By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

Month: November 2019

What I’m Reading: Catching Christmas

Those who’ve been regular readers know my family has been dealing with my grandmother’s declining health. The last three weeks were particularly stressful with placing her in a memory care facility, her stroke and fall, and watching her decline. On Tuesday, November 19th, my grandmother saw her prayer to be free from the brokenness of her mind answered when God took her into her eternal home.

We miss her, but we are happy for her. She was always Grandma, but she wasn’t the grandmother of my childhood anymore. Watching her decline daily over the last five months as her day time caregiver I learned several things. First, dementia is a horrible disease. I knew that, but I didn’t KNOW that until I lived it beside one of my loved ones on a daily basis. Second, I would much rather loved ones die without warning than watch their slow decline. The third goes along with the second. I want to let my loved ones know that I love them every day so if they go without warning I have no regrets. And though these are only the highlights of things I learned, I have one more to share today.

Even in the hardest times, there are blessings to be found. Over the last five months I’ve collected memories with Grandma from her daily care. My extended family has found a new appreciation for each other, and family hurts have been healed. The power of prayer, scripture, and communion have been reinforced in my life. I’ve had the gift of seeing the spirit continue to thrive even as the body wastes away. With that has come the opportunity to see Grandma touch lives for Jesus even when she was incapable of normal interaction. I got to see her live with purpose, and when that purpose was complete I got to see God take her home to be with Him.

With all these blessings and lessons fresh in my mind, it was with a greater understanding that I read Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock. I’ll be completely honest, if I’d refreshed myself on the subject matter, I might have skipped reading this one this Christmas. I’m glad I didn’t.

Miss Callie’s granddaughter, Sydney, is a busy lawyer who loves her grandmother but is unable to give her the care she needs due to a demanding job as a lawyer. Not understanding how desperately Miss Callie needs daily care she’s content to arrange for cabs to take her grandmother wherever she needs to go.

Finn is the first to pick Miss Callie up for a doctor’s appointment, and he immediately becomes the only one she will call for a ride. His frustration at becoming not only a ride but a substitute caregiver is off-set by his guilt over leaving his mother to die alone because he couldn’t handle the emotional demands. Miss Callie is a chance to change that. he quickly grows to care for her even when her verbal filter doesn’t work as it should and when she leads him on a quest to find a date for Sydney in effort to make this the best Christmas ever.

Finn reaches out to Sydney in frustration but learns there’s more to her than a neglectful granddaughter. As Finn works to give Miss Callie the wonderful Christmas she desires, his friendship with Sydney grows through their continued interaction. It will take both Sydney and Finn to give Miss Callie a wonderful Christmas.

Miss Callie has dementia, a mission, and a soft spot for “that nice young man” who drives the cab. She loves the Lord, and even in her altered state it comes through changing both Finn and Sydney. She lives with purpose whether her mind is clear or not. It’s this purpose that keeps her and Finn on the go from page one to the very end of Catching Christmas.

While Catching Christmas was especially touching for me, the story will be sweet, funny, and meaningful for anyone reading it. Full of reminders to chase after what’s important, live with purpose, and find the blessings in life no matter what I hope it moves readers into action this Christmas season and throughout the coming years.

What I’m Reading: Spring of Thanksgiving

My family is experiencing first-hand how God works in what our very limited human perceptions label as good and bad events. Dealing with dementia, strokes, and a gradual decline leading to what we hope is soon to be my grandmother’s heavenly homecoming we are swimming in a sea of what feels like bad events. But God has given us so many good gifts during this time.

Through the years of dealing with her dementia, God has grown us and provided for us in ways we never expected. He’s brought beautiful things out of the experience and taken care of details we didn’t know would be necessary. Some of the good has been spiritual in nature, but He’s worked out just as many of our physical needs.

I gave up my job to help my mother care for my grandmother. I didn’t hesitate when she asked for help though I knew my position as a full-time caregiver could end at any time, and I have one large bill that my salary pays for each month. When my grandmother went into the memory care facility, I was left without a job. Within a week, I gained employment at my previous job. It’s very part-time, but it’s enough to pay my bill each month. As an added bonus, the limited hours leave me more room for writing and learning about the business side of writing. God provided when I couldn’t. I had to wait and trust until He did.

Waiting when the answer isn’t readily seen is hard. Ivy Cooke, the main character in Liz Tolsma’s book Spring of Thanksgiving, knows that from experience. Ivy and her father are facing tough times on their Texas ranch. A seemingly endless drought and the need to fence their land to protect their property and others due to the railroad has put them in a hard place. Deeply in debt, Ivy has no idea how they will come up with the money to get caught up on their loan.

Facing the loss of their property to the bank is hard enough, but problems seem to pile on. New neighbors claim the spring necessary for getting Ivy’s ranch through the drought is on their property, and there’s nothing they won’t do to prevent Ivy and her father from using it.

Dell Watson is determined to show his father his worth, and the spring in question is his way to do it. Dell’s plan to secure the rights means he has to entice his beautiful neighbor to marry him. Circumstances change when Dell discovers Ivy is far more to him than a tool to get what his family desires. But his family still needs the spring, and the only way he sees to get it is through Ivy.

Dell and Ivy both face difficult circumstances without easy answers. As with most people, their minds work to find solutions to their problems. With their minds and hearts giving conflicting answers, they have to choose whether or not they can trust God with their problems and wait for His solution.

Dell and Ivy may get what they want, or God could give them something entirely unexpected. No matter what the circumstances, they have the choice to trust God’s goodness no matter what happens. Like us, they can choose to let trust lead to praise for His work in the hard and unexpected situations of life. But you’ll have to read Spring of Thanksgiving to find out if they do and if the path God gives them leads them closer or further apart.

