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Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway. ~Emory Austin


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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Remembering Dad's Childhood: Part 1 WW2 POW

Even to your old age and gray hairs

    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
~Isaiah 46:4 (NIV)~

What does an old man see when he looks into the mirror? What does he remember? Does he see what he once was? Do we? Do we honor what he once was? Are we grateful for what our elders did for us? 

My dad spent a good part of his childhood as a POW in WW2. Then, even as a young adult, his homeland, Indonesia, remained at war—civil war.

From the book Forevermore
When this care-giving life gets a little frustrating, I imagine how hard it must be for Dad. He's told me the war stories, the escape-war drama, and the island romance tale. He's built homes with his bare hands carved out of the jungle in New Guinea. Okay, I might be over-dramatizing that. But he did built his own house, and the house for his parents, in the jungle with his pregnant wife (my mom). 

It's become obvious to me that Dad has a story to tell. I'm trying to dig deep into his mind and scoop out all those good memories. Because he was young once; because he was a real person with awesome experiences; because he can't leave this world until he knows his family, his grandchildren, love God. That is what he wants to leave behind.

The following is an article I wrote many moons ago for our local newspaper, The Mid Valley News. The article tells a small portion of Dad's WW2 experience. I titled "Paradise Interrupted."  

Paradise Interrupted

There’s a little church in El Monte, California, tucked safely away at the corner of Peck and Hemlock. The pastor, Reverend Willy de Quilettes, is a humble man by nature, the quiet sort, unless he’s preaching. The small, family-oriented congregation simply calls him Oom Willy. Uncle Willy, that is. But I call him Papa.

His passion for God came from hearing the song “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” at his sister’s funeral. He found peace while men with guns walked all around him. He found joy and never lost it. Many times I’ve wondered what made him tick. Why does he enjoy such a simple life? One morning, I got the chance to reach into my father’s heart as we shared a few giggles, some painful tears and stories from his war-filled childhood.

Born in Makassar, Indonesia, Willy and his family moved to Jokjakarta on the island of Java when he was ten years old. His father, Leo, was a Sergeant Major in the Royal Dutch-Indonesian Army. At the time, Willy had three younger brothers and a sister. One brother died in his sleep at age two, and his sister died during the war from food contamination.

They were a wealthy family. Willy’s grandfather owned 150 acres of land, where they hunted wild pigs, fruit bats and pigeons. The wide variety of mango trees provided hours of climbing adventures for the boys.

“It was a tropical paradise,” said the Reverend Willy with a smile. “We used to spend warm summer afternoons swimming and fishing for catfish.”

Willy especially loved the crystal-clear-fresh-water lakes and rivers that flowed endlessly throughout their island. They would build rafts and float to the middle of the lake.

But paradise was interrupted when sirens blared one afternoon in 1942, and in the distance came the sounds of Japanese fighter planes.

The Japanese invaded Jokjakarta when Willy was twelve. For the next two months, the boys and their mother, Juliana, lived in a bomb shelter in their backyard. As bombs fell dangerously close, it became necessary to use rubber mouthpieces for protection. The explosions threw everyone violently against walls and to the ground.

Many island people Willy knew were actually Japanese spies. They had disguised themselves as storeowners and local merchants while drawing maps of the island and stocking weapons in their store.

At first, Leo, Willy’s father had permission to walk about freely. A special armband ensured the Japanese soldiers he was a friend. However, when darkness fell over the island Leo bombed bridges to cut off access for Japanese trucks. He fought the war mostly at night. Nevertheless,
 Willy remembers vividly the day his father was taken prisoner. They herded him onto a train at gunpoint with hundreds of other men. Leo disappeared for two years.

The first American rescue mission was unsuccessful, but in 1945 US General Douglas MacArthur and his troops freed the Indonesian people. Willy and his family were reunited with Leo, who had been rescued by the British and Indian armies. But as World War II came to an end, Indonesia was headed for civil war.

At age fourteen, the Indonesian Rebel Army, who fought for their independence from the Netherlands, captured Willy. They placed him with the women POWs and put him to work. The labor was hard.

For three years he lowered his bucket into a well twenty feet deep as thousands of prisoners stood in line for their daily ration. His work started at sunrise and ended with nightfall. He drew his strength and hope from God.

