Are you a “courage club” member?

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It’s nearly the one year anniversary of my sister-in-love’s homegoing! At this time last year she was in the hospital dying — I didn’t know she was dying at the time.)

I was watching her little ones for the week, ages 4 and 7. Then the call came. The shock. Only 48 hours to live! With babies in tow, we hightailed it to the hospital.

During my last visit at home with Jess she had mentioned her friend’s book launch, The Courage Club. She wished she had written about  her own cancer journey and the lessons learned along the way. I could hear the regret in her voice.

Don’t worry, sis! We haven’t forgotten you or the courage God gave you in your brief 33 years of life. This post is for you! We all need a share of your courage for this journey. Like Elisha prayed, I want a double portion of your spirit.

As one of her caregivers, I had a front row view. What I witnessed was extraordinary faith! She knew how to “be strong and of good courage”.  Bear with me. I want to share some of the nitty-gritty.

I’m hoping to leave a few of  her footprints in writing.  Footprints this big from a tiny person are hard to follow.

Courage club members put on their big-girl panties and do hard things!

You don’t ask for big things from God and sit on your duff. Labeled stage 4 cancer after her double mastectomy, Jess asked for healing. Then she rolled up her sleeves and went to work. Her diet changed from processed foods to organic, gluten-free foods that often tasted and smelled very strange. Never mind the green smoothies!

Next, she learned how to swallow pills. Couldn’t handle vitamins before, but she did it! She joked and choked. Score!

Add the needles, IVs, the nausea, the hormone changes, the loss of hair, lack of sleep, and unremitting pain, at times.

Courage club members make a path for joy in suffering.

Oh, my! The things we laughed about! The bodily fluids and functions we discussed!

The memories she made with her family are precious! We begged her to slow down. Never mind that. Spending time with those she loved was top priority.

When she was feeling rotten, she planned happy outings for her kids. I got to execute  some of those! Quiet house for her, happy day for the littles.

My girl will never forget her Aunt Jess and wearing fake mustaches and fedoras together.

True to her last wishes, those she loved had a final party together with her in a hospital waiting room. Despite terrible pain, she looked around and positively beamed at those she loved.  That was, hmmm, maybe forty of us? For a hospital it was a BIG party.

Courage club members care about others even in the middle of their own suffering.

Her phone was always filled with messages. Other cancer patients were continually calling her. They knew she would find time and an encouraging word to give them

Then there was Beau. Early twenties with end stage cancer. At this point most of his friends had disappeared. Not Jess. With help, she planned his final birthday party at the hospital. It was the last birthday she planned.

She excitedly told me how she had told more people about Jesus in her last year, all because of “blessed cancer” as she nicknamed it.

Courage club members never give up hope!

Hope spurred her on for four years of stage 4 aggressive cancer. She never made it to the last specialist she planned to see. Her liver failed. But her hope hadn’t.

She admitted to me after Beau died that she was scared. It was the only time I ever heard her say that. It was probably her realization that her own brave fight was almost over, though neither of us could bear to admit it at the time.

Her motto was, With God, nothing is impossible.  We shared a love for Michael Hyatt’s Living Forward. She was smiling at the future, just like the Proverbs 31 woman.

I wrote the following post in the middle of this four year cancer fight.

Week 9: Five Ways To Keep Up Your Courage, Dear Heart!

I really had no idea how MUCH I would need to keep up my own courage.

You see, at the same time Jess was dying, my own chronically ill husband was diagnosed with cancer.

Turned out to be stage 3. We’re facing a second surgery soon.

Unfortunately much of our fight this year has been with a broken medical system on top of fighting cancer and chronic pain.

It has been stressful, horrendous, and courage-sucking. We’ve felt like cogs in a broken gear system. We’ve even been shamed for courageously bucking the system and fighting for compassionate, prompt care.

A few caring docs along the way have brightened our path. We’re SO grateful for those. They are bright spots of compassion. Compassion is often sorely lacking in the medical field.

Compassion ought to be the number one requirement for every tech, office worker, nurse assistant, doctor, and nurse.

Courage club members learn compassion for the suffering.

Jesus showed compassion all along his earthly journey. He came to “show us the Father.” He touched the hurting that many despised.

He demonstrated ultimate compassion in laying down His life as the sin-sacrifice.

His courage spurred Him on to the cross. “Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Father.”

Are you a part of the Courage Club? Let’s lift each other up in prayer this week,  and keep up your courage, Dear Heart!

