College Bound

Sophie brushed a loose bit of hair aside, as she called upstairs, “Max, do you have your dorm supply list?”  Max reluctantly came downstairs with a pleading look on his face, “Do we have to do this today? Josh and the guys are getting together for our last night together at the pool!”

 

Sophie exhaled slowly. “Max, we have to do this sooner, rather than later, or the stores will run out and we will be left scrambling. I know you don’t like shopping, but don’t you want a say in what your dorm room looks like?” “Yeah, Mom” Max smirked, “you probably will buy me a My Little Pony comforter.” They both laughed, as they got in the car and drove to Bed, Bath and Beyond to join the others preparing for college dorm life.

 

Getting ready for life changes like college means more than putting away the swim suits and beach towels. It means preparation for new freedoms, new responsibilities, and…well…new everything.  As exciting as it is, it can also be overwhelming as both parents, and children prepare for a new stage of life.

 

Later that night, as Sophie re-read the Preparing for College brochure, she reminisced about their visit home this summer.  Her mom, Anne, was so excited for their visit, and stocked the fridge with all of Max’s guilty pleasures. They went to the lake, and enjoyed mother/daughter morning walks in the pine scented trails behind her childhood home.  She remembered her mother commenting on how good she felt, and how blessed she was to still be able to hike the mountains at her age.

 

“Remember Betty?” Anne asked. “She fell last month while hiking this same trail. Joe and Emma aren’t so sure she can live on her own anymore and are looking at nursing homes.” Her emphasis on the term nursing home dripped with disdain.   “I hate to think of Betty not living next door to me, and it scares me even more to think that she, or I would have to go to a place like that!”

 

“Mom, I am so sorry about Betty, but maybe this is an opportunity for us to research what choices are available before something like that happens to you! I hear there are all kinds of options now, and they’re not all that bad! Maybe if we spend a little time researching, we can also help Betty and her family make the best decision for her as well.  Perhaps, with some extra help at home she can come back to the neighborhood, but we’ll never know until we do some digging!”

 

“That’s a grand idea, Soph! When did you get to be so wise?”

 

“Well mom,” smiled Sophie, as she nudged her mom, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

 

 

 

 

Preparation

 

We don’t always get the option to prepare for the future. Life isn’t always as clear cut as Max’s entry into University: preschool, elementary school, middle school and high school is a fairly predictable journey in their neighborhood.  But preparing to age, and preparing to care for our parents often comes unexpectedly leaving us scrambling for options that are available, but not always our first choice. Proverbs 9 echoes Sophie’s wise admonishment of Max, and encouragement of Anne:

 

                        “Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns;

                        she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread

                        her table…Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the

                        way of understanding.” (Pr 9-1-2, 6)

 

During their stay at the lake, Sophie did some Internet sleuthing to find solutions her mother might find appealing.  There was a new Assisted Living facility being built near their home. “Hey Mom” Sophie called, “What about this place?”

 

“Why I could never leave this neighborhood, all my friends live here, and church is right down the street!  By the way…have you seen the price tag on that place?”  Sophie shook her head. “Well, Mom…doesn’t cost anything to check it out. But, if you want to stay near the lake, what about having a caregiver come in to check in from time to time?”

 

“Well, I’m not ready for that either, but that appeals to me more.”

 

“Let me look around a bit, and see if I can find a company we can call when the time is right.”

 

“And make sure you call Betty’s family and tell them too!” Anne said.

 

Preparing to Care

 

Not only did Sophie look at options for her Mom, she looked up ideas to help her care for her mom at this new stage of life. Just as colleges send out, Preparing for Dorm Life booklets, AARP has published a wonderful resource, Prepare to Care. If you would like a copy, contact us through our website:

 

www.akotahc.com

 

 

Whether you are preparing for college, preparing for Senior living options, or preparing for both at the same time (Bless you!) please know that AKOTA is happy to share the wisdom of our 25 years caring for Seniors in their homes. We look forward to talking to you sooner….before you need us later.

You are Invited...

You are Invited...

 

You Are Invited…

 

When Grace opened her front door she was greeted with a steamy wave of heat. “Oh Boy”, she thought, “I’ll be damp as my dish towel by the time I get to that mailbox!” As she braved the heat, Grace collected the usual barrage of circulars, realtor postcards, and insurance statements.  One calligraphic envelope fell to her feet:

Walking by Faith

I met Grace at the hospital on a beautiful spring day. She was looking out the window of her Oncology unit room; wisps of hair peaking out of a colorful paisley scarf. Her eyes were brightly frosted with tears as she looked out over the roses and wisteria blooming from the garden below.  A nurse was putting on a new wristband to go with Grace’s hospital ID bracelet.

