Help Us Remember

Help Us Remember

“I’m going to say five words in a row,” her neurologist says. “I’ll repeat them three times, then I want you to say the words back to me.”

Mom sits across from him, her face expressing her eagerness to participate in this memory game. It’s the third time she’s taken a memory test of some kind in the past six months. Each time, I’ve felt like I’ve died a little inside. It’s so hard to watch her memory fail her. I hate dementia. I don’t want it to be this way.

“Face…velvet…church…daisy…red.” He says the words clearly and carefully, as if gently sending each fragile word over to her through the air. They’re made of glass. If she doesn’t catch them, they’ll shatter on the ground.

Please, God. Help her remember. 

He repeats the list of words twice more, then it’s Mom’s turn. “Umm…ok…,” she says, sitting up a little straighter, her face determined. I stare at the floor, trying to will the words into her memory…hoping that maybe this time would be different.

After a long pause, she hesitantly says, “Face?” It’s more of a question than a statement. “Yes! Good! Can you remember any others?” the doctor asks, smiling at her. God, he’s so kind to Mom. I like him. Thank you, God, for kind doctors.

Another long pause. Too long. “No…I don’t remember any of the other words,” she responds, disappointed. Velvet, church, daisy, and red didn’t make it. Their shiny shards are scattered on the linoleum. I hate dementia. I don’t want it to be this way.

We both tell her that it’s great that she remembered a word and she seems satisfied with our responses. Mom rebounds very well. I manage not to cry in front of her, so I’m putting this office visit in the “win” column. The death of her memory somehow feels like a slow death inside of me. I hate dementia. I don’t want it to be this way.

We wrap up our time with the doctor and get her next appointment set up. She’s chipper and light-hearted despite the long office visit and the pouring rain. I’m so thankful that this doctor’s visit didn’t make her sad. I drop her off at assisted living with the promise that I’ll be coming by the day after tomorrow. “Great! Maybe we can go to Target?” she asks. “Absolutely!” I say. She waves as she goes inside and I know that by the time she gets to her apartment door, she’ll have forgotten when I said I was coming back. I hate dementia. I don’t want it to be this way.

Please, God. Help her remember.

I don’t want her to forget her words, her stories. I don’t want her to forget her family or her memories. I don’t want her to forget her trials, her triumphs. I don’t want her to forget that God loves her or that he is for her. But the thing I selfishly want to avoid the most…I don’t want her to forget me.

The emotional pain of this particular journey has hit me so hard lately. It’s like being on a treadmill I can’t slow down. I can’t catch my breath. And the strain of the pace is so horribly distracting. My focus narrows to simply surviving and I don’t see God the way I want to.

Do you struggle that way, too? Are you on a painful, relentless treadmill of your own, hoping your pace will keep up?  Do you ever feel like you just can’t find God in the pain? I mean, you know he’s there…you KNOW it. But, man…you can barely breathe.

Please, God. Help us remember.

God, help us remember that you are present. Help us remember that you are good when things feel so bad. Help us remember that you are kind when it’s so hard. Help us remember that you ARE love…that you LOVE us. Help us remember that even if the thing we fear the most happens, you will remember us.

Wrap us up in your arms and remind us that this assignment is temporary. Remind us that even though things now are not the way we want them to be, one day you will make all things new. The treadmill WILL stop. And when it does, we’ll find that you were running with us the whole time.

Please, God. Help us remember.

5 Things I Learned This Summer

5 Things I Learned This Summer

I’m joining up with Emily P Freeman and others in sharing some things I’ve learned, or have been reminded of, over this crazy summer, even though it is CLEARLY STILL SUMMER in Alabama. (#stupidhot) I’ve tried to take notes along the way, writing in my journal and taking notes on my computer. This summer was difficult, but sweet…painful, but good. As I look back, here are some things that stood out.

1 – Some hard things are just hard things and there’s no way around them – only through them.

This summer held many changes in our family. Big moves, illnesses, and stress were themes we waded through. It seemed like every time we turned around, we were in the middle of another situation that shifted the ground beneath us. We had big decisions to make and new territories to explore. I’m a “Small Decision/Familiar Territory” kind of gal, myself, so this summer was very stretching for me.

But God was faithful. He always is. He walked us through every situation and reminded us all along the way that we are not alone. He brought us the right people at the right time, gave us the strength we needed to make those big decisions, and caught any tears that were shed. He is just SO GOOD.

(No lie, though, a calmer Fall would not hurt my feelings. Amen.)

2 – Brooklyn 99

brooklyn-nine-nine

Gracious, my family and I enjoyed blazing through all 5 seasons this summer! It brought big laughs! The entire cast is excellent, but Andre Braugher’s performance is worth the price of admission. So stinkin’ quirky and ridiculous and funny! If you like stupid comedy, you’ll probably like this.

3 – Even if non-fiction is your literary love, reading fiction now and then is a very good idea.

