Sunday, December 09, 2018

Week Two of Advent: Prepararation

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

The Second Week of Advent

I was raised Catholic, for at least eight years of my life anyway. From first to eighth grade the Advent season was a season of love in our school as we prepared for the birthday of our Lord and Savior. The season was more about the love of God than the love of gifts so that was our focus. In the morning before classes began, all of the children were called to the central hallway where we were tightly gathered. One child lit a candle and we all sang in unison, 'O come O come Emmanuel'. We would do this every day before classes began for the next four weeks. 

This was the season that our Christmas plays were put together and as a whole school we were in unison with one another, no grade was doing anything much different, we were all focused on the season in some way. Our classrooms and curriculum consisted of the Jesus Story, the memorizing of Luke, exchanging of Christmas cards, Christmas tree decoration, and all the adornment that we saw on the outside of school, during the next four weeks the holyday was magnified in the halls and classrooms of my Catholic school, St. Mary’s.

Every year since I converted from Roman Catholicism, Advent always held a special time of reflection, of coming closer to God through the lighting of candles, meditation, singing and rejoicing and, spreading love and listening, yes listening, to Him for the way I should go. My Lenten season is similar but that season is the season of renewal, advent is the season of reflection. Reflection of where you’ve been and where you’re going. A peace and contentment with the love of Christ. 

Last week my reflection consisted of Google Earth. Yeah, I know that’s odd but I went back home and looked at the home where I  grew up. The house on William street meant more to me than just the home I grew up in, the house right next door is where my cousins once lived and the house that I would eventually give birth to my first living son.

Sitting there looking at the house I grew up in on my screen, opened a floodgate of memories. The tall slender rowhome with its now brick facade but the same marble steps we used to scrub with comet to get them clean and white, were still there. The long narrow windows were present and I looked, with tears in my eyes as the kid in me remembered so many good Christmas’ decorating those windows. Memories of putting up the Christmas tree right in front of those windows, and the stairs, the winding stairs my sister and I would sit at the top of and secretly watch my mother place gifts under the tree. I’m certain our giggles gave us away. What good memories but oh the memories. 

I know I’ve written about my life and it not being the greatest childhood, (I know, I know, no one had a great childhood but mine was exceptionally bad) except for the Christmas season memories, they were always the best! My grade school was right around the corner from my house so as I visited my ‘old home’ I had to visit my old school, too. I think last week was for me, let’s walk down memory lane.

As I visited my old school the memories of the Christmas plays came flooding in along with the snowflakes I’d cut out or the Christmas construction-paper-cutout trees we decorated and placed around the halls, or the manger I built as a classroom assignment.

I remembered the Christmas play where I was in the back row of the stage standing on a milk crate in a line of students also balancing on a milk crate. Well wouldn’t you know, it would take little Joni to lose her balance and wipe out the entire row of kids as we all came crashing to the floor in giggles. The next year Sister Karl Ann made sure she placed me safely seated in the front row, with a small bongo in my hand as I played the Little Drummer Boy as we all sang.

It seemed I only allowed the good memories in as Memory Lane had changed over the years. I’ve worked so hard the past two years on letting the bad memories go into the Forgiven Pool where they could drown that they no longer held sway in my mind when Memory Lane opened up.

This is the week I prepared to face another Christmas, one in my new life seemingly a million miles away from my old life in Baltimore. Nowhere in my past did chickens and roosters come to my front door or turkeys would eat my birdseed. The only cluttered streets I see out here are when I drive two hours into Omaha where they have what they call ‘City Life’. It’s kind of funny, if only they knew what REAL city life was like. A rock formation in the far western reaches of the state constitutes a ‘mountain’ to them, and sand in front of a lake is what they deem ‘a beach’. To them, a city is where there are tall buildings and a nightlife. A nightlife that is kept at bay in the country living. They have bars out here but nothing like a real CITY has for sure.

Baltimore City's Inner Harbor
my playground as a child

Growing up in Baltimore City I lived right in the crook of the Chesapeake Bay, you know, that was a small portion of the Atlantic Ocean where there were numerous ‘beaches’ all a part of the shoreline of the ocean. Home of Fort McHenry where our national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key. The mountains in the tiny Maryland state escorted you right into Pennsylvania where even bigger and better mountains lined the landscape.

A canon at Fort McHenry facing the FSK bridge

Out here in the midwest often called, The Bible Belt, the land is flat, no matter what they tell you! You can see lightning in the sky over fifty miles away, sometimes a hundred miles away depending on the severity of the storm. The one thing I cherish out here in this new life? LOVE! The love of family is simply amazing out here. The love of God is monumental. The love of life is respected and Memory Lane to them is filled with cows, barns, dirt roads, steak, pulled pork (they call sloppy-joe) with taters and a huge pumpkin pie that grandma made from scratch.

cows on a farm off of a Nebraska dirt road
a barn, Anywhere, Ne.