 

“What’s with the new jewelry?” I asked.

        

“Oh”, she said quietly, “that is my Do Not Resuscitate order. I have decided to stop chemo, and let nature take its course.”

        

I paused and said, “Wow. That took a lot of courage.”

 

Grace replied, “I read once that courage is about doing what is right, even if you are afraid to do it. It is the courage to act, rather than react.  Cancer and chemo have been a long, hard road, and the treatment for me will never be curative.  Today,  I decided to live the rest of my life with the courage to let go, and say goodbye.”

 

I had brought her the first gardenia bloom from the garden.  She held it to her nose, inhaling deeply. “My favorite scent,” she sighed. “You know, it is nearly impossible to replicate the scent of a gardenia? Only the Creator knows the formula.”

 

Courage

 

We often think of courage as physical courage: the courage to climb the tallest mountain, or enter a burning building. While these indeed take strength in the face of fear, courage more commonly is strength in the face of pain or grief.

Sometimes it is the courage to soldier on, sometimes it is the courage to call it quits, but always it takes courage to enter into the struggle of what to do next when someone you love is dying.

 

Courage is strength in the face of struggle, but it is also the humility to allow tears to fall, the vulnerability to let others know about painful life decisions, and to accept help from those most available to provide it.

 

In 2 Corinthians St. Paul writes that we are all called to be courageous in the face of uncertainty, and walk by faith, not by sight (2Cor5:7).  We know that if we follow our own ego — that part of us that says we are always right and know best — we block out the helpful support that the Spirit sends our way.

 

As difficult as it was for Grace and her health care team, she was preparing to go home to hospice care, and eventual death. Her faith enabled her to be courageous enough to leave the body and go home to the Lordas we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. (2Cor 5:8-9)

 

Whether called to persevere in illness, or called to let treatment go, we have the humble courage to believe that Christ is with us in the midst of these difficult struggles.

 

Everyday, AKOTA works with people who have the courage to make hard choices, and the humility to accept help in the midst of their suffering. The nature of our work means that we often augment the services of hospice, providing compassionate, experienced caregivers who provide extra support to our clients and their families. Our caregivers are intuitively humble and compassionate, encouraging our client’s in their struggles, and using their creative talents, to build trust with the families they serve.

 

If you are currently a family caregiver, humble courage gives you the strength to ask for help.  In our society, this is one of the most difficult things to do. Asking for help takes courage…and just a little bit of walking by faith, not sight.

 

www.akotahc.com

Trusting Summer

When our kids were young, they spent each summer day outside. Our neighborhood was full of kids, and the nearby community swimming pool was the epicenter of summer activities. As soon as Memorial Day hit, the kids rode their bikes down to the pool to swim, dive, and trade Pokemon cards. The older kids would order pizza, and the entire summer was overseen by lifeguards just a little bit older than the kids themselves. This was idyllic childhood freedom. How in the world did we allow it?

 

Just one word: Trust.

 

If you look it up, Trust is confident expectation.

 

We had confidence the neighborhood to keep our kids safe. We had an expectation that the drivers to venture out slowly. And we had a confident expectation that the teenage lifeguards would watch our precious children.

 

Trust is a willingness to take risks. We parents were willing to risk that the neighborhood parents would watch out for all the kids. That the cars would drive safely. The lifeguards would be more interested in our children’s safety than they were in the cute guy/girl in the chaise longue by the deep end. But why were we willing to be vulnerable to these risks? James Davis, a professor of strategic management at Utah State University says:

 

Trust relies on three qualities:

 

         1. Ability: Does this person have the skills to perform as we expect them to perform? Did the lifeguards go through a training program? Do they look the part (red bathing suit, floatation device on their laps, an intense stare at little kids in the water?)

 

         2.Benevolence: Do they care about my kids? Our life guards came from the very neighborhood they served. We knew these kids growing up, and we knew their parents. We knew they loved our kids, because our neighborhood had a history of mutual benevolence.

