Tag Archives: grace

Lessons in Grace with Great Aunt (part 12)

13 Oct

Have you ever had the sense someone was watching you – even in your sleep?  I don’t think I will ever forget the night I woke with a start to a ninety some year old woman standing at the side of my bed at 3:30 a.m. peering down at me! Did I ever jump!!!

Why was she up in the middle of the night? What was she doing? Where else had she been?

 As time progressed with Great Aunt, one of her most common activities was packing her belongings.  For some reason, she continually thought she was moving. I would walk into her area of the house to find the pictures off the walls, blankets – folded and stacked, books, photo albums, jewelry… absolutely everything she could find piled or stashed away into drawers.  I would unpack each treasure, rehang the pictures, and reassure her that she was not moving. This was her home. This was her family.

Remarkably, by the time I came back to check on her, the process would be repeated! How did she do it? What stamina! She was able to pack all of her things several times a day!

Pack – unpack. Pack – unpack. Pack – unpack.

I may be a bit slow, but it didn’t take too long before I realized we needed to make some changes.  She needed less to pack, and I needed to unpack less!

We converted part of Great Aunt’s living area into a master bedroom accomplishing two things. One, she needed less space and fewer things deal with. Two, we were closer to her, providing better and much needed oversight.

The decision had been a very difficult one for me.  In no way did I want to limit her; or worse, move in to her very own abode.  Would she or the extended family think we were selfishly taking her space?

She adapted so well, we wondered why we hadn’t made the change sooner.  The large amount of space had clearly become too much for her.

In a large family such as ours, seldom was Great Aunt left alone. Although Sunday mornings and a few other occasions, she had the house to herself.  She had done well, until… we started coming home to tissue paper stuffed into the gas fire place (with the gas on), the stove top turned on high, water faucets left running.  She was rapidly loosing the ability to function safely without supervision. It was after the episode in the middle of the night,  it became clear that we needed to install a lock on her bedroom door, on the outside.

If I thought reducing her living space was difficult, the thought of locking Great Aunt’s door was worse!

We could no longer trust her judgement.  We did not want to put Great Aunt or the household at risk. We did not want to send her back to the “home-for-the-elderly”. Our desire was to lovingly care for her as long as we were able.

The lock was installed.  Because it was seldom used, it wasn’t an issue.  She had declined enough that it was not offensive to her.  In fact, when moving about her new more limited space, upon trying the door- she would just politely knock on the door, and close by, we would come to her attention. Once again, I was able to sleep without worrying about what the night might bring.

~lessons in grace~

loving when the loving is tough

pulling back when the desire is to give

restraining for ones own benefit

…all while honoring a life well lived


Lessons in Grace with Great Aunt (part 11)

16 Sep

Five Areas to Better Serve

Caring for others, whether it be small children, the sick, elderly… whoever is in need, is challenging and often all consuming.

It was our desire and choice to care for Great Aunt. It was a natural fit,  in that I was already home everyday caring for our own children, we both had some experience in the area, and had purchased a house that suited the situation.  Never-the-less, sometimes the task was overwhelming.  At times I found it affecting every other area of my life.

It was during a low ebb,  drained both physically and emotionally, that I pinpointed 5 areas to redirect my focus to better serve both Great Aunt and my family.


1. Remember who I am serving

I was serving Great Aunt, but ultimately, I was serving God.  I could never do things well enough for Great Aunt and as a result, felt I was always striving, but never pleasing.  I learned to change my focus, no longer on her but beyond her.

2. Be a duck and let it roll

When accusations came, like in the stolen lipstick and undergarments experience, my first response was to defend myself.  Sometimes defense isn’t necessary, better to let the comments roll – like water droplets rolling off the back of a duck.

3. Speak with grace

Whether responding to Great Aunt or speaking about her to someone else, I determined to speak with grace. Not wanting my own words to resonate in my mind like sharp thistles , I considered how I would feel in her place.

4. Serve secretly

In the midst of Great Aunts complaints, I found myself attempting to “win points” by informing her of things I had done for her. As foolish as that sounds – even as I write now – it is pattern that I still can find myself in if not careful.  My goal was (and still needs to be) to serve quietly, humbly.

