REGIFTED GRACE: The Magazine (Issue Two – May 29, 2019)

Welcome to Issue Two of REGIFTED GRACE: The Magazine, written to strengthen those who encourage others. Are you a caregiver? Do you love someone with a terminal illness, including dementia?

CLICK HERE: http://pub.lucidpress.com/regiftedgraceissuetwo/

REGIFTED GRACE was launched to remind you that you’re not alone, to offer resources and research, and to let you know you are appreciated and loved. Most of the contributors have walked through times of loss, grief, caregiving, and more. In other words, we may have walked in your shoes and want to help you discover the value and collateral beauty in serving others.

Issue Number Two includes a son’s frustration with his dad’s disease, a mom’s pain through the loss of her infant daughter, how to experience grace, a daughter’s discovery of defining moments, a daughter’s touching realization in caregiving for her mom, a woman’s journey in growing her faith in God, and special devotion nuggets.

The grace is always greener on God’s side!

We would love to hear from you. We are accepting submissions for future issues, and please let us know if you have a topic or question that you’d like us to tackle in future issues. Be richly blessed.

REGIFTED GRACE: The Magazine (Issue One – April 20, 2019)

We’re so pleased to launch REGIFTED GRACE: The Magazine. Its mission is to encourage those who encourage others. In other words, the e-magazine is designed to encourage caregivers from a Christian faith view.

http://pub.lucidpress.com/regiftedgraceissue1/?fbclid=IwAR1u3cuQtMaY1iHGxwoG4Xi4wx2j3QwuoB5QG0Vtdb0K7cvGqmYfgujOkS8#OZ5XcyGjLBGf

Are you discouraged? Are you a caregiver? Caregivers, whether professional or family, are humble servants who carry a difficult yoke, often all by themselves. And I want to tell you THANK YOU!

The new e-magazine entitled “REGIFTED GRACE” is launched to encourage those who encourage others, to convey you’re not alone, to offer resources and research, and to let you know you are appreciated and loved.

Additionally, REGIFTED GRACE:The Magazine seeks to educate, encourage, and provide resources to those impacted by long-term illness, often from a vantage point of Alzheimer’s. We have walked in your shoes or are there right now. And we want to lead you to discover the collateral beauty in serving others and the belief that the grace is always greener on God’s side.

Welcome to Issue Number One!

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Please send us your comments, suggestions, and submissions.

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Blessings!

BECAUSE I CAREGAVE

It’s not easy to lose loved ones to Alzheimer’s. I lost both parents, a cousin, and an aunt. From June 30, 2009 to June 30, 2016, I had the blessing of being caregiver to both Mom and Dad. They will be forever in my heart, and I’m grateful that God gave me the opportunity to share my love with them through caregiving.

I miss the softness of your voice, because I listened.

I miss the softness of your hands, because I held them.

I miss the softness of your lips, because I kissed them.

I miss the softness of your eyes, because I gazed into them.

I miss the softness of your heart, because I knew it.

I miss the softness of your soul, because I felt it.

I miss the softness of your tears, because I wiped them away.

I miss the softness of your smile, because we laughed.

I miss the softness of your skin, because I stroked your face.

I miss the softness of your hugs, because we shared them.

I miss the softness of your love, because we shared it.

Excerpt from “UNDEFEATED INNOCENCE” (ch. 11, p. 193)

We shared special moments together.

Want to read more? Available at https://amzn.to/2WZBTEc


Please share your comments below in response to either or both of these two questions:

What do you miss, and what have you gained?

What do you want God to do for you?

© 2019 Regifted Grace® Ministry LLC

We help weary caregivers find the courage they need to regain hope and stop feeling alone, fearful and broken.

EMBRACING MEEKNESS

In caregiving, embracing meekness and purging spiritual toxins helped me locate flashes of peace in moments of turbulence. It brought me closer to Jesus because I became more like Jesus. What happens if we put too much air and pressure in a balloon? It pops. Without meekness, pressure builds up and we emotionally break. Embracing meekness (a fruit of the Spirit) deflates the pressure.

