Archive | May 2016

Every life matters…

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Today I sat down to write one of those difficult notes you need to write if you live long enough.

For the past ten years as part of our church family, we have enjoyed the presence of Nathanael. I never held a two way conversation with him, but I’ve rubbed his head as he sat strapped in his wheelchair. He had the biggest smile, but we’ve seen it for the last time on this earth. We’re going to miss his enthusiastic outbursts which punctuated our services at times. He was always welcome in worship. When we got the email announcing his passing, we were encouraged to share with his parents how God has used Nathanael’s life to teach and bless us.

It was no coincidence that I stumbled across my sermon notes on that great command, “Thou shalt not kill”, just as I was looking for my cards to write this note.

I know from personal experience that if you are chronically ill, finding purpose in your life can be a huge challenge when you are feeling low. Getting real here — has your chronically ill husband ever told you he feels worthless?  Did you know there are a multitude of implied ways that we can break the command, Thou shalt not kill? Abortion, murder, and suicide are the most obvious applications.

Failing to value our lives, no matter how insignificant they seem,  borders on breaking this command.

We cringe in horror and are infuriated at the ruthless brutality alive and well all over our globe today. So we should be!  The very existence of certain departments of security points to the basic lack of value for life. Then there is history: Hitler, Stalin, and all their cronies who used their power for evil, crushing people like bugs. But, back to Nathanael — the fact that this severely disabled boy could smile and laugh reminded me to praise God. He was loved and treated with dignity and respect as a being created in the image of God for his less than two decades of life on this earth. His life mattered. Your life matters.

 Everyone is potentially someone who could praise God.

The Westminster divines really hit the nail on the head with this simple statement. We are created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. As someone who can praise God, your life has worth. When your husband is down, when the pain meds are talking, whatever the case, remind him that he is, indeed, special. As Jesus said, “You are of more value than many sparrows, ” after he had pointed out that the Father sees EVERY sparrow that falls.

Our worth is not measured by our abilities or possessions, but by the One who created us. 

“For by grace are you saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Hope this helps start your week off in a different light. Be encouraged! What you do for your husband has value if done for His glory. His life matters and so does yours. Thank you, Lord, for Nathanael, your gift to remind us of the value of life.

 

 

 

 

Truth be told…

To tell you the truth, the last thing I feel like doing right now is writing.

That is a terrible thing to say to your reader friends, I know!  But I’m just being honest here, saying what I would say to a really good friend. I’m drained. Two nights away from home and watching my sis-in-love suffer terrible pain as she struggles with cancer, and then my husband calls. He and my sis both spent the night awake. Raw pain. Real suffering. Maybe I should just shut my mouth right now before I am an epic failure at encouragement.

Oh, but Jesus met me at church even though I was late and bleary-eyed.

As tired as I am, I cannot wait to give you snippets of Isaiah 62 which was faithfully taught to us this morning. Nothing fancy. No bells and whistles. Just truth spoken with quiet passion. So here is the good news, sisters.

“You shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will name.” Is. 62:2

Legally my name is no longer Lost, Forsaken, Doomed! I’ve been adopted as joint-heir with Christ. My inheritance is far better than the richest oil sheik!  Even though I can’t claim a single rich relative, I am a royal daughter.

“You shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem…” Is.62:3

Ever wish you could be a princess for a day? Or a week? Or even just have someone to clean and cook for you for a week?  Now we’re talking! Some of you know what I mean.

“For the LORD delights in you…” Is. 62:4

Now this is the sweetest thought to me. If you grew up feeling and knowing that your father delighted in you, you were one blessed child. So many parents do not know how to communicate their love wisely and well. Many children are downright neglected and abused.

God leaves us in no doubt of His dear sweet love for His children. He planned from ages past to rescue, redeem, and adopt His children. Then He clearly and repeatedly states His unchanging love for us. I can never hear this enough. I forget this too often. It was a healing balm to my bruised and aching heart today. I had to share this comfort with you. Hugs!

 

What faith is not…

One of my favorite little fellas gave me this coffee mug.

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I still see the joy on his face when giving me this gift. Precious and priceless! Faith is also a precious gift. I pray for those I love dearly to have true faith. My daughter, my sister — the one I rarely see but love and miss — family and friends facing devastating circumstances are part of these prayers. Jesus prayed for Peter on verge of Peter’s wrenching denial of him. “I pray that your faith fail not.” But what is faith?

The life of faith does not mean a life free of trouble.