When finally liberated in 1948, the Indonesians released the POWs. Willy was seventeen. A year later, Willie and his younger brother, Fritz traveled to an island named Doom, mostly inhabited by members of their family, to start a new life.

“It’s an extremely small island,” Willy remembers. “I spent two years on Doom. It was a fun place.”

Willy decided to move across the bay to New Guinea, where he met and married a beautiful Indonesian girl, Helaene. Fritz followed Willy to New Guinea.

But in 1961, they again had to flee the country as rumors of yet another war between Indonesia and Holland surfaced. With their families packed into a Dutch Dakota Airliner, they headed for the Netherlands.

In 1976, Willy came to the USA, where he found that cozy corner in El Monte. It’s far from paradise.

“But paradise on Earth is a temporary thing,” Willy says. “Life and your very soul on the other hand are something to be treasured and saved.”

The little corner in El Monte boasts a little church filled with a small family of believers led by my Papa, who in the midst of bombs and debris heard a simple song called “Safe in the Arms of Jesus.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Caregiver's Workshop

Do you have a workshop? Is it a physical place or a virtual one? Where do you go to spend a little time for yourself? Where do you go to earn a living?

I'm always inspired and fascinated by Paul who apparently kept his day job while serving in full-time ministry, which in my case is care-giving right now. His side job to earn his keep was tent-making; mine would be writing, editing, blogging, and my recently added gig, social media manager.

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. ~Acts 18:1-3.

I have a little workshop. It's the guest room on the second floor. The only place where I can do a little farmhouse decorating ... or come close to it on my budget. 

Oh, I tried!
Speaking of budget ... This blog began as an online journal of my caregiver experiencesa position which came suddenly and surprisingly upon meand perhaps help others on their journey. But it also became necessary to make some sort of a living from it. That part I had to trust the Lord for. 

I've had help along the way, like the wisdom of Jessie Synan to find my place on social media. Follow her on Twitter or on the blog list below.

In any case, trust seems to be my word for June. God has steadily added words since the beginning of the new year: Ask for Wisdom; Wait; Be Still; Be Strong and Courageous; Trust; and, these names: Elohim, Jehovah Jireh, and Adonai. 

The Caregiver's Workshop is an ongoing project, a part of what I like to call my Project-of-Love. It includes transferring this blog from the virtual world to the paper realm. Parts of this blog has already morphed into a 61-page Project-of-Love called Forevermore: Poetry, Prayers, and Scriptures for the Caregiver. We're shooting for a June 21st launch date/party. 

In the meantime we're chiseling away, creating journals to go side by side with Forevermore hopefully inspiring other caregivers, or whoever, to keep a prayer journalone of those Caregiver-Life-Hacks to stay emotionally healthy. Prayer is part of our Armor of God, trust me, learn how to speak with our Lord on this journey. He sees you, Jehovah El Roi watches over you.

Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees. ~Corrie Ten Boom

So this was my catch-up post. A little something to tell myself to keep blogging. Visit The Caregiver's Workshop and support us there if you can. God is up to something. I'm just praying that my ears are open to hear His voice—my spiritual eyes awake to see His path, and peace to wait and trust in Him. Oh, to have faith like Corrie Ten Boom!

Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible. ~Corrie Ten Boom

My growing list of amazing bloggers who have helped me on my journey.

Recently completed project for blogger, client, and friend, Deanne Davis.
This was my first Blog-to-Book  project. Available on Amazon.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Hobbies, Careers, and Fruit Smoothies

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 
Against such things there is no law. 
~Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

Kudos to all caregivers who still work full time, have school-age kids, and somehow find the patience and gentleness to be a caregiver. 

I say these things because I totally lost those tasty ingredients, which blend into a Galatians 5 fruit smoothie.  Seriously I must have misplaced my recipe.

Forbearance (patience)?

Blend those together and you get ... not me. Thank the Lord for calling me out on this and asking me to come to him. Into the prayer closet I went, only to find out that he already had all the ingredients together for me and didn't spill a drop.

Here's the scoop. A couple of weeks ago the doctor decided to double Dad's dosage of a certain pill with the promise that it might go well; but, with a warning that it may bomb. It bombed! The pill that would help him with his memory, calm his mind, did exactly the opposite. And essential oils, which usually pulls him out of the abyss, couldn't. 

