Friday, August 19, 2011

The Bingo Game from Hell

One could use the word "challenging" when it comes to working with senior citizens, but throw in seven senior citizens with varying stages of dementia, and challenging doesn't seem appropriate any more.
Every Friday I play bingo with my memory care residents from about 2:15-3:30. Nothing fancy like playing for "4 corners" or "postage stamp", as just remembering where the "B" and the "I" are located is enough mental work. Usually we have a pretty quiet game, with some singing in between the rounds, but today things got changed up a bit.
A new couple moved into our home, and my boss asked me if I would please take the wife to memory care with me to play bingo, as she thinks she would really benefit from it. I walked over to their apartment, knocked on the door and was introduced to one of the happiest ladies I had ever met. I have certainly never seen dementia in this form before! She was laughing at everything that I said, and with a little coaxing from her husband and I, I got her to join me for the afternoon. All the way there her eyes were glowing with excitement, and she was just overflowing with joy. Her laughter was certainly contagious and, looking back at the experience, was a blessing in disguise.
She settled right into our memory care family, and the game got started. I put her next to a "Alice", a down to earth, genuine ex- one room school teacher, farm wife and mother of 6 boys. "Alice" 's eye sight is even better than mine, and when it comes to games and instructions, she follows them to a "t" and often "teaches" and coaches the other residents who struggle. Well, the new resident (we'll call her "Iris") told me that she had never played bingo before, so I knew that setting her next to "Alice" would probably be helpful move. Boy, was I wrong.
I don't know if any of you have called bingo before, but after awhile it gets pretty boring and annoying. After every single number I called out, Iris would repeat it several times and giggle in between. After looking under the free space and every other spot that was already filled for the number that was last called, she finally decided that she certainly doesn't "have that one this time". Well, the ex- one room school teacher was about ready to tear her hair out after the above described incident happened after every single number was being called. "No, no, NO! Here's the "B"! Now, the number called was 15, but you have 19, so you don't have that number this time!"
To top it all off, I had another resident calling a resident a "dummy" because he wasn't playing his card ( and isn't even capable of doing so). "Ya dummy! Didn't you hear her? I 25, you have that one, it's right here! Geez." Down the table, I hear another resident whom I have deemed the "ham" of our group, pipe up with "Do you have an "O Shucks"? ". Needless to say, the game was cut short by about 25 minutes. For the record, 3 games were played in over an hour's time. To put it in the words of Iris "Ha ha! I think I'm losing my mind!" Yeah, well, you aren't the only one.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Coffee and Cookie Lesson

Maybe one of the reasons that I enjoy working in a memory care environment so much is because of the simplicity and honesty of my residents. When a person has dementia, they are stripped of many ( if not all) of the mental "filters" that healthy human beings possess in their brains. You know, those filters that prevent us from verbally telling someone that they need to lose weight, or the outfit that they chose to wear looks hideous. We all think those things, but when you have dementia, what you think comes right out of your mouth. I have often thought that people with healthy brains could learn a thing or two from these people who have been labeled as "losing their minds".
In my personal life, I have been undergoing some very difficult times, due to a concussion and a very stressful working environment. To be quite honest, everything that I do these days wears me out. If I am not dealing with a raging headache or inconvenient nausea, I'm battling mood swings that seem to have a life of their own. These symptoms have directly affected the entirety of my life, especially my job. It seems like I'm forgetting a lot more things these days, having less patience and by the look and sound of the reaction of my superiors, that I'm not meeting "performance standards".
In this world, there are a lot of standards that we have to meet. Some of them are standards that we place on ourselves, but there are many standards that are placed on us just by living and breathing. And, if you are like me, if you desire to go "beyond the standards" ( which I'm learning is highly overrated), it actually can backfire, because than people set their standards and expectations to what you have set for yourself. So the moment you make a noticeable mistake, experience the set back of an injury or get sick, you are than slowly lowered into a hole that was dug on your own accord, with the help of a few willing bystanders.
Today was a rough day. By 2:30, I had two hours left on the clock and absolutely no will or ambition left. I forced myself out of my desk chair, and made my way to the 4th floor. I knocked on all of their doors, enticing them to come out for a cookie and a cup of of coffee. One by one they shuffled out of their rooms and made their way to the dining room. As I poured the coffee and served the cookies, one of my residents had a seat at the kitchen island. As I poured him a cup of coffee and gave him his cookie, he looked me in the eye and said with absolute sincerity."you are such a sweetheart. Thank you!". As I fought back tears, I realized how blessed I was to be with people that were impressed at my sheer ability to give them a cookie and pour them a cup of coffee. That was enough them. I didn't need to write an impressive blog post, haul them on an outing, respond well in a care conference, or throw a fantastic event with streamers, music and cake. Love, appreciation and affection was poured out on me as a result of a cookie and a cup of coffee.
It didn't take long to realize that that is what the Lord was trying so desperately to communicate to my heart. Despite my earthly circumstances, God just desires me to love on Him, to trust Him and to to be faithful to Him. That's all. That's all that He asks of us. We don't have to earn His approval, we don't have to meet standards that are never verbalized or communicated. Although we can't get lazy and apathetic in the grace that has been extended to us by His death on the cross, we are enough just the way we are.
When we fall in the world, it seems as if we get a red dot placed on our forehead to represent our mistakes and failures. But when we fall in God's grace, it is simply another opportunity for Him to love and nurture His child and affirm them that because we are His, we are sufficient. We are enough. We are His.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Empowering the Men in our Lives