 

         3. Integrity: Having a set of values that you live by and others agree with. Again, because we knew our lifeguards, and knew their families, we could trust their integrity. We knew their values, we saw them live their values, and so we could trust them.*

 

While the story of Pentecost does not involve a summer swimming pool, it is a story of trust coming into fulfillment. Imagine the disciples locked behind closed doors, too frightened to venture out for fear of reprisal.  Jesus appears to them, and appeals to their sense of trust: Did the Risen Christ have the abilities He promised? His resurrection, and post resurrection appearances assured them. Did He show benevolence? His ‘Peace be with You’ assures them again.  Does He have integrity? Well, his teachings speak for themselves. But with all of this, are the disciples really ready to risk exposure to a dark and deadly world?

 

Not until Jesus shares His Spirit with them.

 

It is the Spirit of Christ that binds the disciples into a courageous community. It is the Spirit that encourages them to go beyond what they know and venture into the great unknown trusting that what they say, and who they represent is true.

 

Trust demands risk, just as faith demands risk.

 

So often we see people who need help, who are hunkering down in their small rooms, or circling the wagons only trusting family and close friends with the difficulties of illness, injury and disability.  Just like the disciples, it is sometimes excruciating to open the doors and allow our community of caregivers to help.  How can you trust a complete unknown with the care of your parent, or your beloved spouse?

 

At AKOTA, we follow Christ’s answer at Pentecost: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you”. When we arrive, I have faith that you will find we have the ability, the benevolence and the integrity you can trust.

 

The disciples opened the door to risk, and were rewarded with the Spirit.

What do you risk when you open your door to a caregiver for your loved one?

 

 

*This blog relies heavily on the work of Prof. James Davis of Utah State University. To check out Prof. Davis’ TEDtalk go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9FBK4eprmA

I Told You Not to Tell Me That!

If you are about my age, you may remember the CBS TV Show “Get Smart”.  The series ran in the late 60s and combined the spy genre themes of James Bond with the comedic brilliance of Mel Brooks.

 

When Secret Agent Maxwell Smart didn’t want to hear about something the conversation went something like this:

 

Maxwell Smart: “Don’t tell me that bucket of water is about to fall on my head…”

Secret Agent 99: “Max…(SPLASH!!)”

Maxwell Smart: “I TOLD YOU NOT TO TELL ME THAT!”

 

Max didn't want to hear about a mistake or terrible thing that happened. I don’t know about you, but I have wanted to use this refrain over and over again this month:

 

“Did I tell you that Sam had a stroke?”

“Did I tell you that Dana fell and hit her head?”

“…..Joe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease”

“….has stage 4 cancer…”

 

All I want to do is shout,  “I TOLD YOU NOT TO TELL ME THAT!” 

 

It isn’t by accident that Maxwell Smart works for an agency called CONTROL.  We like to feel we are in control of our lives and that bad things will never happen to good people. We like to believe that a stroke, a fall, or a disease will not interfere with life as we have planned it. But just like Get Smart, the daily episodes of our lives are exposed to our evil nemesis CHAOS. And when CHAOS hits, so does a varying set of emotions:

 

Shock.

Anger.

Fear.

Regret.

Sadness.

Dread.

 

And just like in Get Smart, a few doses of:

 

Humor.

Trust.

Gratitude.

Hope, and a new sense of resilience.

 

 

Today’s Acts of the Apostles reading (Acts 9: 26-31) could read like an episode of Get Smart.  Saul, who will soon be known as Paul, enters Jerusalem and is met with fear from the disciples. Jesus appeared to this guy in Damascus? What a shock!  Who is this guy? I can only imagine, in their misunderstanding, that there was a bit of man-handling as Barnabas brought him to the Apostles secret hiding place.  Was he a spy for the Romans or the High Priests, or did Jesus true appear to Saul?  As they begin to trust his story, there must have been a bit of regret, a few wise-cracks, and joyful gratitude in recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit in the moment.

 

When trouble strikes, it shakes our sense of control. Part of the comic genius of Get Smart was that even though Max works for CONTROL, he often brings CHAOS with him. What we often don’t realize is that control has to be disturbed by chaos in order for the episodes of our lives to take on deeper meanings. All major life events: births of babies, weddings and breakups, new jobs and retirement, sickness, and death bring chaos into our sense of control.  Saul brought chaos, fear and dread when he brought new revelation to the Apostles. Through open listening, the chaos was dispelled by trust, and I’m sure a dose of humor and gratitude.

