Monday, August 31, 2015


21.4 years x 365 days = 7,811 – 240 days of hospitalization = 7,571 days x 2 times a day = 15,142 times

15,142 is the approximate number of times my Mom has relied on someone to come to her home and get her in or out of bed over the last 21 years, since the car accident that resulted in her quadriplegia. 
This is a pretty sobering realization for me.  I have been that someone for some of those years.  But, not all or even most. 
I haven’t spent much time thinking about this because it’s not part of my daily life anymore.  It hasn’t been for 14 years.  But, I’m spending the weekend at my Mom’s house, as she broke her hip on Tuesday.  I’ve invited myself to be her house guest until I feel good about leaving again. 
As her guest, I’m around to observe some of these morning and nightly rituals that the faithful come to perform, and have performed over 15,000 times.  I’d forgotten how many little steps there are and how long they take. 
I am simply overwhelmed with gratitude and in awe of their fidelity.  Between five agencies and countless aides, eight of them have carried the bulk of these shifts.  My Mom can only remember one time when someone was scheduled and they didn’t come.  One time. 
The caregivers who have come over the years have given my mom a life of independence, free from the confines and endless halls of a long-term care facility.  They have allowed her children to live their own lives, too.  They do what I can no longer do easily or joyfully.  For me, it’s probably like anything else you have to do over a period of years without a choice.  If it was eating chocolate ice cream or jumping rope, I’d probably be okay without doing either, ever again.  It makes sense enough and doesn’t even feel bad to acknowledge it, until I’m sitting in a recliner blogging while someone else is taking care of my mom.  Like now.  (Thank you, Kathy!)
At any rate, there have been an army of women who have covered these 15,000+ shifts.  They remind me of soldiers who go to war for their country and fight to keep their buddy alive.  They show up, rain or snow, sleet or hail, early and late.  They work on Christmas and Easter and every day in between.  They know that if they “call in to work”, she (or whomever they’re serving) will spend an entire night in a wheelchair, or an entire day in bed, unshowered and unfed. 
Included in these 15,000+ shifts are well over 50,735 transfers (moving from one place to another).  [365days x 10years x 4transfers =14,600 + (365days x 9transfers x 11years) = 50,735 transfers]  This doesn’t even include outings, which were many, including 11 years without a handicapped accessible van. 
These women (and those like them) are the strongest women I know.  They routinely do the hardest work I’ve ever done, do it for multiple people daily for years on end, are underpaid, largely unappreciated, and happy to do it!
They are absolutely the most heroic group of women I’ve ever known. 
Of course, on the other side of their heroism is one just like them, but for different reasons.  While 15,000+ shifts and 50,000+ transfers have been divided among many on the caregiving side, there is one woman who has been the recipient of every. single. one.
Dear God of Those Who Wait and Those Who Come to Them,
Thank you for my Mom.  Thank you for the opportunity to be once again privy to her life at the outskirts of day.    Please strengthen her in body and spirit.  Thank you for the incredible women you have sent to her for over 21 years!  Thank you, especially, for those who come year, after year, after year.  Thank you for astounding numbers like 15,142.  Thank you for the grace and transformation that come from waiting, which enables patient acceptance of what is.  Those of us who witness it know the glory it gives to You!  Please bless all who have crossed my Mom’s threshold to care for her, especially the eight.  Please give them a double portion of all that is good.  Grant us all the grace to live with the generosity, mercy, gentleness, and love they model for us so beautifully.  Amen.      

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Stature of Waiting

A Figure of Enormous Dignity:  Imitating Christ and Accomplishing the Will of God Through Times of Sickness and Waiting
A Compilation from The Stature of Waiting, W.H. Vanstone

By Heidi Dixon

John 9:4 “We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work.”
It is made explicit in John’s Gospel that Jesus’ time for ‘working’ is limited.  In His encounter with the blind man whom He healed on the Sabbath, Jesus is explaining that He must ‘work’ even on the Sabbath because His time for working-the ‘daylight’ period-is limited.  Within that period Jesus must do all His work because ‘daylight’ is to be followed by the ‘night’ which, for Jesus as for mankind in general, must mean the end of work.  P.30 

John 11:9-10 “Are there not twelve hours in the day?  If a man walks in the day he does not stumble because he sees the light of this world:  but if a man walks in the night he stumbles because the light is not in him.” 

