My apologies and a link to a post for your encouragement…

Well, it happened! I lost today’s post. It was on Word Press, and then it wasn’t.

I really wanted to share this encouraging post by Scott Sauls. I read it three times this week.

I hope the link works and this is a blessing for you.

A Mourner’s Thoughts On Sickness, Sorrow, Pain And Death

Let me know if you can open the link, okay? I really hope this encourages you despite my snafu.

Questions for God

 

My daughter has always asked a thousand questions.

She is at that age now where she hones in on adult conversations and, like a tween detective, wants to know more details. Typical of a parent-child relationship, right?

So it stands to reason that we ask questions of God about life. About our life. After all we are His children by adoption, His creation.

He has written about His plan, His love, His will, and His ways for us to know many of the answers to many of our questions in His book, the Bible.

There are still many mysteries of infinity that our finite minds won’t grasp.

But there are always some answers you and I get that we don’t like. Like my daughter, I can hear the answer and go off in an angry huff. Foot stomp added for emphasis!

Like the question I asked this week echoed by a Christian friend in her very difficult challenges — WHY? Why does one person, one family get such a heap of chronic suffering? When does it just end?

Do you hear the familiar theme through the ages? Why? Why suffering?

Christ himself speaks to this issue, “In the world you will have tribulations; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. Notice the lack of a “why” explanation.

Jesus Christ does not ignore the suffering. He confronted it purposefully. In fact, he led a life of compassion, healing, caring for the sick and needy.

There are basic reasons that suffering exists and that our world is in a huge mess. Satan is to blame. The sin of man brought unfathomable ruin.

The sin-curse exists in every corner of the globe. There is no culture untouched. No life is untainted. Romans 3 leaves no question about that fact.

Christ came to relieve our ultimate suffering, the soul suffering due to our ugly sins. The hate, selfishness, envy, pride, bitterness, slander, theft, and the list goes on…

I have thought about His wounds a lot lately. Why would He would so love the world and leave His place of perfection to suffer?

Why would He be willing to feel pain, sickness, sorrow? Why would He talk with the “scum” and touch the untouchables?

NO other god in the history of the world would do such a thing.

By His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53. That is the ultimate healing. He freely offers it at the price of His own life laid down for guilty sinners.

We crave earthly healing. Earthly relief. I know I do, at least.

And we are instructed to pray for it. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Prayed with a heart that kneels before an almighty God, this is one of the most powerful statements of faith and longing.

We also groan, like creation, waiting for the ultimate redemption from our suffering.

Does this mean those that suffer the most have sinned the most?

One of those pressing questions, again. The Book of Job informs us otherwise. In fact, those that insisted Job’s suffering was due to his sin were soundly rebuked by God himself.

But we never get a full answer to WHY the suffering. Instead, God reminds Job (and through him, all of us) of His mighty power and wisdom. His infinity. Our finiteness.

We are reminded that as all have sinned, those who believe receive grace — free, undeserved favor from God.

Why don’t we question this, too? Why me? Why have I been so blessed to know and believe Your love and grace to me?

This was the whisper in my ear this week when I was thinking, Enough already! God sent a friend who also was overwhelmed by suffering. Sometimes that human voice that says, I know how you feel, is really the voice of God to our ears. 

Chronic invisible illness — but you look SO good.

image

My hubby had a splitting migraine for most of the week. 

He got out of the house a couple of times but for only a short jaunt. Yesterday he took all of the pain meds he could so that he could walk a few doors down the block to hear some live music.

Twice in a thirty minute time he was told how good he looked by two friends that have some small awareness of his health issues.

I really think they meant it kindly. I do. But some don’t.

They say it in a tone of disbelief. You can almost hear the thoughts tumbling around in their heads. Sometimes small remarks tumble out of their mouths, too.

Oh, you must be pulling my leg about your health issues. You’re not so bad off. Why aren’t you working, again?

 My sis in love got some similar remarks and responses. (No one really expects a stage four cancer victim to hold down a job. That’s a relief!) She was such a fighter and an upbeat person. She made a huge effort to leave the house looking good.

