWO of them!

Why can’t you be like your other brother? His is probably in one of the garbage bags of crap that he left behind, and is in the garage somewhere. He doesn’t care anymore. Why do you?

But if course, I don’t mean it. I don’t mean any of it. True I’m not looking forward to talking on this project, but only because it makes me feel incompetent. What would take other moms an hour to do, it will take me four.

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But it grows me as a mom. It’s challenging, and difficult, and I don’t particularly enjoy any of it.

But I love my boys.

Anyone who has a child becomes a mom. Qualifications are pretty low. But the opportunities are limitless. You get to be the mom you want to be.

God knows this.

He knew I would struggle as a mom. He knew I wouldn’t particularly love every minute. He even knew I would have a hard time enjoying a lot of it.

But he knew I would step up and do it. Even if I didn’t want to.

In high school, classes would debate abortion. They probably still do. What I remember back then was I didn’t feel I really should have a say in what another woman did with her body.

I didn’t particularly like the idea of abortion, but I could think of reasons why others might have them. Rape, incest, mother’s safety, I’m sure there were others.

But as an adult, once I got older, once I found myself not living in the garden anymore, I found myself not in one, but two not ideal pregnancies.

For most of my friends, I could probably say, there was no decision to make, but really…how many of them were in my shoes?

When I found out I was pregnant with the first one, I had already had a five and one year old, and I had just left my husband, a week earlier.

We were getting a divorce and I was living back with my dad and his wife, in their three bedroom little house.

My income was around $24,000 a year.

My one year old was already showing signs of some kind of a disorder, but I had no idea what.

And remember, I wasn’t suppose to be a mom in the first place. I had no desire, growing up to be one.

(And before you say it, I was on birth control with two of my kids. The only one that was planned was the middle one…the one who has stretched me most as a mom.)

Now I’m going to be doing it alone.

Second time, I had three rambunctious boys. Oldest one was eight, youngest one was two, and my middle one was four; still not talking, destroying everything during frequent meltdowns and beating his older brother in rage and constantly fearing he would hurt his younger one.

I am unwed, and in an emotionally, verbally and quickly escalating into a physically abusive relationship.

I needed out.

So twice I asked myself, what the hell are you going to do?

I can’t say it was a hard decision to make. Of course, ultimately you all know, I kept the two babies. But it was still a decision I had to make. Or, I should say, it was a choice I felt I had.

However, although I didn’t feel very close to him at the time, I still knew God. I knew deep in my heart, he still had a plan for me, and he had a plan for these babies too.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

Oh my gosh, it took years, YEARS, for me to stop feeling like I was being punished.

God doesn’t punish.

But I finally came to the realization, that out of all the women, in all the world, that I was the only mom who could raise these kids the way God wanted them to be raised, so that they could grow up to be the men and woman, he intended for them to be.

And they didn’t need a mom who loved to bake cookies, or could sew all their clothes. Heck they didn’t even need a mom who could or would cook half way decent food.

They just needed a mom who would try.

So here I am, sitting at my kitchen table, cursing up a storm in my head but teasing my son about having to re-fluff a pillow, when it hits me…

I needed them, as much as they needed me!

Never, ever would I have felt the need to learn to cook, if I didn’t have to cook for them.

I wouldn’t have realized I needed to start standing up for myself and not let people take advantage of me, if I didn’t have to teach them the same thing.

I wouldn’t have learned I had a voice, if I hadn’t have had to shown them they have one too.

And I wouldn’t have learned to love, if I didn’t have someone, or someones to love.

So, I need to get back to ripping two pillows apart, so I can continue learning how to love my sons.

And I can give them a hard time about it later. Cuz that’s the kind of mom they need. And that’s the kind of mom God has made me to be.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

Where’s Santa?

It’s incredible how upset people get when I mention, I don’t celebrate Santa.

In all the years, Mike has been decorating our front yard with snowmen and penguins, and Christmas trees and Snoopys, and Star Wars and gingerbread men, not even once has a child asked us, “Where’s Santa?”

But you better believe, that adults do. Not all, but there are quite a few.