I read SO MUCH non-fiction. It’s my go-to. But this summer I wanted to break the non-fiction habit a bit and dive into a good story or two. I’ve read that reading good stories makes you a better writer, and I’m interested in that, so…36626748

Of the novels I read this summer, The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager was my favorite. (Side note: it is not pure as the driven snow as it does have a little language sprinkled in it, so if that’s a deal breaker for you, consider this deal broken.) The story is enthralling and a total page-turner. The premise: Woman returns as a teacher, years later, to the summer camp she attended as a young girl…the one where her cabin-mates all disappeared and were never found. As I read, I wasn’t sure if I could trust the narrator or not (suspenseful!) and it kept me glued to the very last page (literally!).

4 – Searching for the right therapist is worth it. Don’t settle. 

I am a BIG proponent of getting counseling when you find yourself needing help sorting out the messiness that is life. (I am also a proponent of taking meds if you need to, but that’s another post for another time. I believe you can simultaneously love Jesus AND receive help from doctors and/or a therapist. Hallelujah.) BUT, that doesn’t mean that just any therapist will do. Nope. You need to find one with the right personality, the right temperament, and the right methodology. I had to try a few before I found the right one for me. She’s a truth-telling, Jesus-loving, holds-no-punches, asks-hard-questions counselor who also enjoys snarky humor and literature. That she also has a dog as her “assistant” is absolutely delightful to me and I am there for it!

So keep in mind, if you’re not really connecting with your therapist, try another. Don’t settle! Your mental health is too important.

5 – Procrastinating can rob you of actual, hard-earned money. Please learn from my mistake!

Mom gave up driving once she moved into Assisted Living this summer, so my family has taken to driving her little green Civic around town. It’s so zippy! I knew the tag needed to be renewed, but kept putting it off. The first time I was pulled over for it (yep…), I received a warning. The second time I was pulled over, not so much. Got my very first ticket, y’all! That is just money down the drain. And all I had to do was get online and purchase her new tag. (Shaking my head as I type…) So simple. Mercy. Go ye therefore and don’t put off things like I did!

Now I wonder…what did YOU learn this summer?

 

 

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Do You Miss It?

Do You Miss It?

Do you miss being in ministry?

I’ve been asked this question a few times since leaving my position on staff at my church. It’s understandable. Since church is associated with “ministry,” and especially with being “in the ministry,” it’s not an odd question. And I’ve been on various church staffs over the past 20+ years, so it does feel odd to not be on one now.

But when I’m asked if I miss being in ministry, my answer is always “No.”

No, I don’t miss it. Sometimes I do miss being on staff…I worked with good people doing good work. But I don’t miss being in ministry.

Here’s why: I’m still in it.

My take on “ministry” is this: As Jesus-followers, we are ALL called to a life of ministry. Whether I work at a church or in a store…whether I write articles or groom dogs (*that will never happen again)…whether I work in an office building or from my sofa…WHETHER I DRAW A PAYCHECK OR NOT, I’m in ministry. And you are, too.

Loving Jesus, serving Jesus, and following Jesus means that ministry is a “life” thing. Wherever you are, that’s where your ministry is.

Have you ever wondered what your calling is? Ever wondered if you are “called into the ministry?” I believe the answer is “Yes!” If you are following Jesus, you are called into ministry. Will you become a pastor? Maybe. Will you work in a church? Possibly. But even if you don’t, you are in ministry.

In Matthew 22, a Pharisee who was particularly knowledgeable of the laws (#expert) asked Jesus which of the many commandments was the most important. (Side note: I always picture the Pharisee twisting his mustache mischieviously with a leering “I’ve Got Him Now” look on his face. Is this accurate? Doubtful.) 

Jesus answers him with this in verses 37-40: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. 

Then Jesus dropped the mic. (He did not. But if he’d had a mic, he could have dropped it.)

Jesus makes it simple. Love God and love your neighbor.

Ministry has more to do with how you’re living the life you’ve been given than it has to do with any position you hold. Your job just determines where you’ll minister.

None of this is to say that we don’t need pastors or church staff. That’s just crazy talk. Of course we need them. But, what IS crazy is expecting only pastors or church staff or people with seminary degrees to minister. Nope, nope, nope.

Know who the minister is in your neighborhood? You are. At your job? It’s you. In your house? Guess who. It’s you. Your life is your ministry. My life is my ministry.

If that sounds like a tall order, please remain calm. The One who tells us to love God and our neighbor doesn’t sit idly by while we try to with all our humanity to do our best. His Spirit dwells in us and gives us what we need to be the best ministers we can and all for his glory. Isn’t God good?! (Yes. Yes he is.)

So, let’s take a look around at our lives. Who will we minister to today?

**For more ideas about what ministry in the ordinary, everyday of life can look like, visit Shannon Martin’s website. I’m on the Launch Team for her new book, The Ministry of Ordinary Places. You can get a free chapter here. Y’all…it is seriously, SO GOOD. Grab it. Read it. You’ll be blessed by it.