Poor Dad went from walking with only the support of a cane to using a wheelchair. He liked it better since weakness, dizziness, and the accompanying frustration, had settled quite nicely and morphed him into a grumpy old man, and me into a don't-bother-me caregiver, which is putting it mildly. 

This happened of course in the middle of a very important project that my client, and good friend, had entrusted me with and paid for my services. I needed to get this done, though she has been extremely patient and kind. Editing and writing for me is not a hobby, it's a passion and allows for some much needed income. 

Sidebar: Visit My Books Page to see a list of my books and get up-to-date info on freebies and other fun stuff. Would love a review if you've downloaded my books or bought one. Awesome!

Sometimes, when my eyes are on me, me, me, what-about-me, I start believing that Dad is faking it. After all, this is a man who preached for over 40 years, who loved his congregation, was strong enough to climb on top of a building even into his eighties, and had a word of wisdom for everyone who crossed his path. Surely he can write his ABCs, do a puzzle or know when to go the bathroom? Surely he can take a few steps on his own without falling? Surely he still knows how to read God's Word? 

No (takes a deep sigh), he can't. 

I went into my War Room, and of course once you start complaining to the Lord (not the intention of a War Room), all the other complaints of life emerges. I'm angry, it's not fair, I'm alone, we have no money (this is not true; God provides every month but that's a whole other blog post), I'm tired, and my body aches. This is a nasty tasting fruit smoothie. Not a pretty picture but sometimes God takes you to the bitter ingredients because he's gracious, merciful, patient, and kind. 

Not for a second did I think God would answer my prayer. Not ... for ... one ... second. But ... he did. 

Once in a while, so I can vent, he gives this writer poetry (an awesome "hobby" to learn since words don't have to rhyme anymore). Hobbies, I think, are so important to have even if one isn't a caregiver. But for a caregiver it's a break from the everyday. It's a moment to enjoy. Interruptions may come but take those minutes when you can crochet, knit, draw, paint, sing, play the kazoo, read ... or write. It's therapy.


Don’t worship the tree
But the tree Maker
Don’t worship the fields
But their Creator
Don’t worship the sun
The moon or stars
The ocean waves at His command
The shores are His
As is the deep
The sky alive
His hands do keep
All that breathes
Shall worship You
The Lord
He is
Forever true

Did you think my poetry would have a lot of complaints? I did too, but these words came out instead. As did the following: 

Thank You

Thank You for sunrises
I praise You
Thank You for my children
They are made in Your image
Thank You for aches and pains
A small chance to share in Your suffering
Thank You for isolation
A way to put You first
Thank You for Your promises
On which I stand
A reminder there is none like You

Handing over my feelings, thoughts, and career didn't go without a fight. My prayers in that War Room went something like, "Yeah, yeah, I know. Well fine then. Please forgive, blah, give me patience, love, and all that other stuff ..." Seriously, there was no pleasantness of words or repentance until I decided--slowly--that maybe just calling out his name, then reciting all the words that are his character might help me lose all this anxiety, anger, and hopelessness:

God you are ...

I pray every caregiver can find God's ingredients to make that perfect fruit smoothie in order to love, have joy, find peace, patience, to be kind, good, remain faithful, gentle, and sprinkle a little self-control on top. Lord knows we need to sip of this drink now and then.

God helped us laugh again, my Dad and I, but not without a scare. Dad didn't want my help, complaining I never help him anyhow, and Mom knows nothing, he says, "I'll do it myself." He was trying to get into his wheelchair but he forgot to put the brakes on and the wheelchair did what wheelchairs do and rolled away. He fell ... hard. His screaming brought me flying down the stairs.

No matter how I moved him, he kept screaming in pain. I thought he had broken bones. It took me about 10 minutes to even get him to lie straight so I could check.

"Where does it hurt?" I asked.

"Nowhere," he replied.

"Why are you screaming?"

"Because it hurts."

He then decided to take a nap on the ground to which I replied, "It's probably more comfortable on your bed."

