Touching like Jesus

We had a brief sunny day yesterday, however the clouds and rain and grey have greeted us again this morning. This has been a bit unusual for our area…more grey than we are used to, and people are feeling the impact. After living for 7 years up in Lynden, Washington and Vancouver, BC it feels comfortable to me. I even like the mornings like this..the quiet and the still. The sunshine makes me want to run out and start doing things; the rain and the overcast skies helps me be still and quiet for a bit.

This is my 100th post on this blog…which seems rather amazing. I’m thankful for a place to think out loud, and a place where I find that others are thinking or struggling or rejoicing with the same things.

We need that connection, and the world of the internet has opened up so many more resources for us to connect. I am amazed by how my kids already connect with people through games and other venues on the internet. Obviously there can be great pitfalls and dangers…but there can be such great moments when we find something that triggers a deeper thought or triggers a connection.

Still…there is a huge gap when we relate through the internet. When we place our significance in our associations made through quick comments. When we determine if we are funny enough or smart enough or thoughtful enough to warrant a ‘like’ or a ‘favorite’. I worry some about my kids and how they will navigate this new venue of peer pressure and standards. Will they think only in terms of fast and short encounters, or will they develop the ability to think well and to follow a discussion through logically and with tenderness and patience? Of course, my goal is to provide the foundation for that thinking. For that encounter.

I posted awhile back a few links to a discussion TED radio hour about the impact of the internet and computers on personal interactions. There were two that deeply grabbed my attention…one a woman who watched as her colleagues rejoiced as an elderly nursing home patient ‘connected’ with a robotic seal. They were thrilled that finally this woman had found something she could pour her heart out to about the loss of a child. The woman was suddenly aware of the impact as this group of people passed off their responsibility to connect with another human…to a robotic seal. And they thought through all the possibilities of passing this seal on to all those lonely people out there…with no awareness that those people longed for a human touch, not yet another way to be isolated.

The other speaker who demanded my attention was a doctor who spoke about the human touch. He spoke of all the wonderful advances that medicine had seen through computers and technoloty…qll testing and information that could now be gathered. And yet, he noted that the one thing that computers and technology will never be able to replicate or replace is human touch. Not only because the doctor is able to feel things intuitively through his touch, but because that human touch means so much to the patient.

Through the wonders of technology I was met with a short video this morning. Through Facebook a friend suggested I watch this video as we move through the experience of caring for my mother in her dementia.  I have seen first hand how she responds to the touch of my father…how when she is fearful at night she responds to her hand being held, to the touch of another. I have also seen the shells of people as they are in nursing homes who have been left in the corner and have no interaction. I am not placing blame…it is so difficult to see a loved one deteriorate…and yet, to be like the woman in this video. To be this compassionate and this patient…and this aware of the needs of those around us. Not just when they reach this point of utter isolation, but to be aware as we move through our day…to physically and spiritually touch the people around us in a way that brings healing and brings compassion.

To be Jesus to those around us. That sounds trite or cliche…but watch this video and I think you will agree with me that this is the heart of a savior who embraced us in our ugliness and our sin and our brokenness…who reached out and took on our humanity in order to touch us and awaken us to the knowledge that we are cared for and we are loved…and we matter and we are not alone. To be like this woman….would be to be much like Jesus, and that would be a very worthy goal:

Taking care of our souls…

Saturday morning with some snowfall, a warm coffee shop and good books. Restoring to the soul.

The last two weekends I have been away from home, and this weekend I find the routine falling back into place. Plans for things to teach the children, books to read for myself and for them, field trips and soccer practices. The business of life.

Part of that routine is the care-taking of our souls. Sometimes I forget that and I try to just plow through the days. Not living, not really embracing but just getting through the day. Finishing the duties to be able to relax. There are days like that, but I do not want them to dominate.

Wednesday night at our homegroup something happened that surprised me. During our time of taking prayer requests I updated everyone on my last trip home and as I was telling about how my Dad sees caring for my mom as his delight and not obligation, I choked up. I don’t cry publicly. I mean, like never. I could feel the well of emotion right there, though, and that awareness that if I began to cry I would not be able to stop.

All the writing of joy in the midst of walking through this season, all the lessons learned, all the things of trying to see God in the midst does not negate that this is my Mom and this is terribly painful to watch. And sometimes I need to weep about that. I’ve written about that before…that this dementia is a long mourning without release and sometimes you have to just be a bit removed or you would find yourself overwhelmed with emotion.

But sometimes we just have to weep.

This world is broken and is filled with so many who are holding that well of emotion just in check as they try to get through the duties of the day. That maybe why they look so angry or distracted. But I wonder if it is partly because we do not spend time in care-taking our souls. Not just talking about having moments of prayer or of Bible reading, although that is part of it….but having moments of weeping and moments of embracing what is our life in this time. That may be joy or grief or fear or hope…or more likely a mixture of it all.

I want to write a bit about how music plays into all of this, because it is an important element for me, but this post is getting long already. Maybe tomorrow…

For now…maybe it is stealing away some time on a snowy morning at a coffee shop to think and read and pray and journal. Or maybe it is weeping in the privacy of the shower. Letting the emotions and the experience of life be felt before they become a tide we can’t hold in check.

It is okay to feel…and sometimes we need to make the space for that in our routines….to take care of our souls.

Joy. An Act of Defiance…

“I love you, and I want you to know that I think about you and I am so happy that you are my daughter.”

Words that would have been welcomed, but heard casually, just a few years ago are now words that strike a deep chord and make me pause. In the midst of the diminishing of my mother into dementia there are moments of clarity when I know she truly does know who I am and her statement of love is with knowledge. And there is joy in the midst of struggle as I hear in a way I could not hear before.

When she was always able to tell me she loved me I took it for granted and heard it without much thought. Now, when it comes so infrequently I hear it and I grasp and I listen for her voice and for the change that tells me she knows.

There are, honestly, not many moments of joy in walking through this decaying. Simply watching the graphic diminishing of a strong woman who could challenge you intellectually or cook up a masterpiece, who could play the piano or catch you with her wit…there is no joy in seeing her walk aimlessly, clinging to us for security with frightened eyes.

Joy in the midst of sorrow, in the midst of struggle, like this can only happen when there is hope. Without hope we will simply gird ourselves up for the struggle and wait for it to conclude. We will not allow ourselves vulnerability. When we have hope, we have the freedom to be vulnerable and in that vulnerability to find glimpses of joy.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.” Phil 3:20,21

The hope and the waiting for that Savior, for that transformation is so deepened in watching someone diminish before our eyes. Dementia is such a specific eroding and it steals the thing that makes us so ourselves…our memories. Our history. Our identity. The hope that our God is able to subject all things to Himself…even this loss…is what gives the foundation for joy.

Honestly, without the knowledge that God will do something through this and will restore all this brokenness…there would be no joy. With the knowledge though, we find ourselves laughing in the midst of sorrow and the laughter is all the sweeter. I find myself in discussions with my family that never could have occurred if Mom had not become who she is now. The struggle makes the moments of clarity she has and the intimacy we have as a family all the stronger and all the sweeter.

The joy is an act of defiance in the midst of the struggle. It sneaks up on us and strengthens us when things are bleak…because the joy is the seeping of the truth that we are held by One who has the power to subject all things to Himself. He sees and He knows and He hears and He will make even this new. 

Whatever the struggle we face, we have to have the courage to face it well. Without hope we will just get through it, endure. With hope, we have the freedom to experience the struggle and we will find joy.