Postcards of Hope

I have been blessed to share a ray of hope from my experience with my Mama over on Stories of Hope in God (no longer running online).

Anita Hunt “runs the Scattering the Stones Christian ministry … a place of peace, praise, and prayer, with the aim to encourage you; focusing on the gifts of grace, joy & hope, with a thankful heart.”

 

She and her husband “live in the beautiful county of Dorset in England.”

Anita shares that she “had the pleasure of studying at Bible college, gaining a degree specialising in Theology and Pastoral care.” She says, “God called me to be a Christian writer sharing His love, hope, and Good News in 2011. My heart’s desire is to walk alongside those who are in pain, reflecting God’s love and grace, and share the Hope of the world (Matt 12:21).”

Stories of Hope in God is a part of her ministry and is a special place to sit awhile.

Hope-in-the-Lord

My story…

“I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”  Psalm 13:6 ESV

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“How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever? 

How long will you hide your face from me?
 

How long must I take counsel in my soul
 and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
 

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”   Psalm 13:1-2 ESV

I would cry the first line of words out over and over again as I would leave the nursing home where my mother had to spend the last five years of her life.  She took a terrible fall, shattering an ankle and the bones in her lower leg.  So after surgery, she would never be able to fully walk again, although she could stand up momentarily and get around in a wheelchair.  Previously, as well, her mind had slipped into a roller coaster of dementia-ridden fear, repetition, accusation, jealousy, confusion, and hallucinations.  The diabetes she got at age 55 turned to Type 1 at age 85, making her insulin-dependent until the day she died at age 98 years and 10 months.

I loved my Mama dearly.  She loved me, my sisters, and her one and only grandchild.  She lived near me the last fifteen years of her life.  I watched and lived my Mama’s life daily.  I loved to see her smile, hear her laughter, feel her motherly arms around me.  A mother’s love is mighty precious.  As her mind diminished, I found it most difficult to watch her change from a proud and strong woman to a dependent and often confused woman.  Mama raised us three girls alone after Daddy died from Pancreatic cancer.  We were only 12, 10, and 7.  She had her hands full raising three girls in the 1960s and 70s, but she did it.  She was pleased and proud of us all after we got through those rugged teen years.  She loved us through the hard places though and never gave up on any of us.  She was one of those gals during World War II who went to work for the war effort.  She married a Navy doctor.  She owned a dress shop.  She took care of herself, physically and mentally.  She was just an amazing lady.  But over time, not much it seemed, she changed so much that the mother I had always known was vanishing.  She had vascular dementia.  So as this disease diminished her mental abilities, along with the physical struggles, I came to see my Mama was just as vulnerable as I had been when I was a child.  She needed to be handled with respect, dignity, and loving care.  She needed strength when weakness overtook her.

As her daughter, I came to know a mother who I was quite unfamiliar with, but wanted to know.  I wanted to learn how to be the kind of daughter who could also give her the best care.  The nights when she would be so angry over something imaginary, or when her blood sugar would be extremely low and she needed to be hand fed, or the times when she would scream at a hard-working, poorly-paid staff member, I would be all torn up inside.  I was the one who needed care sometimes.  Yet, I would hold up while I was with her, calling upon the LORD to calm me and her.  When I would leave for the night, I would walk toward my car and cry out to the heavens, “How long, O LORD, how long?”  Not that I wanted her to die for I would (and do now) miss her terribly, but watching her mind go through so much, getting a very odd and extremely painful cancer the last year of her life, continually left me in stress and anguish over my Mama.  It all went on and on, and I just wondered if God had forgotten about her, about me.

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
  Psalm 13:3-4

But He had not.  God never left either of us.  The number of Mama’s days were in God’s hands.  God was our strength.  He is the LORD Who sees, Yahweh Roi.  He knows and sees all.  God was drawing Mama closer to Himself all along through prayer, through the precious witness of a kitchen staff member who would share her Bible study on Mom’s clear-minded days, and through the divine appointment of a Christian caregiver who came to be with Mom two nights a week so that I could spend those evenings with my husband.  And I know that God, Yahweh Roi, took her to heaven on that final numbered day.  He also drew me closer to Him through His Word, through the love of my husband, through His children on staff, and through quiet moments with Him as I sat with Mama during her sleeping times, or when I was on my knees in prayer before Him, or when I was alone with His Word on my lap.  Yahweh Roi, the LORD Who sees, never left me nor my Mama.  Drawing near to Him grew my relationship with the LORD and gave me peace and hope as I drew upon His power and might.  Through His love and hope for Mama’s future and mine, I have been reassured of His Presence and Omniscience in my life.  I know that I have a hope in the LORD that is truly unsinkable.  I can sing with joy for He, indeed, dealt with me bountifully.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 13:5-6

