A simple reach to touch and squeeze my hand, followed by a slight smile in the corners of what are usually distant eyes that at that moment were deeply focused on mine, brought me to tears. Last week, after my husband had prepared a sandwich lunch for his mother and me and I had fed her, done her hair, and given her a manicure, I prayed with her. I just gently touched her arm with one hand and went to our Heavenly Father with praises, intercession, and petitions in our Savior’s name. “Mom” is on hospice care and in the final stages of one of those horrific, neurodegenerative diseases. (You know, it’s one of those– dementia, Alzheimer’s, and such that takes the mind and the body slowly.) We haven’t heard any real words from her in almost a year, nor had even a laugh or smile or indication that she knows what is going on around her. She makes little movement and cannot walk or feed herself. So, the act of her lifting her hand to reach for mine and squeeze it was a big deal. Even her focus into my eyes was significant. At that moment, I had been praying and giving thanks for her son, Hugh, and all he does and for the joy that we have as wives and mothers of godly men. I can’t, of course, know what was going on in her mind, but I do believe that she was joining me in this prayer and letting me it when she reached for my hand and squeezed it. I think there was also more to it than just that. After she squeezed my hand and I realized I had her attention, I talked with her about her husband and how blessed she was to have his care and that they had just celebrated more than 50 years of marriage. With that, there was an immediate change in her appearance. A sadness came over her. I think I know what that was about I believe it was the disappointment that she could not celebrate her anniversary in the manner she would like. Knowing her and how she loved to bake cakes, decorate them, and gather family together for festive celebrations, I believe she was feeling some level of frustration over unrealized expectations. We have all known how this feels. There is nothing she can do to change her circumstances. It breaks my heart. I hate this disease and will continue to do everything I can to give her comfort and care through the remainder of her life.
We all make plans and have expectations. It’s part of what makes us women. We are always in thought and thinking. (I still struggle with the concept that men can actually think of “nothing”, but I trust them when they tell me it is true. I do not know that “nothingness”. My thoughts may be distant and somewhat meaningless or fantastic at a given point in time, but I’m thinking from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep. I even have dreams that rival Ridley Scott movies.) Oh, I’m getting off subject here. Well, we are thinkers, planners, and we most certainly have expectations. However, most of us are not at all in Mom’s shoes. We have abilities and choices to make.
It’s almost spring, and we’ve made it through the holiday season and a time of the year where there is a noticeably disproportionate number of weddings and anniversaries celebrated, at least in my circle. I wonder if there are many of you, who have suffered some disappointment in your relationships or circumstances recently. Did you have expectations of a significant tax refund that would pay for romantic getaway that didn’t happen? Did you hope for a relationship to blossom that didn’t? Or did you hope that your husband would remember your anniversary this year, but he didn’t…again!?! Maybe with the economy the way that it is, you’ve decided that you need to be more practical and invest in items that will see you and your family through for the future instead of just some short-term luxury, but the lack of this item or event has left you feeling a little short-changed. Right now, with what’s going on in our world, we are all (man and woman) reasonably feeling short-changed. We have to deal with disappointment and sometimes those disappointments, when dwelled on, can lead to depression and bitterness. I have a suggestion for something better. Hang with me for a bit.
Let me ask you something. Who is responsible for your happiness? Think about that for a minute. When you got married, did you think that you were saying “I do” to a fairy tale relationship with Prince Charming, who would make your every dream come true and you’d never have any hardships, needs, disagreements, or disappointments? Some of us did think that, and we then had a rude awakening. What I’ve come to find is that there are no perfect human beings and life is full of wonder and blessings, but if I set expectations that are not realistic and out of my control then I am setting myself up for disappointment; I also realize that there is little that I can control. So, how do I find happiness, especially when there are many disappointments and others don’t fulfill my expectations?
