For the past two months John has been speaking frequently about going to heaven. This past week he has been doing this increasingly and there is a deep, vast longing in his eyes when he speaks about it. I believe the Spirit must be preparing him for that holy journey.
It is interesting to me that the timing is near the Feast of Shavuot (or Pentecost), the celebration of the great wheat harvest! For the Jewish people it is also the remembrance of the giving of the Torah (the Law) at Mount Sinai. Yoram Ettinger writes, "Shavuot is a historical, national, agricultural, and spiritual extension of Passover. Passover highlights the physical liberty from slavery in Egypt; Shavuot highlights spiritual liberty, embracing the values of the Torah, the Ten Commandments." We have lost two dear friends recently, wonderful men of God whom we dearly loved. Perhaps this is a time when the LORD is bestowing physical and spiritual liberty upon some of His faithful followers.
I don't know the deepest thoughts of God. His ways are higher than mine, for sure! But I have two friends who keep reminding me to "turn your waiting into a classroom!" I do know that is a spiritual principle for this time between Passover and Shavuot. We are to go through the Refiner's Fire during these days in order to be made into the image of our Messiah Yeshua, and ready to stand before Him at His coming in glory.
So, what have I learned in this Counting-of-the-Omer classroom? What have I been asking the Teacher to teach me? Mostly patience. The waiting thing is not my best attribute! I still cry out to God to deliver John of all his pain and to help his brain to find words and lost memories, but that is not happening. And so I wait for the full and final healing, the desire of John's heart, the transition to His heavenly home.
A friend sent me a book this week and I read it cover-to-cover in the past two days. It is written by Cynthia Fantasia, another woman who took care of her husband stricken with Alzheimers Disease until he passed away. Her faith was deep and strong, but she lays bare the painful journey in all its raw struggles. Those of us who are married made vows to one another on our wedding day and many of us said, "....for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse" we would remain faithful. Fantasia writes, "These days are the poorer, the sickness and the worse of the vows we made." Some days that has been true. But other days there has been joy, real joy, in watching John accomplish things he didn't think he could do, singing every word of the worship songs that are still engraved on his heart, and taking little drives so that he could marvel at the wonder of a thunderstorm and the beauty of all the blossoming trees and flowers.
Yesterday I had a business appointment and one of my respite care guys came to stay with John while I was gone. Apparently he asked Jeff where I was and Jeff told him, "She had an appointment this morning." When I got back home, John met me at the back door with an anxious expression, his arms, wrapped around me in a caring, concerned hug, and he said, "Are you going to be OK?" He had thought I went to the doctor. What a blessing to see his love and care for me peek through the Dementia fog!
Fantasia closes her chapters with these small pieces of wisdom:
"Stand at the Jordan River waiting for God to tell you when and where to cross. He will.
Weep deeply over the life you hoped would be.
Grieve the losses.
Then wash your face.
Embrace the life you have.
It has been almost a month since I wrote on this blog - and it has been one of the toughest months I've known. My heart and my prayers go out to all 24/7 caregivers, especially those who deal with Dementia. It utterly robs one of energy, focus, strength and joy. But God. My ever-present God is my strength when I have no strength.
John's cognition and memory are steeply declining, and gestures are often used in place of absent words. But he still has a desire to do things to "help" around the house (mostly creating chaos) and he still pours over books even though he cannot comprehend them. Little pieces break off my heart several times a day. And at night I awaken several times and listen for his breathing. Last night in my bed I was pondering all these things and I thought to myself, "Surely this must be working something of value in my soul and spirit. Endurance? Perseverance? Perhaps it is building perseverance for a future time when God's people are being severely persecuted, threatened, even tortured for their faith. As I considered that word perseverance, the Spirit led me to a Scripture: "Consider it all joy when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
To be made "mature and complete." Ah yes! Here we are again in the days of Counting the Omer, the time between Passover and Pentecost. We make this journey every year between these two major Feast Days, and every year the Holy Spirit finds a way to remind me that this is the time we go from the barley harvest (the animal nature, or the flesh) to the wheat harvest (refined, and made complete in Messiah). Somehow, every year at this time, I truly do find myself on a journey of fighting my flesh and its selfish, comfort-seeking nature. Clearly I am not yet "complete, not lacking anything."
This process can never be made complete on my own, however. It cannot be made at all without the help of the Ruach haKodesh, the Holy Spirit, who is our Helper, our Teacher, and our Comforter. That thought leads me to Galatians 5:24-25: "Those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Suddenly a song I wrote many years ago titled "Keep on Walkin' in the Spirit" just burst forth! It was a toe-tappin' bluegrass kind of song that made you want to clap your hands and moved your heart to joy. That's it, isn't it? That is how we strengthen the inner man who has grown weak and tired of meeting others' needs, demanding to meet our own. We crucify those demands and re-focus on all that God is asking us to do. The Spirit performs heart surgery and suddenly we are singing some praises to God, keeping in step with the Spirit, and developing perseverance. It's a test of faith we are in. Perseverance must finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Kelly Ferrari Mills