What does it mean to "empower"? defines "empower" as "to enable or permit" and "to give power or authority to". Since the late 1950's, America has been on a hot pursuit to empower women. This empowerment included but was not limited to, education, equalization and sexual rights. It was implied that men were too powerful, stifling the growth and the potential of the "weaker" sex. While I cannot deny that abuse from the male gender did ensue throughout the years, I also cannot deny that there is a distinct confusion amongst both genders when it comes to the concepts of "empowerment" and "control".
Nobody wants to be controlled, but there are plenty of people who want to be in control. People who feel the need to control often are experiencing an intense fear of the unknown; what would happen if they actually did let go. Empowerment is quite different. Empowering somebody means that you are giving something valuable to somebody so that they in turn can do something even more valuable. God's word is empowering, education is empowering, self help books and conferences are empowering. As women, we are taught of the importance of empowering ourselves, but as a Christian woman, I can testify that very little is taught about how to empower the men in our lives. There are authors and books out there that touch on this subject, but since this blog is "my little corner of the world", I thought I would share my perspective on this concept.
I am the type of person that can be empowered by words. If you compliment me on my appearance, on something that I've done or something positive that you observe about me, I could live on that compliment for days. Of the "5 Love Languages" (written by Gary Chapman), one of mine is most definitely "words of affirmation". People can be empowered in different ways, placing the emphasis on the difference of personality and upbringing. But in our world, we have often been taught and conditioned to not divide male and female as an example of those "differences". The concept of empowerment in relation to the different sexes is no exception.
As Christian women, we desire to be led by a man who is being led by Christ. Even if a woman identifies herself as being independent and a natural leader, she is wired to desire to be an integral part of an adventure with a man who is beside her and slightly ahead of her. What has been a mystery to me is how do we allow the man in our life to lead us, but also be able to empower them with the strengths, talents and traits that we possess in which we are clearly more of a "leader"in? In other words, how do we supply the men in our lives with our unique giftings, knowledge and wisdom, without knowingly or unknowingly using them as a tool to "get what we want" or control the a situation? Biblically, the man is to be the head of the household and the head of a relationship (1st Cor. 11:3), but also a marriage is comprised of three strands which are not easily broken (Eccl.4:12). Amongst those three strands is woman, completely and totally unique in her giftings and understandings of love and life, a leader in her own right.
I firmly believe that as women of Christ, we are called to empower the men in our lives by simply being present. By serving, respecting, and offering leadership in areas where it is needed. I am learning that the Holy Spirit will grant that discernment as it is needed, and that we need only keep an attitude of humility and understanding. A man who lives his life under the authority and Lordship of Christ is a powerful man indeed, but coupled with a woman who is like"hearted", is a serious threat to the enemy and an important part of God's plan for His people.
I pray that as women we may pray for discernment and wisdom on a daily basis, asking the Lord to show us ways in which we can empower the men in our lives with our encompassing internal and external beauty; a true representation of the Bride of Christ.


