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How am I Thankful? Let Me Count the Ways

I’m ashamed to say that I often use this blog to vent.  When I’m tired and discouraged, I find it therapeutic to talk it through on this blog knowing that there are those out there who have gone through the same things or are experiencing them now,  and that helps to know I am not alone.  When I receive comments of support and encouragement, it’s better than my own private therapy session. So I’m thankful for those who listen to me whine and share and to those who share with me as well.
I’m thankful for my husband.  Though providing for his care is overwhelming at times, I’m thankful that he is here for me to care for.  I’m thankful for his encouragement and his caring.  He’s always looking for ways to make my life easier and to provide his support.  I admit that I often don’t allow him to care for me because I’m so used to caring for him, but I appreciate his reaching out to me.
I appreciate his humor; he is often able to see the funny side of life.  I appreciate his faithfulness; he strives to be a faithful servant of our Lord, Jesus Christ, with whatever abilities he has.  I appreciate his knowledge; I’ve met few people who know more trivia than he does!  Plus he seems to know something about just about anything!
I’m thankful for Lynn’s abilities. His mind is very alert and as I said above, he’s very intelligent and useful.  Though he cannot physically do many things, he can tell me how to do them or guide me on how to get someone else to do them. Though he can’t write, he can speak and he can see so he uses software to write on his behalf and therefore, remains productive and has goals.  Though he has selective hearing, his ability to hear has not been touched by MS. When he puts his mind to it, he can clearly hear the same as I do. His essential organs still function to keep him alive and healthy though not untouched by medical limits.  Though he was a gourmet cook and can tell what’s in a dish by taste and though I tend to burn more than I like to admit, he always compliments what I make him and phrases my cooking to others.
I’m thankful for my job, my boss, my staff.  I love what I do and where I work.  I love the people I work with and for.  Their encouragement keeps me going and the work gives me purpose and reward…as well as enough income and benefits to provide Lynn with the care he needs and both of us with all our essentials and many of our wants.
I’m thankful for my children and their spouses and my awesome grandson who brings us so much joy with his love of life.  All of our children would drop whatever they are doing at a moment’s notice to come to our rescue if needed.  We KNOW we are loved by them and we know how fortunate we truly are to have been blessed with such good people in our lives.  Not only do we love them as our children but we love and respect who they are as individuals in this world.  We are truly blessed by their presence in our lives.
In the same way we are blessed by our extended family.  Lynn and I both have wonderful, caring, and supportive parents and siblings. Each side of our family gives us love in abundance and it’s so special to spend time with them when the opportunities come.
I’m thankful for our church family.  Our church family truly walk the walk of Jesus’ loving example.  Gethsemane Church of Christ is a powerful example of walking the faith; of giving and giving and giving through God’s love; of reaching out to show they care and of never forgetting that you exist.  The last we were able to go to church was in the fall of 2009.  I was rehearsing with the drama team for Christmas.  Lynn went into the hospital and they had to find a substitute for my part.  Though I was replaced in the role, they never replaced me or us in their hearts even though we’ve been “out of sight” and could have been “out of mind” for some time now.  They have never stopped caring and for that

Lynn and Eli enjoying a ride
Lynn and Eli enjoying a ride

we are truly thankful.
I am most of all truly thankful for the knowledge that I have a Savior who will forever be with me.  It’s amazing how He faithfully meets our needs.  He doesn’t remove the challenges; no Lynn still has MS and my arthritis is making it more difficult by the day to provide his care; but He gives us the resources we need just in time; every time.  Sometimes His answer to our cries is “wait” and sometimes it’s “no” but it’s always, “I’m right here; just hang on.”  He is our safety net and the light in the storm.  Always loving; always caring; always there…forever and ever.
For all these things and so many more, I am truly thankful and awesomely blessed.

God's Blessings

Often my journal entries discuss the challenges of being a caregiver but today I want to share a blessing–my church family.
Before Lynn was diagnosed with MS, he and I were very involved in our church.  We both were in choir; I helped produce drama enactments to support the sermon;  Lynn played drums for the praise band; we both played  hand bells; and we both were in dinner theater productions.  Three years ago, Lynn had to drop out of most of the activities he did due to fatigue and loss of coordination and strength.  Two years ago, I had to drop out due to my need to be home to care for him.  Since December 2010, neither of us have been able to attend church but are blessed to be able to attend through listening to the sermons on the church’s internet site.
Though we were well-known when we attended, there were many people who did not know us when we attended and I am sure that there are many more who have never met us or had any contact with our family since we had to stop attending church.  I share that fact to emphasize that the blessings we receive from our church are not due to a family connection or special relationship.  No, the blessings we receive from our church are due to the outflowing of God’s love for us through them. I think you will agree when you read what they have done for us.
First off, we are on the prayer list regularly and we get uplifting cards for all occasions and sporadically throughout the year telling us that we are being thought of, prayed for and remembered.  That is such a comfort when we live our lives in somewhat of an isolated fashion.

