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

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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”.

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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 you pray in secret

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In my experience, moms have a hard time finding a “secret” place to pray, or even keeping secrets from their kids, right?

So what’s a caregiving momma to do when life hits the fan yet once again? How to keep the stress from overloading your kiddos? How to deal sanely with an insanely difficult medical system?

Today I tried to keep the “secret” — the latest stress that hit our family. Chronic illness generates its own special brand of stress. Dealing with doctor’s offices and the pharmacy?  Often the near top of the “stress” list!

In our small town, there are two main pharmacists at the pharmacy we’ve frequented for years. One of them has a reputation for kindness and bending over backwards to help folks keep their prescriptions in line and filled as the doctor prescribes.

The other pharmacist?

You really wonder if some folks have even a drop of the milk of human kindness or reasonableness in their souls.

Long story, I know, but the pharmacy screwed up our prescription so badly that we had to schedule a 2 hour round trip emergency appointment with our specialist to get the prescription filled again. Counting traffic, gas, and time spent on the phone and the doctor’s office, this pharmacist cost me hours of work time, stress, and financial loss.

The worst part is my loved one is suffering more than usual due to a fall right before the holidays. After the initial shot the doctor gave wore off, severe pain set in.  It’s been weeks of being bedridden and long sleepless nights.

Every caregiver goes through this nightmare at one point or another. Many experience it regularly. I know. Not only have I lived this roller coaster life for years, but I now have a small circle of friends who’ve experienced similar and worse.

Keeping our stresses secret is hard, and sometimes impossible. As a parent you don’t want your child to carry that load with you.

Our teenaged daughter heard the distress call, my advocating on the phone for my loved one, and felt the frustration in the air. The secret was out of the bag. “What’s wrong, Mom?”

If I hadn’t had my secret meeting in my chair with God this morning, these battle wounds could’ve been another crushing blow of discouragement.  You know what I mean.

Beauty often hides in the ashes of suffering and frustration! I saw the mercy. I knew that God had heard my cries for help and mercy for THIS day.

Often we have to wait a month for a reschedule. Instead, we experienced a small miracle. Our specialist had an immediate opening for us that coincided with another appointment in the same city an hour’s drive each way.

See the blessing ? I shared this with my daughter.  “It’s okay, my girl! Really, it is!”

My kitchen soup pot saw my tears of relief and praise. Another secret place, ha! Only God and I and a pile of vegetables heard my cries. I wonder if heaven laughed to see the crazy woman with the knife chopping, crying, and praying?

Dear fellow Christian caregivers, hope is a fragile thing. It needs to be nourished by the Word and prayer wherever and whenever your secret place finds you, by day or by night.

The longer this caregiving journey gets, the more decidedly I know I can’t do this in my own strength. It’s more than I can bear. I’m not strong enough, wise enough, kind enough. I don’t have enough faith, hope, and love.

Christ bore all of our griefs and carried all of our sorrows in His body, wounded for our transgressions.

The magnitude of the awful crushing load of sorrows and griefs is more than I can imagine. ALL of those sorrows!

And so Christ has entered into our sufferings so that we can come boldly into His throne room.

No one fully walks this lonely journey beside you, except the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  No one else can.

Humans can’t put themselves fully into your shoes, even if they try. Most don’t bother. Some do.  Those are your truest friends and dearest earthly treasures.

Friend of a caregiver? Enter into your secret place and pray for your caregiving friend. Their burden is indescribably harder than they can possibly share with you.

As Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray in secret, he reminded them that our Father who sees in secret will reward such prayers openly.

So here’s to spending time in SECRET in 2019, whether it’s that early morning chair, the morning commute, the private vegetable chopping session, or the laundry room, or wherever…

Do you have a secret space, dear caregiver? Please share how you find a quiet secret space when life is noisy and overwhelming.

 

 

Lessons on dying from women of grit

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There’s something about the final week of July and the women in my life.

I’m not one to be superstitiuous. Not that at all. Bear with me.

This past week my 94 year old Grandma went Home after being bedridden for over 10 years

She was a sharecropper’s daughter who spent part of her childhood moving from farm to farm in a truck. I’m sure those early roots were part of what made her so tough, opinionated, and gritty.

She also clung to her faith in Jesus, though the last dozen years of her life were probably her hardest, darkest days. In her dementia, she was often unkind and tough to manage, but she never forgot about Jesus and heaven!

She shares her Homegoing week with my sis-in-love, one of the “grittiest” women I have ever known.

My lovely sis faced suffering, pain, and death with courage, faith, and love.

She was full of grit and grace.

I sat by a third death-bed this week in July nine years ago.   Such a different kind of grit in this little woman — my husband’s grandmother!

We visited her frequently (six hour round trip for us every few weeks) at the assisted living home where family had mutually agreed for her to live.

She needed 24/7 care and therapy, and none of us could give her that. She was angry and bitter for the last six months of her life. She dug in her heels and refused to be happy or even try to recover. In the end, her grit did her in.