Happy Birthday Dad 2010

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5 (NIV)

It’s okay to fight with a disease like Alzheimer’s or cancer–for a season. There were plenty of times I wanted to kick the daylights out of that foul disease for stealing both my parents. Instead, ultimately God wanted me to adorn myself with the virtue of meekness, moving forward with gentleness and resiliency. It is better to diffuse than to be right or to fight. I don’t want to inhibit others or myself from encountering intimacy with God.

People do detoxes to regain physical health and remove poisonous toxins which build up over time. Removing physical toxins can be harsh—with headaches, fatigue, intestinal issues, even depression. We feel lousy before we feel better.

Similarly, purging spiritual toxins like pride, self-gratification, jealousy, and unforgiveness is necessary to maintain spiritual health. These toxins drop into our spirit like a cat jumping on the countertop when no one is watching—we don’t see it happening, but we see the destruction left behind. Spiritual toxins hinder our ability to abide in God’s grace, and they must be continually purged. Like physical toxins, spiritual toxins accumulate without recognizing them until something is unhealthy or broken. A doctor shows us our physical toxins—God directs us to our spiritual ones.

Want to read more? “UNDEFEATED INNOCENCE” (ch. 4, pp.46-47)

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Is there HOPE at the end of your rope?

God didn’t create us to be bogged down by turbulence.

I loved spending the last years of my parents’ lives with them, but caregiving often left me at the end of my rope—the perception of not being able to take another step because my soul was numb from the heaviness. The end of the rope requires us to expend emotional energy solely on survival and the need to find something greater than ourselves to carry the load. That’s Jesus.

Jesus demonstrates abundant grace through the worst storms. But I must be willing to reach the end of myself, for when I get there, He’s there with an endless pitcher of grace to pour out. He has one with your name on it, too.

There are times when it seems like giving up is easier than dealing with a life that becomes a puzzle with half of the pieces missing. In those times, God wants me to call out for Him so He can bring heaven to me. He feels my tears. He wants me to experience the tidal wave of His protection.

Fortunately, I learned that when I’m poor in spirit and call out for God’s help, God won‘t say, “How can I break you?” Instead, He says, “How can I help you?” His offer of help welcomes me into His presence, and heaven becomes my permanent address.

Excerpt: UNDEFEATED INNOCENCE (ch. 1, pp.18-20)

Please share your comments below in response to either or both of these two questions:

What storm are you facing?

What do you want God to do for you?

© 2019 Regifted Grace® Ministry LLC

We help weary caregivers find the courage they need to regain hope and stop feeling alone, fearful and broken.

SO CRIES MY HEART

God desires my obedience, not a burnt offering of hardship and physical sacrifice. He is most pleased when I humbly lead others toward His grace. This devotion was published by The Christian Broadcasting Network on 11 December 2018.

I read their gut-wrenching words and pound my fists. I walked in their shoes, yet sit clueless how I should take away their agony. I despise “should” because it’s a word of shame. But that’s how I feel — ashamed that I can’t find words to help them. So goes another morning on a social media dementia support group.

Someone needs prayer because her loved one wandered away. Another aches because his loved one passed. Another regrets complaining how hard it was to be a caregiver — now all she wishes for is one more smile or “I love you.” Some feel their sacrifice is killing them and can’t wait until it’s over.

So, my heart cries.

Online support groups were a lifeline during my mom’s Alzheimer’s battle as I tried to balance her needs with mine. But balance is subjective. The disease caused my mom to weave from side to side as she walked down a hallway, and it caused me to emotionally weave from side to side when I responded to emergencies and balanced them with work, marriage, and sleep.

I stay in these support groups hoping to help them all — I was a caregiver! But on this morning, I was clueless. I was an eyewitness to this wretched disease twice. Yet I felt failure, which contradicted my belief that God called me to minister to caregivers.

So God took me for a walk — me, Him and the worship music playing in my ears. Coincidence that Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns played on my playlist? God knows when we feel like we tried again and failed. I heard the lies: I’m no good at ministry or writing, and I can’t help anybody. 