In the wood framed houses of Nebraska and acres of farm, within each smokestack stood a child looking at a Christmas tree knowing what it meant to appreciate the joys of the Advent season and the welcome of love received when opening the door on Christmas Day. Yes, the road from there to here was filled with rubble but to me with every rock along the way, I saw within, a million mountains ready to climb and a summit to reach.

May the joy of the season walk you down memory lane and you remember all the love that God has poured out to you. His gift to you was His Son, His love for you immeasurable, His Light? Well, each one of us is His Light, it depends on how you see it. God Bless you all!

Luke 2:10-14 “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Rehab Story Continues: Mistakes Happen

Pss. 112:4 “Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.”

Rehab Story Continues: Accidents Happen

As I said in the last post, my chemo meds never arrived after my hubby waited all day for them. After visiting me on Friday, he went home and placed a call to the online pharmacy where we get the chemo meds from. Turns out, the order was NEVER PLACED by my doctor’s office. So he went ahead and placed the order, they would now not arrive until the following Wednesday. Go ahead, you’re allowed to let your jaw drop. If me taking this Oral Chemo is so important, what on earth happened with the ordering? I don’t even think my doctor's office gave us an explanation. Hey, accidents happen, right?

Anyway, here we are on Saturday. My son would come before three if he had a 3-11pm. shift,  six o'clock after Steven left if he had an 11-7am. shift. Now with my son in his new apartment, he was closer to the hospital by about twenty minutes. His place was safely tucked right up the road from the Home, and a good thing because when hubby locked his keys in the car, my son still had a spare key from when he drove my car, to be able to just run the key up to the Home.

I thought Saturday would be a rest day in the Home, but no, the Phys. Therapist arrived about eight o'clock (before breakfast) to assist me in my fifteen minutes of physical therapy. Yes, you read that right, fifteen minutes of PT. I took it upon myself both at the Hospital and the Home to do PT throughout my day on my own. I was determined to make it to that commode without assistance! Back home, when my brother injured his hip his PT therapy sessions were well over an hour, he told my mother. Not for me, I get fifteen minutes. 

My son came and went for a visit by three, and hubby arrived for his visit after he got off of work. He works right up the road too, so no sense in going home, out of the way, when we had such short visiting time. I told him how my meds were never on time and asked if he could bring me some from home. Pain is pain as everyone knows and we NEED something to relieve the gnawing grip. If the Home wouldn’t supply, then my meds from my home would!

This would be my first weekend here and already I’ve seen differences. Well, the obvious is that the Administration nurses were off for the weekend and the young aides were left to fend for themselves. This home had a North and South wing, around thirty residents to each wing, two aides to each wing. It was under construction so the rooms were doubled up with patients, meaning four to use one bathroom, if they were able. They still needed a nurse to assist no matter what.

The cries in the hallway were deafening, the lady across from us kept yelling, “Can someone help me to the bathroom?” What seemed like forever the woman kept being told, “In a minute.” Then there were the televisions blaring, the visitors who thought it would be a good idea to bring their six-year-old to a nursing home, not knowing if it would traumatize them for life! Then the elderly men playing some kind of video games where beeps and whirs echoed.

Ray was in her wheelchair when she called for the nurse to get her into bed. It was about seven o'clock. The aide came in and told her, “Ray I’ll be with you in a minute, we have a situation out here. We’ll get to you as soon as we can.”  I saw no use in telling them that I needed to pee because I know I’d get the same thing. We’d sit and wait. We talked. I tried keeping the conversation light but Ray unleashed some bitter traumatic stuff from her past. I listened. Then she grew angry as her pain was heightening from being in the chair for too long. She pushed the button again, eight o’clock and ticking, the aide popped in with the same words but added, “Please be patient, there is only TWO of us on duty for North AND South, and lights are lit all over the place. Bert fell out of his chair and we have urine all running down the hall, it’s a mess out here, literally.” You could hear the pill cart being wheeled down the hall amid all of the commotion going on. She closed the door and left.

Nine o’clock came and here we were both still needing a tending to, Ray still in her wheelchair, in pain and I in my bed helpless against helping. Ray was now crying, and I too was silently allowing tears to stream down my cheeks. “Ray,” I cried out, “I am not going to sleep until they take care of you.” She sniffled and said, “You don’t haft ta do that. You’re tired too.”