After another 5 minutes or so I managed to get him up. He was dead weight. Finally he sat safely in his wheelchair and for some reason we began to laugh. It was kind of that holy laughter when everything seems fine and we loved each other again. There's no other explanation, but God, and a little taste of a Galatians 5 Fruit of the Spirit smoothie.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Spring: A Season of New Life

We are...a Divine work of art, something that God is making...something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. ~C.S Lewis

Keukenhof in Holland
Spring is coming in five days. Even the desert bursts with color. This is the season of new beginnings, of love, hope, and a chance to breathe in the fresh air.

My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. ~Song of Solomon 2:10 –12

Care-giving can be a long, cold, and dark winter. But it has its purposewe’ve learned to dig deep, stay warm, and persevere. Well done thou good and faithful servant. Now get up and dance. Fill those vases with fresh flowers. Walk through a tulip field, or watch the mountains fill their bellies with orange poppies.

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. ~Galatians 6:9

Spring’s early evidence is peaking in our back yard. But it’s not quite there yet. A surprising winter snow has left a little frozen mess out here in our desert oasis (see video below), especially on the grape vines. But even there, when the vine looked pretty dead, little green shoots appear from its dry brown bark. 

There’s already a lot of pruning to be done. The apricot, peach, pomegranate, and apple trees have blossomed and spawned a lot of scary branches.


Mom loves pruning. I used to watch her and Dad climb a ladder and prune the top branches. It was something they enjoyed doing together.

“My trees look much better if we prune,” she says. “And will bear bigger and better fruit.” She was right. Dad just loved playing with his electric tree saw. Scary!

I guess that’s why God loves pruning, too. He, of course, doesn’t need Dad’s electric saw.

I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more ~John 15:1–2  (New KJV).

After her second stroke Mom’s gardening life has been pruned back considerably. Though she’s accepted it, she doesn’t like it. She was vicious with those pruning shears. She knows she’s not in her spring season any longer but her garden is and the gloves are ready to go even if it’s only 15 minutes a day now. As soon as the weather warms up there’ll be no stopping her.

She’s learned to enjoy the fruits of her labor and she loves giving it away, too. Just ask our neighbors.

Soon spring will fling winter into the past. The rain is gone, the dark makes way for sunshine giving Mom and Dad a chance to sit in their garden.

For us caregivers God may have taken us through a cold hard winter when He had to cut off the branches that did us no good—a brittle branch of anger, a stubborn one of shame, regret, and there might have been a branch with blossoms of impatience. It’s done. We’re looking brand new now, with little sprigs of green and white blooms reaching to the skies.

Look up, smell the flowers, watch the green beans sprout their stalks. Be renewed. Don’t be afraid of a little pruning. It only means we do bear fruit. Gardeners, like my mom, prune branches that bear fruit so they will produce even more.

A Caregiver’s Prayer

Dear Lord, let spring reign in my heart. Renew, revive, refresh, and prune me. Thank you for giving me new life filled with hope, strength, and your amazing beauty.

Beloved Caregiver

The bitter cold
Will shed its snow
Into the crystal streams

New life,
New joy,
The fountain pours
To seas of color
A vibrant score

Come dance among the daffodils
And run so free down grassy hills
Beneath a sky of sapphire hues
And gently taste the morning dew
When winter rids its frozen cloak
And yields to fields of glorious gold
The new is here
Gone is the old
Let spring burst forth

Forevermore …
(Copyright 2019 by Deborah L. Alten)

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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Bloom Where You're Planted Even If The Land is Parched

Bloom Where You're Planted. ~Mary Engelbreit

In Jeremiah 29 the prophet sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon ... Babylon! This city does not have a good report with our Lord. However, Jeremiah tells them to ... well, bloom where you're planted. Wait on the Lord (which was about 70 years for them) till he brings you out of Babylon, out of exile, and back home. 

In the meantime they are told, in verses 5, 6, and 7, to "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

Sometimes, when I birth a heart of prickly pears, I start feeling sorry for myself. After all, someone hit the pause button on my blossoming dreams. I'm having to give up my life to take care of someone else's life, or two someones. I've somehow managed to land in the middle of the dry and desolate desert with no oasis in sight.

But not true, far from it. God has me exactly where I need to be. He's got you there, too.

