Category Archive: Change

Agency

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Have you ever wondered how best to help a loved one or friend in a way that retains his dignity? While my brother and sister-in-law, Arnold and Carol, were here last week, we talked a good deal about the concept of “agency”.

Arnold’s definition of agency is “power and ability to do what you want to do.” He says “People with disabilities have lost some agency. People without power have lost some agency. Women have less agency in general than men because of cultural stereotypes and limitations. Prisoners have had agency removed from them by the courts.”

My brother has given a lot of thought to this topic because his wife, Carol, suffered a life-altering stroke six and a half years ago. There are things she can’t do herself any more; and activities with which she needs help.

Our mother has also lost some ability to do things she wishes to do, and therefore, some power. Mom’s mind is still quite clear; however, her legs are getting weaker. She’s fallen twice in the last two months. She has thought for awhile about possibly moving into the Assisted Living section of the senior manor where she lives.

Living independently at 97 is quite a feat, but we wondered if it was still wise for Mom. Of course we children want her to be safe. Arnold put it well when he said he sees his role with Carol, his wife, to be that of providing agency–or power, ability and environment for her to decide and to act as she wishes, rather than by simply doing things for her.

So this Christmas we, along with brothers Bob and Melvyn and their wives, talked with each other, and with Mom, asking questions like what situations would cause her to say “It’s time,” “I’m ready,” “I need to move.” She also asked whether we would be disappointed in either decision–to move or to stay. We set her mind at ease regarding that, and told her our desire is to help her achieve her goals, not to impose ours on her.

And she’s decided she’s not yet ready to leave the cottage which she loves and has decorated with precious mementos from the family home she shared with Dad. So our role is to support her, to help identify ways she can get additional help i.e. with taking care of her patio and plants, and to fill in some of the gaps for her on a more regular basis.

I appreciated Arn’s explanation of agency. When we help someone achieve their dreams, meet their own needs or make decisions that we then help facilitate, the person retains his dignity. He or she is acting rather than being acted upon, as it would be if we told that individual what to do.

There are certainly situations where safety or protection are so critical, or abilities so limited, that decisions must be made for another. But when there are still decision-making capabilities, how much better to help in that process.

Isn’t this what Jesus did for us? He took the penalty for my sins and yours, something we are incapable of doing for ourselves, and freed us, gave us the power and ability to walk with God through faith in Him.

Do you have someone in your life who lacks agency, or the capacity or power to act on his or her own behalf? If so, how can you help that individual identify or communicate their choices and then facilitate those choices to become a reality?

New Things

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

It’s a new year–new hopes, dreams, goals. Here are a few of mine.

New Year, New Hopes and Dreams
  • New understandings in my walk with God. I’ve rejoined a women’s Bible study that I dropped out of for health reasons over a year ago. I’m thrilled to be back with these lovely women as we seek God together.
  • Complete at least the first draft of a novel I’ve been writing for a looong time …
  • Increased depth in my relationships with God, Don, family and friends.
  • New vistas. We’ve had the Canadian Rockies on our bucket list for awhile and just reserved our place on a train and bus tour through those in Fall of 2019 (I almost typed 1919–whoa!).
  • Finding and getting involved in a church home in our new community.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'”  Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV)

HE is the reason for my hope as we enter this new year.

  • He knows all the troubles in the world–riots in Paris, persecution, especially of Christians in other parts of the world, turmoil.
  • He knows the discord and infighting in our own country.
  • He knows the tremendous losses that have occurred corporately and personally in floods and fires and because of the active presence of evil in our world.
  • He knows my days and has promised to lead me through each one.
  • He loves me, oh amazing truth! And because of that love, I have great hope.

What are you anticipating this year? Are you hopeful or disheartened, or both? I’d love to know.

Finding Treasures

Yard work – check. The large, ribbed periwinkle pot we took over to our new house has been replaced with a terracotta and green pot which looks inviting. Redwood chips were put down today, giving the new flowers a finishing touch. “Coming Soon” signs are up at the bottom of the hill and at our driveway, indicating our house will soon be on the market.

Packing – check. We have about 120 boxes packed so far. Today Don packed up his CD collection, players and sound, as well as technology items from inside the house. Yesterday Grace and I packed about 16 boxes, a new record!

I’ve emptied the credenza and most of our armoire; and will load wardrobe boxes from the moving company on Wednesday.

And I found a buried treasure yesterday! In going through shoe-boxes, one of which was filled with paperwork of Don’s, I found his wedding vows to me. I’ve been looking for those for about eight years, the length of our marriage. What he committed to me that day (and has lived out since) was so meaningful that I was sad I couldn’t find the written copy to have it in full. And there it was! I think this whole move may have been worth it just to find that gem! And finding it reminded me where our real treasure lies…in the love of God, family and friends, and the memories of those precious, irreplaceable moments in our lives.

Saturday we worshipped in our much-loved church, Twin Lakes in Aptos; we enjoyed pizza afterward with a group of friends whom we’ll miss!

But we’re beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. Through this long summer of packing and prepping, through a remodel and sale prep, God has been with us as he promised. While at times we’ve both been exhausted and a bit short, for the most part Don and I have supported and upheld and encouraged each other in our various responsibilities.

So another new season is about to begin. A new home, new neighborhood, finding a new church and fellowship and shopping and doctors and dentists…being nearer my mother and several other family members…having less property to care for and hopefully more time to write and also to take off together (and with Paigey) for the day, or to sit and watch the local wildlife from our back patio (bobcats, wild turkeys, deer…). More time to be still and enjoy our God, the beauty of his creation, and each other. The REAL treasures!

We look forward to what this new season will bring!

How about you? Finding, or reveling in, any treasures lately?

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 ESV

Complaints–or Gratitude?

