Archive | February 2017

Rest for the restless soul

img_1390

Sometimes life flings such a shock at you that you wonder if your heart will ever be at rest again.

I remember the sleepless nights after the stage 4 diagnosis came for my sis now with Jesus. Her baby son, all smiles and dimples, was only six months old. Her little princess was three. Loving husband and precious kids. Life was almost perfect. Then it broke.

Somehow I knew God was bigger than this, but fighting through to a place of peace was more like several rounds in a boxing ring than a one-two punch. Tears when I least expected, nights when I couldn’t sleep for the pit in my stomach as I gave her to God over and over again.

Watching her suffer, rebound, and suffer again ripped my heart to shreds. It was a four year boxing match. Sorrow and peace, beauty and ugly pain at war with each other. God’s goodness versus evil suffering.

“I can’t wait for heaven,” my brother said to me with a voice of intense, quiet sorrow at our final visit to her home before the call from the hospital. It was a longing for rest. An overwhelming desire for that final home — the other world we are made for.

I hear the same tones in my husband’s voice. The long, sleepless, pain-filled nights. Brain fog. Fatigue. Medical issues that no one but Jesus can heal in that final day. The day-to-day of trying to live with diagnoses that no one would ever want to face.

My heart feels the same restless tossing and turning. But the amazing power of God’s Word breathes life and hope into my soul. When I am crushed, He was already crushed for me. Bruised and broken for my sins.

 I cry with the Psalms. God, you are the Lifter up of my head. When I can’t lift my head to face the day, You will go before me. I am on this journey with You. The faithful who have gone before prayed the prayers of David, Make haste to help. Hear me speedily!

I am not ashamed to be weak if You will be my strength.

Yes, God is my Refuge from the “strife of tongues”, from those who will purposely cast the worst possible light on our life situation and struggles. Psalm 70 and 71. Yes, those enemies do exist. Satan being the chief accuser of Job and saints through the ages — many follow in his steps, even false brethren.

Shame. Confusion. Fear. The enemies of the heart’s peace and rest.

“The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom, then shall I be afraid?”

What shame, when we are clothed with His righteousness?

What fear, when we know our final home, our destination is prepared especially for us?

Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. (Words of Christ) In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:1-2

(I’m pretty sure my place has a lovely garden, a room full of musical instruments, an art studio, and a chef’s kitchen with plenty of room for family and friends to gather and linger.)

Though our longing hearts may be restless for home, fearful of this dangerous journey, yet our God never leaves His children alone.

He shut the mouths of the hungry lions for Daniel, was with Joseph in prison, kept His three faithful witnesses from even being singed as He walked with them in their blazing furnace, and parted the Red Sea when the entire Egyptian army was racing toward the unarmed Israelites with chariots and weapons of war.

The list of His marvelous care for His children is too long to write.

Come to Jesus this week, dear sister! He is ever praying for you at the Father’s right hand. His wounds have paid your ransom. Let His love soothe your restless heart and lift your head up to face another week. I’m praying for you, too!

 

 

Washing feet with Jesus…

img_0693

Dear caregiving sister,

Did you know that you’re following in the way that Jesus taught His disciples? Your commitment and care for your spouse is like Jesus washing the disciples’ dirty feet.

Those roads in Jerusalem were dusty and mixed with animal droppings. Sandaled feet were gross when they reached their destination! Multiply that times twelve. No wonder no one jumped for the washbowl and basin.

This life I lead, well, it’s not the fulfillment of all my hopes and dreams. Some of them have been crushed along the way.

But through this crushing I’ve come to understand so much more vividly the compassion and self-sacrificial love of Jesus for broken people. Dusty people. Sometimes self-focused. Face it. When you’re tired and especially hurting bodily, it’s hard not to be centered on making life less miserable for yourself.

Compassion for the hurting is a theme I can’t get away from. Compassion goes viral when there’s a precious, beautiful little child involved.

Not so much when it involves an aged senile person or someone suffering a lengthy chronic illness (though we have been blown away by the kindness of friends and church family).

My mom and sister have the care of my bedridden, aged, and often combative and senile grandmother. There’s nothing pretty about their daily job for the past three years now. The diapers, the laundry, the schedule that’s always tied down.

It’s a load I can do little to lighten. My own hands have been full.

Mom and sis are some of the most beautiful ladies I know. Their compassion and care continue to inspire me. Knowing that others are in the trenches faithfully showing compassion reminds me that this is life worth living.

Other beautiful women have served Jesus in the hidden byways: Ruth serving Naomi, Gladys Alyward saving hundreds of orphans, those who served the leper colonies, halfway house workers, Amy Carmichael rescuing sex-trafficked young girls in India, a list of Jesus-followers that grows by the day!

Caregiving seems way less glamorous than the list above, right? It’s certainly not romantic. But the God of all comfort, the Father of mercies sees and knows.