So the period for ‘working’ is limited; but John makes it clear that, while that period lasts, Jesus is not only commissioned and sent to do the Father’s works:  He is also free to do them.  During the daylight period His freedom to work cannot be fettered or restrained…Throughout the daylight period John shows Jesus free to work, in accordance with the Father’s will, beyond the restraint or interference of human hands, even of those hands which, at one point, would have ‘taken Him and made Him King’.   

John 17:4 “I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do…” 

And so, having used the daylight period to the full and without restraint, Jesus is able to announce at the end of it the completion of the work which is both the Father’s and His own:  He says at the Last Supper, ‘I have glorified Thee upon earth:   I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.’  And thereafter, significantly, we hear no word more about the work of Jesus.  P.31 

John 13:30 “So after receiving the morsel, he [Judas] immediately went out; it was night.”
According to John’s account…when Judas leaves the Last Supper to set in train the handing over of Jesus, John tell us ‘that it was night’… which must mean that the ‘daylight’ period is over and that the time foreseen by Jesus has come-the time at which ‘no one can work’, the time at which ‘working’ must give place to ‘waiting’…and is also associated, in a most striking way, with the end of Jesus’ freedom from restraint by human hands…”from working to waiting and from freedom to constraint.” P.32 

John 18:4-6 “Then Jesus, knowing all that was to befall him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?  They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’  Jesus said to them, ‘I am he’.  Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.  When he said to them, ‘I am he’, they drew back and fell to the ground.”
“The ultimate dimension of the divine glory becomes manifest in him when he was handed over.”
John 19:28:  “I thirst”
The Jesus who said, ‘if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink’ becomes He who says, ‘I thirst’…”He who has previously exercised the power to judge…stands under their power of judgment; and now He who has previously promised and dispensed the water of life to others becomes the recipient of their refreshment…The handing over of Jesus was His transition from working to waiting upon and receiving the works of others, from the status and role of subject to that of object, from ‘doing’ to ‘being done to’.  P.33-34
John 19:30  “…It is finished…”
“According to John, the final word of Jesus on the cross was ‘It is completed’:  and this final word was preceded, a moment before, by His perception that ‘all things were now completed.’…at the Last Supper, before He was handed over to passion, Jesus announced that His work was completed.  Evidently, therefore something other than ‘work’ must be completed before ‘all things’ are completed and before the triumphant cry can be raised that ‘it is completed’.  Something beyond ‘work’ is necessary to the completion of Jesus’ function or mission or calling…” p.71 

More from The Stature of Waiting

*      “It is not necessarily the case that man is most fully human when he is achiever rather than receiver, active rather than passive, subject rather than object of what is happening.” P.52 

*      “Waiting can be the most intense and poignant of all human experiences—the experience which, above all others, strips us of affectation and self-deception and reveals to us the reality of our needs, our values and ourselves.” P.80 

*      “[In times of waiting] Usually rational considerations overcome dread and we do not ‘run away’.  We count it weakness or cowardice if we do; and we also count it weakness if as we wait, we find ourselves hoping or praying that that which lies ahead—that which is ‘for the best’—may not happen…There is weakness—pardonable weakness, but nevertheless weakness—in hoping or praying to be ‘spared’ that which we know to be for the best…One waits at such moments in an agonizing tension between hope and dread, stretched and almost torn apart between two dramatically different anticipations.  A wise person will then steel and prepare himself for the worst; but the very tension in which he waits shows that hope is still present, and that hope will often express itself, even in unbelievers, in the urgent and secret prayer, ‘O God, let it be all right’.  In such hope and prayer there is no weakness, no failure of nerve:  torn between rational hope and rational dread, one may properly pray for the best while still prepared for the worst.  Perhaps it was in such a manner that Jesus waited and prayed in His agony in the Garden.” P.81

*      “Need or dependence can disclose not only our own deficiency, but also –and often to a remarkable degree—the power and value of people and things in the world around us…The need which constrains him to wait makes him also a point of heightened sensitivity, of more intense receptivity:  in and through him more is going on than in the figure, who, experiencing no need, has no concern…” p.100

*      “Without receptivity, the world exists simply as physical fact…Beauty, as opposed to physical fact, appears within the world when a butterfly’s wing is seen by a human eye and when its potential for beauty is actualized in a human mind.  So when a man receives and recognizes the beauty of a butterfly’s wing he is no less enriching the totality of the world than when, by art and skill, he creates—if that were possible—a thing of equal beauty.  A man who receives and recognizes the beauty of a garden is no less enriching the totality of the world than a man who works upon and creates a garden.” P.106 