Father God, I do rejoice and sing to You.  You truly have dealt with me bountifully and lovingly for I never walked alone through the many years caring for my mother.  During the hard times, you were with me, even when I forgot.  During my weaknesses, you never stopped holding me up.  As I walked around unknown corners, I would find You there waiting for me with the caress of Your Godly love.  Oh, Father, You have blessed me beyond my thoughts.  I know that my mother is with You and that I will one day be there too.  Your bountiful gifts never ceased even when I could not see them.  I look back and know that You were always there.  You are my God Whom I trust and sing to today because You have sustained me, loved me, comforted me, answered me, and, most of all, tenderly cared for and brought salvation to my Mama.  In the Perfect Name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

…..

 

befuschiasig

 

 

Giving Care God’s Way

I am blessed to be a guest writer at Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood today in the first of a number of posts on caregiving.  Please join me over there.

rocking-chair

But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

The LORD is where our strength rests. He has more than enough for each one of us who gives care to another. Our task, besides the giving of care, is to wait upon the LORD.

Oh, my!  You may ask, “How can I wait when I have all of this to do? I don’t have time to wait.” He calls upon us to wait. upon. Him.  He will give us all that we need, all that we don’t even know we need.

As I share pieces of what I know about caregiving each month, let’s make our walk together in a garden setting for there is peace and tranquility, beauty and quiet in such a place.  We need these in order to wait upon the LORD for His direction.  I will focus upon the giving of care to the elderly whether he or she be a spouse, parents, elderly relatives, but you may easily be able to transfer this information for any caregiving circumstance such as an ill child or one who is mentally challenged, each of whom depend upon us for their well-being.

I was a giver of care to my mother for fifteen years.  She lived well over 98 years.  She has been with the LORD since January 30, 2013.  Knowing that there are many in this role of caring for someone elderly or ill, I pray that my experience will benefit each one who reads this in the ways that God knows you need support.  God plants seeds that sprout through rich and watered soil.  When I began caring for Mama, my soil was quite parched, but over the years, the LORD watered me, weeded out that which He could not use, tilled the soil until it became richer for His seeds:  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)  He gave me laughter when times were hard, tears for moments of needed release, a quiet spirit when family members were nasty. Over the years, He filled my soil with plants of His wisdom, of others’ love, authors’ and other caregivers’ experience and wisdom, prayers of many.  If God has called you to tend to another’s needs, I pray that you will allow Him to till your soil and plant His seeds, to water you with His Word and love for He wants to nourish you so that you may be sustained during this season.

I may be on the other side of taking care of Mama now, but that does not mean I no longer understand.  I do ever so much and want to share what I have learned, what I needed, and what I still need to this day.  I want to make this “our garden” for I want you to share your needs as well.  If you work in an assisted living facility, in a nursing home, or through hospice, I want you to share your experiences on the topic at hand.  In this garden we want to care for the precious ones God has given us as though our hands are the hands of Jesus. Let us pray together and pray for one another, encourage and support each other as we do what God has called us to do, or do what we may even feel a heavy burden to do.  It is not easy, but God strengthens us for the task, if we allow Him.    

Today, on this first post, I am recommending a couple of excellent books I have used over the years continually, even now:

The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People with Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss in Later Life by Nancy L. Mace, Peter V. Rabins.  In print since 1981, fifth edition.  It is best read by the subject needed at the time a loved one with dementia/Alzheimers is going through that particular phase or has a certain symptom. No two dementia/Alzheimers’ patients are the same as far as how stages progress or the way that the person regresses. The index is the key. I used it as an encyclopedia with each phase that Mama went through.  An excellent resource.

“Quiet Moments for Caregivers–devotional and worship ideas for caregivers and care receivers” by Betty Free, 2002. No longer in print; many booksellers have used/new copies available. I heard James Dobson interviewing Betty Free on “Focus on the Family” in my early days of caring for Mama.  Not only did I need the book, but it is one I have given away to many.  The pages are filled with prayers of praise, adoration, thankfulness, of love and family, of hope, strength, prayers for forgiveness, prayers focusing on Jesus.  Mrs. Free shares her insights about love and caring, about changes, worries and fear, of pain and suffering, even of joy and laughter.  She asks “why” questions, those unanswerable ones, placing them into the hands of God. The book ends with prayers for the care receivers…comforting Psalms, Scriptures, and hymns.  It is a peaceful and comforting book.

