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Dressing Up Mom

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My aging parents’ deteriorating condition was overwhelming. Along with my mom’s slippage into Alzheimer’s disease, my dad was hospitalized with an infection.

C.S. Lewis wrote, "No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear." My only brother left the care to me. Maybe he feared that Dad would go first, leaving him to deal with Mom. She had good traits but had always been the more complicated parent. Both of us had struggled in life to accept her uniqueness, my brother more than I. During Dad’s illness, he had wanted to tuck Mom away in a nursing home. "No," I insisted. "People can receive care at home."

Managing Dad’s care and finding in-home assistance for Mom in Ohio, fell to me and my husband, even though we lived 1,300 miles away. After numerous trips and phone calls with hospitals, physicians, and care-givers, we moved Dad home to recover. However, a few weeks later, he died suddenly. Grief hit along with the details of planning his funeral and what to do with Mom. Dad had been her full-time care giver.

I had to try bringing Mom to our home in Florida. "We’re her family," I asserted. I couldn’t leave her alone in a facility in Ohio. "Who would visit her?" I questioned.

Because of the difficulties experienced growing up with Mom, it was more important than ever to me. I knew my heart could use some adjusting. With my brother’s withdrawal from her care, I sensed that God was offering me an opportunity. And, deep down, I wanted to be transformed more in the image of Christ.

Although I was certain it would be very hard, still, I believed it would be even harder in life if I missed this difficult journey and its potential refining benefits. 1 Peter 1:6-7 states,

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

We moved Mom to our house, while we anticipated the unknown. Well-meaning friends and co-workers warned us not to let Mom live with us, saying she would drain our energy and ruin our marriage. Nevertheless, I had to try and know that at least I had been willing. People asked what we were planning, "I don’t know," I confessed. It wasn’t a long-term plan, just day-by-day.

At first we tried to rotate care of Mom with our daughters. But none of us were prepared for her erratic behavior common to Alzheimer’s patients. At seventy-five years old, Mom wanted to return to her childhood home. She couldn’t understand why she couldn’t leave and accused us of holding her hostage. She had no memory of her parents’ deaths, fifty plus-years of marriage, or her own children and grandchildren.

At times, Mom thought my daughters were her sisters or peers. Sometimes she asked me, "Are you our mom?" It was only when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror that she noticed the difference, "Oh … is that me?" she quizzed us.   

To say the least, it was extremely challenging for our entire family. We were suddenly providing round-the-clock care for a person who didn’t even know us, along with clearing out Mom and Dad’s home. Responsibilities also included managing her medication, paying Dad’s medical bills, choosing Dad’s headstone, taking Mom for check-ups, to the dentist, and etc. Mom couldn’t give us any input and I felt the weight of making the best choices for her, asking God for help in making these critical decisions.

With God’s help, we started on an unknown journey and everyday brought the unexpected. Some days she hid her medication instead of taking it or flushed her food down the toilet. Another day she threw her sandwich in the neighbor’s bushes. One time I found her pouring her drink down the bathroom sink and I scolded her, "Mom, just tell me if you don’t want it."

She looked remorseful and said, "I’m sorry. I won’t do it again." Then, it was I who felt badly.

Mom also sometimes mixed up her days and nights, getting up and dressed at midnight. And I was now bathing and grooming the woman who had given me life. It felt awkward and uncomfortable.

After a couple of weeks of upheaval in our house, we heard of an adult day care at a local church. She had been a pastor’s wife and going to church seemed to please her. It also helped to fill her days with activity and relieved us of some of the seemingly endless hours of care.

Each morning I bathed, dressed, fed, and dropped Mom off at day care, before driving to work. Soon I started to enjoy coordinating her clothes with her selection of earrings. Mom always loved looking nice and it was important for me to hold on to bits and pieces of her personality. The director at her day care would compliment her style, "Esther, you always have matching earrings!" she said. Her comments caused me to beam like a little girl who had lovingly dressed up her mommy doll.

One day, as I was helping her button her blouse, she said, "You really care about me, don’t you? I can tell." Her words ministered to me, encouraging me that although I couldn’t communicate to Mom that I’m her daughter, the love of God was being expressed to her in my practical day-to-day care of her.

The more I cared for her, seeing her human weaknesses intensified with the disease, the more I recognized my own. How could I be upset with her, when I had so many myself? Sure, she had failed in ways as a parent, but so have I. And, in seeing these weaknesses, instead of my love dwindling for her, the greater it grew towards her.

A quote by C.S. Lewis states, "This is one of the miracles of love: It gives the power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted."  Through caring for Mom, I caught a glimpse of how God doesn’t love us less because of our weaknesses, but even more because of them.

Somehow, her dependency on me made me more aware of my dependency upon God. I realized how much I depend on Him to help me through each day of life. Also, of how I am unable to truly take care of myself and need His guidance and care just to survive daily challenges.

The resentments of the past melted away. A change happened inside my heart, one I had hoped would occur. After getting through the initial feelings of despair in trying to care for mom, God did a tender work in me. I found that caring for her wiped away unloving feelings and replaced those with a genuine deep fondness for her.

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Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters and serves as associate editor of Ungrind. Her writing has been published in numerous publications including Focus on the Family Magazine, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, KirkCameron.com, Start Marriage Right, Growthrac, and more! She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University with experience in broadcast media and also serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

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Dressing Up Mom

by Lynette Kittle time to read: 5 min
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