He reminded me that He calls us for His purpose (Romans 8:28). He didn’t choose me to do everything for everyone. That’s His job. Mine is to contribute in accordance with the calling He gives me. I can help some of the people some of the time, but I can’t help all of the people all of the time. Only God does that. He has called me to write, point caregivers to God’s grace, and encourage them to find collateral beauty instead of collateral damage. If they rebuke God’s grace, I move on. Even Jesus moved on.

God desires my obedience, not my sacrifices. Obedience is a response to a request to do something. Sacrifice causes or permits injury for the sake of something else. God said,

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, …” Hosea 6:6 (NIV)

and that we are to

“Walk in obedience to all I command you, …” Jeremiah 7:23 (NIV)

Caregiving is physically grueling, mentally exhausting, and spiritually depleting. I wasn’t asked to sacrifice my life for it, only be obedient. 

Sacrifice is Jesus — sent to earth alone to die broken and alone in order for us to receive eternal life. 

Obedience was Abraham’s willingness to kill his son, or Daniel’s concession to spend a night in the lion’s den because he was unwilling to stop praying, or my determination to take Mom’s frantic calls when she didn’t know where she was or what she was doing. Jesus said,

“… whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

That’s collateral beauty. That’s obedience. 

God didn’t call me to help everyone, just lead them toward God’s grace. What I gave to my parents and Jesus was obedience (a living sacrifice), not a killing sacrifice (a burnt offering).

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV)

And the support groups? If God leads me to respond, I will. If God leads me to be quiet, I will. I will rest in obedience to the one who sacrificed it all and share God’s grace and mercy with them through my obedience to Him. 

Copyright © 3/2018 Cheryl Crofoot Knapp and Regifted Grace Ministry LLC.


IN AWE OF GOD TONIGHT

What Do You Want Me to Do for You?

“God, I’m in awe of you tonight.” My words were soft and filled with gratitude.

I gazed at the unfamiliar sparkle on the lake and the crisp azure sky that met it at the horizon. The trees were dressed in their sharpest array of greens, and even their uniquely shaped knotholes were exotically enticing. My whole world changed in 36 hours. Cataract surgery in my right eye replaced my triple vision with a crisp 20/20. And I was in awe of what I could see in a way I had never seen before, for peace, and for answered prayer.

I’ve worn glasses since third grade, and squinted at least since age 3 (picture above). Many prescriptions later, my right eye could no longer be restored without surgery. What I wasn’t expecting from surgery is that I can now see better than I had ever seen in my entire life. Six decades of various levels of blurry vision was gone. At least in my right eye. And everything looks different. (more…)

Mama, This One’s For You

How the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference 2018 Changed Me

Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest,” Jesus said (Mark 6:31 NIV). For the last two years, my annual quiet place to get some rest has been at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. This year was more powerful than the last in many respects, and I can only give you a bird’s eye view of how it changed me.

(DiAnn Mills, Cheryl Crofoot Knapp, and Edie Melson; photo by Mary Denman, Photographer)

Why do I need to find a place for quiet and rest? First, I’m still working through the loss of my parents to Alzheimer’s and learning how to recover from that “thing” called caregiving, which was filled with collateral beauty, but I wouldn’t call it a place for quiet and rest. I’m still weary, I still grieve, and I still need rest. Second, my passion to stretch my arms out wide to encourage caregivers through writing and speaking gained legs at this year’s conference. (more…)

Mama, I’m So Sorry . . . .

How an Alzheimer’s Simulator Let Me Walk in My Mama’s Shoes

 FOUNDATION AWARD FIRST PLACE WINNER 2018 – ARTICLE

Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, Ridgecrest, North Carolina

I live here.

It was Mom’s handwriting all right—on a notepad scattered among many notepads.

I cried when I found it. Mom must have scribbled it during a cognitive moment and hoped it would help her remember where she was and why she was there. But it didn’t. Late stage Alzheimer’s, also referred to by me as “it,” stole her short-term memory and many decades of long-term memories. She couldn’t even remember that she lived in a small Assisted Living unit at a care facility.

Mom’s sundowning from it started every afternoon by two o’clock. Her agitation and wandering got progressively worse when evening came. One evening she called 911 and demanded that they send over a squad car to take her back to her childhood home. She told them nobody was listening to her, she had no family, and everyone refused to bring her home. A few months later in the middle of the night, she entered the room of a sleeping resident who was new to the facility. Mom screamed at the woman and insisted that the woman tell her where my dad’s dead body was located. Gruesome indeed.