LORD, I lift up this precious group of sisters who are under Your care as we care for another.  We ask that we have open eyes, open ears, open hearts to hear from You, to see You, to know Your ways, and to bend our knees in humility and prayer at Your feet.  May we tend to one of your creations as only You desire, cultivating quality of life for them, nurturing them in ways that You prescribe.  I pray also, LORD, that You nourish us through the power of Your Word by Your Holy Spirit in the fellowship of believing sisters, by encouragement, support, and bountiful prayer.  In the very Strength of Your Son’s Name, we pray.  Amen.

Caring through Christ, ~ linda

 

Unstring

I read “God in the Yard” by l. l. barkat.  I move through the pages at a slow, sporadic pace, doing the exercises, learning to play and be a child once again, with God, no less.  I am in the third week, page 27.  One exercise is called “Unstring”.  She says, “Picture certain issues/emotions/elements of your personal psychology to be like a cord that binds you.  Can you feel them cutting in?  Do you wish the ties could be loosened?  As a kind of prayer, invite the Spirit to begin unwinding the invisible cords; to feel the hope of this, act out unwinding with your body.  If you prefer, draw a picture of yourself and what binds you, then draw a series of pictures that illustrate the ties coming undone.”

So I did that.  It looked something like this: 

On my own drawing, I had words on the lines such as:

self-defeating

too easily crushed
fearful
need to control situations

emotionally hurt by words
caregiving for 13 years

 

 

I asked the Holy Spirit to unwind the tight cords that bind me, those old tapes in my head that take away my freedom to twirl in the wind, to breathe deeply.  Much lies behind the words, behind that tight cord.  How can I play when the seriousness of life is weighing me down?

Mom was angry last night.  I am grateful that this mood is not often, but when it is there, I struggle.  I do not like anger, rarely being angry myself.  Mom uses some foul language when she is angry.  Oh, how that runs like fingernails on the chalkboard with me, with my ways.  I leave my visit and I am down, worn out, in no mood to play.  I allow this dementia-caused anger to tie me up in a knot.  There is nothing, NOTHING, I can do about it, nor can she.  So why am I taking it on myself, I ask?

From the spiral drawing right column, you can see the things that are eating me from inside my own self.  The old tapes play.  I put my hands over my ears so I don’t have to hear any of this.  But it doesn’t help because it’s coming from inside.

God, You made me and I know You did not make me with this negative self-debasing talk inside.  I have allowed this world to convince me that I am less than how You made me.
God, can we just sit today in the big rocker on the porch?  Can we rock together, me close to You?  Can we be still?  Quiet?  Can I just be enveloped by Your selfless love, shielded by Your strength, caressed by Your compassion?  Can I, Abba Father?  I would like that because I really just want to be with You, to know Your Presence.  You are my All in all, the Abba Daddy I need and have needed since I was twelve when I lost my earthly Daddy to cancer.  You held me then and I need You to hold me now.  
  
One rocker, that’s all we need, Abba Father.  Just one.  It feels so good to sit beside You with my head on Your chest.  I hear Your heartbeat.  Oh, it’s mine?  My heart is Your heart, isn’t it?  We are united because You sacrificed Your Son for one such as me.  I am Your child and I am glad, and thankful too.  Oh, Abba, You truly do unwind that tight cord from these self-inflicted burdens, the self-destroying talk.  As You loosen the cord with care, You set me free, little by little.  I begin to feel like a child who can play again.  I begin to feel freed from these ties that bind.  You are my Abba Father.  I am Your child who is filled with the joy and the peace that only You can bring. 
Con todo mi corazón, Le agradezco, padre de Abba,
 Your Daughter

Quote from l. l. barkat’s book, “God in the Yard, Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us”, 2010

Picture/Drawing: “squiggle1.gif” @ www2.asd.wednet.edu
Photo of Rocking Chair: “Rocking Chair 2”  AttributionNoncommercial
Some rights reserved by CMMahon, 12/07/2006, Christina M. Mahon, flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmahon/

Soli Deo Gloria – for God’s Glory Alone

To Him be the glory …
 
My ninety-seven year old mother lives in a nursing home with dementia and diabetes.  She has a variety of other issues and I just don’t want her to have any more that causes more suffering.  I have been caring for Mom for thirteen years now, bringing her near me from California to Texas when she needed more help then she was getting.  She has gone from being able to live in a senior resident to an assisted living to a nursing home over the scope of these years…from fairly independent to fairly helpless.  So many times times, I have looked to the heavens and asked, “How long, O Lord?  How long?” 
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But You, O Lord—how long?
Psalm 6:3

And then she has such sweet days and is so delightful.  Her mind is quite clear.  Her body is more able.  And how can I ask such a question as “How long?”  I am on a roller coaster with my Mama, and have been on again, off again this ride for years.  I do have a life other than caregiver, too.  I am married to a wonderful man.  We have a vacation planned in our fifth wheel RV for September.  I have had surgery, myself, just this past May to have three vertebrae fused in the cervical spine.  I am healing, yet I fell and have been in other pains since.  I have other spinal issues as does my husband.