God is Still Good

I’ve been less than faithful to my blog lately. In recent weeks, I’ve only managed to blog once a week instead of the three I usually post. It’s been crazy busy around our house. And I know everyone is crazy busy, but this time, I had to give in to the pull of life outside my office.

I’m a full time caregiver for my grandmother with dementia. I was up until a week ago anyway. With the dementia progressing, my mother and I were no longer equipped to care for her at home. She had to be moved to a memory care facility. After giving up my full-time job five months ago to help her, I was now unemployed. We’ve spent the last week trying to clean out her house.

This week my father in law had knee replacement surgery. It went well, but he had a mild stroke before being released from the hospital. That was Tuesday night. Thursday morning I got a call from my mom. My grandmother fell and was taken to the ER. My job throughout the day was to keep everyone updated with information. We found out through the different tests they ran she also had a stroke.  

I say all this so when I write my next sentence, you know I do not take the sentiment lightly. I am thankful, and God is most definitely good.

When I left my full-time job five months ago, I had no back up plan for income. Losing my job right before Thanksgiving and Christmas was unexpected. But I did what I felt God was calling me to, and I believed He would provide for me now. I spoke to my old place of employment this week. They don’t need a full-time employee, but they can use me two days a week and as a fill-in. I’ll earn just enough to continue paying my son’s school bills. In addition to that financial burden being taken care of, God saw fit to limit my hours so I can give more time to the business and ministry of writing. It was my secret hope, but I didn’t believe it would happen.

My father in law has been a candidate for a stroke for a long time. His health and activity levels made him a candidate for it a long time ago. A stroke is not a good thing, but God is still good. He was in the hospital when the stroke happened. You can’t get quicker care than that. His stroke didn’t leave him disabled except for some mild issues with speech. We are hopeful that speech therapy will take care of that. Already we are seeing improvement. And he’s been given an early warning to adjust his habits in order to increase his chances of avoiding future health scares.

My grandmother’s stroke is another issue entirely. Without the ability to think clearly on a regular day, it’s hard to assess the actual damage caused by the stroke and subsequent fall. All signs point to a concussion or further strokes and stroke damage. There is concern that she has swelling that may cause her to have seizures. As of last night, she’d not eaten anything. Because of her age and health, further measures are not being taken. My mother and uncle brought her back to the nursing home with the understanding that she will either get better or get worse without any other course of action. But God is still good.

My grandmother’s fall was immediately noticed and attended to by a caring staff of nurses at the home. My uncle and mother are in agreement on tough decisions that have to be made. Hospice agreed to come in and provide the intensive care she needs while we see which direction things will go. Family members who haven’t seen my grandmother in ages blessed her brief moments of being awake by coming to see her. And I can say in all honesty, if God uses this to bring her into her heavenly home, He is good. She wants nothing more than to be released from the brokenness of her mind and body.

If He chooses to keep her here, the good won’t be as easy to find. Watching her decline isn’t easy for her or us. She’s expressed it many times in moments of clarity. But in the event of that outcome, I trust. I trust there is a reason. I trust good will come from it. I trust the nature and character of God. And I can say, though it hurts, God is still good.     

I think I’m going to leave it at that. Today was supposed to be a review of a book I recently read that goes along with this message, but I’ve taken enough of your time. I’m going to let the message of this one settle before going further. Thanks for taking the time to read this even though it ended up free of both books and writing.

My People

When I arrived at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference I felt out of my element. The idea of a large gathering of writers of all skill levels getting together to challenge and encourage each other to grow in the craft and business of writing was exciting. The reality of mixing and mingling with members of that group, complete strangers no less, was daunting to me as a card carrying introvert. I was never more thankful for our small local writers’ group that attended the event together. We would go our separate ways for classes, but they could be my lifeline during less structured times.

It didn’t take long for me to acclimate to my surroundings. Over the five days of the conference, I pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone and speak with people I didn’t know. At the end of the first full day I called my husband and announced, “I have found my people.”

It didn’t matter that we came from different walks of life. Our various theological beliefs didn’t drive a wedge between us. Our varying levels of skill and success as authors were inconsequential. We were connected by something more, by the God-given desire to minister to others through the creative art of writing and a love of God. Never did I feel this more clearly than the first worship service of the conference.

When the husband and wife praise team led us in the first song of the conference, the connection of everyone in the room became its most clear. Some raised their hands in praise. Some stood still while lifting their voices. Others were unfamiliar with the songs but joined in as they caught on. In that moment, our differences didn’t matter. We were joined in praise of the One who blessed us with salvation as well as the ability to use our passions to further the gospel and build up the body of Christ.

It was a beautiful sound. For a moment I closed my eyes and listened to hundreds of voices raised in praise together. Even small groups lifting their voices to God in song can be beautiful. But listening to that many voices, united in purpose and ministry, bringing praise to God left me feeling completely connected to God and His people. We were part of something real together.

This time of completely united worship came to mind today during my quiet time. Revelation 5:13 says, “And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

Did you see it? “Every creature” is praising. I was moved by the beauty of a couple hundred people united in praise. I’ve had opportunity to hear a few thousand do the same at a Women of Faith conference. But these are going to pale in comparison to the connection and love and beauty of every creature in creation bringing praise to God in unity.

Can you imagine the sound? The power of that praise? And we will be part of it. The connection I felt as I found “my people” at the conference will seem slight in comparison to the connection of all creation joining in unified praise. I don’t doubt that in that moment we will feel the full realization of being joined together as God’s people for eternity.

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