Thursday, June 30, 2011

Weekly Word for June 30, 2011

Weekly Word - June 30, 2011

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And do not lean on your own understanding.
(Proverbs 3: 5)

“Oh Lord, please forgive me” were the words that started tumbling out of my mouth. “Forgive me for being so weak” I heard myself say. I hadn’t really thought about the feelings that were going through me that Sunday afternoon. Ted and I had been working in the backyard, pulling weeds and trimming up some of the bushes. As I stood up from the garden, I felt a sharp pain stabbing into my neck and shoulder. Without thinking, I put my hand up to my neck - wincing as I did. “Why don’t you go lay down?” Ted asked me. “I guess I should” I told him, as he went into the garage to get the lawnmower out. As I looked at my husband, I could feel this overwhelming sense of guilt in the pit of my stomach. He must have seen the look in my eyes, because before I knew it, he was holding me in his arms - telling me that he would mow the lawn while I slept. For a moment, I let myself feel the comfort of his arms around me, and then I turned and headed into the kitchen. I found my pain medication and took one. As I looked at the bottle in my hands, I could feel that overwhelming sense of regret again. Heading upstairs to take a nap, I started to talk to the Lord. “Oh Lord, . . .”

And do not lean on your own understanding . . .

It is funny how “weak” or “out of control” we feel when we are sick or injured. It is also surprising how easy it is to judge others as “weak” or “not strong” when they are different than we think they should be. Through the years, I have struggled with both - feeling weak - - - and judging others. As I finally drifted off to sleep - I found myself going back in time - remembering things I hadn’t thought about in a very long time . . .

“Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.”
“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness . . .”

(Daniel 2: 20b & 22a)

I can’t say I ever remember my dad throwing a ball, or playing sports with my brothers as we grew up. I knew that other dads did those things, but not my dad. He would read, paint, or play music - whenever he had some spare time. He also loved to take pictures and work in photography. I think my dad might have had a fishing rod, and we might have gone fishing with him once in a while. But it was my grandfather who I remember spending the most time learning to fish with, or even playing games with. Dad was just someone who I knew was very smart, and very quiet. Mom made all the decisions in our home - and she made all the noise there as well. She would yell and scream whenever she got angry. But my dad? He very rarely raised his voice at us. I remember thinking how glad I was that he wasn’t like my mom. But I also remember secretly thinking how weak my dad was as well . . .

“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness . . .”

As I grew older, got married, and had children - my parents were just a small part of my life. We visited during birthdays and holidays, and checked in by phone here and there. But I had kept my parents at a distance, and it was easier to keep it that way as time went by. My mom made me crazy at times, with her demands and outbursts. But dad just seemed to be this quiet, withdrawn person who really didn’t get involved in what was going on in our lives. So keeping them at arms length, was my way of dealing with how I felt about my parents. That is . . . until everything changed in my life . . .

“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; . . .

I was getting married to the most wonderful man I had ever met! He was loving, kind, and caring in so many ways. But when he wanted to meet my parents, well - I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After my separation and divorce, I had allowed my relationship with my parents to become almost non-existent. I had pushed away everyone in my life, who I believed caused me pain and hurt. Why did I need a mom who’s anger and manipulation made me feel so awful about myself? And for sure I didn’t need a dad who didn’t stand up for himself, never mind us kids. So now, here was this wonderful man wanting to meet the parents that I had pretty much taken out of my life. I didn’t quite know what to say or do, but I somehow found the courage to say “yes” to visiting with them. That day - well - it changed everything . . .

We met at a very busy restaurant. My mom and dad seemed so nervous that day. They had arrived early, and stood up when I walked in with Ted. I introduced everyone and we all sat down to order. That day we spent a few hours talking about little things in our lives. We told my parents all about our plans to get married, and they seemed to genuinely like Ted. As we left, we made plans to visit them in a few weeks. I hugged my mom and dad, and I could see tears in my mom’s eyes. As I walked out the door that day, it seemed as if a little bit of weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was still nervous when I thought about them, but the visit made me realize that my parents were just that - - - my parents! They were not perfect, and they definitely didn’t always do things the way I wanted them to - but they were the only parents I would ever have.