Her delusions convinced her that she lived in a motor home that had to be moved right away, or else she would be kicked out of the campground where she thought she was parked. She called me and insisted that I bring over the key and move the motor home immediately. Her delusions also convinced her that I purposely played a hateful practical joke on her by shrinking her overcoat in hot water so it wouldn’t fit her anymore.

And her hallucinations painfully lied to her that people were in her bed and she had to sleep on the couch. When my husband Chuck and I saw the rumpled afghan on the couch the next day, we held back our tears. Her perception was her reality, and her reality was a frightening place.

We had a front row seat as Mom’s caregivers and could see what Alzheimer’s looked like. It was a familiar sight—my Dad died of it only a few years earlier. But we couldn’t internally feel their fear, anger, anxiety and oppression. I couldn’t know … didn’t want to know … what it was really like for my sweet mama, my best friend in life, to live with such a cruel disease….

…until I heard about The Alzheimer’s/Dementia Experience: Take a Walk in Their Shoes simulator from a television feature story aired by KTHV-11 (Little Rock, Arkansas; see link below).

The Alzheimer’s simulator is a project of the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Arkansas Aging Initiative funded by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and a grant received from HHS/HRSA.

I admit I was a little skeptical that any simulator could allow me to feel the fear, confusion and anger that I could see in my mom’s eyes. And I was concerned how emotional it might be for me to get a genuine glimpse of what both my parents endured. I had viewed their Alzheimer’s journeys from the front row, but I couldn’t go inside their world.

Until now.

My husband and I scheduled an appointment so we could each do the simulation in Hot Springs, Arkansas. When we arrived, the staff and Coordinator Valerie Claar were absolutely wonderful. However, the jovial countenance that entered the building with me quickly changed when it was time to be prepped for the ten-minute journey through Alzheimer’s.

I went first. They escorted me into the training room to fill out forms and get suited up. The purpose of the simulator is to “help care providers better understand the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, including loss of hearing, vision, sensory nerves, fine motor skills and onset of arthritis and neuropathy” (www.agec.org; see link below for more information).

I placed in each shoe a special insert that made it uncomfortable to walk. Special goggles were put over my eyes to alter my vision, and a set of headphones attached to a CD player were placed over my ears so that I would hear disjointed sounds and startling voices. Gloves were put on my hands, and modifications were made in order to alter my fine motor skills. I was advised that a “monitor” would be in the simulator room with me, but that she would not answer any questions or respond to anything I said or did. When I was ready, the CD player was started, and I was escorted out of the training room and led to the door of the simulation room. I needed help walking, and I could hardly see where I was going. At the door of the simulation room, the monitor gave me instructions.

She told me that I had to complete five tasks—in order—during the 10-minute simulation. Each task had at least two separate steps. I remembered that I couldn’t ask any questions, so I knew she wouldn’t repeat the five tasks. One by one, she gave me the assigned tasks. At this point, I started to feel my emotions swelling. I was fearful that I wouldn’t remember the tasks, let alone remember them in correct order. And because I couldn’t remember them with all the distractions, I was afraid I had Alzheimer’s too. I wanted desperately to succeed, but once she got to the third task, all I could do was to try to hear her words and hope I could remember something. I started to feel what I believe my mom felt—she wanted to follow instructions and do things correctly, but she just couldn’t.

The monitor escorted me into what seemed to be a dark room. Perhaps it was the goggles—I don’t really know. She said my time “starts now.” The first task I thought she told me was to find the white apron and put it on. With hearing and vision loss, and simulated neuropathy on my feet, I shuffled about the room to find the apron. I frequently muttered, “Apron … apron … apron.” When I couldn’t find it, I went to a task that I could remember and locate with my limited vision. I nailed that one and felt pleased. But I couldn’t remember the next one and decided that order no longer mattered. And I was angry because I couldn’t ask for help.

Hmmmmmmm …. how many times might my mom have conceded that “order” wasn’t necessary? Like when she stored her toothpaste in the underwear drawer? Or flushed her lower partial denture down the toilet? Was I starting to understand why she was so upset when no one would listen to her pleas to drive her back to her childhood home over 800 miles away?