“It’s okay Ray. I’m okay. I want you to be okay!” It was the best I could offer seeing I’m as bedridden as her, except she was left in her chair.

“I’m thore,” she cried. Her lisp could sound so endearing at times. It broke my heart. “We’re frendth aren’t we?” 

“Yes, Ray, we’re friends.”

A smell started permeating the room and I said nothing but knew, Ray had gone to the bathroom in her diaper. I could hear her mumbling under her breath how she had *expletive* herself and wanted to be transferred to another facility and how she paid to be in this place and they are PAID to take care of her.

She hit the call button again, it now being nine-thirty. “We’re almost there Ray,” a head popped in to say, “just a couple more minutes.” and the door closed. Ray was now sobbing loud and I tried so hard to comfort her but I myself needed comfort at this time.

This was hell. This is what the hellfires felt like surrounding you and you clawing to get out into some fresh air but you’re smothering, suffocating from lack of oxygen. You could feel your limbs going numb, sweat now pouring from your forehead. The screams now constant whispers as the echoes were in your head, tapping you on the shoulder mocking you and laughing saying, ‘I’m still here.’ 

The door swung open and a loud sigh came from Laura, the oxygen was leaking in, slowly, it was now ten-fifteen. “We’re so sorry,” I allowed her words of explanation to drift off as they finally tended to Ray. She needed two nurses too since she had to be placed in bed with a lift. She had sat in her feces almost two hours and she was extremely sore by this time.

One nurse came to the other side of the curtain to tend to me and I sat with my gait belt in place ready to be lifted. Only one nurse was tending to me, I said nothing when she appeared with no gloves or gown and she proceeded to lift me. I twinged in pain, “Easy please, my hip, it’s still sore from my recent surgery.” With some assistance from me, she lifted me to standing, I tightly grabbed my walker, as she let go of the belt. I said, “Oh no, please, you have to hold the belt until I’m seated, this is how my femur was broken in the first place.”  

I whispered as tears were now rimming my eyes, “Please, please be gentle with me.” She took hold of the belt and as I was almost seated, she let go. I almost plopped onto the seat but my strength and my prayer placed me gently on the commode. She just stood there, waiting for me to pee. A watched clock never runs, but my floodgates opened from holding it in for hours!  

I had my own Kleenex because they offered me nothing. I was ready to be placed back in bed. Again, amazon woman lifted frail 88-pounder me by the gait-belt, I pivoted and sat on the edge of the bed, I told her I could make it from here, I was good, go finish up with Ray.

Ray kept telling them that I ‘Thtayed awake for her’  and that I wath her real fren. I smiled my tears away and lifted my legs onto the bed. The nurses bid us a good night and wouldn’t you know it, the meds from the charge nurse finally arrived. With meds down the hatch, we both let out a sigh of relief.

“We made it, Ray.”

“We did, didn’t we! You thtayed awake for me. Thank you!”

“Not a problem Ray, we’re friends.”

"That’th right, we are. Okay, goodnight.” She was out like a light before I even got settled into bed.

I had been texting my husband the entire time we waited for the nurses/aides/whatever. He was calling left and right to the front office, he as helpless as I was. “Goodnight, Ray,” I whispered as I shut off my little nightlight.

Matt. 14:14 “And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.”

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Rehab, the Story Continues: Santa is There

John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Three-and-a-half days! I made it. I made it to the weekend. But getting there was not without its many hurdles. This story is not all about ‘The Nursing Home’ ordeal, or the staff, this is about my journey, a fifty-two-year-old woman with stage four breast cancer, lymphedema of the left arm, radiation treatment to my bones and recovery of major surgery of my broken femur. Take for instance my Oral Chemo, it was running out, I did not have the wits about me to know how to reorder so I had to leave it up to my husband to take care of matters. The drugs I was on were pretty strong and keeping my mind busy and pretty much in a fog.

He called the Dr.s office, the nurse said she’d order it, no problem, he called back and Fay said it would be delivered Friday but needs a signature. Uh oh, hubby would have to miss work AGAIN, and miss seeing me all day to wait for meds! Not a happy gal but it’s okay, I’m tough and getting tougher by the day! Needless to say by three o’clock when the meds had not arrived hubby came to the hospital to visit me, even if it was only for two hours. He can’t drive at night, so we watched the sun (or lack thereof) very closely! A different story, the meds never arrived.

When Friday came I was happy to have made it to this day alive, although I had never wanted to give up more than I did this week. A loneliness had settled in, hubby knew it, and no amount of cuteness from Ray, or compassion from the staff could move me. It was a tough week on my spirit and soul. This was also the last day of radiation to my arm, and my son stepped up and said he could go to the CC with me. The weekend, I’d get a break, right? 

