All posts tagged caregiving

A Tail of Two Puppies

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The asparagus popped and so did the bugs. We built a pond for irrigation and it leaked. Farmers markets began and we were behind the eight ball–again.

Tom and I drove home separately from our first market of the season. We’d made a little money and practiced setting up our booth so we considered the day a success. Tom texted me this message:

I’m on the way to the vet. Found a puppy. You’ll be impressed.

I met him at the vet. Cuddled in his lap lay a tiny brown and black bundle with a pushed in nose. “He ran across the road in front of me. I got out of my car and he came right to me. You see his back paw, it’s mangled. Looks like it was wrapped in barbed wire.”

My sweet husband held the puppy securely as we waited for the vet.

After we’d spent over half the money we’d made at the market, we took him home to the farm and our Cracker-Barrel-Sized front porch. It’d been a few years since adopting a puppy and we hadn’t made any preparations, so through the first few days of howling, crying, and general mayhem among our other animals we got almost no sleep.

“What shall we name him?”

We decided on Barnabas. He’s a character in the Bible whose name means Son of Encouragement.

That was a step of faith.

Within a few days we heard another howling in our yard. A second puppy moved onto our porch. We named him Cooper.

Puppies are almost the best thing on God’s green earth. Tails wagged each time we came to the house or visited the porch. The terrible two terrorized our three rescued cats and annoyed our standard poodle, Sam.

After a hard days work, Tom and I would lie on our backs in the front yard and let the puppies lick our heads and jump on our chests. it was by far the favorite part of our day.

Since we’d made no money in a very long time, we tried not to spend much money on them. But puppies needs collars and medicines and shots. We kept them in a pen on the front porch, but as time went on, we’d let them run in the yard as we worked. One day the dogs disappeared. After frantically calling and searching for hours, all three of them ran up from the pasture in front of our house.

It looked like a scene from Homeward Bound–Sam leading the way with Cooper nipping at his heels. Barnabas limped behind, barely keeping up, all three wagging their tails with smiles on their muzzles.

There were several of those days where one minute all dogs were accounted for and the next minute they were gone. We spent half of our time farming and half of our time running after dogs and half our time caring for my mom. (I know there are too many halves–you get my gist.)

I’d planned a weekend trip at the end of May with my daughter. Sure, I’d miss my family, but most of all I knew I’d miss those puppies. A few days into my trip Tom called.

“Cooper is sick. He can’t hold anything down. I don’t know what to do.” Tom tried feeding him rice and water from a dropper.

A holiday weekend, we didn’t even know if we could get our vet and we knew we couldn’t afford one. I tried to call, but another vet in a different city was on call and we didn’t know him.

Cooper died. Tom buried him in our yard wearing his bright red collar. The deed was done before I arrived home.

Sadness fell on our farm. But somehow Barnabas still made us smile. Often, he’d hide under the porch–refusing to come when called. Eventually, he’d obey. And as he loped onto the porch and into our lives, we developed a warm spot in our hearts just for him.

Barnabas continued to grow and fill out. He got to almost 30 pounds and began to look like a shepherd. He chased Sam and chewed on our cat, Brie.  (Who by the way likes it…) Often, we’d take Sam over to our other field where our chickens, pigs, and livestock guardian dogs Molly and Lacey lived. We decided to let Barnabas ride along, too. Letting them loose with our “girls” Molly and Lacey was the highlight of their little doggy lives.

One day, as we drove along our dirt road on the way to feed the livestock and visit the “girls,” we heard yelping. Barnabas decided to jump out of the truck and we ran over his legs. Gently, Tom picked him up and cradled him in his lap as we drove to the vet for an emergency visit.

“The back leg is broken, and this front paw may have permanent nerve damage. He’ll need to stay here for the night and we’ll get a good look at it in the morning.”

We drove home in silence. That night, the lack of whining and general porch mayhem kept us both awake.

The next day we picked up our puppy. One back paw mangled by barbed wire, one in a cast. His front paw wouldn’t work. He had only one working front leg. Each time we looked at him, our heart hurt.

The vet encouraged us to keep him quiet, so we confined him and administered medications and watched and waited.

An amazing thing has happened. Barnabas is adjusting. He’s running and smiling and chewing on Sam’s ear and Brie’s neck.

And he’s wagging his very big tail.

He’s gonna make it. And he’s happy about it.

So are we.

Farming is hard on the body. Caregiving for my mom is hard on the heart. And then there’s Barnabas. So many times I’ve been so discouraged I’ve not only wanted to quit, I didn’t even care if I quit. Not just farming, but life.

