August 1, 2013

The Cool Comfort of God

I knew I would be there in just a few moments as I drove past the backside of the cemetery that lined nursing home row.  It's an interesting street when you consider who lives on it. Making the turn west onto the cedar lined lane, my journey begins with a Baptist church on the north corner. Just a few yards down on the south, you'll find a Catholic church with signage offering hope to unwed mothers. On Sundays, the police have to direct traffic to make sure the protestants and Catholics don't collide! As I continue driving, St. Anne's Nursing Home meets me on the north, neighbored by a Lutheran church. Then the senior living complex where Dad lives takes up the remainder of the street.  Except for the Catholic church, the entire south side is the land where so many stories and lives are buried.  I find it ironic - but who knows -  maybe comforting to some, is that the residents can look out their windows and see just where their bodies might lie some day.  It's a street where holy meets broken.

As I turn into the parking lot of the memory care unit where Dad lives, I gather my wits about me. I've made it a rule to never, ever cry in front of Dad.  I'm afraid that if I do, it will cause him to be even more confused, more anxious, more sad.  Wednesday was different.  The visit went as usual. I brought clean, pressed clothes and we visited, but when I rose from my chair to say goodbye, I was overtaken by the loss of it all.  The I love yous exchanged, the I'm proud of yous shared, the you're wonderfuls gripped me.  The only parts of his language that are discernible anymore are the words of love, deep soul caring love.  Tears were wet on my eyes and on his, and I felt I had swallowed a tennis ball as I fought back a deluge, but when he kiss, kiss, kissed my hand, I could hold back no longer.  I maintained my composure the best I could, but that salty water dripped from the windows on my face. We locked eyes, and strangely enough, I think he found comfort in my tears.  He wasn't confused.  He wasn't any more sad than he already was.  He just knew in those moments that he didn't carry this pain alone.


 As I walked away from his room and down the long hotel-like hallway, the tears began to flow more freely.  The nurse's aides said nothing, but gave empathetic glances as I waited for the exit door to be unlocked to free me. Then it began pouring.  I sobbed all the way to my car and once in, folded my arms and propped my head on the steering wheel and just let the pain rain down.  The groans to my heavenly father that couldn't be articulated were ushered right before the throne by the Holy Spirit.  He speaks when we can't.  I remember not long ago reminding Dad of this when he prayed over our lunch in halting, inarticulate words.  When he said, "Amen" at the end of his prayer, he looked at me and clearly asked, "Was that too long?"  

"No Dad, It was just fine. You know, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit speaks on our behalf when we can't come up with the words."  

"Yes. That's right!" he said.

So I sat there in a red Chrysler Town and Country minivan in the parking lot under a shade tree and grieved, truly grieved over the multifaceted pain of losing my father to Alzheimer's.  I was broken in those moments, a clay vessel cracked, pain seething and spilling through right out onto my sleeve where everyone could see.  I prayed.  I listened. The Holy Spirit spoke.  I twisted the radio knob to On, and right then, Casting Crowns poured peace right into my soul when their song, I Will Praise You In This Storm, filled the air in my space. I breathed it in deep, and the cool comfort of the Spirit of God sat with me.  I worshiped.  He received.

I put my sunglasses onto my face, more to cover my puffy eyes than to block the sun, and as I eased my car into reverse and left the cover of the shade tree, turning east onto the cedar lined two lane road, God showed me -  in a way that only he can - that Dad's loss had turned into my gift.  There is blessing in burden.  It's not just a place where character is developed, or weak knees are strengthened; it's a place where we can touch the face of God. When we call on him in the hottest and loneliest moments of pain, we can feel the cool of his presence, we can touch the hem of his garment as he surrounds us, we can become more like him. He renders compassion in a way that makes it impossible not to pass it on.  In the midst of our darkest moments, God shines his Light on who he really is, and he makes it possible for us to walk more closely in his footsteps. This journey through Alzheimer's has been a walk into the reality of who God is. When we expose our souls to his presence, he gifts us with an understanding that can't be gripped with the mind; it is experienced in the spirit. There is no pain that he cannot or will not enter into if we will invite him in. 