Sis, thanks for giving me such big footprints to follow. You continue to inspire me, and your legacy of love and compassion fuels my fire to keep loving and living forward. Till I see you again…

 

 

Not forsaken by God…

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Sometimes we feel like we are swimming alone in the ocean of our own troubles and sorrows. I’m here to share that sometimes we have to look for the mercies of God on purpose.

Mercies can be as small as this beautiful sunflower that volunteered to grow in my garden this year.

Surrounded by mercies great and small we still feel alone on this journey!

It’s true in a way. No one human can fully understand the unique challenges each of us face. “The heart knows its own bitterness.”

Families facing disabling health issues are each truly unique. Pain levels differ. Meds differ. Finances differ. The level of challenge differs! Solutions that work for one will not work for another.

What is not unique is that sorrow and trouble chase us all during our time on planet earth. “In this world you will have tribulation.”

Some folks seem to get off scott-free. If we’re fair, we will admit we have no idea what sorrows they actually have lived through or will yet face. Tragedy smacks us in the face every time we see even a small bit of news.

“And I will pray the Father, and He WILL give you another Counselor, that He may be WITH you forever: the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, for it does not see Him, neither does it know Him.” John 14:16-17

Jesus is speaking to His disciples and, truly, all who would yet become His disciples.

It is the last teaching He gave them before going to the cross to lay down His life to atone for sin.

He knew they would be sad and afraid! He knew they would feel alone — perhaps forsaken.

His heart of compassion shines through yet again.

He leaves them with the most amazing and wonderful of promises! Through the Spirit’s ministry and indwelling, they would never be alone in their struggles. Beautiful, merciful Savior!

His Spirit is one of our greatest mercies. Counselor, Guide, Comforter, Intercessor, Helper — these are some of the key roles this often-forgotten member of the Trinity works in your life and mine.

Do you ever wonder how to pray for a situation that seems so hopeless and impossible that you have no idea what or how to pray?

We often fall back on the grand promise of Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good to those who love God…”

Wait! Back up a few verses: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know what to pray for as we ought but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

Are things so hard and crazy confusing that you don’t even know how to pray? The Spirit has you covered in Divine prayers.

Are you out of options? Your groans and sorrows are not hidden from Him.

Whatever your struggle, dear sister in Christ, let’s stake our claim on His mercies this week.

“I believe

I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord; be strong, and may your heart be stout; wait on the Lord.”

Sounds kinda like a Romans 8:28, doesn’t it? Only it’s actually Psalm 27:13-14.

When you hang out in the Psalms, you find lots of relevant prayers to fuel your conversations with God, even if you just sigh and groan and praise along with the Psalmist.

Like me, maybe this verse has been your prayer? ” Turn to me, and be gracious to me for I am isolated and afflicted.” Ps. 26:16

Chronic illness brings a lot of crazy to all of our lives, right?

I believe…I am not forsaken! His Spirit is with me on the days I just groan. 

How about you?

I know I’ve missed a few weeks blogging, but I’m committed to encouraging words wherever I can find them and fit them in. Hugs and groaning prayers for you, too, cause I really don’t know what you need. 

 

 

How to scoop the p**p from your mind

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Psalm 40 trashed me this week. I almost had to pull off the road and just let the waves of sorrow and hope roll past.

“I waited patiently for the LORD, and He turned to me, and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set me feet on a rock, and established my steps…”

I’m waiting for you, LORD, and you haven’t forgotten me in this horrible pit. It stinks down here.

I think it prepared me for a conversation with my daughter. She was angry and hurt.  She added to the morning snarkiness. It was a lovely drive to church. Hmmm….

People in pain are sometimes a pain to be around. I’m not going to lie to ya. Very few of us are “heroic” all the time, right?

It actually takes a lot more grace to be kind and selfless when you’re chronically ill. Family always sees the “poopy” side of each other any day. Add pain and chronic illness. It’s a recipe for lots of poopy days.

So I took a long walk with my daughter to help us scoop out some poop.

First scoop: God is good. Satan is bad. Don’t get the two mixed up! 

Then I read about the tragic death of a 17 year old on her way to a missions trip. The “blame God game” was alive and well in the comments section. Venom dripped out of so many tongues that I clicked off pretty quickly.

Second scoop: God owes us a happy life full of wine and roses! NOT!

Instead, remember what He has given us. We are forever in His debt. His love and forgiveness through His own beloved Son! His mercies and forgiveness are beyond measure to those who believe. This life’s pain is a temporary drop in the bucket compared to eternal life.