5. Serve joyfully

Attitudes from within my heart had a way of creeping out.  If I was discontented,  it was difficult to serve with joy. This point circles back to the first.  When I placed the focus on whom I was ultimately serving (taking it off of myself), the joy would return.


Reading through my journals and finding these principles, again,

I was struck at how applicable they are to me today.

This is how I want to live.

This is how I want to serve.

Lessons in Grace with Great Aunt (part 10)

31 Jul

Struggling with Grace

Taking care of Great Aunt brought an increased awareness to my own personal lack of grace. If I thought I had gained strides through being a wife and mother; this period of my life took the ongoing refining of my character to a whole new level.  The daily struggle to patiently love and selflessly serve, tested me far beyond where I been.  This was 24 hour, 7 day a week care.

…it was a somewhat typical busy day for our young large family.  I had a very new baby, the children had chicken  pox, Mark’s back was out and he was limited to bed rest. The day was cut out for me;  meals needed to be made, sick children tended, laundry done, baby fed and changed…  Great Aunt had eaten her breakfast and was appearing to enjoy the sunny sitting area in her room.

She beckoned me to bring her a glass of cold water. In between the continuous needs and questions of the children, I came back with a glass of cold water. Her response was less than happy. I had failed to put ice in the glass. Walking back to the kitchen meant being available to the children; their questions and needs quickly resumed. I was distracted. One had itchy pox, another’s fever was on the rise, baby was crying… when suddenly I remembered, Great Aunt wanted ice water!

Quickly I filled her glass with many chunks of ice and attempted again to cheerfully serve her.   With a sharp angry voice she replied, “Well, what took you so long?” I tried to defend myself, “Please be patient with me. Mark’s back is out, the kids are all sick, and I just had a baby and need to move slowly.” The response I received literally did me in. “Humph!” she crossly stated, “It’s not my fault you had a baby!” In a knee jerk reaction, I threw the ice water all over Great Aunt.

I quickly went outside and sat on the front step. What had I done!? I was ashamed and in tears.

Humbly I called my mother-in-law (Great Aunt’s niece) and confessed.

The unexpected grace I experienced that day, is one I will never forget.

“Becky, Great Aunt is living and breathing.  You have given her years of life she would not have had.  She hangs laundry, she plays with the children.  She has relationships with all of you. That is what relationships are – laughing, loving, and even getting angry, and making up.”

I regained my composure and faced Great Aunt again, with a fresh glass of ice water. Carefully, I handed it to her, apologizing for my behavior.  If she even remembered the incident, she never let on, but her disposition remained much sweeter for the rest of that day.

I want to treat others – I want to treat my family with the grace I received from my mother-in-law that day.

Lessons in Grace with Great Aunt (part 7)

14 Jun

 Polyester Pant Suits

 It had been some time since Great Aunt had lived in her own home. She moved to an apartment with assisted living, then to the nursing home, and finally in with our family of, at the time, 8 children.  Her once lively lifestyle had become more and more confined with each move.  Even so, a variety of remnants from her past remained, and we desired to provide as much life and vitality as we were able.

 In previous years, Great Aunt had enjoyed  hosting card parties with her lady friends.  Wanting to encourage those friendships, we had decided to help her host a party in her new place.  She was no longer able to see a cooking project all the way through, but she did enjoy getting her hands into the mix of things.   It was our hope that by having her friends come,  Great Aunt might gain a sense of belonging. This was her home.

One of the remnants of Great Aunt’s past was her wardrobe.  She loved bright vibrant colors and bold gaudy jewelry.  With this in mind, you can imagine the process of getting dressed for a party!  Her favorite selections included various  pant suits that were in shades of lime green, bright orange, and brilliant purples .  The fabric of choice was consistently, the ever-wearing, polyester.  It truly  never did wear out!   She no longer was confined to the typical rules of a matching an outfit. She had found complete freedom to mix and match.  The brighter the colors, the better she liked it! Hair done, lipstick on, she was good to go.

I think I was more excited about this event than Great Aunt.  I enjoyed planning ways to make it special for her and generating her participation.  She genuinely liked the ideas and was ready to greet the ladies as they arrived.  Tea and dessert were served.  Cards were played.  The visit was a success.  Having heard Great Aunt speak of these special people, I was thankful to have met them. They were faithful friends showing both their love and concern.

