Monday, January 19, 2009

From A to Zebra (Number 21 in a series)

“And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1: 25 (KJV)

I am enamored of zebras. There’s something about those striped equines that brings a smile to my face. Over the years, friends and family members have given me gifts of zebra-striped items and I have collected others on my own. When I was employed, I even “adopted” a zebra at Brookfield Zoo.

Evolutionists will claim the zebra’s stripes are a survival device, an adaptation to conditions. I don’t deny that zebras benefit from their stripes. I just think there’s more to them than a simple evolutionary mutation.

You see, I think our God is a God who takes joy in our enjoyment of His creation. So He made things not only functional, but entertaining as well. Would He have given us so many varieties of plant and animal life, and given them such charming ways, if He didn’t intend to give us pleasure in them? Zebras, giraffes and okapis are just three of the examples of animals with the ability to amuse us just by coming into view. Let’s not forget puffins, penguins, pandas and koalas.

Let’s face it – He fed the children of Israel for forty years on manna. He could do the same for us. Yet we have an abundance of variety in foodstuffs: fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, meats. Think of the culinary accomplishments of any ethnic group and you’ll quickly see how great a selection of flavors and foodstuffs exists.

What about pets? There is endless discussion over the best pet, because there is such variety in the darling critters. Feline, canine, equine, aquatic, amphibious – these and more are available possibilities. How wonderful that God made each of us different, then created such an array of animals to match our lifestyles and personalities.

We serve a God who is not boring by any definition. He gives us endless sources of delight in His world. Hallelujah! We serve the God of Joy!

Dear Father, thank You for the variety of Your creation. Help us to see Your hand in each stripe and spot, each fin and feather. Thank You for the companionship and service of animals. May we always treat them with the respect Your creation deserves.

© 2009 Mary Beth Magee

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Body Beautiful (Number 20 in a series)

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Psalm 139: 14 (KJV)

A caregiver faces many issues. Beyond the physical demands of helping someone to rise from a bed or chair are the emotional demands of assisting in nutrition or personal hygiene.

For my mother, meals consist of liquids hung in a gravity-feed bag called a kangaroo pouch. The nutritional liquid goes through a tube into a valve implanted in her stomach wall – a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube. Each feeding and/or dose of medication requires exposing her upper abdomen for access to the tube.

Because she is weak and has poor balance, Mama requires help bathing and even going to the bathroom. She laments having to let me see her body, embarrassed by the lack of privacy and modesty she must experience. Although I try to be mindful of her dignity, sometimes we both fall prey to giggling fits as I wash and dry her feet, particularly between her toes. Neither of us is in a very dignified position at that moment!

Through all of this, I am amazed by her. Her limbs are wrapped in crepe-like skin, slack against out-of-tone muscles. Yet she works to pull herself up, to walk back and forth to try to build her strength. Although she’s given birth to four daughters, her stomach is still flat, although the skin is not smooth. I marvel at the grip of her gnarled hands, as we lock forearms to steady her gait.

How wondrous is the human body! Even as it winds down, it is a thing of amazing beauty. The gentleness of her touch and the comfort of her embrace are still delights. Her smile, when I can entice one from her, is as warm as June sunshine.

One day I will have to say farewell to her body. The truth which comforts me is that her soul will go on, and we will meet again in glory. How marvelous, Lord! How wondrously marvelous!

Father, I thank you for the love You put into creating each of us. We are each beautiful in our own way, by Your design. Help us to see Your creation in each other at all stages of life, and to appreciate each other in Your Name.

© 2009 Mary Beth Magee

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Value of Preparation (Number 19 in a series)

“And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” Matthew 25: 8-13 (KJV)

My little dog is diabetic. She was diagnosed several years ago. When her veterinarian was teaching me about caring for a diabetic dog, she warned me about the signs of hypoglycemia, such as disorientation, staggering, and lack of muscle control and told me what to do if necessary. I tucked the information away in the back of my mind and went on with the day-to-day business of life. Other than minor adjustments to her insulin dosage along the way, we’ve had a pretty smooth path with her ailment.

In the past few weeks, Shady has experienced two episodes of hypoglycemia, wobbling about and falling at her hindquarters. The first incident caught me by surprise, yet the vet’s instructions came back to me. I rubbed honey on Shady’s gums, as the doctor had instructed, and within a few minutes she was back to her normal self. The vet had prepared me for the possibility of such an event and I was able to act appropriately.

I couldn’t help but think of the parable of the wise virgins and foolish virgins, as recounted in Matthew 25. The wise virgins were ready for the bridegroom’s arrival. They had the supplies they needed and were part of the celebration, whenever he got there. The foolish virgins were not.

