My Word for 2021

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is one of my favorite weeks of the whole year. Work is usually delightfully slow. School is on pause for our guys. My husband takes the week off. It’s a blissful few days of limited plans, board games, watching movies, reading and rest.


It’s usually during this week that I come up with my “one word” for the upcoming year. As I’ve done in years past, I spent some time pondering and praying, searching for just the right word for 2021. But nothing really came to mind, so I figured there wouldn’t be one this time. And that’s ok. Some years are like that.

But God, knowing what I need and when I need it, unexpectedly slipped a word into my noggin late in the game on New Year’s Eve night. I was driving home from picking up our supper, lamenting with him about the past year. The many losses. The heartbreaking changes. I was telling him how unsteady the ground felt in my life this past year. How lost I felt in some ways. How in several areas of my life I felt like a stranger in a very strange land.

And as I drove, a thought popped into my head — a small whisper in my spirit asked, “Have you lost your confidence in me?”

Silenced by the question, I let that idea sink in for a minute. Have I lost my confidence in God? Surely not.

But as I let the miles slip by, I knew the question came because the answer was one I needed to deal with. I wanted to rationalize myself out of it, but I knew. Yes, my confidence in God — in who he is, in what he can do, in his sovereignty and wisdom — isn’t what it needs to be. It’s not that it has disappeared entirely. No, it’s just that I’ve spent too much time focused on my circumstances than on the one who rules over all of them. And that’s on me. I’m the one who changed, not him. I’m the one who took her eyes off the prize too many times.

There’s more I could say about all of this, but for now I’m content with starting here: my word for 2021 is CONFIDENCE.

And the verse I’m using as an anchor this year is Jeremiah 17:7: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.”

May 2021 be a year of reinforced confidence for me — and maybe for you, too — in the One who can be trusted above all and with all things.

Thank You, God, for being the same always and forever. For being the firm foundation upon which a life can be built. For waiting patiently when we wander and, when we go too far off the path, for coming to find us. You are the best God a creation could ever hope for. Amen.

Grief for the Long Haul

If my mom’s mind is like an hourglass, each grain of sand is a memory. Watching the sand slowly fall is more painful than I know how to fittingly describe. Dementia is a thief. If I could, I would flip the hourglass back over and pour the memories back into her, restoring what has been lost. But I can’t. And because I can’t, I have to learn how to navigate grief for the long haul.

If I’m being completely honest with you, I have to tell you that I’m not very good at grief. Grieving involves big emotions and I’m not a fan of those, especially the harder ones like anger or sadness. I’m still, even as a 46-year old, learning how to process those well instead of running to my favorite distractions like getting lost in a good book, Netflix binging, or seeking out dairy products. I mean, what sounds better to you? Feel big, scary feelings or eating cheese? (Please pick cheese so I’m not alone.)

The reality is Mom’s dementia is not something I get to avoid. I’m not able to run or hide from it. And that’s not really what I want to do anyway because I want to be there for her. I’m her only child. I’m her daughter, her personal shopper, her accountant, her chauffeur, and so much more. I’m thankful to be a part of her life even as I watch that life so drastically change. I wouldn’t give up my ability to be present with her for anything. And so I am forced to do what is hard for me: grieve for what is lost. Cry for what I miss. Lament for the way things used to be.

Sometimes I think of grief as a lake that is frozen over with ice. I’m standing in the middle, staring at the shore. Each time Mom reminds me of what she can no longer remember, it’s as if a tiny fracture is made in the ice. The bigger the loss, the greater the fissure. I’m trying to walk to the shore without falling into the freezing water. If that ice breaks, down I’ll go. What if I drown in my sorrow? The idea of it is overwhelming.

Sometimes when I sit and pour my grief out to God, I describe the lake, filled with so many cracks. I ask him to help me get to the shore, where the land is stable and everything feels less scary. It’s then that he reminds me that he’s not only aware of where I am, but he is present with me. Each tentative step I take on the ice, he takes, too. Each fracture, each memory gone breaks his heart just like it breaks mine. And if the day finally comes when it’s all just too much and the ice breaks, sending me into the dark, frigid water, I won’t fall alone. Even there, he’ll be with me.

I know good and well that God could pick me up and place me on the shore. Why doesn’t he? I’m not sure. He can make the dementia disappear. Why doesn’t he? I don’t know. So, I find it’s best to cling to what I do know: Dementia is a thief, but God is still good. He won’t give up his ability to be present with me for anything. Even when I’m standing on thin ice.

Take heart, fellow grievers. We are not alone.


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.