I think the Lord sent us those puppies. Because through loss and gain we experience both deep love and profound grief.

And joy.

Barnabas, Son of Encouragement, has lived up to his name.

And that is a tale of a tail of two puppies.

 

 

Seasonal Worship

Light peeked through the fake wood blinds. Breakfast finished, Mom cleaned up. The dishes miraculously made it into the dishwasher. Time to worship.

I scooted the lift chair toward Mom’s hospital bed. Two speakers were stuffed under the bedside table which held my computer.

“Okay, Mom, are you ready?” I looked into her 94-year-old eyes. Once clear and bright, now red and watery. She nodded.

I clicked the button to connect via the Internet with http://www.lakesidechapel.com The congregation I attended in Florida for over 25 years. The worship leader began with To God Be The Glory. One of my favorites by Fanny Crosby. Next was And Can It Be. I belted them out with my out-of-practice-alto-pretending-to-be-soprano voice. Mom piped in occasionally with her once-strong-soprano-turned-salty-bass voice. Together, we sounded heavenly–at least to God.

Why? Because the Lord knew our hearts. We worshiped. From Mom in her bed to me tucked into her lift chair, our spirits soared with songs of praise to God Almighty. The Lord knows Mom can’t go to service anymore. So we stay home. And He’s okay with that.

Since we moved to the foothills of North Carolina, I’ve been able to experience the seasons again. I hadn’t realized how much I missed them while in Florida until I moved to our farm.

The changing seasons remind me of my life. There was the Bratty Kid Season (Tom would argue that I still visit that season). Then I had the Try Not To Get Kicked Out Of Asbury College Season, followed by the Marriage and Can’t Wait For The Kids To Grow Up Season. Then the dreaded Teenager Season intermingled with the Caregiving Season.

I’m still in the caregiving season. Dad’s caregiving season ended about seven years ago. And although I knew the end was near, his passage to heaven surprised me. Same with my childhood and college days and parenting days. One day they were there, the next day they were gone.

The truth about seasons is you can’t make them stay. One moves on to the next since the timing is from God. Same with our lives. This season with my mother seems so long sometimes. Hard. For me and for her.

I don’t want to rush through this time. I’m older and I pray a bit wiser, so I want to take this one slow. I don’t want to have regrets of complaining or impatience of moving to another time without enjoying the time I have now.

We listened to my Florida pastor. I even jotted a few notes. We prayed when he prayed.

“Your pastor did a good job,” mom said after I clicked out of the site.

Tom arrived home and we cradled our lunches on our laps as we prepared to say the blessing.

“How was your day of worship, Tom?”

“Good. How about yours.”

“Great!”

Mom smiled and so did I.

I’d like to share another song we sang during the worship time taken from the book of Job. Because you can worship right now. No matter where you are or what season it is.

VERSE 1
Who has held the oceans in His hands?

Who has numbered every grain of sand?
Kings and nations tremble at His voice
All creation rises to rejoice

CHORUS
Behold our God seated on His throne

Come let us adore Him
Behold our King nothing can compare
Come let us adore Him!

VERSE 2
Who has given counsel to the Lord?

Who can question any of His Words?
Who can teach the One who knows all things?
Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds?

VERSE 3
Who has felt the nails upon His hands

Bearing all the guilt of sinful man?
God eternal humbled to the grave
Jesus, Savior risen now to reign!

TAG
Men: You will reign forever!

Women: Let Your glory fill the earth

 

 

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder

The sound of the mellow horn rose from the hickory wood floor to the high ceiling. I began with My Jesus I Love Thee and ended with When the Roll is Called Up Yonder. As the sound rose, so did my spirit.

Heaven. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. It began with my father’s death seven years ago. And studying I Cor. 15 for nine months lured my mind back.

Now there’s mom. Weaker and weaker, I believe 2015 may be the year she enters glory. I’m okay with that. For crying out loud, she’s 94! And to think a doctor told her she wouldn’t live past her 20′s. I’m glad she did.

So this morning, I entered her room before the caregiver came and I read to her from the Psalms. And then we sang His Name is Wonderful. Then I went to prayer and used the Salvation Army Songbook. Here is a song I read this morning written by Isaac Watts:

“There is a land of pure delight, where saints immortal reign; infinite day excludes the night, and pleasures banish pain. There everlasting spring abides, and never-withering flowers; death, like a narrow sea divides this heavenly land from ours.

“Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood stand dressed in living green; so to the Jews old Canaan stood, while Jordan filled between. But timorous mortals start and shrink to cross this narrow sea, and linger, shivering on the brink, and fear to launch away.

“O could we make our doubts remove, those gloomy thoughts that rise, and see the Canaan that we love with unbeclouded eyes! Could we but climb where Moses stood and view the landscape o’er. Not Jordan’s stream, nor death’s cold flood, could fright us from the shore.”

And then I played my horn. Not well–but with feeling. Five or six songs, all about Jesus and hope and heaven.

And I rested. Not in my work, but in the finished work of Christ on the cross that began in Bethlehem and ended in the resurrection.

But there is more to come–kind of like a sequel that’s actually better. It involves Christ’s second coming and then heaven. Eternity with my Lord. That is something to celebrate. The Gift that keeps on giving long after Christmas is passed.

I’m ready to cross that narrow sea. Are you?

 

Wisdom from My Mother

It had been one of those terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad, days and I was contemplating a move to Australia.

The farming, marketing, processing, and livestocking was about to kill me. Not to mention the fact I’m still a wife, homemaker, daughter, and church member. Everyday I got up looked at my list, checked it off and just like Pinocchio’s nose, when I got up the next morning it grew.

So a few weeks ago, after I’d had an especially taxing morning, I pushed Mom onto our front porch. We gazed over the 10 acre field dotted with colored leaves. My heart churned with anxiety and ungratefulness.

I glanced at Mom in her wheelchair. At 94, her life consists of eating, sleeping, watching TV, and reading when her eyes allow. She is dependent on caregivers to aid her in bathing, walking, and toiletry. Sometimes she gets out once a week and sometimes she doesn’t.

I had a thought. Maybe I could do one thing right. I’d try to be a better daughter and caregiver. “Mom, if you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?” I calculated the extensive list of circumstances and people I’d change.

Without missing a beat she replied. “Not a thing.”

I couldn’t believe it. “You mean you can’t think of anything you would change about your situation.?” I observed her worn face with skin that is breaking down.

“No, not really.”

I hadn’t even asked her for advice, yet her simple words spoke volumes. My eyes watered. My heart bowed low.

I say I believe in the sovereignty of God, but I’d been living like I’m the sovereign one.

Like Moses, I’m in a desert place. A place where I have to be dependent on God. Not my friends, not my church, not my family, but on Him. It’s a hard place to be.

Years ago, I studied the book of Isaiah and claimed a verse as my own.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” Is. 30:15.

I repented. And I’m trying to rest. Not work but trust. I need to talk less and pray more.

It’s a hard place to be, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Besides, who wants to move to Australia?

 

 

Beneath the Cross of Jesus

 

As I prepared to sing the night before Palm Sunday, I glanced up at the cross hung which on our bedroom wall. Tom and I received it as a wedding gift from a soldier of the Clearwater Salvation Army Corp. It’s a beautiful piece of art, made by Art Fielgley.

He fashioned redwood, walnut, and birds eye maple into a stunning representation of the cross of Christ.

In the 32 years of our marriage, often it’s been in a closet or a back room. But when we had our farm house built, Tom hung it above his dresser. I have a perfect view of it from my side of the bed.

Through 32 years of marriage, and children, and caregiving, and life, I’ve lived beneath His cross even though it lay packed in a box. The cross of His forgiveness. The cross of His suffering. The cross of His love.

For me, the cross represented repentance and humbling–not just one time, but daily. When I’m impatient, or angry, or gossip or lie, I remember the cross and it brings me to my knees.

You’ve only got a day until Easter. Why not bask in the cross of our risen Savior? Search the pages of Scripture for the hows and whys and then worship.

Here are the lyrics of the song I sang yesterday. Crawl beneath His cross. It’s both a safe and wonderful place to be.

Beneath the cross of Jesus
I find a place to stand,
And wonder at such mercy
That calls me as I am;
For hands that should discard me
Hold wounds which tell me, “Come.”
Beneath the cross of Jesus
My unworthy soul is won.

Beneath the cross of Jesus
His family is my own-
Once strangers chasing selfish dreams,
Now one through grace alone.
How could I now dishonor
The ones that You have loved?
Beneath the cross of Jesus
See the children called by God.

Beneath the cross of Jesus-
The path before the crown-
We follow in His footsteps
Where promised hope is found.
How great the joy before us
To be His perfect bride;
Beneath the cross of Jesus
We will gladly live our lives.