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Why I Wrote Here We Go Joe

People often ask why I wrote Here We Go Joe, a book about Joe’s struggle with dementia. You see Joe wasn’t my father. He was my husband’s father. So why do I have the right to compose my story regarding a man that wasn’t my flesh and blood? Because, even though Joe wasn’t my father, he was family.

I struggled with my relationship with my own father. There was a lot of baggage between us. Baggage that wouldn’t be picked up and packed away until after his death.

So once my own father had passed from this life, my husband, his sister and I were placed on a twisty road of decisions that had to be made without a guidebook to instruct us on how to proceed. As I reflect on the decisions made on Joe’s behalf, some miss steps were taken, but overall, he was treated with compassion and respect.

As a daughter-in-law, Joe and I didn’t have the personal baggage that comes between a parent and child. We met as adults, and with that, we developed a genuine respect for one another. Which was invaluable when it came time to make the decisions no child wants to make for their parent.

In our story, my husband, his sister, and I all had a role to play. Roles that might have been muddled at times, but made as a family.

Bottom line. God put this story on my heart. A story that I believed the Spirit put in my mind to write for others who have a loved one suffering from dementia. So, if you, as a caregiver, are struggling with a strong sense of despair, this book is for you. Let this story, Here We Go Joe, walk alongside you, and bring you peace that comes from knowing you are not alone.

Vern’s Lack of Power

Since Vern has been on vacation, he has taken over. Now he wants to drive the golf cart. But since he can’t reach the pedals, I’m not going to worry about him driving off.  If Vern isn’t riding around in the golf cart, he can be found protecting our cottage from furious terriers or miniature poodles that walk by.

Vern has enjoyed the dog park, smelling all those wonderful scents that come from prior visits by other canines. But if asked, he would tell you that licking the left over ice cream from our cups is his favorite camping activity.

Bee has taken a more vocal approach. She doesn’t hesitate to let every dog that walks by know she is queen. Even though the gated porch or leash keep her away from other dogs, she lets everyone know she rules.

Even though it’s clear that Bee doesn’t rule, she lives under the false allusion that she does.  Before we give her a hard time, how often do we think we have more power than we actually do? So often we go through life feeling in control and then we are all given a lesson, like Covid, that lets us know that we are clearly not.

So Noah’s descendants, who all spoke the same language, thought they had a great idea. “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heaven; let us make a name for ourselves.”(Genesis 11:4)

God looked down from heaven and had other plans. Not wanting man to glorify themselves, He scattered them across the face of the earth and gave them different languages so when they tried to speak, it sounded like babel.

We all can think we have control. Vern does and so does Bee. As easy as it is to know they have very little power, if we look at God’s word, we will quickly realize how little we have. That’s okay. As much as I love my dogs and take care of their powerless beings, I can’t even come close to the protection God extends to us.

Glamping

Yesterday, my husband and I pulled into Carolina Pines, an RV resort near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Some of you campers out there can understand how all RV parks are not created equally. Some have a few amenities and others have really nice ones. Well this one is at the top of the list.

So if you just happened to come across this blog, you might not know that my husband and I have been camping for the last decade. Not as much as some, but more than others. We are from North Carolina and have driven our twenty-five foot Element to both ends of the state and made our site, a home for the days we’ve camped.

We also bring our French Bull dogs with us. This can be tricky due to their love of barking. These little dogs will bark at any dog, no matter the size that walks passed our camper. So this time, we have purchased some bark collars to hopefully eliminate this habit.

This camping trip is different from all the others. First, we are here for a month. So I thought I would let you know how life goes in an RV resort for a month. But second, we are cheating. Instead of using our twenty-five foot camper, we have rented a small cabin in the park. The price couldn’t be beat, so we decided, why not?

So here we go.

Nothing About This is Ordinary

As I gaze out onto my backyard, I am struck by how ordinary the trees appear. Each have their own unique attributes but none stand out among the rest. They are more picturesque as a cluster of nondescript trees that fill the forest behind my house. In the same manner, we as humans are ordinary, but when gathered together, something extraordinary occurs.

Each Thursday at 2:00, I facilitate a Zoom meeting with women who want to read and reflect upon the Word of God. Each woman comes with their own insecurities and tidbits that they want to add to the discussion. The amazing thing is that once the hour begins until it is over, this particular collection of women are transformed into a spiritual cosmos that is nothing but ordinary.

We have been created to come together. Jesus assures us in Matthew 18:20 “When two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

So if you are feeling a little ordinary today, call on a friend or two and bring Jesus into the conversation. You will be amazed at what will happen next.

All Knowing Love

Vern barged through the doggy door with his muddy paws creating prints all over my clean wood floor. He jumped up and down in front of Bee and then made his way to the blanket in front of the fire. As annoying as it is to clean the mud from the floor, his behavior is predictable. Once my husband leaves the house, Vern jumps up on a chair and peers outside. Another typical behavior. And did I mention how he jumps on our bed and positions his body right smack in the middle, every night, without exception?

But as predictable as Vern’s behavior is, I only know him by what I observe. This is not so with our loving God. Psalm 139:1-3 states, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways.”