Then there was the day earlier in the week that they had to take my clothes to put name tags on them, even though we told them WE would wash them, they needed to be tagged. (I didn’t hand everything over but I stupidly gave them lounge pants, two flannels, brand new socks, and a pair of underwear. All were returned by Friday except my underwear and socks. When Kay, my occupational therapist heard this she set out on a search of my missing panties. She returned to my room waving them in her hand and said, “Hey, no wonder they wanted to keep them, they’re cute!” We both laughed but I through my tears. She hugged me!

Then there was Santa. Thursday had been a day of sunshine and warmth and I had even had a chance to open the window. Ray didn’t like the window opened because it gave her a chill. She was on the other side of the curtain between our beds and didn’t know it was open. The warmth, the sun, it was all I had to cling to. Yes, people, before you tell me to cling to God, please know, HE is the only thing that kept my breath in my lungs, He is first and foremost, but the sunshine and the warmth were for me on this day. 

Coming back from my radiation treatment that day found me in the sunshine. On the side of the entry to the hospital was a little area with a table and four chairs, lining a brick path were rocks, rocks of all shapes and sizes. Hubby and I followed the path, to the chairs and table and we sat in the sun, I in my wheelchair of course. We watched as nurses changed shift and a nurse had brought a resident outside to feel the warmth of the day. The table was back a little ways from the entry so hubby and I enjoyed the table and sunshine. I enjoyed the one monarch butterfly that landed on a rock not ten feet from me and my chair. Thank you, Jesus, I whispered out loud, as a tear trickled from my eye. 

Then he appeared, an older man hunched over his walker. He was taking tiny steps as he scooted to the path. An obvious Husker fan dressed from head to toe in his puffy red Husker slippers, his red husker lounge pants filled with the Husker team logo, all topped off with his white t-shirt with a big N for Nebraska, trimmed in red on sleeves and neck. His full white moustache and beard were reminiscent of Santa Claus. Steven softly sang… ‘here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus lane...’. I smiled.

Santa stopped at the rocks and just stood there looking down at them. One minute, five minutes passed and he moved, inching closer to where Steven and I were sitting. Again, Santa paused to stare at the rocks. He was within earshot of me now, I said, “Do you like the rocks as much as I do?” I myself was eyeing one shaped like a heart. Yeah, I draw to me these kinds of people. 

He looked up at me, then back to the rocks before he answered, “Yeah.” He began inching closer to me again, and stopped, mesmerized by the rocks. He began talking without looking up from the rocks, “They’re beautiful. Back in my shop, I take CLR to clean them. It brings out their beauty, then I polyurethane them. Yup.” He began to turn around and looked at the other side of the path lined with rocks.

As he slowly turned, he made his way right to the edge of the path. I thought he was turning to go back in the home but no, he paused to look at this side of the path, too, before heading inside. Staring at the rocks he whispered, 

“Y’know, it’s like looking at a million mountains,”  he went on, “Y’know how the rocks are made don’t ya? The rain,” he paused a moment, “the rain cuts them out of the mountains and they all wash downstream, getting cleaned up through the river until we gather them and see them for their beauty.”

By this time I had tears in my eyes and Steven and I were both looking at each other in wonderment. I knew there was a message in there for me but I couldn’t see it through my tears. Santa looked at me and smiled raised a finger to tap his nose and he proceeded to slowly walk back to the door, with one last quick pause to gaze at the rocks, he went inside.

I told Steven that it was now time for me to go back inside too, I got what I came for, a message. I picked up a rock, and we went inside the home, to my room. It didn’t seem so small anymore.

The moral of the story to me is: We are all refined by God made perfect in His image as we go through the trials and suffering of being washed downstream until we’re seen in our perfection before the Lord.

Isa. 48:10 “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”

Monday, December 03, 2018

Nursing Home Saga Continues

2 Samuel 7:22 (NIV) "How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you."

The Saga Continues

The first night at the Home didn’t go too bad but morning came and I was aroused by the lights on Ray’s side being swung into motion. Ray had to be up and dressed because she went for dialysis three days a week. It took a lot out of her physically. She’d be gone until noon at which time she’d arrive back at the Home to eat lunch. Some of the time she would eat in the room because apparently, her trip took too much out of her to be social. She was placed in her recliner and left to eat.