We must change our point of view from a me-view to a God-view. Do we trust our heavenly Father to take care of us, manage and direct our lives, make it purposeful, and fill it with a hope and a future? He promises that He will never leave or forsake you. He has a plan, there's always a plan. And it's a grand plan. 

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. ~Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)

If you feel like you've been exiled to the desert ... awesome! He's about to strengthen your frame. He's about to turn you into a well-watered garden. Think of jasmine wafting through the air; orange blossoms blowing in the wind; a sea of green grass and flower beds. How 'bout cucumbers, tomatoes, fruit trees, and rows of strawberries. Don't forget the shade from your apple and peach trees. What's your oasis look like? He will lead you there. Not one of His promises will fail you. But we must get into His Word, eat it up like honey, or how will we know His promises?

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. ~Matthew 6:33

Are we ready to bloom where God has planted us, giving up our dreams for a God-sized dream and future? Hard to grasp? Look for the everyday miracles. God is in the details. Look for the lessons He has carefully planted for our growth. Find the hidden treasures. You'll find them in His Word. 

Discipline yourself to come to Him first with everything and anything. You'll be surprised, or maybe not, how easy it will become to hear His still small voice (especially in the morning) if you get to know Him better each day. You are His concern, you are His priority.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. ~Matthew 10:29-31

In this video my friend, author Sharon Pearson--a fellow caregiver--is having A Conversation with God. Take a few minutes and dig into this.

A Caregiver's Prayer

Lord, help me to keep my eyes on you. I am ready to bloom where you've planted me. Remind me that your plans are better, your ways are perfect. May I not worry about tomorrow, but live one day at a time for you. Thank you for a future filled with hope and purpose.  

Beloved Caregiver

Living Waters I have sent
Among the dry the dew descents
The desert willow weeps in bloom
It stands alone in slight askew

Your path will light beneath the stars
When evening primrose blooms so sparse
What daylight hides the night springs forth
One life to live forevermore

Within this light I planted you
Where moonbeams pierce the darkness through
You bloom into the morning fair
A desert jewel refreshed and rare

(Copyright 2019 by Deborah L. Alten)

Scriptures for the Caregiver

by Kelley from Live, Laugh, Rowe.

Monday, February 11, 2019

When God Is My Happy Valentine

Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the LORD never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
~Lamentations 3:22, 23

I’m finally writing a Valentine’s post. It took 18 years. It’s my love story, though divorced since 2001 and not even a blip on anyone’s romance radar. But Love, unconditional life-saving Love, is.

Divorce is like decapitation. It feels that gruesome and painful. Yet, the second my X walked away there was another who whispered, “Am I enough for you?”

I protect
I provide
I am Love
Wisdom’s pride

Am I enough for you?

When your earthly protector
Provider and love
Betrayed and abandoned
All things from above
My Spirit descended
On you like a dove

Am I enough for you?

When daggers tore through
Marriage vows
And pain bequeathed
Obnoxious bows
I gave you strength
Caressed your soul
To stand your ground
And make you whole

Am I enough for you?

The sun will rise for you my love
The stars the moon will light your path
My Word is true forevermore
If you were one and only soul
I would have died for you alone

Am I enough for you?

I said yes. What say ye all?

My Valentine carried my burden when it proved too heavy for me. “The journey shall be lighter now.” He smiled and offered to walk side by side as I navigated through this icy storm. “I will always be with you. I am the Maker of your sunrise.” My Valentine wrote songs for me as I read through His Word. And over and over again he asked, “Am I enough for you?”

When I didn’t feel safe, He became my Protector. 
When I dipped below poverty level He became my Provider. 
When I felt unloved He swept me off my feet and lavished me with joy so sweet. 
When rejection flooded my inner being He whispered sweet everythings: “You are mine, Daughter, a princess, created in my image. No one compares to you.” 
When shame ate me alive He became my Redeemer, Savior, and the Lover of my soul. “I will renew, revive, restore. Am I enough for you?”

For your Creator will be your husband; the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name!He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth. ~Isaiah 54:5 (NLT)

To Jesus, My Valentine

You are my Love,
My everything
My eyes, my heart,
Every song I sing
You are my first Love,
The One who’s true
My cherished Valentine
No one comes close to you,
I will worship you only
I will love and adore you
For me you died
For you I’ll live
All I have
Is my heart to give