'Painting the canvas' of 2016
Jan. 13, 2016 at 4:47 p.m.
God guides my hand and
shows me again and again
how to hold the brush.
Yet each day he lets me choose the colors
with which I paint the canvas of my mind.
“Dot Dot, do you want to come peel bark off the pine tree with me?” asked one of our 3-year-old grandsons after he noticed me watching him. We were at a family gathering at my uncle’s cabin deep in the woods of south Arkansas. There he was—a small city boy standing beside a giant skyscraper of a pine tree, peeling bark. He was totally engrossed until he saw me. To be invited into his moment was a grand thing, and I gladly joined him.
We stood there, busy at our task. Every now and then he would ask a question, like what made the holes in the tree and if I thought he could write with the peeled bark. (The underside does have a chalky appearance, which I hadn’t noticed before. Children – the great observers.) As we headed inside, he looked up at me and said, “Dot Dot, don’t tell anyone the questions I asked.” He gets tired of grown-ups exclaiming about him, so he made sure it was to remain our private conversation. (I am in trouble if he reads this when he gets big.)
I wonder if he will remember the moment like I will. You never know what will cling to one’s heart and mind. Some of my most vivid memories are of seemingly innocuous things, like hearing the gravel crunch under my father’s feet as he was carrying me across a parking lot. I remember feeling safe.
We had so much fun with our grandsons at the cabin. They jumped in and out of leaf piles (raked especially for that purpose) and then tossed the leaves in the air with the kind of wild abandon only little boys have. We pushed them on the tire swing and they squealed with delight and yelled our “Higher!” They rode down trails carpeted with brown leaves and across fields accented with cows and horses in the Land Rover. They paddled around the lake and fished from the dock with their daddy. When we weren’t enjoying time with the boys, we sat by the fire and talked with the grownups. It was a rare few days filled with carefree moments. What is life but a collection of moments strung together by God’s grace?
I lay my my burdens that weekend at the cabin deep in the woods of Arkansas. It was a superb way to start a New Year.
Now, if I can only keep from picking the burdens back up. I know 2016 won’t be an easy one as Byron’s Alzheimer’s progresses. I’ve been thinking and writing more about moments this past year. When you are living with Alzheimer’s (or even when you are not), moments are the best way to measure time – small bites are easier. If I look at our days through the lens of moments, I find the joy I may have missed by not paying attention. “Seeing, of course, is very much a matter of verbalization. Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simply won’t see it,” said author Annie Dillard. I know there will be moments of grace and small treasures like peeling bark, tire swings, trails in the woods and little boys woven through the days. I just need to pay attention. I need to remember to see with my heart as well as my eyes.
For me and other caregivers, our most important task is to make our loved ones feel secure and loved. We want to involve them in activities that are enjoyable and assist them with things they need help with. The million dollar question is – how does one do the rest of the stuff of life that needs doing in addition to caregiving? I’ll admit there are days when I feel like I’m failing at everything.
This year, I want to come down from the Mountain of Too Much (mentioned in “Quiet Mind” by David Kundtz) so I can create space in my life. Space so I can better sense the nudging’s of the Holy Spirit, space so I can live without always feeling rushed or burdened by what I have yet to do. I want to learn how to just stop and rejuvenate…peel more bark, if you will. I want to be realistic about my limitations instead of feeling overwhelmed. I can’t do everything – I just need to do the next thing. “One bird at a time,” wrote Ann Lamotte.
God, please help me discern what the next thing is. Help me to create rhythm and routine in our days to give me a sense of purpose and order, as well as to best benefit Byron. Help me to act and not react. Help me not to be led by my emotions or what others think I should feel, do or say.
I pray for your strength and guidance to surrender myself to your design, no matter what is ahead. I want to live a life yielded to you, and daily choose to live in the light rather than give in to the darkness. If I find myself in darkness, it’s probably because I have my eyes closed. I’m choosing not to pay attention and therefore I’m missing the joy. For in you, God, there is no darkness. Help me lay down my fear so I can run, unencumbered, the race you have set before me.
“I trust in you, Lord;
I say, ‘You are my God.’
”My times are in your hands.
Psalm 31:14, 15 (NIV)