Even after explaining my reasoning I get,

“Oh, so you don’t believe in Santa, but you believe in a great big snowman, instead?”

I want to say, “Don’t be dumb.”

But I don’t. I hold my tongue.

Believing in Christ offends people. Not celebrating Santa, during Christmas, offends people too, I suppose.

Who knew?

But I’m not standing out in my front yard, holding signs and yelling through a blow horn that anyone is going to hell for putting a Santa in their front yard.

I’m not.

I’m not condemning anyone who does.

Regrettably, I have several pictures of my kids sitting on some strange man, wearing a red suit’s, lap.

Each one of my kids received at least one present from me, but addressed from Santa, until they were at least 8 years old.

So Santa celebrating went on for a good sixteen years under my roof.

Most of those years, I was a single mom just trying to make ends meet.

God provided for everyone of those years, and yet I gave credit to Santa.

I’m so ashamed now.

So no, I don’t celebrate Santa.

But I do celebrate Christmas with snowmen and penguins, and Christmas trees and Snoopys, and Star Wars and gingerbread men, because they’re fun, and they’re cute and they don’t promise my kids anything, and they don’t take credit for making them happy or giving them anything.

Not everyone has walked in my shoes. Not everyone has experienced the heartache of a Santa, year after year. Not everyone has gone through what I have.

It’s why my relationship with Jesus is a personal one. Everyone’s is personal. Having a relationship with him is a unique one, unlike anyone elses.

So, I’m not asking anyone to change.

I’m just over here celebrating Christmas the way I do. With inflatables and lights, and presents and music, with neighbors and strangers, and with kids and sometimes with those offended adults.

And if I’m lucky, I get to share my relationship with Christ, with someone who asks,

“Where’s Santa?”

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One Curious Encounter

I started crocheting homeless mats while I’m waiting for assignments to start, again. I’d like to be able to donate another 22 mats to Church on the Street again this year, for Christmas. With help from my friends I’m confident we’ll be able to.

Today, as I was waiting for my first job to start, my client’s husband noticed what I was working on. He asked me why I would make a mat for anyone who was homeless.

I told him about my son and his mental illness, then told him God calls us to love him and to love others. This is how I love.

“So what are you? Are you Jewish? Catholic?”, he asks.

“Oh no, I’m just a Christian.”

He gave me a look.

With ASL, looks are apart of the language but I couldn’t read what his look meant. He tapped on his wife’s shoulder and told her, “She’s a Christian.”

“Oh”, is all she said.

He looked back at me, “I’m just curious…”

I started to panic. What was about to happen? Am I going to hear how stupid I am? Or have to explain why God allows such evil things in the world? Or have to listen to him rattle off a bunch of untruths about who he think God is and not really be able to say anything about it because, well, I’m working and this could really make things awkward.

“Why would you sacrifice your life and the things you want to do, to do the things God wants you to do, instead?”

Well, didn’t see that coming.

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. – 1 Peter 3:15

This was it. This was my moment.

Will I be faithful? Will I be obedient? Will I have an answer that makes sense?

I’m debating if I want to tell you what I said.

The only reason is because we are all told that we need to be able to explain why we do, what we do.

This isn’t a cookie cutter answer. It’s from your heart.

Do YOU sacrifice your will, for the will of God’s? Do YOU know why?

Is it your choice, or are you doing it because you are told to by a parent or a spouse? Your answer should be personal. It should be real.

I gave my answer, and waited to see how it would stick.

Would he have more questions? Would he tell me I’m an idiot? Was he only making small talk, or did he really care?

Almost immediately, his wife was called to a window. I got up to follow her.

Once we returned to our seats, he told me,

“While you were gone, I prayed for. What you are doing is really great. God bless you.”

Now around Christians, you may hear “God bless you”, a thousand times, but coming from this one man, it really meant something to me. I felt like he really meant it.

And you know what? He does!

God blesses me.

He sacrificed his son’s life for me.

There was a time when I was a broken single mom of four. I had nothing, and I felt like nothing. But through the works of God’s people, he picked me up and made me new.

He gave me life.

A blessed life.

That is why.

That is why I do what I do.