 

Just like Maxwell Smart, are you working for CONTROL? And in your efforts, are you finding brokenness and opportunity in CHAOS?  If you are working to make meaning out of the chaos, or just need a little help finding control, give us a call. We are here to help.

 

www.akotahc.com

It Takes A Village

“I must have lifted too much weight at the gym!” Bob complained to my mom. Bob was my mother’s 84-year-old husband. Every morning at 5:30am he would go to the gym, joke around with the guys, and lift weights. A bout with metastatic colon cancer had zapped a lot of his energy, but he still made it to the gym every day and walked the foothills of Southern California at least once a day.  But the pain in his shoulder persisted, and so he went to his doctor.  Turns out, the pain in his shoulder was not a pulled muscle, but untreatable bone cancer.

The two months between Bob’s diagnosis and death were filled with visits and ministrations from a diverse community of family and friends.  With both a degree in nursing and theology, I came from Virginia to California to help Mom care for Bob. My brother Paul, a financial planner from Connecticut called me before I left, “Should I go out too” he asked? “No”, I said, “I am better at the medical stuff and you are better at the financial stuff. Wait a bit, and then come help mom sort that out. Besides, you make mom laugh, and she will need that!” Part of caring for a loved one is knowing who wants to help, and what talents they bring to the table.  To learn more about how to organize your family and friends to help, see the Atlas of Caregiving website: https://atlasofcaregiving.com/put-your-family-caregiving-on-the-map/

Collaborative Care

March Slingshot Photo.jpg

A little more than a month after Bob’s diagnosis, Mom’s oldest sister died. “How am I going to make it to her funeral with Bob so sick?” Mom fretted. This was all just too much. Bob insisted that she go, but how could she leave him overnight and go on a 7-hour drive away?  Although Bob’s son promised to care for him, Mom knew he would need more support. She called a local California home care company and hired a caregiver to help while she was away.  Bob’s son was also supported by Craig, a friend of Bob’s from the gym. While Mom was gone, Craig took Bob for a ride in his slingshot motorcycle (see the picture!) Bob had a great time getting out in the fresh air even though it took a lot of effort to get him in and out of that motorcycle!

 What our family was doing is an example of Collaborative Care. We know that most families want to care for their loved one themselves. And we know that most people want to be cared for in their own home. Yet, providing the 24/7 care that your loved one needs can tax even the most dedicated families. AKOTA can help you fill in the blanks, either giving you a much-needed break a few hours a week or providing round the clock care should you need to leave town, as Mom did.

It’s About Showing Up

This blog makes it sound like Bob’s care was idyllic, but truth be told, some days were bleak and Mom and I felt lonely and isolated.  In today’s Gospel story (John 11:1-45), Mary and Martha feel frustrated and disappointed when it seems Jesus’ support was lacking.  Where was their friend, the one with the special grace to heal, when their brother was so sick?   If you are a caregiver, I am sure you can relate to the times you have called the doctor and had to endlessly wait for the office to respond.  So often caregivers ask for help, and that help either never shows, or dries up as caregiving becomes more and more intense. 

Can you imagine the frustration Mary, Martha and the entire village feels when Jesus shows up too late to save Lazarus? Indeed, the villagers say, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”  We know that, Jesus wept, but wasn’t that a little too late?  Where was he when those closest to him were in need? So many families experience this frustration of support coming too little and too late. Of course, we know the end of the Gospel story: Jesus’ last recorded miracle was raising Lazarus from the dead.  The story teaches us that Jesus’ time is not necessarily our time, and while we may feel abandoned, this does not mean we actually are. Mary and Martha were forthright in their disappointment, and this honesty is a sign of a healthy relationship with Christ. And just as it is never too late to reach out to Jesus in our pain and suffering, it is never too late to reach out to our loved ones as well. Sometimes that reaching out is the first step to forgiveness and reconciliation. It wasn’t too late for Jesus to show up, and it’s not too late for you!

We are Here to Help

Bob and Mom experienced the blessing of collaborative care: they had a wonderful neighborhood who supported them in their suffering, family who rallied around them, a church community to pray with them, and professional Home Care services to fill in the blanks. All this compassion could not prevent Bob from dying, but support from a community of professionals and friends made the journey one of grace.

If you are caregiving, you need not feel alone and isolated.  You need the kind of support Mom and Bob found. AKOTA Home Care is here to be a vibrant, compassionate member of your personal care team. Give us a call if you just need a break, or require consistent, quality care for your loved one.