Our God knows everything about us and even with this knowledge, he still loves us. He knows our thoughts and the choices we are going to make. He discerns our attitudes and knows our hearts. And even with all this insight, he still loves us.

As I watch the muddy paw prints trail behind Vern, I still love him. Yes, it annoys me, but I can’t help but love our little Frenchie. But my love can’t be compared to how much God loves each of us in our worst moments. And if you need proof, think about how he allowed his only son, the one who he treasured above all, to come down from heaven and die the death that each of us deserved. Now that’s love.

Vern and the Little People

Vern stood still and watched as the short humans played all around him. Their quick moves and rolling on the floor was different from the taller humans he was accustomed to. He seemed to enjoy this version of humans and particularly liked it when they would include him in the wrestling around game.

Vern wondered why they were so different. His regular humans appeared stiff and wouldn’t run and roll around like the smaller version. They didn’t care about exploring under tables and inside closets and weren’t as much fun to be around. The smaller sized humans seemed more curious about life and were constantly asking questions.

In the days of Jesus, children were not valued as they are today. They were considered a nuisance and were discouraged from asking questions or interrupting their parents. But Jesus looked at them in a totally different way. “But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16)

Jesus knew that children were inquisitive and hadn’t been tainted by the world like their grown up counterparts. He also knew they had eyes of faith that could actually understand the kingdom of God. Even today, if we are lucky enough to have contact with these little people, we should observe them carefully.

As for Vern, he has enjoyed the never ending movement and carefree attitudes of the little boys as they have taken over the house. If only we could all emulate the hearts and actions of the children God has placed in our lives.

Unspoken Wisdom

Vern has never spoken a single word since we brought him home last March. He hasn’t shared his thoughts or yelled out when he thinks he has some incredible bits of knowledge. But even though he hasn’t spoken, he has communicated volumes through his body language. When Vern gets up on the chair and gazes out the window, I know he’s waiting for his human father to return. And when I see him draw close to the door, he’s telling us he wants to go for a walk. 

In a similar manner, God doesn’t use his voice to speak to us. That’s why it’s important to listen for his wisdom through other means. So how do we hear him?  By meditating on his word in the quietness of the day.

Lately, this has become extremely difficult.  With the many voices of social media vying for our attention, we can be swayed to believe there is no need for God’s voice.

“Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:” (Proverbs 1:20-21)

When you have the opportunity to stop and tune into what God is trying to say, do so. Listen with your heart and try to apply his word to your life every chance you can.

Vern has taught me a lot in the last year. Watching my four legged friend make his way in this world has demonstrated how God works through quiet times. Without a vocalized word, Vern continues to confirm the value of unspoken wisdom found in silence .

Hidden Blessings

How often do we miss out on the blessings of life because we have our sights on hopes that don’t materialize? So often, I get hung up on my own desires and miss out on the small gifts all around me. Today, it’s cold and raining outside. I could be bummed about the weather or I could look for the hidden blessings. So many reasons to be filled with joy…

Be of Good Courage

Vern was filled with fear. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen once the door opened and we walked out. Would he be left alone? Would his human friends ever return?

Fear can overtake all of us. If we aren’t careful, a single thought can be magnified and swallow us up. Joseph of Arimathea felt fear when he knew he needed to go to Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus. It states in Mark 15:43, “Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.”

Joseph knew that if he went to Pilate, he was declaring his faith in Jesus. Given the other men on the council had just put Jesus to death, he was risking his position and his many relationships. The scriptures states he “took courage”. So when do we need courage? When we are afraid.

When was the last time you received a prompting by the Holy Spirit to do something and you felt fear rush through your body?  It shouldn’t surprise you. But like Joseph, take courage and push through the fear and watch how God works.

As for Vern, other than rearranging the rug and pulling down some pillows on the floor, his fear was contained.

Life at a Distance

Vern just walked in with a distinct smell on his lips. He was spotted outside a couple of minutes ago doing his business, so it is best for everyone to keep their distance.

Just got back from the grocery store where everyone was wearing face masks and practicing social distancing. I appreciate the seriousness people are taking with the virus, but it still makes me sad living my life at a distance.

I miss the eye contact and the spontaneous hugs when running into someone you haven’t seen in months. How about the times when sadness overtakes you and a friend or loved one reaches over to hold your hand. Moments that were so common place are now memories.

People are created to be social. When I think of Jesus, I think of his touch. He began his ministry by touching a leper, unthinkable to the societal norm. Jesus didn’t stop there. Later, he healed a blind man by touching his eyes.  And there was the time the woman, tormented by bleeding for twelve years, considered unclean, reached out to touch Jesus’ garment. Everyone was thinking he was going to rebuke her, but instead calls her daughter. And then there was the time he demonstrated his love for his disciples by washing their feet. Touching. Our God touched us and I believe we are meant to do the same.

There will be a day when we will touch relatives and friends again. But for now, I believe Jesus is calling us to touch the ones that live within common walls. As for Vern, he will get his hugs in a little bit. Until then, Bee can be his hug buddy.