Archive | June 2019

Friends don’t let caregiving friends sail alone {one vital way to stay connected}

sailing in the dark

No one is immune to trouble.

In Christ’s body we’re one. Yet we’re different. We all serve a unique bodily function. Each function is vital — even those bodily parts that seem useless or weak.

In a perfect world, nobody gets sick or hurt. Sin is conquered. Utopia — the Christian millennium — has obviously not arrived yet. Cancer rates have skyrocketed in the US among other proofs of non-utopian conditions. Persecution of Christ’s body is at an all time global high.

We DO look forward to the time of earthly shalom as well as His eternal kingdom come.

“Thy will be done on EARTH as it is in Heaven.”

Peace on earth is what a faith-filled suffering Job looked forward to as he speaks in Job 19.

23“Oh, that my words were written!
    Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!
24 That they were engraved with an iron pen
    and lead in the rock forever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and He will stand at last on the earth;
26 and after my skin is destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I will see God,
27 whom I will see for myself,
    and my eyes will behold, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me. (quoted from the MEV)

Jesus plainly said, “In this world you shall have tribulation.”

I and II Peter echo these themes of suffering here and now.

So whatever you do, DON’T be that friend who fails to remind your friend of Jesus who himself suffered while here on this earth. In fact, Isaiah reminds us he was afflicted more than any man.

Bearing the collective sins of the world on his back was the most unbearably hellish affliction anyone could possibly imagine. All of our hatred. All of our lust. All of our envy. All of our anger. All of our greed. All of our gossip. All of our unbelief. The list is endless!

The one thing we often fail to do is to remind our suffering friends every single time of Jesus.

He’s the ONE faithful friend — the ONLY one  who completely understands the pain and struggle you’re enduring.

I say this from a place of humility, as I have failed repeatedly in this area.  Just last night I wrote a note to a suffering friend who had shared a prayer request with me. Three weeks later I followed up. #epicencouragementfail.

Anything GOOD we say about God reminds our friends of Jesus. I’m doing this on a daily basis with my girlie. She’s suffering. The Psalms always have something good to say about God, right?  When our hearts are too tired and sore to sing our Psalms, we read them. I pray them daily. I cannot live without them.

Jesus is our “balm in Gilead”.

On a very dark, lonely day this summer, just a few short weeks ago, I felt the world crumbling again beneath my feet. Other caregivers experience this meltdown. Ask me how I know!

As I poured out my sobbing grief to God, I asked for a sign of His love for me which I truly do believe in.  Asking for signs is NOT a way I lead my daily life. “Blessed are those who do not see me, yet believe,” Jesus told doubting Thomas. Instead, I remind myself of His promises daily. It’s a ritual.

But this day I desperately needed a human touch of love and understanding. NO one wants to call a friend and say, Please. Just tell me how loved I am.  Tell me it’s going to be okay.

Only a very few people merit this trusted space in our lives. Really. Saying such things out loud makes you feel like a raving lunatic and life-sucking leech. If you’ve experienced hurtful abuse by spiritual authorities in the past, reaching out for help is desperately harder. (topic for another post).

The common problem we all share is that our dearest friends are tremendously busy! Even if you need help, you hate to bother them.

My story continues: Here’s how I know God answers prayer.

I’m adding this to my list of “One Thousand-plus Answered Prayers in My Short, Insignificant Life”.

praying woman ben-white-139141-unsplash

On the very afternoon of this prayer, I received a phone call from an older saint I haven’t talked to in over a year. He left a message. I gathered my courage and called back.

His soothing voice was a balm to my very raw spirit. Though his denominational background and affiliation is very different from mine, we share a true faith in Christ alone for our salvation and eternal hope.

Lady, he said, in his warm Southern drawl, I know you’re in a storm. You’re afraid your ship is sinking. I want to remind you that Jesus is in the boat with you right now in this storm. Your ship is not going to sink. And we’re not going to stop praying for you.

He reminded me that Jesus’ closest earthly friends were in the same boat, in the same storm with Jesus. Yet they were afraid while Jesus was asleep. They woke Him up. He rebuked the storm and their lack of faith. Yet he encouraged them in their fears to look to Him always.

When you count up the words of encouragement that Jesus gave to His disciples, they are numerous! He knew they were needed.

I thank God for the encouraging words of my friend that day.

So should our words be. Be like Jesus. Be an encourager.

Encouraging words need to be repeated and numerous, like Jesus modeled to His disciples.

If your family, home, church, and circle of friends is not a place of warm encouragement, start a new trend! New habits take time and intention to form. Like me, maybe your goal is writing that ONE email a day.

If the trend doesn’t catch on, you probably need to find a new church and a new circle of friends.  What ways can you model this ONE micro-step today?

When Dad disappears…

doorways

For some, Father’s Day is when you sit in church and try to hold yourself together because you’re missing a dad.

There are many, many reasons you may not have a dad in your life now.

  • Dad died.
  • Dad and Mom are divorced and you don’t see your father very often or ever.
  • Dad abused you physically, mentally — or both.
  • Dad’s elderly and doesn’t remember who you are anymore.
  • Dad ditched you, and you don’t even know WHO he was.
  • Dad ditched you and you remember who he was, but he doesn’t fit the bill of dad anymore.
  • Dad is chronically ill and disease has taken away the person you used to know and changed dad radically.
  • (You can add your own reasons to this list.)

For whatever reasons you’re not connected to your dad anymore, my heart and prayers go with with you.  Please read on — there’s hope! Father God offers to BE a Father to the fatherless.

For children with a chronically ill father, this post is especially for you. My heart bleeds for my daughter and for all of  those who are “fatherless” in a very different sort of way.