In fact, for most of the four years she fought stage four cancer, you would have to be around her for awhile to catch on. The joy of the LORD truly was her strength.

Being on her care team gave me an inside glance of the true nature of living with cancer in your bones. At home you tend to let your hair down, so to speak.

I saw her sit and groan softly many times through unbearable pain. Gratefully accepting a cup of tea she could barely stomach, though she wanted it so badly. Many barely touched plates of food…

For many years I have regularly seen my hubby struggle to make it out of bed for a few hours at a time. He consistently naps every day after laying in bed until late in the morning. His bones hurt every day, too.

He can look good and still struggle with a boatload of pain.

Looks can be deceiving in so many ways. Tell folks how you feel, and you’re a whiner. Put on your game face, and you’re not as ill as you’re  reported to be.

It’s an odd conundrum that many chronically ill people face and their spouses, too.

Understandably, you feel on the defensive at some of the pointed or careless remarks that get shot your way. I know I do.

I sat and listened as my sis almost cried about several folks asking her when she was due. And, are you excited about the baby?

In fact, she had already lost her ovaries to cancer. Her liver was so swollen she looked like she was starting her second trimester. But she loved her two babies like there was no tomorrow.

How do you deal with these unwitting arrows that people shoot at you?

“HE is my defense. I shall not be moved.”

I have listened to Marty Goetz’ CD, “HE Is My Defense” dozens of times in the past few months. The Scripture set to music heals the wounds. Jesus is the “horn of my salvation”. That horn can either call for help or push its point in my defense.

I need a Defender! I need a Refuge. I need the solid Rock to stand on.

Truth. I, too, have inflicted needless wounds with my tongue. If we live long enough, we all fall short in this area. Greatest. News. Ever. His wounds have paid my ransom.

Forgiveness. I need to extend grace and forgiveness to those who act like we have leprosy because of the chronic illness in our family. Or those who carelessly speak. Why? His Word is ultra clear. If I don’t forgive, it is clear I have not been forgiven. Those who forgive the most love the most like Jesus.

Understand that some folks will never “get” chronic illness. Forgive. Rest in His defending love. What are some ways you respond? How does invisible illness challenge your family?

 

Keep your dukes up, sis!

My headline today makes me swallow back the tears again.

It’s what I said more than once to my sweet sis who went to heaven this summer.

Her fight is over. She went out in faith and love. My fight and yours — well, that is very much ongoing.

The fight theme is very much a thread that runs from the beginning to the end of the Bible. But I despise war! I hate a family feud. Raised voices and angry tones make me sick inside. I’m not even fond of cutting jokes and sarcasm just to be sarcastic.

“That old serpent, the Devil” doesn’t give us much choice. He walks around on a search and destroy mission. I could feel his slimey breath this week. The horror of a yet another diagnosis. Answers we didn’t want. A doctor who delivered the news in such a callous, crass, self-serving way that I called her the “b” word. Something I have never called another human being.

You know when Satan is seeking to destroy your faith. He uses people — those who are His willing instruments. Yes, like Hitler’s cronies, or those who fund and work for Planned Parenthood, those instruments seek to convince you that their way is the ONLY  and BEST option. Whatever the abominable system calls for is right. It must be. Some group of wealthy doctors, philosophers, and politicians says so.

GOD calls us to fight for our covenant marriages, for our children, for whatever is true and lovely and right! Like a friend of mine who found out she is carrying a Down’s baby — NO! NO way, your other “option” is not even an option!  I don’t want to fall prey to Satan’s mind games.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

RESIST him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” I Peter 5:8-9

We have to keep our weary heads in the game, dear sisters. Be sober, clearheaded, truth-filled thinking. Be vigilant, always watching our backs with our weapons handy. Gotta keep those dukes up.

I felt so tired and alone, trying to be strong for both of us with the forked tongue of the Serpent right there in front of me. My husband was feeling so weak, and sick, and tired of being sick and tired.