“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And the light dwells with Him.”

(Daniel 2: 20 & 22)

As Ted and I started our life together, my family became a part of our lives. We visited not only my parents, but also my brothers and their families. We celebrated holidays and birthdays, and I found myself learning so much about my family - and myself. My dad had developed cancer for the 2nd time, and it somehow seemed easy to find time to visit and help out my parents. Ted made that possible. He seemed to give me a confidence and trust - that I never had before. As we fixed faucets and built handrails - making life easier for my parents - I started to have a real relationship with my dad. I started to listen to him, to hear the stories of his life and the things he really cared about. I actually enjoyed times making puzzles with him, and helping him put pictures on to his computer. As I learned more about my dad, I realized how hard he was trying to take care of my mom. You see, mom was having difficulty remembering things - and her emotions were becoming out of control. Dad was doing everything in his power to help her to cope with what was happening inside of her brain. But my mom needed so much more than dad could ever offer her. She has a disease called Alzheimer’s. Our family was just beginning to realize the battle that was ahead - for not only my parents - but each and every one of us . . .

And the light dwells with Him . . .

Sometimes in life, we are given a second chance. And that is exactly what I was given with both my parents. I was given a second chance to learn who they were, and have a relationship that brought smiles instead of tears.

I had always believed that my dad was “weak”. I didn’t think he had the strength to stand up against my mom, or to make choices for himself. And then I watched my dad battle cancer while struggling to take care of my mom. Dad’s cancer had come back again, and this time it was in his bones. Dad struggled with walking and getting around, and soon he was confined to a wheel chair. The pain my dad endured was intense, and yet he still went places with my mom. I can remember my mom pushing my dad, taking him out to the store, or just taking him for a ride. Every bump or jar would send sharp pain through his spine. He would turn white and grimace, but never complained as they spent time doing things together. Looking back, I don’t think any of us realized how little time my dad really had left.

My dad finally convinced my mom to see the doctor and get help for her Alzheimer’s. He also made sure that we had all the paperwork in place to take care of her - if something happened to him. None of that was easy, and yet we got through it. As the summer of 2008 came, my dad was facing another surgery. I still have a picture of him and my mom - visiting with me and Ted, as well as Mike and his family - at the local rose garden. In the picture, my dad is in his wheel chair, mom behind him, as he bends over and takes pictures of all the beautiful roses. His 5 great-grandchildren are all around him, as he captures the beauty of that day. Within 2 weeks of that picture, my dad went into the hospital for surgery. He never went back home - again . . .

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And do not lean on your own understanding . . .

I learned what “true” strength was from my dad - in those last few months of his life. The day that we all spent at the rose garden, my dad had been in terrible pain. But he had asked to go, and so we went. We found out later that the rod that was in his upper leg, had shattered from the cancer that was all around it. He needed surgery.

Dad went into the hospital the 2nd week of July 2008. Somehow, he made it through the long and difficult surgery. His doctor sat with mom and me after the surgery, sweating from head to toe, as he told us how strong my dad really was. The surgery had been one of the most difficult surgeries the doctor had ever performed. And yet, dad had come through it very well. As dad recovered, we all visited him in the hospital - wondering when he would be able to go home. But that wasn’t to be the case. Dad contracted sepsis - needing months of I.V treatments at a nursing home. We made sure mom visited every single day, and she stayed with him for as long as she could. Her disease had made us worry about her driving, and so we all took turns bringing her to the home - and picking her up. Mom would push dad around the nursing home, taking him for walks out in the warm summer sun. As fall came, my dad seemed to be getting a little better. But every once in a while, I would see a certain look on his face. He was still in pain, feeling tired and worried - and I knew it. Finally, I went to see dad on my own. As I sat down with him, I asked him what he needed. “I need to go home and be with your mother” he told me. “Dad, I don’t know how that can happen” I told him honestly. I hadn’t told him what the doctor had told me. But my dad’s cancer was all throughout his body, and they weren’t sure how long he really had left. My dad just looked at me with such sad eyes, “I want to go home.” On that day, I promised my dad that I would do whatever I could to make sure he could somehow be with my mom.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart . . .

I kept that promise to my dad. When he was finally ready to leave the nursing home, he and my mom went to stay with my brother Wayne, who lives on Cape Cod. My mom’s disease had made it so that she couldn’t cook, clean, or take care of my dad - who needed lots of care. So the two of them took a trip together. It was their last trip, and it lasted a week. During that time, my dad was able to sleep in the same room with my mom. He was able to talk to her, comfort her, and just spend time with his wife of 53 years.

But dad’s condition was getting worse. My brother found himself up with my dad each night, worried that this would be his last night. Dad needed more help than my brother could give. I was so worried about what we needed to do. What did dad need? Where was mom going to go? I really didn’t know what the answers were.

I really shouldn’t have worried so much. God knew just what my dad needed at that moment in his life. The nursing home had a room for two - and my mom and dad could move right in together! It felt like our own little miracle, when things seemed so dark at that time.

The truth was, my dad was dieing. Mom’s disease made it impossible for her to totally understand what was happening with my dad. Four days after they had moved into the nursing home, my dad became very sick. As the doctors and nurses started moving quickly around my dad, I heard the words “ambulance” and “hospital”. My brother had just arrived at the nursing home, and together we asked the doctor what she meant by that. “Your dad signed this paper stating that he wanted medical treatment when he got sick”. I looked at her and burst into tears. “No!” I told her. “My dad needs to stay with my mom!” As I looked over at my brother Wayne, I couldn’t help but start to shake. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. “If you can get your father to say that he wants to stay here, then he can stay” she told me. Wayne and I ran down the hall. My dad was laying in the bed, his eyes just barely open. “Dad - dad - you need to listen” I begged him. “Do you want to stay here with mom?” I asked him. “They can treat you here, or you will be taken to the hospital and mom has to stay here.” I told him. Just barely above a whisper, I heard him say “I want to stay here.” I ran down the hall to get the doctor. “Please, please come listen to him - he wants to stay!” I begged her. She looked at me as if I was crazy, but she came down the hall with me - her assistant following behind.

On that day, I saw a strength in my dad that I will never forget! My dad was slipping into a coma, and yet he fought with all his might to stay present - - - for my mom. The doctor was right beside my dad as she asked: “Mr. Hohler, do you know where you are?” “Webster Nursing Home” he slowly answered. “Do you know what your name is?” she continued. “Robert Hohler” he told her. “Do you know who the president is?” (at that I was so afraid he wouldn’t be able to answer) “President Bush” he said very quietly. “And do you want to stay here for treatment?” she finally asked him. “Yes, yes I do!” he said with all the strength he could muster. The doctor looked at my dad, and then at her assistant. “He is competent - and he has told us his wishes” she said very quietly. With tears rolling down my face, I watched my dad slip into a coma . . .

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity - to give you a future and a hope.”
(Jeremiah 29: 11)

As I laid on my bed that Sunday afternoon, the memories of my dad came rushing back. “I feel so weak” I told the Lord. My neck and back had been injured years earlier, and even though I have had two surgeries - I still struggle with pain. And then I thought about my dad. He had seemed so weak to me - until I learned the truth about him. He had a quiet strength - that was made even stronger by love. “What should I do Lord?” I asked. But I already knew the answer.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” . . .

I don’t have the strongest of bodies, and I am not able to work long hours out in the work force. But that isn’t what God has called me to do. He has called me to be a wife, a mom, and a grandmother. He has also called me to write about Him - to tell others the story of all that He has done in my life. He has asked me to share His Hope and Love - to those who are suffering. But that is all He has asked me to do. I am the one that struggles with wanting to be stronger, work harder, and be better than I think I am.

What if I had a body that was stronger? Well, I would definitely find a way to work more, and try to make more money. It is something that is found deep within most of us. We want to be someone that others judge as successful - - - and strong. But that isn’t what God asks us to be. He only asks us to be “ourselves” - to love others - to give hope - and to do the work He has asked of us.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, . . .
to give you a future and a hope.”

What is it that God is asking of you? Have you stopped to listen and ask Him? When you do - you will find that you have all the strength and courage you will ever need - to be “who” God is calling you to be.

But just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
(1 Corinthians 2:9)

God bless you and keep you, until we meet back here again!

In His Amazing Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers


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