And how hard was it when Mom didn’t know where she was supposed to go or what she needed to do next? Did she get startled by all the noises in her head just like the noises I was hearing in mine? Is this why she wrote notes to remind her in which laundry room she was washing her clothes or where she lived?

And did she have pain in her feet that resulted in her shuffled walk, and did her distorted vision cause her gait to veer to the right?

My initial skepticism went out the window. I was now frustrated that I couldn’t remember what to do, was agitated that I couldn’t find the darn apron, and wanted to punch out an annoyance with the lighting in the room that angered me as much as fingernails being scraped on a chalkboard. Guess what? I realized that I was experiencing the frustration, confusion and anger of dementia.

I continued to try to find my way around the room, cocking my head in an uncomfortable position in order to try to see through the goggles. C’mon, Cheryl. Accomplish something. Anything. I stumbled on a table and remembered a task. When I completed it, I felt such a sense of accomplishment.

Perhaps that’s why my mom always wanted to continue to do her own laundry? It wasn’t that she wanted clean laundry. What she wanted was independence.

Then I stumbled on another task. Oh, yeah, I remember that one now.

The noises in my head, the hearing and vision losses, and thinking about how this felt for my mom totally distracted me. I was clueless about the stupid apron that was playing tricks on me, and I was clueless about the one remaining task…

…until once again, I stumbled upon the one remaining task. I performed it while muttering, “Apron … apron … apron.”

The monitor interrupted me and said my ten minutes were over and the simulation was completed. My first thought was, I can’t believe I couldn’t do five basic, simple tasks in ten minutes. Did my mom feel defeated too? Maybe now I can find that dang apron and rip it to shreds … after I destroy the huge annoyance in the room and throw it out the window.

I said so long to the CD player, goggles, inserts and gloves. Valerie and I had a debriefing session that helped me understand how they designed the simulator and the impact it’s making in their caregiving training programs. We talked about how this simulator might not be appropriate for a family caregiver who’s living through the worst parts of the late stages of the disease. It’s too raw. It’s too emotional. But for professional caregivers and family caregivers just starting to provide care to a loved one, I believe the simulation offers great insights into quality of care and allows the participant to walk in the shoes of someone with Alzheimer’s.

The simulator was life changing. I now know what it felt like for my mom and dad. It didn’t simulate when Dad could no longer remember how to chew or swallow food, despite my helping him put the spoon to his mouth, asking him to open his mouth, and reminding him to swallow. But it did allow me to experience fear, anxiety, agitation and confusion. It did allow me to experience that I really wanted to do a good job and complete the tasks, and that I just couldn’t remember them.

Several days after the simulator, I emotionally wished I could have a do-over in caregiving. The simulator made me realize that it was much harder on my mom than I ever imagined. I wept for my mom. I wept for things I could have done differently—if I had only known. I remembered how much she wanted to do things right. Mom even told me, “Please help me. Please don’t stop loving me because I do stupid things.” I lovingly reassured her that I would love her always and would always be her life manager. With tears, we both smiled.

I got angry all over again about how it stole so much from my parents, and that they suffered more deeply than I knew at the time. Perhaps I could have been more gentle, slowed down my pace, quit trying to fit Mom’s world into my own. The good part? I rediscovered the collateral beauty in the time that I did have with my parents, especially my mom through three years of caregiving for her. She was the first to hold me in the hospital (when I was born), and I was the last to hold her in the hospital (when she was released from it). I truly knew my mom, and there was much beauty in how we loved each other.

Oh, and the apron? There was none. I didn’t remember the correct details of the task.

 

KTHV-11 Feature Story:  http://www.thv11.com/news/health/new-simulation-allows-caregivers-to-walk-in-the-shoes-of-dementia-patients/487832209

Link to UAMS information:  http://www.agec.org/alzheimersdementia-experience-take-a-walk-in-their-shoes/​

 

© 2018 Regifted Grace® Ministry LLC

We help weary caregivers find the courage they need to regain hope and stop feeling alone, fearful and broken.

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