You don’t need an Evite to care…

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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.

Small and broken, vast and mighty

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photo credit: Danielkordan.com

At least we got to say goodbye. The final goodbye some do not get. So hard. So sweet in the sense of, I’ll see you again, dear lover of Jesus….Dear sister-in-love, loving wife to my brother, joyful momma to my niece and nephew.

Like Job now, we sit in our dust heaps and seek healing for our wounds. So very small and such broken people we are!  And, once again, nothing has changed since Job’s millennia. A few offer real comfort.

Others pass by or avoid our ash heap and say nothing. A common problem faced by those with chronic illness — lonely on their ash heaps, or worse, fending off word-arrows of accusations. Who really wants to visit the cancer wards? Or the sickbed?

The words leap off the pages of Job like they were written only yesterday.

“He alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea. HE made all the stars — the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the southern sky. He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles…if He snatches someone in death, who can stop Him? Who dares to ask, What are you doing?” Job 9:8-10, 12

When you know someone you love is dying, the whole world comes alive in vibrant technicolor. You can almost taste the moments.

The sunset on July 26 was beyond amazing here. I could see the edges of His majesty, and almost peer through the clouds to ask, Please don’t let her suffer anymore. Please take her home. She cannot even communicate to us anymore if she needs more pain meds.

Some days your chronically ill friend or spouse may say these words. Please just take me home, God. Life hangs by threads of pain. And we dare to ask, What are you doing?

Such a question God never answers. He speaks to Job on his ash heap.  He tells him to look up. To look around. To recall the day of creation.

Some answers are so vast that our finite minds cannot hold the infinite realities.

Like a pebble tossed into a vast, still lake, my sister’s life touched hundreds of people with the ripples of her life, breast cancer journey, and faithful death trusting His plan. Your life matters! Who knows how your story may inspire and encourage another?

We cannot possibly understand how our light ( but very painful and terrible in the moment) afflictions are working an eternal weight of glory, only for those who are lovers of Jesus, God’s only beloved Son. Fellow ash-heap sitters, sit, mourn, and share my comfort. Look at that sky and wonder!

 

 

When time stands still…

Now, more than ever, I am looking forward to the Day when time is no longer. One day is with the LORD as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

My sis-in-love battled stage 4 breast cancer for over four years with faith, hope, and love. Her presence in this life was a joy to all who knew her. People streamed into Hopkins at an exhausting pace to see her one more time during her last five days of life. At 33 she leaves behind her husband and two children aged 7 and under.

I’ ve been a double caregiver for these years. It is truly more blessed to give than to receive. I will share more later, but I wanted to let you know, dear sisters, that you are not forgotten. More enCOURAGEment to come. Please pray for our hearts to learn wisdom from our sorrow. To be more like Jesus — that is what Jess would want for those she left behind.

The rest of the story…

Last week I introduced you to Mimosa. Would you like to hear more of her courage? Faith? Hope?

Why listen to such a dreary tale of woe from a century ago? Well, the Apostle Paul speaks of the saints being encouraged by the faith and love of other saints. Mimosa only heard a few minutes of Bible truth in her entire life. She could not read. She had no Christian friends in her village. So it was a huge step when Mimosa left two of her sons to be encouraged and educated at Dohnavur Christian Fellowship.

Upon arriving home, she was so disgraced in the sight of her village that her husband, worthless as he was, also ignored her. Gathering her courage and her two youngest sons,  she decided to return and live at Dohnavur. Why? She was so hungry for God’s Word! She wanted to learn to read it for herself.

Mimosa had an amazing, Christlike heart of love to win her husband. She once again went home to him.

Did he deserve it? Nope. Do any of us deserve His love? Be inspired. Be encouraged. You can love your husband like Christ through His power.