Had the vet not taken the time to prepare me for what might happen, I wouldn’t have been ready when action was needed. Neither of us knew when Shady might have an episode. But she gave me the knowledge I needed to be ready to do what had to be done.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to be ready when the Bridegroom returns. We have a second responsibility, as well: to tell others to be ready for His coming. Jesus warned us that we would not know when He would be back, but He will be back. When the day comes, will there be people celebrating with you, because you helped them to prepare? Will there be someone missing from the celebration – someone you regret not telling about Him? The choice is yours.

Father, thank you for the knowledge You have given us, even before we need it, of Your love and care. Thank you for the assurance of Jesus’ return. Give us courage to share the Word with those who don’t know. Help us to stay prepared and to help others to be prepared.

©2009 Mary Beth Magee

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Best Laid Plans (Number 18 in a series)

“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” Luke 10: 33-35 (KJV)

When I arrived in California to help care for my mother, I envisioned hours spent in writing as I sat near her, ready to meet any need she may have. My sister had reported that Mama did little more than sleep between her feedings (through a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy - or PEG - tube).

Reality is somewhat different than my imaginings. Mama only sleeps intermittently (even at night!). She talks in her sleep, often crying out as though in distress or pain. She requires help ambulating to and from her bedside commode chair. Sometimes we can convince her to walk a little more, into the living room or perhaps into her bathroom for a quick “spit bath” in the sink.

Occasionally, Mama develops pain in her legs or feet. We use lavender oil or a chamomile based cream to massage the ailing part. Sometimes she just craves the human touch of someone holding her hand.

She imagines strange people in the room, requiring me to order them out or check on what they are doing. There are “accidents” requiring her bed to be changed, sometimes numerous times a day. The resultant loads of laundry must be washed, dried, folded and put away.

Another problem is the blockage in her esophagus, the reason the PEG tube was installed. The tube takes care of getting her nutrition, but it cannot help her feeling of needing to burp. So we have any number of antics to try to dislodge reluctant air bubbles. We try walking, getting up and down, patting her on the back and anything else we can think of to try to clear the bubble.

These interruptions can come at any moment. My concentration gets broken; whatever I’m working on gets set aside. Most of the writing I planned to get done is still waiting for me.

I wonder if the Samaritan had plans that day, on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho? Whatever they were, he put them aside to care for the man who had fallen among thieves. In putting his own plans on hold, he kept the appointment God had for him. The compassion he demonstrated has come to mean someone who cares above and beyond expectations – the Good Samaritan. Each time my plans get rearranged, I try to remember the Good Samaritan and open my heart to God’s plans.

Father, thank you for having the Master Plan. Please forgive me those times when I consider my own plans to be the most important things in the world. Help me to look to You for the right “next step” and not my own thoughts.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Escape Artist (Number 17 in a series)

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9 (KJV)

My mother has become something of an escape artist, in spite of our best efforts. She has fallen several times while trying to get out of bed during the night. My sister and I have tried any number of ways to keep her safe.

We have resorted to a baby monitor in her room so that she can call for assistance if she needs to get up during the night. We got a hospital bed with side rails to try to keep her from getting up and wandering around without someone to help her stay upright.

She evades the monitor by not saying anything as she sneaks out of the bed. She takes advantage of the foot-long gap between the end of the rail and the foot of the bed to slither, snakelike, out into the room. On occasion, she tries to slip out under the rail, resulting in being caught like a fox in a trap – unable to get out or go back into the bed.

Some mornings, I come into the room to find her sitting on the edge of the bed, feet dangling as though she were sitting at a desk. One morning, I found her on her knees, with her shoulders wedged between the rail and the frame. And some heart-stopping mornings I find her on the floor. She has made good her escape from the bed, only to find her strength spent.

God has blessed us. Mama seems to sink to the floor, rather than fall, on most occasions. She has suffered no broken bones, only some minor abrasions and bruising. But we fear the time of a solid fall or a piece of furniture in the way. So we continue trying to protect her and she continues trying to escape.

I can’t help but be reminded of God and His love for us. We keep trying to escape His love. He keeps opening His arms to bring us back to His protection. We have His promise to keep making the offer of eternal life to us, because He is faithful and unwilling to let any of us go to eternal death.

Mama has the underlying cause of dementia to spur her attempts to “escape;” what reason can any of us use to justify trying to escape God? Yet we do, more often than we would probably admit. Each time we do what we find expedient rather than what He has told us is right, we are trying to escape.

Father, please forgive me when I fight Your will and try to do things my own way. Remind me of Your constant love and care. Help me to rest in the knowledge of Your goodness. And thank you so much for watching over Mama!

© 2009 Mary Beth Magee