Grief IMG_2273

(meme credit to lessonslearnedinlife.com)

Care-giving friend, recognizing that your children are grieving and may not even realize that’s what’s going on is one KEY to helping them navigate this difficult time. Their grief needs to be acknowledged as valid and deep!

Chronical illness affects every family differently, depending on the types and duration of the illness.  I think there some commonalities:

  • Having a chronically-ill parent is like being on a roller coaster ride that you can’t get off of — until death or significant healing occurs.

One of my favorite photos of my daughter is at the last happiest memory we made together away from home four years ago. She’s beaming, contentedly curled up on “Papa’s” lap, face snuggled into a giant beard, at my brother’s college graduation. Life wasn’t perfect, but life was good at that moment.  Dad had her. Dad held her. Dad was reasonably present in her life. Now Dad cannot. Her old dad has disappeared in so many ways.

I recently spent a good deal of time and money (for us) attempting to make new happy memories in a rare opportunity. I only half-succeeded. Illness has changed life for us in a way that we can never retrieve.

Was the effort worth it? Yes. Learning to love those who are broken is important, especially when they’re your own family members. Our Father in heaven invites these to His table especially — the lame, the halt, the blind. If you’re navigating the teen years, as I am, this flies in the face of their natural self-absorption. Only the power and love of Christ makes this truly, fully a possibility.

Chronic illness as it progresses may mean that Dad’s not there either physically or mentally. Dad’s distant. It feels like you’ve been forgotten and forsaken. You have to learn to love in a different way. Emotionally, it’s a roller coaster ride.

  • Milestones in your child’s life without the old Dad present are significantly painful. 

That recital ( one reason I think my daughter quit piano…), the awards ceremony, the soccer games with enthusiastic dads cheering from the sidelines… Sound familiar?

  • Looking forward to a future without your dad’s support leaves a huge hole in your heart. 

No dad for your wedding, college graduation, or beyond? No Mr.Fix-It to come to your rescue. No dad sitting on the porch with his shotgun as he interviews your first potential suitor? (LOL, an old threat some of us have heard.). No dad safety net.

  • In fact, the “new dad” might be significantly more embarrassing than your child’s “old dad”.

Did dad have a stroke? Lose mobility? Does dad speak with slurred speech or have days when he’s just not “with it”? Chronic illness often amplifies a teen’s usual embarrassment with their parents.

Add the medication factors in, too. Dad might be in bed for many hours a day. When he’s awake he might be unpleasant and unreasonable for family (usually never for the rare visitors) due to pain and medications.

Side note: Chronically ill people are usually able to pull off a bit of “normal” for visitors to try to retain dignity and the often diminishing friendships of those visitors. How many of you have friends after many years of chronic illness who STILL come regularly to visit? You can start counting these friends on one hand usually. Hard truth.

Daily living with chronic illness? It’s a steady drain on your emotional and physical bank account, and ONLY those living inside your four walls see the full scope of this. Not your pastor. Not your friends. Just family.

What’s a momma to do? Is there HOPE? You have to step into dad’s shoes so many times and be both father and mother. It’s impossible, right?

You’re walking through the fires and floods right now, dear caregiver, with and for your children and your chronically ill loved one. Anyone who says otherwise should just shut up like God told Job’s friends to do. Hang on! There is a God who sees your suffering and tears, too.

There is a Father who knows and loves your children as they suffer through fatherless days. I know. I’m treading water with you, as you can see from the silence lately on this blog. Life’s been incredibly hard, but God has not forsaken His daughter.

Here’s the HOPE: Our Father God loves the fatherless and the PRODIGAL child (if your child struggles with anger at God and their earthly father).

Today’s Scripture readings at church were Psalm 103:8-13

Psalm 103:13 Modern English Version (MEV)

13 Like a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord gives compassion to those who fear Him.

 

AND Luke 15:11-24.

Luke 15:11-24 Modern English Version (MEV)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

11 Then He said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.’ So he divided his estate between them.

13 “Not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together, and journeyed to a distant country, and there squandered his possessions in prodigal living. 14 When he had spent everything, there came a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in want. 15 So he went and hired himself to a citizen of that county, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 He would gladly have filled his stomach with the husks that the swine were eating, but no one gave him any.

17 “When he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have an abundance of bread, and here I am perishing with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 So he arose and came to his father.

“But while he was yet far away, his father saw him and was moved with compassion, and ran and embraced his neck and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him. And put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. 23 Bring here the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and be merry. 24 For this son of mine was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ So they began to be merry.

Spot on! It was my HOSANNA moment. Remind yourself and your child that you HAVE the perfect Father in Heaven. You are not alone. Your children are not deserted. So hard to hang into when this journey gets long, I know!

What is God like as the Father of your suffering children?

  • He’s abundantly merciful.
  • He’s full of compassion.
  • He sees all.
  • He knows all.
  • He is ever-present.
  • He’s all wise.
  • He’s forgiving (even to the scoundrel son who completely shamed him in front of all of his family and friends — his whole community saw his shame.)
  • He offers a robe of righteousness, clean and pure.
  • He offers the family signet ring to his children. You’ve access to the family business and bank account. (My God shall supply ALL your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. How many times do you feel bereft of the physical and financial support of a father, too?)
  • He offers shoes because you are His child, not a slave in his household (slaves didn’t wear shoes in the context of this story.)
  • He celebrates the sinner who repents with a full-blown PAR-TAY.
  • He promises His Spirit to you and your children. (Pray, pray, pray for that promise, dear momma. Don’t ever give up on that one!)
  • So much more… search the Scriptures. The fatherless are IMPORTANT to our Father God.

What does our Heavenly Father mean to you? I’d love it if you’d share a Scripture and bless us all in this struggle.  Our Heavenly Father sees and knows when you reach out a helping hand to the fatherless, dear momma. Your work is SEEN and KNOWN.