Won't you invite him in?  How can I pray for you today?  Where do you need the cool comfort of God?

Today I'm sharing with:  Tell His Story, Faith Filled Fridays, Spiritual Sundays, Weekend Brew, Fellowship Fridays, Out of the Blue, Womanhood With a Purpose, and Sunday Stillness

16 comments:

  1. Oh, my goodness, Stephani, what a beautiful, beautiful, heartfelt post! I so feel your pain and what a testimony you are to God's faithfulness in our darkest hours. May HE continue to wrap you in His loving arms and give you all that you need, just as you need it. Sending hugs your way this morning!

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    1. Thanks Lea! Always good to see your pretty face here! Hope your Dad is doing well.

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  2. I'm visiting from the Tell His Story link-up. This is absolutely beautiful! I love this line toward the end: There is no pain that he cannot or will not enter into if we will invite him in. True words. :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving these kind words! If people will just trust the Lord, he will not fail them.

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  3. "where holy meets broken"
    That's this post, Stephani. Although it makes me sad to read, it's so raw and so overflows with love that I can't help but read it. Praying for you still on this long journey. :-( You are honoring both your father and our Father.

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    1. Hi Lisa! I was just thinking about you yesterday! So glad you stopped by. I think of your Mom and the many words you often wrote about your own journey. I don't know when we will reach the end of this road, I'm just praying that God will continue to show me his hand in all of it. I truly believe that when we are in God's will that we can trust that we are also cupped in his hand. This mean I have nothing to fear. He isn't surprised by anything! I've learned to ask him, "Okay Lord, what are you trying to show me here?" He shows me every time.

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  4. Such poignant and beautiful words, Stephani. My heart goes out to you, my sister. My husband's mom has Alzheimer's and it tugs at his heart, too. Blessings...

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  5. Oh Stephani, this hit too close to home. I can't even see to type through my tears. I have lived what you are walking through. I have seen my parents in this condition and I have choked back tears (without much success) more times than I can count. I know what it is like to walk through the halls of a nursing facility with tears running down my face. I know how it feels to cry out my pain in the vehicle all alone. Oh Sister, I wish I could just hug you. I know this is SO DIFFICULT, but I can also say from experience that God is faithful and will carry you through every step. Thank you for visiting me and sharing your heart.

    Love,
    Beth

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  6. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I prayed for your family this morning. (I am a big Casting Crowns fan, too!)

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    1. Thank you so much for your prayers!

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  7. Heart-wrenching and hopeful, all in one. Thanks for sharing from your heart. Watching parents age and go through changes is so difficult, but God is there, in it all.

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    1. Life is so different now that my parents are no longer independent. It is difficult Dayle, but you're right God is there in it all.

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  8. Wow this was very powerful!! No matter what pain we are feeling, God is always there to comfort us. I'm amazed at how God ministered to you the moment you turned on the radio and heard that praise and worship song. That's our GOD!! He is awesome and ever present. I'm visiting from spiritual sundays. Come visit me at my photo blog at Judith Riddle Photography. The scripture and photo I chose this week speaks of God's presence and love in our darkest valleys. Praise him!

    Blessings,
    Judy

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    1. Thanks Judy for your kind words! I'm heading on over to your blog now. I'm a photographer myself!!

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  9. What a wonderful post to share with others who are on the same difficult journey. I'll be sharing this on Facebook and Twitter for SandwichINK for the Sandwich Generation - multigenerational caregivers. :)

    And I have to say, That song by Casting Crowns has been used by God several times in my life as well. What a blessing it has been and continues to be. Praying for you!

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  10. Stephani, this is so beautiful. I have not yet walked this road with my parents, but did so with my precious grandmother. It was a hard road, but I am so thankful that on those days when I felt I couldn't walk, He carried me through. Blessings!

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