Sunday, October 29, 2017

Humor by the Side of the Road


I wonder if Santa Claus ever noticed the ads for Burma-Shave? For thirty-eight years this product was advertised on six small wooden signs in a row. Each was planted on a post in a field along a highway.

While browsing my shelves this week, I found The Verse by the Side of the Road: The Story of the Burma-Shave signs and jingles with all 600 of the roadside rhymes. It's a small book written by Frank Rowsome, Jr. (1965). Flipping through it brought back happy memories.

Fun Advertising
On family vacations all five of us enjoyed reading the unique jingles as our car whizzed by. The last sign always said Burma-Shave. For those who never saw these, here are two examples:



Life is a Challenging Journey
Perhaps this book caught my eye because my husband is in need of a shave. While he was recuperating from colon surgery in the hospital, his whiskers never gave up. I kidded him about looking like Santa Claus, but he said, "I'm too thin." I said, "OK, then, Santa's brother. But why don't you keep the mustache and chin beard for a while?" He had struggled hard just to shave his cheeks.

Dealing with recovery from any trauma or long-term illness is difficult. When someone is unable to care for themselves, the challenge is not theirs alone. It's also a challenge for the caregiver.

Dismissal from the hospital last week included a referral for home health care. We are grateful. But the bottom line is that my husband and I are left to deal with challenges on our own, twenty-four/seven. Anyone who's been there can understand how daily living routines tend to become overwhelming. That's why we look for good medicine every day.

Good Medicine Helps
I'm talking about the kind mentioned in Proverbs 17:22 (NIV): A cheerful heart is good medicine. I'm also aware of the contrast in that verse: A crushed spirit dries up the bones. I don't want that, but sometimes I realize it feels like I'm there. That's when good medicine is needed.

A cheerful heart is a happy heart . . . a joyful heart . . . a rejoicing heart. None of these come automatically, and what helps one day may not help the next. One good medicine is happy memories. That's why the Burma-Shave book was timely. It reminded me of family fun times on vacations in the western states.

Recovery from any illness or surgery seems to make days long and nights longer. Sleep is helpful, but who wants to sleep night and day? Nutrition is important, but you can't eat your troubles away, so . . . what else? Good medicine!

I find it in happy memories of favorite trips or vacations, people we have known, and churches we have worked in. I find more good medicine in my Bible, books, magazines, favorite DVDs and DVRs.

A Common Challenge
We each have a different life's journey. What we have in common is the challenge to look for humor by the side of the road.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

What A Day!


It's easy to think we are in control until the jolt of something unexpected, like a trip to the emergency room. My husband began an unforeseen journey of hospital care and recovery on October 5, 2017. It ended with his release on October 21, 2017. What a day!

His life and mine are intertwined, thanks to marriage vows over fifty years ago. I've always enjoyed being the passenger while he's been the driver, but today we received a new challenge. One of his first discharge instructions was, "No driving." Two little words turned my world and his upside down. What a day!

I made many daily trips to the hospital because I wanted to meet his daytime and nighttime nursing teams. My hat is off to people who can work twelve hour shifts and remain pleasant. I also met the hospital doctors, cleaning personnel, meal delivery persons, physical and occupational therapists, chaplain and volunteers. My husband laughed when he told me, "I no sooner get to sleep than someone wakes me up to give a med or check my vital signs." What a night---what a day!

I had lots of text messages, voice mails and emails inquiring about my husband's progress. It was encouraging to know people were praying for his recovery and strength for me, too. I tried to respond to each message personally the first four days. It was overpowering, so I decided to send group updates as blind carbon copy emails. That left about four people who had to be reached by phone. We live in a marvelous day! 

Following surgery, my husband's progress was steady. On October 19, 2017 the hospital doctor felt he was ready for release. My husband was in good spirits and ready to go The nurse removed three sutured IV tubes in his neck, gave him the required flu shot and told me I could get him dressed to leave. That's what I was doing when I realized he had become stiff as a statue and totally unresponsive. I called the nurse; she called for help. Later a CT scan showed nothing. The next day neither did an MRI, but my husband had stroke-like weakness on his left side. What a day!

Now we're home. I appreciate my husband's concern for my health, but I'm the caregiver and will do what needs to be done. He certainly did that for me when I fought cancer in 2007 and beyond. We used to open our Sunday morning church service with a chorus based on Psalm 118:24. It said, "This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it." When my husband tried to change the opening song, people begged to keep it. Life is full of sunshine and shadow. This is the latter; what a day!

Music speaks to our hearts. There's another song we sing. It's based on Lamentations 3:21-24. Perhaps you know it. The message is that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and His mercies never come to an end. In fact, He is so great in His faithfulness that His mercies are new every morning. Every day has the potential to be a good day! We're counting on that.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Practicality of Caring


Have you ever gone through hard times and been comforted by the concern of others?

When I was going through cancer treatments many people comforted me with things that had comforted them on their journey. The same thing happened when I became a caregiver for my father. And again, when he passed away.

Since taking my husband to the emergency room over a week ago, the practical side of caring has been on my mind.

When I facilitated grief recovery classes, one scripture we always discussed was Second Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV). God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others in trouble with the comfort we receive from God.

This exchange of receiving and giving is easily observed in a small group setting, but less obvious one-on-one. 

Either way, the practicality of caring is extremely valuable.

Much of its value lies in the variety of ways it is shown. If everyone did it the same way, life would be very bland.

While waiting for surgery, our pastor came to pray for my husband and serve him communion. Many friends sent messages to say you are in our prayers

The practicality of caring is in action, not theory.