*      “He must not see it as degrading that he should wait upon the world, be helped, be provided for, be dependent; for as such he is, by God’s gift, what God Himself makes Himself to be.  That man is made, by God’s gift, to know and feel his dependence on the world is no less a mark of God’s image in him than that he is made, also by God’s gift, to know and feel his capacity for acting and achieving.” P.104 

*      “God creates a world which includes among its infinite variety of wonders this culminating wonder—that there are points within it at which, in the consciousness of men, its wonders are received and recognized…that man receives the world; and as he does so, a figure exposed and waiting, he appears no diminished or degraded figure but a figure of enormous dignity.” P.107 

Personal Note:  If you are reading this, it is because I see you as “a figure of enormous dignity”.  Without the help of this book, I would never have been able to explain why.  It is my hope that these ideas give you a greater peace and confidence about what you are going through, its place in God’s will for the completion of your mission, and increased gratitude for Christ going before us and showing us how.  If you are receptive, and “can choose to accept what you did not want and even what you would not have wanted at any price”, it will produce tremendous spiritual fruit for you and those who are blessed enough to walk with you, even if only for a short time.  Thank you for your example and letting me be one of those who benefit from it.

 Peace, Love and Gratitude,

Heidi Dixon, Chaplain


Friday, August 21, 2015

If God Was An Ocean

A few weeks ago, I was standing on a Texas beach looking down the shore line.  Beyond noticing the shore line itself, I noticed another line about 30 feet out into the ocean.  A line of people stretching as far as the eye could see.  A line of people who waded as far as they could.  A line of people who had to stop because only their head was poking out of the water.  A line of people who could go no further without fear of drowning. 
It occurred to me that if God were an ocean, we are merely standing on or near the shore.  We are stuck 30 feet out.  A stone's throw from the edge.  When we are as deep as we can get, we are only as close as an infant in a wading pool to understanding the ocean and the God Who made it. 

At any given time, we may be on the edge of the water, or on top of it, or under it, or just looking from afar, but we may not live in it.  Not yet.
The ocean is so immense that even one of its contents may be enough to captivate our imagination forever.  Collecting rocks and shells has been a habit of a lifetime.  Among many others, one shell clamors for my attention and captures my affection for the infinite.  On the inside of this fossilized shell, what looks like a sparse tree in the middle of winter is etched onto a background that could easily be outer space... 
Observing these contrasting worlds of earth and space coming together to line a shell's interior gets me every time.  
While this is very satisfying for me, I'm blessed to know, that sometimes, this very sort of thing surpasses mere fancy and excites on a much grander scale.  In the testimony of a dear friend, something much more than her imagination was captured when she encountered a shell of her own. 
My friend’s conversion from agnosticism to Catholicism began with the observation of a simple shell.  Her daughter brought it to her, desiring that she join her in appreciating its beauty. “Look, Mom, isn’t this beautiful?”  She was holding a very small clam shell, which resembled angel wings when opened, with purple stripes radiating from the center.  My friend replied, “Yes, isn’t it amazing that that would happen by chance?”  At which time, God responded within her, “No, it’s not chance.  I am the Creator.  I created it.  I made it all.  It is time you stopped running away from me and come home.”

She has never been the same.
I wonder how many people have experienced a conversion of heart when impressed by the beauty, power, and immensity of the ocean?  Or even one of the smallest of its contents?
Of course, God is not an ocean, but He created it.  He even used an ocean to describe Himself in the late 1600s, through a private revelation to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.  Jesus described His Sacred Heart as an “infinite ocean of mercy for poor sinners”. 
Can you imagine an ocean of mercy, full of all good things?  Instead of a gulf to swim in with sharks, fish, whales, and shells, it is a heart to live in.  For you.  For us.  A heart full of joy, humility, mercy, and love…
In considering joy alone, Matthew 25:23 tells us “His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master'.”
A beloved priest once said, “We must enter into the joy of our master, because it is too great to enter into us.  We cannot contain it.” 

"Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made   heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever..."                                         Psalm 146:5-6
Dear God of Earth and Space, Shells and Sea, Imaginations and Hearts,
Thank you for all that impels us toward You.  Thank you for friends and priests who confirm what we believe about You and Your Nature.  Thank you for the ocean and all of creation that hints at Your Greatness and our smallness.  Thank you for my shell.  Thank you for revealing yourself to us through people, places, and things.  Please grant us the grace we need to know and love You more.  Amen.