  • When Lynn started having difficulty walking, a group of men put in a ramp on the back of our deck so he could come in and out using the wheelchair instead.  Without that ramp, he would not have been able to leave the house for medical appointments much less any other trip.  The labor and supplies were provided by church members.
  • We asked who in our church could advise up on getting a handicap shower installed.  Within days, a shower had been ordered and two men from church installed it.  Not only was the labor free but the shower was provided by donations from the church members.
  • When Lynn was in the hospital two years ago and I was depressed because I could not decorate for Christmas, a group came over and decorated our home.  Not only did they decorate, but discovered that our refrigerator was on its last ice-cube and they got us a nice second-hand one that works wonderfully (without multiple containers to catch the leaks it produces like my last one.)  Last year several people came over once again to help with putting up decorations AND taking them down.
  • Groups have come over to rake leaves, mow grass, clean up debris after storms, and do all types of yard work.  One group came and tore down an old play house and a fence that was falling down.
  • One of the angels from our church cooks for us each month.  She fixes all of Lynn’s special diet meals and freezes them in individual containers so all I have to do is thaw out a meal when it’s time to feed him.  You can’t image (or maybe you can) how much I appreciate not having to take the time to prepare those meals three times a day.  Several members contribute to the cost of the food she prepares so that most of what he eats, doesn’t cost us a thing.  There is another Sunday school class that brings us bottled water every two weeks.
  • One of the members comes each Thursday to help Lynn with his writing (typing).  She helps him write his blogs or chapters in his book or whatever other correspondence he needs to get out so I can concentrate on my work.

If the church finds out we have a special need, they take care of it or at least help us find a way to meet the need. Every once in a while we even receive donations to help us with some of our expenses (which you know are a lot if you’re caring for someone with special needs.) I know there is much more they have done than I have listed here.
In fact, what lead me to write this was what happened while we were on vacation.  We came home to a house that had a new coat of paint, a newly stained deck, and fresh landscaping for my azalea beds!  A group got together to spend their time off this past week painting our house while we were on vacation!  What a blessing they have given us!
Our church, Gethsemane Church of Christ in Mechanicsville, Virginia, (http://www.gethsemanechristians.org/welcome/) is a God centered place of worship.  Their mission to follow Christ faithfully through word and deed and to demonstrate Christ’s love through action.  The blessings they have provided our family are not unique to us.  They have done the same for many other members.  If a member has a need, they try to help.  They are not a wealthy church or a large church; they are a rural community church made up of average people who love their Lord and each other.  We are truly blessed by their generosity and faith and by the Lord that they (and we) serve. 
I wanted to publicly thank them for their love and support over the years.  As a caregiver, I can’t do it alone.  As a person with MS, Lynn has much he cannot do.  But through the love of Christ demonstrated through these saints of the Lord, we are truly blessed each and every day. 
I hope you are fortunate enough to have such a church family as well.  Their actions are not about religion or a particular faith-based group but are instead a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, our savor, and our healer, who never forsakes us and who will be there for anyone who chooses to be his follower.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being there for us.

