My Caregiver

I have always been fond of Little House on The Prairie. I love the books as well as the television series. The books varied from the series; however, it was always the appeal of a simple lifestyle that appealed to me. In the deepest part of my heart, the yearning for simplicity has always prevailed. Simple living did not mean that heartache and disappointment were nonexistent; however, it seemed to me that in living simply, peace was found in abundance. Isn’t that what our souls yearns for the most? Peace. The ability to walk through stormy weather and know all will be well. Peace. The ability, when all things around us are falling apart, to hold together. Peace. The unexplainable feeling when you know something is terribly wrong, but you aren’t shaken by it. Peace. Complete rest for our souls. Peace. The unshakeable comfort.

Living simply doesn’t mean that you are simple minded. Living simply means that you get unnecessary, overwhelming distractions out of the way and enjoy the day and all it has for you. Throw off things that hinder peace in your life. Say “no” to things that do not bring peace. Rid yourselves of unnecessary obligations that create worry and stress. Make the choice to rid yourself of things that are not helpful to you or what is helpful others. Lysa Terkeurst says, “Wisdom makes a decision today that will still be good for tomorrow.” By doing this, we are allowing God a big opportunity to show up and show out.

From my earliest recollection of her, she exemplified peace. She sang “There will be peace in the valley”. Peace was there. All around. From the positioning of their quaint house perched atop a knoll, to the rolling pasture complete with livestock, to the smell of bacon frying in the early morning hours, to the multitude of African violets in a magnificent array of blooms…always- every aspect of her life spoke peace. Peace did not allude her. Peace was hers. It belonged to her in every sense of the word. She was not wealthy by the worlds standards but she was blessed with a wealth of dear precious ones who loved her and loved her deeply. I was one of the fortunate ones to know her. I knew her well. From the time I was 3 months old until I was 15, she was my care giver. She was, to me, another grandmother. Although I had biological grandparents and she had biological grandchildren. She adopted me and I adopted her. She was as close to me as my own and I as close to her as her own.

One of the most fascinating things about her was that she was born in 1903 and her precious husband in 1900. Keeping up with their ages was always fun for me and easy. He was as old as the current year and she was 3 years less. She began taking care of me when she was 65 years old. By the age of 2, she had taught me many things about God’s word through her singing as well as scripture. Every day she would stand me in a chair and we would recite, John 3:16. Every day at nap time, she would rock me and sing to me, mostly hymns, but sometimes lullabies. One of her favorite Hymns was, “Revive Us Again”. She loved the chorus and most days she would even sing the chorus as she watered and tended her African violets. Maybe that’s the reason for their ever present display of beauty. The chorus is, “Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Hallelujah! Amen. Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Revive us again.” One day when I was about 3, I was at home singing, as I often did. My mom was listening and heard me singing the chorus but I using a heavy “r” at the end of Hallelujah. She asked, “Why are you singing it that way?” I replied, “That’s the way Mamaw Gillespie sings it.” She said, “Hallelujah doesn’t have an r at the end.” The next day, I walked straight into Mamaw’s house and told her, “My Mama said you were singing the song wrong. Hallelujah doesn’t have an “r” at the end.” I can’t recall her response but I can tell you it didn’t change the way she sang the song. Not one bit. Not ever. Why? It didn’t matter to her. Her heart was so full of love for the Lord and what He had done for her. She didn’t care. All that mattered to her was that she was singing to Him and asking on a daily basis that He revive her and give her “peace in the valley” or “peace like a river.” Her songs were prayers for her soul. She didn’t have to have the words perfect. Her heart was inclined, or leaned into, God and that’s all that really mattered. You see she just chose to be there in the moment. Her life was moment by moment. Day by day. I would venture to say she probably sang, “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.”

Her life was a series of wise choices day after day.  She knew her place and she knew what she was best suited to do.  She chose to say “no” to things that would hinder her from being the best caregiver day after day, year after year.  She was a woman who exuded confidence in her ability to care for her babies.  That is what she did best.  To say I’m lucky to have had her in my life would be an understatement.  Blessed doesn’t even seem accurate.  I am simply overwhelmed with gratitude and thankfulness that I was hers and she was mine.

***This post was originally written on another blog I started several years ago and failed to keep it going.  Two people reminded me in the past two days about this and oddly enough, it’s just what I needed to be reminded of today.***

A little about my Hero

I know a man who has given his whole being for the good of others. He is one of the most selfless people I have ever been around. His joy comes to see other happy. That’s always been his chief aim. I’ve never met an individual like him and I’m quite certain I never will again.