The morning after surgery I walked in to see a smiley face and get-well balloon tied to the foot of the hospital bed. They brightened the room, but my husband was not very alert. When I questioned the nurse she said, "All I know is that two people came and said they were praying for him."

A friend, well-acquainted with my husband's love of cars, sent him a floral arrangement in a cute little roadster. People sent cards to our home. My brother sat with my husband and gave me a day of rest. The night I was called back to stay with my husband to calm him down, a friend responded to my request for some fast food.

The practicality of caring is knowing what you can do to please others, not yourself.  

We were blessed with many expressions of love and concern. I tried to answer texts, emails and phone calls daily. But after my husband's surgery, his recovery was slow and I was exhausted.

I sent a group email, letting people know I appreciated their concern but I would have to respond with group updates. I knew I was loved the next day when my phone had no texts or voice mails. People had sent brief, affirmative responses to my email, expecting no replies.

Have you experienced some comfort in trying times? God says it's a two-way street. He comforts us, we comfort others. Some people say that's paying it forward.

The practicality of caring is open to your interpretation

The important thing is to act on it.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

An Unexpected Greeting


I knew my husband wasn't feeling well. In fact, I had suggested the emergency room the night before but he declined. I was fixing breakfast when he came out of the bedroom the next morning and said, "Take me to ER."

To make such a request, I knew he had to be hurting. I scurried around to get ready. We got his med bottles, plus his med list. I also packed a chart of all his medical appointments, tests, scans and labs for the past six months. I included a bottle of water and a few snacks for me, plus a Love Inspired novel I'd been reading. 

Welcome Back
ER registration went quickly since he had been there six months earlier. With basic information on hand, they moved to note symptoms. He didn't wait long for the emergency room.

After some tests, he was admitted to a small private room on the third floor. The hospital bed took up most of the space, but there was a nightstand in the corner and a padded metal chair. I was glad it had arms because that made it comfortable for reading.

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting
He was getting excellent care while I filled in the time. I read, took a walk, read, went to lunch, read, talked to my husband, read---hours went by.

When I tired of reading my novel, I put it down and observed people coming and going out in the hallway. Then I wondered if there was a Gideon Bible in the little three-drawer nightstand.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a New King James Version. I opened to the thirty-seventh Psalm. It's always been a favorite, but this time verse three caught my attention and wouldn't let go. I read it several times: Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness (Psalm 37:3).

Sustenance is More Than Food
The phrase that continually stood out to me was feed on His faithfulness. The scenario I shared with my husband was this: Feeding indicates food; Food indicates sustenance; Sustenance is necessary for life. I said, "I'm intrigued at the thought of God's faithfulness as sustenance for life. It's always available, but we have to choose it."

It's kind of like going to the grocery store. There are lots of good things there, but we select those we want. Items don't automatically jump into our cart without action on our part.

Comfort in the Psalms
My day started with an unexpected greeting, "Take me to ER." I needed this phrase in Psalms to calm my day. Breakfast had been cut short, but sustenance was still available in God's faithfulness.

Since feed is an action word, I kept the verse in my thoughts. I recalled previous times when God had proven His faithfulness. And I chose, once again, to believe God's faithfulness would sustain me. It's proven true for the last three days, and it's not over yet. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Molding Our Minutes


Time arrives daily in twenty-four-hour packages of moldable minutes. It plays no favorites. Each of us receives the same amount. It would be boring, however, if we each molded our minutes in the same way.

I used to get a kick out of using candy molds. The craft class was fun and I invested in molds and supplies. Family and friends were gifted with colorful candies in a variety of flavors and shapes.

Looking back on it, I don't think the candies were all that great. But the people who received them were very gracious. My gift was not just candy. It was the way I molded my minutes to connect with people.

Time for You and Me
That's the interesting thing about time. It's interchangeable. My minutes become yours as I include you in conversation or involve you in a project. Your minutes become mine as you respond.

Isn't that what takes place at a football game? The team molds their minutes to play the game. The stadium is filled with people molding their minutes to cheer them on. It's an exchange of time.

Sometimes I think a hermit might be the only one totally in control of molding his minutes. Getting involved with others always challenges our time. Just ask the home caregiver who is on call twenty-four hours a day. Or ask the single parent who works full time, picks the kids up from daycare and spends the evenings catching up on chores.

Choices and Challenges
We moderns have an extra challenge to our minutes. Anyone wanting to be involved in this twenty-first century must choose how to deal with digital devices.

I think my cell phone and computer are marvelous, but they have certainly changed my use of time. I'm alerted to calls, text messages and email all day long. I find answers to questions on the internet and I gain "how to" information from YouTube videos.

The question is, "Who's in charge?" Do we manage our digital media, or do they manage us? Wise King Solomon said, "There's a time for everything" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). But sometimes it sure doesn't feel like it.

We don't have any choice over the first two time-frames on his list---a time to be born and a time to die. But I think verse six has some wisdom for us. It says, "there's a time to search and a time to give up."

Minutes Fly by No Matter How We Use Them
In our digital age, consider verse six as "a time to turn on, and a time to turn off." How many minutes do you spend on the internet each day? YouTube? Texting? Facebook?

My biggest challenge is minutes spent on Email. No matter how quickly I think I can get it done, it always takes longer. So far, I try to open and deal with it once a day.

Would I want to return to the days before cell phones, tablets, laptops and computers? No way! I'd rather face up to the challenge of molding my minutes each day.