What’s a body to do? We prayed. We cried a lot. We’re not done doing  either.

I can’t. I can’t do this alone. Neither can you.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time.

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” I Peter 5:5-7

Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, will not leave us to fight alone.

Jesus, who bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, understands the deepest agony of our earthly sorrows.

Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, is interceding for us in glory.

Jesus, that great shepherd of His sheep, is preparing a place of greatest peace and beauty for us when this earthly fight is done.

Keep fighting on your knees, dear one. Keep your dukes up.

 

 

 

3 Ways to rehydrate your soul…

Sometimes the well just runs dry. Like me missing my last posting goal, which is every Lord’s Day.

I have not yet learned how to automate this encouragement mission. You and I are down in the trenches together. We have a set of unique challenges as caregiving wives.

I really want to be there for you. I want us to bear our burdens together.

So, I was refilling my own well last weekend.

When you are constantly pouring out, you realize you need to be refilled or else. Emotions take charge. You grow frazzled with those you love. Worse, you either run on auto-pilot, living life without meaning, or you get zonked. Too. Weary. To. Take. One. More. Step.

No! I did not have time or money for some super wonderful Bible conference.

I did not get away to some wonderful, restful ladies retreat. I did not get a spa treatment. But, I did take spend time with special people.

1.) Talk with a dear friend in person if at all possible.

Seriously! You need to cry on someone else’s shoulder sometimes. Our husbands can be extremely needy or distant, depending on their current health and mental struggles. We need community and friendship!

A VERY wise elderly Christian friend of mine told me you only get a few true-blue trusted friends in a lifetime. As sisters in Christ, we ought to have more than a few.

But even Christians gossip.

Don’t give us the benefit of the doubt.

And they surely don’t “get” our husband situation.

I don’t say this to be mean or bitter. Truth hurts, though. It is seriously hard to find a true Christian friend you can trust with your secrets and not feel judged, in the wrong sense of that word.

Maybe it is because you have to find a friend mature enough to handle suffering. A lady who is wise and discreet is a treasure.

Add warm and caring to that…Someone who will not hold you at arm’s length because all is not perfect in your life. I hope I can be that kind of friend. We all need that friend! Do you have one or a few?

2.) Soak your soul in the WORD. I listened to sermons and Scripture music. His Word is a lamp that lights up the dark.

This should have been number one on the list. We need God’s Word like plants need water. Although I visited another church, I still spent His day in His house.

It was so worth it! The dark places come to light under the light of the Word. There healing begins. God’s truth tells us what’s wrong, what’s right, and how to make what is wrong right.  To stay healthy, gotta keep growing!

3.) Count your blessings. It sounds trite. It is so true. You get joy from drawing water out of the well of salvation.

I could be living in darkness without Jesus.

How does anyone handle chronic illness, loss of a loved one, severe financial strain, and caregiving joyfully without the hope of new life in Christ?

His redeeming love is my greatest blessing! “If anyone be in Christ, he (or she) is a new creation.”

My soul sings when I take time to meditate on His love, power, and goodness.

If you are in a dry and dark place, reach for His Word, His love, and the love of His people.

 

 

 

You don’t need an Evite to care…

image

Just finished a wonderful online conversation with a sweet lady who knows how to care.

Seriously. She has touched base with me every few days or so since my sis-in-love died.

She texted Bible verses to my sis every day faithfully for years to encourage her in her battle against cancer.

She also visited. She laughed with my sis! Laughter meant so much to my sis who grew up in tough circumstances.

Chatting with her, she misses her friend who also died of chronic illness a year ago. Someone else she took the time to encourage on a regular basis.

Maybe encouragement isn’t your gift. But, listen up, please!

If there are chronically ill people in your congregation, the Bible says, if one member suffers, all the body should hurt, too.

NO excuses, right? You need to find ways to care. Love in action is a true mark of a true body of Christ.

Many chronically ill people make a huge effort to appear normal when they go out in public. They may even look perfectly well.

Like my sis, they are also walking around with stage four cancer, or an incurable chronic illness. They still put that smile on their face. Or they laugh uproariously. It is their way of loving being with normal people for a bit.