Isn't This the Most Beautiful Party?

Ruth was sitting up in her bed, quietly clapping her hands to music no one else could hear. 

“Isn’t this the most beautiful party?”

How do you respond?  Brian and Sharon have cared for Ruth in their home for the last 12 years. They have learned to enter into Ruth’s reality, and meet her there:

“It is, Ruth! Tell me, who do you see at the party?”

“OH! So many beautiful people! My Aunt Lucy, and Grandma Rita are playing the piano! Everyone is dancing and having the most wonderful time!” Ruth’s eyes were bright with joy, her face more animated than it had been in days.

“Enjoy your party and say hello to Grandma Rita for me!” Sharon replied. “Brian and I are going away for the weekend, but we want to hear all about your party when we return!”

“You go and have fun!” replied Ruth. “I am having the most marvelous time!”

Conversations like these become the amusing silver lining stories of the journey into dementia. Brian and Sharon were told her mother Ruth would live 6 months after her diagnosis. Ruth lived 14 years. With competent medical care and loving family caregivers, 14 years is not unusual.

After diagnosis, Ruth moved into Brian and Sharon’s beautiful home.  When care became a 24/7 job, they hired caregivers to come in and help during the day. Additional care afforded them the occasional (and much needed) weekend away.

Communication with Dementia patients is not always as pleasant as this story suggests. Getting someone to do even basic life activities like showering or dressing can become challenging when the centers that regulate emotion and communication are dwindling down to zero.  Making dementia’s reality your new reality is tricky, but perhaps a little Scripture can help.

In John 5, a man who was disabled was placed in the Sheep Gate, near the pool of Bethesda.  This was the adult day care of the first century.  Families would place their disabled relatives here in the morning.  At night, they would come back and collect their family member and take them home.  During the day, their only (and very slight) hope was to get into the pool if it “stirred” as they believed the stirring came from an angel.  The belief is that whoever got into the water first would be healed.  Jesus walked straight into this place, found the man, and entered into his world.  The disabled man had been there for 38 years!  Can you imagine?  Jesus did not require this man to come into Jesus’ world, but Jesus entered his…and healed him.

This is what so many do with those who have dementia.  Instead of requiring the person with dementia to enter the sane world, these courageous caregivers enter the world of a person who has dementia, seeing the world through their eyes, and brining healing.  Even if the healing is only extending a comfortable existence for more years, it is healing nonetheless. 

When dealing with dementia, it is easy to focus on the practical and demand our loved one come into our world.  We stay in our own reality and expect our loved one to adapt.  But, if we make these demands, we miss the possibility of transfiguration: the metamorphosis into a new reality.  If we learn to listen, and enter into someone else’s reality, we just may experience some healing ourselves. Perhaps Ruth’s party was an invitation for Brian and Sharon to slow down and enter the dance with her imagined adored relatives playing the piano. The example of Christ invites us into His reality of grace, compassion and patient forgiveness.

Caring for someone with dementia is a life altering experience that may leave you with more questions than you have answers.  When you need a little respite, or an extra person who can enter this altered reality with you, AKOTA is here to help.

 

Home Is Where Your Heart Is

“I love my neighborhood! Lived here for 50 years, and can’t imagine living anywhere else! I’ve seen all the neighborhood kids grow up right next to my own, and now I see new little ones come trick or treating at my door. See that tree over there? Claire used to climb it with Matt and Carry. Now Carry’s a local cop, Matt has a wife and kids of his own, and Claire is my financial advisor!” 

Our neighborhood is the kind that sticks together. Twice a year, our community gathers at Pamela’s house to listen to neighbors-turned-entertainers perform.  An 8-year-old plays her favorite piano tune.  An awkward high-schooler shines as she plays her clarinet. A college student offers to play his guitar, and a mother and daughter sing a duet from Phantom.  All of us remember when the highlight of the evening was 80-year-old Roy playing the flute, and Jim playing jazz standards on his trumpet.  We miss those two, but the celebrations continue to this day, and always end in a big sing along of show tunes.

Many of our neighbors never want to leave our community. Indeed, nationwide, most seniors (87% to be exact) would like to ‘age in place’.  We want to stay in our homes long after the 8-year-old leaves for Boston College, and the Phantom singer becomes a psychotherapist. We want to walk the neighborhood and remember Roy with his flute who lived in the house over there, or Jim on his boat by the river.