As we go throughout our busy lives, we often need reminders to remember to do various things. An alarm clock reminds us that we need to wake up from our slumber and sticky notes are covered with "to do's". When we are hungry, our stomachs growl, reminding us that we are hungry and we receive emails and written statements reminding us of bills that are due ( or over due). In our age of advanced technology, we are even reminded with 'dings' by our cell phones and computers when we have a hair appointment or how many days away a loved one's birthday is. Our world is full of reminders to help keep us on track, and yet I have come to learn that reminders take place in so many more ways then dings on a cell phone or a sticky note on your desk.
About two weeks ago to this day, I fell in the shower, hit my head and suffered a stage 3 concussion. It has been a huge uphill climb as I have been dealing with symptoms that include persistent headaches, irritability, depression and some minor short term memory loss and word placement issues. After taking two days off for rest, I had to get into the "swing of things" again in life. It didn't take long for me to get frustrated as I realized how much I had taken my strength for granted, and how much energy is actually expelled when making a phone call or giving directions to somebody. In my exhaustion and frustration, I found myself getting quickly worn down. I have never experienced headaches on such a persistent basis, so after a few days of constantly dealing with them, I asked God to show me what He wanted to teach me during this time.
I have always struggled to fully rely on Gods strength. For some odd reason, I think that in my humanity I can accomplish and overcome the things that come my way. It doesn't take me long to realize that the only way to break that cycle is to allow myself to be broken, acknowledging my need for God's strength and faithfulness. With every headache, frustration and bought of depression, I found myself being reminded of how absolutely vital it is to remain and abide in Christ at all times. What if we viewed pain and the things that we can't control, as strategically placed reminders of how we are to rely on God's strength alone? How would that change our outlook on our circumstances?
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. "-John 15:4

"But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. "- 2nd Cor.3:16-18

As you abide in Christ, you abide in His love. And as you abide in His love, you are abiding in His faithfulness. Abiding in your Father is all that you need to bring you through every struggle that you will face, and will give perspective to every happy time that you are privileged to experience.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Captivity of the Mind

For as long as I can remember, my mind has been the greatest battlefield of my life. I think that that is a true statement for many people, as our minds and hearts are private to everyone except ourselves and God. We compile mental lists in our mind, day dream about delightful things or scenarios and respond to our world internally during those times that it may or may not be appropriate to verbalize or act upon.
The things that we tell ourselves in our mind have the power to make or break us. We've all heard authors and motivational speakers talk about the effectiveness of positive "self pep talks", as well as the impending doom of destructive thinking. I have learned that somewhere along those lines, the ultimate adversary of evil can weave his way into this personal world, at times making it a literal prison in which we can't break free. There is a song by the popular Christian music group "Selah" called "I Bless Your Name". In that song there is a verse that always ministers to my heart, and prompts me to pray for others who struggle in a similar fashion. "Some midnight hour if you should find, you're in a prison in your mind; reach out and pray, defy those chains, and they will fall in Jesus name."
Praise God when we can identify that we are truly in a mental prison, but what about the times when we can't even identify that there are actual lies we are believing that are putting us behind those bars? On our knees and in our willingness to follow Christ, to seek His peace and to understand His ways, we are given the opportunity to allow Jesus to penetrate our hearts and show us the difference between a thought life that is free of the captivity of lies and one that is abiding in the richness of a Father who loves you, and desires you to have nothing but peace.
Just the other night, I was wrestling with some severe anxiety and worry about something going on in my life. I found myself going back and forth in my mind, and then realized that this wasn't of the Lord. Remembering a method that I had read from a book that I just recently finished, I decided to do my best to put words to the thoughts that were going on in my head. As I articulated the thoughts from my pen onto the paper, it didn't take long to discover that many of the thoughts were lies straight from the enemy. Next to the lie, I wrote down the truth, and then did my best to find scripture to back up that truth. By giving words to those lies, they lost their power. They were revealed as the destructive, unnecessary, life sucking demons that they really were.
How about you? Do you find yourself "in a prison in your mind"? Maybe it's depression, or maybe it's simply just the tendency to over think and over analyze. But whatever the case, God desires to break you free of that stronghold. Satan has no place or authority in your heart or mind, despite his deceptive visits that seem to be harmless.
Disrobe the darkness in your mind by allowing Christ to illuminate His light on your path. Just like crickets in a dark room that are being invaded by the flip of a light switch, so will Christ cause those lies to scatter to the corners as He rolls out His carpet of peace and truth.