“Count it all joy…”

We have spent the past couple of weeks getting rid of the underbrush on our land. It was so much work, we had to hire a tree specialist to help us. What an amazing job the entire crew did. Up here, the underbrush grows so fast. With it gone, we are able to have a fire barrier, should we ever need it. We denuded all the dead trees, or ones that were too crowded together. In the photo above, we removed all the underbrush in the dirt area. We can see our neighbor’s house! It is a first. This is just a small section. We did around our entire acre!! We are scheduled to have a fence put in. Then the dogs can run free!!!! So excited!!!

That’s them, all cuddled up. LOL. The one on the left is 13, and is barely on the dog bed. The black lump is the puppy, who is 7 months old. He loves her; she tolerates him. LOL. But having a closed in yard will make life so much easier. As it is, we have to walk the puppy. Our older dog won’t leave our side, but he is not there, yet. And a yard will allow him to get out some of that energy!!

My brother just visited with his little granddaughter and was saying how he’d forgotten the busy-ness of a toddler, the incessant questions and learning new words. Things like, “Papa, where are you?” “Grammie, what are you doing?” “Can I shut the door?” The energy it takes to keep up with a puppy is much like the energy needed to keep up with a toddler! Some days, I am just too pooped out. And that’s when I say to myself, “What were you thinking?” Ha-Ha-Ha.

Today my plants are on the table because I am sick and tired of saying, “Leave it.” Over and over again. Last night, he jumped onto that same table. Yep. My dining room table. After that little plant on the right. Luckily we rescued the table and the plant. The cheekiness of that dog! And now I am relegated to carrying cut up Smokey Joe links in a plastic bag in my pocket because he is so food oriented. But I smell like smoked links. Lovely. There has to be a better solution. I will bring it up at our next obedience class. I will also present the trainer with a baggie containing the eaten purple pen and the chewed up sheet of – ironically enough – our training homework for the week. So funny.

Mom and I had a nice visit yesterday, along with my hubby. He is so patient! She is progressing more and more into Alzheimer’s. She knew who we were. But she did not use our names. Her usual comments were, “And how is your family?” “What is new in your world?” She talks more quietly, and her speech is a little slurred. Her New Zealand accent is popping out more and more often. Her vocabulary changes. Terms she used when I was a child are more prevalent now. Our visits are so circular that everything that will take place happens within the first 4 or 5 minutes, tops. And then it is just rinse and repeat. Mom has a hard time making sense of things, too. Within the same breath and sentence she was exclaiming she was surprised she was going to be 90 in November, and then at the end of the same sentence, remarked that she had no idea how old she even was. It is so hard to experience this disease. She is happy, so that is good. She always wants us to stay longer than we do. She complains about being lonely, but then she does not remember she attends a senior center 3 days a week, either. It is so hard to just go when we need to. My instinct is to gather her in my arms and bring her home. But it would not work for so very many reasons.

“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:32

I respect my parents. They moved to a new country to make a better life for themselves, and to have children in a place they thought would be better. They provided a pretty good life as we were growing up, doing the best they could. My in-laws grew up living a very hard life, dry farming in Colorado. They both moved into Denver and had wonderful careers and made a wonderful life for my husband and his siblings. They left a legacy for their children and grandchildren. They taught lessons to us all, even in death. My in-laws were unique in so many ways. Sadly, now that they are gone, I appreciate them so much more, for their love, their steadfastness and beliefs, and for how much they cared for their children and grandchildren. Because of our respective parents, my husband and I are who we are, and we are very blessed to have had the lives we did, growing up.

Taking on the responsibility for new life, whether it be a grandchild or a puppy, or caring at the end of life for our parents, can be extremely stressful. We are the sandwiched generation – caught in two worlds. My parents did not have to care for their parents in their homes. They were pretty independent. And my mom’s parents lived on their own until they passed away. And, in fact, my paternal grandma lived with my husband and I (and our sons) as her health was failing her, but her mind was fully intact. (And that makes a huge difference). My husband’s parents were cared for, pretty much entirely in their homes, with the amazing care from his younger brother. He spent these past few years caring for his aging and ill parents. He showed us all how to care for others. And as silly as this sounds after that, having this puppy is much the same level as caring for a toddler; although in the past couple of days he has been exhibiting teenage behavior in his refusal to listen. It is also a lot like the repetitiveness of an Alzheimer’s parent. Some days it is overwhelming.

I am clinging to the promises of Christ. Because in Him, I can do all these things. I can be a sandwich! And somehow I can be there, in the middle, and have my own life. Things like pulling out the undergrowth and putting up a fence make my life exciting. Planning our garden for next year and looking forward to camping trips with a trained dog (trust me, I dream about that). Visiting mom on Sundays after Church. Meeting friends for coffee. Playing with my grandchildren. Traveling to be with extended family and friends. Being me, in this middle place, which has become my life. And honestly, it is a blessed life. I know that I am singularly blessed. And I am beyond grateful. This is not complaining; this is working out where I am and how I function in this place. In my prayer journal, as I was reading through it – after making sure it did not die with the purple pen the puppy stole and introduced to my white carpeting (thank goodness for my “Little Green Machine” carpet cleaner! My hero today and many other days)  – I noted how often I am grateful and feel blessed to live the life I live. And I know the Lord has shown me that gratitude helps make a loving heart for others.

