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Glimpses of Grace

Become the blessing

In Glimpses of Grace

By Dorothy Horne
March 3, 2016 at 4:06 p.m.
Updated March 3, 2016 at 4:06 p.m.


I’ve told this story before: A week after Byron was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I asked a man (whose wife had died from the disease years before) if he had ever seen God’s blessings through the hardships they endured. I hoped to hear encouraging words.

“No, not any,” he said.

I was taken aback, and shared with him that I expected to see blessings in the midst of Byron's Alzheimer’s. I knew God would be faithful, as we had received his grace and blessings during previous hard times.

“You’ll change,” was all he said.

No I won’t, I said to myself.  I accepted his words as a challenge – I would not allow myself to change.

But I did change. Or rather – God changed me. So the man was right – just in the wrong way. No, I was not always able to keep a positive mental attitude through “will power." My will power is fallible. Only through praying daily for “will submission” – Your will be done, Father, and not mine – is the way God is slowly molding my heart into one that will praise him through all circumstances.  

When your loved one has Alzheimer’s, it is my observation that the possibility of becoming bitter is a real threat. It is so hard to watch the long, slow decline of a loved one – all the while knowing there is no cure. It takes a heavy emotional and physical toll on you.  

For those of us in the position of living “the long goodbye,”  I think there is a delicate balance between expressing our grief, fear and frustration in a healthy way (to a family member, close friend, counselor or support group) and expressing but refusing to let go of those emotions. We must guard against the latter.

Left unchecked, the grief, fear and frustration can become portals through which bitterness – the subtle vigilante ever searching for a way to seep into the soul – slips in and takes root. I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve also been there. Bitterness will harden your heart and poison your relationship with God as well as relationships with family and friends. Only by submitting your will to God’s will can bitterness be annihilated. He alone can pull the roots up out of your soul.

To avoid bitterness, we must choose to be thankful and trust God. We must choose to allow him to use us through our circumstances according to his plan…even if those circumstances include Alzheimer’s. After all, our lives are not about us. Rather, they are about “taking up our cross and following Jesus,” whatever the cost. As we follow, we minister to others in his name. “Love one another....“Feed my sheep….” “Lay down your lives….” 

We have the opportunity to become the blessing for others so that through us, they are able to see Jesus. There is no higher calling.

 ***
 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me"(Luke 9:23 NIV).

***
As an addendum to this post, I want to tell you about one of God's special blessings for Byron:  7-year-old Elijah Ferguson. (His mom is Jo Lee Ferguson, aka "Ms. Answer Line" for the Longview News-Journal. She is a special blessing to us, also!) Elijah is funny and curious (like his mom) and a very smart young man with a compassionate and caring heart. He and Byron love to act silly together. (Elijah even lets his 2-year-old brother, Peter, in on it sometimes). One of the best things about Elijah is he does everything really big. He especially loves Byron big. They have high praise for each other: Elijah calls Byron “my favorite funny man,” and Byron calls Elijah “the silliest boy I know.” 

After a recent get-together, I received this beautiful and poignant email from Jo Lee. I asked her if I could share a portion of it on this post, and she graciously gave me permission.

"Dorothy, I wanted to tell you about that afternoon [of Byron's recent visit] specifically because there was something truly special about it, and writing is, well, what you and I do to say what we really mean, right? Or at least to say what I really mean without crying. :)

We have no grandfathers in our life. My father died when Elijah was six months old. On Randy's side, Elijah had only his great-grandfather. They shared a birthday and, because of that, a special bond. We were very sad when he died in 2015.

So, Elijah was getting ready for school on that day that you were bringing Byron to my house when I told him, "Oh hey, by the way, Mr. Byron is going to come play with us this afternoon. He'll be with me when I pick you up this afternoon."

Elijah responded by jumping up and down and yelling, "Yeah! I love Mr. Byron." Then he asked me if he could pick some candy out of the candy jar - candy still hanging around from Halloween - for Mr. Byron. I looked at him doubtfully because honestly I did not think the candy could make it through the day.

Elijah read my mind and said, "I promise I won't eat it. It's for Mr. Byron."

So you brought Byron over that afternoon and we headed out to get Elijah. 

When Elijah got in the car, he was so excited. He latched onto Byron with a big hug from the back seat when he got in the car.  I was looking at just the right moment to see both of their faces - it was pure joy, both of them. Now, I know that Byron probably could not at that moment remember Elijah's name, but it didn't matter. They were speaking each other's language with that hug. Elijah sat down, dug into his lunchbox and brought out the candy which he had faithfully saved all day. Then, he dug into his backpack and found the note he had written for Byron.

Elijah held it out to me to give to Byron, so I took it, explained to Byron that Elijah had written him a note and what it said. (I don't remember the exact wording now, but I think it said "I love you Mr. Byron." It's the note I gave you that day.) 

And Byron was so happy, Dorothy. He was smiling, completely glowing, as he told Elijah thank you and he folded it up and put it in his pocket. It meant so much to him. I almost cried on the spot. Now, I know, again, that Byron probably cannot remember those specific events, but I do know that his spirit remembers how loved he felt right then. 

For me, the best thing, is that none of that was coached with Elijah. Not one bit. He truly loves Byron because Byron knows how to interact with him, speaks to his heart even if he might not remember his name or why he knows him. How wonderful it is to see his spirit shine through in that way even through this disease. 

***

What else is there to say but “a little child shall lead them”? God bless you, Elijah Ferguson, for becoming the blessing for Byron.

*** 

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV).

Byron and Angus


Elijah's note to Byron


"The heart is a bloom; shoots up through the stony ground."




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