By five in the morning I was awake and most of the time I asked if I could be helped onto the commode. “Sure Joni, just give us a minute.” I was trying to memorize the voices that would be helping me, this day it was Laura. The minute usually took more than twenty to come back for me. I was hungry and wouldn’t eat until nine. A small cup of water sat on my table and I’d take small sips. If I asked for them to refill the cup I brought from the hospital, it would take every bit of thirty-five minutes for it to be returned like it did the day before on my arrival. I was hesitant. And no, I was not on any restrictions of food and water.

I wanted to turn my television on a couple of times but wouldn’t you know it, the previous aid sat the ‘gait belt’ on the stand right in front of the television beam needed for the remote to connect and it would not turn on. I would just sit there, looking around, alone in my thoughts. The curtains were still drawn in the mornings and I awaited the sunrise. My meds would arrive about eight o’clock to eight-thirty and I asked the nurse that day, Bird lady, if she could kindly help me to the commode, the other nurse at six o’clock had not returned. “Well let me get you your meds first.” This nurse was one of the sweet attentive nurses and also in charge of the other nurses, the Charge Nurse. With gloves on, she handed me all of my pills in one cup. My chemo pills were supposed to be taken at different times, like before I ate (which one of them was on time) but the other was supposed to be thirty-minutes AFTER I ate. I was still hungry, no food tray in sight, except the empty one from dinner the night before, and still waiting to urinate. She offered me three packs of crackers to hold me off and often offered me an Ensure drink. 

I wasn’t getting a good feel of the place even after one full day in the confines of the home. At around 9:45 I was scheduled for my radiation; that meant I had to get dressed. The physical therapists came in before eight (way before breakfast) to see what I could physically do. The one PT was very robotic. I would try to make her laugh and she would just deadpan stare at me as if to say, ‘really? I’m trying to work here!’ While the occupational therapist, Kay, was perky and friendly and loved to laugh with me. Our laughter I know could be heard echoing down the hall. When I cried, she listened, she’d hand me the box of kleenex, and it was very comforting having someone in my room to communicate with.

I couldn’t do much like get dressed, heck I hadn’t showered in twelve days and have only been sponge bathed a couple of times at the hospital. My hair was a mangled mess, and what make-up was still left on my eyes ran down my face and I was hesitant to even look in the mirror. I would go to the radiation treatment in my t-shirt and flannel, nothing else but a blanket to cover me because the days were starting to get chilly.

I could only pivot so far on my right foot with the aid of the gait belt so I didn’t fall. The cold radiation slab wanted to break my back but the nurses were very accommodating and brought pillows, a cushion with a sheet, and warmed sheets to cover me. They didn’t treat me like a toxic zombie. They treated me like a patient. They were impressed with my progress since the first round of radiation, where I was brought in on a gurney. They said I was nothing short of a miracle when I appeared in the wheelchair, stood and pivoted. They had seen the x-rays of my break and were surprised I was at the pivoting stage already. My determination to go home kept me pushing forward but never overdoing the exercises I needed to set me free.

After the session was over my husband and I usually rolled down and sat at the window with the beautiful fountain surrounded by a lush garden and benches. There were pumpkins decorating the garden for either fall or Halloween. I lost track of time. We would then wait for the bus driver to return to take us back to the home.

The weather was damp, dreary and chilly most days, at the hospital, I was wheeled by gurney to the CC. At the Home, the community Ryde (bus) bus driver would come to my room and pick me up, unless a nurse rolled me to the sitting room. I was then taken to the Cancer Center. The driver would then come back and pick me up to take me back to the home. Any time I was not alone was a cherished moment for me. Anxiety had built for the Nursing Home very quickly. I would kid with the bus driver and ask him if he wanted to break me out of this place. He’d laugh as we slowly approached the Home. He would take me back to my room if my husband wasn’t there, otherwise hubby would wheel me back to the cubbyhole of a corner in room twelve. Let me state now, the other rooms were EVENLY divided between tenants. With doors open, I could clearly see in each room I passed as envy filled my empty gut.

As I said, to lighten my time in the places I deemed a hellhole, only because it wasn’t home, I used laughter to muddle through. One time being transported on a gurney to the CC I was wheeled to the first floor, past a gift shop, past a Subway (what torture!) and then past a waiting room then out the door into the swift breeze and the only-for-me sunshine. The CC was right next door to the hospital, too close for ambulatory service. I told the guys wheeling me, as I was covered in a white sheet, looking like a dead body being transported, that I would put the sheet over my head, then when I get to the waiting room, I’d jump up, screaming. The one technician laughed so hard he almost stumbled, the other one just shook his head. These guys, as well as anyone who came in contact with me, were getting to know me and my infectious sense of humor. Laughter and optimism kept me ALIVE!