Sunflowers for caregivers

Many years went by, and Mimosa’s husband and four sons all came to faith. Yes! Joy unspeakable and worth all of the pain and suffering…

Who can you encourage and inspire along the way? You and I might feel like nobodies in God’s kingdom. Like Mimosa, we may suffer alone in the hidden places. A hundred years later, someone stumbling along in pain and heartache may be encouraged to keep following Christ by your story and mine.

I, for one, can’t wait to someday meet ladies like Mimosa and Amy, her faithful praying friend. Let’s make the rest of our stories — our “blink and you miss it” lives — worth the read.

One word of hope and Mimosa…

Mimosa — the name of a lovely flowering tree — also is the name of a lady of courage. Let me tell you her true story.

Mimosa and I became friends through the pages of a book written by Amy Carmichael in the 1920’s. I’ll have to introduce you to Amy properly on another day. Both lived in India a hundred years ago.

Right now as I write this, there are other ladies living in refugee camps. Life is sparse. A hundred years ago and now? Faith has cost them all they own.

The gospel, the Good News! All Mimosa had was a few moments introduction to God as the living, loving God of all gods, the one Who made her and all things. She was visiting the Dohnavur Fellowship where her sister Star lived. Then her Hindu father snatched her away, refusing her pleas to hear more.

Though the “stick danced” for Mimosa, a little flame of understanding lit her heart. She firmly refused to smear ashes on her forehead for Siva, the family’s god of choice. She had a heart of love for the loving Father God she knew almost nothing about.

Fast forward to an arranged marriage, an unscrupulous family member who weaseled her dowry away from her, and a husband whose caste did not encourage him to work. Three babies later and no money, Mimosa toiled in the fields to keep food on the table. She prayed regularly in her little pantry, spreading out her sari to God.

With no Bible, no church, and no Christian fellowship, Mimosa clung to the few things she had learned about God as a child. Her neighbors and her family mocked her faith. But the worst was still to come.

Her husband was bit by a poisonous snake and went blind and mad. She had no one to watch her babies while she worked in the fields, and then her infant son became very ill. While her husband was bedridden and her little son lay dying, her roof caved in during monsoon rains, and she had to find temporary shelter for her family.

“I am not offended with you,” Mimosa told God. Her infant son had died. The village blamed her for his death as she refused to buy a charm for his healing. More cruel mocking in her hour of pain…

Her husband regained his sight and sanity but had no urge to better his family. Often he lived with relatives leaving Mimosa to fend for herself. Mimosa bore two more sons.The main trouble was keeping the rice and curried vegetables on the table. One night she prayed for food and it seemed no answer was coming. She did not want to dishonor God in her unbelieving village by asking for help.

A knock at the door around midnight — there stood the one kind relative she had. She lit the lamp, for he had been unable to sleep until he brought over rice and curried vegetables. Mimosa and her boys feasted at midnight.

No Bible studies, no pat on the back, no words of encouragement. She could not read nor write. Her sister Star did not know how to reach her.

And then her oldest boy smeared Siva’s ashes on his forehead so that he might work at a Hindu shop.

Her heart broke. She wanted her boys to know the one true God. Yet how could she teach them?

At Dohnavur her sister Star was praying for Mimosa. Never giving up hope of seeing her and her boys.

Once again Mimosa remembered Dohnavur, prayed, sold her last dowry items, and set out to make sure her sons had the chance to really learn about God. The village was in an uproar. She would be breaking caste. Her husband and the relatives he lived with opposed her. Yet she still set out with her boys on foot. Three days later they arrived.

 Spreading out her sari to God and not smearing ashes to Siva on her forehead finally brought Mimosa and her sons to a place of truth, comfort, and safety. One word from God’s Word had been a lamp to her feet all those years.

Sisters, keep praying in hope. Whatever hardships you are facing, hope in God’s love and Word.

 

 

 

 

How talk yourself (or someone you love) off the ledge…

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Don’t do it! Do not take that plunge into despair. There is help. There is hope.

NO, I am not being funny here.