(That picture needs to add a puppy! As if the chaos shown there is not enough! Ha-Ha-Ha). I know sometime soon, all of our parents will have passed. And then my kids will be in the middle and my grandkids will be on one side, with my husband and I on the other. The generations shift roles and it seems to happen within a specific time frame. Rather than gently growing into it, it seems like you’re thrust into these new roles suddenly. And adjustment just takes time – often just long enough for the next change to occur – and we’re struggling all over again. I am sure it has been this way for eons, but it seems to be talked about more these days. It used to be multiple generations lived together on the farm for generation after generation. Then the industrial revolution happened and it all changed. The fabric of the family was torn and it never really has been quite the same. From Mayberry to Modern Family, all in a generation or two. Deep breaths, my friends, deep breaths. We can do this – from puppies to grandchildren to parents to ourselves. And even though our families are spread out across the county or the country, we can be there for one another. We can make this sandwich thing work! Count it all joy!!

 

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“…We are in this struggle together.” Phil 1:30

You know, sometimes you are called upon to the be the rock, the anchor for other people. And sometimes you just walk alongside them. On occasion the days work well together and a walk is all you need. Other days, it is a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or perhaps deep prayer requests. And all of those are beautiful, because it means we are trusted to walk with someone, or dry their tears. We have been found sturdy enough to hold others up. Wow. Think about that. It is really an honor.

Every so often, that honor can become a burden, and one that we feel not up to fulfilling. I know that feeling all too well. As I have gotten older, I have retreated more and more from the world. I am completely devoted to my children and grandchildren, our various (and many) extended family members, and about a handful of people I would consider a friend. We have many acquaintances, but very few friends. And that is a good thing. Those people we call friend are there for us regardless of a clean house, shampooed hair, or the state of our bank accounts.

One of my granddaughters started kindergarten this year (to be fair, another started 1st grade, another also kindergarten, and a grandson in 2nd grade….a couple of more are not school aged, yet. I am blessed) and within two days told me about her new best friend. I asked her what her name was, and as she trotted off to play, she was yelling over her shoulder, “Oh, I don’t know her name but she is my best friend.” I had to chuckle. It did not matter that they had only known each other two days, or that she did not know her name, she just knew she had found a friend. How precious is that?? She did not care about anything else, just that she felt friendship. I love it.

As I said above, I have very few close friends. One of my friends is having a big birthday this year. And what is funny about it is that when we first became friends more than 30 years ago, we promised we would not do the birthday thing (it is just a number) or worry about anniversaries. We promised we would celebrate with our kids and not worry about dates and things for us. So I honestly never worried about it. She threw me a surprise birthday party over 20 years ago. But my husband wrangled that. And now it is her turn to have a big 6-0 party (unfortunately I cannot be there) and I finally added her birthdate to my calendar. In our more than 30 years as friends, I never knew the date! And it had no bearing on our relationship. Oh, I knew I was older than her and it sort of bugged me, for about a minute, but there are so many other factors that could have gotten in the way, that age truly is a number. The point of this is that our relationship, which has weathered so much over the years, is what is paramount. I know if there is something I need, she would drop everything to be at my side, regardless of how it would mess up her schedule.

Years ago, when my grandmother (who lived with us) passed away, this same friend and her husband rushed to our home to hold me up. I will never forget her squeezing my hand as they wheeled my grandma’s body into that hearse. That is a friend. (I know you will read this and I love you more than you realize). I have two or three of these friends. Women I know who would rush to my side. They depend on me in the same way. They trust me and I trust them. It is a beautiful thing.

Sometimes we offer support to people because it is the right thing to do, but we never expect them to need us. Surprise! Something comes up and we have to decide to honor that commitment or not. In other situations, we may be a leader-figure. A position of authority, formal or otherwise. We attract people to us and they come to rely on us. And sometimes that burden becomes too much. We cannot carry ourselves into tomorrow, let alone save others. Well, that is okay, too. Sometimes we need an emotional time-out or break.

The important thing, I believe, is to honor our commitments. To be the people God has called us to be. To take comfort in the strengths and gifts He has given us. He leads us where we need to go and where we need to be. The Lord is our best friend. Let His example guide you, His promises comfort you, and His love give you rest. Be confirmed that the Lord has not misplaced HIs trust in you. He has not given you these gifts on a whim. He knows you (Psalm 139: 13-14) better than anyone. And on those days when you feel pulled in thousands of directions, call on one of your friends or family members. Just simply say, “Pray for me.” They will take it from there. And the strength of their prayers will bolster you and give you the wisdom you need for the moment. The Lord truly has your back.