Sitting by three different deathbeds makes me face my own mortality. How well will I face death?

Only God knows the day, time, and circumstances surrounding my Homegoing. One thing is certain, death is inescapable.

“All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” I Peter 1:24-25

Coming to grips with life’s frailty is our first step toward “good grit”.

Psalm 144: 4 “Man is like a breath. His days are as a shadow that passes away.”

If we think we have forever, then we forget that every day matters!  Those we touch with our words and actions will carry those memories for good or ill. Forgiveness and acceptance take grit — the kind of grit needed to get over ourselves or to move on when life isn’t fair.

Don’t waste your one and only life being a “tough old bird”!

The best grit comes from humble, grateful dependance on God!

When I say “best grit” it reminds me of sandpaper. The roughest grit is only good for the rough projects. The “fine” grit helps bring the final polish to beautiful furniture!

We want the grit that brings beauty.

God’s unchangeable Word is the bedrock of our grit. “The Word of our God stands FOREVER…”

My Grandma talked frequently of Heaven. “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. In My Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would I have told you. I go to prepare a place for you…” (words of Christ). This good news bolstered her when facing another bedridden day felt like more than she could bear.

My sis never forgot in her pain and misery that God is good, and HIs love for her is unchanging.  She heard and believed the Good News that Christ died for sinners. So she gave thanks, even on her deathbed. Beautiful grit polished her lovely soul!

It’s up to us, my dear caregiving friends, to keep ourselves in the eternal Word that builds our faith — and gives us the grit to go on. 

I’m grateful for the lessons these women of grit taught me.

What kind of grit do you have?

Grit with grace! That’s what I pray for you as you care for your loved one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not forsaken by God…

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Sometimes we feel like we are swimming alone in the ocean of our own troubles and sorrows. I’m here to share that sometimes we have to look for the mercies of God on purpose.

Mercies can be as small as this beautiful sunflower that volunteered to grow in my garden this year.

Surrounded by mercies great and small we still feel alone on this journey!

It’s true in a way. No one human can fully understand the unique challenges each of us face. “The heart knows its own bitterness.”

Families facing disabling health issues are each truly unique. Pain levels differ. Meds differ. Finances differ. The level of challenge differs! Solutions that work for one will not work for another.

What is not unique is that sorrow and trouble chase us all during our time on planet earth. “In this world you will have tribulation.”

Some folks seem to get off scott-free. If we’re fair, we will admit we have no idea what sorrows they actually have lived through or will yet face. Tragedy smacks us in the face every time we see even a small bit of news.

“And I will pray the Father, and He WILL give you another Counselor, that He may be WITH you forever: the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, for it does not see Him, neither does it know Him.” John 14:16-17

Jesus is speaking to His disciples and, truly, all who would yet become His disciples.

It is the last teaching He gave them before going to the cross to lay down His life to atone for sin.

He knew they would be sad and afraid! He knew they would feel alone — perhaps forsaken.

His heart of compassion shines through yet again.

He leaves them with the most amazing and wonderful of promises! Through the Spirit’s ministry and indwelling, they would never be alone in their struggles. Beautiful, merciful Savior!

His Spirit is one of our greatest mercies. Counselor, Guide, Comforter, Intercessor, Helper — these are some of the key roles this often-forgotten member of the Trinity works in your life and mine.

Do you ever wonder how to pray for a situation that seems so hopeless and impossible that you have no idea what or how to pray?

We often fall back on the grand promise of Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good to those who love God…”

Wait! Back up a few verses: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know what to pray for as we ought but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

Are things so hard and crazy confusing that you don’t even know how to pray? The Spirit has you covered in Divine prayers.

Are you out of options? Your groans and sorrows are not hidden from Him.

Whatever your struggle, dear sister in Christ, let’s stake our claim on His mercies this week.

“I believe

I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord; be strong, and may your heart be stout; wait on the Lord.”

Sounds kinda like a Romans 8:28, doesn’t it? Only it’s actually Psalm 27:13-14.

When you hang out in the Psalms, you find lots of relevant prayers to fuel your conversations with God, even if you just sigh and groan and praise along with the Psalmist.

Like me, maybe this verse has been your prayer? ” Turn to me, and be gracious to me for I am isolated and afflicted.” Ps. 26:16

Chronic illness brings a lot of crazy to all of our lives, right?

I believe…I am not forsaken! His Spirit is with me on the days I just groan. 

How about you?

I know I’ve missed a few weeks blogging, but I’m committed to encouraging words wherever I can find them and fit them in. Hugs and groaning prayers for you, too, cause I really don’t know what you need. 

 

 

Broken body, whole soul

No, Jesus did not heal everybody when He walked this earth.

I was reminded of this fact today. He raised the dead, made the lame to walk, caused the blind to see, and healed many in just the little corner of earth that the country of Israel occupies. He didn’t travel to another continent or even another country outside of the Middle East.

His miracles were extraordinary to those who witnessed them. However, soul-healing was THE mission our Father in Heaven gave JESUS.