The days were passing by as slow as extra thick maple syrup could be poured from a bottle. Granted the days were full from five a.m until we turned our lights out at 8:30 as we slept until something in the night called us to awaken.

Pss. 130:5  “I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.”

Sunday, December 02, 2018

The First Sunday of Advent

Isa. 2:2 "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it."

When I begin to reflect on the First Sunday of Advent, I often get asked, ‘Are you Catholic?’ and I say no, no I’m not. It is my time to reflect and rejoice on the relationship I have with my Lord and Savior. I tend to reflect and rejoice year round but Advent to me is a time where the world is so caught up in commercialism and materialism, Advent gives me a solid base to hold onto so I don’t get ensnared by the trap that man lay.

When I was diagnosed with a disease most people fear ever being told, they cling to that fear as it guides them through the treatment of their choice. When I was diagnosed, after a good-days-worth of tears well spent, I climbed into what some would call my ‘denial cloak’. They might be right but I was not accepting this diagnosis as a death sentence and I certainly would not put my life in the hands of people who make it a point of feeding fear and prescribing much-needed drugs as an answer to feeding that fear. Please, do not argue my stance with me, it is MINE. People think I’m crazy for believing the Bible and all it says about ‘fear’, it NOT being from God. You can’t take that word 'fear' literal now, can you? Or can you?

Mark 4:40 “And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”

Advent to me is all that God is to me, Light, purity, sincerity, and most of all a TRUSTWORTHY RELATIONSHIP!

Isaiah. 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 

He strengthens me in the way I should go and guides me in what I strongly believe to be the right direction, FOR ME! I say, FOR ME because we all hear, see and feel God differently as individuals. Christians (I myself included) have a tendency to justify their actions all based on a scripture they read. We justify daily living because ‘God said so’ and we are strong in what we believe whether we believe the earth is a mere 6,000 years old or 6 million years old, we ALL justify our stance because we read it in scripture.

Then it comes down to name calling and finger pointing, which to me, is judging one another. Justification. Is it justification if GOD spoke the word to you, not you read it in the Bible, but because God really placed it on your heart and you believe Him to be a trustworthy source? God does not dish out FAKE NEWS!

Did God tell you that one of your versions of the Holy Bible (KJV, NIV, or any of the numerous other versions) is the most accurately recorded?

Did God tell you not to put a Christmas tree up? Or to put one up?

Did God tell you to celebrate His sons birthday every year?

God told me that His WORD is the version I should trust the most.

God told me to love ALL trees and creation! Celebrate LIFE and BELIEVING in HIM the way YOU want! Even if it means the joy of lighting a Christmas tree!

We could justify every question above with a Bible verse that stands the tests of time and rigors of dissection. We do it because we BELIEVE! There ya go! Advent to ME is BELIEVING God wants me to celebrate His son every second of my day, not just once a year. God wants me to meditate on His word in any way that my focus is on Him (a candle, stones, rocks, a picture, or some wordless music) and not the false idols that religions, the world, politics and social media leads you to believe. Note that I said wordless music? I said that because I save the music with words as my praise to Him.

This is my life to Him, for Him, and in Him! 
I'll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the one who gave it all
I'll stand
My soul Lord to you surrendered
All I am is yours

I'll Stand 

As you go through this Christmas season, don’t let it bother you whether you celebrate Advent or not, don’t worry if you have a tree or not, don’t point fingers at those who believe differently than you, don’t envy your neighbor because they go all out when you can only afford to do YOUR all.

I can 100% assure that God is saying “When giving, give your all, to ME!” That is when our focus is on Him and not the world.

May the Light of the Lord rain down on you and wash over your body. May you drink Him in 
and it be a well within your soul.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Story Continues: A Ray of Light

Ezek. 37:1 “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,”

A Ray of Light

Darkness had fallen upon the nursing home after my husband and son left, when from around the curtain to my left rolled in a woman. 

“Whatcha doin? My name ith Ray, I’m your roommate.”
“Hi Ray, nice to meet you.”
“What time do you go to thleep?” she said in her lispy voice.
“About nine.”
“Me too. Do you like it dark?”
“Yes, I don’t mind the dark,” I said with a smile.
“I like the curtainth clothed, do you?”

Ray was a bit older than me at sixty-three but had the mind of a child. I’ll say a fifteen-year-old because she did have some intelligence as I got to know her over the next ten days. She too was immobile and needed a mechanical lift to get her in and out of bed. She had bulging blue eyes and the electric smile of innocence. Her gray hair was manly, tight and straight but well kept. She told me over and over how she loved purple and everything purple as she pointed to her pajamas. She would be one of the elements of light that God shined down on me. 