His countenance displays joy and peace. His life reflects the joy of the Lord. His smile illuminates the room and just sitting his presence blessings abound. My husband says frequently, “If you don’t like Troy, you’ve got serious problems”

Who is Troy? Troy is my grandfather, commonly referred to as “my Popaw”. What makes him so special and unique? The choices he’s made in life.

On any given day of sporting events when asked who he’s rooting for, his answer, no matter who’s playing, “The underdog. The team that’s losing”. He has a heart for the downtrodden, for the weak, for the homeless, for anyone who needs a little extra help. He wants to see them have an opportunity to succeed. It’s just how he rolls.

As a young boy, Popaw made choice to follow the Lord. He has never wavered. At 16 years of age, he married my grandmother. He loved her through life and never wavered. He became her caregiver for almost ten years. He grew weary towards the end, but he never wavered in his care for his bride. Once moved to assisted living, he visited her everyday, except a few times when he was sick. He never complained and always thankful for the care she received there.

He loves and adores his two daughters more than anything. He’s always been there for them. Always ready, willing and able to do anything he could for them. The past two years, through Ned’s illness, he expressed to me several times how difficult it was for him not being able to help and really be there for Mom. Honestly, his existence has been a blessing and help to us all.

His grandchildren he doted on since day one. There’s never been three children anymore loved and adored than me, my sister and brother. Both he and my grandmother always made us feel like the sun rose and set in us. He still makes me feel that way When I see his sweet face light up as I enter his room and he says. “Honey, it’s so good to see you. It’s always good just to be with you”.

And then there are his great grandchildren and there are just no words to describe the vast love he has for them. He is always concerned over their well-being. He is constantly asking about their safety and he is consistently telling me how much he misses those little rascals.

Clearly he is a family man.

When I think of the fruit of the spirt

I can’t help but think of Popaw. His life is the embodiment of these things. Every characteristic I have seen on display I his life. And I find myself thankful and humbled. Thankful that I have been given such a powerful witness of a man in my life and humbled because I realize, I have a very long way to see all these attributes displayed in my life. Truth is, I may never get there because I am not always prone to making wise choices, like Popaw. I have a “prone to wandering” heart.

Popaw has staid his course and run his race with great vigor and endurance! He is a living example of a life well-lived.

Popaw is my hero!

Broken and Useful

Interestingly I happened upon a PBS show Eugenics Crusade. Eugenics became popular in the United States as well as other countries because of its promise to improve the human race. However, popularity waned when Hitler perverted eugenics during World War II to form his “perfect society”.

After watching the show, I conversed with my friend, Tima, about the whole idea of eugenics. During the course of our conversation we discussed the magnitude of how much can be learned by those society deems invaluable, in particularly those with severe mental handicaps.

Have you ever been around adults or children with severe mental handicaps? How do you feel around them? Do they make you cringe? Do you feel an awkwardness because they’re not like you? Are they detestable and insignificant to you?

For years, I feared those with handicaps. Let me explain. When I was young my Caregiver had neighbors who had a handicapped son. He had cerebral palsy. He was wheelchair bound, he didn’t speak, moaned and drooled. He could sit upright and had use of his hands. One time, I got close to wheelchair and he lunged at me. Scared the life out of me. His sweet mother explained he was just trying to give me a hug. This whole thing was foreign to me and as a result I avoided children and adults who had handicaps.

Fast forward about 20 years and I met this couple, Steve and Lynn Easler. They were my Sunday School teachers. We had a Christmas party and they invited me to come ride with them. At that time, I didn’t know a lot about them. When I arrived at their house, the introduced me to their three biological children and then to Jared, their first special needs adopted son. Jared had physical disabilities, not mental, his hands and feet were clubbed. On the way to the party they shared with me their desire to adopt “special needs” children. Little did I know, at the time, that I would have the privilege of watching God gift them with a multitude of children.

However. it was the adoption of their third child that God would show me how absurdly wrong my thinking was about “special needs” children. Julia, now in her late twenties, was born with Cerebral Palsy. Her life itself is a miracle. Trust me. When Lynn and Steve brought her home, we gathered and prayed over her. At the time, they didn’t know how severe she really was. Julia, by the world view, is nothing more than a “vegetable”, if you will. She requires full time care and can do nothing on her own. She even has a feeding tube. Yet the joy this child has brought to those of us who know her is unexplainable. The way she turns he head at the sound of Lynn and Steve’s voices. The way she looks at them. The tenderness and care they administer to her. She is a gift. It’s truly a beautiful thing as well as humbling. You see, God pours himself into her brokenness and makes her a thing of beauty to all who know her.