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Am I asking, “How long?” out of selfishness?  I love my mother.  I am so thankful that I have been allowed to care for her.  I am weary.  “How long?”  I laugh with her.  I love with her.  Yet, “How long?”  It is about me sometimes and I don’t mean to be selfish.  It is about my own life.  I retired from the workplace, yet I have retired from only part of my life’s work, haven’t I?  “How long?”

LORD, I have such a sweet relationship with my Mama now, and love her so.  Yet, You know, LORD, I am tired and worn out.  I just wonder.  I have thoughts that I wish I did not have.  I am sorry for I do not wish her gone.  I know that one day, You will take her.  Hold me while I wait on You.  May my strength be in You, Abba.  Guide me to be Your caregiver for her, the best I can be in Your love.  May I continue to be a kind friend to others in the nursing home, residents and staff alike.  May I be a light there.  Oh, how I love my Mama, LORD.  Thank You for listening and letting me work through this for now.  Guide me to understand this beautiful psalm and the depth to which it dives.  It speaks of my Mama.  It speaks of me.  Show me Thy Way, O LORD.  Show me Thy Way that I may walk in Your freedom no matter what stage of life I am in.  No matter where I am.  No matter what I do or have.  Just, no matter.  I want nothing to matter but You.  For Your glory alone, I want to live until my days are done.  Amen.
Psalm 90
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.  
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.  
You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!” 
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.
You sweep them away as with a flood; 
they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.
 
For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
 
For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
 
Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
 
Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
 
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands! 

Psalm90-12

 

Swinging

swings Pictures, Images and Photos

God feels near.

In my mind … we are at the swing.
He pushes me.
I pump my feet.
He pushes til I am going higher and higher.
We laugh together.
I feel like a child.
I need this even if it is only in my mind.
Today…most every day, I need this time with God and to feel like a child.

Caregiving for Mama,
nursing home environment,
other elderly,
doubt,
sadness,
concern,
frustration,
my own body aches making me feel older than my 63 years,
recovering from cervical spinal surgery slowing me down more than I normally am which is slow already.

But my mind can take me away from all of that.
My heart can draw near, nearer to God.
As I float higher on this mind-filled swing,
I let go and float.
I float into the heavenly places.
Jesus watches with love in His eyes.
He reminds me that His Love never ceases.
My Creator knit me and has always known me, loves me more deeply than I ever can.

This swing takes me higher with my Lord.
This swing changes my mood to pure joy releasing all else.
I know the childish feeling is heartfelt and real.
I am in His arms as we swing together with Love wrapped around me.

Flying high with my Lord.

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”   
Matthew 18:3-4

Girls-Swinging-at-Sunset-Poster-C12311114.jpeg

graphic: photo of girl swinging entitled “swing1” by “findstuff22” @ PhotoBucket

My Precious Mama

As I go to visit with my 97 year old mother in a nursing home, one she and I are most comfortable in, I go to check up on her at various hours and various days, but mainly I go to love her, remind her I live nearby, to talk with her, watch a baseball game with her, call my sisters with her, call her grandson, to check on her belongings and put things in drawers where she remembers that they probably are, and just be there with her.

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Some days, she is perky and cheerful, full of jabber and stories.  Other days she is sleepy or sleeping.  Other days she is extremely confused, maybe
afraid.  I never quite know just who I am going to visit.  But it does not matter.  She is my Mama and I love her.  So I have learned to handle the moods, the needs, the moments, the dementia, over these thirteen years of being caregiver for her.

Last week, I arrived to a Mama sound asleep at 6:30 P.M.  She woke up to the sound of one of the CNAs talking with me.  She was not angry as she can be when awakened.  She, very quietly, without opening her eyes, said, “I want two eggs over-easy, crisp bacon, rye toast, butter, no jelly.”  Of course, I was sitting on the other side of the room and had to go sit next to her on her bed in order to actually hear this “order”.  She did this once before to me and I scrambled to find the one and only restaurant in our small town that served breakfast all day.  (This is shorter than me going to the grocer to buy bacon and rye bread.  I have eggs!)  So I hopped in the car, got her this special order.  She had gone to the dining room at 5:00 P.M. but they were too slow for her this day and left before the dinner was served.  They brought her tray to the room, but she only ate the salad and the pudding, I was told.  When I returned from the restaurant with breakfast in hand, I barely was able to get her upright in order for her to eat and swallow.  She was so sleepy that she kept falling over.  Finally, I went and sat on the bed beside her, spoon-fed the eggs to her.  (She kept dropping the eggs from the fork.)  She handled the crispy bacon strips herself.  The toast was not touched.  When finished, she flopped back into bed and that was all she wrote.  I kissed her and told her “I love you, Mama” and I heard a faint, “I love you too, and thank you.”