If you or someone you love struggles with chronic illness, you know exactly what I mean. If not, then let me give you a real life scenario. Your dear husband hasn’t gotten more than two hours of sleep a night for more than a month. He is walking around in a brain fog, forgetting to even look at the important notes you’ve left for him. You come home from work each day and pick up all the pieces.
On top of everything else, he needs your constant encouragement, because no one else really knows what life is like for him right now.
You feel like you have nothing left to give. You feel like you cannot handle one more problem. You are teetering on that, “I can’t do this anymore,” ledge. Reality check.
Somewhere in the fog on the top of that cliff you remember truth. It goes like this.

You are NOT able to bear this alone. You are not alone. You are not forgotten.
For real?! Prove that to me, will you? I understand your skepticism. My husband and I have done a lot of dancing on the edge of why? Why suffering? Why does God give me more than I can handle?
One post on this topic will not do the trick. Go read Job. You and I are not the first or last of Adam’s race to face the overwhelming bitterness of the effects of the Fall. We are drowning in the consequences. Time for facing the truth.
“For I know that in me ( that is in my flesh) nothing good dwells…” Romans 7:18

Truth # 1: Don’t think you can handle life on your own. The life of faith is a battle that requires God’s weapons. That battle begins with how we think about God.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
● I was a teen when a wise, biblical counselor told me, “God is good all the time. Satan is bad. Never mix up the two.”
○ Satan brought sin, death, and suffering into this world through a partial-truth deception. Sometimes the lies we believe have a bit of truth mixed in.

Like, well, we deserve to suffer. Yes, but in Christ’s death and resurrection, our sin is totally paid for. We are redeemed! Romans 8:33 “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God that justifies.”
○ God does not leave us in the dark about who He is and what He is like. His Word is abundantly clear. He is holy, just, and good. Take the time to read or listen to His Word when overwhelm hits.

○ God infinitely loves His children, so nothing can separate us from His love, not even death. Romans 8:38-39, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us…” Truth that opposes Satan’s lies!
● We need to seek God and His strength. The amazing apostle Paul who endured great suffering states, “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness’.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9. .

You are never alone in the suffering.
● Aha! Behold one of Satan’s lies which really is a fiery, painful dart to our heart when our shield of faith is down. Listen to King David’s experience. “For my enemies speak against me; and those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together, saying, ‘God has forsaken him; pursue and take him, for there is none to deliver him.’ O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!” Psalm 71:10-12
○ David reminds himself over and over again of God’s goodness and greatness even when he struggles with life’s battles. Read the Psalms when you are struggling with the magnitude of your troubles.
○ When facing new and extreme challenges, God told Joshua, “Have not I commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Truth #2: Faith is a battleground, not a playground, so fight in humble dependence on God!

● “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.” 2 Peter 5:8-9 . Recently I learned that Peter was crucified upside down by the enemies of the Christian faith. He asked for this upside down position because he did not feel worthy to be crucified like Christ. Read the prior verses. He speaks about the humility needed to access God’s grace. Pride gets in the way of our faith so often.
○ Ask for God’s help daily. Depend on him. That actually takes practice! Cry out to Him over every little thing.
○ Ask for prayer! Oh, me! Why don’t we pray more? Life is too hard to bear on our own.
○ Ask for help from other saints. We all desperately need help from time to time. To do this, you need to plug into a church and connect. That takes me out of my comfort zone, I know, because of our unique family situation. A few summers ago we had some church folk digging up bamboo roots in our yard for us. It was too hard for me or my husband to tackle. We could not afford to hire someone. I do feel so awkward at times. I have to make myself push past that by doing the following.
Remember this: All of God’s people are broken people. No one enters His kingdom as a righteous, self-sufficient person. Secret pasts, hidden suffering, untold stories of personal pain — we all need Christ’s love and healing. “By His stripes we are healed…” We are all still on this journey of healing. Suffering the trauma of chronic illness is a result of that curse. We are the company of the broken, redeemed and being made useful, “to the praise of His glorious grace.”