The first night I was there my dinner came at seven-thirty. To me, it was almost time for bed but I was hungry. I had not eaten since lunchtime (twelve o’clock) that day. I think my first meal was Salisbury steak with a biscuit and mashed potatoes and a small glass of water. Water, water was scarce for the next couple of days.

I brought with me a big thirty-two-ounce cup of water from the hospital. The hospital gives them to patients and well since I was so toxic, it isn’t like the cup could be reused. I took little sips because I did not look forward to peeing in this place. I could not yet put the dinner tray over both of my legs, so it was at an awkward slant over my right leg. The trauma of anything touching my wounded leg scared me to bits. I didn’t cover it in a blanket because the slightest brush of anything left me with a tinge of pain. 

My medication was due at seven and had not yet arrived and at eight-thirty when Ray pushed the button for the nurse, I asked when I would be receiving my meds. The young nurse said the ‘pill tray’ was on its way down the hall. I asked if she could help me to the commode after she was done with Ray and she said yes, finishing up placing Ray in bed with the ‘lift’, she said, “I’ll be right back in a minute.” And she left the room. 

She came back to the room at nine-fifteen with another young nurse and they were both wearing yellow protective coverings and gloves, in one hand was a gait belt. The gait belt was placed around my waist and it was used to help lift my tiny eight-eight pound body. One nurse to my right and one to my left hand, both had hands gripped on my pained hips in a two-foot space, they lifted. I always counted so we could be in sync. One, two, three, lift, small grunt, and pivot. Imagine three women in a two-foot space trying to pivot. The gait belt was a necessity so as to avoid liability in anything breaking.

“Please, hold the belt until I’m completely seated. This is how my left femur became broken, a sloppy seating on the commode.” Tears began running down my cheek as the tragic incident flooded my mind. Embarrassment, pain, vanity, all danced around in my head as I was gently seated. They removed their gowns and left the room for me to urinate. I was pushing the nurses' call button as fifteen minutes on the commode was leaving my limbs numb. They returned, put on a new set of yellow gowns and gloves, and lifted me, pivot, and I sat on my bed and was ready to just sleep. I jokingly thanked them for the dance. It was my sense of humor and personality that kept these young ladies smiling as they took care of me for the next week.

Curtains were drawn lights out. I cried quietly because I honestly was afraid to be alone. My husband had spent the ten days at the hospital with me and this place barely had sitting room for my two guests. I was alone, except for my prayers and my roommate, Ray.

“You okay?” I hear in the darkness, it was Ray.
“Yeah Ray, I’m just lonely.”
“I get like that thumbtime. Itth okay to cry. What time do you get up?”
“About five for me.”
“Yeah, me too. I go to dialithith.” I drifted off a little as she continued talking, ever so lightly, but it was comforting in the darkness. “Okay, goodnight.”
I opened my eyes a second and whispered, “Goodnight, Ray.”

I was startled awake at about one o'clock as the bright lights came on and Ray was being tended to. I called out, “Can someone get my pain meds for me and I need to pee, too.” 
“Sure Joni, let us take care of Ray first okay?” 
Okay, thank you.” 
She went and got another nurse after calling down for pain meds for me. They gowned and gloved up and came around the curtain to help me. 

I was on twelve-hour oxysomething but allowed ‘2 booster pills’ for pain if needed. And being startled awake and moved around, I certainly needed the pain medication still at this juncture of healing. It had only been eleven days since surgery. The pill lady was a different nurse, she was called the ‘charge nurse’, I guess because she was in charge of the pills? Maybe the nurses too, I don’t know. She took my vitals while she was there at two o'clock so she didn’t need to wake me at three to do it all over again. Everything normal (except me) and with a ‘I hope you sleep well’ after shutting the lights off and closing the door, she was out of the room.

“That feelth better,” I hear Ray say on the other side of the curtain.
“Yeah, it sure does,” I whispered.
“Okay, goodnight.” 
“Goodnight Ray”

Jer. 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

Thursday, November 29, 2018

My Story Continues: The Nursing Home

Pss. 136:1 "O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever."

The day came where it was time for me to be transported to the Nursing Home/Rehab center, I cried for more than one reason, I was losing all the familiarity I had for ten days, the closeness of the nurses and physical therapists was something I hadn’t expected. I think that was the reason they changed nurses every single day. The rotation of nurses didn’t allow for intimacy to grow between patient and nurses/physical therapist etcetera.