It’s unbearably excruciating at times. It feels like it will last forever. But the pain is so temporary. Paul calls it “light affliction”!

Third scoop: God has forgotten about me down in this miserable pit of my current circumstance! 

No, He listens to you, just like he listened to David. He thinks of us with thoughts at cannot be numbered.

“O, Lord, my God, You have done many wonderful works, and your thoughts toward us cannot be compared; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”

Almighty Creator God thinks about me. How can that be?

Dear caregiving wife, if you’re at all like me, it’s easy to let our minds fill up with poop! It’s up to us to keep shoveling it out and to spend time with others who will uplift us in prayer, promises, and praise! Sometimes we need to hand our kid a shovel and gently help them scoop, too. 

This link below is my loving shovel for you. I was so blessed by this article.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/six-words-to-say-through-tears 

What helps you keep from being sucked under in that miry pit? Hand me a shovel, too, please! 

Not forsaken…

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It’s been a “community of the broken” week for me.

In fact, I’ve seen two of my clients this week sick and uncertain as to their futures. One is awaiting surgery to clear carotid artery.

Another older lady is ill in the hospital with no family in town to help out. She’s facing possible rehab.

Then my husband has told me every single day how bad the pain levels are. He’s  barely left the bed.

Finally, another friend shared her heart. Her husband is in a very dark place right now. Tragic loss hit their family almost two years ago. He is not a believer.

 How much sadness, pain, and hurt can one heart bear? Mine just plain aches.  Oh, Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, help! Oh, Spirit, be my Comforter! Father of mercies, send Your mercies.

Today I sat in a very small church group. Less than thirty of us learned about a community of 4 million that occupy a shanty town in east Africa.

Real people live there. Poverty, violence, and disease are rampant.

Forgotten by major relief organizations,

unloved by the evangelical community around them,

unaided by their government–

they are seemingly without hope in this life.

Yet http//:DiscipleSupport.org brings Jesus to these forgotten sufferers every single week. You need to look them up. Give if you can. Pray.

If I had not been crushed by my share of heartache, my ears would not have been connected with my heart. God knows. I believe I will pray for these forgotten ones for the rest of my earthly days.

I was also reminded of each of you lovely, behind-the-scenes caregivers. You pour out your energies daily. Your struggles with overload, financial strain, and watching someone you love suffer are often invisible to others. 

Christian caregiver, you are not invisible to God!

You bring Jesus’ love and light to your family when the day seems darkest.

Loving one another is loving Him.

After loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, this is the second greatest command! 

Matthew 25

39When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’

40And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

Hell is being forever forgotten. Forsaken. Cut off forever from God’s mercy.

41Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Dark lonely days right now? In Christ you are never forsaken.

 “Let your manner of life be without covetousness, being satisfied with the present; for He Himself has said: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Sanity space, and a lot of grace

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Anyone else have a few crazy corners of their house?

Keeping a clean house was a special love of my sis who went Home last summer. In fact, at her viewing was a little table with pictures and bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day spray. Yes, really!

In her healthier days she was known to get to cleaning after her little kids were in bed. Nothing was sweeter than the friend who would come in and clean for her when she was sick! She beamed!

Guess what? One of the business hats I wear is “cleaning lady.”

You won’t find me bragging about this on my LinkedIn. But cleaning houses privately has been a survival business for my family. I’m hoping to hang that hat up in the closet before long.

But I’ve learned a lot of life lessons along the way from some of my dearest clients — senior saints, suffering saints — and busy CEOs of companies, too.

So I started a cleaning blog you can visit if you want. It’s for fun and practical help along the way.   http://cobwebkatiecleaninglady.com

Worn-out lady, when you get home from work, do you want to clean?

If you’re like me and my sis, Jess, you LOVE a clean house. Frankly, you may not have time or energy to keep it all clean. It’s okay. It really, truly is. Trust me.

I’ve had to swallow my pride and embarrassment (cause I know what clean and tidy looks like) and let helping friends see part of my mess recently. My back laundry room is a disaster. I mean it’s wet, mildewing, and cluttered. I. Can’t. Stand. It.  But I do. I go back there every single day.

A new laundry room is in the works. I painted it bright spring green. White trim. It screams “happy”. Can you blame me? It will be my new sanity space when we’re done. Done is coming. Very, very, very slowly.

Dealing with chaos and clutter, and no time?! What to do?

You want to teach order. You crave cleanliness. You have kids and a chronically ill husband. I know it’s an unending trio. Chaos, clutter, and kids. Rather than lecture each other on the state of our houses, let’s choose to eat this elephant one bite at a time.

