Changing of the Guard

by Michele McCarthy

The ambulance was already headed to the hospital when he called me. He pressed me to go get his car. Only dad would be more concerned about his car than the fact he was in an ambulance. I assured him I’d retrieve his car, but right now I needed to know the hospital to which he was headed and why. He told me he’d fallen at a restaurant, and when he saw the angle of his foot, he knew something was broken.

An unexpected call from your elderly dad from within an ambulance is a tad unnerving! Yet I felt the peace of God settle over me. We had grandbabies for the weekend. My husband took over their care as I punched my sister’s number and headed out the door. Even as I drove to him,  I prayed for Dad’s healing and cast my cares on the Lord.

Dad had fractured his hip, and surgery was scheduled for the next day. His surgery went well. But the medicines wreaked havoc on a man of 89, who rarely took a pill his entire life. From his recovery forward, he had fits at night, believed he was being held captive, and was tormented with foot cramps.

During his eight days in the hospital and three weeks in rehab, he only managed to take a few steps. Progress hadn’t come as we thought it would.

In a matter of minutes on that fateful day, I had been thrust into being responsible for the man who parented me well. The changing of the guard. Roll reversal. My highly active, rental-property-working dad needed significant help. It is a situation most of us will face at some point in our lives, but not easy for either party. I was determined to remain a child who honors her parent.

Since he wasn’t walking yet, after rehab, we transferred him to an assisted living facility. His mind never seemed to recover from the trauma or the meds. He talked of his childhood hometown and a Mexico work facility. He thought he saw his great grandmother and wanted to introduce my grown boys to their great, great, great grandmother.

He hadn’t been there but a few weeks, when I felt the Lord tell me to bring him back to his home. The calm and peace I felt assured me it was the right decision. After phone calls, meetings, and paperwork, we brought him back to his freshly scrubbed, rearranged, and restocked house. Happy to be back in familiar territory and in his own chair, he seemed like he was on the road to recovery. He was less confused and making progress.

Everyone faces the unexpected. Many face far worse than an elderly parent’s broken hip. In fact, we are promised there will be troubles in this life. But when we put our trust in God, when we trade our yoke for the one Jesus gives, we find rest (Matthew 11:28). Fear and worry have no place in a heart that trusts God.

Before I understood my identity in Christ, my full inheritance, and the abundance of His love and goodness toward me, finding rest and peace felt elusive. They felt more like a denial of reality. But now peace is a place where I dwell—anywhere and anytime. Like Jesus, I can sleep through the storm and proclaim, “I trust you Jesus for direction and answers. Thank you for the good You will bring out of this situation.”

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NASB

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

michele mccarthy

About the author: Michele McCarthy is married and a mom to two sons and Gigi to five adorable grandchildren. She is a Texas Christian University graduate with a degree in Education. She attended Lifestyle Christianity University in Watauga, Texas. Michele is a co-founder of LWT (Living Write Texas), a Christian writing group for women. She loves reading, painting, all things witty, and hot fudge sundaes.

In Michele’s new book Aunt Ida Clare, Rosalina is not quite sure what to think of their new babysitter. Aunt Ida is quite the sight. Rosalina’s Daddy calls her flamboyant. Aunt Ida Clare shares the purpose behind speaking life-giving words to an unsuspecting brother and sister. She is positively the best thing to happen to these impressionable children.

Join the conversation: Have you learned to trust God in other kinds of trying situations?

Can We Honor and Parent Our Parents?

by Kathy Howard

“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise.” Ephesians 6:2 NIV

My father was hospitalized with a urinary tract infection and sepsis. Due to my mother’s worsening dementia, she could not stay alone. Each day we drove to the hospital to spend the bulk of the day with Dad, and then I took her home for the night.

During the drive one morning, I saw Mom rummaging in her purse in my peripheral vision. At a stoplight I glanced over in time to see her touch a mascara wand to her lips.

“What ‘cha doin’ Mom?” I asked casually.

“I need a little color on my lips,” was her reply.

Seriously, what do you do with this? I could let her walk into the hospital with black lips, setting her up for possible embarrassment. I could stop her with a quick rebuke. Or I could ask God to help me do the right thing, the right way. I quickly asked God for wisdom and words.

“Mom, I’ve got some lipstick in my purse that would look great on you. Want to try it?”

Mom dropped the mascara in her purse and used my lipstick. Her feelings were spared and she was satisfied. I’d like to tell you every encounter is similar, but sadly it’s not. Too often I react from my own resources instead of God’s.

As our parents age, as illness takes its toll, they increasingly require more help. It may require financial guidance, help at home, emotional support, or even constant health care. Whatever your particular situation, as the parent becomes more like a child in many ways, the child must take on the parenting role.

Although the specific circumstances will look different for each family, God’s Word leaves no doubt – caring for our parents is our God-given responsibility. When God gave the people His Law in the desert, one of the first ten commandments was to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you” (Exodus 20: 12 NASB). Doing this pleases God and should be a natural result of our relationship with Him. But is it possible to both care for and honor our parents at the same time?

Honor means to hold in esteem, or place value on someone or something. God wants us to respond to our parents as people of worth and to treat them in ways that best meets their needs. Whatever care they may require, we can do it in a way that demonstrates our value for them, treating them always with kindness and respect.

I’ve learned – the hard way – that so much depends on my attitude and tone. If my heart isn’t right with God, if I’m in the middle of a pity party, or if I’m all wrapped up in self, I end up doing exactly what Paul warned Timothy against: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father” (1 Timothy 5:1 NIV).

More than once I’ve caught myself trying to do the right thing in the wrong way. Impatience, selfishness, and frustration can easily foster harsh words. The end result isn’t all that matters. The words and actions we use to get there should comfort, encourage, console, and strengthen our parents.

Honoring our parents while caring for them is definitely not child’s play. But it pleases God and He stands by ready to supply everything we need to do the right thing, the right way.

Kathy HowardAbout the author: Struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? Kathy Howard’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection.

Join the conversation: Think about some of your recent interactions with your parent. In what ways, if any, could you have improved on the outcome?