The Tuesday morning came when I’d await the arrival of my ride to the nursing home. No gurney was necessary because I was now semi-mobile in a wheelchair and I was commode mode so setting me loose was what my insurance called for. My husband and son were not allotted the time to look around at rehab places because conveniently a room had opened up for one woman, at St. John’s, I would be the one woman that the insurance insisted I take. 

Sadness, anxiety, and fear had all crept into my being as I was loaded on the van lift and taken to the nursing home/rehab across from the hospital I had called home for ten days. Gone were the days of very regular delicious meals that arrived between six and seven a.m., twelve and one p.m., and the dinner at five to six. Water refreshed and medication, always on time. The hospital was now a thing of yesterday.

My husband and I were escorted to the entry hall of the Home. A nice carpeted room with overstuffed chairs lining the walls, a fake fireplace was the central focal point and it looked cozy enough at a glance. We were met by a small older-than-me woman with tight curly blonde hair and a nurses uniform hugging her petite body.

“Welcome, Joni, let me get your vitals and we’ll wheel you down to your room.” 

I sat silently gazing off into space wondering just where it was I was being left. The vitals were fine and off we went, down a crowded hallway with patients lined up against one wall and equipment lined on the other wall. The patients looked helpless, hopeless and immobile, looking at me as if I was an alien that landed smack dab in their territory. 

I’ve been in nursing homes before so I knew kind of what to expect, but I honestly thought that there was a rehab wing that separates the long-term patients from us short-term patients that were just here for rehab. This was not the case. You’re not in Baltimore anymore, Joni. Back home my grandmother was placed in a similar facility but the long term/ short term patients were not together. The nurse I’ll call Bird because to me she resembled Big Bird but much smaller, she was the one who was in charge of the nurses on staff, her office was where we came in the door at and she met us there. 

I was wheeled down the hall as Bird explained that they were building a new wing to the home and for now the patients were being doubled up in rooms until construction is completed. Lucky me. Room number twelve is where we paused and she announced it as my room. Outside the door had a name and the picture of the tenant and below her was my name with no picture, just the note on the wall CHEMO PATIENT! Chemo protocols necessary. Gait belt needed.

I was wheeled into a tightly packed room of the current tenant. The room was about twelve by twenty-four, and I was wheeled back to the window where my bed was set and a side table all in about six feet of space. A commode was sitting against the wall where there was a bureau with a television on it. The home did not reek of the normal nursing home odors, for now anyway, so that was a plus.

My husband looked at me with pain in his eyes. He was horrified of the place where he had to leave me, where we had no options. This is the place where Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, also known as PTSD would set in. There were two metal chairs in the corner and I thought, at least I can have two visitors. I was already traumatized by the whole broken femur and surgery, now this. The story continues.

My husband went to work in getting my flowers from his truck to place in the window for me and to bring me my blanket that the church ladies made for me, he wanted it to feel as nice as the hospital environment but knew full well, this was not the environment neither of us envisioned. The comforter that currently covered the bed looked old and wrinkled and the sheets had a clean but well-worn look also, but I wasn’t here for sheets and blankets, let’s move on. 

“Will you be dining in the cafeteria this evening with the others?” Bird lady asked.

“No, not tonight, thank you.”

She went on, “Dinner is served at six in the cafeteria, and if you eat ‘in-room’, you have to wait until the others are back in their rooms. About seven your meal should arrive.” She was looking at her clipboard, “I’ll let you get acquainted and come back.”

Eyes filled with brimming tears I whispered, “Thank you.” My date with hell was beginning.

My son entered the room. He was finagling his time between work, moving into his new place, and visiting me often at the hospital. Husband and son were both trying to get back to a routine of working and visiting me after work. My husbands only problem was that he needed to be home before dark since he cannot see at night to drive. My son would stay until seven maybe, if he could, then it was me, all alone in what felt like an asylum. 

My husband ran off to the store and came back with a new quilt for the bed. He was not leaving me in that mess. Both husband and son went to work to make the place comfortable for me as evening was drawing near. My commode was set next to my bed on the left in a tight space with the curtain of the other tenant pressed against it. On the right of my bed sat a nightstand and the wheeled tray? That barely fit in front of the nightstand. 

I was still basically immobile, I could not bend my leg and the pain was still evident with each move. I did wonder how well I would be taken care of here. The tears...puddled the floor only to be dried by the sheet hanging down off of my bed. 

The night was closing in and the goodbyes were the hardest thing any of us have ever been through in our lives together. I would be alone. Alone in the dark, only sounds of the echoing hallways would be heard and all that the hallways held in them. I would be strong for my two guys. I would be out of here in no time. Right? I have to be.

the story continues...

"My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!” Psalm 57:7 (ESV)