Our desire is for perfection. Now, we’re working harder and harder to achieve what we deem perfect. Social media gives us a boost, too, because it’s easier to portray the perfect image. Heck, now there’s even an app to make your body look better. Our desire for perfection keeps us from being honest with ourselves and others when we are broken.

Perfection to most is something that is unbroken, no holes, no blemishes, flawless. However, let me explain something about God’s view of perfection. He takes that which is broken and seemingly useless and He makes it useful and highly valuable. Our problem is that we want to hide or rid ourselves of our flaws. Do you realize that He wants to work through them? God wants to use our brokenness, our blemishes and holes to pour out more of himself . He takes our uselessness and makes it useful for his glory.

As I was sitting here writing this song came to mind.

Bill Gaither – Something Beautiful Lyrics

Something beautiful, something good
All my confusion He understood
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But he made something beautiful of my lifeIf there ever were dreams
That were lofty and noble
They were my dreams at the start
And hope for life’s best were the hopes
That I harbor down deep in my heart
But my dreams turned to ashes
And my castles all crumbled, my fortune turned to loss
So I wrapped it all in the rags of life
And laid it at the cross

Pearls of Wisdom

At the start of this New Year I decided to read through the Bible. It’s something I started doing in January 4 years ago but last year decided to take a break. I’m not telling you this for earn brownie points or praise. It’s been a remarkably exceptional way for me to see things I would otherwise miss in scripture. Which brings me to the point of today’s blog.

Two days ago a verse literally jumped off the page and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, which in turn, caused me to read some commentaries. When a verse does this instantly I know that God is revealing a deep level of truth and insight. It can’t be explained away. And then it also leaves me curious to know why I’ve read over that verse a hundred times and never really seen it. I think it has to do with my heart and when it’s ready to receive a truth from God’s word.

The verse, found in Genesis 35:8, says this, “Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth” NIV

Upon first glance this doesn’t seem important at all. It’s just talking about a woman named Deborah, who was Rebekah’s nurse and she died and was buried. The one thing I’ve learned the more I’ve studied is that everything in scripture bears significance.

The first thing that struck me was the placement of this scripture. At this point Rebekah is dead. In fact she’s been dead for some time, And somehow Deborah ends up with Jacob, Rebekah’s son. Commentators have varied speculation on how Deborah ended up with Jacob. But she did,

It is speculated that she was probably around 180 years old when she died. She was well-regarded and respected. She brought with her years of wisdom and knowledge for the younger women who were caring for Jacob’s family. She was also well-loved. Jacob called the place of her burial, Allon Bakuth of “oak of weeping”. It was sad day for Jacob and his family when she died.

Think about that for a minute. Deborah most likely was the nurse who came to Canaan with Rebekah when she came to marry Isaac. She had been with the family for many years. She remained with Isaac, even after Rebekah’s death, and then helped Jacob with his large family. She was more like a member of the family, instead of just a nurse.

Think about the impact that Deborah’s life had on this family. She gave up her home to go with Rebekah. She cared for Rebekah, maybe from birth. She was with Rebekah when Esau and Jacob were born. She aided in their care. She cared for Rebekah through her death. Remained faithful to Issac until she was needed by Jacob. That says a lot about her character, even though we know very little about her. I love this because it tells me she took her job seriously. She was fully committed to her calling.

While pondering and reading about Deborah, God reminded me of the precious lady who cared for me. Read her story here My Caregiver

I was reminded of how she loved and taught us. Her wisdom expansive. Her faith so simple and true. Her joy complete. She knew her calling and she did it well. Just like Deborah, Mawmaw’s life impacted ours. She became our family. When Ryan, my oldest son, and I travels from our home in Bremerton, Washington home, she insisted on seeing him. She said to me, “I want to nuss (her word for cuddle and rock) that baby the same way I nussed you.” How could I refuse a request like that?

And so, here she is “nussing my firstborn”. I have now doubt that while she was holding him, she was praying over him. She was, in her mind, singing over and quoting scripture over him. How do I know? She did the same thing for me, my sister and my brother. Oh, how she loved us and loved us well.

Just like Deborah, the day she died was. sad day, But just like Deborah, her pearls of have been passed through generations and will continue to be passed down. Like she would sing, “Oh happy day! Oh happy day, When Jesus “warshed” my sins away. “. Like I said before, a real simple faith, that’s all she had and it’s all she needed to be effective.

We can be effective and influence lives as well. We just have to be dedicated to our calling, knowing and believing that God has us exactly where He wants us for a time such as this.