When you show kindness for the “least of these”, you do this for Christ. You and I become more like Christ. Being like Christ! Now isn’t this life’s ultimate goal — the fulfillment of all of your dreams and mine?  If I really stop to remember this, it fills my heart with such hope! His good work in and through me goes on.

 Praying you wake up tomorrow with courage and strength to face a new week in Jesus’ name.

The broad strokes of God’s love

img_1368

Dear Sister in Christ, dear fellow care-giving wife, it’s the best of days when you are mind-blown, blown away, filled to overflowing with the knowledge of God’s love for you.

NOT all days are like this. In fact, most days we trudge along. One step, one foot in front of the other.

Then God takes off the blinders when you just refuse to let go of Him and His love. God, I will not let you go unless you bless me. Like Job, you know deep down — though He slay me, I will trust in Him.

Just one tiny glimpse of a few truths of Scripture where God shows His love, and I feel like the richest lady on earth. I’m writing this to remember this day. I’m setting up my memorial stones, and telling myself, remember. Don’t forget. God loves you dearly, fully, completely in Christ Jesus.

I want to tell you, too. I’m hoping you will be encouraged along with me. If you’re at all like me, you need it. You struggle like me to desperately believe and hang on to hope in God’s unfailing goodness and love for you.

What sparked this epiphany? Valentines Day? Naaah. Actually, that’s a hard holiday for those of us whose husbands are too laid up with health issues to be that romantic knight in shining armor.

In fact, I’ll turn off my FB feed that day. I don’t need to feed the feelings of longing when I see my friends light up and share all the wonderful things their truly good hubs do for them. I am blessed by their godly love. I really am. But I don’t need to wallow in what I am missing.

What I have is actually waaay more wonderful!

The Lord my Maker is my Husband.

He sings over me.

He rejoices over me.

He came looking for me, and brought me into His house of love.

He says all the riches of His eternal kingdom are mine forever.

He tells me over and over that He will provide for my needs. And He has. So very faithfully and just in time.

Where do I see His love painted in such big, broad brushstrokes? First, in Jesus’ broken body, hanging on the cross for my sins, eternal love is painted in blood.

Next, I see His compassion poured out on those whom society rejected: the weak, the blind, the sick, the lame, the lepers, the prostitutes, the tax collectors (thieves by their day’s standards), and the Prodigal Son. This means compassion for sick husbands, too, unable to provide for their wives.

The disabled, the abnormal, the “special needs” among us all find equal grace and equal royal privileges at the foot of the cross.

Let me illustrate this point.

In the Bible, mentioned more than once, are a special category of people called “eunuchs”.  Ha! I’d always glossed over that until recently.

Eunuchs are a special class of people also mentioned in Augustine’s works, known as “hermaphrodites”. A certain class of these were forbidden by the Law of Moses to enter into temple worship. (Deut. 23:2) Outcasts by no fault of their own.

But Jesus did not ignore this problem. (Matt. 29:12)  In fact, unique prophecies included eunuchs with amazing promises given to them.

One of the most remarkable of these eunuchs was Daniel. A man who could not enter God’s temple entered into God’s presence in prayer so faithfully that angels literally fought the powers of hell to bring answers to his prayers.

In Isaiah 56 God lavishes beautiful, rich promises on these persons with special needs and physical abnormalities.

Finally, in a burst of gospel beauty, Philip encounters the Ethiopian eunuch who is reading Isaiah. Philip is specifically commanded by the Spirit to speak to the eunuch about Jesus.

The eunuch then asks a loaded question,

” What prevents me from being baptized?” Acts 8:26-28

Philip, a blue-blood Jew, understood what doors God’s grace had opened.

Boom! Baptized then and there. No second-class church membership for this eunuch.

In Christ alone we find this wholeness, a total acceptance in the Beloved. His perfect love lavishes His perfect beauty on His children. Now that’s more than any husband could give to me this Valentine’s Day.

 

What Master do you serve?

img_1387

Strange question for a blog for caregivers (and friends). Some days you may feel like ALL you do is serve the needs of chronic illness in your house.

I was truthfully bone-weary when I went to church this morning. I could barely stay awake. My husband’s many trips to the bathroom, though quietly attempted, disturbed my sleep. It’s an ongoing symptom that he is on meds for, but needs a surgery for long term relief. His body is broken in so many ways, it’s like living in a sci-fi horror story. He didn’t sleep for the pain, either.

Even, worse, the elderly minister, bless his heart, did not do much to keep me awake. Not his job, I know, but a little passion behind the pulpit never hurts!!

So I used my pen and paper in an attempt to focus. I truly believe God rewards our most feeble, even sleep-deprived efforts to draw near to Him. After all, it is His promise, Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

One point really rang a bell in my own heart. Here’s where God’s beautiful faithfulness met me this morning.

This statement from Philippians 2:1

If there be any consolation in Christ, any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit….

Comfort. Consolation. Fellowship.