Pictures played an important role during this period of time.  With every event, we captured memories in print.  As time progressed, it often became her only memory of us.  The past became increasingly present in her mind, and recognition of who we were faded in and out. We used her photo album as a tool to try to keep her remembering the recent past. Today, I am thankful we did, as they now have become precious memories for our family.

As I helped Great Aunt get ready for bed, I cheerfully tried to engage her in recounting the happenings of the day.  It was gone.  All memory of her friends and the visit had faded away.  To try to persuade her otherwise was an insult to her intellect.

Was it a waste, I wondered?  Had I gone to all that work in vain? No… I knew the answer had to be no.  Great Aunt lived that day.  Embracing her friends, she loved  and served them.  Equally importantly, those ladies embraced their friend one last time.  Yes, it had been worth it all.

Lessons in Grace with “Great Aunt” (part 5)

16 May

Wise Enough to Know When to Simply Move On

Seeing the children in the yard with their new jump ropes was enough enticement for Great Aunt to step outside and enjoy the fun.   Smugly, she got a kick out of the fact that the little ones were struggling to coordinate the jump and the swing well enough to actually – jump rope.  She smiled a little and said, “Give me that rope, I’ll show you how it’s done. It’s easy!”

Well… age has a way of creeping up on all of us when were not looking.  Great Aunt felt good.  She was eating well, getting fresh air and sunshine, enjoying small walks around the yard, and surrounded by young energetic children.  She was healthier now than when she had first moved in with us.  It’s no wonder she wanted to show off to the kiddos!

We all watched in anticipation as Great Aunt took the rope in hand, while passing off her crutch.  Slowly positioning the rope just so, she began the swing over her head attempting to move into the jump. Without question, the desire was there.  The brain was telling those feet to come off the ground in an upward burst, but they didn’t budge! “Disgusted”, the look on her face said it all.  What had happened to her jump? Determined to make it work, she tried again and again.  She was willing, but her body just would not cooperate.

Even though Great Aunt’s jump roping lesson didn’t go as well as planned, she had given it her best shot.  I want to be like Great Aunt: Brave enough to try and fail,  determined enough to get back up and try again, and wise enough to know when to simply move on!

My Lessons in Grace With “Great Aunt”

18 Apr

This story covers a six year period in our family’s life.   For some time, I have intended to record it in written form.  Already being stretched in writing for Not Without Aim, I decided to reserve the first day of the week for this topic.  A little unsure of how many Mondays it may take… I will begin.

It had been an eventful spring. Three weeks before the birth of our eighth child, we closed on the sale of one home and on the purchase of another.  The same week this son was welcomed into the world, my much loved grandmother’s life ended. (She is worthy of another story on another day!)  It did not take us long to settle in to life on our hobby farm.  Enjoying our little chunk of land to the fullest, the garden was planted, ducks and chickens were wandering the yard, and fencing was put in place for goats and pigs.  We put every square inch of those few acres into use!

By mid summer one of our “Great Aunt’s” health began to decline.  She could no longer live alone and entered a health care facility.  She very much wanted to move in with us as soon as possible.  There was no question in our minds. Yes, of course, we would be honored to care for her.  In an attempt to make a wise decision, we tried to take all things into consideration. We weighed out the pros and cons.  Although the cons were apparent, our foremost desire was to care for her.  With the family’s support, we began to reorder our lives, again.

Our growing family of ten had already pushed the limits of our small house.  Either we would have to build an addition, or purchase a larger home.  Revisiting a place I had kept my eyes on over the last year, we found it not only for sale, but also vacant.  By Thanksgiving we had sold the “little” and we (and Great Aunt)  moved in to the “big.”

While we spent the morning moving in our own boxes, Mark picked up Great Aunt and all of her belongings.  By mid-afternoon, they had arrived.  As I considered her position, 8o some years old, never having had children of her own, twice uprooted in the last few months, and suddenly planted into an active large household, I knew it was essential to make her transition as easy as possible. More important than settling my own family, was to first get her settled. Working together, Great Aunt’s living room and bedroom began to take shape, filled with her own belongings.  She could not have been more thankful. We were pleased.

That day marked the beginning of “My Lessons in Grace With Great Aunt.”