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29

I always tended to think of suffering for Christ in terms of those who are literally being tortured and abused for refusing to deny Christ and His Word. That is the basic meaning, I am sure. But there are many other ways of suffering for Christ. Being committed wives to the men we married for His sake fits, too. Seriously! It takes faith in His promises to stick it out. You do so in faith that this hard road you have chosen to stay on is for His glory and your ultimate good.

A friend of mine wrote a book called The Secret Life of An Unlikely Convert. She challenges professing Christians to think of what they have repented of and given up to follow Christ. She was living a lifestyle she loved. She encountered God’s Word. Slowly studying she soon realized she was living a life of sin outside of God’s boundaries. Her conversion made her life at that time harder, not easier, as she then made choices that led to a radical change in lifestyle.

Faith is not the power of positive thinking!

Don’t get me wrong! I am a huge fan of gratitude and positivity. I love watching inspirational movies and reading positive stories. All the positivity in the world won’t rescue you if you step out in front of a speeding tractor trailer or fail to pay your tax bill!! Faith in faith itself leads to depression and doubt when things are not going well. Instead, we turn to the real and literal Author and Finisher of our faith. He showed his real wound scars to doubting Thomas and said, “Reach out your hand and touch me.”

“Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, 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 throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

 

 

 

My Mom, my humble hero

My mom lived in over a dozen homes in my first ten years of life.

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No, she was not in the military.

She got married when she was 18 and my Dad was 19. She moved wherever my Dad could find a job and affordable housing. Like Ma Ingalls of Little House fame, she made a home for us wherever we went. Curtains in the windows, homemade bread, and a tablecloth on the table were standards in my home. My mom showed me heroic courage in her cheerful acceptance of old houses, old cars with no AC, and garage sale clothing. She was over 3,000 miles from her parents and all of her family. I cringe when I think of how hard this was for her in those early years with three little people. No support, no money to call home — we were literally all she had, and she loved us like there was no tomorrow.

She taught me to be thankful even when life was tough.

“Cheer up, ye saints of God, there’s nothing to worry about, nothing to make you feel afraid, nothing to make you doubt. Remember Jesus never fails, so why not trust Him and shout. You’ll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning.” Mom would sing this to us as we were stuffed in the back seat of the car with 4/50 AC on many a blazing hot day in coastal SC. (4/50 AC refers to 4 windows rolled down as you travel down the highway at about 50 miles per hour.) It seems ludicrous now. We were far from saintly. We whined and scrapped with each other constantly.

She made us be nice to each other — eventually.

“If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” Mom wore this saying out. She also made us think of five nice things to say to each other when the sibling insults got out of hand. I appreciate this so much now as my siblings are my dearest friends. We learned a lot about kindness and forgiveness from Mom telling us our rude ways were not acceptable. I am working on this now with my daughter. I soon figured out that not all moms teach this to their children. I am blessed.

She read many wonderful stories to us.

Yes, the Little House books were on the list. Most of the stories were of brave (or scared) people doing brave things. We actually did not miss TV in our early growing up years. We had real heroes that came to life in the pages of books we shared. I was very, very familiar with all the heroes of faith in the Bible, heroes with flaws, but brave men and women of faith nevertheless. A child needs heroes.

What does this have to do with chronic illness and caregiving?

Gratitude comes from faith that all things, even the yucky or terribly hard things, are working together for good to those who love God. Romans 8:28.  In I Corinthians 13, we learn how love is supposed to look in everyday life. That kind of love is often tested when your hurting spouse is cranky because of suffering, or you have to shoulder his responsibilities along with your own. Saying five nice things to him can really be a challenge! Thank the Lord, Mom made me practice. Do I always succeed? No, I can relate closely to those flawed heroes of Bible fame.

Because of Mom’s example of cheerful faith, gratitude, and perseverance, I am encouraged in my rocky, uphill climb of marriage to a chronically ill husband. My mom is truly my humble hero.

What if your mom is not your hero?

  • I have dear, dear people in my life who have had terrible moms. That is the raw, bleeding truth. Some of these people have become amazing moms. That did not happen by accident! God chooses the weak things to confound the mighty.
  •  Off the top of my head I can mention a few amazing ladies to use as your personal role models. For examples of faith, courage, and compassion, read the lives of Amy Carmichael or Gladys Alyward. There are many more in history.
  • Look for a truly wise, godly mentor at your church. Ask around. Whom do the moms look up to and turn to for advice?
  • Make a list of areas you want to grow in using I Corinthians 13 as a guide. Study the Bible passages that relate using a concordance.
  • Pray for God to continue to do His good work in you. In the sermon today we were  reminded how God’s Spirit prays for us when we do not know how to pray. That is me all the time!