“He was wounded for our transgressions,

He was bruised for our iniquities…and by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53

A broken body can know peace and inner healing from all of sin’s scars.

Equally loved and equally forgiven are those may seem like the weakest members of Christ’s body.

I need to remember this when the chronic illness journey gets impossibly long. This person matters as much as any “whole” person in God’s kingdom.

Don’t you love to see a good movie trailer? Reading of Jesus’s earthly ministry makes us long for the “whole movie”. There’s coming a day when all the brokenness of God’s children will be fully and completely healed.

Tears will be wiped away. He will make all things new.

Meanwhile, caregivers are to be Christ’s hands and feet of mercy and compassion.

We can’t heal bodies or minds. But we can point to Jesus, the soul-healer. These long, pain-filled days are temporary. Healed souls live, truly live, forever.

God give us soul-nurturing words, courage, and a heart full to the brim with Jesus’s love to face this week.

Serving Jesus even in the shadows is a life well-spent. I needed to be reminded of this today. God sees all. He knows.

Are you living in the shadows, too?

Keep turning your face to the Light of life.

“The Sun of righteousness shall come with healing in His wings.” Malachi 4:2

 

Jesus, the Light in our darkness

Encouragement for 2017

Now may the God of perseverance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another in accordance with Christ Jesus,

Romans 15:5

This should be the theme verse for my blog.

Perseverance and encouragement.

That’s the bottom line for surviving and  even thriving with chronic illness in the house.

The road seems long. The path is full of hairpin curves. You feel like you’re driving on a mountain road on a rainy, foggy night. (Did that one night. It was as bad as the ice storm I drove through once. White-knuckles all the way!)

No one, not even the doctors, has all the answers. In our case, they seem to find more questions than answers. How can so many things be wrong with one body!?

Only the God, whose hands made and fashioned you (Ps. 139), can know the depths of uncertainty and fear as you face each new challenge.

Fear. It has to be cast at His feet. It will cripple your soul. So many times God tells us, do not be afraid.

Fighting that battle right there with you, sisters. I’ve cried some downright ugly tears this year.

When you’re so broken you have NO idea what to do next, you make a choice. I’ve pulled out Romans 8:28, the Psalms, yes, ALL of God’s Word, and said, okay. I believe.

What next, God?

The surrender of trust fills your heart with faith and encouragement. Faith to find the mercies in each new day, faith to persevere and say, yes, God is good. Satan is bad. Don’t get the two mixed up.

In the end, Love wins. Eternal, persistent love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for His adopted children will not fail. HIS kingdom come, His will be done.

 Along the way, let’s find that harmony and hope with each other. Let’s persist in love and encouragement.

I’m planning to keep blogging here for that one reason. One ray of light, one encouraging word, one candle for Jesus — that’s all I can do. Shalom in Jesus, sisters, for 2017! So drop me a line now and then. What bugs you? How can I encourage you?

 

He drew me out of many waters…

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Acknowledgement of Thomas Kincaide’s painting. I took a pic of a portion of a print I own that was painted by him.

Uncharted territory. Many waters. Enemies too strong for me.

Psalm 18 is the inside scoop. David was anointed by God to be the next king of Israel. His life at this point in time looked anything but kingly.

He looked more like Robin Hood and his band of merry men, hiding out from the current administration and foraging for food. Of course, they did a little fighting on the side to keep the enemies of God’s people at bay. His was a story of close calls and narrow escapes.

You can hear the inner anguish  and exhaustion in his voice in verses 4-6,

” The pangs of death surrounded me,

And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid.

The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me;

The snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried out to my God;

 He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears…”

Strong, mighty David, distressed and afraid!?!

What blesses me was that he went humbly to his knees.

Prayers of God’s children do not go unheard. Listen to the beautiful promises of verses 25-27:

“With the merciful You will show yourself merciful;

With a blameless man You will show yourself blameless;

With the pure You will show Yourself pure;

And with the devious you will show Yourself shrewd.

For you will save the humble people,

But will bring down haughty looks.”

On my hands and knees this week in that War Room, I knew this.

I am not perfectly merciful, perfectly blameless, perfectly pure.  How can my cries be heard?

But, oh, I’m humbly on my knees asking to be so. To be like the sinless Son of God…And I won’t quit praying! I want David’s triumph. See verses 28-36.

“For You will light my lamp; the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.

For by You I can run against a troop, By my God I can leap over a wall.

As for God His way is perfect;

The Word of the Lord is proven;

He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

And sets me on my high places.

He teaches my hands to make war,

So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

You also have given me the shield of Your salvation;

Your right hand has held me up,

Your gentleness has made me great.

You enlarged my path under me so that my feet did not slip.”

 This broken life can be made perfect, because His way is perfect.

In the suffering, His glory will yet shine through.

My story, your story is not finished yet.

But it takes the Mighty God to come and give us that “happily ever after” ending that we all long for.

Don’t give up in the heat of the battle.

Cry David’s prayers with me.

We can all dance for joy when the answers come!