There are several things, I do:
- I remember that God is trustworthy and loves me, so I will let Him be in control of all of the big stuff (and the little stuff, too) and I’ll trust Him to determine whether I really need something or not. Some things I just can’t control. I either have to accept living without or trusting that, if I need them, the LORD will provide what is needed for me to have it in His way. Many times I have had a plan to achieve a good outcome that didn’t pan out, but the goal was still achieved, just in a very different way and through different means than I had pursued/planned. I’ve learned that I don’t have to have my way, because my way is always far inferior to God’s way. Remember the bible story of Ruth? It started out as a very sad story. The daughters-in-law were all instructed to go back to their families after all of Naomi’s sons had died, but Ruth would not leave Naomi and insisted “your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God”. She devoted herself to Naomi. She worked hard to support herself and also Naomi, and she followed some instructions that seemed very strange and odd to her. However, she did as she was instructed in big things (moving to another country and culture) and in small things (lying at Boaz’s feet and covering herself with his tunic). In the meantime, she worked hard at menial chores that provided for what was needed– gathering grain from the fields that was left for the widows and orphans, where she gathered for both her and Naomi. In the end of the story, she became the wife of well-respected Boaz and also became a mother. She ultimately was the great grandmother of beloved King David and is a woman honored throughout history! If you have time this week, read the book of Ruth. There is much to be learned from this story. If you are trusted in His Son, repented, and made the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob your God, then you are the daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords! Ask Him to put His desires in your heart and to show you how to fulfill them. If your desires don’t come to fruition right away, be patient and trust that if it is God’s will, He will provide. Just don’t let the not having something make you feel bitter, angry, or anything less than loved.
- Don’t rely on other people to do “sweet” things for me or provide things for my happiness. If I really want or need something, I do my best to figure out a way to provide it for myself. You can, too. Here are a few examples of things that make me feel good (even pampered) that I have found I can provide for myself when I want them (and I can do them in a remote location):
- Herbal and flavored teas– There are many herbal and flavored teas that can be grown and produced in many parts of the country. Peppermint, lemon balm, and chamomile are fairly easy plants to grow. Peppermint and lemon balm are perennials in zones 4-8 that grow aggressively. (Sometimes you even have to cut them back as they want to take over. Isn’t that a wonderful problem with a favorite tea!). Chamomile is a self-sowing annual that grows in even poor, mildly acidic-to-neutral pH soil as long as it is well-drained and in a sunny location. Leaves from blackberry vines (if not sprayed) can be collected in late fall, dried, and used for flavoring tea; rose hips can be collected dried and used in tea, if you don’t spray your rose bushes. If you live where there are orange trees or have access to oranges, you can peel the skin, leaving the white pith, and use this to make wonderful teas. I like to buy oranges in bulk in the fall/winter season and dry their peel in my Weston stainless steel dehydrator that I bought from Ready Made Resources to use year ’round. Freeze-dried ginger root slices are wonderful additions to flavor tea; a single slice of ginger seeped in warm water makes a soothing tea to treat nausea, too. So, grow your own wonderful teas. You don’t need someone to take you to tea or buy a box them from afar when they are growing in your own yard and are sustainable. You can just put your own ingredients in an infuser or disposable tea bags and use whenever you want.
- Homemade Chocolate Bar- Feel the need for a chocolate bar but don’t want to drive the distance to the store for one or wait for someone to bring you a box of chocolate? Combine a tablespoon or two of each of the following in a small bowl or on top of graham crackers–
- frozen nuts (I prefer almonds or pecans),
- milk chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate chips,
- white chips, and
- mini-marshmallows (you can make from scratch, too; see how on YouTube, but cut much smaller than in the video; store in airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer a long time.)
If you want to add a caramel flavor to your nut/chocolate/marshmallow combination, drizzle a little caramel sauce over the marshmallows, or add coconut, too. You can also put this on graham crackers and put in the 400 degree oven for a minute to begin melting the ingredients together a little (somewhat like a S’mores).
Caramel Sauce- To make your own caramel sauce, in a heavy sauce pan over medium heat, combine:
Heat over medium heat, stirring to the bottom of the pan almost continuously until it boils for 1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and boil for another minute, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and let cool for about ten minutes before using or pouring into storage container, as it is very hot.
Brown Sugar- To make your own fresh brown sugar, in a blender, mixer, or food processor, combine:
Mix the sugar and molasses until blended thoroughly. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Graham Crackers- To make your own graham crackers:
- 1/2 cup of butter
- 2 cups of freshly ground whole wheat flour (or 1 1/2 cups of store-bought whole wheat flower plus an extra 1/2 cup of wheat germ)
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1/2 cup of bread flour
- 2 tsp vanilla extract,
- 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup milk
Mix thoroughly and chill the dough for at least four hours, until firm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes (rectangles, circles, or shapes) and place onto greased cookie sheets 1/2 inch apart. Poke some holes in them with a fork. Bake 10-12 minutes in preheated oven until until begin to brown on edges. Cool on cooling racks and use. Store in airtight containers in freezer for long-lasting freshness.