I cleaned up the meal and sat in her recliner watching her sleep.  As Mama becomes older and needs help like this particular night, I find that my love for this once-strongly-independent woman grows exponentially as she becomes weaker and less able to do for herself.  Don’t get me wrong, on her
good days, she can do so much alone at 97 that it is wonderful.  But on these confused or weakened days, the staff or others, including me, must help her do so much.

As I sit there at times like this nighttime breakfast, I just love her.  I feel the way a mother must feel for her children when they are the most needy, at those very young ages.  Since I was never a mother, I am only imagining, but I believe I have it right.  I am the mother to her now on so many days. I love it that God has allowed me to be her caregiver and her daughter.

Thank You, LORD, for giving me this beautiful mother.  I am grateful for the time we have, and for the sweet memories You are giving me now with
her.  She is a jewel and I pray she is Yours, LORD.  I believe she is.  (Thank You for that reassurance You just gave me, Sweet LORD.  Thank You.)  Thank You for all she has done for me throughout our journey together these past 63 years.  I am glad she is my mother and that You have allowed me to be her child, her grown daughter, her friend.  O, Abba Father, You have blessed me with much.  No matter how much time she has left, may I walk Your Way with her until the day You take her home.  Amen. 

I love you, Mama … I whisper.

IMG_0021

Parenting When I Am Not One?

dcbab93ee74c1d117d3178dbe38c0452As a non-parent, you may wonder about me sharing about being a “prayerful parent.”  I understand your concern.  But, I am a parent to my Mom, to other’s children, to younger Christian women.  Because of this, I truly want to be prayerful when regarding these relationships.  They are precious to me.  They are important and well worth praying over. My mother has dementia.  My mother is very clear some days yet on those dementia-riddled days, she needs some parenting.  More than anything, Mama needs prayer.  Her mind gets so very confused, angry, out of control, and even fearful.  She needs one to love her unconditionally, to hold her, to calm her down, to ease her fears.  I handle her financial matters, paying her bills, and making sure she has fresh fruit and flowers, new nightgowns, clothing.  I did her laundry for years before I finally let the nursing home take care of that.  I keep her name written on her nightgowns and all else so she gets things back.  I try to keep her in touch with her two other daughters and her grandson by phone.  I hug her and assure her that she is loved.  So there are times I am her parent.  She is in my prayers all of the time.

I have taught children most of my adult life.  I have tutored children.  I take care of children one-on-one.  I may teach them reading, or math, or how to be kind, or to love gently, or just play with them.  I care about them and love them.  I pray for them.  I am a prayerful “other Mom” or “aunt” or “tia” or “Miss Linda” to them!  They know they are loved.
I have mentored several younger Christian women.  I pray with them.  I study God’s Word with them.  I may care for a little one of theirs while they run an errand or register for college classes.  I love them.  I pray for them when we are apart.  I am a spiritual parent to them and certainly am prayerful.You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.  Acts 2:28
God has given me a gift of parenting in ways I could never have imagined.  He has walked with me through deep forests when I knew not my way, yet He brought me into the light and I knew my way because it was His way.  God loves me through each relationship so that I am the best parent I can be at that moment.  He teaches me so that I improve just as “real parents” learn as their children grow, and from child to child.  Wisdom increases, knowledge abounds as we grow in the LORD.  God is the Only One Who gives us these gifts and walks us through the steps of prayerful parenting.  We need prayer for ourselves as parents.  We must not neglect the one who is parenting!You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.  Psalm 73:24 

LORD, I am so grateful that You have given me opportunities to be a parent in ways I never could have imagined.  You have allowed me to pray for each one and to love them with Your love.  As it is Your will, my Heavenly Father, bring those into my life whom You have chosen for me to parent and to pray for and over.  Your purposes are special and unique towards each one.  I am thankful that You use me in these ways.  May I be available when You call.  For now, LORD, thank You for giving me my Mama to love tenderly, to pray over, to take care of some of her needs, and to fulfill Your purpose for me with her.  May I always feel Your love flowing through me to her.  Amen.IMG_0053