Go ahead and share in the comment section if you have a hero in your life. Those stories are good for the soul!

Four common frustrations you may face this week

Hi! Happy Monday!

I never post on Mondays. But all my posts recently have been about giving encouragement. Being real is important. I often dread facing Mondays. So I pulled together my thoughts on why.

Also, I was given a huge boost of affordable encouragement lately that may make your Mondays better.  It is an e-course on productivity and time management. Keep reading to learn more.

Frustration 1: FINANCES!

Eww! This is a huge monster in my closet and has been since we started married life with a bang due to chronic illness. I found I could not even totally follow Dave Ramsey’s  Total Money Makeover because we are chronically underpaid! It does not work fully if you have insufficient income.

BOOM! That revelation has had me on my knees and searching constantly like Crystal Paine of Money Making Mom & Money Saving Mom for legitimate ways to make better money for my family.

I am on that road right now. I will keep you posted! We are not out of the financial woods yet. Living on one income is very tough. Add all the extra expenses of chronic illness, well, see point number 2!

Frustration 2: OVERLOAD!

Do you have a crazy, nutso to-do list? Confession! I recently missed the first deadline for filing for a property tax reduction based on income! Yikes! That mistake will cause me some headache this year. But if I gave you the list of things I must accomplish every day, I think you would be understanding. It is just overwhelming.

I can feel my stress cortisol levels rising as I write this. Some of you are dealing with hefty health issues and these affect every area of your life. So, when I found out Crystal Paine had a time management course callied Makeover Your Evenings for really cheap, I cried. She is so, so, so encouraging. Bite-sized chunks that only take 15 minutes a day. Here is my affiliate link.  https://gr161.isrefer.com/go/MOYE/Julia/

 I would not share this if it wasn’t a blessing for you, too. Make over your evenings and share with me what is working for your life!

https://gr161.isrefer.com/go/MOYE/Julia/

Frustration 3: FEAR!

I have mentioned courage on several occasions! Facing chronic illness well requires a boatload of this quality. I fight fear. Every. Single. Day. What if my hubby reacts poorly with this new med? What if I lose a client and cannot pay the next bill? How can I reinvent myself as I launch a new business?

Fear is our enemy. Jesus told His fearful disciples on the stormy sea, Do NOT be afraid. Faith in Christ and His promises help us face our fears. I need my daily courage vitamin from the WORD.

When I listen to God’s Word whether in my car, on sermonaudio.com, or just those little verse cards, I can breathe through those fear attacks. Those are little ways to fight fear that I use.

WHAT is your favorite fear-fighting tactic?

Frustration 4: Isolation!

No matter how much I try, I cannot walk in your shoes exactly. But your are my fellow-caregivers. You and I do share a commonality either by suffering a chronic illness like my husband, or facing the dreadful fallout that chronic illness brings to a wife and family.

I do get some of your struggles. Let’s share. Let’s pray. Let’s encourage each other, as Hebrews states, “looking diligently lest anyone fail of the grace of God”. How can I encourage you better?  Hope this Monday post helps.

And let Crystal encourage you, too. She is a master at survival on a slim budget. She is a Christian who cares. Her free posts are always valuable.  But her online courses are charitably affordable.

https://gr161.isrefer.com/go/MOYE/Julia/

Are you losing your song in the night?

He Who Began A Good Work in You

From Philippians 1:6 this phrase of hope and encouragement lifts up my soul and puts a smile back on my face. I thought you would enjoy this song and these words of encouragement. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter, God-breathed, to a suffering church. If you can imagine for a moment the Roman Empire during the time of Nero who hated Christians with a brutal hatred, and see Paul sitting in a prison cell writing these words.

He is more concerned about what was going on in the Philippians walk of faith than what he was suffering at the moment. He gives several clear, pointed instructions to keep the fellowship of believers on the right track. Be humble. Rejoice in the Lord always. Give thanks in all things.

When we are down in the muck of messy life, almost sucked under by the load of pain, or the huge pile of extra responsibilities on our shoulders, God is still busy doing a good work in the lives of each of His children. He is going to be faithful all the way from now to glory. I am banking on that faithfulness. Many have gone before me who have testified that God has carried them through the darkest trials. I know my desperate weakness. It will be His strength and faithfulness I need to cross the finish line in faith.

Hope the song link works on your end. I am working on learning new techie skills. So, let me know if it worked for you! Blessings on your week!