The Blessings of Children

Elijah Gregory moments after his birth

May 27 at 3:51 p.m., my daughter gave birth to a beautiful son, Elijah Gregory–Eli for short.  I was fortunate enough to share in the experience with her and her husband and at the moment of Eli’s birth, my daughter weep tears of joy, as did I. 
The decision to have a child was not easy for her.  Though she does not have MS, she has a chronic health condition that has dominated her life (and mine) since she was five years old.  The condition has required multiple medication adjustments, much lost time from school and work, and interfered on more occasions than I can remember, with being able to enjoy plans made.  It made her different from her peers, which created many difficulties for her as a teen.  There have been many tears and many discussions about the quality of her life…but we made it through those times.  Her condition is now controlled on medication that she must take every day for the rest of her life and it still is a factor in all her decisions but she has matured into a beautiful and kind young women, with a deep sense of responsibility, and wisdom beyond her young years.  She is very fortunate in that she also has a very devoted husband who is unbelievably understanding and supportive of her.  Now he has taken over my role as her “rock” and together they face their future.
I share all this as background for her decision to have Eli.  She knew her pregnancy would be difficult and there was a risk that the medications she was on could cause birth defects (thankfully that does not seem to have happened) so she worked with her doctors to prepare her body, her mind, and her spirit to take on the challenge of having a child.  For her that decision was the right one but for some people with chronic health conditions, the prospect of reproducing and sentencing a child to the same possible condition is not something they can do.  Neither decision is wrong; both decisions are right…for those individuals.
As for my daughter, she has a strong faith in God and has learned to rely in Him to help her through the difficulties of this life.  Though she certainly does not want to invite hardship, she also knows that her strength comes from the courage He has given her.  Her life experiences, though very difficult, have prepared her to face what may be ahead since she probably won’t know if Eli has her same condition for several years yet.  However, if he does develop it, who better to help him through it than his mother who can not only empathize but coach him in how to cope with it?  That is true for any person thinking about having a child that might inherit a serious condition.  There are some conditions, that I am sure would cause her (and me, too, if faced with the choice) to decide to adopt.  In fact, she may decide to do that next time.  But it’s okay either way.
My step-son knows that he may very well develop MS as he gets older.  His father and grandfather both had it so his changes are significant. When he asked his girlfriend to marry him, she and I talked about their having children.  They are fully aware of the risk of inheritance and that he may end up as his father but we also know that new medications and treatments are always in development.  BECAUSE of his father, he’s prepared.  He knows what things seem to reduce the risk and what to stay away from; he knows the symptoms and when to seek evaluation; he will know what to do if the time comes that he has to face the prospect.  Plus, like with my daughter, he will know that his father and I are here to help out anyway was can and that God will bless them whatever the decision regarding children may be.
I belive that each challenge we face in our lives prepares us for what lies ahead.  We gain strength, knowledge, and courage with each obstacle we overcome.  Life is hard…no doubt about it.  I truly wish and have prayed often that these burdens be removed from Lynn and from my daughter and that He would protect our other children from them as well. However, I know that we are not alone.  I know that this time on earth for us is like a speck of dust compared to eternity in heaven.  I know that although we have trials and difficulties and get depressed and hurt that I love this life we have.  I feel so blessed to be married to Lynn and to have two wonderful children of my own and an awesome stepson.  I love the partners my children have chosen to share their lives with. I can’t wait to spend time with my grandson and to share with him all we have learned that might be helpful to him on his journey through life.
I am very thankful my parents decided to give me life.  I am very thankful that God blessed my decision to have children.  And now I’m thankful that God has given my daughter the courage to face the unknown and to share her love and commitment to Christ and to her family with a child.
Yes, for me and my family, having children is truly a blessing for which we are thankful.

Christmas Eve

Fixing Christmas dinner

It’s 12:12 a.m. Christmas Eve.  In a few hours I’ll be back up getting ready for my kids to come over for our Christmas Eve time together.  I love having them come over but as with all things, MS gets in the way it seems.
I had a call from my son earlier saying he feels stuffy so he might not come for dinner Christmas Eve night because he doesn’t want to expose Lynn to anything.  All our family is very thoughtful regarding exposing him to anything. They know how fragile his health is and how difficult it is for him to recover. But I really want my son to come.  It just won’t be Christmas if  all the kids can’t be here.
Lynn has felt miserable all day.  He’s been very testy and hard to get along with. He’s so tired and uncomfortable and needs constant attention.  I wonder if he will even be able to enjoy the family time together.  Every night for the past two weeks he’s needed a hot shower to make him feel better.  The kids are coming over around 6:30 so that means he can’t have one.  How will that go?  Will he just suffer through?  I expect he will but I’ll see it and know he’s miserable.  Why can’t he feel good anymore?
He and I were not going to exchange gifts this year because we can’t go shopping but I had a chance to do so Thursday and picked up a couple of things for him.  I hope he won’t be upset that I bought him something but I love to give presents and it’s just not Christmas if you can’t give things to people you love.  I know he can’t shop; plus if he shops on-line he has to use my credit card so I know anyway.   It’s just the way it is. I’m okay with no gifts for me but I really want to give to others.
I admit I haven’t had too much Christmas spirit this year.  I used to do so much at church for Christmas and that really represented Christmas to me as much as anything did.  We haven’t been able to go to church in over a year now so a huge chunk of what makes Christmas special for me is missing.
So ready or not, Christmas is here.  No need to decorate anymore.  If presents aren’t bought by now, it’s basically too late…and in two days, it’s over till next year.  I need more time!  I want more celebration… and I want Lynn to be well enough to enjoy it.
It’s time to go feed him dinner then it’s off to bed for the night.  Tomorrow will be busy with a few errands to run and a roast to prepare for dinner and some last-minute wrapping.  I’m looking forward to it but afraid to get excited as well for fear that something will happen to keep us from getting together.  I sure hope we ALL get to enjoy it.
Here’s hoping you get to enjoy yours too.  After all, we are here, and alive, and loved, and Christ gave up everything to give us hope of eternal life by coming as a baby, totally vulnerable in the world.  What more could we ask for?  Whatever happens, we are blessed.
Merry Christmas.