Welcome, sanity space!  Maybe this will be a blessing to you, too.

I’m working on keeping sanity spaces in my house. I discovered that if there are at least a few rooms that are pretty and tidy,  my whole world feels better. I read organizational tips, cleaning tips, life hacks, and self-improvement books, in  all my spare time. Sometimes I feel like a complete failure, cleaning lady or not.

Realistically, by the time I cycle through cleaning each room, the whole house needs a overhaul again. Instead, I clean a few rooms, and spot clean the rest. I even shut the door on a few rooms completely and tell my child, no guests allowed in here, period!

I’m working on teaching my child to clean. Happily, her bedroom has become her “sanity space”. It’s taken years. But that’s a post for another day.

What about sanity space for your soul? My soul?

That’s what this one day in seven is all about. That’s why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and called it holy. He rested. He meant for us to “unplug”.  We can’t keep going for seven days a week at high speed, years on end.

The Church is meant to be a sanity space for believers. We should find sweet friendship and safe haven within its walls. The Word of God is our sanity space for our souls, too, “sweeter also than the honey and the honeycomb”. Psalm 19: 7-10

Clean souls and cleaner houses — now that needs grace and one day at a time! Do you have sanity space?

Hug ’em anyways, momma…

Well, I got my share of momma hugs this weekend, but I also got the brunt end of a bad mood, too. What to do?

IMG_0876We’re rapidly moving from tween to teen this year. It’s a hard, hard time to have a parent sick in bed regularly while the other parent is trying to keep all the plates spinning. But, nothing, and I mean nothing is worth losing connections with my daughter.

We recently watched a very, very inspiring movie called The Queen of Katwe. Even though the mom is a widow in that true story, I could relate to her so vividly is some respects. Granted, I don’t live in a third world country. I’ve always been able to find work, and get help with bills when needed.

But I can relate to setback after setback. I felt that momma’s pain in living technicolor. When she realized how much chess meant to her daughter, she was willing to sell her most prized possession to help her daughter succeed. Success happened but not overnight. I won’t spoil the ending for you. If you’re like me, keep a box of tissues nearby.

It will take extra grit and sacrifice to swim against the life-sucking illness. Love fiercely, momma!

Love finds a way. Love found me begging God on my knees for a good, safe homeschooling community three years ago. I tried to form my own, but the lack of commitment made it fall apart.

My daughter is an only. We needed friends and enCOURAGEment for our journey. God answered. He brought a nationally known group to form a community in our area. I was able to tutor to pay the fees. (People commit to what they pay for. Truth!)

You know what? I got a huge thank you from my daughter this year for making her go the past three years.  She was initially afraid to try. Now she loves it. She excels at most of her work. That didn’t happen by accident!

Pray fiercely, momma! Ephesians 6:10-18

Turns out I was not the only momma praying for help. We were able to share burdens and bear each other’s burdens. Now I pray for wisdom as we navigate teen years and chronic illness in the house.

It’s a challenge but also an opportunity.

I want her to find her gifts and talents and hone them! I want her to be resilient, compassionate, gritty, and full of hope in God. So that means I’d better keep praying big prayers. Can’t quit now!

Hug ’em fiercely, momma! See that stinky attitude as a cry for love. Swipe the screen-time while you’re at it.

Chronic illness, well, it’s no fun for anyone to witness. When you live with it, that’s even harder. Some days it makes me angry, too. My child, on the road to sorting out all her inner workings, well, of course she thinks this stinks! At the stinky moments, sometimes a quiet tone and wrapping your  arms around the huffy child is just what the doctor ordered.

Moms, we’re a safe haven. We’re a venting station. I want my child to be able to tell me exactly how she’s feeling. Nicely, of course, but truthfully. (We’re working on the “nicely” part still. Snagging the Kindle seems to help). A nice cup of hot tea helps, too. Or cocoa, depending on the kid.

Then I want to direct her to Abba, Father. She’s starting to see. Mom prays. About. Everything. I can’t fix things. But God is our very present Help in time of trouble. Psalm 46. He knows our thoughts. Psalm 139

Fierce loving, praying, hugging mommas, you’re my inspiration! Maybe  chronic illness will be the catalyst to make our children extra gritty and kind. Maybe their souls will be supercharged to trust God for big things. How’s that for a prayer request?

 

3 ways to connect with your child despite chronic illness

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Chronic illness and children in the house — it’s a unique challenge.

In our case, we have just one. A gift from God, she is, indeed. She challenges us and brightens our days.