Even in a tight knit community like ours, aging in place needs support.  The Gospel of Matthew (25:35-36 to be exact) calls for us to care for our communities:

 

 

‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

 

Indeed, when a neighbor gets sick, we bring a casserole. And when a new family moves in, we bake cookies. I remember when Pamela drove to the pharmacy to pick up antibiotics when I was at home with sick babies.  Our neighbors are just a phone call away, but…

As neighbors we don’t know or see the whole story.  We keep our debilities from their concerned eyes.  Do we see our neighbors when they need to be clothed? Do we know when a fall, or memory loss makes them feel like a prisoner in their own homes? Children move from the neighborhood to pursue their lives, and, as neighbors, we can only do so much.

What a gift it is, to provide in-home care to our neighbors who want to stay in their own homes. To provide nutritious meals in the comfort of one’s own kitchen. To help with the laundry, the day-to-day housekeeping, and rides to the doctor.  To gently remind someone to take their medicine, and be neighbor, friend, and almost family to someone who once felt isolated. That’s what AKOTA Home Care does.

As I write, a winter storm approaches many communities along the Eastern seaboard.  Let us pray together that neighbors will continue to care for neighbor. That neighbor kids will continue to shovel the snow off the next door neighbor’s drive or bring a pot of soup to someone who can’t get out in the snow.  Christ asks us to notice our neighbors.  As you visit, if you think they might need a little more help than your community can provide, give us a call.

 

 

www.akotahc.com

719-602-0305

 

Home for the Holidays

Nancy quietly contemplated the newly decorated Christmas tree glowing across the living room.   The small white lights gave a warm and peaceful glow to her childhood home, illuminating the newly arrived hospital bed in which her mother nestled.  A small smile came to Nancy’s lips as she remembered her mother’s directions, “See that crystal angel ornament in the box to the right of the snowman?  Aunt Sara gave that to me when you were born! I always hang it right below the star, where all your brother’s and sister’s ornaments are.” Nancy treasured this rare evening when Mom’s eyes twinkled as they used to, and Mom’s loving attention to the tree reminded Nancy of her long-ago childhood Christmases.

 

Nancy was grateful her brother and sister remembered to “Skype in” from their homes across the country.  They did their best to coax Mom to take a few more bites of the dinner Nancy prepared, or at least a sip or two from the Ensure can in Nancy’s hand.  After the tree was decorated, and the calls were finished, Nancy gently repositioned Mom with pillows and blankets making her as comfortable as possible. All the excitement made it difficult for Mom to settle in for the night, but now Nancy sat in peaceful silence at her mother’s bedside while Mom took quiet, shallow breaths. The peaceful strains of carols from her Christmas playlist softened the gurgle of the oxygen machine next to Mom’s bedside.

 

We tend to think of Christmas in terms of children’s Santa parties, cookie decorating, and the ever-present Elf on the Shelf.   After all, Christmas is about a poor child born through a young girl’s courageous ‘Yes’.  But Christmas is more than Santa or the celebration of a child born in Bethlehem.  The Angel Gabriel’s words in the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) speak to all of us no matter where we find ourselves this Christmas season.  Just like Mary, Nancy may not feel like a ‘favored one’ as she sits by her mother’s bedside.  Like Nancy, Mary was greatly troubled by the burden she was bearing. For both, the Angel’s words, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God” are filled with doubt and confusion. After all, Mary’s first response was not a quick, energetic ‘yes’, but a more tremulous “How can this be?”

 

Christ’s presence in our lives does not come without challenge, suffering or pain.  The coming of Christmas tells us that Christ dwells among us, not just 2000 years ago, but today.  Christ is in Nancy’s patient caregiving. Christ is in the twinkle in her mother’s eye. Christ is in the friends who stop by with Christmas cheer and casseroles.

 

Although Nancy is honored to care for her mom, the stress of family caregiving can be overwhelming.  Just like Nancy, we hope you will see Christ in AKOTA Home Care caregivers who are ready to step in and help you this holiday season. Whether it is just a four hour break to do some Christmas shopping, or 24/7 care so you can visit your grandkids, AKOTA Home Care promises to see Christ in you, and see Christ in your loved one.

 

Peace be with you, and may you see Christ in all you do this Christmas Season.