Add mercies… likemindedness,

lowliness of mind,

each esteeming the other better than themselves.

This is where the rubber meets the road in our relationships.

It’s easy to get sick and tired of someone who is always sick and tired, just being real here! I’m a human being, too. 

Wonder of wonders! Joy of all joys — Jesus never gets tired of me, as sinsick and broken as I am.

What He is asking of me in relation to others is to pour out this same compassion. Let His love shine in and through me.

So as I face another week, I’m going to think about comfort and compassion. Christ’s comfort to me. His mercies and compassions that are new every morning.

I can’t serve two masters. He’s the only one I want. When I serve the needs in my house, He’s the one I’m serving.

Now that’s where God met me in His Word this morning. I’m glad I went to church. How about you?

 

Jesus, Savior, pilot me…

dreamstime_xxl_82961185

photo credit: dreamstime.com

There’s a reason the Navy has a saying, almost like a blessing, “Fair winds and following seas.”

The fear factor of ocean travel has always been a level ten for me. I think it’s amazing! I wonder at the vast courage of a several thousands of years of men, women, and children who have embarked on multitudes of sea voyages.

Without the hundreds of thousands of brave travelers, we would not have the global knowledge and technological advances we enjoy today.

The Horatio Hornblower movies, BBC version, was like viewing a foreign world for me. The vast unknown and the thought of a wild storm at sea makes me a landlubber. A cozy home, a bit of solid earth under my feet, a garden, loving friends and family nearby, and a few animals, well, that’s my happy place. My comfort zone.

Just a few weeks ago, one of my husband’s doctors said his body was undergoing “The Perfect Storm.” More bad news.

It’s a wild ride here. Things beyond our control, and out of the doctor’s control are raging in our lives right now. Like a ship being tossed by waves that are several stories high, we have no idea how to survive this. God is our only Rock of safety and Refuge in this storm. There’s no other Help for us. We’re not shaking our fists at Him. 

Even when and if the storm ceases, our ship is never going to look the same again. Not here on this earth. Battered, scarred, broken pieces dangling and useless… at least that’s what we’re tempted to think right now in the middle of the raging seas.

Maybe broken is beautiful?! God’s plans are not lost at sea. He brings all of His children safely to the Golden Shore. No wonder Jesus slept through the storm while his disciples thought, “Don’t you care that we are about to DIE?”  He trusted His Father completely.

Guess what? I’m waaay out of my comfort zone as a care-giving wife. It’s not a voyage I would have chosen. Lately I’ve done a lot of yelling and crying out in fear, just like Peter’s failed attempt to walk on water. “Lord, save me.”  I do trust You. I’m just not perfectly trusting like Jesus who could sleep in the middle of a massive storm. “Lord, help my unbelief.”

I cannot possibly fathom the outcome of this storm. I don’t know how to navigate these stormy seas by myself. I cry. every. single. day.

I know for sure some  of you ladies are right there with me. The sisterhood of the storm-battered and broken. So I’m reminding all of us, myself most of all,  of three simple ways to let Jesus pilot us through these storms.

Number one: Keep God’s Word before you every single day. Listen. Read. Write down a verse.

I am blessed to have the Psalms on CD. I sometimes have time to listen to Sermon Audio online. The Lord’s Day finds me in church. At times I cannot hold back the tears as God’s Word echoes truth to my heart. Truth is my life raft.

Number two: Tell God every single thing. Every doubt. Every fear. Every angry thought. He hears your cry above the howling storm.

He already knows. Pour out your heart before Him. He can take it. Quite possibly no other human can. We’re tempted to really wish they could.  It’s impossible for us to fully understand anothers’ burden. Even Christian counselors can’t see every facet of what is going on in your story. Helpful, but not always right. Like Job’s friends and wise counselors, none of them got it quite right, though they did have a lot of godly knowledge.

However, God knows every last hair on your head. While He often does use others to help guide us on our way, when the going gets too complicated, His wisdom never fails. Cry out to God who alone is our salvation.

Number three: Remember you are not the first or only person to sail through impossibly stormy seas.

Check out Hebrews 11 through 13. Read the stories of brave folk who lived through wars. I  love a couple biographies, especially. One of them has been made into a movie, The Hiding Place. Corrie Ten Boom and her family were doing God’s work in Holland during WWII, rescuing Jews who were being rounded up by the Nazis.

Then some ugly, twisted soul tipped off the Gestapo. Corrie, her sickly sister Betsie, and her aged father were sent to concentration camps. Corrie was the only one to physically survive to tell the story. Beatings, starvation, personal humiliation, slave labor, cold, illness, fleas, watching her sister suffer, and not being able to bury her — she survived raging seas and stormy sorrow.

She lived to praise and glorify God, though her ship was battered and scarred.

Now that’s how I want my story to end. What about you? Are you hanging on for dear life? Post in the comments section, so we can pray for each other.