But having a chronically ill parent is not always a day-brightener for her. Along the way, I’ve come to recognize when we’ve hit a rougher-than-normal patch by how she acts out. Angry. Huffy. Attitude from the sewer. Where’s my sweet girl? She’s still there, I know.

At those moments I’ve been reminded to slow down somehow. Take time. Reach out to her. Find extra ways to connect. Her attitude, outlook on life, and future success depend on me, with God’s help. So help me, God — I can’t fail at this!

She can’t look to the parent sick in bed for much comfort or encouragement, though it does happen at times. Pain and suffering are often the view she sees, and she doesn’t like it. I can’t blame her.

I’m posting early this week, because I was reminded of how very much we have to “REJOICE in the LORD ALWAYS.” It’s a command! A choice, not a feeling.

Joy doesn’t happen by accident in our lives. It takes choosing to smile through a heart full of tears. It takes prayer. It takes a power not my own. Blessed Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You alone can give me this joy!

So, today was a snippet of that. I had a 200 page book I wanted to study for my writing business. But a friend texted and asked if it was okay for her girls to come over. YES and YES! I made hot tea (chilly and rainy here today). We had tea and snacks, and a fashion show, and giggles. A big chunk of my day is gone. It was so, so worth it. My daughter’s words, “Tea was amazing, Mom.” Really, what was amazing was sharing a happiness moment with friends!

If rejoicing in the LORD is a choice, than how about planning for joy?

1.) Make a “happiness plan” for your child.

It might involve consignment shopping with Mom and spending a little money! Or, it might mean a hike through the woods in a local park. Sometimes a spontaneous change of plans is what it takes to say “yes” to a happiness moment.

Sometimes, a happiness plan requires an inconvenient day off work. When my sister invited my daughter and I to spend the day with her in NYC, it took a barrelful of planning and extra money we really didn’t have (but were gifted). I worked extra hard to make it happen.

The happiness moments, no matter how small, mean a lifetime of memories. A reminder that love was present in the hardest of times. Our children will face their own dark days. Life is hard. God is good. Not being stingy with happiness reminds our children of God’s goodness.

2.) Connect over good books. Read out loud to your child. Most of all, read HIS Book!

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Sarah MacKenzie and the Read Aloud Revival is a good place to start for inspiration. My own Mom started me on this wonderful path. As a young child, even after I learned to read, she still read aloud to us.

Our family has a hard, hard time having a consistent “family worship” time. So, I’ve adopted bedtime as a devotional time. We always read something from Scripture and pray.

However, I’ve read a ton of books over the years that were sheer pleasure out loud to my daughter. We’re currently reading one before our devotional almost every night.

I cannot tell you how much my daughter craves this time. I crave it, too. If I’ve been crazy busy all day long, as often am, or gone at work, this time is golden. It sparks all kinds of talk-time.

During this last year of grieving over her aunt’s passing, we needed this more than ever. I could’ve lost her to bitterness and anger. We’re not out of the woods yet. I see her angry because Papa is sick. We talk. I take the heat.

God is infinitely patient with us. He can handle our worst feelings.  Reading is His idea. Otherwise, He wouldn’t have given us His Book. And HIs book tells us that He knows our words and thoughts before they even leave our mouths. Psalm 139

3.) Plan for Christian community.

One of my great griefs with this chronic illness lifestyle is that my daughter has never attended prayer meetings. We can’t make it to mid-week services. However, she is regularly in church every Lord’s Day. It’s making a difference in her life. The folks she is closest to are fellow believers. She is beginning to see they will love and support her in the trials of life. To me, that is HUGE!

She sees the good, the bad, and the ugly. She knows church is made up of sinners just like us. Sigh. It’s hard to explain things sometimes, but you can’t ignore the truth.

But being there regularly is showing her that in spite of our failures, we were created to love one another because Christ loves us. He loves His body. He laid down His life for the sheep.

We are also part of a weekly homeschool community. I wouldn’t have it any other way. As we share our time and talents with each other, we also inspire and challenge each other to do better. It’s just sogood to have another Momma step up to your child and say, You can do better than that! Or, great job, girl!

Community is messy. We have to learn to refrain from gossip about each other. We have to learn I Corinthians 13 love. It takes oodles of that.

Sometimes it’s really hard to be the weird family where Mom works and Dad has to oversee some of the schooling. The connections to others are worth it.

So keep up the connecting, mommas. We need bucketfuls of extra grace and joy to share with our child on this stormy path.

What do you do to keep connections alive with your child?