In Gratitude

John pulled his tired and old frame back into the airport wheelchair, his old legs nearly giving out.  He wasn’t as strong as he used to be!  The trip to the airport in Colorado Springs had been hard enough.  The plane aisle was hard to navigate; the seat was smaller than he remembered. “When did they make these seats so small?” he thought. His 89-year old body complained at every bump, jostle, and adjustment.  His daughter was with him which made everything easier…except that dang toilet!  Why…he had more space on the troop ship in ’42 when they went across the Pacific!  Now, here he was, crawling off the plane and into an airport wheelchair in the hot, muggy ramp entering Reagan National Airport in Arlington, VA asking himself, with each painful move, why in the world had he come? 

 

His daughter had begged him to go.  Said they wanted to show him the World War II monument in DC.  Who was “they” anyway?  “They” had paid his way, so he decided he would go.  After all, at 89, he didn’t feel he could make many more trips like this again.

 

Coming up the ramp he noticed there were a lot of people and a lot of crowds. “Is it always this crowded in the terminal these days?”  It is mighty noisy too…like someone special was coming.  Then he saw the sign…

 

“Welcome WWII Veterans!  We Honor You.”

 

Tears welled up in his eyes.  Energy flowed back into tired bones.  They were clapping for HIM!  There were signs and kids and cheers and smiles and more cheers.  Strangers slapped him on the back and climbed over to shake his hand to say thank you.  A sharp looking line of young Marines saluted his entrance while his daughter, with tear streaked face, was doing her best to let everyone touch him, see him, and thank him.  His heart was melting…melting under the warmth of gratitude and memories.

 

______

 

Recently, a friend of mine participated in the arrival of an ‘Honor Flight’.  Many of us who fly regularly have had the privilege of seeing aging veterans from around the country fly in to spend a couple of days touring Washington DC.  In the arrival halls of local airports, World War II vets in their 90’s, Korean War vets in their 80’s, and Vietnam War vets in their 60’s and 70’s are greeted by cheering volunteers, and young recruits from all branches of service. My friend and her small children were part of the cheering team and encouraged unsuspecting passengers to join the community of clappers.  Many participants are brought to tears by the whole event; our nation showing gratitude to those who gave so much to protect our freedoms.  The back of Honor Flight volunteer t-shirts bear a quote from Will Rogers: “Not all of us can be heroes, some of us stand on the curb and clap.”

 

The Bible passage 1st Thessalonians 1:1-5 reminds us that today’s heroes deserve a great round of applause from the sidewalks of our nation.  Not only do we honor veterans on November 11th, we also honor the everyday heroes who have persevered in the face of all kinds of storms and trials.  From the search and rescue teams saving hundreds in flood ravaged Houston, animal rescue workers saving pets from back to back hurricanes in Florida, utility company employees still working to bring power to Puerto Rico, policemen and trauma centers saving lives in these areas as well as the manmade disaster of the Las Vegas massacre, to firefighters who continue to battle blazes in California and the West, we join the chorus found in Scripture:

 

                        We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering

                        you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith

                        and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

These men and women were once on the sidelines clapping for heroes that came before. Today we recognize them as heroes. They labor to serve those most in need of help; those most in need to see God in action through acts of human faith, hope and love.

 

While veterans and rescue workers have been singled out as heroes, there are some heroes in homes across the country who care for loved ones battling cognitive and degenerative disabilities.  These home bound heroes are close to my heart this month, as I remember helping my mom care for her husband who died on their wedding anniversary just last year. We were so fortunate that Bob became more gentle, more dignified and more grateful each day we cared for him. Despite his graciousness, being a caregiver is never easy. Mom and I had each other to lean on, and a community of friends to gather around us. Even with all this support, we often found ourselves emotionally and physically exhausted, and so grateful for the respite that our home care workers gave us. They bathed and dressed Bob and taught us more than a few secrets of the trade to make him more comfortable in his final days.  Bob could stay home with us, and we were able to care for him, while loved and supported by professionals who knew exactly what we were going through.

 

Our First Thessalonians passage ends: “Our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in the power of the Holy Spirit, with much conviction”.  AKOTA Home Care honors this conviction by commending veterans, first responders, and caregivers.  The Honor Flight volunteers are the Gospel in action: they know how to love and serve the veterans of war.  Our disaster response teams are Gospel in action: they know how to love and serve those traumatized by natural and man-made disasters.  Our AKOTA Home Care caregivers are Gospel in action: they know how to love and serve YOUR family, helping as you care for your loved ones.