And if they know Jesus, it is the joy of the Lord. Spending time with God’s people should be a taste of heaven.

Their husbands or wives are most likely carrying a huge load to keep it all together. You ladies know what I mean.

  • Guess what? Being a caring encourager means seeing the hard and listening to the sad things, too!

Are you just a Sunday, see-you-at-church friend? Or are you for real?

Do you just need help and ideas of how to communicate caring? Let me throw a few thoughts into your idea jar.

  • Easiest first. Send an email or text regularly. Why? Touching base is caring. Even if you never get a response, don’t hold back! God communicates His love to us in His written Word! We need to write notes to those who are hurting.

  • Maybe a phone call is appropriate. Maybe not. Try to find out if that would be difficult or annoying. Step one is the way to go if you don’t live nearby.

  • Try snail mail, too. We have loved getting notes from folks over the past month.

  • Bring a meal. Food and rest are often the biggest challenges of the ill. I often wished I could feed my sis more often. Keeping up with her healthy diet was almost a full-time job. Shopping, food prep — all this takes a toll. It can be hard to keep up with in a normal family.

  • Chronic illness is expensive in so many ways. Healthy food and body supplies cost more. Gifts of money or other tangible needs are often most deeply appreciated. It is hard and humbling to ask. It is also fearful. Like, what will these people think if we have a great need we cannot meet. We’re losers and leeches on the Body, right?

  • Don’t just say it! Pray, really and truly. Pray with your friend in person if at all possible. Even if you stutter and stumble. I cannot tell you how meaningful the prayers of complete strangers have been to myself and my family. Just wow!

    Silence is not always golden.

    You do not need to say much.

    You should listen more.

    Listening and being with your chronically ill friend is golden.

    Don’t wait for an Evite to comfort and encourage those around you.

    God has called us to this — to love one another with a pure heart fervently.

    I am throwing out the challenge? How are you going to encourage the hurting THIS week?  I have a couple of cards I must mail.

    What do you think? How would you like to be encouraged? Please post in the comment section below to help everyone reading. Your help would be greatly appreciated!

DO the next thing — how to care for the suffering.

Picture me on my hands and knees scrubbing toilets. Confession — I’ve scrubbed more than a dozen this week!

Yes, this is part of how I make my living, scrubbing other’s toilets. I have a dream to make the written word my living one of these days.  To part ways with the survival mode I’ve been in for so long.

Yet Jesus himself took up a scrub rag and a basin of water. He washed the dirty, dusty feet of his disciples — all twelve of them. No one else had signed up for the job. Such humility He calls all his true disciples to live out.

Somehow this toilet scrubbing is also making a path through grief for me. I can help my brother keep a sense of normal tidiness. His wife loved a clean house, even with two littles constantly creating messes.     Doing this one small thing brings her nearer to me. (I can just hear her saying tongue-in-cheek, Wow! I’m so flattered that my toilets remind you of ME! I know, sis. My bad.)

If you’re  a fan of Elisabeth Elliot (wife of martyred Jim Elliott, missionary), then you know she buried three husbands. She was well acquainted with grief.

“Do the next thing.” This was her motto. Meeting the routine needs helps you survive life on the ash heap of grief. Surely Job and his friends at least ate together.

The meals my friends have brought to me have made life bearable this week. My brother’s church, family, and friends are feeding him. In turn, we are able to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving with life.

Grief is a regular part of caregiving. My husband mourns the loss of function. I miss the adventurous person I married, now barely able to leave the house unless well-fortified with extra pain meds. A routine list of the “next things” to do helps us cut through the fog of pain. When we have had help with the challenging tasks, the encouragement is tangible.

Food, a small list of tasks to accomplish, the company of friends, and help checking off the list — these are a few ways to truly encourage your chronically ill friend.

Like Jesus taught, the dirty feet always need washing, but it takes eyes of humility to see and meet those needs. Dear caregiving sister, I pray you will have help on your journey today.