Thankfulness–I’ve been remiss! I realized this morning in our church service that I’ve been grousing about our move, the effort and time it is taking, etc., etc., etc. I’ve been only half-joking when I say I hope I don’t have to move again until I transfer to heaven. Instead of complaining, I should be thankful. And I am. Let me count the ways:

  • I’m thankful we have a lovely home and are able to move into another beautiful spot for a new season of life. Many do not have the option to live anywhere other than where they are.
  • I’m thankful for my darling husband, whose birthday is today. We celebrated with tapas at our local Tortilla Flats. We’ve been married eight wonderful years and are both still active and enjoying life together. I cannot imagine trying to make this move alone!
  • I’m thankful we had the opportunity to choose where we will live.
  • I’m thankful for family and friends who love, pray for, and help us along the way! As I write this, one of our friends is on the scaffold my hubby built to put on our truck bed in order to power wash our house prior to putting it on the market. Other friends have helped me pack. I’m deeply thankful for many who are giving of their time and energy to help us prepare for our move.
  • I’m thankful we can give things away that we no longer need, and hope they will bring joy or help to others. I think one of the blessings of moving is sorting, determining what is still important or necessary, and saying “Thanks and goodbye” to the rest. There are so many in need. We can help some by what we do with our excess.
  • I’m thankful we will have less to deal with in our new home. “Stuff” can weigh us down emotionally, physically, spiritually.
  • I’m thankful for the memories we’ve built here, the friends we’ve made, the family and people needing respite whom we have been privileged to host and learn from, and the beauty that surrounds us in the foothills near Santa Cruz. And I look forward to the new memories we will create in The Villages.
  • I’m thankful we’ll be nearer my mother, brother and two nephews; and one of Don’s sons. While it will take time to unpack and settle in, we will relax a bit more, take more walks together, and have less property to care for.
  • I’m thankful for a wonderful church, Twin Lakes in Aptos, which we’ve been part of for the past six years.  Both Don and I were touched this morning as Pastor Rene gave a very clear update about the safety of children in the church’s Sunday school as well as K-8 classes. We grieve at news about children becoming victims of teachers and assistants and even church workers. Rene wanted to ensure that parents, grandparents, perpetrators, and the church know that Twin Lakes will not only not cover up any reported abuse but will expose it to the proper authorities for investigation and justice; that our children WILL be safe in the TLC environment. Having known of situations in which predatory behavior was overlooked or covered up, I’m deeply grateful for a church that stands for righteoussness and truth in EVERY area. We will miss so much about this church but trust God will lead us to one closer to our new home where we can learn and serve.

    New children’s building we helped with at TLC

  • Photo by Tong Nguyen van on Unsplash

    I’m thankful we don’t move often! (chuckle)

    It’s easy to get mentally overloaded with too much to do, to think of, to follow up on, and allow the really important things to slide–quiet times with God, walks with loved ones, playing ball with Paigey. Then I need to take inventory, review my priorities and start to say no, whether to activities, to deadlines, to busyness.

I choose to be thankful.

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  I Thessalonians 5:18 NLT

BEAUTY FOR ASHES

 

Demolition began Monday! Don and I purchased a home in a lovely over-55 community called “The Villages” just over two years ago. With a plan to stay in our beautiful Soquel locale for another two years or so, we rented the house in San Jose to several short-term tenants, the last of whom moved out a week ago. Now we’re preparing for our own move within several months.

Don and I arrived at the house early on demo morning to let our contractors in to begin work on our kitchen and master bath. The house looked clean, with everything in place.

By the end of the day the kitchen was totally torn apart (photo right), with wood strips, shavings, sawdust, and countertops on the floor to be removed and dumped. What a change in that one day!

Our lives can be demolished just that quickly if we’re not careful. In the case of our  “new” house, the demolition is occurring for the purpose of bringing about new life. Sometimes the same happens to us. A physical or emotional tsunami hits without warning. Stress, loss due to death or illness, or poor choices can have the effect of seeing our lives splinter and disintegrate.

But God has promised to “restore the years the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). This scripture first resonated with me when I read a biography of Senator Harold Hughes. An alcoholic who was ready to kill himself with the loaded rifle at his side, Hughes felt God’s touch. Choosing to live for Christ from that moment on, Hughes spoke about how God did indeed give him a full and productive life of service to God and country. From desolation, our faithful God can bring a fresh, new reality.

I felt despair when my first husband passed away. I was shattered, lonely, aching. Couldn’t think straight. Couldn’t concentrate. Got on the wrong freeway–in very familiar territory–four times in two weeks because the wheels of my brain just weren’t connecting. But God gave me this scripture from Jeremiah 29:11 almost immediately after Jerry’s passing: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” With time, the love and support of family and friends, and a helpful grief recovery group that reminded me I was not alone in my crazy-making, the slow healing process began.

We can choose to stay in that lonely place, crushed, broken-hearted, closing ourselves off to those who would love us and walk with us. And when we do, we can’t heal.

Or we can allow Jesus to bring ” … beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3)  Another translation speaks of a “garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” That spirit of heaviness can be cloying, overwhelming, suffocating. Healing doesn’t often occur overnight, but over time as we take three steps forward and two back; or sometimes, three forward and four back … but if we keep trusting our God, He will bring the healing for which we ache.

So, as Don and I watch our house being rebuilt from a baseline of demolition, I want to remember that God is doing that kind of work in my life, and in the lives of those I love, as well. As I allow Him to tear down old strongholds, as I confess sin and receive His forgiveness, He is faithful to complete His good work in me–to build something new and pleasing to Him–until He comes to take me home for life in His presence, for all eternity.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,

    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
   to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

   to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
   the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
   and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
 They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Isaiah 61:1b-3 (NIV)